New Directions – Aim For Stable

Hello Unity Community!

There’s been a lot of flux in the Mandriva community these past few months and we’ve been chugging along as best as we can.  Since there is no Mandriva release in sight right now…we’ve decided to switch over to ROSA for our 2012 release.

As you might recall, we switched base to Mandriva and retired our repositories.  This still holds true and our next ROSA-based release will still be compatible with Mandriva and even some old Unity packages.  We’ve moved all our packaging upstream to Mandriva and ROSA and we’re going to try to make use of the ROSA build system called AFB in the future to produce releases for us.

What using ROSA AFB means is that ISO generation won’t be handled by mklivecd anymore.  We think mklivecd is great but it’s a very complex tool in its current state and there are only 1 or 2 people who have any idea how to work on it left on Team Unity.  Since we still want to make an ISO that is remasterable for end user we’ll be coming up with a replacement for mklivecd soon.

In the meantime, we’ll be releasing one last ISO with mklivecd based on ROSA Marathon.  It will have the default Unity Desktop as past releases have had and will be fully remasterable and customizable using upstream repositories.  We’ll also begin migrating knowledgebase upstream to Mandriva so our wiki will eventually be decommissioned.  The forum will stay put for the time being and our main page is here to stay.  Our Git repositories will stay put for archival purposes and our dev.unity-linux.org site will most likely shut down since it is not housing SVN anymore.

You can see a summary of all this information on our developer meeting notes page shared in Google Docs.

Future releases will be based on ROSA and/or Mandriva (whichever is most stable at the time) with a new remaster tool we’ll be developing with ROSA/Mandriva.  So, while our base has some churn…we can’t prevent some churn as well…but we’re doing our best to mitigate it.  Look for an ISO announcement in the next few weeks!

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Update on Our Development Website

Where has dev.unity-linux.org gone?

We had a catastrophic fail in the raid group where our SVN was hosted.  Since this SVN was only a copy of our Build Server we didn’t really need it that much but just the same, we liked giving users the ability to see what was in the distribution and what was coming down the pipe at them.

We took the opportunity to move all our SVN items (except our Unity only and Branded channels) over to Mandriva.  Not only does this eliminate our second layer of complication (possibility for human error) but it allows our fixes to be applied DIRECTLY at the Mandriva level…which helps out our parent distribution right along side of helping us out.

All projects from dev.unity-linux.org (like mklivecd, unity-install) are now hosted on github.  We’ll probably move these to a more generic location at a later date but for now, those projects are available for anyone and everyone to contribute to.

Bug reporting has moved UPSTREAM to Mandriva’s bug tracker since we’re using packages directly from there.  However, problems/bugs with Unity projects like mklivecd and unity-installer can be reported directly to the Unity Developers Mailing List.

So, now that we’ve moved away from having our developer website, what’s next?

We’re currently working on providing a web interface to our branded channels and hope to have something working on unity-linux.org soon.  We’re also working with Mandriva on helping them form a community around their distribution as well as updating many of their package stacks/desktops like gnome3 and e17.

So when is Unity Linux 2012 going to be released?

We’re waiting to see what Mandriva and Rosa do first.  Honestly, there is a lot of churn in the background and there is plenty of development going on despite the churn in those businesses.  Our 2012 Alpha ISO can be updated to current Cooker and you can continue to work with that ISO for your remasters.  When things sort themselves out and a full stable ISO from Mandriva/Rosa is released (or a LTS release from Rosa) we’ll work on getting an ISO out based on that release for our remasters to work with.  Until then, we, like you, continue to wait and see what happens.

One thing is certain, we’re behind Mandriva 100% as long as they keep using rpm5.  Unity Linux is so invested in this concept that one of our developers has been working on upstream work at rpm5.org.  We’re committed to the Mandriva community…and if there isn’t one…remember that Unity has a community and we’ve been around for 4+ years now.  We’ll welcome anyone to our small band of Linux users.  So keep that in mind and thanks for using Unity Linux!

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Unity Linux 2012 Alpha 1 Released

The developers at the Unity Linux project are pleased to announce a new alpha snapshot of the upcoming 2012 release in both 32 bit and 64 bit versions.  This release is the first in a while due to the fact that we have migrated all our repositories over to utilize the Mandriva ones.  Much work has gone on to make sure that Unity and Smart work with upstream repositories at Mandriva.

This ISO is based on Mandriva Cooker and we utilize our own repositories for packages not available upstream.  As we noted in our previous Alpha release in 2011…we are aiming to provide JEOS (Just Enough Operating System) to give users a core to build upon.  We’ve worked closely upstream with Mandriva to shrink down our ISO size and we’ve broken the 100MB barrier with this release which has a size of less than 100 MB.

This release comes in a command line only format (No X11) and can be installed with the command ‘cli-installer’.

Installation of a desktop environment can be accomplished by following the Unity Linux Getting Started Guide.

Changelog

The 2012 alpha 1 brings the following to Unity Linux core ISO:

  • Kernel 3.2.7
  • Revamped cli-installer
  • GCC 4.6.3
  • RPM 5.4.4
  • mklivecd updated
  • Moved to Systemd
  • Overlayfs replaces aufs
  • Perl 5.14.2
  • Major DE and core updates as well as numerous package updates

Here’s what we’re working on for the full 2012 release:

  • Switch from GDM to LightDM [IN WORK]
  • Release a GUI version of Unity with Openbox [IN WORK]

The 2012 alpha 1 release is a snapshot release based on Mandriva Cooker. We have developed an in-house script (create-basesystem) to easily and reliably recreate snapshot ISOs of the Unity Linux package repository at anytime. The idea behind this is that using the create-basesystem script along with Unity metapackages one could easily recreate reliable and good branch ISO.  Using <BRANCHNAME>-desktop metapackages would allow distribution developers to MAINTAIN A SINGLE RPM SPEC file to create their entire distribution.  We aim to keep it simple.

Known issues:

Init scripts on boot will complain about a UDEV error…we are aware and are working on it.

Install Notes

Please note that this is a command line only release.  You initiate the text installer with the command cli-installer as root.  Login with the password root and the user root.  See the Unity Linux Getting Started Guide for more information.

 

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Unity Linux 2011 Alpha 2 Released

The developers at the Unity Linux project are pleased to announce a brand new alpha snapshot of the upcoming 2011 release. The 2011 alpha 2 release provides a few big updates to core packages, but the emphasis on the 2011 release continues to be maintaining stability during structural changes that will accommodate a move toward Mandriva repositories.  This release shows our new aim which is to provide JEOS (Just Enough Operating System) to give users a core to build upon.  The Unity developers are aiming for an Arch-Linux-Like approach to things with future releases:  Provide a stable core on which users and developers can build while keeping updates rolling.  Therefore, Unity will only be released in a cli only version (command line interface) from this point on.

Installation of a desktop can be accomplished by following the Unity Linux Getting Started Guide.

Changelog

The 2011 alpha brings the following to Unity Linux core ISO:

  • Kernel 2.6.35.8 – version preserved for stability – other kernels available in testing/unstable repositories
  • Major DE and core updates as well as numerous package updates

The core structural changes slated for the 2011 release (previously noted in alpha 1 notes):

  • All dynamic dkms kernel modules to be converted to static kernel packages. [DONE]
  • NetworkManager to completely replace drakx-net [DONE]
  • Fully implemented unity metapackages [DONE]
  • Removal of HAL, and updating Xorg [DONE]
  • Move to rpm 5.3.x [DONE]
  • Move to python 2.7.x [DONE]
  • Update toolchain to GCC 4.5.x [DONE]
  • Update kernel version to 2.6.37.x or higher for better KMS support [IN PROGRESS]
  • Move toward Mandriva Repositories [IN PROGRESS]

We’ve also fixed bugs with create-basesystem, our script for ISO creation:

  • Guest account bug fixed
  • Finish Install bug fixed

The 2011 alpha 2 release is a test release to show the viability of the new direction of development for Unity Linux. As mentioned above, we have developed an in-house script (create-basesystem) to easily and reliably recreate snapshot ISOs of the Unity Linux package repository at anytime. The idea behind this is that using the create-basesystem script and unity metapackages, while also creating a <BRANCH>-desktop metapackage, one could easily recreate reliable and good branch ISOs.

The past practice has been to take a fully loaded ISO install it and go about customizing the packages installed to your liking, then create an ISO with mklivecd. While this is a great option for people that would like do their own remasters, for branch distribution developers, this option is not very clean nor is it very repeatable. Especially for branches that want to offer both i586 and x86_64 ISOs. The create-basesystem script along with unity metapackages and <BRANCH>-desktop metapackage will simplify and streamline the process for branch developers making it even easier to create your own distribution of Linux based on Unity.

Known issues:

  1. There is an acpi error toward the end of install…it will error out on it’s own.  We’ve found this bug and will have it eliminated before our next release.  The next release will be release candidate 1.
  2. udev has been upgraded to the most recent snapshot and you will see loop errors display after install as well as /run/udev errors during bootup.  These are merely cosmetic currently and we’re working on a resolution.

Install Notes

Please note that this is a command line only release.  You initiate the text installer with the command unity-installer as root.  Login with the password root and the user root.  See the Unity Linux Getting Started Guide for more information.

 

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A New Direction

The Unity Linux developers have come to a crossroads and these past few weeks and were even considering throwing in the towel on our beloved distribution.  Why would some of us consider quitting?  We’ve got so many issues to fix and not enough people to fix them…and it is weighing heavily on many of the active developers…but we have persevered through this rough patch and I will tell you how.  First, let me describe the problems our distro has had these past few months in detail:

  1. kernels – Our kernel developer as some of you know, had to step down in January since he had a newborn to take care of.  Excellent for him but definitely a hit to Unity.  In the meantime, mdawkins was doing kernels and dillj also pitched in.  The problem is that they’re also doing a TON of other things and kernels just weren’t the same.  We’ve had major problems with our recent kernels and are spinning our wheels so to speak without making much progress.  In an effort to combat this, we’ve begun  using Mandriva kernels.  So we’ve already taken a step toward Mandriva in this instance.
  2. Create-basesystem/mklivecd –  It’s taken major effort to keep things working and we’ve had quite a few blockers recently using our favorite remaster tool.  The problems could be kernel related…but we haven’t had much time to troubleshoot things due to #3 on this list.  Our lack of movement to make create-basesystem better is due to having such a workload put on fewer developers.  We’d really like to make things better with it…making improvements, making it compatible with more systems, perhaps making it distro agnostic…but those things can’t happen when we’re scrambling to fix everything else and squeeze an iso out the door.
  3. Packaging  – Packaging will succeed if you have one thing:  Packagers.  While we have a few, we don’t have many.  Our package workload is suffering and things aren’t getting updated…bugs aren’t getting squashed…dependencies are not getting resolved…package installs are failing.  Something has to give right?
  4. Community  – We’ve seen our community numbers going down over the past year.  It’s obvious that this is due to the instability the above three reasons have contributed to…which was directly proportional to our inactivity (fewer developers = less development).  We’d love to have a robust and thriving community but most of our devs that are good community managers are packagers now or kernel guys.  It’s difficult to focus on the community when you have so many other requests to fill.
  5. Workload  – All previous number contribute to a large workload spread across a few developers.  If you load a bridge up with weight…eventually it collapses.  We wanted to do something before that happens.

WHAT WE WILL DO

Effective immediately I am moving us to using Mandriva repositories.  We will continue to have a ‘Unity Only’ and ‘Branding’ repository and repos for our custom packages and various branches (if they have their own), but Mandriva will be our complete source for packages.  Now, this decision was made a long time ago as some of you who attended the last developer meeting…during this meeting we discussed the eventual use of Mandriva’s repositories for replacement of ours.  No clear steps to get us there were outlined and it was decided that this would happen later rather than sooner.

We recently met in a private dev meeting and I pushed us toward using Mandriva’s repositories _NOW_ versus later.  I know this will mean that we may not be able to ‘roll’ with our updates…which means that 2010 iso’s and even 2011 alphas probably won’t update to current once the move is complete…but I have determined that NOW is the time for us to move.

WHAT WILL BE THE BENEFITS?

The benefits will be that we no longer have to maintain packages as a small team…upstream will do that for us.  We’ll be able to focus on meta packages for install, dependency resolution and default desktop environments.

We’ll also require that our developers be able to contribute DIRECTLY to Mandriva…this makes our upstream contributions flow easier and our fixes enrich the distro we’re pulling from.  It also allows us to fix things that are broken fast and contrib the fix upstream.  If our fix isn’t taken right away, we can use smart package manager priorities to pin our fixes in our custom repo above the same package that is unfixed in mandriva.

WHAT WILL BE THE CAVEATS?

Possibly, no upgrade path from 2010 ISO’s…I know, it’s huge :(  I know it’s against what we said we would set out to do…and I know it will suck.  We’ll also be quite unstable for the next month.  Our current roadmap will change because we’ll be working heavily with getting smart to work with Mandriva’s repos…so focus will go off of solving bugs and onto making our core work there.  That means we’ll be focused away from the release for a short time…that means the alpha/RC/main release will push back possibly to September if all things align correctly.  I know, it sucks.

WHAT WILL CHANGE?

After the initial repository switch, not much.  We’ll still work on maintaining the smallest possible base/core ISO for you to install, upgrade and tweak.  The one thing that will change for developers is that we’ll have more time to concentrate on the quality of the distro instead of playing catchup on packages.

Scripts will still work like create-basesystem.  Smart will still work.  Things will still appear the EXACT same.  We’ll import sane installs from Fedora/Mageia if we have to to make things work more smoothly for Unity users.  We’ll still have Unity branding.  Meta packages will still be there.  So overall, not much will change.

WHY DID YOU HAVE TO CHANGE THINGS?

Without this change, Unity wouldn’t survive long.  We had a laundry list of things to fix and only a few developers to do it…by moving our base and repositories to Mandriva, we’ll free up TONS of time for these developers to work on sane default installs for desktop environments, filling individual requests for obscure packages that Mandriva doesn’t have, and making sure that all things can install without issue.

I know it’s going to be tough.  I know it goes against what we set out to do (rolling release).  Please remember, NONE of us maintained our own distribution before this.  We were all just community managers and packagers.  We had 0 experience and unfortunately, we’ve had to learn by making mistakes along the way.  We’re realizing our shortcomings and aiming to correct those.  This move will help us…and unfortunately the user will feel the move more than developers will.

WHEN CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE THINGS HAPPEN?

Immediately.  We’ve already begun work on the Smart Package Manager to make it compatible with Mandriva repositories.  You’ll see the repositories begin to change as soon as Smart is compatible.  That means that we’ll only have a short while before the current repos are retired.  They’ll still be in place of course so you can still use them…but we won’t be updating them as we focus on moving toward Mandriva repos.

Questions?  Comments?  Concerns?  Hate devnet?  Let us know!

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Unscheduled Network Downtime This Weekend

Apologies to all Unity Linux users for unscheduled downtime of all Unity Linux websites this past weekend.  A catastrophic failure at our host resulted in about 2 days worth of downtime for us.  We were able to get back up and running, albeit, at a painfully slow pace.  We’ll be taking some actions to spread things out a bit so that a failure like this won’t bring us completely down in the future.  Apologies to all our users and look for things to sure up and remain more solid in the future!

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