I’m going to FUDCon APAC 2015!

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Last year, I was really impressed by the level of organization and atmosphere at FUDCon APAC that took place in Beijing, China which is why I decided to submit a talk for FUDCon APAC 2015, which is going to take place in Pune, India. And guess what! My talk was accepted!

I named the talk “Present and Future of Fedora Workstation”. I’m now part of the Red Hat desktop team and we have a lot of interesting stuff that has made it to F22 and even more interesting stuff that is planned for F23. So I’ll talk about all the goodness that is changing Fedora Workstation into the best desktop system for active and creative users (developers, writers, designers,…).

I’m arriving to Mumbai at 8:35am on June 25th. I’ve seen that some people have arrivals around that time, too. It’d be great to organize transportation to Pune together. After FUDCon, I’m taking a week of holidays and would like to check interesting places around, hope to see e.g. Goa before the proper rain season starts. India will be my 50th visited country and I’m looking forward to it.

See you in Pune!

Automatic Problem Reporting in F22

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I regularly go through most frequent problems reported to ABRT retrace server because it helps me prioritize bugs in Fedora that are assigned to my team. I think ABRT service is great for developers to prioritize their bugs + it helps collect much more data about the crash than an average user normally provides.

However,I’ve noticed a significant drop in number of reports in Fedora 22. It’s just two weeks before the final release when many early adopters are already running F22, but the difference in number of reports from F21 and F22 is huge: 64373:904.

12 days before F21 was released, we collected 16081 reports from this version. That’s almost 18x more. I don’t think we’re experiencing such a huge drop in adoption, so I investigated more…

…and learned that GNOME Control Center got a new privacy setting in F22: Problem reporting. And if you upgrade from Fedora 21 automatic crash reporting is disabled even though you had it enabled before the upgrade. To make it even more confusing if you go ABRT settings automatic reporting is enabled there. That’s because the setting in GNOME Control Center serves as a master setting that overrides settings in ABRT. So if you have upgraded to F22 and want to provide developers with very valuable data, please go to Control Center->Privacy->Problem Reporting and enable automatic reporting. Manual reporting is still possible from the ABRT app.

The ABRT team is working on a fix for this.

If you do a fresh installation, you should be able to allow automatic reporting in the Initial Experience after installation.

Instant Messaging in Fedora Workstation 2

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Last week I wrote about the suboptimal state of instant messaging in Fedora Workstation with some thoughts how it could be improved. I also asked Fedora users on Facebook and Google+ what IM clients they use. Especially in the case of Google+, I gathered votes from a number of people which is large enough to draw some conclusions.

I used different methods on FB and G+ because unlike G+ FB doesn’t support polls, so I asked people to submit their answers in comments. That grew much fewer answers, but people were not biased by pre-picked answers. Here are the results:

fb-clients-chartAs you can see there are pretty much just four IM clients that are widely used by Fedora users: Pidgin, Skype, Empathy, Telegram.

Google+ supports polls, so I created a poll where users could pick one of those answers: Empathy, Pidgin, KDE Telepathy, Other, or “I don’t use a desktop client”. Over 1200 users voted which is significantly more than on Facebook and gives a good statistical sample. And the results?

gplus-clients-chartPidgin is a clear winner, winning by a larger margin than among FB users. What is also interesting is the number of people who don’t use IM desktop clients any more – 37 %. This group is probably over-represented in this poll because it’s obvious that G+ users will favor web tools more than others since Google is such a proponent of web apps. I also asked users to add the name of their favorite IM client in the comments under the poll if it’s not among given options. And these are the results:

gplus-clients-othersEven though I was asking about desktop clients, most people voted for Hangouts which is not surprising on Google+. Some of them even consider Hangouts a desktop app because the Chrome app can partly behave that way. Telegram is also very popular among Fedora users on Google+.

And some conclusions?

Empathy – in both surveys Empathy lost to Pidgin which is not a good score for a default client. If alternative clients are more popular than the default one, then the default one is not doing a good job. Based on the comments, what people don’t like about Empathy is that how it behaves in GNOME 3. Transforming it into a single window would probably solve most of the complaints, but in the long run Empathy would need much more than that and is anyone interested in developing it? Now, it’s totally dead upstream.

Pidgin – is the most popular IM client among Fedora users even though it was ousted from the position of the default client many years ago. People don’t seem to be very enthusiastic about it, it hasn’t seen any higher development activity for years, but it’s still the best what we have according to most users. Going back to Pidgin as the default client would probably be the safest option. Unlike Empathy, it doesn’t have integration with GNOME Online Accounts, but apparently it’s not a significant inconvenience for users if they still prefer Pidgin to Empathy. However, in the long run we will hit problems that are related to very little upstream development activity – no GTK 3 port, no Wayland support, no HiDPI support etc.

KDE Telepathy & Kopete – I was quite surprised that KDE clients got so few votes. KDE is not as popular as GNOME among Fedora users, but it has a sizable user base. Does this mean that KDE users don’t use desktop IM clients any more or do they prefer Pidgin? In comments, I found several users saying that they use Pidgin in KDE.

Telegram – I was really surprised by the popularity of Telegram. I personally don’t know anyone who uses it, but it looks like it could be the new #1 IM service for open source enthusiasts as Jabber was in the last decade. It’s the only (at least a bit popular) modern IM service that is trying to be open and focused on privacy. It has a Linux desktop app written in Qt. You can find it in Copr although it’s not packaged very well and the app is missing an icon. I’m not sure how easy it would be for the package to make it into the official repositories. The website says they’re using slightly modified Qt which could make it difficult. There is also a plugin for Pidgin which doesn’t support advanced features, but works well for simple chat communication (again available in Copr). If we pick Pidgin as the default browser again, we should have this plugin pre-installed since Telegram seems to be becoming more and more popular.

Skype – ended second among Fedora users on Facebook. This IM service seems to be very popular even after a decade of its existence. Skype can’t be included in Fedora due to its license, but they provide an RPM package and it’s pretty easy to install it. Its protocol is closed, so we can’t really have support for it in open source clients, but maybe we can do a better job in integrating it to the desktop since it’s so popular among our users?

Hangouts – another popular closed service. Well, it’s not closed completely. Google still allows users to connect via XMPP, but you won’t get the advanced features and according to their plans they want to drop XMPP support anyway. So looks like the only way to give users Hangouts in the future will be the Chrome web app. Integrating web apps is in our Fedora Workstation tasklist. So things like converting Chrome Rich Notifications into standard desktop notifications, or installing the most popular Chrome web apps directly in Software would be worth looking into.

Facebook Chat/Messenger – no one really mentioned Facebook Chat which now has its own app – Messenger. People probably still don’t see it as a standalone service or don’t consider it a desktop app in any way (unlike Hangouts). However, it’s probably the most popular IM service nowadays. It still supports XMPP, but AFAIK they’re planning to drop it as well. Until then it works well with both Empathy and Pidgin. But after they drop XMPP, we won’t have many choices left. Maybe we could at least provide the web app messenger.com through Software?

GNOME Chat – some people also suggested that we drop Empathy and create a new app that should be part of the GNOME core apps. It would be based on Telepathy, so nothing like building it from scratch. It would fit very well to GNOME 3 (unlike Empathy) and it wouldn’t suffer from problems of Pidgin (Wayland, HiDPI support,…). There are even some designs and even some existing code, but no one has touched it for two years. So it hasn’t really stirred a lot of interest among GNOME contributors.

It all comes down to a question whether we want to provide one well integrated client that supports several IM services and whether it will even be possible in the future because the most popular services are closed or going to be closed, or whether we should give up our client and rather focus on supporting and integrating those dedicated, very often closed source clients. I always preferred to have one integrated tool for all IM networks, but the world seems to be going the other direction.

Instant Messaging in Fedora Workstation

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Instant messaging in Fedora Workstation is suboptimal. The current default IM client – Empathy – doesn’t work very well. It’s an app that was designed for GNOME 2 and is not a good citizen in GNOME 3. Mainly because of its multi-window nature. Having a separate roster window makes sense if the app uses a status icon, and when you close the roster window, it stays online, and you can always bring it back from the status icon. Empathy used to work that way, but in GNOME 3 status icons were declared deprecated. Empathy now doesn’t have the status icon and if you close the roster window, it goes offline, so if you want to stay online, you need to have a roster window floating around all the time.

So fix it, you would say. The problem with Empathy is that no one really wants. The app hasn’t seen any significant development for several years. The original author – Collabora – is not interested in developing it any more and no one else wants to pick up the development. Mostly because the app has quite complicated architecture.

The only advantage of Empathy was integration into the Shell. You could reply directly in notifications and you had all the current chats in the systray, so you didn’t have to use the app, which itself didn’t really fit in GNOME 3. But the latter feature was removed in GNOME 3.16, the Shell doesn’t have the systray panel, that hosted the chats, any more.

Because Empathy no longer has any user experience advantages and its development prospects are zero, we’ve been thinking about replacing it with something else. Pretty much the only other GTK+ IM client with support for a wide range of networks is Pidgin which used to be the default client before it was replaced by Empathy. Would it be a viable option? Here are some of my findings:

  • While Empathy has zero development, I really can’t say that Pidgin has any vital development. If you look at its stats at OpenHub, you’ll find out that there has been pretty small activity in the last couple of years, and it’s definitely declining.
  • Pidgin can run in a single window mode due to a plugin which I built in Copr if anyone is interested in trying it out.
  • It relies on the systray status icon and I don’t think it will be very simple to get rid of it.
  • There is a Pidgin integration extension for GNOME Shell, but in 3.16 it only shows notifications (it doesn’t show the content of the messages in notification, you can’t reply in notifications) and provides contacts for desktop search (not a in transparent way because Pidgin is not recognized as a search source and you don’t find it in search settings). Overall, the plugin is not very useful any more.
  • Pidgin is not integrated with GNOME Online Accounts. It’s kinda lame that you let users connect to their online accounts and then the default IM client doesn’t know about it and they have to do it again in its settings.
  • Pidging is not integrated with Contacts app.
  • Pidgin is a GTK+ 2 app. The developers started working on the GTK+3 port 6 years ago. Although most problems seem to be solved, the last update is two years old. Looking at the development pace, I’m not sure it will ever happen. Without GTK+3, you can’t run on Wayland, you can’t reasonably support HiDPI monitors. It simply doesn’t make Pidgin a good fit for a modern system Fedora Workstation wants to be.

Simply going back to Pidgin would not really help much long term. Right now, it’s probably a better client than Empathy, with at least some development activity. On the other hand, it doesn’t integrate well with GNOME, it doesn’t support modern technologies. So for Fedora it’d be a short-term solution if we decided to give up IM completely eventually which might be the case after all.

Pidgin in single-window mode.

Pidgin in single-window mode

Instant messaging networks are nowadays walled gardens. Several years ago, the open source community was using Jabber and it looked like we might get some interoperability and openness in popular IM networks as well. XMPP looked promising. This trend has completely reversed lately. Not only do we have more closed networks with their dedicated clients (Whatsapp, Viber,…), but the adoption of Jabber, the only truly open IM network, has been declining. I’m still a heavy user of integrated desktop IM clients, but I hear more and more often that people don’t care about IM integration into the desktop and rather chat in the web browser (Messenger, Hangouts,…).

What about you? Is well-integrated IM in Fedora still important to you or you don’t care any more?

DevConf.cz 2015: Useful Info

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I just returned from FOSDEM (will have to write about it when I have more time) and DevConf.cz is just a few days away, so I jumped into the final preparations right from the airport. Are you going to DevConf.cz? Here is some useful info:

  • Venue – I have spoken to several people who were completely surprised that DevConf.cz was not going to be at the campus of FI MUNI, but at the campus of FIT BUT. You can find instructions how to get to the new venue on the conference website. So make sure you’re going to the right place ;-)
  • Streaming – can’t make it to DevConf.cz? No problem! We most likely will stream all six talk tracks. The stream will be available on our Youtube channel. It will also be linked on the conference website. The program starts at 8am UTC every day. If you miss the stream, no worries, recordings will be available on our channel as videos immediately.
  • Party – the conference is not just about talks and workshops. There will be a conference party on Friday. Again in Klub Fléda. You can get a ticket at the Red Hat booth at the venue during Friday. Make sure you’ll get it early enough because the limit is 600 people and we can’t exceed it because of safety limits of the club. Speakers and volunteers won’t need to get a ticket because their badges will serve as such.
  • Apps – you can have the schedule and important info in your pocket. We’ve created apps for Android, Blackberry 10, SailfishOS, just look up for them in respective catalogs. We’ve also created a DevConf.cz guide for Guidebook.com apps. You will find a schedule and important and useful info in it, all for offline usage.
  • Lightning talks – got an idea for a talk? You still have a chance to talk at DevConf.cz 2015, you can propose a lightning talk in the morning, people will vote during the day, and those with most votes will be picked for the last hour of the schedule.
  • Refreshment – besides your brain you also need to feed your stomach at the conference. We will have refreshment at the venue again so that you won’t die of hunger if you stay there listening to talks all day long. As a response to demand, we will have Club Mate (not for free, but for very reasonable price)! At the campus, there will be a nice cafe open if you’d like to have better coffee, some dessert, or beer (they have great beer Richard from a local microbrewery). If you want a full meal, there are several good restaurants within 100m from the campus including a really good Thai place.

See you in Brno!

Django Girls Workshop at DevConf.cz 2015

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One of the events that is co-hosted with DevConf.cz 2015 this year is Django Girls Workshop. It’s organized for females who want to learn to code websites using the Django framework. It takes place in our lovely Red Hat lab on the campus of Faculty of Information Technologies of Brno University of Technology on the 5th of February, one day prior the conference.

It has free admission and thanks to sponsors (Red Hat and ElasticSearch), you can even get financial aid to travel to Brno and get accommodation. The deadline for registration is on January 15th, so don’t hesitate and sign up!

Fedora at DevConf.cz 2015

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DevConf.cz 2015 is just three weeks away, and the schedule was announced a few days ago. There are 150 talks and workshops in three days and Fedora plays an important role in it, especially on the last day which is mostly devoted to Fedora and thus called Fedora Day. Let’s look at which Fedora-focused talks the schedule offers:

Fedora Atomic – Collin Walters
Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop – Christian Schaller
Vagrant for your Fedora – Tomáš Hrčka, Josef Stříbrný
Using Fedora as a base for the IoT revolution – Peter Robinson
Fedora: State of the Project – Matthew Miller
CentOS for Fedora – Karanbir Singh
Fedora Workstation Roadmap – panel discussion with the Workstation working group
Automation with Fedora in Taskotron – Tim Flink
Google, ownCloud and your Fedora Workstation – Debarshi Ray
Bodhi2, MirrorManager2, progit, FAS3, anitya, the-new-coolness… What’s going on in Fedora infra? – Pierre-Yves Chibon
Fedora Server – getting back to roots – Stephen Gallagher
Fedora Release Engineering Today – Dennis Gilmore
Life of a Fedora Cloud image – Kushal Das
Discuss environment and stacks in Fedora – Honza Horák
SCE wide system assessment for upgrading Fedora – Petr Hráček
Fedora Council Joint Session – panel discussion with the Council members
Packaging Workshop – Matthias Runge

 And these are just talks that are focused on Fedora, there are much more talks that are on technologies which are very related to Fedora. So don’t hesitate and come to join us in Brno on Feb 6-8th!

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