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Trains in Maine

I grew up just outside of Portland, Maine. About 45 minutes south of there is the Seashore Trolley Museum. I went several times as a kid, having been quite the little rail fan. But it wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco that I really picked up my love for rails again with all the historic transit here in the city. With my new love for San Francisco streetcars, I made plans during our last trip back to make to visit the beloved trolley museum of my youth.

I’ll pause for a moment now to talk about terminology. Here in San Francisco we call that colorful fleet of cars that ride down Market and long the Embarcadero “streetcars” but in Maine, and in various other parts of the world, they’re known as “trolleys” instead. I don’t know why this distinction exists, and both terms are pretty broad so a dictionary is no help here. Since I was visiting the trolley museum, I’ll be referring to the ones I saw there as trolleys.

Before my trip I became a member of the museum, which gave us free entrance to the museum and a discount at the gift shop. We had originally intended to go to the museum upon arrival in Maine on the 26th of May, but learned when we showed up that they hadn’t opened on weekdays yet since it was still before Memorial Day. Whoops! We adjusted our plans and went back on Saturday.

Saturday was a hot day, but not intolerable. We had a little time to kill before the next trolley was leaving, so we made our way over to the Burton B Shaw South Boston Car House to start checking out some of the trolleys they had on display. These ones were pretty far into the rust territory and it was the smallest barn of them all, but I was delighted to find one of their double deckers inside. The streetcar lines in San Francisco don’t have the electric overhead infrastructure to support these cars, so it was a real treat for me. Later in the day we also saw another double decker that I was actually able to go up inside!

It was then time to board! With the windows open on the Boston 5821 trolley we enjoyed a nice loop around the property. The car itself was unfamiliar to me, but here in San Francisco we have the 1059, a PCC that is painted in honor of the Boston Elevated Railway so I was familiar with the transit company and livery. During the ride around the loop we had a pair of very New England tour guides who enjoyed bantering (think Car Talk). I caught a video of a segment of our trolley car ride. Riding through the beautiful green woods of Maine is certainly a different experience than the downtown streets of San Francisco that I’m used to!

On this ride I learned that many of the early amusement parks were created by the rail companies in an effort to increase ridership on Sundays, and transit companies in Maine were no exception. They also stopped by a rock formation that had evidence of how they would split rocks using water that froze and expanded in the winter to make way for the railroad tracks during building. The rocks were then crushed and used to help build the foundation of the tracks. The route from Biddeford to Kennebunkport, which the tracks we rode on was part of, is slanted downhill in the southern direction, so we also heard tales of the electricity being shut off at midnight and the last train of the day sometimes relying upon speeding up near midnight and coasting the rest of the way to the final station. I think the jury is out about how much exaggeration is to be expected in stories like this.


5821, Boston Elevated Railway

After the loop, we were met by a tour guide who took us around the other two transit barns that they have on the property. For most of the tour I popped ahead of the tour group to take photos, while staying within auditory range to hear what he had to say. I think this explains the 250+ pictures I took throughout the day. The barns had trolleys going at least 4 deep, in 3-4 rows. They had cars from all over the world, ranging from a stunning open top car from Montreal to that double decker from Glasgow that I got to go up to the top of. Some of the trolleys had really stunning interiors, like the Liberty Bell Limited from Philadelphia, I wouldn’t mind riding in one of those! They also had a handful of other trains that weren’t passenger trolleys, like a snow sweeper from Ottawa and a very familiar cable car from San Francisco.

Our walk around the property concluded with a visit to the restoration shop where they do work on the trolleys. Inside we saw some of the trolley skeletons and a bunch of the tools and machines they use to do work on the cars.

As you may expect, had a blast. They have an impressive assortment of trolleys, and I enjoyed learning about them and taking pictures. The museum also has a small assortment of vintage buses and train cars from various transit agencies, with a strong bias toward Boston. It was fun to see some trains that looked eerily similar to the BART trains that we still run here in the bay area, along with some of Philadelphia’s SEPTA trains. I even caught a glimpse of a SEPTA PCC trolley with livery that was somewhat modern, but it was under a cover and likely not yet restored.

The icing on the cake was their gift shop. I picked up a book for my nephew, along with my standard “tourist stuff” shot glass and magnet. The real gems were the model trains. I selected a couple toys that will accompany the others that I have from Philadelphia and San Francisco that will go on the standard wooden track that many children have. The adult model trains are where my heart was, I was able to get one of the F-Line train models (1063 Baltimore) that I didn’t have yet, along with a much larger (1:48 scale) and more impressive 2352 Connecticut Company, Destination Middletwon Birney Safety Car. I’ll be happy when I finally have a place to display all of these, but for now my little F-Line cars are hanging out on top of my second monitor.

As I mentioned, I took a lot of photos during our adventure, a whole bunch more can be browsed in an album on Flickr, and I do recommend it if you’re interested! https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157669023849545

My visit to Maine was also to visit family and as I was making plans I tried to figure out things that would be fun, but not too tiring for my nearly four year old nephew. The Seashore Trolley Museum will be great when he’s a bit older, but could I sneak in a different train trip that would be more his speed? Absolutely! The Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum in Portland, Maine was perfect.

The train ride itself takes about 40 minutes total, and takes you on a 1.5 mile (3 miles round trip) voyage along Portland Harbor. This meant it was about 15 minutes each way, with a stop at the end of the line for about 10 minutes for the engine to detatch and re-attach to the other side of the train, I took a video of the reattachment, which took a few tries that day. The timing was perfect for someone so young, and I was delighted to see how much he enjoyed the ride.

I enjoyed it too, it was a beautiful spring day and Portland Harbor is a lovely place to ride a train along.

We spent about a half hour in the small accompanying museum. Narrow gauge is a broad term for a variety of gauges, and I learned the one that ran there in Portland had a 2 foot gauge. As I understand it, wider gauges tend to make for a smoother ride, and though these trains were very clearly passenger trains (and vintage ones at that), the ride was a bumpy one. They had a couple other passenger and freight cars in the museum, and my nephew enjoyed playing with some of the train toys.

I hadn’t really intended for this trip to Maine to be so train-heavy, but I’m glad we were able to take advantage of the stunning weather and make it so! More photos from the Narrow Gauge Railroad, including things like the telegraph and inside of the cars they had on display are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157669122685275

Spike, Dino and José

In the fall of 2014 we attended a wedding for one of MJ’s cousins and guests got to bring home their own little succulent plant wedding favor. At the time we didn’t even know what a succulent was, but we dutifully carted it home on the flight.

For the first few months we kept it in the temporary container it came in and I didn’t have a lot of faith in my ability to keep it alive. We managed though, MJ did some research to learn what it was and how to move it into a pot, and it’s been growing ever since.

One day, Caligula wasn’t feeling well. After months of ignoring the plant, he decided that a plant was just the thing to sooth is upset stomach. He tried to bite it, but couldn’t find a good spot because the leaves have a spike at the end. We named the plant Spike.


Simcoe and Spike

In December of last year our dear Spike had a brush with fame! I snapped a picture of the rain one afternoon, and a glimpse of Spike was included in an article.

In April I attended an OpenStack Summit in Austin, Texas. At one of the parties Canonical was giving out succulents in dinosaur planters. How could I resist that? Plus, I’d continue the trend of free plants traveling home in carry on luggage. Having a succulent in a dinosaur planter sticking out of my purse was quite the conversation starter as I traveled home.


Simcoe sits with Dino and Spike

Spike has grown since it was that little wedding favor plant, and it never grew straight. Perhaps because we didn’t turn it enough and it grew towards the sun, or because succulents just keep growing and that just happens. We weren’t sure what to do though, as it eventually got to the point where it was too top-heavy to properly support its own weight! Spike now has scaffolding.

We’d grown quite fond of our little plant, and wanted to see how we could save him and not do the same with Dino. MJ did some research and found the Cactus & Succulent Society of San Jose that appeared to be very welcoming to folks like us looking for help and to identify what the plants are. We went last Sunday, upon my return from Maine and brought Spike and Dino along.

The society meets at a meetinghouse in a park in San Jose and the society members were just as welcoming as their website led us to believe! We were welcomed as we walked in and immediately had a few of our questions answered. As the presentation began they gave us chairs and raffle tickets for later in the meeting. The meeting had a presentation from a woman who sells a lot of succulents and also does a lot of craft projects that use the plants, putting them in living wreathes and various types of cages. I had worried that Dino living in a plastic dinosaur planter would offend them (what are you doing to your precious plant?!), but it turns out that putting succulents into interesting planters is quite a popular hobby. We learned that Dino is perfectly happy in that planter for now.


From the presentation, a succulent box that hangs on the wall, and some cages and various types of succulents

After the meeting they gave out awards for the mini-show that they had for members who brought in plants they wanted to share. We were able to get all the rest of our questions answered as well. We learned a bunch.

  • Both Spike and Dino are of the Echeveria genus. We can do our own research online or at plant shows to compare ours to others to figure out exactly what kind of Echeveria they are. Spike has a purple tint to the leaves and dino has red.
  • We didn’t actually destroy Spike, in spite of the lop-sidedness. Succulents grow and grow and grow. A method of reproduction is when a leaf drops off it can grow into another plant! Spike is ready to become lots of mini-Spikes!
  • One of the reasons societies like this exist is so people can give away and sell their ever-growing population of succulents.
  • We picked up some Miracle Grow soil for cacti and succulents at a home improvement store. That’s fine, but our plant likely doesn’t actually need fertilizer. Something to think about.
  • We should be watering these succulents every week or two, but need to keep an eye on how moist the soil is since root rot is one of the only things that does kill these hearty plants.
  • It’s pretty hard to kill a succulent, so they do use them for all kinds of craft projects and inventive ways.

They gave us some advice about how to handle Spike. They recommended cutting off the top(!), drying it out for a few weeks and replanting that. The bottom of the plant will also grow a new top of the plant. Assuming all goes well, we’ll at least end up with two Spikes that will hopefully grow straight this time, plus as many of the leaves as we want to grow into new plants. We have four leaves drying out now. We haven’t done the scary cutting and replanting yet, but it may be a project for this upcoming weekend, along with picking up a few more pots.

As the meeting wound down they did a raffle. The final ticket called was mine! We ended up going home with a Notocactus Roseoluteus, a flowering cactus. We certainly hadn’t planned on adding to our plant family at this meeting, but it’s a nice plant, and hopefully as a cactus it’ll be another plant that we can keep alive. Since we got this cactus in San Jose, we named it José.


José, the Notocactus Roseoluteus

So far José is doing ok, we watered it yesterday morning and it’s now sitting on the windowsill with the other plants.

Hashtag FirstJob

Back in February Gareth Rushgrove started the fantastic Twitter hashtag, #FirstTechJob. The responses were inspiring for many people, from those starting out to people like me who “fell into” a tech career. I had a natural love for computers, various junior tech jobs and volunteered in open source for years. I had no formal education in computer science. While my story is not uncommon in tech, it can still be isolating and embarrassing at academic conferences I participate in.

Lots of IT/software jobs ask for experience, but everyone starts somewhere. Lets encourage new folks with a tweet about our #FirstTechJob

I chimed in myself.

Contract web developer at a web development firm. Turned static designs into layouts on sites! Browser compatibility issues... #FirstTechJob

I knew when I posted it that 140 characters was not enough to provide context. For me and so many others it wasn’t just about having that first job and going through the prerequisite grunt work, but the long journey I had before getting said first tech job.

This week, two things inspired me to write more about this. First, I visited my old hometown. Second, several folks I know went to AlterConf and I saw a bunch of tweets about how tech workers should be more compassionate toward support/building/cleaning staff working around them. Don’t disrupt their work, but learn their names, engage them in conversation, treat them with respect.

I’ll begin by setting my privilege stage:

  1. I’m a white woman.
  2. Though we weren’t wealthy, I grew up in an affluent town with great public schools.
  3. I always had clothes, healthy food and a house to live in.
  4. Even though it was 10 years old (and so was I!) when it came to our house in 1991, I had desktop computer at home and I could use it as much as I wanted. We got online at home in 1998.
  5. In addition to a supportive Linux User Group community in Philadelphia, my white 20-something boyfriend referred and recommended me to the employer who gave me my first tech job.
  6. I had, and continue to have, time to learn, hack and experiment outside of work hours.

In spite of any of the other challenges I encountered as a child, youth and young adult, my life was a lot better than many others then and now. I had a lot going for me.


The same age as I am, I found the first computer we had in a museum

So what did my visit back home do?

My husband and I stayed in one of the nicest hotels in Portland, Maine. It was at the top of the highest hill in the city and had a beautiful view of the harbor and the Portland Art Museum.

My most vivid memory from that art museum was not visiting it, though I’m sure I did with a school trip, but when I was a teen and worked as catering staff for a wedding there. Looking out the hotel from our room I remembered the 16 hour day that left me dead on my feet and vowing never to do it again (though of course I did). I woke up early to help cart everything to the museum, helped to make sure the chefs and servers had everything they needed behind the scenes and washed the fancy champagne soup dishes, watching most the soup go down the drain. We rushed around the venue after the event concluded to clean and pack everything back into the van.

It brought back memories of other catering jobs I did too. At one of these jobs in my home town I served hors d’oeuvres to the extended family of people I went to school with. Being friendly and outgoing enough to offer food and carry around those trays while handing out the little napkins is a skill that I still have a lot of respect for.


The Portland Art Museum is in the center of my photo

It wasn’t just catering that I did as soon as I was old enough to work. As we drove through my home town in Cape Elizabeth my verbal tour to my husband included actual historical landmarks that make the town a tourist destination and “I babysat there!” and “I used to clean that house!” It turns out I worked a lot during high school and over those summer vacations.

All these hashtags and discussions really hit home. A formidable amount of my youth was spent as “the help” and I know what it’s like to be invisible to and disrespected by people I serve.

If nothing else, I’ll add my voice to those imploring my fellow techies to make an effort to be more compassionate to the support staff around them. After all, you know me, you can relate to me, and I spent time in their hard-working, worn out shoes.

Toys and Cats in Austin

It’s been a month since returning from my trip to Austin for the OpenStack Summit, but I’ve been overwhelmed with work and finishing my book, more on that in another post. Not much time for writing here in my blog! I had some side adventures in Austin that I’d hate to see go unmentioned.

The OpenStack Summits are pretty exhausting, so what better way to unwind than to snuggle up with some kitties? As we wrapped up our work on Friday afternoon I gathered a crew to join me at the Blue Cat Cafe, which was just under a mile from the conference venue. A bit after 5PM we made our way over there.

Along the way, we discovered the Austin Toy Museum. It was a small place, but it was a fun detour. I got my picture taken with R2-D2.

They had a relatively big Star Wars exhibit with a bunch of toys that my colleagues and I enjoyed pointing to and saying we had as kids. The museum definitely skewed toward toys from the 1980s, and the fellow who sold us our tickets waxed poetically about how the 1980s were the golden age of toys. Who am I to argue? I sure enjoyed my toys as a kid in the 1980s.


Hoth toys have always been a favorite of mine

The museum distinguishes itself by the video games, which you get to play as much as you want for the price of admission. They have a whole wall of consoles, plus several arcade games. I enjoyed getting smashed to pieces in Astroids and playing a bit of Pac-Man, both on arcade games. Plus, my 1980s flashback journey was completed by seeing a couple Popples hanging out on top of the Q*bert game.

From there we finally made our way over to the cat cafe! Cat cafes have been popping up in major cities, including one in San Francisco, but this was the first time I’d made it to one. Like many of them, their focus is on adoption and care for cats that don’t have homes. They’re also great for cat lovers who can’t have one at home, or are traveling for a conference and missing their own kitties!

The inside of this cafe was definitely the domain of kitties. An old drum set was transformed into kitty sleeping areas. An old furniture-style CRT TV had the mechanical components removed to make way for a nice cat bed. There were also plenty of places to climb!

There were also some unintentional cat toys. When someone left the bathroom door open we learned why you don’t leave the bathroom door open.

The cafe component of this establishment was served by a food truck in front of the building. You can order from inside with the kitties, but they take your order out to the food truck to be prepared and then you pick it up at a window inside, or they bring it to you. I enjoyed some hot cider while we petted the cats that wandered through where we were sitting on some couches.

Our adventure to the cat cafe was my perfect relaxing activity post-conference. Next time I’m in Austin I plan on checking out the Museum of the Weird and Austin Books & Comics, which I had planned on visiting but didn’t make it to.

A few more photos from the cat cafe here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157668283330182

Sharks and Giants

Six years ago sports weren’t on my radar. I’d been to a couple minor league baseball games (Sea Dogs in Portland when I was young, and the Reading Phillies a few years earlier) but it wasn’t until 2010 that I went to a major sporting event.

I’m not sure if it was the stunning AT&T Park or I was just at a point in my life where I could chill out and enjoy a game, but I fell in love that night in 2010 when we watched the Philadelphia Phillies play the San Francisco Giants. Since then I’ve attended a bunch more San Francisco Giants games, several Oakland A’s games, and MJ and I have branched out into hockey too by going to San Jose Sharks games. Back in December I went to my first football game. Baseball still holds my heart, and so does AT&T Park, but I do enjoy a good hockey game.

A couple weeks ago when we learned that the Sharks were going into the 7th game of second round finals we snapped up tickets. On May 12th we took Caltrain down to San Jose to see them play against Nashville.

It was the first time I’d ever been to a playoff game for any sport. Going to a sold out game with the energy that a playoff brings was quite the experience. It was a really enjoyable game for Sharks fans.

Nashville had lots of great passes, but the Sharks won 4-0, sealing their spot in the conference finals. Nice! This week will determine how far they continue to go, as I write this they’re in a 3-2 game lead in the conference finals.

More pictures from the evening and the game: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157666141427753

The only downside to the evening was the trek home. I’d love for Caltrain to be a good option both ways. Going down is pretty easy and quick on a bullet train during rush hour, but coming home is pretty rough. The game ended around 8:30, we were on the train platform by 9 to catch a 9:30 train. By the time we go home it was 11:30PM. Three hours from the end of the game to getting home was a bit much, especially since I was also recovering from a nasty cold that sapped my energy pretty severely.

I hadn’t planned on going to another game this month, but a friend and colleague who is staying in town for a few weeks contacted me to see if I’d be interested in catching a baseball game this week. Count me in. Last night MJ and I met up with my buddy Spencer and we caught a Giants game down at my beloved AT&T Park.

The weather was a bit gloomy, but we only had a bit of misting during the end of the game. The Giants were in their first game against the San Diego Padres, and the Padres put up a fight. The game was 0-0 until the bottom of the 9th. It was actually a little painful, but I had good company… who I dragged halfway across the stadium so we could get decent beer during the game. Happy to report that I enjoyed a Mango Wheat and Go West! IPA by Anchor Brewing Company along with my obligatory ball game hot dogs.

It was the bottom of the 9th inning, as we all were getting ready for extra innings, that the Giants scored a run. It sure made for an exciting final inning!

More photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157668743195896

No complaints about the commute home from AT&T Park. We live less than a mile from the stadium so just needed to use our feet to get home, along with dozens of other fans headed in the same direction.

My Yakkety Yak has arrived!

I like toys, but I’m an adult who lives in a small condo, so I need to behave myself when it comes to bringing new friends into our home. I made an agreement with myself to try and limit my stuffed toy purchases to two per year, one for each Ubuntu release.

Even so, I now have quite the collection.

These toys serve the purpose of brightening up our events with some fun, and enjoy the search for a new animal to match Mark Shuttleworth’s latest animal announcement. Truth be told, my tahr is a goat that I found that kind of looks like a tahr. The same goes for my xerus. My pangolin ended up having to be a plastic toy, though awareness about the animal (and conservation effords) has grown since 2012 so I’d likely be able to find one now. The quetzal was the trickiest, I had to admit defeat bought an ornament instead, but I did find and buy some quetzal earrings during our honeymoon in Mexico.

I’ve had fun as well and learned more about animals, which I love anyway. For the salamander I bought a $55 Hellbender Salamander Adoption Kit from the World Wildlife fund, an organization my husband and I now donate to annually. Learning about pangolins led me to visit one in San Diego and become a made me aware of the Save Pangolins organization.

It is now time for a Yakkety Yak! After some indecisiveness, I went with an adorable NICI yak, which I found on Amazon and shipped from Shijiazhuang, China. He arrived today.

Here he is!

…though I did also enjoy the first photo I took, where trusty photobombed us.

Newton OpenStack Summit Days 3-5

On Monday and Tuesday I was pretty focused on the conference side of the OpenStack Summit, but with all the keynotes behind us, when Wednesday rolled around I found myself much more focused on the Design Summit side.

Our first session of the day was on Community Task Tracking, which we jokingly called the “task tracking bake-off.” As background, couple years ago the OpenStack Infrastructure team placed our bets on an in-project developed task tracker called StoryBoard. The hope had been that the intention to move off of Launchpad and onto this new platform would bring support from companies looking to help with development. Unfortunately this didn’t pan out. Development landed on the shoulders of a single poor, overworked soul. At this point we started looking at the Maniphest component of Phabricator. Simultaneously we ended up with a contributor putting together configuration management for Maniphest and had a team pop up to continue support of StoryBoard for a downstream that had begun using it. A few weeks ago I organized a bug day where the team got together to do a serious once through of outstanding bugs and provide feedback to the StoryBoard team about what we need to use it, we went from 571 active bugs down to 414.

This set the stage for our session. We could stand up a Maniphest server or place our bets with StoryBoard again. We had a lot to consider.

  Pros Cons
Storyboard Strong influence over direction, already running and being used in our infra, good API We need to invest in development ourselves, little support for design/UI folks (though we could run a standalone Pholio)
Maniphest Investment is made by a large exiting development team, feature rich with pluggable components like Pholio for design folks Little influence over direction (like with Gerrit), still have to stand up and migrate to, weak API

Both had a few things lacking that we’d need before we go full steam into use by all of OpenStack, so there seemed to be consensus that they were similar in terms of work and time needed to get to that point. Of all the considerations, the need to develop our own vs. depending on upstream is the one that weighed most heavily upon me. Will companies really step up and help with development once we move everyone into production? What happens if our excellent current StoryBoard developers are reassigned to other projects? Having an active upstream certainly is a benefit. The session didn’t end with a formal selection, but we will be discussing it more over the next couple weeks so we can move toward making a recommendation to the Technical Committee (TC). Read-only session etherpad here.

The next session I attended was in the QA track, for the DevStack Roadmap. The session centered around finally making DevStack use Neutron by default. It’s been some time since nova-networking was deprecated, so this switch was a long time in coming. In addition to the technical components of this switch, there documentation needs to be updated around the networking decisions. Since I’ve just recently done some deep dives into OpenStack networking, somehow I ended up volunteering to help with this bit! Read-only session etherpad here.

Before the very busy lunch I had coming up, there was one more morning session, on Landing Page for Contributors. The current pages we have on the wiki, like the Main page on the wiki itself and the How To Contribute wiki aren’t the most welcoming of pages, they’re more walls of text that a new contributor has to sift through. This session talked through a lot of the tooling that could be used to make a more inviting, approachable page, drawing from other projects who have forged this path in the past. Of course it is also important that the content is reviewed and maintainable from the project perspective too, so something that can be held in revision control is key. Read-only session etherpad here.

As lunch rolled around I rushed upstairs to assist with the Git and Gerrit – Lunch and Learn. The event began by expecting and separating out about 1/3 of the folks in the room who hadn’t completed the prerequisites. It was the job of myself and the other helpers to start working with these folks to get their accounts set up and git-review installed. This wasn’t a trivial task, in spite of my intimate knowledge of how our system works and years of using it, almost all the attendees used Windows or Mac. I use Linux full time and we don’t maintain good (or any) documentation for in our development workflow for OpenStack development for these other operating systems.

A lot of folks did make it through configuration, and it was nice to be reminded about how our community is growing and that our tools need to do as well. A patch was submitted several months back to add a video of how to set things up on Windows, but that’s inconsistent with the rest of our documentation and has not been accepted. It would be great to see some folks using these other operating systems help us get the written documentation into better shape. Beyond the prerequisites, session leaders Amy Marrich and Tamara Johnston walked folks through setting up their environment, submitting a patch to the sandbox repo, submitting a test bug, reviewing a change and more. The slide deck they used has been uploaded to Amy’s AustinSummit GitHub project. I also took a few minutes to explain the Zuul Status page and a bit about each of the pipelines that a change may go through on the way to being merged.


Git and Gerrit – Lunch and Learn

Directly after lunch I was in another infrastructure session, this time to talk about Launch-Node, Ansible and Puppet. Launching new, long-lived servers in our infrastructure is one of those tasks that has remained frustratingly hands on. This manual work has been a time sink and a lot of it can be automated, so we as a team consider this situation a bug. Our Launch-Node script has been developed to start tackling this and the session went through some of the things we need to be careful of, including handling of DNS and duplicate hostnames (what if we’re spinning up a replacement server?), when do we unmount and disassociate cinder volumes and trove databases with the old server and bring them up on the new? Lots of great discussion around all of this was had. Fixes were already coming in by the end of this session and we have a good path moving forward. Read-only session etherpad here.

The next infrastructure session focused on Wiki upgrades. We’ve been struggling with spam problems for a several months. We need to do an upgrade to get some of the latest anti-spam tooling, which also requires upgrading the operating system in order to get a newer version of PHP. The people-power we have for this is limited, as we all have a lot of other projects on our plates. The session began with outlining what we need to do to get this done, and wound down with the proposal to shut down the wiki in a year. The OpenStack project has great, collaborative tooling for publishing documentation and things, we also use etherpads a lot for notes and to do lists, is there really still an active need for a wiki? Thierry Carrez sent an email today that started work on socializing our options, whether to carry on with the wiki or not. As the discussions continue on list, I hope to help in finding tooling for teams that need it and the current tools don’t satisfy. While we do that over the next year, Paul Belanger has bravely stepped forward to lead up the ongoing maintenance of the wiki until the possible retirement. Read-only session etherpad here.

Thursday morning kicked off bright and early with a session on Proposal jobs. As some quick background, proposal jobs are run on a privileged server in the OpenStack infrastructure that has the credentials to publish to a few places, like translations files up to Zanata. With this in mind, and as general good policy, we like to keep jobs we’re running here down to a minimum, using non-privileged servers as much as possible to complete tasks. The session walked through several of the existing jobs and news ones that were being proposed to sort through how they could be done differently, and make sure we’re all on the same page as a team when it comes to approving new jobs on these servers. Read-only session etherpad here.

It was then on to a session to “Robustify” Ansible-Puppet. Several months back we switched over to a system of triggering Puppet runs with Ansible instead of using the Puppetmaster software. This process quickly became complicated, so much so that even I struggled to trace the whole path of how everything works. Thankfully Monty Taylor and Spencer Krum started off the session by whiteboarding how everything works together, or doesn’t, as the case may be. It was a huge help to see it sketched out so that the pain points could be identified, one of those rare times when it was super valuable to be together in a room as a team rather than trying to explain things over IRC. We learned that inventory creation for Ansible is one of our pain points, but the complexity of the whole system has made fixing problems tricky, you pull one thread and something else gets undone! We also discussed the status of logging, and how we can better prepare for edge cases where things Really Go Wrong and we can’t access to the server to see the logs to find out what happened. There’s also some Puppetboard debugging to do, as folks rely on the data from that and it hasn’t been entirely accurate in reporting failures lately. In all, a great session, read-only session etherpad here.


Monty and Spencer explain our Ansible-Puppet setup

Next up for Infrastructure was a fishbowl session about OpenID/SSO for Community Systems. The OpenStack Foundation invested in the development of OpenStackID when few other options that fit our need were mature in this space. Today we have the option of using ipsilon, which has a bigger development community and is already in use by another major open source project (Fedora). The session outlined the benefits of consuming an upstream tool instead, including their development model, security considerations and general resources that have been spent to roll our own solution. The session also outlined exactly what our needs are to move all of our authentication away from Launchpad hosted by Canonical. I think it was a good session with some healthy discussion about where we are with our tooling, read-only session etherpad here.

I spent my time after lunch with the translations/internationalization (i18n) folks in a 90 minute work session on Translation Processes and Tools (read-only session etherpad here). My role in this session, along with Steve Kowalik and Andreas Jaeger was to represent the infrastructure team and the tooling we could provide to help the i18n team get their work done. Of particular focus were the translations check site that we need to work toward bringing online and our plan to upgrade Zanata, and the underlying operating system it’s running on. We also discussed some of the other requirements of the team, like automated polling of Active Technical Contributor (ATC) status for translators and improved statistics on Stackalytics for translations. Andreas was also able to take time to show off the new translations procedure for reno-driven release notes, which allows for translations throughout the cycle as they’re committed to the repositories rather than a mad rush to complete them at the end. It was also nice to catch up with Alex Eng from the Zanata team and former i18n PTL Daisy (Ying Chun Guo) who I had such a great time with in Tokyo, I wish I’d had more time to grab a meal with them.

In our final Infrastructure-focused session of the day, we met to discuss operating system upgrades. With the release of the latest Ubuntu LTS (16.04) the week prior to the summit, we find ourselves in a world of three Ubuntu LTS releases in the mix. We decided to first carve out some time to get all of our 12.04 systems upgraded to 14.04. From there we’ll work to get our Puppet modules updated and services prepared for running on 16.04. Of particular interest to me is getting the Zanata server on 16.04 soon so we can upgrade the version of Zanata that it’s running and requires a newer version of Java than 14.04 provides. We also spent a little time splitting out the easier servers to upgrade from the more difficult ones, especially since some systems have very little data and don’t actually need an in place upgrade, we can simply redeploy workers. We will do a more thorough evaluation when we’re closer to upgrade time, which we’re scheduling for some time this month. Read-only session etherpad here.

Thursday evening meant it was time for our Infrastructure Team dinner! Over 20 self-proclaimed infrastructure team members piled into cars to make it across town to Freedmans to enjoy piles of BBQ. I had to pass on all things bready (including beer) but later in the evening we made our way inside to the bar where we found agave tequila that was not forbidden for me. The rest was history. Lots of fun and great chats with everyone, including a bunch of non-infra people who had been clued into our late night shenanigans and decided to join us.


Infra evening gathering, photo by Monty Taylor

Friday was our day for team work session gatherings. Infrastructure ended up in room 404 (which, in fact, was difficult to find). Jeremy Stanley (fungi) kicked the day off by outlining topics for Infra and QA that we may find valuable to work on together while we were in the room. I worked on a few things with folks for about an hour before switching tracks to join my translations friends again over in their work session.

Steve, Andreas and I made our way over to the i18n session to chat with them about the ability to translate more things (like DevStack documentation) and to give them an update from our upgrades session for an idea of when they could expect the Zanata upgrade. Perhaps the most exciting part of the morning was their request for us to finally shut down the OpenStack Transifex project. We switched to Zanata when Transifex went closed source, but our hosted account has lingered around for a year since we’ve used it “just in case” we needed something from it. With two OpenStack cycles on Zanata behind us, it was time to shut it down. We were all delighted when we saw the email: [Transifex] The organization OpenStack has been deleted by the user jaegerandi.


Cheerful crowd of i18n contributors!

After one more lunch at Cooper’s BBQ, I made it back to the Infrastructure room for more afternoon work, but I could feel the cloud of exhaustion hitting me by then. Most of what I managed was informally chatting with my fellow contributors and sketching out work to be done rather than actually getting much done. There’d be plenty of time for that once I returned home!

I concluded my time in Austin with a few colleagues with a visit to the Austin Toy Museum, some leisurely time at the Blue Cat Cafe (my first cat cafe!) and a quiet sushi dinner. With that, another great OpenStack Summit was behind me. My flight home left at 6AM Saturday morning.

Edit: Infrastructure PTL Jeremy Stanley has also written summaries of sessions here: Newton Summit Infra Sessions Recap

Newton OpenStack Summit Days 1-2

This past week I attended my sixth OpenStack Summit. This one took us to Austin, Texas. I was last in Austin in 2014 when I quickly stopped by to give a talk at the Texas LinuxFest, but I wasn’t able to stay long during that trip. This trip gave me a chance (well, several) to finally have some local BBQ!

I arrived Sunday afternoon and took the opportunity to meet up with Chris Aedo and Paul Belanger, who I’d be on the stage with on Monday morning. We were able to do our first meetup together and do a final once through of our slides to make sure they had all the updates we wanted and we were clear on where the transitions were. Gathering at the convention center also allowed to pick up our badges before the mad rush that would come the opening of the conference itself on Monday morning.

With Austin being the Live Music Capital of the World, we were greeted in the morning by live music from the band Soul Track Mind. I really enjoyed the vibe it brought to the morning, and we had a show to watch as we settled in and waited for the keynotes.

Jonathan Bryce and Lauren Sell of the OpenStack Foundation opened the conference and gave us a tour of numbers. The first OpenStack summit was held in Austin just under six years ago with 75 people and they were proud to announce that this summit had over 7,500. It’s been quite the ride that I’m proud to have been part of since the beginning of 2013. In Jonathan’s keynote we were able to get a glimpse into the real users of OpenStack, with highlights including the fact that 65% of respondents to the recent OpenStack User Survey are using OpenStack in production and that half of the Fortune 100 companies are using OpenStack in some capacity. It was also interesting to learn how important the standard APIs for interacting with clouds was for companies, a fact that I always hoped would shine through as this open source cloud was being adopted. The video from his keynote is here: Embracing Datacenter Diversity.

As the keynotes continued the ones that really stood out for me were by AT&T (video: AT&T’s Cloud Journey with OpenStack) and Volkswagen Group (Driving the Future of IT Infrastructure at Volkswagen Group.

The AT&T keynote was interesting from a technical perspective. It’s clear that the rise of mobile devices and the internet of things has put pressure on telecoms to grow much more quickly than they have in the past to handle this new mobile infrastructure. Their keynote shared that they expected this to grow an additional ten times by 2020. To meet this need, the networking aspects of technologies like OpenStack are important to their strategy as they move away from “black box” hardware from networking vendors and to more software-driven infrastructure that could grow more quickly to fit their needs. We learned that they’re currently using 10 OpenStack projects in their infrastructure, with plans to add 3 more in the near future, and learned about their in house AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC) tooling for managing OpenStack. When the morning concluded, all their work was rewarded with a Super User award, they wrote about here.

The Volkswagen Group keynote was a lot of fun. As the world of electric and automated cars quickly approaches they have recognized the need to innovate more quickly and use technology to get there. They still seem to be in the early days of OpenStack deployments, but have committed a portion of one of their new data centers to just OpenStack. Ultimately they see a hybrid cloud future, leveraging both public and private hosting.

The keynote sessions concluded with the announcement of the 2017 OpenStack Summit locations: Boston and Sydney!

Directly after the keynote I had to meet Paul and Chris for our talk on OpenStack Infrastructure for Beginners (video, slides). We had a packed room. I lead off the presentation by covering an overview of our work and by giving a high level tour of the OpenStack project infrastructure. Chris picked up by speaking to how things worked from a developer perspective, tying that back into how and why we set things up the way we did. Paul rounded out the presentation by diving into more of the specifics around Zuul and Jenkins, including how our testing jobs are defined and run. I think the talk went well, we certainly had a lot of fun as we went into lunch chatting with folks about specific components that they were looking either to get involved with or replicate in their own continuous integration systems.


Chris Aedo presenting, photo by Donnie Ham (source)

After a delicious lunch at Cooper’s BBQ, I went over to a talk on “OpenStack Stable: What It Actually Means to Maintain Stable Branches” by Matt Riedemann, Matthew Treinish and Ihar Hrachyshka in the Upstream Development track of the conference. This was a new track for this summit, and it was great to see how well-attended the sessions ended up being. The goal of this talk was to inform members of the community what exactly is involved in management of stable releases, which has a lot more moving pieces than most people tend to expect. Video from the session up here. It was then over to “From Upstream Documentation To Downstream Product Knowledge Base” by Stefano Maffulli and Caleb Boylan of DreamHost. They’ve been taking OpenStack documentation and adjusting it for easier and more targeted for consumption by their customers. They talked about their toolchain that gets it from raw source from the OpenStack upstream into the proprietary knowledge base at DreamHost. It’ll be interesting to see how this scales long term through releases and documentations changes, video here.

My day concluded by participating in a series of Lightning Talks. My talk was first, during which I spent 5 minutes giving a tour of status.openstack.org. I was inspired to give this talk after realizing that even though the links are right there, most people are completely unaware of what things like Reviewday (“Reviews” link) are. It also gave me the opportunity to take a closer, current look at OpenStack Health prior to my presentation, I had intended to go to “OpenStack-Health Dashboard and Dealing with Data from the Gate” (video) but it conflicted with the talk we were giving in the morning. The lightning talks continued with talks by Paul Belanger on Grafyaml, James E. Blair on Gertty and Andreas Jaeger on the steps for adding a project to OpenStack. The lightning talks from there drifted away from Infrastructure and into more general upstream development. Video of all the lightning talks here.

Day two of the summit began with live music again! It was nice to see that it wasn’t a single day event. This time Mark Collier of the OpenStack Foundation kicked things off by talking about the explosion of growth in infrastructure needed to support the growing Internet of Things. Of particular interest was learning about how operators are particularly seeking seamless integration of virtual machines, containers and bare metal, and how OpenStack meets that need today as a sort of integration engine, video here.

The highlights of the morning for me included a presentation from tcp cloud in the Czech Republic. They’re developing a Smart City in the small Czech city of Písek. He did an overview of the devices they were using and presented a diagram demonstrating how all the data they collect from around the city gets piped into an OpenStack cloud that they run. He concluded his presentation by revealing that they’d turned the summit itself into a mini city by placing devices around the venue to track temperature and CO2 levels throughout the rooms, very cool. Video of the presentation here.


tcp cloud presentation

I also enjoyed seeing Dean Troyer on stage to talk about improving user experience (UX) with OpenStackClient (OSC). As someone who has put a lot of work into converting documented commands in my book in an effort to use OSC rather than the individual project clients I certainly appreciate his dedication to this project. The video from the talk is here. It was also great to hear from OVH, an ISP and cloud hosting provider who currently donates OpenStack instances to our infrastructure team for running CI testing.

Tuesday also marked the beginning of the Design Summit. This is when I split off from the user conference and then spend the rest of my time in development space. This time the Design Summit was held across the street from the convention center in the Hilton where I was staying. This area of the summit takes us away from presentation-style sessions and into discussions and work sessions. This first day focused on cross-project sessions.

This was the lightest day of the week for me, having a much stronger commitment to the infrastructure sessions happening later in the week. Still, went to several sessions, starting off with a session led by Doug Hellmann to talk about how to improve the situation around global requirements. The session actually seemed to be an attempt to define the issues around requirements and get more contributors to help with requirements project review and to chat about improvements to tests. We’d really like to see requirements changes have a lower chance of breaking things, so trying to find folks to sign up to do this test writing work is really important.

I had lunch with my book writing co-conspirator Matt Fischer to chat about some of the final touches we’re working on before it’s all turned in. Ended up with a meaty lunch again at Moonshine Grill just across the street from the convention center, after which I went into a “Stable Branch End of Life Policy” session led by Thierry Carrez and Matt Riedemann. The stable situation is a tough one. Many operators want stable releases with longer lifespans, but the commitment from companies to put engineers on it is extremely limited. This session explored the resources required to continue supporting releases for longer (infra, QA, etc) and there were musings around extending the support period for projects meeting certain requirements for up to 24 months (from 18). Ultimately by the end of the summit it does seem that 18 months continues to be the release lifespan of them all.

I then went over to the Textile building across from the conference center where my employer, HPE, had set up their headquarters. I had a great on-camera chat with Stephen Spector about how open source has evolved from hobbyist to corporate since I became involved in 2001. I then followed some of the marketing folks outside to shoot some snippits for video later.

The day of sessions continued with a “Brainstorm format for design summit split event” session that talked a lot about dates. As a starting point, Thierry Carrez wrote a couple blog posts about the proposal to split the design summit from the user summit:

With these insightful blog posts in mind, the discussion moved forward on the assumption that the events would be split and how to handle that timing-wise. When in the cycle would each event happen for maximum benefit for our entire community? In the first blog post he had a graphic that had a proposed timeline, which the discussions mostly stuck to, but dove deeper into discussing what is going on during each release cycle week and what the best time would be for developers to gather together to start planning the next release. While there was good discussion on the topic, it was clear that there continues to be apprehension around travel for some contributors. There are fears that they would struggle to attend multiple events funding-wise, especially when questions arose around whether mid-cycle events would still be needed. Change is tough, but I’m on board with the plan to split out these events. Even as I write this blog post, I notice the themes and feel for the different parts of our current summit are very different.

My session day concluded with a session about cross-projects specifications for work lead by Shamail Tahir and Carol Barrett from the Product Working Group. I didn’t know much about OpenStack user stories, so this session was informative for seeing how those should be used in specs. In general, planning work in a collaborative way, especially across different projects that have diverse communities is tricky. Having some standards in place for these specs so teams are on the same page and have the same expectations for format seems like a good idea.

Tuesday evening meant it was time for the StackCity Community Party. Instead of individual companies throwing big, expensive parties, a street was rented out and companies were able to sponsor the bars and eateries in order to throw their branded events in them. Given my dietary restrictions this week, I wasn’t able to partake in much of the food being offered, so I only spent about an hour there before joining a similarly restricted diet friend over at Iron Works BBQ. But not before I picked up a dinosaur with a succulent in it from Canonical.

I called it an early night after dinner, and I’m glad I did. Wednesday through Friday were some busy days! But those days are for another post.

More photos from the summit here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157667572682751

FOSSASIA 2016

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of flying to Singapore to participate in FOSSASIA 2016, which is billed as Asia’s Premier Open Technology Event. I was able to spend a little time prior to the event doing some touristing but Friday morning came quickly and I met up with a colleague to make our way to the conference. We took the Singapore MRT (Mass Rapid Transit, rails!) from the station near our hotel to the Science Centre Singapore where the conference was being held. I was really pleased with how fast, frequent, clean and easy to navigate the MRT is during rush hour. Though the trains did tend to fill up, we had very easy rides to and from the venue each day.

This was my second open source conference in a science museum, and I really like the association. As conference attendees we were free to visit the museum (photos here). It was quite an honor to be welcomed to the center by Lim Tit Meng, the museum’s Chief Executive, during the keynotes on Friday morning. That morning I also had the pleasure of meeting FOSSASIA founder Hong Phuc, who I had been exchanging emails with leading up to the event, it was very clear that she’s continued to be very hands on with the organization of the conference since its founding.

The theme of the conference this year centered around the Internet of Things, so the Friday morning keynotes drew from a diverse group of people and organizations. I was particularly impressed that they didn’t just call upon open source developers to give presentations. Keynotes came from folks working on hardware, design and fascinating programs that used IoT devices.

Highlights of the morning included a talk by Bunnie Huang who made electronic, lighted badges for Burning Man that changed their light patterns based on how they “mated” with other badges to change their blinkome (think genome). Talks continued with a really fun one from Bernard Leong of the Singapore Post who explained how they’ve been experimenting with drones for small package delivery, particularly to remote areas, using Pulau Ubin as an example in the demonstration run.

I was then really delighted to hear about UNESCO’s YouthMobile program from Davide Storti and ITO Misako. YouthMobile is encouraging children to shift from being mere users of mobile devices to actually developing applications for them. I find this project to be particularly important as I know I wouldn’t be the technologist I am today without being able to fiddle with my early computers. We need to grow that next generation of tinkerers, but increasingly kids tend to only have access to mobile rather than the big old desktops that I grew up on. I believe projects aimed at inspiring the tinkerer in children on these new devices will grow in importance as we move into the future It was also nice to hear that the project hasn’t just been creating all their own curriculum to accomplish their goals, they’ve been partnering with existing initiatives and programs. Kudos to them for doing it right.


Davide Storti and ITO Misako on YouthMobile

Cat Allman continued keynotes as she talked about the work Google has started to do in the Maker and Science space. Their work includes Google Summer of Code accepting more science-focused programs, support of Maker events and “road trips” with students to science museums. The final keynote came from Jan Nikolai Nelles who spoke on the The Other Nefertiti, where a team visited a German museum and created a not-strictly-authorized 3D rendering of a famous Nefertiti bust. It was a valuable thing unto itself, and interesting for raising awareness about how museums share data about artifacts, or don’t, as the case may be.

The conference continued as I went to a talk titled “Why are we (Still) wasting food? How technology can help” which sounds interesting, but the presenter didn’t seem to understand his audience or what the conference was about. The talk was pretty much a sales talk about the success of their product in saving food in restaurant and other industry kitchens. A noble effort, and it was fun to brainstorm how some of the components he talked about could be used in other open source projects. I visited their website during the talk and was perplexed to be unable to find a link to their source code. During the Q&A I specifically asked whether the software was actually open source. The presenter struggled to answer my question, he claimed that it was, but that he is not a developer so he wasn’t sure which parts or where I could find it. He gave me his business card so I could send him an email about it after the conference. My email follow-up received this response:

“We are not using any open source code. Everything is developed in house.”

How disappointing! I’m not sure how their talk ended up at a Free and Open Source Software conference, though their selection of a non-technical presenter who couldn’t answer a simple question that strikes at the core of what the conference is about does hint at their obliviousness. I certainly didn’t appreciate being tricked into attending a sales talk about a suite of proprietary software. Thankfully, the conference improved after this.

I attended a talk by U-Zyn Chua about how he reverse engineered an API in a taxi app for his Singapore Taxi data project. His talk was fascinating for two reasons. First he walked us through the work that had to be done to use an undocumented API. Second, the data about taxis that he collected was fascinating, high traffic areas, times of days when taxis were busy. Plus, between this talk and the Singapore Post talk I learned a lot about the geography and population centers of Singapore.

Official Group Photograph - FOSSASIA 2016
Official Group Photograph – FOSSASIA 2016 by Michael Cannon

The conference continued the next day and I made sure I made time to attend Sayan Chowdhury’s “Dive deep into Fedora Infra” talk. Fedora was an early project on my open source infra list and it’s always exciting to chat with their engineers and swap running infra in the open stories. Sayan’s talk gave an overview of several of the key services that they’ve developed and deployed, including projects like Fedora Infrastructure Message Bus (fedmsg) which was also deployed by the open source infra team for the Debian project. Unfortunately I had to quickly depart from that talk in order to make it over to my own just after.

I gave a talk on “Code Review for DevOps” which I had a lot of fun modifying for the 20 minute slot and for a devops rather than systems administration audience. I put a firmer emphasis on the development of tooling in our team and was able to tighten up the presentation a lot to deliver a whirlwind tour of how we do almost everything through a code review system and with testing. Slides from the presentation are here (PDF).


Photo of my presentation by Dong (Vincent) Ma source)

I mentioned that my talk was 20 minutes long, and that makes this a good time to pause and reflect on that format. Almost all the talks at this conference were 20 minute slots, which is about half the length I’m accustom to. I really like this length. If a talk is not interesting, at least it’s short. If it is interesting, 20 minutes does actually give enough time for a good presentation. The schedule also allowed for 10 minutes between sessions so that people could get to their next room. In reality, all this timing this could have used a bit more policing. Q&As and even talks themselves by speakers used to longer slots frequently overflowed beyond their 20 minute window and frequently made it difficult to complete seeing one talk and getting out to the next. For a volunteer-run event, they did do a good job overall of sticking to at least the schedule of when talks started in each room, so if I planned accordingly I rarely missed the beginning of a talk in an alternate track because the schedule had drifted.

Saturday afternoon I spent some time going to lightning talks, including one about “Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) for Open Source and Free Software Development” by my colleague Dong Ma. With only 5 minutes, he was quickly able to contrast some of the features of the FOSSology open source CI/CD workflow with that of the model the OpenStack community has developed.


Dong Ma on open source CI/CD

I was then off to Sundeep Anand’s presentation, “Using Python Client to talk with Zanata Server.” Last autumn we launched translate.openstack.org running on Zanata and have been using the Java client along with a series of scripts to handle manipulation of the translations in the OpenStack project. It was interesting to learn about his strides with the Python client, which is making its way up to feature parity with the Java one. Since OpenStack itself is written in Python, switching to this Python client may make sense for us at some point, as it would make it easier for developers on our project to contribute to it. During his talk he also gave a demonstration of Zanata itself as he walked through the use of the client.

These talks were all very practical for me and applicable to my work, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t go off and have fun too. Later that afternoon I attended a talk on “A trip to Pluto with OpenSpace” where the team developing OpenSpace took public images of the Pluto flyby and gave us a demonstration of how their software worked to provide such a fascinating, animated demonstration. I also got to learn about the New Palmyra project where people are getting together to create 3D models of famous monuments in Syria that have been or are at risk of being destroyed by ongoing military conflict in the region. I also enjoyed learning about the passion that everyone on that team is bringing to the project, and I have a lot of respect for and interest in their goals of preserving history.

On Sunday the first talk I attended was by François Cartegnie on the newest features of the popular, cross-platform VLC software project. As a user of multiple platforms (Linux and Android) it was nice to hear that with the 3.0 release they’re aiming to standardize on that release number, as the differing version numbers across platforms have been confusing. He also spent a great deal of time explaining the challenges they continually overcome to be the best player on the market, including not just by supporting encoding standards, but by also supporting when those encoding standards are poorly or improperly implemented. This can’t be an easy task. I was also interested to learn that the uPnP support has also been revamped and should be working better these days.

My colleague and tourism buddy for the week Matthew Treinish spoke next, on “QA in the Open.” Drawing from his experience as the QA project lead for OpenStack for several cycles, he talked about the plugin-driven model that OpenStack QA has adopted. This model has helped individual projects take ownership of their testing requirements and has helped scale the very small core QA team, which now spans over a thousand repositories and dozens of projects that make up OpenStack.


Matthew Treinish on QA in the Open

Sunday afternoon had a talk that was one of the conference highlights for me: “Reproducible Builds – fulfilling the original promise of free software” by Chris Lamb. I had an interest in the topic before joining the session, but it was one of those talks where I was really pulled in and became even more interested in the topic. The idea on the surface seems pretty simple, you want to be able to exactly replicate builds over time and space. But there are a number of challenges to this when it comes to actually doing it, which he outlined:

  • Timestamps
  • Timezones and locales
  • Different versions of libraries
  • Non-deterministic file ordering
  • Users, groups, umask, environment variables
  • Random behavior (eg. hash ordering)
  • Build paths

Chris Lamb on Reproducible Builds

As soon as he enumerated these things it was obvious that they all would be problems, and still surprising that it would be so difficult. From this talk I learned about the reproducible-builds.org project which seeks to document and discuss these issues and find solutions for all of them. Additionally, Chris himself is a participant in Debian and he was able to share statistics about how most Debian packages are now being created in a way that adheres to the reproducible model. Very cool stuff, I hope to learn more about it.

My afternoon continued by attending a talk about btrfs by Anand Jain. His focus was basics and then on to upcoming features in development. The talk may have convinced me to start using it in a basic way on one of my systems soon, as the support for the core components is actually quite stable these days. I then went to an Asciidoc talk, where presenter George Goh compiled his presentation from Asciidoc just before he began presenting, nicely done! He stressed the importance of documentation and making it easy to keep updated, with automated updates of references to things like figures that live inline in the text. He also explored the use of template systems in Asciidoc to easily export portions of your document to different projects and organizations while preserving the appropriate branding for each.

In what seemed much too soon, the conference conclusion came on Sunday evening. There were thanks and words from several of the organizers. Words from the audience and various attendees were also spoke, my favorite of which came from young (middle school by my US-rendering) students visiting from Saudi Arabia. Several had feared that the conference would be boring and too technical for the level they were at, but they expressed excitement about how much fun they had and how many presenters had succeeded in presenting topics that they could understand. It was thrilling to hear this from these students, I want the future architects of our future to start young, be exposed to free and open source software and to be excited by the possibilities.

More of my photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157666299641355

Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers for putting this conference together. I had a wonderful time and hope to participate again in the future!

Color an Ubuntu Xenial Xerus

Last cycle I reached out to artist and creator of Full Circle Magazine Ronnie Tucker to see if he’d create a coloring page of a werewolf for some upcoming events. He came through and we had a lot of fun with it (blog post here).

With the LTS release coming up, I reached out to him again.

He quickly turned my request around, and now we have a xerus to color!

Xerus coloring page
Click the image or here to download the full size version for printing.

Huge thanks to Ronnie for coming through with this, it’s shared with a CC-SA license, so I encourage people to print and share them at their release events and beyond!

While we’re on the topic of the our African ground squirrel friend, thanks to Tom Macfarlane of the Canonical Design Team I was able to update the Animal SVGs section of the Official Artwork page on the Ubuntu wiki. For those of you who haven’t seen the mascot image, it’s a real treat.

Xerus official mascot

It’s a great accompaniment to your release party. Download the SVG version for printing from the wiki page or directly here.