Friday, 27 March 2009

Linux is about choice (pt 1)

I argue that Linux is about choice. You may argue that is about something else. I think that's fine, so long as we don't argue against each other, but for each other. Why? Because Linux is about different things to different people, and that's great! That's why it is so attractive and diverse.

Why then, do applications (or their developers) decide to take away that choice? Is it because they really don't see how other people may like to use their programs? Fair enough. Is it because they want to impose their ideas on how and why their program should be used? Not fair. What if you provide polite detailed examples of different use cases, and yet the response is "no thanks, we don't / won't do it that way".

You've guessed by now this is a rant. What sparked it off? Two recent applications are giving me grief. This post will look at the first, and why:

Zimbra webmail client

Zimbra makes a great webmail, calendaring (and others) suite. However, I noticed that since I set up my Zimbra calendar (and so did 20+ other people here) that any appointments people send me are being automatically accepted. So what? Well, from time to time I get a (usually pointless) meeting request that I don't want to accept, and yet I find Zimbra has accepted it, even when I'm not logged on.

No problemo, just find the preference and turn off "automatically accept meeting requests".

The only options that look close are in "preferences > calendar":

Free / Busy:
[ ] Allow all users to see my free/busy information
[ ] Allow these users to see my free/busy information:
[text box]

[ ] Allow all users to invite me to meetings
[ ] Allow these users to invite me to meetings:
[text box]

So first of all, I chose "Allow these users to invite me to meetings:" and left it blank. This didn't work, in fact the behaviour was exactly the same as before.

So secondly I kept "Allow these users to invite me to meetings:" but entered my email address in the text box. Surely this would work?

Well it kind of worked. Now when people send me appointments, they only show as attachments which I can do nothing with (in Zimbra webmail). I can't even add them to my calendar. I suppose I should be happy that at least they don't get automatically accepted...

So my next solution was to try Evolution. I shared my Zimbra calendar and loaded it into Evolution. Great! There's all my appointments! However, when people send me meeting requests, I can't add them to my Zimbra calendar from Evolution. Even though Evolution asked me for the user name and password.

Then I gave up. I've deleted my Zimbra calendar and gone back to plain old Evolution.

Your thoughts, gentle reader? Am I expecting too much? Is this such an edge case that no Zimbra developer could possibly have forseen it? I think not.


Peacepunk said...

I stand for the fact that the whole bugzilla/community involvement 'help-us-by-reporting'stuff is nuts, nihil, doesn't work: Nobody likes having their nose dragged in the places they have been dirty. that is while commercial software runs better (I said 'commercial' not 'closed source', mind you!) because the boss of the dev has the right to order a cleanup. While the userbase has very, very few chance to get the dev acknowledge his error. Users are stupid, aren't they?

The Idiot Side of the Keyoard

freya said...

I'd consider automatically accepting all meeting requests as a serious bug...

Accepting those requests on a per request basis, on the other hand, is what I'd expect to be the normal usage pattern.. :-)

Iain said...

@Peacepunk I don't completely agree that reporting by bugzilla is a complete waste of time (I often report errors, patches, fixes, etc); however it certainly does take a large amount of my time to do it right (collect usage info, stack traces, screenshots, reply to questions, help others repeat the behaviour...)

I do believe though, that certain projects are more resistive to the feature request than others. Take Gentoo vs Gnome. You'll see in my latest post my gripes with a gnome app. A similar situation (ie. I thought the behaviour should be different) with a Gentoo portage issue (with emerge itself) was resolved so quickly that I was stunned. (

Perhaps some projects just gather those types of developers?

@freya, I agree completely!

Thanks for the comments!

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