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Tourist in Muscat, Oman

I had the honor of participating in FOSSC Oman this February, which I wrote about here. Our gracious hosts were very accommodating to all of our needs, starting with arranging assistance at the airport and lodging at a nearby Holiday Inn.

The Holiday Inn was near the airport without much else around, so it was my first experience with a familiar property in a foreign land. It was familiar enough for me to be completely comfortable, but different enough to never let me forget that I was in a new, interesting place. In keeping with standards of the country, the hotel didn’t serve alcohol or pork, which was fine by me.

During my stay we had one afternoon and evening to visit the sights with some guides from the conference. Speakers and other guests convened at the hotel and boarded a bus which first took us to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Visiting hours for non-Muslims were in the morning, so we couldn’t go inside, but we did get to visit the outside gardens and take some pictures in front of the beautiful building.

From there we went to a downtown area of Muscat and were able to browse through some shops that seemed aimed at tourists and enjoy the harbor for a bit. Browsing the shops allowed me to identify some of the standard pieces I may want to purchase later, like the style of traditional incense burner. The harbor was quite enjoyable, a nice breeze coming in to take the edge off the hot days, which topped out around 90F while we were there (and it was their winter!).

We were next taken to Al Alam Palace, where the Sultan entertains guests. This was another outside only tour, but the walk through the plaza up to the palace and around was well worth the trip. There were also lit up mountainside structures visible from the palace which looked really stunning in the evening light.

That evening we headed up to the Shangri-La resort area on what seemed like the outskirts of Muscat. It was a whole resort complex, where we got to visit a beach before meeting up with other conference folks for a buffet dinner and musical entertainment for the evening.

I really enjoyed my time in Oman. It was safe, beautiful and in spite of being hot, the air conditioning in all the buildings made up for the time we spent outdoors, and the mornings and evenings were nice and cool. There was some apprehension as it was my first trip to the middle east and as a woman traveling alone, but I had no problems and everyone I worked with throughout the conference and or stay was professional, welcoming and treated me well. I’d love the opportunity to go back some day.

More photos from my trip here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157650553216248/

FOSSC Oman 2015

This past week I had the honor of speaking at FOSSC Oman 2015 in Muscat, following an invitation last fall from Professor Hadj Bourdoucen and the organizing team. Prior to my trip I was able to meet up with 2013 speaker Cat Allman who gave me invaluable tips about visiting the country, but above all made me really excited to visit the middle east for the first time and meet the extraordinary people putting on the conference.

Some of the speakers and organizers meet on Tuesday, from left: Wolfgang F. Finke, Matthias Stürmer, Khalil Al Maawali, me and Hadj Bourdoucen

My first observation was that the conference staff really went out of their way to be welcoming to all the speakers, welcoming us at the hotel the day before the conference, making sure all our needs were met. My second was that the conference was that it was really well planned and funded. They did a wonderful job finding a diverse speaker list (both topic and gender-wise) from around the world. I was really happy to learn that the conference was also quite open and free to attend, so there were participants from other nearby companies, universities and colleges. I’ll also note that there were more women at this conference than I’ve ever seen at an open source conference, at least half the audience, perhaps slightly more.

The conference itself began on Wednesday morning with several introductions and welcome speeches from officials of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), the Information Technology Authority (ITA) and Professor Hadj Bourdoucen who gave the opening FOSSC 2015 speech. These introductions were all in Arabic and we were all given headsets for live translations into English.

The first formal talk of the conference was Patrick Sinz on “FOSS as a motor for entrepreneurship and job creation.” In this talk he really spoke to the heart of why the trend has been leaning toward open source, with companies tired of being beholden to vendors for features, being surprised by changes in contracts, and the general freedom of not needing “permission” to alter the software that’s running your business, or your country. After a break, his talk was followed by one by Jan Wildeboer titled “Open is default.” He covered a lot in his talk, first talking about how 80% of most software stacks can easily be shared between companies without harming any competitive advantage, since everyone needs all the basics of hardware interaction, basic user interaction and more, thus making use of open source for this 80% an obvious choice. He also talked about open standards and how important it is to innovation that they exist. While on the topic of innovation he noted that instead of trying to make copies of proprietary offerings, open source is now leading innovation in many areas of technology, and has been for the past 5 years.

My talk came up right after Jan’s, and with a topic of “Building a Career in FOSS” it nicely worked into things that Patrick and Jan had just said before me. In this world of companies who need developers for features and where they’re paying good money for deployment of open source, there are a lot of jobs cropping up in the open source space. My talk gave a tour of some of the types of reasons one may contribute (aside from money, there’s passion for openness, recognition, and opportunity to work with contributors from around the world), types of ways to get involved (aside from programming, people are paid for deployments, documentation, support and more) and companies to aim for when looking to find a job working on open source (fully open source, open source core, open source division of a larger company). Slides from my talk are available here (pdf).

Directly following my talk, I participated in a panel with Patrick, Jan and Matthias (who I’d met the previous day) where we talked about some more general issues in the open source career space, including how language barriers can impact contributions, how the high profile open source security issues of 2014 have impacted the industry and some of the biggest mistakes developers make regarding software licenses.

The afternoon began with a talk by Hassan Al-Lawati on the “FOSS Initiative in Oman, Facts and Challenges” where he outlined the work they’ve been doing in their multi-year plan to promote the use and adoption of FOSS inside of Oman. Initiatives began with awareness campaigns to familiarize people with the idea of open source software, development of training material and programs, in addition to existing certificate programs in the industry, and the deployment of Open Source Labs where classes on and development of open source can be promoted. He talked about some of the further future plans including more advanced training. He wrapped up his talk by discussing some of the challenges, including continued fears about open source by established technologists and IT managers working with proprietary software and in general less historical demand for using open source solutions. Flavia Marzano spoke next on “The role and opportunities of FOSS in Public Administrations” where she drew upon her 15 years of experience working in the public sector in Italy to promote open source solutions. Her core points centered around the importance of the releasing of data by governments in open formats and the value of laws that make government organizations consider FOSS solutions, if not compel them. She also stressed that business leaders need to understand the value of using open source software, even if they themselves aren’t the ones who will get the read the source code, it’s important that someone in your organization can. Afternoon sessions wrapped up with a panel on open source in government, which talked about how cost is often not a motivator and that much of the work with governments is not a technical issue, but a political one.

FOSS in Government panel: David Hurley, Hassan Al-Lawati, Ali Al Shidhani and Flavia Marzano

The conference wrapped up with lunch around 2:30PM and then we all headed back to our hotels before an evening out, which I’ll talk more about in an upcoming post about my tourist fun in Muscat.

Thursday began a bit earlier than Wednesday, with the bus picking us up at the hotel at 7:45AM and first talks beginning at 8:30AM.

Matthias Stürmer kicked off the day with a talk on “Digital sustainability of open source communities” where he outlined characteristics of healthy open source communities. He first talked about the characteristics that defined digital sustainability, including transparency and lack of legal or policy restrictions. The characteristics of healthy open source communities included:

  • Good governance
  • Heterogeneous community (various motivations, organizations involved)
  • Nonprofit foundation (doing marketing)
  • Ecosystem of commercial service providers
  • Opportunity for users to get things done

It was a really valuable presentation, and his observations were similar to mine when it comes to healthy communities, particularly as they grow. His slides are pretty thorough with main points clearly defined and are up on slideshare here.

After his presentation, several of us speakers were whisked off to have a meeting with the Vice-chancellor of SQU to talk about some of the work that’s been done locally to promote open source education, adoption and training. Can’t say I was particularly useful at this session, lacking experience with formal public sector migration plans, but it was certainly interesting for me to participate in.

I then met up with Khalil for another adventure, over to Middle East College to give a short open source presentation to students in an introductory Linux class. The class met in one of the beautiful Open Source Labs that Hassan had mentioned in his talk, it was a real delight to go to one. It was also fascinating to see that the vast majority of the class was made up of women, with only a handful of men – quite the opposite from what I’m used to! My presentation quickly covered the basics of open source, the work I’ve done both as a paid and volunteer contributor, examples of some types of open source projects (different size, structure and volunteer to paid ratios) and common motivations for companies and individuals to get involved. The session concluded with a great Q&A session, followed by a bunch of pictures and chats with students. Slides from my talk are here (pdf).

Khalil and me at the OSL at MEC

My day wound down back at SQU by attending the paper sessions that concluded the conference and then lunch with my fellow speakers.

Now for some goodies!

There is a YouTube video of each day up, so you can skim through it along with the schedule to find specific talks:

There was also press at the conference, so you can see one release published on Zawya: FOSSC-Oman Kicks Off; Forum Focuses on FOSS Opportunities and Communities and an article by the Oman Tribune: Conference on open source software begins at SQU.

And more of my photos from the conference are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157650553205488/

Wrap up of the San Francisco Ubuntu Global Jam at Gandi

This past Sunday I hosted an Ubuntu Global Jam at the Gandi office here in downtown San Francisco. Given the temporal proximity to a lot of travel, I’ve had to juggle a lot to make this happen, a fair amount of work goes into an event like this, from logistics of getting venue, food and drinks, and giveaways to the actual prep for the event and actually telling people about it. In this case we were working on Quality Assurance for Xubuntu (and a little Lubuntu on a PPC Mac).

It’s totally worth it though, so I present to you the full list of prep, should you wish to do a QA event in your region:

  • Secure venue: Completed in December (thanks AJ at Gandi!).
  • Secure refreshments funding: Completed in January via the Ubuntu donations funding.
  • Create LoCo Team Portal event and start sharing it everywhere (social media, friendly mailing lists for locals who may be interested). Do this for weeks!
  • Prepare goodies. I had leftover pens and stickers from a previous event. I then met up with Mark Sobell earlier in the week to have him sign copies of A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux, 4th Edition we received from the publisher (thank you Mark and Prentice Hall!).
  • Collect and stage all the stuff you’re bringing.
  • Print out test cases, since it can be tricky to juggle reading the test case while also navigating the actual test on their laptop.
  • Also print out signs for the doors at the venue.
  • Tour venue and have final chat with your host about what you need (plates, cups and utensils? power? wifi? projector?).
  • Send out last minute email to attendees as a reminder and in case of any last minute info.
  • Make sure dietary requirements of attendees are met. I did go with pizza for this event, but I made sure to go with a pizzeria that offered gluten free options and I prepared a gluten free salad (which people ate!).
  • Download and burn/copy the daily ISOs as soon as they come out on the day of the event, and put them on USB sticks or discs as needed: Xubuntu went on USB sticks, Lubuntu for PPC went on a CD-R (alternate) and DVD-R (desktop, currently oversized).
  • Bring along any extra laptops you have so folks who don’t bring one or have trouble doing testing on theirs can participate
  • Make penguin-shaped cookies (this one may be optional).

With all of this completed, I think the event went pretty smoothly. My Ubuntu California team mates James Ouyang and Christian Einfeldt met me at my condo nearby to help me carry over everything. AJ met us upon arrival and we were able to get quickly set up.

I had planned on doing a short presentation to give folks a tour of the ISO Tracker but the flow of attendees made it such that I could get the experienced attendees off and running pretty quick (some had used the tracker before) and by the time they were starting we had some newcomers joining us who I was able to guide one-on-one.

I did a lot of running around, but attendees were able to help out each other too, and it was a huge help to bring along some extra laptops. I was also surprised to see that another PPC Mac showed up at the event! I thought the one I brought would be the only one that would be used for Lubuntu. Later in the event we were joined by some folks who came over after the nearby BerkeleyLUG meeting wrapped up at 3PM, and caused us to push the event a full hour later than expected (thanks to AJ for putting up with us for another hour!).

Prior to the event, I had worried some about attendance, but throughout the event we had about 12 people total come and go, which was the perfect amount for me and a couple of other Ubuntu Members to manage so that attendees didn’t feel ignored as they worked through their tests. Post event, I’ve been able to provide some feedback to the Ubuntu Quality team about some snafus we encountered while doing testing. Hopefully these can be fixed next time around so other teams don’t run into the same issues we did.

Aside from some of the hiccups with the trackers, I received really positive feedback from attendees. Looking forward to doing this again in the future!

More photos from the event available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157650663176996/

Afternoon in Brussels

My trip to Brussels for FOSDEM was a short one, I have a lot of work to do at home so it was impossible for me to make the case for staying more than three days. But since I got in early Friday morning, I did have Friday afternoon to do a bit of exploring.

First stop: get some mussels and frites!

For the rest of the afternoon I had planned on taking one of the tourist buses around town, but by the time I was ready to go it was 2PM and the last loop started at 2:30 that day, not giving me enough time to snag the last bus, and even if I had, where’s the fun in never getting off it? So I made my way toward Grand Place, where there were loads of shops, drinks and museums.

I decided to spend my afternoon at the Museum of the City of Brussels, which is dedicated to the history of the city and housed at Grand Place in the former King’s Mansion (Maison du Roi).

I’m glad I went, the museum had some beautiful pieces and I enjoyed learning about some of the history of the city. They were also running a special exhibit about the German occupation around World War I, which offered some interesting and sad insight into how the Belgians handled the occupation and the suffering endured by citizens during that time. Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed the browse through the amusing array of costumes made for the famous Manneken Pis.

The museum closed at 5PM and I made my way to visit the actual Manneken Pis fountain, located a few blocks south of the Grand Palace. It was starting to get quite chilly out and I was glad I had packed mittens. I snapped my photo of the fountain and then meandered my way back north until I found a little cafe where I got myself a nice cup of hot chocolate and warmed up while I waited for the Software Freedom Conservancy dinner at Drug Opera.

I also spent time scouring shop fronts for a Delirium Tremens stuffed toy elephant (as seen here). I saw one through a shop window the last time I was in Brussels in 2010, but it was late at night and the shop was closed. Alas, I never did find the elephant… until after dinner when I was walking back to my hotel once again late at night and the shop was closed! Argh! May we meet again some day, dear pink elephant.

In general the short length of the trip meant that I also didn’t get to enjoy many Belgian beers on my trip, quite the tragedy, but I did have to be alert for the actual conference I came to speak at and attend.

More photos from my tourist adventure here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157650562831526/


This weekend I spent in Brussels for my first FOSDEM. As someone who has been actively involved with open source since 2003, stories of FOSDEM have floated around in communities I’ve participated in for a long time, so I was happy to finally have the opportunity to attend and present.

Events kicked off Friday night with a gathering at a dinner with the Software Freedom Conservancy. It was great to start things off with such a friendly crowd, most of whom I’ve known for years. I sat with several of my OpenStack colleagues as we enjoyed dinner and conversation about StoryBoard and bringing the OpenStack activity board formally into our infrastructure with Puppet modules. It was a fun and productive dinner, I really appreciated that so many at this event took the initiative to gather in team tables so we could have our own little mini-meetups during the SFC event. After dinner I followed some colleagues over to Delirium Cafe for the broader pre-FOSDEM beer event, but the crowd was pretty overwhelming and I was tired, so I ended up just heading back to my hotel to get some rest.

On Saturday I met up with my colleague Devananda van der Veen and we headed over to the conference venue. The conference began with a couple keynotes. Karen Sandler was the first, giving her talk on Identity Crisis: Are we who we say we are? where she addressed the different “hats” we wear as volunteers, paid contributors, board members, and more in open source projects. She stressed how important it is that we’re clear about who and what we’re representing when we contribute to discussions and take actions in our communities. I was excited to see that she also took the opportunity to announce Outreachy, the successor to the Outreach Program for Women, which not only continues the work of bringing women into open source beyond GNOME, but also “from groups underrepresented in free and open source software.” This was pretty exciting news, congratulations to everyone involved!

The next keynote was by Antti Kantee who spoke on What is wrong with Operating Systems (and how do we make things better). Antti works on the NetBSD Rump Kernels and is a passionate advocate for requiring as little as possible from an underlying Operating System in today’s world. He argues that a complicated OS only serves to introduce instability and unnecessary complexity into most ways we do computing these days, with their aggressive support of multi-user environments on devices that are single user and more. He demonstrated how you can strip away massive amounts of the kernel and still have a viable, basic user environment with a TCP/IP stack that applications can then interface with.

The next talk I went to was Upstream Downstream: The relationship between developer and package maintainer by Norvald H. Ryeng of the MySQL project. Over the years I’ve been a contributor on both sides of this, but it’s been a few years since I was directly involved in the developer-packager relationship so it was great to hear about the current best practices of communities working in this space. He walked through what a release of MySQL looks like, including all the types of artifacts created and distribution mechanisms utilized (source, packages, FTP, developer site direct downloads) and how they work with distribution package maintainers. He had a lot of great tips for both upstream developers and downstream packagers about how to have an effective collaboration, much of it centering around communication. Using MySQL as an example, he went through several things they’ve done, including:

  • Being part of Ubuntu’s Micro Release Exception program so packagers don’t cherry-pick security vulnerabilities, instead they can take the full micro-release from the trusted, well-tested upstream.
  • Participating in downstream bug trackers, sometimes even bumping the priority of packaged software bugs because they know a huge number of users are using the distro packages.
  • Running their own package repos, which gives users more options version-wise but has also taught their upstream team about some of the challenges in packaging so they can be more effective collaborators with the in-distro packagers and even catch pain points and issues earlier. Plus, then packaging is integrated into their QA processes!

He also talked some about how cross-distro collaboration doesn’t really happen on the distro level, so it’s important for upstream to stay on top of that so they can track things like whether the installation is interactive (setting passwords, other config options during install), whether the application is started upon install and more. Their goal being to make the experience of using their application as consistent as possible across platforms, both by similar configuration and reduction of local patches carried by distributions.

At lunch I met up with Louise Corrigan of Apress, who I met last year at the Texas Linux Fest. We also grabbed some much needed coffee, as my jet lag was already starting to show. From there I headed over to the OpenStack booth for my 2PM shift, where I met Adrien Cunin (who I also knew from the Ubuntu community) and later Marton Kiss who I work with on the OpenStack Infrastructure team. I was one of my more fun booth experiences, with lots of folks I knew dropping by, like Jim Campbell who I’d worked with on Documentation in Ubuntu in the past and a couple the people I met at DORS/CLUC in Croatia last year. I also got to meet Charles Butler of Canonical whose Juju talk I attended later in the afternoon.

At 5PM things got exciting for my team, with Spencer Krum presenting Consuming Open Source Configuration: Infrastructure and configuration is now code, and some of it is open source. What is it like to be downstream of one of these projects? In addition to working with us upstream in the OpenStack Infrastructure team, Spencer works on a team within HP that is consuming our infrastructure for projects within HP that need a Continuous Integration workflow. The OpenStack Infrastructure team has always first been about providing for the needs of the OpenStack community, and with Spencer’s help as an active downstream contributor we’ve slowly shifted our infrastructure to be more consumable by the team he’s on and others. In this talk he covered the value of consuming our architecture, including not having to do all the work, and benefiting from a viable architecture that’s been used in production for several years. He noted that any divergence from upstream incurred technical debt for the downstream team, so he’s worked upstream to help decouple components and not make assumptions about things like users and networks, reducing the need for these patches downstream. The biggest takeaway from this, was how much Spencer has been involved with the OpenStack Infrastructure team. His incremental work over time to make our infrastructure more consumable, coupled with his desire to also further the goals on our team (I can always depend upon him for a review of one of my Puppet changes) makes his work as a downstream much easier. Slides from his presentation are online (html-based) here.

My day of talks wrapped up with one of my own! In The open source OpenStack project infrastructure: Fully public Puppet I gave a talk that was complementary to Spencer’s where I spoke from the upstream side about the lesson’s we’ve learned about crafting an effective upstream infrastructure project using Puppet in the past year to make our infrastructure more consumable by downstreams like the team at HP. I outlined the reasons we had for going with a fully open source Puppet configuration (rather than just releasing modules) and why you might want to (others can contribute! sharing is nice!). Then I outlined the work we did in a couple specs we’ve finished to break out some of our components from the previously monolithic configuration. I think the talk went well, it was great to talk to some folks about their own infrastructure challenges afterwards and how our thorough specifications about splitting modules may help them too. Slides from the talk as pdf available here.

I spent the evening with some of my colleagues at HP who are working on OpenStack Designate. I had intended to call it a somewhat early night, but dinner didn’t manage to wrap up until 11PM, cutting severely into beer time!

Sunday morning I headed over to the conference venue at 9AM, noticing that it had snowed over night. I spent the morning at the OpenStack booth, my booth volunteer slot sadly overlapping with Thierry Carrez’s talk on our OpenStack infrastructure tools talk. Wrapping up booth duty, I met up with a friend and made our way through the campus as the snow came down to check out another building with project booths.

I then made my way over to Testing and automation dev room to see Aleksandra Fedorova speak on CI as an Infrastructure. The talk diverged from the typical “process” talks about Continuous Integration (CI), which often pretty abstractly talk about the theory and workflows. She instead talked about the technical infrastructure that is actually required for running such a system, and how it ends up being much more complicated in practice. Beyond the general workflow, you need artifact (logs and other things that result from builds) management, service communication coordination (CIs are chatty! Particularly when there are failures) and then hooks into all the pieces of your infrastructure, from the bug tool to your revision control system and perhaps a code review system. Even when running a very simple test like flake8 you need a place to run it, proper isolation to set up, a pinning process for flake8 versions (need to test it when new versions come out – else it could break your whole process!) and preferably do all of this using QA and language-specific tools created for the purpose. Perhaps my favorite part of her talk was the stress she placed upon putting infrastructure configuration into revision control. I’ve been a fan of doing this for quite some time, particularly in our world of configuration management where it’s now easy to do, but perhaps her most compelling point was keeping track of your Jenkins jobs over time. By putting your Jenkins configurations into revision control, you have a proper history of how you ran your tests months ago, which can be a valuable resource as your project matures.

I attended one more talk, but spent much of the rest of the event meeting up with open source friends who I hadn’t seen in a while. Astonishingly, even though I got to catch up with a number of people, the conference was so big and spread out around the campus that there were people who I knew were there but I never managed to see! One of my colleagues at HP I never saw until after the conference when a group met up for dinner on Sunday night.

The closing keynote was by Ryan MacDonald who spoke on Living on Mars: A Beginner’s Guide: Can we Open Source a society? He spoke about the Mars One program which seemed well on its way. I’m looking forward to the video being published, as I know more than a few people who’d be interested in seeing it from the perspective he presented.

Finally, the wrap-up. Looking back to the introduction to the conference, one of the organizers told the audience that unlike other conferences recently, they didn’t feel the need to adopt a Code of Conduct. They cited that we’re “all adults here” and pretty much know how to act toward each other. I was pretty disappointed by this, particularly at a conference that served alcohol throughout the day and had a pretty bad gender ratio (it’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen). Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Prior to the keynote, a tweet from FOSDEM said “message received” regarding the importance of a Code of Conduct. I’m really proud of them for acknowledging the importance and promising to improve, it makes me feel much better about coming back in the future.

Huge thanks to all the volunteers who make this conference happen every year, I hope I can make it back next year! A few more photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157650191787498/

Remembering Eric P. Scott (eps)

Last night I learned the worst kind of news, my friend and valuable member of the Linux community here in San Francisco, Eric P. Scott (eps) recently passed away.

In an excerpt from a post by Chaz Boston Baden, he cites the news from Ron Hipschman:

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but It is my sad duty to inform you that Eric passed away sometime in the last week or so. After a period of not hearing from Eric by phone or by email, Karil Daniels (another friend) and I became concerned that something might be more serious than a lost phone or a trip to a convention, so I called his property manager and we met at Eric’s place Friday night. Unfortunately, the worst possible reason for his lack of communication was what we found. According to the medical examiner, he apparently died in his sleep peacefully (he was in bed). Eric had been battling a heart condition. We may learn more next week when they do an examination.

He was a good friend, the kind who was hugely supportive of any local events I had concocted for the Ubuntu California community, but as a friend he was also the thoughtful kind of man who would spontaneously give me thoughtful gifts. Sometimes they were related to an idea he had for promoting Ubuntu, like a new kind of candy we could use for our candy dishes at the Southern California Linux Expo, a toy penguin we could use at booths or a foldable origami-like street car he thought we could use as inspiration for something similar as a giveaway to promote the latest animal associated with an Ubuntu LTS release.

He also went beyond having ideas and we spent time together several times scouring local shops for giveaway booth candy, and once meeting at Costco to buy cookies and chips in bulk for an Ubuntu release party last spring, which he then helped me cart home on a bus! Sometimes after the monthly Ubuntu Hours, which he almost always attended, we’d go out to explore options for candy to include at booth events, with the amusing idea he also came up with: candy dishes that came together to form the Ubuntu logo.

In 2012 we filled the dishes with M&Ms:

The next year we became more germ conscious and he suggested we go with individually wrapped candies, searching the city for ones that would taste good and not too expensive. Plus, he found a California-shaped bowl which fit into our Ubuntu California astonishingly theme well!

He also helped with Partimus, often coming out to hardware triage and installfests we’d have at the schools.

At a Partimus-supported school, back row, middle

As a friend, he was also always welcome to share his knowledge with others. Upon learning that I don’t cook, he gave me advice on some quick and easy things I could do at home, which culminated in the gift of a plastic container built for cooking pasta in the microwave. Skeptical of all things microwave, it’s actually something I now use routinely when I’m eating alone, I even happened to use it last night before learning of his passing.

He was a rail fan and advocate for public transportation, so I could always count on him for the latest transit news, or just a pure geek out about trains in general, which often happened with other rail fans at our regular Bay Area Debian dinners. He had also racked up the miles on his favorite airline alliance, so there were plenty of air geek conversations around ticket prices, destinations and loyalty programs. And though I haven’t really connected with the local science fiction community here in San Francisco (so many hobbies, so little time!), we definitely shared a passion for scifi too.

This is a hard and shocking loss for me. I will deeply miss his friendship and support.

Stress, flu, Walt’s Trains and a scrap book

I’ve spent this month at home. Unfortunately, I’ve been pretty stressed out. Now that I’m finally home I have a ton to catch up on here, I’m getting back into the swing of things with the pure technical (not event, travel, talk) part of my day job and and have my book to work on. I know I haven’t backed off enough from projects I’m part of, even though I’ve made serious efforts to move away from a few leadership roles in 2014, so keeping up with everything remains challenging. Event-wise, I’ve managed to arrange my schedule so I only have 4 trips during this half of the year (down from 5, thanks to retracting a submission to one domestic conference), and 1-3 major local events that I’m either speaking at or hosting. It still feels like too much.

Perhaps adding to my stress was the complete loss of 5 days last week to the flu. I had some sniffles and cough on Friday morning, which quickly turned into a fever that sent me to bed as soon as I wrapped up work in the early evening. Saturday through most of Tuesday are a bit of a blur, I attempted to get some things done but honestly should have just stayed in bed and not tried to work on anything, because nothing I did was useful and actually made it more difficult to pick up where I left off come late Tuesday and into Wednesday. I always forget how truly miserable having the flu is, sleep is the only escape, even something as mind-numbing as TV isn’t easy as everything hurts. However, kitty snuggles are always wonderful.

Sickness aside, strict adherence to taking Saturdays off has helped my stress. I really look forward to my Saturdays when I can relax for a bit, read, watch TV, play video games, visit an exhibit at a museum or make progress in learning how to draw. I’m finally at the point where I no longer feel guilty for taking this time, and it’s pretty refreshing to simply ignore all email and social media for a day, even if I do have the impulse to check both. It turns out it’s not so bad to disconnect for a weekend day, and I come back somewhat refreshed on Sunday. It ultimately does make me more productive during the rest of the week too, and less likely to just check out in the middle of the week in a guiltful and poorly-timed evening of pizza, beer and television.

This Saturday MJ and I enjoyed All Aboard: A Celebration of Walt’s Trains exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum. It was a fantastic exhibit. I’m a total sucker for the entrepreneurial American story of Walt Disney and I love trains, so the mix of the two was really inspiring. This is particularly true as I find my own hobbies being as work-like and passion-driven as my actual work. Walt’s love of trains and creation of a train at his family home in order to have a hobby outside work led to trains at Disney parks around the world. So cool.

No photos are allowed in the exhibit, but I did take some time around the buildings to capture some signs and the beautiful day in the Presidio: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157650347931082/

One evening over these past few weeks took time to put together a scrap book, which I’d been joking about for years (“ticket stub? I’ll keep it for my scrap book!”). Several months ago I dug through drawers and things to find all my “scrap book things” and put them into a bag, collecting everything from said ticket stubs to conference badges from the past 5 years. I finally swung by a craft store recently and picked up some rubber cement, good clear tape and an empty book made for the purpose. Armed with these tools, I spent about 3 hours gluing and taping things into the book one evening after work. The result is a mess, not at all beautiful, but one that I appreciate now that it exists.

I mentioned in my last “life” blog post that I was finishing a services migration from one of my old servers. That’s now done, I shut off my old VPS yesterday. It was pretty sad when I realized I’d been using that VPS for 7 years when the level plan I had offered a mere 360M of RAM (up to 2G now), I had gotten kind of attached! But that faded today when I did an upgrade on my new server and realized how much faster it is. On to bigger and better things! In other computer news, I’m really pushing hard on promoting the upcoming Ubuntu Global Jam here in the city and spent Wednesday evening of this week hosting a small Ubuntu Hour, thankful that it was the only event of the evening as I continued to need rest post-flu.

Today is a Monday, but a holiday in the US. I spent it catching up with work for Partimus in the morning, Ubuntu in the afternoon and this evening I’m currently avoiding doing more work around the house by writing this blog post. I’m happy to say that we did get some tricky light bulbs replaced and whipped out the wood glue in an attempt to give some repair love to the bathroom cabinet. Now off to do some laundry and cat-themed chores before spending a bit more time on my book.

San Francisco Ubuntu Global Jam at Gandi.net on Sunday February 8th

For years Gandi.net has been a strong supporter of Open Source communities and non-profits. From their early support of Debian to their current support of Ubuntu via discounts to Ubuntu Members they’ve been directly supportive of projects I’m passionate about. I was delighted when I heard they had opened an office in my own city of San Francisco, and they’ve generously offered to host the next Ubuntu Global Jam for the Ubuntu California team right here at their office in the city.





Jam for days

What’s an Ubuntu Global Jam? From the FAQ on the wiki:

A world-wide online and face-to-face event to get people together to work on Ubuntu projects – we want to get as many people online working on things, having a great time doing so, and putting their brick in the wall for free software as possible. This is not only a great opportunity to really help Ubuntu, but to also get together with other Ubuntu fans to make a difference together, either via your LoCo team, your LUG, other free software group, or just getting people together in your house/apartment to work on Ubuntu projects and have a great time.

The event will take place on Sunday, February 8th from noon – 5PM at the Gandi offices on 2nd street, just south of Mission.

Community members will gather to do some Quality Assurance testing on Xubuntu ISOs and packages for the upcoming release, Vivid Vervet, using the trackers built for this purpose. We’re focusing on Xubuntu because that’s the project I volunteer with and I can help put us into contact with the developers as we test the ISOs and submit bugs. The ISO tracker and package tracker used for Xubuntu are used for all recognized flavors of Ubuntu, so what you learn from this event will transfer into testing for Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME and all the rest.

No experience with Testing or Quality Assurance is required and Quality Assurance is not as boring as it sounds, honest :) Plus, one of the best things about doing testing on your hardware is that your bugs are found and submitted prior to release, increasing the chances significantly that any bugs that exist with your hardware are fixed prior to release!

The event will begin with a presentation that gives a tour of how manual testing is done on Ubuntu releases. From there we’ll be able to do Live Testing, Package Testing and Installation testing as we please, working together as we confirm bugs and when we get stuck. Installation Testing is the only one that requires you to make any changes to the laptop you bring along, so feel free to bring along one you can do Live and Package testing on if you’re not able to do installations on your hardware.

I’ll also have the following two laptops for folks to do testing on if they aren’t able to bring along a laptop:

I’ll also be bringing along DVDs and USB sticks with the latest daily builds for tests to be done and some notes about how to go about submitting bugs.

Please RSVP here (full address also available at this link):


Or email me at lyz@ubuntu.com if you’re interested in attending and have trouble with or don’t wish to RSVP through the site. Also please feel free to contact me if you’re interested in helping out (it’s ok if you don’t know about QA, I need logistical and promotional help too!).

Food and drinks will be provided, the current menu is a platter of sandwiches and some pizzas, so please let me know if you have dietary restrictions so we can place orders accordingly. I’d hate to exclude folks because of our menu, so I’m happy to accommodate vegan, gluten free, whatever you need, I just need to know :)

Finally, giveaways of Ubuntu stickers and pens for everyone and a couple Ubuntu books (hopefully signed by the authors!) will also be available to a few select attendees.

Somewhere other than San Francisco and interested in hosting or attending an event? The Ubuntu Global Jam is an international event with teams focusing on a variety of topics, details at: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UbuntuGlobalJam. Events currently planned for this Jam can be found via this link: http://loco.ubuntu.com/events/global/2967/

New year, Snowpiercer, Roads of Arabia and projects

I’ve been home for a week now, and strongly resisted the temptation to go complete hermit and stay home to work furiously on my personal projects as the holidays brought several Day Job days off. On New Year’s Eve MJ and I went over to ring in the new year with my friend Mark and his beautiful kitty. On Friday I met up with my friend mct to see Snowpiercer over at Castro Theater. I’m a huge fan of that Theater, but until now had only ever gone to see hybrid live+screen shows related to MST3K, first a Rifftrax show and then a Cinematic Titanic show. It was a nice theater to see a movie in, they make it very dark and then slowly bring up the lights at the end through the credits to welcome you back to the world. A gentle welcome was much needed for Snowpiercer, it was very good but very intense, after watching that I didn’t have it in me to stick around for the double feature (particularly not another one with a train!).

I have watched even less TV than usual lately, lacking time and patience for it (getting bored easily). But MJ and I did start watching Star Trek: Voyager. It turns out that it’s very Classic Trek feeling (meet new aliens every episode!) and I’m enjoying it a lot. I know people really love Deep Space Nine, and I did enjoy it too, but it was always a bit too dark and serious for my old fashioned Trek taste. Voyager is a nice journey back to the Trek style I love, plus, Captain Janeway is totally my hero.

This past Saturday MJ and I had a relaxing day, the highlight of which was the Roads of Arabia exhibit at the Asian Art Museum. It’s one of my favorite museums in the city, and I was really excited to see a full exhibit focused on the middle east, particularly with my trip to Oman on the horizon. It also inspired me for my trip, I’d been advised that it’s common to buy frankincense while in Oman, but I already have what seems like a lifetime supply, I’m now thinking I might try to find a pretty incense burner.

No photos allowed of the exhibit, with the exception of
this statue, where they encouraged selifes

Our wedding photos have finally gotten some attention. It’s been over a year and a half and the preview of photos has been limited to what our photographer shared on Facebook. Sorry everyone. I’ve mostly gone through them now and just need to take some time to put together a website for them. Maybe over this weekend.

My book has also seen progress, but sometimes I also like to write on paper. While going through my huge collection of pens-from-conferences I decided that I write notes enough to treat myself to a nicer pen than these freebies. Through my explorations of pens on the internet, I came across the Preppy Plaisir fountain pen. I’d never used a fountain pen before, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Now, I won’t forsake all other pens moving forward, but I do have to admit that I quite like this pen.

Naturally, I got the pink one

I did manage to catch up on some personal “work” things. Got a fair amount of Ubuntu project work done, including securing a venue and sponsorship for an upcoming Ubuntu Global Jam here in San Francisco and working out travel for a couple upcoming conferences. Also have almost completed the migration of websites and services from one of my old servers to a bigger, cheaper one, and satisfied the prerequisite of re-configuring my monitoring and backups of all my servers in preparation for the new one. Now I’m just waiting for some final name propagation and holding out in case I forgot something on the old server. At least I have backups.

Work on Partimus has been very quiet in recent months. There’s been a movement locally to deploy ChromeBooks in classrooms rather than traditional systems with full operating systems. These work well as many tools that teachers use, including some of the standardized testing tools, have moved to online tools. This is something we noticed back when we were still deploying larger labs of Ubuntu-based systems as we worked hard to tune the systems for optimal performance of Firefox with the latest Java and Flash. Our focus now has turned to education-focused community centers and groups who are seeking computers to do more application and programming focused tasked, I hope to have news about our newest projects in the works soon. I did have the opportunity last week to meet up with an accountant to go over our books, working pro-bono I was thankful for his time and ability to confirm we’re doing everything correctly. I’m not fired as Treasurer, hooray!

Ubuntu California in 2014

Inspired by the post by Riccardo Padovani about the awesome year that Ubuntu Italy had, I welcome you to a similar one for Ubuntu California for events I participated in.

The year kicked off with our annual support of the Southern California Linux Expo with SCaLE12x. The long weekend began with an Ubucon on Friday, and then a team booth on Saturday and Sunday in the expo hall. There were a lot of great presentations at Ubucon and a streamlined look to the Ubuntu booth with a great fleet of volunteers. I wrote about the Ubuntu-specific bits of SCaLE12x here. Unfortunately I have a scheduling conflict, but you can look for the team again at SCaLE this February with an Ubucon and Ubuntu booth in the main expo hall.

Ubuntu booth at SCale12x

In April, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS was released with much fanfare in San Francisco as we hosted a release party at a local company called AdRoll, which uses Ubuntu in their day to day operations. Attendees were treated with demos of a variety of flavors of Ubuntu, a couple Nexus 7s with Ubuntu on them, book giveaways, a short presentation about the features of 14.04 and a pile of pizza and cookies, courtesy of Ubuntu Community Donations Funding.

Ubuntu release party in San Francisco

More details and photos from that party here.

In May, carrying the Ubuntu California mantle, I did a pair of presentations about 14.04 for a couple of local groups, (basic slides here). The first was a bit of a drive down to Felton, California where I was greeted at the firehouse by the always welcoming FeltonLUG members. In addition to my presentation, I was able to bring along several laptops running Ubuntu, Xubuntu and Lubuntu and a Nexus 7 tablet running Ubuntu for attendees to check out.

Ubuntu at FeltonLUG

Back up in San Francisco, I presented at Bay Area Linux Users Group and once again had the opportunity to show off my now well-traveled bag of 14.04 laptops and tablet.

Ubuntu at BALUG

As the year continued, my travel schedule picked up and I mostly worked on hosting regular Ubuntu Hours in San Francisco.

Some featuring a Unicorn…

And an Ubuntu Hour in December finally featuring a Vervet!

December 31st marked my last day as a member of the Ubuntu California leadership trio. I took on this role back in 2010 and in that time have seen a lot of maturity come out of our team and events, from commitment of team members to host regular events to the refinement of our booths each year at the Southern California Linux Expo. I’m excited to see 2015 kick off with the election of an entirely new leadership trio, announced on January 1st, comprised of: Nathan Haines (nhaines), Melissa Draper (elky) and Brendan Perrine (ianorlin). Congratulations! I know you’ll all do a wonderful job. In spite of clearing out to make room for the new leadership team, I’ll still be active in the LoCo, with regular Ubuntu Hours in San Francisco and an Ubuntu Global Jam event coming up on February 8th, details here.