How to fix FreeBSD for cor­por­a­tions (and user with smal­ler in­stall­a­tions), the tools-​viewpoint

There is a huge dis­cus­sion go­ing on on hackers@ about how FreeBSD is not suit­able for large in­stall­a­tions (any­more?). As of this writ­ing, the dis­cus­sion seems to get some discussion-​clusters. We have some sub-​topics which could lead to some good im­prove­ments.

One sub­top­ic is the re­lease en­gin­eer­ing. Some changes like a more guided ap­proach of what should be merged to which branch, the fre­quency of re­leases and maybe some kind of long-term-branch(es). There is some dis­cus­sion to get maybe some joined-​funding in some way from in­ter­ested parties to pay someone to take care about long-term-branch(es).

An­oth­er sub­top­ic is the way bugs are handled in our old bugtrack­ing soft­ware and how patches go un­noticed there.

And both of them are con­nec­ted (parts more, parts less) by what can be done in a vo­lun­teer pro­ject.

To me it looks like the pro­pos­als “just” need some re­fine­ments and some “vo­lun­teers” to put value (this means man power and/​or money) to what they said.

What I want to dis­cuss here is, how tools could help with mak­ing PRs/​patches more vis­ible to de­velopers (there is already the pos­sib­il­ity to get emails from the small bugbuster-​team about patches in PR data­base, but you have to ask them to get them) and how to make it more easy to get patches in­to FreeBSD.

Mak­ing bugs more vis­ible to de­velopers

The ob­vi­ous first: We need a dif­fer­ent bugtrack­ing sys­tem. We already know about it. There is (or was…) even someone work­ing IIRC on an eval­u­ation of what could be done and how easy/​hard it would be. I am not aware of any out­come, des­pite the fact that it is months (or even a year) since this was an­nounced. I do not blame any­one here, I would like to get time to fin­ish some FreeBSD vo­lun­teer work my­self.

In my opin­ion this needs to be handled in a com­mer­cial way. Someone needs to be of­fi­cially paid (with a dead­line) to pro­duce a res­ult. Un­for­tu­nately there is the prob­lem that the re­quire­ments are in a way, that people do not have to change their workflows/​procedures.

IIRC people ask that they should be able to send a mail to the bugtrack­er without the need for au­then­tic­a­tion. Per­son­ally I think the bugtrack­ing is­sue is in a state where we need to change our workflows/​procedures. It is con­veni­ent to get mails from the bugtrack­er and only have to reply to the mail to add some­thing. On the oth­er hand, if I re­port bugs some­where, and if I really care about the prob­lem res­ol­u­tion, I am will­ing lo­gin to whatever in­ter­face to get this damn prob­lem solved.

Send­ing a prob­lem re­port from the sys­tem where I have the is­sue in an easy way is a very use­ful fea­ture. Cur­rently we have send-​pr for this and it uses emails. This means it re­quires a work­ing email setup. As an user I do not care if the tool uses email or HTTP or HTTPS, I just want to have an easy way to sub­mit the prob­lem. I would not mind if I first have to do a “send-​problem re­gister me@tld” (once), “send-​problem lo­gin me@tld” (once per system+user I want to send from) and then maybe a “send-​problem tem­plate write_template_here.txt” (to get some tem­plate text to fill out), edit the tem­plate file and then run “send-​problem send my_report.txt file1 file2 …”. That would be a dif­fer­ent work­flow, but still easy.

Email no­ti­fic­a­tions are surely needed, but if I really care about a prob­lem, I can be bothered to re­gister first. So in my opin­ion, we need a dif­fer­ent bugtrack­er des­per­ately enough that we need to drop our re­quire­ments re­gard­ing our cur­rent workflow/​procedures (even if it means we can not get a com­mand line way of sub­mit­ting bugs at all). The primary goal of the soft­ware needs to be to make it easy to track and re­solve bugs. The sub­mis­sion of bugs shall be not hard too. If I look at the state of the world as it is ATM, I would say a webin­ter­face with au­then­tic­a­tion is not a big bur­den to take if I really want to get my prob­lem fixed. Some com­mand line tool would be nice to have, but re­gard­ing the cur­rent state of our bugtrack­er it needs to be op­tion­al in­stead of a hard re­quire­ment.

Apart from mak­ing it easy to track and re­solve prob­lems, the soft­ware also needs to be able to make us aware of the biggest prob­lems. Now… you may ask what is a big prob­lem. Well… IMO it does not mat­ter to you what I think is big or small here. The per­son with a prob­lem needs to de­cide what is a big prob­lem to him. And people with the same prob­lem need to be able to tell that it is also a big prob­lem for them. So a fea­ture which al­lows to “vote” or “+1” or “AOL” (or how­ever you want to call it) would al­low to let users with prob­lems voice their opin­ion upon the rel­ev­ance of the prob­lem to our userbase. This also means there needs to be a way to see the highest voted prob­lems. An auto­mat­ic mail would be best, but as above this is op­tion­al. If I as a de­veloper really care about this, I can be bothered to lo­gin to a webin­ter­face (or maybe someone vo­lun­teers to make a copy & paste and send a mail… we need to be will­ing to re­think our pro­ced­ures).

Get­ting patches more easy in­to a FreeBSD branch

It looks to me that this top­ic is re­quires a little bit more in­volve­ment from mul­tiple tools. In my opin­ion we need to switch to a dis­trib­uted ver­sion con­trol sys­tem. One which al­lows to eas­ily cre­ate my own branch of FreeBSD on my own hard­ware, and which al­lows to let oth­er users use my branch eas­ily (if I want to al­low oth­er to branch from my branch). It also needs to be able to let me push my changes to­wards FreeBSD. Ob­vi­ously not dir­ectly in­to the of­fi­cial sources, but in­to some kind of sta­ging area. Oth­er people should be able to have a look at this sta­ging area and be able to re­view what I did. They need to be able to make some com­ments for oth­ers to see, or give some kind of (multi-dimensional?-)rating for the patch (code qual­ity /​ works for me /​ does not work /​ …). Based upon the review/​rating and maybe some auto­mated eval­u­ation (com­pile test /​ re­gres­sion test /​ bench­mark run) a com­mit­ter could push the patch in­to the of­fi­cial FreeBSD tree (ideal would be some auto­mated no­ti­fic­a­tion sys­tem, a push but­ton solu­tion for in­teg­ra­tion and so on, but as above we should not be afraid if we do not get all the bells and whistles).

If we would have some­thing like this in place, cre­at­ing some kind of long-​term-​release branch could be used more eas­ily in a col­ab­or­at­ive man­ner. Com­pan­ies which use the same long-​term-​release branch could sub­mit their back­ports of fixes/​features this way. They also could see if sim­il­ar branches (there could be re­lated but dif­fer­ent branches, like 9.4–se­cur­ity-fixes-​only <= 9.4-official-errata-only <= 9.4-bugfixes <= 9.4-bugfixes-and-driverupdates <= …) could be merged to their in-​house branch (and maybe con­sequently push-​back to the of­fi­cial branch they branched from if the patch comes from a dif­fer­ent branch).

It does not mat­ter here if we would cre­ate a fixed set of branches for each re­lease, or if we only cre­ate some special-​purpose branches based upon the phase of the moon (ideally we would cre­ate a lot of branches for every re­lease, companies/​users can cherry pick/​submit what they want, and the status of a long-​term-​branch is solely based upon the in­flow of patches and not by what the se­cur­ity team or re­lease man­ager or a ran­dom de­veloper thinks it should be… but the real­ity will prob­ably be some­where in the middle).

I do not know if tools ex­ists to make all this hap­pen, or which tools could be put to­geth­er to make it hap­pen. I also did not men­tion on pur­pose tools I am aware of which already provide (small) parts of this. These are just some ideas to think about. In­ter­ested parties are in­vited to join the dis­cus­sion on hackers@ (which is far away from dis­cuss­ing spe­cif­ic tools or fea­tures), but you are also free to add some com­ments here.

Sony Bravia and HD videos (via DLNA)

I made some more tests which video res­ol­u­tions my TV ac­cepts via DLNA. While I was look­ing be­fore a SD res­ol­u­tions, this time I took care about some HD res­ol­u­tions.

As the Sin­tel video in the 1024×436 res­ol­u­tion did not play, I tried to reen­code it to 1024×720 (for the en­abled x264 op­tions see be­low). This did not work either. After that I went to the of­fi­cial res­ol­u­tion of 1280×720, and this works. Ini­tially this video was en­coded as High@L3.1, but with this the TV pro­duced some ar­ti­facts on play­back. After chan­ging this to High@L4.0 (simply by re­mux­ing in­stead of reen­cod­ing), the play­back was fine (warn­ing: in­creas­ing the H.264 level is OK, de­creas­ing it if the video does not com­ply to the lowered level, may cause prob­lems). I miss a set­ting in avidemux for the level, it would be nice if there would be the pos­sib­il­ity to set it.

I also tested if the 1280×544 ver­sion of the Sin­tel video plays fine on the TV or not. It does not play fine, so there is prob­ably a hard re­quire­ment on the com­plete res­ol­u­tion for HD video.

While do­ing this I no­ticed that ts­Mux­eR is trun­cat­ing the au­dio, in­stead of the 6 chan­nel au­dio it was be­fore, the re­muxed file has only two chan­nels.

As I did not want to al­ways go through all the set­tings to enter what I want, I made a little avidemux-​script to setup (ECMA script + xml) everything for me. This was easy, I just took an ex­ist­ing one (the Sony PSP one) as a base and changed the en­cod­ing op­tions and the tar­get con­tain­er (un­luck­ily avidemux 2.5.4 does not sup­port H.264 in MPEG-​TS yet, so I have to use a MP4 con­tain­er and re­mux it in­to the MPEG-​TS stream af­ter­wards).

The op­tions I used for the x264-​reencoding are –8x8dct –ana­lyse all –mixed-​refs –bime –weightb –subme 9 –b-​rdo –ref 4 –b-​adapt 2 –bframes 4 –dir­ect auto –me umh (this in­cludes b-​pyramid, for which there are re­ports that it does not work).

My pub­lic­a­tions and pro­jects pages moved in­to the blog

I moved my pages about pub­lic­a­tions and pro­jects in­to the blog. The con­tents of the pub­lic­a­tions are still at the old place (and there­fore in the same style as when I wrote them). I have not de­cided yet if I will im­port the con­tents of the pub­lic­a­tions in­to the blog or not. Im­port­ing the con­tents means everything would have a con­sist­ent style, not im­port­ing it would mean the con­tent is as “ori­gin­al” as pos­sible.

WP prob­lems solved

I solved my WP prob­lems.

The permalink prob­lem was be­cause of a miss­ing .htac­cess file. I cre­ated one with write per­mis­sions for WP, and changed the permalimk set­ting back.

The white-​on-​white is­sue was solved by set­ting CONCATENATE_​SCRIPTS to false in wp–con­fig, so it seems to be a cach­ing prob­lem some­where. Later I will take some time to switch back and flush some caches (at least where I have the rights to do it).

Blog moved to my own web­site

I took the time to move the blog to my own web­site. I can now post stuff which is not re­lated to FreeBSD, and I do not use the re­sources of the pro­ject for this any­more. It also al­lows me to in­stall a theme I like more, and I can in­stall plu­gins like I want.
Now I just have to find the cause of some strange stuff I see. After im­port­ing my data from the FreeBSDish blog, the permalinks do not work like I want, I have to use the ugly de­fault way of hand­ling permalinks. I also have to write this post without see­ing what I type, the ed­it­or is dis­play­ing white text on a white back­ground…