Sat, 28 Mar 2009

An update on GRUB2

Some time ago I wrote about the the state of GRUB2 and a milestone on getting it boot my Apple PowerBook G4 without manual intervention. More than a year later, GRUB2 has changed and improved a lot, as the community keeps growing and patches and ideas are continously being posted.

Some months and commits after my previous post, GRUB broke again on Apple OpenFirmware and I'd get dropped to OF console, the amount of commits since the last known working version and the current SVN was quite big, and although I was able to narrow it to a few suspicious changes, I had no time to bisect it properly, and sadly I had to go back to yaboot for a while.

But procrastinating sometimes helps, and when I should have been writing and studying, on December I gave GRUB a new try on my laptop to see if a few important changes to memory allocation would have changed anything. And it did! So after fighting quite a few problems, I was able to report partial success to grub-devel.

Again, getting GRUB installed correctly was a bit challenging and needed some hackery, due to incorrectly generated, and the linux module mysteriously not getting loaded. Luckily, Michel Dänzer found out that this was due to a bug in sort ordering in the HFS module, which broke the lookup of files with underscores like _linux.mod, and for which he posted a possible fix by taking Linux's table of character ordering, which is a blob of hex values.

GRUB developers didn't seem too happy about applying the patch: they argument that a blob like that should be well documented or written in some other more readable way, and there's a possible problem with the mix of Linux GPLv2 and GRUB GPLv3+ codebases, if a table of data like what Michel posted is actually copyrightable. The discussion ended up dying and nothing was done... until Pavel Roskin picked it up weeks later and posted a new patch, based on hfsutils GPLv2+ code, which addressed these issues. The new patch seems to have a few issues, which makes it fail as before, but hopefully it'll be fixed soon.

Additionally, I wasn't able to boot using UUIDs as the search commands fails to detect the correct boot device on my system (but not on Michel's), so I had to disable that in /etc/default/grub.

To workaround the linux module loading bug while the patch is fixed, I just added this ugly hack to /etc/grub.d/09_local_prelinux:

#! /bin/sh -e

# Work-around for bugs in the hfs module which makes the load of
# linux.mod fail.

cat << EOF
insmod (hd,3)/usr/lib/grub/powerpc-ieee1275/_linux.mod
insmod linux

This is enough to get the initrd and linux commands available. However, update-grub will still add search commands to your menu entries even if you disabled UUID support; I can't understand why, but I know it breaks on my PowerBook due to some OF rarety. Just removing the line from the menu entry will leave me with a working config that boots without any manual editing at GRUB prompt.

The latest GRUB snapshot in Debian fixes the issue, but adds one last issue: update-grub will fail due to some gfxterm detection code, a workaround is to replace an exit 1 with exit 0 when this happens in /etc/grub.d/00_header.

On the “weird architectures” front, it's worth noting that this month Dave Miller popped up on the list and started posting patches to fix the rotten SPARC port, and I think it's safe to assume that it'll be on an usable state really soon. Impressive!

Wed, 25 Mar 2009

GNOME 2.24 in Debian unstable, and the road ahead

GNOME 2.26 was released last week, and I couldn't help adding myself to the long list of celebrating posts in Planet GNOME. Looking at the release notes, it looks like this release adds a good number of very visible features, and also keeps improving on ongoing transitions like gvfs.

The Debian GNOME team is obviously not ignoring this fact and started to work very hard on updating GNOME for squeeze as soon as the lenny freeze was over.

First, the new versions of GLib and GTK+ were uploaded to unstable, and managed to transition to testing very easily. The rest of GNOME 2.24 bits, which had been patiently waiting on experimental for months, has been uploaded with care not to disrupt any of the many transitions the Debian release team is currently dealing with. You can have a quick glance at how things are going in our 2.24 status page, but the summary is that most of GNOME 2.24 is in unstable, with a few notable exceptions which are held back by ongoing testing transitions. Namedly, evolution-data-server is trying to trickle into testing, which is in turn holding the final bits: gnome-panel, nautilus and related packages, but we think this will be over soon.

As soon as GNOME 2.24 is safe in squeeze, we'll immediately turn our focus to the new GNOME 2.26 release. Our initial plan is to package the trivial bits and leaf packages which can't break stuff for unstable, and herd the more complex modules via experimental, to avoid breaking unstable at all. There are some exceptions; we plan to keep gnome-session 2.22 in unstable/testing until 2.26.1 is released to avoid getting a broken session saving in Debian.

People might wonder why we insist on hitting what would seem a dead horse by first dealing with 2.24 and not 2.26 directly. The main reason is that these packages had been ready for a long time, and were in good shape to transition to testing quickly and with little pain. Preparing 2.26 directly would mean throwing away a lot of hours of packaging and polishing effort, and it's not like we're releasing squeeze any time soon anyway.

Enjoy the hopefully not too bumpy road to 2.26!

Tue, 24 Mar 2009

Stepping down as the GNOME Catalan translations coordinator

As of this morning, Damned Lies finally reflects what has been the de-facto reality for at least four major GNOME releases. I started to invest a lot of time on translating GNOME to Catalan in the middle of the long 1.5 journey towards GNOME 2.0. That was a long time ago, and somehow was the way I ended being abduced by Softcatalà to eventually work with them on the localisation of some other projects.

However, I've been watching how my free time and motivation has been slowly shrinking, until the point I was no longer doing some of the stuff I was expected to do, or was doing it badly and late. Luckily, Softcatalà's GNOME team, a model for our organisation, has been able to smoothly replace heavily contributing members with a constant stream of new blood. In my case, I first stopped having that many modules assigned, then focused on coordination and finally stopped doing even that.

Gil Forcada has filled the gap perfectly and has been the main lead of effort for a pair of years. Passing the baton was long overdue; I think GNOME is lucky to count on Gil's amazing drive and motivation. Gil, congrats on earning yet another marronet! ;)

Fri, 06 Mar 2009

Calçotada in Valls

It's here! This weekend is again the time to go up to Valls, my friend Frago's town, to meet his friends and enjoy a new edition of their calçotada. Like other years, this will be a crazy event that will cover the whole weekend. I'm looking forward to our traditional calçot war, and spending tomorrow's night around a big fire in the middle of the country side of Tarragona.

Frago and I, after last year's calçot war