About

Michael Zucchi

 B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)

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Friday, 03 June 2016, 16:34

Using GNU make to build Java software

I finally finished writing an article about Java make i started some time ago, multiple times. I was going through cleaning up a new release of dez (still pending) and decided to fill it out with the junit stuff and then write it up what I actually ended up with.

The following few lines is now the complete makefile for dez. This supports `jar' (normal build target), `sources' (ide source jar), `javadoc' (ide javadoc jar), dist (complete rebuildable source), and now even `test' or `check' (unit and integration tests via JUnit 4) targets. The stuff included from java.make is reusable and is under 200 lines once you exclude voluminous comments and documentation.

java_PROGRAMS = dez

dez_VERSION=-1
dez_JAVA_SOURCES_DIRS=src
dez_TEST_JAVA_SOURCES_DIRS=test

DIST_NAME=dez
DIST_VERSION=-1.3
DIST_EXTRA=COPYING.AGPL3 README Makefile

include java.make

The article is over on my home page at Using GNU Make for java under my software articles section.

Tagged code, dez, gnu, hacking, java.
Friday, 24 August 2012, 10:24

The second golden age of personal computing.

With interest and some excitement (despite it being Nokia Nikon and having some negative experiences with them), I just read that Nokia have announce an Android powered camera. Of course, it's all ostensibly about feacebook and twatter, but one can easily see a world of more practical use to an appliance on which you can install customised software. Let's just hope that a DSLR isn't too far behind - although camera vendors may fear having the shift-ful proprietary software they took years to develop improved upon and obsoleted by someone else.

It is rather ironic that whilst desktop computer operating systems are locking down, dumb-stupifying and generally turning general purpose machines into appliances, appliance makers are opening up, complicating, and turning appliances into general purpose computers.

And at the heart of it, it's all thanks to Free Software. 'Onya RMS.

And it's no doubt also thanks to the purest form of capitalist economics. It is simply cheaper to use a free operating system than it is to write your own or purchase a per-appliance non-free one.

First Golden Age

I consider the first Golden Age of personal computers to the time before Microsoft Windows and their illegally attained `wintel' monopoly.

So these developments are clearly also a result of breaking the back of the wintel monopoly and the USA based global technology plutocracy.

Who would have thought that a bit of competition would benefit we the little people?

Second Golden Age

So I feel we're entering another 'golden age' of computing: where anybody with the skills can improve upon or replace the usually shitty software that comes with any device - as every device is now powered by substantial software components this equates to a lot of computers. With any luck I will never have to purchase a locked-down throw-away appliance ever again ...

However, I fear as with all golden ages, this one will also not last and eventually they will try to pull a M$ on us ...

Ultimately however economics will force their hand, and any such tactics will prove too costly to maintain.

But what cost to society will such experiments first extract?

Update: Thanks Sankar, yes Nikon, too much Tomi on my brain that morning. And of course, Samsung have followed up with announcing their Android camera ... yum.

Tagged android, free software, gnu, politics.
Saturday, 13 March 2010, 05:00

Fork'n Evolution!

I just saw a post suggesting it is time for Ubuntu to fork evolution and thought it deserved a comment ... Although now i've just about finished this post I realise just how silly the whole notion is to start with, so it probably doesn't.

It is a pretty bizarre suggestion.

Even just on a technical level, the author may not realise just how much work is involved in maintaining a piece of code the size of Evolution. Or the amount of organisation and effort required to make the sort of major structural changes it probably needs before any real progress can be made.

And politically it is a naive and arrogant to suggest one GNU/Linux company can 'go it alone' like that on any major piece of software, particularly one developed by a competitor. It is also pretty rude - I haven't even touched Evolution for 5 years as a user or developer, but as a free software developer and advocate I think forking should really be the point of last resort. And even then it would only be after a demonstrable and intractable conflict had arisen - e.g. refusal to accept many reasonable patches of significant size. A few 10 line patches hardly turns one into a maintainer. And I wonder if anyone who might be involved has even done that.

Evolution was always a strange free software project, which i've written about plenty of times before. Whilst I was working on it it had only a few external contributions, and even less so from any of the GNU/Linux vendors (apart from Sun). Most had patches just for (re)branding, but the occasional bug fix they did have rarely made it to the code-base through normal processes i.e. they rarely if ever submitted them to us. Not that we made it terribly easy, anally retarded patch submission and review processes, the copyright assignment crap, and simply being busy most of the time.

But even despite that - it is a free software project, and open to contributions from anyone. There is simply no need to fork it, if anyone desires to improve it they can, and indeed are encouraged to. It is part of the `social contract' if you will, of any GPL project. You get the code for free, and if you want to make changes you can, and add them to the public pool for the good of all. And unlike many 'open source' projects - Evolution was always a real free software product and not just an alpha-grade product looking for free beta-testers and code-monkeys like many seem to be.

"They didn’t understand that there is just one killer feature (just as with integrated desktop social networking) that needs to be in there which is Exchange support."

Back on topic ... this one statement probably undermines the post itself more than any other. As Jeff said in comments on the post this was Ximian's business model pretty much from the start, and one of the reasons Novell bought them. It was pretty much the reason Evolution existed anyway, although more to replace the need for Microsoft Exchange than to work with it - at least in my mind. As a free software developer I never saw the need to inter-operate with proprietary crap like that - which is probably why I was never working on that part of the code.

Also the whole bit about `social networking' mentioned in the post - this was a major part of the internal thinking at Ximian right from the start - before the term even existed. Although like then, I still don't really see the need for it, particularly in a corporate environment. We all just used IRC and it worked just fine for us.

I was working on the mail code even longer than Jeff - I can't believe I started over 10 years ago. I haven't looked at the code since leaving Novell and the project, and I never worked on the `microsoft exchange component' anyway, but i'd suggest the code was simply never up to snuff given the way it originally designed, and even just because who wrote it.

Nice guy and all, but not great at coming up with a maintainable design let alone writing reliable C. Jeff and I's experience with the original IMAP code was a nightmare that started when he simply abandoned it in a fit of terrible management. One day he simply began refusing emails or dealing with patches saying he'd moved to another project (might have even been the microsoft exchange plugin). So we were left maintaining a really nasty bit of code with no deep knowledge of how it worked. It was all too lisp-like with little or no structure which made it very difficult to grok particularly given it's requirement for multi-threading. Lisp might be a great language, but it simply isn't how you write C.

And apart from the code itself, I believe the microsoft exchange component had a messy architecture layered on top of the already overly complex ones (yes, multiple) within evolution. Partly because all the different data-types were routed through the same connection, and also because it started as a proprietary extension and had silly things like a symbol obfuscater. To be honest once I found out how it worked I was surprised it worked at all ... it was not surprising in the least that it was slow and buggy and probably always would be.

Disbanding the original team and moving the project wholesale to India can't have helped either, at least at the time. Apart from the brain drain that involved, India has a tendency to add layers of middle-management too, so big decisions we could have gotten away with by the end (probably without asking ;-) became completely impossible due to risk averse middle-managers only worried about their next promotion-due-to-tenure. High staff turn-over due to a liquid job market was also an issue.

The entire component architecture of the system should have been replaced years ago (I wouldn't know - perhaps it has been) - almost all of the early design decisions were wrong, and particularly outside of the mail code none of it was ever reviewed because of the high turn-over of developers. Inside the mail component there was a huge scope for doing things in a much more re-usable way. CORBA got a bad wrap because we had an absolutely terrible design and often simply used it incorrectly. The original bonobo design was just a COM clone, so no surprises there - pluggable multi-process widget systems was a stupid use of CORBA. But the evolution-data-server wasn't, although the interfaces were not as good as they could have been.

I don't think there is any conspiracy - but Novell are a proprietary software company first and foremost and a project like evolution never really fit it's culture - probably the major reason I left in the end. Once HR starts impacting on engineering I think you have worries as a technology company, and even more as an `open sauce' one where the most valuable `eye-pee' you have is in your employee's heads.

Canonical make some odd decisions about Ubuntu too - more odd since they are purporting to be such a community focused organisation. But I don't think even they would be arrogant or silly enough to seriously consider such a strange notion as forking evolution. I'm sure they could surprise me though.

Tagged gnu, philosophy, rants.
Thursday, 07 January 2010, 23:12

Well that was a bit of a waste.

Blah. Spent hours and hours trying to figure out some of the clocking on the OMAP. My video output isn't quite correct at the moment - it works with my monitor, but it'd be nice to fix it. But I just couldn't get anything I tried to work. The documentation has strange examples which are a bit hard to decipher. I thought I managed to work out the programming of the clock it was using, but then the serial baud rate changed. Damnit. Tried using the other clock - and that took even more digging the documentation - but I can't get that to work either. The linux source is a bit convoluted but I might have to resort to working that that out to understand what's going on - the clocking system is pretty ... complex (there are dozens of clocks, with many cascaded from others).My new FSF membership card came in the post - or at least I got it out of the letterbox today. Bit thicker than i'd hoped - it's like a fibreglass PCB, so it might not make my wallet. The Trisquel installation is quite nice too - well setup, quite polished - everything just works. With a good selection of real applications too, like openoffice.org, gimp, inkscape, gthumb, and even evolution. Unlike some distributions with their weird application choices. Pity it's debian based mind you.

Hot again today - garden still alive somehow, at least the bits I remember to water. Getting a few (small) cherry tomatoes off every day - enough for a little salad. I suppose I need anything I can get to help my crappy diet lately. I even managed to get out for a bit - although it was just for groceries. Is it just me or are the roads a lot busier these days? Sigh.

Tagged beagle, gnu, hacking.
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