All posts by Christoph Cullmann

Dr.-Ing. Christoph Cullmann is a Senior Software Engineer at AbsInt Angewandte Informatik GmbH. His work is focused on static analysis of both binary and source programs and the WCET analysis of embedded systems. In his spare time, he works on the KDE project and maintains the Kate editor application and component.

FirstAid – PDF Help Viewer

Hi,

in the recent months, I didn’t find much time to spend on Kate/KTextEditor development. But at least I was now able to spend a bit more time on OpenSource & Qt things even during work time in our company. Normally I am stuck there with low level binary or source analysis work.

For our products, we were in the need of some online help. As our documentation is delivered as PDFs generated by the tools of the TeX Live distro, a natural idea was to use some PDF viewer and integrate it more tightly in our software than just “open the manual at page 1”.

We did review PDF viewers out there, but most (like Okular) have too many dependencies to be just bundled with our product (or a license not permitting that).

Without bundling, we can’t ensure that the tight coupling is working, without starting to test the integration with X different viewers which more or less all need other kinds of command line arguments to open the right page or even lack that feature or will not reuse an already running instance, ….

Therefore, as our GUIs are developed with Qt anyways, we did take a look at libpoppler (and its Qt 5 bindings), which is the base of Okular, too.

Easy enough, taking the small demo program shipped with the library and adding a small stdin based interface to tell it “goto <named reference>” we arrived at some small PDF viewer that is fit enough for our use case.

We named the thing “FirstAid”, the sources can be grabbed at github.com/AbsInt/FirstAid. Like libpoppler and the demo, its licensed as GPLv2+.

As already the README states, the aim of this small project is not to replace some full fledged viewer like Okular, the design goal is to have a small viewer that is auto-started by some host application and will jump to the requested labels for a tightly coupled online help. It can be used as a pure standalone PDF viewer, too, but that is more intended for testing it e.g. on the documents that should later be shown as online help.

FirstAid

I already annoyed Albert with some small issue I had with libpoppler, perhaps I will provide more useful fixes in the future if more things come up during FirstAid development. In any case, already THANKS A LOT for the Qt 5 bindings around libpoppler, they work nicely for us!

I really think this small project shows the benefit of OpenSource: We needed a PDF viewer, we were able to create a small one in less than a month based on OpenSource libraries and we can give back the results to the community (if it is useful for others is a different story, but perhaps other people have the same itch to scratch, if not, ignore it). I hope more possibilities for such things come up at work in the future.

For building: It should build out of the box if you have some recent Qt and libpoppler-qt5-dev installed, at least the Travis CI is able to build it out of the box with the given config. For me, it shows some small bugs if used with Qt 5.6/7 compared to the Qt 5.8 Beta I used here for testing.

Bug Triaging Guest Blog: The wandering bug triager was here

I was contacted by Buovjaga from the LibreOffice QA team to spread the word about the current bug triaging efforts going on.

Therefore now a short guest block about that ;=)

Thanks to Buovjaga for trying to get some public interest in this important aspect of open source work: handling our flood of bugs!

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Free software needs more contributors from the non-coding user community. The problem is that there is no scientifically proven method for attracting them.

After dealing with thousands of LibreOffice bug reports and simultaneously trying to recruit more testers through various cunning plans, I realized the topic of free software quality assurance needs to become more prominent. I came up with the idea for a publicity stunt where I camp out at different bug trackers while telling the world about it. I chose KDE and Kate for my first month of triaging.

Bug triagers act as guardians of the bug tracker and save the developers from a lot of wasted time. If the number of unconfirmed reports in a project is not close to zero, it needs more triagers.

There were about 120 reports I deemed suitable for testing. I skipped crash debugging, testing of advanced features and only focused on the basic stuff. My take on the stats is that there is currently no one doing this sort of thing regularly for Kate.

To get started in triaging KDE bugs, you

– start testing unconfirmed reports and ancient confirmed ones while keeping the Bug triage guide at hand https://community.kde.org/Bugsquad/Guide_To_BugTriaging

– join #kde-bugs IRC channel after having commented on a bunch of reports and request rights to edit report details

– join the IRC channels of the products you are helping and coordinate testing with others https://userbase.kde.org/IRC_Channels#Applications

I believe a goal should be set for recruiting one person to deal with triaging per every actively-developed KDE product. After achieving this goal, it will quickly become apparent to each product team just how many triagers are needed in order for the work to be sustainable. However, the teams should not remain in isolation. The whole of KDE needs to become transparent. An “Everything about KDE” web dashboard would enable contributors to quickly see, which teams are in need of assistance. Tools for this are available in the Grimoire Lab suite http://grimoirelab.github.io/. KDE sysadmin team does not have the resources to set them up, so if you have the necessary skills and want to make this happen, please contact them on the #kde-sysadmin IRC channel.

If you want to contact me, you can find me on the #libreoffice-qa channel @ Freenode network, nickname: buovjaga.

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