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Redundant Department of Redundancy, part 12.

Or: I Went to Read This Community Member’s Blog. What She Wrote about RHEL and Fedora Blew me Away!

Sorry about the clickbaitism. But seriously, after returning from Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 release festivities this evening I planned to write a blog to the Fedora community about how RHEL and Fedora are intertwined. How Fedora is the cradle of platform innovation that Red Hat relies on to build RHEL and thus to serve as a foundation for many other products. How the community helps select and cultivate technology and prevent Red Hat from investing a ton of resources to make something no one wants.

Then I saw that Robyn Bergeron has already written everything to be said. Which illustrates several points:

  1. Properly empowered, motivated, and ambitious community is faster than individual effort.
  2. Robyn is awesome.
  3. There is no post about Fedora into which we can’t somehow reference His Meatiness.

Need I say more? No. Go read Robyn’s post if you haven’t already. [Mic drop]


I just saw Robyn’s post on change and her intention to retire as Fedora Project Leader.

I’m really happy, Robyn, that you’ve been such a big part of Fedora for these years. Whatever comes next, you have huge thanks from me and I know from many others in the Fedora community for your service and spirit. Thanks for including the community in everything you do, and I’m looking forward to working with you in your next role!

Sub Hub hubbub.

Have you seen Máirín Duffy’s post on the Fedora Design team’s next-generation design for the Fedora Project website? It’s a brilliant design based around the idea of a “sub hub.” These screens help customize the website to fit different sub-communities, initiatives, teams, or projects.

Máirín published this post with the design mockups a few weeks ago and they’re still open for feedback. I love the concept and the mockups, and the way it brings the site a little closer to the functionality people expect for interaction in other communities. The sub hub design offers a sites not just for promotion, but also for bringing people together for communication and information.

I’m sure the Design team will move forward at some point to bring these concepts into reality. But before they do, I know they’d appreciate hearing from community members. Even just offering feedback that “This is awesome!” is useful, so the designers know there is a solid mass of people who like the work. You can visit the site here to offer your constructive comments.

If you don’t, that’s OK too! Just be polite and specific in your comments. Rather than saying how to fix something, talk about why something doesn’t work for you. Designers are good at figuring out how to solve usability problems once they know more about the effects on the user. Those of us without a lot of design and usability experience often suggest solutions that seem like they’d work, but really might cause more problems for other users. So it’s best to concentrate on symptoms.

So if you haven’t checked out the post and offered some constructive feedback, please feel free. I’m really looking forward to seeing how things move forward with these designs and hope you’re excited about them too.

If you’re excited enough about the work to get involved and help, the Design team would love your contributions. There’s also more information about how to contribute here. There are several repositories set up where you can test existing ideas, change them with your own, and contribute changes back to the team using a pull request. Getting involved is easy, and the Design team is famous for their friendliness and willingness to help people get started contributing. So don’t be afraid to jump in!

Irssi in Terminal on GNOME 3.12 in Fedora 20.

A lot of people I know like running the Irssi IRC client in a terminal, whether in a terminal multiplexer like tmux or GNU Screen. Me too!

I also love running the latest GNOME releases. So when GNOME 3.12 was released and available for Fedora 20, I followed these simple instructions, courtesy of Fedora Magazine and Ryan Lerch, to install it on my system.

I discovered a new feature in the GNOME Terminal is that keys Alt+1 through Alt+0 are mapped to allow you to quickly navigate to the first ten tabs in Terminal. This is super-useful, but because those keys also happen to map to the shortcuts in Irssi for switching to your first ten IRC windows, I couldn’t use them in Irssi. Since I use that function a lot more often, here’s how I fixed it:

  1. Open a GNOME Terminal, and from the quick menu in GNOME Shell’s top bar, choose Preferences.
  2. Under the Shortcuts tab, locate the Tabs list.
  3. For each shortcut from “Switch to Tab 1″ to “Switch to Tab 10,” click the shortcut to select it. Then click the entry under Shortcut Key. Hit the Backspace key to remove the existing shortcut.

Now you can use your Alt key combinations as before in Irssi. Have fun!, days 1 and 2. day 1, Friday.

Friday was the first day of sessions at, the biggest and best Czech open source event by developers, for developers. The event was packed, with over 900 attendees even before the weekend started!

First up at 9:00 sharp was Tim Burke’s keynote about how Red Hat sees the IT market, specifically Linux and open source technologies. He covered how the various pieces of cloud, applications, storage, and platform fit together. It was pretty breakneck because there wasn’t a lot of time until the sessions started, but well observed and thoughtful. It’s clear the technologies built by people at this conference will set the pace for the future. The market has placed its bets on Linux and open source, and now it’s on us to deliver!

Langdon White followed with a story of startups. He covered how the tradeoffs between agility, stability, and maintenance can be mitigated by Software Collections. Software Collections allow IT groups to add stacks on their platform without affecting the deployment itself, while meeting more needs for developers and users.

Alex Larsson did a talk to a packed room (the biggest at the conference, no less!) on Docker, the open source container engine rapidly sweeping the community with its speed and flexibility. Fedora is rapidly developing a great grasp of Docker, and you can already install it on all supported Fedora releases. Obviously Red Hat has taken a huge interest in Docker too, so it’s no surprise the talk was SRO.

I went to Colin Walters’ session on OStree, a new way of distributing Linux operating systems. I found this session incredibly compelling, and I hope we look seriously at OStree in Fedora because of the problems it solves. There are clearly some issues that still need to be worked out, but Colin is up front about them, and he’s motivated and eager to collaborate with people to solve them. He’s truly one of the good guys of free software and I enjoyed this talk a lot.

I also attended Ondrej Hudlicky’s session on software usability, which was entertaining but also thought-provoking. A lot of what goes into making good software we either take for granted or completely miss. It’s so easy for software to suck when you don’t start by thinking about what the user is trying to do, and making that easy. Although the slides were quite dense, Ondrej did a great job explaining the concepts and why they were important.

I also attended sessions on DNF’s SAT solver, caught a bit on static analysis that went way over my head, and saw Richard Hughes’ session on GNOME Software. is so packed with content, it’s impossible to see more than about half of what you’d like. There’s so much more content for Java folks, low-level network and hardware hackers, and kernel jockeys that it makes your head spin!

In the evening I went with a bunch of folks to get pizza at the hilariously named Pizzeria Al Capone down the street. The food was quite good, and the beer plentiful as we swapped stories and jokes. We had people from all over the globe at the table so it was a great night. Afterward we retired to the famous bowling bar in the basement of the Hotel Avanti. And of course, more beer and stories. I turned in rather late, around 1:00am, but in good shape for the next morning. day 2, Saturday.

Started out the day early again, with a 9:00am session on Cockpit. Cockpit is a new Linux server management user interface that beautifully fits the look and feel of modern desktops. It’s also has already grown a lot of capability including user and storage administration. This is a great way for us to break away from clunky and individually deprecating system-config-* tools. Instead we can move to a tool that’s more flexible, extensible, and network transparent for scalability.

Following was a talk by Russ Doty on security concerns in platform and application development. It was mainly general but made some good points about where threats usually come from (hint: not Igor the evil state-funded hacker).

Of course, no event would be complete without a rapid-fire presentation from Lennart Poettering, and this year was no exception. Lennart covered kdbus, a new kernel implementation of IPC based on the excellent D-Bus. Kdbus is on its way into the kernel and will make Linux even slicker, starting with early boot and extending all the way to latest shutdown.

I also sat in on Ric Wheeler’s excellent presentation on Persistent Memory, which is next generation storage technology. Ric covered some of the challenges in supporting new types of storage in the Linux kernel, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each.

Afterward, I went to lunch with Ralph Bean and Pierre-Yves Chibon from the Fedora Engineering team. With us were Patrick Uiterwijk and folks from Red Hat that work on infrastructure and tools for RHEL and JBoss engineers. We discussed some areas of potential collaboration, including a messaging bus for Red Hat Bugzilla. That could be an awesome new input for contributor data.

Then all the smart folks went off to find better broadband at the hotel to pore over some code together. Since I wouldn’t have been much help, I went back to the conference to catch Simo Sorce’s talk on Kerberos.

Following Simo, Dan Walsh talked about secure Linux containers. As always he was tremendously entertaining. Dan joked about how he’s been a big proponent of libvirt-sandbox for secure container support, but recently “got religion” about Docker. I hope this was taped because it was really informative. No wonder Dan’s consistently rated as a top speaker at the Red Hat Summit. (Note, you can still register for the event; I’ll be there in San Francisco too!)

Next Kyle McMartin talked about the pleasure and pitfalls of porting the Linux kernel to new architectures (hello, aarch64!). I admit a lot of this went over my head, but Kyle told some funny stories about stalking weird bugs in test suites exposed by porting. At least I think they were funny. Or rather, I think some people thought they were funny, since they were all laughing. I don’t understand kernel people, but they’re mostly lovable, and many of them have awesome beards.

Finally, I saw a talk on Arduino Yún. This model includes a small, embedded Linux computer that you can make do all sorts of cool things with the built-in sensors and other capabilities. The talk made me wish I had more spare time to spend on learning how to do hardware tinkering. Where’s my time machine?

I bowed out of the lightning talks (even though some of them looked awesome) so I could drop my bag at the hotel before the night party at Klub Fléda, a sort of warehouse-y bar/music club nearby the conference venue. With beer beckoning, it’s time to relax a bit with friends and colleagues!

Tomorrow there will be Fedora focused sessions, so I’m really looking forward to that. More later…

PulseCaster 0.1.10 released!

Today I released PulseCaster 0.1.10 with some under the hood improvements:

  • Switch from GConf to GSettings, and include schema file
  • Providing appdata for GNOME Software
  • Provide hidden “audiorate” key for 44.1/48 kHz selection
  • Complete GObject introspection switchover, eliminating excess dependencies and fixing bugs (RHBZ #1045717)
  • Automatically provide .ogg filename extension in standard mode
  • Additional translations

I’m planning some UI improvements for this little podcasting utility. I’m also hoping to do significant code refactoring for 0.2, tentatively scheduled for late spring/early summer. I’m also thinking about moving the central development repo to GitHub, since that’s where a lot of other Fedora incubated projects have migrated.

Of course, updated packages are coming shortly for Fedora 20.

PulseCaster lets you record interviews with simplicity. It pulls audio from two sources via PulseAudio, then mixes them into an Ogg Vorbis file for you. There’s also an expert mode that allows you to lossless audio in WAV format, and mix the audio yourself with post processing. For example, you could interview someone via a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) application, then include the interview in your podcast.

I used a little time between sessions (and during one session where I was completely in over my head) to push this out. It was nice to work on some free software of my own at a conference for developers! Hope you enjoy the new PulseCaster release.

Congratulations, Fedora, on your 20th release!

Today is a big milestone for all my friends in the Fedora ProjectFedora 20 is released!

So to Robyn and all contributors across the entire project — congratulations on a job well done. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

What are you waiting for? Christmas is here early, go get it!

Restoring pretty Grub screen in Fedora 19.

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.

Moving to Fedora 19 Alpha!

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.

Initial thoughts

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! event, day 1 part 2.

I’m sure you already saw my post on part 1 of day 1 of, 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:

Ludek is a man of charm! (from 2013)

Radek: I'm too sexy for this conference! (Denise: I'm not listening.) (from 2013)

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:

  • Ales Kozumplik spoke about DNF, a next generation package management library and utility for Fedora. There’s an explanatory Fedora wiki page here.
  • Michael Schröder presented on the functions of package management in SuSE, including libsolv (which underlies DNF). This included explanations of many of the additional functions in libsolv that can be cherry-picked if appropriate for Fedora.
  • Vratislav Podzimek gave a fantastic presentation on the reasons behind and for the Anaconda NewUI. He showed the many problems and maintainability issues with the Anaconda we’ve had for something like 7-8 years in Fedora. He also demonstrated how the new UI presents a simpler, faster way to install in Fedora and even allows you to quickly craft custom “addon” spokes. devconf-2013-no-more-scary-sm
  • Following this, I attended the Anaconda NewUI discussion in one of the hacklabs. A partial list of discussions that happened there:
    • Confirmed that Anaconda redesign is meant to make it possible for people with little or no Linux experience to use the installer.
    • Someone said that this is perhaps exactly why some experienced people struggle with the new UI. While acknowledging that such users would have to become accustomed to the new UI, apart from two cases (LVM on mdraid and [UPDATE: reserving space in a VG -- see comments below]) at this time the new UI can do everything the old one did. Completing storage configuration is more streamlined for the middle of the bell curve cases, but still can be done for the outlying cases.
    • Quite a bit of discussion about addons and what the vision is for them in Fedora. Chris Lumens expressed this really well; his opinion is that they would only be used in Fedora for things that are really helpful for the Project but in which the Anaconda team has no expertise. In concept, any particular site that wants to use addons would only use one, or maybe two. Throwing lots of addons at a user would be confusing and unhelpful. Anaconda team doesn’t want to set policy about when to use addons, probably this would be a FESCo matter.
    • There are many difficulties with choosing default languages based on simple measurements. Inevitably you end up making the wrong choice for a substantial number of users and it becomes difficult for them to continue or complete their task.
    There was more, but these were some of the major topics I heard while bouncing around trying to publish things to various networks about the conference.
  • I also attended the set of short talks for the core OS. Although they were labeled “lightning,” they were a little slower paced, but still good content. I’d like to see the next include real lightning talks — perhaps 5 minutes, timed mercilessly, and following each other rapidly with a high energy and entertainment level. But the talks themselves were quite good, and included Tomas Mraz on password quality with libpwquality, and Hans de Goede on the current state and future of the Spice protocol and tools. Hans’ demonstrations were especially high in “wow factor,” and featured splitting a window across two diferent guests’ displays, and drag and drop of files from host to guest.

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!

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