Learning about OSS

We’ve gotten through about half the semester, and have learned about Open Source Software, how it works, and how to work with it. OSS has both pros and cons. I like that it’s free to both use and get the source. I like that with OSS, if you want a specific new feature and you know how to do it, you don’t have to wait for someone else to make it, but instead do it on your own, how you want it to be done. I also like that anyone, from anywhere can contribute. With that, you can get a lot of talented people from all over the world.

However, when working on an OSS project as part of a course, there are some things that can be difficult, which wouldn’t be a problem with typical class assignments. This includes not knowing exactly who your customer is. It’s unclear to whom questions should be referred (the Epiphany group, GNOME accessibility extensions group, someone else?). It sometimes seems like there are more questions than answers, and you can’t have in-person meetings with those who you’re giving the questions. So the communication isn’t always as easy as if you could talk to people face to face. Another issue is outside influences that can impact the success of the project. There can be sudden major changes, such as the Epiphany group deciding to do away with separate extensions. That could mean that instead of working on a potentially useful extension, we’re now working on an extension that will potentially go nowhere even if we do complete it. It’s also hard to gauge how long a given project will take from start to finish. Since it’s a new project for the professor as well as the students, no one knows at the beginning what challenges there will be, and whether they will be met within the few months of the semester.

The powerpoint presentations in class helped to understand how OSS works, and some of its pros and cons. It also helped to download Fedora and Epiphany, and to start using some of the programs that we would be using and programming for, like Epiphany. Also, through the project we’ve learned about keeping in touch with the OSS community, which is an important aspect of OSS. As with any software development, communication is key, and so it’s important to know how to communicate with people who are working on the same project.

As far as my interactions with the HFOSS community, I have regularly gotten the emails from the GNOME accessibility list and Epiphany list. That helps me to stay in the loop, and I also feel reassured knowing that if questions arise regarding Epiphany extensions or accessibility, I have access to people who can answer the questions, and I know that the list is active, and that I will get a response back. Additionally, there are constantly people on the #a11y IRC chatroom as an additional place where I could direct questions if needed.


Lists and IRC

Since the last post, I’ve signed up on the gnome-accessibility-list.

I looked through the other lists and a lot of them don’t seem like they would be useful during the semeter, but the lsr-list might be useful to join, if we do something with the Linux Screen Reader, which I don’t know whether or not we would.

I observed #a11y on IRC for 24 hours, starting at 3:45 PM on Saturday, 9-8-12. There was very little activity. The only other person there for most of the time was MrNibbles. KRobit signed on for a while as well, but while I was there no one sent any messages. It seems that, at least on weekends, the chatroom is dead.

–>| YOU (Brian_) have joined #a11y
=-= Topic for #a11y is “Salon de discussion autour de l’accessibilité numérique”
=-= Topic for #a11y was set by sebcbien on Sunday, August 28, 2011 7:30:31 AM
<–| ChanServ has left #a11y
–>| krobit (~chatzilla@c-174-62-250-96.hsd1.ma.comcast.net) has joined #a11y
|<– krobit has left freenode (Read error: Connection reset by peer)
–>| krobit (~chatzilla@c-174-62-250-96.hsd1.ma.comcast.net) has joined #a11y
|<– krobit has left freenode (Quit: ChatZilla [Firefox 15.0.1/20120905151427])

It turns out that I was in the wrong chatroom. I was in Freenode, but should have been on /irc.gnome.org. There were a lot more people in it, so that was a good sign. There were only a handful of messages sent while I was on. There was one about a bug filed in Ubuntu, and one with a link to a python file from someone looking for help getting it to work.

Start of Semester

Hi! I just created this blog, and will be using it for the CS 490 class at WNE.

My goals for the course are to learn how to work with the open source community, and to successfully complete a group project that will contribute to making the overall project more accessible. While previous courses were based on learning about coding and implementing what we learn, I expect this course to be more about designing, documenting, and planning what we will be doing, and less about implementation, although there will be some.