Ubuntu Open Week - MOTU - Daniel Holbach - Tue, Apr 24, 2007

see also Thursday Session.


[16:00] <dholbach> Hello everybody,
[16:00] <dholbach> I'm Daniel Holbach, work for Canonical and joined the MOTU team around three years ago, when the team had ~5 members. Now we're up to 62 members.
[16:00] <dholbach> I work in a couple of different teams: Together with seb128 I work in the Desktop Team (which he'll give a session about on Thu 26th Apr at 20.00). For a couple of other teams I do packaging and try to organise them a bit: the Accessibility team, the Artwork team, the Telepathy team, the Bluetooth team, the Galago team, etc. I also work on bughelper with the BugSquad.
[16:01] <dholbach> If you have any questions, just ping me in #ubuntu-classroom-chat and I'll answer them as they come up
[16:02] <dholbach> MOTU stands for 'Masters Of The Universe' which originates from the Universe component, which holds the biggest amount of our packages. 'main' and 'restricted' are supported by Canonical, 'universe' and 'multiverse' by the community. 'main' and 'restricted' hold 5167 packages today and 'universe' plus 'multiverse' 16237. So as the name suggests, the MOTU team takes care of 'universe' (and 'multiverse' also).
[16:02] <dholbach> <Belutz> dholbach, is MOTU are for developers only?
[16:03] <dholbach> Belutz: we do packaging and bug fixing - some of these tasks are very easy - we also have MOTUs who like to do organisation and documentation - so there's a lot of tasks for everybody

<erstazi> dholbach: QUESTION: accessibility is an important operating system component, what is Ubuntu's plans for further development?

  • you should talk to heno about that - he's the Accessibility lead and you should join the ubuntu-accessibility-devel@ list. this session will be more about MOTU

<Belutz> QUESTION: so what can a non-developer do to help the MOTU team and/or become a MOTU team member?

  • we have lots of tasks we work on - I'll lists a couple of them as we move along

<YokoZar> QUESTION: Are any MOTUs paid canonical employees working on packages that will eventually be included in main?

  • ogra and I started in the ranks of MOTUs and became Canonical employees. lots of packages that started in Universe made their way into Main

[16:06] <dholbach> So what does a MOTU do?
[16:06] <dholbach> As a MOTU you're maintaining packages. Since we don't follow the concept of applying the rigorous big maintainer lock, it's your choice which package you take care of.
[16:06] <bogor> WOW, neat way to get a paid job
[16:06] <dholbach> We have people
[16:06] <dholbach>  * taking care only of 'their own packages'
[16:06] <dholbach>  * working together with others on a set of packages in a team
[16:06] <dholbach>  * fixing lots of different packages
[16:06] <dholbach> (* working on no packages at all)
[16:06] <dholbach> If you belong to the last category, this might be your first step in the Ubuntu Development Community. :-)
[16:07] <dholbach> So how do I become a MOTU?
[16:07] <dholbach> That's very easy. You basically contribute to the team's efforts, either by packaging a new piece of software or by helping with fixing / updating / merging existing packages.
[16:07] <dholbach> I personally always found the second way to be much easier and you learn a lot along the way. As a MOTU hopeful you're not allowed yet to upload to the archive yourself, but you can ask other team members to sponsor the upload for you. We have a lightweight process for that in place:

<zorglu_> QUESTION: why universe/multiverse doesnt contains all the programms with their mp3 component, e.g. to have mp3 support in ffmpeg requires to recompile it from source, could it be possible to have a mp3 enabled version in universe ?

  • that's a legal question - you best ask our archive admins what is possible and what is not. license problems and patent violations are huge problems we can't just ignore

    <zorglu_> dholbach: universe already contains all the mp3 stuff. lame mp3 encoder is in multiverse as an example. but ok i will ask

    <dholbach> I'm not a lawyer, so it's hard for me to judge - every new packages has to go past our archive admins - it's their call

[16:09] <dholbach> After a while of contributing, when you've become more comfortable with packaging, the processes and you've worked with a couple of people, you will hear that people are tired of uploading your packages and you should be able to do so yourself. :-)
[16:09] <dholbach> ubuntu-archive is the team in launchpad
[16:10] <dholbach> and I believe they have a mailing list as well

<YokoZar> QUESTION: Hypothetically, the MOTU is already tired of uploading my packages for me. Then what?

  • It's easy to see that it's not just a matter of technically abilty, but also a matter of teamwork and trust. Once your mentors and people of the MOTU team are happy with you, they will tell you to apply to become a MOTU yourself. For that you write an application mail to the MOTU Council and if they're happy with you, they'll approve you. Find more info about that over here:

<bogor> QUESTION: dholbach: Can you demonstrate the packaging process with an example?

  • I'd prefer it the "packaging 101" session did that. this session is more about how MOTU works and what they do, etc. has a few links, especially to the ubuntu packaging guide, which is easy to read and has examples as well

<McKinney> Question: what conditions must be complied for a package to get into the repository

  • it has to 1) meet basic packaging standards, 2) build nicely on the architectures it's supposed to, 3) have a nice and clean license, 4) build from source

<Belutz> QUESTION, there are a lots of packages in universe/multiverse, how do you manage all of them? how do you assign packages to MOTU members?

  • I don't assign them. We have a couple of teams who work on things they're interested in. also we get lots of fixes from the upstream authors and from the debian maintainers and on top of that: the MOTU team has lots of hard working really good people

[16:15] <dholbach> ok, I move on
[16:15] <dholbach> Things the team does:
[16:15] <dholbach> We work on Bugs, just to put some numbers into the discussion:
[16:15] <dholbach>  * 18484 bugs in Universe/Multiverse    (96084 in Ubuntu total)
[16:15] <dholbach>  * 10380 closed bugs Universe/Multiverse (56612 closed in Ubuntu total)
[16:15] <dholbach> While the numbers look scary, here's a very good thing about working with the MOTUs: you're not alone. If you try to fix a bug in a package you have:
[16:15] <dholbach>  1) team members,
[16:15] <dholbach>  2) the Debian maintainer and
[16:15] <dholbach>  3) the upstream author
[16:15] <dholbach> you can ask and work with. Working on bugs is highly rewarding: sometimes it's a one line fix, you find in the upstream CVS already and you make a lot of users happy.

<Demon012> QUESTION: What must be done on a softwares source code before it can be packaged with deb helper (How are the MakeFiles etc generated)

  • that's usually something the upstream author does. sometimes you have to fix makefiles to make it work nicely for us, but usually you can just use the upstream source

<t0lst0y> QUESTION: In terms of bug fixes versus research versus coding?

  • I spend a lot of my time on bug reports, triaging them, talking with the upstream developers about them, etc

    quite a lot of my coding time I spend on the bughelper project (

<poningru> QUESTION: now that feisty is released and gutsy toolchain is released can people start adding stuff to revu? or is there a wait periode?

  • no wait period at all - just go ahead and ask your mentor or your favourite motu to take a look at it

[16:18] <dholbach> some additions to that:
[16:18] <dholbach> Get new packages in!
[16:18] <dholbach> Ubuntu has become a great place for users. Lots of software is packaged already, but your personal pet project might be missing still. This also is a gratifying task, as you make many users happy by providing high-quality software in the archive.
[16:18] <dholbach> All NEW packages go through a review process, which currently happens on - this might change in the near future ( Reviewing is a great way to mentor, but also to learn, which leads us to our next point.

<mc44> QUESTION: is there more we can do to attract more developers to help out with ubuntu/motu?

  • good question. I added two specs for UDS Sevilla about that. one is about getting better. documentation. the other about improving our mentoring. once we're better at that this will have the right multiplication effect Smile :-)

<zorglu_> QUESTION: as a rules of thumbs, how long packages wait in the revu queue before being accepted ?

  • that depends. as a package maintainer you need to be responsive on requests and ask people actively for reviews. we have VERY old packages in REVU - that's because people didn't follow up on them. REVU is somewhat of a bottleneck, but we have ideas to improve it

<McKinney> Question: for example i am currently using a debian-package of gxine because the package from the repository freezes when i want to resize the window a movie is played in. i already reported the bug on launchpad but it is still not fixed. how long does it usually take to eliminate such bugs?

  • we had packages that went in after a few days. but also packages that took much much longer. if you have a fix ready, is what you want. a lot of the problems you have in becoming part of the development community is talking to the right people and attracing the right people's interest in something. there's a Media team, there's also the team that takes care of pending patches that are considered for upload

<Demon012> QUESTION: Is there a checklist for triaging?

<YokoZar> QUESTION: What about independent software vendors? Is there any official process to help them create packages that play nice with universe (and perhaps eachother), even if the software can't go into universe?

  • we have the commercial repository as well - I think that Malcom Yates (mdy) is a good person to talk to about that

[16:24] <dholbach> Teams
[16:24] <dholbach> MOTU has formed a huge bunch of subteams already:
[16:24] <dholbach>  * Games team
[16:24] <dholbach>  * Media team
[16:24] <dholbach>  * Science team
[16:24] <dholbach>  * Photo team
[16:24] <dholbach>  * UncommonProgrammingLanguages team
[16:24] <dholbach>  * <and lots of others>
[16:25] <dholbach> Some of the teams, which started in Universe, but now are working across the whole distro, the Mono team is a good example for that. If you have good ideas for a team and want to kickstart it, let me know:
[16:25] <dholbach> jono will be able to help out as well.
[16:25] <dholbach> Transitions! That's usually an easy way to get involved.
[16:25] <dholbach> In order to use a new technology consistently across the whole archive, we sometimes need to change several hundreds of packages. This is gratifying work also, as it's sometimes easy to do and nice to do this within a team. Good examples of this were:
[16:26] <dholbach>  * the switch from python2.3 to python2.4 (as a default)
[16:26] <dholbach>  * the use of gcc4
[16:26] <dholbach>  * the transition to use Xorg
[16:26] <dholbach>  * ...
[16:26] <dholbach> We used to have  H U G E   working lists on the wiki, nowadays we often use Malone to keep track of these.
[16:26] <dholbach> We usually announce them on - so if you're following that list, you can help out there easily.

<Demon012> dholbach: QUESTION: I found out yesterday that the packages are all source files in the repositories. How does proprietory software like Vmware get handled?

  • we prefer source packages but if we have binaries that are redistributable we sometimes do that as well. again - please refer to the ubuntu-archive team; they know better what is acceptable and what not

<emet> QUESTION: Lets say I made a program, how do I get it inside the Ubuntu Universe repo?

  • if you plan to do the packaging yourself, you'd follow the REVU process I mentioned above. if you'd prefer somebody else to do it, let me quote:

    file a bug in Launchpad and make sure it has the tag. needs-packaging. Make sure you check which packages have already been requested. For packages in Debian, but not in ubuntu file a bug with the summary field "please sync package <packagename> from debian <distro>" where packagename is the package you would like to see. that's from

[16:29] <dholbach> Mentoring
[16:29] <dholbach> We're doing huge efforts at helping people get up to scratch on packaging, especially #ubuntu-motu on is always buzzing and somebody is always awake to answer *your* packaging question.
[16:30] <dholbach> But mentoring also happens on our mailing list, in private chats, by doing reviews of packages and patches or via mail. Don't hesitate to approach us, join the Master of the Universe today! :-)
[16:30] <dholbach> The team is also working out details to refine the process and make it easier for MOTU hopefuls and future mentors. We'll have a session at UDS about that: so if you're in Sevilla at that time, join in, if not add your ideas to the wiki page. We'll also work on getting a Mentoring mailing list ready.
[16:30] <dholbach> Keep the questions coming in. :-)
[16:31] <dholbach> Moving on to Merges
[16:31] <dholbach> In the beginning of each release cycle we merge our efforts with those of the Debian maintainers. So this is what we currently do for Gutsy.
[16:31] <dholbach> If you want to help out, just grab a merge from or and go ahead (NOTE: they are currently being updated and reworked, so in a few days they should be fine).
[16:31] <dholbach> and also have more information on that process.

<Belutz> QUESTIONS: is MOTU the one decided which version of apps that goes to repos?

  • that's a two stage process: first MOTUs will review your package and upload it if they're ok with it; after that it has to pass the archive-admins. they can still reject it; not only if the license is problematic but rejects mostly happen because of re-distributability

[16:33] <dholbach> MOTU School
[16:33] <dholbach> In the spirit of the Ubuntu's Open Week we already had some interesting MOTU School sessions: - if you want to hold a session or request a session, let us know on the mailing list and on the wiki pages.
[16:34] <dholbach> (also if you want to give a session :-))
[16:34] <dholbach> Documentation!
[16:34] <dholbach> Jordan Mantha (laserjock) and others have worked hard on the Packaging Guide, but they'd always be glad to have people who are interested in explaining and helping new MOTU hopefuls to find their way into the community. lists a few pages of interest.
[16:34] <dholbach> and its subpages could also do with some helping hands. MOTU is a community effort and has grown into all sorts of directions over time, the wiki pages bear witness of that, so it'd be great if you'd fix whatever documentation you found inaccurate. At UDS we're going to work on that too:

<Belutz> dholbach, for example, sylpheed-claws is now claws-mail, and it has been a while before feisty release, but in feisty repos, is still using sylpheed-claws instead of claws-mail, and i believe claws-mail is already stable in ubuntu. Is that part of MOTU process or archive admin?

  • are they both in Ubuntu already? and one could be replaced with the other? that's an archive-admin decision then mostly it's wise to also check what the Debian maintainer does. if they decide to go with a different name and you use the same name, you can do syncs of the source package more easily did I get your question right?

    <Belutz> dholbach, the claws-mail is not in repo anyway, and i still find some old version apps in repos like gnucash, but maybe it's the archive admin decision then :) if the version is old, that's not a archive admin job. up until UpstreamVersionFreeze (UVF) we can upload new versions as we see fit. see for that. after that you need to get approval. the NEW package of course is an archive admin thing

[16:38] <dholbach> Who of you could imagine joining the MOTUs anytime soon?

<YokoZar> QUESTION: My package gets updated every two weeks. What's the absolute latest update I can submit that will get into the release?

  • we need to make sure the software we upload can be tested realistically. uploading a new wine package with 1000s of lines of changes a week before release does not work out

<PriceChild> I would love to join MOTU but I just haven't got enough programming knowledege....

  • PriceChild and everybody else who'd like to join in: don't let the "programming skills" thing intimidate you: if you're truly interested in helping out, in packaging, fixing bugs and talking to upstream about them, trying patches, etc, you'll learn a lot along the way and are absolutely right for the job Smile :)

<Belutz> dholbach, so how do you maintain a package (still using claws-mail as example), do you have to get in touch with the claws-mail developers? and how do you know that there are a new version of a package? do you have to search for it or how? sorry i ask a lot, because i'm still blur with the MOTU process

  • good question. being in touch with upstream is a VERY good thing. bear in mind that maintaining is not only about 'uploading a new upstream version' every now and then. it's also about reading bug reports from our users. trying to fix them, forwarding them to upstream etc etc. you do want a good relationship with them, as they can help you to do things like: 1) write debugging documentation for the bug squad, 2) enable the right options by default, 3) discuss our and their release schedule, etc etc

<YokoZar> dholbach: I could speak to that, coming from upstream myself. There are 30+ active, full time Wine developers, and right now I'm the only guy reading the bug reports in launchpad (or user complaints on the forum) and forwarding them where appropriate.

  • thanks a lot for that

<YokoZar> Launchpad's "link to upstream bug" feature is particularly useful, especially because it lets the upstream bughunters find people's fixes in Ubuntu itself. For a project as large and complex as Wine, there's also a surprising amount of effort that needs to go into making sure it still builds right in Ubuntu (Wine comes out every two weeks, and over half of my changelog entries are things other than "new upstream version")

<Belutz> dholbach, for a packages that have problems with dependecies, is it MOTU jobs to fix it? or the packages developer?

  • dependencies are a packaging problem, which should be fixed by its maintainer or a MOTU, yes. somtimes you can work around dependencies on a source code level but you rarely need to do that. it's more about changing the right bits in the debian/ dir of the source package. for those of you who want to become members of the MOTUs, please check and don't be shy to ask questions

[16:46] <dholbach> we have lots of bugs to work on:
[16:47] <dholbach> also there are lots of packaging requests open:

<YokoZar> QUESTION: Earlier, you said you used to just be a regular MOTU and then became a canonical employee. Were you approached by Canonical for paid work, or did you apply? How long did it take?

  • I talked to Mark at that time and approached him about it and had a job interview, etc. I don't know how long it took, but I could find out reading old mails if you really want to know Smile :)

<Belutz> dholbach, for a new member who do not know enough about programming, who do you recommend as a mentor?

  • the mentoring page I suggested lists a few people who are willing to mentor. if you like to make things work and have a natural curiosity, you're right in the team. Smile :) you can also mail ubuntu-motu@ and ask for a mentor. we'll try to have a mentoring mailing list online soon and will announce it

<YokoZar> QUESTION: How long were you an MOTU before you did it full time? Was it within a single release? Or like years?

  • let's have this discussion in private - I don't mind talking about it publically, but I don't think it has much to do with joining the MOTU team

[16:51] <dholbach> any other questions?
[16:51] <dholbach> sorry, for the '.beta' in the launchpad link

<adamant1988> QUESTION: on avg. how much time would you say a MOTU invests in packaging/etc.?

  • we have some MOTUs who just spend bits of a week on making sure the packages they work on work correclty. there's also nothing wrong with saying 'I don't have time in the next half of the year'. but we also have people who you can find nearly 24h in #ubuntu-motu. Wink ;-)

<YokoZar> QUESTION: Are backports maintained by the MOTU team directly, or coordination with a special backports person?

  • we have a backports team who does the processing. they usually take the build from the new ubuntu release, make sure it builds nicely on the old release, it installs, etc etc and then process it

<_emet_> QUESTION: How does MOTU ensure that a package does not contain dangerous code?

  • we are always wary of code that gets installed to /usr/sbin and the archive-admins also check the code roughly

[16:55] <dholbach> If you arrived a bit late for the session, Steven Harms will do another session on Thu 26th Apr 16:00 UTC. Thanks Steven!
[16:56] <dholbach> if there are no more questions... :)
[16:56] <dholbach> drop me a mail if you want to know anything about the MOTUs or are interested in joining the team
[16:56] <dholbach> (ubuntu-motu AT lists DOT ubuntu DOT com should work too)
[16:57] <dholbach> Have a nice day.

<YokoZar> BONUS QUESTION: Has anyone from whomever owns the comic ever officially complained about the name "masters of the universe" ? ;)

  • no, luckily they did not Smile :)

<mc44> dholbach: QUESTION: does drum and bass aid with packaging? :p

[16:59] <dholbach> see you


MeetingLogs/openweekfeisty/motu (last edited 2008-08-06 16:18:21 by localhost)