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OBS, Complete Open Source Build System: Adrian Schröter

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An exclusive interview with Adrian Schröter, the Project Manager of the Open Build Service. What is Open Build Service aka OBS? How does it help developers, companies and users? How to reduce duplication of efforts in GNU/Linux world and much more. Read on…

Swapnil:  Please tell us more about yourself. How and when you came in contact  with computers?
Adrian: My very first computer was an Atari 800XL. More or less by accident, because my brother won it and did not want to use it.

Swapnil: How and when did you come in contact with Free Software? What attracted you towards it?
Adrian: I had to build some OSS stuff like gcc when dealing with SunOS and SGI systems during study. Next was to play with Linux OS based on kernel 1.0.x.

Swapnil: Which OS you use, which DE do you use and why?
Adrian: KDE 4.8 atm. I was responsible for some years for the SUSE Desktop (at KDE 1.x-3.x times), so I just stick to that.

Swapnil: What is your role at SUSE?
Adrian: Project Manager of the Open Build Service. Managing all requests from SUSE internal, openSUSE community and external OBS contributors to OBS code base.

Swapnil: Can you tell us more about OBS? What is it and how does it help users and developers?
Adrian: OBS is IMHO the only really complete open source build system which brings all parts to do reproducible distribution building, including the later  maintenance updates.

OBS for Users

For users it is basically a database. They can search and install all kind of software provided by packagers. This may be bugfixed versions of their software or version updates. But they can also get in contact with developers or they can check how a particular piece of software is build. Or finding a version which have a specific bug-fix they look for.

Advanced users may also use it to get always the latest package for one distribution plus their additional patch. For example there are users who use the official openSUSE 12.1 Update kernel but add a patch for  improved multimedia handling on top of it. Thanks to OBS whenever the openSUSE Maintenance team releases a new update kernel they get also their kernel update automatically (or at least a notification that their patch is not working anymore).

OBS for Developers

They are really many different use cases. It starts with a simple single developer or ISV who wants to package his software for one or multiple distributions. Administrators do build their configuration packages and entire appliances automatically which they do deploy on their server and notebook park. Hardware vendors do create their pre-loads (we have companies using OBS for openSUSE and Ubuntu pre-loads). This done currently by classic server and notebook vendors but also for embedded OS images. Researchers who build existing distributions for their new hardware. (Even possible via cross compile, when the real hardware does not  exist yet).

In short, OBS is an important piece for every company who wants to be able to guarantee that a build is reproducible. Otherwise you are maybe in trouble when an update is required after product shipment.

Swapnil: You recently posted about “openSUSE Stable Maintenance Process Now Fully Open”, how does it affect developers and users?
Adrian: It makes the process transparent for both. Users can check which updates are in the queue and can take part of the QA process. Developers can now initiate a maintenance update.

Swapnil: How can other projects take advantage of OBS?
Adrian: Open source projects like Mer, MeeGo, Tizen or Packman are already their own OBS instances. They build either own OS systems or additions to openSUSE.

However, thanks to OBS interconnect feature between OBS instances it is still possible to collaborate and to re-use resources from others.

Swapnil: There are a lot of things being duplicated by different distributions,  do you think there are ways by which this duplication can be reduced? Can you point at some areas which can reduce duplication?
Adrian: At least Fedora and openSUSE do cooperate already in several areas. Both try to work upstream as much as possible and we try to standardize the rpm environment so one spec file can be used for both OS worlds.

Actually incompatibilities do come more often from upstream then between openSUSE and Fedora already. Upstream changes create way more often breakages and update incompatibilities then distribution differences already to my opinion. But that depends heavily on each open source project.

Swapnil: Filing bug reports and getting issues solved can be cumbersome sometime on openSUSE. I recently experienced that. A user is tossed between different packages to get their issues solved (I was redirected to arista, then opensuse and then to Pacman — no one knows where the buck stops). On Ubuntu’s launchpad, all you do is file a report and it will be taken care then and there. How much is it your concern?
Adrian: Hm, in some cases it is not clear which package caused a problem. But it should by always possible from where is the package is coming from. YaST is showing it or you can check it on CLI via

rpm -q --qf '%{DISTURL}n' $PACKAGE

The url tells in which OBS instance and project the package got build exactly. You can even paste it to the search field on build.opensuse.org and it will go to the exact source version. You should be able to find the maintainers and bugowners there.

Swapnil: What do you think  is the target audience of openSUSE?
Adrian: I think it is still very broad. From people who want to learn Linux the first time over desktop user till people who deploy their appliances in some cloud.

Swapnil: At time latest package are not available in openSUSE repos (even in Factory). On the contrary Ubuntu has all these packages — LO 3.5 being the example. Can you tell us what is the reason behind this delay and how this can be improved? LO is LibreOffice ?
Adrian: You may be misled by the fact that the new software.opensuse.org search is showing official stable packages first by default. But LibreOffice 3.5.3.2 is there inside of the unstable project.

We are currently discussing how to improve that search interface to make the new version more visible without the extra click on the “un-offical packages” link. On the other hand we need to point our users to the best tested packages.

Swapnil: What is your advice to openSUSE users.
Adrian: Tell us more about the first app store interfaces. We do still work on them and esp. the integration into openSUSE distribution will be improved. We are not finished yet so now is best point of time to have influence on the development.

And have fun with OBS!

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