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David Murphy: How GitHub communicates

Fri, 2014-03-14 21:13

Zach Holman writes about how GitHub communicates:

here’s a look at most of the communication that happened at GitHub on one random recent day: February 4, 2014

The expected methods are all there: chat (Campfire in their case), email, and – of course – GitHub itself.

One thing that piqued my interest was their internal-only social network “Team” which seems very reminiscent of how Automattic use WordPress & P2. Since I learned how Automattic use P2, I’ve been wondering if we could do something similar at Canonical. Perhaps we could use Google+  for this as we already use it for internal Hangouts, Ubuntu Developer Summit, and to power Ubuntu On-Air. There are ways to limit Google+ communities to members of your Google Apps domain.

(Side note: I hate having two Google+ accounts!)

I really need to finish coalescing my thoughts and put them into their own post…

The other point I noted was that their use of email was both minimal and individual – Team and GitHub itself are their primary ways of disseminating information.

It always interesting to see how others do achieve similar goals to yourself.

The post How GitHub communicates appeared first on David Murphy.

Nicholas Skaggs: Keeping ubuntu healthy: Core Apps

Fri, 2014-03-14 01:15
Continuing our discussion of testing within ubuntu, today's post will talk about how you can help the community core apps stay healthy.

As you recall the core apps go through a series of QA before being released to the store. However bugs in the application, or in the platform itself can still be exposed. The end result is that the dashboard contains tests failures for that application. To release a new stable image, we need a green dashboard, and more importantly we need to make sure the applications work properly.

Getting plugged in
So to help out, it's important to first plug into the communication stream. After all, we're building these applications and images as a community! First, join the ubuntu phone group on launchpad and sign up for the phone mailing list. The list is active and discussing all issues pertaining to the ubuntu phone. Most importantly, you will see landing team emails that summarize and coordinate issues with the phone images.

From there you can choose a community core app to help improve from a quality perspective. These applications all have development teams and it's helpful to stay in contact with them. Your merge proposal can serve as an introduction!

Finding something to work on
So what needs fixing? A landing team email might point out a failing test. You might notice a test failure on the dashboard yourself. In addition each application keeps a list of bugs reported against it, including bugs that point out failing tests or testing needs. For example here's the list of all new autopilot tests that need to be written for all of the core apps. Pick an app, browse the buglist, for the app, assign a bug to yourself, and fix it.

For example, here's the list of bugs for music app. As of this writing you can see several tests that need written, as well as a bug for a test improvement.

You can also simply enhance the app's existing testsuite by fixing a flaky test, or improving the test to use best practices, etc. As a bonus for those reading this near it's original publication date, we just had a session @ vUDS covering the core apps and the testing needs we have. Watch the session / browse the pad and pick something to work on.

Fixing things
Look into any failures you find and have a look at the tests. Often the tests can use a little improvement (or maybe an additional test), and you can help out here! Sometimes failures won't happen every run -- this is the sign of a weird bug, or more likely a flaky test.  Fix the test(s), improve them, or add to them. Then commit your work and submit a merge proposal. Follow the guide on the wiki if you need help with doing this.

Remember, you can iteratively run the tests on your device as you work. Read my post on click-buddy for help with this. If you are lacking a device, run the tests on your desktop instead and a reviewer can test against a real device before merging.

Getting Help
For realtime help, check out #ubuntu-quality and #ubuntu-autopilot on freenode. You'll find a group of folks like yourself working on tests, hacking on autopilot and sharing advice. If IRC isn't your thing, feel free to contact us through another method instead. Happy hacking!

Ubuntu LoCo Council: 14.04 DVDs/CDs: Pre-Orders now open for verified LoCo Teams!

Thu, 2014-03-13 16:54

Hello, everyone!

As you read it, pre-orders for 14.04 DVDs/CDs are now open for verified LoCo Teams. Only the team contacts should request this DVD/CD pack, which will be sent to the address they specify. These packs contain 150 Desktop DVDs and 25 Server CDs. Packs will start shipping when available, which is estimated to be two (2) weeks after release.

In order to put an order, the team contact needs to go here and place their pre-order.

If you have any questions, please write to us at

Thomas Ward: nginx-core is now in Ubuntu Trusty 14.04 Main!

Thu, 2014-03-13 15:58

Thanks to the efforts of myself and others, we have been able to get NGINX into the Ubuntu Main repositories for Trusty 14.04!

Having said this, none of the already-established flavors of nginx are included in Ubuntu Main (nginx-light, nginx-full, nginx-extras, and nginx-naxsi). The Ubuntu Security Team has said that the third-party modules are wildly different in coding and therefore cannot be supported.

To that end, we created a package called nginx-core which has been included in the Main repository. This package contains only the modules that ship with the stock nginx tarball. We do not include any third-party modules with this package, just the modules that come from NGINX upstream.

Thanks to everyone on the MIR an Security teams for all their help in getting nginx into Main!

Canonical Design Team: MWC 2014 – A strong design coherence in everything we do

Thu, 2014-03-13 12:05

Last month at Mobile World Congress Ubuntu’s presence was stronger than ever. Our third year at MWC and we made some significant design changes to our stand.

In such a large exhibition space, strong branding is key. We designed five large banners – made from fabric and stretched across metal frames – that were suspended above the stand. Each banner was then individually illuminated by a series of spotlights creating maximum impact and high level brand presence, while still maintaining the stands open and welcoming feel.

The back walls and a new hanging aisle banner all featured the folded paper background with large graphics showcasing app and scope designs from the phone and tablet. We also dedicated one wall to the Ubuntu Carrier Advisory Group (CAG).

Continuing our clean and precise design approach we used the Ubuntu shape (the squircle) to create bespoke pods, reception desk and demo unit – with warm white LED down lighting around the top and base and lightboxes to illuminate the Circle of Friends on the reception desk.

Integrating elements from our phone and tablet design across print and 3D environments builds a strong brand/design coherence in everything we do. We’re very happy with the new stand design and feedback from MWC has been very positive.

Canonical Design Team: New Apps header

Thu, 2014-03-13 12:03

The new apps header features max. 4 slots that can be arranged and combined in order to fulfil user needs in every screen.

Header’s values

We want to provide our users with the right amount of contextual information for them to know:

1- Where they are at (inside the app, in a particular view).

2- Where they can go inside the app in order to find content (navigate across different views).

3- What they can achieve in any given view (compose a message, crop a picture…).

The new header provides clarity by always showing the user where they are at, consistency by providing a way to navigate across main views inside the apps, and priority by surfacing the most important actions in every screen.

Header’s elements

The elements are the building blocks of the header, the controls that can placed inside the slots mentioned above.

There’s different categories of elements and each of them have to be positioned carefully in the header in order to create slick experiences across our apps.



One of the main values behind the new header is Clarity: we want the user to be clear about where they are at any moment.

That’s why the only mandatory element for our header is the title; you can leave some other slots empty, but every header has to have a title.


A Tab is a control that allow users to navigate across views directly from the header.

The main views of your app are the different faces  in how content is organised and visualised.


Our telephone app has two main views: Dialer and Contacts. Placing a tabs on the telephony header, allows users to toggle between this two views quickly.

Tabs placement

Place the tabs right to the title.

According to our interface values “right” means moving forward, and that’s what a tab precisely is, moving forward to the next view represented by the tab icon.


Actions allow users to accomplish a direct goal in every screen (compose a message , edit, crop a picture…) Give priority to the actions that will be used more often and place them in the header.

Example: Our address book app has a clear primary action which is add a new contact to the list.Placing that action straight to the header will make the user accomplish the goal quicker and smoother.

Actions placement

Place the actions right to the title as well.

In case you want to mix tabs and actions on the same header,  keep the tabs as close to the title as possible, creating a natural block to navigate across the views; place the actions after them.


After the main views of your app, subsequent views will use a back button in the header to navigate back to the main views. Back always returns to the previous view of an app, until the user reaches the main view again.

Example: Our gallery app has 3 main views: Photos, events and albums. Once the user gets to a detail view, the header of that view has a back button that returns the user to them main view where he came from.

Back placement

There’s only one place where you can place the back, and that’s the top left slot. According to our interface values, that’s a place where user has to intentionally stretch the finger and make an effort to trigger.


So we’ve already introduced a few elements, but what happens when there’s not enough free slots on the header to place all your tabs and actions? Our solution is the drawer: an overflow where users will find all the controls not available straight on the header.

Example: Our gallery app has 3 main views: Photos, events and albums; and it also has the “take a picture” action on the header. In order to keep the header clear, we’ve decided to place the main views inside a drawer, and surface “take a picture” on the header. In this particular case, the drawer contains the main views of the app.

Inside the drawer

The drawer can contain some of the elements that couldn’t fit in the header’s slots. If  the drawer is placed on the top left slot, then it will contain tabs (main views); if the drawer is placed on the top right slot, then it will contain extra actions.


Drawer placement

The drawer works as a metaphorical extension of the header, so placing it at the first or last slot helps reinforce that idea.




Search is a special action that allows users to rapidly locate a desired piece of content. And since search can be a really important use case in apps, we are providing a special experience for it.Triggering search will refresh the standard header into a search header, displaying the osk at the same time, and removing the focus from the content. (for more information on search read search pattern)

Example: Our notes app presents search as one of the main action in the header. Once the user hits on the search icon the header transitions to the search header.

Search placement

There’s only one place in the header where you can place search: top right slot.



Implication with the drawer:  In the scenario where you need a back button, a drawer and a search; the search will need to be kept in the top left slot in order to reinforce the search pattern across all our system.


Header layout

The four slots on the header can be arranged as follows:

Layout A

1 slot at the left of the title and max. 2 slots on the right

When to use it
  • You need to use a Back button in order to display detail screens for your app content.
  • Your app has a large number of main views and you need the drawer to display all of them.
  • You prefer to use the slots on the right to display actions, then you have to use a drawer to place the main views.
Layout B

max. 3 slots right to the title

 When to use it

  • You don’t need a back button.
  • You want to place tabs at the right for the user to be able to switch views easily.
  • Most of the actions to be performed on the app are contextual (related to the content) and there’s no need to surface those actions on the header.

According to our user interface values, content is always the priority; that’s why the header is just a tool the disappears when users don’t need it. By scrolling down, the header will disappear. By scrolling up  the header will slide in again.


It might be scenarios where users will need the header present at all times (i.e. Header with tabs) in that justified case, it’s possible to set the header fixed on the screen.




Ubuntu Server blog: Checking in from the Ubuntu Developer Summit

Thu, 2014-03-13 05:49

The Server team just finished up the second day of the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS) March 2014 (see for the Server track). I may be biased (well, actually, I know I am), but I think its been very interesting – lots of good, thoughtful discussions around where we are and where we’re heading. Check out the videos and let us know what you think.

One video from today’s UDS sessions, I wanted to specifically highlight is the demo Robie Basak gave on uvtool.  Uvtool is, as Robie explains in the video, a very simple tool for setting up kvm guests – he calls it the glue that brings together several existing tools.  Just go watch it – and then go try it.

In December, Serge did a writeup on uvtool, I think that’s worth a read also –

Anyhow, time to prepare for the last day of UDS. Enjoy!

Duncan McGreggor: The Future of LFE

Thu, 2014-03-13 04:29
Erlang Factory

First of all, Erlang Factory this year was just phenomenal: great talks, great energy, and none of the feared/anticipated "acquisition feeding frenzy" -- everyone was genuinely happy for WhatsApp and Cloudant. And with that happiness, they were ready to get on with the conference and dive into the tech :-)

And gosh, there was a bunch of good stuff. Check out the schedule. Also on that page are the speaker pics. For those that have video or slides of their talk, the speaker pic is annotated; clicking on them will take you to the speaker's page with links to slides and/or video.

There's so much good stuff there -- I've definitely got my watching queue set up for the next few weeks ...

LFE Presentation

I gave a presentation on LFE which covered everything from motivational basics for using a Lisp in the 21st century, gave a taste of LFE in small chunks, and then took folks on a tour of creating projects in LFE. There was also some dessert of fun side/research projects that are currently in-progress. The slides for the presentation are here; also the slide source code is available (related demo project), and a shout out to the Hoplon crew for their help in making sure I could create this presentation in a Lisp (Clojure), and not HTML ;-) (It uses a Hoplon-based Reveal.js library.)

The Good Stuff

After the presentation, several of us chatted about Lisp and Erlang for a while. Robert and I later continued along these lines after heading over to the quiet of the ever-cool Marines Memorial 11th-floor library (complete with fireplace). Here we sketched out some of the interesting areas for future development in LFE. I'm not sure if I'm remembering everything (and I've added Sean Chalmers' recent experiments with types; blog and discussion):
  • getting the REPL to the point where full dev can happen (defining functions, macros, and records in the LFE shell)
  • adding macros (maybe just one) for easier use of Mnesia in LFE 
  • discussing the possibility of an LFE stdlib
  • gathering some of the best funcs and macros in the wild for inclusion in an LFE stdlib
  • possibly getting spec and type support in LFE
  • producing an LFE 1.0 release
Additional efforts planned:
  • building out an LFE rebar plugin
  • examining as another possible option
  • starting work on an LFE Cookbook
  • creating demos of LFE on Erjang
  • creating demos of LFE-Clojure interop via JInterface
  • creating more involved YAWS/REST examples with LFE
  • explore the possibility of an SOA tutorial with LFE + YAWS
  • releasing a planner demo
  • finishing the genetic programming examples
  • LFE style guide
  • continued work on the LFE user guide
I'll dump all these into github issues so they'll be easier to track.

If this stuff is exciting to you, feel free to jump into the low-volume discussions we have on the mail list.

More soon!

Zygmunt Krynicki: PlainBox 0.5b1 released

Wed, 2014-03-12 23:47
I've just released the latest version of PlainBox. The 0.5b1 release is available on pypi. A list of changes, and a lot of other documentation, is available on readthedocs. This release was long in the making, bringing a number of important features and bug fixes.

Updated Debian packages should be made available tomorrow. The final release is expected early next week after which I will try to get a Feature Freeze Exception and sync it to Ubuntu 14.04.

About PlainBox: PlainBox is a toolkit consisting of python3 library, development tools, documentation and examples. It is targeted at developers working on testing or certification applications and authors creating tests for such applications.

Lubuntu Blog: Dark panel theme

Wed, 2014-03-12 22:04
Due to popular demand, another variant was added to the Box theme for Lubuntu. Now you can use dark panels and adapted icons aswell. These modifications will be available in the downloads sections very soon. Also, the upcoming release of Lubuntu will include it.  This is how the panel looks with both themes:

Dustin Kirkland: My SxSW Interactive 2014 Recap

Wed, 2014-03-12 18:40
Overview: a Mega ConferenceSxSW is basically 3 enormous, loosely related, overlapping conferences -- Interactive, Film, Music -- drawing 250,000+ people to downtown Austin, Texas, over the course of 2 weeks.  Literally thousands of events, both official and unofficial, run 20 hours per day, from 7am until 3am the next morning.  The event draws the earliest adopting techies, geeks, film buffs, music aficionados, angel investors,
venture capitalists, musicians, recording studios, actors, agents, celebrities, and vendors of every imaginable kind.  With a keen eye, I also spotted one or two hipsters.  And throngs of Glassholes.

The largest keynote venues (plural) hold over several thousand people, and fill to capacity, with both closed circuit and Internet streamed broadcasts on display in multiple overflow ballrooms.  Technical sessions, presentations, and panels are spread across 30 different venues around downtown Austin (e.g. The Austin Convention Center, The Hilton, The Marriott, The Driskill, City Hall, The Chamber of Commerce, Palmer Event Center, the Omni, the Intercontinental etc.).  Tracks are roughly contained in a given venue.  While shuttles are available for moving between venues, the weather in Austin in March is gorgeous and everything is roughly walkable.

While massive corporate "super sponsors" drive the overall event (Miller, Chevrolet, AT&T, Deloitte, American Express), a huge portion of the interactive side of the house is focused on start ups and
smaller businesses.  This was a very familiar crowd, savvy and familiar with free software and open standards.  These are thousands of the hackers that are building the next 40 new apps you're going to
install on your phone or for which you'll soon have to generate a new web login password.

SxSW has been used to launch or spread countless social media platforms, including: Wordpress, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.  Early adopters now flock to SxSW in droves, to learn about new hardware and software gadgets before their Silicon Valley friends do.  Or, depending on your means, perhaps invest in said opportunities.
Expo Floor The tradeshow does require an expo badge, but in my experience, its pretty easy to come by an expo badge freely.  The expo floor includes 300+ booths, wide and varied, covering technology, gadgets, startups, film, music, and more.  Nearly 75,000 unique badges entered the tradeshow floor.

I saw at least 4 different public cloud vendors (Rackspace, SoftLayer, DigitalOcean, and Codero) with sizable displays.  I spent a good bit of time with Codero.  They're a new(ish) public cloud offering, built
on Ubuntu and CloudStack, based in Austin and Kansas City.  I also spoke with a couple of data analytics start ups, and talked a bit about Ubuntu and Juju.

I was surprised to see Ghostery on exhibit (I'm a big fan, actually, use it everywhere!). NASA had a spectacular booth.  I a few booths displaying their wares on Unity desktops (woot).

There were several RaspberryPi demos too.  The most amusing start up was from Japan, called LogLog, "When it comes to #2, we're #1".  Seriously.

I wore an Ubuntu t-shirt each day, and several people stopped to ask me where the Ubuntu booth was.  It's probably worth considering a booth next year.  I can see where both a Juju GUI and a few Ubuntu Touch devices would generate some great traffic and press at SxSW.  This is definitely the crowd of next generation app developers and back end social media developers building the new web.  It would behoove us to help ensure they're doing all of that on Ubuntu!
Session HighlightsI missed Friday and Saturday, but I did attend sessions Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

There was a very strong, pervasive theme throughout much of the conference, across many, many tracks about security, privacy of individual data, openness of critical systems and infrastructure, and
generally speaking, freedom.  I don't suppose I was expecting this. There were numerous mentions of open source, Linux, and even Ubuntu in various capacities as being better options that the status quo, for many of the social and technical issues under discussion.  Perhaps I gravitated toward those sessions (okay, yeah, I did).  Still, it was quite reassuring that there were so many people, unknown to many of
us, touting our beloved free and open standards and software as "the answer".

The other theme I picked up on, is how "connected" our media and entertainment devices and mechanisms are becoming.  Netflix is designing TV series (House of Cards) based on empirical data that they collect, about what people like to watch.  Smart TVs will soon deliver richer experiences about the sports and programming we watch, with real-time, selectable feeds and layers of additional content.  Your handheld devices are becoming part of the entertainment experience.

Here are a few highlights, mostly from names that you might recognize.
Edward Snowden[Note that I am not passing judgement here, just reporting what was said during that session.]

Perhaps the most anticipated (and reported upon) keynote was the remotely delivered panel session with infamous NSA leaker Edward Snowden, via Google Hangout.  The largest part of the conference
center was packed to capacity, and local feeds broadcast the session to much of the rest of the conference.  I suppose some of you saw the coverage on Slashdot.  Snowden's choppy, Google+ hangout picture featured the US Constitution displayed behind him.

He said that the NSA collected so much information that they didn't even know what to do with it, how to process it.  Collecting it proved to be the easy part.  Processing it was orders of magnitude more difficult.  He suggests that developers need to think security and encryption first, and protect user data from the start (and the SxSW tech savvy crowd are the ones to do it).  He said that encryption is not fundamentally broken, and it generally works very well.  That the NSA spent for less time trying to break systems, than to just monitor all of the easy targets.  He said that he felt like he did his job, by blowing the whistle, in that "he took an oath to defend and uphold the constitution, and what he observed was abuse and violation of it on a massive scale."

Adam Savage
Adam Savage (co-host of Mythbusters) delivered the best canned presentation of the entire event (for me).  He discussed Art and Science, how they're fundamentally the same thing, but we as a society, lately, haven't been treating them as such, and they're tending to drift apart.  He talked about code as art, as well.

Shaquille O'NealBelieve it or not, Shaq delivered a hilarious panel session, talking about wearable technology.  He described himself as the "world's biggest geek" -- literally.  He said that he used to be afraid of
technology (in high school), until he was tutored by one of the geekiest kids in school.  He then fell in love with technology (at 17), and has been an early adopter ever since.  He says he has both Android and iPhone devices, talked extensively about the Fitbit (the co-host was from Qualcomm), and other wearable technologies, particularly as they relate to sports, health, and fitness.

George TakeiGeorge Takei is 76 years old, but has the technical aptitude of a 24 year old computer whiz.  He bridges at least 3 generations, and is on a quest to bring technology, and especially social media to older
people.  I've been a subscriber to his feeds on Facebook/Twitter/G+, and he's really sharp witted, funny, and topical.  He discussed his tough life growing up (in an American concentration camp for Japanese Americans during WWII), coming to terms with his sexuality, entering showbiz, Star Trek, his (brief) political career, and now his icon status in social media.  Brilliant, brilliant man.  Entertaining and enlightening session.

Daniel SuarezDaniel Suarez is an author of (now) four cyberpunk technical thrillers.  I reviewed his first book (Daemon) back in 2008 on my blog (and a few more).  His publicist reached out to me, put us in touch, and we've been in communication ever since.  He sat on a panel with Bruce Sterling and Warren Ellis, hosted by Joi Ito (MIT Media lab, early investor in Twitter, Flickr, Kickstarter).  Daniel invited me out for dinner and drinks afterward with he and his wife, and we had a great time.  He's a huge fan of Ubuntu.  He says that he wrote all of his last book (Influx) on an Ubuntu laptop (woot).  In his previous book (Kill Decision), Ubuntu made a brief cameo on the main character's computer (albeit compromised by a zero-day attack).

The Darknet
I did attend a few sessions by lesser known individuals.  Not much remarkable, but there was one "interesting" presentation, introducing people to "the dark net".  The presenter covered a bunch of
technologies that (probably) you and I use every day, but framed it as "the dark net", and explained how anyone from malicious people to Wikileaks use IRC, PGP, tor, proxies, stunnels, bitcoin, wikis, sftp, ssh, and so forth to conduct shady business.  He only had a very small time slot, and had to tear through a lot of material quickly, but I found it sad that so many of these fundamental technologies were conflated and in some people's minds, I'm sure made synonymous with human trafficking, drugs, corporate espionage, and stolen credit card numbers :-(

Aaron Swartz documentary
I did manage to catch one documentary while at SxSW...  The Internet's Own Boy: The Aaron Swartz documentary.  Aaron's story clearly resonates with the aforementioned themes of freedomness and openness on the Internet.  While I didn't know Aaron personally, I was of course very much aware of his work on RSS, Reddit, SOPA/PIPA, etc.  I feel like I've known many, many people like him -- brilliant programmers, freedom fighters -- especially around free software.  His suicide (and this documentary) hits pretty hard.  There are hundreds of clips of him, from 3 years old until his death at 26, showing his aptitude for technology, sheer brilliance and limitless potential.  He did setup a laptop in a closet at MIT and downloaded hundreds of gigabytes of copyrighted JSTOR documents, and was about to stand trial on over a dozen felony counts.  The documentary argues that he was to be "made an example of".  Heartfelt interviews with Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, as well as Aaron's friends and family paint extremely powerful portraits of a brilliant, conflicted genius.  The film was extremely well done.  I had a pit in my stomach the rest of the day.


Svetlana Belkin: vUDS 1403

Wed, 2014-03-12 17:32

Today, I went to two the vUDS tracks since they were the only ones that I was interested in since they covered aspects in the Ubuntu Community.

The “Re-imagining our Online Summit” focused on how to redesign the summit to focus more on the non-developer side of the Community and still, of course, have the developer side.  My thought on this is that it’s a good idea to move away from having the summits being almost 100% for just for developers.  There are other parts of the Community that need spotlight, such as LoCo’s.  One suggestion that was suggested is to use a panel of let’s say five (5) people all from different teams and they talk about what their team is doing at the moment.  This is the only suggestion that I remember on the top of my head, I was fighting to try to get my mic working so I can be in the Hangout.  Nope, and I’m seeking to buy a mic that will work.

The second track that I went to is the, “Growing a new generation of Ubuntu leaders”, and this focused on the problem of getting leaders motivated to lead and to figure out a leader from a manager.  I took a lot of notes for this track and those notes can be found on that page that I linked in the Pad.  In this track, we focused on how to get non-natural leaders started.  Some of the ideas that were suggested are videos by Jono Bacon on how to start something, docs in the Toolkit to help leaders, and some mentoring system that ID’s new leaders and helps them to succeeded.

Even though this was a mid-cycle vUDS, there was still something for me to come and get my ideas across.  And hopefully, I will a working mic for the next one.

Sebastian Kügler: Progressing towards Next

Wed, 2014-03-12 16:57

In the Plasma team, we’re working frantically towards the next release of the Plasma workspaces, code-named “Plasma Next”. With the architectural work well in place, we’ve been filling in missing bits and pieces in the past months, and are now really close to the intended feature set for the first stable release. A good time to give you an impression of what it’s looking like right now. Keep in mind that we’re talking Alpha software here, and that we still have almost three months to iron out problems. I’m sure you’ll be able to observe something broken, but also something new and shiny.

For the first stable release of Plasma Next, we decided to focus on core functionality. It’s impossible to get every single feature that’s available in our long-term support release KDE Plasma workspaces 4.11 into Plasma Next at once. We therefore decided to not spread ourselves too thin, and set aside some not-quite-core functionality for now. So we’re not aiming at complete feature parity yet, but at a stable core desktop that gets the work done, even if it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some of our users might be used to, yet.


Apart from “quite boring”, underlying “system stuff”, we’ve also worked on the visuals. In the video, you can see an improved contrast in Plasma popups, effects in kwin have been polished up to make the desktop feel snappier. We’ve started the work on a new Plasma theme, that will sport a flatter look with more pronounced typography than the venerable Air, and animations can now be globally disabled, so the whole thing runs more efficiently on systems with slow painting performance, for example across a network. These are only some of the changes, there are many more, visible and invisible.

We’re not quite done yet, but we have moved our focus from feature development to bugfixing, the results of that are very visible if you follow the development closely. Annoying problems are being fixed every day, and at this rate of development, I think we’re looking at a very shiny first stable release. Between today and that unicorn-dances-on-rainbows release lie almost three months of hard work, though, and that’s what we’ll do. While the whole thing already runs very smooth on my computers, we still have a lot of work to do in the integration department, and to translate this stability to the general case. Systems out there are diverse and different, and only wide-spread testing can help us make the experience a good one for everybody.

Svetlana Belkin: Tomnod: Crowdsourcing in Use to Find the Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

Wed, 2014-03-12 01:58

Over the last few hours, I tried out Tomnod, a (fairly new) crowdsourcing site that uses live satellite images for users to search for clues of what happened.  This time it is the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that occurred on March 8, 2014.  I gone through about 260 maps plus two of the maps that others have shared (6060 and another one that I don’t remember) and I found nothing minus the plane like object in the 6060 map that is posted on iCNN.

This crowdsourcing idea is a neat one but there are suggestions that I want to give to the developers of it, some of them I have seen from others:

  • Have a way to view the tags that you have tagged and what other users have tagged
  • Zooming functions are a must
  • Have a way to allow users to switch from large map to large map
  • Have a homepage that has the link to the map
  • Use that homepage to explain the project
  • Also have a “News” page

I hope that this project will help them to find the plane and everyone.  Please pray for them.

Valorie Zimmerman: Prospective GSoC Students: Now is the time to submit proposals

Tue, 2014-03-11 22:02
Greetings to all you students we've been talking with in IRC (#kde-soc and your chosen team's channel(s)) and on the mailing lists. By now, hopefully you have met and talked with your teams, and begun formulating your plan for GSoC, with advice from your prospective mentor(s).

I hope you have followed Myriam's advice and done your homework. If you have worked on some junior jobs, have your KDE developer credentials, joined the necessary lists *including KDE-soc*, you have a good foundation built.

Pro-tip: always check out the links in the /topic of your IRC channels. The #kde-soc channel topic is particularly rich.

Many prospective mentors hang out in that channel, but not all. Us admins are there as often as possible as well. I'm always willing to help edit a proposal for grammar, spelling, organization, formatting, etc. And I can be brutally honest, so if you ask my opinion, be aware that I won't waste your time with anything but the truth.

Now is the time to log into melange, and submit your proposals. If you have not yet had a team member vet your plan, give them the link to your melange proposal and ask. Don't waste their time with mere ideas; you need a clear plan of action, and a realistic timeline.

Go, go, go!

Tony Whitmore: Have you processed the pictures?

Tue, 2014-03-11 21:25

In 1991 I had some photos published in Doctor Who Magazine. Fast forward 23 years and 293 editions and it’s happened again.

I was asked to photograph Nicholas Briggs (voice of the Daleks, Cybermen, Judoon and more, executive producer at Big Finish and all round good egg) interviewing David Graham. David was one of the voice artistes who created the Daleks’ grating staccato delivery back in the 1960s. He has had an amazing career, appearing on screen in Doctor Who, The Avengers, The Saint and plenty more. He was also the voice of Parker and Brains in Thunderbirds, and is Grandpa in Peppa Pig.

So on a Monday morning back in January I found myself stood outside David’s flat in a rather nice area of London. Nick and David were already mid-interview (I was bang on time of course! They must have started early) so after David had made me a cup of tea I sat quietly a took some candid photos of them chatting. Then we carefully re-arranged David’s furniture to create an impromptu space for photographs and I broke out the speed lights and softbox. Figuring out how to make the available space work is something that I have learnt from my wedding photography. I think the photos capture the gentle good humour that was bouncing between Nick and David. Nick’s write-up of the interview is a funny take on the morning. It’s fascinating to read his take on the conversation.

You can read the interview and admire the photos in the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine, which is a Dalek special. It’s at newsagents now, or available online: Doctor Who Official Magazine issue 471 (April 2014) – Dalek Special

Thanks to Tom Spilsbury and Nick Briggs for asking me to take the photos, and the DWM team who made them look fantastic. It was a very enjoyable way to spend a morning!

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Martin Pitt: Creating a local swift server on Ubuntu for testing

Tue, 2014-03-11 16:25

Our current autopkgtest machinery uses Jenkins (a private and a public one) and lots of “rsync state files between hosts”, both of which have reached a state where they fall over far too often. It’s flakey, hard to maintain, and hard to extend with new test execution slaves (e. g. for new architectures, or using different test runners). So I’m looking into what it would take to replace this with something robust, modern, and more lightweight.

In our new Continuous Integration world the preferred technologies are RabbitMQ for doing the job distribution (which is delightfully simple to install and use from Python), and OpenStack’s swift for distributed data storage. We have a properly configured swift in our data center, but for local development and experimentation I really just want a dead simple throw-away VM or container which gives me the swift API. swift is quite a bit more complex, and it took me several hours of reading and exercising various tutorials, debugging connection problems, and reading stackexchange to set it up. But now it’s working, and I condensed the whole setup into a single shell script.

You can run this in a standard ubuntu container or VM as root:

sudo apt-get install lxc sudo lxc-create -n swift -t ubuntu -- -r trusty sudo lxc-start -n swift # log in as ubuntu/ubuntu, and wget or scp sudo ./

Then get swift’s IP from sudo lxc-ls --fancy, install the swift client locally, and talk to it:

$ sudo apt-get install python-swiftclient $ swift -A -U testproj:testuser -K testpwd stat

Caveat: Don’t use this for any production machine! It’s configured to maximum insecurity, with static passwords and everything.

I realize this is just poor man’s juju, but juju-local is currently not working for me (I only just analyzed that). There is a charm for swift as well, but I haven’t tried that yet. In any case, it’s dead simple now, and maybe useful for someone else.

Jonathan Riddell: KDE Frameworks 5 Alpha 2 is Green

Tue, 2014-03-11 10:50
KDE Project:

Scarlett has been working hard on packaging KDE Frameworks 5 Alpha 2 and the build status page shows a sea of green (the only yellow is when a framework is asking for a package which doesn't exist yet). Just in time for Plasma Next to get its Alpha release this week coming :) Grab the KF5 packages from the experimental PPA for Kubuntu Trusty.

Lubuntu Blog: [Results] Community wallpaper contest

Tue, 2014-03-11 07:19
The results are in and the winners are... or rather, the winner is: Cleide Isabel! She managed to grab the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th place with her photos: 'Vista Do Fitz Roy', 'Vale', 'Arvore', 'Daisie' and 'Copan02'. Congratulations! Full results and statistics can be viewed over at Picompete by clicking here. A big thank you goes out to Guillaume (the owner of Picompete) who once again

Steve Langasek: My CuBox-i has arrived

Tue, 2014-03-11 02:19

A couple of weeks ago, Gunnar Wolf mentioned on IRC that his CuBox-i4 had arrived. This resulted in various jealous noises from me; having heard about this device making the rounds at the Kernel Summit, I ordered one for myself back in December, as part of the long-delayed HDification of our home entertainment system and coinciding with the purchase of a new Samsung SmartTV. We've been running an Intel Coppermine Celeron for a decade as a MythTV frontend and encoder (hardware-assisted with a PVR-250), which is fine for SD video, but really doesn't cut it for anything HD. So after finally getting a TV that would showcase HD in all its glory, I figured it was time to upgrade from an S-Video-out, barely-limping-along tower machine to something more modern with HDMI out, eSATA, hardware video decoding, and whose biggest problem is it's so small that it threatens to get lost in the wiring!

Since placing the order, I've been bemused to find that the SmartTV is so smart that it has had a dramatic impact on how we consume media; between that and our decision to not be a boiled frog in the face of DISH Network's annual price increase, the MythTV frontend has become a much less important part of our entertainment center, well before I ever got a chance to lay hands on the intended replacement hardware. But that's a topic for another day.

Anyway, the CuBox-i4 finally arrived in the mail on Friday, so of course I immediately needed to start hacking on it! Like Gunnar, who wrote last week about his own experience getting a "proper" Debian install on the box, I'm not content with running a binary distribution image prepared by some third party; I expect my hardware toys to run official distro packages assembled using official distro tools and, if at all possible, distributed on official distro images for a minimum of hassle.

Whereas Gunnar was willing to settle for using third-party binaries for the bootloader and kernel, however, I'm not inclined to do any such thing. And between my stint at Linaro a few years ago and the recent work on Ubuntu for phones, I do have a little knowledge of Linux on ARM (probably just enough to be dangerous), so I set to work trying to get the CuBox-i4 bootable with stock Debian unstable.

Being such a cutting-edge piece of hardware, that does pose some challenges. Support for the i.MX6 chip is in the process of being upstreamed to U-Boot, but the support for the CuBox-i devices isn't there yet, nor is the support for SPL on i.MX6 (which allows booting the variants of the CuBox-i with a single U-Boot build, instead of requiring a different bootloader build for each flavor). The CuBox-i U-Boot that SolidRun makes available (with source at github) is based on U-Boot 2013.10-rc4, so more than a full release behind Debian unstable, and the patches there don't apply to U-Boot 2014.01 without a bit of effort.

But if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right, so I've taken the time to rebase the CuBox-i patches on top of 2014.01, publishing the results of the rebase to my own github repository and submitting a bug to the Debian U-Boot maintainers requesting its inclusion.

The next step is to get a Debian kernel that not only works, but fully supports the hardware out of the box (a 3.13 generic arm kernel will boot on the machine, but little things like ethernet and hdmi don't work yet). I've created a page in the Debian wiki for tracking the status of this work.