Status update 18/10/2022

The most important news this week is that my musical collaborator Vladimir Chicken just released a new song about Manchester’s most famous elephant. Released with a weird B-side about a “Baboon on the Moon”, I am not sure what he was thinking with that one.

I posted on already about GNOME OpenQA testing, now that the tests are up to date I’m aiming to keep an eye on them for a full release cycle and see how much ongoing maintenance effort they need. Hopefully at next year’s GUADEC we’ll be able to talk about moving this beyond an “alpha” service. We’ll soon have something like GNOME Continuous back in action after “only” 6 years of downtime.

Other exciting things in this area: Abderrahim Kitouni and Jordan Petridis have updated gnome-build-meta to track exact refs in its Git history; there are some details to work out so that it still provides quick CI feedback but this was basically necessary to ensure build reproducibility. And Tristan Van Berkom already blogged about research to use Recc inside BuildStream, with the eventual goal of unlocking fast incremental builds within the reproducibility guarantees that BuildStream already provides.

There is no direct link between these projects but I think we share the common vision that Colin Walters already laid out 10 years ago when describing Continuous: GNOME contributors need to be able to develop and test system-level changes involving GNOME, using a reliable & documented process with modest hardware requirements. Many issues and bug reports go beyond a single component, and in many cases right down to the kernel. As an example, when a background indexing task causes lagging in the desktop shell, folk blame the background indexer process, but the indexer is not in control of its own scheduling and such an issue can’t be fully reproduced if we don’t control exactly which kernel is running. Hopefully when these streams of work come to fruition, these kinds of bugs will finally become “shallow”.

Outside of volunteer efforts, I’ve been working on a new client project that is essentially a complex database migration. I don’t get to do much database work at Codethink, its nice to have absolutely no legacy Makefiles to deal with for once, and its been a good opportunity to try out Nushell in a bit more depth. My research so far is mostly setting up Python scripts to run database queries and output CSV, then using Nushell to filter and sort the output. When I tried Nushell a few years ago it still lacked some important features – it didn’t even have a way to set variables at that point – now it’s prepared for anything you can throw at it and I look forward to doing more data processing with it.

I’m not yet ready to switch completely from Fish to Nushell, but … who knows? Maybe it’s coming.

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