Bug 421: Wine Developers Upset About Maintainer

May 26, 2009

A couple of kernel developers at Wine are upset about the current project leadership. Behind the dissatisfaction is so-called bug421 on the missing device-independent bitmap (DIB) engine.

The Wine project wiki includes the statement, "Wine requires a DIB engine... [that] can properly handle... DIBs." In Wine, Win32 APIs allow direct use of Windows applications in Linux. A rejected patch to the DIB engine by Massimo del Fedel led to lengthy discussion about bug421 in developer mail. Chris Howe gave air to some of his feelings in a posting: "...the Wine website still lists 'write a DIB engine' as a requirement, and every time someone does, the patches dissapear down a hole because they're 'not right'." Communication among developers seems to be in short supply, because he continues with, "Someone document what 'would be right", or take 'write a DIB engine' off the list." Most of the criticism is targeted at Wine chief maintainer Alexandre Julliard, who responded with, "A large part of the task is precisely to come up with a good design, validate it with a prototype, and then convince people (especially Huw [Davies] and myself) that your design is good." The bug tracking for bug421 began February 2002, with Julliard's last entry May 23 2009, the basis for a comment on the Slashdot portal that "Usually it is extremely frustrating for developers when the goalpost is constantly moved."

In any case, del Fedel seems to have lost any interest in the matter. His response to whether the architecture issues were resolved was, "Not by me... I made my engine because I was needing it, but Alexandre [Julliard] doesn't like its architecture, so it won't be merged even if, IMHO of course, it could be done as an 'alternative experimental driver' in parallel to the current winex11 one... But Alexandre didn't like that solution, ever." Other developers nevertheless seem to maintain enough interest to keep the DIB engine running. As to a question whether del Fedel can provide his code, his response was, "Can do on next days. But I need some place where to put the precompiled DLLs... I guess [neither] the bug421 page nor here are good places for it."

The commentator on Slashdot posed a provocative question, "When is the right time for project members to fork when their chief maintainer does not respond anymore or pursues an adverse commercial agenda?" This was based on an announcement from CodeWeavers CEO Jeremy White in a blog that DIB engine work (and other "unsexy" initiatives) would take second priority. Alexandre Julliard is the chief technologist for Wine at CodeWeavers, which employs numerous developers working on the CrossOver proprietary solution, service and support based on open source software.

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  • Frustrating, perhaps, but normal

    Here's my take on the situation.

    Short version: very few developers are upset, and the Wine project is in good shape.

    Long version:
    1) It's quite hard to implement a DIB engine.
    2) Three or four people have tried -- really hard -- in the past, and only got part of the way there.
    3) Max came along and very persistently put one together partly out of the previous efforts.
    4) Max's DIB engine is great as a prototype, may even be useful as is for a lot of users,
    and will serve as proof that a DIB engine for Wine is in fact doable.
    5) The Wine maintainers are busy trying to keep the project going -- which involves, in part, solving
    problems for paying customers -- and are still recovering from last year's major DIB engine effort.
    6) It is true that getting patches into Wine is difficult, but that's partly due to the high quality
    standards of the project.
    7) Max has a very good attitude about the situation, and is going to keep plugging away until
    his DIB engine is passing all the Wine tests and is performing well.
    8) Some of the complaints about process are coming from non-developers who are just frustrated by
    the slow pace of Wine development in general. It is reasonable to be frustrated. Forking isn't
    even being contemplated, though. The Wine project as currently constituted is in good shape,
    and is making steady progress, even though it seems slow to outsiders. Anyone who is impatient
    with the pace of Wine development should join in and/or help by purchasing a copy of Crossover,
    or funding a large hunk of work (as various Codeweavers customers including Google have done
    in the past).
    9) Some of the complaints are coming from developers who are frustrated with not being
    able to get patches committed. I'm often frustrated myself; it took me six or so tries to get
    a one-bit change in. (In the process it grew quite a bit.) The maintainer has very high quality
    standards, and sometimes developers can't quite get their patches over the bar.
    That's unfortunate but sometimes unavoidable. To these folks, all I can say is keep trying!
    - Dan Kegel
    Wine 1.0 release manager
    (Currently working on Google Chrome for Linux)

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