All entries for October 2007

October 31, 2007

Nicer YaST progress reporting.

I was prompted by a bug report to look at the progress reporting employed by YaST whenever the package management is used. At present separate popup windows are used to indicate progress/activity for reading each repository cache, and any downloads etc.

This makes the UI look rather busy & distracting. It also can cause problems for people using some window managers which fail at stopping the progress dialogues from stealing focus. This behaviour is one of the most frequent complaints now.

Additionally there is no global progress indication, which means people have no real idea how long the operation will take to complete. And for people on dialup it could be fairly slow.

I had a poke to see how difficult it would be to embed the progress reporting into the main window, and show global progress. It turned out to be relatively easy.

I’ll upload the source when I’ve refined the design a bit and make it work alongside the existing progress callbacks to avoid breaking everything else currently using them.


October 17, 2007

openSUSE 10.3 box

My openSUSE 10.3 box arrived today :)

The box has two dual-layer DVDs with all the software available in the online repository, and the startup manual in printed form.


October 16, 2007

A few webpin improvements

I spent some time rewriting the backend for my package search over the weekend to

a) Improve indexing efficiency
b) Improve search result accuracy

Many of the repositories the search indexes change frequently, especially factory & packman. Updates to the index were starting to take unacceptably long, when indexing now about 208,000 packages, their descriptions & filelists.

With a few improvements such as skipping package details & files from packages which are unchanged after a repository update, redesigning the table/index structure. The indexer is now far faster and less i/o intensive when performing incremental updates. This should mean I can keep the search index more up to date, and be less annoying to other users of the server.

I also spent some time analysing the search queries, and used what I learnt to enable full search of the files within a package. Previously only a rough comparison to the filenames was made. Now you can even search for a full filename, like /opt/kde3/bin/kopete . Normal queries such as konversation or kde irc client will still work.

I made a few other small improvements too, e.g. filenames with binary matches will be ranked higher, so searches for something like kopete are a bit more useful, finding /opt/kde3/bin/kopete

The next thing on webpin TODO, after fixing all the problems that arise from these changes, is to make some frequently requested improvements to the web frontend, such as adding Install Now links to each search result. And perhaps alter the theme to fit with the new openSUSE-community theme .

If you prefer the command line to a web browser, check out yaloki’s command line client


October 09, 2007

openSUSE 10.3 metareview

So a few days now since openSUSE 10.3 release. I reviewed the reviews of 10.3 that my RSS feed agregator has accumulated in the last 5 days. The results somewhat surprised me as I thought we had addressed the most common complaints with 10.2 and previous versions of openSUSE. Also reviews of the pre-releases had seemed very positive. The reviews were divided as follows:

Bad: 11
Neutral: 2
Good: 2
Invalid*: 4

  • Simply re-pastes or rehashes of Novell/openSUSE press release.

Not including reviews published by openSUSE community members.

The good news is that it seems we are competing on technical merit again, The MS-Novell FUD has mostly been dropped.

Comments on news sites, IRC, and mailing lists seem considerably more favourable but are a more biased source.

Anyhow it seems we have an entirely new set of most frequent complaints for 10.3…

Most annoying issues [ Going by reviews ]

1: Installation issues caused by mirror infrastructure problems.

Hopefully will somewhat resolve itself as demand decreases, but clearly a problem that needs to be addressed.

2: Codec installation still too difficult.

I am at this point unsure how this can be improved:
MP3 support installed is by default with dvd / cd + internet.
– Attempting to play codecs which arn’t available leads to page with instructions involving just a click to install. Perhaps need to monitor some users to see where this process is failing.

3: Enabling compiz too difficult.

It seems everyone expects compiz to be enabled by default nowadays, probably thanks to ubuntu enabling it by default in gutsy. In my opinion it is still not appropriate to enable by default as I’ve not seen any hardware on which it doesn’t cause instability with long periods of running (nvidia or ati). However, it seems most users don’t like having to find a checkbox to turn it on, and or experiment with whether AIGLX or XGL works best with their hardware.

4: Java crashes with gnome.

A conflict between gnome’s crash handler and java’s seems to be causing java applications to crash for gnome users. Fortunately this is not affecting KDE users.

5: No live-cd

This is a misconception – livecd with live-installer will be available in a few days once some critical bugs have been fixed. Although the traditional installer will still be more functional & more reliable.

6: Online repositories included by default during installation.

This was in response to user demand for easier network installs, and 1 cd install media while still having all the software they were used to installed by default. To not utilise the online repositories One simply has to uncheck a box. Not having it selected by default would break “click next” network installs, and mean that users of the 1cd install media would not have any of the features that many users want such as codecs, flash etc.

7: Unspecific performance complaints

Rarely substantiated with benchmarks or analysis it’s difficult to comment on this one. It is clear that in the average case 10.3 both boots faster and package management operates significantly faster. Perhaps people are comparing performance with beagle in suse to without beagle in another distribution, etc.

8: Too complex installer

Somewhat puzzling as the “click next” approach should work completely, now that we have separate KDE & GNOME media. Sure removing functionality from the installer is possible, but would break use cases. Some things can be made friendlier, but as long as you can click next repeatedly you should at least get a working system, and if you need to customise the install you have full control over the procedure.

What can we do about these?

(1) Will improve as the mirror infrastructure load decreases, and as improvements are made to the redirector, It’s a shame it has given some people a bad impression at release, hopefully it will mature quickly.
(2) Could be improved for 10.3 if the problem is with http://software.opensuse.org/codecs design, or the YMP composition etc.
(3) Could perhaps be improved for 10.3 by additional packages which can be easily installed, but we obviously can’t go back and enable it by default.
(4) Should be fixed by an online update first.
(5) Should be partly fixed when the livecd is released, although I’m skeptical about the maturity of the livecd installer, it might cause more problems.
(6) I think this is just a case of “you can’t please everyone” and we did pick the right default for 10.3. Users do want most of the software that is installed, people still complain that the entire double-dvd worth of software is not included on the 1cd. Also network install difficulty was a big complaint in the past, which is now a non-issue. Hopefully this will be complained about less when (1) is improved.
(7) Not really anything that can be done about this one except optimisations where specific problems are obvious or reported.
(8) Not something that can be fixed for 10.3

Anyway, try it out for yourself and let us know what can be improved on the mailing lists ( http://lists.opensuse.org ) and on bugzilla ( http://bugzilla.novell.com ).


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