FUDCon APAC 2015 in Pune

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I had the pleasure to attend my second FUDCon APAC, in Pune, India this time. I arrived the day before the conference at the airport in Bombay where I met Tuan. After four tiring hours, we arrived to Pune and met Kushal.

My contribution to the conference was a keynote on Fedora Workstation. I found out just a couple of days before the conference that my talk had been selected as a keynote. That is why I changed my presentation last minute, I removed slides with technical details, so that it’s understandable for general audience. I also didn’t speak about Fedora Workstation specifically, but about (Linux) desktop problems in general and how we’re trying to solve them in Fedora Workstation. I think the talk went pretty well and received a lot of questions in Q&A at the end of the keynote and later during hallway conversations. The most frequent complaint of users was lack of multimedia support, so I added it to my presentation, and explained that it’s not really a technical issue, and that we’re working hard to make it better, and that we might see a significant improvement in Fedora 23.

Me giving the keynote, photo is courtesy of Kushal Das.

Me giving the keynote, photo is courtesy of Kushal Das.

I also really enjoyed other keynotes, especially the one by Tenzin Chokden who has worked on adding Tibetan translations to Fedora.

I also achieved other things:

  • participated in the discussion about the location for the next FUDCon APAC.
  • shared with APAC ambassadors what is our system for swag production and distribution in EMEA.
  • attended a key-signing party and got my GPG key signed by Harris Pillay, Dennis Gilmore, Jared Smith and others.
  • met a lot of Fedora contributors from India and people from Pune office of Red Hat.
  • agreed with Ryan Lerch that we would create a repository of artworks for Fedora swag production (yay!)

I’m staying in India for a few more days. I and Dennis Gilmore went to the historical center of Pune on Monday and to highlands near Pune yesterday.

I’d like to thank Fedora Project for providing me with accommodation during the conference and taking care of me (it was my first conference where they arranged a pick-up at the airport for me!). My big thanks go to the whole organizing team and especially Kushal who has been a great host to us.

Time to revisit how we’re doing updates?

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Fedora 22 is out and it’s again the most quality release we’ve ever released. Our quality assurance is improving and on the developer side, we’re also trying to do our best heavily using ABRT retrace server to prioritize bugs that affect many users. Unfortunately while the quality of releases itself is improving, the quality of updates that follow the release is not.

There are still too many regressions. I’ve installed Fedora on computers of my relatives and they’re happy with it, but sadly I can’t let them do updates themselves because there is still a high risk that they might end up with a broken system. I update their systems myself and always check whether everything is working when I pay them a visit. If we want to attract a larger user base, average users can’t be afraid to update their systems.

IMHO our current updates setup doesn’t ensure the required quality. It’s pretty much a “one-size-fits-all” approach. The kernel, the most critical part of the system, needs the same number of + karmas as some small unimportant, self-contained utility. Updates of critical components get to users too quickly without much of testing. I’ve got updates-testing repo enabled, but whenever I find a (critical) regression it’s very often too late because the update already got +3 karma and made it to the stable updates. Yeah, I already have the “Missed the train” badge :)

While Bodhi is too fast for standard updates, it’s too slow for critical security fixes. Especially in older supported releases (F20 now). There are not many testers willing to test updates there. The active community are usually early adopters who jump on new releases early and a several-month-old release is history to them. Then security updates just get stuck in Bodhi waiting for stable karmas.

What to do with it? I truly believe we need batch updates. One pack of updates, say, once a month. We would collect updates in updates-testing for 3-4 weeks, then freeze it for a week, so that even the latest updates have some time to be properly tested (I can imagine the pack of updates gets some more structured testing like our releases do for example). This way, individual updates would get much more time to be tested and the monthly update could be tested as a whole. I believe it would improve the quality of updates and users would not be under the fire of updates (it’s actually one of frequent complaints that there are too many updates in Fedora).

I don’t see a lot of downsides there. Who’d like to get updates as soon as possible could still enable updates-testing. This actually could build an even bigger community of update testers which would again help improve the quality of updates.

Any security updates? It’s clear that they can’t wait for a month to reach the users. They will need their own process. But I think it’s clearer and clearer that they will need their own process in the current setup as well. Maybe pulling in the security team which would evaluate proposed security updates and if they approve them as critical they will get into some fast track?

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

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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?

F21 Release Party in Brno

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I finally found time to write a blogpost about our F21 release party in Brno office of Red Hat. It took place on the release date – December 9th. It was, as always, well attended. It’s hard to estimate the total number of attendees, but it was definitely over 100. Unfortunately, F21 DVDs had not arrived yet, but we still had other swag for people to take: Fedora product stickers, Fedora logo stickers, case badges, badges, pins, flyers,…

It was also the first time when we had all presentations in English. The event is primarily aiming at the Czech community, so it was always in Czech, but there are quite a few foreigners in Brno office and one of them asked if the presentations could be in English and because no one objected, we switched to English.

IMG_1429

Me demoing Fedora Workstation

I delivered the first presentation. It was on Fedora Workstation. I didn’t have any slides, and demoed all changes GNOME right away. The next presentation was by Petr Hracek who spoke on how to set up Android Studio via DevAssistant in Fedora 21. Then Dan Vrátil and Jan Grulich spoke about KDE Plasma 5 which you won’t find in Fedora 21, but you can easily try it from Copr and it will be included in F22. The last talk was by Fedora program manager Jaroslav Řezník who spoke about the recent changes in governance: Fedora Council, working groups, and also about “products” themselves. Too bad I didn’t find anyone in our office who could talk on Fedora Server, there were quite a few people interested in that.

Audience

Audience

Pictures were taken by Jiri Folta and you can find more of them in his G+ album.

Let’s Plan Events in EMEA!

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At EMEA FAD in Leverkusen, we started planning events and activities in EMEA for the fiscal year 2016 (starts on March 1, 2015). Right after that, I asked others, who couldn’t attend the FAD, to provide their input. Today, I put it all together on a new wiki page that should help us organize events where we want to promote Fedora in the next year.

I’d like to make the event planning more sophisticated. In the last two years, we’ve made a really good job in budgeting. We know where we will be and how much it will cost. Now, I’d like to add something more, so that we know why we will be there, what impact it will have, and if it’s somewhat aligned with the overall strategy of the Fedora Project.

That’s why the list of events on the wiki page is much more detailed than it ever was. And it’s not a closed list, you can still add an event if you want to go represent Fedora there and need support from us (even if you don’t need support, we still appreciate if you add the event, we’d like to know where Fedora is present). Based on this table, we will create a budget for the next year, and based on this budget, we will get money from Red Hat for events and activities in EMEA, so if you apply now it’s much easier to provide you with some funding because once the budget is finished we have to cover anything else from reserves and leftovers and those are very limited.

The new planning should also discover our shortcomings and help us work on them. So far, we, for example, don’t have any events planned outside Europe (nothing in Africa and Middle East :-( ). The only well-covered region is the Central Europe. We don’t cover the Balkans (Former Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria) at all, no events in the Baltic countries, just two in Scandinavia. No events is such large countries as France, Poland, or Spain. We’re also too focused on traditional Linux/FOSS events where the audience usually already knows us and we don’t go to events that are a bit of our comfort zone, but our target audience is there (events for developers, makers,…).
I hope we will improve this a lot in FY2016.

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