2012/06/20 Ubuntu Plus One

In the Precise development cycle a new archive oriented team was trialled, the Plus One team. This team was created to help keep the archive in an installable and buildable state at all times, a major driver for early testing and for a solid LTS release. The Plus One team is tasked with general house keeping for the Ubuntu archive. for finding issues such as build failures or packages which are no longer built from the source in the archive, and figuring out what to do with them. They are also responsible for figuring out why our images are broken on any particular day and driving resolution.

This cycle when they were looking for volunteers for the team for the Quantal cycle I was put forward to help. It sounded interesting as the work has a much broader base than my normal role, touching anything in the Ubuntu archive. I have been working with Debian packages for over 4 years, but mostly kernel related packages and they have their own quirks. This gave me a chance to branch out and solidify my Ubuntu skills, a good stepping stone to becoming a core-dev in my own right. An exciting and scary prospect.

I have been working on the Plus One team for a couple of weeks now, and all I can say is it has been a baptism of fire, have had to touch C++, C, python, ruby, perl (and more) often in the same package. Had to fiddle with autoconf, and get familiar with the multitudinous patching schemes. I have learned a healthy hatred for quilt (as it lets me lose my changes for the umpteenth time). Test built untold packages; my poor test build server is crying out for a rest after the utter pounding I have given it. For all this work we have made some progress indeed, but at this time in the cycle the breakage is building at least as fast as we club it into submission. At times it is soul destroying.

Overall though it has been a very positive experience, I have learned a huge amount about the archive and packaging in the Ubuntu world, and gained a healthy dose of respect for anyone who voluntarily maintains other peoples packages. All I can really say is a big thank you to those who look after this stuff full time, you are made of strong stuff indeed.