Debian-transitions,news and views
First up, it has been quite an interesting week in the world of GNU/Linux Debian. I have been enjoying the updation going through deb-delta. I would share some more thoughts about deb-delta further down the line.
I have also been enjoying the GNOME 3 transition that is taking place. One thing which I was thinking about as to how two versioned libraries or commands be in the same place had been answered in an e-mail about couple of months back. I am quoting the interesting part (atleast it was for me) :-
First of all I think we should upload gtk+3.0 to unstable in the next days. Together with it we can upload a lot of libraries that are parallel-installable with their GTK 2.x versions. I don’t expect these libraries to cause any trouble: their source packages were renamed, we will just rename them back to remove the gtk2 version when all reverse dependencies are fixed. Some of them have a -common package that was not renamed (e.g. libgweather) but the new one should work with both versions.
While I was thinking that it would be something similar on the same lines (as had seen some similar small transitions) did not know that I would be so spot on about renaming packages so both can be in on the same boat.
Although this also highlights one of the main problems that casual users like me face when trying to track things in debian. To take the example of the ongoing GNOME transition, there are three to four mailing lists where this transition can/is/would be discussed i.e. PKG-GNOME-Maintainers at alioth , Debian-release and the Debian-gtk-gnome to say the least. While intellectually its easy to understand the reasons for the various mailing lists and the various hats and viewpoints people may have about a transition its difficult for ordinary users to know what is happening. Just the sheer volume of mails and flames makes shifting the grain from the chaff a herculean task. Also many angles may be discussed/used to tackle same issues but this is all below the user’s radar screen. Anyways, the last mail on the GNOME 3 transition I could find so far has been written on June 6th .
Another interesting idea that has been ideated and being discussed in debian is doing automated test development . See this blog post as an instance. It’s definitely an interesting idea which should result into more robust software. I have submitted a few bugs where the installation of some software had an issue, more often than not the notorious ‘ unable to copy some x file, because this file is also present here, owned by some package’ or something to that effect. For instance this one . I also know its going to take a long time but I’m hoping we see some action. As a user it’s always nice to be getting more robust software. If there is collaboration hopefully we see some tools, some analysis and some results in two or three releases from now. I’m watching as to how this plays out.
One of the more interesting links I found while traversing the Debian universe was a webpage where one could see the various transitions happening at one time.For some unknown reason it feels like its hidden quite a bit below the radar when it should be out in the front so users know what is happening. This is important for as a user we just do not get an idea as to how big some transitions are. For instance check out the OpenSSL transition going on right now and the huge 381 packages that are affected. While as a user I may not be aware about OpenSSL is about but this shows people really care about the distribution.
On the deb-delta front while it is frustrating not to be able to use deb-delta properly when unused locale files are deleted (using localepurge), a potential solution may be on the horizon. Enter translation debs or tdebs. While the problem they are trying to tackle here is a different one, making sure that people can translate and make small packages which can be integrated into a bigger package and thus not touch the main deb which could have its own consequences. While it’s still under discussions, if it does get implemented there may be some sort of solution in debdelta-upgrade when updating packages whose locale packages are absent in the local machine. As of now there is and would be pushback but it would be nice if this could be done and somehow debdelta could be made aware of it. Let’s see how things happen. For those interested, here’s the blog post of the guy who’s pushing it.
Last week, read an interesting article about smartphones and free apps. What has been really interesting to know and note is that high-end phones are rivalling traditional desktops and laptops. While there are certainly limitations (such as not able to expand as much as one could in a desktop computer) they do have their own use-cases. The article therein talks how free apps access our data but then so do any of the extensions in our browsers. For sure, Google Chrome is upfront about it at least when you are installing an extension (on desktops at least), Firefox still has to work to make users aware of it.
Somehow I feel the author Mr. Jake Edge has been idealistic. In the real world apart from some crazy security-conscious people not many people either care or know even how to find if an app. is phoning home. I’ve played with wireshark and nagios and for what little I have understood about them, they need to be more child-friendly. There should be a way where a layman, a regular joe can know what’s happening, as of now only if you understand tcp/ip speak you can make head or/and tails of it.
Also I have no idea if both or either of the tools have been ported to mobile OS‘es and if so how good or bad they are. I am sure there would be quite a bit of tweaking needed to suit the platform.
I somehow fail to see why Jake trusts paid apps. For what little I know of apps., you can’t be sure (unless they are FOSS and are long-term financially sustainable).
Apart from all the serious talk above, I am also an RPG addict. While I have shared about dawn-rpg a game I like and try to support with little bit of manual testing from time to time, 2 more games have been added to that list, allacrost and The flight of Maxima . While the first two are GPL licensed the third one is BSD Licensed. The first two I am already tracking them through svn, the third I am a bit circumspect as historically BSD licensed projects have gone either way.
Anyways, while I do love the fact that game development is going on for the platform I love, I am a tad disappointed to see the latency between one game release to another. For instance hero of allacrost has been rolling between being awake, dead and spurts of activity since circa 2004. If one were to see open-source gaming in time-based context then projects like Simutrans and OpenTTD or in the same genre freedroidrpg .
Now while it would be wrong to compare the above project with the RPG games as both simutrans and openttd had clarity what they wanted to do, they just wanted to make a clone of a closed game with a twist. Freedroid on the other hand more closely resembles what these guys are going through as it is/was a new concept.
I’m sure there is a rich history and plenty of reasons (such as old developers leaving, technologies changing, personal motivations and things like that) . While as a gamer I’m all for new art and innovation, I also realize that frameworks like RPGMaker (I know it’s not FOSS) would have made it easy/easier for people to show off their stuff.
If I was a developer and/or a story-teller (the latter part I feel a bit) I would rather like to take people through twists and turns rather than getting bogged down in technology.
Having played many an RPG, sim and all sorts of games I realize one thing, it’s not the greatest looking games or the best polished games that you remember, it’s the one which either have some humor or some twist in the tale that you enjoy and remember the most.
The reason I would guess why many of the developers lose interest while developing games is that results are hard to quantify. Because most of the games are of alpha quality and the lead times can be quite a while, people/users/gamers generally lose interest with the result the developers also lose steam/interest and the whole project goes either dead or into limbo for a long time.
If you on the other hand, you are able to motivate your team and its even moderately received that could be motivation enough for the developers to try some more stuff/new stuff.
On a slightly technical side, I dunno if the current drought is also due to lack of good mouse support either in SDL or something else. Most of these RPG games have keyboard support, although lack mouse support or have some weird mouse support. I do know that SDL 1.3 (in development) is supposed to have nice mouse support as well as support for multi-mouse/multi-touch interfaces as well but when would that release god only knows. Alas, the only reliable info. seems to be the wiki roadmap and it seems from a casual perspective that around 70% of the job is done, 30% is still left, another 2-3 months at least.
I do hope though SDL 1.3 is released well before the Debian Wheezy release otherwise another 2+ years when people in Debian get to play/use SDL 1.3 . Also if and when its released it would be probably after couple of minor bug-fix releases that people would jump on actually using SDL 1.3 in a big way.
Anyways, that’s all for now.