Category Archives: General

Fedora Workstation Phase 1 – Homestretch

When we set of to do the Fedora Workstation we had some clear idea about where we wanted to take it, but we also realized there was a lot of cleaning up needed in our stack to make our vision viable. The biggest change we felt was needed to enable us was the move towards using application bundles as the primary shipping method for applications as opposed to the fine grained package universe that RPMS represent. That said we also saw the many advantages the packages brought in terms of easing security updates and allowing people to fine tune their system, so we didn’t want to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. So we started investigating the various technologies out there, as we where of course not alone in thinking about these things. Unfortunately nothing clearly fit the bill of what we wanted and trying to modify for instance Docker to be a good technology for running desktop applications turned out to be nonviable. So we tasked Alex Larsson with designing and creating what today is known as xdg-app. Our requirements list looked something like this (in random order):

a) Easy bundling of needed libraries
b) A runtime system to reduce the application sizes to something more manageable and ease providing security updates.
c) A system designed to be managed by a desktop session as opposed to managed by sysadmin style tools
d) A security model that would let us gradually move towards sandboxing applications and alleviate the downsides of library bundling
e) An ability to reliably offer online updates of applications
f) Reuse as much of the technology created by others as possible to lower maintenance overhead
g) Design it in a way that makes supporting the applications cross multiple distributions possible and easy
h) Provide a top notch developer story so that this becomes a big positive for application developers and not another pain point.

As we investigated what we needed other requirements become obvious, like the need to migrate from X to Wayland in order to build a modern composited windowing system that renders using GL, instead of an aging one that has a rendering interface that is no longer used for the most part, and to be able to provide the level of system security we wanted. There was also the need to design new systems like Pinos for handling video and add new functionality to PulseAudio for dealing with sandboxed applications, creating libinput to have great input handling in Wayland and also let us share the input subsystem between X and Wayland. And of course we wanted our new packaging system tightly integrated into GNOME Software so that install, updating and running these applications became smooth and transparent to the user.

This would be a big undertaking and it turned out to be an even bigger effort than we initially thought, as there was a lot of swamp draining needed here and I am really happy that we have a team capable of pulling these things off. For instance there is not really many other people in the Linux community other than Peter Hutterer who could have created libinput, and without libinput there is no way Wayland would be a viable alternative to X (and without libinput neither would Mir which is a bit ironic for a system that was created because they couldn’t wait for Wayland :).

So going back to the title of this blog entry I feel that we are now finally exiting what I think of as Phase 1, even if we never formally designated it as such, of our development roadmap. For instance we initially hoped to have Wayland feature complete in a Fedora 22 timeframe, but it has taken us extra time to get all the smaller details right, so instead we are now having what we consider the first feature complete Wayland ready with Fedora Workstation 24. And if things go as we expect and hope that should become our default system starting from Fedora Workstation 25. The X Window session will be shipping and available for a long time yet I am sure, but not defaulting to it will mark a clear line in the sand for where the development focus is going forward.

At the same time Xdg-app has started to come together nicely over the last few Months with a lot of projects experimenting with it and bugs and issues being quickly resolved. We also taking major steps towards bringing xdg-app into the mainstream by Alex now working on making Xdg-apps OCI compliant, basically meaning that xdg-apps conform to the Open Container Initative requirements defined by Opencontainers.org. Our expectation is that the next Xdg-app development release will include the needed bits to be OCI compliant. Another nice milestone for Xdg-app was that it recently got added to Debian, meaning that Xdg-apps should be more easily runable in both Fedora its downstreams and in Debian and its downstreams.

Another major piece of engineering that is coming to a close is moving major applications such as Firefox, LibreOffice and Eclipse to GTK3. This was needed both to get these applications able to run natively on Wayland, but it also enabled us to make them work nicely for HiDPI. This has also played out into how GTK3 have positioned itself which to be a toolkit dedicated to pushing the Linux desktop forward and helping that quickly adapt and adopt to changes in the technology landscape. This is why GTK3 is that toolkit that has been leading the charge on things like HiDPI support and Wayland support. At the same time we know some of the changes in GTK3 have been painful for application developers, especially the changes in how theming works, but with the bulk of the migration to using CSS for theming now being complete we expect that even for applications that use GTK3 in ‘weird ways’ like Firefox, LibreOffice and Eclipse, things should be stable.

Another piece of the puzzle we have wanted to improve is the general Linux hardware story. So since Red Hat joined Khronos last year the Red Hat Graphics team, with Dave Airlie and Adam Jackson leading the charge, has been able to participate in preparing the launch of Vulkan through doing review and we even managed to sneak in a bit of code contribution by Adam Jackson ensuring that there was a vendor neutral Vulkan loader available so that we didn’t end up in a situation where every vendor had to provide their own.

We have also been contributing to the vendor neutral OpenGL dispatcher. The dispatcher is basically a layer that routes an applications OpenGL rendering to the correct implementation, so if you have a system with a discrete GPU system you can for instance control which of your two GPUs handle a certain application or game. Adam Jackson has also been collaborating closely with NVidia on getting such a dispatch system complete for OpenGL, so that the age old problem of the Mesa OpenGL library and the proprietary NVidia OpenGL library conflicting can finally be resolved. So NVidia has of course handled the part in their driver and they where also the ones designing this, but Adam has been working on getting the Mesa parts completed. We think that this will make the GPU story on Linux a lot nicer going forward. There are still a few missing pieces before we have the discrete graphics card scenario handled in a smooth way, but we are getting there quickly.

The other thing we have been working on in terms of hardware support, which is still ongoing is improving the Red Hat certification process to cover more desktop hardware. You might ask what that has to do with Fedora Workstation, but it actually is a quite efficient way of improving the quality of Linux support for desktop hardware in general as most of the major vendors submit some of their laptops and desktops to Red Hat for certification. So the more issues the Red Hat certification process can detect the better Linux support on such hardware can become.

Another major effort where we have managed to cover a lot of our goals and targets is GNOME Software. Since the inception of Fedora Workstation we taken that tool and added functionality like UEFI firmware updates, codecs and font handling, GNOME Extensions handling, System upgrades, Xdg-app handling, users reviews, improved application metadata, improved handling of 3rd party repositories and improved general performance with the move from yum to hawkeye. And I think that the Software store has become a crucial part of what you expect of a desktop these days, with things like the Google Play store, the Apple Store and the Microsoft store to some degree defining their respective products more than the heuristics of the shell of Android, iPhone, MacOS or Windows. And I take it as an clear recognition of the great work Richard Hughes had done with GNOME Software that this week there is a special GNOME Software hackfest in London with participants from Fedora/Red Hat, Ubuntu/Canonical, Codethink and Endless.

So I am very happy with where we are at, and I want to say thank you to all long term Fedora users who been with us through the years and also say thank you and welcome to all the new Fedora Workstation users who has seen all the cool stuff we been doing and decided to join us over the last two years; seeing the strong growth in our userbase during this time has been a great source of joy for us and been a verification that we are on the right track.

I am also very happy about how the culmination of these efforts will be on display with the upcoming Fedora Workstation 24 release! Of course it also means it is time for the Fedora Workstation Working group to start planning what Phase 2 of reaching the Fedora Workstation vision should be :)

Fedora Workstation Next Steps: Wayland and Graphics

So I realized I hadn’t posted a Wayland update in a while. So we are still making good progress on Wayland, but the old saying that the last 10% is 90% of the work is definitely true here. So there was a Wayland BOF at GUADEC this year which tried to create a TODO list for major items remaining before Wayland is ready to replace X.

  • Proper menu positioning. Most visible user issue currently for people testing Wayland
  • Relative pointer/confinement/locking. Important for games among other things.
  • Kinetic scroll in GTK+
  • More work needed to remove all X11 dependencies (so that desktop has no dependency on XWayland being available.
  • Minimize main thread stalls (could be texture uploads for example)
  • Tablet support. Includes gestures, on-screen keyboard and more.

A big thank you to Jonas Ådahl, Owen Taylor, Carlos Garnacho, Rui Matos, Marek Chalupa, Olivier Fourdan and more for their ongoing work on polishing
up the Wayland experience.

So as you can tell there is a still lot of details that needs working out when doing something as major as switching from one Display system to the other, but things are starting to looking really good now.

One new feature I am particularly excited about is what we call multi-DPI support ready for Wayland sessions in Fedora 23. What this means is that if you have a HiDPI laptop screen and a standard DPI external monitor you should be able to drag windows back and forth between the two screens and have them automatically rescale to work with the different DPIs. This is an example of an issue which was relatively straightforward to resolve under Wayland, but which would have been a lot of pain to get working under X.

We will not be defaulting to Wayland in Fedora Workstation 23 though, because as I have said in earlier blog posts about the subject, we will need to have a stable and feature complete Wayland in at least one release before we switch the default. We hope Fedora Workstation 23 will be that stable and feature complete release, which means Fedora Workstation 24 is the one where we can hope to make the default switchover.

Of course porting the desktop itself to Wayland is just part of the story. While we support running X applications using XWayland, to get full benefit from Wayland we need our applications to run on top of Wayland natively. So we spent effort on getting some major applications like LibreOffice and Firefox Wayland ready recently.

Caolan McNamara has been working hard on finishing up the GTK3 port of LibreOffice which is part of the bigger effort to bring LibreOffice nativly to Wayland. The GTK3 version of LibreOffice should be available in Fedora Workstation 23 (as non-default option) and all the necessary code will be included in LibreOffice 5 which will be released pretty soon. The GTK3 version should be default in F24, hopefully with complete Wayland support.

For Firefox Martin Stransky has been looking into ensuring Firefox runs on Wayland now that the basic GTK3 port is done. Martin just reported today that he got Firefox running natively under Wayland, although there are still a lot of glitches and issues he needs to figure out before it can be claimed to be ready for normal use.

Another major piece we are working on which is not directly Wayland related, but which has a Wayland component too is to try to move the state of Linux forward in the context of dealing with multiple OpenGL implementations, multi-GPU systems and the need to free our 3D stack from its close ties to GLX.

This work with is lead by Adam Jackson, but where also Dave Airlie is a major contributor, involves trying to decide and implement what is needed to have things like GL Dispatch, EGLstreams and EGL Device proposals used across the stack. Once this work is done the challenges around for instance using the NVidia binary driver on a linux system or using a discreet GPU like on Optimus laptops should be a thing of the past.

So the first step of this work is getting GL Dispatch implemented. GL Dispatch basically allows you to have multiple OpenGL implementations installed and then have your system pick the right one as needed. So for instance on a system with NVidia Optimus you can use Mesa with the integrated Intel graphics card, but NVidias binary OpenGL implementatioin with the discreet Optimus GPU. Currently that is a pain to do since you can only have one OpenGL implementation used. Bumblebee tries to hack around that requirement, but GL Dispatch will allow us to resolve this without having to ‘fight’ the assumptions of the system.

We plan to have easy to use support for both Optimus and Prime (the Nouveau equivalent of Optimus) in the desktop, allowing you to choose what GPU to use for your applications without needing to edit any text files or set environment variables.

The final step then is getting the EGL Device and EGLStreams proposal implemented so we can have something to run Wayland on top of. And while GL Dispatch are not directly related to those we do feel that having it in place should make the setup easier to handle as you don’t risk conflicts between the binary NVidia driver and the Mesa driver anymore at that point, which becomes even more crucial for Wayland since it runs on top of EGL.

An Open Letter to Apache Foundation and Apache OpenOffice team

A couple of weeks I visited my mother back home in Norway. She had gotten a new laptop some time ago that my brother-in-law had set up for her. As usual when I come for a visit I was asked to look at some technical issues my mother was experiencing with her computer. Anyway, one thing I discovered while looking at these issues was that my brother-in-law had installed OpenOffice on her computer. So knowing that the OpenOffice project is all but dead upstream since IBM pulled their developers of the project almost a year ago and has significantly fallen behind feature wise, I of course installed LibreOffice on the system instead, knowing it has a strong and vibrant community standing behind it and is going from strength to strength.

And this is why I am writing this open letter. Because while a lot of us who comes from technical backgrounds have already caught on to the need to migrate from OpenOffice to LibreOffice, there are still many non-technical users out there who are still defaulting to installing OpenOffice when they are looking for an open source Office Suite, because that is the one they came across 5 years ago. And I believe that the Apache Foundation, being an organization dedicated to open source software, care about the general quality and perception of open source software and thus would share my interest in making sure that all users of open source software gets the best experience possible, even if the project in question isn’t using their code license of preference.

So I realize that the Apache Foundation took a lot of pride in and has invested a lot of effort trying to create an Apache Licensed Office suite based on the old OpenOffice codebase, but I hope that now that it is clear that this effort has failed that you would be willing to re-direct people who go to the openoffice.org website to the LibreOffice website instead. Letting users believe that OpenOffice is still alive and evolving is only damaging the general reputation of open source Office software among non-technical users and thus I truly believe that it would be in everyones interest to help the remaining OpenOffice users over to LibreOffice.

And to be absolutely clear I am only suggesting this due to the stagnant state of the OpenOffice project, if OpenOffice had managed to build a large active community beyond the resources IBM used to provide then it would have been a very different story, but since that did not happen I don’t see any value to anyone involved to just let users keep downloading an aging releases of a stagnant codebase until the point where bit rot chases them away or they hear about LibreOffice true mainstream media or friends. And as we all know it is not about just needing a developer or two to volunteer here, maintaining and developing something as large as OpenOffice is a huge undertaking and needs a very sizeable and dedicated community to be able to succeed.

So dear Apache developers, for the sake of open source and free software, please recommend people to go and download LibreOffice, the free office suite that is being actively maintained and developed and which has the best chance of giving them a great experience using free software. OpenOffice is an important part of open source history, but that is also what it is at this point in time.

Want to join our innovative development team doing cool open source software?

So Red Hat are currently looking to hire into the various teams building and supporting efforts such as the Fedora Workstation, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Workstation and of course Fedora and RHEL in generaL. We are looking at hiring around 6-7 people to help move these and other Red Hat efforts forward. We are open to candidates from any country where Red Hat has a presence, but for a subset of the positions candidates relocating to our main engineering offices in Brno, Czech Republic or Westford, Massachussets, USA, will be a requirement or candidates interested in that will be given preference. We are looking for a mix of experienced and junior candidates, so regardless of it you are fresh out of school or haven been around for a while this might be for you.

So instead of providing a list of job descriptions what I want to do here is list of various skills and backgrounds we want and then we will adjust the exact role of the candidates we end up hiring depending on the mix of skills we find. So this might be for you if you are a software developer and have one or more of these skills or backgrounds:

* Able to program in C
* Able to program in Ruby
* Able to program in Javascript
* Able to program in Assembly
* Able to program in Python
* Experience with Linux Kernel development
* Experience with GTK+
* Experience with Wayland
* Experience with x.org
* Experience with developing for PPC architecture
* Experience with compiler optimisations
* Experience with llvm-pipe
* Experience with SPICE
* Experience with developing software like Virtualbox, VNC, RDP or similar
* Experience with building web services
* Experience with OpenGL development
* Experience with release engineering
* Experience with Project Atomic
* Experience with graphics driver enablement
* Experience with other PC hardware enablement
* Experience with enterprise software management tools like Satellite or ManageIQ
* Experience with accessibility software
* Experience with RPM packaging
* Experience with Fedora
* Experience with Red Hat Enterprise Linux
* Experience with GNOME

It should be clear from the list above that we are not just looking for people with a background in desktop development this time around, two of the positions for instance will mostly be dealing with Linux kernel development. We are looking for people here who can help us make sure the latest and greatest laptops on the market works great with Fedora and RHEL, be that on the graphics side or in terms of general hardware enablement. These jobs will put you right in the middle of the action in terms of defining the future of the 3 Fedora variants, especially the Workstation; defining the future of Red Hats Enterprise Linux Workstation products and pushing the Linux platform in general forward.

If you are interested in talking with us about if we can find a place for you in Red Hat as part of this hiring round please send me your CV and some words about yourself and I will make sure to put you in contact with our recruiters. And if you are unsure about what kind of things we work on here I suggest taking a look at my latest blog about our Fedora Workstation 22 efforts to see a small sample of some of the things we are currently working on.

You can reach me at cschalle(at)redhat(dot)com.

Planning for Fedora Workstation 22

So Fedora Workstation 21 is done and out and I am extremely pleased to see the positive reception and great reviews. But we are not resting on our laurels here and are already busy planning for the Fedora Workstation 22 release. As many of you might know Fedora Workstation 22 is going to come up relatively fast, so we only have about 6 more weeks of development on it feature the freezes starts to kick inn. Luckily we have a relatively long list of items that we started working on during the Fedora Workstation 21 cycle that is nearing completing and thus should make the next release. We are of course also working on bigger long term developments that you should maybe see the first outline of in Fedora 22, but not the final version. I thought it would be nice to summarize some of the bigger items we expect to land and link to the relevant blogs and announcements for each one.

Wayland
So first out is to give an update on our work on Wayland as I know that is something a lot of people are curios about. We are continuing to make great strides forward and recently hired Jonas Ådahl to the team who many might recognize as an active Wayland and libinput developer. He will be spearheading our overall Wayland effort as we are approaching the finish line. All in all things are looking good, we got a lot of the basic plumbing in place for Fedora Workstation 21, so most works these days is mostly focused on polish and cleanups. One of the bigger items is the migration to use libinput. libinput is a library we decided to create to be able to share input device handling between X and Wayland and thus make the transition smoother and lower our workload during the transition period. Libinput itself is getting very close to feature complete and they are even working on some new features for it now taking it beyond what was in X. Peter Hutterer recently released version 0.8 and we expect to have 1.0 out and in use for both X.org and Wayland in time for Fedora Workstation 22.
In parallel we are also working on porting the needed bits in GNOME over to use libinput and remove any lingering X dependencies, like the GNOME Control Center which should also be ready for Fedora Workstation 22.

Another major change related to Wayland in Fedora Workstation 22 is that we will switch the default backends in GTK+ and SDL over to using Wayland. Currently in Fedora Workstation 21 applications are actually running on top of XWayland, but in Fedora Workstation 22 at least GTK+ and SDL applications will be default to Wayland when run under the Wayland session.
The Wayland SDL backend has been around for quite a bit, but Jonas Ådahl plans on spending some time smoothing out the last rough edges, in fact for SDL applications we hope we can actually provide noticeable performance improvement over X in some cases (not because OpenGL will be faster of course, but because we might be able to be smarter about handling different resolutions between desktop and game), but we have to wait and see if that pans out or if we have to settle for performance parity with X. We are also looking at getting the login session to use Wayland by default. All in all this should take us a huge step forward towards making using Wayland feel real.

As it looks now Wayland should be quite close to what you would define as feature complete for Fedora Workstation 22, but one thing that is going to take longer to reach maturity is the support for binary drivers, especially the NVidia ones. This of course is a task that mostly falls on NVidia for natural reasons, but we are trying to help out by Adam Jackson working to making sure Mesa works with their proposed EGLStreams and OpenGL Dispatcher proposals. So during the course of the coming year we will likely have a situation that you will be able to have a production ready Wayland session if you are running any of the open source drivers, but if you want to run Wayland on top of the NVidia binary driver that is most likely to only really be possible towards the end of the year. That said this is a guesstimate from our side as how quick the heavy lifting will happen, and how quickly it will be released by NVidia for public consumption is of course all relying on internal plans and resources at NVidia and not something we control.

Battery life
One thing we know being developers ourselves and from speaking with developers about their operating system of choice, battery life is among the top 5 reasons for what choice people make about their hardware and software. Due to this Owen Taylor has been investigating for some time now both what solutions exist today, what other operating systems are doing and what approaches we can take to improve battery life. Because a common complaint we hear from a lot of people is that they don’t feel they get great battery life when running linux on their laptops currently. Some people are able to solve this using powertop, but we feel there are a lot of room for automatically give our users better battery life beyond manual tweaking user powertop.

Improving battery life is a complex issue in many ways, including figuring out how to measure battery life. I guess everyone has seen laptops advertised with X number of hours of battery life, but it is our impression that those numbers tend to be quite bogus even when running the bundled operating system. In some testing we done we concluded that the worst offenders numbers could only true if you left your laptop idle in the corner with the screen blacked out. So gnome-battery-bench will help us achieve a couple of things, it should generate comparable battery lifetime numbers which both should help our users choose the hardware that gives the best battery life under linux and it also lets us as developers keep tracking how changes affect battery life so that we can catch regressions for instance. It also lets us verify the effect various kernel tuneables or ambient light detection schemes have on battery life in a better way than we can with existing tools. We also hope to use this to work with vendors to improve the battery life of their hardware when running Fedora or RHEL. Anyway, I suggest reading Owens Taylors blog for some more details of his work on improving battery life..

One important effort we want to undertake here, which might not all make it for Fedora Workstation 22, is taking advantage of the ambient light detectors in many modern laptops. One of the biggest battery drains in your system is the screen brightness setting and by using the ambient light detection hardware we hope to be able to put in place some intelligent behavior for different situations. This is a hard problem though and it was attempted solved in GNOME before, but the end result back then was that people felt they where “fighting” GNOME over their laptop brightness settings, so in the end it was dropped completely, so we need to careful to not repeat that outcome.

Application bundles
Another major effort that is not going to ready for Fedora Workstation 22, but which we might have some preview of is Application bundles. Matthias Clasen recently sent out an email to the Fedora Desktop mailing list outlining the state of the application bundles work. This is a continuation of the Sandboxed Applications in GNOME proposal from Lennart Poettering. The effort is being spearheaded by Alexander Larsson and the goal is to build the infrastructure needed to do sandboxed desktop applications efficiently. There is a wiki page up already detailing Sandboxed Apps and there are some test applications already available. For instance you can grab an application bundle of Builder, the cool new IDE project from Christian Hergert. (Hint, make sure to support his Builder crowdfunding effort if you have not already.). Once this effort matures it will revolutionize how desktop applications are built and distributed. It should make life easier for application developers as these bundled applications are designed to be distribution agnostic and the sandboxing aspect should help improve security. Also the transition should put the application developers directly in charge of the update cycle of their applications enabling them to better support their users.

3rd Party Application handling
So the ever resourceful Richard Hughes has been working on adding support for handling 3rd party applications in GNOME Software. He outlined this effort in a recent blog post about GNOME Software.

While the end goal here it to offer 3rd party application bundles as described in the section above, the feature has also a lot of near term advantages. We have seen that over the course of the last years we moved from a model where you use your browser to search for software online to users expecting to find all software available for a system through its app store. With this 3rd party application support available in GNOME Software we can start working to make that expectation a reality also in Fedora. We took great strides forward in Fedora Workstation 21 with having metadata available for most of the standard applications packaged in Fedora, but there is also a lot of popular applications and other things out there that people tend to install and use which we for various reasons are not interested or able to ship in Fedora. The reason for this can range from licensing issues, to packaging issues to simply resource issues. With Richards work we will be able to make such software discoverable in Fedora, yet make a clear distinction between the software we have vetted and checked and the software you get from 3rd parties.

How to deal with 3rd party software has been a long and ongoing discussion in the Fedora community, and there are a lot of practical and principal details to deal with, but hopefully with this infrastructure in place it will be a lot easier to navigate those issues as people have something concrete to relate to instead of just abstract ideas and concepts.

One challenge for instance we have to figure out is that on one side we don’t want 3rd party software offered in Fedora to be some for of endorsement or sign of being somehow vetted by the Fedora Project on an ongoing basis, yet on the other side the list will most likely need to be based on some form of editorial process to for instance protect both Red Hat and Fedora from potential legal threats. I plan on sending an initial proposal to the Workstation Working Group soon for how this can work and once we hashed out the details there we will need to bring the Working groups proposal into the wider Fedora community as this also affects our Cloud and Server offering.

File Manager
A lot of people these days use Google Drive, be that personally or because their company has a corporate Google apps account. So to make life easier for our users we are making sure that Nautilus are able to treat your Google drive as just another drive on the system, letting you drag and drop files off or on it. We also dedicated some effort to clean up and modernize the file manager in general, with Carlos Soriano blogging about his efforts there just before Christmas. All in all I think these are improvements that should improve the life of our developer and sysadmin target audience, but of course they are also very useful improvements to the general linux using public.

Qt Theming
One of the things we had to postpone for Fedora Workstation 21 was the Adwaita theme for Qt applications. We are expecting it to hit Fedora Workstation 22 though and you can get the theme to install and test from Martin Briza copr repository. The end goal here is wether you run a pure Qt application like Skype or Scribus, or a KDE application like Krita or Amarok, you should get an Adwaita look and feel to the application. Of course desktop integration isn’t just about a theme, there is a reason the GNOME HIG exists, but this should be an improvement over the current situation. The theme currently targets Qt4, but of course Qt5 is also on the roadmap for a later release.

Further terminal improvements
As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry about Fedora Workstation we realize that the terminal is the most important application for many developers and sysadmins. So we are also hoping to land some more of the terminal improvements we been working on in Fedora Workstation 21. The notifications for long running jobs being maybe the thing I know a lot of developers are excited about getting their hands on. It will let you for instance start a long compile in a terminal and know that you will be notified once it is completed instead of having to manually check in from time to time.

More development tools
In my opinion the best IDE for Python development currently is PyCharm. And not only is it the best from a functionality standpoint they also decided to release an open source version last year. That said we have been struggling a bit with the packaging of PyCharm, and interestingly enough it is one of those applications I think will benefit greatly from the application bundle work we are doing, but in the meantime we at least do have a Copr of PyCharm available. It is still an open question, but we might make this CoPR one of our testcases for the 3rd party application support in GNOME Software as mentioned earlier. Anyway if you are a Python developer I strongly recommend taking a lot at it. Personally I looked at various Python IDEs over the years, but always ended up just going back to Gedit, but when trying PyCharm it was the first time I felt that the application actually offered me useful functionality beyond what a text editor like Gedit does. Also in recent versions they also deal well with the introspection based Python bindings for GTK3 which was a great boon for me.

We are also looking at improving the development story around Vagrant and doing Fedora and RHEL development, more details on that at a later point.

ABRT improvements
The ABRT tool has become a crucial development tool for us over the last couple of years. The Fedora Retrace server is one of our main tools
for prioritizing which bugs to look at first and a crucial part of our goal of making Fedora a solid
distribution. That said, especially its early days, ABRT has had its share of detractors and people
being a bit frustrated with it, so Bastien Nocera and Allan Day has been working with the ABRT team to both integrate
it further with the desktop, for instance ensuring that it follows your desktop wide privacy settings
and to make sure that the user experience of submitting a retrace report is as smooth and intuitive as possible
and not to mention as unobtrusive as possible, for instance you don’t want ABRT to choke your system while trying to generate
a stack trace for us. The Fedora Workstation Tasklist contains links to bugzilla and github so you can track their progress.

Still a lot to do!
So making our vision for the Fedora Workstation come through takes of course a lot of effort from a lot of people. And we are really lucky to be part of such a great community where so much cool stuff is happening all the time. I mean the Builder effort from Christian Hergert as I talked about earlier is one of them, but there are so many other things happening too. So if you want to get involved take a look at our tasklist and see if there is anything that interests you or for that matter if there is something that you think should be worked on, but isn’t on the list yet. Then come join us either on #fedora-workstation on the freenode IRC network or join the fedora-desktop mailing list.

Fedora Workstation Progress Report (Wayland and more)

So I am writing this blog entry using the current development snapshot of the Fedora Workstation and using Wayland as my display server. It is an important milestone for the Fedora Workstation, for Wayland and for me personally. There are many things here I am very happy about, first of all this is a major milestone for what in some sense was the first and biggest engineering effort we kicked off under the Fedora Workstation banner, meaning it was an effort we decided to put our weight behind with the vision we have for the Fedora Workstation being the primary motivator for doing it. And it has been a big success in more ways than I expected, I think it is fair to say that the level of engagement and support from the wider community took me by surprise, and I want to state that if it wasn’t for all the incredible effort from the wider community pushing Wayland forward we would not been able to provide something of this quality so soon.
The fact that Wayland now runs and works on non-Intel GPUs for this release, that XWayland is fully functional, that libinput is as far along as it is, are all thanks to the wider community. There are more people who have contributed than I can list, but I want to call out Adel Gadllah and Jonas Ådahl, who have contributed many crucial pieces to GNOME Shell, Wayland or libinput.

I would also like to specially say thank you to Jasper St.Pierre, because we would not be here today without his tireless effort on porting the GNOME Shell to Wayland. I think anyone who knows Jasper appreciates the amount of effort he puts in and the level of enthusiasm he brings to everything he does. So Jasper recently transferred from Red Hat to Endless Mobile and I am very happy that he will continue to contribute to both the GNOME Shell and Wayland as part of his job at Endless too, as he would be sorely missed both as a developer and as an individual otherwise.

Another person I want to call out at this point is of course Kristian Høgsberg, who created Wayland and got it to reach critical mass in terms of mindshare and functionality. Having been around linux for a long time I have seen efforts at replacing the X window system come and go so I know that achieving what Kristian has achieved here is not trivial at all. So a big thank you to Kristian for his incredible work and for his incredible level of persistence allowing Wayland become a reality where so many other projects have failed.

Wayland in Fedora Workstation 21 is also an important milestone as it exemplifies the new development philosophy we are embarking on. Fedora has for a long time been known to be a linux distribution where a lot of new pieces become available first. The problem here is that it has also given Fedora bit of a reputation for being not as dependable as some other distributions or operating systems, which has kept a lot of people away from Fedora that I think would be inclined to use it otherwise.

So we want to keep being a place where you do get access to new and exciting technologies first, but as you see with the Wayland effort we are now going to go the extra mile to make sure we offer this new technologies in a way that allows you to still use Fedora as your day to day working machine without worrying that these new features will hinder your work. So we will keep Wayland available as a separate non-default session until we feel very confident that our users are not going to be negatively impacted by the switch. Which means we want to fix and polish up the last remaining bits and pieces, make sure that performance is top notch, make sure all input hardware works flawlessly, work with NVidia and AMD to help them make their binary drivers available for Wayland before we make this the new default.

An crucial value for us at Red Hat and for the Fedora community is working closely with our upstreams. Which means we always aim at working with our upstream communities to get the features we need or bugfixes we want included in the upstream releases which we then integrate into Fedora (and Red Hat Enterprise Linux). Working closely with the upstream communities enables us to achieve a lot more than we would be able to do on our own. In preparation for Fedora Workstation 21 we have of course done a lot of work on improving the general Fedora desktop experience which has meant a lot of work has gone into GNOME 3.14. And while most of our upstream contributions here has been about code, not all of it is code. A major part of creating a modern and polished desktop experience is making sure that the applications you run conforms to a shared set of interface guidelines, to both bring a unique and polished look to the applications, but also to make using them easier as things like keybindings or work patterns you learn with one application will transfer over to the next. To help accelerate that process for the Fedora Workstation we had Allan Day work with the GNOME community to create am updated set of Human Interface Guidelines for GNOME 3 and thus implicitly for the Fedora Workstation.

Another crucial improvement that you will see in Fedora Workstation 21 is on software installation. There has been a range of things in Fedora in regards to software installation that has been suboptimal. On the command line and library level there has been a piece of Fedora that I know a lot of people have disliked, many to such a strong degree that they have kept away from Fedora, namely Yum. Yum for those who doesn’t know it is the tool you used either directly or indirectly to install new software on a Fedora system. Yum used to be very slow and while it has gotten a lot better over the years it was still considered a bit of an eyesore for many. So Aleš Kozumplík and others have worked writing a new set of tools to do the low level software handling over the last few years and I am happy to say that for Fedora Workstation 21 we will be using those tools to greatly improve the software installation and update experience. There is a new commandline tool called dnf that will work with the same command line parameters you know from yum, but will complete its task much quicker than before.

The desktop Software installer side Richard Hughes has been working on making the installer use the new libraries developed for dnf, called hawkeye and libsolve, to provide you with a much smoother software installation experience in Fedora Workstation 21. So if you tried the preview we offered of the Software tool in Fedora 20, then I think you will find Software to be a lot more responsive in Fedora Workstation 21.
Of course a good software installer is not just about how nice the user interface looks or how quickly it can perform an installation, it is also very much a product of the quality of your installation metadata. Richard Hughes got a blog entry outlining the great progress is being made on providing more and improved metadata, like application descriptions and screenshots, for Fedora Workstation 21. Ryan Lerch has been working with Richard to improve our cover greatly which means the quality of the software listings in Fedora Workstation 21 should be greatly improved over what you saw in Fedora 20. For more details and screenshots Kalev Lember got a great writeup of the state of the Software installer in Fedora Workstation 21.

This also highlights one of the advantages of the new Fedora product model where we have one clear desktop product we are targeting, that we can define operating system standards for things like application metadata and apply them to the system as a whole. So for Fedora 22 we expect to make appdata metadata a mandatory part of the application packaging for Fedora, ensuring that any desktop application packaged for Fedora is easily discover able by our users. In the old ‘bucket of parts’ model these things would in practice not happen as there was no clear target that everyone was expected to aim for.

There has also been a lot of general user interface polish work happening, both on the toolkit level with a lot of work being done by our UI designers to improve the default desktop theme called Adwaita. And since we want people to run all kinds of applications in Fedora Workstation 21 we are not only doing this for GTK+, but we also have Martin Briza working on bringing Adwaita to Qt for Fedora Workstation. We hope to get the Qt theme packaged soon, but for those interested in taking a look the Adwaita Qt code can be found here. In Fedora Workstation 21 we hope to cover Qt4 applications using the standard Adwaita theme, with wider support planed for Fedora Workstation 22, to cover more Qt versions and also make sure we have full coverage for the Adwaita Dark variant and accessibility versions. There is a chance we will miss the Fedora 21 cutoff date with this theme, but hopefully we can then get it included during the Fedora Workstation 21 lifespan.

We also worked on improving the shell animations. Things like animations might seem like their unimportant, but they contribute greatly to the general feeling of polish in the system. The team worked hard on improving these for Fedora Workstation 21, so in GNOME 3.14 you will for instance see that the animations in the shell overview has been greatly improved.

Last but not least I want to say that while I am very excited about what we have put together for Fedora Workstation 21 it is just the beginning. Being the first release under the new 3 product strategy a lot of time and effort has gone into re-jigging the whole Fedora development process to cater for having 3 different products instead of one, changing the way the Fedora community organize itself, get contributors on board and re-aligned with the new products and so on and also refocus our internal development teams at Red Hat to start thinking about their development process and goals with contributing to these 3 new products in mind. So my expectation is that as we go towards Fedora Workstation 22 the pace of innovation and progress will only pick up. So great things are ahead and I hope that once Fedora Workstation 21 is released regardless of if you are a long time Fedora users, a lapsed former Fedora users or someone who has never tried Fedora before you will be willing to give it a try and hopefully become as excited about it as we are.

Leaving Brno

So two years ago my family and I moved to Brno in the Czech Republic due to me starting a new job at Red Hat. It has been two roller coaster years with a lot of changes happening both inside Red Hat and with the world that the Linux desktop operates in. During those years my wife and I have gotten to love Brno, which both of us find a bit surprising as we where both quite skeptical to the city in the outset.

I think having grown up in west europe during the cold war I had some preconceptions about what life was like in the former east europe and Brno specifically is struggling a bit with being the second city in Czech after Prague, due to Prague so often being hailed internationally as a beautiful and exciting city.

But I think during these two years Brno has proven itself to us as a place that is great to live, especially if you have a little child. Brno has a lot of beautiful outdoors areas which are great for hiking or relaxing, it is packed full of these childrens cafes where you can take your kid to play while you sit down and have a coffee or a tea, a vibrant expat community, affordable housing, a good range of restaurants, short distance to major cities like Vienna, Prague and Budapest. And lot of old castles and towns around to explore in the vicinity. I think Telc has to be one of our topmost favorites in that regard. And it has very little crime, my wife has been telling her friends how Brno is the first city she has ever lived in where she feels that as a woman she can walk along through the city in the evening or at night and feel safe.

But that said the time has come for us to move on. Due to one of these changes inside Red Hat I mentioned I am getting moved to our US Engineering office in Westford, Massachusetts. For those not familiar with Westford it is close to a city you probably do know, Boston.

So tomorrow the moving company will arrive at our flat here in Brno and pack up everything for the transport to the US. The furniture will take some time to arrive there, so while our stuff is sailing across the ocean we will live with my family in Norway, while I take advantage of the Red Hat office in downtown Oslo. So by mid-October I expect us to be fully set up in the Boston area, although we are heading over there next week for a final house hunting trip so that the furniture has a place to arrive to :)

So goodbye to Brno for now, and looking forward to seeing new and old friends in Boston!

Want to join the Red Hat Graphics team?

We have an opening in our Graphics Team to work on improving the state of open source GPU drivers. Your tasks would include working on various types of hardware and make sure it works great under linux and improving the general state of the Linux graphics stack. Since the work would include working on some specific pieces of hardware it would require the candidate to relocate to our Westford office, just north of Boston.

We are open to candidates with a range of backgrounds, but of course previous history with linux kernel codebase or the X.org codebase or Wayland is an advantage.

Please contact me at cschalle-at-redhat-com if you are interested.

Preparing the ground for the Fedora Workstation

Things are moving forward for the Fedora Workstation project. For those of you who don’t know about it, it is part of a broader plan to refocus Fedora around 3 core products with clear and distinctive usecase for each. The goal here is to be able to have a clear definition of what Fedora is and have something that for instance ISVs can clearly identify and target with their products. At the same time it is trying to move away from the traditional distribution model, a model where you primarily take whatever comes your way from upstream, apply a little duct tape to try to keep things together and ship it. That model was good in the early years of Linux existence, but it does not seem a great fit for what people want from an operating system today.

If we look at successful products MacOS X, Playstation 4, Android and ChromeOS the red thread between them is that while they all was built on top of existing open source efforts, they didn’t just indiscriminately shovel in any open source code and project they could find, instead they decided upon the product they wanted to make and then cherry picked the pieces out there that could help them with that, developing what they couldn’t find perfect fits for themselves. The same is to some degree true for things like Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Ubuntu. Both products, while based almost solely on existing open source components, have cherry picked what they wanted and then developed what pieces they needed on top of them. For instance for Red Hat Enterprise Linux its custom kernel has always been part of the value add offered, a linux kernel with a core set of dependable APIs.

Fedora on the other hand has historically followed a path more akin to Debian with a ‘more the merrier’ attitude, trying to welcome anything into the group. A metaphor often used in the Fedora community to describe this state was that Fedora was like a collection of Lego blocks. So if you had the time and the interest you could build almost anything with it. The problem with this state was that the products you built also ended up feeling like the creations you make with a random box of lego blocks. A lot of pointy edges and some weird looking sections due to needing to solve some of the issues with the pieces you had available as opposed to the piece most suited.

With the 3 products we are switching to a model where although we start with that big box of lego blocks we add some engineering capacity on top of it, make some clear and hard decisions on direction, and actually start creating something that looks and feels like it was made to be a whole instead of just assembled from a random set of pieces. So when we are planning the Fedora Workstation we are not just looking at what features we can develop for individual libraries or applications like GTK+, Firefox or LibreOffice, but we are looking at what we want the system as a whole to look like. And maybe most important we try our hardest to look at things from a feature/usecase viewpoint first as opposed to a specific technology viewpoint. So instead of asking ‘what features are there in systemd that we can expose/use in the desktop being our question, the question instead becomes ‘what new features do we want to offer our users in future versions of the product, and what do we need from systemd, the kernel and others to be able to do that’.

So while technologies such as systemd, Wayland, docker, btrfs are on our roadmap, they are not there because they are ‘cool technologies’, they are there because they provide us with the infrastructure we need to achieve our feature goals. And whats more we make sure to work closely with the core developers to make the technologies what we need them to be. This means for example that between myself and other members of the team we are having regular conversations with people such as Kristian Høgsberg and Lennart Poettering, and of course contributing code where possible.

To explain our mindset with the Fedora Workstation effort let me quickly summarize some old history. In 2001 Jim Gettys, one of the original creators of the X Window System did at talk a GUADEC in Sevile called ‘Draining the Swamp’. I don’t think the talk can be found online anywhere, but he outlined some of the same thoughts in this email reply to Richard Stallman some time later. I think that presentation has shaped the thinking of the people who saw it ever since, I know it has shaped mine. Jim’s core message was that the idea that we can create a great desktop system by trying to work around the shortcomings or weirdness in the rest of the operating system was a total fallacy. If we look at the operating system as a collection of 100% independent parts, all developing at their own pace and with their own agendas, we will never be able to create a truly great user experience on the desktop. Instead we need to work across the stack, fixing the issues we see where they should be fixed, and through that ‘drain the swamp’. Because if we continued to try to solve the problems by adding layers upon layers of workarounds and abstraction layers we would instead be growing the swamp, making it even more unmanageable. We are trying to bring that ‘draining the swamp’ mindset with us into creating the Fedora Workstation product.

With that in mind what is the driving ideas behind the Fedora Workstation? The Fedora Workstation effort is meant to provide a first class desktop for your laptop or workstation computer, combining a polished user interface with access to new technologies. We are putting a special emphasis on developers with our first releases, both looking at how we improve the desktop experience for developers, and looking at what tools we can offer to developers to let them be productive as quickly as possible. And to be clear when we say developers we are not only thinking about developers who wants to develop for the desktop or the desktop itself, but any kind of software developer or DevOPs out there.

The full description of the Fedora Workstation can be found here, but the essence of our plan is to create a desktop system that not only provides some incremental improvements over how things are done today, but which tries truly take a fresh look at how a linux desktop operating system should operate. The traditional distribution model, built up around software packages like RPM or Deb has both its pluses and minuses.
Its biggest challenge is probably that it creates a series of fiefdoms where a 3rd party developers can’t easily target the system or a family of systems except through spending time very specifically supporting each one. And even once a developers decides to commit to trying to support a given system it is not clear what system services they can depend on always being available or what human interface design they should aim for. Solving these kind of issues is part of our agenda for the new workstation.

So to achieve this we have decided on a set of core technologies to build this solution upon. The central piece of the puzzle is the so called LinuxApps proposal from Lennart Poettering. LinuxApps is currently a combination of high level ideas and some concrete building blocks. In terms of the building blocks are technologies such as Wayland, kdbus, overlayfs and software containers. The ideas side include developing a permission system similar to what you for instance see Android applications employ to decide what rights a given application has and develop defined versioned library bundles that 3rd party applications can depend on regardless of the version of the operating system. On the container side we plan on expanding on the work Red Hat is doing with Docker and Project Atomic.

In terms of some of the other building blocks I think most of you already know of the big push we are doing to get the new Wayland display server ready. This includes work on developing core infrastructure like libinput, a new library for handling input devices being developed by Jonas Ådahl and our own Peter Hutterer. There is also a lot of work happening on the GNOME 3 side of things to make GNOME 3 Wayland ready. Jasper St.Pierre wrote up a great blog blog entry outlining his work to make GDM and the GNOME Shell work better with Wayland. It is an ongoing effort, but there is a big community around this effort as most recently seen at the West Cost Hackfest at the Endless Mobile office.

As I mentioned there is a special emphasis on developers for the initial releases. These includes both a set of small and big changes. For instance we decided to put some time into improving the GNOME terminal application as we know it is a crucial piece of technology for a lot of developers and system administers alike. Some of the terminal improvements can be seen in GNOME 3.12, but we have more features lined up for the terminal, including the return of translucency. But we are also looking at the tools provided in general and the great thing here is that we are able to build upon a lot of efforts that Red Hat is developing for the Red Hat product portfolio, like Software Collections which gives easy access to a wide range of development tools and environments. Together with Developers Assistant this should greatly enhance your developers experience in the Fedora Workstation. The inclusion of Software collections also means that Fedora becomes an even better tool than before for developing software that you expect to deploy on RHEL, as you can be sure that an identical software collection will be available on RHEL that you have been developing against on Fedora as software collections ensure that you can have the exact same toolchain and toolchain versions available for both systems.

Of course creating a great operating system isn’t just about the applications and shell, but also about supporting the kind of hardware people want to use. A good example here is that we put a lot of effort into HiDPI support. HiDPI screens are not very common yet, but a lot of the new high end laptops coming out are using them already. Anyone who has used something like a Google Pixel or a Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus has quickly come to appreciate the improved sharpness and image quality these displays brings. Due to the effort we put in there I have been very pleased to see many GNOME 3.12 reviews mentioning this work recently and saying that GNOME 3.12 is currently the best linux desktop for use with HiDPI systems due to it.

Another part of the puzzle for creating a better operating system is the software installation. The traditional distribution model often tended to try to bundle as many applications as possible as there was no good way for users to discover new software for their system. This is a brute force approach that assumes that if you checked the ‘scientific researcher’ checkbox you want to install a random collection of 100 applications useful for ‘scientific researchers’. To me this is a symptom of a system that does not provide a good way of finding and installing new applications. Thanks to the ardent efforts of Richard Hughes we have a new Software Installer that keeps going from strength to strength. It was originally launched in Fedora 19, but as we move forward towards the first Fedora Workstation release we are enabling new features and adding polish to it. One area where we need to wider Fedora community to work with us is to increase the coverage of appdata files. Appdata files essentially contains the necessary metadata for the installer to describe and advertise the application in question, including descriptive text and screenshots. Ideally upstreams should come with their own appdata file, but in the case where they are not we should add them to the Fedora package directly. Currently applications from the GTK+ and GNOME sphere has relatively decent appdata coverage, but we need more effort into getting applications using other toolkits covered too.

Which brings me to another item of importance to the workstation. The linux community has for natural reasons been very technical in nature which has meant that some things that on other operating systems are not even a question has become defining traits on Linux. The choice of GUI development toolkits being one of these. It has been a great tool used by the open source community to shoot ourselves in the foot for many years now. So while users of Windows or MacOS X probably never ask themselves what toolkit was used to implement a given application, it seems to be a frequently asked one for linux applications. So we want to move away from it with the Workstation. So while we do ship the GNOME Shell as our interface and use GTK+ for developing tools ourselves, including spending time evolving the toolkit itself that does not mean we think applications written using for instance Qt, EFL or Java are evil and should be exorcised from the system. In fact if an application developer want to write an application for the linux desktop at all we greatly appreciate that effort regardless of what tools they decide to use to do so. The choice of development toolkits is a choice meant to empower developers, not create meaningless distinctions for the end user. So one effort we have underway is to work on the necessary theming and other glue code to make sure that if you run a Qt application under the GNOME Shell it feels like it belongs there, which also extends to if you are using accessibility related setups like the high contrast theme. We hope to expand upon that effort both in width and in depth going forward.

And maybe on a somewhat related note we are also trying to address the elephant in the room when it comes to the desktop and that is the fact that the importance of the traditional desktop is decreasing in favor of the web. A lot of things that you used to do locally on your computer you are probably just doing online these days. And a lot of the new things you have started doing on your computer or other internet capable device are actually web services as opposed to a local applications. The old Sun slogan of ‘The Network is the Computer’ is more true today than it has ever been before. So we don’t believe the desktop is dead in any way or form, as some of the hipsters in the media like to claim, in fact we expect it to stay around for a long time. What we do envision though is that the amount of time you spend on webapps will continue to grow and that more and more of your computing tasks will be done using web services as opposed to local applications. Which is why we are continuing to deeply integrate the web into your desktop. Be that through things like GNOME Online accounts or the new Webapps that are introduced in Software installer. And as I have mentioned before on this blog we are also still working on trying to improve the integration of Chrome and Firefox apps into the desktop along the same lines. So while we want the desktop to help you use the applications you want to run locally as efficiently as possible, we also realize that you like us are living in a connected world and thus we need to help give you get easy access to your online life to stay relevant.

So there are of course a lot of other parts of the Fedora Workstation effort, but this has already turned into a very long blog post as it is so I leave the rest for later. Please feel free to post any questions or comments and I will try to respond.

Excited about Cockpit

So we had the DevConf conference here in Brno this weekend. One of the projects I am really excited about is Cockpit. Cockpit is a new server administration tool developed by Red Hat engineers which aims at providing a modern looking and userfriendly interface for your servers. There has been many such efforts over the years, but what I feel makes this one special is that it got graphical designers and interface designers involved, to ensure that the user experience is kept in focus instead of being taken hostage by underlaying APIs or systems. Too many such interfaces, be they web based or not tend to both feel and look clunky, for instance sometimes exposing features not because anyone realistically ever would want them, but because the underlying library happen to have a call for it.

Cockpit should also hopefully put the final nail in the coffin for the so called ‘server desktop’. The idea that you need to be able to run a graphical shell using X on your server adds a lot of pain with little gain in my opinion. The Fedora Server product should hopefully become a great showpiece for how nice a Linux server can be to use and configure when you have something like Cockpit available.

There was some nice videos showing what is already in Cockpit shown at the conference so hopefully they will be available online soon. In the meantime I recommend taking a look at the Cockpit web page.