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Catching Up With Hugin

Yesterday I caught up with Hugin.  I stopped active contribution four months ago to focus on my new life and have not had much time for extra-curricular activities since.

Over the holidays I took some pictures again; and a few of them needed stitching.  Using Kubuntu’s Software Management System Settings in two minutes I was up and running with the version of Hugin that ships with Kubuntu 11.10.

However, I wanted the newest version, so I added the Hugin PPA to my sources list and within five minutes the newest and best Hugin was running on my notebook.

Like a real typical user, I did not read the manual, did not read the release notes, did not follow the conversation on the mailing list.  As a consequence, I missed on the new tool, a vertical line finder, until I found it mentioned in the thread announcing the new release.

Upgrading users (the vast majority) has to go through a manual process of questionable utility and usability, possibly losing their preference settings to get access to the new functionality.  Itchy.  Scratch.  Commit.

Hiatus

This blog has been on hiatus for most of the summer.  And it is likely to stay so for an indefinite time.  Or maybe just change its frequency and focus.

Not that there was nothing to say – there was simply no time to write.  The summer went by extremely fast.  On the personal side loads of joys and satisfactions from the next generation growing up fast and discovering the world one day at a time.  One sad but inevitable moment was the passing away of my last grandmother.

The Hugin release process has stalled.  I released release candidate 4 three weeks ago but don’t consider it of good enough quality to be declared final.  I announced at the beginning of the cycle that September 5 is my last day of contribution for the foreseeable future as I am embarking on a new and exciting path: law school.  Hugin will do fine without me.  Maybe somebody will pick up where I left; or maybe 2011.2 will be one of those branches that dry out without blooming into a full release.  Trunk development has already moved on.

In August I suffered two hard disk crashes within less than two weeks, losing (temporarily) my netbook and my workstation.  In the recovery process I did not reinstall a Hugin development environment – a convenient way to focus myself on my new commitments.

Also in the recovery process, I learned a lot about setting up and optimizing a Solid State Drive (maybe I’ll write about it later).

I reinstalled Windows.  The exam software at my school works only on Windows or Mac OS X.  Since I already own an unused Windows license that came bundled with my netbook, I might as well give it a try.  If it is not good enough I may buy a Mac.  Student’s life.

Unintended consequence:  I also reconsidered my desktop environment.  Before the crashes my workstation worked well with Kubuntu Lucid 10.04 and my netbook worked well with the newer Kubuntu Natty 11.04.  Since I won’t have time to deal with the unexpected I decided that it is too early for me to jump on the Oneiric cycle and settled for Kubuntu Natty 11.04 on both the workstation and the netbook.  Or so I thought.

The netbook was no surprise.  It ran Natty already before the hard disk crash and on the optimized SSD it runs smoother than before.  Ready for school.

Kubuntu 11.04 on the workstation is an unexpected disappointment.  When more than a few windows are open, the next one will open black and display its content only after downsizing.  As the number of windows grows, the maximum size at which the next window displays shrinks.  I never encountered this phenomenon with 10.4 – same hardware (dual display and nVidia 6150 integrated graphic – this is a very old setup) and same drivers (nVidia proprietary).  I quickly replaced KDE with Unity and the problem is gone.  Extra bonus:  Unity is much faster and responsive than KDE.

KDE has served me well for the past two years.  I find KDE’s functionality works better for me than Gnome’s intentionally designed limitations.  Dolphin is a true help to access my files, while Nautilus feels more like an obstacle than a help to me.

I am aware that fully fledged desktops such as Gnome or KDE are more  taxing on computing resources than lightweight ones.  The trade off is acceptable to me as long as the system is functional and responsive and the overall user experience is fluid.  I was not aware how bad KDE compares to other Linux desktops in terms of resource waste; and how bad they all compare to to Windows.

So why not try to use Windows as my main desktop?  Honestly I find the Windows 7 experience to be better than its reputation.  Smother than my four years old memories of Windows XP.  Smoother than Ubuntu/Gnome 2.x that I used when transitioning.  But also smoother than the KDE 4.x that I am using these days.  Windows Explorer is as useless as Gnome’s Nautilus.  On the positive side bluetooth devices work seamlessly and drivers installation is no longer a painful disk-shuffling.  Microsoft has done its homework.  And yet the bare Windows 7 still feels hollow and devoid of functionality.

The two things that I am missing most in Windows 7 are

  1. An equivalent to the Debian package manager to enable easy access/addition of apps/functionalities.  I guess they will call it an “app store”.
  2. A complete toolchain to empower writing/modification of software and harness the power under the hood of the PC.

There are ways around those limitations.  A credit card helps.  Using a more advanced system helps too.  Apple delivers a complete toolchain free of charge and with the newest Mac OS X 10.7 Lion iteration there is an app store (although I am not sure about the choice inside the walled garden).

App stores are the future,  unfortunately.  Not because they are bad (one could argue that the Ubuntu repository is a big app store) but because they are being used to create walled gardens and restrict consumer choice.  That’s a battle for another day.

For now, my bottom line is that I am back to dual-booting Windows and Linux; and on the Linux side I need to find a usable desktop environment for my workstation because Kubuntu 11.04 fails miserably where Kubuntu 10.04 worked fine.

Hugin 2011.2.0 Beta 1 Released.

I just kicked off the release cycle for Hugin 2011.2.0 with the release of the first beta.  In the little time since the last release, two new major features have been integrated

This will be my last release cycle for a while.  I will be stepping down from the release manager function to concentrate on a new challenge:  in September I am starting law school.  I look forward to bring a new perspective on my interests for finances, management/governance, software and media.

The short story when I am asked why is that because almost everything I have ever produced resides between my two ears, because I have two left hands.  Not that I don’t try to use them, but I generally add more value with my brain than with my hands.  Intellectual property.

Without the protection afforded by the law, intellectual property has little value.  This applies for both proprietary as well as Open Source software.  The current body of intellectual property laws is challenged by globalization (different cultures have different view on the property aspect of intangibles) and by technology and new media.  I look forward to study those challenges in more details, and to practice law in those interesting and evolving areas.

I will till hang around Hugin and contribute when I have time, but most likely my interaction with Hugin in the foreseeable future after 2011.2.0 is released will be those of a simple user.

Hugin 2011.0.0 Released

With a delay of more than one month over the original schedule, I released Hugin 2011.0.0.  See the release notes for the many new features and improvements.  The delay is mostly due to a persistent bug affecting about 20% of Mac users, annoying enough to make it to the critical bugs list.  Unfortunately the bug made it to the known issues list rather than to the fixes and improvements list.

The new features and improvements that have matured in the default codeline in the meantime are soon ready for release, so the project will move into the next release cycle soon, hoping that the critical bug can be fixed then.

The next release cycle will be my last, at least for a while.  In September I am going back to school and will have even less time to dedicate to Hugin.

Hugin 2011.0.0_RC1

Yesterday evening between the swimming pool and dinner I pulled myself together and released the first release candidate for this cycle.  It might be declared final Hugin 2011.0.0 soon.  Things have been busy here and my participation to Open Source has ground to a halt.  I missed LGM 2011 in Montreal.  But it is for a good cause.  Busy week ahead.

Contribute

I’ve been recently approached by a user looking for advice:

“I’ve never contributed to an open source project before, so what’s the procedure for contributing. Should I share a patch with some others to test before committing? Now that I have a fix, I don’t know what to do with it!”

Have a Look Around.

Welcome to the world of open source. Every open source project has their own way of working and some are more formal than others. You want to find your way around.  For Hugin, I have formalized a community charter a while ago.  Observe how the project works and ask on the public communication channels how to contribute.

Make it Relevant, Persistent, Known.

For your contribution to be successful, you want to make it relevant, persistent, and known.

Relevance is context. The context of your contribution is most likely the project’s codebase. Make sure your contribution relates to a recent version of the code, and that it can be easily shared and applied.  In our case, assuming that you have the project’s Mercurial repository on your hard drive, make sure that your modifications are relevant to the most recent version of the code base and produce a standardized patch that is easy to apply:

hg pull
hg up default
hg diff > bugfix.patch

Next, find out what the project uses to track issues.  Issue trackers are used for persistence.  Hugin’s issue tracker is on Launchpad.  Whether your patch fixes a bug or adds a new feature, make sure that it is in the issue tracker.  If the bug is already known, add your patch to the existing bug report.  If it is new, file a new ticket.

Last but not least, make your contribution known.  Introduce yourself into the project’s communication channels and make the public aware of your tracker entry.  The ball is now in the project’s camp.

And now?

Now it is time to receive feedback.  Your contribution will be peer-reviewed.  Chances are that you will get some.  Senior code contributors may comment on your coding style or on the details of the implementation.  Bleeding-edge users may integrate your contribution into their self-built binaries and report test results.  Your contribution has taken the path toward integration and you have become a contributor.  Don’t forget to add yourself to the author’s list.  Thank you for helping make Hugin better.

Hugin-2011.0_beta 1 released

I just kicked off a new release cycle with the release of Hugin-2011.0_beta1.

It’s only two months since our last release, and yet the project has made another leap forward.  Pablo improved CPFind (Hugin’s own patent-free control point detector) to the next level.  Darko integrated his Google Summer of Code 2010 project, making the fast preview even more interactive.  Thomas added a gray point picking tool for white balance control.  Vladimir Nadvornik added functionality to register stereo images.  And as usual there are lot of small improvement and bugfixes.

From a process perspective, this is the first time that we run a release with a formal schedule.  During the previous cycle I announced my intentions and mostly stuck to them; and when setting up Hugin on Launchpad I did reflect the previous cycles and releases in the project’s history.  But now dates are being put foward.  No panic, oh Open Source purists!  The dates are purely indicative and the principle still stands:  a release happens when it is ready, not when it is due.

From an infrastructure perspective, this is our first release since SourceForge was attacked.  For the first time I am actively seeking redundancy,  using both project hosting infrastructures available to us:  SourceForge and Launchpad.  The tarball can be downloaded here and here.  Nobody likes SPOFs.

To continue what I hope will become a tradition started with the 2010.4.0 release, this release will be dedicated to Claudius Ptolemaeus and Marinus of Tyre.  Details in the ‘about’ menu of the app.

And to start a new tradition, this release will feature artwork from a Hugin user in the splash screen.  There are a few candidates for it and you, the user, get a chance to choose which one will be adopted.  The cutoff date for the voting will be a few days before the first release candidate.

Enjoy the best Hugin ever!