WPLUG and BarCamp Pittsburgh

Yesterday i went to my first meeting of the Western Pennsylvania LUG. After that, we held a small BarCamp at the same location. A few hilights.

Up until recently, the WPLUG meetings and events were held on the CMU campus. For a number of reasons, they were forced to find a new location to use. Without going into details, the problem is that CMU is not set up to host community related activities that are at best tangential to what CMU teaches. The level of bureaucracy was too much, and thus, they needed a new location. For the next two months, events are going to be held at the Wilkingsburg School Community Center, a location much better suited to "Community". One theme of conversation was how the LUG could help support the Center by improving the infrastructure, or at least providing wireless internet for the whole building.

It seems there's a very quiet Fedora community in the area, that so far has gone unnoticed. I was asked by a couple of people about what we (Fedora and Red Hat) can do to help support and build up the community. On the same thread, one person 'complained' about giving out Ubuntu media when he doesn't use or support Ubuntu. In the next few months, we will definitely be trying to mobilize the community here, and perhaps train a couple of people to become Ambassadors. In the same vein, there are a few people who want to better support Fedora at install fests. This means a nice NAS system running cobbler that we can use to image machines at parties and meetups with Fedora.

I talked with the guys who are interested in doing BarCamps and other meetups like this in the area. I also brought up the idea of starting up an OpenStreetMap user group. I think we're going to have to plan something once a month in order to gain momentum. There are a number of groups we can lobby in the area to start participating in both events. It should be interesting to see what we can do with this.

It snowed, and none too soon. I managed to grow out a full beard leading up to this, and it's been keeping me nicely warm :). Also, it seems i can make quite good Glögg, which is a swedish variant of mulled wine. These lethal combination of wine, port, brandy, spices and sugar will keep you warm when trekking home up and down the Pittsburgh hills late at night when it's -7 degrees (Celsius, aka 19.4 Fahrenheit) outside.

International Phonteic Alphabet

Dear Lazyweb,

Is there a decent library (preferably Python) that can manipulate strings that are encoded in Unicode for IPA? This would mean a library that can intelligently recognize when [ʈʰ], [ɭʷ], and [d̪ʰ] are one character each, even though the are formed out of multiple components. I don't really feel like cross referencing all these words tonight and i know a computer could do my homework much faster.

Bonus points if anyone can tell me which language those three phonemes occur. :)

OpenStreetMap Pittsburgh Mapping Party

This weekend was incredibly busy. Richard Weait, Community Organizer for OpenStreetMap.org drove down from Toronto to come host a mapping party in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, there isn't much of a mapping community around yet, and most of the participants were away this weekend. It was still pretty successful, as we talked about plans to expand the community in Pittsburgh, and ways we can do this on top of Fedora. I also got a chance to learn about alot of the nuances that go into mapping, although it really is pretty easy to do.

Mapping itself is pretty simple. Yesterday was rainy, so i spent the first half of the day going through the different programs, and testing how well they worked in Fedora. Once that was taken care of, we had a pretty good idea of what worked and what didn't. Overall, JOSM is an excellent program to work with, albeit it could use a few bug fixes and some polish. With some of the plugins, it's very easy to get working right away, produce quality information on the maps, and most importantly, to fill out bugs and clue other people how and why you did things the way you did. I think map making might be one of the easiest things to do to contribute to Open Source without knowing how to program or know alot about computers.

Over the past two days, Richard and i talked about a bunch of good ideas, some of them i hope bring to reality this week. He's been looking for a good tool to get new mappers set up mapping with the most minimal set up possible. Since all the packages we need have been made into RPMs, it should be relatively trivial to put a kickstart and liveUSB together to do the job.

We would like to gather interested people for a Geo SIG inside Fedora. If any of you readers out there love mapping and love Fedora, we would love to hear from you. If we're going to start giving away Fedora at mapping parties, then it will be good to have a SIG and export Fedora users around to help out.

OpenStreetMap and its sponsors are people who 'get' Open Source and Community. To this, i would like to be able to help Richard spread his message as much as we like to spread ours. One of the challenges that he faces when planning mapping parties is that he knows very little about the area he is going to. Out of a purely practical consideration, he needs help to make sure he isn't putting the party in an otherwise unsafe neighborhood. These parties are about having fun, not getting new mappers mugged or worse just for coming out to have an enjoyable afternoon. I invited Richard to join our Ambassadors mailing list, to ask the Ambassadors for help. I posted a quick email there a few days ago, so before you flame or bikeshed me, remember that you had your chance to do that on that thread. If you have the ability and the wishes to do so, please help him out with any practical information you can give him, as an Ambassador, about areas you know about.

On that same note, Richard mentioned another issue that he's been having, similar as we have been having. How do you measure community involvement. Sufficed to say, we may see our second user of EKG in the near future :).

We also talked about ways to open up more of a mapping community in Pittsburgh. Fortunately, a BarCamp has been announced for next weekend here in Pittsburgh. I'm hoping to do a demo of mapping in Pittsburgh, and hopefully starting something new. It should be fun to see how that goes.

Last but not least, no event would be successful if it weren't for one of my pipe dream ideas. Apparently, using a one-off schematic design, it would be reasonable to mass produce USB GPS devices that feed directly to gpsd for 12 USD per piece at lots of 10,000 or more. I'm sure for an extra 50 cents, we could get a green plastic cover. If you're thinking OLPC, you got it. What would it take to outfit OLPCs with GPS devices, and an activity designed around mapping and geo-caching? With large communities of kids being given new technology, they could all use OSM to map things around each other, perhaps collaborate on physical presence events, geo-cache, map their town for other people to see, and even share shortcuts through spaces they know. Since OSM is a free and open wiki, the possibilities are really endless. I would love to know if this could be done.

That's it for now. And now back to the regularly schedule school program of dooooooooom.


My ponytail is open source, and always has been. Unfortunately, i think i've been running foul of an obscure patent maintained by a shaman living in the Chilean Andes and registered in Peru. Even though i am an American citizen, i'm afraid that if i want to live on the correct side of things, i will have to chop it off. I guess it's a good thing i don't respect authority to a healthy measure.

OpenStreetMap mapping party report coming soon....

I voted....


That is, i voted for all the positions, but Nobody seems to a good choice for the presidency.

And now i'm tweaking out on the free Starbucks. :)