A few weeks ago we released Zanshin 0.2 beta2, and I'm glad to announce the immediate availability of Zanshin 0.2 RC1. Except if any showstopper bug is reported, it will be the last stop before 0.2 final.

I'd also like to use the opportunity to report a few changes regarding contributions and adoption. We've seen tremendous activity on the packaging front since the previous release:

  • It is available for openSUSE and Gentoo as previously announced;
  • It is now available for Fedora thanks to Christoph Wickert of Kolab Systems, you can grab it from Christoph's repository and it'll hopefully get into Fedora itself soon;
  • I got pointed out that it was already available in Arch User Repository;
  • Kartik Mistry volunteered to package it for Debian, so we'll have some good news there soon hopefully;
  • Patrick Spendrin confirmed to me that it got added to the KDE-Windows port, and so it was officially released with the KDE-Windows 4.7.0 release;
  • On Mac? I got users building it for themselves reporting it to work, but no official packaging yet.

I'm glad to see so many people stepping up like that, bringing some GTD goodness wrapped in Free Software to more and more potential users.

And since some people pointed it out on my previous post, yes we need a website, screenshots and so on. We've been aware of it for a while, but we've been too busy working on the software itself. The feedback on Zanshin 0.2 beta2 didn't bring many issues, so we used the extra time to work on a website. It's not ready for prime time yet, but we hope to go live with 0.2 final.

If you want to get Zanshin from sources, the tarballs are available, at the same place than usual on files.kde.org.

And of course, you can still git clone kde:zanshin if you want the bleeding edge or if you wish to contribute to the code.

Now we're waiting a bit for your feedback. We have exactly one minor bug left in our list and the future website need some extra polish. Hopefully at this pace we won't need a 0.2 RC2.

Posted on 10 Oct 2011
Tags: Akonadi  KDE  Zanshin 

So, I'm sitting right now in the KDAB's Berlin offices for what's probably the last dozen minutes of the KDE PIM Pain Points Sprint (at least for me, the other guys still have a couple of hours in front of them). We have been silent so far about what was going on there, and so I will take the microphone for a couple of minutes. At least we didn't steal the thunder of the Woshibon guys (looks like they did a great job BTW looking forward for that to hit my desktop!).

If you follow my blog, you probably noticed that lately when I attend developer sprints I carry with me shoelaces, sticky notes and other materials to setup weird boards. When I arrived on thursday night, a surprise was waiting for me...

kanban-thumb

Yes, that neat whiteboard was waiting there to be conquered. I'm actually glad to see that it's slowly turning into an habit to have this kind of things in our sprints. The culture is getting there and that makes me happy. We're apparently ready to experiment with other techniques like the Innovation Games for instance (which we played for Platform11), etc. We'll see what I can find to keep that fresh for everyone. ;-)

Anyway, as you probably can figure out from the picture above, it wasn't taken on the first day but this morning. It started small, but as we were fixing issues we added more and more sticky notes, in a true flow base fashion... Since the pace was good enough we could tackle more than originally envisioned, of course we were also finding sub-issues or corner cases which required specific care.

In any case the amount of work done is impressive, I won't get into the details there, but if everything goes well (pending some backporting) the next 4.7 patch release should have a few nice nuggets around performance, migration and even a bit of usability (I found a fix for a performance issue which turns out to be also responsible for the message list loosing its selection from time to time... I know everyone serious at email hate that one).

From the picture above, you can also see that the "Done" lane turned out to be too small to fit everything (looks like we were pessimistic on the amount of work which could be done), and someone expanded it partly into the "In Progress" lane giving it this weird shape... It looks fat isn't it?

Well, fat... it's unlikely we'll turn up like that. There was so much focus on the work that we had to remind ourselves of stopping for food, hence a specific sticky note was inserted just for it. It's an important task after all! ;-)

food-thumb

And if you wonder what focus looks like, I'll leave you with a picture of our own Lord Volker of Akonadi slaying bugs.

volker-thumb

Impressive isn't it? If you want to see a few more pictures, you can find them in the KDEPIM Pain Points Sprint Gallery available online. I didn't take many this time, but you'll see a few more people.

Now I should move back to the airport to catch my plane, see you later!

Posted on 18 Sep 2011
Tags: KDE  Akonadi  KDEPIM  Berlin 

Zanshin, the TODO application which helps keeping your mind uncluttered is back! After one month of waiting, we are delighted to announce the immediate availability of Zanshin 0.2 beta2!

The focus has been mainly on bugfixing, but we also did a couple of usability adjustments here and there. Also, thanks to the awesome Nuno Pinheiro, we have an application icon (previously we were just hijacking KOrganizer icon). This new icon is lovely, thanks Nuno!

The source tarballs are available, at the same place than the last time on files.kde.org. If you want to use it on openSUSE my repository has a package for Zanshin, but it's now also available on the KDE:Unstable:Playground repository. Last but not least! Zanshin is also now packaged for Gentoo. Thank you to Matija Suklje for working on it.

And of course, you can still git clone kde:zanshin if you want the bleeding edge or if you wish to contribute to the code.

You can also contribute by helping us reaching more users:

  • packaging Zanshin for your distro, we still miss big ones like Arch, Fedora or Debian/Ubuntu;
  • making sure Zanshin runs on MS Windows, apparently Patrick from the KDE-Windows team was toying with that during DS but I'm not sure how it went;
  • or making sure it runs on Mac OS (we're not aware of any effort on that platform yet).

Now we're relaxing a bit, and waiting for feedback to see what needs fixing for the next release. Depending on the defect rate next one could be 0.2 rc1. Looks like we're getting closer and closer from 0.2 final!

Posted on 31 Aug 2011
Tags: Akonadi  KDE  Zanshin 

We released Zanshin 0.2 alpha2 in May, it was about time we got our acts together to prepare another release. So today I'm happy to announce the immediate availability of Zanshin 0.2 beta1!

It is the result of further bugfixing and testing work. We got some feedback from early users of 0.2 alpha2 and it's been reflected in our bug hunting efforts.

Since the previous one was an alpha we still had the freedom to add a couple more features. The features introduced for that beta were rather non-intrusive though, the main ones are:

  • the ability to set categories on projects, todos inside such projects automatically inherit from those categories (greatly reduces the tagging needs);
  • the ability to synchronize collections directly from Zanshin;
  • and last but not least a Kontact plugin, now Zanshin can work embedded in Kontact (this one was actually a feature request, I didn't even think about it). :-)

Now that we're entering the beta cycle, we're also publishing source tarballs. Of course, I still produce packages to openSUSE, although for the time being they're only built against KDE:Unstable:SC, I'm waiting for kdepim 4.7 to hit other repos before supporting more. Those packages are available in my home:ervin repository.

And of course, you can still git clone kde:zanshin if you want the bleeding edge or if you wish to contribute.

We plan to release Zanshin 0.2 beta2 somewhat soon after the Desktop Summit. We're only in bugfixing and stabilization mode now, no new feature will be introduced until we release 0.2.

Enjoy!

Posted on 25 Jul 2011
Tags: Akonadi  KDE  Zanshin 

After quite some work on stabilizing, testing the core, and adding some extra features, I'm happy to announce that I just tagged Zanshin 0.2 alpha2!

The big highlight of this alpha is the availability of a new krunner plugin, so that you can easily collect todos even when Zanshin isn't running. Bring up krunner, type in "todo: buy apples", and the newly created todo will be waiting for you in your inbox the next time you look at your Zanshin window. Collect from anywhere on your desktop now!

We also added an extra dialog to configure Akonadi resources which is displayed on first run, and better defaults for the columns and window sizes, which should provide a smoother experience for new users. And of course it comes with more automated tests, and bugfixes.

If everything goes well, it should be our last alpha, and we should proceed with 0.2 beta1 next. For those interested, it is available for openSUSE in my home:ervin repository. For the people wanting to build from sources, it is still a git clone kde:zanshin away.

I'd like to thanks Mario Bensi and Benjamin Port who have been fearless bug hunters for that release. Way to go guys!

PS: As mentionned, I package it for openSUSE myself as it is my distro of choice, but we're obviously looking for packagers targetting other distributions. If you're already working on such packages, or are willing to work on them, please get in touch with me for improving synchronization toward the 0.2 release.

Posted on 10 May 2011
Tags: Akonadi  KDE  Zanshin 

Some people might remember that I was rambling a while back about a TODO management application named Zanshin. It even has a few users... they have probably been wondering why it got stuck at this mysterious non advertised 0.1 version.

Don't fear anymore dear users, Zanshin is not dead, it is pretty much alive, and we just tagged 0.2 alpha1 today!

It took us a while, we had to rewrite quite some bits in order to benefit from the new additions of the Akonadi ecosystem we would have missed otherwise. So we're back, and we plan at least one more alpha, before going in the beta cycle. It is your chance to give us feedback early on to get a solid 0.2 release.

Of course it is an alpha, so it might not suit you for production use... Personally I switched to it in production and it didn't burn my home yet. It will soon be available for openSUSE in my home:ervin repository, once it gets out of the build farm (already the case for factory, not yet for 11.3). If you're building from sources, it's only a "git clone kde:zanshin.git" away (we're actually among the first projects to migrate there).

I'd like to give a big kudo to Mario Bensi, who is working with me on Zanshin. He did a tremendous job on that alpha. For the last month I've been mostly giving architecture directions and reviewing patches... still I had difficulties to keep up with the patch stream he was sending my way. Great job Mario!

PS: As mentionned, I package it for openSUSE myself as it is my distro of choice, but we're obviously looking for fearless packagers targetting other distributions.

Posted on 07 Feb 2011
Tags: Akonadi  KDE  PIM  Zanshin 

I previously blogged about the new IMAP resource in Akonadi. We were aiminag at getting this resource from the start, but here is the not so secret story: this effort gave birth to another component, namely libkimap.

The journey started because we really wanted for KDE to have a strong and efficient IMAP support. Since we're not really into reinventing the wheel if we can avoid that the journey started by looking at existing IMAP solutions we could reuse. The natural first contender of course was to reuse our old IMAP ioslave which we currently use in KMail and build the resource on it. But really it is showing its age now, and the interface such ioslaves expose are too limited for our needs (for those in the known of KIO internals: it would require an extensive use of the special() method, or command encoding in urls...). So we have been evaluating a few other contenders coming from various mail clients, but unfortunately most of them are either exposing synchronous API (not convenient for something event driven like an Akonadi resource), or very tied to a MIME implementation (which was a no-no as we needed to use the resource with kdepim's MIME implementation).

Indeed this journey didn't start quite well... We had to produce a new IMAP implementation. So a new quest started, one for an adequate API design. At that point we knew we wanted something: fast, memory efficient, asynchronous and easy to extend (as the IMAP RFC has plenty of extensions).

First, let's examinate the "fast and memory efficient" constraints. Around the same time I got started on libkimap, Andras Mantia (fellow KDABian and hacker extraordinaire) was working on making the Akonadi server protocol handling faster and more memory efficient... And as a bonus, the Akonadi protocol for the lowest level parts, have quite some similarities with IMAP as it was modelled after it. So far so good, I could reuse Andras work on the new IMAP stream parser. It has been a two way collaboration as I also found bugs in there which got fixed. This parser is now the core of libkimap, although it is hidden from the public API, it is for a great part responsible of the good performances of the library.

Then, let's solve the "asynchronous and easy to extend" constraints, those had a direct impact on the API. For that we rely on the good old "job based" API. You just need to create a Session object which holds a connection to an IMAP server and queue Jobs on it. Jobs are then executed sequentially. We have jobs for a lot of things: mailbox listing, fetching messages or headers, retrieving annotations, quota information, ACLs, etc. And that's where the job based API gets interesting, we need to extend it? Just add a job, binary compatibility will be kept and so on, it makes it much easier to manage it over time.

Oh! And of course, since we still care about performances, each job is equipped to be able to pipeline several IMAP commands to the server, which dramatically reduces latency. So you guessed it, jobs don't map 1:1 to IMAP commands, this way we can provide some convenience to developers because they get pre-shipped micro behavior (for instance, listing mailboxes and taking care about the namespace extension results always in the same list of commands, so we wired it in jobs which pipeline commands). So we indeed solved our initial problem, we made an asynchronous IMAP library which is fast, efficient and easy to extend. It also tries to be clever when that actually makes it more convenient for developers (see the pipelining example above), but not too much, allowing to have a fine control on the higher level logic and strategies you'd need to implement in your application. And thanks to this strong basement, we could tackle the task of building the Akonadi IMAP resource on top of it.

As a post scriptum: is our library tied to a MIME implementation? Well, like others we're tied to one: libkmime, available in kdepimlibs as well. You can't really get around that in the end. Indeed, for fetch operations if you try to be independent of any MIME implementation, you end up implementing your own subset of MIME. That said we tried hard, and managed to keep that coupling as minimal as possible, and in fact only the FetchJob really depends on libkmime, everything else is independent of it. So, it wouldn't be a big cost to implement your own FetchJob variant using another MIME implementation.

And finally, as a post post scriptum, if people out there wants to grab it and play with it, it is in our kdepimlibs module on trunk. You can browse it online here: http://websvn.kde.org/trunk/KDE/kdepimlibs/kimap/.

Posted on 22 Oct 2009
Tags: Akonadi  IMAP  KDE 

In my previous post, I've been discussing our progresses on some protocols support, and that Akonadi could now be fed with quite some mails. That's neat to us developers who can make application harvesting data in there... But for the user it's not really useful if he can't see the data. Well, recently I've also been working on showing up collection statistics we can get from Akonadi, and also I ported KMail message list view to Akonadi (also making it a separate library). In the meantime, the fearless Andras has been porting KMail mail reader view to Akonadi (also making it a separate library). In fact, it is the current thread in the huge task which is the porting of KMail to Akonadi. We're ripping KMail apart, each important set of features are factored out in a library and ported to Akonadi. In the end we'll have a KMail completely based on Akonadi. But also, it will be much more modular, reusable for other mail clients, but also news readers, etc. Which means that the new architecture will be better suited at supporting a wide range of devices and a good base for future works. Anyway, both Andras and me had a small test application for each of our new frameworks... So I took some time to merge the features of both into a single application: the Akonadi Mail Reader. This new baby is mainly a prototype to toy with ideas and try out the components we're making out of the monolithic KMail. Still, it weights just under 400 lines of C++ code, and you can completely browse all the mailboxes you configured in Akonadi thanks to it. Of course, here is the obligatory screenshot: Screenshot of the new app in kdepim which is a proof of concept mail reader using only Akonadi It looks so much like a miniature version of KMail that it is almost scary. But don't fool yourself, there's a lot to do to have a full fledged KMail which will be only based on Akonadi. We're not there yet, still it is nice to see the whole thing taking shape, in particular to reach the point where you can actually read your mail over IMAP using this small prototype and feel almost at home with it thanks to this familiar touch. :-) From my point of view, the KDE culture of working a lot with components really pays off. KMail was first created at a time where this KDE culture didn't reach it's full potential yet, hence why we need to refactor it now. But, following this culture it is really nice to see that we'll end up with small packages of mail client functionalities, and, that thanks to them and to Akonadi, it will be easy to integrate them in any application. We made a relatively complete mail reader in under 400 lines of code, so simply displaying mail content in your application or a message list becomes a trivial task.

Posted on 20 Aug 2009
Tags: Akonadi  IMAP  KDE  Mail 

We got a few posts lately of people recently hired by KDAB, and suddenly it made me realize that I didn't make such a post when I got hired... almost two years ago. I guess it's a wee bit late to write one now. :-) Buuuut... I figured out that I could post something about what I'm doing in KDAB (OK! OK! Sebas has been kicking me for days to make it happen). And if that proves to be enjoyable writing for me, and enjoyable reading for you people I may do that again from time to time. So what am I doing in KDAB these days? Well, for a while now I've been helping the pimsters with the refactoring of our PIM suite toward making it purely Akonadi-based. There's quite a lot of work going on in this particular space, and I've been focusing mainly on the IMAP support. It has been an interesting journey so far which started with evaluating the IMAP stacks we could reuse. First on the ranks were obviously our old ioslave which served us well, and some IMAP code Tom Albers developed for Mailody. It turned out that we had to abandon the ioslave. It served us well for years, but didn't work for some of the plans we had (most notably for adding the IDLE support I'll talk about later). While working on IMAP I had a couple of ideas on how to still use the old ioslave, but they were really nasty and hackish... I think it was a clear sign that the ioslave reached its full potential and keeping it alive was a dead end for the future. So after this investigation phase it has been decided to write a small library for IMAP. We already had some codecs convenience in the KIMAP library from kdepimlibs so we stepped up to extend it. And for the API we quickly settled on a job based one because we had strong needs for asynchronous operations. We clearly don't want to be blocking waiting for some IMAP command to be processed. So our dear old KJob friend has been used for that, and it turned out to be a very good choice. We've been relatively quick at having enough useful jobs implemented in the library once I wrote the core bits of the API. I got quite some help from Andras Mantia for that. By the way, I think that just like our almighty David Faure, Andras is having a few clones himself, once he gets on a task he going so fast you'd better not be on his way... something suspect is at play there, I'm sure. ;-) In any case, Andras (and his hundreds of clones) help was welcome, as it helped me move higher in the stack and work on the Akonadi resource itself. I'll just slow down a minute and explain for those not in the known what an Akonadi resource is (for the ones in the known, you can skip to the next paragraph). So Akonadi is our grand unified layer to access data in your desktop, applications talk to it and then they have to understand only the akonadi concepts (in short: items, and collections of items). Of course you need to get your items and collections from somewhere, and that's the role of Akonadi resources. They just get data from "somewhere" and put it in the Akonadi cache where the applications can make use of them. Obviously for a future Akonadi based KDEPIM suite we needed an IMAP resource to access your mail on IMAP servers. And if you followed closely, that means that soon applications won't even need to know where the data comes from, you write just an Akonadi client and it can go over: POP, IMAP, whatever! It all depends on the resources your server loaded. Neat huh? Work on the IMAP resource started only a few days before the Akonadi Sprint in Berlin which I was attending. And the job based API quickly proved that it was the right choice. I've been pretty quick at building the resource on top of it (and Andras was producing new jobs for my own consumption at a furious pace). At this meeting we had kind of an informal contest about who would come up first with an Akonadi resource which can list a mailbox (since at the time POP, IMAP, and maildir support were all developed and started around the same time)... it turned out that I heard about this informal contest when I was putting the finishing touch to the mailbox listing. Sooo... DONE! :-) I didn't stop there of course as more features were needed to have a complete resource. And I've been working on that almost exclusively during the sprint. Discussing with Volker (aka the Akonadi overlord, the alpha and omega of its design) we came up with nice design ideas for the groupware support (in particular Kolab)... but that's probably a story for another time... Some time after the sprint, I flew over to other tasks in PIM land. And left the Akonadi IMAP resource untouched for a while. I came back to it only last week to implement in trunk one long requested feature: the IDLE extension. -- And obviously that's where the name of this blog post come from, just like my favorites novels you get the title only in the last chapter or paragraph. :-) -- Thanks to this extension, if it is supported by the server, you get notified from changes by the server itself. For instance, it is not needed anymore to poll every N minutes to notice that a new mail appeared (I think this feature is sometimes called "push mail"). For the user that means, that the IMAP server can now notify the client of new emails, emails "arrive" faster at the user, and you can save a lot of unnecessary mail checking. Really handy! I committed IDLE support in trunk this week, so it will get released with our 4.4 release. In the meantime you can start playing with the Akonadi resource when our 4.3 release will be out, as we already ship it there (although it's not used by default, see it more like a pre-version of what's coming, for instance this one doesn't support IDLE). That's it for today, I hope you enjoyed those pimsters news from the trenches of the IMAP battle. See you later!

Posted on 31 Jul 2009
Tags: Akonadi  IDLE  IMAP