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    November 2009
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Itches and Scratches

I feel numb. All of the itches I had, that motivated me to contribute to Hugin, are frozen, anesthetized by a few remarks, who seems to represent the silent majority of users – at least of Windows users.

A few excerpts of his accusations:

  1. hugin distribution politics is far from the high quality of the software.
  2. Did you do anything better?
  3. you don’t make it easy for me (and for others) to keep up this sympathy [for Hugin]. And I fear others aren’t as patient as me. In other words and if you still didn’t get it: I think you distract people from using or even trying hugin.
  4. And BTW.: I won’t read any longish reply to that. If it is as short as  “I’m sorry”, I will…

The only thing I am sorry about is wasting my time on such apparently useless things as:

  • getting the project accepted to Google Summer of Code in 2007, resulting in a 75.000 US$ donation from Google over three years (thank you!) that enabled 15 student-summer projects on Hugin and related project; and more in-kind sponsoring from industry leaders Agnos and Nodal Ninja (thank you again) that helped motivating students and mentors beyond the Google Summer of Code. Running the team during two of the three participations and mentoring two students.
  • Mentoring other contributors.
  • Writing the Windows installer script for Hugin-0.7.0 when I was a user of that platform.
  • Re-engineering the project to encourage participation, resulting in an amazing documentation effort by users of all platforms.
  • Re-engineering the project’s repository, streamlining development and integration of new features, releasing Hugin-2009.2.0 in record time (and 2009.4.0 is around the corner, all of this without freezing development).
  • A few bug fixes, and little features. There was more work in progress, but at the moment I don’t feel like touching it. It’s in a tarball in a remote corner of my disk for now.
  • Organizing a Hugin art exhibition.

Actually, looking at the list I don’t feel sorry at all about what I did. I am sorry for those who ask if I did anything better. I wish I did not have such a short fuse, but overall I feel good. New, different itches are coming back to me. The numbing is temporary. I can do other things with my free time in the Free world. Life beyond Hugin.

The thing I like most about Free software is “scratch your own itches”: Contribution is purely voluntary, everybody does what they want/like to do; with little exceptions (as in: being hired or otherwise paid to do a job) there is no obligation.

To me personally, my first motivation is to learn. Life is an exciting journey and there is always something new to learn. The day I will rest my head on the pillow without having learned something new will be a sad day for me. Flat EEG.

Corollary: I like to move on to new things once the concept is proven. Not only the fuse is short. Others can pick it up from here. If my byproduct is helpful to them, good for them. If it isn’t, it’s OK for me too.

Next, I’m in it for the social fun. I’m an eccentric and I seem to find more people with comparable life experience, who are sometimes like-minded, among Open Source contributors. However social fun does not mean pleasing others. In a business relationship I will please my customers, my boss, my co-workers. In a social fun relationship, I’ll do what I enjoy doing, with people that accept me as I am. Not that I won’t occasionally scratch somebody’s else itch. In the end this is my free time and I dispose of it as I please.

Last but not least I’m in it to expand my toolbox, on two levels: as a photographer I’m pragmatic about Open Source and think that the tools complement nicely and sometimes substitute licensed proprietary tools. GIMP is unlikely to replace Photoshop in my workflow any time soon, but it has some unique features that Photoshop does not match. So I happily use both. As an apprentice coder, I’m all for Open Source. The method is better than anything else I have read or seen. But maybe that’s just because the superior proprietary method is such a well-kept secret? I doubt it.

Anyway, it is this time of the year again; and there are some important deadlines and changes on the horizon. Free time is going to be a very limited resource in the next weeks, and after that I’ll listen to my itches again.

10 Responses

  1. Hi, as a windows user (not a programmer) so quite the average Joe … a couple of questions:

    1. Is there any chance to have Hugin build on MinGW on windows? It should be easier to maintain for you and effective for the windows user, you could also compile fr windows on your *nix machine. I’ve managed to compile PostgreSQL and GIMP, two big projects, without any specific programming knowledge, this should be doable for Hugin too.

    2. The same for Enblend? You posted about a v4.0 which is not available from the site.

    Thanks and best regards

  2. @pabloj: You’re not quite the average Joe ;-) but I’ll happily answer the questions of a long time reader and supporter:

    I think that making the code build on MinGW and maintaining another build platform is less efficient than cleaning up the acts on the existing MSVC build and running it properly. Others may have different opinions.

    Trying to support an additional (and redundant) build platform when there are not enough resources available to support the existing build makes no sense to me, unless there is a reason to ditch the MSVC build in favor of a MinGW build. You seem to be making the argument that cross-compiling is the reason.

    I think that cross-compiling is less efficient than running the build process on a native system, which could be done in a Virtual Box. Both require a *nix user willing to go a very long extra-mile. It is not just getting the tools going: producing an installer for distribution is 20% build and 80% quality assurance.

    AFAIK the MSVC build works well. It is only the documentation and the SDK that needs to be updated and maintained. It is more efficient IMHO to mentor an average Windows-Joe to do the job, hoping that he will maintain the documentation, update the SDK, and support the build. I started doing that on the Hugin-PTX with Joachim. Other Windows users seemed to follow too.

    My personal opinion is that native building tools (i.e. MSVC for Windows and XCode for OSX) have a natural advantage. I am not inclined to use MinGW, neither on Windows nor for cross compiling, unless I have no alternative.

    As-is, the Hugin code does not build on MinGW. A Windows user recently posted patches to make it work; and other users started looking at the cross-compiling avenue on *nix machines. I recently stopped reading the Hugin-PTX mailing list and I don’t know the status of their effort.

    I have even less information about building Enblend with MinGW. Enblend v4.0 is not released yet. I was mentioning an Enblend pre-release 4.0 which I built on an Ubuntu and on a Windows box. The Windows build was with MSVC.

  3. Thanks for the answer, I was hoping that using mingw would mean one build environment for Linux and Windows, but probably this is not true.

  4. I just wanted to leave a few words of appreciation for what you did for the Hugin project.

    I’ve been using Hugin for some 5ish years now, and I’m really thankful for you contribution and dedication to the project!

  5. Yuval, apologize if as win user I never wrote.
    Thanks for all your (also the team) work and efforts.

    I managed to try side by side Hugin and PTGui and for my needs Hugin win hands off.

    I manages to build Hugin Win version from a scratch, but I’ve found a lot of troubles to make it work.

  6. @Zoran: Thanks.

    @Jas: Congratulations. How about improving the documentation with your build experience, so that the next one following in your steps will have a gentler learning curve?

  7. I for one just wanted to say thank you.

    Hugin, has become one of my favorite graphics programs. I’ve been using it long enough to be astonished at how far its come. Keep doing the impressive work you’ve been doing. I’m confident that the interest in streamlining Windows builds is high enough that someone will step up to help out. The community building and documentation work you’re already doing will help them with what they need. The true power of Open Source is that one person or company doesn’t have to do everything.

  8. Hi Yuv,

    It’s really a pity that this recent flame-like discussion chased you away, you absolutely didn’t deserve that, although, as you’re saying, your fuse might be a little short. It’s just too easy for emotions to escalate on the internet, which makes it so easy to start flaming (or getting annoyed, for that matter). In an offline discussion this likely wouldn’t have happened, or the moods would’ve cooled down more easily.

    Anyway, I’d like to thank you for all your efforts and hope that you haven’t been chased away forever. Of course putting energy in other “projects” (whether involving programming or not) is always a good thing. Broadening your horizon generally is a good idea.

    I know you’re no longer following the hugin-ptx group, but I think this one deserves your attention, since it’s just one “big thanks” post.


    All the best,
    Bart van Andel

  9. @Russell: Thanks.

    @Bart: Thanks. Nice post / picture indeed.

  10. Thanks for all Yuv,

    Hugin users like me appreciate your works on this powerfull tool.


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