Events: FOSDEM 2018

The annual FOSDEM event is really close now. It’s a kind of geek valhalla, with carousing and quaffing and a whole lot of technology things. There’s a KDE stand where you can see some of the latest KDE bits and pieces, including Plasma 5 running on low-power hardware. 2GB ought to be enough for everyone, right? We might have a phone available running the existing Plasma Mobile code, since hardware continues to be tricky to come by (Nexus5X is fine).

Come by and chat about Plasma, Kirigami, artwork, Krita, databases, graphics on low-power ARM devices, KDE on FreeBSD, Konversation, Discover (Nate Graham gives really good overviews of what’s happening), translation and more. See you soon!

A Fistful of Ports Updates

Here’s a list of KDE-related stuff (mostly official FreeBSD ports) the KDE-FreeBSD team handled recently. You could call it “a week in the life of some packagers”, packagers who are also otherwise busy with $work-work.

  • Updated otter-browser (a Qt webengine-based browser) to latest version 0.9.94
  • Added a GTK QPA
  • Updated latte-dock to latest released version 0.7.3
  • Clang6 fixes to older KDE and Qt software (out favorite #define nullptr NULL)
  • Reworked packaging of Qt 5.9 to fix a broken (generated) qconfig.h

And in area51, the unofficial ports tree where we do preparatory work (use the branch kde5-import, which supercedes the plasma5 branch; this one contains the current plan for adding Plasma5 to the ports tree and updating all the KDE Applications), we’ve also got:

  • Updated digikam to 5.8
  • Updated KDE Frameworks to 5.42 (this is waiting on an exp-run to move to official ports)
  • Improved powerdevil backend, thanks to Henry Hu
  • Added plasma5-browser-integration
  • Support Qt4 on aarch64, thanks to Fedora

As usual: you can run a full modern KDE desktop system with Plasma 5 and KDE Applications, from the area51 repository, from the kde5-import branch; official ports have the latest Qt and KDE Frameworks, but not the desktop.

Qt 5.9 on FreeBSD

Tobias and Raphael have spent the past month or so hammering on the Qt 5.9 branch, which has (finally!) landed in the official FreeBSD ports tree. This brings FreeBSD back up-to-date with current Qt releases and, more importantly, up-to-date with the Qt release KDE software is increasingly expecting. With Qt 5.9, the Elisa music player works, for instance (where it has run-time errors with Qt 5.7, even if it compiles). The KDE-FreeBSD CI system has had Qt 5.9 for some time already, but that was hand-compiled and jimmied into the system, rather than being a “proper” ports build.

The new Qt version uses a new build system, which is one of the things that really slowed us down from a packaging perspective. Some modules have been reshuffled in the process. Some applications depending on Qt internal-private headers have been fixed along the way. The Telegram desktop client continues to be a pain in the butt that way.

Following on from Qt 5.9 there has been some work in getting ready for Clang 6 support; in general the KDE and Qt stack is clean and modern C++, so it’s more infrastructural tweaks than fixing code. Outside of our silo, I still see lots of wonky C++ code being fixed and plenty of confusion between pointers and integers and strings and chars and .. ugh. Speraking of ugh, I’m still planning to clean up Qt4 on ARM aarch64 for FreeBSD; this boils down to stealing suitable qatomic implementations from Arch Linux.

For regular users of Qt applications on FreeBSD, there should be few to no changes required outside the regular upgrade cycle. For KDE Plasma users, note that development of the ports has changed branches; as we get closer to actually landing modern KDE bits, things have been renamed and reshuffled and mulled over so often that the old plasma5 branch wasn’t really right anymore. The kde5-import branch is where it’s at nowadays, and the instructions are the same: the x11/kde5 metaport will give you all the KDE Frameworks 5, KDE Plasma Desktop and modern KDE Applications you need.

Auditing Licenses in KDE Frameworks FreeBSD Packaging

FreeBSD is getting more serious about license metadata in the packages produced by the project — that is, the binary distribution of software produced from licensed source code. A lot of software in FreeBSD “proper” is (naturally) BSD-licensed, and a lot of Free Software packaged by FreeBSD is (also naturally) GPL licensed. But the different licenses carry different obligations, so it’s good to keep track of the exact licensing applied to each bit of software.

To this end, there’s the LICENSE= line in each port’s Makefile. Its meaning is “this software has such-and-such a license”. For conciseness, SPDX identifiers are used, so that you can write

LICENSE=LGPL21

and we know what you mean. Because licenses can carry textual obligations (e.g. the GPL expects you to receive a copy, and the BSD licenses generally require you to include the copyright notice with distributions), there’s
an additional setting to include the actual text, called LICENSE_FILES:

LICENSE_FILES=COPYING.LIB

There’s a third source of license information, and that is the headers of the sources themselves. Usually you put a copyright-and-license header at the top of each file; some licenses such as the MPL even require some administration in there. The reuse.software site (by the FSFE) provides good guidance and best-practices information for providing licensing metadata in software packages.

Anyway, for KDE Frameworks 5 I was going through the ports Makefiles and adding LICENSE information. The KDE Licensing Policy tells me that frameworks should be licensed LGPL21+, with a few variants allowed; an interesting one is (at your option) “LGPL21 or LGPL3 or any later version approved by KDE e.V.” Right now, in 2017, this choice is the same as LGPL21+ because no later versions exist, but it is not always-in-the-future-same, so I hesitate to write

LICENSE=LGPL21+

for KDE Frameworks until I’ve checked the files. The license text is usually included, but it’s not quite consistently named, so I need to look into the tarballs anyway. And as a double-check, I read a couple of source headers to see if the license named in the code, matches the license text elsewhere (e.g. some files say LGPL 2.1 only).

It’s a bit of a slow process — one which upstream (that is, the source code) could support a little better with consistent naming. It’s also a process that needs to be monitored continually, to ensure that the whole body of software remains properly and consistently licensed — hopefully following best practices, too.

Anyway, as of today only ten of the KDE Frameworks 5 ports in the official FreeBSD ports repository  have all their licensing information set, to the best of my ability to check their accuracy. As an ongoing project in keeping-license-info up-to-date it’s not very high-priority but something that gets done in-between other things.

Sayonara

Not goodbye, but hello to a new music player on my desktop. It is already packaged for FreeBSD and has a long development history.

Music players stand or fall per individual user whether they satisfy the user’s needs — no duh there, but it means I should note what my use cases are before enthusing about some music player in particular. I would be fine with playing music from the command-line, most of the time: mpg123 --shuffle /mnt/music/*/*/* is just about right (except it fails with an argument list too long error in the shell). This is for music-while-I-hack, so I don’t listen too closely, it’s not hi-fi at all, basically I want “play in a genre until I switch it off“. Tagging is largely done when ripping my CDs (I still buy physical media!) and I don’t care for album art (I can look in the jewel case if I want that, and they’re all stacked in boxes upstairs). So play, pause, stop .. and if it can avoid mixing Mahler with Morrissey and Mötorhead, that’s a bonus.

Screenshot of Sayonara main windowOff to the left here is Sayonara, which describes itself as:

Sayonara is a small, clear and fast audio player for Linux written in C++, supported by the Qt framework. It uses GStreamer as audio backend. Sayonara is open source and uses the GPLv3 license. One of Sayonara’s goals is intuitive and easy usablility. Currently, it is only available for Linux.

Clearly that’s not true, because it’s available for FreeBSD as well 🙂 . I forget how I configured it; there’s a File > Open Directory entry and I probably filled in /mnt/music and it went and found everything that gstreamer will sensibly play. The screenshot is of the minimal playlist-only view. It can be broadened to include a library view which is a bit chaotic, but which searches reasonably well (e.g. for Mudhoney). Sayonara is actually where I discovered the luxury of stay-on-genre autoplay: when I started on some Dutch punk and it kept pretty close to that, wandering off to de Kift occasionally — but no Drs.P.

I contributed a few small fixes to get Sayonara building on FreeBSD, cleaning up the CMakeLists for newer CMake, that kind of thing. Now that it runs on my Plasma desktop all day, I can spot some more  minor issues — the system tray media player control doesn’t interact with Sayonara at all, for instance. For my use-case, that’s not so important, since the fire-and-forget genre play does it for me until I hit pause in the main UI.

I’m looking forward to KDE music players Elisa and Babe, for comparison purposes: maybe they tick my requirements-boxes just as well, or better. Certainly Elisa seems to be fairly playing-music-focused. I’ve even got a FreeBSD port for Elisa ready, just waiting for Qt 5.9 to show up on my doorstep (I can get it to compile against 5.7, but it won’t run due to QML runtime thingies).

CMake 3.10 on FreeBSD

The CMake port on FreeBSD is in the hands of the KDE-FreeBSD folks (since KDE was an early adopter), and generally it falls to me to do the CMake update while Tobias is still wrestling with Plasma and Raphael massages Qt 5.9 into our way of building. 3.10 was released five weeks ago, and it took a while to update the port.

It doesn’t take long because of CMake — they’re great, the code builds flawlessly, and there has been a real effort on the part of the KitWare folks recently to absorb our downstream patches so that we have less work in future (During the delay packaging CMake 3.10.0 Kitware even put out 3.10.1, which re-started some processes). It doesn’t take long because of new FreeBSD-specific features in CMake — you can now use CPack to create native FreeBSD packages, just in case you don’t want to go through the ports system or poudriere.

Nope, the problem is the 2000-odd ports using CMake. These generally behave, but every CMake update brings with it some ports that suddenly don’t build. So I spent a day on things like openvsp and scalapack, which fall over with 3.10 (and didn’t with 3.9). The causes of these failures is diverse; sometimes bad local CMake modules that don’t add all the right linking flags, sometimes bad C++ code, sometime stuff that has nothing to do with CMake at all but just happens to be newly triggered, and therefore my problem.

CMake 3.10.1 landed in the official ports tree with r457041, just before Christmas.

Naturally, there are some cases that fall out after an update, that are not caught before the update is committed. I’m told that FreeBSD on PowerPC doesn’t have a C++11-capable compiler installed by default, so I’ll need to massage that a little. Boost 1.66 came out very shortly after CMake 3.10.1, and that leads to new kinds of breakage. I’ve spent a half day compiling and re-compiling ceph, a distributed filesystem, trying to get that to work. It’s amazing sometimes how shifting one brick can bring down a whole house, and how we ever built the house in the first place.

Switched to Plasma 5

I’ve switched to using Plasma 5 as my daily (work) desktop. “So what?” you say, since Plasma 5 has been available since July 15th, 2014. Yep, more than three years on the desktop — see Sebas’s blog for some history. So I’ve finally switched my FreeBSD desktop machine, as a sign that Plasma 5 really is coming closer to the official FreeBSD ports tree.

KDE Applications are starting to trickle in to the official ports tree. The first (I think) was FileLight, which gave a good illustration of the gotcha’s involved with the update:

  • Anything that touches baloo requires a radical update to Plasma 5 as a whole. Baloo 4 and baloo 5 are not happy side-by side, and we don’t intend to put serious effort into installing them in separate places.
  • Translations are tricky, because they have moved from (KDE 4 times) a separate i18n package, to the application package. This means that the new KF5-based application package conflicts with the old KDE4 application, but also with the entire translation package (for, say, Russian) for KDE4.

For people who want the whole thing now, and who understand that KDE4 co-existence with Plasma 5 and modern KDE Applications can be problematic, the official ports tree can be avoided, and Area51 is the repository or ports tree to use.

On my desktop, on 10.3-STABLE and with nVidia drivers, Plasma 5 is more stable than on 12-CURRENT with tricksy Intel IGP drivers on the laptop. That’s a good thing, for the desktop I spend all week in writing code.

KMail and Akonadi have decided that my local maildirs are not accessible, so I’m using mutt for the time being to look at those. All my IMAP (knock on wood) is fine, so there’s still an intriguing bug there. In Randa I showed the effect and the messages to Dan and Volker, who were likewise intrigued. In the
end, though, it needs to be debugged and fixed here, locally, and then upstreamed.

At some point, the KDE-FreeBSD team had in mind to have Plasma 5 in the official ports tree in 2017Q2. It’s looking like 2017Q4, now (with just 5 days to go in Q3), basically because the upgrade path is annoying (from a ports perspective). Not for any functional reason, which is why it’s worth repeating that Plasma 5 from Area51 is a fine, fully functional, and fully up-to-date KDE desktop.

[[ Edit 2017-09-27 14:18 because Phoronix manages to get everything wrong, all the time: Tobias has been using Plasma 5 as his FreeBSD desktop of choice for years, dogfooding the ports much better than I ever have. And while I might be the noisiest blogger of our lot, that’s .. not necessarily a position of leadership. ]]

New FreeBSD Committer

I’ve been part of the KDE Community for over 15 years .. maybe 20. I started with Red Hat Linux, and then ran Yellow Dog Linux with KDE on my work desktop; probably KDE 1.1.2. But mostly I was one of the FreeBSD and Solaris people. I packaged KDE for Solaris on big Sun iron like the E10k, and then for FreeBSD around 2005 (I know this because of at least one wonderfully descriptive commit message Add boogers on July 26th, 2005 in Area51), and then for OpenSolaris for a while, and moved back to FreeBSD when OpenSolaris went away.

So in a sense I have been part-time part of the FreeBSD Community for nearly 15 years as well. FreeBSD has reached Tier-1 status within KDE now, with the KDE FreeBSD CI, which much stronger upstreaming happening, and with Tobias and Raphael following new releases pretty closely. I’ve been pushing and prodding at our ports tree a lot, and chasing CMake releases (and reporting bugs), and trying to get some KDE KF5-based applications into the official ports tree. So I’m happy to now receive a FreeBSD ports commit bit, with Tobias and Raphael acting as mentors. I won’t pretend this will immediately lead to Qt 5.9 and KDE Applications 17.latest in the official FreeBSD ports tree, but it increases the (direct) effort we can expend on it.

For my FreeBSD hat, I can be reached at adridg@, like my KDE hat is groot@ .

Randa-progress post-hoc

So, back in Randa I was splitting my energies and attentions in many pieces. Some attention went to making pancakes and running the kitchen in the morning — which is stuff I take credit for, but it is really Grace, and Scarlett, and Thomas who did the heavy lifting, and Christian and Mario who make sure the whole thing can happen. And the attendees of the Randa meeting who pitch in for the dishes after lunch and dinner. The Randa meetings are more like a campground than a 5-star hotel, and we work together to make the experience enjoyable. So thanks to everyone who pitched in.

Part of a good sprint is keeping the attendees healthy and attentive — otherwise those 16-hour hacking days really get to you, in spite of the fresh Swiss air.

Frederik encouraged us to touch the floor and the ceiling with his acro-yoga sessions; it is good to get out of the hacking room and get into shape. These sessions also teach us all trust and cooperation. And between sessions, he fixed a Qt bug that probably affects Calamares accessibility.

Calamares had some more bugs squashed, its accessibility improved — although I need to test that again and again on different setups now that I’m home, since it needs time to re-build Qt and all. Even with this fix, the goal to reduce Calamares’ root-needs remains.

You can read more of what the attendees in Randa achieved on planet KDE (e.g. kdenlive, snappy, kmymoney, marble, kube, Plasma mobile, kdepim, and kwin). I’d like to give a special shout out to Manuel, who taught me one gesture in Italian Sign Langauage — which is different from American or Dutch Sign Language, reminding me that there’s localization everywhere.

For me, being back home means sitting back at my big FreeBSD box, hacking on Calamares and ARPA and CMake and stuff again, with a renewed sense of purpose and team thanks to having worked together in Randa. If you like what KDE achieves in Randa, consider still supporting the fundraiser so that we can return to the mountains next year.

ERR (En Route to Randa)

Today I traveled from Zurich to Randa, which is about three hours by train. The day’s views started with a city, and trams and buses and high buildings. And then they got better:

Pictures of mountainsidesThe trip from Visp up to Randa is impressive every year. The moment you can see the ice of the glacier above Randa is wonderful. And now I’m sitting across from Thomas and Bhushan who are debugging something complicated. There was a wonderful dinner cooked by Mario’s parents, and a re-union feel with attendees from last year. I’m happy to see KDEnlive Joseph and Grace again, and the PIM dudes (although they seem to have slunk off to one of the meeting rooms for Serious Talks already).

Tomorrow starts at 7:02, when I have kitchen duty to roll out breakfast for 20-or-so Free Software hackers who are hungry from the fresh mountain air, and then after that it’s time to self-organize and sit down to work.