Archive for the ‘computer’ Category


Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

It’s worth to watch the interview with Edward Snowden to understand his intentions and the irony that he needs questionable governments to protect him against “democracies” who are all allies of the government that persecutes him. Spin doctors manage well to move the debate towards Snowden himself (“Is he a traitor?”) instead of discussing the scope of the surveillance programs of the USA and the United Kingdom.

Technology and Society. Where we failed.

It’s too complicated to use encrypted communication when Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook are so convenient (and insecure and centralized) to use. The tech avantgarde failed to push for default encryption integration into standard mail clients via GPG/PGP. Do you know of non-geeks who use Tor or CryptoCat? I don’t. Pushing for free services and decentralized services is hard because there is no big marketing department behind them, and we all know that the most advanced technology often does not win for many reasons.

Users do not like making decisions when a question pops up in their web browsers. You want to get rid of that dialog instead. So most browsers have weak default settings in order to not confront us with confusing questions (some browsers recently push for enabling browser settings like “Do not track” or disabling third-party cookies by default soon, at least).
Hence cookies and third-party cookies are enabled for all pages, and though we log out (if there is still a “Logout” button, mobile versions seem to drop this unnecessary widget) of Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Foursquare, etc (services that are for free), all those embedded “Share!” buttons on other websites still tell the companies track which pages we visit, until we set up ad blockers and configure them properly. And HTTP referers expose which other website we visited before. And Flash cookies are a completely separate issue not covered by our browser’s cookie settings. We could do a few things, but it requires efforts and I don’t want to understand the interwebs if I just want to do my email!!!! Even if we care, the information exposed by our browser (size of screen, operating system, prefered languages, installed browser plugins, timezone, installed fonts) might still make us completely unique and recognizable.
So we use the same internet search engine every day as it’s convenient and provides the best results, soon even to be personalized instead of objective! We signed up for services without reading their terms of services. We happily automatically tag our images with GPS coordinates and upload them to central places (Facebook, Google Picasa, Yahoo Flickr) because it’s so convenient to share them with friends and to automatically show where the photo was taken. Social networks might hand out our user data to the police if we take drugs on photos, but who would ever take drugs (automatic face recognition for the win), or be on a photo of a protest demonstration against a government.
Applications on our phones access our address books and take all the contact data of all of our friends without letting us know, as we conveniently sync all our contact data between our devices. Thanks to central application stores, our phone provider knows exactly which applications we have installed and are interested in. Thanks to online music stores, companies like Amazon or Apple know exactly which music we like and can recommend other artists to us – convenient as we don’t need to find them ourselves anymore. Getting kicked out of our social network, or having our Amazon account disabled, losing all the books that we thought we had “bought” for our reading device without any compensation is so much easier with centralized services.
We all have microphones in our phones that can be activated by software, our phones log into a cell site which covers only a small area in bigger city, so it is pretty clear where exactly we are located, always. Who we communicate the most with is clear anyway.
We use digital non-anonymous discount cards to save a few lousy pennies in the supermarket so companies know what we buy, but it’s convenient to only get offers we are interested in! And companies selling ratings of our credit worthiness do not need to guess our income anymore by the area we live in – we tell them our buying power and habits for free.
We have public and private CCTV cameras in our cities, on pavements, on streets, in public transportation which make us feel safe (though they do not prevent any crime, just like the threat of death penalty). The police has a map of all (legal) cameras to quickly access them to solve crime, to make our world a safer place, though this did not help with the burglary at my neighbor’s as nothing was taped – looks like the thief just did not take the main entrance to our house, probably we just need more cameras in more spots. But never film the police – never jeopardize their safety, they are here to protect us!
Our passports, our plastic cards to enter the office building or to pay food or borrow books at university have personalized RFID chips, often strong enough to be read even from a few meters distance without letting us know that we have just identified ourselves. Combining all these separate cards in one is more convenient and as a side effect my university knows that as an aircraft construction student I do not eat any meat and read religious books. And that hidden RFID reader in the door frame can detect if we really attended that mandatory lecture at university or if we are just lazy students who should get exmatriculated.
The anonymous (and transferable) yearly paper ticket for local public transportation costs more than the personalized chipcard one, and booking a ticket on the internet with our personalized account and our credit card data is more convenient than going to a selling point and paying in cash. Why hide the fact that we travel very often from A to B (if it’s work, friends, partner, or lover might be guessed from the time of the day and if you return on the same day), if we could miss special offers for travelling from A to B?. Our computers have integrated webcams that can also be activated by software.

I could probably continue for hours.

No matter which government is elected next, it is going to do the same, because we do not care. (This implies that governments actually know what their secret services are doing and that secret services they would never do things in their own interest.)

Today’s technology has made life convenient. It’s easy to accept answers like “This is just a temporary measurement” and “This just happens for your own safety” and to not question why the shop attendant asks us for our postal code or nationality.
Elders, stop sending paper letters in envelopes, send postcards instead! Because we have nothing to hide in our times.

Bugzilla Tips (II): Changing the columns in search results

Friday, June 21st, 2013

This posting is part of a series on small and sometimes not-so-easy-to-discover functionality in Bugzilla that makes developers’ and users’ lifes more comfortable. It’s based on conversations with users and developers in the last months.

Sometimes you run a search in Bugzilla and you would like to see specific metadata displayed for the resulting list of bug reports, e.g. the Assignees, when the Latest Change took place for each report, or how many votes each report has received (if Voting is enabled in your Bugzilla). At the bottom of your search results, click “Change Columns”:


In the following dialog, the displayed columns are in the list on the right, and the available columns are on the left. You can add and remove columns or changing the order of the columns by selecting a list item and using the arrow buttons:


After clicking the “Change Columns” button, the changes will be applied to the previous search results (and future search results).

Bugzilla Tips (I): Autocompletion

Friday, June 14th, 2013

This posting is part of a series on small and sometimes not-so-easy-to-discover functionality in Bugzilla that makes developers’ and users’ lifes more comfortable. It’s based on conversations with users and developers in the last months.

People can be impatient, so not everybody is aware that Bugzilla provides autocompletion for those fields that are about people (like the CC, assignee, and QA contact fields).
The autocompletion kicks in only after waiting a short moment but is extremely helpful in order to set the correct person in a Bugzilla field, or to even check if the person has an account in Bugzilla.


If you want to add somebody to the CC field for example, you first click on “edit”:


If you now start typing three letters of a name or an email address, Bugzilla will show a list of proposals that match the letters you have entered:


After you have selected the person that you have in mind, the person is added to the CC field of the report.

Understanding Bugzilla groups and admin rights

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

As part of my work for the Wikimedia Foundation I recently tried to understand Bugzilla groups a bit better, specifically which tasks can only be done by Bugzilla administrators. In general, permissions to do stuff in Bugzilla (e.g. editing keywords, components, etc.) are defined by groups in Bugzilla, and Bugzilla users get membership in certain groups, manually or automatically.

Bugzilla logo by Dave Shea

Bugzilla logo by
Dave Shea

Membership in the Bugzilla admin group is always required for the following general tasks:

  • viewing the generated SQL query by using the &debug=1 URL parameter
  • deleting attachments (instead of just marking them as private)
  • editing Bugzilla field values (editvalues.cgi) and editing custom fields (editfields.cgi)
  • editing the bug status workflow (editworkflow.cgi)
  • editing (or banning/blocking) Bugzilla accounts, e.g. in case of violations against the Code of Conduct of your project. This is inherited from the editusers group membership: editusers group membership de facto means admin group membership, as an account with editusers group membership can edit his/her account and set admin group membership.

The list above is not necessarily complete. (Thanks to Byran Jones for input.)

Then there are tasks that might require membership in the Bugzilla admin group, depending on the configuration of your Bugzilla instance:

  • Marking comments and attachments as private and accessing comments and attachments marked as private requires membership in the insidergroup. Manual membership of individuals is not possible, the group can only be set to be another existing group. The insidergroup group might be set to the admin group in your configuration.
  • Inherited group membership: Bugzilla allows defining automatic group membership in group X if an account is member of the group Y or if the account’s email address matches a specific regex defined for a group. The default automatic group membership inclusions of the admin group are tweakparams, editusers, creategroups, editcomponents, editkeywords. It is worth to check your configuration if certain groups automatically inherit membership for either the admin or the editusers group.
  • Creating charts requires membership in the chartgroup (chart.cgi). Manual membership of individuals is not possible, the group can only be set to be another existing group. It is by default set to the admin group in Bugzilla.

I hope this is helpful for other Bugzilla admins out there, as I could not find much documentation. One day I might turn this into a patch for Bugzilla upstream documentation.

Wikimedia Bug Management and the Outreach Program for Women

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

For the last three months I had the pleasure to have an intern for my bugmaster job at Wikimedia, as part of the Outreach Program for Women (OPW) for Free and Open Source Software. It is organized by GNOME and the Wikimedia Foundation participated with six positions.


Valerie’s proposal was to create a proposal for a better feedback workflow, to organize public bug days which we now run every other week as part of the QA weekly goals, and to do bug report triaging. Valerie succeeded in all of them and blogged about her experience and progress, but I’d like to summarize and highlight some of her achievements here.

Valerie analyzed which important Wikimedia feedback channels link to each other and Bugzilla and created a diagram of the current situation, and also a bug life cycle flowchart describing the life of a bug report by its status changes over time. That diagram is now also embedded in our wiki documentation making it easier to understand for Bugzilla newcomers “how things work”.

Wikimedia Foundation Logo

She also wrote and published two blogposts in the Wikimedia Blog explaining how to create a good first bug report and how to help Wikimedia squash software bugs. And apart from co-organizing a number of bugdays, Valerie also participated in Mobile QA by testing the Commons Upload app, helped me with Bugzilla administration (creating new products and components), and taught me about Bugzilla functionality that I had never used before, yay. :)

As this was the first time that I intensively mentored somebody I must say that it went surprisingly well, realizing the presence of all those skills which are helpful for bug triaging: Good analytic skills (what a bug report is about and what not), finding your way to gather information via the query interface, spotting things in the Bugzilla interface and being curious enough to investigate yourself, and a structured approach to testing by using different browsers, coming up with quick testcases yourself, and being aware of MediaWiki’s deployment schedule (basically: which software version is deployed on which server).

So I think we’ve learned a lot from each other, and I’m very happy that Valerie is going to stay involved in our community and bug management.

In general, I’d like to thank Marina Zhurakhinskaya (for GNOME) and Quim Gil (for Wikimedia) for organizing OPW and I am delighted to see more projects planning to join the next round (like KDE, Perl, and more).
The application period for the next round of OPW has already started and its deadline is May 1st. Check out the central wikipage if you’re interested!

Wikimedia’s Bug Management

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Wikimedia Foundation Logo

About three months ago I started as bugmaster / bugwrangler of the Wikimedia Foundation (the non-profit organization behind Wikipedia). It’s about time to finally blog before everybody expects WMF to be the same black hole that Google is seen as when it comes to free and open source people suddenly disappearing. ;)

A Day in the Life of a Bugmaster

As part of my daily work I take a look at the latest Wikimedia bug reports and go through some of the feedback sources (like Village Pumps or Greasepits) in the many projects under the Wikimedia umbrella. I also often take a look at reports with immediate and highest priority.


Earlier in December we managed to upgrade Bugzilla from 4.0.9 to version 4.2.4. The upgrade itself did not go 102% perfectly, but still went extremely smooth and way better than I was afraid of.

As I’ve used Greasemonkey scripts for years now to save some time when triaging bug reports, I’ve published the ones that I use in Wikimedia Bugzilla here. Patches are welcome, and the code could likely use some refactoring anyway (IANAC).

And more!

I’ve retriaged a bunch of tickets that were previously marked as “RESOLVED LATER” in Bugzilla and disabled that resolution for future use (also see the related mailing list discussion), plus the huge backlog of unprioritized tickets.

I’ve improved and wrote lots of documentation related to bug triaging, for example a triage guide.

We discussed the interpretation of “Highest priority” and ended up introducing an “Immediate priority” which leaves less room for interpretation.

Plus I got in smaller fixes, e.g. fixing some regexes in Wikimedia’s Bugzilla extensions.

You can find weekly status updates that I publish.

The things around

In the last three months MediaWiki/Wikimedia bug management have seen and survived the merge of ContentHandler, a new media player (TimedMediaHandler) for better HTML5 multimedia support, and first deployments of improved user experience tools such as ArticleFeedback 5, VisualEditor and Notifications. First Wikidata deployments and moving to a new data center are on the list of potential disruptions for early 2013.
And I’ve had fun with server software upgrades, understanding our release cycles and continouos deployment, and watching and analyzing the usage (or non-usage) of the bugtracker by different development teams.


I still need to prioritize my long backlog of potential future plans and ideas. Of course some smaller drive-by cleanups have taken place already.

Among the plans for early 2013 are automatic notifications from Gerrit into Bugzilla about patch status changes (Wikimedia Germany seems to work on that), component watching via bugmail, and a new and more useful Bugzilla frontpage.

Plus for the next three months I will have the pleasure to work with Valerie as part of the Outreach Program for Women. Part of the grand plan is to start having monthly bug days to triage bug reports together – are you in?

And of course WMF is hiring – take a look if there’s a position that fits you!

Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit 2012

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Marina, Daniel, Muslim and I represented GNOME at the Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit.
As a nice coincidence, my colleagues Sumana and Rob also went their representing the Wikimedia Foundation.

After attending a session about project management I realized that there might be further interest to discuss bug management / issue tracking so I set up a session for Sunday that about 15 people attended in order to discuss problems and practices. For those with an account, the log is available.
I also attended sessions on Continuous Integration, Community Metrics and other topics.

Big thanks to Google for sponsoring and arranging a welcoming conference with a wide range and variety of topics.

GNOME: Do you want to participate in Google Code-In?

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Google Code-In 2011

While I organized and ran Google Code-In for GNOME for the last years (a contest for 13-17 year old students) I won’t have enough spare time this year. So the question is if GNOME wants to take part in it (mentors, anyone?), and if somebody volunteers to organize it. The deadline for applying to take part is November 5th (in two weeks).
Organizing means: Setting up our wikipage (last year’s version, see the ChangeLog how to start), doing the paperwork (registration, documented on our wiki), nagging developers and community members to become mentors and provide tasks, and while the contest is running making sure that mentors respond quickly.

So if you feel like getting fresh young people into GNOME and open source: Be bold!
I will of course be around for questions and to support you, and help out.

Free knowledge: Here we go.

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Wikimedia Foundation Logo

I am very happy to announce that from next week on I am going to help Wikimedia Foundation (the organization behind Wikipedia and further projects) tame their bug tracker and manage everything and anything related to issue reports and feature requests.
This job is called a “bug wrangler” (also known as “bugmaster“).

I already had the pleasure to attend the Wikimedia Hackathon earlier this year to get to know the awesome community of this large and important project better and to discuss some patterns, problems and plans. To be continued…

GUADEC 2012: Discussions!

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse'” — Henry Ford

GUADEC 2012 logo

Continuing to write about this year’s GUADEC conference that ended a few days ago. It should be obvious that opinions in this blogpost are my own.

The state of GNOME

Many people discussed the concerns expressed by Benjamin in a recent blog post. I know that Benjamin deeply cares about GNOME but I am not sure with some of the conclusions – some feel unproven. Dropping some thoughts here to comment some of the statements.

  • For the (non-)variety of people working on GTK+ anybody can get his/her own impression by taking a look at the GTK+ commit log (though that is just the master branch). Same for any other project. If you want to get numbers, git clone a module repository and run git log –after=2010-08-01 –author=” –pretty=format:”%ae” | sort -u | wc -l to see how many different authors got code changes committed in the last two years. We can all still differ in interpreting those numbers of course. ;)
  • With regard to the statement that “[m]ost important desktop applications have not made the switch to GNOME 3″, I am not sure which extend “GNOME 3″ is meant to imply.
    Picking one of the core parts by taking a look at GTK+3 acceptance, you can follow the ongoing efforts of Mozilla porting to GTK+3 in this bug report, see on page 19 of Michael’s slides that there is “an improving prototype” of gtk+3 for LibreOffice, enable Inkscape’s experimental GTK+3 build when compiling, or try out GIMP’s branch for the GTK+3 port.
    Work is clearly in progress and I traditionally don’t consider big complex projects as early adapters.
  • Not sure how to interpret “losing mindshare” either, so I can only state that GNOME received about 41000 changes (only counting the master branches in the GNOME Git repository, work can also happen in other branches plus some teams also use external infrastructure) by approximately 1275 people for version 3.4, and about 38500 changes by approximately 1270 people for 3.2. I know this does not tell anything in the long term. Unfortunately I do not have numbers from before 3.0 handy (I gathered the aforementioned data for writing the last release notes), but iterating over all GNOME Git repositories (list available here) and using git log –after=yyyy-mm-dd –before=yyyy-mm-dd –pretty=oneline | wc -l syntax should be doable for anybody interested. Note though that the list linked above does not include modules that were archived in Git (see the Git web interface) so this would require a bit more work to also include them.
    Apart from sheer numbers, GNOME provides and takes part in several outreach programs (Google Summer of Code, GNOME Women Outreach Program, Google Code-In) with a high number of contributors staying in our community after programs have ended (I don’t remember exact numbers but Marina mentioned this in her talk about the Women Outreach Program). You don’t need to wait for a program though to get involved – GnomeLove and its large number of mentors let your start your journey at any time!
  • Dominance of one company: Page 16 of Dave Neary’s GNOME Census from two years ago lists 16.3% commits by Red Hat employees. Judging is up to each individual, but it would require updated data to really judge the situation in 2012.
    Still, likely everybody agrees that GNOME would benefit from more companies involved. Every project out there probably would. We have seen companies cutting involvement in the past (IBM, Sun, Nokia) so that is nothing new. Companies need compelling reasons why to invest in the GNOME platform, the community, and GNOME’s future. If current reasons and future plans are not well-defined and convincing this is something to discuss and improve, on several levels (mostly advisory board, foundation board, release-team, but also all the other hard-working teams that make GNOME the awesome project that it is).
    Picking up two examples: Do we advertise enough our awesome translator community with its high quality translations for dozens of languages? Is our developer story convincing enough? Surely there is always room for improvement: The translation community plans to improve outreach and make it easier to start translating by helping with setting priorities. New tutorials for developers are in the making for 3.6 (and any developer is welcome to help by providing short code snippets). And when I take a look at the new features coming in the next release it clearly feels like the most active development cycle in the GNOME 3 era so far (Allan named some already in his post).
  • In order to respond to expectations expressed by some community members towards the release team (mostly in regard to leadership in case of potential conflicts or confusion about direction), the GNOME release team asked the community: “Which role do you expect the release team to have?” (slides are available). Frédéric’s blogpost covered this topic already.
    As written in the slides, the release team serves our community but it’s up to our community to decide to which extent. Its current self-understanding is to “try to not get into the way“. The release team did not express its position in order to initiate an open discussion.
    If the community thinks that there are ways in which the release team can help the GNOME project to perform even better, then the release team will be happy to do so. The direct feedback at the conference seemed to be very positive and expressed lots of trust in the release team’s work, but more feedback (especially by those not attending GUADEC) is needed before proposing potential changes.
    (Disclaimer: I am a member of the GNOME release team.)
  • With regard to criticism which sometimes comes up on the transparency of decisions: It is a fact that many discussions happen in real time on IRC (or via other channels, like Google hangouts), in the timezone of the developers, and not on mailing lists only.
    IRC makes it harder for interested people to follow those discussions if you live on the other side of the world or are not online all of the time. My very personal opinion is that IRC logging might help to be able to get a better understanding of the reasons why and how some decisions were taken.
    The fast pace of GNOME’s development is impressive, combined with summarizing and communicating plans early through further communication channels (mailing lists, blogs) so people can also provide feedback if they cannot follow GNOME development that closely. In this field, Allan does an awesome job with his regular blogposts on what the design team is up to so people can chime in to contribute and get involved.

Other random short bits

  • Proposed with some friends Brno (CZ) to host GUADEC 2013. Strasbourg (FR) is the other option (and also a great city!). Final decision to be made by the GNOME Foundation Board in September or so.
  • I was part of the papers committee, deciding which talks to have (we did not refuse many as the offer was quite convincing), and trying to schedule them. Though we clearly had absolutely no influence on it, I’ve been told by a few people that this year’s talks were of high quality, so congratulations and thanks to all speakers for interesting topics and good presentations!
  • 17% of GUADEC attendees were female! I hope that number will continue to increase.
  • Lots of very passionate Women Outreach Program (GWOP) and Summer of Code (GSoC) students attended the conference, with an awesome diversity. It seems that our community was perceived as very welcoming. I hope that many people will stay involved and help GNOME to evolve by participating in discussions on GNOME’s future and direction. Folks, you are the future of GNOME!

Thanks to everybody who traveled to A Coruña in order to participate, and to all our sponsors, making this the best GUADEC ever!

Attendees group picture