Flock & GUADEC 2016

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The last two weeks were pretty busy for me because I travelled to two of my most favourite conferences – Flock and GUADEC.

Flock was held in Krakow this year, so the traveling was a sort of easy for me. Krakow is just 350 km from Brno which is about 3.5 hours by car. The conference was again organized in the hotel where almost everyone stayed. The same setup was already in Rochester last year and people appreciated it. It’s very convenient. You don’t have to travel to the venue, you can sneak out to have a nap, which is super useful if you’re fighting jet lag, and you can use hotel facilities such as a gym or swimming pool.

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I had one talk and one hackfest at Flock. The talk was about Fedora SWAG. I’m still quite a lot involved in SWAG production for the EMEA region and it was a pleasure to state that the things have improved since the last year and a lot of ideas we had at Flock in Rochester actually got implemented.
The hackfest I organized was about writing AppStream metadata for application add-ons. I started the initiative in December and since then dozens of add-ons appeared in GNOME Software because they got AppStream metadata. The hackfest was partly a workshop because it took me quite a while to explain everyone what to do to make an add-on appear in the default app catalog in Fedora. I also learned new things. Richard Hughes who is very involved in upstream AppStream and works on GNOME Software participated and I, for example, learned that the way I had added keywords in metadata XML files was wrong. And Richard learned that I was doing it wrong because it was not documented anywhere.

I also attended many other talks. Matthew Miller’s keynote on the state of Fedora Project was very informative. I’m happy to see Fedora grow and I’m especially happy that our team plays a big part in it (Workstation makes ~80% of all ISO downloads). My boss Christian Schaller had a talk on Workstation which was pretty interesting, but because my team is deeply involved in many of the Workstation initiatives there was not much new to me. I also enjoyed talk by Jonathan Dieter who has run Fedora on 100+ computers in a high school in Lebanon and it was very interesting to listen to what it takes to use Fedora in such a deployment. Jonathan also noted that he hasn’t had a single major issue with Fedora in the last 3-4 years. Improved quality of Fedora was a theme that repeated in many other talks.
What was the main topic of the conference was modularity. Langdon presented a progress of this initiative. I must say I knew very little about it and I was quite surprised that the planned solution is built around RPM rather around increasingly popular containers.
I also met Pawel Hajdan of the Google Chrome team. Conversations with him very very informative and interesting for other Red Hat desktop team members, too. We discussed AppStream metadata for Chromium, Chromium for Flatpak, Chrome on RHEL etc.

Just a couple of days after I returned home from Flock I travelled to GUADEC which is the primary conference for GNOME users and developers. I didn’t have any talk or workshop, but a couple of my reports spoke there. This time the traveling was a bit more difficult. We went by train, had to take 6 of them, and traveled 1000 km. But the whole Brno crew made it to Karlsruhe sound and safe.

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There were many talks by Endless people. I’m really happy that Endless increases its investment in GNOME. It’s always better to have several major corporate contributors. Endless also proves that it’s possible to build a different shell on the top of GNOME, make your own UX story and still use most of the GNOME components.

I really enjoyed Owen Taylor’s talk on Fedora Atomic Workstation. Read-only OS, all apps in containers, development environment separated from the system… tt will be a radical change, but with a lot of potential benefits. I also like that Owen already has a clear idea about it and an already working prototype.

On Monday, I attended a Flatpak BoF. I expected it’d be mostly about portals, but portals were mentioned just briefly. Most of the discussion was about some centralized Flatpak repository. Someone suggested something called FlatHub which would be a place for Flatpak repositories where developers can build and distribute their apps, something like Copr for Flatpak. This can’t be exposed to average users though. We want to avoid a mess of 10 builds of GIMP without guaranteed quality. So there needs to be something called FlatStore where only approved and trusted developers can distribute their apps. So only GIMP developers themselves would be able to distribute GIMP there. There were many practical obstacles discussed. Should we build everything on store servers or allow developers upload binaries (building some desktop apps could be very resource hungry), who should run such a store (GNOME Foundation, FreeDesktop.org, a company?), how distributions will accept something that is built outside their control etc.

I enjoyed all days of both conferences. Very well organized, but still with the “for contributors by contributors” feeling. GUADEC 2017 will be in Manchester. Where Flock 2017 is going to be held is yet to be announced. The only certainty is that it will be in North America, so much more travelling for me next year, but I hope to visit both again.

Telegram Desktop Client for Flatpak

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Yet another app is packaged for Flatpak. Jan Grulich from our team has packaged the official desktop client for Telegram (EDIT: see his blogpost).

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And it was quite some task because the app is… well… wildly put together. Just see the build instructions provided by upstream. Flatpak manifests are usually fairly simple files, less complex than spec files, but this one ended up being 394 lines long.

I think such an app is an ideal target for Flatpak. There is no way that an app like this would make it to the official Fedora repositories and its authors don’t even seem to be interested in making it more possible.

Telegram client for Flatpak is also built from source. That’s not the case of most packages of this app out there. The Copr package or snap just wrap the upstream binary. With Jan’s manifest, you can build the app yourself. It also works better than the Copr package which creates its own desktop file and then the app itself creates another and you need to log in every time you start the app. It simply behaves weirdly.

If you want to try it out, Jan has created a repo:

$ flatpak remote-add --user --no-gpg-verify telegram-desktop https://jgrulich.fedorapeople.org/telegram/repo/

$ flatpak --user install telegram-desktop org.telegram.TelegramDesktopDevel

$ flatpak run org.telegram.TelegramDesktopDevel

If you still don’t have it, you also need to install the GNOME runtime (the app is using Qt, but it’s own patched version and it also uses components that are in the GNOME runtime, so it was a more sensible option):

wget https://sdk.gnome.org/keys/gnome-sdk.gpg

flatpak remote-add --user --gpg-import=gnome-sdk.gpg gnome https://sdk.gnome.org/repo/

flatpak install --user gnome org.gnome.Platform 3.20

 

It should create (Nightly) Telegram launcher (why nightly? because it’s built from master). And you’re good to go! Feedback is welcome. We’d like to propose it to the upstream project one day, so that they can build it themselves and ship it directly to their users with better experience than just a binary in an archive.

Fedora and Flock on Telegram

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The Fedora community is growing on Telegram. The group chat which I originally created for Flock 2015 and which was later changed to become a general group chat for Fedora users has grown into the size of >300 people.

We also started a Fedora News Channel as a sort of experiment because it’s increasingly difficult to use social networks such as Facebook for spreading the word for free and IM networks may be the new way to get information to users. The channel is currently followed by 294 users, but some messages get three times as many hits because they’re delivered to every subscribed user and they may be share them further. Compare it to Facebook where our messages reach 10% of subscribed users at average.

I’ve also been asked to create a group chat for Flock 2016. So if you’re going to Flock and wanna follow what’s going on there, join it!

Event Report: OSCAL 2016

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Last weekend, I attended OSCAL 2016, a conference about open source in Tirana, Albania. I was looking forward to the conference very much because the Fedora community in Albania had been very active recently. I’d met some of the Albanian community members at other conferences, but I was curious to meet others.

The conference really surprised me with its hospitality which was second to nothing. The organizers provided us with a lot of useful information, arranged transportation from the airport to the hotel. What was a real nice touch was a welcoming package which was waiting for every speaker in his/her hotel room. I haven’t seen something like this at any conference before and it must have been a real effort because speakers are spread among several hotels in the city.

The activity of Fedora community in Albania has real results. The user base of Fedora among open source enthusiasts in Albania seems to grow really fast. Fedora was by far the most popular distribution among OSCAL visitors and the only one visible there. We had a booth, many Fedora related talks, several ambassadors around.

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Fedora booth

I had two presentations. One was supposed to be a workshop for 30 minutes – “Best Practises in Translating Software”. 30 minutes is too short to make a proper workshop, so it was rather a practical talk. It was targeted at beginning translators, because I know there are quite a few people starting with that in Albania. But when I asked the audience who translates software just two hands rose. Others were just interested in the area. My second presentation was about Fedora Workstation (who is it for, what we have achieved, what we’re brewing), the room was pretty full and there were quite a lot of questions which is a sign that it was interesting for the audience.

At the end of the second day, there was a Fedora community meetup. There were experienced ambassadors from abroad (me, Giannis, Robert Scheck, Ardian,…), local ambassadors (Jona), other local contributors (Elio, Boris,…), and other people who were interested in joining the Fedora Project. We discussed what the Fedora Project can do for the local community to keep growing. We also talked about translations of Fedora and GNOME to Albanian. There are many new people translators, but the coordinators of translations that approve new translations are either inactive or reluctant to accept new contributions. Six years ago, I helped with a similar situation in the Slovak translation team, so I gave local contributors advice how to start processes to resolve it.

A couple of community members were interested in becoming ambassadors. There were three ambassador mentors (me, Robert, and Giannis) and we shared with them what are our expectations, that there is no limit for ambassadors per country. If there are enough active people, there can be even 10 ambassadors in Albania. We as mentors just have to make sure that the candidates are ready and are willing to contribute in longer term.

What was also very special about OSCAL was a number of women at the conference. Over 50% of attendees and 70% of organizers were women. That’s something you don’t see anywhere else. They’ve naturally achieved a gender diversity communities anywhere else in the world are struggling to achieve. When I ask why is that they told me that it’s because there are many women studying computer science. One girl told me that in her study program there are 190 women and only 10 men. Why are there so many women studying computer science? I was told it’s because girls are encourage to pursue this career path and IT is considered one of a few industries where you can get a job and earn good money. But I was also told that there are many women in other technical fields such as math and civil engineering. So it’s not only because IT would be the only attractive field there.

I’d like to thank the Fedora Project for sponsoring my flight ticket and I hope Fedora will be even more visible at OSCAL than this year.

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Mozilla booth

Get Notified of Crashes in Your Packages

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ABRT project produces very helpful statistics about crashes in Fedora. We in the Red Hat desktop team have been using it intensively for some time. I’ve already written about it in one of my previous posts. It’s really helped us make Fedora much more stable.

Call me Captain Obvious who just discovered America, but until now I had a very little idea about the fact that I can filter messages from FAF and make alerts. So when a problem in one of my packages reaches, say, 1000 occurrences I receive an email or IRC message that there is a severe enough problem to look at.

This is pretty useful for every Fedora packager and I think most of them are still not aware of it. If you’d like to set it up, go to the Fedora Notifications app, log in, choose either email or irc settings, click “Create a new filter”, and pick one of the available FAF rules. You can be notified of every single reported crash or (as the other end of the scale) you can set that you won’t be disturbed until the problem reaches 1,000,000 occurrences. It really depends on how popular and “crashy” your packages are. Just check the FAF stats and set the limit accordingly.

Of course, it’s just a very little subset of Fedora Notifications settings. This tool is very powerful, you can pick many other rules, combine them, and create filters tailored right for you. Kudos to our infra team for it!

‘Getting Started with Fedora’ handbook – update

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In October, I announced that we’d finally finished and printed a handbook for users who start with Fedora. It was a pilot created in the Czech community of Fedora, so we wrote the handbook in Czech first. The goal was to translate it to English if it proves to be good.

It’s proven to be good, no doubt about it. But translations to English are still not finished. We’ve created a repository on GitHub. The handbook was re-written in AsciiDoc (originally it was composed in Google Docs and then converted to LaTex). We didn’t hook it to any translation system simply because we don’t have any experience with that and haven’t found any volunteer to help us with that. So it’s being translated by simple re-writing in English which is not as bad as it sounds. It would not scale with frequent releases and heavy versioning, but the handbook is not very release specific (on purpose) and we’re not planning to do more than one release a year. In the repository, there are currently two directories with translations (Czech and English).

Due to lack of time, I’ve only been able to translate 4 chapters out of 10. And it’s not going to improve any time soon. That’s why I’d like to call for volunteers who know both Czech and English and would be willing to help. Translations to English don’t have to be perfect. Several native speakers have already offered me that they could do some grammar polishing, but it needs to be translated at least in “rough” English. I’ve considered Google Translate, but that would probably be too rough.

Anyone out there to help?

Fedora News Channel on Telegram

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I and Justin Flory have created a Fedora News channel on Telegram. It’s a new way to follow news about the Fedora Project and it’s supplementary to the news channels we’re already using (Planet Fedora/RSS, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, mailing lists). The Telegram channel is a one-way communication, there is no way to reply or comment on news messages. For discussion, we already have a Fedora group chat.

Broadcasting news over instant messaging is getting increasingly popular at the expense of social networks. The problem with social networks is that they filter more and more what you receive. Facebook does it drastically and has become almost a useless platform to share news with your followers unless you’re willing to pay. The official Fedora account has 56 thousand followers, but the average reach of our messages is  around 2 thousand. Google+ and Twitter don’t filter in such a brutal way, but Twitter is reportedly planning to “sort” your incoming tweets which is another step in that direction.

Anyway, if you’re using Telegram and would like to receive news about Fedora through it, start following our channel: telegram.me/fedoranews

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