Friday, November 23, 2012

Boxes video tutorial

I have been meaning to do this for a while and now I finally managed to do it: Here you'll find tutorial on Boxes. I know the sound quality and volume isn't good and there is other mistakes/issues but I'm not too ashamed as this is the first time I've done this and tools that I needed/wanted were all breaking on my Fedora 18 laptop.

UPDATE: I uploaded an updated version of this tutorial with slightly improved audio. To improve it further, I'll have to re-record the audio or the whole video but right now I don't have time for that. Perhaps in a few weeks..

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I was at GUADEC last week like many other cool gnomies. It was a lot of fun, just like very year but I believe this was one of the best, especially how it was organised. The feet marks on the floor were was just an awesome touch that kept on reminding us everyday that good conferences are a result of a lot of hard work.

Seems its slowly becoming a tradition of mine since last year for me to stay at one of the organiser's house. :) Last time, I stayed with Lennart for the noncore days and this time I stayed all the days with Xabier and Laura. While they were very busy with their organising duties at the conf, they at the same time did an awesome job as my hosts. Xabier made sure that I don't have any problems what so ever and that I get to eat the best food in town and have a lot of fun. On top of all that, he woke-up 5:15 AM to drive me to airport. TBH I feel pretty bad now, knowing that I can't possibly return the favor. :( Thanks so much Xabier and Laura. You guys are awesome!

A Coruña is a very nice little town: people, beaches, history, culture, food etc etc. When it was combined with a lot of fun people from all over the world, it was like being in heaven. That said, there was one thing that was a bit of an unpleasent surprise for me: it gets really chilly at nights. Since I wasn't prepared for that, I wore shorts even in the evening and ended-up catching a cold. Later it turned into a fever. Fortunately, Xabier was there to take very good care of me and even took me to a doctor. He actually had to insist on that as I'm usually too lazy for that. I got much better before flying back but I still haven't completely recovered. Coughing like crazy..

There were many great talks but my favorite one was "PiTiVi and the GES: state of the onion" from Jean-François (AKA Jeff) . I was actually on my way to another talk that was scheduled at the same time but I caught a glimpse of his "slides" from the door and couldn't resist checking it out first. Once I got into the room, it was hard to leave. Awesome job Jeff! Out of pure coincidence, I was having some problems with Pitivi while working on my slides so I was directed to Jeff by people who knew him. Turned out that Jeff was having trouble with Boxes not working for him so we both helped each other out. In the end, our problem was quite the same: We were both trying to do something that was posible with Pitivi/Boxes. :) My second favorite was "The History of GNOME" keynote from Federico, Jonathan and David. It was nice to hear the inside story of early days of GNOME development, how some of the core GNOME hackers used too look like back in the days and the screenshots shown brought back many good memories from my early use of GNOME (think several hours wasted on playing with hide/unhide buttons on the panel).

My Boxes talk went OK'ish. Everything else went fine (even the demos, something that hardly ever work for me) except for the videos. I never included videos in my talk before so I wasn't very prepared to prepare for it. Lame excuse, I know.

Talking of Boxes, Christophe arranged a meeting between all the Boxes and SPICE developers present at the conf with our designers, Jakub and Jon. We gathered very usel feedback from them and they noted down some action points for themsevles to come up with mockups for some usecases/issues not yet covered. Talking of Jakub, it was nice to meet him outside Battlefield arena for a change. :) Well, I've had the pleasure of meeting him in person before but we weren't really close friends until 6 months ago when I joined him and his Czech and Polish friends in their Battlefield addiction sessions.

Then there was the GNOME OS BoF. I think that also went very nicely. It took most of the day but we now have a much more concrete idea of what GNOME OS is all about or going to be. A lot of what, why, how and who was discussed thoroughly. The most important thing was that everyone agreed to go forward with the idea and its no longer just some vague thought up in the air. Hopefully there will soon be documentation and mailing-list about it too (we already got an IRC channel).

Last but not the least, it was a pleasure to meet many new contributors, mainly the GSoC and OPW students. Its great seeing our outreach program  working so succesfully. Kudos to everyone involved, especially Marina. AFAICT both students working on Boxes-related projects, Fabiano and Jovanka took full advantage of their presence at GUADEC and hopefully will be able to completele their projects in time.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Adding information to libosinfo

Some weeks back, Marc-Andre told me that it will probably be helpful for potential contributors if I could write a blog post explaining how new information could be added to libosinfo (the library Boxes relies on for information on various operating systems and their installer medias) so here I'm doing just that. Currently there are two types of information you can add, devices and operating systems. Usually, it'll be the latter that you'd want to add (e.g your favorite OS just made a new awesome release and you want libosinfo to know about it) but for the sake of completion, I'll describe both.

Libosinfo keeps its information database in a bunch of XML files. Although theoretically there could be just one XML file but that would have to be really huge and therefore will be very hard to edit/maintain so we keep each OS distro and device class in its own XML file.

Libosinfo recursively traverses the following locations, assuming application let libosinfo load its own default DB (which at least Boxes does):
  • ${pkgdatadir}/libosinfo/db, where pkgdatadir typically is ${prefix}/share. This can be modified at runtime by setting OSINFO_DATA_DIR environment variable to whichever path you got the custom DB.
  • ${sysconfdir}/libosinfo/db, where sysconfdir typically is ${prefix}/etc or /etc.
  • ${HOME}/.config/libosinfo/db
So if you just want to quickly add some information to libosinfo, the easiest way is to put a file under ${HOME}/.config/libosinfo/db folder (you'll have to create it yourself) with any name but extension must be 'xml'.

The schema of these XML files is pretty straight-forward so just looking at the existing XML files under data/devices and data/oses in the libosinfo source tree will already tell you mostly everything you need to know about the schema.

Adding a new device

Before you do that, you'll need to gather following data about the device in question:
  • Type: Qemu or virtio. If its not the latter, its the former.
  • Bus type: usually USB or PCI.
  • class: video, audio, block, input, net, watchdog, filesystem and memory.balloon are currently recognised values.
  • vendor name and ID
  • device name and ID
The last two you can find from or, depending on which bus type device uses. Once you have all this information, you simply add an entry to either your custom XML file or the appropriate file under data/devices/ in libosinfo repository like this (I failed to find a way to embed raw XML here so I converted it into something XML should have looked like):

  (device id="")
    (vendor)Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd.(/vendor)

the 'id' is created simply by combining the URL of the appropriate ID database (one of the URLs I mentioned above) with vendor and device IDs.

Adding a new OS

This one is better explained by showing you some real examples:

  (os id="")
    (name)Fedora 17(/name)
    (vendor)Fedora Project(/vendor)
    (codename)Beefy Miracle(/codename)
    (upgrades id=""/)
    (derives-from id=""/)

The 'id' here could really be just anything you like but if you adding a new variant/version of an OS to an existing file of the appropriate family, its good to follow the conventions being followed in that file. Same goes for 'short-id'. The 'upgrades' and 'derives-from' are optional entries. While former is not really used much for anything useful yet, the latter is meant to avoid some duplication.

The most common example of such duplication is list of devices supported out of the box by the OS in question. Notice that we didn't list any devices in the example above. The reason is not that Fedora 17 doesn't support any devices but rather that it inherits all device support from its parent and grand parents. To list devices supported by the OS, you add simple entries like this:

  (os id="")
      (device id=""/) (!-- QXL --)
      (device id=""/) (!-- AC97 --)

Now in this case, 'id' elements must match an ID of either an existing device in libosinfo's default database or a device you have added in your custom database. If your OS supports the above list devices for example and you don't list them here (or under any parent OS), applications like Boxes might not add these devices to virtual machines they create and you'll end-up with very crappy graphics and no sound in your VMs created for the OS in question.

Another important piece of information is resource requirements and recommendations. Its rather straight-forward as well:

  (os id="")
    (resources arch="all")


'arch' attribute is usually just 'all', unless the OS in question has different requirements/recommendations for different architectures. The units for cpu, ram and storage are Hz and bytes respectively.

One last piece of information you really would want to add is about the installation and live media. While in future we might use it even for things like presenting downloadable OSs in Boxes (and other apps), for now we use this information mainly to detect the OS (along with other properties) given a media (ISO, USB stick or CD-ROM). Here is how that looks like:

  (os id="")
    (media arch="x86_64")
        (volume-id)Fedora 16 x86_64 (DVD|Disc)(/volume-id)

    (media arch="i686" live="true")

The 'live' attribute means (as you guessed it) a media that can be simply booted for user to try the OS without having to install it first. If the media in question does not provide an installer at all, you want to explicitly specify 'installer' attribute with value 'false'.

The data under 'iso' element is what enables us to detect the media. You can get this information from a media using `isoinfo -d -i /path/to/iso/or/devicenode` command. I should make it clear at this point that values of 'volume-id' and 'system-id' nodes are not exact copies of the actual volume and system IDs but rather a regular expression.

If you are adding this information to libosinfo's default database and hope to contribute this upstream, we'd very much like you to add this information also to our tests (you don't want us to break support for your favourite OS at some point, do you?). Its very easy, you just put the output of the isoinfo command I mentioned to a file named $FILENAME_OF_YOUR_ISO.txt under test/isodata/$DISTRO/$SHORT_ID_OF_OS/ in the source directory.

As you probably guessed it, the 'kernel' and 'initrd' are completely optional and you only need to specify it for Linux-based operating systems. If you are adding information about a proprietary OS, we probably also need to skip the 'url' element.

Thats it! Happy hacking!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


If you are looking for something technical, this isn't the right entry. Today I wanted to write about one of my cats, Ostikka who left us some hours ago.

I wanted to share the story with whoever is interested to know:

About two years ago my wife (Ansku) and I thought that we should get ourselves cats as we both love cats. We decided that instead of getting kittens like most people, we try to get some grown-up cats looking for a home. I asked my friend , Riku Voipio (who has 2 cats himself) and he told me that one of his friends, Mikko Tuomela was looking for someone to take his cats as he had to leave to US for education and couldn't take them with him. Soon we were introduced to these two very nice cats, Ostikka and Pentu. Ostikka was 12 years old at that time and Pentu was 8. While both cats are very social, Ostikka just loves to meet new people and isn't the least bit shy. He came to our lap immediately and asked to be scratched on his belly and purred. Pentu kept on hiding during our first "meeting" with him because he got spooked of someone peeking through the window earlier.

I must admit, at that time I was a lot more interested in Pentu than Ostikka. Not to say that I didn't like him but I wasn't as fond of him as of Pentu. Anyways in the end, we were given the honor of being the owners servants of these awesome cats. It wasn't long before Ostikka charmed me with his personality and soon I had a deep bond with him without even realizing it. Also I realized that not only he has a facebook page but has lots and lots of fans in there as well. Even people who had never met him in real life couldn't escape his charm.

Ostikka had medical problems right from the time he got him but nothing fatal. He mostly was supposed to follow a particular diet to loose weight. Even though old, he was a very happy cat who had a very positive attitude towards life.  Then came the Christmas week and he stopped eating and kept himself hidden. We consulted many vets but ultimately it took the best cat specialist in town (Teija Viita-aho) to find out what was wrong with him. I don't exactly know what the disease really is but something to do with pancreas being out of balance. We had a few weeks from hell where he had a tube attached directly into his oesophagus and we had to feed him every 1 hour through that tube. At that time both me and my wife had a full-time job so it was very difficult and many people at that time thought it it might be time to let Ostikka go but we managed to pull through and Ostikka sprang back to life soon.

We still had to give him meds twice a day but that was a very small price to pay to see him in good health and enjoying his life. More than an year later, Ostikka was still doing very well and Ansku even started to take him out every day the weather permitted. That is something he really loved to do. Many times he would go to the door and keep meowing, asking to be taken out. We took Ostikka for a routine check and they said we have been doing a very good job with him and we should keep it up. They also told us to come back after a few months for his dental care.

So a few months later, this cat seem to be still doing well but one thing we noticed was that he wasn't able to eat wet food (that used to be his favorite) and could only eat dry food. We take him to the vet for the dental care and another checkup. We had to leave him there for about 3 hours and when we came back to pick him up, the vet has a very bad news to tell us: He's likely to have a tumor in his intestines and unfortunately its incurable.

We took him home and hoped that coming lab reports will tell us that theory is not correct. We kept trying to contact the vet after that but she was way too busy to call us back. The only time she called was when I was in a meeting and somehow my phone never registered that call. A few days passed and in the meanwhile Ostikka's condition got worse after returning from the vet: He would hide away and not eat at all. Finally after a few days on a Saturday, the vet called Ansku and told her the bad news that lab reports are very much consistent with her theory. Based on that and the symptoms he had been showing lately, she insisted that he be put to permanent sleep on the same day.

We of course didn't like that idea at all and decided that we get a second opinion. We asked another vet, who does house calls, to come over and provide a second opinion. While she didn't offer a very different opinion, directly observing Ostikka she said there is no hurry to put him to permanent sleep. She asked us to keep observing him and try to get him to eat. This was on last Saturday (26.05.2012).

While observing, we did everything we could to make him feel good. The pain killers he was getting did help him for a few hours and enabled him to have some fun or at least try his best but since he still couldn't eat much. He kept on getting even weaker and didn't have energy to do much. It was very obvious that he was in a lot of pain most of the time. So yesterday, we both came to the conclusion that its time to let him go and relieve him of his pain.

Neither me nor Ansku could get any sleep last night. While Ansku had to go to work, I took a day off and remained awake to get an appointment from the vet to perform the euthanasia this evening and keeping Ostikka as happy as I could until his time comes. I fried/warmed him chicken every now and then as that's what he likes the best in food, took him outside for a walk, let him on the Balcony whenever he showed interest to go there and scratched him as long as he liked it. I also wept a lot. Here are some videos I recorded of him on his last walk outside (These videos won't probably be visible so if you are reading this on planet GNOME so if you are interested, please click the blog entry link):

Around 18:00, Mikko came and brought with himself a fish that somehow got Ostikka so interested that he wanted to eat it while it was still in the plastic wrapper. That was Ostikka's last supper and I'm glad that he really enjoyed it. Here is the video of him munching on the fish:

Then Ansku came back from work to spend some time with him before the vet arrives. He got lots of scratching from everyone before the vet arrived and he was seemingly liking it.

Then the vet came and did what needed to be done. It was a weird coincidence that Ostikka's brother, Kisu had died a few days ago (from a very different disease) as well. Mikko's mother has a small land reserved for pet burials so we took Ostikka's body there and buried him next to his brother:

Since we wanted him wrapper around a clothe, my last gift to Ostikka was my GSoC t-shirt from last year.

It felt really really sad to come back to the house and only find one cat greeting us at the door. We go to the other room and keep expecting Ostikka to be there, starring back at us. It feels very very bad.. I really had no idea that I have fallen so much in love with this Feline.

P.S. I couldn't come-up with a good title for this post as Ostikka was so unique that nothing summarizes him better than his name. Unfortunately that is only understandable to people who knew him.