LibrePlanet – GNU Hackers Meetup

GNU Hackers meetups are a face to face meeting to balance the online collaboration that GNU maintainers and contributors do all the time. These are  a recent (since 2007) thing, and are having a positive effect within GNU and the FSF.

The LibrePlanet 2010 GNU Hackers meetup runs concurrent with the first day of LibrePlanet.

We started with some project updates:

  • SipWitch – a project to do discovery of SIP endpoints and setup encryption etc. This looks quite interesting, and is looking for contributors.
  • Bazaar – I presented an update on where Bazaar is at and what we’re focusing on now and in the future:
    • short term: merging and collaboration:
      • merge behaviour
      • conflict behaviour
      • develop a rebase that can combine unrelated branches
      • looms to be polished, or pipelines extended – something to manage long-standing patches for distributions, or other environments that need long lived patch sets.
    • long term
      • continuing optimisation of network and local perf
      • meta-branch operations – mirror collections of branches,
      • work with many branches at once (many branches in one dir (a-la git, hopefully less confusing)
      • easier ‘get up and go’ for new contributors
    • now and forever
      • keep fostering community growth
      • we’re aiming for negative bug growth- get on top and stay there

Felipe Sanches presented his list of things that should be on the high priority project list:

  • accessibility since 1st boot
  • reconfigurable hardware development (FPGA tools) – this is particularly relevant for handling e.g. wifi cards that have a FPGA in the card, so we can replace the non-free microcode.
  • nonfree firmware issue


John Eaton on Octave. John compared the octave contributors – 30 or so over the years, and never more than 2 at a time. The Proprietary product Matlab that Octave is very similar to has 2000 staff working at the company producing it. Users seem to expect the two products to be equivalent, and are disappointed that Octave is less capable, and that the community is not as able to do the sort of support that a commercial organisation might have done. Octave would like to gain some more developers and be able to educe users more effectively – convert more to become developers.

Rob Myers, the chief GNU webmaster gave a description of his role: The webmasters deal with adding new content, dealing with mail to webmaster@, which can be queries for the GNU project, random questions about CDs, and an endless flood of spam. The webmasters project is run as a free software project – the site is in CVS (yes CVS), visible on Savannah. Templates could be made nicer and perhaps move to a CMS.

Aubrey Jaffer on cross platform. There is a thing called Water which is meant to replace all the different languages used in web apps – generates html, css, alters the DOM, does what you’d do with javascript. So there is a Water -> backend translator that outputs Java for servers, C# for windows, and so on. (I think, this wasn’t entirely clear). He went on to talk about many of the internals of a thing called Schlep which is used as a compiler to get scheme code running in C/C#/Java so as to make it available to Water backends in different environments.

Matt Lee spoke about GNU FM – GNU FM is a free ‘’ site. The site is running at  24ish devs, but stalle after 6 months – whats next? Matt has started GNU Social to build a communication framework for GNU projects to talk to each other – e.g. for each GNU FM site to communicate on the back end, with a particular focus on doing social functionality – groups, friendships, personal info. The wiki page needs ideas!

GNU advisory board discussion…   too much to capture, but focused GNU wide issues – things like how projects get contributors, contributions, coordination. Teams were a big discussion point, bug trackers – how to coordinate teams followed up of that, and there is s ‘GNU Source Release Collection’ project to do coordinated releases of GNU software that are all known to work together.

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