Free Software, kids and conferences

It’s been a while since I last posted, so consider this a broad overview, catch-up post, with, hopefully, more to follow in the coming days/weeks 🙂

A couple of months ago, shortly after the release of GNOME 3.10 I decided it was high time I gave Unity, KDE, XFCE, etc a solid try. As such, I spent a couple of months switching between KDE, XFCE, GNOME and Unity, though I also briefly installed Linux Mint Cinnamon & Elementary OS, neither of which I particularly cared for. Much to my surprise, I’ve found that I prefer Unity, with KDE coming in a close second. Window Spreading – which was once primarily (exclusively?) available on GNOME Shell, is now available on Unity & KDE as well. The point is though, that the upper left hot corner from GNOME Shell is something that is simply ingrained in my work-flow and which I am loathe to live without. Thankfully though, with the installation of Unity Tweak Tool its just a couple clicks away, along with window snapping, auto-hiding the launcher and enabling of multiple workspaces.

In any case, after a couple months of switching between them at login, I have settled back down to Unity, and no longer have all four installed. I did a clean install of Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr a couple of weeks ago and am quite happy with the results. Today I spent some time over on and have my desktop back looking unique, thanks to MediterraneanTributeDark GTK 3.x, Tango icon themes, and a nifty background found on reddit:

Screenshot from 2014-02-17 20:59:02

Since the move to Unity, I’ve begun contributing to Ubuntu more, mostly through writing and editing for Ubuntu Weekly News and, recently, editing/proof-reading Full Circle Magazine for the first time. I’ve also joined the Ubuntu Ohio loco group, and am hoping to find new ways to contribute to Ubuntu in the coming months, both in my local community and the wider community online.

In related news, I’m excited to have started teaching 4 kids about GNU/Linux and Free Software! Last fall we joined ExCEL, a homeschool co-op in Copley, OH, and I’m teaching two classes this semester – one on microscopes and the other on Free Software! This past Wednesday was our first class (delayed by 2 weeks due to weather), and I gave each student an 8gb USB stick with either Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Ubuntu, or Ubuntu GNOME. Each class is ~50 minutes long, and in our first class I helped them boot into GNU/Linux for the first time (3/4 successfully – the 4th ended up getting into Ubuntu GNOME at home on a different laptop), get on-line, and answered basic questions about how things worked, how to install software (especially Minecraft), etc. I’m planning to introduce them to the four freedoms next time, along with IRC, the AskUbuntu stack exchange, Ubuntu Forums, and see what else they’re interested in learning about over the next couple of months. If anyone’s interested in programming I’ll likely show them Alice and Scratch, and tell them about Google Code-In, which at least some of them will be eligible for next year.

Finally, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be attending LibrePlanet in Boston, MA for the first time this year! Many, many thanks to the Free Software Foundation for sponsoring me!! Hopefully I’ll see many of you there!



Ohio Linux Fest 2013

For the second year I attended and ran a GNOME booth this past weekend at Ohio Linux Fest in Columbus Ohio. Ohio Linux Fest is now in its 10th year, having first been held in 2003 as an attempt to bring local Ohio LUGs (Linux User Groups) together.

This year I managed to convince my husband Kevin to assist with the GNOME booth, which made for a much better experience. We arrived around 8:30am on Saturday morning to setup. Since I had a second person this year I was able to attend a few talks, and just wander around away from the table from time to time. Around 1pm I took off and attended first “The Rise and Fall of Copyleft” and then “Encyrption for Everyone”.

“The Rise and Fall of Copyleft” was interesting as it primarily went over the rise of ‘the gpl’ (GPL v2) and the reasons (or lack thereof) for the move to the current ecosystem of licenses, including the GPL v3, LGPL v3, BSD and GPL v2. In the end Rob Landley did not have time to finish his entire talk, but during the Q&A session when asked what license he would recommend to projects today, suggested the public domain. To me this seems like a bit of a cop-out, but I understand (though do not necessarily agree with) his concerns with the GPL v3. I am curious to hear a dissenting point of view and wonder what other peoples’ thoughts are.

“Encryption for Everyone” by Dru Streicher was an interesting talk about the various encryption systems and how they can be used by everyone. It seems as though every time I attend a conference I am reminded of encryption and its usefulness. Likewise, after nearly every conference I come home determined to begin using encryption more, though I have (as yet) failed to do so. According to Dru one of the simplest ways to begin utilizing encryption is to get a gpg key and begin using it via Thunderbird. As I am primarily a GNOME user, and haven’t installed (let alone used) Thunderbird in a few years, I can’t help but to wonder how Evolution compares.

After these two talks I returned to the booth for a couple more hours, where I answered many questions about GNOME 3. I repeatedly showed off GNOME Tweak Tool, GNOME Classic, GNOME Extensions and some of the accessibility tools – especially Text Larger, High Contrast and Zoom functions as I encountered several folks with poor/low vision. Though this is my second year at Ohio Linux Fest, I am still amazed by how many folks have never seen GNOME Shell, or done so only briefly in the very early 3.0/3.2 days. Many people were especially interested in extensions, and the ability to install, enable and disable them from a web browser. GNOME Classic also remains a largely unknown option for many, including most who are current users of GNOME 3. As a result I found myself repeatedly logging in/out of 3.9.91 in order to demo GNOME Classic before returning to the normal GNOME 3 experience.

Around 5pm Kevin was kind enough to pack up the booth by himself and haul everything back out to our car, allowing me to to attend first ‘Offensive Body Language’ and the last two keynotes of the day. Offensive Body Language was interesting and led me to continually evaluate my own body language – during the talk, later on, and even now a couple of days later.

The final keynotes of the day were by Robyn Bergeron & Kirk McKusick were both interesting. Robyn Bergeron, the leader of the Fedora Project spoke about work/life balance in both the open source world and the technology industry in general. Her experiences – personally, as a co-worker, and as a leader were instructive and a good reminder. Finally Kirk McKusick finished with a talk about FreeBSD, including the history of BSD, and how its license differs from that of the GNU/Linux project.

After the conference officially ended for the day we all headed over to the Three Legged Mare for a wonderful after party sponsored by HP. There I met up with Kevin once again (who, after dropping off all the stuff from the booth had discovered the Columbus Microbrewery Festival across the street and elected to stay there :), and had the chance to catch up with some folks I’d met last year, and others I’d not met before.

Overall, Ohio Linux Fest 2013 was a great experience and one I highly recommend. It remains the most diverse conference I’ve attended, with a higher percentage of women and people of color than I’ve seen anywhere else. The Diversity in Open Source Workshop which was held on Sunday was wonderful as always, and I look forward to reading the notes & writings which should be out in a few days. Though I had to leave a bit early this year, the conference’s organizers clearly remain committed to diversity and it shows. I hope to see even more folks at the workshop and the conference itself next year!


Yesterday was my last day at GUADEC 2013 – I’m heading back to Ohio now, after an amazing week. All of the talks I attended were great, though a few really stand out, as always. I especially enjoyed Matt Dalios keynote about Endless Mobile and what they’re doing to bring computers & learning to the world. He had some great ideas – one of which I would love – the ability to download updates to a USB stick, take them home and update your computer. I also really loved Stef Walter’s talk ‘More secure with less “security” about how we can shift some of the control away from users in order to make all of our systems more secure.

Of course, there were many talks that I missed, while attending other things and which make me wish I had a clone – Allan Day’s and Ekaterina Gerasimova & Sindu Sundar’s come to mind. This year though, there is a bright side! For the first time, all of the talks were filmed and will be online sometime in the next few days/weeks. I’m sure I’m not the only one anxious to see all the great talks that I missed – and maybe rewatch others as well.

I was happily surprised at how well the Marketing Hackfest was attended – I had expected it to just be our usual group of a dozen or so folks and was very happy to see others taking an interest. We were finally able to agree on a name change that better reflects what we do – and are now the Engagement Team. We also talked about how we can better inform the press, promote our outreach efforts and

Of course, GUADEC is about more than just the presentations, hackfests & Bof’s. It’s also about getting to meet fellow GNOMErs, and interacting in person with the people we all talk to on a daily basis throughout the rest of the year. Meeting each other in person helps to remind us all that there are real people behind all the screen names, and in so doing, helps remind us to be kind and understanding to one another – sometimes sarcasm is hard to spot online. 🙂

Finally, I’d like to give a couple of shout outs of thanks – first to the local GUADEC team who did a fanastic job organizing the conference. Everything from the buildings to the social events in the evening was wonderful. Second to the GNOME Foundation in thinaks for sponsoring me on the trip. And, finally, a huge thank you to Jasper St Pierre for fixing my computer when gdm broke yesterday. 🙂

Off to GUADEC 2013!!

I’m just about ready to leave. I think. In a few minutes I’ll drive up to Canton, OH drop my boys off with my mother and board a plane on my way to GUADEC 2013 in Brno, Czech Republic. In a little over 24hrs I’ll be in Brno, attending GUADEC for the second time. I’m psyched!

The last couple of days have been a flurry of laundry, cleaning, packing and worrying – what am I forgetting?? Hopefully nothing overly important. Hopefully Kevin hasn’t forgotten anything important either – he’s leaving tomorrow with the boys to go see his dad up in northern Wisconsin, a solid 12+ hr drive.

Anyhow, I have a few last minute things to do here, and then I’ll be off. Hope to see lots of you tomorrow and in the coming days at GUADEC!! 🙂

Home from AdaCamp & the GNOME Marketing Hackfest

After a little more than a week away, I am finally home. Last week was spent in New York City at the GNOME Marketing Hackfest with 6 other members of the marketing team. We had many great discussions and I look forward to continue to promote GNOME and make the project more successful than ever before.

This weekend was spent in San Francisco where I attended AdaCamp for the first time, which was an amazing experience. I met many, many amazing women of all ages from all walks of life who are doing amazing things. I’m still processing everything, but for now want to express how thankful I am for the opportunity to attend. AdaCamp was an inspiring experience which I won’t soon forget. Many, many, many thanks to the Ada Initiative and everyone involved in making AdaCamp happen!!!

Why aren’t we promoting FOSS to kids?

Over the last two months I’ve become involved in several homeschooling and unschooling communities both on-line and in our community here in Northeast Ohio. As I am an admitted geek, I find myself frequently answering questions about computers. Mixed in to the typical ‘what computer should I buy?’ or ‘do I really need a laptop/desktop or can I get away with just a tablet?’ type questions have been more than a few on programming and computer science for kids.

And its made me start to wonder something – why aren’t there programs to get kids involved in FOSS? There are growing numbers of programs to help kids learn programming, but aside from Google Code-In (which I keep plugging, though I have yet to speak to anyone who’s heard of it before…), none that I have found encourage (or even mention) the use and development of free software. Its a huge gap, and one which we should be working to fill.

If we want to convince people to move to free software we need to get them involved asap – before they develop preconceived notions about software. Many kids today have their own computers, tablets, cell phones, etc, and though many  would like to learn to develop on them, there’s just not a whole lot of materials out there to help them learn. And, unfortunately, most of what does exist, has been designed (sometimes explicitly) without free software in mind. The result is a majority of kids learning to program in closed environments without any idea that there is another, more open way to do things.

The result is yet another generation of kids who have barely heard of FOSS. Another generation lost to closed source, both as users and developers. If there is a target audience who we should be promoting free software to, its kids. They are a perfect fit – though many of them have access to technology, very few have much (if any!) expendable income. We ought to begin advertising our desire to teach them to use and contribute to free software, along with its benefits. We ought to begin designing basic programming classes for kids using free software and explaining its benefits. We also need to make it easy for those kids to talk to us and tell us about their software, what it does and what they need help with. If we want them to join us, then we need to give them the resources and the ability to do so.

We need something to point both kids and parents alike to. Something that we can show them and say ‘Look! Look at what you and your kids can do with free software! Look how it can help them learn!’ Because there are thousands, likely millions of them out there – kids who want to learn. Parents who want to facilitate their kids learn about computers. I myself continue to meet them, both online and off on a nearly daily basis – and I want, I need, something, anything to point them to.

“Read-only filesystem”

So, I’m writing this post in the hopes that someone with more knowledge will read it and hopefully be able to track down the issue.

It started last Friday (February 8th) on my husbands Gateway laptop while he was at work. When he got home on Monday morning, he informed me of it – ‘I think I broke my computer…’ After looking at it for a little while, I realized that his file system had been marked ‘read-only’. A bit of googling informed me that this was usually a mark of a dying hard drive. After backing it up, I decided to try formatting and re-installing to see if that would, by chance, fix the problem. And it did! At least, initially. However, as soon as I updated all the packages and installed a couple of programs (Samba, Chromium), it reoccurred. Which made me suspect, initially that his hard drive as in deed dying or dead.

At approximately this point however, the exact same thing started happening on my laptop (a Lenovo IdeaPad). As a result I posted on ( and was directed to a bug report (, which matches it. It appears to be a problem related to the kernel, though why it has taken several months to rear its ugly head I couldn’t say. In any case, I did a bit more googling and found a couple of ideas on how to fix it, at least temporarily. By booting into a live image of Ubuntu 12.10 I was able to run sudo dpkg-reconfigure -a – which fixed it on my laptop, mostly. It still goes into read-only mode, semingly at random, but a reboot immediately afterwards has, (thus far) fixed it.

The same can not be said for my husbands’ Gateway. After a third re-install of Ubuntu 12.10 (and giving him instructions to upgrade everything *except* the kernel), it worked fine for approximately 2 days, but has now reverted to read-only filesystem status, when booted. However, when I boot into a live image, the files do not appear to be read-only, and sudo dpkg-reconfigure -a has not worked the same way it did on mine :(. I think I’m going to try a fourth re-install (using 12.04), and hope that it remains functioning…

Any other suggestions are greatly appreciated!!

FOSDEM 2013′

This past weekend I attended and presented at FOSDEM 2013 in Brussels, Belgium. I arrived in Belgium early on Friday morning, and spent the first hour hanging out at the bus station chatting with Nick Daly and Christopher Webber waiting for a bus that, it turned out, wasn’t coming. So, I hopped a random bus towards the center of town and somehow found my way to the NH City Centre Hotel. After checking in and dropping off my stuff I made my way down to the ULB Campus Solbosch where I proceeded to help in the build-up for FOSDEM.

Build-up for FOSDEM was actually a lot of fun and I met a lot of awesome folks, many of whom have been volunteers for several years. I primarily worked on the buildup of the K Building, where we were almost entirely done by around 4pm, which was apparently a record and had everyone (especially the veterans!) pretty shocked. Around 6pm we had pizza and then headed to our respective hotels before meeting up at the Delirium Café for the FOSDEM Beer Event. Delirium was absolutely packed, and I ended up talking with folks from Aberystwyth University, some of whom who I’d met during buildup. I left Delirium fairly early (12-1am) as I wanted to get to FOSDEM early the next morning to get the GNOME booth setup.

On Saturday I woke up and had a quick breakfast at the hotel and then made my way down to FOSDEM. I was the first one from GNOME to arrive and hung out for a a little while before the event box and t-shirts, arrived and we could setup. The rest of Saturday was spent at the booth except for a brief hour or so when I went down to the H Building to give my talk and get some fries. My talk (Growing GNOME) went well, though I was pretty nervous. After my talk I returned to the booth where I finished out the day before heading back to the hotel, and then to the GNOME Beer Event at La Bécasse. Though the beer event got off to a slow start by around 9 or 10pm it was in full swing with dozens of GNOME users and contributors in attendance.

On Sunday morning I slept in and so didn’t arrive at FOSDEM until around 10:30-11am. I hung out at the booth for the rest of the morning and early afternoon before heading off to help with the cloakroom. I stayed there through the end of the day till we started tear-down around 6pm. By the time tear down was done and we’d had a bit to eat it was ~8pm at which point I headed back to the hotel, before venturing out for one last evening in Brussels.

On Monday I ended up taking a cab back to the airport after a failed attempt at navigating Brussels public transit back to the airport… after our fiasco last year when we missed our plane, I figured 45€ for a cab was preferable to missing my flight. It turned out that I was on the same flight back as Nick Daly & Chris Webber, and that Nick & I were actually sitting next to each other. As a result we had some interesting discussions, especially related to 3D printers and the possibilities of printing pamphlets, schedules, etc in braille for conferences.

Anyhow, I had a great trip to FOSDEM, and am extremely grateful for the GNOME Foundation’s help in making the trip possible. With a bit of luck I’ll make it back again next year – FOSDEM is an amazing place to meet new people from all over who are interested in free and open source software. If you haven’t made it to FOSDEM yet, make an extra effort to do so next year. Its worth the trip 🙂

FOSDEM 2013!

Tomorrow I fly back to Brussels, to attend FOSDEM 2013, where I’ll be presenting on GNOME’s community, my experience becoming involved over the last year and our efforts to expand it. Assuming all goes as planned I’ll be arriving in Brussels around 8:30am on Friday and am planning to help in the setup of FOSDEM in the afternoon, maybe  catch a nap and then off to the FOSDEM Beer Event. On Saturday & Sunday I’ll be (mostly) hanging out at the GNOME booth, answering questions and hopefully meeting lots of new people 🙂 If you’re around, stop by and say hi!

In any case a big thanks to the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring me!


GNOME Forums are Up!

I’m happy to announce that GNOME Forums are up and running: !!

If you have questions or comments about GNOME, please, come and talk about them, and lets see where we can find some common ground and provide some reference to what our users *actually* like, want and need in an operating system generally and a gui specifically. There are couple of basic sub-forums but as we grow I fully expect to add new ones, primarily on an as-needed/wanted basis. Suggestions are welcome!!

Also, please keep in mind, I’m new to this gig, so expect some hiccups and rough spots as we figure things out. Finally, once again, if you’re interested in helping out, please let me know.