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Category: my projects (Page 2 of 7)

GNU/Linux bundled application ramblings

It’s impressive how in the last few months (and especially the last few weeks) the discussion around bundled applications for the GNU/Linux Desktop has sparked.

It’s especially interesting because:

  • The problem is not new.
  • The solutions that have attempted to tackle the problem in the past have been ignored (both by us developers and by distributions).

The TLDR

First, let me try to subjectively summarize the problem: Historically, the resources we get in GNU/Linux come from the distributions. Anything: executables, libraries, icons, wallpapers, etc. There’s been alternatives to all of those, but none has flourished as a globally adopted solution.

This guarantees that everyone using a distribution will have access to the resources the distribution can offer. The more powerful the distribution is, the more we get. There’s limitations nevertheless, so some restrictions have to get in place. The ensemble of limitations and technologies adopted will effectively define the user’s experience.

This works. It has worked for years and, given the technology is in place, it could easily keep working. Like in most engineering solutions there’s drawbacks and properly addressing them can bear some goodness. It seems like now it’s the moment to review this situation. Let’s enumerate some of the problems we have nowadays:

  • We have users using really old versions of our software with issues we’ve solved in versions they can’t use.
  • It’s really hard for GNU/Linux users to get users to test unstable versions of our software.
  • We have users who want to use fresh versions of some software but not in the whole system.

There’s been many solutions to fix those, some easily come to mind: ArchLinux’s AUR (with yaourt), Ubuntu’s PPAs, big-tar application packages, OpenSuse’s OBS, and possibly others.

Far from showing the maturity of the Linux desktop, what this depicts is the deep fragmentation we’re into: we have come up with different solutions that break the established distribution paradigm by lowering the restrictions and considering the resources offered as unsupported (often tainting the whole system).

What has appeared recently is sandboxing. It’s especially interesting because by letting the users execute any binaries we’re increasing the exposition of their systems. Hence, jumping from our distributions’ nest into the lions. As always, sandboxing creates new challenges: It requires changes in applications (or frameworks) to adapt, often creating a user interaction fence (e.g. a popup asking if you let Kamoso access the webcam). For what it’s worth, that’s not new: Android does it, OS X does it, Windows does it (from the Store), Chrome OS does it, etc.

Now where are we?

We need to decide about GNU/Linux’s future. Or at least, we need to understand what Plasma users will have available. So far, most of the noise comes from the big players in the business trying to differentiate their products, meaning incompatible versions.

Without an agreed unified solution, we’ll have to assume we’ll end up having installed snappies, flatpaks, AppImages as well as applications from the distribution. Then it’s just a matter of:

  • Presenting it properly so that the user knows the risks taken by executing an application (!)
  • Make sure we don’t lose many features by sandboxing.

Still, one of the good things of this new approach is that it shouldn’t have to be necessary to have several people dedicated to build every single application and component. If the solution is to add 3 more solutions that will need dedicated people, we’re not really moving forward.

Building

As soon as we’ve decided how we want to work, then the interesting stuff needs to appear. If this is properly engineered, it can bring really interesting possibilities that now we hardly ever find:

  • Newer versions of applications on administered systems (e.g. universities).
  • Enabling stable distributions on professional environments.
  • Beta channels.
  • Binary application 3rd party extensions.
  • Provision of debug symbols (some distros don’t offer them).

To finish the fantastic post, a note for the dreamers:
How easier would all that be in a microkernel architecture?

We need you!

Of course this will be a long journey and we need your collaboration. This year in Randa we started working on all these problems in several different angles. It’s important for the KDE Community to have your support, so we can keep providing quality software. Consider donating, doesn’t need to be a lot, everything counts.

KDE on Flatpak in Randa

I talked about KDE on Flatpak before (called xdg-app then). Lots happened since: new name, fancy new website and a couple of releases shows it’s getting quite stable.

Progress on the KDE side of Flatpak

It’s been some months, and this time has been mostly about maturing what we already had and making it useful for others:

  • Improved the runtime, updates to newer versions of Qt and KDE Frameworks. Some functionality issues were fixed.
  • We published the runtime so that developers can test their applications against it.
  • Added several recipes for KDE Applications (help! testers required).
  • We got some initial documentation for developers.

Next steps

Now it’s time to make this work. I find it already close to magic how we get to compile in one distro and works on another. I must admit, I’m excited. But then many things need work, should be simple, but we need to spend the time.

Also we need to compile the applications, start using them and see where’s the limitations, especially regarding the sandboxing. In the end, we also want to bring KDE applications to our GNU/Linux users who cannot reach our stable releases.

Most of it will happen in Randa, let’s see how far we get!

Join us!

Fundraiser

A special sprint at CERN

Plasma

I came to the sprint hoping I could iterate 2 issues I’ve had been trying to get sorted with Plasma for a while:

  1. Integration testing for plasmoids
  2. Discuss how to keep pushing Discover for the next releases both with Plasma and the VDG.

IMG_20160308_112502

The new testing infrastructure is in place and I hope I’ll get to merge soon this week. Feel free to peek: patch1 and patch2.
This is very important because it will allow us to make the testing of plasmoids systematic, to some extent, making it easier to develop plasmoids and containments while maintaining and increasing the delivered quality.

Regarding Discover, there’s lots of ideas. Definitely far more than we can materialize. For now, we’ll be delivering a much more polished experience for 5.6 both on the strictly technical side (better appstream and PackageKit integration, better use of QtQuick in some areas) as well as on the looks side, mainly thanks to Andrew and Thomas who keep pushing me whenever something is not entirely perfect, which is awesome.

Visual Design Group (VDG)

The first special thing was that there was a VDG sprint in parallel. It wasn’t VDG people who joined us, but an actual sprint. This was especially good because it allowed for a fluid back-and-forth of ideas. It’s especially important both to have some designers full of dreams kicking our asses from time to time, as well as some kind of pragmatism back to them so the good ideas can end up being part of our workflows.

Plasma + VDG

WikiToLearn

Another special thing about the sprint was having the WikiToLearn team over. It was their first actual sprint as well as first time we all met together in a KDE event. I think it worked great, despite being different communities in nature, it’s interesting to see how synergies kept happening. I’m sure there’s good space for collaboration and I’m looking forward to keep working together.

IMG_20160307_104326

LHC

Apparently they have a particle accelerator there. What?!

Akademy-es 2016 in Madrid

Akademy-es 2016 will be taking place during the next 15th to 17th of April. Here you can learn about the conference’s program.

Akademy-es is the annual meeting for KDE contributors and users in Spain, which is organized every year since 2006.

During the conference, there will be talks, workshops and other activities where we can:

  • Get in touch with KDE and Free Software developers and users from around Spain and discuss the projects and trends that are being developed as well as sharing code, experiences and knowledge.
  • Showcase the KDE Community to people with a non-technical profile, showing the different opportunities it offers.
  • Discuss the new technologies KDE and Free Software offers, both for new developers and for users who want to know what’s really available to them.
  • Enjoy learning more about Free Software.

Join us!

Antonio and St Ignucius

KDE Applications on XDG App

Some days ago I started wondering about containerized applications, I looked at a few alternatives and then decided to give xdg-app a go. It took a while, not really because it’s especially hard, but mostly because I’m rather stubborn, then I decided to ask Alexander Larsson and he guided me quite well.

All in all, it’s rather easy, it implements a packaging format, but one that I feel KDE can maintain reasonably easily. I set it up in 2 chunks, copying GNOME’s approach: one repository for the run-time (that includes Qt5 and most of the KDE Frameworks 5) and then another one that can build applications. One thing we could do now is set up servers that built nightly versions of our applications, I’ll have to ask the sysadmins how do they feel about it.

Anyway, you’re waiting for screenshots and I’ll give you screenshots. Some problems are still obvious, but it’s a first step. Patches welcome! \o/


AppStream offers a Cross-Distribution identifier for applications

One of the problems we’ve historically had in the GNU/Linux world (and especially in KDE, since we’re cross-distribution) is that we’ve always had a hard time at explaining how to install our applications. Basically because it’s different on each distribution.

My first approach to this problem was creating Muon Discover but that’s clearly not enough because, in the end, we seldom look for new applications. Often they will be recommended on a blog post or forum and we’ll want to install it. But then, while recommending it, it will either be a vague “you should try KMail” or a “you should ‘apt-get install kmail’ or whatever applies to your distribution.

What I’m proposing today is to embrace AppStream at the level of URL handlers (for web browser integration). AppStream shows GNU/Linux distributions maturity by offering a solution by letting the upstream projects set the identifier in their appdata.xml file (among other things) and then let distributions name the package however they want, rather keeping to push different naming schemes down each other throats.

AppStream has been supported in Discover for over a year now (only for PackageKit so far) and, since introducing this feature is straightforward, I implemented it in master.
If somebody wants to give it a go, test master and click here: KMail

I think this will be beneficial not only for KDE but any project packaged on GNU/Linux distributions that have a presence on the web and need to find their way in users’ installations. This will of course be limited to getting the URL scheme adopted by our peers.

/me winks at Gnome Software and Ubuntu Software Center.

Sprinting KDE Connect

What will happen?

KDE Connect is nowadays on a sweet moment where many things can happen. This is an interesting moment to sprint, because it will allow all of us to work together on interesting features that can then be merged at once with greater impact.

The things that are the most important to me are:

  • The Plasma Phone port. See more below.
  • Improvements on the Plasma Desktop integration. Currently it’s a bit weird. It mostly works, but then it’s currently lacking any interaction with the remote devices. We should review what it does and what can we do to offer what the user actually needs.
  • Using the phone (or any other device) to transparently provide data to the desktop system. We have many interesting listed ideas. Use the phone to provide location, the phone’s microphone and camera, etc.
  • File system synchronization

What will I do?

One of the things I’ve been working on lately is a new KDE Connect client. Initially with the Plasma Phone in mind, this new application opens a new window of opportunity also on other platforms. First of all, it should be right away usable on Jolla (when they adopt a saner set of dependencies) and the Ubuntu Phone.

From our point of view, one of the biggest problems of KDE Connect is that we have a hard time to pivot over to other deskop-based platforms, mostly because our desktop approach so far is a plasmoid, which isn’t very portable. Having a standalone application will help as well to reach such platforms as well.

Another thing I’d like to work on further is KDE software integration on Android. Things should be set by now, but we need work to shape the path further. Things like setting up the KDE Frameworks 5 CI for Android for example will be a huge step forward. Also building some other application for Android, will help us get a better overview of the current state.

Support us!

All of this will happen in the next KDE Connect sprint within the Randa Meetings. If you like KDE Connect and wish it to bloom into the tool we’re all looking forward to, consider donating!

Support KDE Sprints 2015!

KDevelop: Concentration as a feature

One of the things I’ve heard on every KDevelop sprint is: we should be light, like Kate but with our added value.

We’ve addressed this in many ways so far: we’ve optimized the code for performance so it’s more responsive and starts reasonably fast, we’ve made sure most done is accessible using the keyboard so we don’t feel clumsy and overwhelmed by all the options.

Today, I wanted to reflect on 2 things:

  • What do we miss to be that ideal light editor?
  • What’s a good lightness inspiration?

Otherwise, TLDR, there’s a video below.

What do we miss?

The avid Planet KDE reader will know that being light is a complex concept, there’s many ways to perceive lightness: Is Kate light? Is KWrite light?

When we talk about lightness, we generally refer to different metrics. If something is worth waiting for, we wait, and that’s fine. We don’t want to feel we’re wasting our time. A good example there I’d say it’s Chromium. It’s probably one of the heaviest beasts we run on our systems. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel as such (at least until you run out of memory).

There’s another point of view: We bomb users with features. In fact, it’s awesome to have features and it shouldn’t be a trade-off. On the other hand we’re never using all features at the same time, optimizing that would be awesome. We should work on it: identifying the different workflows and creating user interfaces that enable them.

What’s the role model?

One of the developments that have struck me the most during last years is Kate. Instead of focusing on the editor, it went the KDevelop route: it has started to offer all of the information at once (especially odd, given that there’s quite some feature overlapping).

More generally, if I look at what others are doing, I see two major groups:

On one hand, there’s atom.io and sublime that seem to be doing something very similar. Most of the components they have we have as well, but then the focus is rather different: they have very few visual interaction components, mostly just the menu, so you can just play with the text and you know where to go look for stuff. UI’s are usually embedded in the source code view.

On the other hand, there’s Eclipse or Visual Studio that do something quite similar to what we do: present everything in the traditional desktop application way with docks and a couple of smart tricks, because they try to tackle the whole workflow problem.

I understand how we got to where we are, but I also really understand why people can prefer something like atom. My feeling is that “It doesn’t make me feel like I should be debugging while I’m coding”, even though they oversimplify on some areas.

What do I propose?

I decided that I wanted to feel what’s to work without all the clutter, so I implemented a Concentration Mode for KDevelop. I stripped most of the visual stress, so usually we’re left with the good ol’ katepart editor, with all KDevelop‘s features. I’ll become my own guinea pig: now that I have it clean, how do I use the tools? Can I still do the same things? As discussed on the mailing list, this has had some fruits already.

I think it’s really cool: code, code, code, quick open and shortcuts.

The Video!

Now, a bit of a video implementing what I discussed here.

What to look for:

  • We get to hide the navigation handle, leaving only the toolbar, the document title and the central view.
  • The toolviews are still accessible.
  • The menu is still accessible
  • For now, I can decide to just see what I’m working on. Now.

Happy hacking!

Suggesting new ways: Kamoso 3.0 Technology Preview

The world changes, and with it, we change too. For this new version of Kamoso we wanted to iterate what we’re presenting.

The Camera

Since we’re using GStreamer, we could take advantage of newer technology available there. Now we’re using camerabin for the video capture (in contrast to using v4l2src directly).
This will offer a better experience, with less tweaks on our side, that will definitely improve the end-user experience.

User Interaction

The whole application wasn’t rewritten, but all the UI was. We have a re-designed interface that integrates some really lean and meaningful animations and sorts the components so that we can get a simple, dialog-free UI.

Sharing

Sharing is probably the most important feature in Kamoso besides video capture, and we took special care of it. We adopted the new Purpose technology that is seeing its light for the first time with this Technology Preview. We want to make sure that we can offer the best solution by making sure it integrates properly on our UI and it can also be integrated on other parts of KDE. This way we’ll be able to come up with an adequate set of plugins and enjoy them all in community. For now, we have: KDE Connect, Imgur for images and YouTube for videos.

Where to find it?

I put together this little list, so everyone can find the tarballs and packages (on the distributions that managed to package it):
https://userbase.kde.org/Kamoso/3.0#Alpha

We need you!

We need special help with:

  • Testing, on more cameras, more hardware.
  • Artwork, especially icons.
  • Coding, especially Purpose sharing plugins (Facebook? Twitter? ownCloud?)

But anything else is welcome, as always. Please get in touch!

A Purpose for everything

When we were porting Kamoso to Qt5/KF5, at some point I realized that it was about time we came up with whatever we’d want to do with sharing. Kipi is definitely an interesting technology, but no matter how I looked at it I found that it missed an iteration in the concept. In some aspects it’s very specific, in some others very broad. In fact, I already tried to improve it, back in 2009.
My conclusion was that I wanted to take a step back and re-think what I wanted because I don’t think it’s just about images and it’s not even just about Importing and Exporting.

  • Is Import/Export really special?
  • What do we want to integrate?
  • How can we simplify the implementation as much as possible? Having as many plug-ins as possible is a must.
  • What are other platforms doing?

This took me a while to figure out and it’s probably not ready yet, but since I needed something anyway I decided to just go for it.

What?

The idea is that at some point when developing an application you’ll need to fulfill different purposes (or desires, as some like calling it). At this point we’ll want to integrate the possibility of providing an action with all the information needed to fulfill it.

This purpose will have different fulfillment propositions, which we’ll need to provide a list with the alternatives and then be able to go for the one the user prefers.

Example 1

In Gwenview we want to be able to share the currently displayed image. To do so, we’ll get a toolbar button that on click we’ll get the 2 more likely alternatives and a “More…” option that will open a dialog that lists all the possibilities.

With all the provided information, we should be able to perform the export with minimal and integrated configuration. The different alternatives could be exporting to imgur, saving the file locally, upload to my ownCloud or my Facebook. For this, note that any configuration will seldom be needed.

Example 2

We’re reviewing code in KDevelop and we want to tell on someone we messed up. KDevelop can integrate the “Call” purpose that will propose us all the different ways to get in touch of the disaster perpetrator.

Example 3

The QuickShare plasmoid has a patch file dropped on. We receive the alternatives which can have any mime type: text files, binary files and any specific format (such as text/x-patch or text/markdown).

Example 4

An application wants to show us a location in a map. Instead forcing into some implementation, it will request Purpose to show a latitude and longitude and the user will decide where to check it. Alternatives could be OpenStreet Map, Google Maps and Marble.

How?

I came up with a small proof of concept to be able to start getting things working and I even adopted it on a couple of projects. It’s working well but I’m still a bit afraid of committing to an API. As a first step, I’m here explaining it for you all.

At the moment the API is really simple, it consists of 3 C++ classes:

  • AlternativesModel, the interface for clients.
  • PluginBase to be implemented by each plugin.
  • Job which will be re-implemented by the plugin and tracked by the client

Then there’s some QtQuick components built on top that simplify the integration on QML applications. We should get some QtWidgets components as well, as soon as we have to integrate it on a QtWidgets-based application.

The AlternativesModel will receive a PluginType string which defines what kind of plugin will be used and the input data. The plugin type will define what information needs to be provided and what output will be received. Then the model will be populated with all the plugins with the said PluginType. The plugins will be able to specify a set of constraints, so the model can filter them out in case they’re not a good fit, and a set of configuration variables. These configuration variables are required to run the plugin and if they’re not provided, the application will need to show the user interface provided by the plugin, which is implemented through a QtQuick file, for now.

For some more precise information, here’s

TextField { id: url }

Purpose.AlternativesView
{
  pluginType: "Export"
  inputData: {
    mimeType: 'text/plain',
    urls: [url.text]
  }

  onFinished: {
    console.log("Done", output.url)
    if (error!=0) {
      console.log("error:", errorString)
    }
  }
}

Where are we?

It can be used now. It’s already integrated in the QuickShare plasmoid in kdeplasma-addons and in Kamoso which should be released eventually. Still, I’d like to see other use-cases being implemented and developed. The biggest void I see is plugins: getting Google+, Twitter, Facebook, ownCloud should be easy but needs to be done. If somebody is knowledgeable about such API’s and is interested in KDE applications integrating them, please step forward!

Additionally, if you think your application could use some purposes or that you have an idea of a new purpose that will change humanity, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ll change it together! \o/

Now here’s a screencast of the work in progress (especially the UI, eh..)

PS: Video uploaded using Purpose as well!

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