Calamares releases

It’s been a quiet month for me for blogging, but one filled with unexpected and weird and not-really-bloggable things. There was a trip to Berlin, where I had the pleasure of meeing up with a bunch of KDE people whom I hadn’t seen for over a month. Long time. There was also an accident with maple syrup, I’m sure.

Anyway, there have been four (!) Calamares releases since I last wrote about it on august 23rd (two months ago). These mix various bugfixes with various regression-fixes. This illustrates that I need a better set of acceptance tests before releasing — which take a surprisingly long time to set up, since the regressions are things like “Installing Chakra with network packages fails”, not simple stuff that is OS-, hardware- and installation-independent.

The latest release fixes that Chakra (or, rather, Calamares netinstall) problem. I’m happy to report that there’s a few new Linuxen evaluating Calamares as a system installer.

Plans for the near future include a 3.2 with some new features and much nicer support from new KPMCore releases, and ongoing care for the 3.1.x series. When and how, is in the hands of the vagaries of inspiration and long sessions with pen and paper figuring out just how things should work.

Randa Approaches

Later this week, I’m leaving for Zurich, and from there I’ll take the train up to Randa (up, in the sense that I live at sea level, and Randa is the length of one million micro-SD cards laid end-to-end higher).

In Randa, I’ll be working as a KDE developer, and as a Calamares developer, and learning about accessibility tooling. There’s about 60 hacking hours in that week. I’ll also be working as the cook, for one day. There’s about 12¬†cooking hours in a day, since feeding 30 people takes a lot of vegetable-chopping, bread-slicing, and dish-washing.

That is something special about Randa, I think: the feeling of much closer “living together”, and the way the attendees work together to create an optimal hacking environment. And cooking (along with the hacking) is my way of supporting the Randa meeting.

You can support the Randa meeting, too. That doesn’t support me; it supports other attendees who need to make long trips, it defrays the costs associated with infrastructure, it brings networking to town for a week. Support the Randa meetings for this year’s theme, or for the idea of a focussed retreat for hacking.

There’s a dot story about plans for the meeting. There will be summaries as well, and blog-roundups. But blog-roundups are tricky, because of the kind of things we (attendees) tend to write about. When blogging about the Randa meeting, I’ll probably blog more about food and hikes than about the hacking. The non-hacking bits make for better stories, even if the point of being there is the hacking. The results of the long coding sessions — privilege-separating Calamares, double-checking accessibility of KDE on FreeBSD — will show up later, in a future Calamares release or KDE-FreeBSD update. That’s the long-term payoff.

 

Calamares 3.1.3 released

Calamares is an (Linux) installer framework. It’s an application with lots of pluggable modules to do system installation tasks (like partitioning, setting up users, and enabling encryption on filesystems) needed when installing Linux onto a computer system. There are modules written in C++ (with Qt), modules in Python, and modules in Python (with Qt). The middle bunch was, up until this release, untranslatable.

Calamares 3.1.2 was released yesterday, followed by a hotfix 3.1.3 (my bad), with new potentially translatable strings. I’ll admit that the last few strings were snuck in quite late, so translations are incomplete. This is no worse than they were, where the strings were entirely untranslatable. Expect more complete translations with 3.1.4, to be relased in two weeks time or so.

This is a medium-sized step for the accessibility of Calamares, now that more of the application is available in the user’s native language.

I’m also planning a much bigger accessibility step, which is adding screen reader support to the application. Actually, “adding” is probably the wrong word: I’ll stop agressively not supporting screen readers. That hostility towards screen readers comes from the setuid nature of Calamares (it’s messing around in filesystems and partitions and whatnot) and that hostility needs to end. Adaptive technologies should be usable also when installing a computer.

With that in mind, I will be going to Randa next month for this year’s Randa meeting, which has a focus on accessibility. The dot story explains the purpose of the meeting better than I can, and one of the comments presents exactly the challenge: turn off the monitor. Now boot the computer with CD in the drive, and install Linux. If Calamares can make that possible, then we’re helping everyone get Free Software.

To help the Randa meeting help everyone, consider making a donation, which helps to keep lights on in Randa (not the heating — we bring sleeping bags because it’s cold in the mountains, even in summer).

(I should note: Calamares isn’t a KDE project, although it is used by some Linux distro’s that have a KDE focus. It is also used by some Linux distro’s that focus on a Qt-free experience after installation. Calamares is an independent project, supported by Blue Systems. And yes, I do hope to install FreeBSD with Calamares at some point.)

Calamares Testing

Photo of DesktopMy project for Blue Systems is maintaining Calamares, the distro-independent installer framework. Not surprisingly, working on it means installing lots of Linux distro’s. Here’s my physical-hardware testing setup, which is two identical older HP desktop machines and a stack of physical DVDs. Very old-school. Often I use Virtual Box, but sometimes the hum of a DVD is just what I need to calm down. There’s a KDE Neon, a Manjaro and a Netrunner DVD there, but the machine labeled Ubuntu is running Kannolo and sporting an openSUSE Geeko.

I’m all for eclecticism.

So far, I’ve found one new bug in Calamares, and fixed a handfull of them. I’m thankful to Teo, the previous Calamares maintainer, for providing helpful historical information, and to the downstream users (e.g. the distros) for being cheerful in explaining their needs.

Installing a bunch of different modern Linuxen is kind of neat; the variations in KDE Plasma Desktop configuration and branding are wild. Nearly all of them have trouble being usable on small screen sizes (e.g. the 800×600 that Virtual Box starts with — this has since been fixed). They all seem to install Virtual Box guest additions and can handle resizes immediately, so it’s not a huge issue, but just annoying. I’ve only broken one of my Linux installs so far (running an update, which then crashed kscreenlocker, and now it just comes up a black screen). I’ve got a KDE Neon dev/unstable as my main development VM set up, with KDevelop and the whole shizzle .. it’s very nice inside my KDE 4 desktop on FreeBSD.

I’ve got two favorite features, so far, in Linux live CDs and in KDE Plasma installations: ejecting the live CD on shutdown (Neon does this) and skipping the confirmation screen + 30 second timeout when clicking logout or shutdown (Netrunner does this).

So, time to hunker down with the list of issues, and in the meantime: keep on installin’.