Haskell Platform

Recently Bryan posted four reviews to get the Haskell Platform supported in Fedora, and i'm glad to say that i just finished the last one. This means that for Fedora 12, we'll be able to support the Haskell Platform in both 11 and 12. I'm left with a couple of questions though.

The Haskell Platform specifies a very specific version set of packages, which use a 4 digit version numbering scheme. Within reason, i presume we can provide certain higher versions of these packages that are ABI compatible, but realistically, it's going to be hard to provide the latest and greatest if we have to stick to the platform. We also don't have a mechanism for delivering more than one version of the same Haskell package in fedora (yet). So the question is, how do we manage to give the user the best of both worlds?

My two cents is that we start linking a particular release of the Haskell Platform with a particular release of Fedora. The logic being is that that version of Fedora was the state of the art at the time of the release of said platform. There's also the package cabal-install.

Another option is to provide out of line repositories that automatically have the latest and greatest, but then we don't have the scripts to do that yet. Something to think about for the future.

Reprovisioning a VM

I've just discovered that if you reprovision a VM with koan, like baremetal, you do not need to rebuild up the VM in libvirt and xen. This should save a couple of steps in the future.

For reference, i'm talking about:

koan -r && reboot

on a running machine.

Exit Interview for GSoC

A few days ago i sent Satya an exit interview for the human interest angle of things, that she can voluntarily answer publicly or privately. Since this interview, namely the questions, might be useful to someone else, i want to post them here:

  • What did you learn this summer? Tell me both about technology and
    community, and about things you learnt because of GSoC and otherwise.

  • What motivated you to keep going for three months and not just stop
    after the first week?

  • What kinds of frustrations and challenges did you come across this
    summer? It doesn't have to be GSoC related either.

  • How did you overcome these challenges?

  • What else did you do during your free time in the summer?

  • What motivated you to do this in the beginning in the summer? What
    need did you feel like you were filling?

  • Is this still important? Or perhaps you have other reasons for keeping up?

  • Given the chance, would you do this project again?

  • Given the chance, would you do another GSoC project again?

  • Did you make any good relationships with in the various FOSS or hacker

  • What are your future plans in life?

Facebook Casualties

Maybe i'm turning into an old man, but i think there are probably better ways to communicate than Facebook.

Recently the ACLU has released a facebook app that demonstrates how much a single app can find out about your friends. If you're curious what i'm getting cranky about, and you use facebook, i suggest you try it out. (Either that really is the ACLU or a very clever social engineer impersonating the ACLU, but the point is the same.)

Since Facebook allows any app to see anything about anyone's friends, i've decided this is a severe privacy risk because i cannot control which applications i trust with my personal details. While Facebook is a great platform with alot of potential, Facebook's policies are not something i can live with. Rather than being a luddite and deleting my Facebook account, i've decided to start dropping people who use sensless applications without a reasonable privacy policy. These people i'm calling casualties.

I'm debating if i should start putting up a Wall of Shame, or if that would be an equal invasion of privacy. I guess for now i'll say i've already dropped a Fedora contributor. This is gonna get tricky once i start dropping family members.

FreeJ Release Party

Last night i attended the FreeJ 1.0 release party at the Nederland Instituut voor Media Kunst, or in english, the Dutch Institute for Media Arts. The NIMK is an art gallery / studio / institute for multimedia arts and it really focuses on some avant garde work. As a bonus, most of the exhibits there run on free software, and it's very rare they host an exhibit using windows. Since one of the core developers works there, it make perfect sense to hold the release party there. Congratulations to all the developers for finally making it to 1.0.

As part of the release party, Jaromil surprised us with a panel on the future of media codecs, which i was invited to participate in. The history of FreeJ is heavily involved in activism and the arts, and the developers have been heavily invested in promoting Theora and other Free as in Freedom codecs. It's very hard to broadcast a controversial message when your message is 'jailed' in a proprietary codec that relies on patent encumbered software, not only to distribute it, but to receive and view it as well. While the patents on MP3 and MPEG are eventually going to expire, there will always be new codecs with new patents, or worse yet, other encumbrances that will make it an uphill battle.

On the panel sat Jaromil, Bastiaan "buZz", Chris "MrGoil", Pablo "caedes" and myself. Jaro opened up the conversation asking us about the future of codecs in general and where we're going. Obviously, there were some setbacks a few months ago with the lack of video standardization in the HTML 5 standard, and how there were conflicting needs for the (then) better but patent encumbered H.264 codec and Theora. We discussed the need for making sure the platform itself is open so the user can install any code wanted, even if free codecs aren't provided out of the box.

After explaining half the issues to a partly non technical audience, we transitioned to talking a bit about Pablo's work on Crystal Space. His latest projects is an open platform for people working on any visual media, including both 2d film and 3d objects. In short imagine Git for content that's not just one dimensional streams of text. Many graphics shops have issues where once one person checks out a model, it's a single binary blob that no one else can edit. These tools enable the content editors to work on different aspects of the same model simultaneously and intelligently handle merging. We got a bit 'psychedelic' explaining how we are going from a single one dimensional model to a 4 dimensional model. (That word was picked by one of the audience members ^_^). I think switching from a dubbel to a trippel help explained the paradigm shift too.

While it wasn't part of the panel, i also want to mention Tatiana's work "acracia". She has been working on a distributed platform for icecast and content browsing under the project GISS, Global Independent Streaming Support. The project works two fold. The first part is a distributed network for streaming content, where people can pool together private stream servers, and share each other's load when one particular stream suffers the slashdot effect. This significantly lowers the barrier to streaming any online media to a project with little resources. The second part is a frontend like youtube that can also be run on a local server and is far more customizable. Not including the workload involved in transcribing submissions, they are running the entire thing inside a single VM at the moment, so for a website hosting alot of video, it's pretty resource friendly.

All in all, it was a pretty enlightening evening.

The end of GSoC 2009

Today i filled out my evaluation for Satya for the Google Summer of Code. I'm not sure if i'm allowed to discuss the grade yet, though i think everyone involved is smart enough to guess what it is. I just want to share some comments i put at the end of the form about what Satya has done:

I think the most important
qualifications of Satya's work are the
end results. The Fedora Project now has
a decent Docbook editor. The upstream
Beacon project has been motivated into
becoming a better upstream (read: a
better website) and the community there
has been revitalized. Fedora and Gentoo
now share a common project, which fits
in with Fedora's mission of working with
both upstream and the community at
large. Satya can definitely take credit
for being the catalyst for these
changes. Therefore, i give her a passing

If you're familiar with Red Hat culture, you'll understand that "catalyst" is a great Buzzword Bingo word there. I think Satya will fit in quite nicely there.

Some more HAR coverage

I found a great blog post that describes nicely what HAR is like. Check it out.

Live as if you are already in the future at hacker camp

Saves me a bit of blogging trouble :)

Nerds fight like no other

I remember seeing in the Dutch press an article about HAR commented that computer hackers fight the dirtiest. Well, a little friendly joking around can't hurt. One of the great things about hacker cons is it's not really important which distro you use, i even saw people running Windows 7 on the open network. Even so, there's always going to be a bit of goofing off:

Officially, the Ubuntu village was slightly better represented than Fedora, but i think we had alot of great word of mouth advertising. The people who needed Fedora CDs knew exactly where to come to.

You can definitely say we had better uptime and presence at the tent.

It's nice to know that some people know what people are really looking for ;).

Wanted: Web Designer

Dear Lazyweb,

I've decided that i need a Hackers on a Bike website and logo for the future. I was thinking of starting off with a simple wordpress blog, but there's obviously alot of potential for what can be done with such a site, and no matter what happens, there's a definite need for some good design. I also need to come up with a logo, and since programming logo is the extent of my graphics skills, all help is appreciated. Anyone interested?

Hacking at Random: The Aftermath

I think i'm getting old. I decided it would be a good idea to leave a day early to get some extra sleep, and be well rested when i got to work today. Hearing threats about the internet and power being cut off helped motivate things as well.

Hacking at Random is definitely an experience. You never quite feel the same person after these hack camps as you did before you left home, and it's always for the best. If you feel like you missed out, and want to spend a couple of weekends catching up on the lectures, i believe the lectures and the radio feeds are being archived, and a bit of googling will help. A good hack camp isn't just about lectures though. It's about watching someone's FTP server going down, hopping on your bike to tell him in person, and getting side tracked along the way. By the time you've made it there, you're missing your shirt and shoes, and you're covered in paint and dyes. Sure this happens at any other festival, but not because someone's FTP server crashed.

I can't exactly say i was that productive at this event, but i wasn't planning on it. I spent most of my time off the computer, because there was so much going on. Overall, it was a great vacation. Now i'm looking forward to eth-0 and the CCC.

Internation House of Pancakes

We just had an international pancake cookoff at the Fedora / CentOS / Dyne / FreeJ village, and i'm really starting to consider calling the village the International House of Pancakes. First i started off with proper American style pancakes, which are more like a fried pastry, using a very traditional farmhouse recipe. Then we followed up with Dutch style pannekoeken which have the bacon and cheese cooked in. There were also the German kind which skip the bacon and cheese and go for powdered sugar instead, like a crepe. Supposedly there are going to be Canadian and Italian style coming up, but i think everyone is getting pretty full already. Thanks to the Canadian crew who's come to hang out with us, we also have ourselves a nice can of Canadian Maple Syrup. I use capital letters because it's really that great and awesome.


Didi just woke up and said: "I don't drink alcohol".

Hacking at Random: Day 1 Ochtend

So after passing out fairly early last night, i woke up far to early, and now i'm taking advantage of the quietness to get my bearings organized. Unlike most conferences, this one doesn't start presentations until sometime in the afternoon. They know their crowd here.

To give you all an idea of what's going on, let me give you an overview. Hacking at Random is the once every four year Dutch hacking camping conference and lan party. This year, there is a stronger focus towards technology and society than there has been in the past, so much so that the MPAA and Brein have shown up.

As for Fedora, we've put together a conglomerated village between various groups and individuals Alex C. and i know, made up mostly of the people we want to sit around and drink beer with. On the Fedora and CentOS side, we have Andreas Thienemann, Didi and Chris Meyer, and on the other side we have a mix of all sorts of visual artists and DJs from FreeJ/Dynebolic and a group of other people Alex knows from all over. We're also situated right across from the lake and right across from the CCC dome. We also have a few spaces staked out for a couple more people who are coming, including Dag Wieers. True to form, when Jaromil arrived, he managed to squat a tent, which someone set up, but left empty. Being the good citizen that he is, he made sure that the tent didn't stay open for junkies to come in and destroy. Now there's an active community revolving around this tent. (House squatting is legal in the Netherlands.)

We had planned to put together something marketable as a tent, but unfortunately, the Fedora banners did not arrive in time for us to use. I may try to convince someone to drive me home on Friday to check to see if they might be there by then, but until then, we are sitting relatively anonymous. Despite that, we already have a reputation as "Fedora and CentOS" here, and with these sorts of things, word of mouth marketing can be very valuable. We're still trying to get all of our things together in the tent, and at the moment, Alex, Buzz, and Zmatt are setting up lighting in the tent, so we can put on a nice light show later. I really want to publically thank Alex C and give my kudos to him. He's put quite a bit of his time in organizing this tent, and it's come out quite nicely.

I think my next task is to go around and try to market our BarCamp as much as possible. Compared to the rest of the event, our setup is quite small, but we're looking to hold a few media workshops, hackfests, and demos / presentations, and especially if you're doing it on top of a Fedora or Fedora based system. (Or even a derivative of a Fedora derivative, like Jaro is using.) Since BarCamps are the preferred format by Fedora for things, i will be giving the BarCamp presentation to the birds, and then people will go ahead and do their thing. If you're on the terrain, you should definitely come check it out on Saturday.

Hackers on a Bike: Done

So i'm alive at the Hacking at Random terrain. My GPS gave me a grand sum of 58km. Now i'm sitting in my tent about ready to go to sleep. I'll post more as events unfold.

EDIT: I should add that i'm right across from the CCC dome. Sleeping is going to be a challenge.

Extra HAR ticket available

It seems that Bert has come down with the Taco Hoest, and now i have an extra ticket for Hacking at Random available. If you are a Fedora Ambassador and would like to go to Hacking at Random last minute, i can arrange it for free. If you are just looking for a ticket, i can sell it to you for the original discount price of 150 euros. If you're in some kind of financial straits, we can work out a better deal as well, as the ticket is already paid for.

If you're up for it, i also have some space in my tent for you, and as i've already gotten the flu that's going around, you stand very little chance to get infected from me. Also appreciated is if you can come to Wageningen Tuesday night to help out with Hackers on a Bike, though this isn't required.

So let me know via the usual methods, but do it quick, HAR starts this Thursday.

Off to Arnhem

Because Jeroen was relocating his servers today, i got stuck with a two hour blocker at work due to stale DNS entries in the local server. Instead of doing nothing, i decided to go home to fix my bike to get ready for Hackers on a Bike. I was planning on finishing up at home later in the evening.

Of course, i love sudden changes in plans. On my way home, Alex C. sent me a message about going to Arnhem to pick up some saddle bags with him, also for HoaB. So now i'm off on a bike trip to Arnhem and back tonight. This should be fun.

Infra on a stick

No sorry, that's not infrared but infrastructure. At work, i've been looking at switching our infrastructure over from our current puppet setup to a combined cobbler + puppet setup on top of puppetmanaged.org. The idea is to get our servers provisioned as quickly as possible with the right kernels, and just enough information to hook up to the network so we can remote connect to it. From there, everything can be managed via puppet, even puppet.

In order to get a feel for how this might work, i've been working on bootstrapping this from scratch. When you manage puppet via puppet, you need a base config to start from, and i've been trying to figure out the most minimal puppet config i can use to start up another puppet server. This got me thinking about a potential puppetmanaged.org live spin. This could be a CD or USB stick with either a barebones config, or respun for your local organisation with a git checkout of your internal configuration. There would be a running DHCP, DNS, Cobbler, Puppet and Func server on it. (Yeah, i know Func doesn't call it a server.) I'm assuming these are the basics you need to get your network up and running. The spin would also have a couple of scripts, where you can point it to up to five different servers, baremetal or virtual, get them up and running, deploy your local config if needed, and then via func, flip a switch so that they look at each other for updates, rather than at the computer running live.

I'm hoping i can get a good basic puppet bootstrap up and running before i run off to HAR.