Online Developer Meeting (2020-11-10)

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Todays topics

  • Meet and greet 5 minutes before meeting (audio testing).

The future of Octave Packages

See also Discourse.
Octave Forge != Octave packages

The Octave Forge legacy

Facts and figures
    • 50 community packages
    • 21 external packages
    • several unmaintained / renamed packages
    • 25 new package releases (40 in total) for 2020.
    • about 5 do not work with Octave 5.2 and about 12 will not work in Octave 6.1 (see link)
  • 5 request for new packages in the last two years (2 approved).
    • Octave Forge is not attractive, why?
  • Website looks great.
  • No major updates (necessary) since 2018
  • Useful Function List. How to update this #53860?
  • Original developer (Oliver) no longer active.
  • Adding and updating packages here is expensive/dangerous
    • manual SFTP uploads
    • no version control for the individual package documentation
    • approx. 5-10 minutes per package release.
  • FLOSS software based on Apache Allura
  • One of the last hosting services offering Mercurial (hg) support
  • Slow and many commercials, buggy UI.
Clumsy package development / releasing
  • The procedure is documented in the wiki: Reviewing Octave Forge packages
    • Experience of Kai after a few releases:
      • An "easy release" with basic installation/functionality checking/uploading takes me about 20-30 minutes.
      • If something is wrong with the tarballs another 20-30 minutes.
      • Version numbers are tracked in too many locations (DESCRIPTION,, ...)
      • Octave Forge claims "high quality"
        • No OF admin can enforce it within 20-30 minutes (e.g. lack of package domain knowledge).
        • Users find many bugs despite this "high quality" release check procedures.
        • Why not just automatically release packages (pkg-index)?

When reporting an Octave (core) bug on you are "greeted" with 1523 open bug reports of which 330 reports (22%) belong to Octave Forge packages and 240 (15%) are older than a year.

  • They are not likely to be closed or worked on and leave a maintenance burden and bad impression (user requests for unmaintained packages are ignored there) back to Octave (core).


  • Ignore and collect requests to infinity?
  • Close bugs of inactive packages older than X years? (Drop the illusion, that someone ever will fix it.)
  • Octave Forge suggests to use the Savannah Bug tracker for bug reports. Drop this announcement?
  • Reopen the old Octave Forge bug tracker?
  • The MS Windows installer bundles 47 Octave packages.
  • About 26 patches necessary to achieve this.
  • Forced updates to the packages?
  • Make criterion to drop package from installer if it no longer compiles "normally" (document somewhere)?
  • Document how to request package inclusion in the MS Windows installer (open bug report, Discourse, manual)?

New directions

  • Super set of Octave Forge (all packages in latest version included)
  • Easy to add, update and delete entries (just one file of meta data)
  • Advertise pkg-index as (only) major platform for Octave packages?
  • Future development:
    • Automated quality checks (dead URLs, pkg installation problems)
pkg tool
  • Current pkg very interleaved with / limited by Octave Forge -forge
    • Abstracting package registry / index?
  • Alternatives exist octave-packajoozle (pkj)
  • General design: Making pkg an Octave package?
    • Changes to pkg or the package format can be applied to old Octave versions.
    • Multiple pkg tools can be developed.
Octave package format
  • Documented in the Octave manual
  • In general good Octave programming project organization.
  • Permitting "" or "DESCRIPTION.txt" extensions? (Nice highlighting in many modern source code hosting platforms.)

General questions, open talk

  • How to teach people that creating an Octave package is as simple as pkg-example?
  • Packages must become smaller?
    • Split large packages into different functionalities?
  • Octave Forge package maintenance overtaking (inactive packages)?
    • Authorship can never be "overtaken".
    • Grace period after public email on the mailing-list?
    • Forbidden at all, only package forking?

Ideas for next meeting

Topic suggestions

Octave 7

  • Not only providing major releases that "fix Matlab incompatibilities".
  • Great new features for a great new release.
  • Code sprints.

See also