On Concerns about a Fork

People have asked me about Bluetile because it essentially ships with its own branch of XMonad. The concern, of course, is that we don't want to ship a fork that's so closely aligned without good reason. The less code we need to ship and the fewer packages, the less room there is for error, less load on our servers, and less for the user to worry about. I asked myself the same thing, but in the chance that bluetile could turn out to be its own thing entirely, i originally started the package review as a kind of wait and see what could happen approach.

Even so, i had some of my own concerns. One of the patches Jan, the Bluetile developer, ships helps improve Gnome compatibility. Without it, XMonad is very hard to configure with Gnome. I repeated these concerns to him, but Jan's reaction is that he was intially unsure that all his patches would be accepted by upstream. I've noticed over the past couple of days on the XMonad mailing list, Jan has been pushing his patches one by one to upstream. So far, they are being accepted one by one, sometimes as is, sometimes with comments. Although i don't know exactly how far Jan has to go, it looks he's building a pretty good relationship with upstream, and i feel pretty confident the bluetile bits will all eventually find their way upstream.

Consider it another open source success story.

This might have been said before but...

Yo dawg, i heard you like operating systems, so i installed emacs, so you can operate your system while you operate your system.

Git doesn't like absolute paths

Note to self, while writing a script to do something on top of git, do not use absolute paths when passing things to git. Git doesn't like them. Especially when you're replacing some crusty insecure SVN code.

Fedora True Blue

For FAD EMEA i brought a Fedora stickered blue lockbox with a few important Fedora EMEA things in it in case we needed them. On my way back through Basel airport, the security curtain is set up so you can actually see the security personnel scanning your bags in the scanner as they go past. I have to give the designer of the airport kudos for the transparency into the process. As i was putting things in my pockets, i saw my bag go past. For what ever reason, the false colouring added on the X ray gave the metal in the lockbox a nice blue colour pretty close to the actual colour of the box.

I won't write too much else about FAD EMEA, personally. According to ZodBot i already wrote a grand total of 645 lines in #fedora-fad, not counting the meeting we had with Pamela at Red Hat about a number of trademark issues. At the end of the day, i felt just a touch burnt out, trying to paraphrase everyone's thoughts into slightly more condense pieces and also trying to participate in the conversations. Please keep in mind, the transcript has the same value as an impression. In some cases i echoed the words people used, but in some cases i summarized paragraphs into sentences. THIS IS NOT AN EXACT TRANSCRIPT. If you're interested in reading up about the FAD, the minutes are here, and the full log was here.

The goal i had in mind was to act as a conduit for anyone who would be awake so early and would have liked to participate. I'm curious how we can do this in the future for FudCon, where we have volunteers monitoring IRC to take comments and questions from non present attendees, while they are listening or watching any streams we make available. If no stream is available, the volunteer could even transcribe and summarize like i did. It might also get interesting if present attendees use these IRC channels to be in more than one session at a time :P.

Fad EMEA Rheinfelden: Friday

Yesterday I arrived in scenic Basel for the FAD EMEA and i was pretty impressed with the classy muted feel of the Basel airport. It was a pretty strong contrast from Schiphol, which is just as nice, but busy and noisy most of the time. For my second culture shock, i got interrogated by the French border control in German, and confused them thoroughly when they decided to rummage through my pockets and backpack. For better or worse, they let me through in the end. From there, Gerold picked me up on the French side, we crossed over into Germany to take care of some Fedora EMEA business at the bank, and finally stopped off at his place so i could check my email after the trip and say hello to Max, Jörg and Fabian who were already hard at work at Gerold's dining room table. Just to make sure i could be in four countries in one day, Gerold and I drove over to the Swiss border, walked across the Rhein into Switzerland so we could pick up Pierros from the train station and i could buy some chocolate. I love being able to pay in plastic, because for the few swiss francs i needed to by the chocolate, i didn't have to convert a metric tonne of currency just to do so.

When we came back, Gerold announced that he had to walk the dog, so we decided to join him so we can start discussing our plans for the following day. This was a great opportunity, because the entire area is gorgeous. Of course Gerold decided to show us his sadistic streak and sent us on a hike climbing up and down said beautiful mountainous landscape. In then this was a good thing, because we really had an appetite for dinner afterwards. For dinner, Gerold's very lovely wife put together a very traditional autumn dish for us. We had Zwiebelkuchen with Federweißer, which is a very potent way of getting you drunk if you don't watch out. The food was excellent, and for that i was grateful, because i was in a much better mood to handle the unfortunate conference we had to have with Red Hat legal. But i'll let other people discuss that.

1e Nerdavond in Wageningen

Last night we held the first Nerdavond in Wageningen at the Dikke Draak.

The setup was pretty simple. We sat around the table with wifi, power, and lots of greasy junk food in the middle. You might note the halo over the fries. This may be a sign from the $deities that the food is sacrosanct, but i tell you it's probably just the light reflecting off the grease. The Dutch don't skimp when it comes to greasy foods, despite century old stereotypes about puritan behaviour.

I spent most of the time talking with Edwin who runs his own company Syn-3. He's been working on tools similar to devshell (which he calls dev's hell) to do the custom Red Hat and Debian builds they do for their customers. We went over how both our workflows go and comparing notes. It was definitely enlightening to see how devshell could be simplified to be more reliable.

Bluetile is packaged

About a year and a half ago i discovered xmonad and i was instantly converted to the tiling manager way of life. It was the perfect excuse to start doing something practical with Haskell, which i had been wanting to experiment with for a couple of years. Then it was also a perfect excuse to get more involved with packaging, which sent me on a long twisty adventure. In order to give back to the community, i became more involved with Haskell packaging in order to make the experience much better in Fedora in general, and since then Haskell itself has come a long way too.

Tiling Window Management has many practical benefits to it, and can be useful even to 'non technically savy' users. What's important when starting out with a new WM is having a good way to explore it that fits your paradigm of exploration. At the time, xmonad fit mine perfectly; i needed better window management via the keyboard, and my then most recent configurations of compiz was heavily keyboard biased. For other people though, especially the aforementioned group, the initial mode of exploration is with the mouse cursor. This is why we have graphical file managers, (especially dolphin, seth), desktop environments full of widgets and glowey shiney things, and rich web pages full of javascript. As the user learns to be more productive, there is ultimately some kind of shift to the keyboard, especially when the mouse clicking exposes this clearly.

Recently, as part of a research project Jan Vornberger has put together a new tiling window manager on top of xmonad, called bluetile. Bluetile aims to close the gap between highly technical oriented tiling WMs and the everyday user who can benefit from such a design but is reliant on the mouse. His project looks to integrate a tiling WM into Gnome, provide both mouse and keyboard access for every feature, communicate clearly to the user what is going on, and provide a gentle introduction to the concept of tiling. As a new generation of users become more sophisticated, i'm sure either bluetile will grow with them, or they will eventually migrate to xmonad proper. Bluetile also ships with a bunch of patches, many of which will hopefully find their way upstream, so there will definitely be some good synergy between the two communities. I'm really looking forward to it.

I had a chance to play with bluetile in my free time, and i was really impressed at the quality and the ease of use already. It's the sort of program i would not hesitate to put on my family's computer to see what happens. I've put together some packages for bluetile, which are now sitting in the review queue. If you're morbidly curious, or just looking for some relatively easy packages to review, have a look here:




In case anyone missed it....

In my previous post, i was trolling. That is all.

Fedora Core?

From now on, any time i see someone complaining about Fedora Core, especially on IRC, i could do so well as to remind them that Fedora Core is very much End Of Life and they could do so well as to upgrade to Fedora. There hasn't been a release since version 6.

Wageningen Nerdavond is a go

Last night i had a quick chat with the staff at the Herberg de Dikke Draak (The lodge of the fat dragon), and we agreed that Thursday night is definitely our Nerd night at the Draak. Tonight there won't be any nerding, we'll start next week, though i'll there tonight anyways to meet some people.

The first session will be Thursday, September the 17th, (2009 if you can't figure that out) at Hoogstraat 9, Wageningen. There's be internet, electricity and beer, the three most essential things necessary. If anyone is interested in doing some kind of set project, we can always discuss it then.

In the future, this should be a weekly event, so if you can't make it next week, there'll definitely be another chance to come.

Hack / Nerd Avond in Wageningen

I'm thinking of trying to put together a regular hack meet in Wageningen. The problem is that there isn't quite a unified hack culture in Wageningen yet, though there are plenty of individuals who are no stranger to spending hours behind the screen. Even the beloved Draak, the Rock / Metal bar in town is partly owned by a programmer. There have also been people talking about setting up a hackerspace in town, but then again, there's no sense in waiting on that to build up a community.

Currently the plans stand at doing a weekly meetup at the Draak thursdays and nerding. I'm aiming to find about ten people who are interested so that we have about 5 people there each week. Since four of the possible people already use Fedora, there'll definitely be alot of that. There will of course be electricity and internet, although because smoking is allowed there, don't bring your super sensitive electronics projects. I'll know more by the end of the week.