Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gentoo zero-day packaging of new KDE releases explained

Usually, whenever a new KDE release is published, Gentoo users can update already the same day, as suddenly a complete and polished set of ebuilds appears in the portage tree. (Stay tuned on upcoming wednesday for KDE 4.8.0, it's shaping up very nicely!) How is this possible? Well... let me explain.

If you're a stable version user, you may have never heard of so-called live ebuilds. This is a special variant, usually denoted by a version number ending in 9999, that does not rely on a source tarball. Instead, it contains a URL of a revsion control system (say on When you emerge such a version of a package, the sources of the specified branch are checked out or updated to the newest upstream state, and that is used for building the installation package. Obviously this is not for everyone; depending how well upstream structures commits, things may not build for a while, contain fresh bugs, ... Also, reporting bugs from live versions on Gentoo bugzilla is discouraged as most of the times we can't do anything about it (do it only if you are sure it's a problem with the ebuilds, not with the source). If you're running live, you should be willing to hack yourself and work with upstream.

However, many of the Gentoo KDE team members run these live ebuilds, partly the current bugfix branch (i.e. KDE/4.8), partly even git master. They continuously keep the live ebuilds in the Gentoo KDE overlay updated to the newest state of the source. When a release is made, the corresponding live ebuilds of this branch are copied to the version ebuilds. For example, the KDE/4.8 branch live ebuilds have the version number (i.e.
kde-base/kdelibs-, so when the pre-release tarballs for KDE 4.8.0 were released to the packagers a few days ago, we only had to copy all ebuilds to 4.8.0 and immediately had a working set for testing. Most problems at that point are only caused by changes in tarball packaging. As distribution packagers get the pre-release tarballs (that still may change due to last-minute bugfixes) a week before the official release date, these can easily be fixed in time.

This also means that KDE maintenance in Gentoo is really a team effort. Whoever moves a released version to the main portage tree and/or commits bugfixes there builds on all the work that the team has done in the overlay in the meantime. Cheers!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Calling for brave testers: net-print/cups-1.5.0-r2

Maybe some of you have noticed that CUPS 1.5.0 is still hard-masked. Well, the reason for that is simple- at home, I'm nearly not printing at all, and at work, I have to rely on printing too much to tinker with it on the side a bit. So... if you would like to help, please unmask net-print/cups-1.5.0-r2 and give it a try. You will for sure find some problems, as the only thing I tested looong time ago was building it, never actually running it. Report them on, and we'll have a look... with a bit of luck, the package mask can then go away at some point. Any feedback (also positive) is appreciated. Cheers!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My personal KDEPIM upgrade status

Some time ago when we were filing the first stable request for KDE 4.7 I decided I'd have to give KDEPIM-4.7 also a try. I used to be a pine (and later alpine) user for ages, some time ago I switched to kmail1 (maybe at version 4.2 or so) and have been using it ever since... About the setup, incoming mail is stored and filtered server-side (Novell Groupwise), and accessed as disconnected IMAP.

1) Office desktop.
This one's usually running the latest and greatest KDE RC or beta, with a static IP and something like a 100MBps-FD link to the mail server. No local folders, so this was the natural candidate to test first. I did not even try the data migration, but wiped my entire local configuration of the KDEPIM programs as thoroughly as possible before updating. On the whole this went rather well. From 4.7.3 to 4.7.95 I've seen my share of kmail2 / kontact / akonadi crashes, but none of them really led to bigger problems. Impressively, I could also see each of these crash bugs I hit get fixed on KDE bugzilla in the meantime! Since upgrading to 4.7.97 I haven't had a crash anymore.
The only thing that is really bugging me a the moment is that I absolutely can't drag an e-mail message into another folder (I always have to right-click on the entry in the message list, select "Move to folder", ...). However, that is likely a problem in one of the underlying libraries. :| I would really like to help debugging this problem; if you can give me any clue where to look, please message...

2) Laptop.
Going home for christmas meant spending some time on a train. The days before I had upgraded this box to QT-4.8.0 and KDE+KDEPIM 4.7.95. Again, clean start with a new configuration. On the train I spent some time ironing out bugs there. The GPRS connection was happily going down and up again with every tunnel or less-populated countryside. That's when the akonadi backend started really acting up. When I arrived at my family's place, my e-mail had become fully non-functional (no fetching e-mails, no sending e-mails, the backend making kmail hang, regular crashes, and all fumbling with akonadiconsole did not help). After a while of trying, I gave up, wiped my entire KDEPIM configuration and data and downgraded to 4.4 again. I was impressed how responsive my e-mail program suddenly became.
Talking to other people, it seems that some have problems with bad internet connections, some don't. Maybe I should have used networkmanager, at least Alexxy reports that it's working fine with it.

3) Home desktop.
Well... Here I store my e-mail archive since 1996- that's maildir folders with roughly 50000 messages. Maybe I'll consider upgrading KDEPIM sometime around KDE 4.9.

I'm sorry if this blog entry is demotivating for the program developers. Some time ago I followed part of an animated discussion on irc between a kdepim user and a kdepim developer. Quoting a small part,
<user> first: fix bugs. second:dont change data formats. third: change gui only if absolutly nessary.
<developer> no
<developer> first: have fun; second: make it work for others
While this is of course oversimplifying, both points have clear validity, the first because people have come to rely on the software, the second because it's volunteer work by people enthusiastic about their creation. In the end we'll have to find a good compromise.