Wednesday 12 January 2011

How to contribute to NetworkManager (or nm-applet)

Since NetworkManager (and all of the attached parts; VPN plugins, clients, backend...) is such a complex system, we're always looking for people to help out in whichever way they can.

One of the things I'd like to focus on this cycle (even if this announcement should have come long ago), is test cases and generally getting a good grasp of what works and what doesn't with NM, the clients, or plugins. Test cases are useful for us to know that things are performing as they should and even more important where development snapshots are involved, given the "in flux" nature of the code we're providing users. It's not that it's unstable code really (in fact, it's clearly not... 0.8 is now a stable branch that got tons of bug fixes, and seems rock solid if I believe the type and number of reports we get). Still, I'm interested to know about failures. That's partly why I wrote a number of test cases on the Desktop Testing Team tracker. There's a need for more though, and that's where the help of the community comes in.

If you know of some things that are important to you in NetworkManager, nm-applet, or the VPN plugins, write test cases for them! It will help everyone make sure those remain working, iron out the small annoying bugs, and just improve on the overall usefulness of NetworkManager.

Obviously, test cases and testing isn't the only place you can help. Are you annoyed at some little thing that works, but you'd love for it to go one step further in providing an amazing experience? Then we need you.

It's also very much the way I started contributing to Ubuntu, dealing with small annoyances which would make my life easier in using the desktop every day... And it was as simple and providing support for saving group or user password for the VPNC plugin.

I can already think of a few more of these small things, such as hiding the SIM PIN when prompted for it (since it's a password)...

I've started identifying small (but important!) bugs like this in Launchpad. As for other projects, look for the 'bitesize' tag. Here's an example.
They may not all be tagged bitesize, but if there's something that almost works for you and you want to take a look at fixing it, jump in! We'll all be glad you did. The same principle applies to many of the bugs marked as Wishlist, which are good ideas, maybe some need more discussion upstream, but they are all ready to be worked on (and have varying degrees of difficulty).

If you're looking to work on NM, the first thing you may want to look at is the wiki at It's generally also a good idea to subscribe to the mailing list (see the previous link), so you can discuss changes with the community at large. Finally, there's truly no place more useful than the DebuggingTips page even for non-technical users. It's where you can poke NetworkManager to tell you exactly what goes on. In. Details.

In the cases where changes can be reasonably integrated into Ubuntu and/or Debian directly, feel free to submit merge requests and patches. This includes helping out fixing issues in the growing indicator patch for the applet :)

Finally if you're just curious and want to help out, you should know that there is a lot of work being done at the moment to simplify NM in various ways; all of which to in time become version 0.9. If you want to know more about the plans for NM 0.9, it's here:

When I'm connected I'm always happy to answer questions and help out in any way possible, both on NM and general desktop-ish stuff. You can reach me on #ubuntu-desktop or #nm on Freenode. I'm cyphermox.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Natty nm-applet improvements

As those running Natty have undoubtedly noticed (and it has been noted on the Ayatana mailing list), we currently have a stop-gap measure (until we get connman and indicator-network magic!) for an indicator for network connections being nm-applet with a big ugly patch to make it work as an indicator.

In light of the discussion I'm referring to above, as well as a number of bugs that have been reported against network-manager-applet, I've been working on fixing these issues, including making the animations work again, re-adding icons for wireless signal strength and fixing the icons when connected to VPNs.

Most of this was coming from the fact that icons could not be dynamically composited by nm-applet when using libappindicator as it used to be doing. However, it's just about ready to all be live again:

All I'm waiting for is review of a merge request to provide the new icons needed. :)

Now, there is still a number of things that need to be fixed in the indicator patch and in the look and feel of nm-applet as an indicator. While this is still meant to remain a bridge until we can switch to connman and indicator-network, I'm looking forward to getting new ideas and to know about the issues you see in nm-applet's look right now. Jump in on the ayatana list and give us your thoughts!