SIL LSDev Linux Development

Language software for Linux and Mac OS X

FieldWorks alpha release

Finally, we have a publicly-available alpha release of FieldWorks, with packages ready for anyone to use.

However, remember that this is still an alpha release and so there will be bugs, missing functionality, and a general lack of polish and performance. In particular, there’s no guarantee that it won’t lose any data you enter, although it hasn’t done this in any of our internal testing.

There are now packages for Ubuntu Karmic and Lucid, and Debian Squeeze, in both 32- and 64-bit versions. However, note that FieldWorks currently doesn’t work with kmfl in Karmic so if you’re on Karmic you’re restricted to using one of the standard Linux key layouts. Also, it probably won’t be possible for you to import existing language project data yet. We suggest that you first experiment with one of the ready-made sample projects, as explained in the instructions.

There are currently three packages:

  • fieldworks
  • fieldworks-mono
  • fieldworks-libgdiplus

The last two are the bleeding-edge version of mono that’s needed to run FieldWorks. We’ve made this into a fieldworks-specific package so that it can be installed and used alongside the regular version of mono that’s installed on the system. (The custom one will be hidden inside /usr/lib/fieldworks and won’t be visible to other software.) Eventually the released version of mono will catch up to the version we’re using currently, and the custom packages will go away. Prior to that we plan to integrate our work with the version of mono that’s at which is used to support WeSay and other Palaso software, but that’s currently at 2.4.2 and ours is 2.7+ so we still have some work to do. After careful testing it might be possible to use WeSay with the fieldworks version of mono, but we haven’t had time to investigate that.

The fieldworks package itself is huge: 388MB. That’s largely because it includes 257MB of training movies for Flex, as well as other training materials and sample data. We plan to split this into multiple sub-packages so that people with limited bandwidth can leave parts out. There will still be a single fieldworks meta-package, though, as a convenience that pulls in everything else as dependencies. We’ll upgrade the sub-packages on different schedules, so you don’t have to re-download the movies whenever we make a small fix to the code. We’ll also ensure that it’s possible to omit the parts of FieldWorks that are specifically translation-related, as is done with the Windows version of FW.

I’m sorry for the long delay since my previous post suggesting that things were ready, and the general absence of information. There were a number last minute hitches, including problems with the licensing of one particular open-source software component we’ve used. However, I kept thinking that we’d almost solved everything and so didn’t write an update.

We’re excited to have a public alpha version of FieldWorks for Linux at last, and we’re looking forward to hearing how it fares in real use. Please use the issue tracker for actual bugs, post general comments here, and use the wiki to refine the instructions or provide additional information for other users.

7 Responses to “FieldWorks alpha release”

  1. Well done, anyway! I’ll have to get a linux VM running to help try it out. I’m excited you’ve got so far.

  2. Neil Mayhew says:

    Thanks! We’ll be glad of any feedback and testing you can offer.

  3. Michael says:

    Hi Neil.

    I have been trying to post a bug report but FW (alpha5) is having difficulty even allowing that. When the bug report gui screen comes up it has the 2 text boxes, the lower one is already filled with the auto generated report. The issue with it is I am unable to copy and past the information provided to BugZilla because it will not copy to clipboard.

    I was thinking of just posting my observations on the initial bug report but I’m not sure if that will provide enough information.


  4. Sue Newland says:

    Michael, I have had this problem once in a while also where the error in the bug report can’t be copied to the clipboard. If you could at least provide information, at Bugzilla, about exactly what you were doing when you got the crash, and any major information from the crash report that looks helpful, then we can see if that will give us enough to go on. Thanks!

  5. Dawson says:

    Hi folks,
    It’s been a while since I perused lsdev, so when I discovered an Alpha version (7, I think) of FLEX for linux I was thrilled. A day or so ago I downloaded it, and am playing with it a bit. I’m going to throw some of my own test data in Arabic and Hebrew at it for fun.

    I’m using it in a freshly installed sandboxed Lucid Lynx via virtualbox. I have a macbook running OSX 10.5.8 with 2G of RAM, and a 2.167 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. I’ve set up the Lucid VM to have 1G of RAM, and 128M of video RAM (3d acceleration enabled). I’m using compiz, and quite happy with the results … it is a bit pokey, but its all the machine I can throw at it right now. The alpha port starts up quite a bit faster than the stock version of Fieldworks 6.0.4 on a window$ vista box with twice the memory. (just anecdotal .. I haven’t done any extensive testing on this claim)

    Thanks so much for all the hard work. I like the idea that the corporation at least has some effort towards becomming a bit more platform agnostic. (That is, I’m sure you all would be happy to have more staff around than you have). I’m not keen on being held hostage to window$. I’ve spread the word to another friend who has a mac, and I mentioned that the porting is in the works (after linux finishes).

    Speaking about other staff … what are your current staffing needs? And when porting of SIL corporate s/w is finished do you have any fresh projects in store?

    Keep up the good work!


  6. Neil Mayhew says:

    Hi Dawson,

    Thanks very much for the encouraging feedback.

    We could always use more people, if they are suitably experienced or qualified. There is no shortage of software to port, and there will still be a lot of ongoing maintenance of the things that have been ported already. We have a Staffing Needs page on our wiki, and also one about Open-Source Development Opportunities that explains how people can help us by working on aspects of several open-source projects that we depend on.

    For example, most of the software coming our way nowadays is based on .Net, so Mono is used to run it on Linux and Mac. Although Mono is great and works extremely well, we and others in SIL have needed to fix a number of bugs and provide missing functionality (eg in the area of complex script display and keyboarding) and this aspect of our work will probably continue for some time. So it’s not just applications that we’re working on.

    Note, too, that one of our projects (Balsa) isn’t about corporate software at all but is a packaging of Linux with various language software applications (not all SIL) and useful tools preinstalled, specifically aimed at MTTs and similar users.

    Application ports that have been specifically requested include OurWord, Phonology assistant and Paratext (all .Net-based). However, no decisions have been made yet. In part, we’re waiting to see how things work out with FieldWorks before deciding whether to redeploy some of those people on other projects. More importantly, though, the priorities for our group are decided at a higher administrative level.

    Enjoy using FieldWorks on Linux!


  7. Dawson says:

    Hey Neil, (et. al.),

    I was wondering if anyone has been playing around with mono on windows?

    The thought occurred to me that if the window$ developing crowd ditched mirco$oft’s .NET framework and went to mono, that should cut porting time, particularly in areas which .NET stuff doesn’t nicely port. Then when they develop new stuff, the porting should merge nicely.

    Just a thought