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Parabola Project Status and Request for Ideas

gap - 4 months ago -

I'm sure we all want Parabola and 100% free software to become the mainstream, with Arch/Arch32/Artix taking a backseat.
Whilst this goal is certainly lofty, every little action we do helps make it a reality.

To that end, I'd like to ask the Parabola community for our current status in this regard, and ideas which could help us gain popularity.

Status:
- AFAICT Parabola is in need of new technical people to help maintain it, as there is a backlog on the issue tracker.
- The userbase is in my experience extremely friendly and helpful, which is brilliant, although we are fairly small in comparison to the userbase of Arch/Arch32/Artix.
I think we are also mainly technical folks, which is awesome too, although we are missing the appeal to non-technical people in my opinion.

Ideas:
- Let's update the People pages on the website homepage, and rally the troops.
- Let's make the Wiki on-par with that of Arch.
(This is a massive task, and I have some ideas to share for how to tackle this.)
- Let's teach Arch/Arch32/Artix maintainers about our blacklist, and how to help maintain Parabola.
- Let's organise an online conference every year.
- Let's have an art contest for the desktop background of the year.
- Let's raise awareness in the Arch/Arch32/Artix userbase and show people how great it is to use the only OS in the world that's committed to being 100% free, both in software and in literally every other file packaged for it.
(AFAICT the other FSDG distros have some proprietary files which are so-called "non-functional", which doesn't really make sense because every file is functional, otherwise it would be pointless to include it in the first place.)
- Let's have migration efforts, showing people which packages have sneaky nonfree files, or privacy and security issues, and helping them choose free replacements for the programs they currently use.
- Let's show non-technichal people how easy to use Parabola is, with a wide range of graphical environments to choose from and customise as you'd like.
- Let's publish annual status reports on our progress and growth as a project.
- Let's reach out to our community with more frequent status updates and interesting news.
- Let's call for engagement from the technical people in the existing community in helping to tackle the issue backlog.
- Let's start raising the demand for 100% freedom, and start putting pressure on other distros to become more free, and eventually become 100% free.

I truly believe we can make all our goals a reality.
Let's not be sidelined by Arch/Arch32/Artix.


Replies (6)

RE: Parabola Project Status and Request for Ideas - theova - 4 months ago -

Nice ideas! I especially like the idea of a conference.

Something to add is probably finances: Is there a need for money? In which order? Is a campaign for more financial support needed?

RE: Parabola Project Status and Request for Ideas - bill-auger - 4 months ago -

i can comment on a few points:

- AFAICT Parabola is in need of new technical people to help maintain it, as there is a backlog on the issue tracker.

the backlog on the issue tracker is not as indicative as it may appear (as it may be for LTS distros) - most tickets on the issue tracker tend to become irrelevant quickly (a week, a month); because of several factors (the system has changed and is not the same "the system" as when the bug was reported, the person who resolved the issue simply forgot to close the ticket, the reported problem could not be reproduced by anyone else, etc) - ie: the bugs often fix themselves - the more significant backlog to note, is the backlog of outdated packages

skilled developers and funding are a concern; but for reasons unrelated to most of the work entailed by this wish-list - i would not conflate those concerns - developers with long-term intentions will take interest for their own reasons, different than the reasons evangelism could present (those are primarily the non-technical users' reasons for becoming interested) - an influx of competent technical team members, would perhaps follow from popularity; but would do nothing to induce it

what is needed most, is the volunteers who would manage all these new projects - those tasks are predominantly non-technical, and cost only the volunteer's time - any parabola user could do most of those things - FWIW, most of those ideas have been expressed before; and together, they suggest an active "community" team - that team already exists; but the people on it are not very "active" - that is not because the volunteers are lacking established goals - it is only because the community volunteers are few, and not spending significant time on parabola, collectively

only after eager volunteers are ready, would a wish-list or plans be discussion worthy - the volunteers need to come first, before anyone knows what can actually be accomplished - for example, one person expressed a grand plan to make parabola into the #1 distro on earth; yet no one has followed through with that laudable and unenviable task - therefore, this post merely restates the goal; which is not necessary until someone volunteers to pursue that goal

- Let's make the Wiki on-par with that of Arch.

that is a great idea, and was probably always intended; but it is already "on-par" with the arch wiki, WRT quality - it is mostly taken from the arch wiki - the notable difference, is that the arch wiki has more articles - they just need to be reviewed and copied, perhaps with slight modifications, and then maintained into the future - rather than "on-par", i would aiming for "comparably comprehensive"

- Let's show non-technichal people how easy to use Parabola is, with a wide range of graphical environments to choose from and customise as you'd like.

thats actually two projects - the technical one is mostly completed (in parabola's calamares fork) - "lets show people how to install parabola" would be a project of its own

- Let's update the People pages on the website homepage, and rally the troops.

that one, i do not understand - it is up-to-date

- Let's organise an online conference every year.

this has been suggested before; but as an IRL conference - it was decided not to establish any formal events, but perhaps to start weekly/monthly open/casual mumble chats (eg: public scrums)

the community is too small for a parabola-only conference - just join the IRC channel - we can "online conference" any day - i suggest that all of that social energy be directed toward the libreplanet conference and the #libreplanet IRC channel, the libreplanet mailing list, and/or the libre distros "general" web forums (trisquel, parabola, hyperbola) - perhaps after libreplanet starts drawing 10 times more participants, it may be worth re-evaluating the feasibility (and especially the sustainability) of a formal Parabola Conference

- Let's publish annual status reports on our progress and growth as a project.

i see that as a misunderstanding of what parabola is - "it" (the software) never needs to "grow" (it would be splendid if it shrunk) nor to achieve any new goals or innovations, which it is not meeting already - it only needs to continue, mostly just as it has been for years (maintained diligently, in synchrony with arch)

if there is any growth to measure, it would be in terms of number of team members indicating "team growth", or perhaps according to donation trends (indicating user-base growth, or new-found sustained interest from rich folks); but nothing technical - if i wrote that yearly report now, it would be like: "congratulations parabola fans! - we made it through another year without total crash-and-burn - it still works! - all of our computers are still running parabola -> mission accomplished - nothing new to report (awesome! - no news is good news)"

RE: Parabola Project Status and Request for Ideas - nona - 4 months ago -

If there are Arch Linux, Artix Linux, Debian, OpenSUSE, Fedora, Manjaro, Gentoo and others on one side, and Trisquel, Hyperbola, Dragora, Parabola, etc. on the other, it becomes evident that one of those parts has much more collaborators and users (not to mention Linux and GNU/Linux). One should ask why.

- Is it that more people need to be convinced about freedom? or that a more immediate solution is more luring?
- Are hardware manufacturers something to consider?
- Is it that money plays a role?
- Is time a factor?

The GNU project has been there for a long time, FSF is not a new thing. Installing free(dom) GNU/Linux distributions on grandma's or grandpa's computers usually work, as any other flavour of Linux. Also, competition usually ends severing ties between people, as compared to collaboration.

Cheers!

RE: Parabola Project Status and Request for Ideas - GNUtoo - 4 months ago -

- Let's make the Wiki on-par with that of Arch.
(This is a massive task, and I have some ideas to share for how to tackle this.)

We can already clone the Parabola wiki with git, so it might be possible to do the same with the Arch Linux wiki:

$ git clone mediawiki::https://wiki.parabola.nu/
Cloning into 'wiki.parabola.nu'...
Searching revisions...
No previous mediawiki revision found, fetching from beginning.
Fetching & writing export data by pages...
Listing pages on remote wiki...
835 pages found.
page 1/835: Icedove
Found 8 revision(s).

For that you need git and perl-mediawiki-api.

$ pacman -Q -i git
Optional Deps : tk: gitk and git gui [installed]
[...]
perl-mediawiki-api: git mediawiki support [installed]
[...]

- Let's teach Arch/Arch32/Artix maintainers about our blacklist, and how to help maintain Parabola.

I'm not sure this is very relevant but we can probably find a way to upstream changes in order to reduce maintenance.

Personally I've also been adding the packages that I created in Aur and I've contributed to several packages in Aur (and each time I also imported the changes in Parabola).

Though upstreaming also do require more time than just doing the change.

- Let's organise an online conference every year.

That's a good idea, assuming we can use that to discuss about what is going on in Parabola and how to improve things.

For it to happen, it needs people to work on organizing something like that. Guix has the Guix days for instance where people submit presentations, so it also needs people to look at the presentation proposal, choose them, organize a schedule, and also to have some technical infrastructure behind but that looks less an issue as friendly big blue button instances are easy enough to find (I know several community hosters and/or ISP that run them, so I could ask if necessary). You could try to volunteer to work on organizing it to actually get it done.

Though as Bill Auger points out, even if it's somehow organized, you might not find enough people that submit talks as the Parabola community is quite small. In that case we might turn out to doing something less formal as Bill Auger suggested.

- Let's raise awareness in the Arch/Arch32/Artix userbase and show people how great it is to use the only OS in the world that's committed to being 100% free, both in software and in literally every other file packaged for it.

One way to do it would be to upstream some of our changes when applicable and to see how we can best collaborate between downstream and upstream distributions.

Collaboration is crucial, at least for Parabola i686 because some of its packages comes from Arch 32. For now it works great: when a package needs to be recompiled by Arch 32 (becomes it comes from Arch 32 feeds), each time, I managed to open bug reports and I detailed why this was a problem in Arch 32 and not Parabola and I also mentioned that I only tested that in Parabola i686, and the reports were taken seriously and the recompilation was done.

The key point here is to verify that all the packages involved come from Arch 32 and not from Parabola (else it's up to us to recompile and not to bother Arch 32 with our bugs).

It's also good to have good relationships with upstream in general as might need to send modifications upstream to improve their distribution and ours and reduce our maintenance work.

- Let's have migration efforts, showing people which packages have sneaky nonfree files, or privacy and security issues, and helping them choose free replacements for the programs they currently use.

I often use the Parabola blacklist and abslibre repository to show to people the point of FSDG compliant distributions. FSDG compliance goes beyond 100% free software (with an exception for non functional data as you mentioned) and so most people don't understand what it is about. I've only been able to explain it with real examples. It's also a good way to explain why installing linux-libre on a random distribution is not enough to get a fully free system or an FSDG compliant system.

Let's show non-technichal people how easy to use Parabola is, with a wide range of graphical environments to choose from and customise as you'd like.

We also need to show its limitations and how to cope with them to make sure people have a good experience with it.

I've started explaining the limits of Parabola here: https://wiki.parabola.nu/Talk:Main_Page#How_does_Parabola_protects_users_against_nonfree_software

Also we need to recommend hardware and show people how to cope with non-working hardware that we can't easily fix (like WiFi adapters).

Personally I choose specific hardware that works with free software (or that doesn't, to work to fix that), so at the end of the day most computers that I use works fine with Parabola (with the exception of some smartphones and tablets that only work well with Replicant).

Many AMD / ATI GPUs are not supported by linux-libre, but this is relatively easy to fix: See the following link on Libreplanet for more details (I try to add what is not specific to a distribution there, to be able to share information between all FSDG compliant distributions):
https://libreplanet.org/wiki?title=Group:Hardware/research/gpu/radeon

- Let's publish annual status reports on our progress and growth as a project.

For that we'd need to understand what is progress and growth. An idea for that would be to make some presentations on that in a conference like you suggested. This way we're not limited to figures which by themselves don't tell much.

- Let's reach out to our community with more frequent status updates and interesting news.
- Let's call for engagement from the technical people in the existing community in helping to tackle the issue backlog.

That would be great, here we badly need help. Personally I can't commit the amount of time that I did before. How to make PKGBUILDS is easy to learn. In most cases you just add the shell commands that you would run manually to compile and install software, and some variables like the license and so on.

Here the existing Parabola contributors might need to be there to help new people: often when you start working on a free software project (this also applies for other things than code like wiki edition, etc) you manage to do a lot of work but you are blocked by issues that are simple to resolve for more experienced contributors. If we manage to make that more social (via big blue button?) that could help in the long run. The issue is that it often does require a lot of time investment from the existing contributors.

We'd also need to organize that somehow to not waste too much time on that. We could for instance help new contributors if they try to solve some bug or advance area of Parabola that are interesting and that they'd also do help other people become parabola contributors in return. This way everybody will be strongly encouraged to help more.

- Let's start raising the demand for 100% freedom, and start putting pressure on other distros to become more free, and eventually become 100% free.

I'm don't think that putting the pressure on other distros is the way to go.

If you try to help someone switching to GNU/Linux and that person's WiFi and GPU don't work at all, you would have a hard time convincing that person to throw away that computer right now just to use Parabola.

Here we do need to fix things instead and that alone will be order of magnitude more efficient than pressure. Most GNU/Linux distributions use a free firmware for the ath9k_htc compatible WiFi adapter, that was because that firmware was liberated by its manufacturer, so everyone switched to the free firwmare at some point.

Here we instead need to reduce the pressure to use nonfree software by making the hardware work with free software. This will benefit everybody and at some point, if most hardware work with free software, distributions will have way less pressure to include nonfree software and might decide to only include free software for freedom purposes.

And in any case that will make FSDG compliant distributions a more viable option for many people. At the end of the day we also do need to take into account the needs of users willing to use Parabola, and users wanting to use Parabola typically would want their hardware to work with free software and not have to install any nonfree software.

A way to go would be to seek funding (for instance from NLnet, see https://nlnet.nl/) to solve many of these issues.

We also have low hanging fruit to make the radeon and amdgpu work again for FSDG compliant distributions: https://libreplanet.org/wiki?title=Group:Hardware/research/gpu/radeon

Here we might also want to work together with people selling RYF compliant hardware, or at least hardware that works with Parabola, but that might be a lot of work on our side, and I fear that rolling release distributions are probably not well suited to hardware vendors.

Trisquel is for instance better positioned here, but if hardware works with Trisquel it could probably also work with Parabola with no or very minor work from our side.

Another area to look at would be to improve collaboration with other FSDG compliant distributions. I've started to look into it for the u-boot packages (by starting to upstream my work in libreboot) but I've so much to do everywhere so it doesn't advance fast.

Denis.

RE: Parabola Project Status and Request for Ideas - bill-auger - 4 months ago -

- Let's teach Arch/Arch32/Artix maintainers about our blacklist, and how to help maintain Parabola.

I'm not sure this is very relevant but we can probably find a way to upstream changes in order to reduce maintenance.
Personally I've also been adding the packages that I created in Aur

i did not comment on that point; but the arch32 and artix devs
are familiar with parabola - i have discussed openrc support in
calamares (used by parabola) with the artix dev (who wrote
them), with the mutual presumption that we may be the only two
people in the world interested openrc support in calamares

i am in constant communication with the arch32 team; because
32bit is becoming more difficult to support, and we simply must
work closely with that team - all of arch32's problems are
parabola's problems; and we already have a mutually helpful
relationship to address issues promptly (the arch32 devs are
ready to accept parabola i686 bugs as their own) - neither the
relationship nor the work need to be political

none of those people need to be converted to libre-ism, in order
for parabola to fully to benefit from their work - as long as
they are libre-minded enough to publish their work liberally, it
is good for parabola

as gnutoo noted, it is helpful to upstream libre changes; but
that does nothing for the stated goal of evangelism - those
patches are a purely technical concern, and a relatively trivial
task to accomplish - the bulk of the work is in making suitable
patches - usually, someone only needs to offer the changes, which
some truly libre-minded person had to write, who is obviously
not on the upstream team, and so the upstream devs probably
would not have written - ie: the work-load savings of
upstreaming libre patches is generally minimal, and the
evangelistic gain is usually near zero

a patch, even if accepted, is not going to change anyone's
political views - more likely, the patch would be rejected
unless the maintainer is already sufficiently libre-minded to
recognize it's value

again to underline, that it is not distro devs or package
maintainers who need convincing - those people generally like to
help - they will volunteer, or offer advice, of their own
volition - it is predominantly non-technical users who need
nudging/urging toward participation

- Let's raise awareness in the Arch/Arch32/Artix userbase

similarly, to that point, arch32 and artix are "niche-distros" -
some may even consider the greatly more popular arch. as a
"niche-distro" - their users are predominantly tech-savvy - they
are parabola's natural audience anyways (ie: do nothing, and
those people will find parabola naturally)

you may be surprised how small the arch32 and artix user-bases
actually are - parabola/nonsystemd/nonprism/i686 for example, is
the intersection of several small niches (non-systemd, privacy,
libre, 32-bit)

the people whom a project like this one needs to target, is not
arch users - it is non-technical users of popular fancy distros
(ubuntu, mint, manjaro, etc) who do not understand what "libre"
is all about - i believe that most tech-savvy people already
know about "libre"

We also need to show its limitations and how to cope with them

myself and freemor also are keen to that general goal of
disclaiming unrealistic promises of protection (which no distro
should make), emphasizing user-responsibility and diligence,
identifying your threat-model, etc, and using parabola's work as
a guide, more than a guard

- Let's call for engagement from the technical people in the existing community in helping to tackle the issue backlog.

That would be great, here we badly need help.

again, i want to stress that the bug tracker is not as much of
a "backlog" as it may appear - the backlog of packages flagged
'out-of-date' represents many more important tasks - the
important bug tracker tickets are relatively negligible in number

RE: Parabola Project Status and Request for Ideas - GNUtoo - 4 months ago -

i did not comment on that point; but the arch32 and artix devs
are familiar with parabola - i have discussed openrc support in
calamares (used by parabola) with the artix dev (who wrote
them), with the mutual presumption that we may be the only two
people in the world interested openrc support in calamares

Could Arch Linux 32 and/or Arch Linux be interested in our patches for systemd?

again, i want to stress that the bug tracker is not as much of
a "backlog" as it may appear - the backlog of packages flagged
'out-of-date' represents many more important tasks - the
important bug tracker tickets are relatively negligible in number

When writing about the amount of bugs, I didn't have in mind the total
number of bugs because as you write, not all of them are important
or urgent.

I had more practical things in mind:

In all the cases mentioned above, having more people to help will probably improve the situation, and having more contributors could probably help with upstreaming work as well (to at the end reduce maintenance and require less people and/or less time and/or have new features or packages in Parabola).

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