Entries Tagged 'Red Hat' ↓

PipeWire Late Summer Update 2020

Wim Taymans

Wim Taymans talking about current state of PipeWire


Wim Taymans did an internal demonstration yesterday for the desktop team at Red Hat of the current state of PipeWire. For those still unaware PipeWire is our effort to bring together audio, video and pro-audio under Linux, creating a smooth and modern experience. Before PipeWire there was PulseAudio for consumer audio, Jack for Pro-audio and just unending pain and frustration for video. PipeWire is being done with the aim of being ABI compatible with ALSA, PulseAudio and JACK, meaning that PulseAudio and Jack apps should just keep working on top of Pipewire without the need for rewrites (and with the same low latency for JACK apps).

As Wim reported yesterday things are coming together with both the PulseAudio, Jack and ALSA backends being usable if not 100% feature complete yet. Wim has been running his system with Pipewire as the only sound server for a while now and things are now in a state where we feel ready to ask the wider community to test and help provide feedback and test cases.

Carla on PipeWire

Carla running on PipeWire

Carla as shown above is a popular Jack applications and it provides among other things this patchbay view of your audio devices and applications. I recommend you all to click in and take a close look at the screenshot above. That is the Jack application Carla running and as you see PulseAudio applications like GNOME Settings and Google Chrome are also showing up now thanks to the unified architecture of PipeWire, alongside Jack apps like Hydrogen. All of this without any changes to Carla or any of the other applications shown.

At the moment Wim is primarily testing using Cheese, GNOME Control center, Chrome, Firefox, Ardour, Carla, vlc, mplayer, totem, mpv, Catia, pavucontrol, paman, qsynth, zrythm, helm, Spotify and Calf Studio Gear. So these are the applications you should be getting the most mileage from when testing, but most others should work too.

Anyway, let me quickly go over some of the highlight from Wim’s presentation.

Session Manager

PipeWire now has a functioning session manager that allows for things like

  • Metadata, system for tagging objects with properties, visible to all clients (if permitted)
  • Load and save of volumes, automatic routing
  • Default source and sink with metadata, saved and loaded as well
  • Moving streams with metadata

Currently this is a simple sample session manager that Wim created himself, but we also have a more advanced session manager called Wireplumber being developed by Collabora, which they developed for use in automotive Linux usecases, but which we will probably be moving to over time also for the desktop.

Human readable handling of Audio Devices

Wim took the code and configuration data in Pulse Audio for ALSA Card Profiles and created a standalone library that can be shared between PipeWire and PulseAudio. This library handles ALSA sound card profiles, devices, mixers and UCM (use case manager used to configure the newer audio chips (like the Lenovo X1 Carbon) and lets PipeWire provide the correct information to provide to things like GNOME Control Center or pavucontrol. Using the same code as has been used in PulseAudio for this has the added benefit that when you switch from PulseAudio to PipeWire your devices don’t change names. So everything should look and feel just like PulseAudio from an application perspective. In fact just below is a screenshot of pavucontrol, the Pulse Audio mixer application running on top of Pipewire without a problem.

PulSe Audio Mixer

Pavucontrol, the Pulse Audio mixer on Pipewire

Creating audio sink devices with Jack
Pipewire now allows you to create new audio sink devices with Jack. So the example command below creates a Pipewire sink node out of calfjackhost and sets it up so that we can output for instance the audio from Firefox into it. At the moment you can do that by running your Jack apps like this:

PIPEWIRE_PROPS="media.class=Audio/Sink" calfjackhost

But eventually we hope to move this functionality into the GNOME Control Center or similar so that you can do this setup graphically. The screenshot below shows us using CalfJackHost as an audio sink, outputing the audio from Firefox (a PulseAudio application) and CalfJackHost generating an analyzer graph of the audio.

Calfjackhost on pipewire

The CalfJackhost being used as an audio sink for Firefox

Creating devices with GStreamer
We can also use GStreamer to create PipeWire devices now. The command belows take the popular Big Buck Bunny animation created by the great folks over at Blender and lets you set it up as a video source in PipeWire. So for instance if you always wanted to play back a video inside Cheese for instance, to apply the Cheese effects to it, you can do that this way without Cheese needing to change to handle video playback. As one can imagine this opens up the ability to string together a lot of applications in interesting ways to achieve things that there might not be an application for yet. Of course application developers can also take more direct advantage of this to easily add features to their applications, for instance I am really looking forward to something like OBS Studio taking full advantage of PipeWire.

gst-launch-1.0 uridecodebin uri=file:///home/wim/data/BigBuckBunny_320x180.mp4 ! pipewiresink mode=provide stream-properties="props,media.class=Video/Source,node.description=BBB"

Cheese paying a video through pipewire

Cheese playing a video provided by GStreamer through PipeWire.

How to get started testing PipeWire
Ok, so after seeing all of this you might be thinking, how can I test all of this stuff out and find out how my favorite applications work with PipeWire? Well first thing you should do is make sure you are running Fedora Workstation 32 or later as that is where we are developing all of this. Once you done that you need to make sure you got all the needed pieces installed:

sudo dnf install pipewire-libpulse pipewire-libjack pipewire-alsa

Once that dnf command finishes you run the following to get PulseAudio replaced by PipeWire.


cd /usr/lib64/

sudo ln -sf pipewire-0.3/pulse/libpulse-mainloop-glib.so.0 /usr/lib64/libpulse-mainloop-glib.so.0.999.0
sudo ln -sf pipewire-0.3/pulse/libpulse-simple.so.0 /usr/lib64/libpulse-simple.so.0.999.0
sudo ln -sf pipewire-0.3/pulse/libpulse.so.0 /usr/lib64/libpulse.so.0.999.0

sudo ln -sf pipewire-0.3/jack/libjack.so.0 /usr/lib64/libjack.so.0.999.0
sudo ln -sf pipewire-0.3/jack/libjacknet.so.0 /usr/lib64/libjacknet.so.0.999.0
sudo ln -sf pipewire-0.3/jack/libjackserver.so.0 /usr/lib64/libjackserver.so.0.999.0

sudo ldconfig

(you can also find those commands here

Once you run these commands you should be able to run

pactl info

and see this as the first line returned:
Server String: pipewire-0

I do recommend rebooting, to be 100% sure you are on a PipeWire system with everything outputting through PipeWire. Once that is done you are ready to start testing!

Our goal is to use the remainder of the Fedora Workstation 32 lifecycle and the Fedora Workstation 33 lifecycle to stabilize and finish the last major features of PipeWire and then start relying on it in Fedora Workstation 34. So I hope this article will encourage more people to get involved and join us on gitlab and on the PipeWire IRC channel at #pipewire on Freenode.

As we are trying to stabilize PipeWire we are working on it on a bug by bug basis atm, so if you end up testing out the current state of PipeWire then be sure to report issues back to us through the PipeWire issue tracker, but do try to ensure you have a good test case/reproducer as we are still so early in the development process that we can’t dig into ‘obscure/unreproducible’ bugs.

Also if you want/need to go back to PulseAudio you can run the commands here

Also if you just want to test a single application and not switch your whole system over you should be able to do that by using the following commands:

pw-pulse

or

pw-jack

Next Steps
So what are our exact development plans at this point? Well here is a list in somewhat priority order:

  1. Stabilize – Our top priority now is to make PipeWire so stable that the power users that we hope to attract us our first batch of users are comfortable running PipeWire as their only audio server. This is critical to build up a userbase that can help us identify and prioritize remaining issues and ensure that when we do switch Fedora Workstation over to using PipeWire as the default and only supported audio server it will be a great experience for users.
  2. Jackdbus – We want to implement support for the jackdbus API soon as we know its an important feature for the Fedora Jam folks. So we hope to get to this in the not to distant future
  3. Flatpak portal for JACK/audio applications – The future of application packaging is Flatpaks and being able to sandbox Jack applications properly inside a Flatpak is something we want to enable.
  4. Bluetooth – Bluetooth has been supported in PipeWire from the start, but as Wims focus has moved elsewhere it has gone a little stale. So we are looking at cycling back to it and cleaning it up to get it production ready. This includes proper support for things like LDAC and AAC passthrough, which is currently not handled in PulseAudio. Wim hopes to push an updated PipeWire in Fedora out next week which should at least get Bluetooth into a basic working state, but the big fix will come later.
  5. Pulse effects – Wim has looked at this, but there are some bugs that blocks data from moving through the pipeline.
  6. Latency compensation – We want complete latency compensation implemented. This is not actually in Jack currently, so it would be a net new feature.
  7. Network audio – PulseAudio style network audio is not implemented yet.

First Lenovo laptop with Fedora now available on the web!

This weekend the X1 Carbon with Fedora Workstation went live in North America on Lenovos webstore. This is a big milestone for us and for Lenovo as its the first time Fedora ships pre-installed on a laptop from a major vendor and its the first time the worlds largest laptop maker ships premium laptops with Linux directly to consumers. Currently only the X1 Carbon is available, but more models is on the way and more geographies will get added too soon. As a sidenote, the X1 Carbon and more has actually been available from Lenovo for a couple of Months now, it is just the web sales that went online now. So if you are a IT department buying Lenovo laptops in bulk, be aware that you can already buy the X1 Carbon and the P1 for instance through the direct to business sales channel.

Also as a reminder for people looking to deploy Fedora laptops or workstations in numbers, be sure to check out Fleet Commander our tool for helping you manage configurations across such a fleet.

I am very happy with the work that has been done here to get to this point both by Lenovo and from the engineers on my team here at Red Hat. For example Lenovo made sure to get all of their component makers to ramp up their Linux support and we have been working with them to both help get them started writing drivers for Linux or by helping add infrastructure they could plug their hardware into. We also worked hard to get them all set up on the Linux Vendor Firmware Service so that you could be assured to get updated firmware not just for the laptop itself, but also for its components.

We also have a list of improvements that we are working on to ensure you get the full benefit of your new laptops with Fedora and Lenovo, including working on things like improved power management features being able to have power consumption profiles that includes a high performance mode for some laptops that will allow it to run even faster when on AC power and on the other end a low power mode to maximize battery life. As part of that we are also working on adding lap detection support, so that we can ensure that you don’t risk your laptop running to hot in your lap and burning you or that radio antennas are running to strong when that close to your body.

So I hope you decide to take the leap and get one of the great developer laptops we are doing together with Lenovo. This is a unique collaboration between the worlds largest laptop maker and the worlds largest Linux company. What we are doing here isn’t just a minimal hardware enablement effort, but a concerted effort to evolve Linux as a laptop operating system and doing it in a proper open source way. So this is the culmination of our work over the last few years, creating the LVFS, adding Thunderbolt support to Linux, improving fingerprint reader support in Linux, supporting HiDPI screens, supporting hidpi mice, creating the possibility of a secure desktop with Wayland, working with NVidia to ensure that Mesa and Nvidia driver can co-exist through glvnd, creating Flatpak to ensure we can bring the advantages of containers to the desktop space and at the same way do it in a vendor neutral way. So when you buy a Lenovo laptop with Fedora Workstation, you are not just getting a great system, but you are also supporting our efforts to take Linux to the next level, something which I think we are truly the only linux vendor with the scale and engineering ability to do.

Of course we are not stopping here, so let me also use this chance to talk a bit about some of our other efforts.

Toolbox
Containers are popular for deploying software, but a lot of people are also discovering now that they are an incredible way to develop software, even if that software is not going to be deployed as a Flatpak or Kubernetes container. The term often used for containers when used as a development tool is pet containers and with Toolbox project we are aiming to create the best tool possible for developers to work with pet containers. Toolbox allows you to have always have a clean environment to work in which you can change to suit each project you work on, however you like, without affecting your host system. So for instance if you need to install a development snapshot of Python you can do that inside your Toolbox container and be confident that various other parts of your desktop will not start crashing due to the change. And when your are done with your project and don’t want that toolbox around anymore you can easily delete it without having to spend time to figure out which packages you installed can now be safely uninstalled from your host system or just not bother and have your host get bloated over time with stuff you are not actually using anymore.

One big advantage we got at Red Hat is that we are a major contributor to container technologies across the stack. We are a major participant in the Open Container Initiative and we are alongside Google the biggest contributor to the Kubernetes project. This includes having created a set of container tools called Podman. So when we started prototyping Toolbox we could base it up on podman and get access to all the power and features that podman provides, but at the same make them easier to use and consumer from your developer laptop or workstation.

Our initial motivation was also driven by the fact that for image based operating systems like Fedora Silverblue and Fedora CoreOS, where the host system is immutable you still need some way to be able to install packages and do development, but we quickly realized that the pet container development model is superior to the old ‘on host’ model even if you are using a traditional package based system like Fedora Workstation. So we started out by prototyping the baseline functionality, writing it as a shell script to quickly test out our initial ideas. Of course as Toolbox picked up in popularity we realized we needed to transition quickly to a proper development language so that we wouldn’t end up with an unmaintainable mess written in shell, and thus Debarshi Ray and Ondřej Míchal has recently completed the rewrite to Go (Note: the choice of Go was to make it easier for the wider container community to contribute since almost all container tools are written in Go).

Leading up towards Fedora Workstation 33 we are trying figure out a few things. One is how we can make giving you access to a RHEL based toolbox through the Red Hat Developer Program in an easy and straightforward manner, and this is another area where pet container development shines. You can set up your pet container to run a different Linux version than your host. So you can use Fedora to get the latest features for your laptop, but target RHEL inside your Toolbox to get an easy and quick deployment path to your company RHEL servers. I would love it if we can extend this even further as we go along, to for instance let you set up a Steam runtime toolbox to do game development targeting Steam.
Setting up a RHEL toolbox is already technically possible, but requires a lot more knowledge and understanding of the underlaying technologies than we wish.
The second thing we are looking at is how we deal with graphical applications in the context of these pet containers. The main reason we are looking at that is because while you can install for instance Visual Studio code inside the toolbox container and launch it from the command line, we realize that is not a great model for how you interact with GUI applications. At the moment the only IDE that is set up to be run in the host, but is able to interact with containers properly is GNOME Builder, but we realize that there are a lot more IDEs people are using and thus we want to try to come up with ways to make them work better with toolbox containers beyond launching them from the command line from inside the container. There are some extensions available for things like Visual Studio Code starting to try to improve things (those extensions are not created by us, but looking at solving a similar problem), but we want to see how we can help providing a polished experience here. Over time we do believe the pet container model of development is so good that most IDEs will follow in GNOME Builders footsteps and make in-container development a core part of the feature set, but for now we need to figure out a good bridging strategy.

Wayland – headless and variable refresh rate.
Since switching to Wayland we have continued to work in improving how GNOME work under Wayland to remove any major feature regressions from X11 and to start taking advantage of the opportunities that Wayland gives us. One of the last issues that Jonas Ådahl has been hard at work recently is trying to ensure we have headless support for running GNOME on systems without a screen. We know that there are a lot of sysadmins for instance who want to be able to launch a desktop session on their servers to be used as a tool to test and debug issues. These desktops are then accessed through tools such as VNC or Nice DCV. As part of that work he also made sure we could deal with having multiple monitors connected which had different refresh rates. Before that fix you would get the lowest common denominator between your screens, but now if you for instance got a 60Hz monitor and a 75Hz monitor they will be able to function independent of each other and run at their maximum refresh rate. With the variable refresh rate work now landed upstream Jonas is racing to get the headless support finished and landed in time for Fedora Workstation 33.

Linux Vendor Firmware Service
Richard Hughes is continuing his work on moving the LVFS forward having spent time this cycle working with the Linux Foundation to ensure the service can scale even better. He is also continuously onboarding new vendors and helping existing vendors use LVFS for even more things. We are now getting reports that LVFS has become so popular that we are now getting reports of major hardware companies who up to know hasn’t been to interested in the LVFS are getting told by their customers to start using it or they will switch supplier. So expect the rapid growth of vendors joining the LVFS to keep increasing. It is also worth nothing that many of vendors who are already set up on LVFS are steadily working on increasing the amount of systems they support on it and pushing their suppliers to do the same. Also for enterprise use of LVFS firmware Marc Richter also wrote an article on access.redhat.com about how to use LVFS with Red Hat Satelitte. Satellite for those who don’t know it is Red Hats tool for managing and keeping servers up to date and secure. So for large companies having their machines, especially servers, accessing LVFS directly is not a wanted behaviour, so now they can use Satelitte to provide a local repository of the LVFS firmware.

PipeWire
One of the changes we been working on that I am personally extremely excited about is PipeWire. For those of you who don’t know it, PipeWire is one of our major swamp draining efforts which aims to bring together audio, pro-audio and video under linux and provide a modern infrastructure for us to move forward. It does so however while being ABI compatible with both Jack and PulseAudio, meaning that applications will not need to be ported to work with PipeWire. We have been using it for a while for video already to handle screen capture under Wayland and for allowing Flatpak containers access to webcams in a secure way, but Wim Taymans has been working tirelessly on moving that project forward over the last 6 Months, focused a lot of fixing corner cases in the Jack support and also ramping up the PulseAudio support. We had hoped to start wide testing in Fedora Workstation 32 of the audio parts of PipeWire, but we decided that since such a key advantage that PipeWire brings is not just to replace Jack or PulseAudio, but also to ensure the two usecases co-exist and interact properly, we didn’t want to start asking people to test until we got the PulseAudio support close to being production ready. Wim has been making progress by leaps and bounds recently and while I can’t 100% promise it yet we do expect to roll out the audio bits of PipeWire for more widescale testing in Fedora Workstation 33 with the goal of making it the default for Fedora Workstation 34 or more likely Fedora Workstation 35.
Wim is doing an internal demo this week, so I will try to put out a blog post talking about that later in the week.

Flatpak – incremental updates
One of the features we added to Flatpaks was the ability to distribute them as Open Container Initiative compliant containers. The reason for this was that as companies, Red Hat included, built infrastructure for hosting and distributing containers we could also use that for Flatpaks. This is obviously a great advantage for a variety of reasons, but it had one large downside compared to the traditional way of distributing Flatpaks (as Ostree images) which is that each update comes as a single large update as opposed to the atomic update model that OStree provides.
Which is why if you would compare the same application when shipping from Flathub, which uses Ostree, versus from the Fedora container registry, you would quickly notice that you get a lot smaller updates from Flathub. For kubernetes containers this hasn’t been considered a huge problem as their main usecase is copying the containers around in a high-speed network inside your cloud provider, but for desktop users this is annoying. So Alex Larsson and Owen Taylor has been working on coming up with a way to do to incremental updates for OCI/Docker/Kubernetes containers too, which not only means we can get very close to the Flathub update size in the Fedora Container Catalog, but it also means that since we implemented this in a way that works for all OCI/Kubernetes containers you will be able to get them too with incremental update functionality. Especially as such containers are making their way into edge computing where update sizes do matter, just like they do on the desktop.

Hangul input under Wayland
Red Hat, like Lenovo, targets most of the world with our products and projects. This means that we want them to work great even for people who doesn’t use English or another European language. To achieve this we have a team dedicated to ensuring that not just Linux, but all Red Hat products work well for international users as part of my group at Red Hat. That team, lead by Jens Petersen, is distributed around the globe with engineers in Japan, China, India, Singapore and Germany. This team contributes to a lot of different things like font maintenance, input method development, i18n infrastructure and more.
One thing this team recently discovered was that the support for Korean input under Wayland. So Peng Wu, Takao Fujiwara and Carlos Garnacho worked together to come up with a series of patches for ibus and GNOME Shell to ensure that Fedora Workstation on Wayland works perfectly for Korean input. I wanted to highlight this effort because while I don’t usually mention efforts which such a regional impact in my blog posts it is a critical part of keeping Linux viable and usable across the globe. And ensuring that you can use your computer in your own language is something we feel is important and want to enable and also an area where I believe Red Hat is investing more than any other vendor out there.

GLX on EGL
We meet with NVidia on a regular basis to discuss topics of shared interest and one thing we been looking at for a while now is the best way to support Nvidia binary driver under XWayland. As part of that Adam Jackson has been working on a research project to see how feasible it would be to create a way to run GLX applications on top of EGL. As one might imagine EGL doesn’t have a 1to1 match with GLX APIs, but based on what we seen so far is that it should be close enough to get things going (Adam already got glxgears running :). The goal here would be to have an initial version that works ok, and then in collaboration with NVidia we can evolve it to be a great solution for even the most demanding OpenGL/GLX applications. Currently the code causes an extra memcopy compared to running on GLX native, but this is something we think can be resolved in collaboration with NVidia. Of course this is still an early stage effort and Adam and NVidia are currently looking at it so there is of course a chance still we will hit a snag and have to go back to the drawing board. For those interested you can take a look at this Mesa merge request to see the current state.

GNOME is not the default for Fedora Workstation

We recently had a Fedora AMA where one of the questions asked is why GNOME is the default desktop for Fedora Workstation. In the AMA we answered why GNOME had been chosen for Fedora Workstation, but we didn’t challenge the underlying assumption built into the way the question was asked, and the answer to that assumption is that it isn’t the default. What I mean with this is that Fedora Workstation isn’t a box of parts, where you have default options that can be replaced, its a carefully procured and assembled operating system aimed at developers, sysadmins and makers in general. If you replace one or more parts of it, then it stops being Fedora Workstation and starts being ‘build your own operating system OS’. There is nothing wrong with wanting to or finding it interesting to build your own operating systems, I think a lot of us initially got into Linux due to enjoying doing that. And the Fedora project provides a lot of great infrastructure for people who want to themselves or through teaming up with others build their own operating systems, which is why Fedora has so many spins and variants available.
The Fedora Workstation project is something we made using those tools and it has been tested and developed as an integrated whole, not as a collection of interchangeable components. The Fedora Workstation project might of course over time replace certain parts with other parts over time, like how we are migrating from X.org to Wayland. But at some point we are going to drop standalone X.org support and only support X applications through XWayland. But that is not the same as if each of our users individually did the same. And while it might be technically possible for a skilled users to still get things moved back onto X for some time after we make the formal deprecation, the fact is that you would no longer be using ‘Fedora Workstation’. You be using a homebrew OS that contains parts taken from Fedora Workstation.

So why am I making this distinction? To be crystal clear, it is not to hate on you for wanting to assemble your own OS, in fact we love having anyone with that passion as part of the Fedora community. I would of course love for you to share our vision and join the Fedora Workstation effort, but the same is true for all the other spins and variant communities we have within the Fedora community too. No the reason is that we have a very specific goal of creating a stable and well working experience for our users with Fedora Workstation and one of the ways we achieve this is by having a tightly integrated operating system that we test and develop as a whole. Because that is the operating system we as the Fedora Workstation project want to make. We believe that doing anything else creates an impossible QA matrix, because if you tell people that ‘hey, any part of this OS is replaceable and should still work’ you have essentially created a testing matrix for yourself of infinite size. And while as software engineers I am sure many of us find experiments like ‘wonder if I can get Fedora Workstation running on a BSD kernel’ or ‘I wonder if I can make it work if I replace glibc with Bionic‘ fun and interesting, I am equally sure we all also realize what once we do that we are in self support territory and that Fedora Workstation or any other OS you use as your starting point can’t not be blamed if your system stops working very well. And replacing such a core thing as the desktop is no different to those other examples.

Having been in the game of trying to provide a high quality desktop experience both commercially in the form of RHEL Workstation and through our community efforts around Fedora Workstation I have seen and experienced first hand the problems that the mindset of interchangeable desktop creates. For instance before we switched to the Fedora Workstation branding and it was all just ‘Fedora’ I experienced reviewers complaining about missing features, features had actually spent serious effort implementing, because the reviewer decided to review a different spin of Fedora than the GNOME one. Other cases I remember are of customers trying to fix a problem by switching desktops, only to discover that while the initial issue they wanted fix got resolved by the switch they now got a new batch of issues that was equally problematic for them. And we where left trying to figure out if we should try to fix the original problem, the new ones or maybe the problems reported by users of a third desktop option. We also have had cases of users who just like the reviewer mentioned earlier, assumed something was broken or missing because they where using a different desktop than the one where the feature was added. And at the same time trying to add every feature everywhere would dilute our limited development resources so much that it made us move slow and not have the resources to focus on getting ready for major changes in the hardware landscape for instance.
So for RHEL we now only offer GNOME as the desktop and the same is true in Fedora Workstation, and that is not because we don’t understand that people enjoy experimenting with other desktops, but because it allows us to work with our customers and users and hardware partners on fixing the issues they have with our operating system, because it is a clearly defined entity, and adding the features they need going forward and properly support the hardware they are using, as opposed to spreading ourselves to thin that we just run around putting on band-aids for the problems reported.
And in the longer run I actually believe this approach benefits those of you who want to build your own OS to, or use an OS built by another team around a different set of technologies, because while the improvements might come in a bit later for you, the work we now have the ability to undertake due to having a clear focus, like our work on adding HiDPI support, getting Wayland ready for desktop use or enabling Thunderbolt support in Linux, makes it a lot easier for these other projects to eventually add support for these things too.

Update: Adam Jacksons oft quoted response to the old ‘linux is about choice meme’ is also a required reading for anyone wanting a high quality operating system

Fedora Workstation : Swamp draining for 6 years

As Fedora Workstation 32 was released today I ended up looking back at our efforts to drain the swamp over the last 6 years. In April of 2014 I wrote a blog post outlining our vision for the Fedora Workstation effort and what we wanted to achieve with it. I hadn’t looked at that blog post in years, but it was interesting going back to it and realize that while some of the details have changed it is still the vision we are pursuing today; to keep draining the swamp and make Fedora Workstation a top notch operating system for developers and makers in general. Which I guess is one of the hallmarks of a decent vision, that it allows for the details to change without invalidating it.

One of my pet peeves at the time with Linux as a desktop operating system was that so many of the so called efforts to make linux user friendly was essentially duck taping over the problems, creating fragile solutions that often made it harder for us to really move forward. In the yers since we addressed a lot of major swamp issues with our efforts around HiDPI & Bolt (getting ahead of hardware enablement for new monitors and Thunderbolt devices respectively), Flatpaks, GNOME Software and AppStream (making applications discoverable, deployable and maintainable), Wayland (making your desktop secure and future proof), LVFS and firmware handling (making them easily available for Linux users), Finger print reader standard (ensuring your hardware is fully supported) and coming up with ways to improve the lives of developers with improvements to the terminal or Fedora Toolbox, our developer pet container tool.

Working on these and other issues we early realized that a model where hardware gets enabled in a reactive manner, in response to new laptops being sold, was never going to yield a good result for our users. As long as we followed that model people where bound to always hit issues with laptops as they came out and then have to deal with those issues for the first 6-12 Months of its life. This is why I am so excited about our new partnership with Lenovo that we pre-announced on Friday as it is both the culmination of our efforts over the last 6 years, but also the starting point of a new era in terms of how we work with hardware makers. So instead of us spending a ton of time trying to reverse engineers basic drivers we can now rely on our hardware partner and their component vendors providing that and we can instead focus on what I call high level hardware enablement. Meaning that as we see new features coming into laptops and computers we can try to improve the infrastructure in the operating system to be able to take full advantage of said hardware, and we can do so in collaboration with the hardware makers knowing that once we provide the infrastructure they will ensure to provide drivers and similar fitting into that infrastructure. Our work on fingerprint readers and thunderbolt support for instance has been two great early examples of that.

Anyway, you are probably interested to know some of the new things coming in Fedora Workstaton 32, so here are some of my personal highlights:

New lock screen

This is more a cosmetic change, but one that every user will see upon logging into their Fedora system after a new install or upgrade. The new design features a faded version of your desktop background image and it should also feel more smooth as the password dialog now appears on the lock screen page as opposed to before where it sort of replaced it. The dialog now also tries to more discreetly than before inform you if your trying to type in the password while the lock screen is on. A big thanks to Allan Day and the GNOME design team for their work here trying to polish this part of the user interface.

GNOME extension app

GNOME Shell extensions are little tweaks and additional features for the desktop that our user have gotten accustomed to and enjoy greatly. Extensions are also the technology that powers the GNOME Classic session that provides those of our users who want it with a more traditional desktop experience. GNOME Shell extensions have gradually evolved in how we work with them since their inception as something you install through your web browser to now being handled through GNOME Software. With Fedora Workstation 32 we are making the new GNOME Shell extensions management app available as the next step in the evolution of GNOME Shell extensions, making it simple to turn any given extension on of our or quickly see which extensions you have installed.

GNOME Extensions app

GNOME Extensions handling app

Fedora Toolbox

Fedora Toolbox is our helper for making working with containers for development and testing as easy it possibly can be. Debarshi Ray and Ondřej Míchal have been hard at work porting the Fedora Toolbox to Go from shell for this release. For those wondering why we choose Go as the language; there was basically two reasons for that. One we felt that the toolbox had gone as far as it could as a shell script, and two that was the language used by all the components we rely on and interact with in the container space, like buildah and podman. We also wanted to make it easy for developers on those projects to contribute by using the same language as they use in their projects.

Fedora Toolbox

Fedora Toolbox running on Fedora Workstation 32

Performance improvements

Another area that we always try to give some love is general performance improvement. For example this time around Christian Hergert identified some really bad behavior of GNOME shell when running on a system with very high I/O. At the face of it GNOME Shell didn’t look like it should have been affected, but during some intensive debugging sessions Christian Hergert discovered that I/O was triggered by various API calls to do things like string translation. So he put together a set of patches to resolve the high I/O stalls and can now report that GNOME Shell keeps running smoothly as silk, even under high disk I/O situations.

PipeWire

Wim Taymans keeps making great strides forward with PipeWire, our tool for creating a unified media handler for audio, pro-audio and Video. In Fedora Workstation 32 we will be shipping the 0.3 version which has quite complete Jack support. In fact we are hoping to team up with the Fedora Jam team to finalize the Jack support during the Fedora 32 lifecycle by testing it extensively. We have a lot of Jacks apps already working with PipeWire, including a series of important Jack apps that we have put into Flatpaks in Fedora like Carla. While the support is there in PipeWire in Fedora 32 right now, there are some convenience work we are still needing to do, but we hope to get that pushed out by next week to make replacing Jack with PipeWire becomes very simple to both do and undo for testing purposes.

The PulseAudio support is the last piece that are still in progress. It works for simple music playback, but it is not a drop in replacement for PulseAudio yet, so while we hoped to encourage widespread testing in F32 we will aim at delaying that to F33 in order to polish the PulseAudio support more first. But once ready we will make this available for testing in a simple manner just like the Jack support.

There has also been further work on the video side of PipeWire, adding support for zero copy video capture, this has reduced the overhead of doing things like screen capturing significantly and should be a nice performance/resource usage improvement for everyone.

Firefox on Wayland

Martin Stransky and Jan Horak has been working hard to improve how Firefox runs and works when used as a Wayland native application fixing a truckload of bigger and smaller bugs this cycle. We feel that we crossed the corner now in terms of the Wayland version being just as stable and good as the X11 one. In fact we could move beyond just fixing bugs to actually adding features this time around for instance Martin Stransky worked on WebGL HW acceleration support enabling us to have that enabled by default now for the first time. We also made sure to taking advantage of the Pipewire zero copy support to improve your video conferencing applications running under Firefox which turned out to be even more important than we expected considering Covid-19 has everyone working from home.

Looking forward

We spent a lot of time and energy over the last 6 years to get to where we are now, putting in place a lot of the basic building blocks needed to make Linux a great desktop operating system. And it feels great that just as we kick of the new line of Lenovo laptops running Fedora we are also entering a new phase of development where we can move beyond getting our basic infrastructure in place, but we can really start taking advantage of it to rapidly improve the experience we are providing even more. A good example is the Firefox work mentioned above, where we finally could move on from ‘make it work with Wayland and PipeWire, to ‘lets take advantage of these new pieces to make Firefox on Linux better’. Another example here is that Adam Jackson is currently investigating how we can improve how Fedora Workstation performs for remote usage. This work includes looking at things like VNC and RDP and commercial offerings and figuring out how we can make our stack work better with such tools, on top of the improvements that PipeWire brings for such usecases.

There is some more heavy lifting needed before our next generation OS architecture, Silverblue, is ready to be our default offering, but it is improving leaps and bounds each release and already have a loyal following, personally I am very excited about the fact that we are quickly moving closer the point were we can make it our default and through that offer features like bulletproof OS updates, factory resets and solid version rollbacks.

On the Flatpak side Owen Taylor and Alex Larsson are putting in a lot of final touches on our Red Hat infrastructure. So for RHEL8.2 we will finally be able to build Flatpaks in RHEL infrastructure and provide a runtime and SDK for our RHEL customers to use. But equally exciting is that we will be able to offer these to the community at large, meaning that we can offer a high quality Flatpak Long Term Support runtime and SDK for ISVs that they can use to both target RHEL users, but also Fedora and other Linux distributions with, in a similar vein to how the Red Hat UBI works. We will also be looking at ways to make getting access to these on Fedora very simple for developers, so that developing towards this runtime becomes quick and easy on your Fedora system. Alex and Owen are also working on an incremental updates feature to be shared between Kubernetes containers and OCI Flatpaks, making both technologies better and updates a lot smaller.

We are also looking at a host of other smaller improvements, many of them in collaboration with our friends at Lenovo, like lap detection (so you can be sure the laptop doesn’t burn you), privacy features (like making it harder to read your screen from an angle) and far field microphones. There are also things like Lennarts HomeD idea which we will be looking at as a way to improve the end user experience.

So the future is looking bright and I hope to see many new faces in the Fedora community going forward, be that if you download Fedora Workstation 32 to install on your own system yourself or if you join us through buying a Fedora laptop from Lenovo this summer.

A bold new chapter for Fedora Workstation

So you have probably seen the announcement that Lenovo are launching a set of Fedora Workstation based laptops. I am so happy and proud of this effort as it comes as the culmination of our hard effort over the last 6 years to drain the swamp and make Linux a more viable desktop operating system.
I am also so happy and proud that Lenovo was willing to work with us on this effort as they provide us with an incredible opportunity to reach both new and old Linux users around the globe with these systems, being the worlds biggest laptop maker with the widest global reach. Because one important aspect of this is that Lenovo will provide these laptops through all their sales channels in all their markets. This means you can of course order them online through their website, but it also means companies can order them through Lenovos business to business channels and it means that in any country where Lenovo is present you can order them, so this is not a North America only or Europe only, this is truly a global offering.

There are a lot of people who has been involved here in helping to make this happen, but special thanks goes to Egbert Gracias from Lenovo who was critical in making this happen and also a special thanks to Alberto Ruiz who spearheaded this effort from our side.

Our engineering team here at Red Hat has also been hard at work ensuring we can support these models very well be that by bugfixes to kernel drivers or by polishing up things like the Linux fingerprint support. As we go forward we hope to build on this relationship to take linux laptops to the next level and I am also very happy to say that we got Jared Dominguez on on team now to help us develop better work practices and closer relationships with our hardware partners and original device manufacturers.


Also a special thanks to Jakub Steiner for putting together the little sizzle video above, it was supposed to be used at our booth at Red Hat Summit next week, but with that going virtual we repurposed it for this announcement.

On the Road to Fedora Workstation 31

So I hope everyone is enjoying Fedora Workstation 30, but we don’t rest on our laurels here so I thought I share some of things we are working on for Fedora Workstation 31. This is not an exhaustive list, but some of the more major items we are working on.

Wayland – Our primary focus is still on finishing the Wayland transition and we feel we are getting close now, and thank you to the community for their help in testing and verifying Wayland over the last few years. The single biggest goal currently is fully removing our X Windowing System dependency, meaning that GNOME Shell should be able to run without needing XWayland. For those wondering why that has taken so much time, well it is simple; for 20 years developers could safely assume we where running atop of X. So refactoring everything needed to remove any code that makes the assumption that it is running on top of X.org has been a major effort. The work is mostly done now for the shell itself, but there are a few items left in regards to the GNOME Setting daemon where we need to expel the X dependency. Olivier Fourdan is working on removing those settings daemon bits as part of his work to improve the Wayland accessibility support. We are optimistic that can declare this work done within a GNOME release or two. So GNOME 3.34 or maybe 3.36. Once that work is complete an X server (XWayland) would only be started if you actually run a X application and when you shut that application down the X server will be shut down too.

Wayland logo

Wayland Graphics


Another change that Hans de Goede is working on at the moment is allowing X applications to be run as root under XWayland. In general running desktop apps as root isn’t considered adviceable from a security point of view, but since it always worked under X we feel it should continue to be there for XWayland too. This should fix a few applications out there which only works when run as root currently. One last item Hans de Goede is looking at is improving SDLs Wayland support in regards to how it deals with scaling of lower resolution games. Thanks to the great effort by Valve and others we got a huge catalog of games available under Linux now and we want to ensure that those keep running and runs well. So we will work with the SDL devs to come up with a solution here, we just don’t know the exact shape and and form the solution will take yet, so stay tuned.

Finally there is the NVidia binary driver support question. So you can run a native Wayland session on top of the binary driver and you had that ability for a very long time. Unfortunately there has been no support for the binary driver in XWayland and thus and X applications (which there are a lot of) would not be getting any HW accelerated 3D graphics support. Adam Jackson has worked on letting XWaylands load the binary NVidia x.org driver and we are now waiting on NVidia to review that work and hopefully be able to update their driver to support it.

Once we are done with this we expect X.org to go into hard maintenance mode fairly quickly. The reality is that X.org is basically maintained by us and thus once we stop paying attention to it there is unlikely to be any major new releases coming out and there might even be some bitrot setting in over time. We will keep an eye on it as we will want to ensure X.org stays supportable until the end of the RHEL8 lifecycle at a minimum, but let this be a friendly notice for everyone who rely the work we do maintaining the Linux graphics stack, get onto Wayland, that is where the future is.

PipeWire – Wim Taymans keeps improving the core features of Pipewire, as we work step by step to be ready to replace Jack and PulseAudio. He has recently been focusing on improving existing features like the desktop sharing portal together with Jonas Adahl and we are planning a hackfest for Wayland in the fall, current plan is to do it around the All Systems Go conference in Berlin, but due to some scheduling conflicts by some of our core stakeholders we might need to reschedule it to a little later in fall.
A new user for the desktop sharing portal is the new Miracast support that Benjamin Berg has been steadily working on. The Miracast support is shaping up and you can grab the Network Displays test client from his COPR repository while he is working to get the package into Fedora proper. We would appreciate further users testing and feedback as we know there are definitely devices out there where things do not work properly and identifying them is the first step to figuring out how to make our support in the desktop more robust. Eventually we want to make the GNOME integration even more seamless than the standalone app, but for early testing and polish it does the trick. If you are interested in contributing the code is hosted here on github.

Network Display

Network Display application using Miracast

Btw, you still need to set the enable Pipewire flag in Chrome to get the Pipewire support (chrome://flags). So I included a screenshot here to show you where to go in the browser and what the key is called:

Chrome Pipewire Flag

Chrome Pipewire Flag

Flatpak – Work on Flatpak in Fedora is continuing. Current focus is on improving the infrastructure for building Flatpaks from RPMS and automating what we can.This is pre-requisite work for eventually starting to ship some applications as Flatpaks by default and eventually shipping all applications as Flatpaks by default. We are also working on setting things up so that we can offer applications from flathub.io and quay.io out of the box and in accordance with Fedora rules for 3rd party software. We are also making progress on making a Red Hat UBI based runtime available. This means that as a 3rd party developer you can use that to build your applications on top of and be certain that it will be stay around and be supported by Red Hat for the lifetime of a given RHEL release, which means around 10 years. This frees you up as a developer to really update your application at your own pace as opposed to have to chase more short lived runtimes. It will also ensure that your application can be certified for RHEL which gives you access to all our workstation customers in addition to Fedora and all other distros.

Fedora Toolbox – Work is progressing on the Fedora Toolbox, our tool for making working with pet containers feel simple and straightforward. Debarshi Ray is currently looking on improvements to GNOME Terminal that will ensure that you get a more natural behaviour inside the terminal when interacting with pet containers, for instance ensuring that if you have a terminal open to a pet container and create a new tab that tab will also be inside the container inside of pointing at the host. We are also working on finding good ways to make the selection of containers more discoverable, so that you more easily can get access to a Red Hat UBI container or a Red Hat TensorFlow container for instance. There will probably be a bit of a slowdown in terms of new toolbox features soon though as we are going to rewrite it to make it more maintainable. The current implementation is a giant shell script, but the new version will most likely be written in Go (so that we can more easily integrate with the other container libraries and tools out there, mostly written in Go).

Fedora Toolbox

Fedora Toolbox in action

GNOME Classic – We have had Classic mode available in GNOME and Fedora for a long time, but we recently decided to give it a second look and try to improve the experience. So Allan Day reviewed the experience and we decided to make it a more pure GNOME 2 style experience by dropping the overview completely when you run classic mode.
We have also invested time and effort on improving the Classic mode workspace switcher to make life better for people who use a very workspace centric workflow. The goal of the improvements is to make the Classic mode workspace switcher more feature complete and also ensure that it can work with standard GNOME 3 in addition to Classic mode. We know this will greatly improve the experience for many of our users and at the same time hopefully let new people switch to Fedora and GNOME to get the advantage of all the other great improvements we are bringing to Linux and the Linux desktop.

Sysprof & performance – We have had a lot of focus in the community on improving GNOME Shell performance. Our particular focus has been on doing both some major re-architecting of some core subsystems that where needed to make some of the performance improvements you seen even possible. And lately Christian Hergert has been working on improving our tooling for profiling the desktop, so let our developers more easily see exactly where in the stack bottlenecks are and what is causing them. Be sure to read Christians blog for further details about sysprof and friends.

Fleet Commander – our tool for configuring large deployments of Fedora and RHEL desktops should have a release out very soon that can work with Active Directory as your LDAP server. We know a lot of RHEL and Fedora desktop users are part of bigger organizations where Linux users are a minority and thus Active Directory is being deployed in the organization. With this new release Fleet Commander can be run using Active Directory or FreeIPA as the directory server and thus a lot of organizations who previously could not easily deploy Fleet Commander can now take advantage of this powerful tool. Next step for Fleet Commander after that is finishing of some lose ends in terms of our Firefox support and also ensure that you can easily configure GNOME Shell extensions with Fleet Commander. We know a lot of our customers and users are deploying one or more GNOME Shell extensions for their desktop so we want to ensure Fleet Commander can help you do that efficiently across your whole fleet of systems.

Fingerprint support – We been working closely with our hardware partners to bring proper fingerprint reader support to Linux. Bastien Nocera worked on cleaning up the documentation of fprint and make sure there is good sample code and our hardware partners then worked with their suppliers to ensure they provided drivers conforming to the spec for hardware supplied to them. So there is a new drivers from Synaptics finger print readers coming out soon thanks to this effort. We are not stopping there though, Benjamin Berg is continuing the effort to improve the infrastructure for Linux fingerprint reader support, making sure we can support in-device storage of fingerprints for instance.

Fingerprint image

Fingerprint readers now better supported

Gamemode – Christian Kellner has been contributing a bit to gamemode recently, working to make it more secure and also ensure that it can work well with games packaged as Flatpaks. So if you play Linux games, especially those from Ferral Interactive, and want to squeeze some extra performance from your system make sure to install gamemode on your Fedora system.

Dell Totem support – Red Hat has a lot of customers in the fields of animation and CAD/CAM systems. Due to this Benjamin Tissoires and Peter Hutterer been working with Dell on enabling their Totem input device for a while now. That works is now coming to a close with the Totem support shipping in the latest libinput version with the kernel side of things being merged some time ago. You can get the full details from Peters blog about Dell Totem.

Dell Totel

The Dell Totem input device

Media codec support – So the OpenH264 2.0 release is out from Cisco now and Kalev Lember has been working to get the Fedora packages updated. This is a crucial release as it includes the support for Main and High profile that I mentioned in an earlier blog post. That work happened due to a collaboration between Cisco, Endless, Red Hat and Centricular with Jan Schmidt at Centricular doing the work implementing support for these two codecs. This work makes OpenH264 a lot more useful as it now supports playing back most files found in the wild and we been working to ensure it can be used for general playback in Firefox. At the same time Wim Taymans is working to fix some audio quality issues in the AAC implementation we ship so we should soon have both a fully working H264 decoder/encoder in Fedora and a fully functional AAC decoder/encoder. We are still trying to figure out what to do with MPEG2 video as we are ready to ship support for that too, but are still trying to figure out the details of implementation. Beyond that we don’t have any further plans around codecs atm as we feel that with H264, MPEG2 video, AAC, mp3 and AC3 we have them most critical ones covered, alongside the growing family of great free codecs such as VP9, Opus and AV1. We might take a look at the status of things like Windows Media and DivX at some point, but it is not anywhere close to the top of our priority list currently.

Preparing for Fedora Workstation 30

I just installed the Fedora Workstation 30 Beta yesterday and so far things are looking great. As many others have reported to, with the GNOME 3.32 update things definitely feels faster and smoother. So I thought it was a good time to talk about what is coming in Fedora Workstation 30 and what we are currently working on.

Fractional Scaling: One of the big features that landed, although still considered experimental was the fractional scaling feature that has been a collaboration between Jonas Ådahl here at Red hat and Marco Trevisan at Canonical. It has taken quite some time since the initial hackfest as it is a complex task, but we are getting close. Fractional scaling is a critical feature for many HiDPI screen laptops to get a desktop size that perfectly fits their screen, not being to small or to large.

Screen sharing support for Chrome and Firefox under Wayland. The Wayland security model doesn’t allow any application to freely grab images or streams of the whole desktop like you could under X. This is of course a huge improvement in security, but it did cause some disruption for valid usecases like screen sharing with things like BlueJeans and Google Hangouts. We been working on resolving that with the help of PipeWire. We been at it for some time and things are now coming together. Chrome 73 ships with everything needed to make this work with Chrome, although you have to turn it on manually (got to this URL to turn it on: chrome://flags/#enable-webrtc-pipewire-capturer). The reason it needs to be manually enabled is not that it is unreliable, it is because the UI is still a little fugly due to a combination of feature overlap between the browser and the desktop and also how the security feature of the desktop is done. We are trying to come up with ways for the UI to be smoother without sacrificing your privacy/security. For Firefox we will keep shipping with our downstream patch until we manage to get it landed upstream.

Firefox for Wayland: Martin Stransky has been hard at work making Firefox be able to run Wayland-native. That work is tantalizingly near, but we decided to postpone it for Fedora Workstation 31 in the end to make sure it is really well polished before releasing it upon the world. The advantage of Wayland native Firefox is that in addition to bring us one step closer to not needing to run an X server (XWayland) all the time it also enables things like fractional scaling mentioned above to work for Firefox.

OpenH264 improved: As many of you know Firefox relies on a library called OpenH264, provided by Cisco, for its H264 video codec support for WebRTC. This library is also provided to Fedora users from Cisco free of charge (you can install it through GNOME Software). However its usefulness have been somewhat limited due to only supporting the baseline profile used for video calling, but not the Main and High profiles used by most online video content. Well what I can tell you is that Red Hat, Endless and Cisco partnered with Centricular some time ago to add support for decoding those profiles to OpenH264 and that work is now almost complete. The basic code enabling them is already merged, but Jan Schmidt at Centricular is working on fixing a few files that are still giving us problems. As soon as that is generally shipping we hope to get Firefox to be able to use OpenH264 also for things like Youtube playback and of course also use OpenH264 to playback any H264 using GStreamer applications like Totem. So a big thank you to Endless, Cisco and Centricular for working with us on this and thus enabling us to have a legal way to offer H264 support to our users.

NVidia binary driver support under Wayland: We been putting it quite a bit of effort trying to tie off the lose ends for using the NVidia binary driver with Wayland. We did manage to fix a long list of bugs like dealing with various colorspace issues, multimonitor setups and so on. For Intel and AMD graphics users things should actually be pretty good to go at this point. The last major item holding us back on the NVidia side is full support for using the binary driver with XWayland applications (native Wayland applications should work fine already). Adam Jackson worked diligently to get all the pieces in place and we do think we have a model now that will allow NVidia to provide an updated driver that should enable XWayland. As it stands though that driver update is likely to only come out towards the fall, so we will keep defaulting to X for NVidia binary driver users for some time more.

Gaming under Wayland. Olivier Fourdan and Jonas Ådahl has trying to crush any major Wayland bug reported for quite some time now and one area where we seem to have rounded the corner is for games. Valve has been kind enough to give us the ability to install and run any steam game for testing purposes, so whenever we found a game giving us trouble we have been able to let Olivier and Jonas reproduce it easily. So on my own gaming box I am now able to run all the Steam games I have under Wayland, including those using Proton, without a hitch. We haven’t tested with the full Steam catalog of course, there are thousands, so if your favourite game is giving you trouble under Wayland still, please let us know. Talking about gaming one area we will try to free up some cycles going forward to look deeper at is Flatpaks and gaming. We already done quite a bit of work in this area, with things like the NVidia binary driver extension and the Steam package on Flathub. But we know from leading linux game devs that there are still some challenges to be resolved, like making host device access for gamepads simpler from within the Flatpak sandbox.

Flatpak Creation in Fedora. Owen Taylor has been in charge of getting Flatpaks building in Fedora, ensuring we can produce Flatpaks from Fedora packages. Owen set up a system to track the Fedora Flatpak status, we got about 10 applications so far, but hope to greatly grow that number of time as we polish up the system. This enables us to start planning for shipping some applications in Fedora Workstation as Flatpaks by default in a future release. This respository will be available by default in Fedora workstation 30 and you can choose the flatpak version of the package through the new drop down box in the top right corner of GNOME Software. For now the RPM version of the package is still the default, but we expect to change that in later releases of Fedora Workstation.

Gedit in GNOME Software with Source drop down box

Gedit in GNOME Software with Source drop down box

Fedora Toolbox – Debarshi Ray is leading the effort we call Fedora Toolbox, which is our starting point for our goal to revitalise and revolutionize development on Linux. Fedora Toolbox is trying to take the model of a pet container for development and make it seamless and natural. Our goal is to make it dead simple to create pet containers for your projects, so you can for instance have a Fedora pet container where you develop against the leading edge libraries and tools in Fedora, and you can have a RHEL based container where you develop against the library versions and tools shipping in RHEL (makes updating and fixing in production applications a lot easier) and maybe a SteamOS container to work on your little game project. Currently the model is that you have one pet container per OS your targeting, but we are pondering if maybe having one pet container per project would be even better if we can find good ways to avoid it being a lot of extra overhead (by for example having to re-install all your favourite command line tools in the container) or just outright confusing (which container got what tools and libraries again). Our goal here though is to ensure Fedora becomes the premier container native OS out there and thus a natural home for developers doing container development.
We are also working with the team inside Red Hat focusing on AI/ML and trying to ensure that we have a super smooth way for you to get a pet container with things like TensorFlow and CUDA up and running quickly.

Being an excellent platform for Openshift and Kubernetes development: We are putting effort into together with the Red Hat developer tools organization to bringing the OpenShift and CodeReady Studio and CodeReady Workspaces tools to Fedora. These tools have so far been very focused on RHEL support, but thanks to Flatpak for CodeReady Studio and web integration for CodeReady Workspaces we now have a path for making them easily available in Fedora too. In the world of Kubernetes OpenShift is where you want to be, and we want Fedora Workstation to be the ultimate portal for OpenShift development.

Fleet Commander with Active Directory support – So we are about to hit a very major milestone with Fleet Commander our large scale desktop management tool for Fedora and RHEL. Oliver Gutierrez has been hard at work making it work with Active Directory in addition to the existing FreeIPA support. We know that a majority of people interested in Fleet Commander are only using Active Directory currently, so being able to use Active Directory with Fleet Commander should make this great tool available to a huge number of new users. So if you are managing a University computer lab or a large number of Fedora or RHEL clients in your company we should soon have a Fleet Commander release out that you can use. And if you are not using Fedora or RHEL today well Fleet Commander is a very big reason for switching over!
We will do a proper announcement with further details once the release with Active Directory support is out.

PipeWire – I don’t have a major development to report, just a lot of steady work being done to stabilize and improve PipeWire. As mentioned earlier we now have Wayland screen sharing and recording working smoothly in the major browsers which is the user facing feature I think most of you will notice. Wim is still working on pushing the audio side it forward, but that is also a huge task. We have started talking about organizing a new hackfest soon to see if we can accelerate the effort further again. Likely scenario at this point in time is that we start enabling the JACK side of PipeWire first, maybe as early as Fedora Workstation 31, and then come back and do the PulseAudio replacement as a last stage.

Improved Input handling Another area we keep focusing on is improving input in Fedora. Peter Hutterer and Benjamin Tissoires are working hard on improving the stack. Peter just sent an extensive RFC out for how to deal with high resolution mice under Linux and Benjamin has been trying to get support for the Dell Totem landed. Neither will be there unfortunately for Fedora Workstation 30,but we expect to land this before Fedora Workstation 31.

Flicker-free boot
Hans de Goede has continued working on his effort to create a flicker-free boot experience with Fedora. The results of this work is on display in Fedora Workstation 30 and will for most of you now provide a seamless bootup experience . This effort is not so much about functionality as it is about ensuring you have an end-to-end polished experience with your Linux desktop. Things like the constant mode changes we seen in the past contribute to giving Linux an image of being unpolished and we want Fedora to be the vehicle that breaks down that image.

Ramping up Silverblue

For those of you following Fedora you are probably aware of Silverblue, which is our effort to re-think the Linux desktop distribution from the ground up and help us take the Linux desktop to a new level. The distribution model hasn’t really changed much over the last 20 years and we probably polished up the offering as far as we can within the scope of that model. For instance I upgraded my system to Fedora 30 beta yesterday and it was a long and tedious process of looking at about 6000 individual packages get updated from the Fedora 29 version to the Fedora 30 version one by one. I didn’t hit a lot of major snags despite this being a beta, but it is screamingly obvious that updating your operating system in this way is both slow and inherently fragile as anyone of those 6000 packages might hit a problem during upgrade and leave the system in a unknown state, especially since its common for packages to run scripts and similar as part of their upgrade.

Silverblue provides a revolutionary replacement for that process. First of all since it ships as a unified image we make life a lot easier for our QE team who can then test and verify against a single image which is in a known state. This in turn ensures that you as a user can feel confident that the new OS version will not break something on your system. And since the new version is just an image stored on your system next to the old one, upgrading is just about rebooting your system. There is no waiting for individual packages to get upgraded, as everything is already there and ready. Compare it to booting into a different kernel version on Fedora, it is quick and trivial.
And this also means that in the unlikely case that there is a problem with the new OS version you can just as easily go back to the previous version, by rebooting again and choosing to boot into that version. So you basically have instant upgrades with instant rollback if needed.
We believe this will radically change the way you look at OS upgrades forever, in fact you might almost forget they are happening.

And since Silverblue will basically be a Flatpak (and other containers) only OS you will have a clean delimitation between OS and applications. This means that even if we do major updates to the host, your applications should remain unaffected by the host OS update.
In fact we have some very interesting developments underway for Flatpak, with some major new efforts underway, efforts that I would love to talk about, but they are tied to some major Red Hat announcements that will happen at this years Red Hat Summit which will happen on May 7th – May 9th, so I will leave it as a teaser and then let you all know once the Summit is underway and Red Hats related major announcements are done.

There is a lot of work happening around Silverblue and as it happens Matthias Clasen wrote a long blog entry about it today. That blog goes into a lot more details on some of the Silverblue work items we been doing.

Anyway, I feel really excited about Silverblue and as we continue to refine the experience and figure out how everything will look in this brave new world I am sure everyone else will get excited too. Silverblue represents the single biggest evolution of the Linux desktop since the original GNOME and KDE releases back in the late nineties. It is not just about trying to tweak the existing experience, but an attempt at taking a big leap forward and provide an operating system that embodies all that we learned over these last 20 years and provide a natural home for developers and creators of all kind in our container centric computing future. Be sure to grab the Silverblue image of Fedora 30 beta and give it a test run. I recommend activating flathub.org repo to get started in order to get a decent range of applications available. As we move forward we are working hard to ensure that you have the world of applications available out of the box, so no need to go an enable any 3rd party repositories, but there are some more work that needs to happen before we can do that.

Summary
So Fedora Workstation 30 is going to be another exiting release of both of traditional RPM based Workstation version and of Silverblue, and I hope they will encourage even more people to join our rapidly growing Fedora community. Be sure to join us in #fedora-workstation on freenode IRC to talk!

LVFS adopted by Linux Foundation

Today the announcement went out that the Linux Vendor Firmware Service has become and official Linux Foundation service. For those that don’t know it yet LVFS is a service that provides firmware for your linux running hardware and it was one off our initial efforts as part of the Fedora Workstation effort to drain the swamp in terms of making Linux a first class desktop operating system.

The effort came about due to Peter Jones, who is Red Hats representative to the UEFI standards body, approaching me to talk about how Microsoft was trying to push for a standardized way to ship UEFI firmware for Windows and how UEFI being a standard openeded a path for us to actually get full support for this without each vendor having to ship and maintain their own proprietary firmware tools. So we did a meeting with Peter Jones and also brought in Richard Hughes who had already been looking at the problem of firmware updates in Linux, partly due to his ColorHug hardware, and the effort got started with Peter working on the low level OS tooling and Richard taking on building the service to drive distribution and the work to integrate it all into GNOME Software. One concern we had of course was if we could reach critical mass for this and get vendors interested, but luckily Dell was just as keen on improving firmware handling under Linux as us and signed on from the start. Having Dell onboard helped give the effort a lot of credibility and as the service matured we ended up having more and more vendors sign up. We also reached out through Red Hats partnerships to push vendors to adopt supporting it. As Richard also mentions in his interview about it, we had made the solution as similar to Microsofts as possible to decrease the threshold for hardware vendors to join, the goal being that if they did the basic work to support Windows they could more or less just ship the same firmware file to LVFS.

One issue that we had gone back on forth about inside Red Hat was the formal setup of the service. While we all agreed the service was hugely beneficial it felt like something that should be a shared service for all of Linux and we felt that if the service was Red Hat provided it might dissuade other vendors to join. So we started looking around for a neutral place to land the service while in the meantime LVFS had a sort of autonomous status being run as a community effort by Richard Hughes. We ended up talking to Chris Wright, the Red Hat CTO, about the project and he offered to facilitate contact with the Linux Foundation. The initial meetings was very positive and the Linux Foundation seemed interested in running the service right from the start, it did end up taking us quite some time to clear all formal and technical hurdles to get there, but I for one is very happy to see the LVFS now being a vendor neutral service provided by the Linux Foundation.

So a big thank you to Richard Hughes, Peter Jones, Chris Wright, Mario Limonciello and Dell and the Linux Foundation for their help in getting us here. And also a big thank you to Fedora and the Fedora community for their help with providing us a place to develop and polish up this service to the benefit of all. To me this is one of many examples of how Fedora keeps innovating and leading the way on Desktop linux.

PipeWire Hackfest

So we kicked off the PipeWire hackfest in Edinburgh yesterday. We have 15 people attending including Arun Raghavan, Tanu Kaskinen and Colin Guthrie from PulseAudio, PipeWire creator Wim Taymans, Bastien Nocera and Jan Grulich representing GNOME and KDE, Mark Brown from the ALSA kernel team, Olivier Crête,George Kiagiadakis and Nicolas Dufresne was there to represent embedded usecases for PipeWire and finally Thierry Bultel representing automotive.

The event kicked off with Wim Taymans presenting on current state of PipeWire and outlining the remaining issues and current thoughts on how to resolve them. Most of the first day was spent on a roadtable discussion about what are and should be the goals of PipeWire and what potential tradeoffs there would be going forward. PipeWire is probably a bit closer to Jack than PulseAudio in design, so quite a bit of the discussion went on how that would affect the PulseAudio usecases and what is planned to ensure PipeWire works very well for consumer audio usecases.

Personally I ended up spending quite some time just testing and running various Jack apps to see what works already and what doesn’t. In terms of handling outputing audio with Jack apps I was positively surprised how many Jack apps I was able to make work (aka output audio) using PipeWire instead of Jack, but of course we still have some gaps to cover before PipeWire is ready as a drop-in Jack replacement, for instance the Jack session management protocol needs to be implemented first.

The second day we outlined the areas that need work before we are ready to replace PulseAudio and came up with the following list:

  • Mixers – This is basically dealing with hardware mixers. Arun and Wim started looking at a design for this during the hackfest.
  • PulseAudio services – This is all the things in PulseAudio that is not very suitable for putting inside PipeWire. The idea is instead to put them in a separate daemon. This includes things like network streaming, ROAP, DBus apis and so on.
  • Policy/Session handling – We plan to move policy and session handling out of PulseAudio to make it easier for different usecases to set their own policies. PipeWire will still provide some default setup, but the idea here is to have a separate daemon(s) to provide this. Bastien Nocera started prototyping a setup where he could create policy and session handling using Lua scripting.
  • Filters
  • Bluetooth – Ensuring we have great bluetooth support with PipeWire. We would want to move Bluetooth handling to its own daemon, and not have it inside like in PulseAudio to allow for more flexibility with various embedded bluetooth stacks for instance. This could also mean looking at the Linux Bluetooth stack more widely as things are not ideal atm, especially from a security viewpoint.
  • Device reservation – We expect to replace Jack and PulseAudio in steps, starting with PulseAudio. So dealing well with hardware reservation is important to allow people to for instance keep running Jack alongside PipeWire until we are ready for full replacement.
  • Stream Monitoring – Important feature from Jack and PulseAudio that still needs implementing to allowing monitoring audio devices and streams.
  • Latency handling – Improving ways we can deal with hardware latency in for instance consumer devices such as TVs

It is still a bit hard to have a clear timeline for when we will be ready to drop in PipeWire support to replace PulseAudio and then Jack, but we feel the Wayland migration was a good example to follow where we held off doing the switch until we felt comfortable the move would be transparent to most users. There will of course always be corner cases and bugs, but we hope that in general people agree that the Wayland transition was done in a responsible manner and thus could be a good example to follow for us here.

We would like to offers big thanks to the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring travel for some of the community attendees and to Collabora for sponsoring dinner for all attendees the first night.

If you want to take a look at PipeWire, Wim updated the wiki page with PipeWire build intructions to be up-to-date. The hackfest attendees tested them out so we are sure they work, just be aware that you want the ‘Work’ branch and not the Master branch, as that is the one where all the audio work is happening. The Master branch is the video focused branch we use in Fedora for desktop remoting support in browsers and VNC under Wayland.

Fedora Toolbox ready for testing!

As many of you know we kicked of a ambitious goal to revamp the Linux desktop when we launched Fedora Workstation 4 years. We wanted to remove many of the barriers to adoption of Linux as a desktop and make it a better operating system for all, especially for developers.
To that effect we have been pushing a long range of initiatives over the last 4 years ago, ranging from providing a better input stack through libinput, a better display system through Wayland, a better audio and video subsystem through PipeWire, a better way of doing application packaging and dependency handling through Flatpak, a better application installation history through GNOME Software, actual firmware handling for Linux through Linux Vendor Firmware Service, better manageability through Fleet Commander, and Project Silverblue for reliable OS updates. We also had a lot of efforts done to improve general hardware handling, be that work on glvnd and friends for dealing with NVidia driver, the Bolt project for handling Thunderbolt devices better, HiDPI support in the desktop, better touch support in the desktop, improved laptop battery life, and ongoing work to improve state of fingerprint readers under Linux and to provide a flicker free boot experience.

One thing though that was clear to us was that as we where making all these changes to improve the ease of use and reliability of Linux as a desktop operating system we couldn’t make life worse for developers. Developers are the lifeblood of Fedora and Linux and thus we have had Debarshi Ray working on a project we call Fedora Toolbox. Fedora toolbox creates a seamless experience for developers when using an immutable OS like Silverblue, yet want to be able to install the wonderful world of software libraries and tools that makes Linux so powerful for developers. Fedora Toolbox is now ready for early adopters to start testing, so I recommend jumping over to Debarshi’s blog to read up on Fedora Toolbox.