Call for testing: snaps in Trusty

There is a huge announcement coming: snaps now run in Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr.

Take a moment to note how big this is. Ubuntu 14.04 is a long-term release that will be supported until 2019. Ubuntu 16.04 is also a long-term release that will be supported until 2021. We have many many many users in both releases, some of which will stay there until we drop the support. Before this snappy new world, all those users were stuck with the versions of all their programs released in 2014 or 2016, getting only updates for security and critical issues. Just try to remember how your favorite program looked 5 years ago; maybe it didn't even exist. We were used to choose between stability and cool new features.

Well, a new world is possible. With snaps you can have a stable base system with frequent updates for every program, without the risk of breaking your machine. And now if you are a Trusty user, you can just start taking advantage of all this. If you are a developer, you have to prepare only one release and it will just work in all the supported Ubuntu releases.

Awesome, right? The Ubuntu devs have been doing a great job. snapd has already landed in the Trusty archive, and we have been running many manual and automated tests on it. So we would like now to invite the community to test it, explore weird paths, try to break it. We will appreciate it very much, but all of those Trusty users out there will love it, when they receive loads of new high quality free software on their oldie machines.

So, how to get started?

If you are already running Trusty, you will just have to install snapd:

$ sudo apt update && sudo apt install snapd

Reboot your system after that in case you had a kernel update pending, and to get the paths for the new snap binaries set up.

If you are running a different Ubuntu release, you can Install Ubuntu in a virtual machine. Just make sure that you install the http://releases.ubuntu.com/14.04/ubuntu-14.04.5-desktop-amd64.iso.

Once you have Trusty with snapd ready, try a few commands:

$ snap list
$ sudo snap install hello-world
$ hello-world
$ snap find something

screenshot of snaps running in Trusty

Keep searching for snaps until you find one that's interesting. Install it, try it, and let us know how it goes.

If you find something wrong, please report a bug with the trusty tag. If you are new to the Ubuntu community or get lost on the way, come and join us in Rocket Chat.

And after a good session of testing, sit down, relax, and get ohmygiraffe. With love from popey:

$ sudo snap install ohmygiraffe
$ ohmygiraffe

screenshot of ohmygiraffe

Ubuntu Testing Day wrap up - Ubuntu Core and QEMU (20170203)

After a little break, on the first Friday of February we resumed the Ubuntu Testing Days.

This session was pretty interesting, because after setting some of the bases last year we are now ready to dig deep into the most important projects that will define the future of Ubuntu.

We talked about Ubuntu Core, a snap package that is the base of the operating system. Because it is a snap, it gets the same benefits as all the other snaps: automatic updates, rollbacks in case of error during installation, read-only mount of the code, isolation from other snaps, multiple channels on the store for different levels of stability, etc.

The features, philosophy and future of Core were presented by Michael Vogt and Zygmunt Krynicki, and then Federico Giménez did a great demo of how to create an image and test it in QEMU.

Click the image below to watch the full session.

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There are plenty of resources in the Ubuntu websites related to Ubuntu Core.

To get started, we recommend to follow this guide to run the operating system in a virtual machine.

After that, and if you are feeling brave and want to help Michael, Zygmund and Federico, you can download the candidate image instead, from http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/ubuntu-core/16/candidate/pending/ubuntu-core-16-amd64.img.xz This is the image that's being currently tested, so if you find something wrong or weird, please report a bug in Launchpad.

Finally, if you want to learn more about the snaps that compose the image and take a peek at the things that we'll cover in the following testing days, you can follow the tutorial to create your own Core image.

On this session we were also accompanied by Robert Wolff who works on 96boards at Linaro. He has an awesome show every Thursday called Open Hours. At 96boards they are building open Linux boards for prototyping and embedded computing. Anybody can jump into the Open Hours to learn more about this cool work.

The great news that Robert brought is that both Open Hours and Ubuntu Testing Days will be focused on Ubuntu Core this month. He will be our guest again next Friday, February 10th, where he will be talking about the DragonBoard 410c. Also my good friend Oliver Grawert will be with us, and he will talk about the work he has been doing to enable Ubuntu in this board.

Great topics ahead, and a full new world of possiblities now that we are mixing free software with open hardware and affordable prototyping tools. Remember, every Friday in http://ubuntuonair.com/, no se lo pierda.

Call for testing: IPFS

Happy new year Ubunteros and Ubunteras!

If you have been following our testing days, you will know by now that our intention is to get more people contributing to Ubuntu and free software projects, and to help them getting started through testing and related tasks. So, we will be making frequent calls for testing where you can contribute and learn. Educational AND fun ^_^

To start the year, I would like to invite you to test the IPFS candidate snap. IPFS is a really interesting free project for distributed storage. You can read more about it and watch a demo in the IPFS website.

We have pushed a nice snap with their latest stable version to the candidate channel in the store. But before we publish it to the stable channel we would like to get more people testing it.

You can get a clean and safe environment to test following some of the guides you'll find on the summaries of the past testing days.

Or, if you want to use your current system, you can just do:

$ sudo snap install ipfs --candidate

I have written a gist with a simple guide to get started testing it

If you finish that successfully and still have more time, or are curious about ipfs, please continue with an exploratory testing session. The idea here is just to execute random commands, try unusual inputs and just play around.

You can get ideas from the IPFS docs.

When you are done, please send me an email with your results and any comments. And if you get stuck or have any kind of question, please don't hesitate to ask. Remember that we welcome everybody.

Ubuntu Testing Day wrap up - snapcraft and beers (20161216)

Today we had the last Ubuntu Testing Day of the year.

We invited Sergio Schvezov and Joe Talbott, to join Kyle and myself. Together we have been working on Snapcraft the whole year.

Sergio did a great introduction of snapcraft, and showed some of the new features that will land next week in Ubuntu. And because it was the last day of work for everybody (except Kyle), we threw some beers into the hang out and made it our team end of year party.

You can watch the full recording by clicking the image below.

Alt text

Snapcraft is one of the few projects that have an exception to land new features into released versions of Ubuntu. So every week we are landing new things in Xenial and Yakkety. This means that we need to constantly test that we are not breaking anything for all the people using stable Ubuntu releases; and it means that we would love to have many more hands helping us with those tests.

If you would like to help, all you have to do is set up a virtual machine and enable the proposed pocket in there.

This is the active bug for the Stable Release Update of snapcraft 2.24: bug #1650632

Before I shut down my computer and start my holidays, I would like to thank all the Ubuntu community for one more year, it has been quite a ride. And I would like to thank Sergio, Kyle and Joe in particular. They are the best team a QA Engineer could ask for <3.

See you next year for more testing days.

Test a stable release update

Ubuntu has a six month cycle for releases. This means that we work for six months updating software, adding new features and making sure that it all works consistently together when it’s integrated into the operating system, and then we release it. Once we make a release, it is considered stable and then we almost exclusively add to that release critical bug fixes and patches for security vulnerabilities. The exceptions are just a few, and are for software that’s important for Ubuntu and that we want to keep up-to-date with the latest features even in stable releases.

These bug fixes, security patches and exceptional new features require a lot of testing, because right after they are published they will reach all the Ubuntu users that are in the stable release. And we want the release to remain stable, never ever introduce a regression that will make those users unhappy.

We call all of them Stable Release Updates, and we test them in the proposed pocket of the Ubuntu archive. This is obviously not enabled by default, so the brave souls that want to help us testing the changes in proposed need to enable it.

Before we go on, I would recommend to test SRUs in a virtual machine. Once you enable proposed following this guide you will get constant and untested updates from many packages, and these updates will break parts of your system every now and then. It’s not likely to be critical, but it can bother you if it happens on the machine you need to do your work, or other stuff. And if somebody makes a mistake, you might need to reinstall the system.

You will also have to find a package that needs testing. Snapcraft is one of the few exceptions allowed to land in a stable release every week. So lets use it as an example. Lets say you want to help us testing the upcoming release of snapcraft in Ubuntu 16.04.

With your machine ready and before enabling proposed, install the version already released of the package you want to test. This way you’ll test later an update to the newer version, just what a normal user would get once the update is approved and lands in the archive. So in a terminal, write:

  $ sudo apt update
  $ sudo apt install snapcraft

Or replace snapcraft with whatever package you are testing. If you are doing it just during the weekend after I am writing this, the released version of snapcraft will be 2.23. You can check it with:

  $ dpkg -s snapcraft | grep Version
  Version: 2.23

Now, to enable proposed, open the Ubuntu Software application, and select Software & Updates from the menu in the top of the window.

image

From the Software & Updates window, select the Developer Options tab. And check the item that says Pre-released updates.

image

This will prompt for your password. Enter it, and then click the Close button. You will be asked if you want to reload your sources, so yes, click the Reload button.

image

Finally try to upgrade. If there is a newer version available in the proposed pocket for the packet you are testing, now you will get it.

  $ sudo apt install snapcraft
  $ dpkg -s snapcraft | grep Version
  Version: 2.24

Every time there is a proposed update, the package will have corresponding SRU bugs with the tag “verification-needed”. In the case of snapcraft this weekend, this is the bug for the 2.24 proposed update: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/snapcraft/+bug/1650632

The SRU bugs will have instructions about how to test that the fix or the new features released are correct. Follow those steps, and if you are confident that they work as expected, change the tag to “verification-done”. If you find that the fix is not correct, change the tag to “verification-failed”. In case of doubt, you can leave a comment in the bug explaining what you tried and what you found.

You can read more about SRUs in the Stable Release Updates wiki page, and also in the wiki page explaining how to perform verifications. This last page includes a section to find packages and bugs that need verification. If you want to help the Ubuntu community, you can just jump in and start verifying some of the pending bugs. It will be highly appreciated.

If you have questions or find a problem, join us in the Ubuntu Rocket Chat.

Ubuntu Testing Day wrap up - Unity8 (20161209)

For the third session of the Ubuntu Testing Days, Kevin Gunn joined us to talk about the Unity8 snap.

This is a thriving project with lots of things to do and bugs to uncover, so it's the perfect candidate for newcomers eager to help Ubuntu.

If you are interested and didn't attend our meeting on Friday, click the image below to watch the recording.

Alt text

To install Unity 8 in the Ubuntu 16.04 cloned virtual machine that we prepared on the past session, enter the following commands in the terminal:

$ sudo add-apt-repository -u ppa:ci-train-ppa-service/stable-phone-overlay
$ sudo apt install unity8-session-snap
$ unity8-snap-install
$ sudo reboot

After reboot, on the login screen click the Ubuntu icon next to your user name and change the selection to Unity 8.

Kevin and his team have a google doc with the instructions to build and install the snap, and the current status. If you find a bug, you can talk to the developers joining the #ubuntu-touch IRC channel on freenode

While preparing the testing environment on this session we had a crash, and explained how easy it is to send the report to the Ubuntu developers by just clicking the Report problem... button. The reports from all our users are in the error tracker, along with a frequency graph and the links to bug reports where those crashes are being fixed.

We also showed two tricks to make faster and more pleasant the testing session in a virtual machine:

Thanks to Julia, Kyle and Kevin for the nice session.

Join us again next Friday at Ubuntu On-Air.

Set up a cache for deb packages

All Linux distributions are constantly updating the versions of the packages in their archives. That’s what makes them great, lots of people working in a distributed way to let you easily update your software and get the latest features or critical bug fixes.

And you should constatly update your operating system. Otherwise you’ll become an easy target for criminals exploiting known vulnerabilities.

The problem, at least for me, is that I have many many Ubuntu machines in the house and my badwidth is really bad. So keeping all my real machines, virtual machines and various devices up-to-date every day has become a slow problem.

The solution is to cache the downloaded deb packages. So only one machine has to make the downloads from the internet, and they will be kept in my local network to make much faster to get the packages in the other machines.

So let me introduce you to Apt-Cacher NG.

Setting it up is simple. First, choose a machine to run the cacher and store the packages. Ideally, this machine should be running all the time, and should have a good amount of storage space. I’m using my desktop as the cacher; but as soon as I update my router to one that runs Ubuntu, I will make that one the cacher.

On that machine, install apt-cacher-ng:

  sudo apt install apt-cacher-ng

And that’s it. The cacher is installed and configured. Now we need the name of this machine to use it on the other ones:

  $ hostname
  calchas

In this example, calchas is the name of the machine I’m using as the cacher. Take note of the name of your machine, and now, in all the other machines:

  $ sudo gedit /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/02proxy

That will create a new empty configuration file for apt, and open it to be edited with gedit, the default graphical editor in Ubuntu. In the editor, write this:

  Acquire::http::proxy "http://calchas.lan:3142";

replacing calchas with the name of your cacher machine, collected above. The .lan part is really only needed when you are setting it up in a virtual machine and the host is the same as the cacher, but it doesn’t hurt to add it on real machines. That number, 3142, is the network port where the caching service is running, leave it unchanged.

After that, the first time you update a package in your network it will be slow just as before. But all the other machines updating the same package will be very fast. I have to thank apt-cacher-ng for saving me many hours during my updates of the past years.

Ubuntu Testing Day wrap up - 20161202

We have survived two testing days, and now we can safely say that it will become a Friday tradition :)

Last Friday our nice guest was Aaron Ogle, from Rocket Chat. He gave us a tour on the Rocket Chat UI and we discussed about how they packaged it as a snap.

If you missed it, click the image below to watch it.

Alt text

Building from what we saw on the first session, we tested the snap using a virtual machine again. But this time, we cloned it to keep a pristine machine and make following testing sessions faster. If you want to help the Ubuntu and Rocket Chat communities, this is an easy way to prepare your environment:

Once you have your clone ready, install the most recent and bleeding edge version of rocket chat with:

$ sudo snap install rocketchat-server --edge

Then you can follow this gist with the initial steps to start testing the Rocket Chat snap

Also you can test a real installation of Rocket Chat, joining our community channel, where we are available all day, every day. If you have a question, just ask. I am elopio in there.

During the session we took a look at the GitHub website, where many free software communities do their development in the open. They have a great guide to start contributing to open source projects. Go on and spread your love for free software in the form of bug reports :)

The gratitude this week goes to our newly acquired staff members Julia and Kyle, and of course to Aaron for letting us have a funny Friday evening. Make sure to take a look at the cool things he and his teammates are doing; and if you have some free time and want to join an exciting, open and nice community, give them a hand. Also try the Jitsi integration for video conference, it's mind-blowing that there are no closed components anywhere.

See you next Friday at Ubuntu On-Air.

Clone virtual machines to keep a pristine image

The basic idea of using virtual machines for testing is to always start from a clean state, as close as possible to what a user would get after freshly installing the system on their real machines.

So, every time we need to test something, we could create a new virtual machine and intall Ubuntu from scratch there, but that would take a considerable amount of time.

An alternative is to install a machine once, and keep it clean. Never test in that one, and instead clone it every time you need to test something. Use the clone to experiment, and delete it when you are done. Cloning the machine is a lot faster than reinstalling each time. The base machine, the one you clone everytime, is called a pristine machine. If you are careful with it, the only time you will need to reinstall is when you are testing the installer.

Cloning the pristine machine using Virtual Machine Manager is really simple, it’s done in like two clicks.

First, of course, you will need to install your pristine machine. I always put pristine in the name, to make it less likely that I will start using it for testing. Every time I forget and play with the pristine machine, I’m polluting its state, and have to recreate it.

With the pristine machine ready, I then recommend to open it and run in a terminal:

  sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

That will update all the packages installed, so your clone starts also in the most up-to-date state. If you do this step every time, you will never have to wait for long while your machine downloads and installs lots of packages, just wait a little every day.

image

Now shut down the pristine machine and don’t touch it again, only to update it.

To clone it, right click on it and then click the Clone... button.

image

A dialog will be opened, where you can enter the new virtual machine details.

image

I always write the date as part of the name, to remember when I created it. But the most important thing to do here is to make sure that the Storage option is set to Clone this disk. Otherwise, you will be sharing the disk with the pristine machine, which will pollute its state, the exact thing we are trying to avoid.

This will take some time while the whole disk is copied. But not long, and once it’s done you can freely play and pollute this clone, without affecting the pristine machine.

Ubuntu Testing Day wrap up - 20161125

Today we had our first testing day. We will keep doing this every Friday, and at the end of the session I will post a summary with links to follow up and learn more about the subject in case somebody is interested.

You can watch the video by clicking the image below.

Alt text

For this session we had Kyle Fazzari talking about his work as the maintainer of the Nextcloud snap.

You can find more info about the project in the Nextcloud main page and more info about the snap in Kyle's blog.

We tested the snap using a virtual machine. To set one up you can use the following guides:

After the virtual machine is ready, Nextcloud can be installed in there by just running in the terminal:

$ sudo snap install nextcloud

If you want to test an unreleased and unstable version to help the Nextcloud developers, you can add the flag --edge or --beta to that command.

I wrote some steps to guide you getting started with the testing in this gist.

And finally, if you want to join our community, we are usually in Rocket Chat. You can join the #community, #qa or #snapcraft channels, or any other that catches your attention.

Special thanks to Julia and CoderEurope for joining us during the session. And of course to Kyle and the Nextcloud community for this amazing piece of free software that encourages everybody to take control over their data, in a really simple way.

You are all invited to join us the next time, which will be Friday, December 2nd, again at Ubuntu On-Air. The time and theme will be announced soon. Or at least before it starts.