Not many changes this time, but some of them hopefully still useful for some people, such as the empty initial state that is now shown when you don’t have any pictures, as requested a while ago already by Nick Richards (thanks Nick!), or the removal of the applications menu from the shell’s top panel (now integrated in the hamburger menu), in line with the “App Menu Retirement” initiative.
Then there were some fixes here and there as usual, and quite so many updates to the translations this time, including a brand new translation to Icelandic! (thanks Sveinn).
It’s been a pretty hectic time during the past months for me here at Endless, busy with updating our desktop to the latest stable version of GNOME Shell (3.26, at the time the process started), among other things. And in all this excitement, it seems like I forgot to blog so I think this time I’ll keep it short for once, and simply link to a video I made a couple of months ago, right when I was about to finish the first phase of the process (which ended up taking a bit longer than expected).
Note that the production of this video is far from high quality (unsurprisingly), but the feedback I got so far is that it has been apparently very useful to explain to less technically inclined people what doing a rebase of this characteristics means, and with that in mind I woke up this morning realizing that it might be good to give it its own entry in my personal blog, so here it is.
(Pro-tip: Enable video subtitles to see contextual info)
Another year goes by and, again, I feel the call to make one more release just before 2017 over, so here we are: frogr 1.4 is out!
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Who uses Flickr in 2017 anyway?”. Well, as shocking as this might seem to you, it is apparently not just me who is using this small app, but also another 8,935 users out there issuing an average of 0.22 Queries Per Second every day (19008 queries a day) for the past year, according to the stats provided by Flickr for the API key.
Granted, it may be not a huge number compared to what other online services might be experiencing these days, but for me this is enough motivation to keep the little green frog working and running, thus worth updating it one more time. Also, I’d argue that these numbers for a niche app like this one (aimed at users of the Linux desktop that still use Flickr to upload pictures in 2017) do not even look too bad, although without more specific data backing this comment this is, of course, just my personal and highly-biased opinion.
So, what’s new? Some small changes and fixes, along with other less visible modifications, but still relevant and necessary IMHO:
Fixed integration with GNOME Software (fixed a bug regarding appstream data).
Fixed errors loading images from certain cameras & phones, such as the OnePlus 5.
Cleaned the code by finally migrating to using g_auto, g_autoptr and g_autofree.
Migrated to the meson build system, and removed all the autotools files.
Big update to translations, now with more than 22 languages 90% – 100% translated.
Also, this is the first release that happens after having a fully operational centralized place for Flatpak applications (aka Flathub), so I’ve updated the manifest and I’m happy to say that frogr 1.4 is already available for i386, arm, aarch64 and x86_64. You can install it either from GNOME Software (details on how to do it at https://flathub.org), or from the command line by just doing this:
Also worth mentioning that, starting with Frogr 1.4, I will no longer be updating my PPA at Launchpad. I did that in the past to make it possible for Ubuntu users to have access to the latest release ASAP, but now we have Flatpak that’s a much better way to install and run the latest stable release in any supported distro (not just Ubuntu). Thus, I’m dropping the extra work required to deal with the PPA and flat-out recommending users to use Flatpak or wait until their distro of choice packages the latest release.
After spending a few days in Manchester with other fellow GNOME hackers and colleagues from Endless, I’m finally back at my place in the sunny land of Surrey (England) and I thought it would be nice to write some sort of recap, so here it is:
I arrived in Manchester on Thursday the 27th just on time to go to the pre-registration event where I met the rest of the gang and had some dinner, and that was already a great start. Let’s forget about the fact that I lost my badge even before leaving the place, which has to be some type of record (losing the badge before the conference starts, really?), but all in all it was great to meet old friends, as well as some new faces, that evening already.
Then the 3 core days of GUADEC started. My first impression was that everything (including the accommodation at the university, which was awesome) was very well organized in general, and the venue make it for a perfect place to organize this type of event, so I was already impressed even before things started.
I attended many talks and all of them were great, but if I had to pick my 5 favourite ones I think those would be the following ones, in no particular order:
The GNOME Way, by Allan: A very insightful and inspiring talk, made me think of why we do the things we do, and why it matters. It also kicked an interesting pub conversation with Allan later on and I learned a new word in English (“principled“), so believe me it was great.
Keynote: The Battle Over Our Technology, by Karen: I have no words to express how much I enjoyed this talk. Karen was very powerful on stage and the way she shared her experiences and connected them to why Free Software is important did leave a mark.
Continuous: Past, Present, and Future, by Emmanuele: Sometimes I talk to friends and it strikes me how quickly they dismiss things as CI/CD as “boring” or “not interesting”, which I couldn’t disagree more with. This is very important work and Emmanuele is kicking ass as the build sheriff, so his talk was very interesting to me too. Also, he’s got a nice cat.
The History of GNOME, by Jonathan: Truth to be told, Jonathan already did a rather similar talk internally in Endless a while ago, so it was not entirely new to me, but I enjoyed it a lot too because it brought so many memories to my head: starting with when I started with Linux (RedHat 5.2 + GNOME pre-release!), when I used GNOME 1.x at the University and then moved to GNOME 2.x later on… not to mention the funny anecdotes he mentioned (never imagined the phone ringing while sleeping could be a good thing). Perfectly timed for the 20th anniversary of GNOME indeed!
As I said, I attended other talks too and all were great too, so I’d encourage you to check the schedule and watch the recordings once they are available online, you won’t regret it.
And the next GUADEC will be in… Almería!
One thing that surprised me this time was that I didn’t do as much hacking during the conference as in other occasions. Rather than seeing it as a bad thing, I believe that’s a clear indicator of how interesting and engaging the talks were this year, which made it for a perfect return after missing 3 edition (yes, my last GUADEC was in 2013).
All in all it was a wonderful experience, and I can thank and congratulate the local team and the volunteers who run the conference this year well enough, so here’s is a picture I took where you can see all the people standing up and clapping during the closing ceremony.
Many thanks and congratulations for all the work done. Seriously.
After 3 days of conference, the second part started: “2 days and a bit” (I was leaving on Wednesday morning) of meeting people and hacking in a different venue, where we gathered to work on different topics, plus the occasional high-bandwith meeting in person.
As you might expect, my main interest this time was around GNOME Shell, which is my main duty in Endless right now. This means that, besides trying to be present in the relevant BoFs, I’ve spent quite some time participating of discussions that gathered both upstream contributors and people from different companies (e.g. Endless, Red Hat, Canonical).
This was extremely helpful and useful for me since, now we have rebased our fork of GNOME Shell 3.22, we’re in a much better position to converge and contribute back to upstream in a more reasonable fashion, as well as to collaborate implementing new features that we already have in Endless but that didn’t make it to upstream yet.
And talking about those features, I’d like to highlight two things:
According to the designers this proposal was partially inspired by what we have in Endless, so you can imagine I would be quite happy to see such a plan move forward, as we could help with the coding side of things upstream while reducing our diff for future rebases. Thing is, this is a proposal for now so nothing is set in stone yet, but I will definitely be interested in following and participating of the relevant discussions regarding to this.
Second, as my colleague Georges already vaguely mentioned in his blog post, we had an improvised meeting on Wednesday with one of the designers from Red Hat (Jakub Steiner), where we discussed about a very particular feature upstream has wanted to have for a while and which Endless implemented downstream: management of folders using DnD, right from the apps view.
This is something that Endless has had in its desktop since the beginning of times, but the implementation relied in a downstream-specific version of folders that Endless OS implemented even before folders were available in the upstream GNOME Shell, so contributing that back would have been… “interesting”. But fortunately, we have now dropped that custom implementation of folders and embraced the upstream solution during the last rebase to 3.22, and we’re in a much better position now to contribute our solution upstream. Once this lands, you should be able to create, modify, remove and use folders without having to open GNOME Software at all, just by dragging and dropping apps on top of other apps and folders, pretty much in a similat fashion compared to how you would do it in a mobile OS these days.
We’re still in an early stage for this, though. Our current solution in Endless is based on some assumptions and tools that will simply not be the case upstream, so we will have to work with both the designers and the upstream maintainers to make this happen over the next months. Thus, don’t expect anything to land for the next stable release yet, but simply know we’ll be working on it and that should hopefully make it not too far in the future.
This GUADEC has been a blast for me, and probably the best and my most favourite edition ever among all those I’ve attended since 2008. Reasons for such a strong statement are diverse, but I think I can mention a few that are clear to me:
From a personal point of view, I never felt so engaged and part of the community as this time. I don’t know if that has something to do with my recent duties in Endless (e.g. flatpak, GNOME Shell) or with something less “tangible” but that’s the truth. Can’t state it well enough.
From the perspective of Endless, the fact that 17 of us were there is something to be very excited and happy about, specially considering that I work remotely and only see 4 of my colleagues from the London area on a regular basis (i.e. one day a week). Being able to meet people I don’t regularly see as well as some new faces in person is always great, but having them all together “under the same ceilings” for 6 days was simply outstanding.
GNOME 20th anniversary dinner
Also, as it happened, this year was the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the GNOME project and so the whole thing was quite emotional too. Not to mention that Federico’s birthday happened during GUADEC, which was a more than nice… coincidence? :-) Ah! And we also had an incredible dinner on Saturday to celebrate that, couldn’t certainly be a better opportunity for me to attend this conference!
Last, a nearly impossible thing happened: despite of the demanding schedule that an event like this imposes (and I’m including our daily visit to the pubs here too), I managed to go running every single day between 5km and 10km, which I believe is the first time it happened in my life. I definitely took my running gear with me to other conferences but this time was the only one I took it that seriously, and also the first time that I joined other fellow GNOME runners in the process, which was quite fun as well.
I couldn’t finish this extremely long post without a brief note to acknowledge and thank all the many people who made this possible this year: the GNOME Foundation and the amazing group of volunteers who helped organize it, the local team who did an outstanding job at all levels (venue, accomodation, events…), my employer Endless for sponsoring my attendance and, of course, all the people who attended the event and made it such an special GUADEC this year.
We just released Endless OS 3.2 to the world after a lot of really hard work from everyone here at Endless, including many important changes and fixes that spread pretty much across the whole OS: from the guts and less visible parts of the core system (e.g. a newer Linux kernel, OSTree and Flatpak improvements, updated libraries…) to other more visible parts including a whole rebase of the GNOME components and applications (e.g. mutter, gnome-settings-daemon, nautilus…), newer and improved “Endless apps” and a completely revamped desktop environment.
By the way, before I dive deeper into the rest of this post, I’d like to remind you thatEndless OS is a Operating System that you can download for free from our website, so please don’t hesitate to check it out if you want to try it by yourself. But now, even though I’d love to talk in detail about ALL the changes in this release, I’d like to talk specifically about what has kept me busy most of the time since around March: the full revamp of our desktop environment, that is, our particular version of GNOME Shell.
Endless OS 3.2 as it looks in my laptop right now
If you’re already familiar with what Endless OS is and/or with the GNOME project, you might already know that Endless’s desktop is a forked and heavily modified version of GNOME Shell, but what you might not know is that it was specifically based on GNOME Shell 3.8.
Yes, you read that right, no kidding: a now 4 years old version of GNOME Shell was alive and kicking underneath the thousands of downstream changes that we added on top of it during all that time to implement the desired user experience for our target users, as we iterated based on tons of user testing sessions, research, design visions… that this company has been working on right since its inception. That includes porting very visible things such as the “Endless button”, the user menu, the apps grid right on top of the desktop, the ability to drag’n’drop icons around to re-organize that grid and easily manage folders (by just dragging apps into/out-of folders), the integrated desktop search (+ additional search providers), the window picker mode… and many other things that are not visible at all, but that are required to deliver a tight and consistent experience to our users.
Endless button showcasing the new “show desktop” functionality
Aggregated system indicators and the user menu
Of course, this situation was not optimal and finally we decided we had found the right moment to tackle this situation in line with the 3.2 release, so I was tasked with leading the mission of “rebasing” our downstream changes on top of a newer shell (more specifically on top of GNOME Shell 3.22), which looked to me like a “hell of a task” when I started, but still I didn’t really hesitate much and gladly picked it up right away because I really did want to make our desktop experience even better, and this looked to me like a pretty good opportunity to do so.
By the way, note that I say “rebasing” between quotes, and the reason is because the usual approach of taking your downstream patches on top of a certain version of an Open Source project and apply them on top of whatever newer version you want to update to didn’t really work here: the vast amount of changes combined with the fact that the code base has changed quite a bit between 3.8 and 3.22 made that strategy fairly complicated, so in the end we had to opt for a combination of rebasing some patches (when they were clean enough and still made sense) and a re-implementation of the desired functionality on top of the newer base.
The integrated desktop search in action
New implementation for folders in Endless OS (based on upstream’s)
As you can imagine, and especially considering my fairly limited previous experience with things like mutter, clutter and the shell’s code, this proved to be a pretty difficult thing for me to take on if I’m truly honest. However, maybe it’s precisely because of all those things that, now that it’s released, I look at the result of all these months of hard work and I can’t help but feel very proud of what we achieved in this, pretty tight, time frame: we have a refreshed Endless OS desktop now with new functionality, better animations, better panels, better notifications, better folders (we ditched our own in favour of upstream’s), better infrastructure… better everything!.
Sure, it’s not perfect yet (no such a thing as “finished software”, right?) and we will keep working hard for the next releases to fix known issues and make it even better, but what we have released today is IMHO a pretty solid 3.2 release that I feel very proud of, and one that is out there now already for everyone to see, use and enjoy, and that is quite an achievement.
Removing and app by dragging and dropping it into the trash bin
Now, you might have noticed I used “we” most of the time in this post when referring to the hard work that we did, and that’s because this was not something I did myself alone, not at all. While it’s still true I started working on this mostly on my own and that I probably took on most of the biggest tasks myself, the truth is that several other people jumped in to help with this monumental task tackling a fair amount of important tasks in parallel, and I’m pretty sure we couldn’t have released this by now if not because of the team effort we managed to pull here.
The window picker as activated from the hot corner (bottom – right)
Last, before I finish this post, I’d just like to pre-answer a couple of questions that I guess some of you might have already:
Will you be proposing some of this changes upstream?
Our intention is to reduce the diff with upstream as much as possible, which is the reason we have left many things from upstream untouched in Endless OS 3.2 (e.g. the date/menu panel) and the reason why we already did some fairly big changes for 3.2 to get closer in other places we previously had our very own thing (e.g. folders), so be sure we will upstream everything we can as far as it’s possible and makes sense for upstream.
Actually, we have already pushed many patches to the shell and related projects since Endless moved to GNOME Shell a few years ago, and I don’t see any reason why that would change.
When will Endless OS desktop be rebased again on top of a newer GNOME Shell?
If anything we learned from this “rebasing” experience is that we don’t want to go through it ever again, seriously :-). It made sense to be based on an old shell for some time while we were prototyping and developing our desktop based on our research, user testing sessions and so on, but we now have a fairly mature system and the current plan is to move on from this situation where we had changes on top of a 4 years old codebase, to a point where we’ll keep closer to upstream, with more frequent rebases from now on.
Thus, the short answer to that question is that we plan to rebase the shell more frequently after this release, ideally two times a year so that we are never too far away from the latest GNOME Shell codebase.
And I think that’s all. I’ve already written too much, so if you excuse me I’ll get back to my Emacs (yes, I’m still using Emacs!) and let you enjoy this video of a recent development snapshot of Endless OS 3.2, as created by my colleague Michael Hall a few days ago:
Also, quick shameless plug just to remind you that we have an Endless Community website which you can join and use to provide feedback, ask questions or simply to keep informed about Endless. And if real time communication is your thing, we’re also on IRC (#endless on Freenode) and Slack, so I very much encourage you to join us via any of these channels as well if you want.
Ah! And before I forget, just a quick note to mention that this year I’m going to GUADEC again after a big break (my last one was in Brno, in 2013) thanks to my company, which is sponsoring my attendance in several ways, so feel free to say “hi!” if you want to talk to me about Endless, the shell, life or anything else.
This is mostly a small update to incorporate a bunch of updates in translations, a few changes aimed at improving the flatpak version of it (the desktop icon has been broken for a while until a few weeks ago) and to remove some deprecated calls in recent versions of GTK+.
Ah! I’ve also officially dropped support for OS X via gtk-osx, as I was systematically failing to update and use (I only use frogr from GNOME these days) since a loooong time ago, and so it did not make sense for me to keep pretending that the mac version is something that is usable and maintained anymore.
Of course, just a few hours after releasing frogr 1.1, I’ve noticed that there was actually no good reason to depend on gettext 0.19.8 for the purposes of removing the intltool dependency only, since 0.19.7 would be enough.
One direct consequence is that you can now install the packages for Ubuntu from my PPA if you have Ubuntu Xenial 16.04 LTS or newer, instead of having to wait for Ubuntu Yakkety Yak (yet to be released). Other than that 1.2 is exactly the same than 1.1, so you probably don’t want to package it for your distro if you already did it for 1.1 without trouble. Sorry for the noise.
Not many things, to be honest, bust just a few as I said:
Added support for flatpak: it’s now possible to authenticate frogr from inside the sandbox, as well as open pictures/videos in the appropriate viewer, thanks to the OpenURIportal.
Updated translations: as it was noted in the past when I released 1.0, several translations were left out incomplete back then. Hopefully the new version will be much better in that regard.
Dropped the build dependency on intltool (requires gettext >= 0.19.8).
A few bugfixes too and other maintenance tasks, as usual.
Besides, another significant difference compared to previous releases is related to the way I’m distributing it: in the past, if you used Ubuntu, you could configure my PPA and install it from there even in fairly old versions of the distro. However, this time that’s only possible if you have Ubuntu 16.10 “Yakkety Yak”, as that’s the one that ships gettext >= 0.19.8, which is required now that I removed all trace of intltool (more info in this post).
That said, it’s interesting that you also have the portal frontend service and a backend implementation, so that you can authorize your flickr account using the browser outside the sandbox, via the OpenURIportal. If you don’t have that at hand, you can still used the sandboxed version of frogr, but you’d need to copy your configuration files from a non-sandboxed frogr (under ~/.config/frogr) first, right into ~/.var/app/org.gnome.Frogr/config, and then it should be usable again (opening files in external viewers would not work yet, though!).
So this is all, hope it works well and it’s helpful to you. I’ve just finished uploading a few hundreds of pictures a couple of days ago and it seemed to work fine, but you never know… devil is in the detail!
While this might not seem to be an immediate need for Endless right now (we currently ship a Chromium-based browser as part of our OSTree based system), this was definitely something worth exploring as we are now implementing the next version of our App Center (which will be based on GNOME Software and xdg-app). Chromium updates very frequently with fixes and new features, and so being able to update it separately and more quickly than the OS is very valuable.
Screenshot of Endless OS’s current App Center
So, while Joaquim and Rob were working on the GNOME Software related bits and discussing aspects related to Continuous Integration with the rest of the crowd, I spent some time learning about xdg-app and trying to get Chromium to build that way which, unsurprisingly, was not an easy task.
Fortunately, the base documentation about xdg-app together with Alex Larsson’s blog post series about this topic (which I wholeheartedly recommend reading) and some experimentation from my side was enough to get started with the whole thing, and I was quickly on my way to fixing build issues, adding missing deps and the like.
Note that my goal at this time was not to get a fully featured Chromium browser running, but to get something running based on the version that we use use in Endless (Chromium 48.0.2564.82), with a couple of things disabled for now (e.g. chromium’s own sandbox, udev integration…) and putting, of course, some holes in the xdg-app configuration so that Chromium can access the system’s parts that are needed for it to function (e.g. network, X11, shared memory, pulseaudio…).
Of course, the long term goal is to close as many of those holes as possible using Portals instead, as well as not giving up on Chromium’s own sandbox right away (some work will be needed here, since `setuid` binaries are a no-go in xdg-app’s world), but for the time being I’m pretty satisfied (and kind of surprised, even) that I managed to get the whole beast built and running after 4 days of work since I started :-).
But, as Alberto usually says… “screencast or it didn’t happen!”, so I recorded a video yesterday to properly share my excitement with the world. Here you have it:
As mentioned above, this is work-in-progress stuff, so please hold your horses and manage your expectations wisely. It’s not quite there yet in terms of what I’d like to see, but definitely a step forward in the right direction, and something I hope will be useful not only for us, but for the entire Linux community as a whole. Should you were curious about the current status of the whole thing, feel free to check the relevant files at its git repository here.
Last, I would like to finish this blog post saying thanks specially to Richard Hughes for organizing this event, as well as the GNOME Foundation and Red Hat for their support in the development of GNOME Software and xdg-app. Finally, I’d also like to thank my employer Endless for supporting me to attend this hackfest. It’s been a terrific week indeed… thank you all!
I’ve just released frogr 1.0. I can’t believe it took me 6 years to move from the 0.x series to the 1.0 release, but here it is finally. For good or bad.
This release is again a small increment on top of the previous one that fixes a few bugs, should make the UI look a bit more consistent and “modern”, and includes some cleanups at the code level that I’ve been wanting to do for some time, like using G_DECLARE_FINAL_TYPE, which helped me get rid of ~1.7K LoC.
But as much as like Emacs as my main “weapon”, I sometimes appreciate the advantages of using a different kind of beast for specific purposes. And, believe me or not, in the past 2 years I learned to love Eclipse/CDT as the best work-mate I know when I need some extra help to get deep inside of the two monster C++ projects that WebKit and Chromium are. And yes, I know Eclipse is resource hungry, slow, bloated… and whatnot; but I’m lucky enough to have fast SSDs and lots of RAM in my laptop & desktop machines, so that’s not really a big concern anymore for me (even though I reckon that indexing chromium in the laptop takes “quite some time”), so let’s move on :-)
…and then I simply import frogr-eclipse.xml from the project’s properties, inside the C/C++ General > Paths and Symbols section.
After doing that I get rid of all the brokenness caused by so many missing symbols and header files, I get code auto-completion nicely working back again and all those perks you would expect from this little big IDE. And all that without having to go through the pain of defining all of them one by one from the settings dialog, thank goodness!
Now you can quickly see how it works in the video below:
Last weekend I visited my former office to attend the GStreamer hackfest 2015, along with other ~30 hackers from all over the world.
This was my very first GStreamer hackfest ever and it was definitely a great experience, although at the beginning I was really not convinced to attend since, after all, why bother attending an event about something I have no clue about?
But the answer turned out to be easy in the end, once I actually thought a bit about it: it would be a good opportunity both to learn more about the project and to meet people in real life (oldfriends included), making the most of it happening 15min away from my house. So, I went there.
And in the end it was a quite productive and useful weekend: I might not be an expert by now, but at least I broke the barrier of getting started with the project, which is already a good thing.
And even better, I managed to move forward a patch to fix a bug in PulseAudio I found on last December while fixing an downstream issue as part of my job at Endless. Back then, I did not have the time nor the knowledge to write a proper patch that could really go upstream, so I focused on fixing the problem at hand in our platform. But I always felt the need to sit down and cook a proper patch, and this event proved to be the perfect time and place to do that.
So, after neglecting my responsibilities with this project for way too long, I finally released frogr 0.11 now, making the most that I’m now enjoying some kind of “parenting vacation” for a few days.
Still, do not expect this new release to be fully loaded of new features and vast improvements, as it’s more like another incremental update that adds a couple of nice new things and fixes a bunch of problems I was really unhappy about (e.g. general slowness, crashes).
Wrapping it up, the main changes included with this release are:
Moved to the new GTK+’s header bar plus the typical menu button when GTK+ >= 3.12 (GTK+ 3.4 is still supported). I personally like this change a lot, as it makes frogr much more compact and sleek IMHO, and much better integrated with newer releases of GNOME.
Added a new option to automatically replace the “date posted” field in flickr with the “date taken” value from the EXIF metadata when uploading pictures. Useful to keep your photo stream sorted regardless of when you uploaded which pictures. Thanks a lot to Luc Pionchon for requesting this feature. I never thought of it before, now I use it all the time!
Sped up the load of pictures into the main window, as it was a very slow process when importing tags from the XMP keywords was enabled. I measured a 3x improvement, but YMMV.
Fixed random crashes due to the missing initialization of the gcrypt library introduced with the recent changes to use SSL API end points. Thanks a lot Andrés for your help with this!
Fixed issues related to the OS X port, which prevented frogr 0.9 from having video support and caused many problems with the 0.10 release. Now it should be fine, grab the bundle from here.
Other things: removed calls to deprecated APIs, updated translations, fixed a few minor bugs and a bit of a clean-up here and there, which is usually good.
As usual, feel free to check the website of the project in case you want to know more about frogr, how to get it or how to contribute to it. I’m having a hard time lately to find time to devote to this pet project, so any help anyone can provide will be more than welcome :-)
By the way, I’m going to FOSDEM this year again, so feel free to say “hi” if you want to chat and/or share a beer (or more!).
I know I haven’t blogged for a while, and definitely not as much as I would like, but that was partially because I was quite busy during my last days in Samsung (left on the 25th of July), where I wanted to make sure I did not leave any loose end before departure, and that everything was properly handed over to the right people there.
But that was one month ago… so what did I do since then? Many many things, and most of them away from a keyboard, at least until the past week. Main highlights:
One week travelling by car with my family all the way down to Spain from the UK, through France, visiting all the nice places we could (and could afford) in the way, which was a lot of fun and an incredible experience.
The goal of taking the car to Spain was to sell it once we were there and, surprisingly enough, we did it in record time, so one thing less to worry about…
2 weeks in Spain having proper “relaxing holidays” to get some quality time off in between the two jobs, to properly recharge batteries. Not that the previous week was not holidays, but travelling 2200 km by car with two young kids on the back can be amazing and exhausting at the same time :-)
1 week in the UK to make sure I had everything ready by the time I officially started in the new company, where I will initially be working from home: assemble a home office in my spare bedroom, and prepare my new laptop mainly. In the end, we (my wife helped me a lot) finished by Wednesday, so on Thursday we went for a last 2-day getaway to Wales (what a beautiful place!) by car, making the most that we were kids-free.
Therefore, as you can imagine, I didn’t have much time for blogging lately, but still I would like to share with the world my “change of affiliation” so here it is: since yesterday I’m officially part of the amazing team at Endless, an awesome start up from San Francisco committed to break the digital divide in the developing world by taking GNOME-based technology to the end users in ways that were not imaginable before. And I have to say that’s a vision I fell in love with since the very first time I heard about it (last year in Brno, during Matt’s keynote at GUADEC).
But just in case that was not awesome enough by itself, the other thing that made me fall in love with the company was precisely the team they have assembled, because even if I’m mostly a technical guy, I still value a lot the human side of the places I work in. And in this regard Endless seems to be perfect, or even better!
So, I’m extremely happy these days because of this new challenge I’m seeing in front of me, and because of the opportunity I’m being given to have a real positive impact in the lives of millions of people who still can’t access to technology as they should be able to do it. Also, I feel blessed and privileged for having been given the chance to be part of such an amazing team of people. Could not be happier at this time! :)
Last to finish this post, I would like to say thanks to my friend Joaquim, since he was who introduced me to Matt in the first place and “created” this opportunity for me. Thank you!
Allow disabling video uploads at configuration time (enabled by default), instead of making the decision depending on the detected platform. This will hopefully make life easier for packagers of other platforms (e.g. MacPorts).
Removed libsoup-gnome code once and for all (API deprecated a while ago).
Other things: updated translations and fixed a few minor bugs.
So, after a bit more than one year without releasing any version of frogr, I finally managed to get some “spare” time to put all the pieces together and ship the ninth version of it, which I believe/hope is going to be a quite solid one.
In all honesty, though, this version does not come with many new features as the previous ones, yet some changes and fixes that I believe were quite necessary, and therefore should help improving the user experience in some subtle ways.
For instance, the layout of the dialog to edit the details of a picture has changed (as per Ana Rey‘s comments during GUADEC) to enable a more efficient usage of vertical space, so much needed these days in small widescreen laptops. Of course, design-wise still sucks, but I believe it’s much more convenient now from a pragmatical point of view.
Also, frogr is now a little bit more “modern” in things such as that it now supports GStreamer 1.0 (0.10 still supported), a lot of deprecated code (e.g. Stock items, GtkActions) has been replaced internally and it now integrates better with GNOME Shell’s search box. Ah! and it also now provides an AppData file to integrate with GNOME Software Center, which is a nice touch too.
Another interesting thing is that I finally fixed the problem that we have with multiple selections in the main view, which was neither intuitive nor very useful, as Ctrl and Shift modifiers did not work as expected. So, from now on, it is finally possible to work with disjoint multiple selections of pictures, a feature I was missing so much.
Last, I fixed two important problems in the code that caused frogr consume two much memory, specially after uploading pictures. It was a quite severe problem since frogr was not properly freeing the memory used by pictures even after those were uploaded and removed from the UI, causing important issues in cases where people tried to upload a lot of pictures at once. It’s hopefully fixed now.
As many other WebKitGTK+ hackers (30 in total), I flew last Saturday to A Coruña to attend the 5th edition of the WebKitGTK+ Hackfest, hosted once again by Igalia at their premises and where people from several different affiliations gathered together to try to give our beloved port a boost.
As for me, I flew there to work mainly on accessibility related issues, making the most of the fact that both Joanie (Orca maintainer) and Piñeiro (ATK maintainer) would be there too, so it should be possible to make things happen faster, specially discussion-wise.
And turns out that, even if I feel like I could have achieved more than what I actually did (as usual), I believe we did quite well in the end: we discussed and clarified things that were blocking the mapping of new WAI-ARIA roles in WebKitGTK+, we got rid of a bunch of WebKit1-specific unit tests (Joanie converted them into nice layout tests that will be run by WebKit2GTK+ too), we got a few new roles in ATK to be able to better map things from the web world and and we fixed a couple of issues in the way too.
Of course, not everything has been rainbows and unicorns, as it seems that one of the patches I landed broke the inspector for WebKit2GTK+ (sorry Gustavo!). Fortunately, that one has been rolled out already and I hope I will be able to get back to it soon (next week?) to provide a better patch for that without causing any problem. Fingers crossed.
In the other hand, my mate Brian Holt joined us for three days too and, despite of being his first time in the hackfest, he got integrated pretty quickly with other hackers, teaming up to collaborate in the big boost that the network process & multiple web processes items have went through during the event. And not only that, he also managed to give a boost to his last patch to provide automatic memory leak detection in WebKitGTK+, which I’m sure it will be a great tool once it’s finished and integrated upstream.
Of course, I would like to thank the main sponsors Igalia and the GNOME Foundation for making this thing happen again, and to my employer Samsung for helping as well by paying our trips and accommodation, as well as the snacks and the coffee that helped us stay alive and get fatter during the hackfest.
Last, I would like to mention (in case anyone reading this wondered) that it has indeed felt a bit strange to go the city where I used to live in and stay in a hotel, not to mention going to the office where I used to work in and hang around it as a visitor. However, both my former city and my former colleagues somehow ensured that I felt as “at home” once again, and so I can’t do anything about it but feeling enormously grateful for that.
This task has been an interesting challenge for me indeed, and not only because it was one of the biggest accessibility related tasks I’ve worked on in WebKitGTK+ since late 2012 (so I needed to get my brain trained again on it), but also because reimplementing these functions forced me to dive into text editing and accessibility code in WebCore as I never did before. And it’s so cool to see how, despite of having to deal eventually with the frustrating feeling of hitting my head against a wall, at the end of the day it all resulted on a nice set of patches that do the work and help advance the state of the ATK based accessibility layer in WebKitGTK+ forward.
Anyway, even though that is probably the thing that motivated me to write this blog post, that was not the only thing that I did since GUADEC (which has been a blast, by the way):
On the personal side, I’ve spent two lovely weeks in Spain on holidays, which was the biggest period of time I’ve been outside of the UK since I arrived here, and had an amazing time there just “doing nothing”(tm) but lying around on the beach and seeing the grass grow. And there is not much grass there anywhere, so you can imagine how stressful that life was… it was great.
In the other hand, on the professional side, I’d say that one of the other big things that happened to me lately was that I finally became accepted as a WebKit reviewer, meaning that now I can not only help breaking the Web, but also authorize others to do it so. And while agree that might be fun in some way, it probably would not be very cool, so forgive me if I try instead to do my best to help get exactly the opposite result: make things work better.
And truth to be told, this “upgrade” came just with perfect timing, since these days quite some work is being done in the accessibility layer for both the WebKitGTK+ and the WebKitEFL ports thanks also to my mates Denis Nomiyama, Anton Obzhirov, Brian Holt and Krzysztof Czech from Samsung, and that work would ideally need to be reviewed by someone familiar with the ATK/AT-SPI based accessibility stack. And while I’m still by far not the most knowledgeable person in the world when it comes to those topics, I believe I might have a fairly well knowledge about it anyway, so I assume (and hope) that my reviews will certainly add value and help with those specific pieces of work.
And as a nice plus, now I can finally “return the favour” to the only accessibility reviewer WebKit had until now (Chris Fleizach) by helping reviewing his patches as well, in a similar fashion to what he has been tirelessly doing for me for the last 3 years and a half. Yay!
To finish , I’d like to get back again to the original topic of this post and say a big “thank you” to everyone who helped me along the way with the removal of Pango and GAIL from the ATK specific code. Special thanks go to those who spend time performing the code reviews, as it’s the case of Martin, Gustavo and Chris. I wouldn’t be writing this post otherwise.
One year again GUADEC is approaching and, also again, I’m very happy to say that I’ll be there as well this time, even if I have to recognize it was not on my plans for this year, at least not initially.
And the reason why it was not initially in my plans was mainly because I’ve been already through quite somechanges during these past months year, and my family just came over to the UK two months ago. This means that, even I already arrived by the beginning of the year, we just started to settle here as a family a few weeks ago. So in that context, I didn’t feel like leaving them alone for one week already now, it definitely would look like a “wrong management of priorities” to me.
However, it turns out that my wife and kids won’t be here anyway during the first week of August and, on top of that, Samsung has been so kind to sponsor this trip just based on the simple fact that I’m part of the GNOME community. So, I certainly can no longer find a single reason not to go and spend 7 amazing days in Brno, meeting people that I normally see only in conferences (and this time that group of people will be bigger than ever, since my former mates from Igalia are now also included there), while attending to what it seems to be a very appealing event.
Also, I will try to make the most of the trip to do some work during the different hackfests and BoFs that are already planned, which special focus in the one about accessibility, of course. As a personal goal, I expect to have the chance to move forward some work I’ve been doing lately in the WebKitGTK+ a11y world, such as getting rid of the nasty dependency on Pango/Gail we still have there, something I’ve been already working on for some time now, and which I expect it will be fixed soon, hopefully before GUADEC, although time will tell.
Once that it’s fixed, WebKit2GTK+ based apps should recover the ability to properly expose text through the atk_text_get_text_*_offset() family of functions for different text boundaries, which means that ATs (e.g. the Orca screen reader) will be able to properly allow again line-by-line navigation when in caret browsing mode. And, as you can imagine, this is quite a big problem these days, since WebKit2GTK+ that has become the default backend for some core apps such as the Epiphany browser with the GNOME3.8 release, so fixing this is like a high priority now, I’d say.
Anyway, I’m starting to write too much (as usual) for what it was going to be a short “I’m going to GUADEC” blog post, so I will stop right now, although not without first thanking Samsung for sponsoring this my first trip to the Czech Republic.
It turns out I’m writing this post at 6:00 AM in the morning from a hotel instead of doing it at a more reasonable time from my comfy home or a nice cafeteria. That’s already quite a new thing by itself, and the reason for that is not that I became crazy or something, but the fact that I’m completely jet-lagged in California right now in order to attend my second WebKit Contributors Meeting (my first time was in 2011), this time as part of the Samsung team in the UK R&D center, together with my mate Anton Obzhirov.
With regard to that, it has been a very interesting experience so far where I could meet new people I still haven’t had the chance to see in real life yet (e.g. my mates from other Samsung R&D centers or some guys from Apple I didn’t have the chance to meet in person before), as well as chat again with some friends and former mates that I haven’t seen for a while, such as Martin, Xan and Philippe from Igalia, Byungseon from LG, Nayan from Motorola or Gustavo from Collabora to mention some of them. It’s strange, and at the same time wonderful, how easily you can catch up on conversations with people that you barely see once a year (or even less) and mainly in conferences, and definitely one of my favourite parts of attending these kind of events, to be honest.
Also, from a less social point of view, I have to say I found very interesting the sessions I’ve attended so far, specially the one about “managing the differences between ports”, although the one about “build systems” was quite interesting too. Not sure how far we are yet in the WebKitGTK+ port from realistically switching to some kind of commonly agreed build system (cmake?), but at least it’s a good start to agree on the fact that it would be an interesting move and now that some people pushing for it.
My only regret about this first day is that I missed Hyatt‘s talk about pagination due to some health issues I’m experimenting while in California, mostly due to the extremely hot and dry weather (anything over 25 Celsius is “unbearable hot” for me), which is causing me a little bit of cough, sore throat and fever, all well mixed with the jet lag to make it a perfect “welcome pack” to the meeting. Fortunately, I got some “interesting” medicines that seem to have relieved a bit the pain and I could attend the rest of the sessions without much trouble, other than some occasional coughing. Not bad.
By the way, for those of you who were not lucky enough to attend the meeting but are anyway interested in the topics being discussed here, make sure you check the main TRAC page for the meeting, where you can also find transcripts for most of the sessions.
As for today, some more sessions will take place as well as a couple of hackathons so I expect it to be very interesting as well. Also I hope I can find some time too to work a bit on my patches to remove the nasty dependency on pango we have in WebKitGTK+ accessibility code, which is preventing us to have proper caret navigation in WebKit2GTK+ based browsers, as well as to discuss possible ways in which our lab could collaborate more actively upstream. Seems a promising day already!
Last (but not least), and in a completely unrelated and super-off-topic way, I would like to tell the world that I’m extremely happy for the fact that next week will be the end of my “lonely existence in the UK”, finally. After 4 months of living away from my family with just some flash trips from Friday to Sunday (every 2 weeks), I’m once and for all travelling on Thursday to my home town with a one way plane ticket to do some final arrangements, put everything (family included!) in the car and travel to Santander, where we’ll be taking a ferry that will take us to the Portsmouth (southern coast of England), from where we will just drive to the UK in order to start our new life, all together again.
It has been quite hard for us to live this way for so long, but I think in the end we managed to handle the situation quite well, and now it seems all our efforts are already paying off because things seem to be finally fitting in the right places: we have a lovely house, we have a place in a nearby public school for my oldest kid to start on September, most of the needed paperwork seems to be done and we already moved all our stuff from Spain (lots of toys!), which is now waiting to be used in our new place.
I really can’t wait to live again in the noisy and chaotic atmosphere that two kids can so easily create around them. Even if that means it will probably drive me crazy every now and then and that I won’t sleep that well sometimes.