For the last couple of years the folks at SUSE have been building a new build system that could help us make packages for multiple distributions from the same source code.
The service has been in beta testing for a few months.
One of the problems that the Linux community faces is that a binary package built in one distribution will not necessarily work on a different distribution. Distributions have adopted different file system layout configurations (from the trivial to the more complex), different versions of system libraries and configuration files are placed in different locations. In addition different revisions of the operating system will differ from release to release, so the same software will not always build cleanly.
Although there are efforts to unify and address this problem, these efforts have failed because they require all major distributions to agree on file system layout, in the adoption of a core. Without the buy-in of everyone, it is not possible to solve this problem, which has made the life of the Linux Standard Base folks incredibly frustrating.
If you are ahead of the pack, the mentality has been that you will prevail over other distributions and become the only Linux distribution so there is no need to spend extra engineering work in trying to unify distributions.
At Ximian, when we were a a small independent software vendor trying to distribute our software for Linux users (Evolution, and as a side effect the "Ximian Desktop") we had to set up internal build farms to target multiple operating systems. We created a build system (build-buddy) with "jails" which were a poor man's operating system virtualization system to build packages for all of the Linux distributions.
To this date shipping software for multiple Linux distributions remains a challenge. For instance, look at the downloads page for Mono. We are targeting various distribution of Linux there, and we know we are missing many more, but setting up multiple Linux distributions, building on every one of them, running the tests and maintaining the systems takes a lot of time.
And this problem is faced by every ISV. Folks at Mozilla and VMware have horror stories to tell about how they have to ship their products to ensure that they run on a large number of distributions.
The OpenSUSE Build System
Originally, the OpenSUSE Build System was a hosted service running at SUSE. The goal of the build system was to build packages for various distributions from the same build specifications.
Currently it can build packages for the Novell, Red Hat, Mandriva, Debian and Ubuntu (the versions supported currently are: SUSE Linux 9.3, 10.0 and 10.1, OpenSUSE 10.2, SUSE Linux Enterprise 10, Debian Etch, Fedora Core 5, 6, Mandriva 2006 and Ubuntu 6.06).
For example, Aaron is packaging Banshee for a number of platforms, you can browse the packages here.
This hosted service means that developers did not have to setup their own build farms, they could just use the build farms provided by SUSE.
With the open sourcing of the build system, third party ISVs and IT developers no longer have to use the hosted services at SUSE, they are now able to setup their own build farms inside their companies and produce packages for all of the above distributions. If you need to keep your code in-house, you can use the same functionality and setup your own build farms.
Currently those creating packages can use either a web interface or a command line tool to get packages built by the system (a nice API is available to write other front-ends; GUI front-ends are currently under development).
From the Scribus blog:
While we recently released 18.104.22.168 into the wild, one of the tools we used for the first time is the new OpenSuse Build Server. So why the rant ?
In a word it is terrific. :) It still is in beta phase and there are features to be added. However, it is a major helper for time stretched developers to package their application in a sane way and then automagically push them to rotating mirrors worldwide without a lot of fuss.
It is all fine and well if you write the best code in the world if no one can use it. And that means packaging. For Linux, that means creating a .deb or creating rpm packages which many Linux distributions use.
The magic is one can upload the source and a spec file which is a recipe to build rpms. Select which platforms to build, push a button and voila. In an hour or two you have all your packages built in a carefully controlled manner. This allowed us to supply 22.214.171.124 for all Suse releases 9.3+ including the Enterprise Desktop 10 for the first time. Even better for users, they can use what ever tool be it Yast, Smart or Yum to add these repositories to get the latest greatest Scribus with all dependencies automatically satisfied. Push button packaging for users too :)
The resulting packages that are submitted today to the build service can be installed with a number of popular software management tools including Smart, apt, yum and yast.
We hope that this cross-distribution build system will remove the burden of picking a subset of Linux distributions to support and will make more packages available for more distributions.
A tutorial on getting started is here.
Congratulations to the OpenSUSE team for this release!
Posted on 26 Jan 2007
Linux Format Magazine is running a contest to get your idea implemented in Mono. The contest goes like this:
Get your dream application made! In Linux Format issue 89, our Mono cover feature includes a competition called Make it with Mono, where you design your ideal piece of software. Just jot down your suggestions, and in April other users will rate them -- if your entry makes it into the top 30, you'll win a cool Mono T-shirt. And if yours is the number 1 rated entry, it will be programmed in Mono!
Posted on 25 Jan 2007
The Ms-PL is for all intents and purposes an open source license.
This is a diagram from the introduction to ASP.NET AJAX:
The left-hand side is what has been released under the Ms-PL. For the whole stack to work on Mono, we will have to do some work on the server-side assemblies that provide the support (the System.Web.Extensions assembly). It is likely a lot of work, but considerably less than the whole stack.
The AJAX Control Toolkit comes with 30 controls for common tasks, with a nice sampler of the controls. The Control Toolkit is actually being developed in the open, and Microsoft is integrating external contributions.
Nikhil has a retrospective on how the project came to be. A good chunk of information for those of us interested in the archaeology of software.
A big thanks to everyone at Microsoft involved in picking the Ms-PL license for these technologies.
Posted on 24 Jan 2007
Jim has posted an update on using Mono to script SecondLife.
The challenges that they were facing were related to memory leaks that were experienced when they loaded and unloaded thousand of application domains (I gather this happens when they refresh a specific script in SecondLife).
Posted on 22 Jan 2007
Wikifonia has been launched, a Wiki to share sheet music, it is on its early stages, but it already has some content.
Posted on 22 Jan 2007
In his Open Letter to the President Ralph Nader points out that although Bush admitted "mistakes were made", he quickly moved on, and changed the subject:
You say "where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me." You then quickly change the subject. Whoa now, what does it mean when you say the responsibility for mistakes rest with you?
Responsibility for "mistakes" that led to the invasion-which other prominent officials and former officials say were based on inaccurate information, deceptions, and cover-ups?
Responsibility for the condoning of torture, even after the notorious events at abu-Gharib prison were disclosed?
Responsibility for months and months of inability to equip our soldiers with body armor and vehicle armor that resulted in over 1,000 lost American lives and many disabilities?
Responsibility for the gross mismanagement over outsourcing both service and military tasks to corporations such as Haliburton that have wasted tens of billions of dollars, including billions that simply disappeared without account?
Responsibility for serious undercounting of official U.S. injuries in Iraq-because the injuries were not incurred in direct combat-so as to keep down political opposition to the war in this country?
Click to read the rest of the letter.
Posted on 21 Jan 2007
Microsoft has posted some answers to questions regarding the Content, Restriction, Annulment and Protection (or CRAP, some people euphemistically call it "Digital Rights Management") features built into Vista. I previously blogged about Peter Gutmann's explanation of the problems that it would cause Vista.
Microsoft has responded to these claims here.
The response does little to contradict Peter's findings, and merely tries to shed some positive light on things. They answer questions in the best style of Ari Fletcher; for example, when it comes to cost, they conveniently ignore the question and instead focus on the manufacturing benefits (!!!).
It is interesting to compare this with the presentation by ATI at Microsoft's Hardware conference in 2005 (WinHEC), Digital Media Content Protection which has a more honest look at the costs all throughout the stack.
The discussion at Slashdot browsed at +4 has the good stuff.
Posted on 21 Jan 2007
You can see the UI of the Sansa Connect in action in this Engadget video:
It apparently will also let you browse your Flickr (wonder if they use the Flickr.Net API) and share songs with your friends, and it seems to have some sort of last-fm like listening mode.
The details on the song sharing are not very clear, it all seems bound to the service. But I wonder if you can pass around your own mp3s.
Anyways, am buying this on the grounds that it runs Mono, and so I can finally show a physical object to the family that runs it.
Posted on 18 Jan 2007
The Sansa Connect is running Linux as its operating system, and the whole application stack is built on Mono, running on an ARM processor.
There is a complete review of it at Engadget, among the features it includes:
The WiFi support allows users to download music from providers or their own home servers.
The Sansa Connect is designed by the great guys at Zing and it will be available to purchase in a couple of months.
Posted on 17 Jan 2007
With all the rage and discussion over the PS3 vs the Wii and how the Wii is a breakthrough in interactivity, I decided to get myself one of those, and auctioned my way to one on eBay.
The last time I owned a console it was an Atari 2600, and I barely got to play with it.
Wii Sports is a very nice program, and I enjoy playing it. As reported, your arms are sore the next day after playing Wii Tennis.
I went to the local game store and bought some assorted games for the Wii, the clerk said "excellent choices sir", as if I was picking a great cheese at Formaggio Kitchen.
The graphics are amazing, but I could not stand playing any of them. The Zelda graphics are incredibly well done.
But all I could think of was the poor guy in QA that must have debugged been filing bugs against this. Man, do I feel sorry for the QA guys that do games.
But I just do not feel like solving Zelda. Am sure it must have some kind of appeal to some people, but solving puzzles in a 3D world and shooting at stuff and earning points did not sound like an interesting enough challenge. I can appreciate the cuteness of having to find the cradle in exchange for the fishing pole and shooting rocks and "zee-targeting" something.
As far as challenges go, to me, fixing bugs, or writing code is a more interesting puzzle to solve. And for pure entertainment, my blogroll and reddit provide a continuous stream of interesting topics.
Am keeping the Wii though. Playing Wii box and Wii tennis with Laura is incredibly fun (well, watching Laura play Wii Box accounts for 80% of the fun).
When I got the Wii, I told myself "If I like this, am getting the PS3 and the XBox". Well, I actually just thought about it, I do not really talk to myself.
But am obviously not a gamer.
Posted on 11 Jan 2007