making the jump to gnome 3

Clearly I’m not quite as bleeding edge as AdamW is!

Well the pros, well really the wants, finally won out over the cons and I upgraded my primary laptop that I use for work and just about everything else to Fedora 15 and gnome 3. What finally pushed me over the edge? Evolution 3 and Firefox 5.

I’d been running evo 3 in a VM on my laptop for quite some time. At work our corporate mail system is MS Exchange and the only access we have to it is via MAPI so Evolution is my life saver and I generally find it quite good. Over the last couple of release cycles Matthew Barnes, Milan Crha and others have been making MASSIVE improvements so I often end up compiling the latest dev release for the current stable Fedora release for the latest evolution bling. GTK3 sort of put a halt to that for F-14 -> F15. One thing I couldn’t work out for this upgrade is why evolution-NetworkManager wasn’t installed by default (maybe its my setup).

I mostly like gnome 3, I have been using it on a number of non primary devices for months. I’m really not interested in any of the politics of it. As a primary device I’ve only been using it for an hour or so. That said there’s a few weird discrepancies.

Language: I live in the UK and use UK language and keyboard settings. On upgrading and logging back in it was back to the US. Hmm. Going into my account there’s a spot to set the language. Cool! Why do I need to put the root password in to change this setting? I can understand having to re-enter my password (we have jokers in the office that change things like this) but not the root password. And why do I also then have to set it in “Region and Language” in the System Settings as well? Oh, and why isn’t the “Colour” system icon localised?

Printing: I have a networked copier configured on this. It seems I can now print colour to it. Awesome! Why when I click “Options” do I get nothing? I happen to like the minimisation of options (I’m lazy so tend to stick with defaults anyway) but printing tends to be one of the horribly complex things. EG I don’t want to print to US paper and I do want to print duplex and turn off colour printing as default options.

Active window: The new gnome theme with its nearly the same colour for all windows makes it hard to tell which is the active window. While with all maximised windows on a single screen this doesn’t really make much difference. On multi monitor it does!

While we’re on the topic of multiple monitors, I’ve yet to test dock/undock and suspend/resume monitor detection. It was sorely broken the last I tested it and it was the primary reason I had delayed my upgrade so long. I usually go 2-3 weeks without a reboot and will undock/redock 100s of times in that time. Having it remember my screen and windows layout is important. Its very time consuming to have to reconfigure and position every time I change configs.

Instant Messaging: I’ll need the pidgin extension. I have around 6 years of pidgin logs that I reference regularly. There’s been a bug open for this since F-10 and until that’s closed pidgin and I are wed.

Rhythmbox: Wasn’t there suppose audio controls somewhere? Or am I plain blind. I would like to get rid of the main box and just be able to control play/pause/skip etc from within the shell like the icon use to. I thought I saw somewhere that the shell had media controls in there.

I’m looking forward to gnome 3.2 especially getting multiple time zones back in the clock, the online account integration and of course Evolution 3.2 and all its new features and improvements!

Fedora Board

So it seems I was elected to a position on the Fedora Board. WOW! I’d like to thank all the candidates that stood for the elections and more importantly all the Fedora contributors that took the time to vote. I’m looking forward to the challenge of sitting on the Board and contributing in another way to such a fantastic project.

Projects I would love to see packaged in Fedora

I suspect this won’t be my last post like this. I use to just package them up myself but I’m finding that the amount of packages I maintain is increasing and the time I have to actually maintain them is decreasing and I know there’s people that are likely better suited to some of these packages than I am.

PinPoint – a tool for making hackers do excellent presentations
What more do I need to say! PinPoint is a clutter based tool for making cool presentations without death by bullet point.

Media Explorer – a media centre application for Linux
Media Explorer is another clutter/Mx based project for playing various types of media. It leverages existing libraries (GUPnP, Grilo, Tracker, GStreamer) to find, index and play local and remote media. It comes from the original Moblin team and looks very cool.

SqueezeBox server
SqueezeBox server is a music server for Logitech’s excellent SqueezeBox devices but it works with other devices. There’s upstream rpms but its unfortunately broken with Fedora 15. The server is written in perl and I believe the code is all open source including a number of clients.

There’s a couple of utils that are part of the libiMobileDevice project that some people might find useful that aren’t yet packaged. ideviceinstaller for app management is one, nautilus-ideviceinfo for extended information in Nautilus is the other.

Fedora ARM hardfp bring up FAD

So the hardfp on Fedora bring up is happening today. Newer ARMv7 chipsets can basically run in two modes that aren’t compatible. The current and most widely used variant is softfp which uses a software based FPU. The newer and cooler (read faster) variant ARMv7 chips contain a hardware FPU but the GNU open tool chain has only recently got to the stage where its all supported. All the needed components should be in Fedora 15 with one of the key pieces being gcc 4.6.

What does it mean for ARM on Fedora…. in the short term likely not much. The older ARMv5tel platform support isn’t going anywhere. Its a little like mainline x86_64 vs i386 platforms, except you can’t run 5tel binaries on 7hl distributions (although you can run an entire 5tel distro on ARMv7 hardware. Also with the hardfp stack support being very new there will likely be a number of weird and interesting bugs that will make it not for the faint of heart.

With luck this should change in the Fedora 16 time frame and with luck we should be in sync on both armv7l (hardfp) and armv5tel (softfp) in the Fedora 16 timeframe for a near in-sync release.

Fedora Board Questions

As part of the upcoming Board Elections the candidates were asked to complete a number of questions that have been published here. It seems that only two responses were published. I’m not sure why that is but it seems somewhat strange that only two of the seven replied. I also didn’t seem to realise that it wasn’t necessary to answer all questions. Oh well. Here are my answers for those that might be interested that aren’t aware of the wiki page:

What will you be able to accomplish by being elected, that you would not otherwise be able to do as a contributor?

It allows me to contribute back to the project in a more central way than being a contributor and to contribute ideas and direction in a quicker and more direct way.

What will you do to ensure that Fedora remains at the forefront of innovation in the GNU/Linux space?

I believe we need to add more focus on support for mobile devices. With the popularity of small devices such as smart phones, tablets, TV set top boxes and other small, low powered devices I believe we need to better support them, both connecting too them (eg ensuring you can share media from your Fedora laptop with your DLNA connected TV) as well as allowing people to run Fedora on them.

What do you view Fedora’s purpose and place being in the F/LOSS microcosm.

I believe we’re a leader in a lot of areas of innovation. Fedora 15 being the first to ship GNOME 3 and systemd is a perfect and currently relevant example of this. But being in this leading space does scare some users away as they tend to like or require more stable environments that aren’t quite so close to the bleeding edge. Again systemd is an example of this, its the single largest shake up to the unix initialisation system ever.

What are your top three priorities as a board member?

In no particular order:

  • Expansion of support within Fedora to mobile and low power devices such as ARM to ensure Fedora can lead in the ever expanding mobile and low powered device space and allow Fedora to assist others to innovate in this massive arena.
  • Allowing all groups that wish to use Fedora to be able to do so as simply and easily as possible.
  • Ensuring all groups work together nicely and think outside their own box and to impact other groups in a good way rather than a “my way or the highway” attitude.

What do you think about Fedora’s vision and goals?

I think they’re pretty spot on. The four F’s and associated values I think provide a simple vision that is timeless and generally works very well.

Who do you think Fedora is for today? Who should it be for?

I believe Fedora is more for the hobbyist and technology savvy people. I think its very usable for most people but the quick upgrade releases isn’t always what people want. Its much more simple to install than other proprietary OSes, and provides what most consumers want which is generally communications, social networking, photos and music.

If proprietary is black (100% gray) and uncompromising completely free right down to the hardware is white (0% gray), what % of gray are you and why?

I think around 40-50%. I prefer free and open software and hardware. It allows innovative use of various platforms that the manufactures of the HW/SW could never have dreamed of or envisioned. But I’m also a realist, companies need to be able to operate stable, usable systems in order to be able to run their business whether it be technology or more mainline business. I believe in the best tools for the job, and in a lot of cases now days its free and open software that provides this.

Where do you see Fedora in five years? How do you think we’ll get there?

I think Fedora as a distribution will be in a similar location where we are today but running on a completely different class of device. It will still be aimed at server side and derivatives of it will be very mainstream in cloud and associated hosting solutions although its likely you may not even know it. It will be very much more persuasive in the mobile space and I believe that ARM will have been a primary platform for a couple of years. It will still be leading by example.

Mobility Devices

I’ve been meaning to do a post with details of all the small devices I have. Not all the devices pictured below currently run Fedora although nine out of the twelve shown either currently run Fedora or I’ve had them boot Fedora. The three devices that don’t, as yet, boot Fedora are devices 8, 9 and 11. There’s no reason why they can’t as they all run some form of Linux, in the case of 8 and 11 its Android and 9 is a Logitech SqueezeBox Touch.

One of the things that I’ve been trying to achieve in Fedora for many years is slimming of the required dependencies of certain combinations of installs. Not everyone needs everything, and not everyone has Terabytes of storage that can be thrown about.

So what are all the devices above. I’ll go through each one and give some details of each:

  1. OLPC XO 1.75: 1Ghz ARMv7 Processor, 512Mb RAM, 4Gb eMMC storage, GPU Unknown
  2. OLPC XO 1.5: 1Ghz VIA C7 Processor, 1Gb RAM, 4Gb microSD storage, VIA VX855 GPU
  3. OLPC XO 1.0: 433Mhz AMD Geode Processor, 256Mb RAM, 1Gb Flash storage, Geode GPU
  4. Nokia n900: 800Mhz OMAP3 A8 ARMv7 Processor, 256Mb RAM, 32Gb eMMC storage, PowerVR SGX530 GPU
  5. BeagleBoard XM: 1Ghz OMAP3 A8 ARMv7 Processor, 512Mb RAM, 8Gb microSD storage, PowerVR SGX530 GPU
  6. Fit-PC 1.0: 500Mhz AMD Geode Processor, 256Mb RAM, 40Gb HDD, Geode GPU
  7. O2 Joggler: 1Ghz Z520 Atom Processor, 512Mb RAM, 2Gb Flash storage, GMA-500 Poulsbo GPU
  8. Orange SanFrancisco AKA ZTE Blade: 600Mhz Qualcomm MSM7227 ARMv6 processor, 512Mb RAM, 150Mb Flash, Adreno 200 GPU
  9. Logitech SqueezeBox Touch: 600Mhz ARMv6 Processor, 128Mb RAM, 128Mb Flash, GPU Unknown
  10. Toshia AC100: Dual Core 1Ghz Tegra 250 A9 ARMv7 Processor, 512Mb RAM, 8Gb SSD, GeForce ULP GPU
  11. Samsung Galaxy Tab:1Ghz Samsung A8 ARMv7 Processor, 512Mb RAM, 16Gb SSD, PowerVR SGX540 GPU
  12. Asus EeePC 901: 1.6 Ghz Atom Processor, 1Gb RAM, 4Gb Primary SSD, 16 Gb Secondary SSD, Intel G450 GPU

All the devices have WiFi, some have wired Ethernet, some 3G, GPS etc.

There’s two main issues with smaller “mobility” devices. Firstly is the GPU support is obviously a mixed bag, there’s obviously AdamW’s favourite GPU… the Poulsbo on the Intel Z5xx series atoms. The Poulsbo is basically a variant of the PowerVR GPU’s that Intel licenese. Unfortunately this is still basically the case for the new Z6xx series which contain a GMA-600 Poulsbo device. Buyer beware! Its been leaked this week that Intel for later generations isn’t going to improve the situation as they just going to use the PowerVR GPU directly.

The other issue is storage. Most of the devices just don’t have that much of it. This is why I spend so much time filing bugs to split out dependencies. While you can install the standard desktop into 4Gb it doesn’t leave that much for things like yum updates or fun things like music 🙂

gnome 3

Well the new gnome 3 has certainly polarised the community. I must say I generally really like it, but also I’m not yet running it on my default machine. Historically I’ve upgraded my primary laptop to the current development release of Fedora around the beta release. This time I’ve not. Why? Well there’s one major feature that has “Just Worked” for me for as long as I remember and I use it every day I’m in the office that isn’t yet working well in gnome 3 and it would cost me way too much time on an average work day.

I have a Dell Latitude E-Series laptop with a docking station and a second screen. Pretty much everyone in our 300 person office has this config. People use them all a different ways. Side by side, stacked on top of each other, laptop closed with one screen etc. Some Gnome 3 just doesn’t work well with dual screens in a dock evironment yet. On Fedora 14 I can undock the laptop and head off to a meeting. When I undock all the windows collapse down onto the laptop screen. When I redock it detects my second screen is back and all my windows go back to the way they were. At the end of the day I suspend my laptop and go home, it works, when I return the next day it returns them as I had them. On gnome 3 the undock generally works well most of the time. The redock doesn’t. It doesn’t turn on the screen, reconfigure it as a second screen and put all the windows back on there. To get my windows back to the way I had them takes a good 5 mins of moving stuff around. Do that ten times a day and it adds up to quite a bit of wasted time that I just don’t have! Chatting with Jon McCann at RedHat Summit he mentioned it was likely a gsettings (I think from memory) problem and should be easily fixed (I will test patches!).

But there are things I love in gnome 3 and I would love to move to it permanently. The new evolution 3 is lovely! Our office uses Exchange as its corporate collaboration system. evolution-mapi allows me to do all the email/contacts/calendaring within Fedora generally without too much issue. v3 adds to that and evo 3 works pretty well! To get this lovely in the office while retaining my dual screen functionality I run a lvm VM on my laptop with F-15 and have evo running over a X session to the main F-14 desktop.

There’s lots of other nice things about gnome 3 and I look forward to being able to run it properly to get access to those things. There’s other regressions I know, and I can live with those. WPA Enterprise support (which again we use through out all out offices in Europe) has work arounds, the timezones in the clock I’m reliably informed will be back in gnome 3.2, people are working on gnotes and there’s a gnome 3 plugin for pidgin flying about (I would move to empathy when I can import my 5 years of logs that I use daily for reference). Those are minor, it was a massive change and there will always be regressions. I look forward to decent dual screen support again soon 🙂

More thoughts on the Fedora Feature Process

This is the second release running that another component of the Fedora Feature process has come and bitten me in the proverbial. This time its the “Major Features”(tm), must be landed by the Alpha release, part of the process.

For Fedora 14 the feature that abused this requirement was python 2.7. Rather than landing by the Alpha release it landed moments before we locked down for the Beta breaking things horribly and causing massive amounts of work post Beta when we were suppose to be stabilising the release. This affected Sugar amongst massively as that’s the language its primarily written in.

For Fedora 15 the abuse was by NetworkManager. Complete API borkage with very little notification (well at least that I saw) moments before the Beta release. Unfortunately again its Sugar that takes the hit and it looks like we’re not going to have it working by release. I’m doing my best to attempt to teach myself python to hack up some form of support but given I’m just learning python converting a network stack isn’t the easiest of things, and work seems to get in the way at the least opportune of moments.

I don’t want to blame developers. Everyone has different agenda’s and issues that they try and balance but what really pisses me off is that its not in by the alpha, or if its going to be massively late there needs to be a lot more heads up or assistance. BTW Massive big kudos to the Evolution developers for getting this pretty close to right for both the F-14 and F-15 releases as they were going through huge API changes. If that’s not going to happen then FESCo or The Board or whoever is in charge of developing the “feature rules and policy” actually needs to bloody well enforce them and say “sorry it needs to go in the next Release”. They do after all have all the way back to alpha of the previous release to land the feature (that was the whole purpose of forking rawhide at alpha and not later in the process) and have all the breakage they like. It gives six months for poor mugs like me to either, organise other busy upstream developers to help, or to work out how to code in python myself to fix it, rather than what seems like six days to attempt to scratch something together. It won’t be popular but maybe a single high profile incident will make everyone step back and think about others and how they may affect them.

With the upcoming FESCo and Board elections I look forward to what people have to say. Why not run for them yourself I hear you say? I’d personally love to but unfortunately with a number of other things going on in my life at the moment I don’t have the time. Either I would have to drop all the package and Sugar/OLPC stuff I’m currently doing to make enough time for it, becoming again a pure Fedora consumer, or remove all traces of the scant personal life that I currently have. I don’t currently wish to do either.

Cheap hardware to get involved in Fedora ARM?

For Fedora people that are interested in getting involved with the ARM secondary arch you can currently get a Pogo Plug from CompUSA for a smidg under 60 greenbacks. In hardware specs, its pretty much a SheevaPlug in pretty clothing, so its well supported on Fedora ARM. There should also be some nifty improvements soon to make it even easier to use Fedora on ARM devices thanks to some cool projects by students at Seneca College for kernel build rpms!


Well in the vote for naming for Fedora 16 I’ve voted for a Beefy Miracle 🙂

Having known of the Hot Dog for a while it wasn’t until FUDCon Tempe the fan base he has!

In other voting news Red Hat has announced the finalists for their 2011 Red Hat Certified of the Year Finalists. I’ve been nominated as the Finalist for the EMEA region continuing a fine Fedora tradition. I would appreciate your vote so the Fedora tradition can continue. So follow the link and cast your vote there as well (it takes even less time than voting for the release name!) and if I happen to be fortunate enough to win I’ll be at the Red Hat Summit continuing to where the Fedora hat 🙂