Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why is the packaging process so broken?!?

For those that do not know, I develop software for the Mythbuntu project. Over the past couple of Ubuntu releases I have been working on Mythbuntu-bare, a backup and restore utility for MythTV systems. I have been slowly adding functionality to this software which was included with the mythbuntu-common package, but due to the growing complexity of the software and size I decided it was time to move it from the mythbuntu-common package into its own set of packages. This is where my issues began.

I originally uploaded the new package to REVU (the process for getting packages into the repository) on July 19th, 2011. Feature freeze was on August 11th, 2011 so this should have been plenty of time to get the package reviewed. At the time I knew of one member of the Mythbuntu team that could review the software, and I worked with him to make sure everything was packaged correctly. Once everything was fixed I started asking for a second review in the #ubuntu-motu IRC channel, as each package needs to pass two reviews in order to be uploaded to the archive. At this point I had about 1-2 weeks left until feature freeze. Every few days I would ask in the channel without getting much of any assistance, although I was told I needed to file a needs packaging bug, which I promptly did and subscribed the requested team. However this did not seem to help much. At the beginning of August another member of the Mythbuntu team stepped forward and was able to give me the second review I needed, after a few additional changes. On August 11th (yes the day of feature freeze), my software was uploaded to what I believed to be the archive.

On Friday, August 19th, I received an email from a Canonical employee stating that my package was being rejected (with a list of reasons) and that I should feel free to adjust the package and reupload. The reasons listed in the email are either very minor issues (optionally need fixed) or do not apply to my package. I happened to be at the end of a week long vacation at this time, but fired off a reply 12 hours after receiving the email and explained why each one of the list items did not apply. Although just yesterday I tracked down the Canonical employee on IRC and they said I would get a reply that day, I still have not received that a reply.

At this point I wonder what else I could have done. I submitted my package to the REVU process with plenty of time before feature freeze. I pleaded for it to be reviewed by a MOTU in the #ubuntu-motu channel, but had to bug people I know to get it reviewed in time before feature freeze. Then even after following these rules and fixing my packaging when told to do so, it still gets rejected by an archive admin. Do that admins not trust the MOTUs to review software? If so, why is the REVU process in place? I am starting to understand why there is a lot of software that is not packaged, as the REVU process seems to just be a way to discourage people from packaging things. I will be the first to admit that I am not the best programmer, but this process seems asinine. No matter how many hoops I seem to jump though there is always one more, and nobody will answer my questions about these hoops. As Ubuntu 11.10 Beta was just released, I believe the window to get this software into 11.10 has passed.

Maybe I am wrong and I just don't understand the big picture behind why Ubuntu needs all these levels to get though just to get software into the archive. After this process, I just don't care anymore. I just want to write software.