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.

GStreamer Conference 2015

Wanted to let everyone know that the GStreamer Conference 2015 is happening for the 6th time this year. So if you want to attend the premier open source multimedia conference you can do so in Dublin, Ireland between the 8th and 9th of October. If you want to attend I suggest registering as early as possible using the GStreamer Conference registration webpage. Like earlier years the GStreamer Conference is co-located with other great conferences like the Embedded Linux Conference Europe so you have the chance to combine the attendance into one trip.

The GStreamer Conference has always been a great opportunity to not only learn about the latest developments in GStreamer, but about whats happeing in the general Linux multimedia stack, latest news from the world of codec development and other related topics. I strongly recommend setting aside the 8th and the 9th of October for a trip to Dublin and the GStreamer Conference.

Also a heads up for those interested in doing a talk. The formal deadline for submitting a proposal is this Sunday the 9th of August, so you need to hurry to send in a proposal. You find the details for how to submit a talk on the GStreamer Conference 2015 website. While talks submitted before the 9th will be prioritized I do recommend anyone seeing this after the deadline to still send in a proposal as there might be a chance to get on the program anyway if you get your proposal in during next week.

Fedora Workstation next steps : Introducing Pinos

So this will be the first in a series of blogs talking about some major initiatives we are doing for Fedora Workstation. Today I want to present and talk about a thing we call Pinos.

So what is Pinos? One of the original goals of Pinos was to provide the same level of advanced hardware handling for Video that PulseAudio provides for Audio. For those of you who has been around for a while you might remember how you once upon a time could only have one application using the sound card at the same time until PulseAudio properly fixed that. Well Pinos will allow you to share your video camera between multiple applications and also provide an easy to use API to do so.

Video providers and consumers are implemented as separate processes communicating with DBUS and exchanging video frames using fd passing.

Some features of Pinos

  • Easier switching of cameras in your applications
  • It will also allow you to more easily allow applications to switch between multiple cameras or mix the content from multiple sources.

  • Multiple types of video inputs
  • Supports more than cameras. Pinos also supports other type of video sources, for instance it can support your desktop as a video source.

  • GStreamer integration
  • Pinos is built using GStreamer and also have GStreamer elements supporting it to make integrating it into GStreamer applications simple and straightforward.

  • Pinos got some audio support
  • Well it tries to solve some of the same issues for video that PulseAudio solves for audio. Namely letting you have multiple applications sharing the same camera hardware. Pinos does also include audio support in order to let you handle both.

What do we want to do with this in Fedora Workstation?

  • One thing we know is of great use and importance for many of our users, including many developers who wants to make videos demonstrating their software, is to have better screen capture support. One of the test cases we are using for Pinos is to improve the built in screen casting capabilities of GNOME 3, the goal being to reducing overhead and to allow for easy setup of picture in picture capturing. So you can easily set it up so there will be a camera capturing your face and voice and mixing that into your screen recording.
  • Video support for Desktop Sandboxes. We have been working for a while on providing technology for sandboxing your desktop applications and while we with a little work can use PulseAudio for giving the sandboxed applications audio access we needed something similar for video. Pinos provides us with such a solution.

Who is working on this?
Pinos is being designed and written by Wim Taymans who is the co-creator of the GStreamer multimedia framework and also a regular contributor to the PulseAudio project. Wim is also the working for Red Hat as a Principal Engineer, being in charge of a lot of our multimedia support in both Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora. It is also worth nothing that it draws many of its ideas from an early prototype by William Manley called PulseVideo and builds upon some of the code that was merged into GStreamer due to that effort.

Where can I get the code?
The code is currently hosteed in Wim’s private repository on freedesktop. You can get it at cgit.freedesktop.org/~wtay/pinos.

How can I get involved or talk to the author
You can find Wim on Freenode IRC, he uses the name wtay and hangs out in both the #gstreamer and #pulseaudio IRC channels.
Once the project is a bit further along we will get some basic web presence set up and a mailing list created.

FAQ

If Pinos contains Audio support will it eventually replace PulseAudio too?
Probably not, the usecases and goals for the two systems are somewhat different and it is not clear that trying to make Pinos accommodate all the PulseAudio usescases would be worth the effort or possible withour feature loss. So while there is always a temptation to think ‘hey, wouldn’t it be nice to have one system that can handle everything’ we are at this point unconvinced that the gain outweighs the pain.

Will Pinos offer re-directing kernel APIs for video devices like PulseAudio does for Audio? In order to handle legacy applications?
No, that was possible due to the way ALSA worked, but V4L2 doesn’t have such capabilities and thus we can not take advantage of them.

Why the name Pinos?
The code name for the project was PulseVideo, but to avoid confusion with the PulseAudio project and avoid people making to many assumptions based on the name we decided to follow in the tradition of Wayland and Weston and take inspiration from local place names related to the creator. So since Wim lives in Pinos de Alhaurin close to Malaga in Spain we decided to call the project Pinos. Pinos is the word for pines in Spanish :)

Fedora Workstation 22 is out!

So we just got the second Fedora Workstation release out the door, and I am quite happy with it, we had quite a few last minute hardware issues pop up, but due to the hard work of the team we where able to get them fixed in time for todays release.

Every release we do is of course the result of both work we do as part of the Fedora Workstation team, but we also rely on a lot of other people upstream. I would like to especially call out Laurent Pinchart, who is the upstream maintainer of the UVC driver, who fixed a bug we discovered with some built in webcams on newer laptops. So thank you Laurent! So for any users of the Toshiba z20t Portege laptop, your rear camera now works thanks to Laurent :)

Having a relatively short development cycle this release doesn’t contain huge amounts of major changes, but our team did manage to sneak in a few nice new features. As you can see from this blog entry from Allan Day the notification area re-design that he and Florian worked on landed. It is a huge improvement in my opinion and will let us continue polishing the notification behavior of applications going forward.

We have a bunch of improvements to the Nautilus file manager thanks to the work of Carlos Soriano. Recommend reading through his blog as there is a quite sizeable collection of smaller fixes and improvements he was able to push through.

Another thing we got properly resolved for Fedora Workstation 22 is installing it in Boxes. Boxes is our easy to use virtual machine manager which we are putting resources into to make a great developer companion. So while this is a smaller fix for Boxes and Fedora, we have some great Boxes features lining up for the next Fedora release, so stayed tuned for more on that in another blog post.

Wayland support is also marching forward with this release. The GDM session you get upon installing Fedora Workstation 22 will now default to Wayland, but fall back to X if there is an issue. It is a first step towards migrating the default session to Wayland. We still have some work to do there to get the Wayland session perfect, but we are closing the gap rapidly. Jonas Ã…dahl and Owen Taylor is pushing that effort forward.

Related to Wayland we introduce libinput as the backend for both X and Wayland in this release. While we shipped libinput in Fedora 21, when we wrote libinput we did so with Wayland as the primary target, yet at the same time we realized that we didn’t want to maintain two separate input systems going forward, so in this release also X.org uses libinput for input. This means we have one library to work on now that will improve input in both your Wayland session and X sessions.

This is also the first release featuring the new Adwaita theme for Qt. This release supports Qt4, but we hope to support Qt5 in an upcoming Fedora release and also include a dark variant of the theme for Qt applications. Martin Briza has been leading that effort.

Another nice little feature addition this release is the notification of long running jobs in the terminal. It was a feature we wanted to do from early on in the Fedora Workstation process, but it took quite some while to figure out the fine details for how we wanted to do it. Basically it means you no longer need to check in with your open terminals to see if a job has completed, instead you are now getting a notification. So you can for instance start a compile and then not have to think about it again until you get the notification. We are still tweaking the notifications a little bit for this one, to make sure we cut down the amount of unhelpful notifications to an absolute minimum, so if you have feedback on how we can improve this feature we be happy to hear it. For example we are thinking about turning off the notification for UI applications launched from a terminal.

Anyway, we have a lot of features in the pipeline now for Fedora Workstation 23 since quite a few of the items planned for Fedora Workstation 22 didn’t get completed in time, so I am looking forward to writing a blog informing you about those soon.

You can also read about this release in Fedora Magazine.

Summary of Fedora Workstation feedback

So I composed an email today to the Fedora-desktop mailing list to summarize the feedback we got here on the blog post on
my request for reasons people where not switching to Fedora. Thought I should share it here too for easier access for the
wider community and for the commentators to see that I did take the time to go through and try to summarize the posts.
Of course feel free to comment on this blog if you think I missed something important or if there are other major items we
should be thinking about. We will be discussing this both on the mailing list, in our Workstation working group meetings and at Flock in August. Anyway, I will let you go on to read the email (you can find the thread here if interested.

************************
A couple of weeks ago I blogged about who Fedora Workstation is an integrated system, but also asking for
feedback for why people are not migrating to Fedora Workstation, especially asking about why people would be using
GNOME 3 on another distro. So I got about 140 comments on that post so I thought I should write up a summary and
post here. There was of course a lot of things mentioned, but I will try to keep this summary to what I picked up
as the recurring topics.

So while this of course is a poll consisting of self selected commentators I still think the sample is big enough that we
should take the feedback into serious consideration for our plans going forward. Some of them I even think are already
handled by underway efforts.

Release cadence
Quite a few people mentioned this, ranging from those who wanted to switch us to a rolling release, a tick/tock
release style, to just long release cycles. Probably more people saying they thought the current 6 Month cycle
was just to harrowing than people who wanted rolling releases or tick/tock releases.

3rd Party Software
This was the single most brought up item. With people saying that they stayed on other distros due to the pain of
getting 3rd party software on Fedora. This ranged from drivers (NVidia, Wi-Fi), to media codecs to end user
applications. Width of software available in general was also brought up quite a few times. If anyone is in any doubt
that our current policy here is costing us users I think these comments clearly demonstrates otherwise.

Optimus support
Quite a few people did bring up that our Optimus support wasn’t great. Luckily I know Bastien Nocera is working on
something there based on work by Dave Arlie, so hopefully this is one we can check off soon.

Upgrades
Many people also pointed out that we had no UI for upgrading Fedora.

HiDPI issues
A few comments on various challenges people have with HiDPI screens, especially when dealing with non-GTK3 apps-

Multimonitor support
A few comments that our multimonitor support could be better

SELinux is a pain
A few comments about SELinux still getting in the way at times

Better Android integration
A few people asked for more/better Android device integration features

Built in backup solution
A few people requested we create some kind of integrated backup solution

Also a few concrete requests in terms of applications for Fedora:
http://www.mixxx.org
http://www.vocalproject.net
https://gnumdk.github.io/lollypop/
http://peterlevi.com/variety/
http://foldercolor.tuxfamily.org
choqok for GNOME (microblogging client)

Fedora Workstation: More than the sum of its parts

So I came across this very positive review of Fedora Workstation on linux.com, although it was billed as a review of GNOME 3.16. Which is of course correct, in the sense that the desktop we are going to ship on Fedora Workstation 22 is GNOME 3.16. But I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight that when you look at Fedora Workstation it is a complete and integrated operating system. As I mentioned in a blog post about Fedora Workstation last April the core idea for Fedora Workstation is to stop treating the operating system as a bag of parts and instead look at it as a whole, because if we are to drain the swamp here we need to solve the major issues that people face with their desktop regardless of if that issue is in the kernel, the graphics drivers, glibc or elsewhere in your system. We can not just look at the small subset of packages that provides the chrome for your user interface in isolation.

This is why we are working on reliable firmware upgrades for your UEFI motherboard by participating in the UEFI working group and adding functionality in GNOME Software to handle doing firmware updates.

This is why we recently joined Khronos to make sure the standards for doing 3D on Linux are good and open source friendly.

This is why we been working so hard on improving coverage of Appdata metadata coverage, well beyond the confines of ‘GNOME’ software.

This is why we have Richard Hughes and Owen Taylor working on how we can improve battery life when running
Fedora or RHEL on laptops.

This is why we created dnf to replace yum, to get a fast and efficient package update system.

This is why we are working on an Adwaita theme for Qt

And this is why we are pushing hard forward with a lot of other efforts like Wayland, libinput, Fleet Commander, Boxes and more.

So when you look at the user experience you get on Fedora Workstation, remember that it is not just a question of which version of GNOME we are shipping, but it is the fact that we are working hard on putting together a tightly vertically integrated and tested system from the kernel up to core desktop applications.

Anyone who has been using Fedora for a long while knows that this change was a major change in philosophy and approach for the project, as Fedora up to the 21 release of the 3 new products was very much defined by the opposite, being all about the lego blocks, which contributed to the image of Fedora being a bleeding edge system where you should be prepared to do a lot of bleeding and where you probably wanted to keep your toolbox with you at all times in case something broke. So I have to say that I am mightily impressed by how the Fedora community has taken to this major change where we now are instead focusing our efforts on our 3 core products and are putting a lot of effort into creating stuff that is polished and reliable, and which aims to be leading edge instead of bleeding edge.

So with all this in mind I was a little disappointed when the reviewer writing the article in question ended his review by saying he was now waiting for GNOME 3.16 to appear in Ubuntu GNOME, because there is no guarantees that he would get the same overall user experience in Ubuntu GNOME that we have developed for Fedora Workstation, which is the user experience his review reflects.

Anyway, I thought this could be a good opportunity to actually ask the wider community a question, especially if you are using GNOME on another distribution than Fedora, what are we still missing at this point for you to consider making a switch to Fedora Workstation? I know that for some of you the answer might be as simple as ‘worn in shoes fits the best’, but anything you might have beyond that would be great to hear.
I can’t promise that we will be able to implement every suggestion you add to this blog post, but I do promise that we will review and consider every suggestion you provide and try to see how it can fit into development plans going forward.

Congratulations to Endless Computer

So the Endless Computer kickstarter just succeeded in their funding goal of 100K USD. A big heartfelt congratulations to the whole team and I am looking forward to receiving my system. For everyone else out there I strongly recommend getting in on their kickstarter, not only do you get a cool looking computer with a really nice Linux desktop, you are helping a company forward that has the potential to take the linux dektop to the next level. And the be aware that the computer is a standard computer (yet very cool looking) at the end of the day, so if you want to install Fedora Workstation on it you can :)

Red Hat joins Khronos

So Red Hat are now formally a member of the Khronos Groups who many of probably know as the shepherds of the OpenGL standard. We haven’t gotten all the little bits sorted yet, like getting our logo on the Khronos website, but our engineers are signing up for the various Khronos working groups etc. as we speak.

So the reason we are joining is because of all the important changes that are happening in Graphics and GPU compute these days and our wish to have more direct input of the direction of some of these technologies. Our efforts are likely to focus on improving the OpenGL specification by proposing some new extensions to OpenGL, and of course providing input and help with moving the new Vulkan standard forward.

So well known Red Hat engineers such as Dave Airlie, Adam Jackson, Rob Clark and others will from now on play a much more direct role in helping shape the future of 3D Graphics standards. And we really look forward to working with our friends and colleagues at Nvidia, AMD, Intel, Valve and more inside Khronos.

kdbus discussion

I am following the discussion caused by Greg Kroah-Hartman requesting that kdbus be pulled into the next kernel release. First of all my hat of to Greg for his persistence and staying civil. There has already been quite a few posts to the thread at coming close to attempts at character assassination and a lot of emails just adding more noise, but no signal.

One point I feel is missing from the discussion here though is the question of not making the perfect the enemy of the good. A lot of the posters are saying that ‘hey, you should write something perfect here instead of what you have currently’. Which sounds reasonable on some level, but when you think of it is more a deflection strategy than a real suggestion. First of all the is no such thing as perfect. And secondly if there was how long would it take to provide the theoretical perfect thing? 2 more years, 4 years, 10 years?

Speaking as someone involved in making an operating system I can say that we would have liked to have kdbus 5 years ago and would much prefer to get kdbus in the next few Months, than getting something ‘perfect’ in 5 years from now.

So you can say ‘hey, you are creating a strawman here, nobody used the word ‘perfect” in the discussion. Sure, nobody used that word, but a lot of messages was written about how ‘something better’ should be created here instead. Yet, based on from where these people seemed to be coming the question I ask then is: Better for who? Better for the developers who are already using dbus in the applications or desktops? Better for a kernel developer who is never going to use it? Better for someone doing code review? Better for someone who doesn’t need the features of dbus, but who would want something else?

And what is ‘better’ anyway? Greg keeps calling for concrete technical feedback, but at the end of the day there is a lot of cases where the ‘best’ technical solution, to the degree you can measure that objectively, isn’t actually ‘the best’. I mean if I came up with a new format for storing multimedia on an optical disk, one which from a technical perspective is ‘better’ than the current Blu-Ray spec, that doesn’t mean it is actually better for the general public. Getting a non-standard optical disc that will not play in your home Blu-Ray player isn’t better for 99.999% of people, regardless of the technical merit of the on-disc data format.

Something can actually be ‘better’ just because it is based on something that already exists, something which have a lot of people already using it, lets people quickly extend what they already are doing with the new functionality without needing a re-write and something which is available ‘now’ as opposed to some undefined time in the future. And that is where I feel a lot of the debaters on the lkml are dropping the ball in this discussion; they just keeping asking for a ‘better solution’ to the challenges of a space they often don’t have any personal experience with developing in, because kdbus doesn’t conform to how they would implement a kernel IPC mechanism for the kind of problems they are used to trying to solve.

Also there has been a lot of arguments about the ‘design’ of kdbus and dbus. A lot of lacking concreteness to it and mostly coming from people very far removed from working on the desktop and other relevant parts of userspace. Which at the end of the day boils down to trying to make the lithmus test ‘you have to prove to me that making a better design is impossible’, and I think that anyone should be able to agree that if that was the test for adding anything to the Linux kernel or elsewhere then very little software would ever get added anywhere. In fact if we where to hold to that kind of argumentation we might as well leave software development behind and move to an online religion discussion forum tossing the good ol’ “prove to me that God doesn’t exist’ into the ring.

So in the end I hope Linus, who is the final arbiter here, doesn’t end up making the ‘perfect’ the enemy of the good.

Fedora, Red Hat, GStreamer and more

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