my blog

Wednesday 24 February 2010

London, here I come!

I'm going to the Usability Hackfest in London today! Seeing the pictures on Máirín's post (more pictures) makes me feel it's already going quite well, and I'm eager to sit down and listen to clever people.

I'm saying I'm going, but I should probably say that I'm supposed to go: there's a strike in french airports and yesterday, I learnt that the airport where I'll take the flight to London is supposed to be closed. At least the flight wasn't cancelled. Yet. Oh well, I guess we'll see how it goes ;-)

Update: of course it happened. Flight got cancelled while I was on my way to the airport. After some challenging times (they had no computer working because of bugs), I'm now at another airport, waiting for a flight in the afternoon. But I'll make it :-)

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Vincent's story about FOSDEM

I'm back from FOSDEM. Okay, I've been back since two weeks, but I still wanted to write a few words about the event.

In one sentence: it was a blast! Hardly a surprise, though, since it has always been a great event. But FOSDEM is not just about the conference: it's also about waffles and french fries (no beer for me, thanks ;-)). Oh, and people too: with my good friend Andreas, we went to the Belgian Comic Strip Center on Friday afternoon, where I learnt some cool facts about our beloved bandes dessinées; I had dinner with the GNOME french-speaking cabal on Friday (we all enjoyed the really good food), and with crazy openSUSE people on Saturday; I discussed about PhD thesis with Kris and Christian during the beer event; etc. I missed Lucas, though — but he had a good excuse to not come.

My experience of FOSDEM itself was different this year: I had planned to have meetings or chat with many different people, and it did happen. But I didn't realize that it'd make me that busy... Between GNOME Foundation-related meetings, a release team meeting, discussions about accessibility, translation infrastructure, GUADEC or GTK+, and the last-minute slide writing with Anne and Frédéric, I felt a bit short in time. And exhausted after one day.


I loved our GNOME presence during the event. It was really amazing to see so many different people step up to help with the organization and the booth, even though we really could have organized the whole thing better. The t-shirts were nice and people seemed to like it, although a few people commented that the art was printed a bit too big. The stickers were also popular, and that's understandable; still, we had many stickers remaining at the end, but they'll go straight to an event in Nigeria. I sent a small report to foundation-list with more details about how it all went.

GNOME Stickers

Footsteps in the hall ... by Itkovian (Creative Commons by-nc-sa)

Of course, Christophe tricked me into doing the opening of the GNOME devroom: he pretended he was stuck in some tramway, far away from the venue. But if you looked carefully, you could see him on the booth during the opening! Never trust french people ;-)

During a meeting on Saturday afternoon, Christophe called me to ask about the group photo. I look at the time and, hrm, well, it was supposed to happen at that exact moment. There was only this tiny issue that I was 5-10 minutes away from the venue. Apparently, everybody else had forgotten too; but still, I was supposed to be responsible for that. I guess you should really never trust french people! But I managed to sneak in the KDE group photo, though.


It was good to see the boosters again, although it was way too short. One thing I really liked about the openSUSE booth is that we had some nice big touchscreens. And they really help attract people: just put some nice game or something that looks good, and people will start playing with the computer.

openSUSE booth

The booth setup by Henne Vogelsang

For some reason, some people made fun of me because of my talks, which were interactive session. Because I was running everywhere to give the microphone to participants. However, the real person to blame there is Richard who deliberately chose to sit in the worst seat for me ;-)

The talks themselves went well. Anne and I expected to see more doubts raised about the collaboration between distribution for translation of package descriptions, but maybe we were a bit pessimistic? As for the GNOME upstream/downstream discussion, it made me realize how large the gap between upstream and downstream can be and I hope it also helped the downstream and upstream contributors feel this gap, which is the first step towards a better world. I was surprised to see some GNOME maintainers not knowing about distributor-list, for example.

It was really a busy week-end, and it's amazing how productive those two small days can be: I came home with new ideas, new plans and lots of motivation, which is always good!

Friday 19 February 2010

A few words about cups-pk-helper...

It looks like I succeeded in never promoting cups-pk-helper... Let me try to fix this so that more distributions start to look at it :-)

One year and a half ago, for openSUSE 11.1, we wanted to make it easy to configure printers. So naturally, we integrated system-config-printer since it works well, is well-maintained, and is adopted by other distributions. However, the security team didn't want to make the default cups configuration too permissive (for good reasons), and it resulted in lots of root password prompts by default, which is not so cool for end-users. And we thought: So if we don't want to make the whole cups configuration permissive, maybe we could have a mechanism to have fine-grained privileges... There's this cool little project called PolicyKit that could help. This is how cups-pk-helper was born.

We could of course have tried to push this solution in cups itself, and to be honest, this is what would make most sense. However it would have required much more effort: nobody wants a patch that wouldn't get accepted by the cups team, and the cups team would certainly require this feature to work in a way that would make it implementable on other operating systems. And I didn't feel ready for such a battle.

So I went ahead with the small helper, and after a few hours of hacking in September 2008, there was already some working code and a patch to make system-config-printer use this. A few bugs later, it all went in openSUSE. At some point, Tim Waugh accepted the system-config-printer and Fedora also started using cups-pk-helper. This is also when Marek Kasik started working on cups-pk-helper, implementing some additional features.

Fast-forward to today. I've just released cups-pk-helper 0.1.0, and I'm hopeful that the code will move to really soon now.

So what kind of fine-grained privileges do we offer? There are actions for editing local printers, remote printers, classes, jobs you own, or jobs you don't own, as well as simpler actions like the one to enable a printer (something you might want to allow without allowing the edition of a printer), or a low-level action that can be used to upload/download a file to/from the cups configuration. We're trying to be relatively flexible, while still limiting the actions to what we believe is really useful. What we have right now looks relatively reasonable, but it's certainly also wrong in some ways. We just need feedback to know how it's wrong ;-)

To make it easy to integrate cups-pk-helper in system-config-printer, the D-Bus API is based to a large extent on the pycups one. The good news is that the API makes sense, so it's no big deal; but we could possibly diverge a bit if needed. So if you're working on another tool to configure printers, don't hesitate to look at the D-Bus API and send comments on what is missing there for you.

Oh, and of course, in openSUSE, we still require the root password for all those fine-grained privileges, but at least this is easily configurable now :-)

Thursday 4 February 2010

Going to FOSDEM 2010

Going to FOSDEM

I'm happy to go to Brussels again this year: it's been a long time since I didn't eat some really good waffles! Of course, I had to pretend I would do something useful there, so I'm participating in two talks, both in the distributions devroom:

  • Working with GNOME upstream: this will really be an interactive session, where upstream and downstream people for GNOME can meet, and discuss what can be improved to make the life of both upstream contributors and downstream contributors. It will probably be a good opportunity to also clarify how GNOME 3 might affect distributors, and to get a first overview of how it will be handled downstream. I hope it will be useful for everybody. I certainly hope we'll have a bunch of upstream people attending, and that we'll have representatives for various distributions there (make sure to tell the GNOME people in your distribution to come!).
  • Translations of package descriptions: as you can see, I don't have my name attached to this session, so I can pretend I didn't know about it ;-) But I'm supposed to help Anne there as we've discussed this a bit in the past few months. Translating package descriptions has obvious benefits for the end users, but it's a huge amount of work. And therefore we can seriously wonder if it's really worth duplicating this effort in each distribution (hint: probably not). So this session aims to look at what we can do to work together on this, and what it implies.

I'm also eager to have some insightful discussions with the great people that will come to FOSDEM. The hallway meetings have always been productive there!


GNOME will have some strong presence again this year. There's the GNOME devroom on Saturday, that will become CrossDesktop devroom on Sunday, and during the whole week-end, we'll have a booth. If you want to help, that's definitely the place where you should go: we need volunteers to run the booth (see Lionel's mail for more details).

The booth should look great again, thanks to the event box, lovely stickers (they'll be free again!) and, hopefully, t-shirts (we're unsure they'll be ready in time, but let's be optimistic ;-)). On Saturday, you'll also find there some information about what is becoming a tradition: the GNOME Beer Event that will occur on Saturday evening.

Oh, apparently, I was volunteered to organize the GNOME group photo on Saturday, at 15:30. So make sure to be around the devroom at that time!


There will also be a good number of openSUSE people, with the usual booth (looking for some openSUSE DVD or sticker? You'll find them there!). This year, there's no openSUSE devroom because there's one big distributions devroom instead; I believe it's a good thing, though: it should help get more collaboration happen, and it's also a nice opportunity to steal good ideas ;-)

I'm happy that most of the boosters team will also attend; I heard it's a great group of people to hang out with!

by Vincent