Endless OS Foundation at Ubuntu Summit 2022
What we shared, enjoyed, and learned in Prague| 14 min read
Earlier this month, Georges and I attended the first-ever Ubuntu Summit in Prague, Czechia along with hundreds of other members of the open source community. A decade since the last Ubuntu Developer Summit, Canonical hosted this refreshed Ubuntu Summit with the following introduction:
An opportunity for the broader Ubuntu community to learn and speak about the amazing work and success stories happening in the ecosystem. We want to enable a wide and diverse group to connect, collaborate, and lower the barriers between what they do best and how Ubuntu can help achieve that.
Let’s celebrate the spirit of Ubuntu — I am what I am because of who we all are.
Endless OS is the Linux-based operating system from the Endless OS Foundation—built on a Debian base with the Ubuntu kernel—and members of the Endless OS Foundation are core contributors to the GNOME desktop environment, which is in turn used by the Ubuntu desktop. As such, it made sense for us to attend to learn from, collaborate within, and network with the rest of the Ubuntu community.
This was the first Ubuntu-related conference I’ve ever attended, so it was all new to me. Fortunately, old friends and familiar faces were present amongst the crowd, making the whole event a lot less scary!
Georges and I each presented at the summit; I gave a talk about app store listings while Georges co-hosted a GNOME panel.
Over the years I’ve helped build an app ecosystem built on open standards, and now at the Endless OS Foundation I work with organizations around the world deploying computers that run on Linux and open source technologies to dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people at a time.
One of the recurring places I’ve noticed app developers struggling is their app’s MetaInfo—the structured data that essentially forms an app’s marketing page across all the app stores including Ubuntu Software, GNOME Software, KDE Discover, elementary AppCenter, and more.
This talk helped break down how and why to think from a marketing mindset, and how to use MetaInfo to do so.
Talk starts at 5:15:07
Over all I feel like my talk was well-received, and I was thrilled to get a handful of great, relevant questions from the audience!
Georges from the Endless OS Foundation along with Marco Trevisan, Jeremy Bícha, Jonas Adahl, Carlos Garnacho, Florian Müllner, Felipe Borges, and Matthias Clasen hosted a panel covering the latest developments in GNOME, the software that both Endless OS and Ubuntu build upon for their desktop experiences.
The presentation covered the latest in foundational technologies like GTK4 (the app toolkit), GLib, Pango, and Muter as well as more user-visible improvements in Settings and the desktop Shell including the new quick settings, dark style toggle, and more.
Georges tells me,
All in all I think it went well. I was not expecting much attendance, but surprisingly the room was full, and we had some good questions and interactions by the end of it.
The format of the talk was pretty much the same as of our traditional “State of the Shell” talks on GUADEC, and it seems to be pretty popular, also to my surprise. It’s generally highly technical - even though we tried to tone it down a bit for this conference - but still seem to attract engagement from the audience.
It was great to see contributors to GNOME representing various organizations including the Endless OS Foundation, Red Hat, Canonical, and the GNOME Foundation itself in one place presenting the latest developments in GNOME as a team.
Talks, Panels, & Workshops
The summit was designed around talks, panels, and workshops as the primary scheduled material with various social events in the evenings. Some highlights from the talks we attended:
Non-code contributions welcome! How non-coders can contribute to open source projects Michelangelo Guarise
Michelangelo Guarise is an entrepreneur, FOSS enthusiast, maker, professor, and avid technologist. He founded Volumio, a popular open source music player with a vibrant community.
Usually we think to open source projects as efforts done by developers for developers. But that should, and not always is, the case.
If we want to expand the potential outreach of Open Source projects it’s vital to onboard a diverse and multidisciplinary team of contributors.
This is the effort we have been doing in the past years and we will share some insights and suggestions, aimed at maintainers or wannabe contributors, to foster diversity and multidisciplinarity in the open source world.
This talk covered the importance of diversity and multiple disciplines in open source projects, what kind of non-technical contributions projects need, the impact non-coders can have, and importantly, what can maintainers do to encourage non-coders to contribute.
Michelangelo actually gave his talk immediately following mine, which was perfect! They paired nicely to focus on the marketing and less-technical aspects of success for open source projects. I highly recommend everyone involved in an open source project or community watch this one:
Talk starts at 5:44:25
Michelangelo from Volumio gave another great talk diving more into the community building and management aspect of open source projects, based on his lessons learned in the field over the past eight years.
This one is another must-watch for anyone involved in building an open source project or community; the video should be available on the Ubuntu OnAir YouTube channel in the coming weeks.
Ubuntu on Arm
I’m a fan of alternate architectures; Endless OS is primarily geared towards x86 (64-bit Intel and AMD) processors, thought we do have builds for ARM over the years. Personally, I own several versions of Raspberry Pi computers and a Pinebook Pro, which are ARM-based.
The Linux Lads are a group of podcasters based across Ireland and the United States. We have been publishing for over four years and cover a wide range of topics from desktop Linux to Vim shortcuts and everything in between. Our aim is to promote the joy of using open source software and to have some fun in the process!
They hosted a sort of hybrid podcast/panel session where they introduced themselves and then fielded questions from the live audience.
The Linux Lads podcast is targeted at the community and hobbyist user in the world of Linux and open source software in general. We will be recording a live episode at the Summit with an informal panel discussion. Audience participation is not only welcomed but encouraged.
This will not be an overly technical discussion but one that is aimed at the average desktop Linux user. This will be a light-hearted, inclusive and (hopefully) humourous event.
The episode has not been released yet, but know that I asked a few questions that got interesting responses: Are there any specific desktop workflows or features that they really like? and How could open source projects and desktops make their lives easier? You’ll have to listen to the episode when it’s live, but some of the responses focused on window management (tiling and snapping) and PipeWire for audio production. It was a great perspective!
If you’re into Linux or open source, be sure to subscribe to their podcast to listen to the next episode when it airs.
Ryan Gorley is a friend of mine who is a design and marketing professional with nearly 20 years of experience. His formal education is in architectural design and marketing, and he’s the founder and creative director at Freehive, a creative agency that specializes in web design, graphic design, and 3D animation all using open source software.
He delivered a great hybrid pre-recoded talk and live Q&A session.
The Ubuntu 22.04 release video created by Freehive was an example of the kind of professional work that is possible using Ubuntu and other free and open source creative tools. Ryan Gorley, the Creative Director at Freehive, will share the background behind his agency’s use of open source software in its graphic design, animation, and other work for clients large and small. His goal in the presentation is to help creative professionals who aspire to be free of restrictive, expensive, and coercive commercial software to recognize the opportunities freely available to them. He will suggest a course, through his own experience, for their own adoption of community developed and supported alternatives.
My favorite part of his talk—besides just how polished his work and the talk itself are—is that all of the apps he shows off are available for free on Endless OS, with no payment or subscriptions required.
Endless OS comes with App Center based on the GNOME Software app store—and in Endless OS 5, it is almost entirely upstream with just a few cosmetic patches. Over the years we’ve helped it improve in the design, performance, and reliability fronts alongside community designers and developers from the broader GNOME community.
Ubuntu’s Snap-based app store, called Ubuntu Software, used to be a fork of GNOME Software, but they are working to rewrite it from scratch in Dart using Flutter. I attended this session to see what they were up to as well as to get an early peak in case there were any interesting designs or concepts that could be brought back into GNOME Software and thus App Center.
In the past months we’ve been designing and developing an Ubuntu Software Store app with the Flutter UI toolkit.
We needed a couple of things to do this in a way that users can be happy with the performance, visuals and usability, resulting in a great use experience:
foundation libraries to connect to the Ubuntu desktops APIs written in pure dart, the language that Flutter uses
a way to easily and quickly build up a UI that looks and feels Ubuntu, which resulted in three more dart packages
With those two goals reached we were able to not only create a big part of the software app but also a settings app and are now able to compose and compile new Ubuntu desktop apps like building LEGO: no headaches - brick per brick and all apps will look, feel and perform equally good.
The session was interesting, and I enjoyed seeing a fresh take on what an app store could look and feel like. I hope the developers were able to learn from my How to Make a Delightful App Listing talk, and utilize apps’ MetaInfo in interesting ways, encouraging more developers to include rich and engaging information with their apps.
Lorenzo’s Music is an experimental creative commons band that exclusively uses open source tools and software to produce music and videos—and they shared their workflow in an informal workshop.
The creative commons band Lorenzo’s Music has created a way to collaborate and record music with each other remotely. The method actually uses full multi-track DAW to share recording sessions to write and produce music. We will show how musicians can record, edit and produce songs accomplished only by using Ubuntu Studio and GitHub.
It was a fascinating and fun session where they showed how they edit collaboratively in Ardour and commit their changes to branches on GitHub. A unique aspect of the workshop was that the project leads from both Ubuntu Studio and Ardour were in the room, which lead to some fun off-the-cuff collaboration and ideating for future releases of each.
They also treated the summit closing party with a live set on a boat! You can read about their whole trip on their blog.
Since Endless OS is Ubuntu-adjacent, I thought it would be interesting to attend this session alongside the various aspiring Ubuntu flavors.
A breakout panel session for flavor-related discussions, with some members of both the Release Team and the Technical Board. Occasion to sit down together and work through pain points in being an Ubuntu flavor, improvements to the cooperation, clarification on what it means to be an Ubuntu flavor and how to become one.
Over all it wasn’t directly relevant to Endless OS, and there wasn’t much new information for me—I had similar conversations in the past when working on elementary OS—but it seemed like a valuable session for those aspiring Ubuntu flavors.
Much like the Ubuntu on ARM session, this was interesting to peer into the alternate architecture world.
A short presentation outlining the state of things of Ubuntu on RISC-V. What is the state of RISC-V? What devices are actually available and which we currently support? What’s the maturity of the ecosystem? What are our plans?
I was happy to learn that there are actually a handful of developer boards out there similar to the Raspberry Pi with RISC-V processors; something I may explore in my personal projects. And if they continue to become more widely-available, perhaps we could consider the architecture when building Flatpaks and Endless OS itself.
Nathan Haines, a writer, translator, and publisher from the Ubuntu community shared some practical advice on how to use free and open source software to self-publish, along with plenty of insights from his own experience over the years.
One part that stuck with me was when Nathan was talking about publishing fiction: “Ideas are worthless; what matters is the execution.” His point was that you shouldn’t be afraid to pitch an idea to a publisher because you think they’ll steal the idea, because everyone has ideas—but what matters is the actual story you write. I think we sometimes need to be reminded of this in the open source software space, as well: even if an idea is theoretically superior—or was inspired from some other project, what actually matters is the end product you ship.
The “Hallway Track”
Inevitably, a huge part of these kinds of conferences and summits is what we affectionately call the “hallway track,” that is, the impromptu discussions and hacking that happens before, between, and after the scheduled sessions. The Ubuntu Summit was no different! Georges shared the following:
We could discuss the next steps and implementation of the native messaging host portal, proposed by jamesh, which allows browser extensions to request for particular applications to be spawned. Sandboxed browsers cannot simply list and spawn them, and that’s where portals act. I was particularly skeptical of the whole concept until jamesh patiently explained how the whole thing glued together, making it more digestible.
Various discussions about Mutter color management, paint nodes, new rendering APIs, and satellite topics happened between Mutter & Shell developers. I still need to sit down and actually make these new APIs a reality, but I’m confident that’s the right direction.
Discussions about the file chooser icon grid merge request, the celebration, and future changes took place as well.
Had the chance to meet Smithay and cosmic-comp developer Victoria and briefly talk about some interesting topics around portals. Happy to see her addition to the list of members of the wayland-protocols repository too, congratulations Victoria!
Had the chance to discuss with Kieran some details of PipeWire and libcamera usage, which prompted me to have another look at writing a pure GtkMediaStream implementation for PipeWire which is able to handle cameras, and thanks to a gentle handholding from Robert Mader, the YUYV / RGBA shader was fixed and some cameras now work with my PwMediaStream code. Nice!
Social & Conclusion
A meet-up of free and open source software contributors from around the world wouldn’t be complete without some sort of socializing, and the Ubuntu Summit delivered here, as well. From exploring local burger joints (and severely underestimating the amount of food we were ordering) to playing board games late into the night, to riding in a catered boat up and down the Vltava river, the event was a lot of fun.
It was also great to connect, re-connect, and collaborate with so many people in person from the community. I look forward to attending again in the future! Georges summed up the experience well:
Overall, I think the Ubuntu Summit was an excellent conference to participate, and I am happy I could attend it. This was the first conference after the pestilence set in, and I basically had to relearn how to be a decent human being in public spaces.