Archive for February, 2006

Martin Meredith blogs that it would be good for other distros also to adopt Malone. Most of the larger distros have established bugzilla’s or their own custom bug trackers, though, so we specifically designed Malone so that it can link to those external bug trackers rather than requiring them to adopt Malone.

Right now, it still requires opening a bug in each of the upstream trackers, which is a pain.

In the future, I think we should see if we can get permission from the upstream bug tracker operators for Launchpad to be able to open bugs directly in their trackers. So, from Launchpad, if we had permission from Mozilla, you should be able to say “this bug in Ubuntu’s Firefox package is also in upstream, please open a bug report for it”. And that should report the bug in bugzilla.mozilla.org, then link it in all the right ways in Malone.

The problem will definitely be the risk of filing unnecessary dups in the upstream tracker. Bugzilla is getting good at getting people to check that the bug they are reporting has not already been reported. We need that same level of defense in Launchpad (though with the ticket tracker slowly improving, we should see more problems starting out there, being handled by the community, and graduating to Malone only once they are verified). And we need a way to make sure that Launchpad does not get a bad reputation for being used to poke dups into upstream bug trackers.

What the fsck is a product series?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

In Launchpad, we have a thing called a “product series” that represents a series of releases from the same branch. For example, Firefox 1.5, 1.5.0.1, 1.5.1 etc would all belong to the “1.5″ series. The name “product series” sucks horribly, and I’d really like to get a better name. Suggestions welcome, on #launchpad or on the launchpad-users mailing list.

So, why do we have these?

Very simply, because many (if not most) of the things that developers care about are related to work in progress. Think about it. We don’t really edit the translations of the 1.5.0.1 release of Firefox – because those are in the tarball, they are done and dusted. If we are editing translations for 1.5.0.1 its because we actually want those translations published along with 1.5.1… the next release in the series. So we should track the translations of the series, not the release.

Similarly, if you want to fix a bug in an upstream product, and do it for say 1.5 of Firefox, then once again you are “targeting this fix to the next release in the series” of the branch you are landing it on.

So, in Launchpad, both translations and bugs are tightly coupled to upstream product series.

Of course, a product series is very similar to a special branch of that product. And in fact, in Launchpad you can associate a particular branch with a series. This then means that we can monitor that branch for special events. In future, for example, we will be able to know that you have fixed a bug in a particular series when we see a commit message to that effect on the branch. Pretty cool vapourware :-)

Absolutely no truth to the rumour…

Monday, February 13th, 2006

I keep getting asked about Google’s “distribution of Ubuntu”, so perhaps this is a good place for me to say that as far as I’m aware there is absolutely no truth to the rumour that Google plans to distribute a derivative of Ubuntu as a Google OS. As exciting as that may be for Linux, it wouldn’t make sense for Google, and so far they’ve been pretty sensible about their projects.

Google uses lots of Linux internally, I imagine they also have their own versions of Red Hat, SUSE, Debian, perhaps even Gentoo and of course Ubuntu. So don’t read too much into their use of Ubuntu – it’s just part of the picture, and nothing to get overly excited about. The “goobuntu” you may have heard of is just a modified version of Ubuntu. Technically, there’s likely to be a “goobian” and a “goohat” too :-). The good news is that the guys there have been good about sending us patches, and we do our best to integrate them into mainstream Ubuntu and push them on to Debian and upstream.

I’m sure this won’t stop the rumours, but if you hear them, you can point here for a dose of reality.

Nothing to fear from the truth

Saturday, February 11th, 2006

I’m in Beijing, China, for the first time.

What an interesting experience. The city is modern – spacious, well organised, clean. The people are gracious, relaxed and open. Yet this is clearly a tightly managed state. This hotel broadband connection links me to about half the internet – the rest is conveniently firewalled off. Surfing the net for news is painful, many sites and stories just time out. Others are blazingly fast. The firewall rules decide who can see what.

There are closed circuit video cameras all over the show, and they obviously and actively track the pretty girls. Because they’re obviously a clear and present threat to national security. I’d take that line too, if it was my job to monitor the damn things.

This is a country that will certainly take its turn as the dominant global superpower. Again. History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes, and the pattern of the ages is that major cultures each take their turn at the top. Of course, China has been there before in days gone by, and if modern history had been written by the Chinese we might all be more aware of their great early discoveries, exploration and civilisations. But that’s history now, the important thing is the future. And the future here is bright. China is moving fast.

The story of recent Chinese “management policy” is interesting. Many concepts, such as the one-child policy, are outrageous or offensive to Western sensibilities, but they are widely supported and well regarded here. And frankly, they make a certain amount of sense. Keeping the population growth rate down has made the economic growth rate contribute more directly to personal well-being. Having come directly from India, the contrast on that front is immediately obvious. There may be a billion Chinese here, but they each seem to have a reasonable amount of space, and less pressure on resources means fewer reasons for domestic tension.

In practical terms, the West will likely end up adopting similar policies. While we all have the right to do what we like with our lives, there are likely to be increasing consequences for behaviour that has a social cost to it. Most Western countries are banning smoking in public places, because your right to smoke doesn’t give you the right to harm the health of others. And I think it’s likely to go further (sensibly so) to reflect the fact that self-induced harm should not be the problem of the state. Countries are going to say to obese people: you lose your rights to free health care unless you take care of yourself. Same goes for smokers. Here in China, the one-child policy is similar. You can technically do what you like, but if you don’t help the state manage itself, then the state won’t help you. Fair enough.

What I find more difficult to understand, though, is the restriction on speech and access to knowledge. A free country has nothing to fear from the truth. That’s something we need to remind ourselves of today. In the USA, there are awkward signs of the truth being surpressed when its politically inconvenient. NASA’s climate scientists are getting told to keep the facts of global warming to themselves – by a 24 year old who lied on his resume about actually having a degree, but who proved his political loyalty during the Bush campaign. Journalists who probe allegations of White House impropriety face censure and are ostracised. Their employers come under pressure to silence them or fire them, or face economic sanction in subtle but meaningful ways. As much as the White House would love some things to be true, the facts don’t always cooperate. A mature leadership recognises that and adapts its plans to reality. An immature leadership tries to manipulate the presentation of reality to fit its ideas. So it’s not just in China that we see the systematic suppression of the truth.

But in China, the filtering of information reaches a new height. And I wonder how the transition to an open society will be made. Because sooner or later that transition must come. In cities, people have ever increasing wealth. They find it easier to live with things like the one-child policy, because their modern lifestyles make fewer, smarter and better educated children a sensible strategy. They share increasingly Western values – and sooner or later they are going to expect Western-style freedoms. Their rural peers, however, are on a different track. So much as there is a widening economic divide, there is a widening divide in values, needs, and expectations. The people of the cities may well want to get a real say in what happens long before the rural communities are comfortable with that idea. Or before the state is comfortable with the rural community vote. And that will make for an interesting transition.

It must be an extremely difficult responsibility, that of the future of a nation of one billion people. And we should be impressed with the results that this management team has delivered in recent decades. An economic transition from central planning to rampand capitalism is under way, and it’s been much better handled than the same transition in Russia was. Well done. I wonder if the information transition will be as well handled. And I wonder what the country has to fear from the truth. None of us has a monopoly on the truth, but it’s only in letting each of us speak our individual truth that society creates its consensus view.