Who Maintains That Stuff?

If you use GNOME or Ubuntu, then GNOME Disks is probably what you rely on if you ever need to do any disk management operations, so it’s a relatively important piece of software for GNOME and Ubuntu users. Now if you’re a command line geek, you might handle disk management via command line, and that’s fine, but most users don’t know how to do that. Or if you’re living in the past like Ubuntu and not yet using Wayland, you might prefer GParted (which does not work under Wayland because it requires root permissions, while we intentionally will not allow applications to run as root in Wayland). But for anyone else, you’re probably using GNOME Disks. So it would be good for it to work reliably, and for it to be relatively free of bugs.

I regularly receive new bug reports against GNOME Disks. Sometimes they’re not very well-constructed or based on some misunderstanding of how partitioning works, in which case I’ll close them, but most of them are good and valid. So who fixes bug reports against GNOME Disks? The answer is: nobody! Unless it’s really, really easy — in which case I might allocate five minutes for it — nobody is going to fix the bug that you reported. What a shame!

Who is the maintainer? In this case, it’s me, but I don’t actually know much anything about the application and certainly don’t have time to fix things; I just check Bugzilla to see if anybody has posted a patch, so that contributors’ patches (which are rare) don’t get totally neglected, and make new releases every once in a while, and only because I didn’t want to see such a critical piece of software go completely unmaintained.

If you’re a software developer with an interest in both GNOME and disk management, GNOME Disks would be a great place to help out. A great place to start would be to search through GNOME Bugzilla for issues to work on, and submit patches for them.

Of course, Disks is far from the only unmaintained or undermaintained software in GNOME. Last year, Sébastien set up a wiki page to track unmaintained and undermaintained apps. It has had some success: in that time, GNOME Calculator, Shotwell, Gtranslator, and Geary have all found maintainers and been removed from the list of unmaintained modules. (Geary is still listed as undermaintained, and no doubt it would be nice to have more Geary maintainers, but the current maintainer seems to be quite active, so I would hesitate to list it as undermaintained. Epiphany would love to have a second maintainer as well. No doubt most GNOME apps would.)

But we still have a few apps that are listed as unmaintained:

  • Bijiben (GNOME Notes)
  • Empathy
  • GNOME Disks

No doubt there are more GNOME modules that should be listed. If you know of some, please add them or leave a comment here.

Help would be very much welcome with any of these. In particular, Empathy and Bijiben are both slated to be removed from Fedora beginning with Fedora 27 due to their unacceptable dependencies on an old, insecure version of WebKitGTK+ that is about to be removed from the distribution. Most of the work to port these applications to modern WebKitGTK+ is already done (and, in the case of Empathy, I’ve already committed the port to git), but an active maintainer is required to finish the job and get things to a releasable state. Last I checked, Bijiben also still needed to be ported to GTK+ 3.20. If nobody is interested in helping out, these apps are going to disappear sooner rather than later.

Disks, fortunately, is not going to disappear anytime soon. But the bugs aren’t going to fix themselves.

P.S. This blog is not the right place to complain about no longer allowing applications to run as root. Such applications can and should use Polkit to move privileged operations out of the GUI and into a helper process. This should have been done roughly a decade ago. Such applications might themselves be unmaintained or undermaintained; can you help them out?

11 Replies to “Who Maintains That Stuff?”

  1. Thank you for your work on GNOME, and for doing your best in maintaining Disks. I use the app about every month or so, and I find it very useful.

    Is there a process for “stepping down as a maintainer”? I’d suspect it would be easier for people to volunteer to maintain an application if they where to receive mentoring from the old maintainer when possible.

    Is there a wiki page or automated git repository analysis page that shows which apps and modules that have the most number of committers? I mean, it would make it more easy to discover apps and modules that need more attention.

    1. The process for stepping down as a maintainer is to remove your name from the project’s doap file.

      I’ll certainly help anyone who wants to maintain any of the unmaintained applications I mentioned in this bug. I have no particular expertise in any of them, but I can give general guidance and advice to a new maintainer.

      I don’t know of any activity tracking page. It seems like the sort of thing that might already exist. I do remember we had a page for tracking maintainers who have not committed to their modules in a long time, but it was static and needed some human intervention to run a script to update it. I wonder what the state of that is.

      1. Emmanuele collates stats for the “This Week in GTK+” and, with a lot more detail, “Who Wrote GTK+” series that he publishes on the GTK+ development blog. I haven’t seen the latter for a while (it’s probably only for even minor, non-point releases) – but they did include stats like number of commits, number of individual committers, number of organisations represented, etc. I don’t know to what degree he automates that, but it might be worth asking!

    2. I want to repeat what Daniel says here. Thanks a lot for your hard work on GNOME and Epiphany in particular! <3

  2. To me the most problematic piece of GNOME is the shell itself, filled with tons of years old bugs whitch barely get noticed, let alone fixed. (just search for shell performance issues.)
    I basically encounter a bug in like every 5 mins of usage, especially performance issues (not to mention missing features)…
    We recently had Sysprof aiding for profiling JS, but again no move towards it. And well shell is not something in which you can just wait for new developers, it’s not just a simple desktop app to maintain… And unfortunately there seems to be no effort to make the situation any better.
    What’s expected from the rest when the most important part of desktop is this broken…

    1. Strange, my experience is quite different than yours. I used to notice shell bugs quite often, but it’s felt very stable for the last couple of years. I know the Bugzilla product is a mess, though, which is unfortunate.

      (Edit: I removed my last sentence. I got confused about which post this was.)

    2. I presume you file bugs for all of these? Otherwise your complaints cannot translate to anything useful.

    3. I have to agree to this, I have a Thinkpad X220 and the Shell overview never exceeds 15 FPS here, and drops to as bad as 0–1 FPS when searching for stuff. For a modern desktop and this kind of hardware (which handles 2D games at a constant 60 FPS without even noticing) it should be unacceptable.

      And then there are the occasional crashes (I think it even crashed hard yesterday, for no reason) and bugs (like animations on some things just turning off without any reason) that happen, and features that probably won’t get implemented like, ever (like the cursor lagging under Wayland).

      I would actually really want to contribute to the Shell and help fix these things, but usually require expert-level knowledge and I really don’t have time to get there, with all the other things I’m trying to contribute to.

  3. I’d really love to see a page about activity in the GNOME git repositories, maybe some rankings for LOC/commits per timespan. That would make it easier to track the progress of applications or modules.

    1. And adding the corresponding links to bountysource … I recently learned that Gnome had section in this site.

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