LibreOffice in Brno: Dragons, Friends, and Homebrew Wine

[This post is a re-upload as the original was accidentally deleted! -R]

The plan was simple: Fly from Portland to Chicago to Munich to Brno. I had at least half an hour during each layover, and I’d checked my bags all the way through, so I didn’t have to worry about mucking about with luggage claims mid-voyage. I should’ve been more suspicious when I didn’t get a boarding pass for the last leg of my flight, instead getting a boarding-pass-sized paper with a simple “see agent at gate” printed on the front. It seemed very unofficial.

Several hours later and one detour through Vienna, I was on a bus heading for Brno. Oh, the joys of international travel!

Although the trip to Brno was a little rocky at times, the city was amazing! It was a great place for the conference, the walking tour showing off the city’s “Dragon” was very appreciated, and the Czech people were very friendly, even when we shared no common language. I want to thank all the organizers and the Faculty of Information Technology (FIT) for hosting us!

I wish I’d had more time to explore the venue, but the days were so jam-packed, I never quite found the time. The original buildings are part of a 14th century Cartesian monastery, while the presentation rooms were all in a very modern glass building. There were intricate and varied buildings and facades all over Brno, with some very ancient looking houses and roofs just down the street from the FIT. Some spandexed cyclists with modern road bikes were taking a break at a nearby cafe, and I spied a penny farthing in their support van. Brno was certainly full of surprises!

With all the sessions during the day, it was difficult to get a chance to talk with more than a few people. The afterparty event at Charlie’s Square (a Charlie Chaplain brewery-pub) was a great time to catch up with contributors in several different teams. I think that some of the contributors who don’t speak English — or at least who don’t think they speak it well — often stay silent during some of our electronic meetings in Google Hangouts, on IRC, or on the phone. In person, it’s much easier to see who’s actively participating in a conversation and who is staying quiet or is confused, and then to address that person face-to-face, encouraging them to engage with the group.

The Hackfest night was a great opportunity for the QA Team to have an in-depth meeting. Xisco Fauli, the new QA Engineer, eagerly picked our brains for information about Bugzilla, the Wiki, tools, and techniques, and we spent several hours discussing some of the nuances of LibreOffice development and bug workflow, as well as brainstorming new ideas for our roadmap. I’m currently working on pulling together people for a “LibreOffice Q&A Hangout,” an idea we mercilessly stole from the Ubuntu folks (thanks, Jono!)

There were several sessions I greatly enjoyed, but the Google Summer of Code presentations were unique, as they showcased a whole new crop of LibreOffice contributors. Although many students wrap up work with LibreOffice and move on to new adventures, some stick around and become core contributors to our codebase.

During the conference, all the restaurants and cafes I went to served delicious beers with the meals. Unlike restaurants in the US, apparently each cafe serves beer from just a single vendor. At the end of the conference, I noticed that some small wooden huts were appearing around the town, selling Burčák — a kind of homebrew wine — out of plastic buckets and carboys.

As I understand it, Burčák is a young wine made as a part of the pressing process in the fall. It’s light and sweet, and puts a spring in your step as you’re enjoying a nice walk around Brno. I think one of our challenges as a community going forward will be to put a spring in our step.

To keep up our energy and continue to grow LibreOffice’s capabilities, I think we should recruit more GSoC contributors and then fight to retain a greater percentage of those completing the program. Having young, motivated, and imaginative developers working regularly with LibreOffice will not only inject fresh thinking to the mix, but will also attract other young developers to the project.

In the meantime, I’m going to go find some vineyards here in Texas and try to reproduce that Burčák. Let me know if you’re thirsty, and I’ll make some extra for when you stop by for a face-to-face meeting!

Deep in the Heart of Texas: Love for LibreOffice at Texas Linux Fest!

[This post is a re-upload as the original was accidentally deleted! -R]

When I moved to Texas last year, I wasn’t sure that I’d ever get used to the never-ending hot summers and short autumns. As it turns out, Texas had just escaped from a dry spell in the months before I packed up in Vermont, and the monsoon-like rain storms that I learned to embrace in 2015 and now in 2016 are more the exception than the rule. It makes me wonder how much worse it would be if the sun were shining every day non-stop!

I arrived in Austin the night before the conference, and had a chance to chat with Deb Nicholson, the Director of Community Outreach at the Open Invention Network (OIN). Deb was presenting a talk about the effect of the Supreme Court ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank on software patentability in the US. For programmers and geeks, legal talks can get downright sleep-inducing, but Deb has a way of making this content lively and interesting. If you ever have a chance to see her give a talk at a conference (and she packs a bunch in each year), I heartily recommend it.

Deb’s been a strong supporter of LibreOffice for many years. She organized the first “SpinachCon” UX-Testing event at LibrePlanet, where LibreOffice got some great feedback from both new and intermediate users, and helped with introductions to other conferences in the US such as LinuxFestNW, SELF, Fossetcon, and TXLF. At TXLF she introduced me to Denver Gingerich, License Compliance Engineer with the Software Freedom Conservancy.

The second night of the conference my girlfriend was able to escape from work and join me in Austin, and we had a chance to chat with Denver about Free Software, LibreOffice, and his work in Conservancy. For a project as big as LibreOffice, having an independent foundation like TDF provides effective “lubrication” for all of the community, industry, and government interests to collaborate. The TDF Board does a ton of work behind the scenes, dealing with big questions — like a possible relationship with the Thunderbird email client — as well as very routine things such as keeping our domain registrations up to date.

Conservancy fills a similar role for its constituent members, but rather than being a home for just a couple of projects, it provides oversight, financial management, and infrastructure for over 30 projects, including Inkscape, SAMBA, Wine, Busybox, Git, Mercurial, and Darcs. That’s quite a lot of version control systems living together under one roof, eh?

On Saturday I gave a talk “LibreOffice Online: Flexibility and Freedom.” Even for the geeky crowd at the conference, many were unaware that LibreOffice had developed an online version, or that a downloadable VM was available from Collabora (CODE). Several attendees were excited to learn about the Android version of LibreOffice, and  wanted to learn more about the basic editing capabilities in our beta builds.

At the LibreOffice booth I got a lot of great questions about LibreOffice and our vision for the future. Although we initially were lacking AC power, we jury-rigged up a solution for the first day and were able to keep the laptops running and showing off the latest LibreOffice. Several people stopped by to talk about documentation, volunteering, and avenues of development.

I’m always amused by all of the different things I hear at conferences. At TXLF last year, someone was seriously offended by the size of my business card (it was one of the Moo mini-sized cards). I was considering printing up HUGE cards for 2016, but never found the time for it 🙂

It was great to see friends tabling alongside LibreOffice, including José Rey at the Ubuntu booth and Ken Starks at the ReGlue booth. Ken runs an amazing Texas non-profit that takes donated computer hardware, refurbishes it, loads GNU/Linux, LibreOffice, and other Free Software on it, and then gives machines out to under privileged children and their families. Ken and I had a chance to chat about expanding his operation into the Dallas area, offering free classes about LibreOffice with the machines to make it much easier for students to start using them for schoolwork.

At the end of TXLF, we packed up and headed home, but not before we stopped by Franklin BBQ — arguably the best BBQ restaurant in the whole of Texas. We got up at 5:00 in the morning on Sunday to get in line because Franklin’s regularly runs out of brisket, ribs, or sausage. The restaurant opens at 11AM, so we brought chairs, books, and some drinks in a cooler to beat the heat. As early as we got up, we were still the fourth group in line. Maybe some people never go to bed?

With a delicious end to the trip, I’m certainly looking forward to TXLF next year. Although I like my brisket to be cooked “low and slow,” I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that next summer is a lot cooler than this one’s been so that I don’t ever feel like I’m the brisket in the smoker! I just tried to move a tarp in my backyard, and it tore like tissue-paper, weakened by the sun. I’ll keep on applying the sunscreen, and hope that my skin’s made of tougher stuff than those tarps. Woof!

LibreOffice QA: Over 1000 Bibisects Served!

Nearly every day of the year, members of the LibreOffice QA Team triage incoming bugs, offer support and advice on IRC, highlight and discuss important bug reports, and deal with the behind-the-scenes minutiae required to keep our bug tracker running smoothly and efficiently.

Since 2012, one of the most powerful weapons in our QA arsenal has been bibisect, a git-based regression-hunting tool that vastly simplifies and speeds up the task of identifying when and where problems have been introduced into the code. Our bibisect repositories cover different time periods in our codebase, allowing us to trace both recently introduced issues as well as long-standing bugs.

Tools such as bibisect, as well as excellent cooperation and collaboration between teams within the LibreOffice community, allow us to keep the growth of our regressions low, and the graph of regressions very flat:

regressions-for-bibisect-postWith use of our bibisect repositories growing since 2012, we finally reached our 1000th bibisect. I’m happy to announce that contributor Terrence Enger performed our 1000th bibisect, helping us to identify an issue in how we format comments in Writer. A big thanks to Terrence (who performed not only the 1000th, but also the 1001st bibisect), and as well to everyone on the QA Team who is using our bibisect repositories to help us identify regressions!

If you’re interested in learning more about bibisect, please take a look at Matthew Francis’ excellent talk from the 2015 LibreOffice Annual Conference. It’s a great introduction to the fundamentals of how bibisecting works (e.g. “What is bisection?”), as well as nuances about how we triage bugs and format them so that they may be fixed as quickly and easily as possible:

matthew-francis-bibisect-talk_aarhus_img7If you’re interested in rolling up your sleeves and graduating from spectator to contributor, the LibreOffice QA Team would be more than happy to welcome you into the fold and help you take your first steps in contributing. Find us on IRC at #libreoffice-qa on Freenode or drop an email on the QA Mailing List. Perhaps you’ll be the one to perform our 2000th bibisection!

Mark your calendars: LibreOffice Bugzilla Migration is 1 month away!

tdf-walrus_experiment-iconWhat did you hope to get this Christmas? A new sled? A new laptop? Free Software that can fill out PDF forms?[1]

The LibreOffice QA Team has been hoping to migrate our bugtracker to our own infrastructure for the past year, and after a bunch of testing and experimenting, this January our wish is coming true!

On January 24th, 2015, The Document Foundation will commence migration of our bugtracker from infrastructure to TDF-hosted machines. Migration will give us increased flexibility to extend and modify the underlying Bugzilla code to match our needs, integrate other TDF services with the bug tracker, and provide more granular services for projects such as the Impress Remote and the Document Liberation Project.

Continue reading

Happy New Year, LibreOffice!

happy-holidays-libreofficeAs 2014 draws to a close, I’m reminded of all of the amazing things that have happened in the LibreOffice project over the last 12 months. We’ve talked to hundreds of users and supporters at FOSDEM, SCALE, OSCON, FOSSETCON, and other conferences around the world, we’ve hosted Hackfests, LibreFests, and other community events, and we’ve worked on the nitty-gritty of the project, triaging over 8700 bugs and making more than 25000 commits[1].

LibreOffice wouldn’t be possible without the contributions of people working in many different countries and in many different roles. Since I’ve joined The Document Foundation as a QA Engineer this past summer, I’ve had an opportunity to work with new developers, users, technical support staff, teachers, administrators, and volunteers. Each day brings new puzzles and new opportunities to learn, as well as new volunteers and curious users who decide to stick around and help the community after we’ve worked to answer their questions or reproduce and fix their bugs.

The QA Team has been especially busy in the last few months, bibisecting regressions and chopping our UNCONFIRMED bug count in half, dropping under 400 in the last week.  We’re getting ready to migrate to our own instance of Bugzilla at the end of January, which will give us increased flexibility and easier customization of our bug tracker. In honor of Bugzilla, the stegosaurus at the top of the page is doing his best impression of the Mozilla Dinosaur. I’ll make a separate post with all kinds of details about the migration very soon Read all about the Bugzilla Migration right here!

Thanks for the amazing 2014, LibreOffice! I’m excited to see what we can accomplish together in the coming 365 days!


Introducing the Document Liberation Project: LibreOffice’s new tag-team partner

My friend tells me that it’s just a few days until Wrestlemania — pro wrestling’s flagship annual event. This Sunday (sunday…sunday), thousands of fans will show up to see luchadors pro-wrestlers perform in a small ring, throwing each other about and providing a spectacle of a performance for those in the bleachers and for the million or two at home. Given the imminent match-up, I find it quite fitting that The Document Foundation (TDF) has just announced the creation of the Document Liberation Project, a “home for the growing community of developers united to free users from vendor lock-in of content.”

On the face of things, one might not see a close comparison between computers and big, brawny men, but if you delve into the world of file formats and software, you’ll see how a fight is being waged every day — on desktops and laptops around the world.

Continue reading