Improving the development experience for GNOME Settings

After Bastien and Rui announced that they were stepping down from maintainership of GNOME Settings, I went ahead and volunteered to take care of it. This was not a random act, though;  for quite some time, I’ve been adding and changing code all around. I was pretty involved in moving to the new layout, and with the help of other contributors, implemented the redesigns of various panels. Clearly, I have a technical debt to the app.

Adding to that, assuming maintainership over it also aligns well with the goals of my employer, Endless, and gives a nice upstream/downstream overlap. With that, I can spend a bigger chunk of my work time on upstream tasks. Moreover, it allows us to have a stronger relationship with the GNOME community — after all, it allows me to bridge the insights and knowledge we gain from our users to a wider community.

Turns out, GNOME Settings is a pretty popular app amongst our users. It is one of the top apps that our users run. Developing and improving it became an important part of our fixed set of tasks. Specially now that we’re on the verge of a big release and one exciting new feature (amongst many!) was added into Settings. I’ll write more about it soon, hold your horses! 🙂

Without further ado, let’s start by checking some facts about Settings.

Knowing Settings

  • It has 371 unique dependencies (give or take, depending on the distro);
  • As of today, there are more than 17,500 commits and 500 tags;
  • It has roughly 440,000 lines of code, effectively making it part of the huge apps of GNOME, together with Evolution, GNOME Builder and Mutter.
  • It has 24 panels, the latest one being Thunderbolt;
  • First commit dates back to February 10th 1998, 21:22:12

As you can see, this is really no regular GNOME app. It has an old code base, half a million lines of code, dozens of thousands of commits and went through a lot of contributors. During all this time, it has being serving as the central hub of hardware and modules setting management. This gives us the dimension of this app.

But life is not a bed of roses.

Problems

Of course, during this time, GNOME Settings aged, was rewritten at least three times, and more recently was ported to another build system, Meson. Maintaining an app of this size, with such a colossal amount of knowledge involved, is not easy.

As I learn and find my way around the code base, a few problems were found:

  • You need to have the development packages of everything to build it. This is obvious, but I don’t really enjoy messing up with my host system.
  • It is not trivial to debug Settings. There was only a rudimentary logging system around.
  • There are at least 4 different code styles being used, and none documented.
  • Tests were scattered all around the code base.

With that, the reader hopefully  has enough context to follow the rest of this article: the recent changes that make the development experience of GNOME Settings smoother and more streamlined.

Flatpak, Flakpat, Flaptak, Flatkap, Flapkat!

Flatpak is an application distribution module, and has high adoption from the GNOME community. Turns out, Flatpak also became an excellent development tool, much beyond my initial expectations. It allows me, as a developer, to have a finer control over the build and execution environment, and keeps my system clean and organized. It allows me to install multiple versions of a given app, and they’ll share every common file they have. It’s awesome.

Flatpak is also tightly integrated into GNOME Builder, and developing apps on Builder with Flatpak is a super smooth experience these days. Thanks to Christian Hergert, we have a prime quality IDE!

This led to the creation of a Flatpak manifest for GNOME Settings. Of course, GNOME Settings is not meant to run as a Flatpak by end users. The Flatpak integration is strictly for development purposes.

You'll be warned when running Settings with Flatpak.
You’ll be warned when running Settings with Flatpak.

Spotlights to the blueish “I am a development version” header bar:

Blue headerbars
Fancy header bar!

These details might seem small, but they transform the development experience from a burden to a breeze. One can literally clone GNOME Settings from GNOME Builder and just press the Run button – everything will happen automatically. Besides that, Flatpak integration means I can develop GNOME Settings in a locked host system, such as Endless OS or Fedora Atomic, without having to unlock it and install development packages.

This work was partially done in my work time. Thanks Endless for letting me improve my own workflow 😛

Faster CI

GNOME Settings gained rudimentary CI support just before the 3.28 release. It allows us to have fancy green icons on commits, like these:

CI in action
We’re in a good state, everything is building!

CI is important to make sure everything is always building and working fine. Merge requests are always built before being merged, and having a more automated contribution workflow benefits everyone.

But it was inefficient and bloated.

Thanks to the independent contributor Claudio André, the CI was completely revamped. The build process was shrinked, the build environment was standardized so we can reliably reproduce build failures, and the fat was trimmed. In fact, CI times were cut down from 17 minutes to 3 minutes in average.

Thanks Claudio for your contributions!

Tests, More and Better

Another important aspect of improving the development experience is adding more tests, that validate a larger portion of the code base.

Thanks to Red Hat’s Benjamin Berg, the tests in GNOME Settings were reorganized and improved. As a courtesy, more network tests were also added. These tests are integrated into the CI, and every contribution is tested in a job:

CI in Gitlab
The tests run on every commit, and every merge request.

For obvious reasons, tests are absolutely important to avoid regressions. Unfortunately, though, the tests available in GNOME Settings don’t cover even a tiny fraction of the code base. Writting tests is a great way to start contributing to GNOME Settings!

Thanks Benjamin for reorganizing the tests!

Documentation

In addition to all this mentioned work, I personally have been working on improving the developer documentation available in GNOME Settings. As first steps in that direction, the current code style was documented and contribution guidelines were added.

The goal here is that people unfamiliar with the code base can find answers about code style by their own, reducing the communication overload and making the whole contribution process more efficient. It is also important to clearly document what is the expected behavior of contributors.

Improving the documentation is another wonderful and easy way to contribute.

But That’s not all

Even though these advancements mark a real improvement over the current state, there is a long way ahead. Ideally, we want to automate everything that can be automated, and test everything that should be tested. Settings needs and deserves to have some fresh air and code!

A unmerged feature that Claudio worked on is generating development Flatpak bundles. This is useful to lower the testing barrier, since one wouldn’t need to build Settings AND all the dependencies whatsoever. Just download, double-click the file, install and run. Dead easy.

If you have ideas on how the DX can be improved, feel free to share them! I’d love to hear your comments, suggestions, and ideas.

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank my employer, Endless, for letting me use part of my work time to develop what I developed. I’d also like to thank Red Hat’s Benjamin Berg for reworking the test suite; independent contributor Claudio André, for making the CI smooth and fast; and specially Bastien Nocera, for helping and advising and reviewing code even after stepping down from the maintainer position.

Advertisements

GNOME Calendar 3.28.2 released

Another quick PSA:

GNOME Calendar 3.28.2 was released yesterday.

If you were having crashes and problems, please upgrade immediately. Quite a few crashers were fixed, and a few polishes went in too. Hopefully the experience of using Calendar will be much more pleasant now.

This new version was available in Flathub just half an hour after yesterday’s official announcement. Flathub is the only distribution mechanism that I officially support – if you rely on distro packages, please ask your distro maintainers to update.

That’s all for now.

The Infamous GNOME Shell Memory Leak

Memory graph

Greetings GNOMErs,

at this point, I think it’s safe to assume that many of you already heard of a memory leak that was plaguing GNOME Shell. Well, as of yesterday, the two GitLab’s MRs that help fixing that issue were merged, and will be available in the next GNOME version. The fixes are being considered for backporting to GNOME 3.28 – after making sure they work as expected and don’t break your computer.

First, I’d like to thank the GJS maintainer, Philip C., for all the hand-holding, the reviews, and the incredibly insightful discussions we had. Secondly, to my employer, Endless, for the support they gave me to fix this issue. And last but not least, to the Ubuntu folks, which made a public call for testing with the changes – this will give us confidence that the fix is working, and that backporting it will be a relatively safe and smooth process.

banner-down
As always, great new features and fixes are a courtesy of Endless

I’m writing this blog post with three goals in mind:

  1. Explain in greater details what is the issue (or at least, what we think it is), the journey to find it, and how it was fixed.
  2. Give more exposure to important extra work from other contributors that absolutely deserve more credits.
  3. Expose a social issue that showed up during this time, and open a discussion about it.

Memory Leak

To me, it all started when I saw GitLab’s ticket #64 passing by in the IRC channels. It was challenging enough, I was curious to dig into GNOME Shell/Mutter/GJS internals, perfect match. Of course, when you’re not familiar with a given codebase, the first step to fixing a bug is being able to reproduce it, so I started to play around with GNOME Shell to see if I could find a reliable way to reproduce it.

Well, I found a way and wrote a very simple observation: running animations (showing and hiding the Overview, switching applications using Alt+Tab, etc) was reliably increasing memory usage. Then a few people came in, and dropped bits of useful information here and there. But at this point, it was still pointing to a wide range of directions, and definitely there was not actionable task there. This is when OMG! Ubuntu first wrote about it.

Carlos Garnacho then came in and wrote a pretty relevant comment with important information. It was specially insightful because he put numbers on the guts of GNOME Shell. His comment was the first real solid step to uncover what was going on.

A week passed, and I experimented different toys tools in order to have a better understanding of memory management inside GNOME Shell. This is the kind of tedious work that nobody talks about, but I learned tons of new stuff, so in the end it was worth the hassle. I even wrote about my crazy experiments, and the results of this long week are documented in a long comment in GNOME/gnome-shell#64. I kept experimenting until I reached heapgraph, an interesting tool that allowed generating the following picture:

Memory graph
Notice the sudden drops of memory at x=42 and x=71

Well, as stated in the comment, GJS’ garbage collect was indeed collecting memory when triggered. Problem is, it wasn’t being triggered at all. That was the leading clue to one of the problems that was going on. One idea came to my mind, then, and I decided to investigate it further.

A Simple Example

Consider that we have a few objects in memory, and they have parent/child relationships:

Example 1
The root object is “1”

Lets suppose that we decided that we don’t need the root object anymore, so we drop a reference to it, and it is marked for garbage collection.

Example 2
The root object is now marked for garbage collection

If we destroy the root object, we would need to destroy the other objects related to it, and go destroying everyone that depended, directly or indirectly, on the root object. Traditionally, JavaScript objects track who they own, so the garbage collector can clean up every other dependent object. Here’s the problem: C objects don’t track who owns them; instead, they only track how many owners they have. This is the traditional reference counting mechanism, and it works fine in C land because C is not garbage collected. To the garbage collector, however, the C objects would look like this:

Example 3
The garbage collector has no means to know the relationships between C objects.

The garbage collector, then, will go there and destroy the root one. This object will be finalized, and the directly dependent objects will be marked for garbage collection.

Example 4
Only the directly dependent objects are marked for the next garbage collection.

But… when will the next GC happen? Who knows! Can be now, can be in 10 minutes, or tomorrow morning! And that was the biggest offender to the memory leak – objects were piling up to be garbage collected, and these objects had child objects that would only be collected after, and so it goes. In other words, this is not really a memory leak – the memory is not being lost. I’d label it as a “misbehavior” instead.

The Solution

While people might think this was somehow solved, the patches that were merged does not fix that in the way it should be fixed. The “solution” is basically throwing a grenade to kill ants. We now queue a garbage collection every time an object is marked for destruction. So every single time an object becomes red, as in the example, we queue a GC. This is, of course, a very aggressive solution.

But it is not all bad. Some early tests shows that this has a small impact on performance – at least, it’s much smaller than what we were expecting. A very convincing explanation is that the higher frequency of GCs is reducing the number of things that are being destroyed each GC. So now we have smaller and more frequent garbage collections.

EDIT: Looks like people need more clarification here, since the comments about it are just plain wrong. I’ll be technical, and precise – if you don’t understand, please do some research. The garbage collector is scheduled every time a GObject wrapped in GJS has its toggle reference gone from >1 to 1. And scheduled here means that a GC is injected into the mainloop as an idle callback, that will be executed when there’s nothing else to be executed in the mainloop. The absolute majority of the time, it means that only one GC will happen, even if hundreds of GObjects are disposed. I’ve spotted in the wild it happening twice. This fix is strictly specific to GObjects wrapped by GJS; all other kinds of memory management, such as strings and whatever else, aren’t affected by this fix. Together with this patch, an accompanying solution landed that reduces the number of objects with a toggle reference.

This obviously needs more testing on a wider ranger of hardwares, specially on lower ends. But, quite honestly, I’m personally sure that this apparently small performance penalty is compensated by the memory management gains.

Other Improvements

While the previous section covered my side of this history, there are a few other contributors that did a great job, and I think it would be unfair with them if their work was not properly highlighted.

Red Hat’s Carlos Garnacho published two merge requests for GJS that, in my testing, substantially improved the smoothness of GNOME Shell. The first one changes the underlying data structure of JS objects, which allows us to stop using an O(n) algorithm and starting an O(1) one. The second one is particularly interesting, and it yields the most noticeable improvements in my computer. Gross, it vastly reduces the number of temporary memory allocations. He also has a number of patches on Mutter and GNOME Shell.

Another prominent contributor regarding performance is Canonical’s Daniel van Vugt, which helped early testing the GJS patches, and is doing some deep surgeries in Mutter to make the rendering smoother.

And for every great contributor, there is a great reviewer too. It would be extremely unfair if those relevant people haven’t had their work valued by the community, so please, take a moment to appreciate their work. They deserve it.

Final Thoughts

At this point, hopefully the cautious reader will have at least a superficial knowledge on the problem, the solution, and other relevant work around the performance topic. Which is good – if I managed to communicate that well enough, by the time you finish reading this blog post, you’ll have more knowledge. And more knowledge is good.

You can stop here if you want nothing more than technical knowldedge.

Still around?

Well, I’d like to raise an interesting discussion about how people reacted to the memory leak news, and reflect upon that. By reading the repercussions of the news, I found it quite intriguing to read comments like these:

weird comment 1

Captura de tela de 2018-04-20 22-51-53

Captura de tela de 2018-04-20 22-52-17

As a regular contributor for the last few years, this kind of comment sound alien to me. These comments sound completely disconnected to the reality of the development process of GNOME. It completely misses the individuality of the people involved. Maybe because we all know each other, but it is just plain impossible to me to paint this whole community as “they”; “GNOME developers”; etc. To a deeper degree, it misses the nuances and the beauty of community-driven development, and each and every individual that make it happen.

To some degree, I think this is a symptom of users being completely disconnected to GNOME development itself.

It almost feels like there’s a wall between the community and the users of what this community produces. Which is weird. We are an open community, with open development, no barriers for new contributors – and yet, there is such a distance between the community of users and the community of developers/designers/outreachers/etc.

Is that a communication problem from our side? How can we bridge this gap? Well, do we want to bridge this gap? Is it healthy to reduce the communication bandwidth in order to increase focus, or would it be better to increase that and deal with the accompanying noise?

I would love to hear your opinions, comments and thoughts on this topic.

On GNOME 3.27.90, time management, and a goodbye

Greetings GNOMErs,

It’s been a long time I don’t write here. These past months were excruciatingly busy and intense, and lots of things happened but I didn’t manage to keep up with the blog posts. I’ll try to condense everything that happened and is still happening and will happen here.

Calendar & To Do

I spent a good part of January polishing and fixing bugs in Calendar and To Do. Just to name a few:

  • GNOME Calendar
    • A huge memory leak in Calendar was fixed.
    • The support for weather forecast in Calendar was polished.
    • Calendar’s codebase was modernized and cleaned up. This has no user-visible side effects (except, of course, the bugs that are avoided because of that), but maintaining a clean and modern codebase is absolutely essential to keep the project healthy, the maintainers motivated, and the new contributors excited.
    • Many warnings and crashes were fixed.
  • GNOME To Do
    • The Todoist integration was reworked, and is much more stable and functional now. More improvements will land before 3.28, but this was already a remarkable rework.
    • The Todo.txt integration also received some attention, but is not yet where I want it to be. The support for subtasks was temporarily dropped until we figure out a way to implement it correctly. If anyone knows something about it, please comment below.
    • The Flatpak support matured a lot in the past few days, and now the Flatpak Nightly version will enable tracing by default. This will simplify the lives of users that want to test it and report bugs; and maintainers (read: me) that want to fix stuff before the stable release.

I’m feeling a bit pressured to put these apps in a good shape for GNOME 3.28, specially To Do, since it was selected to be installed by default on Ubuntu and I don’t want the new users having a bad and unstable experience. I also don’t want to deal with hundreds of possibly bugs after the release.

Settings (aka Control Center)

I’ve been working a lot recently on GNOME Settings, and reviewed (quite literally) more than a hundred patches in the past couple of weeks. Lots of interesting stuff landed:

  • GNOME Settings switched to Meson. The build times were cut down by a factor of 5, it is amazing!
  • A new Background panel is in the works, and appearently reaching a good state. Hopefully it’ll be ready before 3.28.
  • A new privacy option is about to be added (we’re just figuring out the wording) that blocks phoning home to detect the network status. Privacy-aware users will enjoy that new option.
  • Lots of smaller cleanups and code refactorings.

Now, something happened to Settings these days; it lost its maintainer. I’ve been trying to act as a maintainer during this blackout, and I’d be happy to continue doing that. Fortunately, there are many other heroes involved (shouts to Bastien Nocera, Debarshi Ray, Robert Ancell, Julian Sparber, Ondrej Holy,  and many others for your contributions and being great maintainers.)

Hopefully Settings is already in a good shape for 3.28, and will get even more solid in the following weeks.

A New Master

Big news: I’ve finished writing my Masters’ thesis, and it’s over now. It was a hell of a ride, and seeing in retrospective, I think enrolling a Masters did me more harm than good.

I’m finishing it with a bittersweet taste in my mouth; I’ve learned a lot, but, for many reasons, it was a bad experience overall that led me to a few burnouts and episodes of night terror and depression. I made the mistake of not stopping when I should, and advancing in this shitswamp had pretty catastrophic implications, including physical ones (in one of these nights of terror, I cut my own hand with a knife, and it was painful to use the computer for a couple of weeks.)

It is now over, and I’ll need to recover from the past 2.5 years. Which leads us to…

A Goodbye

But hey, it’s only for a month! I’ll be taking some weeks off and disconnecting from everything (including GNOME, Endless, family and everything else), a time that I’ll spend backpacking through some places around the world. I’ll refrain to tell where since I want to avoid being recognized (it’s not like I’m famous, but who knows!). I’ll be with my wife, and only her, during this period.

I just hope my apps don’t fall apart during this time. For someone who is routinely connected and helping others on IRC channels, disconnecting will be an interesting experience; perhaps agonizing in the first few days, but only time will tell.

So, see y’all in a month I guess? 🙂

The Road to 3.28: Calendar and To Do

New tasklist view in To Do 3.27

Greetings my GNOME friends!

It’s been a long time with no news. I guess work and masters are really getting in the way… good news is that I’ll finish masters in 2 months, and will have some free time to devote to this beloved project.

“Bad” news is that, after almost 6 years, I’ll finally take some time to have a real vacation. I’ll stay 3 weeks out of the loop in February, a time where I’ll be traveling to the other side of the world, watching the sunset at the beach with my wife. Without a computer. While it’s unfortunate to the community, I think this time is necessary for my mental health – I’ve gone way too many times through the almost-burned-out state recently.

But even with all of these thing in our way, thanks to the help of awsome old and new contributors, Calendar and To Do received a lot of new features!

Calendar

Lets begin with my beloved Calendar. My focus for the past weeks was rewriting the Month view. It was a hard, painful process, but I can say for sure now that, of the very few responsive widgets in GNOME, the Month view is the best one! 😛

The most substantial changes were:

  • The day numbers are at the top of each cell now. This is thanks to the hard design work of Allan Day, Jean-François and Lapo.
  • Each cell now only shows the overflow button when absolutely necessary. When implementing this new behavior, a few longstanding issues were fixed.
  • The Month view now finally has a fully working, sane code to deal with RTL languages.
  • When clicking the +N button, the cell “zooms in” and display the list of events. This is a big design improvement over the popovers that we were using.
  • Code-wise, the Month view code that position the events is an order of magnitude simpler and easier to read. It may sound like a purely technical matter, but it has user-visible effects too: easier, cleaner code means more features and less issues in the future.

Of course, no words can make people as excited as a sequence of pictures! Lets check this out:

 

The animations were implemented usuing the animation framework in libdazzle, all thanks to Christian Hergert’s work on GNOME Builder. Kudos!

For the next cycle, thanks to the hard work of a new and awsome contributor Florian Brosch, this is what’s coming next:

Weather indication in Week view
Weather indication

We’re on track to land the features that were proposed for this cycle. You can check out the plans at the Roadmap page of Calendar. You can also get help us with these tasks with design, code and testing!

To Do

GNOME To Do also received a lot of attention already. We’re going through a big redesign, thanks to the leading design work of Tobias Bernard, and the results are already gratifying.

The immeditaly noticeable change is the tasklist view:

New tasklist view in To Do 3.27
New tasklist view in To Do 3.27

 

The rows are entirely draggable now. I’ll continue working on these features, but more importantly, I want people to take some of this work over and contribute to the project!

Talking about managing tasks, GNOME To Do was moved to GitLab! I can’t state how much of an improvement it is over the previous Bugzilla approach. We now have an updated and organized Kanban Board:

 

GNOME To Do in GitLab: the Kanban Board
GNOME To Do in GitLab: the Kanban Board

The reason for that is to have a consolidated workflow:

  • A designer moves the task to “Design” column and works on it.
  • Once design is settled, a developer moves the task to the “Development” column and fixes/implements the task.
  • When the task if implemented, the developer moves the task to “Code Review” column, and a maintainer will review the code.
  • Once the code is reviewed and the code landed, the task is moved to the “QA” column, where a tester will pick up and test it.
  • When all the regressions and issues of that task are fixed, the task is closed

So far, the experience with this workflow has been outstanding. We were able to find out much more bugs due to QA being a first-class citizen in the process.  Filing bugs is now a breeze too! There are bug templates already available, and I took the burden and made a colossal cleanup and organization of the bug list:

GNOME To Do in GitLab: Issue Templates
GNOME To Do in GitLab: Issue Templates

I encourage everyone to not trust me and go check it out: https://gitlab.gnome.org/GNOME/gnome-todo. The downside is that I’m feeling incredibly demotivated to check Calendar bugs in Bugzilla now 😦

We’re Not Quite There Yet

While many of these changes are super exciting, this is just the first part of the cycle. There are much more to work on, and the more people get involved, the more we will accomplish. Things are moving in a fast pace, and I’m incredibly happy with the direction of these projects.

To help pushing community involvement, I went ahead and wrote a page describing how can you help testing. With Flatpak, this is ridiculously easy – and yet, absolutely necessary! So, don’t hesitate to get in touch and help us shaping the next GNOME version.

See you all around o/

Improved half tiling available in Mutter 3.26.1

A late night announcement: the improved tiling patches (shown in a previous blog post) were merged in Mutter and and GTK+3, and will be available in GNOME 3.26.1 / GTK 3.22.23 (not yet released; should be available this week).

I’d like to thank Florian Muellner, Matthias Clasen, Jonas Adahl and AlexGS for all their support, time, code reviews and testing.

Have a wonderful night!

Visual revamp of GNOME To Do

Greetings, GNOME friends!

I’m a fan of productivity. It is not a coincidence that I’m the maintainer of Calendar and To Do. And even though I’m not a power user, I’m a heavy user of productivity applications.

For some time now, I’m finding the overall experience of GNOME To Do clumsy and far from ideal. Recently, I received a thank you email from a fellow user, and I asked they what they think that could be improved.

It was not a surprise when they said To Do’s interface is clumsy too.

That motivated me to experiment and bother our designers about ways to improve GNOME To Do. With the great help of Tobias Bernard, a super awsome contributor, we could figure out a way to improve the current situation.

Opaque Task Rows

One of the problems of GNOME To Do was the translucent task rows. Priorities would be semi-transparent colors applied on top of transparent rows.

Of course this mess could lead to things like this:

Mess
Can you tell which tasks are high, medium and low priority tasks?

After some investigation, a lot of experimentation and feedback from multiple design team members, we could come up with this:

New colors
All opaque rows with priorities at the borders.

I personally think this is a small, but huge improvement over the previous state. When you have to stare at tasklists for hours, the minor annoyances are what causes the biggest frustrations.

Inline Editing

Another big aspect of To Do that was the task editor panel. This was initially made based on some old mockups, but this proved to not be the ideal experience.

The biggest problem was that there were no connection between the editor and the task. Of course there is an arrow pointing to the task row, but consider that:

  • The task title is edited in the task row
  • All other fields are edited in the side panel
  • The arrow might now be obvious to spot
  • The real representation of the task was the row, not the panel

So Tobias suggested me inline editing of tasks. I went ahead and implemented it, and the result looked actually very good!

Inline editing
Editing the task where the task is represented.

The necessary width was reduced, and now the window can be shrinked to small sizes. And it works nicely on Dark Themes too:

Dark theme
New rows on Dark Theme variant

This work already landed on master, and will be part of GNOME To Do 3.28. And, of course, our traditional sequence of images:

 

Any comments? Thoughts? Please let me know in the comments! And don’t ever forget, you can always get involved – you just need to get in touch, and join us at #gnome-todo at irc.gnome.org.

Enjoy!

GUADEC + Unconferences | 2017

This year’s GUADEC was amazing. I’m really happy I could attent it this year (even though my tasks are accumulating and I’m really afraid to look at my emails again…). I’m still in Manchester so, if anyone wants to meet me and buy me a tea, do get in touch!

There were quite a few talks that I enjoyed. I can’t really name one that I liked the most, but on the top of my list are:

I had a special interest in Richard’s talk. He raised many relevant questions and exposed how complicated it can potentially be the problem of donations and payments. More about that in the future.

Calendar & To Do

I had the chance to sit down and see a power user interacting with GNOME Calendar. It was an unique and enlightening experience. I was able to see a few areas where Calendar can do better in terms of UI/UX.

Unfortunately, GNOME To Do didn’t have the same luck. I’m still somewhat unhappy with the current UI of To Do, but I’m running out of ideas on how to improve it without a complete rewrite (which I simply don’t have time to do now). If you’re a GNOME user with any kind of background on design, ~please~ get in touch: I’d love to gather some feedback on To Do!

GTK4

I had the chance (and honor) to be present at the discussions for GTK4. In these discussions, we did a big list of topics and discussed each one of them in details.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I admit that, during these discussions, I felt like a kid at times – the GTK hackers are incredibly smart and skilled people. The other side of the coin is that, while I was feeling like lagging behind them, I also felt honored and happy to be surrounded by such amazing people.

The biggest problem to solve now is the accessibility stack. After digging into the topic and clarifying how it works, we concluded that this topic was too big and complex for that moment, and deserved a hackfest of its own. We’ll organize one during the next months.

Wrapping up, I can’t state how productive these discussions were. Thanks to Matthias Clasen, Benjamin Otte, Christian Hergert, Cosimo Cecchi and everyone else that drove the discussions. We now have a solid GTK4 roadmap that I’ll move to the GNOME Wiki in no time.

GNOME Shell

An unexpected thing happen during the Unconference days. When talking to my good friend Mario we asked ourselves: how can we improve our own Endless tasks by upstreaming our features?

Endless OS shell has many features that GNOME Shell doesn’t, and maintaining downstream patches is expensive and simply not cool. One of these features was specially important, as it is difficult to maintain and lots of GNOME users frequently ask for.

This specific feature was considered in the past, but had many design constraints and we end up never solving it design-wise, nor implementing it.

This is about to change.

After a rather spontaneous group discussion, we found solid solutions for all the relevant edge cases of this feature 🙂  I’m sure Mario will write about it in the future, and probably will implement it as well, so stay tuned!

Because, in case you forgot:

banner down

(And yes, I purposely didn’t say which feature I’m talking about – but I’m sure many of you can guess that :P)

Mutter

After a long explanation and discussion with Florian Müllner (and of course, getting him a well deserved beer for being the GNOME Shell and Mutter maintainer!) the path for quarter-tiling is much clearer now.

The original idea is to implement tiling support using constrained edges, rather than tiling states. But this is hard, and now I believe it’s effectively impossible to do that.

Olivier Fourdan tried to propose a Wayland protocol for that, but discussion ended up freezing and no progress was made for a long time. I admit I’m kinda scared to try to send  these changes upstream… see the bug’s feedback (sometimes I forget that the GNOME community is much more welcoming than many other FOSS communities).

I now have a real problem to solve, and the time is not enough. Perhaps it’s time to declare bankruptcy?

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring me. I sincerely hope that my engagement and contributions pay off this investment!

I also thank my employer Endless to let me join. The upstream contributions we’re doing are valuable for the community, and in turn it helps us lowering the number of downstream changes to maintain.

sponsored-badge-shadow

Say hello to the new Wi-Fi panel

The new Wi-Fi panel

Hello my GNOME friends 🙂

Y’all know that we’re taking big steps to move Settings (a.k.a Control Center) to a brand-new, super shiny layout. As a courtesy of our beloved designer, Allan Day, we have mockups of a new Settings layout that is both modern and preserves (most of) the functionality we already have. He blogged about it in the past.

I found those mockups quite nice, so I decided to work on them!

As YouTube people say nowadays: I’m a simple man. I see a good mockup, I implement it.

Before switching to the new layout, though, we needed to get rid of the panels with a sidebar. Namely: Online Accounts, Keyboard, Network, Printers and User Accounts. Thanks to Felipe Borges, who reimplemented a few panels himself, we were able to progress faster than expected!

This time, I added the new Wi-Fi panel. Check this out:

The new Wi-Fi panel
The new Wi-Fi panel

 

Compare this with the current Network panel, which still has a sidebar:

The current Network panel
The current Network panel. Notice that the panel sidebar looks bad with the new Settings shell (that already contains a sidebar).

 

With the new Wi-Fi panel, we’re close to making the new Settings shell the default one; the biggest blocker now is the Network panel, which I’m already working on. And finally, after more than a year working on the new Settings layout – and with the help of many super awsome contributors! – we’re almost there 🙂

And our traditional sequence of pictures:

 

Oh, and did you notice? The connection editor dialog was also redesigned! It’s much simpler and saner now, do try it out and let me know what you think.

The new Wi-Fi panel has a few advantages:

  • It’s beautiful 🙂
  • It handles multiple Wi-Fi adapters slightly better
  • It’s just easier to use
  • (Future) When the host doesn’t have a Wi-Fi adapter, the panel won’t be visible

Afterword

I’d like to say a big and warm thank you to all contributors that made this possible, and specially to Bastien Nocera and Rui Matos for reviewing all this work and many other patches.

There’s still quite a lot of work to do, and it won’t be easy, but we’ll eventually make it 🙂

Improving productivity with GNOME Builder

Hello community,

as you can guess, I’m a heavy user of GNOME Builder. I use it every day to build various things, most of which you guys know of already 🙂

Because I spend so much time on it, it is essential that Builder simply Just Works ®, and perfectly. Builder sometimes shows a rough edge here and there, but all in all, it’s a masterpiece. It’s awsome in many aspects! Christian Hergert really deserves our respect (and, why not?, many free beers too!)

However, it wasn’t enough.

I like to focus on my tasks, and I usually do it by making the window fullscreen. Even if Builder is already great, it doesn’t support fullscreen.

So that’s what I did.

Let the work speak for itself:

 

Thanks to Christian’s quick fingers, it is already in master. From now on, this will only get better.

Enjoy!