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).

flatpak-logo

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

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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.

flatpak-logo

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.

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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.

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

First Brno Linux Desktop Meetup

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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!

Most popular email clients among Fedora users

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In the desktop team of Red Hat, I’m responsible for development and Fedora/RHEL maintenance of apps which also include email clients Thunderbird and Evolution. It’s quite useful for me to have a rough idea what email clients Fedora users use. So I went ahead and asked them on Google Plus and Facebook and here are the results:

Google+:

email-clients-gplusFacebook:

email-clients-fbThe results from Google+ are probably much more representative because they come from a much larger number of users. Facebook doesn’t support polls, so users had to answer in comments which resulted in much fewer votes. Polls in G+ only support 5 options, so if someone wanted to vote for a different client than web, Thunderbird, Evolution, Geary, or Kmail, they needed to write it in comments as well. It might have disadvantaged other clients a bit.

Web – this includes all web clients, vast majority of it is Gmail which seems to be by far the most popular email service among Fedora users. On Google+, web got almost 40% which is not a number that surprises me a lot. A fairly large portion of users doesn’t use desktop email clients any more, but it’s also not big enough to say that desktop clients are obsoleted. 2/3 of users still use desktop clients to access their mail.

Thunderbird – the most popular among desktop clients, it’s a solid email client with many years of development, and many users value its support for various platforms, so that they can use it on other OSes, too. The most mentioned weakness was (in)ability to be a good groupware client (calendaring, Exchange support,…). Some lost faith in Thunderbird after Mozilla announced it wanted to spin off its umbrella which many understood (probably wrongly) as killing it.

Evolution – the second most popular client is the default client of GNOME – Evolution. Clearly the most appraised feature of Evolution is its groupware nature and support of Exchange, it’s probably the only Linux client that reasonably supports Exchange. On the other hand, it lags behind Thunderbird in IMAP support and it’s Linux only. Like Thunderbird, it doesn’t have a big developer force behind it any more. Red Hat is currently the only one who invests in Evolution, unfortunately.

Geary – it’s the biggest surprise to me. Considering its author – Yorba Foundation – ceased to exist at the beginning of the year and Geary has been dead for months, it’s still pretty popular. It’s a modern client with really good support of Gmail, but if Thunderbird and Evolution don’t seem to face big future, chances that Geary will be further developed are currently minimal.

Kmail – another surprise to me, I thought the default client of KDE would be more popular, it may be caused by the fact that Fedora is primarily a GNOME distro, but it may also be caused by the fact that users have lost faith in it after many ups and downs in development after KDE 4.0.

Mutt – I expected Mutt to be in TOP6. A CLI client will never win popularity contests, but it has a fair amount of loyal users. Another CLI client Alpine only received less than half of votes.

Among other mentioned clients were Claws Mail, Sylpheed, Mu4e, Nylas N1, Lotus Notes, Pine, Zimbra, Seamonkey… but they each got fewer than 10 votes.

Linux desktop clients are not dead, they’re still used by majority of users, but none of the traditional ones has a larger community of contributors and very active development which brings poses questions about their future. It will be interesting to watch new approaches to desktop clients such as Nylas N1 which moves IMAP client to the server and provides just a really thin desktop client.

Fedora at LinuxCon Europe 2015

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This week, another edition of LinuxCon Europe took place in Dublin and as always Fedora was there. The Linux Foundation confirmed our booth quite late, just two weeks before the event, so we didn’t have a lot of time for preparation. On the other hand, we got the stand and three passes for free which was big help because the conference is otherwise very expensive (the standard pass was ~$1000). And I’d like to thank the Linux Foundation for the support.

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Giannis and Jon at Fedora booth

Because we had little time for preparation, our booth was only basic: we had standard swag (Fedora logo stickers, Fedora product stickers, badges, case badges, pens), a stand-up banner, and a laptop showcasing Fedora Workstation 23. Unlike last year, the stand didn’t have the best location, but we still got a reasonable number of visitors. Here are some of my notes from the event:
  • One guy from Fujitsu Finland told us they were using Fedora on mission-critical servers and it turned out to be working fine. They’ve got the latest and greatest, they can adapt to changes earlier (he specifically mentioned systemd), and upgrading from one version of Fedora to another is much easier than to upgrade from one version of RHEL/CentOS to another.
  • A developer from Intel told us that their whole Linux development team was using Fedora. They also ran Fedora on their booth (another booth that ran Fedora was some UEFI organization). I was looking for someone from Intel who has something to do with the Intel video driver development because Retrace Server is full of false positives from the driver, but Intel was mostly represented by embedded Linux team.
  • Some developers asked what laptops we could recommend to run Fedora on because there is no compatibility database. I recommended ThinkPads because I think they still have the best Linux support and they’re still the most popular laptops among Linux developers.
  • Quite a few people asked us why we have two booths at the conference. That was because there was also a booth of Red Hat. A lot of people apparently think that Red Hat and Fedora Project are the same things. Having a separate booth sends a strong message that Fedora is not Red Hat-only thing and it’s, in fact, the most independent among the Red Hat-backed community projects.
  • Even at LinuxCon there are people who have no awareness of Fedora, so paciently kept explaining what Fedora is about and what has to offer. Building awareness in the enterprise ecosystem is IMHO one of the main benefits of being at LinuxCon.
  • It was a bit saddening to see so many Macbooks at LinuxCon. I saw more of them this year than any other year before. Even people from the Linux Foundation were promoting their Linux certifications from Macbooks with OS X.
  • Many visitors asked about the new Fedora products (Workstation, Server, Cloud). Evergreen question was why we have Fedora Server if there is already CentOS. A lot of people apparently associates Workstation with something for developers and serious work only and ask if we have something for end users. Yes, our core target audience are developers, but Fedora is still very much useful for other end users, too. Maybe we should say that more clearly and loundly in our marketing messaging.
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Fedora running at Intel booth

At the end, I’d like to thank the Fedora Project for sponsoring my travel and lodging and Jon Archer and Giannis Konstantinidis for staffing the booth with me.

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