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Re: GuixSD on arm

From: Alex Sassmannshausen
Subject: Re: GuixSD on arm
Date: Tue, 05 Jul 2016 10:21:02 +0200
User-agent: mu4e 0.9.16; emacs 24.5.1

Hey Jookia,

You might not be looking for this kind of email, but I wanted to send it
anyway, feel free to ignore…

I'm sorry to hear you feel the project is currently not set up to help
people like you contribute.  Obviously I cannot speak for the project,
as I'm rather involved on the sidelines (though I follow it with great
interest and am a keen user), but I'm sure people will be dis-heartened
to hear of your experience.  My own experience has been, and still is,
that contributing to Free Software in general has a steep learning
curve, and I really don't know if that's just me or whether this stuff
is just hard.  I don't know the solution for myself yet.

Anyway, you already say that you don't blame anyone — I just hope you
might still follow the project, and maybe, at some point in the future,
if it feels like the project might work better for you, you might give
it another go.

In the meantime, fwiw, I enjoyed your emails, even if they went totally
over my head :-)

Happy hacking,


Jookia writes:

> On Mon, Jul 04, 2016 at 05:14:56PM +0000, ng0 wrote:
>> t3sserakt writes:
>> > Hi Ludo,
>> >
>> > I would like to help, but I have no idea where to start.
>> > I am "just" an application developer, and do not have
>> > the right knowledge for doing this task alone.
>> >
>> > Additionally to that I am busy with helping the
>> > secushare (gnunet) project.
>> >
>> > But if there is somebody who knows in more detail
>> > what to do, I can help.
>> I think Jookia was working on this.. or still is.. I am unsure
>> about the state of Jookia's work.
>> I'll CC Jookia and we'll see if this thread gets an reply.
>> Additionally I CC'ed you t3ss because I don't know if you are
>> subscribed.
> Hi there!
> I started on an ARM port a few months ago with the intention of running the
> system on my Novena, but eventually gave up given the hard development cycle.
> I haven't talked about this before but I don't expect many people to read this
> email, so here goes. The main pain points were these:
> - Patches would get lost regularly.
> This is probably the biggest issue, and from reading the mailing list it 
> doesn't
> seem to be solved. There was an attempt at adding a patch tracker but I guess
> that was lost too. I suggested at some point to use a newer version of Mailman
> which would help this, but the developers didn't think it useful. The 
> suggested
> way to fix this is to reply and get people's attention about your patches 
> again.
> I'm not cut out to what feels like nagging people when I don't know the 
> reasons
> why they haven't replied. Perhaps this is how things work in other systems, 
> but
> as someone that suffers from social anxiety and finds it hard enough to even
> send patches I can't deal with this, and Guix seems to be doing fine without 
> me.
> - Feedback is little to none.
> As patches were lost and most discussion was done on the mail list, there was
> basically no discussion on patches or design problems. After getting Guix to
> boot on my Libreboot machine I went to work on fixing issues with the boot
> system, such as adding support for legacy Libreboot systems and encrypted
> bootloaders. This was lost.
> I also did some work to get LVM+LUKS working on Guix and tried to spark a
> discussion in to fixing the design issues in system configuration. I think 
> there
> was about one reply, and it was lost.
> Some of the work that I did do and in fact got in somewhat by proxy is GTK+
> theming. There's a habit of maintainers fixing things themselves rather than
> taking patches, which I feel is a further hindrance to actually working on 
> Guix.
> This gives me the impression that Guix doesn't have enough maintainers to
> sustain people doing new development upstream, want to do things themselves, 
> or
> the project is just bad at communication.
> - GNUness over pragmatism.
> The main issue I had with doing an ARM port is the bootloader, and this is
> because everyone I spoke to except Ludovic seemed to be hesitant towards 
> using a
> bootloader other than GRUB. Looking at the code base, I'd need to do make 
> things
> less GRUB-specific which I was happy to do, but I didn't want to do it wrong 
> or
> end up with my work ignored or thrown away.
> To be concrete, the conversation generally went like this: "To get the Novena
> booting Guix I'll need to add support for U-Boot as a bootloader." "I've heard
> GRUB works on ARM, have you tried that?" "Yes, it doesn't work from what I've
> tried." "Perhaps you've done it wrong." "I can't rule that out, but GRUB on 
> is still early work compared to U-Boot (which GRUB uses) and it'd work for 
> more
> boards." then the conversation would drop off.
> I have a distinct feeling this is due to a bias in building "the GNU system"
> rather than building a fully free Guix-based system. I was originally going to
> do a fork of Guix with my own changes that people could download, but in the 
> end
> I just went back to NixOS which runs happily on my Novena and my Libreboot
> machine. The only reason I wanted to use Guix was so I could contribute 
> patches
> upstream and not maintain ones locally like I do with NixOS.
> - Summary
> This experience has put me off of Guix, GNU and free software development. I
> don't blame any one, but more a system that doesn't incorporate people like 
> me.
> I'm not going to elaborate more on this, I just had to get it off my chest.
> I'm willing to send you code and help you with what I've done: It's mostly
> reworking the bootloader. There's no ARM support yet, but I did identify the
> points that need changing.
> Cheers,
> Jookia.

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