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The answers to Cooker contributors questions !   
Wednesday, February 11 2004 @ 02:40 PM CST
Contributed by: Linegod

Mandrake LinuxPosted to the Cooker Mailing List by Helge Hielscher (edited for view and spelling errors):

Here is a summarized list of questions and suggestions from our Volunteers, Contributors and Members and the answers of MandrakeSoft.Please feel free to add your comments, suggestions and feelings. Thanks.

A. Relation with contributors

1) Some contributors seem frustrated by the lack of communication with Mandrakesoft reps. What is the position from Mandrakesoft for contributors? Is their work considered only as an addon ?

It's like a win-win relation: MandrakeSoft higly respects contributors' work and considers it very important for all Mandrake products. On theother hand, contributors have the opportunity to contribute to a dynamic Open Source project and of course benefit in return. In short: do you wanta better quality product? Test it more and report possible solutions... Want a new feature? submit it, convince us about the opportunity to builtit and integrate it. As a result, Mandrake Linux answers contributers needs, and the product improves, for the benefit of all. That's the spiritof Open Source Software.

-In addition, only 4 or 5 people from Mandrakesoft regularly communicate with the community of contributors, more seem distant and/or unavailable from the outside.

I think that it should be improved. All developers aren't always comfortable with community relations though. It may also happen that someof them sometimes feel aggressed by a few people and thus prefer to stay quiet. I think the challenge is to make the situation evolve to morefriendly relationships with a common goal to make things better.

2) Why design decisions are never communicated to the community developers.? So many things are sprung by surprise with no explanation whatsoever. It would be really nice to have a post to Cooker when some new feature is unfurled with an explanation of why it was decided to beimplemented. Case in point is the firestorm over mdkkdm and the significant networking issues when dhcpd was replaced with dhclientwithout warning, or the one-month delay for releasing the 9.2 isos to the public.

Again this has to be improved, but we tend to get better at such things. For instance, the WiKi is a great place to communicate more about new features and new designs. I think the WiKi is progressively going to become the central place for Mandrake Cooker Community. But we also have amarketing departement where certain choices are made, this is part of the game.

3) Maybe it would be a good idea for contributors and reps to make a regular meeting by using things like GnomeMeeting, voice communication software, jabber chatroom or IRC.

Yes, this is an excellent idea. Anyway, maybe a first step would be to have the community self-organize to avoid having one hundred people asking questions to a few Mandrake responsibles at the same time. Why wouldn't you elect a representative team of contributors? There could be one representative for each topic: core system, UI, i18n, and so on.

Then we can organize meetings more easily.

4) We had a big problem mirror 6 months ago. little bandwith, big packages updated. we are coming to a period of bugfixes, but did something change ? Warly did some work. The result of this problem is: the mirror process isn't publicly available: where are the master server, where are the primary master ? The list of mirrors isn't up to date, and is causes problem to software who need this list as urpmi.setup. A new layout of the mirror was proposed and is in test. What does Mandrakesoft think about it?

We try to not disclose primary mirrors, this is vital to let the mirroring replication process happen correctly. But once again, there is certainly aroom from improvement and you tell me that we already try alternative solutions to make things better.

5) While browsing Mandrake's bugzilla, I found a lot of old outstanding bugs ? Some of these are already solved in practice while they are notmarked so in Bugzilla. But also, some bugs are still valid, but no maintainer has ever commented on them in a long time. What is the company's policy towards the use of bugzilla? How are bugs managed, especially in the long term?

Bugzilla is the central place to report and manage bugs. And the system has started to be extended with Testzilla. But if you think several bugs should be closed or several bugs aren't considered, there is a problem and I suggest you contact directly Frederic Lepied who is MandrakeSoft CTO.

Regarding tracking bugs in stable release, there is a new tool in test at:

6) Why so little attention paid to keeping Cooker installable ?

Cooker is experimental, I think that's the reason why it may not always work on the fly. But when it really cannot be installed, I think Warly andPixel would be happy to help fixing that. They have to be warned anyway.

7) Why is there no mandatory participation of the development staff in the Cooker ML? Perhaps many development discussions between community developers and MandrakeSoft happen via email, but doesn't this defeat the purpose of the public lists.

I'm a bit surprised by your statement because when I had more time to read Cooker ML everyday, there were many discussions, including ones with the development staff. Maybe the traffic is too high now and discussions often degenerate into long threads that aren't very constructive? I don't know. If a core representative group was to exist, maybe a more restrained ML could be opened to discuss hot topic, without having hundreds people giving their own advice. It's just a pragmatic suggestion, and please do not understand that I consider people advices as uninteresting, it's justa matter of human capabilities of reading many emails in the same day while having other work to perform at the same time.

8) How the internal development process works, i.e. Who makes design decisions? When does QA start? Who reports to whom? Maybe an org chart onthe twiki would be nice.

The Marketing departement is now managed by François Bancilhon, our CEO. He relies on a few employees who are working on defining product specs, goals and schedules. These ideas and decisions are also discussed with other people including me, commercial people, support people, and ofcourse... the R&D team. Product strategy is discussed in a more restricted group (Direction Comittee).

There is also a R&D organization chart available here

B. Club management

1) Mandrakesoft should take more care on seeing what users really want and need : - Put votes about some issues on club. - Hire someone fulltime for PR like Deno did. - Why don't Mandrakesoft reps participate to the Club ?

Two points here: about Club contents and PR, we are aware that it needs toimprove, and it's already improving and will improve more. New people are planned to be hired for Club.

Regarding MandrakeSoft reps participating to the Club, it's not very true. There have been several interviews, and we sometimes post contents. Warly posted articles about the Cooker Snapshot & Beta releases, I did a teaser about MandrakeMove etc.

2) Club categories are messy. The Guests section is too often used for troubleshooting. What about removing it, and opening more useful sections: announcements, talking to reps, networking...

OK for Club, it will be improved, it's planned.

3) Mandrake sites are numerous and fragmented : MandrakeExpert, MandrakeClub, linux-mandrake, Mandrakesoft... What about simplifying and centralizing the information ? For example, release errata can be accessed from different levels, but there is no clear, unique way to find them.

We have a project to unify all Mandrake websites under only one, with a common framework. This will take time and we haven't found a good CMS toolfor that so far. An ideal candidate for a good CMS would it that:

  1. it's fast and can handle big traffic
  2. it provides Wiki-like capabilities
  3. it's multilingual
  4. it's easy to manage both with a web interface and in console. Many ones have been tested, and so far nothing was good enough.

4) We need a good documentation and tutorial section. Too many questions are redundant and have been answered many times. What about creating a troubleshooting section with scenarios to repair disasters/common problems with a clear step-by-step procedure ? So that people could check first,and experts would not have to repeat always the same answers (for example: the noapic/nolapic stuff).

There is an errata page, it's regularly updated so I wonder why this kind of contents. There is also the Wiki that can be certainly used for that.

5) What about joining MandrakeExpert and MandrakeClub, by putting the payed questions in a special section, that would get priority. This way, it would be a good advertizing also for non-paying customers, and this would avoid "forgetting" customers who say that nobody gave help. Giving support has become difficult : in Mandrakeexpert ? In Mandrakeclub ? For anonymous, for box buyers, for club subscribers...

Yes it's a mess and will have to be improved.

C. Quality

1) 9.2 was a nice distro, but it lacks final polishing (e.g. the KDE bar was almost empty, the Gnome desktop was messy, and other various places).Unfortunately, it is what the reviewers notice. What about taking more care for the final touch ?

Starting with 10.0 we have a new development model that was created to fix this issue. Before, there were constraints such as sending ISO master CD for productions and many factors that make impossible to release a 100% polished Linux distribution in time. I hope you all find this new development roadmap intelligent and accurate.

2) Why were there no updated isos with a fixed LG kernel. It is understood that Mandrakesoft did not want to release to the public a «better» product than for paying customers. At least, there should be an update in the installer (and a quick start guide in the boxes recommending to read the errata page before starting) so that non-aware people would not hurt Mandrake by saying it kills their CD-ROM drive.

Updated ISO images are now available for Club members. Anyway, we believe that in this particular LG problem, it was to LG to release firmware updates to their buggy hardware, and they did. Additionally, a new development scheme will shortly be announced. We hope it will prevent this kind of issue to happen again in the future. More details to come soon.

3) What kind of hardware is used to test Mandrake on ? How often are new types of hardware added to the park of machines at Mandrakesoft QA ?

We have an important set of hardware, but of course it's impossible to test all hardware/software combinations for a complex system such as Mandrake Linux. As a result, we need better ways to have tests and validations performed by the community. This is why Testzilla has been introduced, and also a new Cooker development scheme that's gonna be introduced soon.

Thank you for your questions and constructive suggestions!

  [ Views:: 1,855 ]  
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