[Michael Bacarella <mbac nyct net>] GNOME architectural suggestion..

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Resent-Date: Mon, 5 Apr 1999 22:39:21 -0500
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 1999 23:39:14 -0400 (EDT)
From: Michael Bacarella <mbac@nyct.net>
To: webmaster@gnome.org
Subject: GNOME architectural suggestion..
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Here's one that I would find useful (both in my job and at home).

If this has already been suggested.. my apologies for taking up your time.
If not.. I hope you agree and see it equally as useful as I do.

(it does say to send architectural suggestions to the webmaster)

First, lets dig a scenario:

ISP Tech support guy tiresomely walks total idiot through the steps
towards configuring their Windows 95/98 machine to use their service. They
FINALLY, after 30 minutes of instructing them over the phone of point and
click walk them through adding a new connection, configuring DNS, adding
the phone number, and getting them to enter in their username and password
information in the proper case and set.

After 4 attempts, they finally get connected. Woo! Then the user asks how
do they get their e-mail?

Well, first the tech guy has to figure out what e-mail client the user
wants to use, and then walk them through THAT tiresome and painful setup.
No no, it's MAIL DOT enn why see tee DOT *NET*

and so forth..

Wouldn't this be easier if you could just tell the user "ok, click START,
click Internet, click E-Mail, click Configure" and once they set it all
up, it is stored in a standard location. Then, when the user goes to check
their mail, the e-mail client will just load the config from the system
and handle it transparently?

Nobody wants this user to call back and ask for help once they install a
new e-mail client.

My proposal:

The GNOME Unified Mail System

A set of well-defined standard shared libraries that a process can query
for mail server information, username, (gulp) password, and maybe even
a centralized base of stored messages.

The e-mail client need only define the user interface. All else is backend
and supplied by GNOME. This is especially conveniant for several reasons:
	*	The same code needn't be written by everyone who wants to
		write a competing e-mail client. This would never work in
		the corporate closed-software market since everyone wants
		to define their own standard.

	*	Less codewriting equals less chance of writing
		buggy code. (you know, the kind that crashes
		programs other code hard?). Not to mention that community
		scrutiny will be focused on this one piece of GNOME,
		rather than hundreds of variants of it that a user may
		or may not use.

	*	If a user switches e-mail clients, they still retain their
		settings, username, and hell, even saved/sent messages.
		The new e-mail client needn't import the format the
		old e-mail client used.

	*	Shared libraries consume less drive space as well as
		memory (say, if we load two e-mail clients, for instance)
		No explanation needed here.

	*	That poor tech support guy can just refer them to a
		standard well-defined spot to enter their information,
		rather than have to figure out what alien e-mail client
		they're using and freeball it from there.

If you want to get creative, each e-mail client could theoretically offer
the user the same customization interface if you want to enCORBA it.

I don't see many drawbacks to the model, other than the stance of "GNOME
is bloated enough! That's all we need, let's add more functionality to
it!". Pfft. whatever. If this was for something like screensavers I
wouldn't be as persistant, but how important is e-mail? Very.

There's lots of room to redefine the world for the better. We're in a
position where we can do what is fundamentally good, useful, and even
desirable, not emulate whatever the competition might be (foolishly)
stuck with. 

If by some chance you want to post this somewhere, you have full right to
do so.

Thank you for reading.
--Michael Bacarella

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