Unfriendly open source projects

While working on the RaspberryPi setup, which I decided is going to use wview as the main component, I’ve started wondering once again why some upstream projects really feel like they don’t want to be friendly with distributions and other developers at all.

It’s not like they are hostile, just really unfriendly.

First of all, wview comes with its own utility library (more on that in a different post); both projects don’t have a public repository, they are developed behind closed doors, but you can send patches. This is bothersome but not a big deal. But when you send patches, and it goes weeks without answers, and without any idea if the patch was merged, well, things get bothersome.

But this is not the only project lately that seems to have this kind of problems. Google’s PageSpeed has binary package snapshots for Debian and CentOS but they have no related source release. Indeed, if you want the sources, you’re supposed to fetch them from the repository using Google’s own repo tools, rather than any standard SCM software. While I was interested in trying the module, the idea of having to deal with repo tools once again didn’t enthusiasm me, so I stopped looking into it at all.

This, to me, looks like a common problem: who cares about the policies that distribution had for years, make it agile, make it easy, and stop doing releases, git is good for everybody and so is bzr, hg and monotone! And then the poor distribution packages need to suffer.

Who cares about pkg-config and the fact that it supports cross-compilation out of the box? Just rely on custom -config scripts!

Why waste time making things work once installed at system level? They work good enough out of a repository!


Me and a RaspberryPi: Introduction

People who follow me on Google+ might have noticed last night that I ordered a RaspberryPi board. This might sound strange, but the reason is simple: I needed a very small, very low power computer to set up a friend of mine with, for a project that we’ve decided to work on together, but let’s put this in order.

My friend owns a Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station, and he publishes on his website the data coming from it — up to now he’s been doing that with the software that comes with the station itself, which runs on Windows, and in particular on his laptop. So no update if he’s not at home.

So, what has this to do with a RaspberryPi board? Well, the station connects to a PC via an USB cable, connected in turn to an USB-to-serial adapter, which means that there is no low-level protocol to reverse engineer, and not only that, but Davis publishes the protocol specifications as well as a number of other documentation and SDKs for Windows and Macintosh.

It is strange that Davis does not publish anything for Linux themselves, but I found an old project and a newer one that seems to do exactly what my friend needs — the latter in particular does exactly what we need, which means that my task in all this is to set up a Gentoo Linux install (cross-compiled, of course) to run on that Pi and have wview to actually work on Gentoo — it requires some packaging, and more likely than not, some fixing.

Thankfully, I don’t have to start from scratch; Elias pointed out that we have a good page on the wiki with the instructions, even though they do not include cross-compilation pointers and other things like that that could be extremely useful. I’ll probably extend from there with whatever I’ll find useful beside the general cross compilation. Depending on whether I’ll need non-cross-compilable software I might end up experimenting with qemu-user for ARM chroots..

At any rate, this post serves as an introduction of what you might end up reading in this blog in the future, which might or might not end up on Planet Gentoo depending on what the topic of the single post is.