Try the GNOME Nightly VM images with GNOME Boxes

It was a long time overdue but we now have bootable VM images for GNOME again. These VMs are good for testing and documenting new features before they reach distros.

To provide the best experience in terms of performance and host-guest integration, we landed in BoxesDevel (Nightly GNOME Boxes) an option to create GNOME VMs with the correct device drivers and configurations assigned to it. You know…the Boxes way.

Installing GNOME Boxes (Nightly)

1. Set up our nightlies Flatpak repository:

flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists gnome-nightly https://nightly.gnome.org/gnome-nightly.flatpakrepo

2. Install Boxes

flatpak install gnome-nightly org.gnome.BoxesDevel

Testing the GNOME VM image

1. Download a recent VM snapshot (linked on the unstable release announcements). It is a qcow2 file.

2. Open the new VM dialog in Boxes and click on the “GNOME Nightly” entry in the Featured Downloads section. It will open a file chooser.

Screenshot

3. After selecting the qcow2 file downloaded in step one, you can continue to Create a VM. Once the creation is over, you will be able to start the VM by clicking in it on the icon view.

Future developments

We haven’t reached a consensus yet on how we are going to distribute/store/host these VM images, that’s why we have the extra-step before, requiring to pick the file in a file chooser.

In the near future, we will host the images and you will be able to download them directly from GNOME Boxes.

Also, the latest image as of today (3.35.91) doesn’t come with spice-vdagent. It should be included in the next builds, allowing for a maximum host-guest integration like dragging and dropping files from host to guest, automatic resolution, etc…

This is just the beginning. Stay tuned!

GUADEC 2019

Meeting my fellow GNOMies is something I look forward to every year. For eight years now I have traveled to participate in GUADEC and returned home with my head thinking of next year’s edition of the conference.

This year, I was busy with lots of activities, but still, I managed to chill with the friends I work with online throughout the whole year.  Putting faces into new names is also something very pleasant in these opportunities.

In the pre-registration party, I hosted a “Newcomers dinner“. Not many people could attend because of their personal travel plans, but those that participated were excited about being at the conference and getting to know so many cool people.

Besides that, it was the first GUADEC that we had a trained Code of Conduct Incident Response Team. We did an extensive training workshop with Otter Tech. Highly recommended!

Right at the first talks day, I hosted the interns’ lightning talks, that thanks to the amazing local team, are recorded and available online. The audience (and myself) were enthusiastic about hearing from the interns. After a few years of organizing these activities, I can still remember myself being an intern and giving my lightning talk back in 2012. Time flies! :-)

The quality of talks is always outstanding, so I listed below the ones I attended and recommend watching online:

  • Desktop Secrets Management for the Future by Daiki Ueno: I have lately been heavily interested in application sandboxing, so it was great catching up with Daiki’s work and ideas for our keyring story.
  • Managing GNOME Sessions with Systemd by Benjamin Berg and Iain Lane: It is being great and educative to follow their progress throughout the years on this task. The cherry on the cake is seeing this work landing and explained in Benjamin’s blog post.
  • Designing Multi-Process Application Security by Christian Hergert: Watching Christian talk is always exciting and educational. We are lucky to have such skillful developer in our project, and I definitely learned valuable lessons on application security.
  • Portals – Principles and Practice by Matthias Clasen: As I mentioned above, I have been lately interested in application sandboxing, so I couldn’t miss Matthias’ talk on Portals. It is so nice to see our application ecosystem evolving with Flatpak and its technologies.
  • GNU HEALTH: The Fight for our Rights in the Public Health System by Luis  Falcón: I personally care a lot about such social issues especially for being myself originally from the developing world, where people often don’t enjoy the same rights people in the developed world take for granted. The keynote was very well chosen.
  • Environmentally Friendly GNOME by Philip Withnall: IMPORTANT! We are running out of time to stop climate change, and I think every segment of society needs to discuss the issue. I hope to see the ideas discussed in this talk brought forward in our community.
  • Simple is Hard – Creating Beautiful App Icons by Jakub Steiner: Jimmac is so creative and talented that I can’t ever miss his talks. It is great to work with the design team on a daily basis, and this was a good opportunity to better understand their creative processes.
  • Accessibility Features for Mutter/GNOME Shell on Wayland by Oliver Fourdan: This work is very important. Oliver has made significant progress in shrinking the accessibility gap we currently have. Thanks for that!
  • Designing GNOME Mobile Apps by Tobias Bernard: Exciting work! It was great to see their progress on making GNOME apps adaptative. I hope this can make our platform even more attractive to vendors interested in building mobile OSes.
  • The Growth of GNOME by Neil McGovern: It is very reassuring listening to Neil describe the plans of growth for the GNOME Foundation.
  • Lightning Talks: It is always fun to see fellow GNOMies delivering their talk considering the lightning talks’ time constraint. :-D

During the BoF days, I conducted the Newcomers workshop, where we had various participants learning hands-on how to make their first code contribution to the GNOME project. Thanks everyone that showed up to participate and to help newcomers. I hope we can improve and repeat the workshop all over the world. GNOME.Asia will have its edition of the Newcomers workshop, so if you will be around in Gresik, don’t miss it!

In the Boxes BoF we discussed a roadmap to land some highly anticipated features such as UEFI support, Import/Export VMs, etc… Stay tuned here and also in the @BoxesGNOME Twitter account, where I have been doing outreach for our project by interacting with a part of our user base [wherever they are].

The social events were a blast. We had delicious food, great music, and passionate conversations at the Gala Dinner. The Picnic Day was fun and relaxing. The Museum BoF was enjoyable and nerdy (how I like it ;-)).

Checkout the photos!

Thanks to my employer, Red Hat, for sponsoring my trip and accommodation in the beautiful Thessaloniki!

Newcomers workshop @ GUADEC 2019

This year’s GUADEC is approaching and I can already feel people’s excitement while talking about our annual conference.  It is important that we benefit from having so many GNOMies together in the same location to help the next generation to get started in our project. For this reason, we are planning a workshop during the first day of the BoFs (check our wiki page for more info).

The Newcomers Workshop aims at helping newcomers solve their first Gitlab issue. Historically, Carlos Soriano has championed the initiative (thank Carlos when you see him) and I have participated, guiding dozens of people in the universities here in Brno. In the past, other community members were organizing the workshop all over the world. We plan to expand the initiative by having even more GNOME contributors organizing similar events at a local level.

In the workshop we go step-by-step in the GNOME Newcomers Guide, making sure nobody gets stuck on anything.  As simple as that. The more GNOME developers participate the better, since we can benefit from their project-specific expertise.

The workshop is taking place on August 26th, and anybody interested in making their first contribution is welcome! Save the date!

Introducing GNOME Usage’s Storage panel

GNOME Usage is a new GNOME application to visualize system resources such as memory consumption and disk space. It has been developed by Petr Stetka, a high school intern in our Red Hat office in Brno. Petr is an outstanding coder for such a young fellow and has done a great job with Usage!

Usage is powered by libgtop, the same library used by GNOME System Monitor. One is not a replacement for the other, they complement our user experience by offering two different use cases: Usage is for the everyday user that  wants to check which application is eating their resources, and System Monitor is for the expert that knows a bit of operating system internals and wants more technical information being displayed. Besides, Usage has a bit of Baobab too. It contains a Storage panel that allows for a quick analysis of disk space.

The Storage panel has been recently rewritten both in the backend and user interface. It is much faster at listing the filesystem tree and much nicer to interact with.

The screenshot above shows how it looks like in my Videos folder. Selecting a file in the sidebar makes the slice in the pie chart pop. The filesystem tree is presented in a DzlStackList, so getting back to the parent folder is smooth and pleasant.

Each file type gets a different color, and these are consistent. Directories are indicated by a bigger ball in the list. Clicking an item opens the corresponding file. Selecting its checkbox allows for batch deletion. Very intuitive!

GNOME Usage is available in the Fedora repositories. Before you ask, there isn’t a Flatpak because libgtop needs access to the processes running in the host. I plan to work on introducing a Usage daemon that will enable Usage to be Flatpaked AND would allow us to provide historical performance data instead of just real time.

All in all, there’s more coming to Usage soon. Peter is now moving into other opportunities and continuing his studies, so I will continue his work in Usage. If you are interested in contributing to the project, you can reach me out on IRC #usage. Stay tuned!

User account fallback images in GNOME 3.32

Your face might resemble this one in the left (avatar-default) as much as it could be pretty much everyone else using the same computer as you. With this in mind, we introduced a small feature in GNOME 3.32 that intends to make it easier for users to identify themselves in a list of system users, such as in the login screen or in Settings.

From now on, GNOME won’t set the “avatar-default” icon for users created in the Initial Setup or in Setting. It will create a colourful image with the user’s initials on it.

The colour palette is the same used in the new icon guidelines (if you haven’t heard yet, we are living now a Big App Icon Revolution in GNOME!). User names (full names) are mapped to colours in the palette, and therefore are consistent everywhere you enter the exact full user name. So get used to your colour!

Nothing else about the user image setup is going to change. You still can:

  1. Select a picture with a file chooser.
  2. Take a picture with your webcam.
  3. Select one of the GNOME stock avatars.

Another detail that came with these changes is that now user images will be rounded everywhere in GNOME. These efforts are part of the “Consistent user images across GNOME” initiative.

User Accounts panel in Settings
GNOME Initial Setup
Login screen

GNOME 3.32.0 is coming out next week! o/

DevConf.CZ 2019

Last month I attended DevConf CZ for the third time. The conference has been growing a lot in the last years and it has been attracting a wider variety of people. It is a free-admission conference in the lovely Brno, Czech Republic, the place that I now call home. If you haven’t attended it yet, you should definitely consider it for next year.

This year I had a talk titled “Running virtual machines in the Flatpak sandbox”, where I described the process of Flatpaking GNOME Boxes. There’s a video available on YouTube.

We had a small Desktop track on Friday afternoon with a good amount of talks about Flatpak. The audience was engaged and interested in the topics. Besides of my talk, Owen Taylor spoke about the state of Flatpaks in Fedora and Jiří Janoušek spoke about the Linux fragmentation and how Flatpak can tackle the problem. Last but not least, Kalev Lamber told us what’s new in gnome-software.

Attending GUADEC!

Just passing by to say that I am looking forward to see you all later this week in Almeria. The conference program sounds very promising and the host city is looking outstanding.

We will be hosting a Boxes BoF during the July 9th afternoon, so make sure to swing by if you are interested on contributing to Boxes or have any questions/ideas to discuss.

Besides the normal talks schedule, I will be involved in organizing newcomers and sport activities. Stay tuned!

Contributing to Boxes

I have to admit that Boxes is a bit late for the Flatpak party, but that’s not a problem. The technical difficulties of getting a virtualization hypervisor to run inside the flatpak sandbox are mostly overcomed. This way, contributing to Boxes has never been easier.

In the following sections I will describe the step-by-step process of making your first code contribution to GNOME Boxes.

Get GNOME Builder

Builder makes it very easy to download and build GNOME applications with just a couple of clicks. It will also make your life easier while writing the code.

Download Builder

Download and build Boxes

GNOME Builder: cloning a project and building it

That’s it! Now that you have the project built and can run it, we can start looking into fixing bugs.

Finding an issue to hack

You can have an overview of the ongoing work in the project by browsing our kanban board. We also have issues tagged as Newcomers if you are making your first contribution and want to start hacking on something easy.

Create a GitLab account and fork the project

Visit gitlab.gnome.org and create an account. GitLab will pop up a banner asking you to add your SSH keys to your profile, or you can go directly to edit your profile.

After your profile has been properly setup, it is time to fork the project!

Go to the Boxes project page and click the Fork button. This will create your own copy of the git repository under your personal namespace in GitLab.

Finally, get your fork URL and add to your local git repository as a remote:

git remote add fork $project_url

Making changes and submitting your code

After building Boxes and finding an issue to work, it is time to dive into the codebase. Edit the files and press the GNOME Builder “play” button to see your changes take effect.

Since the migration to GitLab, we have adopted the merge request workflow.

You need to:

1. Create a git branch and commit your changes

git checkout -b $descriptive-branch-name

Do your work, and commit your changes. Take a look at our commit message guidelines.

2. Push your changes for the world to see!

git push fork

A message with a link to create a merge request will be printed in your terminal. Click it, describe your changes, and Submit!

3. Follow up on the feedback

Me and other developers will review your work and recommend changes if necessary. We will iterate over and over until your contributions are ready to be merged.

4. Celebrate your first contribution!

Further reading

The steps described above are based on the GNOME Newcomers initiative. We have a detailed step-by-step process of making contributions and you should definitely check it out. It has pointers about documentation, tips about finding the right approach to dive into the code base, and examples.

Let’s do it!

Boxes + Flatpak

TL;DR: You can now install GNOME Boxes directly from Flathub! 🎉

INSTALL

Why are we so excited about this?

It might seem at first sight that Boxes is a simple application, and that is partially true if you ignore the deep stack under the hood responsible for making virtualization simple™. The various modules (some of them gigantic such as qemu, libvirt, freerdp…) need to be setup in perfect harmony for us to boot a whole operating system with its essential functionalities.

The GNU/Linux distribution model has historically delegated to downstream packagers the responsibility of integrating dependencies in order to provide an application to their end users. This model has worked for some for many decades, but it has fundamental flaws that “trickle down” making the upstream developers’ life miserable.

Don’t get me wrong, bugs are mostly our fault, but a significant amount of bug reports I receive consist of issues I cannot reproduce in my development environment. A combinatorial explosion of package versions, build flags, and/or pivotal architecture differences between distros.

Therefore this is the first and foremost benefit we get from shipping Boxes as a Flatpak.

Another difficulty we face during our development cycle is having the ability of having designers, translators, and marketing folk being able to run our latest snapshot or a specific work-in-progress tree. With the GitLab continuous integration combined with Flatpak we can spin bundles at any moment, and they can be installed within a couple of clicks, alongside other versions of the same app! This is The Future!

Having our apps widely available is another concern we have. Many distributions which stick to the package model also support Flatpak. Besides that, there are new players which are essentially different. Container-based desktop operating systems are a thing now too.

Software is never done…

There are indeed downsides of running Boxes in a Flatpak in comparison with a well crafted build of dependencies bottom-up. But these are issues that can be solved and are going to be prioritized in our TODO list.

Running Boxes in a Flatpak TODAY you won’t have yet:

  • A bridged network between host and guests.
  • The ability of installing an image from a physical device.
  • Access to your system’s libvirtd (we run our own libvirtd in the sandbox).
  • Shared folders.
  • USB redirection.
  • $YOUR_ISSUE_HERE

The list above is far from complete, and I would like to count on you to experiment with the Flatpak and report issues you might encounter. Use the label “flatpak” to collect points which you can later exchange for beers or other beverages of your choice. 😉

Boxes now supports RDP connections

Boxes has been the go-to option for easy virtual machine setups in GNOME for quite some time, but some people don’t know that our beloved application can also act as a remote viewer.

The “Enter URL” option in the new machine assistant is how you get a new remote machine added to your collection. It supports addresses of Spice and VNC servers and oVirt and Libvirt brokers. You can also paste the URL of an operating system image (iso, img, qcow, etc…) and Boxes will download and boot it for you.

However, there is life out of our GNU/Linux boxes and we need to stay connected. Windows is extremely popular and it ships a RDP server by default, making the adoption of open alternatives a bit unhandy there.

Imagine you have clients running Windows that need your remote support, or you couldn’t convince your family back home to switch to GNU/Linux, etc…

Now Boxes also supports RDP!

Boxes - screenshot

This feature is powered by FreeRDP. For convenience, I wrote a glib wrapper around the essential freerdp API so we can consume it via gobject-introspection in GNOME Boxes and others could reuse it for their own applications.

Heavily inspired in the gtk-vnc API,  I decided to name it gtk-frdp. So original! 😉

If you are interested in writing a RDP client of your own, or maybe port an existent one to gtk-frdp, you can achieve it with a few lines of code such as below (I choose Python for legibility, but it could be any gobject-introspected language of your choice).

from gi.repository import Gtk, GtkFrdp

window = Gtk.Window () display = GtkFrdp.Display () window.add (display)
display.open_host ("192.168.0.1", 3389) display.username = "username" display.password = "password"
window.show_all () Gtk.main ()

That simple!

This and a few other cool features will be available in our next stable release, GNOME 3.30. Stay tuned!