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Friday, June 14, 2013


Modernizing blam's autotools (or shaving the yak to move out from GoogleReader...)

Before focusing my spare time completely on the GSoC* (as I have mentoring responsibilities this year \o/ ), I wanted to solve a problem that cannot wait after July...

Yes, I've been victim of Google's cuts too... And I was wondering, where should I move? Feedly? ThingyBob? Well, I shouldn't make the same mistake twice, right?

Actually, some time ago I was using a desktop app to avoid relying on software that I cannot control (yes, vendor lock-in, the most important thing that open source tries to solve, right?): Thunderbird. But somehow the convenience of a web app (that I can access from any computer) and the hassle of using my mail client for RSS reading made me move to the web.

I should be able to find a replacement that no company or individual can "take down", and which feels less clunky than Thunderbird for reading RSS. So, enter blam (in the future I'll figure out how to sync its state between computers, maybe using SparkleShare?, to achieve that same convenience that a web-app provides), that Gnome app that has strangely managed to not catch my eye until now...

Well, maybe because if I install it from debian sid and I try to import my very first RSS feed from my GoogleReader list it doesn't work? Well, apparently it is a bug that is already fixed upstream, thanks to Carlos which has modernized the way that the program deals with XML and serialization.

Then I went ahead and tried to compile master myself... and guess what, the autogen.sh execution fails. Here the yak shaving begins, when I feel like this when trying to fix the autotools stuff:

Fortunately, after some tinkering (and some copy&paste from banshee's build scripts), I managed to fix the problem, and also modernized a bit some things (like using the brand new ".ac" extension instead of ".in" for the configure script, or using properly the AC_INIT and AM_AUTOMAKE_INIT macros,...).

Anyway, the real thing to highlight here is that while I was fixing this stuff and pushing to the repository...

... I saw some really good stuff committed by Carlos: using the new .NET 4.5 C# async patterns to get rid of those ugly callbacks! Kudos to him.

And if you're willing to help more with our autotools housekeeping, please do, I still feel this autogen.sh is way too long and needs some ironing.

* And if you're wondering what's up with GSoC (aka Google Summer of Code):

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You could repurpose Blam! to use NewsBlur as a Google Reader replacement which would give you syncing between devices (and support for additional applications on multiple platforms).

NewsBlur is open source and as it is their business to serve RSS users you get assurance that they will not stab you in the back to chase some social network agenda, data mine and sell you or do things to your pets o an unsavory nature.

24$ a year is a reasonable price to pay for that.

Regardless good to see Blam get some love again.

- David Nielsen
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