Canonical Voices

What Bjoern Michaelsen talks about

Now these points of data make a beautiful line.
And we're out of Beta.
We're releasing on time.

Ellen McLain/Jonathan Coulton -- Portal, Still Alive

Yes, its true: We are out of Beta and we are releasing on time!
And if you are adventurous, you can test the current LibreOffice 3.6.0 release candidate 1 from the LibreOffice prereleases PPA:
Please especially test all the fancy new things in this release!
One late feature (came in with beta3) I would like to especially point out are the new masterpages in Impress by Alexander Wilms, Mateus Machado Luna, Stefan Knorr and all the other cool guys on the LibreOffice design team. And before anyone screams "pics or it didnt happen!" -- here is a screenshot of them running on Ubuntu Quantal:

In addition, for the more conservative folks LibreOffice 3.5.5 rc3 (which is the final 3.5.5 version) has been updated to the LibreOffice PPA.

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"Oh, it's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it"
-- Faith No More, "We Care A Lot"

I just cleaned and sorted the LibreOffice development pages:
which still contained lots of old, obsolete and even misleading content in a huge unsorted page, which likely nobody bothered to clean up because it ... was a huge unsorted page. I hope the new pages with lots of obsolete stuff killed and lots of nonessential/reference stuff moved down to the end of the page, leaving the top of the page for the essentials will make life quite a bit easier for new contributors!

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Sometimes I give myself the creeps
Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me
It all keeps adding up
I think I'm cracking up
Am I just paranoid?

-- Basket Case, Green Day

It seems like the gerrit for LibreOffice is ready for primetime now. I updated a sweet and short introduction on how to use it. If you want your first patch in LibreOffice, with gerrit you wont need a mailing list subscribe, a freedesktop account or any other administrative overhead. You just need this:
For core developers, who want to review uploaded patches, this is needed:

I hope, we can again lower the barrier to entry for new contributors and make the progress of LibreOffice more transparent with this. In addition, it will simplify the discussion of certain changes and give it some more structure. Finally, this enables us to significantly improve the use of our tinderboxes. I expect a lot of good things to happen there soon.

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Since a few days the libreoffice-prereleases ppa has a version of LibreOffice 3.6.0 beta 1 packaged for Ubuntu precise (12.04 LTS) as a preview. It is not a release as it would end up in would end up in Ubuntu Quantal or one you would want to use on a productive system -- all the warnings for the 3.6.0 alpha 1 package still apply. So install this in a VM of your choice and go viciously testing on it! You are also invited to try out and explore all the new features of LibreOffice 3.6.x that Cor has so helpfully collected together in the linked blog posts!

Happy testing!

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The master and the 3.5.x and 3.6.x release branches (links require OpenID login) on are now synced every 15 minutes by the friendly LibreOffice gerrit bot from freedesktop. If you based your patch on these branches more than 15 minutes ago, you can be sure to be able to send it there for review without any hassle. Once we make the gerrit repository our reference, this syncing isnt needed anymore of course (we would only need to push those changes to freedesktop then -- the other way around). But for all practical proposes, everyone should be able to submit his patches to gerrit with this.

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This is a short note, that I wrote some short and concise wiki pages on LibreOffice development on Ubuntu. Please dont tell me that there is way more info on the TDF Wiki, thats true -- but also not the point: In fact, there is quite possibly too much information on the TDF wiki  ;). So this is the stripped down info on what you really need to know to start working on LibreOffice on Ubuntu:

Also note the older page by Christopher M. Penalver about Bug Filing against LibreOffice on Ubuntu:

completing the bunch.

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Quick announcement: Libreoffice is now on OpenHatch and also all our EasyHacks are. Looking forward to more unsuspecting contributors joining our weird ways this way ...

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I recently updated the QA EasyHacks, here is a selection of Tasks related to QA that are easy for newcomers to get started with:

A full list of QA-related things to get started in the project can be found here:

Verify a Bugfix a day, it keeps the doctor away! ;)

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The reasonable man adapts himself to the world;
the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.
Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
-- G.B. Shaw

Simon Phipps recently published this amazing article titled "Ubuntu and Android: A match made in open source" and notes in it that:

That would have been impossible with proprietary systems. It was Bill Joy who once pointed out it's impossible to hire all the smart people. Open source allows you to work and innovate with all the smart people.

I think there is a deep wisdom in this quote. As Mark Shuttleworth put it so eloquently in Bug 1:

Non-free software is holding back innovation in the IT industry, restricting access to IT to a small part of the world's population and limiting the ability of software developers to reach their full potential, globally.

Open source allows people having ideas that seem foolish to the rest of the world to prove themselves right and the rest of the world wrong to the greater benefit of all. Being told "I am happy that there are crazy people like you on the LibreOffice project. Every sane person would have been sure that this cannot possibly work out." as a praise by Michael Stahl after putting out bibisect shows this is one of the core values of our project. Many others deserve the same praise for succeeding in doing things that were deemed impossible by others. Setting up the foundation in the way it was done was one of them, but there were many others.

And despite -- or maybe because of -- starting from nothing less than two years ago and bootstrapping all the tiny and big things that are needed to run a software project with more than 10 million lines of code, this project also en passant enabled things like this:

Despite initial skepticism, I by now firmly believe LibreOffice to be the project that will be able to change the world. Too many individuals in this project succeeded in doing the unreasonable, the foolish and the impossible. We started from nothing and we are still very hungry. We do not fear to innovate, just because someone thinks it would be unreasonable. We will: Stay hungry, Stay foolish. And we are just getting started.

P.S.: Lets each take this opportunity to look back down the road and thank somebody for doing something impossible, foolish or unreasonable. I, for one, thank Thorsten, Florian and Mike for their tireless and invisible work setting up the foundation: Thank you. And Norbert Thiebaud for doing all the hard work on the OneGit migration making bibisect possible in the first place: Again, Thank you! And Christopher M. Penalver, Rainer Bielefeld, Cor Nouws, Sasha and many more for relentless bug wrangling: Again, Thank you! And Rico Tzschichholz for providing backports: Again, Thank you!

Please add more thanks in the comments, on twitter, g+ or whatever!

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As announced by The Document Foundation, LibreOffice 3.5.3 has been released today. Ubuntu users who cant wait to have this release on their system, can install it from the LibreOffice PPA right now. As far as I know, this is the first time that we have a Ubuntu package ready and build on the day of the release (3.5.3rc2 is 3.5.3 final), and this is the result of the simplification that both Debian and Ubuntu did in their packaging between 3.4 and 3.5. This package is also currently building in precise-proposed and will be a Stable Release Update for Ubuntu Precise. Since ~all the changelog bugs have already been verified, this hopefully will be available as an automatic update to all users of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS in one or two weeks.

I also updated the bibisect repository for LibreOffice 3.6. In now contains 62 LibreOffice installations from December 8th (LibreOffice 3.5 branch off) to April, 28th in one 1.1GB download. Good regression hunting!

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I was so much older then,
Im younger than that now.
-- My Back Pages, Bob Dylan
Ubuntu release day is over and it ships with LibreOffice 3.5.2 -- the best free office suite ever.

A big Thank You to everyone who contributed to make that possible: LibreOffice developers, bugwranglers, testers, translators, documentation writers, infrastructure admins, packagers, event organizers, administrative gremlins and everyone I forgot.

In the best "the king is dead, long live the king"-fashion, lets look forward to a great LibreOffice 3.6.X series which will be on the next Ubuntu release named Quantal Quetzal. And here is a piece to keep us moving quickly and confidently: a first bibisect archive of LibreOffice 3.6/master. See "How to Bibisect"  or Florians excellent video for what to do with it -- the only change is that this bibisect needs Ubuntu 12.04 (precise) instead of Ubuntu 11.10 (oneiric) now. I will provide updates for this bibisect along as we approach the LibreOffice 3.6 release.

Bibisect already proved very helpful in triaging and preventing regressions in LibreOffice 3.5 -- in LibreOffice 3.6, we will be able to even better control the quality and pinpoint problems, since we have bibisect-3.6 continuing right were bibisect-3.5 ended: At the start of the LibreOffice 3.5 release branch. This will give us an enormous practical advantage in quickly identifing and fixing issues in our huge codebase -- without the highly intrusive encumbrance and overhead that the dogmatic classic approaches to QA enforce and burden projects with(*).

(*) We implement those too, but are only tightening them on the release branches.

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Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah

-- the Beatles, Come Together

Here is a short update on the state of LibreOffice Packaging on Ubuntu (and Debian):
During the 3.4/3.5 upstream releases, Debian (and thus Ubuntu) switched from building with the old libreoffice-build wrapper to a clean direct build. All patches had to be either upstreamed or migrated from libreoffice-build to our own vendor-patches. This is a lot of thankless work (as it risks regressions, while nothing changes if everyting goes well). A quick "git log" against the LibreOffice packaging repository from the 3.4.1-1 release to now (3.5.2) shows more than 800 commits -- over 600 of those by Rene Engelhard, but also including contributions by Lionel Elie Mamane, Nelson A. de Oliveira, Rico Tzschichholz, Lubok Lunak.

These changes have made Ubuntu and Debian come a lot closer to upstream -- a lot of patches have been either removed as obsolete, upstreamed to LibreOffice or included as vendor-patches. With only 41 Patches in debian/patches we are a lot closer to upstream now, which is very good as it removes the need to doublecheck bugs to be Debian/Ubuntu-specific in the most cases. Of the five patches that are only in Ubuntu, but not in Debian:

  • three are minor fixes that have been upstreamed to LibreOffice 3.6 (but are not backported to 3.5 there)
  • two are backported upstream patches from LibreOffice 3.5.3 so they are in the LTS release from the start
This shows that a lot of friction in upstreaming patches has been removed -- and whatever we are patching in can and is upstreamed quickly to Debian or LibreOffice, keeping our vendor patch queue small. Thanks to everyone who made this possible -- most of all: Rene Engelhard.

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The LibreOffice Hackfest 2012 in Hamburg was an exhausting, exciting and awesome experience. We started on Friday, 13th in the Schachcafe over some Lanedo sponsored beer collecting all the Hackers flying in/riding in by train/returning from some downtown sightseeing. We also picked up some old StarDivision/Sun Developer hanging around by accident just there -- since all hackers are curious, the invitation to join us on the next day too was gladly accepted.
Saturday started with a good breakfast and distributing the cool shirts that kindly sponsored us (Saturday also started with Thorsten kindly inviting me to speed up my steps to the event location for the amusement of the hackers already there -- over megaphone):

The shirts, posters and pens quickly found their new owners once hackers were made aware of them -- and off we went for a session of full-throttle hackery. I practiced my skills as a jack of all trades, master of none and jumped from topic to topic:
  • discussed bibisect/QA with Florian (remotely attending via Skype), Rainer, Friedrich and Rob, resulting in this awesome screencast
  • Simplifying login and authentication on TDF services with Mike and the infrastructure guys (OpenID should be the way to go)
  • some cross compile gbuild tweaking with Eilidh
  • how branching works in git with Christina
  • Moggi kindly reminding me that when I joined the project, everyone had to be nice to me because only I knew how gbuild worked, but now we have so many with a deep knowledge about it (Norbert, Matus, Michael Stahl, David to name a few) that I am replaceable -- somewhat uncomforting that, I should have made gbuild more write-only
  • Earned myself two Windows configure bugs by Regina
  • Eating tasty pasta prepared by Italo
  • discussed Ubuntu ppa strategy with Mike
  • discussed gerrit progress with Robert and Norbert (attending remotely -- the volunteer that never sleeps)
  • proved with Tor that both of us together qualify as a four year old preschooler by solving a riddle that kids solve easily while adults struggle (kendy proved that he qualifies alone, while moggi disqualified himself as a preschooler -- his higher math education proved to be a real handicap)
  • jumped in for a few minutes to give hints to Andreas on how to edit the PDF export dialog
  • lots of other topics ...
Saturday ended with a sip of bavarian single malt whiskey (which tasted better than it sounds: it got a "not too terrible" by a scottish native and no outright dismissing by a trained grappa tester) at 4am local time. Then I returned back home with now three couchsurfers (I won Robert in addition, as we discussed gerrit to late for him to possibly return to his reserved couch). Sunday continued with what began on Saturday. We managed to lure some of the remaining hackers into the sunlight with promises of fortune and fame:
as you can see some of the sponsored black shirts with the hacker glider are already worn right there.
As things got calmer, because more and more hackers returned home, I managed to focus myself on one topic and implemented an small idea proposed to me by Tor: Per Library debug builds.
(for more, see also: Thorstens post and all the others linked in there)

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You may have heard the rumors already although there is nothing official yet: There is an exciting new idea making the rounds in LibreOffice circles. LibreOffice made and continues to make amazing progress pushing not only the product, but also the project as a whole to new levels. While the development of LibreOffice at the Document Foundation is widely supported by a diverse set of contributors and supporters from all over the world, there is always more we could do, if we had more time and money.

At least for the second problem, we are confident of having found the ultimate solution(*): We will just print whatever money we could use. Since PostScript is:

  • the de facto standard to communicate layout to printers
  • and is turing-complete
  • and most modern printers are actually rather capable computers
we will use this to make printers generate a fraction of a Bitcoin with every page that is printed. As modern printers have serious computation power the performance impact will hardly be noticeable to the end user. 

Now, quite a few documents rarely ever get printed: They get distributed for consumption in formats like PDF (LibreOffice can generate those in an editable form, which is truely a great feature). To also tap into that potential resource, PDFs generated by LibreOffice will also inject a small Bitcoin generating implementation written in JavaScript, which will execute when the document is viewed with Software like Adobe Acrobat. Since -- in the light of cloud computing -- a lot of progress has been recently made in creating high-performance implementations of the carefully designed language that is JavaScript, we are confident that the Bitcoin generation in the background will hardly have any impact on the user experience for the viewer also in this case.

We are looking forward to complete the generation of a prototype for this at the Hackfest on April 14th/15th, 2012 in Hamburg:
Now we recognize that while the generation of Bitcoins on printers and in document viewers is universally possible, there might be some environments (locked down corporate ones, for example) where transferring the coins as a donation to the benefit of the LibreOffice project might be problematic. To ensure these users are not left out in the cold when it comes to contributing back, we will leave our traditional donation page online even after this feature is introduced. Feel free to use it!

(*) Although we cannot claim to be the sole originator of the idea: We took inspiration from central banks all over the world.

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There is so much going on in the world of LibreOffice, that my "must blog about this"-list gets longer and longer. Here is another little gem that had to wait far to long to get dragged into the limelight. Jussi Schultink kicked this one of with a bit of an grumble post about the default settings and templates in LibreOffice. But the beauty of free software is that you are not left with grumbling as your first, last and only resort -- so Jussi teamed up with Alan Bell and founded the "Ubuntu Template Curators" to change and improve the situation. I connected the Template Curators with Stefan Knorr, Christoph Noack of LibreOffice User Experience and Design Team. Quickly Alexander Wilms of template and design creation fame also joined the bunch. With this team, I am looking forward for some amazing new templates and defaults improvements in LibreOffice 3.6/Ubuntu P+1!

If you are interested in getting beautiful templates into LibreOffice, Im sure these guys would love to hear from you!

(*) Or just want to show off in front of your friends, because people all over the world are using your template for their presentation ;)

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Let me take this opportunity to shamelessly plug the LibreOffice Hamburg Hackfest on April 14/15, 2012. First let me tease you why visiting Hamburg and the Hackfest location is a good idea by quoting the Hackfest page:


The city of Hamburg has throughout history taken its freedom and independence as a high treasure -- as can be seen from the motto: "Libertatem quam peperere maiores digne studeat servare posteritas". It is also the closest major city to the birthplace of the codebase that later became LibreOffice. We will meet at the Attraktor, one of the homebases of the Chaos Computer Club, which has an interesting history starting with tales of international spionage during the cold war and much more (see Wikipedia). They have become older, wiser and tamer at least a bit since then, but still originate cool projects like Project Blinkenlights. Hamburg is rumored to have one of the worst climates of Germany (constant low-intensity rain), but luckily springtime is an exception: It is a most wonderful place then -- with sunshine, but not too hot.

As a proud local, I also decided to guide some sightseeing on Friday afternoon for people interested, so if you arrive early you might get to see some of the beautiful corners of Hamburg. kindly sponsors us ten T-shirts for the participants. We just decided to give those to the first ten people, who added themselves to the participant list completely with their name and shirtsize. First come, first serve here as is with travel bursaries and couch surfing, which is kindly provided by some of the Hamburg Hackers.

(If you think this is some evil plot to get you to register early, you might be onto something, but please do not tell anybody!)

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As discussed on the last QA call, here is a selection of Tasks related to QA that are easy for newcomers to get started with:

A full list of QA-related things to get started in the project can be found here:

Have Fun!

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Here are some snapshots taken with my phone from the fourth LibreOffice Hamburg Home Hacking:

You can see Eike in the background on the couch that some lucky hacker might surf during the LibreOffice Hackfest 2012 in Hamburg.

And there they are -- smiling and happy after pasta and pancakes!

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He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin' home to a place he'd never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door

-- John Denver, Rocky Mountain High

Returning from my vacation -- during which I forced myself to a strict and complete media blackout -- I find myself indeed coming home to a place I had never been before:

And then there was FOSDEM 2012, which is really a culture shock, when you arrive there directly from the dreamy snowy mountains of the Massif de la Lauziere (*).

LibreOffice had both a Dev-Room and a booth (and great crew of vocational booth boys and babes, whose regular occupation is coding and contributing to the best free office suite ever).

The Dev-Room was packed with 18 talks in one day, which I had the pleasure to close with my paced(**) "10 reasons to contribute to LibreOffice today" while in parallel there was the additional LibreOffice keynote by Michael Meeks showing off some of the niftiness of LibreOffice on new form factors.

Next stop: LibreOffice HackFest on 14th April 2012 in Hamburg! Mark your calendars, ladies and gentlemen!

(*) quite an travel experience: digging out the car from the snow, driving to the valley, taking the train to Lyon, taking the tram to the airport, sitting in an unheated terminal at -10 degree celsius after security for two hours (dont fly easyJet), flying to Bruxelles, taking the subway to the city, finding the Hotel from memory. The story of the return from Bruxelles to Hamburg is shorter: the pilot managed to damange the plane during the first 10 meters of taxing so we (including the incidentally four LibreOffice hackers on the same plane) had to change to a difference vehicle.
(**) mostly for we were behind on the schedule

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