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The alphabet and pitti end here: Last day at Canonical

I’ve had the pleasure of working on Ubuntu for 12½ years now, and during that time used up an entire Latin alphabet of release names! (Well, A and C are still free, but we used H and W twice, so on average.. ☺ ) This has for sure been the most exciting time in my life with tons of good memories! Very few highlights:

  • Getting some spam mail from a South African multi-millionaire about a GREAT OPPORTUNITY
  • Joining #warthogs (my first IRC experience) and collecting my first bounties for “derooting” Debian (i. e. drop privileges from root daemons and suid binaries)
  • Getting invited to Oxford to meet a bunch of people for which I had absolutely zero proof of existence, and tossing myself into debts for buying a laptop for that occasion
  • Once being there, looking into my fellows’ stern and serious faces and being amazed by their professionalism:
  • The excitement and hype around going public with Warty Warthogs Beta
  • Meeting lots of good folks at many UDSes, with great ideas and lots of enthusiasm, and sometimes “Bags of Death”. Group photo from Ubuntu Down Under:
  • Organizing UDSes without Launchpad or other electronic help:
     
  • Playing “Wish you were Here” with Bill, Tony, Jono, and the other All Stars
  • Seeing bug #1 getting closed, and watching the transformation of Microsoft from being TEH EVIL of the FOSS world to our business partner
  • Getting to know lots of great places around the world. My favourite: luring a few colleagues for a “short walk through San Francisco” but ruining their feet with a 9 hour hike throughout the city, Golden Gate Park and dipping toes into the Pacific.
  • Seeing Ubuntu grow from that crazy idea into one of the main pillars of the free software world
  • ITZ GTK BUG!
  • Getting really excited when Milbank and the Canonical office appeared in the Harry Potter movie
  • Moving between and getting to know many different teams from the inside (security, desktop, OEM, QA, CI, Foundations, Release, SRU, Tech Board, …) to appreciate and understand the value of different perspectives
  • Breaking burning wood boards, making great and silly videos, and team games in the forest (that was La Mola) at various All Hands

But all good things must come to an end — after tossing and turning this idea for a long time, I will leave Canonical at the end of the year. One major reason for me leaving is that after that long time I am simply in need for a “reboot”: I’ve piled up so many little and large things that I can hardly spend one day on developing something new without hopelessly falling behind in responding to pings about fixing low-level stuff, debugging weird things, handholding infrastructure, explaining how things (should) work, do urgent archive/SRU/maintenance tasks, and whatnot (“it’s related to boot, it probably has systemd in the name, let’s hand it to pitti”). I’ve repeatedly tried to rid myself of some of those or at least find someone else to share the load with, but it’s too sticky :-/ So I spent the last few weeks with finishing some lose ends and handing over some of my main responsibilities.

Today is my last day at work, which I spend mostly on unsubscribing from package bugs, leaving Launchpad teams, and catching up with emails and bugs, i. e. “clean up my office desk”. From tomorrow on I’ll enjoy some longer EOY holidays, before starting my new job in January.

I got offered to work on Cockpit, on the product itself and its ties into the Linux plumbing stack (storaged/udisks, systemd, and the like). So from next year on I’ll change my Hat to become Red instead of orange. I’m curious to seeing for myself how that other side of the fence looks like!

This won’t be a personal good-bye. I will continue to see a lot of you Ubuntu folks on FOSDEMs, debconfs, Plumber’s, or on IRC. But certainly much less often, and that’s the part that I regret most — many of you have become close friends, and Canonical feels much more like a family than a company. So, thanks to all lof you for being on that journey with me, and of course a special and big Thank You to Mark Shuttleworth for coming up with this great Ubuntu vision and making all of this possible!

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Snappy package for Robot Operating System tutorial

ROS what?

Robot Operating System (ROS) is a set of libraries, services, protocols, conventions, and tools to write robot software. It’s about seven years old now, free software, and a growing community, bringing Linux into the interesting field of robotics. They primarily target/support running on Ubuntu (current Indigo ROS release runs on 14.04 LTS on x86), but they also have some other experimental platforms like Ubuntu ARM and OS X.

ROS, meet Snappy

It appears that their use cases match Ubuntu Snappy’s vision really well: ROS apps usually target single-function devices which require absolutely robust deployments and upgrades, and while they of course require a solid operating system core they mostly implement their own build system and libraries, so they don’t make too many assumptions about the underlying OS layer.

So I went ahead and created a snapp package for the Turtle ROS tutorial, which automates all the setup and building. As this is a relatively complex and big project, it helped to uncover quite a number of bugs, of which the most important ones got fixed now. So while the building of the snap still has quite a number of workarounds, installing and running the snap is now reasonably clean.

Enough talk, how can I get it?

If you are interested in ROS, you can look at bzr branch lp:~snappy-dev/snappy-hub/ros-tutorials. This contains documentation and a script build.sh which builds the snapp package in a clean Ubuntu Vivid environment. I recommend a schroot for this so that you can simply do e. g.

  $ schroot -c vivid ./build.sh

This will produce a /tmp/ros/ros-tutorial_0.2_<arch>.snap package. You can download a built amd64 snapp if you don’t want to build it yourself.

Installing and running

Then you can install this on your Snappy QEMU image or other installation and run the tutorial (again, see README.md for details):

  yourhost$ ssh -o UserKnownHostsFile=/dev/null -p 8022 -R 6010:/tmp/.X11-unix/X0 ubuntu@localhost
  snappy$ scp <yourhostuser>@10.0.2.2:/tmp/ros/ros-tutorial_0.2_amd64.snap
  snappy$ sudo snappy install ros-tutorial_0.2_amd64.snap

You need to adjust <yourhostuser> accordingly; if you didn’t build yourself but downloaded the image, you might also need to adjust the host path where you put the .snap.

Finally, run it:

  snappy$ ros-tutorial.rossnap roscore &
  snappy$ DISPLAY=localhost:10.0 ros-tutorial.rossnap rosrun turtlesim turtlesim_node &
  snappy$ ros-tutorial.rossnap rosrun turtlesim turtle_teleop_key

You might prefer ssh’ing in three times and running the commands in separate shells. Only turtlesim_node needs $DISPLAY (and is quite an exception — an usual robotics app of course wouldn’t!). Also, note that this requires ssh from at least Ubuntu 14.10 – if you are on 14.04 LTS, see README.md.

Enjoy!

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Creating a local swift server on Ubuntu for testing

Our current autopkgtest machinery uses Jenkins (a private and a public one) and lots of “rsync state files between hosts”, both of which have reached a state where they fall over far too often. It’s flakey, hard to maintain, and hard to extend with new test execution slaves (e. g. for new architectures, or using different test runners). So I’m looking into what it would take to replace this with something robust, modern, and more lightweight.

In our new Continuous Integration world the preferred technologies are RabbitMQ for doing the job distribution (which is delightfully simple to install and use from Python), and OpenStack’s swift for distributed data storage. We have a properly configured swift in our data center, but for local development and experimentation I really just want a dead simple throw-away VM or container which gives me the swift API. swift is quite a bit more complex, and it took me several hours of reading and exercising various tutorials, debugging connection problems, and reading stackexchange to set it up. But now it’s working, and I condensed the whole setup into a single setup-swift.sh shell script.

You can run this in a standard ubuntu container or VM as root:

sudo apt-get install lxc
sudo lxc-create -n swift -t ubuntu -- -r trusty
sudo lxc-start -n swift
# log in as ubuntu/ubuntu, and wget or scp setup-swift.sh
sudo ./setup-swift.sh

Then get swift’s IP from sudo lxc-ls --fancy, install the swift client locally, and talk to it:

$ sudo apt-get install python-swiftclient
$ swift -A http://10.0.3.134:8080/auth/v1.0 -U testproj:testuser -K testpwd stat

Caveat: Don’t use this for any production machine! It’s configured to maximum insecurity, with static passwords and everything.

I realize this is just poor man’s juju, but juju-local is currently not working for me (I only just analyzed that). There is a charm for swift as well, but I haven’t tried that yet. In any case, it’s dead simple now, and maybe useful for someone else.

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Run autopilot test in autopkgtest

I recently created a test for digicam photo import for Shotwell (using autopilot and umockdev), and made that run as an autopkgtest. It occurred to me that this might be interesting for other desktop applications as well.

The community QA team has written some autopkgtests for desktop applications such as evince, nautilus, or Firefox. We run them regularly in Jenkins on real hardware in a full desktop environment, so that they can use the full desktop integration (3D, indicators, D-BUS services, etc). But of course for those the application already needs to be in Ubuntu.

If you only want to test functionality from the application itself and don’t need 3D, a proper window manager, etc., you can also call your autopilot tests from autopkgtest with a wrapper script like this:

#!/bin/sh
set -e

# start X
(Xvfb :5 >/dev/null 2>&1 &)
XVFB_PID=$!
export DISPLAY=:5

# start local session D-BUS
eval `dbus-launch`
trap "kill $DBUS_SESSION_BUS_PID $XVFB_PID" 0 TERM QUIT INT
export DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS
export XAUTHORITY=/dev/null

# change to the directory where your autopilot tests live, and run them
cd `dirname $0`
autopilot run autopilot_tests

This will set up the bare minimum: Xvfb and a session D-BUS, and then run your autopilot tests. Your debian/tests/control should have Depends: yourapp, xvfb, dbus-x11, autopilot-desktop, libautopilot-gtk for this to work. (Note: I didn’t manage to get this running with xvfb-run; any hints to how to simplify this appreciated, but please test that it actually works.)

Please note that this does not replace the “run in full desktop session” tests I mentioned earlier, but it’s a nice addition to check that your package has correct dependencies and to automatically block new libraries/dependencies which break your package from entering Ubuntu.

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Ubuntu Saucy translations are now open

You can now start translating Ubuntu Saucy on Launchpad.

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PostgreSQL 9.2 final available for Debian and Ubuntu

PostgreSQL 9.2 has just been released, after a series of betas and a release candidate. See for yourself what’s new, and try it out!

Packages are available in Debian experimental as well as my PostgreSQL backports PPA for Ubuntu 10.04 to 12.10, as usual.

Please note that 9.2 will not land any more in the feature frozen Debian Wheezy and Ubuntu Quantal (12.10) releases, as none of the server-side extensions are packaged for 9.2 yet.

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Apport 2.5: Better support for third-party and PPA packages

I just released Apport 2.5 with a bunch of new features and some bug fixes.

By default you cannot report bugs and crashes to packages from PPAs, as they are not Ubuntu packages. Some packages like Unity or UbuntuOne define their own crash database which reports bugs against the project instead. This has been a bit cumbersome in the past, as these packages needed to ship a /etc/apport/crashdb.conf.d/ snippet. This has become much easier, package hooks can define a new crash database directly now (#551330):

def add_info(report, ui):
   if determine_whether_to_report_to_upstream:
       report['CrashDB'] = '{ "impl": "launchpad", "project": "picsaw" }'

(Documented in package-hooks.txt)

Apport now also looks for package hooks in /opt (#1020503) if the executable path or a file in the package is somewhere below /opt (it tries all intermediate directories).

With these two, we should have much better support for filing bugs against ARB packages.

This version also finally drops the usage of gksu and moves to PolicyKit. Now we only have one package left in the default install (update-notifier) which uses it. Almost there!

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New PostgreSQL microreleases with two security fixes

New PostgreSQL microreleases with two security fixes and several bug fixes was just announced publically.

I spent the morning with the packaging orgy for Debian unstable and experimental (now uploaded), Debian Wheezy (update sent to security team), Ubuntu hardy, lucid, natty, oneiric, precise (LP #1008317) and my backports PPA.

I tested these fairly thoroughly, but please let me know if you encounter any problem with these.

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QA changes for Ubuntu 12.04

Half a year ago I blogged about the changed expectancies and processes to improve quality of the development release which we discussed at the UDS in Orlando: A promise that we don’t break the development version, regressions are not to be tolerated, acceptance criteria for Canonical upstreams. For that we introduced the Stable+1 team, actually did some reversions of broken packages, our QA team set up rigorous daily installation image and upgrade tests, and the code development process for Unity and related project was changed to enforce buildability and passing automatic tests with each and every change to trunk.

To be honest I was still a tad sceptic back then when this was planned. These were a lot of changes for one cycle, the stable+1 team was a considerable resource investment (starting with three people fulltime in the first few months), and not to the least our friends in the DX team felt thwarted because they had to sit down for a long time developing tests, and then changing their habits and practices for development.

So was all that effort worth it?

One word: OMGCRYOUTLOUDYES!!!!

Just a random sample of goodness that this brought:

  • It was nice to not have to sit down for an hour every cople of days to figure out how to get back my desktop after the daily dist-upgrade bricked it.
  • Unity, compiz, and friends were remarkably stable. I still remember the previous cycles where every new version got differently crashy, broke virtual workspaces, and what not. The worst thing that happened this cycle is eternally breaking keybindings (or changing them around), but at least those usually had obvious workarounds.
  • As a result of those, I think we had at least one, maybe two magnitudes more testers of the daily development release than in previous cycles. So we got a lot of good bug reports and also patch contributions for smaller issues in Precise which we otherwise would not have discovered.
  • The daily dist-upgrade tests tremendously helped to uncover packaging problems which would break real-world upgrades out there by the dozens. It took months to fix the hardest one: upgrading 10.04 LTS to 12.04 LTS with all universe packages offered in software-center. This beast takes 13 hours to run, so nobody really did manual tests like that in the past cycles.
  • Due to the daily automatic CD image builds we dramatically reduced both the cost of fixing regressions as well as the emergency hackathons during milestone preparations. It is a lot easier to unbreak e. g. LVM setup or OEM install modes on our images when the regression happened just a day before than discovering it two days before a milestone is due, as again nobody tests these less common modes very often.
  • So as a result, I really think the investments into QA and the stable+1 teams already paid off twofold by giving us more time to work on the less critical fixes, avoiding lots of user frustration about broken upgrades, and generally making the daily development a lot more enjoyable. Or, as Rick Spencer puts it: Velocity, velocity, velocity!

    Despite these improvements, there are still some improvements I’m looking forward to in the next cycles: Thanks to Colin Watson we can now use -proposed as a proper staging area, and used this feature rather extensively in the past month. From my point of view, 90% of the remaining daily dist-upgrade failures were due to packages building on different architectures at vastly different times, or failing on some, but not all architectures (“arch skew”). This is something you cannot really predict or guard against as a developer when you upload large and potentially harmful packages directly to the development release, so uploading them to the staging area and letting everything build there will reduce the breakage to zero. This was successfully demonstrated with Unity, GTK, and other packages where arch skew pretty much always causes people to hose their desktop, as well as daily CD images not working.

    I’m also looking forward to combining the staging area with lots of automatic tests against reverse dependencies (e. g. testing the installer against a new GTK or pygobject before it lands), something we just barely tipped our toes in.

    I can’t imagine how we were ever able to develop our new releases the old way. 🙂

    Precise Pangolin^W^WUbuntu 12.04, I’m proud of you! Go out and amaze people!

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Precise’s QA improvements for Alpha-1

I’m the release engineer in charge for Precise Alpha 1 which is currently being prepared. I must say, this has been a real joy! The fruits of the new QA paradigm and strategy and the new Stable+1 maintenance team have already achieved remarkable results:

  • The archive consistency reports like component-mismatches, uninstallability, etc. now appear about 20 minutes earlier than in oneiric.
  • CD image builds can now happen 30 minutes earlier after the publisher start, and are much quicker now due to moving to newer machines. We can now build an i386 or amd64 CD image in 8 minutes! Currently they still need to wait for the slow powerpc buildd, but moving to a faster machine there is in progress. These improvements lead to much faster image rebuild turnarounds.
  • Candidate CDs now get automatically posted to the new ISO tracker as soon as they appear.
  • Whenever a new Ubuntu image is built (daily or candidate), they automatically get smoke-tested, so we know that the installer works under some standard scenarios and produces an install which actually boots.
  • Due to the new discipline and the stable+1 team, we had working daily ISOs pretty much every day. In previous Alphas, the release engineer(s) pretty much had to work fulltime for a day or two to fix the worst uninstallability etc., all of this now went away.

All this meant that as a release engineer almost all of the hectic and rather dull work like watching for finished ISO builds and posting them or getting the archive into a releasable state completely went away. We only had to decide when it was a good time for building a set of candidate images, and trigger them, which is just copy&pasting some standard commands.

So I could fully concentrate on the interesting bits like actually investigating and debugging bug reports and regressions. As the Law of Conservation of Breakage dictates, taking away work from the button pushing side just caused the actual bugs to be much harder and earned us e. g. this little gem which took Jean-Baptiste, Andy, and me days to even reproduce properly, and will take much more to debug and fix.

In summary, I want to say a huge “Thank you!” to the Canonical QA team, in particular Jean-Baptiste Lallement for setting up the auto-testing and Jenkins integration, and the stable+1 team (Colin Watson, Mike Terry, and Mathieu Trudel-Lapierre in November) for keeping the archive in such excellent shape and improving our tools!

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