Desktop Containers – The Way Forward

One feature we are spending quite a bit of effort in around the Workstation is container technologies for the desktop. This has been on the wishlist for quite some time and luckily the pieces for it are now coming together. Thanks to strong collaboration between Red Hat and Docker we have a great baseline to start from. One of the core members of the desktop engineering team, Alex Larsson, has been leading the Docker integration effort inside Red Hat and we are now preparing to build onwards on that work, using the desktop container roadmap created by Lennart Poettering.

So while Lennarts LinuxApps ideas predates Docker they do provide a great set of steps we need to turn Docker into a container solution not just for server and web applications, but also for desktop applications. And luckily a lot of the features we need for the desktop are also useful for the other usecases, for instance one of the main things Red Hat has been working with our friends at Docker on is integrating systemd with Docker.

There are a set of other components as part of this plan too. One of the big ones is Wayland, and I assume that if you are reading this you
have already seen my Wayland in Fedora updates.

Two other core technologies we identified are kdbus and overlayfs. Alex Larsson has already written an overlayfs backend for Docker, and Fedora Workstation Steering committee member, Josh Bowyer, just announced the availability of a Copr which includes experimental kernels for Fedora with overlayfs and kdbus enabled.

In parallel with this, David King has been prototyping a version of Cheese that can be run inside a container and that uses this concept that in the LinuxApps proposal is called ‘Portals’, which is basically dbus APIs for accessing resources outside the container, like the webcam and microphone in the case of Cheese. For those interested he will be presenting on his work at GUADEC at the end of the Month, on Monday the 28th of July. The talk is called ‘Cheese: TNG (less libcheese, more D-Bus)’

So all in all the pieces are really starting to come together now and we expect to have some sessions during both GUADEC and Flock this year to try hammer out the remaining details. If you are interested in learning more or join the effort be sure to check the two conferences notice boards for time and place for the container sessions.

There is still a lot of work to do, but I am confident we have the right team assembled to do it. In addition to the people already mentioned we for instance have Allan Day who is kicking off an effort to look at the user experience we want to provide around the container hosted application bundles in terms of upgrades and installation for instance. And we will also work with the wider Docker community to make sure we have great composition tools for creating these container images available for developers on Fedora.

Transmageddon 1.2 ‘All bugs must die’

Update: I had actually managed to disable the VAAPI encoding in 1.2, so I just rolled a 1.3 release which re-enabled it. Apart from that it is identical

So I finally managed to put out a new Transmageddon release today. It is primarily a bugfix release, but considering how many critical bugs I ended up fixing for this release I am actually a bit embarassed about my earlier 1.x releases. There was for instances some stupidity in my code that triggered thread safety issues, which I know hit some of my users quite badly. But there were other things not working properly either, like dropping the video stream from a file. Anyway, I know some people think that filing bugs doesn’t help, but I think I fixed every reported Transmageddon bug with this release (although not every feature request bugzilla item). So if you have issues with Transmageddon 1.2 please let me know and I will try my best to fix them. I do try to keep a policy that it is better to have limited functionality, but what is there is solid as opposed to have a lot of features that are unreliable or outright broken.

That said I couldn’t help myself so there are a few new features in this release. First of all if you have the GStreamer VAAPI plugins installed (and be sure to have the driver too) then the VAAPI GPU encoder will be used for h264 and MPEG2.

Secondly I brought back the so called ‘xvid’ codec (even though xvid isn’t really a separate codec, but a name used to refer to MPEG4 Video codec using the advanced-simple profile.).

So as screenshot blow shows, there is not a lot of UI changes since the last version, just some smaller layout and string fixes, but stability is hopefully greatly improved.

I am currently looking at a range of things as the next feature for Transmageddon including:

  • Batch transcoding, allowing you to create a series of transcoding jobs upfront instead of doing the transcodes one by one
  • Advanced settings panel, allowing you to choose which encoders to use for a given format, what profiles to use, turn deinterlacing on/off and so on
  • Profile generator, create new device profiles by inspecting existing files
  • Redo the UI to switch away from deprecated widgets

If you have any preference for which I should tackle first feel free to let me know in the comments and I will try to allow
popular will decide what I do first :)

P.S. I would love to have a high contrast icon for Transmageddon (HighContrast App icon guidelines) – So if there is any graphics artists out there willing to create one for me I would be duly greatful

Wayland in Fedora Update

As we are approaching Fedora Workstation 21 we held a meeting to review our Wayland efforts for Fedora Workstation inside Red Hat recently. Switching to a new core technology like Wayland is a major undertaking and there are always big and small surprises that comes along the way. So the summary is that while we expect to have a version of Wayland in Fedora Workstation 21 that will be able to run a fully functional desktop, there are some missing pieces we now know that will not make it. Which means that since we want to ship at least one Fedora release with a feature complete Wayland as an option before making it default, that means that Fedora Workstation 23 is the earliest Wayland can be the default.

Anyway, here is what you can expect from Wayland in Fedora 21.

  • Wayland session available in GDM (already complete and fully working)
  • XWayland working, but without accelerated 3D (done, adding accelerated 3D will be done before FW 22)
  • Wayland session working with all free drivers (Currently only Intel working, but we expect to have NVidia and AMD support enabled before F21)
  • IBUS input working. (Using the IBUS X client. Wayland native IBUS should be ready for FW22.)
  • Touchpad acceleration working. (Last missing piece for a truly usable Wayland session, lots of work around libinput and friends currently to have it ready for F21).
  • Wacom tablets will not be ready for F21
  • 3D games should work using the Wayland backend for SDL2. SDL1 games will need to wait for FW22 so they can use the accelerated XWayland support).
  • Binary driver support from NVidia and AMD very unlikely to be ready for F21.
  • Touch screen support working under Wayland.

We hope to have F21 testbuilds available soon that the wider community can use to help us test, because even when all the big ‘checkboxes’ are filled in there will of course be a host of smaller issues and outright bugs that needs ironing out before Wayland is ready to replace X completely. We really hope the community will get involved with testing Wayland so that we can iron out all major bugs before F21.

How to get involved with the Fedora Workstaton effort

To help more people get involved we recently put up a tasklist for the Fedora Workstation. It is a work in progress, but we hope that it will help more people get involved and help move the project forward.

UpdatePeter Hutterer posted this blog entry explaining pointer acceleration and what are looking at to improve it.