I had some spare time this morning and a few people had reached out to me about my bass collection, so enter my 2013 Nexus 7 and YouTube, et voila!
It was an emotionally draining day. Today I had to face, head-on, saying goodbye to a friend. Now that I’m home, done driving, done working, done talking and listening, I can sit quietly and let some tears come, and yes, be a little maudlin on my own time. I’ve gathered enough gray hairs to know that it’s important to share perspective to work through a loss. Especially if the empty space is left by a person of Seth’s quality. There simply can’t be enough words. So indulge me.
Seth, you were truly one of a kind — one of the most invigoratingly, maddeningly brilliant people I ever met. You were blessed with the most wicked sense of humor and, much to the amusement and sometimes surprise of those around you, one of the least effective “mental governor switches.” You always let us know what you thought, even if it wasn’t popular or gracious. And usually you were right.
I’m reminded of the many ways you could completely flip the world on its head with a new perspective. Usually this involved the introductory phrase: “Hey, I have this crazy idea….”And then you’d proceed to explain, top to bottom, a totally genius approach to a problem others of us weren’t even sure how to sum up. And when you did it, your brow was never furrowed. You were always smiling. If we were on the phone, I could even hear that. I could hear the smile in your voice because you knew it wasn’t that crazy. You’d worked it all out, the logic was right, and that was beautiful to you. So of course you would smile.
And you knew how to treat bad ideas too. I always thought you had a gift for not confusing the problem of bad ideas with the problem of bad people. Certainly there are both; you just never mixed them up. When I had a bad idea, I never felt like your dismissal of it was dismissing or belittling me. You’d just explain why the idea was wrong.
You’d cock your head to the side, just so. But your eyes would stay on mine; you were still regarding me while already gutting the idea with the razor of your intellect. “Hmm, are you sure that’s what you want to do?” you’d ask. “Because I’m pretty sure it’s not.“
And of course you’d smile that impish, wickedly infectious smile.
Almost invariably, you’d follow that with a better counter-idea.
Of course, it was always about more than being right to you. It was about doing the right thing. So how can I argue? And thus, back to the drawing board.
Look, you weren’t a saint. Of course you weren’t. OK, yes, we’ve all said wonderful things about you. All of them were true, within, I think, an acceptable margin of error attributable to the terrible proximity of loss. But you were more than that. You were a flawed, complicated human being, like everyone. There’s lots of things about you I still don’t know and never will. (Damn this unforgiving world for ensuring that. ) There were a special few who knew you better than anyone else, and the cost of your loss is higher for them; I don’t envy them for it.
But I think they’ll back me up when I say you were sometimes annoying. Grouchy. Impatient. You didn’t make it easy on someone who was busy, or wearing rose-tinted glasses, or couldn’t catch up to your thought processes, which, by the way, ran at the speed of a runaway ICBM. Honestly, I’m not completely sure you slept; you might have been part bionic.
But I always knew those sometimes irksome qualities showed how much passion you had for what you did. And that passion made it easy to get past my own issues and see the big picture you were looking at. You inculcated everyone around you with that passion. Because it was always about the big picture for you. That was reflected in how much you cared about everything. About our work, about the world, about life. You wanted things to be better. Not just for us, for everyone, everywhere. You wanted to make the world a better place. And you did.
Even over the past few years, as you and I were working on different things, and not in touch as often, I still had your voice in my head. Infuriatingly often, in fact. I’ve realized this week how often, when I’m trying to devise a solution, whether technical or social, to some difficulty, I picture you and ask myself, “What would Seth think about this?”
And that Little Seth in my head, more often than not — which I’m sad to admit will give an idea of the quality of my ideas versus yours — would cock his head to the side, while looking at me, and shoot me down. But always with a smile.
Oh, Seth, you left so big a mark on the world, none of us can see all of it yet. We can’t comprehend it.
I think trying to understand the web of our myriad connections to the world is like standing in the incomprehensibly large footprint of a behemoth. From our vantage point now, we look at that web as if we’re navigating a canyon. All we see are cliffs, mesas, pools. We climb our way around them, looking for meaning, looking for design or form, and we don’t find it. We can’t see it because we’re enmeshed in it daily. We don’t understand all the ways that each of us touches so many others. Only those around us will know, when each of us is gone.
But one day we’ll have better perspective. Perhaps, as some believe, it happens when we die. Personally, I think it happens when we live truly thoughtfully and fully, with wisdom and peace. And maybe it’s not in a flash of light or dark. Perhaps it’s subtle, gradual, and we don’t know when we reach that point, only that somehow it ended up in our rear view mirror. Like when you’re driving — or biking! — and realize that, while in complete command of your vehicle, you somehow got lost in the sound of the wheels and the wind in your hair, and blissfully passed right by the turn you meant to make.
Then, on that day, when we have that perspective, that enlightenment: Then, I like to think, we’ll look down at the swoop and curve of the land. We’ll survey the mesas and arroyos that represent our own lives, and those who have touched us. The curve of the river. The strata of the soil. And then I think that footprint reveals itself. And also revealed will be the intricate and immense footprints left by all those who have touched us.
Looking down at that landscape of our lives, I think, will be like waking from a dream. We’ll say, Ah, now I see, and cock our heads just so, and smile.
If, like me, you were an early adopter of Fedora 19, you may have upgraded from Fedora 18. If so, you might be seeing a black text screen for the grub 2 boot loader. It’s actually quite easy to get the pretty themed screen back if you want it. Just run this command:
yum install grub2-starfield-theme
This will restore the theme and you’ll see it at the next reboot. There is a bug that addresses this issue, but if you’re an early upgrader, you may have to bring in the fix manually.
Usually I wait until later in the pre-release cycle — a few weeks before Beta on average — before I move to the pre-release of the next Fedora operating system. But for Fedora 19, I’m too excited to see GNOME 3.8 and all the other improvements, so I tried out the Fedora 19 Test Candidate 2 (TC2) during lunch yesterday. I burned it to a USB key and was happy with what I saw. I decided it was time to move over now and fit in with the cool kids.
Getting ready to install
Now, I could have just thrown caution to the wind and installed right away. But since I wanted to move over on my main workhorse laptop, a ThinkPad x220, I really needed to back up my user files first. I hadn’t done that in a month or two (I know, I know!) so this was a must. I figured, if I was going to have a little downtime for the backup, I might as well make it worthwhile and install the Fedora 19 Alpha TC2 while I was at it. Thankfully, this afternoon was free of meetings so it was a good time to be offline for a short while.
I keep my backups in several places, but the easiest one to get to right away, with the fastest write speed, is a portable USB 2.0/FireWire enclosure I keep around for my own backups. It has a 500 GB SATA drive inside and plenty of room for my data. I was already running the Fedora 19 Alpha TC2 using the Live USB. I attached the disk, and of course it was mounted up for my convenience. I used the Disks utility to unlock and mount my home volume from the encrypted hard disk, and used the rsync utility to freshen the backup.
Installing Fedora 19 Alpha TC2
I decided to do a network installation rather than just burning a Live image. There were a bunch of other packages I wanted, and I figured I might as well grab them all during installation; plus, I wanted to see how that process was working. I burned the F19 Alpha TC2 boot.iso to a USB key and booted up.
I was hoping to hold on to my current partitioning setup as part of the installation process. I have a /boot partition on /dev/sda1, and an LVM physical volume with a single volume group, subdivided into separate logical volumes. Some are encrypted, including my /home folder. Unfortunately this is where I ran into my first issue — the current F19 Alpha can’t handle custom partitioning in the installer interface. I don’t believe this is required in the release criteria for an Alpha, so it’s not a huge surprise.
Nor was it a huge impediment; fortunately, the installer GUI is not tied that closely to the OS version or package content anymore. That means I was able to boot off a Fedora 18 boot.iso (written to USB), and simply point to a Fedora 19 mirror as the software source. I used the existing (and working) Fedora 18 installer GUI to do my required custom partitioning, so I could retain my current partition setup. Then I was off to the races, while I worked on other things.
There are some cool interface changes during login. A finished desktop screen expands nicely from the center rather than having elements appear gradually in sequence. There is some work being done on an initial setup routine, kind of like an orientation for new users of GNOME 3. It’s still a bit rough, and there are bugs, but you can see where things are going: it’s definitely a useful feature.
I love the fact that the screensaver reports notifications gathered while the screen was off. This would be useful for things like chat where you might want to know whether someone was looking for you before you decide to log in. I’m thinking of quickly getting on the console to answer IRC pings, but I suppose, reading back, it might just as easily be used to avoid people. Heh. But again, neat improvement. Another nice notification improvement: the larger bar introduced in GNOME 3.6 also now confirms for you that you have no new notifications, a nice added visual cue.
The control center has a smorgasbord of upgrades, from a privacy control, to per-application notification settings, to easier to read layouts for numerous controls including NetworkManager. And the overview search now is easier to read as well. And of course, none of the changes sacrifice my ability to navigate around by keyboard instead of mouse, which I really like.
Are there bugs? Sure, although I haven’t hit any identifiable ones yet. I’ll keep playing with the pre-release over the weekend and file some bugs as I poke around into the corners. But so far, I really like what I see, and I think Fedora 19 is going to be a great release!
After I cleaned up and ate a light breakfast at the hotel, I strolled back to the university building for the second day of the 2013 DevConf.cz event. In case you didn’t see them, here are my reports on part 1 and part 2 of the first day.
One thing I didn’t point out yesterday: I only saw most of one track. There were actually three complete tracks going on, several workshop rooms, and a couple of hacking labs. This is a really big conference: I hear there are almost 550 people here from around the world! Here’s what I saw and did today:
The conference was really fantastic, with great content and a lot of good hallway conversations. Combining the conference with an office visit made it even higher value, so I hope I can attend next year.
After the conference day ends, I’m meeting up with a group of buddies to find Koishi, a sushi restaurant Will Foster told me about. It’s supposed to be very good, with a real Japanese chef who gets fish flown in from Slovenia. I think tonight will be low key, since we are back at the Red Hat Czech office in the morning!
(UPDATE: Said chef was apparently not working tonight at the restaurant, so we opted for the quite satisfactory Sushi Ya, and had a wonderful time. Vaclav Tunka was a marvelous guide to some great Czech wines and the suhi was quite good. The butter fish was exceptional and they had a markedly excellent spider roll.)
I’m sure you already saw my post on part 1 of day 1 of DevConf.cz, right? Well, not much time for lunch afterward — this conference is packed with content! It’s also packed with friends from around the world. Here’s a few of mine:
There are about 5 minutes between talks, and a quick 15 minute break in between morning and afternoon sessions. So after said break, I attended the following sessions:
Following the short talks, it was almost time for the conference event. I went back to the hotel to drop off my bag, and several times I narrowly avoided death by sidewalk ice. Thankfully I was walking with Fabian Affolter who would have been able to call for help if I slipped and broke anything important! (I had met up with Fabian and fellow Fedora luminary Gerrold Kassube earlier in the day.)
I quickly headed back out into the cold and a few blocks later, met up with our hundreds of attendees at Klub Fléda. There was a huge variety of good food and, of course, the omnipresent Starobrno beer. There was also live music on stage, with a power trio doing their best to entertain the sedate geeks customarily grouped together 10 meters away from the stage.
I was able to hang out a bit with some of the hardcore hackers doing great work to solve hard problems in the Linux world, including Kay Sievers, Lennart Poettering, and Harald Hoyer. I haven’t seen Lennart and Harald in a number of years — since I was in Berlin for a LinuxTag event. After a few hours, I accompanied Dan “Strikemaker” Walsh back to the hotel where we had a quiet round or two before retiring. All in all, it was a fine day and I was looking forward to day 2.
Speaking of which, stay tuned for a report for the second day of DevConf.cz!
I’ve been at the Red Hat Czech Republic office in Brno this week for meetings and RHEL-related work. But I organized the visit around this weekend’s DevConf.cz event, a conference for free and open source software hackers in Europe. The organizers in the Brno office have done a fabulous job of putting this conference together. I arrived a little later than I wanted, just before the start of the first session. That was mostly because we were out far too late the night before, bowling and having Czech pilsner with friends in the hotel basement bar! Anyway, we joined a small queue where we picked up the agenda, a ticket to the Saturday night event, and a cute gift: Red Hat branded gloves. These would come in handy in the cold and snowy, but beautiful, Brno weather this weekend!
I headed to the first DevConf.cz talk of interest to me, on color management. This talk mainly covered the current state of color management in Linux. It didn’t give me a lot of new information, but it was well done. The speaker did mention some of Richard Hughes’ work on colord. He also mentioned the ColorHug device for calibrating screen displays to get correct color. I need to pick up one of these! He also covered the OpenICC group’s formation. I have to admit, I was still just waking up, and didn’t have as much attention to give here as the topic deserved. So I apologize for the lame recounting here.
Next I sat in Debarshi Ray’s talk on GNOME Online Accounts (GOA) for users and developers. Debarshi did a great job showing how GOA works in GNOME. He had some videos that show accessing online documents from a local desktop. In the developer section, he also explained some current problems with increasingly popular 2FA schemes, and with specific service integration through GOA. Despite significant issues with some underlying frameworks needed for better GOA support, there are smart people working to solve these issues in GNOME, which was good to hear. This will give the platform a better foothold on the seamless sharing users have learned to expect.
My energy started to flag at this point, so I grabbed a quick cup of caffeinated soda and ran back upstairs to see Tom ‘spot’ Callaway’s talk. His topic was improving the Fedora user experience through design-driven methodology. I saw a version of this talk at FUDCon in Lawrence, Kansas, where it generated excellent audience interaction. I was curious to see how it was received in Brno. I was happy to see a huge turnout for this talk here at DevConf.cz. UPDATE: Spot’s slides are here (ODP format).
Spot talked about focus on user experience as the first step in development process, as opposed to “let’s write code now, and make this pretty later.” This is not a path that many open source development projects take, but it’s one that tends to produce great results for recipients. Spot followed up with some intriguing examples:
I stayed in the same room to hear Leslie Hawthorn talk about negotiation theory in FOSS projects. (You can find an excellent summary of the topic in this post on Leslie’s blog.) A fundamental lesson I took away was often we prevent a great result because we care more about a conversation’s outcome than our goals. Leslie is an entertaining and engaging speaker and I really enjoyed this talk. Hopefully I’ll get to hang out with her a bit at DevConf.cz. I feel like we’ve crossed paths often before, but somehow miss each other through happenstance.
And since I just used the word “happenstance,” I think it’s time to end this post and get lunch. Stay tuned for part 2 of DevConf.cz day 1!
Yup, 0.1.9 has finally made it out the door. Here’s the tarball and the git repo. There are also updated packages coming shortly in Fedora 17, 18, and Rawhide. If you want to help test those to get them out sooner, look here for the package for your Fedora release.
Plus, did you know there’s a Facebook page for PulseCaster? Visit it, like it, and feel the love.
PulseCaster 0.1.9: The gruesome details
I have no witty release name attached to any of the releases, so let’s call this “The One Where We Figured Out How to Give People an Expert Option and Translations, Too.” Some of the secret features you’ll find in this release:
OK, I’m being a bit snarky here. Mainly I’m trying to play all nonchalant about how long it actually took me to get around to working on another release. Here’s a better listing of new stuff in 0.1.9:
Some of the features on the current roadmap:
As always, you can find the PulseCaster site at http://pulsecaster.org — bugs and enhancement requests are welcome. Input from users helped to drive (eventually!) the work for this release, so a tip of the hat to them for participating!
For a while I’ve been using the GNOME Evolution address book with Mutt, my favorite email client. I use a script called mutt-eds-query, which consults the default evolution-data-server (EDS) address book to find contacts whose name or email address match a substring. I have a couple thousand contacts still stored in my EDS address book, so it’s really useful for me to be able to consult them. When I type an address in Mutt’s To: field, for example, I give a few letters and then hit Ctrl+T to see a list of completions.
Unfortunately, the script stopped working when I moved to Fedora 18, because the new release contains the newest Evolution and EDS (3.6 versions). The new EDS cleans up a number of deprecated functions and has a more regular interface for querying data sources. Obviously that means the mutt-eds-query needed changing too. I used the extensive GNOME developer documentation to find out what had changed, and updated the script I found on the Mutt wiki.
So I hacked in some changes today. I’m not a born C programmer, so I’m sure there are bad style uses and other stupidities in what I did. Nevertheless, I posted the results alongside the original on the Mutt wiki page. I’ve also put my files up on my Fedora People space. Feel free to grab and try it, and let me know if it helps you. (You’ll need the evolution-data-server development libraries to compile it.)
In the future I’d like to update this script to aggregate and query my GNOME online accounts as well. There’s a very robust set of functions for doing that, and documentation, so if I could just find the spare cycles, I think I could probably make this happen. Alternately, I wonder if that might make a good addition to the folks-tools package?
Why has it been so hard to update my blog lately? Probably because my free time has dropped again recently, what with the band getting back together. I’m back to playing with my friends Steve and Rich, for the first time — not counting two spurious shows in 2010 — in over a decade. We spent most of the late ’90s gigging our way from North Carolina to Delaware. Those were great times.
A mutual friend of ours passed away recently, and I was reminded that life is short and making new great times need to be higher on my priority list. So we’re back on the circuit again, and it’s a lot of fun. But until I find a little more free time and something that really moves me to write about, I imagine this blog will be a little more sparse than it has been over the past years.