It is time again for another Tanglu blogpost (to be honest, this article is pretty much overdue 😉 ). I want to shine a spotlight on the work that’s done in Tanglu, be it ongoing or past work done for the new release.
Why is the new release taking longer than usual?
As you might have noticed, usually a new Tanglu release (Tanglu 4 “Dasyatis”) should be released this month. We decided a while ago, however, to defer the release and are now aiming for an release in February / March 2016.
Reason for this change in schedule is the GCC 5 transition (and more importantly the huge amount of follow-up transitions) as well as some other major infrastructure tasks, which we would like to complete and give them a good amount of testing before releasing. Also, some issues with our build system, and generally less build power than in previous releases is a problem (At least the Debile build-system issues could be worked around or solved). The hard disk crash in the forum and bugtracking server also delayed the start of the Tanglu 4 development process a lot.
In all of these tasks, manpower is of course the main problem 😉
General infrastructure tasks
Improvements on Synchrotron
Synchrotron, the software which is synchronizing the Tanglu archive with the Debian archive, received a few tweaks to make it more robust and detect “installability” of packages more reliably. We also run it more often now.
Rapidumo is a software written to complement dak (the Debian Archive Kit) in managing the Tanglu archive. It performs automatic QA tasks on the archive and provides a collection of tools to perform various tasks (like triggering package rebuilds).
For Tanglu 4, we sometimes drop broken packages from the archive now, to speed up transitions and to remove packages which got uninstallable more quickly. Packages removed from the release suite still have a chance to enter it again, but they need to go through Tanglu’s staging area again first. The removal process is currently semiautomatic, to avoid unneccessary removals and breakage.
Rapidumo could benefit from some improvements and an interactive web interface (as opposed to static HTML pages) would be nice. Some early work on this is done, but not completed (and has a very low priority at the moment).
There will be a bigger announcement on AppStream and DEP-11 in the next days, so I keep this terse: Tanglu will go for full AppStream integration with the next release, which means no more packaged metadata, but data placed directly in the archive. Work on this has started in Tanglu, but I needed to get back to the drawing board with it, to incorporate some new ideas for using synergies with Debian on generating the DEP-11 metadata.
Phabricator has been integrated well into our infrastructure, but there are still some pending tasks. E.g. we need subprojects in Phabricator, and a more powerful Conduit interface. Those are upstream bugs on Phabricator, and are actively being worked on.
As soon as the missing features are available in Phabricator, we will also pursue the integration of Tanglu bug information with the Debian DistroTracker, which was discussed at DebConf this summer.
UEFI support is a tricky beast. Full UEFI support is a release-goal for Tanglu 4 (so we won’t release without it). At time, our Live-CDs start on pure EFI systems, but there are several reported issues with the Calamares live-installer as well as Debian-Installer, which fails to install GRUB correctly.
Work on resolving these problems is ongoing.
Major LiveCD rework
Tanglu 4 will ship with improved live-cds, which e.g. allow selecting the preferred locale early in the bootloader. We switched from live-boot to manage our live sessions to casper, the same tool which is also used in Ubuntu. Casper fixed a few issues we had, and brought some new, but overall using it was a good choice and work on making top-notch live-cds is progressing well.
Integration of the latest Plasma release is progressing, but its speed has slowed down since fewer people are working on it. If you want to help Tanglu’s KDE Workspace integration, please help!
For the upcoming release, the Plasma 5 packages which we created based on a collaboration with Kubuntu for the previous Tanglu 3 release have been merged with their Debian counterparts. This action fortunately was possible without major problems. Now Tanglu is (mostly) using the same Plasma 5 packages as Debian again (lots of Kudos go the the Kubuntu and Debian Qt/KDE packagers!).
The same re-merge with Debian has been done on Tanglu’s GNOME flavor (Tanglu also shipped with a more recent GNOME release than Debian in Tanglu 3). So Tanglu 4 GNOME and Debian Testing GNOME are at (almost) the same level.
Unfortunately, the GNOME team is heavily understaffed – a GNOME team member left at the beginning of the year for personal reasons, and the team now only has one semi-active member and me.
An fvwm-nightshade spin is being worked on 🙂 . Apart from that, there are no teams maintaining other flavors in Tanglu.
Security & Stable maintenance
Thanks to several awesome people, the current Tanglu Stable release (Tanglu 3 “Chromodoris”) receives regular updates, even for many packages which are not in the “fully supported” set.
Tasks (not) done in the global Tanglu universe.
HTTPS for community sites
Thanks to our participation in the Let’s Encrypt closed beta program, Tanglu websites like the user forums and bugtracker have been fully encrypted for a while, which should make submitting data to these sites much more secure. So far, we didn’t encounter issues, which means that we will likely aim for getting HTTPS encryption enabled on every Tanglu website.
The Tanglu main website didn’t receive much love at all. It could use a facelift and more importantly updated content about Tanglu.
So far, nobody volunteered to update the website, so this task is still open. It is, however, a high-priority task to increase our public visibility as a project, so updating the website is definitely something which will be done soon.
It doesn’t hurt to think about how to sell Tanglu as “brand”: What is Tanglu? Our motivation, our goals? What is our slogan? How can we communicate all of this to new users, without having them to read long explanations? (e.g. the Fedora Project has this nicely covered on their main website, and their slogan “Freedom, Friends, Features, First” immediately communicates the project’s key values)
Those are issues engineers don’t think about often, still it is important to present Tanglu in a way that is easy to grasp for people hearing about it for the first time. So far, no people are working on this task specifically, although it regularly comes up on IRC.
Sponsoring & Government
Tanglu is – by design – not backed by any corporation. However, we still need to get our servers paid. Currently, Tanglu is supported by three sponsors, which basically provide the majority of our infrastructure. Also, developers provide additional machines to get Tanglu running and/or packages built.
Still, this dependency on very few sponsors paying the majority of the costs is very bad, since it makes Tanglu vulnerable in case one sponsor decides to end sponsorship. We have no financial backing to be able to e.g. continue to pay an important server in case it’s sponsor decides to drop sponsorship.
Also, since Tanglu is no legal entity, accepting donations is hard for us at time, since a private person would need to accept the money on behalf of Tanglu. So we can’t easily make donating to Tanglu possible (at least not in the way we want donations to be).
These issues are currently being worked on, there are a couple of possible solutions on the table. I will write about details as soon as it makes sense to go public with them.
In general, I am very happy with the Tanglu community: The developer community is a pleasure to work with, and interactions with our users on the forums or via the bugtracker are highly productive and friendly. Although the development speed has slowed down a bit, Tanglu is still an active and awesome project, and I am looking forward to the cool stuff we will do in future!