Report on Fedora Activity Day : May 2010, Pune, India
Day 1, Getting started
Fedora India team had originally planned a FUDCon sometime this year and after several discussions, we realized that our goals of enabling existing contributors to get together and get some things done face to face was better enabled via a Fedora Activity Day in Pune, India. We selected Pune as the venue for the event because the Red Hat Engineering services office is located here and we wanted to host the event in this place and the logistics was much easier this way. I volunteered to be the event owner and it was a interesting learning experience. For one, it is easy to understimate the amount of work required to get a event of even this relatively smaller scale up and running. More on that later.
It was a two day event on the weekend and the first day started off with Siddesh‘s workshop on autotools. Siddesh essentially redid the Fedora Classroom session he had conducted earlier. His blog with more details here. linkc is a project that I acted as a mentor for a couple of students doing an internship in Red Hat and I hope they step up to become active contributors to Fedora as well.
After Siddesh’s session, we had a quick pitch on what each of us hope to accomplish. Among the things I had planned, I made some solid progress in a few package reviews. The only thing that didn’t get any movement was fixing the desktop file issues listed here. We hope to perhaps do a followup online later and cover that.
I gave the list of security bugs from here to Rakesh Pandit and he worked on quite a few of them and has pushed updates. I was hoping to join him but didn’t find the time at the end. In Fedora, we have a security team from Red Hat montoring issues and filing bug reports but there isn’t a organized community resolving them and I hope we get that problem fixed soon as the current situation isn’t ideal at all. If the maintainers are busy or have orphaned their packages or bugs fall through the cracks somehow, we need to handle them. A SIG focussing on it would be very helpful.
Day 2, Fedora as upstream for OLPC
Sayamindu’s talk on OLPC as downstream for Fedora was the highlight of the second day. Saymandu has been working fulltime on OLPC for quite sometime now and his moving from there soon. Since he wanted to talk about some of the issues that he would like to see addressed, I took notes using gnote. Kushal Das was working with Sayamindu the couple of days and has a blog post on what they did, including a link to the video of the talk here. I will provide my summary:
He began by introducing himself and noting that OLPC is the largest downstream of Fedora with atleast a couple of million deployments all over the world. OLPC stays as close to Fedora as possible to avoid maintanence burden. OLPC moves slowly even though they need to work with the latest software and hence RHEL/CentOS is not a option and they did experimental but found out that it didn’t work for them. They only maintain a couple of packages with a few patches that hasn’t been merged into Fedora yet into a seperate repository and push everything else into Fedora and have commit access for the packages they care about. They do regular builds combining these two repositories whenever it is needed. When OLPC folks want to push builds and push updates via bodhi, there is a delay before it hits the repository. They currently workaround that by taking scratch builds and shoving them into their own repo and start doing builds and that sometimes means that they don’t followup on the updates they are trying to push. OLPC would like the bodhi delays to be short to avoid this problem. Modularized kicstarts is a desirable feature since they are currently using shell scripts and %include to deal with it. They would also like to decouple translation updates from software builds with some modularity via language packs similar to KDE, Firefox or Openoffice.org and unlike GNOME or even Sugar. Ubuntu uses a glibc hack which Saymindu looked into and found ugly and Ubuntu’s translation system is “broken” even though they won’t admit it he says. There is currently no good solution for this problem for OLPC. OLPC would also like to specify a specific version in kickstart for handling xboard-config updates. Post deployments updates like Fedora are not really feasible for OLPC. They tend to move slow and incrementally and hence they are very conservative about updates. If updates cause problems in a build, it is a major issue even if Fedora fixes it quickly subsequently. He indicated that this as not a problem as such but just something different about their process. He concluded by saying that Fedora is the best possible upstream for OLPC but some of the warts would be nice to see fixed. I followed up by a few questions and suggestions noting that the release engineering team would likely be glad to help from anyone in OLPC willing to sign the updates they care about and there has been steps taken to reduce the bodhi delays including auto-signing updates. For modularized kickstart files, I pointed out the spin-kickstarts repository as a example to emulate and suggested that they followup with Chris Lumens on any particular kickstart features they might need. I also pointed out Fedora’s auto-qa efforts to improve stability of updates and avoiding regressions.
I dabbled a bit with additional package reviews for the second day and helped Shrink get started with packaging Sup, a mail client written in Ruby which requires a few additional Ruby modules to be submitted as review requests as well. Shrink is a big fan of Sup and has some personal motivation in doing it. He has made some considerable progress already and has started getting responses to his review requests so I hope to see Sup in the Fedora repo soon.
We had a discussion at the end of the day about what we needed to do better for the next FAD. We had consensus that a more detailed agenda would be better and we should do followups online on a regular basis. Overall Fedora contributors in India thought it was more interesting and effective to collaborate face to face to get things done or even poke fun at each other! We also discussed for sometime on having a FUDCon next year. I will post updates on that when we have some concrete plans. There is a lot more to tell of course since we had a lot more participants and I haven’t covered everything that happened but I will let the enterprising individuals detail their experiences on their own:-) I hope everyone found the event as engaging as I did and look forward to more of these in the future.