Status update, December 2019

Published 2019-12-15 on Drew DeVault's blog

It’s December 15th and it still hasn’t snowed here. Why did I move to this godforsaken den of unholy heat and rain? I think I have chosen a latitude just southerly enough to deprive me of the climate I yearn for. I take some comfort in the knowledge that I’m travelling home to see the family in a couple of weeks, and sure enough Colorado has been covered in snow for some time now. Anyway, none of this is relevant to my work, which is what you came here for. Let’s take a look at this past month.

I’ve started a couple of new projects this month, the first of which I call “himitsu”. The goal is to build a key-value store for secure information like passwords, keys, and so on. The design is inspired by Plan 9’s factotum, redesigned for Unix systems and somewhat broader in scope. One interesting goal of himitsu is the ability for programs to establish authenticated connections without ever handling your secret information - for example, your email client could ask himitsu to connect to an IMAP server, log in with your authentication details, then hand the authenticated file descriptor to the mail reader. The key-value store can also store things like the IMAP server address & port, your username, and so on, meaning your mail reader could work out of the box with zero configuration. Work on this project will be slow going, as I have to use extra care to make sure that it’s secure and correct.

In SourceHut news, I focused mainly on two workstreams: single-sign-on and names.sr.ht, the upcoming DNS and domain registration service. The first finally fixes the problems with login across *.sr.ht, and now logging in once will log you in everywhere. Other issues with internal OAuth keys expiring have been fixed alongside these changes, and I’ve implemented a lot of improvements to the billing system as well. All of these should address some inconveniences which have been frustrating users for a while now. As for names.sr.ht, let’s just share another teaser screenshot:

Screenshot of domain contact management on names.sr.ht

I also received my PinePhone this week, and I’ve been terribly excited to work on it. I’ve already sent a few patches to postmarketOS upstream, and intend to write more, to get sway working well as a daily driver phone interface. “Sway Mobile” is now starting to take shape. The first of the projects for this is the development of a touch-friendly application launcher, which I’ve dubbed “casa”. Other projects I intend to work on for Sway Mobile include a new, touch-friendly bar and lock screen, a new on-screen keyboard program, and hopefully the development of touch bindings for the compositor itself. I’ll be writing up my plans in more detail, along with a review of the PinePhone itself, in a blog post next week.

In the course of this work, I also made a small library that readers may find useful for their own projects: libfdicons. It implements the FreeDesktop icon specification in a single small C library, which I need for Casa. In other Wayland news, I’ve made some modest progress on the book, and I plan on writing more for it soon. I apologise for letting it get somewhat sidelined while I focused on other projects. I ended up overhauling the XDG chapter somewhat, as I found it pretty weak on a later reading. I intend to write about seats (input) next, and will likely move the XDG chapter after the seat chapter so things flow better. I’ve also started a new Wayland compositor, sedna, which aims to reach a broader audience than Sway can, and I’ll be working on this as time permits.

Speaking of Sway, the next release (1.3) has been coming along, slowly but surely. We’re only blocked by one change now, and with the original author busy I’ve stepped up to offer what time I can implementing the last few changes. Once we get that merged, I’ll start working on the release process for Sway 1.3. Thank you for your patience

aerc 0.3.0 was released this month, and progress on the next version has been going strong. Improvements to aerc have been almost entirely community driven, and I’ve only stepped in to write a few small patches here and there. Thanks to all of the contributors for their help! There are already quite a few changes in for 0.4.0, and more are in review now, including many bug fixes, more sophisticated email templates, contacts autocompletion, bulk email management, and more. All of this is thanks to the great community which has grown around it!

That’s all the updates I have for you today. I’m still touched by the support the community has given me to work on these projects. I could never be this productive without your help. Thank you.

Have a comment on one of my posts? Start a discussion in my public inbox by sending an email to ~sircmpwn/public-inbox@lists.sr.ht [mailing list etiquette]

Are you a free software maintainer who is struggling with stress, demanding users, overwork, or any other social problems in the course of your work? Please email me — I know how you feel, and I can lend a sympathetic ear and share some veteran advice.


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