2013-08-06

[GNOME] GUADEC 2013: Talking Heads

I survived my trip through Toronto, Amsterdam, and Prague to Brno. I'm becoming pretty good at flowing through foreign countries without saying a word. I'd like to thank the GNOME Foundation for making this possible:

The four days of talks have ended, and it's been honestly amazing.  Here are my thoughts on the ones I attended and liked.  (Let me know if you find any errors.)

The AGM

The annual general meeting was informative and entertaining, as usual. It's nice to know we can have fun while getting serious business done. Some neat things I learnt is that there's a pre-built image for virtual machines with a complete jhbuild available to download. Also, there's now HowDoI on the GNOME Wiki. For localisation, 52 languages have over 80%. Outreach has helped increase participation of women in the GNOME project. We also got to hear about GNOME Asia and GNOME India. From the foundation report, the privacy campaign was a good success. Noted was that this September will be the 30th anniversary of the GNU Project!

Keynotes

Ethan Lee on gaming in Linux

Ethan works on porting popular indie games to Linux. It's great seeing more games available on Linux through the Humble Indie Bundle and Steam for Linux. Game availability is one of the few remaining barriers, so it was nice to hear from someone working with games on Linux about challenges there and what we can do to help facilitate it.

Endless Mobile

Endless Mobile wants to get a smartphone and eventually a computer to most of the world. They're targetting the market segment of people who can afford to live in their area but can't really afford a computer, because while many items are priced locally, electronics are largely priced globally, and a typical device can exceed a potential customer's annual earnings.
So, simple devices, near Raspberry Pi price levels and capability, with intelligent, great design built atop free software. The hardware has a stylised appearance, and a core part of their value is their app collection, which is embodied not of fun entertainment, but a lot of practical software, which can help with cooking, farming, business, education, etc.

ZaReason

ZaReason, proprietor of Linux laptops and desktops, came to discuss their goals (provide great, open computers that work well), their challenges (hardware that restricts freedom), and encourage GNOME to continue to promote a Free ecosystem. They had some of their hardware, and I was thrilled by its light weight.

Talks

Colin Walters on GNOME OSTree

GNOME OSTree is being actively used for continuous integration, on a 32-core, 48GBRAM machine. It's working great for testing patches and git commits as they happen, resulting in quick detection of errors, and helping improve the overall stability of the stack it tests. It focuses mostly on the OS and not so much on apps, though it does have a concept of profiles (sets of packages) with some including apps, for development and testing purposes. Could help provide atomic updates and easy rollback, and help decouple the OS from apps.

Fabiana Simões on how not to report User Experience bugs

Fabiana helped emphasise that UX (User Experience) bugs are important, even if they don't prevent software from compiling and running. Evaluating user experience issues can be challenging, and encouraging good UX bug reporting is helpful. Highlights include not to use the following useless phrases:
  • "I think X should be Y"
  • "It sucks/it's not user friendly/intuitive"
  • "Most users …" without doing actual research
There were also some recommendations on information users should provide regarding a user experience bug, including what they were doing, why they were doing it, what steps they took, what were they expecting, and what happened. What the user felt, saw, and did are important.

Meg Ford on GNOME in Open Source communities

I didn't catch this entire talk, but was interested in Meg's points regarding inclusiveness and exclusive attitudes. It's sad to hear about issues regarding overt discrimination and sexism. I enjoyed the activity surrounding small local groups like in Chicago.

Lennart Poettering on Sandboxed Applications for GNOME

This was a delicious talk, touching quite a bit on systemd and the future of applications in GNOME. Basically, isolation for stability and security, with support in the kernel and through cgroups to help control apps. Single files bundling apps from the user's point of view, actually a compressed multiarch loopback filesystem, optioning containing their own versions of libraries to avoid library version dependencies in the OS. App distribution through community stores, not a single canonical source. Unprivileged installation. kdbus for controlled IPC of even large data between apps and the system or even other apps, and Portals, intents-like method of providing interactive security around this. The need for a stricter hierarchy file system spec and reduce some distribution differences.
I'm really excited about how this will change my interactions with my computer.

Juan Pablo Ugarte on building UIs in Glade

Juan gave a pretty presentation showing recent work for CCS support in Glade, with pretty things like gradients, shadows, animations, etc. A demo of a Baccarat game helped demonstrate just how completely you can style your windows and widgets. To my great delight, he then revealed that the presentation was actually built using Glade itself! And was being run by the new Glade Previewer. (Disclaimer: Glade is not intended to efficiently build beautiful presentations, though it can.)

Lightning Talks

Some non-comprehensive highlights were that EasyTag, the audio tagger, has seen some recent activity again. Boxes has had work on copy-paste between host and guest and usb redirection. The gettext maintainer, Daiki Ueno, came, and it's seem some exciting new features like support for GtkBuilder, Vala, Lua, and Javascript, as well as multiline strings. Work for systemd in the user session advances the cause of the faster login. Also, the Cantarell font has seem some refinement. There was a lot more.

Philip Withnall on testing web services

Philip helped address problems with testing against web services, with the unpredictable nature of dealing with a remote host. The solution appears to be recording a trace of normal activity for your operation, and then testing against that rather than the remote server itself.

ownCloud

The future of open source cloud services is growing rapidly and the cool keeps flowing. Syncing of files, calendars, and contents. Integration with GNOME Online Accounts. To come is integration with Documents, Notes, tentatively RSS, Maps, Music, mail, bookmarks, and more. Syncing should be comprehensive enough to eventually include settings, dot files, etc, so you could restore a lost installation from your ownCloud. Vitally, Mines' high scores. For security, the client could encrypt data before arriving at the server, but if you do this, some apps won't work well (since they can't read your data). Right now, I think it's something I'd like to run within my own VPN for privacy, practically providing me with a 'Google in a box'.

Emmanuelle Bassi on Clutter

The state of Clutter was discussed, along with a proposal to move more functionality into Gtk+. There was a bit of technical discussion during the talk and interested parties generally liked the idea.

Tristan van Berkom on Glade and GtkBuilder's UI developer experience

Tristan showed off some long-desired improvements to Glade and GtkBuilder. He talked about the use in guiding users (here: developers) on the right path, with the idea of improving the tie-in between GtkBuilder and actual class code, especially regarding callbacks and such. Also, you can finally click-and-drag UI elements onto the graph (whee!) and intelligent grouping of widget properties by section.

Matthias Clasen's guide through GtkApplication

Matthias led us through a new tutorial of how to build a modern GtkApplication, emphasing important parts like application-id, embedding of resources into the binary, using templates and new macros. Demonstrated was newer candy like GActionMap, GSettings, templates, GtkStack, GtkSearchEntry and Bar, GtkRevealer, GtkListBox, GBindings, and more. Wow!

Conclusion

The conference has been really amazing. I'm surrounded by my greatest programming heroes and have gotten to be immersed in the shared excitement over GNOME's future.
I'm looking forward to the talks next year in Strasbourg, and the Boston Summit in Montréal this October.

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