Tag Archives: Fedora

Contributing to Pagure made easy.

I don’t get as much of a chance these days to do things like patches or other technical contribution. But I had some time free the other day and used it to stick my hands directly into a cool project, Pagure (pronounced roughly “pag-yOOR,” or listen here). You may have read about Pagure in this Fedora Magazine article a few months back.

It was tremendously easy to get Pagure, fix a bug, test the fix, and contribute it back (see my pull request here). I specifically looked for “easyfix” bugs, since I knew I didn’t have a lot of time to spend to help. So I decided to work on this issue, a button showing up when it shouldn’t.

First I forked the repo in Pagure. Then I cloned my new fork, and set it up as documented in the README. In the clone, I checked out a new branch using the issue number as a name, issue839.

To track down the fix, I ran the app locally and duplicated the error. I looked at the CSS style containers for the button and some of the surrounding elements. Using that information, I did a text search on the code to find the file that was generating the button. Then I simply applied some logic to find the fix for the problem, even though I wasn’t really familiar with the code involved.

Thankfully Pagure has a test suite, so I could also check that my fix didn’t break any of the tests. Then I committed and pushed my changes, and made a pull request using the button in Pagure’s web page.

I also learned something useful. Since I forked the repo to do my fix and make a pull request, if I force-pushed changes using git to my branch from which I made the pull request, the pull request was automatically updated with the changes! This is probably expected by people who do this all the time, but since I’m new at it, I was excited.

Bugs like this are something that just about anyone with a small amount of beginning programming skill could fix. Pagure even has other bugs like this waiting for people to handle. Maybe one of them is waiting for you! 😉

Flock 2015 thoughts.

Getting started at Flock

Like everyone on the Fedora Engineering team, I was in Rochester for the Flock conference last week. After several flight delays on our direct flight from DCA to Rochester, Justin Forbes, Ricky Elrod, and I finally arrived a little after 9:00pm — about four hours late. Thankfully Josh Boyer came to pick us up at the airport.

Flock had a team of organizers within OSAS (and Josh also assisted throughout). As a former FUDCon organizer, though, I know the value of extra hands showing up to do work. Since old habits die hard, I showed up expecting to help out behind the scenes. That means I didn’t get to see a huge amount of content I was personally interested in. But in return hopefully everyone had a smoother Flock experience, especially speakers.

When I arrived, I reported to Tom Callaway, Ruth Suehle, and Josh. They got the conference rooms opened, and I helped set up the speaker workstations. We worked pretty late, well after midnight. Things were looking a little bleak at that point, with execrable network bandwidth, no projectors, no screens, and no audio for the ballroom.

Fears and worries abate

Nevertheless, the next morning Josh and I got up early and grabbed coffee at nearby Tedward’s. This place was a godsend, although their 7:00am opening time forced us to walk around a bit until we could get in.

We went down to do some additional setup. The organizers had worked with Remy DeCausemaker to get a bunch of loaner projectors from RIT so we’d be ready for the first sessions at 10:00am. (EDIT: According to Remy, Tim Duffy and Dan Schneiderman are the heroes of this particular day; see comments below.) So at least our speakers would be in OK shape. I helped Josh and Tom get everything ready in those rooms, while Ruth made sure registration and other logistics were under control. I missed Matthew Miller’s keynote, but I’d seen at least some of the material previously.

After lunchtime, things continued to drastically improve. The rental projectors showed up, along with small screens for each room and big speakers for the ballroom. The wireless internet improved quite a bit when a switch flip occurred due to our conference starting up. (It was dismal Tuesday night!) We had all the speakers trained on how to record their talks locally, to get around the constrained network bandwidth.

Suddenly things were looking up! Not surprisingly, the Fedora Engineering team dinner that night at The Old Toad was much more enjoyable. Since I wasn’t overly worried about the conference experience for the speakers and attendees any longer, it was easier to relax and enjoy the company of the team. I was so happy that we were able to get together in one place, since we really only get to do that once a year. (Incidentally, our friend Stephen Smoogen was absent from Flock due to family commitments — we missed you, Smooge!)

Fedora contributors at Flock gather at Victoire for dinner
Fedora contributors at Flock gather at Victoire for dinner

I continued to monitor speaker rooms most of Wednesday and Thursday. I managed to make it to a couple sessions where I wasn’t sure there would be any senior Fedora leadership around. For example, I attended the Fedora Magazine session by Chris Roberts as well as most of the Fedora Hubs session by Máirín Duffy and Meghan Richardson.

I attended and loved Major Hayden‘s (of Rackspace fame) Thursday keynote on fighting impostor syndrome. It was one of the most practical that I’ve seen on this topic. I feel impostor syndrome is just a fancy way to refer to insecurity, a common trait for conscientious people. But that doesn’t make the strategies Major outlined any less useful or thoughtful. He gave a great talk — engaging and humorous without diluting the material. If you have a chance to invite him to a conference to speak, definitely do so!

I gave my own talk on Remote Ninjutsu on Thursday afternoon. The slides for the talk are here, although the video will be more useful for context. All the Flock 2015 videos are supposed to be available at some point in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned for announcements about them.

The Thursday night social event at the Strong National Museum of Play was fantastic. It was a great way to blow off steam and enjoy the company of fellow Fedorans. I’m not sure how the organizers managed to find such a perfect venue!

Workshops and Flock wrap-up

On Friday I enjoyed the keynote by Jon Schull of eNable, the community that is flipping the script on prosthetics provision through 3D printing. It was a very moving look at how people are applying open source to make the world better for people in need.

Then the workshops beckoned. Now that I’d finished my Flock duties helping speakers and attendees, I was able to attend several sessions that were relevant to me personally, including the Fedora/CentOS rel-eng joint session, and my own on revamping the Flock software stack.

Once again, the Friday night social event at the George Eastman House was marvelous. It was a beautiful, grand mansion and the tour was quite interesting. I’d love to go back there sometime to see the exhibits I missed!

The music parlor in the George Eastman House
The music parlor in the George Eastman House

Flock conferences are always especially great for their hallway track. So many discussions can be had or progressed that way with high bandwidth. The challenge is always to move that discussion to a transparent context if it involves people not present, though. I’ve been seeing many trip reports from people’s blogs about Flock, and resulting list discussions, so I think that process is well underway.

Of course, that means Flock is a very engaging event. It takes a lot of attention and brainpower to shift focus for all those conversations! As a result, by Saturday afternoon I know I was fairly exhausted — in a good way, though. Several other people I know felt likewise, and commented on how well the conference had gone. In fact, I heard a number of comments that this was the best Flock, and even Fedora premier event, yet. The OSAS folks deserve special recognition for pulling off a fantastic conference.

Sunday started with a couple meetings, including with Matthew Miller and Jan Ku?ík, our new Fedora program manager. Then, after seeing a few other friends and colleagues off, I got to the airport. I relaxed in a lounge over beers with Kevin Fenzi, Jan Zeleny, and Stephen Tweedie, before we went to our respective flights. Then after a quick flight home, it was the usual “fun” making my way down I-95 from the airport to home. Monday morning was right around the corner…

Here’s to another great Flock, and to doing it again next year!

Flock attendees wind down after the conference ends... with more hacking!
Flock attendees wind down after the conference ends… with more hacking!

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!

 

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…

Live from Fedora Moonbase Alpha, part 3.

Quite a while ago, I wrote about the dead-simple process for setting up a microphone with Fedora’s PulseAudio sound system. That was part 2 in a series that was meant to discuss creating a better podcast. At the time, I meant to follow up with a piece on how to do some audio sweetening to make your recording sound better to your listeners. Unfortunately, life and work got in the way, and I didn’t get to part 3 — so here it is, hopefully better late than never.

Thanks to John Poelstra for inspiring me to write this. We had a nice conversation about audio the other day, and I figured it would be worthwhile to capture some of what we spoke about, but also to explain better some of the concepts I tried to pass on to John but perhaps didn’t do it well.

I’m going to assume at this point you’ve been able to capture your audio from a reasonable mic source into Audacity using the record function. You should now have an audio capture with a visible waveform in your Audacity window. Before we move on, you may want to save your Audacity project, or maybe just write the audio to a simple .WAV format file using the Export function.

Audacity lets you not only record audio, but alter it based on algorithms that range from the simple to the highly complex. Audacity is compliant with the LADSPA standard and can use LADSPA plugins to perform some very interesting, useful, or even downright disturbing changes on your audio tracks.

Of course, you don’t have to search them out or build them on your own. There are tons of very useful LADSPA plugins for audio programs available in Fedora repositories. One set we’ll be using is the TAP (Tom’s Audio Processing) set. The package in Fedora is ladspa-tap-plugins; make sure you install that using the Software Manager or another tool before proceeding. Also, you’ll need to restart Audacity if it’s already running, so it will recognize the new plugins.

Keep in mind, however, that all the effects in the world won’t make a crummy recording suddenly sound great. A lot depends on the quality of the original recording, and of course that starts with using a decent mic. “Decent” need not mean “pristine” or “expensive” for amateur use, however. There are solid podcasting mics available at reasonable prices, some less than US $100. Here are a couple easy changes you can make on a moderately good recording that will help it sound better.

You won’t find precise settings below, because the recording you make is going to be different from anyone else’s. You’ll need to listen carefully to decide how to alter the settings for each of these effects. Don’t be too drastic — sometimes a subtle touch is all you need to go from “OK” to “wow”!

Here’s a final note about a setup tweak in Audacity: I find it’s really helpful to change the interface preferences so the VU meters show a wider signal range. By default, they go down to -48dB, which isn’t enough to see what’s happening with noise, especially when you’re working with digital audio that’s capable of a high dynamic range. Open Edit, Preferences and choose Interface in the dialog. Change the meter/waveform range to at least -96 dB, which is the range of 16-bit audio. (You can choose more range if you like, but at our level of work, it’s probably not necessary.)

Noise

First, let’s eliminate some noise in the recording. Do try to minimize noise by making your recordings in a quiet room, away from loud equipment like computer fans, air conditioners, your snoring dog, and so on. But I’ll assume you’re not doing your recording in a pristine environment like a treated studio. So you’ll likely have some significant noise in your recording. (If you are recording in a treated studio, good for you! But don’t lord it over everyone, though — remember no one likes a know-it-all.)

At the beginning or end of your recording, locate a section where there is no speaking or substantial background noises, such as from a squeaky chair. Use the mouse to drag through that section of your recording. You only need a second or so for this process to be effective. After you make the selection, you can hit Play to just play the section in question, to verify there’s no sudden noise other than the ambient environment. Watch the playback meters, and hopefully you’re seeing noise at somewhere around -70dB to -60dB or so.  That’s actually quite noisy, but hey, we’re all friends here!

Now from the menu select Effects, Noise Removal. In the dialog, select the Get Noise Profile control in the frame labeled Step 1 to analyze the ambient noise in your selected audio area. This should be a very quick operation, and the dialog disappears. Audacity has stored a frequency profile for the selected noise for you to use in the next step.

Now use your Home key to move the time cursor and deselect the audio. This means the next process will run against your entire track. Select Effects, Noise Removal again, set the appropriate parameters for Step 2, and then select OK. If you’re not sure what to do, the defaults (24dB reduction, 150Hz frequency smoothing, and 0.15 seconds attack/decay time) are not bad for beginners, so feel free to try them out. You can use Ctrl+Z to undo each attempt after trying different parameters. What you’ll see is that after running the noise removal once, if you play a “silent” section again, the noise floor will be much lower!

Amplification

Now it’s time to boost our signal. Unless you’ve taken a lot of time to set up a gain structure for your audio input hardware, your signal’s probably pretty low. Your speaking voice may only be peaking at -20dB to -15dB. That’s very quiet compared to everything else your listeners hear on their speakers, where music typically peaks at almost 0dB (and way too often, if you ask me, but that’s an entirely different topic for another article and another time).

Use the Effects, Amplify control to boost the volume of your audio track. Set a new peak amplitude of close to 0dB. I often use -1dB or -0.5dB. Select OK to apply the amplification, and you’ll see the amplitude of your signal (the “width” of the waveform) grow significantly. Before you go any further: TURN DOWN YOUR SPEAKERS! If you’ve been recording and listening for a while, you’ve likely turned them up a lot to make up for the lower signal of your earlier recording. Now is a good time to lower the volume, so you don’t blow yourself out of your chair by playing your newly amplified track.

Note: Depending on your recording situation, the equipment you’re using, and the recording you’ve made, you might want to use a high-pass filter or an EQ to gently roll off very low frequencies, such as under 80 Hz. If you’re recording a voice in a quiet room, signal under that level usually comes from bumping the mic or whatever it’s attached to. If it has a lack of shock protection, that bump sounds like a booming impact in your recording. Rolling off those low frequencies can lessen the effect. Of course, you’re always free to re-record and edit to fix a particularly glaring problem!

Adding some warmth

Now, if you’re heavily into music or audio, you might have already taken care of this step in your original input. In that case you probably didn’t need a lot more amplification of your track, either. But if you didn’t warm up your recording by running through a tube preamplification stage (preamp), you can fake it to some degree using an excellent LADSPA TAP plugin called, appropriately, TAP Tube Warmth.

In your Audacity menu, choose Effects and look at the bottom of the menu that appears. You’ll see numbered lists of plugins. Unfortunately, there are so many plugins available they won’t all fit in a single menu, so they’re numbered by Audacity when it starts up. Look through the list for TAP Tube Warmth. This plugin will add some of the subtle, pleasing harmonic overtones that help make good announcers — the Leo Laportes and Bill Goldsmiths of the world — sound so pleasing to the ear. Of course, if you sound like Gonzo the Muppet, TAP Tube Warmth may not be a total solution, but it might help!

The higher you set the Drive level, the more fuzz you may hear as a result. Try not to overdo it — you want enough harmonic content added to warm up your voice, but not enough to be distracting or overpowering. A setting of somewhere between 3-5 is usually best. Experiment with the tape/tube slider to find a pleasing combination of the sound of tube warmth and analog tape squeeze. Starting with all tube is typically best, and moving to the left a bit at a time until you’re happy with the result. (Leaving it at 10, all tube, is fine too.)

Compression

One of the best-loved and most often used (many would say overused) tools in the audio engineer’s bag of tricks is the compressor. A compressor allows you to reduce the difference between loud and quiet areas of your recording, so your voice feels more present to the listener. Using compression allows you to overcome passages where your voice changes volume drastically, for example if you moved slightly away or toward the mic while recording.

Like amplification, compression can help the listener pay attention to your voice even if they’re surrounded by other loud noises — like listening through earphones while on a subway car. Speaking volume that veers wildly between loud and soft, like loud hiss and poor recording quality, is the mark of a substandard podcast. It’s important to recognize, though, that a voice blaring at a single volume for long periods will make your listener feel fatigued or even agitated, even if they don’t know why. So do listen critically to your work, and avoid over-compressing.

Other sweetening

There are other effects you can apply, but be careful and sparing if you want the result to sound natural. You might find an EQ (equalization) plugin helpful to cut annoying frequencies or compensate for a flattening of the voice. Some people apply a curve to mimic the frequency response of a well-known microphone like the Electro-Voice RE20, although it’s really difficult to get the result to sound genuine. If you don’t have a genuinely deep voice, you may find it helpful to give a slight boost (be subtle!) to the low-mid range frequency.

Reverberation is another possibility, but don’t overdo it. It’s probably not your goal to sound like you’re in Mammoth Cave or St. Patrick’s Cathedral! A little goes a long way to establish a space around your voice. Again, experiment in a good listening environment to see if this is something you like or even need.

Conclusion

Hopefully this will put you on track to start creating better podcasts, or maybe if you weren’t interested in it already, you’ll try your hand at it. A minimal equipment investment can lead to hours of fun. But remember that the most important part of podcasting is that you have something interesting or informative to say. All the equipment, technique, and software in the world isn’t as important as creative expression that makes your listeners respond, laugh, and think.

Good luck!

FUDCon Toronto report.

There have already been plenty of posts about all the good stuff that happened at FUDCon Toronto 2009, so just repeating the same details would seem like gilding the lily. Easily over 200 attendees as of Day 1, and we had other people showing up over the weekend, and students stopping in on Day 3, asking questions and sharing stories. A great facility at Seneca, thanks to Chris Tyler and crew. Lackluster broadband at the hotel, but a great hack suite experience nonetheless. Questionable pub surroundings, very little sleep, loads of fun, and a marvelous event overall.

OK, that sums up everyone else’s posts, so how about what I accomplished, other than teaming up with Mel Chua and Chris Tyler behind the scenes as the Indefatigable FUDCon Ninja Trio?

Day 0: Not much other than checking in with the hotel to make sure they were ready for the bus. Dinner with Greg DeKoenigsberg, Howard Johnson, David Huff, Yaakov Nemoy, and many other Fedorans at the infamous “Irish Pub.” Arrived a bit late for the actual FUDBus landing, but got to greet almost everyone arriving at the hotel. Then realized everyone was going to the pub again and cursed the fact that I hadn’t had a healthy snack to get me through for a late night dinner.

Day 1: Realized we just broke BarCamp — at least as a “do everything the day of” event. In the future, we’ll need to have a night event for our scheduling. The consolation prize, of course, is our “embarrassment of riches” when it comes to talks: more than we can fit in the schedule, to be sure. Thanks to Yaakov and an intrepid crew of volunteers, we also had almost every talk logged on IRC so that remote contributors could “listen in,” ask questions, and participate from afar.

In between event troubleshooting and hallway conversations, I caught part or all of:

There’s kind of a trend there, since I’m keenly interested in the experience of Fedora and how we might all bring our individual skills to making it better. I also gave my own wacky commentary on Fedora and some ideas on thinking beyond our subjectivity to broaden Fedora’s reach, widen its appeal, and attract more contributors to what I think is ultimately a more sustainable approach to working in the free software community.

On a semi-related note, there’s a saying you’ll find on my blog site. You won’t see it in RSS readers of course. It reads, “Esse quam videri,” which means “To be and not to seem to be.”* The free software distribution that we enjoy comes to us thanks to the efforts of thousands of people upstream from Fedora that write some of the code we use, and one of the things we need to do over the next year is redouble our efforts to support them. In addition, we need to recognize all the Fedora contributors who are vital parts of upstream communities, and support them as well. And in doing that, we need to be true to our FOSS philosophy and practices — walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

I drew a brief metaphor in my FUDCon closing comments on Day 1 to $FAST_FOOD.** Leaving aside all my veggiesaurus friends for the sake of argument, the success of $FAST_FOOD implies that a great number of people find $FAST_FOOD’s goods to be tasty and affordable. And the advertising and marketing of $FAST_FOOD sure tends to reinforce that — even going so far as to imply their food good is for you, and high-quality.

But unfortunately, the widepsread, negative side effects worldwide, from obesity (yes, I’m looking at you, mirror) to agricultural nightmares to economic problems, tend to say otherwise. There are better ways to produce nourishing food, and promote healthier and more sustainable lives. And in the same way, there are better ways to produce free and open source software that don’t sacrifice freedom or choices for users, and promote “healthy” upstream collaboration and cultivation.

And that’s what Fedora represents to me: being this sustainable force, not simply appearing to be so.

So, back to my FUDCon tale: Following the technical sessions in BarCamp, of course there was the world-famous FUDPub event, dominated by snicky-snacks and pool sharks. I also got to meet, live and in person, previously virtual-only friends like Adam Miller and Karlie Robinson. I also tried to troll Max Spevack, but was too earnest to carry that off properly, and failed miserably (sorry Matt, I tried). Max is a master at this so maybe I need to take some lessons! Or alternately, in the future I’ll just stick to wearing my heart on my sleeve, which apparently suits me better.

Day 2-3: We moved to a different building where the hackfests would be more effective, putting people together in small rooms or around workgroup-sized tables for better face-to-face exchanges.

To start off the day, I gave an introductory talk on PyGTK development, aimed at people who were in the position I was last year — understanding the basics of Python, and knowing how to write basic programs, but not understanding how to build a GUI around it. I explained things in rudimentary terms, such as how events work with GTK, the inheritance model for objects, and how to look up properties and functions using system resources like DevHelp when writing code. These were the things that were so difficult for me to wrap my head around as a liberal artsy non-programmer, every time I sat down and tried to bridge this gap, and I think I hit the sweet spot for a bunch of the attendees. And fortunately, there were a couple experts in the room too, who I could rely on to tell me if I was Getting It Wrong, or offer additional advice to the attendees.

A bunch of people took this information and started thinking about cool ways we could extend and, to some extent, universalize PulseCaster to meet more of our media origination needs. We did some brainstorming about use cases and also interface design to support them; that’s hard work but very worthwhile, and also incredibly important to me because I want a tool that meets the GNOME HIG and remains simple, slick, and usable by non-technical people. I’m really keen on working on this more over the next few weeks, especially during my vacation time when I can set my own agenda.

During the rest of these days I had a number of meetings with different people to understand issues, listen to ideas, give feedback where it was wanted, and facilitate everyone else’s FUDCon experience:

  • Watched Mairin Duffy and the FOSS usability lab in action, although I didn’t get a chance to participate myself as a tester (surprise!).
  • Sat in on part of a conversation between Fedora contributors that ranged widely from PackageKit to team dynamics. Unfortunately, I had to leave partway through to handle some hotel logistics.
  • Talked to Pam Chestek from Red Hat Legal, who attended the whole conference and not only gave a planned talk on trademarks on Saturday, but made herself generally available all weekend for people to walk up and ask questions. She let me know she very much enjoyed FUDCon and I hope that she’ll return for the next one.
  • Discussed EMEA events and community with Jeroen.
  • Had a chat with Christopher Aillon and Jon McCann about their Fedora install/update talk and related issues, and thanked them for the work they’ve been doing to improve communication between members of the Desktop team and the overall Fedora community.
  • Had lots of ad-hoc meetings with Mel Chua where we tried to make sure all of our financial i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.
  • Handled a couple of urgent Fedora issues on the side, but generally failed to keep up with my email and RSS (and paid the price this week!). 🙂

Day 2 ended with a nice dinner with Max, Matt Domsch, Dennis Gilmore, and some other Fedora folks at the Ice Cream Patio. Christopher Aillon and I split a nice bottle of valpolicella, although I think that I probably got the better part of a 60/40 split, and the food was very good, especially the dessert (my amaretto trufata was excellent, and if Dennis wasn’t so imposing a figure, his raspberry crepe would have been in danger too if I could have distracted him somehow!). We talked a lot about disasters for some reason, and hearing what Matt and Christopher had both experienced in the way of real estate catastrophes, I felt completely humbled about my stupid and trivial basement leaks.

Day 3 ended quite differently, with dozens of Fedorans crammed into our hospitality/hack suite at the hotel for hors d’oeuvres and fun conversation. For the most part, people set their laptops aside and wound down from an action-packed weekend. My manager, Tim Burke, VP of Linux Development at Red Hat, was there too.  I do have to say that it is incredibly empowering and supportive for one’s manager to show up at the most important regional event as a participant — and at the risk of sounding like a suck-up I think that’s one of the things I really like about working with Tim. Maybe I’d better say something negative to balance it out — we wish he’d brought beer! 😀

In general, this FUDCon was one of the most exciting events I think we’ve ever had. It was certainly one of the, and maybe the single, largest ever. I’m really grateful to all our contributors who made it such a success, bringing their talent, their knowledge, their passion, and their willingness to help others contribute to free software through Fedora.

Coming up to this event, I’d been struggling a bit with some mental and spiritual exhaustion. This event helped me get Fedora back into perspective and reminded me what a beautiful thing it is to be surrounded by wonderful, smart people — and how much we can accomplish when we bring our ideas together and compare them constructively to find the best way forward. Thank you to every single one of you who participated either on-site or remotely, for the gift of renewal.

See you at the next FUDCon!

* The original Cicero quote is also worth knowing: “Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem to be so.”

** I’m not naming one here to avoid the obvious legal entanglements. 😉

UPDATE: Apologies to Colin for absent-mindedly fubar-ing his last name.

FUDCon BarCamp presenters, heads up.

If you did a BarCamp presentation at the FUDCon Berlin 2009, I’d really love it if you’d do the following:

  1. License your slide deck with a CC BY-SA license.
  2. Upload a copy of your slide deck to the wiki.
  3. On the BarCamp schedule on the wiki, make a link from the title of your presentation to the uploaded slide deck (I use the “Media:” link).

Note that the CC BY-SA license means that your material can be used and remixed by others, just like Fedora itself. I used it for my keynote slides, as I do for all my Fedora slide decks. Share the love (and the data)!

LinuxTag and FUDCon 2009, part 1.

Wednesday was the beginning of LinuxTag and as always the efficiency of our Ambassador contingent was plain to see. The booth was in fantastic shape, with plenty of “Four Foundations” decorations and also a projector to show off slides that offered excellent Fedora messages and data about the upcoming FUDCon event. There were also new, free-standing, vertical banners using the “Four Foundations” logos that look simply superb.

I hung around the booth a little from time to time, but as we found last year, having too many staff in the booth is an impediment to actually talking to passersby about Fedora, so I used the time to talk with people like Joe Brockmeier from openSUSE, our own LinuxTag/FUDCon master organizer Gerold Kassube, and of course did some catching up with Max. I also met a number of contributors in person, such as Nicu Buculei, who are much renowned in the community but with whom I’d never had the chance to be face to face. This is actually one of my favorite things about FUDCon — the way it brings people together with social bonds that are stronger than what can be forged over email or IRC.

Max and I recorded a podcast interview with the Linux Outlaws, which you should be able to catch soon on their feed. We had a great time doing our typical tandem routine as Abbott and Costello, talking about Fedora features and about how our community has come together for the FUDCon event. I shared an interesting lunch of fresh cooked gnocchi and some strawberries (shoutz Mo!) with Spot and Joe Brockmeier, where we talked about some of the current misinformation flying around about Mono, as well as cows. (Ahem.)

I managed to find a few minutes to work on some of my slides, and also to talk with the folks at Vanager about their VPS solution that offers many Fedora releases, including Fedora 11. At some point, someone (Gerold?) convinced me that even a married guy is allowed to pick up a girl now and then.

Yesterday I spent some time in the morning doing more slides and email, but then cut loose to help Max with some of the assembly of FUDCon materials. We went over the logistics for the next day and I helped with some of the signage and other odds and ends as I could. We also did another great — well, we sure enjoyed ourselves — interview with Radio Tux. Some of my favorite moments from the broadcast:

  • Max pointing out that Fedora is not about promoting the brand of one person. Any of our awesome Ambassadors at the show could have given the exact same interview and done just as well. We have innumerable rock stars in our community and the point of scaling that community is to turn the spotlight off the one or the few, and onto the many.
  • Realizing that it’s more fun to give several points of view when talking about cool technical features, especially when their impact is wide or complex.
  • Doing a tandem voice-over intro in which Max and I introduced ourselves and proclaimed, “Wir machen Fedora, und wir lieben Radio-Tux!” We’re so hammy it’s a wonder we don’t wear pineapple rings.

Later, returning to the FUDCon space, and in a fit of total abandon, I decided to exercise my minimal artistic skills by gussying up the schedule board. The results weren’t bad, and I had fun contributing something other than talking-head antics to the proceedings. Hopefully people get a kick out of them today while they’re attending FUDCon day 1. More on that in my next post!

SELF, day 0.

I had a great flight yesterday from Dulles to Greenville — the plane was very sparsely filled, and I had an exit row all to myself! It made for a great work environment even with a short flight. When I landed and picked up my car, I was both horrified and amused to find out it was bright yellow and had a spoiler. I’ll try to find time to take a picture because that car is so not me.

Arrived at the hotel fine after a ~40 minute drive, but needed to wait for a clean room. I soon found out why: the Southeast Linux Fest had almost 500 pre-registrants — for a first-year conference!. The hotel was full, and although I did get my room after a short wait, I also found out that thankfully there are other hotels in the area, several within walking distance.

I met up with David Nalley in the speaker/organizer lounge, where I deeply regretted not being hungry because they had BBQ there. 🙂 We chatted and I went off to my room to catch up on some email and other tasks.

We gathered across the street at a restaurant called Rockhoppers that is decorated in penguins. Could that have been more fitting? I think not! Soon it was overflowing with penguins of a different variety, many seeking sustenance in the form of beer. I ended up at a table with some hilarious and fascinating people from around the region. Ian Weller showed up just after first round (don’t worry, Ian’s mom, he had Dr Pepper) and we enjoyed some really excellent dinner and laughs.

I got to talk to Richard Weait from OpenStreetMap for a bit about Moksha, the framework that underlies the new Fedora Community portal, and we caught up on my own hometown LUG, which he visited a couple of months back, much to our delight (and record-breaking attendance).

Finally, I went back to the hotel to bone up on my keynote for Saturday night, and then I fell prey to the curse of Fedora Project Leaders past: rewrote the whole thing less than 24 hours before the event. Wish me luck!

I’m going off to find Greg DeKoenigsberg and whoever showed up to man the various booths. Red Hat, as a Platinum sponsor of SELF, is supposed to have a nice presence here. I’ll be at the Fedora booth on and off, and at the Red Hat booth (wearing a different shirt) for a little while this afternoon. My keynote is at 5:00pm, after which I’ll be looking forward to tomorrow’s Fedora Activity Day with a bunch of the Fedora Docs team members.

Head down tomorrow.

Due to my travel to this week’s Fedora Activity Day in Raleigh, and the marketing work around the release, I find myself a little strapped for time and with a lot of writing to do. Tomorrow I will probably be absent from most IRC and only addressing critical email so I can get those tasks done.

This weekend is the Southeast Linux Fest (SELF) and we’ll have Fedora Ambassadors on hand to celebrate the event, and the release of Fedora 11. Clint ‘herlo’ Savage is giving a talk on making your own custom Fedora Remix, and I have the honor of delivering the evening keynote. I’m really looking forward to this event, and encourage you to come by and say hi if you’re attending.