GNOME 40 was released at the end of March, and yesterday I added the last bits of it to Gentoo. You may not think that's fast, and you'd be right, but it's a lot faster than any GNOME release has been added to Gentoo that I can recall. I wasn't looking to become Gentoo's GNOME maintainer when I joined the team 18 months ago. I only wanted to use a GNOME release that was a little less stale. So how did I get here?
The Lemote Yeeloong is a small notebook that is often the computer of choice for Free Software advocates, including Richard Stallman. It's powered by an 800 MHz STMicroelectronics Loongson 2F processor and has an antiquated Silicon Motion 712 graphics chip. The SM712's acceleration features are pretty subpar for today's standards, and performance of the old XFree86 Acceleration Architecture (XAA) that supports the SM712 has slowly decayed as developers move to support newer hardware and newer acceleration architectures. In short, graphics performance of the SM712 isn't very good with new X servers, so how can we improve it?
Gentoo/MIPS has been in, well, not great shape for quite some time. When I was going through Gentoo recruitment, there were no stages (used for installing Gentoo) newer than 2008, so this was one of the main things I wanted to improve, specifically by creating new N32 ABI stages. Even though the N32 (meaning New 32-bit) ABI was introduced in IRIX in 1996 to replace SGI's o32 (Old 32-bit) ABI, Linux support for N32 has lagged behind until the last few years. Now, I'm pleased to unofficially announce new multilib N32 stages and that we'll be supporting as the preferred ABI.
Software is never finished; it's forgotten. There is always one more enhancement to be made or one little quirk to work out. Sometimes there are even big problems. It happens from time to time. It's expected, and it's expected that the problems will be fixed. After spending quite a bit of time recently working with Linux on the Alpha platform, I've come to realize we face some very serious problems. And unfortunately, these may not ever be fixed, putting in jeopardy the future (hah!) of Alpha/Linux. I decided to articulate these problems in an email to the Linux on Alpha Processors mailing list in order to inform and ultimately find solutions and breathe a bit of life back into Alpha/Linux. I'd like to think that Alpha/Linux isn't a piece of forgotten software, not yet.
As time goes on, alternative architectures like Alpha and PA-RISC slowly lose their userbase. Experienced developers move on to things that interest them more. Emphasis isn't put on fixing bugs for these aging platforms, and the level of support slowly erodes. Eventually a small hardcore userbase is all that is left. The Gentoo Bugzilla showed this effect on the Alpha platform. All nontrivial bugs were left to rot. What's worse, many bugs were so old that the software containing them wasn't even in Portage anymore, yet no one closed the bug report or asked if it was fixed. One, a two-and-a-half-year-old bug about a failing cipher algorithm in libmcrypt caught my eye. I decided I'd give fixing it a shot.