Why rewrite Wengophone?

I’m still using Wengophone Classic, which works well, it just has some annoying issues.  I would expect the developers to eventually fix them, but the whole development powers are invested in the Wengophone NG (a.k.a. 2.0). So those little things will keep bothering me until the new version of Wengophone is usable, which doesn’t seem to happen soon. They publish the betas, but I neither could run the binary version nor compile the source code.

The main three problems are not that big, but since they happen very often, they get more and more annoying.

  • When placing a land-line call, the application freezes for about 5 to 10 seconds when the remote party picks up the phone. The processor gets at 100% use and the application doesn’t respond. After this period, I hear a time-squeezed helloing from the other side (“Hello? Hello?”) and if the other party was patient enough to wait 10 seconds without hearing any answer, I can start the conversation. Otherwise, I have to call again and again, until Wengophone doesn’t freeze on connect.
  • HTTP-tunnel doesn’t work. Well, the tunnel itself does, but the application freezes after few minutes. The processor gets at 100% use and Wengophone stops responding. This time it doesn’t pass by itself. I have to kill the application.
  • The ALSA sound is choppy. I’ve already written about it. I have to compile it with the OSS support.

I don’t know how hard it is to fix those issues, but since the Classic’s code has been thrown away, I wouldn’t expect the developers to drop fixing the unstable NG just to invest their time in a trash.

But wait, why trash? It’s a working application, isn’t it? It’s definitely more working than Wengophone NG. A lot of time was invested in this code and many bugs found and resolved. And now they’ve thrown it out.

Joel Spolsky wrote (in 2000):

Netscape 6.0 is finally going into its first public beta. There never was a version 5.0. The last major release, version 4.0, was released almost three years ago. Three years is an awfully long time in the Internet world. During this time, Netscape sat by, helplessly, as their market share plummeted.

It’s a bit smarmy of me to criticize them for waiting so long between releases. They didn’t do it on purpose, now, did they?

Well, yes. They did. They did it by making the single worst strategic mistake that any software company can make:

They decided to rewrite the code from scratch.

Wengophone’s case looks very alike. As a user, I’m not getting any updates of the application I use. The new version of Wengophone has still a far way to go. I think it would be a better idea to gradually replace one piece of Wengophone by another, constantly having a usable application.


Author: automatthias

You won't believe what a skeptic I am.