Tales of software craftsmanship

Tales of software craftsmanship

KDE accepted for Google Summer of Code 2012

I’m happy to announce that KDE has been accepted as a mentoring organization in Google Summer of Code 2012. This is our 8th consecutive year. Congrats to all accepted organizations, and a big thanks to everyone who helped to make this happen for KDE!

Students. Now that you have a list of accepted organizations, it’s time to start working on your proposal. KDE maintains an ideas page which is an excellent starting point, and don’t forget to check our student guidelines. I’ve also prepared an article a while ago with a few tips on how to structure your proposal.

You can come up with your own idea or base your proposal on something from the ideas page, but either way it’s very important that you get feedback from the team you wish to work with well before the submissions deadline. If you have general questions about getting involved with KDE as a Google Summer of Code student you’re welcome to ask on our IRC channel #kde-soc on Freenode, or join the mailing list kde-soc@kde.org. For questions about a specific idea please contact the relevant team (subproject) directly.

Finally, make sure to keep an eye on the official Google Summer of Code timeline – those deadlines are always closer than they seem ;)

Mentors. Now that we know that KDE has been accepted, it’s time to get ready to mentor some students. If you wish to be a mentor your next steps should be:

  1. subscribe to kde-soc-mentor@kde.org,
  2. sign up on http://www.google-melange.com and apply as a mentor for KDE,
  3. contact one of the admins to approve your requests.

For questions you can reach the admin team on #kde-soc or at kde-soc-mentor-owner@kde.org.

And most importantly, in the following weeks you’ll be contacted by prospective students with questions and feedback requests for their proposals. It might take a bit of time and you might get questions with very obvious answers. Please be patient and keep an eye on the timeline ;)

To help you through the process I’ve updated last year’s KDE GSoC process flowchart, courtesy of Lydia Pintscher.

 

Amarok 2.4.3 “Berlin”

So fine, we skipped a number! ;-)

As you may remember, the last beta release was 2.4.2 beta 1. After that, we did roll a 2.4.2 (final) tarball, but because of some issues which were fixed right after the tag we decided to make another tarball and call it 2.4.3.

That being said, I’m happy to announce the immediate availability of Amarok 2.4.3 codename “Berlin”.

So, what’s new in this release?

There’s a whole bunch of UI tweaks with the aim of making the main window less crowded. The 90s called and they wanted their status bar back, so we ditched it and replaced it with relevant notifications where necessary, recovering a bit of vertical space. Also, the Dynamic Playlists feature has undergone an overhaul which should make it easier to use. A bit of work has been done on Internet Services and Podcasts. Moreover, we have accepted quite a few patches from external contributors, and we have squashed lots of bugs, both during the Randa sprint and after.

Read the full announcement here.

Amarok 2.4.2 Beta 1 “Nightshade”

Summer in the northern hemisphere is not an easy time for the Amarok team, 35°C in the shade is definitely not the ideal operating temperature for most hackers. Nevertheless, work on our Google Summer of Code projects and regular Amarok development is proceeding at a frantic pace.

GSoC projects won’t be merged and released until later, so what we are releasing right now is a beta release of what we have cooked up during the spring, including the Amarok sprint in Randa, Switzerland.

Prominent changes include several redesigned user interface elements and dynamic playlists, and a significant number of bug fixes.

Read the full announcement here and don’t forget that to make Amarok 2.4.2 even better, bugs.kde.org is the place to be :)

GSoC: Beginning Amarok Mobile

When the Google Summer of Code program was announced again this year I decided to submit a proposal for a project that would hopefully take Amarok in a new and interesting direction.

My proposal was accepted, so this year I’m a GSoC student again, for my third time, working on an Amarok port for mobile devices, primarily tablets.

Why mobile? In the past few years some profound changes have been set in motion in the computing market. What we still call “desktops” might soon become mostly workstations and gamer rigs. We’re not there yet, but computers are already becoming increasingly mobile, invisible and wearable, and computing is becoming ubiquitous. In this changing environment, complex desktop apps like Amarok 2.x will have a harder time staying relevant, and are being challenged by leaner, simpler and flashier mobile counterparts.

Amarok has a strong brand and a good reputation as the ultimate music player for GNU/Linux systems, prominent features where Amarok innovates and excels are web services integration and smart context-sensitive information. I believe the Amarok team can take advantage of that and make a successful entry into mobile markets.

There is certainly a lot of work involved: the existing GUI simply would not work well on touch screen devices, and a lot of the underlying stuff is also not so well suited for a mobile app because it provides a very extensive feature set and requires a lot of dependencies.

The foundations for a mobile version were laid down about a year ago, when Amarok developer (and my GSoC mentor) Jeff Mitchell made some deep changes to separate Amarok’s core logic from “everything else”, including collections, the user interface, etc. However, not much happened after that besides maintaining this separation, so I simply figured that if we indeed want to see Amarok running on tablets and handsets the actual porting work had to begin.

So what am I aiming for? At this point, a platform that is accessible almost immediately is MeeGo (and Maemo 6), represented by the upcoming Nokia N900 successor and Intel x86 based tablets, as well as devices which come with other operating systems out of the box but have a MeeGo port. While during this GSoC project I’m focusing on MeeGo, when making technical decisions I will be taking into account their impact on possible future ports to other platforms.

This port will require a completely new GUI, but since I’m not a QML GUI designer (yet), so far I’m only promising to deliver the underlying stuff.

Until now, I’ve done a bit of work on yanking out Amarok’s core and building it with a minimal set of dependencies, and setting up a MeeGo development environment. The next step will be porting this core to MeeGo, and then building the required functionality on top of it while keeping the whole app light but smart :)

Amarok 2.4.1 “Resolution”

Building on the foundations of a fun and innovating 2.4 release, the Amarok team is proud to announce the immediate availability of Amarok 2.4.1, codename “Resolution”, the first maintenance release of the 2.4.x branch.

Many bugs have been fixed, and we even managed to sneak in a few new features, including remote NFS/CIFS collections and a gpodder.net service.

Check out the full release announcement here to see what’s new in this release.

Amarok 2.4.1 Beta 1 “Ringscape”

Hot on the heels of a great 2.4.0 release, the Amarok team is proud to announce the immediate availability of Amarok 2.4.1 Beta 1, codename “Ringscape”.

Aside from the usual load of bug fixes, this beta release brings several new features, such as a new preview mode for the Organize Collection dialog, integration with the gpodder.net web service and remote NFS and SMB collections.

This is a beta release, which means that although it’s quite usable for daily use, it might still contain serious issues, eat your chocolate brownies, melt your ice cream or set your microwave on fire. Read the full announcement here and if you wish to help us make Amarok 2.4.1 even better, please report any new bugs you encounter at bugs.kde.org.

The importance of mentorship in Google Summer of Code

I’ve been asked by Lydia, the ultimate social media ninja of KDE and Amarok’s community manager to put together a brief post about my opinions on the importance of mentorship and organization in a student outreach program such as Google Summer of Code based on my experience as a GSoC student. I’ve been a GSoC student twice and a volunteer Summer of KDE student the year before that, so I hope I can provide some insight from a student’s point of view. The KDE GSoC admins&mentors team has done a terrific job so far, and I’m very satisfied with their performance. Thank you, GSoC admins&mentors!

I have tried to gather a list of situations where as a GSoC student I could greatly benefit from good mentorship:

  • Planning. While I surely did have a vision and a somewhat clear direction where I wanted to take my project, I wasn’t always sure about the details of the implementation, and specifically how and where to tie my stuff in with the existing codebase. My mentor helped me a lot with planning and design, and we shared a design document in Google Docs that was to be kept up to date for the duration of the GSoC program. I believe that while the strong motivation of a student pushes the project forward, the direction has to be overseen and frequently discussed with the mentor to make the student’s project useful for the organization and to avoid rookie mistakes when laying out the design.
  • Code review. When I started with GSoC I was very much a noob about Qt and I didn’t have a lot of coding experience. Regular code review by my mentor and the other team members was very important to improve the quality of my output. I believe that at least occasional code reviews in the first weeks of the GSoC program (unrelated to the final review before merging the branch) can straighten out important details before they become serious issues later on.
  • Team interaction. When I started with GSoC I didn’t know anybody in the Amarok team. I didn’t know anything about the social structure and most importantly, I didn’t know which team member I should poke about specific parts of the codebase. In those times it was very important for me to have someone (mentor, community manager) to ask questions such as “Who has knowledge about this bit of code? Can I make change X on code Y or would that make person Z angry?”. I did ask those questions pretty often.
  • Technical questions. The life of a GSoC student can be pretty intense, between coursework, exams and coding. For this reason, while my output was quite consistent, coding could happen at any time of the day. I’m very grateful that my mentor Nikolaj Hald Nielsen was almost always available to answer my questions, and when he wasn’t, there was a clearly appointed second-in-command I could go to. This is perhaps the most important entry in this list. Rules such as “the whole team will mentor you” or “ask in the IRC channel and someone will answer” just won’t do with first time students! I know I wasn’t very comfortable with asking just any question in IRC, especially if I felt that the answer could be something that “anybody ought to know”. Sometimes I just needed a confirmation to make sure I was doing the right thing.

To sum it up, I believe that KDE has a great admins&mentors team, and I can testify that also because of this doing GSoC for KDE was a very rewarding experience.

However, it has come to my attention (also during this year’s Google Code-in) that for the fairly small admins&mentors team a large scale student outreach program such as GSoC creates a huge workload.

KDE contributors are encouraged to help with the organization to make the recently announced GSoC 2011 the most successful GSoC ever: feel free to add your ideas to our GSoC 2011 ideas page, and if there’s an area of KDE you know well, why not be a mentor this year?

The KDE GSoC team is looking for good mentors with lots of cool ideas, and especially if you’re a former GSoC student and you’re not a student any more, you might be the perfect candidate to become a GSoC 2011 mentor. To apply as a mentor visit #kde-soc on Freenode.

Amarok 2.4 “Slipstream”

On behalf of the Amarok team I’m pleased to announce that Amarok 2.4 codename “Slipstream” has just been released.

This release finally brings some of the Google Summer of Code stuff we have been blogging about a few months ago, many new features, as well as many performance and usability improvements. We are especially proud of the new, completely rewritten and much more reliable collection scanner, and I’m personally very happy to be able to show/hide the menu bar again :)

Check out our release announcement to learn what we’ve been up to for the past few months.

 

Amarok 2.4 Beta 1 “Closer”

Unsurprisingly, this fall has been a busy time for the Amarok squad: we had several heaps of code to merge from this year’s Google Summer of Code projects, and we cooked up lots of new features. All the stuff that our GSoC students blogged about months ago and much more will finally be released in January 2011 in Amarok 2.4.

But first, to make Amarok 2.4 rock-solid we would like to ask you, our users, for some help.

We have just released Amarok 2.4 Beta 1, codename “Closer”. In the hope that this release brings us all closer to creating the perfect music player, get it, play with it, test it, and if you find something that needs to be fixed please do send us bug reports at bugs.kde.org.

If the next few weeks are holidays for you, the Amarok team wishes you a happy holiday season!

Amarok 2.3.2 Beta 1 “Sentinel”

While lots of new features are still pouring in from this year’s Google Summer of Code projects, it will take us a while to make sure they don’t crash and burn and hopefully release them some time later this fall. In the meantime, why don’t you help us weed out some bugs to make Amarok 2.3.2 the rock solid release we would like it to be?

To make the task easier, we have deployed a sentinel to look out for bugs: Amarok 2.3.2 Beta 1, codename “Sentinel” is out.

Since the last release in the 2.3 series the Amarok team has been working through the laziest days of summer to implement very much needed fixes, changes and even some new features, especially concerning filtering and podcasts. Read the full announcement here and don’t forget that to make Amarok 2.3.2 even better, bugs.kde.org is the place to be :)

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