my blog

Wednesday 31 March 2010

Enjoy GNOME 2.30!

GNOME 2.30

Amazing banner for Two Thirty by Andreas Nilsson

It's out and it's good :-) Go read the release notes to get more details about 2.30! You know the drill now: this release is already included in the development branch of most distributions, and you'll see it in stable distributions released in the next few months.

I've thought hard about it and after careful consideration, I'm positive that my favorite change in this release is the redesigned Swell Foop (previously named Same Gnome). Sure, it's neither the most visible change nor the most useful one, but the new clutter-based engine for this simple game makes it really addictive!

If you use openSUSE Factory, GNOME 2.30 is already available from the GNOME:Factory project in the build service, and I pushed it to Factory today, so it'll be in the next milestone. But there's more! I really love the fact that we're able to easily ship the latest releases of various applications for our stable openSUSE release. Yes, that means that if you're an adventurous openSUSE 11.2 user, you can also play with it today! There are instructions for 11.2 users on the wiki, but please do read the warning at the top of the page :-) The GNOME team will work a bit on it to make sure it's all stable so that non-adventurous users can also enjoy it!

Many thanks to everyone involved in this release, especially to the various people who helped for this release in the last few days — there were more late tarballs than usual, for example, but we still managed to get 128 new tarballs compared to 2.29.92 (and I ended up rolling 30 tarballs myself, a new world record!). And my good friend Andreas saved my world again with his 2.30 banner :-)

Now let's have an ice cream party!

Monday 15 March 2010

desktop-file-utils news, and an easy way to contribute

A few weeks ago, I migrated desktop-file-utils from CVS to git, but after pushing it, I realized I could have done the migration in a slightly better way. Ouch. Enters one hero, Tollef: he was kind enough to allow me to kill the old git repository and start from scratch. This means desktop-file-utils finally lives in git. Woohoo!

It enabled me to commit various patches I had done locally in the meantime (I really didn't want to use CVS again, so I was waiting for git ;-)), and then to release desktop-file-utils 0.16. It's the first release since February 2008! Two years without a tarball is quite bad, especially since there were fixes waiting in CVS. But everything is good again, and we should now be back on track, with more frequent releases.

There are a bunch of changes in this release, including improved checks when validating a .desktop file. Of course, there's always the risk that this will result in files that are now invalid while they used to be marked as valid, but the new future error type of warnings should mitigate this. The other good news is that there's only one enhancement request opened in bugzilla, and I'm not even sure there's something we can do about it. But I'm confident you've already find a bug, so don't forget to file it ;-)

It all looks perfect, doesn't it? Well, there's one big thing missing, though: a regression suite. I still can't believe that we're releasing a validator for .desktop files without a regression suite, and I'm convinced there have been regressions in the past (or even in this release) that went unnoticed. I'd really love to have a few people help create tons of .desktop files that would stress the validator and make sure it validates what the specification says. It's an easy way to contribute: it just requires free time and understanding of the specification. Please contact me if you want to give it a try!

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Help GNOME be present at Idlelo, in Ghana!

A few weeks ago, the GNOME Foundation has been contacted by the organizers of the Idlelo conference in order to get a GNOME presence during the event. Quoting the website of the event:

IDLELO is one event for FOSS practitioners, developers and advocates as well as governments to showcase results, share experiences and challenges, review progress on the continent in diverse domains and chart a way forward for an African future grounded in true ownership of technology. IDLELO is therefore a premier international forum for the presentation of research results in Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in Africa.

The event will occur in May, in Accra, Ghana.

There have been many discussions in the past about how to get more community involvement in Africa, and there's no magical solution. But a good first step is, for sure, to be present at events that are being organized on the african continent. We're already sending Luis de Bethencourt to FOSS Nigeria, and we want to be at Idlelo too.

If everything goes well, the amazing Fernando will go deliver training sessions before the conference itself; but we need one more person to man a booth during the conference. While this is not a hard requirement, we'd still like to have a GNOME Foundation member who feels empowered to talk in the name of the Foundation. If you're interested in representing GNOME at Idlelo, please get in touch with the board. I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

Monday 8 March 2010

Tidbits from the Usability Hackfest

If you're still wondering what happened during the Usability hackfest, then you clearly missed a lot of blog posts. The good news is that you can catch up with all the links being collected on the Hackfests, or you can cheat and go read Máirín's coverage, since she did an amazing job writing about what was being discussed.

I was there only for the last two days; the original plan was to attend a bit more of the event, but the travel from France to London took an unexpected 12 hours. I still had some good and useful time there, that I mostly used to get a good overview of what people are working on, and how this can be integrated in a GNOME roadmap. Here are some highlights:

  • While I missed the discussion about nautilus, it seemed most people at the hackfest agreed on streamlining the nautilus user interface. I'd love to try the prototypes that were worked on: most of the proposed changes make sense to me. But getting rid of tabs and/or the split view will certainly trigger various reactions, and that's something that we cannot ignore...
  • Thomas je parle français couramment Wood was kind enough to let me use his laptop charger nearly all the time — I had one, but not for the right laptop...
  • Charline reported about a usability review of empathy, and this was definitely instructive. It's always fun to look at a user interface and finds what's wrong and what can be improved. In some way, it reminded me of some usability reviews that the usability team was doing for various applications a few years ago. That's an effort that we've been missing lately, and I'd love to see someone revive this!
  • The work on the new control center seems to be moving along nicely. We should see the results in the next development cycle; don't be afraid to help Thomas if you're interested in this!
  • While discussing preferences, and removing some of them that we think most (as in a huge percentage) people don't use, we mentioned the fact that when we remove some settings from the various configuration tools, a lot of people get unhappy, to say the least. This is understandable, but we also always pointed out that it should be easy to write a small tool to enable people to change those settings graphically again. That never happened, but we'd like to avoid further unhappiness. This is how the idea of GNOME Plumbing was born. And I foolishly proposed to implement this.
  • It was funny to see Garrett breaking his openSUSE installation. Except that it shouldn't break this way when using GNOME:Factory on 11.2. Oops.
  • I had a good chat with Jon about GNOME 3. There's so much we can deliver during the whole GNOME 3.x cycle... We're focusing on 3.0 right now, but we need to prepare the following releases too. It was motivating to get reminded of the various areas we should explore, and motivation is something that was most welcome :-)
  • It was good to catch up with Lucas, just a few days before Julia magically appeared :-) He's still one of my heroes.
  • On Friday morning, Bastien told to Mairin, Garrett, Jakub and Hylke: okay, you want tools for designers; we're a bunch of hackers here, but we need you to design the tools you need. This resulted in a good discussion. Except that now, we really need some people to sit down and implement this. I guess this could be an interesting Summer of Code project!
  • Seeing Willie get hopes for usable accessibility support in GNOME Shell was a real pleasure. It's been a hard topic for months, and knowing that there might be some light at the end of the tunnel is already good news.
  • Matthew invited me to a card sorting session about settings and how to group them. It was a new experience for me, and seeing someone struggle to organize settings was eye-opening: I got the feeling that even with just one person doing this seriously, we can improve the overall experience for many users. I'm intrigued how usability people deal with different people having conflicting behaviors, though.

Many thanks to Canonical and Google for sponsoring this hackfest, and also thanks to Klaas and Novell for letting me go on a short notice :-)

I have high hopes that putting all those designers and usability people in one room together during one week will also make the GNOME Usability team move forward again. Usability is an essential part of our DNA, but we've been slowing down our efforts there, instead of accelerating as we should have done. This hackfest should put us back on track!

by Vincent