21 September, 2010

Welcome Mageia!

Over the last couple of days there has been a lot of talk about the creation of Mageia, a community fork of Mandriva. Now before I go on a disclaimer:

I'm a Mandrivaclub.nl crew member and have been for a very long time. I might not be the most active member of the crew there but I DO care about Mandriva and its community.

painful but unavoidable
So with that out of the way, let me start by saying the whole Mandriva thing is very painful and I feel sorry for the employees and the community. I know that over the last months many employees have switched to other companies (including Novell). So a restart will be difficult for the company. They intend to focus on the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as those are a Mandriva stronghold, and I think that is a sound business decision. Not sure if it'll be enough.

Unfortunately the community has finally lost confidence in Mandriva and decided to fork - I get that. Mandriva has some awesome technology, it would be good to keep that alive. And the company has failed a few times too many now. But they face a big challenge - building a new 'home' for themselves ain't easy.

looking for help?
So I have a suggestion for them. In the spirit of our upcoming openSUSE conference with the 'collaboration across borders' theme, I invite you to collaborate with us.

What Mageia might need soonish is a place to meet. The upcoming openSUSE conference will have visitors from Debian and Fedora already, why not have a Mageia delegation there? You guys and girls can meet, talk with people from other distributions, get some ideas on what to do next and talk among yourselves in real life. The conference already starts in about 4 weeks so there is enough time to plan yet it is close enough to be useful for decision making.

Moreover, openSUSE has the Build Service which we use to build our distribution. But the build service is also used by many other communities including the Linux Foundation's Meego project. It is fully Free Software so anyone can set up their own Build Service if they want. Currently the Build Service already allows building Mandriva packages and we could support Mageia too. As a stop-gap measure, the Mageia community could build (part of) their distro on our infrastructure - and in time set up their own Build Service instance.

Maybe there is more room for collaboration. Building a distribution is NOT easy and a lot of work - it'd be cool if openSUSE and Mageia could share some resources on some of the infrastructural bits like the kernel, Xorg and other base libraries. But even without that - the Build Service is there for you.

Of course, if Mandriva manages to re-build confidence they're also more than welcome to work with us. In my opinion the recent message from the board sets the right direction from a community point of view. Just contact me or anyone else either on IRC or by mail if you want to talk!

Concluding: I'm not saying here - give up on Mandriva and join openSUSE. What I do want to offer is some help - we're all Free Software communities, we care. Let's work together a bit more!

16 September, 2010

Target Aquired... Aim... xxxxx!

Hi all!

Today the first part of a new description of openSUSE was released. Go, read through it, comment on it if you like!

We are using something relatively new for the commenting called co-ment. I encountered a similar tech when reading up on what was going on with the GPLv3 while it was being written - and thought it was brilliant... So we're using it now to get comments on the text we write in a more structured manner. Feel free to join the discussion!


On Russia...

Hi all!

Novell just posted a guest blog of mine on their corporate blog. Topic is one I have harped on before - basically, like I hope WNF feeds their employees fair trade bananas in the cafeteria and let them drive hybrids instead of hummers, I hope they don't run 'Mac Donalds' on their computers. IOW use Free Software - cuz it helps.

The blog was prompted by a pretty good article from the NYT (yeah, behind a pay wall now, unfortunately) on new tactics for quelling dissents by the Russian government by confiscating computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software. No, FOSS won't solve the 'evil government' issue. It might help however - and not only by giving them no legal reason to go after 'pirated software' but also by providing protection through TOR, GPG and other technologies...

Anyway. Read it if you like :D

Love, Jos

05 September, 2010

directions - openSUSE and Fedora

Interestingly enough, in parallel to our discussion about where we're going, Fedora is also discussing strategy. One particularly good blog post by Máirín Duffy about target users of Fedora offers some interesting insights.


On Fedora, there are basically four repositories:
  • Stable - end user product

  • Testing - stabilisation tree

  • Rawhide - development tree (our factory)

  • Kopers - personal repositories (bit like our Build Service home projects)

As you might know, Fedora Stable does currently receive quite some package updates over it's lifecycle - catering to users who want the latest software. The downside of this is that it sacrifices stability - you can't have your cake and eat it too. And for some users - even that isn't enough. They want the latest Banshee when it is released right away - not wait for it to mature in Testing. So they have to enable Rawhide repositories - often bringing in far more unstable software than just Banshee or whatever they're after. And that software is build against a whole different stack - Rawhide has moved beyond stable of course, adding things like a newer glib or other base libraries and building against a newer GCC. All this creates a significant risk for instability.


Máirín describes 4 target users of Fedora:
  • Caroline Casual-User

  • Pamela Packager

  • Connie Community

  • Nancy Ninja

She proposes to give each of these users what they want by essentially splitting the update policy for packages based on what 'level' the are. She recognizes Core Platform, Core Desktop and Applications. Core Platform should only receive crucial fixes and security updates, Core Desktop should get a bit more liberal updates and Applications should always be up to date. This way, users won't get bitten by instability, yet those who want more up-to-date software don't have to resort to Rawhide either.

Does this solve the problem? It does if you assume these more up-to-date packages for the Applications don't ever break things for Caroline. And if you assume that there is no reason why Nancy Ninja newer version of something in the Core Platform or the Core Desktop for the app she's writing.


openSUSE is far more conservative when it comes to upgrading packages in the stable release. Making it a much more stable platform. So, that means you're always a bit behind and you can't have the latest and greatest? No! openSUSE users CAN have their cake and eat it too. Thanks to the Build Service, newer versions of enduser applications and libraries can be entirely build against the stable distribution, lowering the number of packages you need to pull in and thus increasing stability.

Máirín and the other Fedora peeps don't use OBS - luckily, it's a Free service. Sponsored by Novell, AMD, IP Exchange and B1 Systems. Many packages on the openSUSE buildservice are build for various stable Fedora releases as well as for Red Hat releases, Ubuntu, Mandriva and of course SUSE Linux Enterprise. And the Build Service is also used by third parties like MeeGo to build their packages in house.

So I would invite Fedora users like Caroline to grab just the one package she needs from OBS!

For developers - and users

So the buildservice is awesome for developers who want to make their software available to users - no matter what distribution they use. The Build Service builds each package on a clean virtual machine install of the target distribution, guaranteeing compatibility. Check the documentation here. And a nice tutorial here. Note that it currently mostly focusses on the commandline solution OSC - but you can actually build and packages entirely from your webbrowser and get them to your users with almost no hassle using the gtk-apps.org and kde-apps.org OBS integration. Be like Lucky Backup and offer packages for ALL mayor distro's instead of only Ubuntu OR Fedora Or ...!

And for openSUSE and it's users, OBS enables us to cater a much wider audience than we ever could without. We can make newer software easily available for users who want it thanks to the one-click-install; yet users who want stability can have it. Surely there is still work to do - a proper app-store would be nice, although the search on software.opensuse.org IS pretty good...

Of course there is more awesomeness to openSUSE - like SUSE Studio (cool video here) and more. I just wanted to highlight one thing ;-)