pre-release craziness

i’m in bangalore this week, hanging out with the release team and marketing team guys for the GNOME 3.0 release hackfest.

i’ve never witnessed a release process this up-close-and-personal before, and i have to say that it’s totally insane. i have no idea how we ever get a release out the door. the amount of work being done by the release team is crazy. vincent and frederic have barely slept at all. andre says he had about 2 hours last night.

if you want proof, look for yourself: this month on release-team@. the gzipped archive is over 20 times the size of the month before. seems that “hard code freeze” really means “okay! go really fast now!”…

i’d feel guilty about my past transgression in this regard except for the fact that (release team member) vincent untz is busy landing a 15000 line set of changes to the panel at the moment.

the three of them disappeared today along with andreas and brian for a couple of hours. i’m not sure where they went but i think it has something to do with ingesting large amounts of crystal meth.

in other news, the location is pretty interesting. we got a chance to hang out at the intel offices and now we’re at a local university. the weather has been cooler than i expected (which is nice) and the traffic is really fantastic. we’ve come close to being dead in a terrible accident only 175 times or so. i still have to write my slides for my talk….

docs hackfest in Toronto

as i’m writing, the last of the docs hackers are leaving toronto. from what i can tell, they had an extremely productive week. from my perspective it was sort of fun to act as the on-the-ground guy for a change. i also managed to write a patch or two against yelp, so my attendance at the hackfest wasn’t entirely symbolic…

the hackfest was hosted by CDOT (the centre for development of open technology) at seneca college in (very) north toronto. these guys are really cool — a bunch of fedora and mozilla hackers as an official department of a college. a big thanks to anyone there who is reading this post; it was really awesome to hold a hackfest in such a cool place.

a step back

(standard junk: this is my personal opinion and i’m possibly ethically compromised because i’m currently on contract working for canonical, etc. etc. blah)

canonical does a lot of things that i would classify as pretty boneheaded in terms of their relationship to various free software communities. they have an interesting and colourful history with quite a lot of projects and our project is pretty close to the top of that list.

it’s my opinion that canonical takes a more pragmatic approach than most free software projects have. they have a bit more of a “…and damn the consequences” attitude. they’ve made a lot of decisions that have put them at odds with a lot of people. i’ve found myself on both sides — defending their choices when i agree and calling them out when i don’t.

binary drivers so that it “just works”? win. copyright assignment? not such a win. this mess with banshee? ya. that’s pretty lame.

i’m sure everyone can think of a few more “situations” off of the top of their heads.

canonical gets a lot of flack around these parts, and rightly so. they often make decisions that leave a lot of us scratching our heads and wondering why. they need to be called out. i’m glad to see it happening. i’d do more of it myself, but actually i hate writing blog posts.

to some casual readers of planet lately, it might seem as though the opinion of canonical in the gnome community is quite negative. i think that even those deeply involved in our community, in heated moments, get pretty pissed off.

taking a step back though, i think that it’s clear that just about every poster here would agree on one thing: that canonical is a net positive to the world of free software and that they are helping us achieve our most important goals.

as a fun thought experiment, imagine if even the worst dreams came true: next year canonical takes their copyright ownership of their qt rewrite of unity and makes it closed source to make lots of money selling it on embedded devices. imagine one of these devices is actually awesome and reasonably priced. i can tell you one thing about that: i’d be the first in line to get my hands on this device. i’d be excited as hell about it. a few closed components on an otherwise totally open os sounds pretty good to me. better than, say… android (that everyone seems to love so much). pretty comparable to meego (which everyone loved even more until quite recently).

now snap back to reality and remember that these worst dreams are just dreams and actually canonical is actually even better than that. there’s no closed source component at all. they’re actually taking a pretty high road with just about everything that they’ve done so far.

when you think about the amount of slack that we’ve cut companies like google and nokia and stack it up against the amount of condemnation that we’ve seen hurled at canonical it becomes easy to forget one thing that i think most of us would agree on: canonical is a very close friend.

the paradox is true: you save your strongest criticisms for those you love most.