Archive for the ‘Cool new stuff’ Category

Beta test: Git recipes

Monday, January 25th, 2016

If you are a member of Launchpad’s beta testers team, you can now try out Git-based recipes.  These work very similarly to the Bazaar-based recipes that Launchpad has supported for a long time, with a few minor changes to handle differences in the underlying version control system: the main thing you’ll probably notice is that you almost always need to explicitly specify a branch name.  The recipes documentation explains what to do; if you’re already familiar with how recipes work for Bazaar, then you should probably skip straight to the recipes guide to look over the differences for Git.

Please try this out and report any bugs you find.  If all goes well, we’ll open this up to all users in a couple of weeks.

Update: as of 2016-03-15, this feature is enabled for all Launchpad users.

Beta test: webhooks

Monday, November 9th, 2015

If you are a member of Launchpad’s beta testers team, you can now try out webhooks for Bazaar branches and Git repositories. These can be used to set up integration with external sites for various purposes, such as running CI jobs or publishing documentation. We expect to open this up to all Launchpad users soon, but in the meantime please do file a bug against Launchpad itself if you encounter any problems.

See our webhooks documentation for more details.

Update: as of 2015-11-20, this feature is enabled for all Launchpad users.

Launchpad news, April-June 2015

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

It’s been a while since we posted much regularly on this team blog, not least because for a while Launchpad was running more or less in maintenance mode.  That’s no longer the case and we’re back to the point where we can do feature development work again, as exemplified by our recent addition of Git code hosting support.

Lots of other things have been happening in the Launchpad world lately, though, and the half-way point in the year seems like a good time to start talking about them.  I’m going to try to do this a bit more regularly, aiming for about once a month when we also update our internal stakeholders.  This post covers roughly the last three months.


Git code hosting beta

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Today we’re announcing early support for hosting Git repositories directly on Launchpad, as well as or instead of Bazaar branches. This has been by far the single most commonly requested feature from Launchpad code hosting for a long time; we’ve been working hard on it for several months now, and we’re very happy to be able to release it for general use.

This is distinct from the facility to import code from Git (and some other systems) into Bazaar that Launchpad has included for many years. Code imports are useful to aggregate information from all over the free software ecosystem in a unified way, which has always been one of the primary goals of Launchpad, and in the future we may add the facility to import code into Git as well. However, what we’re releasing today is native support: you can use git push to upload code to Launchpad, and your users and collaborators can use git clone to download it, in the same kind of way that you can with any Git server.

Our support is still in its early stages, and we still have several features to add to bring it up to parity with Bazaar hosting in Launchpad, as well as generally making it easier and more pleasant to use. We’ve released it before it’s completely polished because many people are clamouring to be able to use it and we’re ready to let you all do so. From here on in, we’ll be adding features, applying polish, and fixing bugs using Launchpad’s normal iterative deployment process: changes will be rolled out to production once they’re ready, so you’ll see the UI gradually improving over time.

What’s supported?

You can:

  • push Git repositories to Launchpad over SSH
  • clone repositories over git://, SSH, or HTTPS
  • see summary information on repositories and the branches they contain in the Launchpad web UI
  • follow links from the Launchpad web UI to a full-featured code browser (cgit)
  • push and clone private repositories, if you have a commercial subscription to Launchpad
  • propose merges from one branch to another, including in a different repository, provided that they are against the same project or package

What will be supported later?

Launchpad’s Bazaar support has grown many features over the years, and it will take some time to bring our Git support up to full parity with it and beyond. Git repositories use a somewhat different model from Bazaar branches, which we’ve had to account for in many places, and some facilities will require complete reimplementation before we can support them with Git.

Here’s an incomplete list of some of the features we hope to add:

  • useful subscriptions (currently only attribute change notifications work, which are not usually very interesting in themselves)
  • RSS feeds
  • mirroring
  • webhooks
  • an integrated code browser

See our help page for more known issues and instructions on using Launchpad with Git.

Helping out

This is a new service, and we welcome your feedback: you can ask questions in #launchpad on freenode IRC, on our launchpad-users mailing list, or on Launchpad Answers, and if you find a bug then please tell us about that too.

Launchpad is free software, licensed under the GNU AGPLv3. We’d be very happy to mentor people who want to help out with parts of this service, or to build things on top of it using our published API. Some preliminary documentation on this is on our developer wiki, and you can always contact us for help.

Launchpad JavaScript now combo loaded and faster than ever.

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
Network graph of the combo loaded JavaScript.

Updated network graph

Back in January a side project was started to update the JavaScript used in Launchpad. Launchpad has been using YUI 3.3.0 for a long time, very successfully, however recent advances in YUI 3.5 and higher have added some great tools for development that Launchpad can take advantage of. In order to facilitate easier upgrades our YUI library version Launchpad has been moved to using a combo loader for serving out JavaScript.

This means, that instead of a single launchpad.js file that can be upwards of 3MB in size, each request builds a list of JavaScript modules needed for the current page to work, and the combo loader only sends down those modules. This drastically cuts down on the download size of the JavaScript for users. These combo loaded JavaScript files are also cached for speedy serving to other users of Launchpad.

The combo loader also allows us to specify which YUI version to load via a tweak to the url. In this way we can easily test new version of YUI side by side with the current stable version as they come out. This allows Launchpad to keep with future YUI released much faster.

We’re excited that today Launchpad has moved from YUI 3.3.0 to 3.5.1 and is now served by the combo loader. This change provides a faster experience for users along with easier maintenance and new JavaScript library features for developers.

We’ve still got more to do though. YUI just released version 3.7 and we aim to push that into production faster than ever before. Please let us know how these changes work for you.

Launchpad also wants to thank the folks over at YUI for continuing the great work on a tool that Launchpad heavily depends on.

Setting up commercial projects quickly

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Setting up a commercial project in Launchpad has gotten easier. You can now quickly register a proprietary project and enable private bugs. You can create private teams and private personal package archives, AKA private PPA or P3A without the assistance of a Launchpad admin.

When you select the Other/Proprietary license while registering a project, or changing the project’s details,

it is given a complimentary 30-day commercial subscription.

The delay between the moment when a commercial project was registered and when the commercial subscription was purchased and then applied to the project caused a lot of confusion. During this delay, proprietary data could be disclosed. We chose to award the project with a short term commercial subscription which enabled the project to be properly configured while the 12-month commercial subscription was being purchased and applied to the project.

Any project with a commercial subscription can enable

Default private bugs
Once enabled by configuring the project’s bug tracker, all new reported bugs are private. You can choose to make the report public.
Default private bugs
Default private branches
You can request a Launchpad admin to configure private branches for your teams. (You will be able to do this yourself in the near future when projects gain proprietary branches.)

As the maintainer of a project with a commercial subscription, you can register

Private teams
When you register a team, you can choose to set the team visibility to private. The team’s members and data is hidden from non-members.
Private mailing lists
When you create a mailing list for a private team, the archive is also private. Only team members may see the messages in the archive.
Private PPAs
When you create a PPA for your public team, you may choose to make it private; private teams can only have private PPAs. You can subscribe users to your archive so that they may install packages without revealing all your team’s members and data to the subscriber.

A secondary benefit of this change is that you can now try Launchpad’s commercial features before purchasing a 12-month commercial subscription. The features will be disabled at the end of 30-days. Your test data will remain private to ensure your data is not disclosed.

Any open source project may also have a commercial subscription to enable commercial features. You can purchase a commercial subscription at the Canonical store. Commercial subscriptions cost US$250/year/project + applicable V.A.T.


(Photo by Fred Dawson on flickr, creative commons license)

An introduction to our new sharing feature

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Launchpad can now show you all the people that your project is sharing private bugs and branches with. This new sharing feature is a few weeks away from being in beta, but the UI is informative, so we’re enabling this feature for members of the Launchpad Beta Testers team now. If you’d like to join, click on the ‘join’ link on the team page.

What you’ll see

Project maintainers and drivers can see all the users that are subscribed to private bugs and branches. The listing might be surprising, maybe even daunting. You may see people who no longer contribute to the project, or people you do not know at all. The listing of users and teams illustrates why we are creating a new way of sharing project information without managing bug and branch subscriptions.

If you’re a member of (or once you’re a member of, if we want people to join) the Launchpad Beta Testers team, you can find the Sharing link on the front page of your project. I cannot see who your project is sharing with, nor can you see who my projects are sharing with, but I will use the Launchpad project as an example to explain what the Launchpad team is seeing.

The Launchpad project

The Launchpad project is sharing private bugs and branches with 250 users and teams. This is the first time Launchpad has ever provided this information. It was impossible to audit a project to ensure confidential information is not disclosed to untrusted parties. I still do not know how many private bugs and branches the Launchpad project has, nor do I even know how many of these are shared with me. Maybe Launchpad will provide this information in the future.

Former developers still have access

I see about 30 former Launchpad and Canonical developers still have access to private bugs and branches. I do not think we should be sharing this information with them. I’m pretty sure they do not want to notified about these bugs and branches either. I suspect Launchpad is wasting bandwidth by sending emails to dead addresses.

Unknown users

I see about 100 users that I do not know. I believe they reported bugs that were marked private. Some may have been subscribed by users who were already subscribed to the bug. I can investigate the users and see the specific bug and branches that are shared with them.

The majority

The majority of users and teams that the Launchpad project is sharing with are members of either the Launchpad team or the Canonical team. I am not interested in investigating these people. I do not want to be managing their individual bug and branch subscriptions to ensure they have access to the information that they need to do their jobs. Soon I won’t have to think about this issue, nor will I see them listed on this page.

Next steps — sharing ‘All information’

In a few weeks I will share the Launchpad project’s private information with both the Launchpad team and the Canonical team. It takes seconds to do, and about 130 rows of listed users will be replaced with just two rows stating that ‘All information’ is shared with the Launchpad and Canonical teams. I will then stop sharing private information with all the former Launchpad and Canonical employees.

Looking into access via bug and branch subscriptions

Then I will investigate the users who have exceptional access via bug and branch subscriptions. I may stop sharing information with half of them because either they do not need to know about it, or the information should be public.

Bugs and private bugs

I could start investigating which bugs are shared with users now, but I happen to know that there are 29 bugs that the Launchpad team cannot see because they are not subscribed to the private bug. There are hundreds of private bugs in Launchpad that cannot be fixed because the people who can fix them were never subscribed. This will be moot once all private information in the Launchpad project is shared with the Launchpad team.

Unsubscribing users from bugs

Launchpad does not currently let me unsubscribe users from bugs. When project maintainers discover confidential information is disclosed to untrusted users, they ask the Launchpad Admins to unsubscribe the user. There are not enough hours in the day to for the Admins to do this. Just as Launchpad will let me share all information with a team or user, I will also be able to stop sharing.


(Image by loop_oh on flickr, creative commons license)

Work items in blueprints

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

To doAt its most basic, a blueprint in Launchpad is a statement of intent: by creating a blueprint, you’re saying, “Here’s an idea for how this project should progress.”

How do you track the detailed steps to get from having the idea to seeing it implemented?

The Ubuntu development community came up with a solution: they break a blueprint down into items of work that can be assigned to an individual. That makes it easier to track who’s doing what and how they’re getting on, while the blueprint itself tracks the status of the big idea.

Until now, these work items weren’t recognised by Launchpad. Instead, Ubuntu and Linaro tracked them in the blueprint’s whiteboard. Using the Launchpad API, they pulled the whiteboard contents out and used them to generate burn-down charts for and

Now, thanks to work by some of the team at Linaro, each blueprint has a text box where you can add, update and delete its related work items.

How you make use of work items will depend on the project you’re working on. Both Ubuntu and Linaro already make extensive use of work items and, if you’re working as part of those communities, you should follow their lead.

Using work items

Work items are pretty simple to use.

Here’s an example of how a set of work items might look:

Design the user interaction: DONE
Visual design: INPROGRESS
Test the UI: TODO
Decide on an API format: POSTPONED
Bootstrap the dev environment: TODO
Set up Jenkins CI: TODO
As you can see, each work item sits on its own line and you indicate its status after a colon.

As you can see, each work item sits on its own line and you indicate its status after a colon. The statuses you can use are:

  • TODO

Sometimes a blueprint can be targeted to one milestone but you’ll have a individual work items that need to be targeted to a different milestone. That’s fine, you can tell Launchpad that a bunch of work items are for some other milestone.

In the work items text box, simply use a header like this:

Work items for <milestone>:

If you enter an invalid milestone you’ll get an error message and the opportunity to correct the text field.

A milestone picker will of course be more useful and we’ve submitted a bug to keep track of that.

What’s next?

Soon, you’ll be able get a view of all the work items and bugs assigned to a particular individual or team for a particular milestone.

Of course, if you have other ideas for how Launchpad can make use of work items, we’d love to hear from you.

Photo by Courtney Dirks. Licence: CC BY 2.0

Contacting teams is easier and more reliable

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Two changes to the contact team email feature were recently released that make communication more reliable.

Non-team members now see the “Contact this team’s admins” link. Previously, non-members saw a link to contact the team owner. The owner is often one person, and some team owners delegate the running of the teams to the team admins. There are often more admins then there are owners. So the message is more  likely to reach someone who is involved in the day-to-day team management.

Team members see the “Contact this team’s members” link. Previously, members might have seen a link to contact the team, but that email when to the team email address that the team might not respond to. Many teams still use bogus email addresses to avoid emails from the days before Launchpad had great bug subscription filters. Launchpad has an anti-feature that prevents team mailing-lists from contacts all the team members. Team admins found it impossible to notify the member about issue ranging from policy changes, polls, meetings, to security issues. So members can now trust that their messages will be sent to the team members.

The feature is a convenient way to contact a user or team. Sometimes the feature is the only way you can contact a user or team that does not have a public email address. A user may use the contact user/team feature 3 times each day. The limit ensures no one can spam Launchpad users. The limit also means the feature is not a substitute for mailing lists.

Social private teams

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

The title may sound like a contradiction, but I assure you that it is not. You can now use private teams in social contexts in Launchpad. Private teams can collaborate with public projects and other teams if they choose to reveal the existence of the private team.

  1. Private teams can me members of other teams.
  2. Other teams can be members of private teams.
  3. Private teams can subscribe to bugs, blueprints, branches, and merge proposals
  4. Private teams  can be in public project roles,  such as maintainers, drivers, and bug supervisors.
  5. You can change the branch owner to be a private team.
  6. Private team personal branches (+junk) are always private.

When a member places the private team in a social situation, a the member is asked to confirm that it is okay to reveal the team’s identifying information. This information is the team’s Launchpad Id used in URLs, the displayname, icon, and logo. A user can visit the private team’s Launchpad page and will only see that information. The rest of the page is not shared. Anonymous users cannot see a private team’s page because that user is not being social; logged in users can see the private team’s page

Private team page seen by a non-member

Launchpad did not permit these interactions previously because it was not clear who should know about the team. Someone has to know. If Launchpad permitted private teams to subscribe to bugs or be members of teams without anyone knowing of them, they would be unaccountable. Private teams could spy on organisation, or learn about security vulnerabilities to exploit. Launchpad will not ever permit such asocial behaviour. The resolution for social interactions was to permit other parties to know enough of the private team to make an informed decision. For example, when I choose to make a bug private, I want to know who was already seen the bug through a subscription. I may choose to unsubscribe the private team if I do not trust them.

Private teams may invite exclusive teams to be members. Exclusive teams (moderated or restricted teams) review all members so they are accountable. If a team admin trusts the admins of another team, and that team is accountable, Launchpad permits the other team to be a member. This is actually a rule that applied to all exclusive teams. private teams are always exclusive (restricted membership policy). The only nuance with private teams is when it is a member of another team; the super team may know the members of the private sub team because the super team has the right to audit all its members so that it too can be accountable.