Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'apps'

Daniel Holbach

I’m very proud of what quite a number of teams achieved together last week. On Friday we announced the opening of the Ubuntu Touch software store. Just to quickly illustrate who was all responsible for this, here’s a list of the teams/projects involved:

  • Click itself – the format in which we ship apps.
  • Community team – helped with coordination of whole app story and project management.
  • Design team – putting together plans for how the experience should be.
  • *dations teams (Foundations, Phonedations), getting everything in the phone image, helping with the integration of the download service.
  • IS, setting up servers and help with deployment.
  • Online Services (Client) – writing the code for the whole app management experience on the client side.
  • Online Services (Server) – putting together the software store, review capabilities, etc.
  • SDK team – teaching QtCreator about Ubuntu apps and click packages.
  • Security team – defining and putting together our app confinement strategy.
  • Unity teams – integration of the app scope and other bits and pieces.
  • Lots of others (feedback, code review, encouragement, etc).

I’m sure I forgot to mention a team or two, but it’s at least worth trying to point out who all was responsible for this. The security confinement, the SDK and Unity have obviously been under heavy development for a longer time already, some plans existed before, but the vast majority of what you can see now was planned three months ago. So with this in mind, I feel everybody involved in this project deserves a big hug and some words of praise. This is a great achievement.

There are definitely a bunch of things still left to be done, but now we have:

  • a good app development experience,
  • a software store you can easily submit apps to,
  • a mobile OS where you can easily install apps.

Go (virtual) team! :-D

Screenshot stolen from Michael Hall (https://plus.google.com/109919666334513536939/posts/T5dtW92Miid)

This project was my first try at project managing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hundreds of emails, lots of meetings and discussions on IRC made the software store a reality. Everybody worked very hard to bring this to fruition and it was a fantastic feeling to be able to download some new apps on my Nexus 7 today.

As I said above: there is still quite a few things we’ve got to do, so the coming weeks are going to bring us a lot of great stuff: purchases, some automation of the app review, easy app updates, apps with compiled code and much much more. Stay tuned and keep publishing your great apps!

Big hugs to the extended team, you are all heroes and thanks for the great time with you!

Read more
Daniel Holbach

We’re on day 2 of our apps sprint and made loads of progress. It has been a lot of fun to be in the midst of all this activity, so here goes just a quick list of things we worked on:

  • A number of bugs were fixed in arb-lint, the tool we use to check apps. It learned where we expect files to be put in /opt and we added some examples how to fix some of the issues. Find still outstanding bugs here.
  • Some smaller issues we found in the packaging were related to bugs in python-distutils-extra, which were fixed in the meantime, so we will try to backport it to precise.
  • We noticed some funny problems with apport hooks in apps, so we investigated the issue and filed these two bugs.
  • Allison set up a Trello board and many apps were reviewed. Thanks a lot to Bhavani Shankar, Allison Randal, Andrew Mitchell, Jonathan Carter and Paolo Rotolo.

What I liked most was how everybody who worked on some part of the apps story hung out together and cooperated on issues, so future generations of apps will have a much easier time.

Thanks a lot to Paolo Rotolo who joined the effort and just jumped in to fix issues in apps. Awesome! :-)

Read more
Daniel Holbach

Apps are super-important for Ubuntu. Many of us have blogged about this in a more general sense, but I want to provide an update of what has been happening behind the scenes in the last few weeks.

Before I start, I want to reach out to you to be part of the upcoming Apps Sprint. Join us on #ubuntu-arb on irc.freenode.net from Monday, 2nd July to Wednesday, 4th July to learn more about Ubuntu apps, get involved in reviewing them and bringing more progress to this effort.

Getting apps into Ubuntu hasn’t been easy up until now, due to a number of circumstances. The review process takes long, some of the steps involved are cumbersome and the review queue has been filling up. There are reasons for this and there is lots of room for improvement.

Technical requirements
As apps are part of a separate repository, the Technical Board requires us to make some very specific namespace distinctions between “regular packages” and apps. This means that apps install into /opt/ and files which can’t go there (.desktop files, lens specific bits, etc.) have to include the package name to avoid possible file name clashes.

This looks pretty straight-forward and you could just rename files and move things around as part of the packaging, but quite often this means you have to make changes in the code as well (think of file locations, translation files, data directories or file look-ups). For a larger app this results in quite a bit of engineering work to make all the changes and make sure they work as intended.

At this point I want to credit the App Review Board (ARB) for some work they have been doing. They could easily just have said: “Rejected: Your app doesn’t do it right.”, but instead they helped app authors to get their app working. This was time-consuming, but a learning experience for everyone involved.

The good news is: quickly, which is our recommended tool to produce apps, has templates where everybody worked hard to get the templates and the code up to scratch, so that writing code for the extras repository gets easier.

Another piece of good news is: pkgme has progressed nicely and can help with the initial packaging of apps (useful if you don’t use quickly).

I very recently started working on a tool called arb-lint, which automates certain parts of the app review. This will make it possible to collect the knowledge of app policies into it, so new ARB members or app review helpers can easily find out what’s wrong with an app and how to fix it. You could even run it on your own app and find out what needs to be improved.

To sum this up: everybody knows that packaging and policies is quite boring to app authors. They just want to focus on producing great quality apps, they’re not interested in tweaking their build-system to adhere to all the policies. Don’t worry – this is understood. There’s still work to be done, but the tools are all progressing nicely.

App submission
During the 18 months the App Review Board has existed, the submission process has changed a number of times. The tool which is now being used is called myApps and a lot of handy improvements have gone into it in the last weeks and months.

One current problem is that some app authors submit tarballs of their apps, others provide bzr branches, others submit their app in a PPA. While we know how to use all of these tools, it makes the review process fairly inconsistent. This is why we came up with a service called apps-brancher, which downloads the app’s code, sticks it into a bzr branch, attempts to package it if necessary and pushes it to Launchpad.

Staffing
The current ARB members are all volunteers and working hard on apps and other places in Ubuntu. Some weeks ago the Ubuntu App Review Contributors team was set up, so that more active helpers can easily join the effort.

Summary
It is true. There is quite a backlog of apps. Some of them might be reviewed and approved quickly, others will need quite a bit of engineering to get into Ubuntu. Some might not be suitable for the extras repository at all.

As you have read above, there are numerous improvements in the works and there are very likely lots of other things which might result in a nice speed-up. Your help will be appreciated here!

The Ubuntu Apps Sprint
All of the above is why we want to invite you to the Ubuntu Apps Sprint from Monday to Wednesday (2nd-4th July). Join us in #ubuntu-arb on irc.freenode.net to:

Quite a number of experts from the ARB, from the quickly and pkgme teams and lots of others will be around to answer your questions. We hope you will get involved and help us out.

Apps will make Ubuntu even more beautiful. It’s just great to get to see so much creativity first. Contributing here is totally worthwhile.

Read more
Daniel Holbach

I’ve rambled about this before and still feel strongly about the importance of apps in Ubuntu. We all need to put some work into this to make apps in Ubuntu truly rock. The good news is: you can help and you’re not alone!

The App Review Board has been hard at work, but they need help. So how does this work? If you have packaging experience and would like to help, you can join

The ARB have documented their guidelines and responsibilities. These docs you might want to review before joining to truly see if this is for you.

So what has been happening lately? The ARB team and helpers have been busy reviewing their queue, helping app authors to get their packages ready and perfecting the documentation and tools.

I have put together the apps-brancher, a tool which downloads apps and pushes branches to Launchpad. If you check out the status update I sent to the mailing list earlier, you can see where things currently stand. The wiki page explains how to use it. The great thing about this tool is that it makes use of pkgme, so even if a submitted app does not contain any packaging, we might have a good chance that pkgme can do the job for us.

As you can see, these are very exciting times. We not only review apps and make Ubuntu shine with new gems, but also work on infrastructure and tools which will make the tasks easier for future generations.

We hope to see you on the IRC channel and mailing list and help making apps in Ubuntu truly rock!

Read more
Daniel Holbach

Jono blogged about the importance of application developers to Ubuntu earlier and I wanted to echo some thoughts and add some of my own.

I have been in the Ubuntu Developer camp for most of Ubuntu’s life as a project, so the mindset of “App developers? Why don’t they just set up an open source project and get it packaged?” or “Apps? We have packages.” is what I have heard a couple of times already and is what I would probably have answered some years ago myself.

The power of the Open Source community and having open projects is immense. We all have seen it many times: a thought, a great idea, some dedicated contributors, good communication and a friendly community can achieve amazing things. This happens every single day.

We are well aware of how things work in the Open Source world and we have recently seen the success of our great work: millions of users, who have never dabbled in Open Source before, today enjoy Ubuntu (or other pieces of Free Software) and rely on it. We have managed to reach out to an entirely new demographic and continue to grow our user base.

With new demographics there are new expectations and new responsibilities. Consider my father for example. He follows what’s going on in the Ubuntu world, but will occasionally point out to me that an app he’s interested in buying does not exist for Ubuntu. The last I remember him talking about was a good language learning course.

With new form factors and devices running Ubuntu (you know, TVs, tablets, phones, watches, cars, coffee machines, hoverboards and the like), there are going to be thousands of useful helper tools out there which might not be available for Ubuntu yet. Add to that the growing number of content providers (magazines, books, maps, music, etc.) which users yet can’t easily get “for Ubuntu”.

This is the world we are looking at today and it becomes obvious that apps should be a first-class citizen in Ubuntu. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for making everyone who shows the slightest interest in working on Ubuntu itself an Ubuntu developer and member of our community, also because I feel that everyone who is part of this has a lot to gain, personally and for their particular project. It just shouldn’t be a strict requirement because it won’t scale.

A number of teams have been working very hard on making seamless apps in Ubuntu a reality and that’s just great to see. It’s a hard problem to solve because it involves so many different important pieces. Keep up the good work everyone!

At UDS I’m definitely going to (among other sessions, I’ll blog about later on) attend these sessions to see what we can do about making apps in Ubuntu more exciting and something that just works:

Hope to see you there!

Read more