my blog

Friday 27 February 2009

Getting the GNOME 2.26 release notes ready

While people are still working on fixing bugs, updating translations, writing documentation or testing GNOME 2.25, there's one task which is in need of some love: the release notes. I don't know exactly why, but we often forget about them until, well, a couple of weeks before the .0 release. Davyd has agreed to lead the effort for this cycle, which is a good news! And the other good news is that it's not really hard to help with this effort! Here's what you can do:

  • look at what has been gathered so far, and add missing items;
  • think about a theme for this release which will help structure the release notes (this can also be used for the image that will be put on the front page of our website);
  • help decide what are the major features we want to highlight;
  • take some screenshots of user-visible changes (reminder: you should use a default upstream GNOME configuration for that; the most important thing is the theme);
  • write some good text about this;
  • proofread the work of others.

At GUADEC last year, we decided that roadmap-list was the mailing list to coordinate the work on the release notes. So feel free to join the list and to propose your help there!

I can't stress out enough how the release notes are an essential part of a release: we've observed quite a few times already how good release notes help people be happy about a release, while less good release notes left people unsatisfied. And, well, that's not really surprising: without some good communication, even the best things are not that attractive ;-) I'm pretty sure we all have various examples for this, and I'm still trying to decide if this is a bad thing or a good thing. It might seem bad if you look at things only from, say, a technical point of view because, well, this is not supposed to matter compared to code; but on the other hand, being able to explain things to most people... isn't this another way to be open?

Anyway, I'm digressing :-) I just wanted everybody to know about this opportunity to jump in and help make GNOME 2.26 do some big splash!

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Planet GNOME Editors & Guidelines

For quite some time already, some people have expressed their various feelings about the current process around the Planet: unclear, slow, not transparent, etc. Many adjectives have been used. But if you think about it, maintaining Planet GNOME is not an easy task: you have to make sure it's still an enjoyable read, and quality is really important for that. In the past, I have talked with various people who wanted their blog to be aggregated on Planet GNOME -- it was not my job, so I couldn't really decide, but I was still looking at the blogs to know if it was a clear decision. And sometimes, it's really hard to know. Actually, I don't think this part of the process can be made easy. But we can still improve the overall process by making it clearer, faster and more transparent. And we're doing this now.

The first change is that Lucas and I will join Jeff as editors of the Planet. Adding some redundancy should at least help a bit to handle requests faster or more reliably. We're currently aiming at answering each request within a week. But well, I expect a bunch of requests to be sent in the first few days, so I'm pretty sure we'll fail for the first week at least ;-) But that sounds like a good objective afterwards.

Then, there's the problem of explaining how decisions are taken. During FOSDEM, Lucas and I sat down for some time to start writing down some guidelines, trying to explain what was not documented. We actually ended up writing more than just guidelines on how to know if your blog can be added to the Planet: there's now a good beginning of a FAQ for Planet GNOME. It's still at the draft stage, and we welcome feedback on this. But it should be pretty close to a first official version.

The main issue that is left is on the topic of transparency: it'd be nice to let people be able to track the status of requests. An obvious solution would be to use bugzilla for this. I personally like the idea but it still feels hard to publicly say to someone sorry, your blog is not of enough interest to be included on Planet GNOME. Sure, it should be said in a friendlier way, and with a rationale, but people will certainly feel rejected (understandable, although well, the decision is not a personal one against the person), and feeling rejected in public makes things worse. On the other hand, is it worse than closing a bug as WONTFIX for the reporter?

So things are moving, and hopefully this will be for the better. Make sure to look at the proposed Planet GNOME guidelines and to comment them!

Thursday 12 February 2009

Back from FOSDEM

I came back from FOSDEM on Sunday evening, completely burnt out. Not because it was bad, quite the contrary: it was a blast, really. Especially since there were all those familiar faces, some of which I hadn't seen in a long while. I didn't really help with any booth (except the openSUSE one, for an hour or so), or devroom, which was quite a change from the previous years. Instead, I had tons of discussions with many different people on a large set of topics, and it felt extremely productive to me. Of course, the bad thing is that I came back with many more things to do ;-)

The openSUSE booth was well alive, thanks to Martin who made sure everything would be ready. There was a computer to try SUSE Studio, and to create some images on USB keys and it attracted a lot of people. Stickers and DVDs were of course available, and some people even got a great t-shirt! It was also good to be able to talk to Henne, Andrew, Zonker and others.

Love Wall at FOSDEM

Image from faerie_eriu (Creative Commons BY-SA)

As for the GNOME community, I can only say it rocked! When I look at the past and remember the GNOME presence we had in the previous years at FOSDEM, I can only say that I'm impressed with the progress we've done:

  • Andreas had made a great design for the t-shirts (I can't find any picture of the t-shirt yet), and Baptiste Mille-Mathias did all the hard work to get them printed. It was quite cool to see people wearing the GNOME t-shirt on Sunday :-)
  • Baptiste also took care of stickers, and so we had 5000 stickers to distribute. And those stickers, wow... I love them: simple and beautiful. I loved them so much that I took a good bunch of them and walked around to give them away to people I met or on other booths.
  • Reinout and Lionel did a fantastic work organizing and manning the booth, with the help of a few other people.
  • Thanks to Olivier Le Thanh, we had the GNOME Beer Event on Saturday which got a good attendance and was really a great place to be for random chats.
  • I didn't see much of the GNOME devroom, but I'm sure that Christophe did a good job there -- at least, I heard of some talks in positive ways :-)
  • Frédéric has the GNOME group photo in his camera, and since he loves being pinged on IRC, don't hesitate to do so and request the photo to be posted!

Really good stuff. Make sure to hug all those people to thank them for their hard work!

Oh, and my "Bits from your GNOME team" talk in the openSUSE devroom went okay. Especially if you consider the fact that I could have fallen asleep while delivering it...

Thursday 5 February 2009

Of course I'm going!

Going to FOSDEM

Of course, I'm going! I'm actually leaving tomorrow morning. It'll be quite some busy days with lots of discussion on different topics, but it'll be great to see tons of people again. My main worry at the moment is that I'm pretty sure the two days and a half will be way too short for everything ;-)

On the GNOME side, we'll now have our traditional GNOME beer event on Saturday evening. The usual stand will be animated by a team of volunteers (you can still sign up to help!), and there will be free stickers, and t-shirts with a new design -- I'm quite eager to finally see how they look. If I'm not mistaken, the t-shirts will be at the usual price: €5 for GNOME Foundation members and €10 for everybody else. Oh, and I didn't mention the devroom which will be a good place for some exciting stuff. Glad to see quite some french-speaking people talking :-)

Going to FOSDEM

We're trying to organize a group photo on Saturday afternoon. Depending on the weather, we'll do it inside the devroom or outside. We'll announce this once we know how sunny the sky will be, but be ready for 15:45! Of course, we'll need a camera, but that shouldn't be a big issue. There will also be a photo with the KDE people -- quite a challenge to have everybody on one photo.

On the openSUSE side, Martin has been taking care of nearly everything so I expect the presence to be quite good. I can't wait to meet more of the openSUSE community, since I still can't put any face on most names... There are tons of things to discuss, and I hope we'll get some interesting feedback from users but also people who'd like to contribute. Oh, and it seems I'll be talking about our rocking GNOME team on Sunday :-)

Woo, quite excited about all this!

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Pushing a completely updated GNOME stack to Factory

Back in December, a small team of volunteers wanted to work on updating GNOME in openSUSE to 2.25. But openSUSE was still frozen, so this was not possible to do. Or at least not possible the usual way. Let me explain why:

  • as people probably know, the development version of openSUSE is called Factory. It's being developed in the build service, as the openSUSE:Factory project.
  • the GNOME team maintains quite a number of packages (more than 350) and so we use a specific project where everybody can submit updates and where we make sure everything works fine together. This is the GNOME:Factory project in the build service. When we're happy with a package, we push it to openSUSE:Factory.
  • whenever openSUSE:Factory is frozen, we freeze GNOME:Factory too. This enables us to use GNOME:Factory to fix all kind of bugs in Factory (when Factory is only frozen from an upstream version point of view), or to fix critical bugs in Factory (when Factory is really frozen).

So, openSUSE was frozen. But the small team of volunteers was crazy enough to push and to create a GNOME:Factory:Next project to start packaging the latest upstream versions of all the modules we maintain. This was a totally crazy idea. And completely insane since there was no real review of the changes being done. They worked hard as they of course tried to follow the GNOME schedule to update packages. And there were some bad surprises along the way (for example: someone directly updating a package in Factory to fix some issue, which then requires a manual merge in GNOME:Factory:Next).

Then Factory opened again for development. We started merging things in GNOME:Factory, reviewing the changes, fixing stuff here and there. What was done in GNOME:Factory:Next was certainly not perfect, but it was still pretty good. And during all this process, we took some time to review some of our patches, trying to send upstream those that were never sent (usually for bad reasons), or trying to simply kill them. It's a tedious task since there are packagers who don't send the patch upstream, some who add a patch but don't mention the patch name explicitly (so it's quite hard to know why the patch was added), or you can find patches linking to the wrong bug... But I digress, that's something that I should discuss in another post.

And now, fast forward to today: after the tons of changes, I pushed the packages to openSUSE:Factory. How many packages? 201. All at once. Unless they were using GNOME:Factory, GNOME users of Factory all had some GNOME 2.24.x until now. They'll finally have a mix of 2.25.5 and 2.25.90 now. That's a big leap forward :-)

Oh. Yeah, I probably didn't mention yet that the team of volunteers was made of Magnus Boman, Luis Medinas (hrm, Luis, you're not on Planet SUSE!?) and Suman Manjunath. Rocking people!

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Browsing the openSUSE sources

At the end of last week, Sébastien and Michael were discussing some gnome-session thing and they wondered if there was a patch in openSUSE to make it work. The bad thing is that they couldn't look by themselves without creating an account on the build service, and so they asked me. It reminded me of a time where I was looking at the patches in all distributions for the modules I maintained, and I was quite annoyed by the same problem. And, well, it sounded so easy I couldn't resist: I hacked a quick workaround.

It turns out you can list the content of a source package and download the files without an account; however it's at the moment not possible to get the list of source packages. This last point is quite a blocker if you want to easily browse the sources. So I just wrote a small script that periodically exports the list of source packages for the released distributions and Factory, and voilà! You can now browse the packages and download all files, including the most interesting part: patches.

There's a small bug in the build service -- it does't send the MIME type, I think, so you can't directly view the files in the browser. Also, I didn't make this work with all the projects in the build service but only a subset. So you don't get, for example, the latest work we're doing in the GNOME team (since it's in GNOME:Factory). But still, better than nothing, isn't it? Everybody will now be able to see the weird patches we have, and this can only be a good thing.

Note that in the future, the build service content will probably be readable without an account, so this will make this hack irrelevant (which is a good thing!). Also you'll have noticed the tmp in the URL of the server; did I mention it was a hack? ;-) Oh, I nearly forgot: if you want to run some script on this data, contact me, we'll find a better way than just parsing those webpages.

Update: oh, well, I decided to add GNOME:Factory since it's really where people should look for the GNOME stuff. I had to play a bit around to find the right way to handle this because the packages are links to the ones in openSUSE:Factory, but I got it. If someone wants me to add another project, let me know, it's really trivial.

Monday 2 February 2009

Question de genre

En parlant ce matin (ok, en début d'après-midi) avec une amie, j'ai eu les oreilles qui m'ont châtouillé. Ce fut à l'occasion d'une phrase qui sonnait comme mon Debian est piraté. Non, non, il ne faut pas s'inquiéter sur le contexte, c'est particulier ;-) Donc, la partie coupable de ce désagrément est mon Debian. Effectivement, j'aurais tendance à dire ma Debian. Et Google me confirme gentiment que la majorité emploie Debian au féminin. Certes, la majorité n'a pas toujours raison, mais là, j'aurais tendance à penser que c'est le cas. Pour sa décharge, l'amie en question est argentine ; nous ne la blâmerons donc pas ici.

Mais d'abord, pourquoi est-ce féminin ? On dit un Nokia (c'est un téléphone), une Renault (c'est une voiture), une HP (c'est une imprimante), un Windows ou un Mac OS X (c'est un système d'exploitation), un Linux (c'est un noyau), mais une Debian, une Fedora, une Mandriva, une openSUSE, une Ubuntu, etc. Parce que ce sont des distributions.

Intéressant. Reculons donc d'un pas et cherchons la règle en question. Wikipédia nous donne une petite aide sur le genre des noms propres, avec ce petit passage :

Lorsque rien n'indique le genre du nom propre, (un inanimé, le plus souvent) on considère le plus souvent que ce nom propre hérite du genre du nom générique englobant le référent du nom propre.

J'en arrive donc à la question existentielle du jour : le concept de distribution serait-il donc prépondérant par rapport au concept de système d'exploitation ?

by Vincent