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On the wing, part 34.

I’m up in Westford at the Red Hat offices for some departmental events this week. It’s always fun traveling to the office and seeing coworkers and friends I normally only hear (or see online in text form). It does, however, eat mightily into my ability to be online in Fedora and interacting with friends, teammates, and contributors there. I’ll be up here through Thursday afternoon and then flying back home. So if you reach out to me but I’m a little slow to answer you in IRC or email, my apologies, and I’ll catch up as soon as I can!

DevConf.cz, days 1 and 2.

DevConf.cz day 1, Friday.

Friday was the first day of sessions at DevConf.cz, 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. DevConf.cz 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.

DevConf.cz 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 DevConf.cz 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…

DevConf.cz event, day 1 part 2.

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:

Ludek is a man of charm! (from DevConf.cz 2013)

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

DevConf.cz event, day 1 part 1.

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!

Red Hat branded gloves from the 5th annual DevConf.cz event

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:

  • The new HyperKitty system that allows users and contributors to interact in ways they prefer. HyperKitty also can help raise the signal to noise ratio by allowing forum-like ratings of posts.
  • A mockup of a Fedora Smorgasbord app-store like application to succeed PackageKit, and abstract away confusing details users don’t need when trying to install or update.
  • A mocked up solution to reduce friction when filing bugs, and frustration when dealing with them.
  • A Fedora Badges app to produce better user affinity in Fedora. Badges can also give some insight into what users are doing, from running specific applications to participating in community events.

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!

FUDCon Blacksburg, days 2-3.

Saturday was the BarCamp session at FUDCon Blacksburg. This year there were workshops scheduled at the same time as BarCamp, which was different than usual. I wasn’t at any of the workshops so I’d be interested to know from those who held them whether they felt this was useful. I do know that most of the BarCamp sessions I attended had good attendance.  The sessions I attended:

  • Spot’s talk on making Fedora packaging easier — featured not just what could be a replacement for the current pkgdb, but also a cool new app called Tagger that makes improving package search part of an achievement/trophy oriented game, for maximum  fun
  • Katello — a next generation system environment management platform that helps manage content and deployment
  • Pam Chestek’s session on the new draft of Fedora trademark guidelines — with extra tweaks to make guidance clearer for publishers, hosting providers, cloud, and spins/remixes
  • Chris Tyler’s talk on Raspberry Pi — which was packed! A great update on this affordable ARM hardware for hacking, and what’s needed from the Fedora community to take it to the next level
  • OpenShift — Mike McGrath showed off the latest capabilities of OpenShift, a PaaS (platform as a service) offering by Red Hat that makes it dead-simple to for developers to get an entire OS and framework operational in the cloud in just a couple of minutes

Overall, this year’s BarCamp was one of the best in terms of depth of technical content. It also had an excellent spread in terms of technical complexity — meaning there was plenty for new hackers to sink their teeth into, as well as stuff that appealed to more experienced folks. We had the usual assortment of great speakers from all around the community and they all delivered impressive presentations. You should be seeing a lot of these on blogs through the Fedora Planet with downloadable content. (If you delivered a presentation, make sure you make it available widely!)

Saturday evening was the world-famous FUDPub. I was only around for a little while — since I was still trying to shake off the illness that had been dogging me since the middle of the week, I didn’t want to make things worse on my immune system by celebrating too much. Plus, it started to snow while we were enjoying the food, drink, bowling, and billiards, so I wanted to move my car back to the hotel before the roads got too dangerous. (Virginia is not known for its rapid and rational response to adverse weather conditions.) Later in the evening we gathered for poker at the “mezzanine” level of the hotel’s conference center. A few people played well into the wee hours but I headed to bed about 1:00am.

Unfortunately, the medication I took caused me to oversleep a bit, but I still managed to get over to day 3 of FUDCon by 9:00am. Once there, I got together with Peter Borsa, Pascal Calarco, and Maria ‘tatica’ Leandro to talk Insight, our Drupal installation, which the team is trying to branch out into new and useful functions. Jared Smith and Robyn Bergeron also stopped by to give some input on our calendar project. We took notes throughout the session on Gobby, and will post them on the wiki shortly along with some additional context and plans. I feel like the Insight project is starting to take on a little more life, with a designer involved and some solid ideas about functionality that will help the project.

For instance, we discussed the events calendar being able to automatically notify event owners or FAmSCo about milestones or other necessary activity, to promote better communication and awareness. A content management system makes it possible to build some fairly robust workflows around information — making the system not just another place to deposit information, but a facilitator in the process. The team has yet to figure out exactly how this should look but thankfully Maria is on the case and will help figure this out over the next few weeks. My day job is making it harder for me to lead this team, but the other members are committed to working on some exciting new features, and I’ll continue to find ways to contribute, and wherever possible remove roadblocks and continue to scale out access, privileges, and empowerment to the rest of the team.

By this time, it was close to noon. I started saying goodbyes to various people, and made sure I had picked up as many riders as I could to drop off at the airport on the way out. I ended up taking Máirín Duffy to the airport, as well as Jared’s son with me (since they live within a half hour of me). It was good to finally get home at about dinnertime. My daughter was hosting a sleepover with a friend so it was pretty boisterous at our house, but nice to see my family again.

All in all, it was a great FUDCon. I could have done without the illness the first few days, but I managed to pull through, doing a good portion of what I intended at the event. To everyone who was there, I hope you had a fantastic time and were able to really use the event as a jumpstart for collaborations of your own. Now, make sure you spread the word on what you’re doing, and carry some of that energy and ingenuity into our discussion lists and other venues! I hope everyone has or had safe travels home and we’ll see each other soon online.

FUDCon Blacksburg, Day 0.

I’ve been a little ill for the past few days, but not gravely so; there was no chance I was going to skip FUDCon when it’s in my own home state. So yesterday I had a great drive from home to Blacksburg — the roads were clear, the weather was mostly sunny and 60 F, and of course I was in the swanky new funmobile, so it was a totally enjoyable ride. I picked up Jon Stanley at the Roanoke airport, and since Justin O’Brien happened to be on the same flight, I grabbed him too for the ride to Blacksburg.

We checked in at the Inn, and saw a number of Fedora folks already there, including Spot, Robyn, Kevin Fenzi, and Peter Borsa who flew in from Hungary! I also ran into Red Hat genii Phil Knirsch and Karsten Hopp, in from Germany. I had dinner with Dan Walsh, Bill Nottingham and Eric Paris at a typical collegiate hole in the wall nearby called “Top o’ the Stairs.” It was very nostalgic, between the good barbecue, “unassuming” decor, and beer in plastic cups. Great company and a good time. My navigational skills proved barely adequate to get us back to the hotel but we did make it without disaster, fortunately.

I said hi to many other Fedorans at the hotel when we returned, and since I wanted to get some sleep to conserve health before FUDCon started today, I turned in a little early. (Well, early being relative; I stayed up until midnight catching up with work email and a couple other tasks.)

We’ve started the day on a great (albeit incredibly cold!) note, with temperatures around 25 F here in Blacksburg but a very warm and hospitable environment in McBryde Hall at Virginia Tech. I’m currently sitting in an early session regarding secondary arches with Phil, Karsten, some IBM guys, Garrett Holmstrom, and a smattering of other Red Hat and Fedora folks.

Later today, assuming my voice holds out, which is not a given, I’ll be blundering my way through a session on Drupal internals. Also, I’m going to drop by a “try my keyboard” session that Toshio Kuratomi put together. I brought my new Das Keyboard Model S Silent with me, so it will be one of the models available to try. Looking forward to a great FUDCon!

Comin’ round the mountain.

On Thursday, I’ll be driving to FUDCon in Blacksburg, VA. FUDCon in North America is an event I look forward to attending annually even though I’m not neck-deep in Fedora as often these days. I used to love going to the international FUDCons as well, and I’m thrilled to see those events being planned in advance on a regular basis.

I get to drive to this particular event, because it happened to end up only about 4.5 hours drive from where I live. That suits me fine, because I got a new car (warning: Flash) I can’t wait to take on its first long trip. Weather should be fair for this time of year, I hear. I also got some new vanity plates that will touch the hearts of Linux geeks, but probably elicit only head scratching from others. However, this post is about more than my car, as much as I like that topic!

I wanted to say a couple things about what I’m planning to do at FUDCon. First, I plan to spend some time with the Fedora Insight crew on Friday night and on Sunday morning. I want to see the feature sets the amazing Peter Borsa has been working on, and hopefully we can make some progress on streamlining deployment so other people can help. We’ll also be working on Sunday with a designer (cross fingers!) to design an interface for a project/events calendar. Unfortunately, I’m leaving Sunday afternoon to get home that night, but I will try to provide a ride out of town to the airport for anyone whose schedule matches up.

By the way, you may want to check out the travel planning page if you need to arrange rides.

The other thing I’m planning is an open workshop on Saturday on Drupal internals. I still haven’t decided whether this is best done as a workshop vs. BarCamp. I’m interested to know how many people really would show up — which means it might be good for me to pitch this at BarCamp. If there’s very little interest, I can spend the day learning instead of blowing hot air. But if it turns out people are interested, I have some books and materials I’m bringing with me that I can recommend too. As usual, I will be taking on the role of “person with meager skills who managed to scramble onto the first plateau with help, and wants to pass it on.” (It worked for PyGTK, maybe it will work here too!) Thankfully Peter will be on hand, and I trust he won’t let me get away with horrible errors.

There’s an enormous list of proposed hackfests and workshops on the wiki page. That’s fantastic, and it means we’re going to have a very content-rich conference as usual. I also see the General Schedule on the wiki is quite bare. I believe the organizers are encouraging talk owners to try to schedule in advance — at least when it comes to the hackfests and workshops. My understanding is that these form an outgrowth of the BarCamp — essentially widening the schedule for Saturday. That means there will be a lot to choose from, so I hope everyone brings not just their thinking caps but also their voices and appropriate input devices to participate. UPDATE: Robyn has a great FUDCon blog post on scheduling. Go read it. Now.

I’m looking forward to seeing a bunch of my Fedora friends there, and of course celebrate at the ever-entertaining FUDPub event. Remember, though, that Sunday starts early, so don’t go overboard! The statute of limitations has expired on my one FUDCon event that was a little too entertaining, so I’m allowed to revert to schoolmarm mode now. But seriously, there’s so much to do and see at FUDCon that I’m sure people will put the priority on content and collaboration as always.

Hope I see you there!

Wireless at FUDCon Blacksburg.

In case you hadn’t seen it elsewhere, and you are attending FUDCon in Blacksburg, there is a pre-registration available for wireless. All attendees are asked to follow these instructions to grab a guest wireless account — before they show up!

Usually I’d have a much better entry for my first post of 2012, but I was really pressed for time. I’ll try and do better next post. Until then, you’ll have to just say hello to my beefy friend.

Ohio Linux Fest 2011 report.

Following a truncated workday on Thursday, I quickly packed, threw my stuff in the car, and raced up the road as quickly as torrential rain would safely allow to Reagan National Airport. I took a short flight to Columbus, Ohio, where this weekend the Ohio Linux Fest 2011 was set to go. I got into the hotel around diner time and fortunately I was able to hook up with a variety of folks including Ruth Suehle from opensource.com, Jared Smith, Red Hat mega-architect and superstar Thomas Cameron, and Fedora Docs hackers John McDonough and Zach Oglesby for dinner at Bucca di Beppo. Yum!

Friday was sort of an “early penguin” day, with fewer sessions organized into a couple tracks such as medical/open source crossover and a catchall track for other FOSS related talks. I got up at about 7:00am and took care of a few emails, which turned out to be a good idea since the rest of the day would be devoid of connectivity; any plans I had for productivity were killed by the complete lack of 3G and wifi at the convention center. There was a good amount of docs hacking that was rumored to take place back in the hotel, though.

Meanwhile, I spent most of my time meeting up with various acquaintances from around the FOSS world and attending early talks. I saw a good presentation on representing open source in economic models, for instance, and also caught Ruth’s talk in the medical track about tech advancements in open source and how they reflect the collaborative nature of health science. I didn’t catch much of the cloud talk but I understand there were some last minute changes. Hopefully people who attended that track still found plenty of worthwhile material.

A bunch of Fedora folks started appearing in a flood by afternoon, including my roomie Clint Savage. After dinner with Ruth and some new friends at BD’s Mongolian Grill, I met up with him, Christer Edwards, and Aaron Toponce and we headed to Barley’s for brews with Robyn Bergeron, Jeremy Sands, and a couple other folks. I helped Aaron get some printouts done for the GPG key-signing event at the Drury Inn’s complimentary business center, so he wouldn’t get robbed by the Hyatt’s ludicrous money-grubbers, while Robyn, Clint, John Mark, Zach and I played a game of poker in the lobby. We couldn’t actually finish before people were too tired to continue (but too competitive to throw in the towel). So we called it, and of course Robyn was in the lead, so she gets the pride and kudos this time. Clint and I finally hit lights-out around 2:00am.

Saturday was the full-on conference experience, and talks started with a 9:00am keynote. I attended talks in just about every track, including Klaatu‘s talk on the new Novacut project which was very interesting, a session on building job experience through work in the open source community (complete with testimonials from actual hiring managers), and one on password theory and encrypted file systems.

I also gave my own talk on PyGObject for beginners, which had a very robust and responsive audience. It was great to have so many people interested in a subject I enjoy talking about, and to get such great feedback and questions. Hopefully Ohio Linux Fest will have audio from this talk available in the future, since I understand it was recorded. I was happy with my performance although it was quite a lot of material to fit into a 50 minute period. If you attended and have feedback, feel free to comment here of course. The presentation is licensed CC BY 3.0, and it’s available on my fedorapeople.org space.

After Maddog’s final keynote, I went with a large group of friends (many of the above plus Eric ‘sparks’ Christensen, David Nalley and wife Pam, and several others) to the Spaghetti Warehouse. It was a fair walk from the hotel but it helped us all feel better about a pasta dinner, I think. We came back to the conference after-party but it wasn’t quite our taste, so we went back to Barley’s.

On Sunday, since my plane wasn’t scheduled to depart until almost 7:00pm, I got up in the morning and joined the Docs guys in a meeting room downstairs that was graciously donated by the Ohio Linux Fest organizers. What we did is already being reported and discussed on the Docs mailing list, so I won’t reiterate it all here. I definitely noticed there — and this is indeed not new, but rather a constant challenge — the importance of keeping a group session on track by focusing on specifics.

This is a characteristic of good sessions that I’ve many times seen Greg DeKoenigsberg or Max Spevack manage extremely well, and from which I’ve tried to learn. Sessions tend to produce lots of results by focusing on specifics, such as “We need to fix the following two things about our licensing statements, and here’s why.” It’s a lot harder when the problem you try to solve isn’t well articulated already, such as “We need to make contributors’ lives better.” When one doesn’t focus on those specifics, and driving to action as efficiently as possible, it’s easy for discussions to veer off into many different kinds of weeds, to the extent that you forget what problem you originally were trying to solve.

In any case, the Docs session went fairly well by focusing on specifics, and it was good to see friends from the team that I hadn’t met, or hadn’t seen in a while. Clint gave me, Zach, and Robyn a ride to the airport, where we proceeded to cool our heels for several hours (myself longer than most, I think, since my plane was delayed by local thunderstorms). I arrived home a little before 11:00pm, and basically dumped my suitcase out and went to bed so I could get up at 6:00 the next morning and start my workweek!

All in all Ohio Linux Fest was better for me this year as a speaker than as an attendee. In terms of the value I got from them personally, the quality of talks was not quite as good as what I’ve seen in recent years, but there were a few I definitely enjoyed and learned from. And of course it was fantastic was to see many Fedora contributors there, and collaborate and catch up with colleagues and friends. In closing, the organizers did a tremendous job with conference logistics and they definitely deserve a nice rest after all their efforts. Good work, folks!

Ohio Linux Fest 2011.

Just wanted to note that I’m going to Ohio Linux Fest 2011:

Ohio Linux Fest 2011 - Sept 9-11

For a long time, Ohio Linux Fest has been one of the great community shows in the nation. This year I’m proud to be selected as a speaker, doing a talk on PyGObject for beginners. I’ll also be happily catching up with some friends from Fedora and many other cool communities, and taking in some of the spectacular talks. (For example, I can’t wait to catch Klaatu’s talk on the emerging project Novacut — but how am I going to reconcile that with another good talk at the same time by Mel Chua?)

Notable members of the free software community will be abundant, with lots of ways for you to meet and collaborate with like-minded freedom lovers from all around the region and the country. The registered supporter package for Ohio Linux Fest is extremely cheap, especially considering the days of awesome content you’ll find at the conference. Plus, you get some cool gifts and a swank t-shirt to show that you put your money where your mouth is.

I’m very much looking forward to the show and a great weekend of Linux and free software. See you there!

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