Online Developer Meeting (2020-11-10)

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Todays topics[edit]

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

The future of Octave Packages[edit]

See also Discourse.

Key points to discuss (Kai)[edit]

Octave Forge packages ⊂ Octave packages
  • Creating, maintaining, installing Octave packages must become more simple/fun.
  • Octave Forge needs more automation (#pkg-index) or manpower.
  • Guide new package contributors (remove old, stale, irritating complex documentation).

The Octave Forge legacy[edit]

Facts and figures[edit]
  • https://octave.sourceforge.io/packages.php
    • 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?
https://octave.sourceforge.io/[edit]
  • Website looks great.
  • No major updates (necessary) since 2018 http://hg.code.sf.net/p/octave/project-web
  • Useful Function List. How to update this #53860? Maybe "generate_html" package.
  • Original developer (Oliver) no longer active.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.
https://sourceforge.net/projects/octave/[edit]
  • 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[edit]
  • 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, configure.ac, ...)
      • 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)?
Savannah[edit]

When reporting an Octave (core) bug on https://savannah.gnu.org/bugs/?group=octave 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). A recent example of such user frustration #60048.

Ideas:

  • 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? (see below)
MXE-Octave[edit]
  • The MS Windows installer bundles 47 Octave packages.
  • Are there criteria for including packages in the Windows installer? No.
  • Forced updates to the packages? No.
  • Make criterion to drop package from installer if it no longer compiles "normally" (document somewhere)? Depends on decision of mxe-octave.
  • Document how to request package inclusion in the MS Windows installer (open bug report, Discourse, manual)? wiki
  • About 26 patches necessary to achieve this.
of-communications-1-catop.patch
of-fits-1-cross-fixes.patch
of-fits-2-fixes.patch
of-fl-core-1-fixes.patch
of-gsl-1-cross-fixes.patch
of-interval-1-cross-fixes.patch
of-ltfat-1-cross-fixes.patch
of-nurbs-1-fixes.patch
of-nurbs-2-dev-fixes.patch
of-ocs-1-cross-fixes.patch
of-ocs-2-dev-fixes.patch
of-ocs-3-break-fixes.patch
of-ocs-4-pkgadd-fixes.patch
of-ocs-5-no-odepkg.patch
of-odepkg-1-fixes.patch
of-odepkg-2-fixes.patch
of-odepkg-3-deprecated.patch
of-quaternion-1-cross-fixes.patch
of-quaternion-2-dev-fixes.patch
of-sockets-1-cross-fixes.patch
of-sockets-2-deprecated.patch
of-specfun-1-deprecated.patch
of-statistics-1-cross.patch
of-strings-1-fixes.patch
of-tisean-1-fixes.patch
of-video-1-fixes.patch

New directions[edit]

pkg-index[edit]
  • 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? Not exclusive, but stronger highlight approach.
  • Future development:
    • Automated quality checks (dead URLs, pkg installation problems)
pkg tool[edit]
  • 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? (see below)
    • Changes to pkg or the package format can be applied to old Octave versions.
    • Multiple pkg tools can be developed.
Octave package format[edit]
  • Documented in the Octave manual
  • In general good Octave programming project organization.
  • Permitting "DESCRIPTION.md" or "DESCRIPTION.txt" extensions? (Nice highlighting in many modern source code hosting platforms.) Not decided.

General questions, open talk[edit]

  • 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?
  • Where to host package documentation?
    • doc folder, wiki, in the repo itself (pkg-example README.md)?

Some outcomes of the meeting[edit]

  • The responsibility for a package is with the maintainer, not Octave (core).
    • Okay to continue the use of Savannah for current Octave Forge packages, but not for pkg-index.
  • pkg-index
    • How to treat malicious code/packages? User reports, package removal. Depending on the actual case.
  • pkg tool as package
    • If synchronized with Octave core, no usage of "if version ... else ..." code. (edit: I can't remember if we decided that this was a no-go. Just something that might be worth considering... -- Mmuetzel (talk))
    • Watch out for problems with encodings (treated differently in older Octave versions) (edit: I'm no longer sure this is the case. I might have been thinking of `test` instead of `pkg`. I'm sorry for any confusion that might have caused. -- Mmuetzel (talk))
    • Treatment of pkg install -forge if package moved away from Octave Forge
  • documentation
    • mxe-octave: necessary steps to include a package
      • only necessary if depending on external library, otherwise should install properly

Ideas for next meeting[edit]

Topic suggestions[edit]

Octave 7[edit]

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

See also[edit]