Fedora, Linux

Firefox Developer Edition for Flatpak

Our team maintains Firefox RPMs for Fedora and RHEL and a lot of people have been asking us to provide Firefox for Flatpak as well. I’m finally happy to announce Firefox Developer Edition for Flatpak.


We started with the Developer Edition because that’s something that is not easily available to Fedora users. Providing the standard Firefox wouldn’t bring a lot of benefit right now because it’s available very quickly after upstream releases via Fedora repositories. In the future, we’d like to add releases of the standard Firefox (nightly, stable, perhaps ESR).

Firefox DE for Flatpak is built on our internal build cluster and hosted on mojefedora.cz (mojefedora == myfedora in Czech) on OpenShift. It’s an unofficial build for testing purposes, not provided by Mozilla. We’d like to work with Mozilla, so that it can eventually be adopted by the Mozilla project and you can get Firefox flatpaks directly from the source.

Right now, Firefox DE is not sandboxed, it has full access to user’s home. In the near future, we’d like to start a devel branch in the flatpak repository where we will ship a sandboxed Firefox and experiment how well Firefox can handle sandboxing and what needs to be done to assure the expected user experience. A web browser is definitely the #1 candidate among desktop applications for sandboxing. If you’re interested in sandboxing Firefox on Linux via Flatpak, contact us (you’ll find Jan’s email on the website with installation instructions).

Firefox Developer Edition for Flatpak running on Fedora

We’ve tested the FDE flatpak on Fedora 25, openSUSE Tumbleweed, and Ubuntu 16.10. You need flatpak 0.6.13 or newer for the installation commands to work. The repo should work with older versions as well, but there was a change in command syntax and the commands we use don’t work in older releases than 0.6.13. Fedora 25 has the newest release (0.8.0), openSUSE Tumbleweed has a new enough release (0.6.14), just for Ubuntu you’ll need to install the newest flatpak from a PPA.


Firefox Developer Edition for Flatpak running on Ubuntu

GNOME Software in Fedora 25 also supports adding repos via .flatpakrepo files and installing apps via .flatpakref files, but it’s not reliable enough yet, so we only recommend you use the command line instructions. It’s just two commands (you only need the latter one on Fedora 25 with the newest flatpak).

There are also a couple of problems we haven’t quite figured out yet. In openSUSE and Ubuntu, the desktop file database is not refreshed after the installation, so the launcher doesn’t appear right away. You need to log out and log in to refresh it and make the launcher appear. In openSUSE Tumbleweed in KDE Plasma in a VM, I couldn’t start the app getting “no protocol specified, Error: cannot open display: :99.0”. We’re looking for hearing from you how it works on other distributions.

Although the repo is for testing purposes, we’re committed to updating it regularly until we announce otherwise on the website with the installation instructions. So you don’t have to worry that you’ll end up with a scratch build that will never get updated.

At last, I’d like to thank Vadim Rutkovsky who made the initial proof-of-concept Firefox build for Flatpak we built upon, and Jan Hořák who did most of the work on the current build and repo setup.

Fedora, GNOME, LibreOffice, Linux

Installing flatpaks gets easier in Fedora 25

A lot of users complained that installing flatpaks was too difficult. And they were right, just look at the installation instructions on the Flatpak download page at LibreOffice.org. But that was never meant to be the final user experience.


Richard Hughes integrated Flatpak support into GNOME Software and the Red Hat desktop apps team worked with him to make sure it works well with apps we’ve already packaged for Flatpak. And this is the result. As you can see installing LibreOffice for Flatpak is now a matter of a couple of clicks with GNOME Software 3.22.2 in Fedora 25:


Flatpak allows you to generate a .flatpak bundle which includes the app and all the necessary info for installation of the app and setting up its repo for future updates. You can also create a .flatpakref file which doesn’t contain the app, but all the installation info and the app is downloaded during the installation. This format is also supported by GNOME Software now. LibreOffice offers a .flatpak bundle because it’s more similar to what users are used to from Windows and macOS.

As you can see on the video, installing .flatpak bundles is a matter of downloading the file and opening it directly with GNOME Software or double-clicking it. There is one prerequisite though. You need to have a repo of the runtime the app requires enabled which I had because I had been using the GNOME runtime for other apps already. Installation of runtimes is being streamlined as well. As a runtime provider, you can ship .flatpakrepo file which includes necessary info for setting up the repo and is as easy to install as .flatpak and .flatpakref. For Fedora Workstation we’re currently considering to enable repos of most common runtimes by default, so users would not have to deal with them at all, the required runtimes would get installed automatically with the app.

Fedora, GNOME, Linux, Red Hat

GNOME 3.22/KDE Plasma 5.8 release party in Brno

Last Thursday, we organized a regular Linux Desktop Meetup in Brno and because two major desktop environments had had their releases recently we also added a release party to celebrate them.

The meetup itself took place in the Red Hat Lab at FIT BUT (venue of GUADEC 2013) and it consisted of 4 talks. I spoke on new things in GNOME 3.22, our KDE developer Jan Grulich spoke on new things in Plasma 5.8, then Oliver Gutierrez spoke on Fleet Commander and the last talk was given by Lucie Karmova who is using Fedora as a desktop in a public organization and shared her experiences with the Linux desktop.


After the talks, we moved to the nearby Velorex restaurant to celebrate the releases. The whole event attracted around 25 visitors which is definitely above the average attendance of our meetups. Let’s see if we can get the same number of people to the meetup next month.

Last, but not least I’d like to thank the Desktop QA team of Red hat for sponsoring the food and drinks at the release party.


Fedora, GNOME, Linux

Telegram Desktop Client for Flatpak

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


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.


Flatpak is gaining momentum

The Xdg App project has been renamed to Flatpak to get an easy-to-remember name and reflect that after almost two years of development it’s finally ready for broader adoption.


It has also got a brand-new official website – Flatpak.org.

Since then the project has gained momentum. Last week, LibreOffice for Flatpak was announced. This is something Stephan Bergmann of the Red Hat team of LibreOffice has been working on for the last couple of months (read his blogpost about it). You can now easily install the latest LibreOffice (5.2 Beta) directly from The Document Foundation to your system and use is side by side with the system version.

LibreOffice 5.2 Beta in F24 via Flatpak

There are nightly builds of 23 GNOME apps, Darktable, GIMP, Inkscape, MyPaint.

The KDE community has prepared a testing version of KDE runtime, so now you can also easily build KDE/Qt apps for Flatpak. Dan Vrátil worked on the KDE runtime when he was in my team. Dan has not been with Red Hat for half a year, but it’s great to see that his initial work stirred some interest in the KDE community.

Aleix Pol tweeted that he was working on Krita for Flatpak.

Mario Sanchez Prada is working on Chromium for Flatpak.

Flatpak finds its way to distributions, too. Simon McVittie wrote a blogpost about adopting Flatpak in Debian.

Installing Flatpak applications currently requires a couple of commands. Easy to do, but not the best UX. That is going to change soon, too. GNOME Software 3.21 already supports and associates with .flatpak files, so you’ll just double-click the file and everything necessary for installation will be taken care of.

2016 may not be the Year of Linux Desktop, but perhaps it will be remembered as the year when distribution of Linux desktop apps was redefined.

Fedora, Linux

Event Report: OSCAL 2016

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.

2016-05-14 12.44.41
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.

2016-05-14 12.45.07
Mozilla booth
GNOME, LibreOffice, Linux

First Brno Linux Desktop Meetup

The desktop engineering team in the Red Hat office in Brno is quite large, we’ve got over 20 developers working on various desktop projects here, but there is no active community outside Red Hat. We’re also approached by students who are interested and would like to get started, but don’t know where and we’d like to have an event to which we can invite them, talk to them about it more in detail, and help them with things beginners struggle with.

That’s why we’ve decided to start Linux Desktop Meetups. They should take place every first Thursday in a month in Red Hat Lab at the Faculty of Information Technologies of Brno University of Technology.

What will be on the agenda? It will be driven by the participants. We hope to have a couple of short, practical presentations, the rest will be discussions, helping others etc.

If you happen to live in Brno and are interested in the Linux desktop, come and join us at 18:00 on May 5th!