Topics raised at UDS

Ok, this post is long overdue and has been around as a draft for more than a week now, so here it is. As readers of this weblog already know, I was at the Ubuntu Developer Summit from December 8th to 12th. We had quite a few discussions on topics I’m interested in outside the scope of the official sessions held at UDS. Let me just list them here in random order:

  • Arnaud Quette told me about Buildbot which can be used to test your repository for compilation errors on various systems. I suppose it can be a real time saver if you want your project to compile on a variety of distributions and UNIX flavors and want immediate response as to whether compilation is going to succeed on these. That way you don’t have to wait for packagers and users to report compilation errors back to you and don’t have to enter that typical ping pong developer-reporter dialog. Buildbot not only catches compilation errors but is also capable of sending notification emails and provides detailed information about the compile log and so on. It’s implemented based on a server/client concept where each client tests compilation on one system and the server collects data from the clients. By using virtualization you can set up server and clients on the same machine. This would be very nice to have for Xfce but I suppose it would require another dedicated server just for running all these compilations. If anyone is interested in looking in to that, I’d be happy to establish contact to someone from Buildbot to provide you with more information.
    As a funny coincidence, Frédéric Péters recently announced build.gnome.org which is a great example of Buildbot usage.
  • I talked to Christian Kellner about GIO/Gvfs a bit in order to get information on how remote/virtual filesystems work. One thing I’ve thought about is how to allow for a list of user-defined remote/virtual filesystems which show up in the side pane of Thunar. There are different approaches to that. One is to use bookmarks which seems to be what, according to Christian, Nautilus does right now. While this seems to work quite well it seems to confuse users a bit. Personally, I’d like to see them separated from bookmarks. There has been a proposal for Nautilus to make the side pane look better by using sections. One thing I could imagine would be to have a “Virtual Volumes” section listing the user-defined filesystems and provide some sort of GUI for creating/removing/editing these. From what I’ve heard there also is a third approach, which is to make remote filesystems to appear as fake volumes in HAL or DeviceKit. I’ll have to look into that in order to decide what the best way to go is, I guess.
  • PulseAudio and GStreamer: We discussed the limited PulseAudio backend for GStreamer in a group of up to five people and agreed that it really needs improvement (as in more tracks have to be added to the GstMixer interface) if we don’t want users to be able to control PulseAudio through the mixer applications they know. PulseAudio-specific applications like pavucontrol are not really what we want them to use.
  • Xubuntu remix for netbooks: During one of the Xubuntu sessions I talked to a member of the Ubuntu Mobile team about Xfce in general, the modularity of Xfce and the dependencies it has. He seemed to be very interested in it but he was also worried about Xfce becoming less lightweight, eating up more memory and disk space. It wasn’t the first time during UDS that someone mentioned LXDE and asked me about my opinion on it. Two main reasons for Xfce being lightweight always were the small number of dependencies and applications which you could call the Xfce stack. With more and more applications and libraries being added, Xfce naturally feel less lightweight, even if these applications are not considered a part of the core desktop. You always have to keep that in mind. It seems like the high modularity of Xfce compensates parts of that and is why people are interested in Xfce in the context of mobile devices. Despite being modular and somewhat lightweight, Xfce also has improved in terms of user experience lately. I think we can push this even further. Giving accessibility more attention might also be worth considering. Usability is something I don’t really see in LXDE (yet). That’s what I usually tell people if they ask me for my opinion on it.

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