Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tizen conference, wrapping up

The Linux Foundation sponsored me to travel to and attend the Tizen Conference 2012 in San Francisco and as part of this sponsorship, I'll be blogging about the conference and my insights and thoughts of the talks and keynotes at it. This is my last post in a two-parter about the conference.

When attending a conference, or a music festival, or any other event with multiple tracks, there will always be sessions that you for some reason do not end up attending, be it because of meeting somebody suddenly at the coffee table while a session you'd like to see is about to start, or because there's a session that you'd rather see, or simply because you decided to take a break. The solution to this is the conference recording the sessions on video, which is not often performed very well.

I've encountered the usual screw-ups in conferences: session recording that does not include the slides at all, session recording where the A/V people forgot to wire up the microphone to the recording equipment(!), or so bad audio that you couldn't even hear the speaker. It's also more difficult, when viewing the session afterwards, to having to focus on three things - the movements of the speaker, his/her voice and the slide content.
That's why I welcome a better format, which is what the Tizen conference will be utilizing it seems - recording the speaker audio and along with that, the slide content, but not the speaker him/herself. And exporting it in podcast format, allowing you to catch up while on the move on the newest technology. Without having to dedicate your full attention to it.

Which brings me to that I didn't participate in that many sessions during the last day. But I got to attend the ones that mattered to me the most: Open Build Service—Facts, Features and Future, by adrianS and mls from openSUSE and Next Gen OS Initialization Done Right, by Auke Kok. And missed out on Tizen IVI architecture with Mikko Ylinen.
Meeting the OBS guys is always a pleasure - you get to sync on what their ideas and plans are and they listen to what your expectations and sometimes crazy ideas are. Compared to many other distribution build systems, OBS does not only function or serve their own community (openSUSE) -  it is entirely usable, deployable and fantastic for building other distributions. OBS has leveled the amount of infrastructure you previously needed in other to run/roll your own distribution. And that's why we love it in Mer. It enables anyone with a minimum of OBS knowledge to maintain their own customized distribution. And for ISVs, to build against your distribution. 

As with most technical discussions - the hallway track is the most interesting. The questions and concerns the audience comes up with during the session seeds the ground for the continued discussion in the hallway afterwards. One concern, that was raised by Dominique Le Foll, of Intel OTC was that OBS-to-OBS links are simply too fragile and too often causes build stalls and problems, was actually a matter we approached at first with Mer too, given the very unstable nature of the API - we needed a way to synchronize and access the OBS projects MeeGo consisted of, offline. Their need was simply needing a way to export MeeGo (well, now Tizen) releases to customers in a reliable manner and allowing them to modify it too.

What we invented there was a piece of software called FakeOBS (now Mer Delivery System) which, to make a long story short, serves up a HTTP/REST interface that is similar enough to the OBS-to-OBS protocol as to make it able to have another OBS connect to it and it thinking it's a remote OBS. 

While in fact, it is a cache of sorts - we extracted through the OBS API the entire OBS project history of sources, built binaries and put it into a on-disk format that FakeOBS could then use to provide those over the OBS-to-OBS protocol, giving us effectively offline access - leaving us able to not have to care about external entities. You can view the latest iteration of it here. There's also a file called '' which is how we deal with the git-based approach that Mer uses, for sources.

When we generate Mer releases, we do not only export the built binaries, we also export this on-disk format for FakeOBS, allowing anyone to re-create Mer and re-build it in their own OBS, along with the additional use case that we have built OBS package repositories for ISVs to build against. Meaning that even if shuts down, anybody can resurrect the project. As well as that vendors do not have to rely on being up.

Next session was Auke Kok's systemd session. Auke's one of my personal open source heroes, always working on quite interesting things. As some of you might know, the traditional way that most UIs are launching applications and daemons on boot are through D-Bus and /etc/xdg/autostart .desktop files. In Mer and MeeGo, this was accomplished with uxlaunch (another of Auke's inventions)

But what if you could use the same flexibility that systemd offers you, in order to create a proper dependency tree for proper optimized booting within the user session? Well, guess what Auke invented :) 

Instead of starting uxlaunch, you'd instead start systemd --user as a user, which would properly start up X, perhaps services that do not need X before X starts,  and ability to indicate session-internal dependencies. Which leads to amazing results. You can check out the systemd discussion on this mailing list thread. 

Another thing that happened was the availability to all conference attendees (except for Intel & Samsung, it seems) of a Tizen reference device, the so-called Lunchbox. It's an amazing piece of hardware, 1280x720 AMOLED display, 4.3", with dual-core Samsung Exonys 4210, Cortex-A9, 1gb ram, 16gb eMMC, microSD slot, sim slot (though modem ability is unknown), Mali GFX chipset, u-boot boot loader, 8mp back camera, 1mp front camera, PN544 NFC chip (unsure how to use), GPS chip, WLAN (WiFi Direct possible).. so, a quite nice kit. And a possible replacement for the N800 as well.

And if you're wondering if we've tried to put Mer on it. Now, of course we have. We've found most interesting pieces, including a "Boot to SD card" mode (with no success just yet - press power key, volume up and volume down at same time), kernel source code (2.6.36) and investigated the system which uses currently Xorg 1.9.3 with a Xorg driver we can't find source for yet. But it'd surprise me if it wasn't somehow similar to the Mali Xorg driver. Once we've figured out SD card boot, it should be a breeze to run Mer on there. Even with X11-GLESv2 acceleration.

That's all I have to say about the conference, will look forward to the next one.


  1. Thanks, Carsten... Nice wrap-up.

  2. Good stuff! Having Mer on there would be great :) Keep up the good work!