December 05, 2006

Sensationalism takes a choke-hold

Oh dear. I used to like reading Groklaw and admired it for its accuracy and straight-down-the-line reporting. Recently though, I have felt it has become too much of a pulpit, and this post is just sensationalist clutching at straws. Now take the story over to Slashdot and it seems the headline is more important than the content. How can Slashdot reference the Groklaw story as the point of reference for the news story when the Groklaw article spends most of its time poking fun at Novell rather than finding the heart and soul of the story? I really hope PJ reverts back to the good ‘ol days of Groklaw and brings some balance and premise to the reporting.

From what I can see, this is exactly the kind of interop that the Novell guys were promising between Linux and Windows, and according to Nat Friedman in the OpenSuSE/Microsoft deal IRC discussion, these interop technologies would be made Open Source anyway. Its hardly a fork as the work is being submitted to go upstream. So whats the problem? If the claim of a fork is that they have patched and included extra stuff before it is shipped upstream, well, this is fairly normal for a lot of distributions. The problem here is that PJ and the Slashdot author knew that the word fork would grab attention. They were right, it certainly grabbed mine.

It seems the cool thing right now is to bash our friends at Novell left, right and centre for every decision they are making post-MS deal. One bad decision does not a bad company make. Novell have contributed some amazing free software to the world and have made great efforts with working with the community. I am sick and tired of the continued wave of sensationalist bullshit that has infected the Open Source and Linux media and blogger community, and I hope some of these people can get a healthy dose of realism, and get it soon. In my book it is not good journalism, not good reporting, and not good for the free software community.

How long do we wait for Firefox security updates?

Ever wondered how long it takes Ubuntu developpers to produce for the end users security updates for a high-profile package like Firefox? Here is the table of the four upgrades of Firefox since Ubuntu 6.06 LTS (Dapper) was released, with the date of the advisory (from and the date of the corresponding Ubuntu security notice (from The shortest wait for users was 1 day, while the longest was 9 days.

         Ubuntu     Nov 7 2006     Nov 16 2006 (USN-381-1)     Sep 15 2006    Sep 22 2006 (USN-351-1)     Aug  2 2006  (Windows-only update)     Jul 26 2006    Jul 27 2006 (USN-327-1)     Jun  1 2006    Jun  9 2006 (USN-296-1)

Do it!

Make something happen today, before you go home, before the end of the week. Launch that idea, post that post, run that ad, call that customer. Go the edge, that edge you’ve been holding back from… and do it today. Without waiting for the committee or your boss or the market. Just go.

Seth Godin

Speaking engagements

Well, I have some speaking engagements lined up. Right now they are not on my speaking page, but I plan to add them soon. They are:

  • Jokosher - Mon 11th Dec 2006 - West Yorkshire Linux User Group, Leeds, England - Aq and I are presenting the latest from the Jokosher project.
  • How to Herd Cats and Influence People - Thu 18th Jan 2006 -, Sydney, Australia - This is my major new talk that I am working on. It will be a discussion about the concept of community, how it is constructed and where we can take it.
  • How to Herd Cats and Influence People - Sat 17th Feb 2006 - Skycon, Limerick, Ireland - Another showing of my community talk.

I am also in discussions about a number of other talks, more when they are confirmed. As ever if you would like me to come and speak at your conference, do get in touch. I am looking forward to getting out there and meeting a bunch of you soon. :)

December 04, 2006

Surely not a way to do performance testing, #2

Thanks to all the kind folks for commenting on my previous post . After a couple of people who managed to mildly experience some performance losses over my mentioned "experiment" one guy with another IBM/Lenovo PATA-to-SATA bridge based system managed to reproduce the issue. Is this a hardware related one? I'd like to kindly ask owners of such machines to make sure their Lenovo/IBM laptop model has the bridge and attempt my "experiment". If this is not Linux's fault then surely for people with warranty there should be a remedy. Now where is find for windows so I can "experiment" the same there...;)

links for 2006-12-04

How to get rid of GRUB when removing a Linux distribution

A few days ago, I tried restoring my laptop to its original factory state by running the recovery CDs that it came shipped with. This mostly worked fine, but after the recovery Windows wouldn't boot properly, and the laptop would freeze with only the word GRUB on its screen.

A few people are going to say "Well, install Ubuntu then", but that's not the point here. The point is restoring the system properly, so it can boot Windows again. I agree that this is actually a bug in the recovery software, but the same thing happens when you delete your Linux partitions and re-grow your Windows partition (which is what some people want, after trying a distribution for a while).

First, you have to get the system to boot Windows. To do this, you need a bootable CD image with GRUB on it. It can be a tiny CD image, with only GRUB on it (probably the smallest CD you'll ever burn :))
You can create one like this:

$ mkdir -p iso/boot/grub
$ cp /usr/lib/grub/i386-pc/stage2_eltorito iso/boot/grub
$ mkisofs -R -b boot/grub/stage2_eltorito -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table -o grub.iso iso

When you boot that CD, GRUB will start up and give you its shell. From this shell you can start Windows like this (change '(hd0,0)' to something else if your Windows installation isn't on /dev/hda1, see the GRUB manual for more on that):

> root (hd0,0)
> chainloader +1
> boot

Windows should now start. It might ask you to complete some steps of the OEM installation (entering your time zone and username, for example), and then reboot. Just re-enter the GRUB stuff to re-start Windows.

Once Windows is done starting, you have to find the I386 installation directory, either on the installation CD, or on C:\I386 as it was on my laptop, and install the Recovery Console by running C:\I386\WINNT32.EXE /cmdcons.

After doing this, you should reboot the system again (using the GRUB trick) and choose the Recovery Console option from the menu that appears. You will get a very limited shell, where you can type 'fixmbr' to fix the MBR on your boot drive, clearing the GRUB bit and allowing you to start the sytem. To do so, remove the GRUB CD from your drive, and type EXIT at the console.

You should now have a properly booting Windows system, without a hanging piece of GRUB.

Awww How Mean

Oh I mean cute. Sorry :)   Everyone, say hello to …  Well, say hello to the new family dog. It is some kind of terrier (terrorist is more like it). It is a wannabe Yorkie, but nonetheless he is so damn cute. This is the first male dog in the family in a long time, so dad and I are trying to come up with some super tough manly name. So far, just for laughs, there is Rambo, Konan (notice that K?), and Hercules. Truthfully, I like Konan with the K, and Harley. He has them Harley Davidson colors. Anyways, enough of the rambling, here is “Fill in the Name” making his debut appearance!

4 Dec 2006

It has been a while

Two years ago, I was boarding a plane for a little town called Mataro to the first conference of this new distro called "Ubuntu". To learn to play Mao, eat the "bags of death" (our lunches as provided for by the hotel) and drink "red red love" (a yogurty-type drink in aforementioned bags) and meet the beginnings of the rocking community that is Ubuntu. I still don't really know why exactly I decided to spend over 2k of my hard earned money flying to Spain for 3 weeks. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. So a toast. To two more amazing years.

High Contrast GDM

We had a request on the Ubuntu accessibility mailing list about a high contrast theme for GDM. As it turns out there is no such thing, among the hundreds of available themes on and (I guess this is a classic scratch-my-own-itch case since the people who make GDM themes for fun are into visual design and generally not visually impaired).
I emailed some random people from gnome-look who had made Ubuntu-related themes in the past to ask for advice. A few hours later Stéphane Marguet emailed me back with a first cut of a high contrast theme. Cool!

A few tweaks later and the new theme is now in very good shape. There is still an issue with one of the widget sets which looks like it may need some adjustment to the GDM code. But being open source, I’m sure that can be arranged :)

Ubuntu High Contrast Inverse theme

Grab a copy and see more screenshots here!

Surely not a way to do performance testing, but still...

Back then, when I started using Linux based operating system (namely, RedHat, Mandrake to finally settle on Debian and then finally arriving at Ubuntu) I used to show off to my Windows using friends one o "features" at the time that was the major attraction GNU/Linux had for me. Rock solid, smooth multitasking that always kept the system responsive and usable.

A special case of that was that I showed them, how on heavy disk IO of the system, I can still have a responsive UI and use the desktop while their Windows desktop on the other hand , using the same exact hardware, running the same "benchmark" operation, started to lag on the desktop UI, have very jerky mouse movement performance and nearly choke to death.

Are those times over?

Recently, I revived this "experiment" using my ThinkPad T43p laptop with the following specs:
  • PCI-E bus
  • 1GB Ram
  • 1.87GHz
  • 60GB PATA disk, connected in what is know as a pata-to-sata bridge.
I am runnign latest feisty, but I could also reproduce this using edgy, and dapper on the same laptop configuration. I am using the open source ATI Xorg driver.

Now, what I have done (I urge you to try the same and let me know how that went for you) is make sure no running application are open after boot, open one gnome-terminal window, and there in a quick sequence I do:

find /
CTRL+SHIFT+T (open a new tab on the gnome-terminal)

And repeat this until you have 4 tabs with find running inside them. Now when I attempt this to open some more tabs (1-2) , the UI starts to lag, disk access becomes increasingly slow and the UI eventually becomes so unresponsive that even the mouse cursor refuses to obey the the mouse movements. Even when not displaying the tabs output (e.g. ALT+TAB to another window entering text) the performance loss doesn't go away, and even prevents me from easily entering text to this blog post. The most annoying part of this, is that ALT-TAB to switch another app becomes nearly impossible when the system is under this load (e.g. you can actually see UI redrawing etc as it happens) Something tells me this should not be the case...

Does anybody have an idea why this is caused? How can we possibly address this? In the beginning I thought using the -nolatency kernels could help, but this seems to have no effect on this. Any insight, comment or feedback on that are welcome.

A Plea for Jorge Castro

I was extremely sad to find out over the weekend that the always lovable Jorge Castro has decided to take a back seat in the Gnu/Linux world. I had a chance to meet him over the UDS-MTV and was very impressed by his genuine interest and willingness to “make the world a better place.” (c) It is very unfortunate that we have so many people out there who rather spill poison than use their energy to be constructive!

Jorge, I really hope you’ll reconsider your decision! The community needs people like you, and I’m sure I am not the only one who thinks this way! I strongly believe that your inner drive is much stronger than all the negativity you’ve been exposed to!!! Think of any bitter words that have been tossed your way as just another one of those obstacles in life… just a minor pebble that I’m sure you’ll get over, for it will make you stronger!!! And boy, won’t it make it all much sweeter when you reach the summit and you look at all you’ve accomplished in your journey!

Warm regards from a Brazilian who thinks very highly of you!

Open Week - In (a teensy tiny) Review

Last week, the Ubuntu Community held what was like the most awesome Open Weeks in the history of… open things. Jono, Mark and everyone else involved in organising, running sessions, documenting, etc. Well done!

I’d also like to extend a Thank You to everyone who participated, not only in the sessions I ran, but ALL the sessions. Without you lot, there would not have been an Open Week, let alone one as rockin’ as it was.

Given the controversy that the week started out with, I really do think the event pulled together incredibly well - considering it could quite easily have gone to the fish. I believe (and hope) that lessons were learned on multiple fronts.

Looking around now, I’m sensing a buzz - a freshness if you will. There’s a slew of newcomers throughout the whole community.

I love it.

Pretty pretty…

Is it bad that when I saw Zoy’s posting about etch-related stress all I could think was “oooh pretty reflections!” ?

4 Dec 2006

A weekend with compiz

So I decided to spend a weekend using Compiz, to see what it was truly like. I decided that I would test the 90% use case, of people who didn't want any bling. No spinny cubes, no burning, nothing but default Compiz. After most of the weekend ripping my hair out, I am now back using Metacity and am so much happier for it. So what exactly went wrong?

The biggest problem: Workspaces

Well, lets start with workspaces vs. viewports. Metacity (and I understand most other major WMs) assume each workspace is a discrete entity. Windows are either on one or another. In the physical world, this would represent multiple physical desks. Compiz works differently. It uses something called a viewport, into one workspace. This is what allows you to have windows overlapping the edge of the cube. Think of this as having one really big desk, but you can only see one part of it at a time.

Before I continue, I should talk briefly about the two major types of users of workspaces in the Linux world. I will use the real world data of my office, which is mostly ex-Windows users. The first group, which includes myself and one of the new hires, use multiple workspaces. For us, each workspace is a single entity, with discrete programs on them. The other group, the majority,, use a single workspace for everything. As far as they are considered, workspaces don't exist. (As an aside, yes, I have told all of them about it. They don't really care).

Now that I have explained this, lets talk about how the change in the way workspaces have been changed affects each group. For the first group, the multiple-workspace people, The change is going to drive us nuts. None of the keyboard commands to move a window to the next workspace worked, as, after all, it really was one giant workspace. Further, applications were never really only one viewport, meaning that maximizing never really works and if an application snuck onto the next viewport over, a user like myself, who expects when you switch viewports the active program in that workspace will be selected, found themselves closing tabs in the application in the last viewport, because it had snuck over 5 or 10 pixels and thus was considered still active in your current viewport.

Metacity will flash an active window on all workspaces when the appropriate hint is raised. Compiz? Not so much.

But what about the user who only uses one workspace? For this user, the current workspace/viewport is the only one that will ever exist. This means applications had better not go anywhere. So if a window sneaks into the next viewport over, as it is far too easy to do, they are likely to never find it.

Other annoyances

While the workspaces one had me quite annoyed, compiz has a whole host of other bugs. Maximizing windows puts them under the bottom panel, sometimes the window title stopped updating, windows could be selected but don't get raised visually, the window list vanishes at times and updating panel applets draw over full screen programs. And there are a whole slew of other bugs.

What can you do to help?

The primary thing Compiz needs is lots of time to shake out the many bugs that will crop up. After all Metacity, a much older WM, has over 250 bugs open against it. So install stock compiz (please no wacky third-party repos), test out your favourite apps and start filing bugs. Start triaging the compiz bug list. Start working with upstream to get these bugs fixed.

In conclusion

All in all, I was less than thrilled. Does compiz meet Ubuntu's quality standards? Absolutely not. I would embarrassed to give someone Ubuntu if we installed compiz in this state.

Post Ubuntu Open Week Shazaa

My friend and yours, AusImage, has tidied up the Ubuntu Open Week logs into this nice collection of formatted logs. There is some incredible content, help and tips in there about all aspects of contributing to Ubuntu, such as packaging, MOTU, documentation, community, launchpad, Kubuntu, bug triaging, ports and more. There are also Q+A sessions with Mark Shuttleworth and myself. I am sure the content there will be hugely useful for you god-like individuals who are wanting to feel the Ubuntu community love and get involved. Thanks AusImage, and thanks to everyone who made the Ubuntu Open Week such a success.


Daylight saving started yesterday: the first time since 1991/1992 summer for Western Australia. The legislation finally passed the upper house on 21st November (12 days before the transition date). The updated tzdata packages were released on 27th November (6 days before the transition). So far, there hasn't been an updated package released for Ubuntu (see bug 72125).

One thing brought up in the Launchpad bug was that not all applications used the system /usr/share/zoneinfo time zone database. So other places that might need updating include:

  • Evolution has a database in /usr/share/evolution-data-server-$version/zoneinfo/ that is in iCalendar VTIMEZONE format.
  • Java has a database in /usr/lib/jvm/java-$version/jre/lib/zi. This uses a different binary file format.
  • pytz (used by Zope 3 and Launchpad among others) has a database consisting of generated Python source files for its database.

All the above rules time zone databases are based on the same source time zone information, but need to be updated individually and in different ways.

In a way, this is similar to the zlib security problems from a few years back: the same problem duplicated in many packages and needing to be fixed over and over again. Perhaps the solution is the same too: get rid of the duplication so that in future only one package needs updating.

As a start, I put together a patch to pytz so that it uses the same format binary time zone files as found in /usr/share/zoneinfo (bug 71227). This still means it has its own time zone database, but it goes a long way towards being able to share the system time zone database. It'd be nice if the other applications and libraries with their own databases could make similar changes.

For people using Windows, there is an update from Microsoft. Apparently you need to install one update now, and then a second update next year — I guess Windows doesn't support multiple transition rules like Linux does. The page also lists a number of applications that will malfunction and not know about the daylight saving shift, so I guess that they have similar issues of some applications ignoring the system time zone database.

JPG Magazine

Yesterday I discovered JPG Magazine, a photography magazine with an interesting business model. Users submit their photos, users vote for photos, JPG publish user photos. If your photo gets published you get a 1-year subscription and $100.

Also you can get it in PDF for free. I’ll wait before subscribing since the price for US ($24.99/year) seems to be ok, but outside US it’s $48.99, which I find a bit expensive for 6 issues.

I have only two pictures by now, but you can check it in my profile

December 03, 2006


One of the perks with free software is that every so often you find a free software nugget that just captivates you with surprise and completeness. All of us have stumbled across applications and projects that we never knew existed, and been pleasantly surprised at devilishly cool they are. Well, here is another one.

A few years back I stumbled across Flightgear. It is a free flight simulator, and seems to offer a pretty compelling experience. Although it intrigued me, I had no interest in learning to fly, so it washed right over me. Well, recently, I have been considering learning to fly, so I started looking into Flightgear.

You know, its a stunning project. Firstly, it has an amazing feature-set. Although much of the feature-set is only understood by hardcore-flight-sim-lunatics, the level of detail in their feature-set would impress anyone. Not only have the team created a physically realistic flight simulator, but the atmosphere and environment has been realistically modelled too - weather, time, moon patterns have been modelled accurately. The community has also created a bunch of additions such as multi-player servers, so you can see who is in the airspace. There is also some ridiculously cool hardware support, as shown off by this dude who was at SCALE in Los Angeles last year, but I did not have much of an interest in it. He has made use of the OpenGC project to make real-world instrumentation hardware. For those of you who don’t want to fill your garage up with the nose of a 747, Flightgear also supports devices such as the CH Flight sim yoke.

One thing that really struck me as exceptional is that the community have clubbed together to create scenery for the entire world. This page allows you to download snippets of scenery from anywhere in the world, and thousands of airports have been modelled and mapped too. You can actually buy the scenery on three DVDs - there is over 15 gigs of it. Doesn’t this just show another fantastic example of how the free software community can work together to create a solid and complete solution for a problem. Stunning.

This is another great example of the power of free software and collaboration. Here we have a niche interest that has attracted contributors to create a hugely compelling piece of software with a huge database of scenery, planes, add-ons, support and documentation. Unless you have a burning desire to fly, it could be easy to miss that Flightgear ever existed and be impressed by the work inside that community, but it does demand recognition.

Joining Nokia's open source team

I will be wearing soon a new professional t-shirt: Maemo product manager at Nokia's OSSO Team. I'm really excited: many people I profoundly respect are working in this project (as well as other disrespected good friends). ;)

I had invested a lot of time and energy trying to find a position in the international GNOMEsphere - an uneasy exercise for non-engineer parents well into their thirties. All the effort was worth, I can't wait my first day in the new job.

I'm so thankful towards the many people and projects that have helped me reaching this new destination - basically everybody/everything I have been working with in the last 4 years has been important in order to succeed in Nokia's and Maemo's challenging selection process.

Q: Are you moving to [YourPreferredAdjective] Finland?
A: Yup - with the whole family.

Who moved my sundae?


Ok, that above would be what a newly-baptized “FOSS advocate-slash-zealot” would say upon seeing Federico Pascual Jr.’s PostScript regarding the FOSS bill. I suppose I could have said that myself a couple of lifetimes ago.

But, there is more than meets the eye. While I would like to think of myself as a “FOSS veteran”–believe me, I have still so much to learn about it–I would like to step into the shoes of such a person when approaching an article as sensational as Mr. Pascual’s. Despite what seems to be a most interesting article on the mechanics of government software usage, it fails to address the one particular bit that is just as important as the proposed bill itself: the real Free and Open Source Software.

Let me nitpick this article bit by bit:

FREE RIDE: A bill is being pushed in Congress forbidding all government agencies and state-controlled firms from buying and using any of the computer software sold in the market!

Alas, when I first heard of the FOSS bill sometime before September, I also had a bad impression of it. Perhaps I was just too politically allergic at that time (yeah right,) but I tried to adopt a `wait-and-see’ approach first and let the dice roll. Perhaps because this bill was to be introduced by a very visible congressman with alleged leftist ties made me feel uncomfortable, but then, so was (and still is) with the current administration. Or perhaps I just felt it wasn’t damn right to legislate FOSS as an end-all solution, preferring instead of presenting is as a process for reforming the local software industry.

Looks like first impressions definitely make a difference.

The proposed law – to be called “Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) Act of 2006″ – commands government offices to use only information and communications software that are given away for free and have no restrictions as to their use.

The objectives appear to be to save money for the government and to encourage the making of free (non-commercial) software.

So? What’s wrong with these objectives?

FWIW, the early FOSS bill draft did seem to have such a Draconian section as forcing the government and allied offices to use, and use only, FOSS. IMHO that by itself ran against the very fundamental ideal of FOSS: the freedom of choice. Not Hobson’s choice, but real choice.

The current bill IIRC now allows this true choice; unless there is an extreme case where FOSS cannot be applied without becoming non-self-sustaining (not to mention self-liquidating,) agencies may implement their infrastructure using FOSS as their primary instrument, with the application of open standards (that is, open document formats, open communications protocols, etc) unifying the disparate components. Perhaps right now, this situation may seem kind of far-fetched, but its not really that far-off, considering what other nations and cities have done (or not done) with FOSS. Munich, Extremadura, Beijing… the list is not yet that long, but its bound to go a long way ;-)

Now, while the government may now adopt open standards and open-everything, does not mean that the `openness’ forgoes security, either; the government may opt to use well-known encryption protocols and even base their own security infrastructure on them. In fact, they are free to even look inside the source of these well-known standards, to study them, and to branch off new implementation that may even change the way these standards work.

In fact, even without this bill in place, the government can participate in the production and development of FOSS!!!

Wait a minute, wasn’t I supposed to defend this bill?

Eh, well. I suppose this bill is good and all, but like I said earlier, there are those first impressions made by the parties involved in the making of this bill which unsettles me. IMHO I would rather see applications of this first in key cities (the happy works in Munich and in Extremadura are no accident, believe me) which in turn, would allow both local the national government to see just exactly how this FOSS magic works. Then, when the observations have been made, the papers are in, and the workers get hired, then, maybe, we’ll have a nation where FOSS can be mandated as a very strong preference, but never a forced one.

Its all about growing up, really. I’m being reminded of Tom DeMarco’s The Deadline, where a newly-retrenched guy from a telco literally lands into the fantastic job of his life, managing an entire nation of software engineers and architects to develop several killer apps within a year (or so; raid you nearest Book Sale and be lucky ;) Its a great experiment: when it succeeds, you’ll be the first to be present, but when it fails, you’ll be the first to be nowhere.

But I can also hear in the background a call to an unholy war against multinationals whose popular software run virtually all – maybe 95 percent? – of the computers of the world.

Now this is a low blow. Maybe partly because of the prevailing images of the advocates–geeks and leftists, my, what a c-c-c-combo!–is what drives Mr. Pascual to make this point. But really, multinationals are not the main concern. FWIW, FOSS is multinational in nature: it is even multi-denominational and multidisciplinary. FOSS is one of the things that make anonymous people like you and me Internet superheroes. FOSS connects the Internet’s tubes and keeps away the trucks. FOSS makes the Internet serious business, yet also drives them crazy.

The Linux distros that I have worked, am working, and continue to work on, are all multinational: Debian and Ubuntu. People from all over the world, from all 7 continents, participate and work on what would arguably be the biggest software distribution the human world may ever produce, freely, regardless of motivation or goal. I suppose all the folks involved have only one common goal, and that is to see a work created for the benefit of the community by the community.

I suppose the background howl comes from somewhere altogether, but its hardly just from FOSS. FOSS is the epitome of what is truly multinational, and one thing that is not truly controlled by any one single person, corporation or not.

December 02, 2006

OT: ping -fr -w infinity

I woke up today and realized that I actually don’t have to work today. My life at the moment described by someone else…
Websnark: How you can tell you’ve been working too much lately

Hello Planet

If all went right, this post should be show up on planet ubuntu.

I’m a member of the Ubuntu Documentation Team. I hope to use planet ubuntu to spread awareness about the docteam’s efforts, and contribute ideas to fix bug #1.

Linux Mint 2.1 “Bea” beta 023 includes Envy

This morning I had a look at as usual and I noticed that Linux Mint 2.1 “Bea” beta 023 was released.

I was curious to see what this “customised version of Ubuntu” was like, therefore I read the release notes.

Then I find out that Envy is included in this beta release of Linux Mint:

And a few surprises…

For those of you who have nvidia cards there’s a little surprise in Bea called envy. And for those of you who like playing with the terminal, we put a little surprise in there too :)

That is a great surprise (at least for me ;) )

My first time

Last night I played (as a DJ) in a club for the first time in my life. It was bloody brilliant.

L.U.X., the venue is a cozy place with a nice atmosphere. Some weeks ago I asked the owner if I could play there and he pointed me to the organizer of Drum’n'Bass parties at his place. Michal, a friendly, dreadlocked Drum’n'Bass fanatic didn’t ask many questions but said “Sure, how about in two weeks?”, unfortunately that was the time, when I had to leave to UDS Mountain View and to Canonical’s Allhands conference. During a presentation at Allhands, Michal called me on my mobile and was was surprised to reach me on the other end of the world. He asked me if I’d like to play on Dec 1st. What I liked very much about him is that he didn’t ask much about me, what I was going to play or where I played before. He just trusted me to do the right thing. Of course I said “Yes.”

Around two weeks later, I was a bit nervous throughout the day and wondered what I was going to play. I arrived at 22:00 at L.U.X. and brought around 30 kilos of records with me (at least that how it felt to me). At around 12 I started to play and was bloody nervous. Hands trembling, I played “Losing Ground” by St. Cal (Soul:R 018), a smooth and mellow tune with a nice bassline. My nervousness wasn’t helped by the fact that the headphones didn’t work, I could only hear a faint clicking sound, which vaguely resembled the drum loop of second track (“Prophecy” by SKC & Bratwa (Soul:R 012)) I was going to play. Knowing that I had to do something, I did something I tried before: mixing without headphones. The nice thing about vinyl records is, that once you put a needle on the record, you can even without loudspeakers hear the sound of the track. Clicking and smashing sounds are accentuated, so hihats and snares are easy to hear out. The crossover between the two songs worked nicely and midway through the second tune I finally had working headphones. I was still bloody nervous but played my way through more Soul:R and Revolve:R records (mostly Calibre and Marcus Intalex tunes). People were nodding their heads to the music and started to move! YAY! Next up was “Just a little Herb” by Mist:ical (Soul:R 020) - that’s where I started to play more of the dubby tunes: Lion Dubs, Visionary tunes, and so on. Finally people freaked out, when I played “Lightning” by Visionary feat. Jenna Anderson (Hustling Beats 004) - it was only topped by “Soul Patrol (Sunny Side Up Mix)” by Total Science & MC Conrad (CIA 033).

Seeing people dance to the music I played was a great experience. I had an erection over one and a half hours, I’m glad nobody could see it when I was behind the decks. Ok, you’re right. I’m lying, but during all the time I realized for how long I had wanted to do this and how good it felt.

I very much appreciated how many friends showed up there: Thomas, my brother and his friend Jan, Nina Feyh, Ellen Reitmayr, Daniel Elstner bringing Fuchs and Klaus and Scott Wheeler who brought half his company along.

My brother made a bunch of pictures, which he’ll hopefully have online soon (once he’s awake again). There are some new events coming on, I’ll let you know where I’ll play next time. :-)

Only downside to this evening was I somehow managed to come home with a headache from hell (and I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol), which is the reason why I’m awake now.

Anyways, I’m quite sure now I found the right hobby.

(Update: All in all, I played for around two hours and I managed to screw only two crossovers between tracks, but only in very subtle ways, I doubt it disturbed anybody. It probably should have recorded it.)

December 01, 2006

Modifiying GStreamer pipelines in PLAYING

Recently there has been some discussion in the Jokosher team about creating an abstraction for our main GStreamer pipeline. Jokosher is probably one of the most complex Open Source GStreamer applications out there right now, and managing the state of the pipeline is becoming complex. In GStreamer the pipeline has different states - NULL, READY, PAUSED and PLAYING. These states indicate what the pipeline is doing - PLAYING plays the audio as an example. We were under the impression that only certain states allowed modifications to the pipeline, so all pipeline modifications in Jokosher happen in NULL or READY. So, Laszlo, the King Of Cairo and Canadian Supreme has been working on something known as the ‘GP’ - the Grand Pipeline. Its an abstraction that means we have controlled access to the pipeline and the states would be handled automatically.

Well, it turns out all this is moot. Today, in an informal discussion in #gstreamer it was revealed that you can actually modify the pipeline in PLAYING. This is a big deal. It means we don’t need the GP, and it importantly means that we can hugely simply our use of state in Jokosher - and only ever deal with PAUSED (when stopped) and PLAYING (when playing). Of course, its all theory right now, when we hack the code it may not work, but if Wim Taymens deems it so, it should work. He is Jedi.

I know the last two paragraphs are a dull-o-rama for non GStreamer people, but Google needs to be taught that you can modify a GStreamer pipeline in PLAYING!

New developer processes

Daniel Holbach and others have done sterling work on defining better structure for new Ubuntu developers. Our “Masters of the Universe” dev-team makes  a huge contribution to each release, and is the proving ground from which new core developers are selected, so I’m really happy to see a more formal process being defined for new devs who are interested in working on Ubuntu. Well done Daniel!

It’s all about the Freshers

It’s now day 5 in the Ubuntu Open Week. I think it is fair to say that it has exceeded all hopes and expectations.

Today, Freshers Day is on the menu. So, what does this mean? It means that #ubuntu-freshers on Freenode is where all the cool kids are.

Freshers Day is a free-for-all day where you can come and ask about any of the aspects of Ubuntu that we’ve covered since Monday, as well as things yet to come and things that we haven’t managed to squeeze in. If you have anything to ask, come along and.. well.. ask it. Remember, the only stupid question is the one not asked.

The week comes to a close tomorrow. It will be the last day of what has been an awesome week. For those of you who missed my LoCo Teams session on Thursday, I’m running it again first up at 3pmUTC. Check the schedule for details about the other sessions.

Very Important Programmer needed

Nicest job position in a while via the Vitamin Job Board

About You:

a) You started programming young (can you beat the company record of 6 years old!)

b) You are a programmer because you love programming

c) You have turned down promotion to management because of b)

d) You get a kick when you find an elegant and efficient solution to a problem

e) You recognize that thinking before coding is crucial

g) You want to work for a company where your voice is heard, your suggestions get implemented and your code makes a difference to the bottom line

They missed the (f) point but it’s yet a great Job announce. If it only described more about the job itselft, it would rock.

More details at: Very Important Programmer

PS: just in case you’re wondering, I’m not looking for a job. I’m just subscribed to the Vitamin feed, which includes job postings weekly

Next Steps

Yesterday marked the last day of my contract with Orange and Bronze Software Labs. I have been previously doing some work with an up-and-coming messaging platform in C++, and at the end, it was a fun and worthy learning experience. Through them, I’ve seen the `other’ side of software engineering, the side where it is done right.

Calen, Dean, Chelle, Rose, and the rest of the gang: thanks for the fish (and Z’s, Rocklets, countless bottles of iced tea and Pepsi, and KFC dinners.) :D Hope to do bigger catches with you guys in the next lifetime. :P

It's time to elect new leaders.

Ok, that's it. I've had it. My subscription to LWN lapsed, and I was backburnering resubscribing. So I resubscribed yesterday, mostly because I wanted to read the always-excellent Thursday LWN. What an eye opener!

I just read Bruce Perens equate his holy war against Novell to the civil rights movement.

The Open Source community has a real problem. Poisonous People (PDF). Until this problem is fixed, people are going to be continually pushed away.

I'll go ahead and be one of the ones pushed away. I am sick and tired of being misrepresented by a vocal minority of jerks who dare to tell others what is "moral" and what is "free". Someone call me when saner people are in "charge" of this community. It's a shame too, there are so many excellent "leader-types" in Open Source. Unfortunately they're busy doing real work, getting software shipped, working on documentation, and other thankless work that no one seems to care about at the moment.

Oh, and Openoffice's mail-merge "functionality" crashing over and over again while our LUG tried to do it's membership mailing over the course of four hours didn't exactly give me hope in an otherwise sad state of affairs. perkypants reads "I came for the quality, I stayed for the freedom." I believe that the people who matter believe this, it's unfortunate that our community is sandbagged by people who "Came because I hate Microsoft and I stayed because ... I hate Microsoft." And here I thought that it was all about Free Software, what an idiot I've been.

Discuss and/or flame, I don't care. I'm out of here. Thanks for all the fish.

November 30, 2006


If you want to give out ponies for awards, then I think these next two guys deserve it. I had to read the stories a couple of times to make sure it wasn’t me, someone I know, or family. The someone I know portion has yet to be determined.

I apologize in advance, and once again in the voice of Larry the Cable Guy, “That right thar is funny, I dun care whoo ya are.” (Previous quote to be read with a deep southern accent).

links for 2006-11-30

Resurrecting “Debian package a day” ?

A long time ago (until Nov 2004), there was this good blog which described one cool Debian package every day. It allowed to discover a lot of interesting software, but it suddenly stopped being updated.

It would be nice to resurrect this. A team of editors could work on this, and readers could submit new entries. Editors wouldn’t need to be Debian users : we could have Ubuntu users too, and it would be a nice way to determine what are the things that have been packaged in Ubuntu that we should (but don’t) have in Debian yet.

Leave a comment if you would like to dedicate some time to this (either as an editor, or as a regular submitter of entries). If there’s enough manpower, I’ll try to setup a mailing list or something to discuss the minimum infrastructure we would need.

On Trust

You know, trust is pretty important to me. I put a lot of faith in the people I trust. Much of the ethos and structure behind free software is based upon trusting people. This has always been important to me, and part of the fabric of my life, long before I ever joined our community.

As such, I take being a trustable person very seriously, firstly because it defines me as a human being, and secondly because it is a quality I look for in people and I expect to reciprocate it.

So, why am I writing about trust? Well, I have been thinking about the importance of trust in my line of work. As someone who works with people every day and deals with a number of public and private matters with our community, trust is absolutely essential. When I used to work at OpenAdvantage, we were a vendor neutral, government funded organisation, and this neutrality made establishing trust easier. There was no suspicion that my ethics, excitement and ambition was driven by the mighty buck - we made no money, so trust could not bought and sold.

Of course, I no longer work there now, I work for a vendor. Namely, Canonical, a company that does seek to make money. This begs an interesting question about where trust fits in, particularly as I work with our community. Where is the line drawn between the company and the community? Can my trust be bought and sold as part of my work with Canonical?

Well, no. Of course not. To me, trust is intrinsic to a person, no matter where they work, and with that trust comes a responsibility to the people he or she works with. I work with the free software community, and specifically the Ubuntu community, and my responsibility lies with them. It is important to remember that although I have a responsibility to work in the interests of Canonical, I also critically have a responsibility to work in the interests of the community. To be an effective community manager, the community needs to have the confidence that not only will I help pro-actively help the community and move it forward, but that I will also have the courage of my convictions, and if those convictions were ever tested, that I would stand up for what I believe in. Since I have worked at Canonical, I have been hugely impressed with the sheer prioritisation of community in the company, more so than I ever expected, so this is largely a moot point, but it is important to me that I make it clear that if a point of contention did occur where I felt the company were not making a decision in the interests of the community, I would stand up and oppose it. That is part of my responsibility to the community.

Now, I have to be 100% clear here. If such a bone of contention did occur, it would be something that would not fit with my own personal opinion of the ethics and direction of our community. This is not a free invitation for anyone with any disagreement with Canonical to claim that I should agree with them in their discontent as part of my responsibilities. Although I feel my community barometer lines up with the general ethos and direction of the community, there are always going to be disagreements about technology, ethics and politics, and this is par for the course with any community. We are only human, and we all share different views and priorities.

My main point here is that for someone in a role such as mine, it could be easy for a cynic to suggest that I am being paid to have an opinion, being paid to be motivated and excited about our community and being paid to prioritise my employer over my community. No one has insinuated any of these things, and there is nothing to prompt me to make this clarification, but over the last month or so I felt it is important that I outline my position absolutely at the start of my work so everyone knows where I stand. Trust is something intrinsic to me, and I can assure everyone that wherever I go, my trust and integrity goes with me. Part of that trust and integrity is being clear and transparent in my views and opinions.

I love our community, and I love the doors, opportunities and possibilities it opens. I am determined to help our community grow and prosper, and every day I wake up proud to be a member of that community. Exciting times are ahead for all of us.

Opening the source

Now that I’ve officially finished my fieldwork, and with all the talk going on about Open Access Anthropology, I thought I’d try my own little Open Access experiment. I’ve decided to publish the question guide I’ve used for my fieldwork under the GPL. I’ve even indented and commented them in proper code fashion (or, at least, as far as I’ve been capable of emulating it).

Also, at suggestion of one of my informants, I’ve answered my own questions to offer my informants and other interested parties a bit more background in my own interest in computers, Ubuntu and the F/OSS world.

One of my hopes in doing this is that more people in the community will find interest in looking at the questions, and possibly even writing up their own answers. If that were to be the case, I would love to see them and incorporate them into my thesis. So send me any answers you feel like writing! :-)

Si, LoCo del loco

In about 5 hours from now (at 1500, aka 3pm, UTC), I will be running the first of the LoCo sessions for Ubuntu Open Week. I’m looking forward to it. For those of you who unfortunately cannot make this afternoon’s session, there will be another at the same time this Saturday.

I’ve had a look over the logs from the past few days, and it seems things are going pretty well. The attendance has been wonderful, the behaviour impeccable. Kudos to everyone who has participated so far. Lord Bacon is pleased and horrendously smug.

Digital Disobedience


I am helping to organize and host an event called Digital Disobedience on cyberactivism and culture jamming this Friday with Harvard Free Culture. The event will explore the interplay between technology, activism, and cultural critique. Here are the details if you are local to Cambridge/Boston and would like to drop by:

Digital Disobedience
Cyberactivism and Culture Jamming
Friday, December 1, 18:00
Science Center 110, Harvard University

The event will feature talks by:

The format will be interactive with short presentations from the speakers and then break-out groups to discuss thoughts and questions with the presenters. A few people have voiced a desire to do some culture jamming of our own afterward. My birthday is the next day so maybe we can have that turn into a little bit of a celebration.

November 29, 2006

First impression of the OLPC OS

Shortly after reading the note about a VMWare image of the operating system for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), my curiosity got the best of me and I promptly started downloading it into my laptop (roughly 180 MB) and waited for my lunch break to give it a spin.

OLPC system

The bootup process was very quick, even running on VMWare, and within a few seconds I was staring at the desktop.

OLPC system

The concept for the mechanics of the desktop is “interesting” and, in my opinion a bit hard to get used to at first for those of us who have been around computers a bit too much. ;) The “frame” around the desktop works as the main menu/panel from where all applications and features can be accessed, hiding when you’re busy doing stuff on the laptop, and appearing whenever the mouse is close enough to the lower edge. Unfortunately, exploring all the buttons and features was extremely painful since the operating system, for some reason, was very slow to react to the mouse/border interaction.

OLPC system

During my exploration, I was able to find an instant messenger, a web browser, a rss reader (above), a drawing/modeling application, and a text editor (below) that I believe to be the new Abiword widget.

OLPC system

Due to the unexplained slow response of the system and being pretty busy at work, I was unable to perform a very thorough test. My initial impression is that the OLPC will be a system very similar to the mobile devices out there. Though it felt awkward to maneuver the mouse through the screen, I believe that this should not be an issue for younger computer users. Above all, I think any kid would be extremely happy to have a system as cool-looking and chock-full of features as the OLPC!

links for 2006-11-29

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Updated on December 05, 2006 10:18 AM UTC. Entries are normalised to UTC time.

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