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Simcoe’s March 2015 Checkup

Our little Siamese, Simcoe, has Chronic Renal Failure (CRF). She has been doing well for over 3 years now with subcutaneous fluid injections every other day to keep her hydrated and quarterly check-ins with the vet to make sure her key blood levels and weight are staying within safe parameters.

On March 14th she went in for her latest visit and round of blood work. As usual, she wasn’t thrilled about the visit and worked hard to stay in her carrier the whole time.

She came out long enough for the exam, and the doctor was healthy with her physical, though her weight had dropped a little again, going from 9.74lbs to 9.54lbs.

Both her BUN and CRE levels remained steady.

Unfortunately her Calcium levels continue to come back a bit high, so the vet wants her in for an ionized Calicum test. She has explained that it’s only the ionized Calcium that is a concern because it can build up in the kidneys and lead to more rapid deterioration, so we’d want to get her on something to reduce the risk if that was the case. We’ll probably be making an appointment once I return from my travels in mid April to get this test done.

In the meantime, she gets to stay at home and enjoy a good book.

…my good book.

The spaces between

It’s been over 2 months since I’ve done a “miscellaneous life stuff” blog post. Anyone reading this blog recently might think I only write about travel and events! Since that last post I have had other things pop up here and there, but I am definitely doing too many events. That should calm down a bit in the 2nd quarter of the year and almost disappear in the third, with the notable exception of a trip to Peru, part work and part pleasure.

Unfortunately it looks like stress I mentioned in that last post flipped the switch on my already increasing-in-frequency migraines. I’ve seen my neurologist twice this year and we’ve worked through several medications, finally finding one that seems to work. And at least a visit to my neurologist affords me some nice views.

So I have been working on stress reduction, part which is making sure I keep running. It doesn’t reduce stress immediately but a routine of exercise does help even me out in the long term. To help clear my head, I’ve also been refining my todo lists to make them more comprehensive. I’m also continuing to let projects go when I find they’re causing my stress levels to spike for little gain. This is probably the hardest thing to do, I care about everything I work on and I know some things will just drop on the ground if I don’t do them, but I really need to be more realistic about what I can actually get done and focus my energy accordingly.

And to clear the way in this post for happier things, I did struggle with the loss of Eric in January. My Ubuntu work here in San Francisco simply won’t be the same without him, and every time I start thinking about planning an event I am reminded that he won’t be around to help or attend. Shortly after learning of his passing, several of us met up at BerkeleyLUG to share memories. Then on March 18th a more organized event was put together to gather friends from his various spheres of influence to celebrate his life at one of his favorite local pizzerias. It was a great event, I met some really good people and saw several old friends. It also brought some closure for me that I’d been lacking in dealing with this on my own.

On to happier things! I actually spent 30 days in a row off a plane in March. Home time means I got to do lots of enjoyable home things, like actually spending time with my husband over some fantastic meals, as well as finally finishing watching Breaking Bad together. I also think I’ve managed to somewhat de-traumatize my cats, who haven’t been thrilled about all my travel. We’ve been able to take some time to do some “home things” – like get some painting estimates so we can get some repairs done around the condo. I also spent a day down in Mountain View so I could meet up with a local colleague who I hadn’t yet met to kick off a new project, and then have dinner with a friend who was in the area visiting. Plus, I got to see cool things like a rare storm colliding with a sunset one evening:

I’ve been writing some, in January my article 10 entry points to tech (for girls, women, and everyone) went live on opensource.com. In early March I was invited to publish an article on Tech Talk Live Blog on Five Ways to Get Involved with Ubuntu as an Educator based on experience working with teachers over the past several years. I’ve also continued work toward a new book in progress, which has been time-consuming but I’m hoping will be ready for more public discussion in the coming months. Mark G. Sobell’s A Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux, 4th Edition also came out earlier this year, and while I didn’t write that, I did spend a nice chunk of time last summer doing review for it. I came away with a quote on the cover endorsing the great work Mark did with the book!

Work-wise, aside from travel and conferences I’ve talked about in previous posts, I was recently promoted to root and core for OpenStack Infrastructure. This has meant a tremendous amount to me, both the trust the team has placed in me and the increased ability for me to contribute to the infrastructure I’ve spent so much time with over these past couple of years. It also means I’ve been learning a lot and sorting through the tribal knowledge that should be formally documented. I was also able to participate as a Track Chair for selecting talks for the Related OSS Projects track at the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver in May, I did this for Atlanta last year but ended up not being able to attend due to being too sick (stupid gallbladder). And while on the topic of Vancouver, a panel proposed by the Women of OpenStack that I’m participating in has been accepted, Standing Tall in the Room, where we hope to give other women in our community some tips for success. My next work trip is coming up before Vancouver I’m heading off to South Carolina for Posscon where I’ll be presenting on Tools for Open Source Systems Administration, a tour of tools we use in order to make collaborating online with a distributed team of systems administrators from various companies possible (and even fun!).

In the tech goodies department, I recently purchased a Nexus 6. I was compelled to after I dropped my Galaxy S3 while sitting up on the roof deck. I was pretty disappointed by the demise of my S3, it was a solid phone and the stress of replacement wasn’t something I was thrilled to deal with immediately upon my return from Oman. I did a bunch of research before I settled on the Nexus 6 and spent my hard-earned cash on retail price for a phone for the first time in my life. It’s now been almost a month and I’m still not quite used to how BIG the Nexus 6 is, but it is quite a pleasure to use. I still haven’t quite worked out how to carry it on my runs; it’s too big for my pockets and the arm band solution isn’t working (too bulky, and other reasons), I might switch to a small backpack that can carry water too. It’s a great phone though, so much faster than my old one, which honestly did deserve to be replaced, even if not in the way I face-planted it on the concrete, sorry S3.


Size difference: Old S3 in new Nexus 6 case

I also found my old Chumby while searching through the scary cave that is our storage unit for the paint that was used for previous condo painting. They’ve resurrected the service for a small monthly fee, now I just need to find a place to plug it in near my desk…

I actually made it out of the house to be social a little too. My cousin Steven McCorry is the lead singer in a band called Exotype, which signed a record deal last year and has since been on several tours. This one brought him to San Francisco, so I finally made my way out to the famous DNA Lounge to see the show. It was a lot of fun, but as much as I can appreciate metal, I’m pleased with their recent trend toward rock, which I prefer. It was also great to visit with my cousin and his band mates.

This week it was MJ’s turn to be out of the country for work. While I had Puppet Camp to keep me busy on Tuesday, I did a poor job of scheduling social engagements and it’s been a pretty lonely time. It gave me space to do some organization and get work done, but I wasn’t as productive as I really wanted to be and I may have binge watched the latest slew of Mad Men episodes that landed on Netflix one night. Was nice to have snuggle time with the kitties though.

MJ comes home Sunday afternoon, at which time we have to swap out the contents of his suitcase and head back to the airport to catch a red eye flight to Philadelphia. We’re spending next week moving a storage unit, organizing our new storage situation and making as many social calls as possible. I’m really looking forward to visiting PLUG on Wednesday to meet up with a bunch of my old Philadelphia Linux friends. And while I’m not actively looking forward to the move, it’s something we’ve needed to do for some time now, so it’ll be nice for that to be behind us.

Elastic{ON} 2015

I’m finally home for a month, so I’ve taken advantage of some of this time to attend and present at some local events. The first of which was Elastic{ON}, the first user conference for Elasticsearch and related projects now under the Elastic project umbrella. The conference venue was Pier 27, a cruise terminal on the bay. It was a beautiful venue with views of the bay, and clever use for a terminal while there aren’t ships coming in.

The conference kicked off with a keynote where they welcomed attendees (of which there were over 1300 from 35 countries!) and dove into project history from the first release in 2010. A tour of old logos and websites built up to the big announcement, the “Elastic” rebranding, as the scope of their work now goes beyond search in the former Elasticsearch name. The opening keynotes continued with several leads from projects within the Elastic family, including updates from Logstash and Kibana.

At lunch I ended up sitting with 3 other women who were attending the conference on behalf of their companies (when gender ratios are skewed, this type of congregation tends to happen naturally). We all got to share details about how we were using Elasticsearch, so that was a lot of fun. One woman was doing data analysis against it for her networking-related work, another was using it to store metadata for videos and the third was actually speaking that afternoon on how they’re using it to supplement the traditional earthquake data with social media data about earthquakes at the USGS.

Track sessions began after lunch, and I spent my afternoon camped out in the Demo Theater. The first talk was by the Elastic Director of Developer Relations, Leslie Hawthorne. She talked about the international trio of developer evangelists that she works with, focusing on their work to support and encourage meetup groups worldwide, noting that 75 cities now have meetups with a total of over 17,000 individual members. She shared some tips from successful meetup groups, including offering a 2nd track during meetups for beginners, using an unconference format rather than set schedule and mixing things up sometimes with hack nights on Elastic projects. It was interesting to learn how they track community metrics (code/development stats, plus IRC and mailing list activity) and she wrapped up by noting the new site at https://www.elastic.co/community where they’re working to add more how-tos and on-ramping content, which their recent acquisition of Found, which has maintained a lot of that kind of material.


Leslie Hawthorn on “State of the Community”

The next session was “Elasticsearch Data Journey: Life of a Document in Elasticsearch” by Alexander Reelsen & Boaz Leskes. When documents enter Elasticsearch as json output from a service like Logstash, it can seem like a bit of a black box as far as what exactly happens to it in order for it to be added to Elasticsearch. This talk went through what happens. It’s first stored in Elasticsearch, where it’s stored node-wise is based on several bits of criteria analyzed upon bringing in, and the data is normalized and sorted. While the data is coming in, it’s stored in a buffer and also written to a transaction log until it’s actually committed to disk, at which time it’s still in the transaction log until it can be replicated across the Elasticsearch cluster. From there, they went into discussing data retrieval, cluster scaling and while stressing that replication is NOT backups, how to actually do backups of each node and how to restore from them. Finally, they talked about the data deletion process and how it queues data for deletion on each node in segments and noted that this is not a reversible option.

Continuing in “Life of” theme, I also attended “Life of an Event in Logstash” by Colin Surprenant. Perhaps my favorite talk of the day, Colin did an excellent job of explaining and defining all the terms he used in his talk. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t just useful to folks new to the project, but as a systems administrator who maintains dozens of different types of applications over hundreds of servers, I am not necessarily familiar with what Logstash in particular calls everything terminology-wise, so having it made clear during the talk was great. His talk walked us through the 3 stages that events coming into Logstash go through: Input, Filter and Output, and the sized queues between each of them. The Input stage takes whatever data you’re feeding into Logstash and uses plugins to transform it into a Logstash event. The Filter stage actually modifies the data from the event so that the data is made uniform. The Output stage translates the uniform data into whatever output you’re sending it to, whether it’s STDOUT or sending it off to Elastisearch as json. Knowing the bits of this system is really valuable for debugging loss of documents, I look forward to having the video online to share with my colleagues. EDIT 3/20/2015: Detailed slides online here.


Colin Surprenant on “Life of an Event in Logstash”

I tended to a avoid many of the talks by Elasticsearch users talking about how they use it. While I’m sure there’s valuable insights to be gained by learning how others use it, we’re pretty much convinced about our use and things are going well. So use cases were fresh to me when the day 2 keynotes kicked off with a discussion with Don Duet, Co-head of Technology at Goldman Sachs. It was interesting to learn that nearly 1/3 of the employees at Goldman Sachs are in engineering or working directly with engineering in some kind of technical analysis capacity. They were also framed as very tech-conscious company and long time open source advocate. In exploring some of their work with Elasticsearch he used legal documents as an example: previously they were difficult to search and find, but using Elasticsearch an engineer was empowered to work with the legal department to make the details about contracts and more searchable and easier to find.

The next keynote was a surprising one, from Microsoft! As a traditional proprietary, closed-source company, they haven’t historically been known for their support of open source software, at least in public. This has changed in recent years as the world around has changed and they’ve found themselves needing to not only support open source software in their stacks but contributing to things like the Linux kernel as well. Speaker Pablo Castro had a good sense of humor about this all as he walked attendees through three major examples of Elasticsearch use at Microsoft. It was fascinating to learn that it’s used for content on MSN.com, which gets 18 billion hits per month. They’re using Elasticsearch on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM for social media data, and in this case their actually using Ubuntu as well. Finally, they’re using it for the search tool in their cloud offering, Azure. They’ve come a long way!


Pablo Castro of Microsoft

The final keynote was from NASA JPL. The room was clearly full of space fans, so this was a popular presentation. They talked about how they use Elasticsearch to hold data about user behavior from browsers on internal sites so they can improve them for employees. They also noted the terribly common practice of putting data (in this case, for the Mars rover) into Excel or Powerpoint and emailing it around as a mechanism for data sharing, and how they’ve managed to get this data into Elasticsearch instead, clearly improving the experience for everyone.

After the keynotes, it time to do my presentation! The title of my talk was “elastic-Recheck Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: How Elasticsearch Helps OpenStack QA” and I can’t take credit for the title, my boring title was replaced by a suggestion from the talk selection staff. The talk was fun, I walked through our use of Elasticsearch to power our elastic-recheck (status page, docs) tooling in OpenStack. It’s been valuable not only for developer feedback (“your patch failed tests because of $problem, not your code”), but by giving the QA an Infrastructure teams a much better view into what the fleet of test VMs are up to in the aggregate so we can fix problems more efficiently. Slides from my talk are here (pdf).


All set up for elastic-Recheck Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Following my talk, ended up having lunch with the excellent Carol Willing. We got to geek out on all kinds of topics from Python to clouds as we enjoyed an outdoor lunch by the bay. Until it started drizzling.

The most valuable talk in the afternoon for me was “Resiliency in Elasticsearch and Lucene” with Boaz Leskes & Igor Motov. They began by talking about how with scale came the realization that more attention needed to be paid to recovering from various types of failures, and that they show up more often when you have more workers. The talk walked through various failures scenarios and how they’ve worked (and are working) on making improvements in these areas, including “pulling the plug” for a full shutdown, various hard disk failures, data corruption, and several types of cluster and HA failures (splitbrain and otherwise), out of memory resiliency and external pressures. This is another one I’m really looking forward to the video from.

The event wrapped up with a panel from GuideStar, kCura and E*Trade on how they’re using Elasticsearch and several “war stories” from their experiences working with the software itself, open source in general and Elastic the company.

In all, the conference was a great experience for me, and it was an impressive inaugural conference, though perhaps I should have expected that given the expertise and experience of the community team they have working there! They plan on doing a second one, and I recommend attendance to folks working with Elasticsearch.

More of my photos from the conference here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157650940379129/

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/

FOSDEM 2015

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.