Resignation as Treasurer of Fedora EMEA e.V.

About five minutes ago, i announced to the Board of Fedora EMEA e.V. that i resign as Treasurer. I've also decided that i will be bringing my activities under the Fedora Project umbrella to an end, as this is as good of a point as any to stop. Since i hate goodbyes, and hate making them even more, this definitely isn't it. In the time i've been involved with the Fedora Project, i've made a number of really good friends, learnt a great deal and had a really great time. Fedora has played a really important role in my own personal development and i know i'll run into a great deal of Fedora contributors in the future. I plan fully on contributing to Open Source projects still, but i think it's time to see my effort go in a different direction.

The situation with Fedora EMEA e.V. has been a tough one. To sum up what has been a trying year and half, we were asked by Red Hat to make some changes to the organisation, involving the use of the trademark, in order to continue supporting the European part of the community. Since then, we, the Board, has not done a single thing to remedy the situation. No matter what your opinion is on the issue, this is a failure, which as a Board member, i must take responsibility for. I recentely relocated back to the States for personal reasons, and this is an issue i can not personally sit around and wait on any longer. Personally, i feel that not handling the issue has burnt off any goodwill i may have had with the community at large. I don't feel it would be responsible to ask to show more leadership to the community.

The biggest regret i have is that i will not have the time nor energy to continue maintaining the xmonad packages. Working on them is the single most rewarding thing i've done for the Fedora Project and i'm happy to hear that Ben Boeckel has already picked them up.

So long and thanks for all the fish!

The KDE - Gnome Challenge: org-mode

In this post, i'm going to digress a bit to comment a bit about what i've been working on most recently. A few days ago, Michel Salim posted to Fedora Planet that he was having some success implementing GTD in his life using org-mode. Lately, i've been doing exactly the same thing. In the coming posts, i'm going to start integrating more bits on org-mode and emacs into the desktop.

Last weekend, i took the time out to work on a really old idea i had been batting around for a while. I've reworked my xmonad config completely so that it no longer functions like a traditional static desktop with a static set of workspaces. The desktop now is a context based stack, where you shuffle in contexts when needed. When in a certain context, the right programs are available at your fingertips, and distractions relevant to other contexts are hidden. I've been slowly integrating this into working with the same contexts that i use in GTD.

Ironically, due to "getting things done", i've been piling on more and more tasks that have piled up in the past few years, that i simply haven't gotten the time to start getting around to. Using a different organization system for my todo lists has motivated me to get a start on them, including this desktop concept. So when it comes to getting things done, like this blog series, it's been getting tricky fitting it in. Hopefully i'll get together a batch of blog posts soon, and i can continue publishing regularly.

Why i quit facebook

For those of you who perhaps just follow along Fedora Planet, or just don't do these sorts of things, quite a number of Fedora contributors all hang out on facebook. Between some of the more 'youthfully exuberant' contributors, we have a bit of the usual banter going on. Many of you followed along with my year of Monty Python quotes in my status, and some of you have probably tried to make Ryan Rix lose the game once or thrice. So some of you probably noticed that i deleted my facebook account a couple of weeks ago.

I refrained from commenting on it too much online, because it wasn't so much of a privacy issue as a social experiment on myself. If you go online (and you already are, i assume) you'll see pundits arguing against facebook for reasons ranging from how much of a waste of time it is, to how creepy it is to give random faceless company all this information to all the privacy concerns that go with a central network with poor security and designed to distribute rather than secure information. This was not the reason why i quit; i felt like facebook was taking the place of better things in my life. So, i gave it a couple of weeks to see how things changed, and to comment on it without the accusations of "you only left because you're a paranoid privacy freak".

If you compare how people communicated before Facebook came around and what people consider communication today, things have clearly changed. I'm not talking about the 140 character limits twitter imposes either. My facebook network had some several hundred people in it, many of whom i met randomly, and decided to keep very loose contact with. Instead of making a point to see them now and then, i got more and more focused to commenting and sharing random activities via the platform. When you consider how much mental overhead a single sarcastic facebook comment or post can take up, you have thirty light conversations all running in the background, and they come in via a torrential feed that bombards you with new messages all the time, it gets pretty hectic. It is nice to be able to interact with people you wouldn't otherwise get a chance to stay in contact with so easily, but that's the crux of the problem. All this mental overhead takes time away from staying in touch with the people closer to you. It's also much harder to shut off the flow when it becomes a habit. If i have things to do at home, as long as i don't nip over to the pub for a few beers, i won't be distracted by a constant flow of social information. But when i have a facebook account, it's habit to walk past my laptop, open up a new tab and kill another ten minutes replying to comments. Then when i try to talk to my family or close friends, i don't have the energy left to make a real conversation out of, especially one that doesn't resemble these shallow facebook conversations.

Now that i've gone for two weeks without a facebook account, somehow my life is more bearable. I reckon i'm still easy to find; i still have an and linkedin, and a simple duckduckgo (or google if you're still using that) of my name will tell you pretty much everything you need to know to get in contact with me. But now i have time to actually take things off my todo list, and i can be social without a guilty conscious that i've forgotten to do something, or i'm missing out on a conversation elsewhere.

If you're wondering if you should just never log in anymore or if you should go through the trouble to delete your account, take this into account. If the privacy does bother you at all, you might argue "Facebook has all your information anyways". But consider this, if you delete your account, they won't get any new information, and over time, the info they have on you becomes less and less valuable. I recommend deleting it, if you want to go down that route.

The KDE - Gnome Challenge: feh

A bit delayed, but following with the thread you've probably decided that you would like to see something else besides the default wallpaper. In a traditional desktop environment, there is a program that has the responsibility of drawing the desktop, in KDE it's a very complex plasma, and in gnome it's a window provided by nautilus that runs on top of the desktop. Since we don't actually need much from a desktop per se, all we need to do is draw on the 'root window' which is the X Windows System way of saying 'desktop'.

To do so, we need to add a small command to your .xsession file. First install the program feh with yum install feh -y if it's not already installed. Feh is also a decent program for viewing images too, which is why i'm using it.

To have feh draw your desktop background, just add the following command to your .xsession file, before the line for xmonad (or which ever window manager you choose):

feh --bg-scale /path/to/wallpaper

It's really not more complicated than that.

Somethings you might want to explore, if you like that sort of thing is that there are a number of programs that can all draw to the root window. It's possible to use them to draw pictures, tile multiple pictures together, create a slideshow, or even draw video or goofy animations that follow the cursor. If you find something cool, be sure to leave a comment or blog it too.

Duck Duck Google^WGoose!

Lately i've been taking a bit of time in my life to look at using other services than Google. Even if you still trust Google 100%, and don't get me wrong, i don't have anything against Google personally (well... not much), it's been a good experience. One of the hardest things to get away from though is Google's search. It's very easy to get in a habit of using it. It's everywhere, even on my phone. Google's worked very hard to make their search results very good. Even so, there's another search engine i've found that i quite like, Duck Duck Go.

Duck Duck Go is quite simple. It has a very clean layout, similar to the early days in Google, and it focuses on giving you some quick 'zero-click' meaning at the very top of the page. It also tries to sort links into topics that make sense to a human mind. More importantly, it's entirely anonymous, saves (almost) no private data, and is entirely accessible through SSL. (I've even provided the SSL link above.) This means that no one in between you and Duck Duck Go needs to know that you're looking for a new job, not even your current boss.

In 1997 when Google was started, it was fundamentally expensive for most people to start up a search engine that would provide meaningful results. Back in those prehistoric days powerful computers were expensive and so was the bandwidth. Nowadays, the chip in my phone is powerful enough to run a search engine, never mind the computer in my lap or my desktop at work. It's become much easier to democratise search; anyone can do it. In the days of Web 2.0, where anyone can put up a web page, Gabriel Weinberg, the creator of Duck Duck Go, wrote up a detailed blog post on how he uses commodity open source tools to put it together. You don't have to be a Google Engineer to do it.

Duck Duck Go is a pretty cool search engine to try out. It can be integrated into Firefox too, so you don't even know you're using it until you start searching. It's fast, it's simple, it provides you with good privacy from the start and is actually useful. It's even got a cool duck as a logo.

The KDE - Gnome Challenge: xinit and slock

Continuing the theme from before, i would like to explain how to get started setting up your 'just give me what i need' desktop. Keep in mind that this will only cover a part of getting started, so if you need a fully working desktop and you're not able to figure it all out, you might want to wait a few days until everything's lined up. I'll put together a summary so anyone can get started.

So you want to make up a minimalist desktop. The rule is to use only what you need, nothing more. You also need something to glue it together. I've written before about using xmonad to be precisely that glue. I am assuming you are going to use xmonad, you know how to open up a terminal, use it to start up other programs and can go back to your classic desktop later if you want. We'll also cover one other necessary feature, locking the screen. Obviously you don't want to leave your machine vulnerable while playing around.

The first thing to do is to set up xinit. This will start up a shell script located in ~/.xsession and when the shell script ends, it will stop the graphical environment and logout. In order to make this work, open up a terminal and do the following.

Warning: This will destroy any prexisting file you have located at ~/.xsession, so back it up if you want to first.

sudo yum install xorg-x11-xinit-session xmonad slock -y
echo > ~/.xsession << EOS

chmod +x ~/.xsession

When you log out, you will see a new desktop option called User Session. Log in using that option. The login dialog will go away, and you'll most likely be left with the default background from the login manager. Don't expect any borders or pretty things to happen yet. We will set them up later. Remember, all that's running is xmonad, nothing else. Once xmonad stops, your session ends and you are logged out. That's it.

In order to call up programs, open up a terminal with <Alt>-t. From there, you can open up any other application using it's name. To log out, press <Alt>-q. At the bottom of this post will be a couple of links to xmonad's documentation for reference.

If you need to lock your screen, open a new terminal and run slock at the prompt. Your screen will blank, just type in your password, hit enter, and you can continue working. To suspend your machine, say a laptop, the command pm-suspend will do exactly that. If you want to suspend and lock the screen, the handy snippet pm-suspend; slock at the prompt will suspend and then lock the screen. We will come back to making this easier in a following post.

I've had some criticsm about having to write up your own .xsession file and doing everything by hand. Many of the arguments run along the lines of 'i use this panel, this media player, this browser, this widget, this toolkit, and it does everything for me automatically, so you'll have to pry it out of my cold dead hands'. If this is the case, i encourage you to continue using your tools of choice for the betterment of society. However, if you're left wondering why your computer uses 1GB of memory after logging in, and why there's a mysql instance running in the background that you didn't put there yourself, and all you want to do is get programs up and running and working, then doing this by hand is a very rewarding experience. Were it easier to get a useful minimalist experience without this trouble, life might be better, but we're not yet there.

If you need documentation, check out the following links.

Happy Hacking!

The KDE - Gnome Challenge: xmonad

A couple of weeks ago, i wrote about a personal challenge to work on making a better desktop for myself, and use my computer more effectively. I meant to pick up the blog and start posting a regular series on taking advantage of your desktop for others to follow. So as unusual, here is the second installment to the series.

I want to begin with a tool that has really served me well for a very long time. I started using xmonad in the end of 2007. Since then, it has helped me be far more productive, because i spend alot less time getting swamped with windows that need to be managed. If you want to know exactly what problems i was facing that lead me to believing tiling WMs to be the one true way (for myself), i recommend you read my blog post from then. Since then xmonad has come along way, and through all that, i've been using more or less the same configuration with both Gnome and KDE.

The way i see it, xmonad is going to be the corner stone of any desktop i put together. There are two primary reasons why i have this perspective, and in this series, you will see many comments on how to integrate Foo (TM), Bar (TM), and Baz (TM) into xmonad for a complete workflow. After using xmonad for a few months, i stopped seeing my desktop as a collection of apart applications, and began to see the system as a complete system. By putting two programs next to each other, colouring the backgrounds the same, and using no border between the two, they would blend into each other, akin to panels in many IDEs. Suddenly, a file manager window and a simple music player could have the same functionality as the all in one integrated amarok. Instead of relying on kparts or whatever KDE uses these days, the OS already provided the components to integrate them together. When you consider that the end user doesn't understand 'programs' intuitively either, i decided that the most user friendly approach is to teach the user functionality rather than programs.

Window managers are also incredibly context sensitive. Of all programs running on your machine, your window manager has the best view on exactly what you're doing and where you're doing it. With a little bit more information, like a context, it can be very flexible to accommodate what you are really trying to do, and make your life much easier. More concretely, it can provide per desktop/workspace key bindings, the ability to organize your windows around tasks and so on. In this case, xmonad also takes nearly all priorities over keybindings in your X server, which in plain english means all your global hotkeys are very implement in xmonad. It's even got a few extensions that make it easy to make up new keybindings, and even use vi and/or emacs like bindings on your desktop.

xmonad can take up a number of blog posts itself, but it's not the only way to solve a number of problems i'm looking to solve. If you're looking to follow this series, the easiest thing to do is to try out xmonad and get used to it. Otherwise, you'll be on your own integrating it with your window manager of choice. That said, the next few blog posts will have very little to do with xmonad.

The KDE - Gnome Challenge

The past couple of years i've been experimenting with my desktop alot. When i started using Fedora, i stuck with Gnome until i found XMonad. Then i did alot of the initial work of getting it to integrate into Gnome. After watching my desktop break on updates and alot of the tools i was using at the time completely junk out on me, like hamster-applet, not to mention being plagued by evolution, i decided enough was enough, and i switched to KDE. Watching every component in the desktop get rewritten every six months with less features each time was making it hard to just get XMonad up and running.

After getting things up and going, and seeing how KDE 4.2 was stable enough to get some work done, i thought i could commit myself to using it. For a while, it seemed to work, but i realized i wasn't using half the features coming in. The incremental improvements were nice, and i saw the beginnings of a very interesting foundation that had alot of potential. But then since the past few months, lots of little issues started creeping up. Every time i would suspend my laptop, resuming it would take longer and longer before i got control of the keyboard back. Sometimes the only button that would be reactivated was the handy power button. Going into standby would take longer and longer. Leaving an X session running for more than a couple of days would get really slowly. The kicker panel that used to show up instantly started to take seconds and then minutes even to show up. It would also break the focus in weird ways. All the akonadi bits would start to get in the way. The panel would graphically glitch all the time making itself less than useless. I wanted my desktop back.

If i were a KDE or Gnome developer, i would have been thrilled to have the chance to be able to dogfood and fix alot of these bugs. My current role is a system administrator, though, and all of these things just get in the way of solving problems fast so i don't miss my deadlines. I don't mean this criticism as something bad about any of the decisions of the developers or the Fedora package maintainers, but simply, this is why it didn't work out for me.

Instead, i decided to set a different sort of challenge for myself. After watching the challenge between Ryan Rix and Mel Chua to use each other's favourite desktops, i challenge people to start with their own minimal desktop. This does not mean starting with XFCE or LXDE and calling it quits, though those are both two fine projects unto themselves. I mean, start from scratch with just your own .xinitrc file. Then put in everything you need. Figure it all out for yourself. Do this for a month and see if your survive. It's sort of like that intial Linux challenge. Can you use that for a month as a sole OS.

Over the next while, i think i'm going to post updates on some of the different components i'm using to build up my desktop. I've been using tools following the suckless principles as starters and exploring all the different options.

Starting my RHCA

Next week i'll be starting on getting my RHCA certification. I've said it many times, and i'll say it again, i really see good high quality certifications replacing the diploma as a metric of skills in the 21st century. I highly recommend that everyone look at picking up a few, and i'll shamelessly plug Red Hat for providing one of the most rigorous programs out there.

I will be taking the RH436, the Red Hat Enterprise Clustering and Storage Management, course and accompanying exam. It might not have been the most number one choice, but it's an issue we're working with at the Genomics Center, that i felt it would be the most practical choice. I want to thank my employer for sponsoring the course.

I'm going to be taking it easy this weekend, and next week i'll most likely not be online at all. If you can't reach me, you'll know why.

LOADays: the follow up

This weekend i was in Antwerpen for the Linux Open Administration Days. Or Handwerpen as Bert Desmet puts it so fondly. I was there to present and some practical discussions on how to migrate to it's sometimes not so user friendly structure. For the rest, i went in with an open mind.

When Jeroen van Meeuwen and I arrived at the hotel, we ran into a small group of what were obviously sysadmins. It seemed there was also some kind of wedding or party going on because there were alot of people coming in with all sorts of musical instruments, dressed in a very middle eastern style, with robes and multicolor gowns and bustling all over the place. In contrast, four guys sitting in a circle with laptops out is not hard to spot.

We went downtown for some dinner, at a restaurant where a polylingual waiter served us in practically every language we wanted. After going around the table in three languages, English, French and Dutch, he finally looks at me and says, "oh good, at least we have one Belgian". So i said where i was from and that i'm living in the Netherlands, and that set off a 'oh, you poor thing.' Over dinner, we had a really great conversation about what we see as the future of configuration management and all sorts of other fun sysadmin-y topics.

My presentation went ok, though it was my first iteration of the slides and presentation. I think because of the unique way i positioned the presentation, i put too much information in and made the classic mistake of not having the perspective to see it. I'm hoping the next time i do this, i can do better justice.

After my presentation, i spent the better part of an hour talking to Dan Bode from the newly minted PuppetLabs about some of the issues we are both trying to solve. The conversation went over how deviates from the official recommendations from PuppetLabs and the differences is approach to our solutions. My big takeaway from the conversation is that it's very easy to make these things complex really fast. It's going to be an interesting challenge to keep these tools simple, which is what made them so attractive in the first place.

After the first day, the LOAD team treated us all to beer and pizza, first outside by the pavilion at the school where the event was held, and afterwards, we moved to a nearby pub for even more beer. Given my previous experiences in Belgium, namely Fosdem, i took it easy and left around 12, so i wouldn't regret it the next morning.

The second day was a little bit more relaxed. I started with two round table discussions, the first on "Open Core" vs. "Open Source" projects and companies. The second was on the general topic of configuration management. It was really good to be able to discuss the future of Configuration Management in general without it turning into a flamewar on who's tool was better.

After the lunch break i sat in on two more sessions, one on how to do configuration management entirely with RPMs, and the second was on the LSC project, the LDAP Synchronization Connector, which i'm pretty sure we will be using in the future internally.

I want to thank the LOAD team for putting together the event. It really went smoothly, there were no issues getting around and getting things done. It was a great pleasure to have the chance to meet many people from all over Europe and even a few from the US who are looking to solve almost all the same problems i am. I can see alot of potential for this event in the future.

Doing FOSS in your $dayjob

Wednesday night, i gave a small lightening talk at OGD Utrecht about working with FOSS in the enterprise realm. This is a topic i've discussed with a number of people informally and i think i'm going to make into a proper talk in the future. It covers how to get the maximum benefit out of Free and Open Source Software and how to work with communities at the enterprise level.

It is structured around three phases that are meant to segue into a roundtable conversation. It begins with the use of FOSS inside your organisation, moves on to internal development and branches, and finishes with active development and hosting of projects. It's geared towards how FOSS is a good business decision and how to take said business decision and make the most out of it without compromising your values or the community.

Finally, it's the usual policy of mine that when you see this presentation, you should go out and present it yourself. I've licensed the slides as CC-by-sa, so feel free to go wild with them. They are structured around the bullet points you can talk about, but each line is meant to be a topic of discussion that can fill five or fifty minutes at a go. You can get the slides here$dayjob.odp

Some Blogging Noise and Summer Coding

I realize i've been mostly silent about some of the things going on regarding the summer of code style projects. Perhaps i should make a bit of noise, so get out your ear plugs, because i've got two pot lids and i'm not afraid to use them.

Most know at this point that Fedora was not approved by Google for the GSoC this summer. Rather than moping about it, i've seen a couple of trends, both quite interesting.. To start, from the moment Fedora was rejected, Karsten Wade and the rest of the crew got together and started putting together the Fedora Summer of Code project. For a project that had so little time to get its stuff together, it's working out pretty well so far.

Second, we've shared a really good relationship with in the past, and last November, i met John 'warthog9' Hawley and we talked about a couple of ideas that would serve the linux communities better. A couple weeks ago, JH sent me an email asking about one of the projects, a statistics project for distribution mirrors. This will enable distros and mirrorers to better plan for resources. If a student proposal is accepted for this project, i will be comentoring under the name. There is also another project, chasm, from our own Ben Boeckel on the list.

All in all, it's going to be an interesting summer.

Sorry for my English

Every time i see someone post at the bottom of an email "sorry for my english", i always feel like this person is apologizing for speaking english on an english speaking list. It's a very strange way to say it.

CLT - Catering-Tage mit Linux-Vortr├Ąge

After traveling 1300+ kilometers, running around for two days heavily caffeinated and pleasantly fed, and talking non stop, i'm finally caught up from the Chemnitzer Linux-Tage. I have to say, the entire event was by far miles beyond the Linuxtag event in Berlin. I'm glad we made our choice to focus more on this event in the future.

To start, from the moment we arrived in Chemnitz, despite the drab post industrial post communist palor, the experience was nothing but friendly. The hotel staff at the Mercure hotel were genuinely cheerful and pleasant and the atmosphere at the event was incredibly relaxed and open. It was a bit more challenging to communicate because naturally English isn't spoken as well in Chemnitz as in Berlin, but sometimes a smile on your face is more important than your fluency of language.

Like i said, the atmosphere was great. It didn't feel in the slightest way commercialised or business oriented, although there were business present, of course. Instead it had more of that open fair feeling, with whole families wandering around, a place for the kids to play, areas to socialise in, and even a magician at the social event. Even the floor was open, with a minimum of security, even at 2 in the morning, rather than closing down exactly at 6pm. The staff provided constant food for the booth staff, volunteers, and everyone else involved; it almost felt like a lan party rather than a serious conference.

At the same time, the attitude there was very professional. It was a great opportunity to sit down and talk about all sorts of business with people i don't see that often. The entire setup was very well organised, down to the germanically precise tape and cabling on the floor between the booths, smooth working internet, and large screens announcing the current and upcoming presentations. It's only a shame i was busy with meetings that i didn't have a chance to see any lectures.

I really hope i will be able to go next year. This is not an event to miss. That, nor the giant 10 meter tall bust of Karl Marx around the corner from the hotel.

The four F's: Friends

Did you know that we run a pretty sweet Asterisk server in Fedora Infrastructure? It's simple to connect to it via nearly any SIP client. When i mean nearly any, this means not just your computer, but your SIP phone, your Android, your Maemo, and pretty much any device with a speaker and microphone that lets you run your own software. There are also dial in numbers so you can reach the system from some countries, like the US. You can even use it to have friendly chats with other Fedora contributors without racking up expensive long distance phone bills. It's not just there to look pretty, but it's really part of the Friends bit of Fedora. (And well, it's also free, full of features, and i don't know of any other open source community offhand that has Asterisk set up.)

My thanks to Fedora Infrastructure for the great job they do and all the hard work.

GSoC is on

With GSoC related things ramping up, i would like to announce once again that i am open to mentoring students this year. I am willing to begin talking to students to help them find their way around GSoC and Fedora in order to get proposals in.

I have a couple of ideas, but most importantly, my favourite projects to mentor are ideas that come completely from the student. So if you're interested in doing GSoC this summer, you are a student entering, currently in, or just leaving an institute of higher education, and are eligible, get in touch with me. You can find me via my Fedora Wiki profile page. Just use the email address there or join the IRC channel. I will not reply via comments on this post.

I'm willing to hear all ideas, so don't be afraid to submit them. If you don't know yet what you want to do, send me an email anyways, and we can talk over the possibilities. So bring it on.

In the end, i may not be your mentor, but we'll do the best to find you a mentor for your proposal.

#fedora-gsoc is online

Given my penchant for IRC, i've set up #fedora-gsoc for the google summer of code activity for Fedora and JBoss. This is going to be a point of contact to get help, ask questions, discuss fine ways to cook and eat bacon (beef bacon if you're muslim, fake bacon if you're not a meat eater), and propogate silly memes until December 21, 2012, when the Fedora Project becomes nothing more than a source for new memes. In the meantime, if you like IRC and want to participate in GSoC in any ways this summer, this is the place to be.

EDIT: If you're an org admin or mentor, contact me, i'll add you to the autovoice list. Everyone with the voice mode is in a position to answer questions.

If you're a student or just looking to have some questions answered, look to the guys and gals with voice.

Linux Potty Training Moment

If it hasn't been coined yet, there has to be some sort of term for it. I'm going to stick with the Linux Potty Training Moment. I definitely had on of those today.

Before i left the states last December, i set up an old box of mine with Fedora 12, and set it up for my family to use when the inevitable happens, the Windows machine breaks and no one can fix it anymore. Today my little brother asked me how he could get a java game going on the machine. Since the only way i know how to do it is via the command line, i started walking him through it, almost by default. Then it hit me. This is his first time using the command line. He's 10 years old. I'm sitting 6000 km away, and i'm walking him through the process. Over XMPP. This is Linux potty training, he's learning it the same way i learnt it.

In retrospect, i probably shouldn't have told him about sudo on day one. and Load

I'm barely back from Fosdem and i'm already planning for the next event. Bert Desmet has asked me to submit a paper for Linux Open Administration Days. Since "Handwerpen" is just a hop, skip and a swallows flight away from the Netherlands, i said yes. I submitted the following abstract for presentation. I plan on talking about


Puppet is a batteries-not-included tool for configuration management.
In order to implement it in your infrastructure, it requires the use
of pre developed modules that can enable all kinds of functionality. is an upstream community of KISS oriented modules
that enable you to migrate from most any other structure with a
minimal amount of effort. It also enables the installation of multiple
working environments for the purpose of running a development and
integration testing laboratory inside your domain. This presentation
will cover, some of the more useful modules offered
and as a practical example how we customize it to our needs within the
DBG at the UMC Utrecht.

LOAD, the Linux system administrator event

Android is the New Windows too

We're on a roll with bad Android posts it seems. Today i got an update to an Android application, which will not be named to protect the innocent and stupid, that asked to put shortcuts on my desktop. Me not likey.

Android is the Ubuntu of the Mobile Linux market

Open Source has been compared to living in a house where contractors can stop by any time and change anything they want at their whim. Granted, it won't charge you a dime, but you might find out one day that your living room and bathroom have been swapped. When it comes to Fedora systems, it's not too bad because i have a good grasp of what's going on, and i can prepare myself for it.

I can't say the same about the Android. Yesterday i updated the ROM on my phone from Cyanogen to 4.2.14. To my not so pleasant surprise, all my alarms were disabled, and it's a very lucky thing that i happened to wake up at just the right time. I can't necessarily blame Google, HTC nor Vodafone for this, because i'm not running their "Enterprise" version of Android, but it's the haphazard way that Android works really gets me. Furthermore, the alarm clock program was working perfectly on the phone up until now, and suddenly Google feels the need to replace it with a media center like application that not only ignores the saved alarms i have but also ignores the lock command and is accessible even if my phone is supposed to be locked. For a Linux based phone, it defies all expectations of a Unix like system.

So haphazard updates that break the system, a chutzpah that enables marketing to think it's Linux, even if it's nothing like it, and a market that enables both closed and proprietary source on the device easily really sounds like another well known Linux distribution that we love to hate. Maybe it's not the most perfect analogy though, i don't know any of any Google employee who's been to outerspace yet. I'm still waiting on the Google Rocket Ship Beta.


Sometimes there's alot of negativity out there, especially against $big_company that manages to screw things up. I figure it's time to hilight some of the positives out there.

For a while, i've had some issues with my screen on my Dell Laptop. I guess it was one of those freak occurrences, but there was a single column of dead pixels that i was more or else able to ignore and procrastinate like usual. Recently though, several keys stopped working. More importantly, of those several keys, one is needed to unlock the encryption on the system, which makes getting good procrastination done very tricky without an external keyboard. Good thing i sprung for a three year warranty.

I set up an issue ticket with Dell's SMB unit in the US where i bought the laptop from two years ago. Their response was quick, within 24 hours. I'm guessing there must have been issues with the keyboard in the past, because there were no questions about it. The only thing i had to do was do an OS agnostic test of the screen, verify that the problems persisted, and then wait a week for the parts to ship from one depot to another. Once the help desk decided it was worth it to replace the parts, they sent a new motherboard, screen, and keyboard to one of their Dutch repair centers, as part of a separate business unit. They also arranged for a technician to come to my office and fix the laptop on site. Aside from a small hiccup in shipping, the entire process was as smooth as some of the ice we're having.

I really have to give the SMB BU at Dell lots of bonus points for just being able to take care of it. This is exactly how i feel companies should solve problems.

I'm going to FOSDEM

I just booked the hotel for Fosdem, and i'm already excited. It's not every day that i get to stay at a five star hotel for under 80 euros a night, no matter how little it's actually worth it. Not to mention, Fosdem's always fun, and not just for the drinking.

I'm thinking of doing a couple of things differently this year. For starters, i'm debating forgoing the Fedora polo just to wear the the red hat around. We've set a trend for having not red hatters wear the fedora at Fosdem, not to mention its chick magnet powers. (You'll have to ask Andreas about that one though, i wasn't quite sure what he was talking about.) I'm also thinking of ditching the laptop. Every year there are more people, which is the obvious understatement of the year. What this implies is that there are more devices shaming the wireless network into realising how pathetic and weak it is. The good natured network admins do their best (or worst) to keep the network up and running each year, but it just never quite works 100%. This year, with the explosion of the iphone and android, i'm assuming that even if the admins managed to figure out something for everyone, it's still going to fail. Having a laptop just seems like it will be overkill.

I'll still bring my XO 1.0 for the booth.

I hope to see you all there.

Have we really outgrown Barcamp?

Right now i'm at Eth-0 Winterlan, which i probably should have blogged more about, though the muse hasn't been striking much lately. Since it's a hacker event, we don't actually officially start until 12 anyways, so i had some time to check my email this morning before we begin. (It could be we're starting later because of the remoteness of the location. You can't get farther away from civilisation without going up north to stay with the Frys.)

I had a look through the preliminary survey results from the FUDCon we had in Toronto. I'll have more comments later about the future of FUDCon Live, but one things struck me as worth commenting on. Among the usual gripes and comments about the location, time of the year, and the colour of their wished for ponies, i saw a number of complaints and comments about the quality of the BarCamp planning. There were also gripes that FUDCon is not a planning event. I think this reflects a change in audience since the humble origins of FUDCon.

I will agree and say that it was chaotic and a bit tricky to manage. It's been this way for the past few FUDCons i've been too, owing to the sheer amount of people who have something to talk about. Furthermore, this is exactly the way a BarCamp should be, everyone should have something to contribute in one way or another. The question is, can this scale? My answer, yes it can.

At the GSoC Mentor Summit we had another BarCamp. With a few hundred people in attendance, i never felt like there was so much going on that i would miss something critical. I contribute this to a few factors. There were fewer pitches per attendant. The topics presented were far broader in scope than a FUDCon. We had two days of sessions, and finally, the true value of the Mentor Summit was being able to meet people face to face, and not focus on the BarCamp.

I think it's time to revisit the way we organise our BarCamp sessions. I'm going to start making propositions for changes on the FUDCon mailing list to see what we can do.