3 months

I’ve been in my new job for 90 days now, as some internal software reminded me recently. It suggested I’d reminisce about it.

I have to say it was a very interesting experience and I like it a lot. I have yet to get more involved in Fedora processes, but I guess that will come after having met more Fedora people at my first FudCon. I’m also slowly getting back into GStreamer development, which works quite well so far. The hardest part is convincing various people inside the company that GStreamer is not “a buggy piece of crap”, which is kinda hard when they show up with weird gst-launch pipelines that expose bugs in 5 or more different elements. On the one hand the flexibility of gst-launch is great, on the other hand it sucks if it doesn’t work once you try something out of the ordinary. Wonder how to solve that…
And I didn’t manage to get the Cairo guys to release Cairo 1.10. If somebody knows how to fix that, please do it.

I also wanted to point out two things that surprised me about my job, one of them very positively, the other not so much.

the great thing

Red Hat engineers are great at working together across communities. If a kernel guy has a problem with GStreamer, they poke me and if I have a problem with building rpms, I can poke its maintainers. I feel that in the “upstream” world, developers often stay in their own community and don’t reach out to others. This leads to ugly workarounds in code and bad blood between people when they blame each other for bugs. I think Red Hat is a model for this and they should go out into the world and give talks about how we achieve this.

the not so great thing

We envy Ubuntu’s fame. I often see people post links to news sites or blogs where Ubuntu gets praised for a new feature that was written by Red Hat people (and of course it was in Fedora so much earlier). And then everybody makes nasty jokes about Ubuntu just stealing all the fame and giving no credit.
It would be a lot nicer if we could be happy that the Ubuntu community likes the software we write. We would be happier and feel better about helping Ubuntu people. Of course, it would be nice if the Ubuntu world would credit us a bit more for our work, but then we probably need to market the stuff we do more.


#1 Zeeshan Ali on 04.10.10 at 01:02

Great to see things working out so well for you. :)

“I feel that in the “upstream” world, developers often stay in their own community and don’t reach out to others. This leads to ugly workarounds in code and bad blood between people when they blame each other for bugs.”

That is so true! I feel very envious now that you tell me things in your company are so different about this. There is a lot of good things about working at Nokia but this is one thing that we really need to learn.

#2 Chris Jones on 04.10.10 at 01:22

In before lots of comment wars. Interesting post, thanks! I for one am grateful for all the work of all upstreams, including Red Hat, and all distributions pushing the best features out to their users :)

(a Canonical sysadmin, but not an Ubuntu developer)

#3 Jef Spaleta on 04.10.10 at 01:24

Do you have ideas on how to do that proactive marketing better?


#4 ethana2 on 04.10.10 at 02:05

I would love to be able to pay software developers through the Ubuntu software center. I appreciate NetworkManager, Empathy, Epiphany, and AbiWord; I’ve already bought some music through UOMS, I’d certainly throw some money their way too if it was just easy enough.

#5 someone on 04.10.10 at 02:07

Debian doesn’t like the software you write. Just the other day on #debian-devel there was a whine-fest about various things, mainly dbus-using apps needing a reboot after dbus is restarted, other whining I’ve seen recently:

gdm dropping a whole bunch of needed code
switching from hal to udev (kFreeBSD support)
NM killing connections when it gets restarted

#6 Máirín Duffy on 04.10.10 at 02:32

@ethana2 Giving contributors (not just developers) money is not going to help if the problem is lack of recognition / proper attribution.

#7 diegoe on 04.10.10 at 06:08

@ethana2, you can donate directly to your favourite projects, most of them have paypal or bank accounts that you can send money to.

For GNOME (that helps NM, Empathy, Epiphany, etc) you can sign up for Friends of GNOME:

you can even get a postcard from a hacker you choose!

#8 Matěj Cepl on 04.10.10 at 07:35

That’s the one thing I dislike about some newer folks in Red Hat as well. Many people tend to forget the basic mantra of Bob Young: “We understand our competition isn’t with Caldera or SuSE–our competition is with Microsoft.” (http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/3553). We should repeat it wherever we go.

#9 Julian Carax on 04.10.10 at 08:43

If it’s any consolation, Ubuntu has gotten where it’s gotten by burning capital. Red Hat makes bank. Less internet glory, but bank.

What does that matter? Well, you’ve got the job helping FOSS, don’t you?

#10 otte on 04.10.10 at 09:46

@jef: If I knew how to do marketing, I’d still work on Swfdec. ;)

@someone: Yeah, you can always find something to complain about. But the fact that Debian uses this software and not anything else speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

@Julian Carax: My argument is not about earning money. It’s about working together effectively to create better software – for Red Hat, Canonical and everyone else.

#11 James on 04.10.10 at 11:33

Debian uses it because it’s a distribution, not upstream, and so has to live with their decisions. I lost xchat and empathy thanks to a dbus restart yesterday, libraries should not call exit().

#12 Stu on 04.10.10 at 11:40

For getting Cairo released I believe there’s a tracker bug with some things outstanding I guess it might be worth poking people to see what’s happening about those.

With the library calling exit, I wonder if they have a bug for that, might be worth reporting?

#13 Rahul Sundaram on 04.10.10 at 17:48

“Debian uses it because it’s a distribution, not upstream, and so has to live with their decisions”

Not quite. Distributions have the ability to work with upstream and provide their feedback and patches to help improve the state of affairs instead of just complaining in a IRC channel.

#14 Dave Airlie on 04.10.10 at 21:09

lols kFreeBSD, the fact that exists at all points that some people take the whole choice thing too far.

The fact that anyone thought it was maintainable…

@otte, yeah I found the same thing, Ubuntu envy, we do have some silos in Red Hat but they aren’t near as defined as upstream, I suppose we also have the ability to send patches against upstream projects with the backing of them coming from Red Hat.

We still have to teach a few people something ajax said the other day (paraphrased), its all just code, if you are a programmer and any silo should be enterable, if you have the confidence behind the changes you want to make.

#15 rbultje on 04.11.10 at 15:47

@otte: now that there’s finally someone-with-a-clie doing multimedia there, how about you start talking to people in RedHat about shipping parts of FFmpeg in your main distro? I still can’t believe that even the simplest of patent-unencumbered multimedia formats don’t work simply because you guys are scared of the F-word.

#16 Alberto Ruiz on 04.12.10 at 23:26

Really glad you find a place where not only you, but the whole Linux community is going to benefit.

#17 Bruce Wagner on 04.16.10 at 16:11

Hi. My first time here.

I’m curious. WHO are you, “Swfblag”?

There’s no “About me” or “Contact” or anything.




#18 skierpage on 04.19.10 at 01:06

Your Cairo Gstreamer hackfest announcement was teh awesomeness, I hope it gets released soon. It seems there is a ton of Cairo work (your stuff, huge improvements in GL and XCB, Vladimir Vukićević ‘s Qt and Android backends, etc.) that isn’t getting into releases. Or maybe it is, though none of it is even listed in http://cairographics.org/roadmap/ ??

“then we probably need to market the stuff we do more”
* YOU are the marketing department.
* You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
So, when any engineer blogs about her projects, the second sentence must ALWAYS be what the heck the software does. Every single day thousands of people stumble across dozens of “I finally got the QFizzbangaKnol 0.6.98 candidate out, with lots of great new features from Ben” posts. Never a mention of what the hell QFizzbangaKnol is! Often the QFizzbangaKnol web site doesn’t say what it is, it’s a bunch of dot release announcements, git/build/bug links, and dizzying acronyms.

In your case, your blog should have one-line explanations of each component of your blog title in its sidebar. “Swfdec, GStreamer, Cairo, GNOME, me – Swfblag” Uhhh, ok, whatever.

Thanks for all you do!

#19 Stu on 04.20.10 at 18:38

– Not to mention the direct2d backend by Bass Chouten

I asked on his site if he was going to upstream it and he seemed to be worried about whether it would go in.

I’m really looking forward to using accelerated cairo (OpenGL probably), there does seem to be a proliferation of branches though I guess they need to be folded in.