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My Vivid Vervet has crazy hair

Keeping with my Ubuntu toy tradition, I placed an order for a vervet stuffed toy, available in the US via: Miguel the Vervet Monkey.

He arrived today!

He’ll be coming along to his first Ubuntu event on December 10th, a San Francisco Ubuntu Hour.

Vacation in Jamaica

This year I’ve traveled more than ever, but almost all of my trips have been for work. This past week, MJ and I finally snuck off for a romantic vacation together in Jamaica, where neither of us had been before.

Unfortunately we showed up a day late after I forgot my passport at home. I had removed it from my bag earlier in the day to get a copy of it for a VISA application and left it on the scanner. I realized it an hour before our flight, and the check in was 45 minutes prior to, not enough time for me to get home and back to the airport before the cutoff (but I did try!). I felt horrible. Fortunately the day home together before the trip did give us a little bit of breathing room between mad dash from work to airport.

Friday evening we got a flight! We sprung for First Class on our flights and thankfully all travel was uneventful. We got to Couples Negril around 3PM the following day after 2 flights, a 6 hour layover and a 90 minute van ride from Montego Bay to Negril.

It was beautiful. The rooms had recently been renovated and looked great. It was also nice that the room air conditioning was very good, so on those days when the humidity got to be a bit much I had a wonderful refuge. The resort was all-inclusive and we had confirmed ahead of time that the food was good, so there were no disappointments there. They had some low-key activities and little events and entertainment at lunch and later into the evening (including some ice carving and a great show by Dance Xpressionz). As a self-proclaimed not cool person I found it all to be the perfect atmosphere to relax and feel comfortable going to some of the events.

The view from our room (2nd floor Beachfront suite) was great too:

I had planned on going into deep Ian Fleming mode and getting a lot of writing done on my book, but I only ended up spending about 4 hours on it throughout the week. Upon arrival I realized how much I really needed the time off and took full advantage of it, which was totally the right decision. By Tuesday I was clear-headed and finally excited again about some of my work plans for the upcoming weeks, rather than feeling tired and overwhelmed by them.

Also, there were bottomless Strawberry Daiquiris.

Alas, it had to come to an end. We packed our things and were on our way on Thursday. Prior to the trip, MJ had looked into AirLink in order to take a 12 minute flight from Negril to Montego Bay rather than the 90 minute van ride. At $250 for the pair of us, I was happy to give it a go for the opportunity to ride in a Cessna and take some nice aerial shots. After getting our photo with the pilot, at 11AM the pair of us got into the Cessna with the pilot and co-pilot.

The views were everything I expected, and I was happy to get some nice pictures.

Jamaica is definitely now on my list for going back to. I really enjoyed our time there and it seemed to be a good season for it.

More photos from the week here (admittedly, mostly of the Cessna flight): https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157649408324165/

Holiday cards 2014!

Every year I send out a big batch of wintertime holiday cards to friends and acquaintances online.

Reading this? That means you! Even if you’re outside the United States!

Just drop me an email at lyz@princessleia.com with your postal address, please put “Holiday Card” in the subject so I can filter it appropriately. Please do this even if I’ve sent you a card in the past, I won’t be reusing the list from last year.

Typical disclaimer: My husband is Jewish and I’m not religious, the cards will say “Happy Holidays”

Wedding in Philadelphia

This past weekend MJ and I met in Philadelphia to attend his step-sister’s wedding on Sunday. My flight came in from Paris on Saturday, and unfortunately MJ was battling a cold so we had a pretty low key evening.

Sunday morning we were up ready to dress and pick up a truck to drive his sister to the church. The wedding itself didn’t begin until 2PM, but since we were coordinating transportation for the wedding party, we had to meet everyone pretty early to make sure everyone got into their respective bus/car to make it to St. Stephen’s Orthodox Cathedral on time.

I’d never been to an eastern Orthodox wedding, so it was an interesting ceremony to watch. It took about an hour, and we were all standing for the entire ceremony. There was a ring exchange in the back of the chapel, and then the bride and groom come up the center aisle together for the rest of their ceremony. I chose to keep my camera stashed away during the ceremony, but as soon as the priest had finished and was making some closing comments about the newlyweds I got one in real quick.

The weather in November can go either way in Philadelphia, but they got lucky with bright, clear skies and the quite comfortable temperature in the 60s.

The reception began at 4PM with a cocktail hour.

And we did manage to get a few minutes in with the beautiful bride, Irina :)

Big congratulations to Irina and Sam!

More photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157648832387979/

The trip was a short one, with us packing up on Monday to fly home that evening. I did manage to get in a quick lunch with my friend Crissi who made it down to the city for the occasion, so it was great to catch up with her. Our flights home were uneventful and I finally got to sleep in my own bed after 3 weeks on the road!

Tomorrow night we fly off to Jamaica for a proper vacation together, I’m very much looking forward to it.

Party in France

On Saturday November 1st I landed in Paris on a redeye flight from Miami. I didn’t manage to sleep much at all on the flight, but thankfully I was able to check into my hotel room around 8:30AM to drop off my bags and freshen up before going on a day of jetlag-battling tourism.

It was the right decision. Of all the days I spent in Paris, that Saturday was the most beautiful weather-wise. The sky was clear and blue, the temperature quite comfortable to be wandering around the city in a t-shirt. Since Saturday was one of my only 2 days to play the tourist in Paris, mixed in with some meetings with colleagues, I took the advice of my cousin Melissa and bought a ticket on one of the red hop-on, hop-off circuit buses that stopped at the various landmarks throughout the city.

The hotel I was staying not far from the Arc de Triomphe so I was able to have a look at that and pick up a bus at that stop. I rode the bus until it reached the Eiffel Tower.

The line to take a lift up to the top of the tower was quite long and I wasn’t keen on waiting while battling jet lag, so I took a nice long walk around the tower and the grounds, snapping pictures along the way. I also found myself hungry so I picked up a surprisingly delicious chicken sandwich at a booth under the tower and enjoyed it there.

I hopped on the bus again and drove through the grounds of the Louvre museum, which was an astonishingly large complex. Due to the crowds and other things on my list for the day, I skipped actually going to the Louvre and contented myself with simply seeing the glass pyramid and making a mental note to return the next time I’m in Paris.

Soon after my phone lit up with a notification from my friend and OpenStack colleague Chris Hoge saying that he was at Notre Dame and folks were welcome to join him. It was the next stop I was planning on making, so I made plans to meet up.

I adore old cathedrals, and Notre Dame is a special one for me. As funny as it sounds, Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of my favorite movies. Being released in 1996, I must have just been finishing up my freshman year in high school where one of my history classes had started diving into world religions. I was also growing my skeptic brain. I had also developed a habit at that time of seeing all Disney full-length animated features in theaters the day they were released because I was such a hopeless fan. The confluence of all these things made the movie hit me at the right time. It was a surprising tale of serious issues around compassion, religion and ethics for an animated film, I was totally into it. Plus, they didn’t disappoint with the venue for the film, I fell in love with Notre Dame that summer and started developing a passion for cathedrals and stained glass, particularly rose windows.

I met up with Chris and we took the bell tower tour, which all told took us up 387 steps to the roof of the 226 foot cathedral. We stopped halfway up to walk between the towers and hear the bells ring, which is where I took this video (YouTube). If you’re still with me with the Disney film, it’s where the final battle between Frollo and Quasimodo takes place ;)

387 steps is a lot, and I have to admit getting a bit winded as we climbed the narrow spiral staircases, but it was totally worth it. I really enjoyed being so close to all the gargoyles and the view from the top of the cathedral was beautiful, not to mention a fantastic way to see the architecture of the cathedral from above.

After the tour, I was was able to go inside the cathedral to take a good luck at all those stunning stained glass windows!

After Notre Dame, I did a little shopping and made my way back to the bus and eventually the hotel for a meeting and dinner with my colleagues.

Sunday morning I managed to sleep in a bit and made my way out of the hotel shortly before 10AM so I could make it over to the Catacombs of Paris. The line for the catacombs is very long, the website warning that you could wait 3-4 hours. I had hoped that getting there early would mitigate some of that wait, but it did end up taking 3 hours! I brought along my Nook so at least I got some reading done, but it probably was the longest I’ve ever waited in line.

I’d say that it was worth it though. I’d never been inside catacombs before, so it was a pretty exceptional experience. After walking through a fair number of tunnels going down and then you finally get to where they keep all the bones. So. Many. Bones. As you walk through the catacombs the walls are made of stacked bones, seeing skulls and leg bones piled up to make the walls, with all kinds of other bones stacked on the tops of the piles.

I also decided to bring along a bit of modernity into the catacombs with a selfie. I’ll leave it to the reader to judge whether or not I have respect for the dead.

By the time I left the catacombs it was after 2PM and I made my way over to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to do some shopping. Most worthy of note was my stop at Louis Vuitton flagship store where I bought a lovely wallet.

And with that, my tourism wound down. Sunday night I began getting into the swing of things with the OpenStack Summit as we had a team dinner (for certain values of “team” – we’re so many now that any meal now is just a subset of us). I am looking forward to going again some day on a proper vacation with MJ, there are so many more things to see!

A couple hundred more photos from my travels around Paris here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157648830423229/

Final day of the OpenStack Kilo Summit

Today was the last day of the OpenStack Design Summit. It wrapped up with a change of pace this time around, each project had their own contributor meetup which was used to continue hashing out ideas and getting some work done. I think this was a really brilliant move. I was pretty tired by the time Friday rolled around (one of the reasons the later Ubuntu Developer Summits were shrunk to 4 days), so I’m not sure how useful I would have been in more discussion-driven sessions. The contributor meetup allowed us to chat about things we didn’t have time to run sessions on, or do in-person follow-ups to sessions we did have. We also had nice in-person time to collaborate on some things so that some of our projects got to a semi-working state before we all go home and take a vacation (my vacation starts next Thursday).

I spent my day meeting up with with people to talk about our new translations tools and did the first couple drafts of the infrastructure specification to get that project started. Given the timeline, I anticipate that my real work on that won’t really begin until after I return from Jamaica on November 21st, but that seemed to sync up with the timeline of others on the team who are either taking some time off post-summit or have some dependencies blocking their action items.

There was also time spent on talking about the Infrastructure User Manual as a follow up to the session earlier in the week. We decided to host a 48 hour virtual sprint on the first couple days of December in order to collaborate on fleshing out the rest of the document (announcement here). As we all know, I love documentation, so I’m glad to see this coming together. I was also able to have a chat with a contributor later in the day who is also looking forward to seeing it finished so he can build upon it as the foundation for more project-specific developer documentation.

Also, the topic of third party testing came up during one of my chats and was overheard by someone nearby – which is how we learned there were at least three teams talking about creating a more automatic mechanism for determining the health of the third party testing systems. That’s approximately two teams too many. Kurt Taylor was able to get us all on an email thread together so I’m happy to say that a specification for that project should be coming together too.

Late in the afternoon James E. Blair did a demo for developers of gertty. I wrote about the tool back in September (here) and I’m a big fan of CLI-based code review, so it was fun to see others excited and asking questions about it.

As things wound down, I realized that this was probably the best OpenStack summit I’ve attended. The occasional snafu aside (like the over-crowded lunch on Thursday – I ate elsewhere), for a conference with over 4,600 attendees it felt well-managed. The Design Summit itself had a format I was really pleased with, as in addition to having the Friday work day, Tuesday was devoted to much-needed cross-project summit sessions. As OpenStack grows and matures, I’m really happy to see everyone working to fine tune the summits like this to keep pace.

Tonight I joined several of my OpenStack colleagues for an early dinner, retiring early to my room so I could re-pack my suitcase (and hope it’s not over 50lbs) and get some work done before my flight tomorrow morning. As exhausting as this trip was, it sure flew by fast and I am quite sad to be leaving Paris! Alas, my sister in law’s wedding in Philadelphia on Sunday awaits and I’m looking forward to it (and finally seeing my husband again after almost 2 weeks).

Kilo OpenStack Summit Days 3-4

As the OpenStack Summit continued for those of us on the development side, Wednesday and Thursday were full of design sessions.

First up for me on Wednesday was a great session about the Infrastructure User Manual led by Anita Kuno. A pile of work went into this while we were at our mid-cycle Infrastructure sprint in July, but many of the patches have since been sitting around. This session worked to make sure we had a shared vision for the manual and to get more core contributors both reviewing patches and submitting content for some of the more complicated, institutional knowledge type sections of the manual. The etherpad for the session is available here.

The session on AFS (Andrew File System) for the Infrastructure team was also on Wednesday. In spite of having a lot of storage space at our disposal and tools like Swift (which we’re slowly moving logs to), there are still some problems we’re seeing to solve that a distributed filesystem would be useful for, enter the AFS cell set up for the OpenStack project. The session went through some of the benefits of using AFS in our environment (such as read-only replicas of volumes, heavy client-side caching support and more comprehensive ACLs than standard Unix filesystem permissions). From there the discussion moved on to how it may be used, some of the popular proposals were our pypi mirror, the git repos and documentation. Detailed Etherpad here.

There were also a couple QA/Infra sessions, including one on Gating Relationships. At the QA/Infra mid-cycle meetup back in July we touched upon some of the possible “over-testing” that may be done when a change in one project really has no potential to impact another project, but we run the tests anyway, using up testing resources. However, there isn’t really any criteria to follow for determining what changes and project combinations should trigger tests, and it was noted that many of what seem like unnecessary testing was actually put in place at one point to address a particular pain point. The main result of this session was to try to develop some of this criteria, even if it’s manual and human-based for now. Detailed Etherpad here.

We also had a QA and CI After Merge session. Currently all of our tests are pre-merge, which makes sure all code that lands in the development repository has undergone all official tests that the OpenStack CI system has to offer. This session discussed whether heavier, less “central” tests to the projects be tested post merge or with periodic tests, with what I believe was some consensus: We do want to split out some of the current gated jobs. Several todo items to move this forward were defined at the bottom of the etherpad.

I also attended the “Stable branches” session (lively etherpad here). Icehouse’s support is 15 months and the goal seems to be to support Juno for a similar time frame. Several representatives from distributions were attending and giving feedback about their own support needs and there seems to be hope that there will be work from folks from distros committing to do some of the maintenance work.

There were also a couple sessions about Tempest, the integration test suite. First there was “Tempest scope in the brave new world” which focused on the questions around what should be in Tempest moving forward and what the project should consider removing as the project moves forward. Etherpad for the session here. There was also a “Tempest-lib moving forward” session, which discussed this library that was created last cycle and various ways to improve it in the coming cycle, details in the Etherpad here.

Wednesday evening I made my way over to the Core Reviewer party put on by HP at the near rooftop event space of Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine. We were driven there by what was described as “iconic, old French cars” which turned out to be the terrifying Citroën 2CV. And our drivers were all INSANE in Paris traffic. Fortunately no one died and it was actually pretty fun (though I was happy to see buses would be taking us back to the conference venue!).

The night itself kicked off with a lecture on the architecture of the Sagrada Família Basílica in Barcelona by one of the people currently working on it, and which drew some loose parallels between our own development work (including the observation that Sagrada Família is not complete – a 140+ year release cycle!). They also brought in entertainment in the form of several opera singers who came in throughout the night. Some food was served, but I spent much of the night outside chatting with various of my OpenStack colleagues and drinking so much Champagne that the outdoor bartender learned to pull out the bottle as soon as he saw me coming. Hah!

My favorite part of the night was the stunning view of the Eiffel Tower. It’s a beautiful thing on its own at night, but at the top of the hour it also sparkles for 5 minutes in a pretty impressive show. I was so caught up in discussions that I didn’t manage to go on the museum tour that was offered, but I heard good things about it today.

Then it was on to today, Thursday! I had a great chat with Steve Weston about the third party dashboard we’re working on before Anita came to find me so I wouldn’t be late for my own session (oops).

My (along with Andreas Jaeger’s who I saved a seat for up front) session was an infrastructure session on Translations Tools. We’re currently using Transifex but we need to move off of it now that they’ve transitioned to a closed source product. As I mentioned in my last post, we decided to go with Zanata so the session was primarily to firm up this decision with the rest of the infrastructure team and answer any questions from everyone involved. I have a lot of work to do during the Kilo cycle to finally get this going, but I’m really excited that all the work I did last cycle in getting demos set up and corralling the right talent for each component has finally culminated in a solid decision and action items for making the move. Next week I’ll start working on the spec for the transition. Etherpad here.

I attended a few other sessions, but the other big infrastructure one today was about Storyboard, the new task and bug tracker being written for the project to replace Launchpad. Michael Krotscheck has been doing an exceptional job on this project and the first decision of the session was whether it was ready for the OpenStack Infrastructure team to move to – yes! The rest of the session was spent outlining the key features that were needed to have really good support for infrastructure and to start supporting StackForge and OpenStack projects. The beautiful Etherpad that Michael created is here.

Tonight I went out with several of my OpenStack colleagues to dinner at La maison de Charly for delicious and stunningly arranged Moroccan food. I managed to get back to my room by 9PM so I could get an early night before the last day of the summit… but of course I got caught up in writing this, checking email and goofing off in IRC.

Tomorrow the summit wraps up with a working day with an open agenda for all the teams, so I’ll be spending my day in the Infra/QA/Release Management room.

Kilo OpenStack Summit Days 1-2

Saturday morning I arrived in Paris. The weather was gorgeous and I had a wonderful tourist day visiting some of the key sights of the city. I will write about that once I’m home and can upload all my photos, for now I am going to talk about the first couple of days of the OpenStack Summit, which began on Monday.

Both days kicked off with keynotes. While my work focuses on the infrastructure for the OpenStack project itself and I’m not strictly building components of OpenStack that people are deploying, the keynotes are still an inspiration. Companies from around the world get up on the stage and share how they’re using OpenStack to enable their developers to be more innovative by getting them development environments more quickly or how they’re putting serious production load on them in the processing of big data. This year they had BBVA, BMW (along with a stunning i8 driven onto the stage), Time Warner Cable, CERN, Expedia and Tapjoy get up on stage to share their stories.

CERN’s story was probably my favorite (even if the BMW on stage was shiny and I want one). Like many in my field, I hold a hobbyist level interest in science and could geek out about the work being done at CERN for days. Plus, they’re solving some really exceptional problems around massive amounts of big data produced by the LHC using OpenStack and a pile of other open source software.

Tim Bell of CERN

It was exciting to learn that they’re currently running 4 clusters using the latest release of OpenStack, the largest of which has over 70,000 cores across over 3,000 servers. Pretty serious stuff! He also shared some great links during his talk, including:

I was also delighted to see Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation, get on stage on the first day to share his excitement about the success of OpenStack and to tell us all what we wanted to hear: we’re doing great work for open source and are on the right side of history.

In short, the keynotes spoke to both my professional pride in what we’re all working on and the humanitarian and democratization side of technology that so seriously drew me into the possibilities of open source in the first place.

All the keynotes for both days are already online, you can check them out in this youtube playlist: OpenStack Summit Paris 2014 Keynote Presentations

Back to Monday, I headed over to the other venue to attend a session in the Ops Summit, “Top 10 Pain points from the user survey – how to fix them?” The session began by looking at results from the survey released that day: OpenStack User Survey Insights: November 2014. From that survey, they picked the top-cited issues that operations are having with OpenStack and worked to come up with some concrete issues that the operators could pass along to developers. Much of the discussion ended up focusing on problems with Neutron (including problems with the default configuration) and gaps in Documentation that made it difficult for operators to know that features existed or how to use them. The etherpad for the session goes further into depth about these and other issues raised and added during the session, see it here.

Monday afternoon I met up with Carlos Munoz of Red Hat and Andreas Jaeger of SUSE who I’ve been working with over these past couple of months to do an in depth exploration of our options for a new translations system. We have been evaluating both Pootle and Zanata, and though my preference had been Pootle because of it being written in Python and apparent popularity with other open source projects, the Translations team overwhelmingly preferred Zanata. As Andreas and I went through the Translations Infrastructure we currently have, it was also clear that Zanata was our best option. It was a great meeting, and I’m looking forward to the Translations Tools Session on Thursday at 11AM where we discuss these results with the rest of the Infrastructure team and work out some next steps.

Me, Carlos and Andreas!

From there I went down to the HP Sponsored track where lighting talks were being run during the last two sessions of the day. The room was packed! There were a lot of great presentations which I hope were recorded since I missed the first few. My talk was one of the last, and with a glowing introduction from my boss I gave a 5 minute whirlwind description of elastic-recheck. I fear the jetlag made my talk a bit weaker than I intended, but I was delighted to have 3 separate conversations about elastic-recheck and general failure tracking on CI systems that evening with people from different companies trying to do something similar. My slides are available here: Automated failure aggregation & detection with elastic-recheck slides (pdf).

On Tuesday morning I was up bright and early for the Women of OpenStack breakfast. Waking up with a headache made me tempted to skip it, but I’m glad I didn’t. The event kicked off with some stats from a recent poll of members of the Women of OpenStack LinkedIn group. It was nice to see that 50% of those who responded were OpenStack ATCs (Active Technical Contributor) and many of those who weren’t identified themselves as having other technical roles (not that I don’t value non-technical women in our midst, but the technical ones are My Tribe!).

Following the results summaries, we split into 4 groups to talk about some of the challenges facing us as a minority in the OpenStack community and came up with 4 problems and solutions: Coaching for building confidence, increasing profile and communication for and around the Women of OpenStack group, working to get more women in our community doing public speaking and helping women rejoin the community after a gap in involvement (bonus: this can directly help men too, but more women go through it when taking time off for children). The group decided on focusing on getting the word out about the community for now, seeking to improve our communication mechanisms and see about profiling some women in our community, as well as creating some space where we can put our basic information about what we’re working on and how to contact us. I was really happy with how this session went, kudos to all the amazing women who I got to interact with there, and sorry for being so shy!

After keynotes, I headed back over to the Design Summit venue to attend a couple cross-project testing-focused sessions: “DefCore, RefStack, Interoperability, and Tempest” (etherpad here) and Moving Functional Tests to Projects (etherpad here). One of the most valuable things I got out of these sessions was that projects really need to do a better job of communicating directly with each other. Currently so much is funneled through the Quality Assurance team (and Infrastructure team) because they run the test harness where things fail. Instead, it would be great to see some more direct communication between these projects, and splitting out some of the functional tests may be one way to help socially engineer this.

Following lunch and a quick meeting, I was off to “Changes to our Requirements Management Policy” (etherpad here) and then “Log Rationalization” (etherpad here). There seemed to be more work accomplished on the latter, which was nice to see since there’s a stalled specification up that it would be great to see moved along so that the project can come up with some guidelines for log levels. Operators have been reporting both that they often run logging at DEBUG level all the time so they can see even some of the more basic problems that crop up, AND are frustrated by some “non-issues” being promoted to WARNING and filling their logs with unnecessary stack traces.

Next up was the Gerrit third-party CI discussion session. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this session, but the self-selected group (many were more involved with OpenStack than was assumed, but they did come all the way to the summit…) was much more engaged than I had feared. Talk in the session centered around how to get more third party operators involved with the growing third party community, one suggestion being moving the meeting time to a more European friendly time every other week. There was also discussion around the need for improved documentation and I raised my hand about helping with a more dynamic dashboard for automatically determining the status of third party systems without manual notifications from operators. Etherpad here.

The last session of my very long day was “Translators / I18N team meetup” where the group sought to promote translations to grow the community and recognize translators, etherpad here. As I mentioned earlier, I’m working on some of the new tooling that the team will use, so in spite of only speaking English, I was able to chime in a bit on the technical side of making some of the recognitions and other statistics available once we switch back to an open source platform for translations.

Then it was off to the HP party at Musée des Arts Forains. Open for private events only, the venue hosts a collection of antique/vintage (dating from 1850-1950) games, rides and other fair-related objects. I played a couple of the games and enjoyed snacks and wine throughout the evening. It was certainly busy and some areas were quite loud and crowded, but it was easy to find large areas where the volume was quite conducive to conversations – of which I had many.

Social events and parties are not really my thing, but this one I really enjoyed. Transportation to the venue included an optional tourguide led tour on the bus past many of the stunning sights of Paris at night. And they began running shuttles back to the conference center at 9PM – which I figured I’d catch then, but it was after 10PM before I made my way back to the bus. I think what I really don’t like are club-like parties with loud music and nothing interesting to occupy myself with when I find myself frequently wandering around solo (apparently I’m a lousy pack animal). The ability to stop and play games, explore the interesting food offerings and run into lots of people I know made the evening fly by.

Huge thanks to my friends and colleagues at HP for putting on such a comfortable and exciting event, this one will be hard to top in my awesome-events-at-conferences ledger.

Tomorrow we begin the hardcore part of the conference for me, kicking off with an Infrastructure session at 9AM and moving through various QA and Infrastructure sessions going on through the rest of the week. Since it’s nearing 1AM, I should get some sleep!

Wedding and week in Florida

All this travel is leaving me in the unfortunate position of having a growing pile of blog posts queuing up, which will only get worse as the OpenStack Summit continues this week, so I better get these out! I’m now in Paris for the summit, but last week I was in Florida for MJ’s cousin Stephanie’s wedding.

I arrived on Friday afternoon from Raleigh and MJ picked me up at the airport, getting us to the hotel just in time to get changed for a family and friends gathering the evening before the wedding.

Saturday we were able to enjoy the beach and pools at the hotel with some of MJ’s cousins. The weather was great, even the humidity was quite low, relative to what I tend to expect from Florida.

As the day wound down, we got ready for the wedding!

The ceremony and reception took place at a beautiful country club not far from the hotel. As an attendee, it seemed like everything went very well. The reception was fun, lots of great food, a fun, sparkly signature drink and some stunning centerpieces decorating the dinner tables. I even danced a little.

Unfortunately I picked up a cold somewhere along the way, and spent all of Sunday in bed while MJ spent more time with family and pools. By Monday I was feeling a bit better and was able to see MJ off and get moved over to the beach motel where I spent the rest of the week.

My beach motel wasn’t the greatest place, but it was inexpensive, clean and ultimately quite tolerable. The plan to stay in Florida, in spite of my general “I don’t like Florida” attitude, was to avoid going all the way back to California prior to my Paris trip. And I have to say, with nice October weather and the views at sunset, I think it was the right choice.

My days were spent catching up with work post-conference and prepare for the summit this week. Thankfully it wasn’t very hot out, so I was able to open the windows during the day and let fresh air into my rooms. I also made plans throughout the week to visit with family in the area, managing to meet up with my cousin Shannon and her family, my Aunt Pam, and my Aunt Meg and cousin Melissa throughout the week.

At dinner with Shannon, Rich & Frankie

I also was able to take some long lunch breaks to enjoy a few quick dips in the ocean.

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series while I was in Florida too! I was able to watch the games in my room each night. I was disappointed not to be in town for the win, as the whole city explodes in celebration when there’s a win like this. My week wrapped up on Friday when I checked out of the motel and headed toward the airport for my redeye flight to Paris. And since I was also disappointed to be missing Halloween in San Francisco again, I dressed up for my flight, as Carmen Sandiego.

All Things Open 2014

From Oct 22-23rd I had the pleasure of speaking at and attending All Things Open in Raleigh, North Carolina. Of all the conferences I’ve attended this year, this conference is one of the most amazing when it comes to how well they treated their speakers. When I submitted my talk I received an email from the conference organizer thanking me for the submission. Frequent emails were sent keeping us informed about all the speaker-focused conference details. Leading up to the event I woke up one morning to this flattering profile on their news feed. A series of interviews was also published by the OpenSource.com folks featuring speakers. Once there, I was thanked about 100 times throughout the 2 day event. In short, they really did a remarkable job making me feel valued.

Thankfulness aside, the conference was top notch. Several months back I read The foundation for an open source city by Jason Hibbets so I was excited to go to Raleigh (where much of the work Hibbets talked about centered around) and doubly amused when Jason said hello to me and I got to say “hey, I read your book!” During the conference introduction they said the attendence last year (their first year) was around 700 and that they were looking at 1,100 this year. The conference was opened by Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, which was pretty exciting, I’d seen cities send CTOs or supervisors, but the having the mayor herself show up was quite the showing of support.

After her keynote came Jeffrey Hammond, VP & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. I really enjoyed the statistics his company put together regarding the amount of open source software being used today. For instance, of developers surveyed they learned that 4/5 of them are using open source software and 73% of them are programming outside of their paid job, 27% on open source.

Right after the keynotes I headed downstairs to give my talk, Open Source Systems Administration. A blending of my passion for open source and love of systems administration, this is one of my favorite talks to give, I really enjoy being able to present on how the OpenStack infrastructure itself is an open source project. It was a lot of fun chatting with people throughout the rest of the conference who had attended (or missed) my talk, while there is less surprise these days that a project would open source an infrastructure, there’s a lot of interest in learning that there are project which actually have and how we’ve done it. Slides from my talk here: ATO-opensource_sysadmin.pdf (2.3M).

Giving my talk! Thanks to Charlie Reisinger for this photo.

The schedule made it hard to select talks, but I next decided to head over to the Design track to learn from Garth Braithwaite why Open Source Needs Design. I’ll start off by saying that it’s wonderful that there are some designers participating in open source these days, but as Garth points out in his talk they are generally: paid by a company as a designer to focus on the product (open sourceyness of it doesn’t matter, it’s a job), a designer friend of someone in the project who is helping out or a developer on the project who happens to have some design expertise (or is willing to get some in order to help the project). He explored some of the history of how developers made their way to open source and the tools we used, and explained that the “story” doesn’t exist for designers, why would they get involved? They’re not fixing a printer or solving some tricky problem. The tools for open collaboration for designers also don’t really exist, popular sites for design sharing like Dribbble don’t have source upload options and portfolio sites like BeHance lack any ability for collaboration. The new DesignOpen.org seeks to help change that, so it was interesting to learn about that. From there he detailed different types of design work, UX, IxD and UI and the tools and deliverables for each type of work. As someone who really has never worked with design it was an interesting tour of that space. His slides from the talk are available here: speakerdeck.com/garthdb/open-source-needs-design (first few slides are a image-full, but stick with it, some great slides with bullet points come later!).

Then it was off to see Lessons Learned with Distributed Systems at bit.ly presented by Sean O’Connor (it was a pleasure to meet him and colleague Peter Herndon during the keynote earlier in the day). The talk centered around some of the concerns when architecting systems at scale, from time syncronization to having codebases that are debuggable. At bit.ly they adopted a codebase that is broken out into many small pieces, allowing ops to dig into and learn about specific components when something goes wrong, not necessarily having to learn everything all at once in order to do their job effectively. He also went into how they’ve broken their workload up into what has to be done synchronously and what can be shifted into an asynchronous job, which is preferred because it’s easier to do well. Finally, he talked some about how they deal with failure, starting off with actually having a plan for failure, and doing things like back offs, where the retries end up spaced out over time rather than hammering the service constantly until it has returned.

After lunch I decided to check out the Messaging Standards and Systems – AMQP & RabbitMQ talk by Gavin M. Roy. I’ve used RabbitMQ a fair amount, but that doesn’t mean I’ve ever paid attention to AMQP (Advanced Message Queuing Protocol), I was pretty surprised to learn that releases 0-8 and 0-9-1 are very different the 1.0 release and are effectively overseen by different people, with many users still intentionally on 0-9-1. Good to know, I imagine that causes a ridiculous amount of confusion. He went through some of the architecture of how RabbitMQ can be used and things it does to “fix” issues encountered with the default AMQP 0-9-1. Slides from his talk here speakerdeck.com/gmr/messaging-standards-and-systems-amqp-and-rabbitmq (the exchange slides about halfway through are quite helpful).

I was then off to Saving the World with Open Source and Science presented by Dr. Marcus Hanwell. Given my job working on OpenStack, I perhaps have the distinct benefit of being exposed to scientists who understand how to store, process and present big data, plus who understand open source. I assumed this ubiquitous, so this talk was quite the wake up call. Not only are publicly-funded papers not available for free (perhaps a whole different rant), the papers often don’t have enough data for the results to be reproducible. Sources from which data was processed aren’t released (whether it be raw data, source code used to make computations or, seriously, an Excel spreadsheet with some data+formulas), images are shrunk and stripped of all metadata so it can be impossible to determine whether you’re actually seeing the same thing. Worse, most institutions have no way to index this source material at all, so something as simple as a harddrive failure on a laptop can mean loss of this precious data. Wow, how depressing. But the talk was actually a call for action in this space. As technologists there are things we can do to provide solutions to scientists, and scientists working in research can make social changes so that releasing full sources, code and more becomes something valued and validation of results is something that once again becomes central to all scientific research.

Day one completed with a keynote by Doug Cutting he titled “Pax Data” which was a fascinating look into the world we’re building where the collection of data is What We Do. He began by talking about how in most science fiction the collectors of data end up being the Bad Guys in a future dystopia, but the fact is that sectors from Education to Healthcare to Climate can benefit from the collection and analysis of big data. He posted the question to the audience: How do we do this without becoming those Bad Guys? He admitted not having a full answer, but provided some guidance on key things that would be required, including transparency, best practices around data handling, definition of data usage abuse so we can protect against it, and either government or industry oversight and/or regulation. Fascinating talk for me, particularly as I was in the middle of reading both a SciFi dystopia book where big data becomes really scary (The Circle by David Eggers) and non-fiction book about our overuse of technology (Program or be Programmed).

Day 2! Keynotes began with a talk by James Pearce of Facebook. I know Facebook is pretty much built on open source (just like everyone else) but this talk was about the open source program he and his team have built within Facebook starting about a year ago. As is standard for many companies starting with open source, they’d just “throw things over the wall” and expect the code to be useful to the community. It wasn’t. So they then began seriously working to develop the code the were open sourcing, assigning people internally to be the caretakers of projects, judging the health of projects based on metrics like forks and commits from community members outside of Facebook. They also run much of the same code versions internally as they release in the community. Github profile for Facebook is here: https://github.com/facebook. Very nice work!

The next keynote was by DeLisa Alexander of Red Hat on Women in Open Source. She started out with a history lesson about how the first real programmers were women and stressed why diversity is important in our industry. Stories about how the most successful women in open source have had encouragement of some form from their peers, and how important it is that everyone in the audience seek to do that with newcomers to their community, particularly women. It was also interesting to hear her talk about how children now often think of computers as opaque black boxes that they can’t influence, so it’s important to engage children (including girls) at a young age to teach them that they can make changes to the software and platforms they use.

Alexander also hosted a panel at lunch which I participated in on this topic. I was really honored to be a part of the panel, it was packed with very successful women in tech and open source. Jen Wike Huger wrote up some of her notes in a great article here: Keys to diversity in tech are more simple than you think. My own biggest takeaway from the panel was the realization that everyone on the panel has spent a significant amount of time being a mentor in some formal capacity. We’ve all supported students and other women in technology via organizations that we either work or volunteer for, or run ourselves.

Getting back to sessions, I went to Steven Vaughan-Nichols’ talk on Open Source, Marketing, and Using the Press. Now, technically I’m the Marketing Lead for Xubuntu, but I somewhat joke to people that it’s “only because I know how to use Twitter.” Amusingly, during his talk he covered people just like myself, project contributors who end up with the Marketing role. I gained a number of great insights from this talk, including defining your marketing audience properly – there’s your community and then there’s the rest of the world. Tips to knowing your customer, maybe we should do a more formal survey in Xubuntu about some of the decisions we make rather than relying upon sporadic social media feedback and expecting users to participate in development discussions? He also drove home the importance of branding, which thanks to our logo designer Pasi Lallinaho I believe we have done a good job of. There was also a crash course in communicating with the press: know who you’re contacting and what their focus is, be clear and concise in emails and explain the context in which your news is exciting. Oh, and be friendly and reply promptly when reporters contact you. I also realized I should add our press contact to our website, that’s a good idea! I have some updates to make to the Xubuntu Marketing blueprint this cycle.

Perhaps one of my favorite talks of the even was presented by Dr. Megan Squire: Case Study: We’re Watching You: How and Why Researchers Study Open Source And What We’ve Found So Far. I think what I found most interesting is that while I see poll from time to time put out by people claiming to do research on open source, I never see the results of that research. Using what I now know from Dr. Marcus Hanwell (many academic papers are locked behind journal pay walls) this suddenly makes sense. But Dr. Squire’s talk dove into the other side of research that doesn’t include polls: research done on data, or “artifacts” that open source projects create. Artifacts are pretty much anything that is public as a result of a project existing, from obvious things like code to the public communication methods we use like IRC and mailing lists. This is what is at the heart of a duo of websites she runs, the first being FLOSSmole which connects well-formatted data about projects with researches interested in doing datamining against it, and FLOSShub which is a collection of papers she’s collected about open source so it’s all in one place and we can see what kind of research is being done. Aside from her great presentation style, I think what made this one of my favorites was the fact that I didn’t know this was happening. I make FOSS artifacts all day long, both in my day job and with my open source hobbies, and sure I know it’s out there for anyone to find, piles of IRC logs, code reviews, emails, but learning that academics are actively processing them is another thing entirely. For instance, to take an example from a project I work on, I had no idea this existed: Estimating Development Effort in Free/Open Source Software Projects by Mining Software Repositories: A Case Study of OpenStack. It made me a bit tin-foil-hat for about 5 minutes until I once again realized that I’m not just fine, but happy to be putting my work out there. Huge thanks to her for doing this presentation and maintaining these really valuable websites.

Slides from her presentation are up on Google docs here and are well worth the browse for examples she uses to illustrate how our artifacts are being used in research.

After lunch I attended my last three talks for the conference, the first one being Software Development as a Civic Service presented by Ben Balter. I’ve attended a number of civic hacking focused talks at events over the past couple years, but this one wasn’t strictly talking about a specific project or organization in this space. Instead he focused on the challenges that confront governments and us as technologists as we attempt to enter the government space, and led to one of my favorite (sad!) slides of the event, in which you will note that doing anything remotely modern (use of public package repositories, configuration management or source control) doesn’t factor in:

He talked about how some government organizations are simply blinded by proprietary sales talk and FUD around open source, while others actually are bound by specific governmental requirements in the software that industries have figured out, but open source projects don’t think to include (ie – an Open Source CMS may get us 99% of us there, but this company is offering something that satisfies everything because it’s their job to do so). He also talked some about the “Command and Control” structure inside of government and how transparency can often be seen as a liability rather than the strength that we’ve come to trust in within the open source community. He wrapped up with some success stories from the government, like petitions.whitehouse.gov and GOV.UK and shared some stats about the increase of known government employees collaborating on Github.

The next talk was by Phil Shapiro on Open Sourcing the Public Library. To begin his talk he talked about how open source has a major opportunity as libraries move from the analog to digital space. He then moved into a fact he wanted to stress: libraries are owned by all of us. There is an effort to transform them from the community “reading room” into the community “living room” where people share ideas and collaborate on projects, bringing in more educational resources in the form of classes and the building of maker spaces. I love this idea, I find Hackerspaces to be unintentionally hostile places for many young women, so providing a different option to accomplish similar goals is appealing to me. I think what struck me most about this was how “open sourcey” it felt, people coming together to build something new together in the open in their community, it’s why I work on any of this at all. He shared a link of some collected writings about the future of Libraries here: https://sites.google.com/site/librarywritings/

The final talk of the day I attended was Your Company Culture is Awesome (But is Company Culture a Lie?) by Pamela Vickers. In her talk she identified the trend in technology of offering “perks” in lieu of an actual healthy work environment for workers. These perks often end up masking real underlying unhappiness for employees, and ultimately lead to loss of talent. She suggested that companies take a step back from their pile of perks and look to make sure they’re actually meeting the core needs of their employees. Are your developers happy? How do you know? Are you asking them? You should, and your employees should trust you to be honest with you and to at least professionally acknowledge their feedback. She also highlighted some of the key places where companies fall down on making their developers happy, including forcing them to use the wrong tools, upsetting a healthy work-life balance, giving them too much work or projects that don’t feel achievable and giving them boring or unimportant projects.

To wrap this up, huge thanks to everyone who worked on and participated in this conference. As a conference sponsor, my employer (HP) had a booth, but unfortunately I was the only one who was able to attend. I spent breaks and lunches at the booth (leaving a friendly note when I was away) and had some great chats with folks looking for Python jobs and who were more generally interested in the work we’re doing in the open source space. It still can strike people as unusual that HP is so committed to open source, so it’s nice to be available to not only give numbers, but be a living, breathing example of someone HP pays to contribute to open source.