Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'programming'

Michael Hall

Will CookeThis is a guest post from Will Cooke, the new Desktop Team manager at Canonical. It’s being posted here while we work to get a blog setup on unity.ubuntu.com, which is where you can find out more about Unity 8 and how to get involved with it.

Intro

Understandably, most of the Ubuntu news recently has focused around phones. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation building around the imminent release of the first devices.  However, the Ubuntu Desktop has not been dormant during this time.  A lot of thought and planning has been given to what the desktop will become in the future; who will use it and what will they use it for.  All the work which is going in to the phone will be directly applicable to the desktop as well, since they will use the same code.  All the apps, the UI tweaks, everything which makes applications secure and stable will all directly apply to the desktop as well.  The plan is to have the single converged operating system ready for use on the desktop by 16.04.

The plan

We learned some lessons during the early development of Unity 7. Here’s what happened:

  • 11.04: New Unity as default
  • 11.10: New Unity version
  • 12.04: Unity in First LTS

What we’ve decided to do this time is to keep the same, stable Unity 7 desktop as the default while we offer users who want to opt-in to Unity8 an option to use that desktop. As development continues the Unity 8 desktop will get better and better.  It will benefit from a lot of the advances which have come about through the development of the phone OS and will benefit from continual improvements as the releases happen.

  • 14.04 LTS: Unity 7 default / Unity 8 option for the first time
  • 14.10: Unity 7 default / Unity 8 new rev as an option
  • 15.04: Unity 7 default / Unity 8 new rev as an option
  • 15.10: Potentially Unity 8 default / Unity 7 as an option
  • 16.04 LTS: Unity 8 default / Unity 7 as an option

As you can see, this gives us a full 2 cycles (in addition to the one we’ve already done) to really nail Unity 8 with the level of quality that people expect. So what do we have?

How will we deliver Unity 8 with better quality than 7?

Continuous Integration is the best way for us to achieve and maintain the highest quality possible.  We have put a lot of effort in to automating as much of the testing as we can, the best testing is that which is performed easily.  Before every commit the changes get reviewed and approved – this is the first line of defense against bugs.  Every merge request triggers a run of the tests, the second line of defense against bugs and regressions – if a change broke something we find out about it before it gets in to the build.

The CI process builds everything in a “silo”, a self contained & controlled environment where we find out if everything works together before finally landing in the image.

And finally, we have a large number of tests which run against those images. This really is a “belt and braces” approach to software quality and it all happens automatically.  You can see, we are taking the quality of our software very seriously.

What about Unity 7?

Unity 7 and Compiz have a team dedicated to maintenance and bug fixes and so the quality of it continues to improve with every release.  For example; windows switching workspaces when a monitor gets unplugged is fixed, if you have a mouse with 6 buttons it works, support for the new version of Metacity (incase you want to use the Gnome2 desktop) – added (and incidentally, a lot of that work was done by a community contributor – thanks Alberts!)

Unity 7 is the desktop environment for a lot of software developers, devops gurus, cloud platform managers and millions of users who rely on it to help them with their everyday computing.  We don’t want to stop you being able to get work done.  This is why we continue to maintain Unity 7 while we develop Unity 8.  If you want to take Unity 8 for a spin and see how its coming along then you can; if you want to get your work done, we’re making that experience better for you every day.  Best of all, both of these options are available to you with no detriment to the other.

Things that we’re getting in the new Ubuntu Desktop

  1. Applications decoupled from the OS updates.  Traditionally a given release of Ubuntu has shipped with the versions of the applications available at the time of release.  Important updates and security fixes are back-ported to older releases where required, but generally you had to wait for the next release to get the latest and greatest set of applications.  The new desktop packaging system means that application developers can push updates out when they are ready and the user can benefit right away.
  2. Application isolation.  Traditionally applications can access anything the user can access; photos, documents, hardware devices, etc.  On other platforms this has led to data being stolen or rendered otherwise unusable.  Isolation means that without explicit permission any Click packaged application is prevented from accessing data you don’t want it to access.
  3. A full SDK for writing Ubuntu apps.  The SDK which many people are already using to write apps for the phone will allow you to write apps for the desktop as well.  In fact, your apps will be write once run anywhere – you don’t need to write a “desktop” app or a “phone” app, just an Ubuntu app.

What we have now

The easiest way to try out the Unity 8 Desktop Preview is to use the daily Ubuntu Desktop Next live image:   http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-desktop-next/daily-live/current/   This will allow you to boot into a Unity 8 session without touching your current installation.  An easy 10 step way to write this image to a USB stick is:

  1. Download the ISO
  2. Insert your USB stick in the knowledge that it’s going to get wiped
  3. Open the “Disks” application
  4. Choose your USB stick and click on the cog icon on the righthand side
  5. Choose “Restore Disk Image”
  6. Browse to and select the ISO you downloaded in #1
  7. Click “Start restoring”
  8. Wait
  9. Boot and select “Try Ubuntu….”
  10. Done *

* Please note – there is currently a bug affecting the Unity 8 greeter which means you are not automatically logged in when you boot the live image.  To log in you need to:

  1. Switch to vt1 (ctrl-alt-f1)
  2. type “passwd” and press enter
  3. press enter again to set the current password to blank
  4. enter a new password twice
  5. Check that the password has been successfully changed
  6. Switch back to vt7 (ctrl-alt-f7)
  7. Enter the new password to login

 

Here are some screenshots showing what Unity 8 currently looks like on the desktop:

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The team

The people working on the new desktop are made up of a few different disciplines.  We have a team dedicated to Unity 7 maintenance and bug fixes who are also responsible for Unity 8 on the desktop and feed in a lot of support to the main Unity 8 & Mir teams. We have the Ubuntu Desktop team who are responsible for many aspects of the underlying technologies used such as GNOME libraries, settings, printing etc as well as the key desktop applications such as Libreoffice and Chromium.  The Ubuntu desktop team has some of the longest serving members of the Ubuntu family, with some people having been here for the best part of ten years.

How you can help

We need to log all the bugs which need to be fixed in order to make Unity 8 the best desktop there is.  Firstly, we need people to test the images and log bugs.  If developers want to help fix those bugs, so much the better.  Right now we are focusing on identifying where the work done for the phone doesn’t work as expected on the desktop.  Once those bugs are logged and fixed we can rely on the CI system described above to make sure that they stay fixed.

Link to daily ISOs:  http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-desktop-next/daily-live/current/

Bugs:  https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/unity8-desktop-session

IRC:  #ubuntu-desktop on Freenode

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Michael Hall

screenshot_1.0So it’s finally happened, one of my first Ubuntu SDK apps has reached an official 1.0 release. And I think we all know what that means. Yup, it’s time to scrap the code and start over.

It’s a well established mantra, codified by Fred Brooks, in software development that you will end up throwing away the first attempt at a new project. The releases between 0.1 and 0.9 are a written history of your education about the problem, the tools, or the language you are learning. And learn I did, I wrote a whole series of posts about my adventures in writing uReadIt. Now it’s time to put all of that learning to good use.

Often times projects still spend an extremely long time in this 0.x stage, getting ever closer but never reaching that 1.0 release.  This isn’t because they think 1.0 should wait until the codebase is perfect, I don’t think anybody expects 1.0 to be perfect. 1.0 isn’t the milestone of success, it’s the crossing of the Rubicon, the point where drastic change becomes inevitable. It’s the milestone where the old code, with all it’s faults, dies, and out of it is born a new codebase.

So now I’m going to start on uReadIt 2.0, starting fresh, with the latest Ubuntu UI Toolkit and platform APIs. It won’t be just a feature-for-feature rewrite either, I plan to make this a great Reddit client for both the phone and desktop user. To that end, I plan to add the following:

  • A full Javascript library for interacting with the Reddit API
  • User account support, which additionally will allow:
    • Posting articles & comments
    • Reading messages in your inbox
    • Upvoting and downvoting articles and comments
  • Convergence from the start, so it’s usable on the desktop as well
  • Re-introduce link sharing via Content-Hub
  • Take advantage of new features in the UITK such as UbuntuListView filtering & pull-to-refresh, and left/right swipe gestures on ListItems

Another change, which I talked about in a previous post, will be to the license of the application. Where uReadIt 1.0 is GPLv3, the next release will be under a BSD license.

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Michael Hall

Bicentennial Man PosterEver since we started building the Ubuntu SDK, we’ve been trying to find ways of bringing the vast number of Android apps that exist over to Ubuntu. As with any new platform, there’s a chasm between Android apps and native apps that can only be crossed through the effort of porting.

There are simple solutions, of course, like providing an Android runtime on Ubuntu. On other platforms, those have shown to present Android apps as second-class citizens that can’t benefit from a new platform’s unique features. Worse, they don’t provide a way for apps to gradually become first-class citizens, so chasm between Android and native still exists, which means the vast majority of apps supported this way will never improve.

There are also complicates solutions, like code conversion, that try to translate Android/Java code into the native platform’s language and toolkit, preserving logic and structure along the way. But doing this right becomes such a monumental task that making a tool to do it is virtually impossible, and the amount of cleanup and checking needed to be done by an actual developer quickly rises to the same level of effort as a manual port would have. This approach also fails to take advantage of differences in the platforms, and will re-create the old way of doing things even when it doesn’t make sense on the new platform.

Screenshot from 2014-04-19 14:44:22NDR takes a different approach to these, it doesn’t let you run our Android code on Ubuntu, nor does it try to convert your Android code to native code. Instead NDR will re-create the general framework of your Android app as a native Ubuntu app, converting Activities to Pages, for example, to give you a skeleton project on which you can build your port. It won’t get you over the chasm, but it’ll show you the path to take and give you a head start on it. You will just need to fill it in with the logic code to make it behave like your Android app. NDR won’t provide any of logic for you, and chances are you’ll want to do it slightly differently than you did in Android anyway, due to the differences between the two platforms.

Screenshot from 2014-04-19 14:44:31To test NDR during development, I chose the Telegram app because it was open source, popular, and largely used Android’s layout definitions and components. NDR will be less useful against apps such as games, that use their own UI components and draw directly to a canvas, but it’s pretty good at converting apps that use Android’s components and UI builder.

After only a couple days of hacking I was able to get NDR to generate enough of an Ubuntu SDK application that, with a little bit of manual cleanup, it was recognizably similar to the Android app’s.

This proves, in my opinion, that bootstrapping an Ubuntu port based on Android source code is not only possible, but is a viable way of supporting Android app developers who want to cross that chasm and target their apps for Ubuntu as well. I hope it will open the door for high-quality, native Ubuntu app ports from the Android ecosystem.  There is still much more NDR can do to make this easier, and having people with more Android experience than me (that would be none) would certainly make it a more powerful tool, so I’m making it a public, open source project on Launchpad and am inviting anybody who has an interest in this to help me improve it.

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Michael Hall

I’ve been using Ubuntu on my only phone for over six months now, and I’ve been loving it. But all this time it’s been missing something, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then, Saturday night, it finally hit me, it’s missing the community.

That’s not to say that the community isn’t involved in building it, all of the core apps have been community developed, as have several parts of our toolkit and even the platform itself. Everything about Ubuntu for phones is open source and open to the community.

But the community wasn’t on my phone. Their work was, but not the people.  I have Facebook and Google+ and Twitter, sure, but everybody is on those, and you have to either follow or friend people there to see anything from them. I wanted something that put the community of Ubuntu phone users, on my Ubuntu phone. So, I started to make one.

Community Cast

Community Cast is a very simple, very basic, public message broadcasting service for Ubuntu. It’s not instant messaging, or social networking. It doesn’t to chat rooms or groups. It isn’t secure, at all.  It does just one thing, it lets you send a short message to everybody else who uses it. It’s a place to say hello to other users of Ubuntu phone (or tablet).  That’s it, that’s all.

As I mentioned at the start, I only realized what I wanted Saturday night, but after spending just a few hours on it, I’ve managed to get a barely functional client and server, which I’m making available now to anybody who wants to help build it.

Server

The server piece is a very small Django app, with a single BroadcastMessage data model, and the Django Rest Framework that allows you to list and post messages via JSON. To keep things simple, it doesn’t do any authentication yet, so it’s certainly not ready for any kind of production use.  I would like it to get Ubuntu One authentication information from the client, but I’m still working out how to do that.  I threw this very basic server up on our internal testing OpenStack cloud already, but it’s running the built-in http server and an sqlite3 database, so if it slows to a crawl or stops working don’t be surprised.  Like I said, it’s not production ready.  But if you want to help me get it there, you can get the code with bzr branch lp:~mhall119/+junk/communitycast-server, then just run syncdb and runserver to start it.

Client

The client is just as simple and unfinished as the server (I’ve only put a few hours into them both combined, remember?), but it’s enough to use. Again there’s no authentication, so anybody with the client code can post to my server, but I want to use the Ubuntu Online Accounts to authenticate a user via their Ubuntu One account. There’s also no automatic updating, you have to press the refresh button in the toolbar to check for new messages. But it works. You can get the code for it with bzr branch lp:~mhall119/+junk/communitycast-client and it will by default connect to my test instance.  If you want to run your own server, you can change the baseUrl property on the MessageListModel to point to your local (or remote) server.

Screenshots

There isn’t much to show, but here’s what it looks like right now.  I hope that there’s enough interest from others to get some better designs for the client and help implementing them and filling out the rest of the features on both the client and server.

communitycast-client-1communitycast-client-2communitycast-client-3

Not bad for a few hours of work.  I have a functional client and server, with the server even deployed to the cloud. Developing for Ubuntu is proving to be extremely fast and easy.

 

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Michael Hall

Screenshot from 2014-03-20 21:57:06Yesterday we made a big step towards developing a native email client for Ubuntu, which uses the Ubuntu UI Toolkit and will converge between between phones, tablets and the desktop from the start.

We’re not starting from scratch though, we’re building on top of the incredible work done in the Trojitá project.  Trojitá provides a fast, light email client built with Qt, which made it ideal for using with Ubuntu. And yesterday, the first of that work was accepted into upstream, you can now build an Ubuntu Components front end to Trojitá.

None of this would have been possible without the help up Trojitá’s upstream developer Jan Kundrát, who patiently helped me learn the codebase, and also the basics of CMake and Git so that I could make this first contribution. It also wouldn’t have been possible without the existing work by Ken VanDine and Joseph Mills, who both worked on the build configuration and some initial QML code that I used. Thanks also to Dan Chapman for working together with me to get this contribution into shape and accepted upstream.

This is just the start, now comes the hard work of actually building the new UI with the Ubuntu UI Toolkit.  Andrea Del Sarto has provided some fantastic UI mockups already which we can use as a start, but there’s still a need for a more detailed visual and UX design.  If you want to be part of that work, I’ve documented how to get the code and how to contribute on the EmailClient wiki.  You can also join the next IRC meeting at 1400 UTC today in #ubuntu-touch-meeting on Freenode.

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Michael Hall

Today we announced the start of the next Ubuntu App Showdown, and I have very high hopes for the kinds of apps we’ll see this time around. Our SDK has grown by leaps and bounds since the last one, and so much more is possible now. So go get yourself started now: http://developer.ubuntu.com/apps/

Earlier today Jono posted his Top 5 Dream Ubuntu Apps, and they all sound great.  I don’t have any specific apps I’d like to see, but I would love to get some multi-player games.  Nothing fancy, nothing 3D or FPS.  Think more like Draw Something or Words With Friends, something casual, turn-based, that lets me connect with other Ubuntu device users. A clone of one of those would be fun, but let’s try and come up with something original, something unique to Ubuntu.

What do you say, got any good ideas?  If you do, post them in the App Showdown subreddit or our Google+ App Developers community and let’s make it happen.

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Michael Hall

It’s been a crazy busy week, and it’s only Tuesday (as of this writing)!  Because I’m exhausted, this is going to be a short post listing the things that are new.

New Roof

I wrote earlierthat I was having a new roof put on my house.  Well that all starter unceremoniously at 7:30am on Monday, and the hammering over my head has been going on non-stop for two full working days.  Everybody who joined me on a Google+ Hangout has been regaled with the sounds of my torment.  It looks nice though, so there’s that.

New Developer Portal

Well, new-ish.  We heavily revamped the Apps section to include more walk-through content to help new Ubuntu app developers learn the tools, the process and the platform.  If you haven’t been there yet, you really should give it a read and get yourself started: http://developer.ubuntu.com/apps/

New HTML5 APIs

In addition to the developer portal itself, I was able to publish new HTML5 API docs for the 14.04 release of Ubuntu.  Not only does this include the UbuntuUI library from the previous release, it also introduced new platform APIs for Content Hub, Online Accounts and Alarms, with more platform APIs coming soon.  The Cordova 3.4 API docs are proving harder to parse and upload than I anticipated, but I will hopefully have them published soon. If you’re an HTML5 app developer, you’ll be interested in these: http://developer.ubuntu.com/api/html5/sdk-14.04/

New Scopes

While not exactly a secret, we did start to make some noise about the new Scopes framework and Unity Dash that bring in a lot of improvements. As much as I liked the Home lens searching everything and aggregating results, it just wasn’t reaching the potential we had hoped for it.  The new setup will allow scopes to add more information that is specific to their result types, control how those results are displayed, and more clearly brand themselves to let the user know what’s being searched. You can read more about the enhancements at http://developer.ubuntu.com/2014/02/introducing-our-new-scopes-technology/ Like I said, it’s been a crazy busy week.  And we’re not done yet!

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Michael Hall

Ubuntu API Website

For much of the past year I’ve been working on the Ubuntu API Website, a Django project for hosting all of the API documentation for the Ubuntu SDK, covering a variety of languages, toolkits and libraries.  It’s been a lot of work for just one person, to make it really awesome I’m going to need help from you guys and gals in the community.

To help smooth the onramp to getting started, here is a breakdown of the different components in the site and how they all fit together.  You should grab a copy of the branch from Launchpad so you can follow along by running: bzr branch lp:ubuntu-api-website

Django

First off, let’s talk about the framework.  The API website uses Django, a very popular Python webapp framework that’s also used by other community-run Ubuntu websites, such as Summit and the LoCo Team Portal, which makes it a good fit. A Django project consists of one or more Django “apps”, which I will cover below.  Each app consists of “models”, which use the Django ORM (Object-Relational Mapping) to handle all of the database interactions for us, so we can stick to just Python and not worry about SQL.  Apps also have “views”, which are classes or functions that are called when a URL is requested.  Finally, Django provides a default templating engine that views can use to produce HTML.

If you’re not familiar with Django already, you should take the online Tutorial.  It only takes about an hour to go through it all, and by the end you’ll have learned all of the fundamental things about building a Django site.

Branch Root

When you first get the branch you’ll see one folder and a handful of files.  The folder, developer_network, is the Django project root, inside there is all of the source code for the website.  Most of your time is going to be spent in there.

Also in the branch root you’ll find some files that are used for managing the project itself. Most important of these is the README file, which gives step by step instructions for getting it running on your machine. You will want to follow these instructions before you start changing code. Among the instructions is using the requirements.txt file, also in the branch root, to setup a virtualenv environment.  Virtualenv lets you create a Python runtime specifically for this project, without it conflicting with your system-wide Python installation.

The other files you can ignore for now, they’re used for packaging and deploying the site, you won’t need them during development.

./developer_network/

As I mentioned above, this folder is the Django project root.  It has sub-folders for each of the Django apps used by this project. I will go into more detail on each of these apps below.

This folder also contains three important files for Django: manage.py, urls.py and settings.py

manage.py is used for a number of commands you can give to Django.  In the README you’ll have seen it used to call syncdbmigrate and initdb.  These create the database tables, apply any table schema changes, and load them with initial data. These commands only need to be run once.  It also has you run collectstatic and runserver. The first collects static files (images, css, javascript, etc) from all of the apps and puts them all into a single ./static/ folder in the project root, you’ll need to run that whenever you change one of those files in an app.  The second, runserver, runs a local HTTP server for your app, this is very handy during development when you don’t want to be bothered with a full Apache server. You can run this anytime you want to see your site “live”.

settings.py contains all of the Django configuration for the project.  There’s too much to go into detail on here, and you’ll rarely need to touch it anyway.

urls.py is the file that maps URLs to an application’s views, it’s basically a list of regular-expressions that try to match the requested URL, and a python function or class to call for that match. If you took the Django project tutorial I recommended above, you should have a pretty good understanding of what it does. If you ever add a new view, you’ll need to add a corresponding line to this file in order for Django to know about it. If you want to know what view handles a given URL, you can just look it up here.

./developer_network/ubuntu_website/

If you followed the README in the branch root, the first thing it has you do is grab another bzr branch and put it in ./developer_network/ubuntu_website.  This is a Django app that does nothing more than provide a base template for all of your project’s pages. It’s generic enough to be used by other Django-powered websites, so it’s kept in a separate branch that each one can pull from.  It’s rare that you’ll need to make changes in here, but if you do just remember that you need to push you changes branch to the ubuntu-community-webthemes project on Launchpad.

./developer_network/rest_framework/

This is a 3rd party Django app that provides the RESTful JSON API for the site. You should not make changes to this app, since that would put us out of sync with the upstream code, and would make it difficult to pull in updates from them in the future.  All of the code specific to the Ubuntu API Website’s services are in the developer_network/service/ app.

./developer_network/search/

This app isn’t being used yet, but it is intended for giving better search functionality to the site. There are some models here already, but nothing that is being used.  So if searching is your thing, this is the app you’ll want to work in.

./developer_network/related/

This is another app that isn’t being used yet, but is intended to allow users to link additional content to the API documentation. This is one of the major goals of the site, and a relatively easy area to get started contributing. There are already models defined for code snippets, Images and links. Snippets and Links should be relatively straightforward to implement. Images will be a little harder, because the site runs on multiple instances in the cloud, and each instance will need access to the image, so we can’t just use the Django default of saving them to local files. This is the best place for you to make an impact on the site.

./developer_network/common/

The common app provides views for logging in and out of the app, as well as views for handling 404 and 500 errors when the arise.  It also provides some base models the site’s page hierarchy. This starts with a Topic at the top, which would be qml or html5 in our site, followed by a Version which lets us host different sets of docs for the different supported releases of Ubuntu. Finally each set of docs is placed within a Section, such as Graphical Interface or Platform Service to help the user browse them based on use.

./developer_network/apidocs/

This app provides models that correspond directly to pieces of documentation that are being imported.  Documentation can be imported either as an Element that represents a specific part of the API, such as a class or function, or as a Page that represents long-form text on how to use the Elements themselves.  Each one of these may also have a given Namespace attached to it, if the imported language supports it, to further categorize them.

./developer_network/web/

Finally we get into the app that is actually generates the pages.  This app has no models, but uses the ones defined in the common and apidocs apps.  This app defines all of the views and templates used by the website’s pages, so no matter what you are working on there’s a good chance you’ll need to make changes in here too. The templates defined here use the ones in ubuntu_website as a base, and then add site and page specific markup for each.

Getting Started

If you’re still reading this far down, congratulations! You have all the information you need to dive in and start turning a boring but functional website into a dynamic, collaborative information hub for Ubuntu app developers. But you don’t need to go it alone, I’m on IRC all the time, so come find me (mhall119) in #ubuntu-website or #ubuntu-app-devel on Freenode and let me know where you want to start. If you don’t do IRC, leave a comment below and I’ll respond to it. And of course you can find the project, file bugs (or pick bugs to fix) and get the code all from the Launchpad project.

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Michael Hall

It may surprise some of you (not really) to learn that in addition to being a software geek, I’m also a sci-fi nerd. One of my current guilty pleasures is the British Sci-Fi hit Doctor Who. I’m not alone in this, I know many of you reading this are fans of the show too.  Many of my friends from outside the floss-o-sphere are, and some of them record a weekly podcast on the subject.

Tonight one of them was over at my house for dinner, and I was reminded of Stuart Langridge’s post about making a Bad Voltage app and how he had a GenericPodcastApp component that provided common functionality with a clean separation from the rest of his app. So I decided to see how easy it would be to make a DWO Whocast app with it.  Turns out, it was incredibly easy.

Here are the steps I took:

  1. Create a new project in QtCreator
  2. Download Stuart’s GenericPodcastApp.qml into my project’s ./components/ folder
  3. Replace the template’s Page components with GenericPodcastApp
  4. Customize the necessary fields
  5. Add a nice icon and Suru-style gradients for good measure

That’s it! All told it took my less than 10 minutes to put the app together, test it, show it off, and submit my Click package to the store.  And the app doesn’t look half bad either.  Think about that, 10 minutes to get from an idea to the store.  It would have been available to download too if automatic reviews were working in the store (coming soon).

That’s the power of the Ubuntu SDK. What can you do with it in 10 minutes?

Update: Before this was even published this morning the app was reviewed, approved, and available in the store.  You can download it now on your Ubuntu phone or tablet.

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Michael Hall

Today I reached another milestone in my open source journey: I got my first package uploaded into Debian’s archives.  I’ve managed to get packages uploaded into Ubuntu before, and I’ve attempted to get one into Debian, but this is the first time I’ve actually gotten a contribution in that would benefit Debian users.

I couldn’t have done with without the the help and mentorship of Paul Tagliamonte, but I was also helped by a number of others in the Debian community, so a big thank you to everybody who answered my questions and walked me through getting setup with things like Alioth and re-learning how to use SVN.

One last bit of fun, I was invited to join the Linux Unplugged podcast today to talk about yesterday’s post, you can listen it it (and watch IRC comments scroll by) here: http://www.jupiterbroadcasting.com/51842/neckbeard-entitlement-factor-lup-28/

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Michael Hall

Today was a distracting day for me.  My homeowner’s insurance is requiring that I get my house re-roofed[1], so I’ve had contractors coming and going all day to give me estimates. Beyond just the cost, we’ve been checking on state licensing, insurance, etc.  I’ve been most shocked at the differences in the level of professionalism from them, you can really tell the ones for whom it is a business, and not just a job.

But I still managed to get some work done today.  After a call with Francis Ginther about the API website importers, we should soon be getting regular updates to the current API docs as soon as their source branch is updated.  I will of course make a big announcement when that happens

I didn’t have much time to work on my Debian contributions today, though I did join the DPMT (Debian Python Modules Team) so that I could upload my new python-model-mommy package with the DPMT as the Maintainer, rather than trying to maintain this package on my own.  Big thanks to Paul Tagliamonte for walking me through all of these steps while I learn.

I’m now into my second week of UbBloPoMo posts, with 8 posts so far.  This is the point where the obligation of posting every day starts to overtake the excitement of it, but I’m going to persevere and try to make it to the end of the month.  I would love to hear what you readers, especially those coming from Planet Ubuntu, think of this effort.

[1] Re-roofing, for those who don’t know, involves removing and replacing the shingles and water-proofing paper, but leaving the plywood itself.  In my case, they’re also going to have to re-nail all of the plywood to the rafters and some other things to bring it up to date with new building codes.  Can’t be too safe in hurricane-prone Florida.

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Michael Hall

Quick overview post today, because it’s late and I don’t have anything particular to talk about today.

First of all, the next vUDS was announced today, we’re a bit late in starting it off but we wanted to have another one early enough to still be useful to the Trusty release cycle.  Read the linked mailinglist post for details about where to find the schedule and how to propose sessions.

I pushed another update to the API website today that does a better job balancing the 2-column view of namespaces and fixes the sub-nav text to match the WordPress side of things. This was the first deployment in a while to go off without a problem, thanks to  having a new staging environment created last time.  I’m hoping my deployment problems on this are now far behind me.

I took a task during my weekly Core Apps update call to look more into the Terminal app’s problem with enter and backspace keys, so I may be pinging some of you in the coming week about it to get some help.  You have been warned.

Finally, I decided a few weeks ago to spread out my after-hours community a activity beyond Ubuntu, and I’ve settled on the Debian new maintainers Django website as somewhere I can easily start.  I’ve got a git repo where I’m starting writing the first unit tests for that website, and as part of that I’m also working on Debian packaging for the Python model-mommy library which we use extensively in Ubuntu’s Django website. I’m having to learn (or learn more) Debian packaging, Git workflows and Debian’s processes and community, all of which are going to be good for me, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

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Michael Hall

Last week I posted on G+ about the a couple of new sets of QML API docs that were published.  Well that was only a part of the actual story of what’s been going on with the Ubuntu API website lately.

Over the last month I’ve been working on implementing and deploying a RESTful JSON service on top of the Ubuntu API website, and last week is when all of that work finally found it’s way into production.  That means we now have a public, open API for accessing all of the information available on the API website itself!  This opens up many interesting opportunities for integration and mashups, from integration with QtCreator in the Ubuntu SDK, to mobile reference apps to run on the Ubuntu phone, or anything else your imagination can come up with.

But what does this have to do with the new published docs?  Well the RESTful service also gives us the ability to push documentation up to the production server, which is how those docs got there.  I’ve been converting the old Django manage.py scripts that would import docs directly into the database, to instead push them to the website via the new service, and the QtMultimedia and QtFeedback API docs were the first ones to use it.

Best of all, the scripts are all automated, which means we can start integrating them with the continuous integration infrastructure that the rest of Ubuntu Engineering has been building around our projects.  So in the near future, whenever there is a new daily build of the Ubuntu SDK, it will also push the new documentation up, so we will have both the stable release documentation as well as the daily development release documentation available online.

I don’t have any docs yet on how to use the new service, but you can go to http://developer.ubuntu.com/api/service/ to see what URLs are available for the different data types.  You can also append ?<field>=<value> keyword filters to your URL to narrow the results.  For example, if you wanted all of the Elements in the Ubuntu.Components namespace, you can use http://developer.ubuntu.com/api/service/elements/?namespace__name=Ubuntu.Components to do that.

That’s it for today, the first day of my UbBloPoMo posts.  The rest of this week I will be driving to and fro for a work sprint with the rest of my team, the Ubuntu SDK team, and many others involved in building the phone and app developer pieces for Ubuntu.  So the rest of this week’s post may be much shorter.  We’ll see.

Happy Hacking.

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Michael Hall

This is it, the final day of the Ubuntu Core Apps Hack Days!  It’s been a long but very productive run, and it doesn’t mean the end of your chance to participate.  You can always find us in #ubuntu-app-devel on Freenode IRC, and for today either myself (mhall119) or Alan Pope (popey) will be at your beck and call from 9am to 9pm to help you get setup and started working on the Core Apps.

The last of the Core Apps, and the one we will be focusing on today, is the Stock Ticker. Originally developed by independent developer Robert Steckroth, we recently invited the Stock Ticker into the Core Apps project where we have been focused on refining the UI and setting it up for automated testing.  Feature wise, the Stock Ticker was already dogfoodable when we brought it under the Core Apps umbrella:

  • Search for stocks. DONE!
  • Add stocks to your portfolio. DONE!
  • Browse current stock prices. DONE!
  • Browse stock information. DONE!

For the UI we asked community designer Lucas Romero Di Benedetto to produce some new visual designs for us, which are looking incredible!  But it’s going to take a lot of work to implement them all, so we really need some more developers, especially those who know their way around QML, to help us with this.

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Michael Hall

We only have 2 days left in the Ubuntu Core Apps Hack Days!  I hope everybody who has participated has enjoyed it and found it informative and helpful.  If you haven’t participated yet, it’s not too late!  Come join us in #ubuntu-app-devel on Freenode’s IRC network anytime from 9am to 9pm UTC and ping either myself (mhall119) or Alan Pope (popey) and we’ll help you get setup and show you where you can start contributing to the Core Apps.

Mmmmmm, Pie....Today we get another chance to play while we work, because the focus is going to be on Dropping Letters, a simple, fun, yet surprisingly addictive little app written by Stuart Langridge.  Stuart has since handed off development of the app to others, but not before having it already in perfectly usable state.  Because of it’s simplicity, our list of dogfooding requirements wasn’t very long:

  • Start a new game. DONE!
  • View high scores.

Short as the list may be, it’s only half done!  We still need to integrate a high scores screen, which means we need you Javascript and QML developers!  Dropping Letters also needs to be tested, which means Autopilot, which of course means we have something for you Python hackers too!  So come and join us today in #ubuntu-app-devel and help make this great game even better.

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Michael Hall

We’re back again for another Ubuntu Core Apps Hack Day!  As always you can find us in #ubuntu-app-devel on Freenode IRC from 9am to 9pm UTC, you can ping me (mhall119) or Alan Pope (popey) and we’ll help you get setup with a development environment and a copy of the Core Apps source code so you can start hacking.

Today’s app is one that was most requested when we announced Ubuntu on phones, and has since proven to be one of the most often used by developers and testers the like.  That’s right, I’m talking about the Terminal!  The Terminal went through very rapid development, thanks to the herculean efforts of one very talented developer, and the ability to re-use the KTerminal QML component from KDE’s Konsole project.  Because of both, the Terminal app has been dogfoodable for a while now.

  • Issue commands. DONE!
  • Use case: ssh into another computer. DONE!
  • Use case: edit a file with vi. DONE!
  • Use case: tail a log file. DONE!
  • Use case: apt-get update. DONE!

But that doesn’t mean that the work here is done.  For starters, we need to make sure that changes to the KTerminal code are submitted back upsteam, something we could certainly use some help from somebody who is familiar with either Konsole’s development specifically or KDE in general.  We also want to improve the availability of special keys like the function keys and ctrl+ combinations that are oh so useful when interacting with the command line, so anybody with QML/Javascript experience or who is familiar with the on-screen keyboard specifically would be able to help us out quite a bit here.

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Michael Hall

Last week was certainly an exciting one, between the Ubuntu Edge campaign announcement and several coworkers being at OSCON, I wasn’t able to keep the Hack Days going.  So we’ve decided to pick up where we left off this week, covering the remaining Core Apps on our list.  Just like before we’ll be hanging out in #ubuntu-app-devel on Freenode IRC from 9am to 9pm UTC, and will be more than happy to walk you through the process of getting started.

Today we’re going to work on the Document Viewer, a necessary app for most people, which is at the same time both simple and very complicated.  The app itself doesn’t require a lot of functionality, but it does need a lot of behind-the-scenes components to load and render documents of different formats.  Great progress has already been made on our dogfooding requirements list:

  • Load a text file. DONE!
  • Load an image file. DONE!
  • Load a PDF.
  • View the file. DONE!
  • Forward/back pages on PDF.
  • Pinch to zoom.

Until just yesterday, there wasn’t a released version of our desktop PDF library (Poppler) that had Qt5 bindings.  However, with the release of Poppler 0.24 yesterday, we should not be ready to start implementing the PDF support.  We also need to replace the existing C++ wrapper used to launch the app with the new Arguments QML component, but when we do that we’ll need another QML plugin that will give us the mime-type of the files that are being loaded.  And of course we need to make sure we have full Autopilot test coverage for all of these parts.  So whether your skill set is Python, QML, Javascript or C++, there is something you can contribute to on this app.

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Michael Hall

So you may have heard (seriously, how could you not?) that Canonical is crowd-funding a showcase phone called Ubuntu Edge.  This is very exciting for a number of reasons, which I will get to below, but first go look at the Indie GoGo campaign page to see what I’m talking about.

Back? Good.  Did you contribute?  For the first 24 hours you can get a phone for a highly discounted contribution of $600 USD, rather than the $830 USD it will cost you tomorrow, so if you really want one of these it’s best to put your money on the table now.

Hardware Innovation

The phone hardware is impressive on it’s own, with more CPU, RAM and storage space than the laptop I was using for daily work last year.  Not only that, but it’s going to feature advances in the glass and battery that I haven’t seen on other phones.  Sapphire crystal glass, which can only be scratched by diamond, will keep your screen looking brand new for years to come.  And the silicon-anode battery promises faster charging and longer runtime without increasing the size of the handset.  You can see the full spec list on our other announcements.

I like this because we’re not asking you to contribute to making just another ordinary phone like all the rest you can buy already.  Instead we’re pushing the envelope to pioneer a new class of convergent superphones, a market that Ubuntu is uniquely positioned for.  This hardware will run Ubuntu Touch, Ubuntu for Android, and (when docked) a full Ubuntu Desktop.  But we’re not just playing the “make it bigger, make it faster” game, the design of Ubuntu Edge’s hardware is deliberate, everything choice was made based on what would provide the best user experience, what would make the edge-swipe gestures easy and responsive, what would let us show more of an app’s content while still fitting into the palm of the user’s hand.  This is a device designed from top to bottom for Ubuntu.

The margin on most production phones is thin enough to see though, which means that an OEM can’t afford to take risks with emerging technology or markets.  That’s why it’s so important that we prove both the capabilities of Ubuntu for convergence, and the consumer appeal for such a device.  Apple had to do it with the original iPhone, Google does it with their Nexus line of devices, and now it’s our turn to show what’s possible.

Community Campaign

Instead of seeking private capital to build these phones, then trying to sell them (at a profit or loss), we’ve decided to take it directly to the user community, which is why we’re asking you to pledge some amount to our campaign.  We couldn’t build Ubuntu without our community, and we can’t build Ubuntu Edge without you either.

Our target goal is $32 million, which sounds like a lot, but only because it is.  It really is.  But it’s still only a fraction of the cost of an actual production line of phones.  In order for an OEM to ship an Ubuntu phone (or any new phone), they would typically invest multiple times this amount.  So as big as our target goal is, and I don’t think anybody’s crowd-sourced more, it’s certainly not an unreasonable amount for what we’re offering.

The target amount will allow us to manufacture just 40,000 handsets, most of which I would imagine will already be claimed by those contributing $830 or more (only $600 if you do it the first day!).  All of the money raised in this campaign will go directly towards manufacturing and shipping these devices, it won’t be used for other Canonical business or even future Ubuntu development.  When you do the math, which I did, you see that it comes out to $800 per device to manufacture, and we’re only asking for $830 to get it (again, in the first 24 hours, you can get it below that cost).  This is an effort to build a new class of superphone, not a way of making Canonical rich.  If we reach our goal, you should have your Ubuntu Edge in hand sometime in May 2014!

Non-monetary contributions

I know that $830 is a lot of money, even $600 is a lot of money, but those aren’t the only ways you can help.  In addition to giving smaller amounts in support of this campaign (for which there are other perks) you can help make it a success by spreading the word.  No doubt it will be picked up by the usual online news sources, forums and blogs but let’s break it out of our usual Linux/FLOSS sphere.

So share links to the Indie GoGo campaign page on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  Tell your friends, especially any tech savvy ones, about it.  Send an email to your local newspaper, radio or television stations, you never know who might think it’s an interesting story (and wouldn’t you just love to see Ubuntu on TV?).  Every person you tell about the campaign brings us one step closer to reaching our goal, and it doesn’t cost you a penny.

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Michael Hall

We’ve had a great week running the Ubuntu Core Apps Hack Days so far, we’ve seen several new contributors join our development teams, and lots of merge proposals coming in and landing.  But we’re not done yet, we’ll be in #ubuntu-app-devel again today from 9am to 9pm UTC to help anybody who is interested in getting started contributing to these apps.

Today we’ll be focusing on an app that may not be high on the average user’s list of mobile apps, but is indispensable for anybody working on a ported image or writing an app for Ubuntu Touch, that is the File Manager App!

Thanks to reusing the Folder List Model QML Plugin from the Nemo Mobile project, the File Manager developers were able to get a very functional application working in a very short amount of time.  That means that our dogfooding list is already complete!

  • Browse folders. DONE!
  • View files within folders. DONE!
  • View file information. DONE!
  • Copy files. DONE!
  • Delete files. DONE!
  • Move files. DONE!

But don’t let that list fool you, there’s still plenty of work to be done.  The biggest one is making sure that any changes we’ve made to the Nemo plugin are sent back upstream.  If anybody from the Nemo project can help us with this, please find me (mhall119 on IRC).  We also need to make sure we have full Autopilot test coverage, and fix any remaining bugs that have been reported.

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Michael Hall

I hope you all enjoyed spending some time playing Sudoku yesterday, because we’re back to work again for another Ubuntu Core App Hack Day!  As always you can find us in #ubuntu-app-devel on Freenode IRC from 9am to 9pm UTC to answer all of your app hacking questions, help get you setup and started contributing, or just generally discuss how to write Ubuntu Touch apps in general.

Today we leave behind yesterday’s light hearted fun and games and turn to the (only slightly) more serious work of reading news with the RSS Reader app!  Another one of the original Core Apps, the RSS Reader got some unexpected designs from the Canonical Design team that converted it from the typical list-of-headlines to a beautiful organic grid seen here.

Because of these very recent and very major changes to the UI, there’s a lot of work to be done to get all of the previous functionality working again at the same level.  For dogfooding the RSS Reader, these are our goals:

  • Add a feed.
  • Browse feeds. DONE!
  • View a feed.
  • Select an item to view from within the feed.

Because of the major changes, this app can use a lot of help from people who are simply willing to use it and report bugs so that the developers (and all of you new contributors) have a list of things to work on.  Then we need you QML/Javascript hackers to pick things from that list and start making and submitting your fixes.  Finally we need Autopilot tests written or updated for this new look, so I’m looking at you Python guys and gals to lend us a hand too.

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