All posts by Bastian Ilso Hougaard

Reflections on the GNOME 3.28 Release Video

I just flipped the switch for the 3.28 Release Video. I’m really excited for all the new awesome features the community has landed, but I am a bit sad that I don’t have time to put more effort into the video this time around. A busy time schedule collided with technical difficulties in recording some of the apps. When I was staring at my weekly schedule Monday there didn’t seem much chance for a release video to be published at all..

However, in the midst of all that I decided to take this up as a challenge and see what I could come up with given the 2-3 days time. In the end, I identified some time/energy demanding issues I need to find solutions to:

  1. Building GNOME Apps before release and recording them is painful and prone to error and frustration. I hit errors when upgrading Fedora Rawhide, and even after updating many apps were not on the latest version. Flatpak applications are fortunately super easy to deal with for me, but not all applications are available as flatpaks. And ideally I will need to setup a completely clean environment since many apps draw on content in the home folder. Also, currently I need to post-process all the raw material to get the transparent window films.
  2. I run out of (8GB) memory several times and it’s almost faster to hold power button down and boot again, than to wait for Linux memory handling to deal with it.. Will definitely need to find a solution to this – it builds up a lot of frustration for me.

I am already working on a strategy for the first problem. A few awesome developers have helped me record some of the apps in the past and this has been really helpful to deal with this. I’m trying to make a list of contacts I need to get in touch with to get these recordings done, and I need to send out emails in time with the freezes in the release cycle. It makes my work and the musician’s work much easier if we know exactly what will go in the video and for how long. I also had a chat with Felipe about maybe making a gnome shell extension tool which could take care of setting wallpaper, recording in the right resolution and uploading to a repository somewhere. As for the second problem, I think I’m going to need a new laptop or upgrade my current one. I definitely have motivation to look into that based on this experience now, hehe..

“Do you have time for the next release video?” You might ask and that is a valid question. I don’t see the problem to be time, but more a problem of spending my contribution energy effectively. I really like making these videos – but mainly the animation and video editing parts of it. Building apps, working around errors and bugs, post-processing and all that just to get the recording assets I need, that’s the part that I currently feel takes up the most of my contribution energy. If I can minimize that, I think I will have much more creative energy to spend on the video itself. Honestly, all the awesome contributions in our GNOME Apps and components really deserve that much extra polish.

Thanks everyone for helping with the video this time around!

Behind the GNOME Booth, FOSDEM 2018

I did catch a cold, but I had a great time at FOSDEM this year! Friday was spent reviewing a branch with Florian which adds a disconnect entry to the context popover in Polari. It has now landed.

Saturday was spent selling lots and lots of socks. I choose this year not to go to any talks and instead hangout with fellow GNOMEies in the booth and have a chat with bypassing users. I’m accumulating many advertising arguments for buying socks including that it allows you to have feet on your feet and that you have an excuse to say “GNOME Socks!” as much as you want, once you own a pair. ;-) Kat brought the awesome hoodies and then we had a big load of leftover t-shirts from GUADEC 2017 which we more or less sold (I think there’s still some 20 left in small). In the end we sold a 160 pairs of socks which is almost half the enormous stock of socks I purchased. When the evening came by and the booth had to close, we went to the GNOME Beer Event in La Bécasse, where I had my annual taste of Lambic Blanc, which is one of the few beers I really enjoy drinking.

420 pairs of lovely GNOME socks ready to warm your feet. (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

Sunday went by with more booth-standing and then a GNOME Newcomer Workshop. We tried a new format which involved me matchmaking newcomers with existing GNOME developers from projects each newcomer was interested in. Instead of going big classroom style, the idea is to get more 1-on-1 and pair programming going during workshops. Thanks to Elias, Xaviju, Gwan and Florian for attending the workshop! I hope I’ll get to chat with you in the chatrooms, or who knows maybe meet again at GUADEC 2018?

In the evening me, Tobias, David and Julian hung out in the apartment I had arranged where I cooked an oriental lentil soup with flatbread. Coming to GNOME Recipes soon™!

Photos by Julian Sparber, food by me.

GNOME at FOSDEM 2018 – with socks and more!

Sunrise over Hobart seen from Mt Wellington, Tasmania (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

It’s been a while huh? The past six months held me busy traveling and studying abroad in Australia, but I’m back! With renewed energy, and lots and lots of GNOME socks for everyone. Like previous years, I’m helping out in GNOME’s FOSDEM booth at the FOSDEM 2018 conference.

FOSDEM 2016. (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

I have arranged a whopping 420 pairs of GNOME socks produced and hopefully arriving before my departure. baby Socks, ankle socks, regular Socks and even knee socks – maybe I should order an extra suit case to fill up. Even so, I estimate I can probably bring 150 pairs at max (last year my small luggage held 55 pairs..). Because of the large quantity I’ve designed them to be fairly neutral and “simple” (well, actually the pattern is rather complicated).

Sample sock made prior to production.

Breakdown of the horizontally repeatable sock pattern.

I plan to bring them to FOSDEM 2018, Open Source Days in Copenhagen, FOSS North and GUADEC. However, we have also talked about getting some socks shipped to the US or Asia, although a box of 100 socks weigh a lot resulting in expensive shipping. So if anyone is going to any of the aforementioned conferences and can keep some pairs in their luggage, let me know!

Apart from GNOME Booth staffing I am also helping out with organizing small newcomer workshops at FOSDEM! If you are coming to FOSDEM and is interested in mentoring one or two newcomers with your project, let us know on the Newcomer workshop page (more details here too). Most of all, I look forward to meeting fellow GNOME people again as I feel I have been gone quite a long time. I miss you!

GNOME 3.26 is here

..and I did a video! (click the picture below to watch it)

Activity on the GNOME 3.26 Release Video

You might notice by comparing to the 3.24 release video that I’ve been considerably less active on this cycle’s video. The biggest factor playing into this is that I have moved to Brisbane, Australia where I will be staying for the next few months (it’s lovely btw!) with less time to contribute. Secondly the time span between GUADEC and release has been considerably shorter which has pressured this cycle’s release material a bit. An unfortunate consequence of this is that translators have very little time to translate the video.

The GNOME 3.26 Release video in Blender’s VSE.

To make the video efficiently I have skipped much content in the animation step. The manuscript has been tailored to only concern the screencasts which has meant that I could focus my time editing everything together in the Video Sequence Editor. This limits what I can do creatively, but I also learned that for some aspects of the video, simple is better too. I was initially working with Simon on music, but he unfortunately found himself ill prior to the release so we have this time used a nice soundtrack from the Youtube Audio Library.

My plan for next time is to start earlier and try to get a collaboration going with developers about screencasting as soon as new features land. Having fellow contributors helping me screencast really saves me a lot of energy and time – which I in turn can put into making a better release video. Acting earlier should hopefully give me a better opportunity to write the manuscript and send it off to Karen for voice-over production, so we can have timing in place as early as possible. This should give me and Simon better room to closely collaborate on audio and visuals and have the video translated in as many languages as possible before release.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped me with this video, you know who you are! :)

3.26 Release Video in the Works

3.26 is sneaking up on everyone and last week I started working on the release video which process you can follow on the wiki, I will keep it updated as I move on. I plan to be doing major work in the green screening, animation areas and video editing myself but others are contributing with soundtrack, writing the manuscript and recording videos. There are plenty of things to do here and we are working on a pretty tight deadline (Wednesday the 13th September), so feel free to chime in or grab hold of me by e-mail. The tight time schedule is an interesting challenge and im taking the opportunity to test a new workflow. As a matter of fact, I have already “produced the first iteration” of the video using placeholder content to get an idea of the structure, timing etc. Now it’s just about getting the real high quality material in there.

GUADEC 17 Day 1

Friday marked the first day of GUADEC and me and Carlos had our talk named “Newcomer Genesis Evolution”. In case you missed, I’ll provide the slides for you here. A video is also coming up later.

Download slideshow

Volunteering at the merchandise table went well and by the end of the day we were all out of GNOME socks. I didn’t work on t-shirts this year but they look nice!

GUADEC 2017 Registration Desk (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

GNOME Socks! (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

I attended the newcomer lunch and got to meet some cool people who were attending GUADEC for the very first time. Later in the afternoon Julita had a talk showing all the events she has been holding to engage newcomers which was great to see.

Julita giving her talk “Different ways of outreaching newcomers” (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

The day ended with a rainy trip to The Wharf with dinner and chat. Onto day 2!

GUADEC Coming up!

My airplane is leaving Thursday afternoon, headed towards a week of friendly faces and fun again. The hand luggage will be full of socks and my mind will be full of feet, as I dive into GUADEC 2017, GNOME’s Annual European Conference in Manchester. Oh, and there will be a newcomers talk!

On Friday 28th July at 12:15 me and Carlos will speak a bit about our efforts on the newcomer guide and discuss with anyone interested the prospects of the project. This is followed by a newcomer workshop on 31st July which you are more than welcome to attend if you’re new to GNOME development and want to try out developing GNOME apps with Builder.

The schedule for this year’s GUADEC look amazing and I look forward to chat with many fellow GNOMEies again. Thank you GNOME Foundation for making my trip possible!

OS2: Danish Municipalities Collaborating in the Open

OS²: The public digitization association. (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

OS² is an association for Danish municipalities to pool together efforts in building a free and open source IT infrastructure. I first heard about it at the LibreOffice conference happening in Aarhus back in 2015 through a talk about “BibOS” and “TING”. The early efforts has since then inspired a formal association for municipalities which hosts a number of open source IT components. The components are developed, installed and supported by external suppliers who are hired by municipalities individually or together. This approach has benefits both for the municipality and the suppliers compared to traditional license-based solutions.

Out of curiosity I decided to attend an open general assembly for OS². Municipalities participating in the association and a number of suppliers were present as well. Rasmus Frey, OS²’s business manager opened up the general assembly, explaining the highlights in OS² of the past year.

Rasmus Frey presenting the past year’s highlights in OS² (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

Efforts has been made over the past year to use a governance model to transform OS² into a platform usable both for playground projects in development as well as for production-ready solutions. The transformation is a step in the process of making the OS² platform a viable alternative for municipalities coming from other systems and solutions.

OS² currently contain 12 different products. For example OS2BorgerPC which is a fork of Ubuntu running on many computers in public libraries or OS2web which is a content management system for municipality websites based on Drupal. The projects are released under the MPL 2.0, giving suppliers a number of ways to build their business.

Rasmus presented the next product in line at the general assembly: OS2cloud. It provides infrastructure that makes it easy for municipalities to deploy the OS² products from a web interface based on Origo. This also makes it easy for municipalities to self-host non-OS² open source software like Piwik for web analytics, instead of relying on external services such as Google Analytics with possible tracking and privacy issues.

Networking at the OS² general assembly (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

The talks at the OS² assembly demonstrated the many benefits of developing IT infrastructure around an open source model. One municipality told that they had found out about incidents of public library computers being key-logged. The perpetrator had done this by inserting USB hardware between the keyboard and the computer which logged user input. In response, the municipality hired a supplier to patch OS2BorgerPC so that library staff would be notified of any insertion or interruption of USB devices. A patch, which every other municipality deploying OS2BorgerPC subsequently would benefit from.

The openness and the fact that the OS² association maintains ownership of the produced code, also means that municipalities have wider range of suppliers to choose from for support and development. Compared to the traditional license-based products, this minimizes the risk of vendor lock-in and shared infrastructure across municipalities. For suppliers this potentially creates opportunities for consistent income, new market possibilities and closer collaboration between municipality and supplier.

Debate panel between suppliers and municipalities (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

The general assembly ended in networking and with a panel debate between suppliers and municipalities. The debate brought up a number of interesting challenges, one being in the transition from the traditional culture of selling software in license form. Concerns are raised in the industry on whether business really can be made on developing open source software and why “the free market can’t be used to solve this” (although IMO, a free market is exactly what open source in this case creates). There is a need for current suppliers in open source to spread awareness in the industry of the new models which business in IT can be built upon. On the other hand, the suppliers raised concerns with the mindset of some municipalities. They asked that the OS² association should emphasize to municipalities that software, being open source, does not mean you get free support the same way you might do with some license-based products. Expenses should be calculated for continuous maintenance and software development.

Initiatives like OS² excite me in many aspects. From a political perspective I think spending tax payers’ money on technology which then is released back to the public under an open license makes a ton of sense. It creates possibilities, not only for creating a fair market, but also for education and labor. The publicly available code enables studying and knowledge sharing for students like me and hobby groups like Open Source Aalborg. From an ethical perspective I further find the transparency which come with public code appealing to address questions of privacy and data collection. Finally, from a broader perspective I believe knowledge-sharing initiatives like OS² can advance technology at a much faster pace.

Open Source Days 2017 Impressions

Open Source Days is an annual conference held in Copenhagen, this time held from the 17th March to the 18th March. Since my successful trip with members of Open Source Aalborg we are keeping a close eye on free software happening in and around Denmark. For all of us, this was the first time we went to the Open Source Days conference.

Day 1: Business Days

First day of the conference was arranged as an opportunity for networking and presentations oriented around open source in corporate setting. We were there, as part of PROSA, a local Danish union organization supporting open source. While Open Source Days is a significantly smaller conference than say FOSDEM, I was still impressed by the variance of local Scandinavian firms present which ranged from firms selling courses and education to firms offering cloud-based services and offering support on self-hosted services.

I had the chance to talk to quite a few around there including FAIR Denmark which is recycling computers with GNOME installed on them to provide education to poor countries. Very interesting!

I also had the chance to meet Jesper, Martin and a few others from last years open source camp. Jesper was presenting about his work on enabling high speed network packet support in the Linux Kernel. Lots of it flew over my head but it was very interesting to hear as the presentation was a continuation the work he presented last year at the camp.

Day 2: Community Days

The second day marked the community days. In spirit of the day, Open Source Aalborg had its own humble booth with hand-drawn flyers, signs and everything. Start small, as they say. :-)

Copenhagen’s hackerspace Labitat was also present and had brought lots of small projects with them such as hacked sewing machines, LED matrix bling-bling and other electronics.

The community day had two tracks with talks. Probably the most interesting was the talk about how Danish municipalities are collaborating on infrastructure based on free and open source software principles called OS2. This model doesn’t mean that the municipalties are developing the project in-house. Rather, they are placing contracts with local danish firms to work for specific periods of time to develop projects further – and one municipality’s work benefit all other 98 municipalities.

The conference ended with beers and popcorn at Farfar’s as is tradition or so I have been told. Thanks to PROSA for sponsoring this trip to Open Source Days for Open Source Aalborg. I’m definitely attending again next year. :-)

Insights into the GNOME 3.24 Release Video

What a month! 3.24 is out, the revamped newcomers guide is out and I’m still trying to catch my breath here. This blog post will go a bit behind the scenes of the 3.24 release video.

First, here’s a closer look at the process of making a release video. These videos are a big effort from me but they are made possible thanks to many others. Of course this is just an approximate visualization of the time spent and how the processes are laid out. In reality much of it intertwine a lot more, as the video and its assets are created in several iterations.

The process

Time spent on the release video.

Visualization of the release video creation process

First, highlights from the new changes to applications and developer tools are chosen in the draft release notes. From this a manuscript draft is created and sent to the engagement list. Once the structure is approximately in place we can start recording footage. Much of the footage of the applications was this time provided by developers and application contributors. This meant I could spend extra time working on the animations themselves and I really enjoyed that part! A large majority of the time I was livestreaming my work on my twitch channel. Recording footage might sound like something trivial to do, but this actually normally takes up a large amount of time for me because:

  • The recordings require the latest unstable application version. This can be either super easy or very time consuming if the application doesn’t build, doesn’t run or isn’t up to date in flatpak, rawhide, JHBuild.
  • The application needs to be in a state which exposes what needs to be recorded. There are typically a few cool features which require special hardware (fx touchscreen, drawing tablets), need to be populated with some sample data (content applications).

So to all the developers and maintainers helping me with the special cases, thank you very much! I hope you don’t mind if I ask of your assistance again sometime in the future.

Once the manuscript is in good shape, it’s ready to be sent to Karen and Mike who help with the final revision and voice-over. On the sideline I have been working with Simon (@TheBaronHimself) who has produced the music for the video. This has been going on since the manuscript was still being written and having music produced from scratch for the video really upped the quality! The music is designed to work together with the content in the video, take for example how the music is timed to sound different when we talk about new developer features.

Mid-march Simon sent a draft of the music and I had a draft of the video which we then synchronized. This marks the editing freeze, which freezes the timing of Karen’s voice, this time 7 days before the release of GNOME 3.24. This is a new constraint that I put on the editing process in order to give translators a chance to translate the release video so as many translations of the subtitles are available as possible at release.

We managed to release the video a day after the release of GNOME 3.24. The slight delay was partly because timing the music proved quite difficult due to the editing freeze, but me and Simon now have some experience dealing with this, so we will come up with a better approach for the next video.

Source files

The manuscript is available here. I have also uploaded blender source files to this public git repository.

I’ll end this blog post with showcasing a few animations, some of which gave some new learning opportunities and some which were of the fun things I worked in this video:

a lock object with a constraint copying the rotation and noise from an empty with animated influence.

an array and bend modifier with f-curve offset.

many smaller animations, that I had fun with making to represent our teams in GNOME.

Thanks to translation team, design team, engagement team, all the developers helping me recording footage, karen and mike for the voice-over and Simon for producing the music. These videos could not be possible without help from all these people in the GNOME community. :)

This video was made using Blender, GIMP and Inkscape. It is satisfying to know that I can produce all of this using a free software pipeline.