It seems like longer, but it's only been six months since Intel and
that they'd be joining the Maemo and Moblin communities into MeeGo. A lot has happened in the interim, and
MeeGo community manager Dawn Foster was on hand at LinuxCon to provide an
update about the state of MeeGo and its community.
Foster started the presentation talking about the basics of MeeGo, its history and reasons for the merger. MeeGo's scope is everything from IVI (in-vehicle) systems to handsets and netbooks. MeeGo releases have been staggered so far, with the netbook developer release coming first, followed by the handset and then IVI release. However, Foster says that this is not the long-term plan. The MeeGo project is moving to a "cadence" of six-month releases starting in November.
Foster talked, in general terms, about the MeeGo focus on contributing back to upstream as part of the project goals. She said that goal was to contribute all work back to upstream projects used by MeeGo.
Why the merger? Intel and Nokia realized they had similar projects with
similar ideas and goals, so it didn't make sense to pursue the two projects separately. The decision was made from a technical perspective, and Foster acknowledged that it was an internal decision between Intel and Nokia and not a community driven decision.
The MeeGo merger was not, shall we say, universally
well-received. Development communities on both sides were surprised by the
move and unhappy with some technical decisions. Foster noted some of the
challenges that the project has had since its inception, including
architectural issues like the packaging format (choosing RPM over Debian
packages), governance challenges, and figuring out who would be responsible
for various tasks. With Maemo and Moblin, people had well-defined areas of
responsibility on each side, and Foster noted (without specifics) that,
after the merger, it was necessary to choose one person from either MeeGo or Maemo to take responsibility.
This has brought on significant social and community challenges. The
Maemo project had many interested users of mobile devices, while Moblin was
focused on netbooks. Foster said that it's taken a lot of adjustment on
both sides. "You have a new community that is different than the original
communities. And there was frustration [...] early on with all these things and the timeline required to do this."
Foster then ran through the timeline of MeeGo development since its
announcement in February. March 31st was "day one code" for the core
operating system — everything below the user experience. May 25th was the
netbook project code release that included the user experience for
netbooks. June 30th was the release of handset day one code, targeted for developers. August 2nd MeeGo made the first IVI release. Now MeeGo will be moving to regular six-month update and release schedules with the 1.1 release coming in November where all the releases will converge. The only reason for the staggered releases initially, says Foster, is that the project is on an aggressive schedule.
MeeGo has been solving technical challenges quickly but social and
community challenges take more time. Foster talked about the community
growth and tools that have been put into place since its inception like
mailing lists, forums, bugzilla, and so on. Foster noted that the community
has been frustrated with the time required to determine the governance
model and resolve other issues, but that has been mitigated with the code releases and having more clarity around the roles in MeeGo. Still, she says that there's a lot of work yet to be done.
Looking at the numbers, the MeeGo community does seem to be growing at a
reasonable clip. The community now has more than 11,000 members, which is
up from 9,626 in June. There have been about 7,400 posts on the developer
mailing lists since project started in March, and more than 7,000 wiki
edits and nearly 7,000 forum posts since the start a few months ago. Foster
also said that there were about 430 people in the #meego IRC channel on the
morning of the talk. Metrics are public, and can be found on the MeeGo wiki where Foster puts up monthly statistics.
Next, Foster focused on where MeeGo needs help and is looking to recruit contributors. In particular, Foster said that the "best" contributions were applications and noted that they need to get people "excited" about building applications for MeeGo. MeeGo does start with a fair base of applications. When Foster demonstrated MeeGo for the audience, she pointed out that she'd had pretty good success just installing things using RPMs. For instance, OpenOffice.org. However, the handset and IVI editions of MeeGo are unlikely to run random RPMs or applications like OpenOffice.org.
Foster talked briefly about the MeeGo Software
Development Kit (SDK) to point out that developers could work on MeeGo apps on Linux and Windows.
Foster also stressed non-development contributions and noted that MeeGo could use people to update and edit the wiki, report bugs, write documentation and FAQs, and work on translations and localization.
What about core contributions? I asked whether MeeGo had any core or significant contributions outside developers employed by Intel and Nokia. So far, not much. Foster did mention that Novell had been "very active" and that a few developers from other companies had been involved but not very many.
Another question about MeeGo from the audience was the state of open
source drivers. Foster says that MeeGo can't control the drivers from OEMs,
but "the goal is to have an environment that is fully functional from an
OSS perspective, but we can't control that." What about drivers from Intel
or Nokia? Foster, and another Intel employee in the audience, noted that
they were making a good effort to ensure that hardware from Intel came with
open drivers. However, Foster says that MeeGo is run by a software unit
inside Intel, while the bulk of Intel is (of course) focused on
hardware. Thus, it requires negotiation with other business units to try to
make sure that hardware is always released with open
drivers. Unfortunately, they don't always succeed, and can't guarantee 100%
success in the future.
Foster demonstrated a MeeGo system for the audience, taking about 10 minutes to walk through the interface and features on a Toshiba that had originally shipped with Windows. Overall, the interface is looking pretty good. Some details need to be ironed out, however. For example, MeeGo currently does not expose any way to turn the system off or reboot through software. Foster says this is an area of contention within the MeeGo community, with some passionately arguing for or against the presence of power controls in software versus only featuring a hardware button for power off. This can be very confusing when software updates prompt the user to reboot.
Contributors interested in working on MeeGo can join the meetings on
IRC, and should consider attending the first MeeGo conference to be held in
Dublin, Ireland. The conference is to be held November 15 through 17,
though apparently it will end early on the 17th to make way for a football
(or "soccer" as recognized by those in the U.S.) match. A tour of the
Guinness facility is also in the offing. The conference is capped at 600
people, and travel sponsorship may be available for those with significant
contributions beyond just employees of Intel and Nokia. Proposals are welcome through August 23rd.
Overall, the update shows a community that is still in a nascent
stage. Foster signaled willingness to address community issues and try to
include developers outside Nokia and Intel's walls, though specifics were a
bit lacking. It would have been interesting to hear more details about MeeGo's governance and plans to include contributors outside the corporate walls, which is going to be fairly important if MeeGo is going to succeed as a legitimate community project. As it stands, it does seem that MeeGo has taken some reasonable steps toward addressing community concerns and trying to include external contributors in the long term.
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