Archive for November, 2010

Towards a Fedora Robotics Spin

Finally, we are going to have a Fedora Robotics Spin; a flavor of Fedora focused on providing a ready to use distribution for people working on Robotics, and a distribution to introduce new people to robotics. This work is being done by Fedora Robotics SIG, which prepares robotic packages for Fedora.

Fedora Robotics Spin is going to be a LiveDVD providing the following:

  1. Hopefully, a step by step demo prepared for newcomers to introduce them to the robotics world and let them get started. Work on this demo has been started recently, and considering the limited available time of contributors; we hope that we can get it up and running soon. Unfortunately, I can’t help much for this release as I’m working on my thesis.
  2. Robotic Software Frameworks such as Player and Fawkes.
  3. Simulators: Stage and RoboCup Soccer Simulation Server 2D and 3D are already packaged; others might come soon
  4. Robotic Libraries including MRPT and gearbox
  5. Libraries which are very useful in robotics, such as OpenCV computer vision library and Festival text-to-speech system.
  6. Hardware accessory libraries including libraries for Katana robot arm and Hokuyo laser range finders
  7. And finally, a development environment consisting of IDE, compilers, etc.

Fedora Robotics Spin aims to provide a rich environment for newcomers and experts in the robotics field. The first version will be hopefully released as an official Fedora 15 spin. 🙂

Apparently, this is the year of Fedora in Robotics! 😛

Fedora 14 surprises

Well, I had two big surprises in Fedora 14:

1. Eclipse CDT immediate crash: I didn’t expect it at all, and it was very hard to believe, but it was correct. The Eclipse shipped with Fedora 14 is broken by default. Just open a C/C++ project in it and let it start indexing the project… in a few seconds Eclipse will crash. Update: apparently this bug only affects 64bit installs (Fedora 14 x86_64)

Well, it turned out that the problem is in the OpenJDK version shipped with Fedora 14, and I forced to install a propriety JDK to have a working eclipse. Fortunately, a workaround is being identified recently and the bug is being worked on. The bug not only affects Fedora 14 OpenJDK, but also the next version of propriety JDK too: if you install the next to-be-released JDK 6 (update 23) you’ll see the same problem.

Fedora is known as a developer friendly distro, and seeing such a problem with Eclipse – being an important development IDE – is very sad. What was very surprising for me was this: why this bug was not identified sooner (more on this follows at the end)? You can see that duplicates have started to appear soon after release…

2. I enabled “ir” keyboard layout and soon realized that Ctrl+Space (prints a ZWNJ character very useful in correct Persian typing)doesn’t work. After reporting, it became clear that this bug is actually the same as this one which I myself had reported a while back and was fixed in an update. I thought that the update will make it into final Fedora 14 release, but it didn’t. It is now available as an update for Fedora 14, but it was much better if it was in Fedora 14 release. This bug affects many keyboard layouts, so it will cause a negative impression. Anyway, if you do use keyboard layouts other than us, you should probably update your xorg-x11-xkb-utils package to make sure that all keys function as expected.

What is clear from the above is that we really need much more tests in Fedora pre-releases. While Fedora QA team is doing a great job, and they are becoming better and better each release, but there are still many use-cases not covered by their test lists. Also, it is clear that we need much more community involvement in Fedora testing. Personally, I didn’t find the Eclipse bug until late after Fedora 14 RC1 release. While I started testing F14 since Alpha (I never was able to install Alpha as I mentioned earlier, because of inability to install from an NTFS partition which is also true with F14 unfortunately), but it was after deciding to use RC1 seriously that I tryed Eclipse. I regret it now. But this makes it clear that (almost?) no one has tested Fedora 14 x86_64 Eclipse before release; and it is shocking a little; considering the importance of this application. (Update: added x86_64 to make it clear that the bug is for x86_64 only)

The second bug is another example: I found the bug in Fedora 14 Beta, and was surprised that why almost nobody had catch it before.

The point of this post was not complaining about the bugs, but to say that we need to encourage more testing of Fedora pre-releases. Another thing is that we should expand the current test cases considerably. Different aspects of a distribution needs to be tested which are much more than current test cases. Currently, a set of packages are recognized as “critical-path” packages. As they are critical, there should be test cases covering them. The second mentioned bug falls in this category: the bug is in a critical-path package.