Ohio LinuxFest 2012 – Afterthoughts

For the first time this year I attended Ohio LinuxFest in Columbus Ohio at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. I arrived in Columbus late on Thursday night and stayed at a friends’ house in order to arrive early on Friday morning. This plan failed as we woke up and talked for a couple of hours and went out to eat for breakfast before I got around to leaving. As a result I didn’t get to OLF until ~11:30am – at which point I got signed in, looked around briefly and then went in search of food and wifi. As a result, I hung out at the North Market for an hour or so before returning to OLF after lunch and attending the rest of the Early Penguins track leading up to Jon “maddog” Hall’s “The Perfect Storm” keynote at 5pm.

Of the talks I attended I think my favorites were Beth Lynn Eicher’s talk about Computer Reach and the one immediately following it on Software Patents by Deb Nicholson. Computer Reach has an upcoming trip to Ghana where they are planning to deliver refurbished desktop computers to various villages in Ghana, running Linux with GNOME 2.x. On Sunday I had the chance to sit next to her and talk a bit more about their work during the Diversity in Open Source Workshop and gave her a stack of GNOME stickers for the desktops they’re delivering.

Deb Nicholson’s talk on Software Patents was interesting and slightly disturbing. The sheer number of software patents out there is staggering and does not bode well for the future unless something changes dramatically. What the courts do in the next couple years, both in the USA and around the world will likely have a dramatic impact on software and innovation in both the proprietary and FOSS sphere’s.

Friday closed up with Jon “maddog” Hall’s keynote on “The Perfect Storm” about linux, the desktop and freedom. It was a great speech – interesting, funny, and informative all at the same time. Hopefully he’s right and we are on the verge of a new ‘perfect storm’ as we have seen in the past with the innovations of the personal computer, the internet, etc.

Saturday started early for me, arriving at the convention center ~8am to get the booth setup. I was hoping to attend Wendy Seltzer’s morning keynote about SOPA and free expression on-line, but unfortunately didn’t make it. Instead I hung out at the booth all morning and for most of the afternoon. After many trials and failed attempts with the netbook and monitor I resorted to my old (broken) laptop. Several people tried to help me get something up and running for a long time without much success, before we finally resorted to removing the screen from the laptop and making it an ‘ultra portable desktop’. By that point I had my laptop upgraded to the beta of Ubuntu 12.10 GNOME Remix with GNOME 3.6, which meant that I had Ubuntu 11.10 with GNOME 3.2 on the monitor and Ubuntu 12.10 with GNOME 3.6 on my laptop – which was actually interesting as you could compare and really see how far GNOME has come in the last year.

While all this was going on I talked to dozens, probably hundreds of people about GNOME, linux, FOSS, etc, passed out the GNOME Cheat Sheet, GNOME stickers and pamphlets on accessibility in GNOME. John Boyd stopped by and hung out for a long time talking about C programming and hacking on the kernel. I think I have him convinced to start contributing to GNOME – he even sounded interested in helping to teach C through GNOME University!

In any case sometime ~5pm I packed up the booth – aside from a few more cheat sheets, stickers & pamphlets which I left out for late comers and headed to C113 for Elizabeth Garbee’s “Growing Up with Linux” talk which was fantastic. She is an amazing speaker and has had some amazing opportunities thanks to luck, smiling and saying please & thank you. 

Immediately following Elizabeth’s talk was Angela Byron’s keynote “How to Create Ravenously Passionate Contributors”. Her experience of gradually rising from a quiet, shy user to become one of Drupal’s core contributors as well as a major open source speaker at conferences around the world is inspiring. 

Following the keynotes I dropped my backpack back off in my car and walked to the Three Legged Mare for the OLF After Party with MC Frontalot. It was a great party and my only regret is that I couldn’t stay for longer – I talked up a slew of people, some of whom I’d met at the booth during the day and many others I hadn’t. Amazingly I ran into several people from my area of Ohio, one of whom went to high school with the friend I was staying with in Columbus! It was definitely a ‘small world’ kind of night!

Sunday morning came far too soon, and I made it back to the convention center just a few minutes late to the start of the Diversity in Open Source Workshop. Essentially a round table discussion about diversity, it focused on diversity at OLF but also in the wider FOSS community. The diversity at OLF was quite impressive, thanks to OLF’s long-standing commitment to diversity, which is evident in their Conduct Policy which should be an inspiration to other conferences hoping to encourage diversity. They have been reaching out to minority communities for several years and it shows – I was welcomed warmly to OLF and everyone there was great. I am already looking forward to OLF 2013!


Ohio LinuxFest 2012

Sometime in the last six months or so, I discovered Ohio LinuxFest – an apparently rather large FOSS conference held annually in Columbus, Ohio. I’d been planning to attend ever since I heard about it, and recently got in contact with Luke Tislow. As a result, I will be manning a GNOME booth there! I’m hoping that there are other GNOME users/contributors in the area who will also be attending and able/willing to help out. If your interested in doing so, please leave a comment or ping me on irc (gonyere in #gnome, #gnome-clocks, #gnome-love, #gnome-women, #marketing on gimpnet).

A short bit now about Ohio LinuxFest: OLF is an annual conference held in Columbus, Ohio since 2002. Now in its 10th year, Ohio LinuxFest focuses on Linux & other open source/free software projects. This year’s conference will have 4 keynote speakers – Elizabeth Garbee, Angela Byron and Wendy Seltzer and Jon ‘maddog’ Hall. Promoters have specifically called on women to submit talks and made a point of having 3 keynotes given by women. Hopefully this will result in more women attending than ever before!

For more information on Ohio LinuxFest 2012 checkout their website at: http://ohiolinux.org/ Hope to see some of you there!!

Upgrading to Linux

I’m currently in the process of installing Linux w/ GNOME 3 on a distant relatives computer… who lives in Florida 🙂 A couple days ago, I did the same for one of Kevin’s friends who lives in California – both people who I will not see for months or possibly years, so it’ll be interesting to see how this works out in the long run (I’m installing Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, doing a recommended update & then switching them to only security updates).

As a result, I’m curious if anyone else does this routinely, and if so if you have recommendations for what to install (on a computer that you will not personally touch again, for people used to Windows). I typically install GNOME 3, Tor, Samba, Synaptic, Chromium, xChat, Evolution, Skype… probably a few others I’m forgetting atm. Anything important I’m missing?

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GNOME-Clocks Development Continues

The last couple of weeks have seen a major clean up of GNOME-Clocks code, and on-going development of Alarms by myself and Timer by Eslam Mostafa.

Below is a screenshot of the recently completed New Alarm dialog box in GNOME-Clocks:

Dialog box for a new alarm in GNOME-Clocks

The development of Timer has been headed by Eslam Mostafa (http://eslammostafa.blogspot.de/), and is looking quite good as can be seen below.

Timer running in GNOME-Clocks

With the near completion of both Alarms & Timer, much of the basic development of GNOME-Clocks is rapidly coming to an end. As a result, an important decision remains – how to implement and integrate GNOME-Clocks. Should we write an entirely new daemon in Python? Or tie into an existing framework such as Evolution?

Finally, we would like to invite anyone else interested in GNOME-Clocks development to join us in #gnome-clocks on GimpNet. The GNOME-Clocks repository is now available on gnome’s servers at: http://git.gnome.org/browse/clocks
Bug reports & suggestions are both welcomed and appreciated!! Thanks for reading!

GSoC: Week 1

The last week was spent reviewing GNOME Clock code, experimenting with GTK widgets and working on Alarms – namely the back-end python which will underlay the actual program in the next week or two. Tomorrow, I plan to work more on Alarms, hopefully finishing the back-end work and starting in on the GUI.

I also worked more on the GNOME 2010/2011 Annual Report last week, reviewing whats been written, what is still needed, etc. I think we’re nearly done and hopefully get it released shortly.

Finally, I am extremely excited & happy to report that I have officially accepted a travel sponsorship through the GNOME Foundation and will be attending GAUDEC 2012!! I’m also hoping/planning to arrive in time for the UX Hackfest, and I can not wait! Its been more than 6 years since I was in Spain and I cannot wait to go back!! I always meant to check out Galicia, but just never made it there – it sounds absolutely beautiful!!


Thanks so much to the GNOME Foundation for helping to make this trip possible!!

Google Summer of Code!

Wow, I can’t quite believe it, but I’ve been accepted to Google Summer of Code 2012. Its kinda crazy – another one of those things, I can definitely say if you’d told me would happen, oh, even 6 months ago, I’d have laughed at you. But strangely it has – and I’m psyched. Right now, I’m focused on finishing this semester, which mostly involves preparing for finals next week. Then I’ll be able to focus on GNOME Clock & GSOC completely.

I am trying to decide what to upgrade my kids’ computer to – its an old desktop, currently running Xubuntu 11.10 (I think, it may be 11.04). I spent some time last night reading about the various distro’s focused on kids, namely Debian Junior, Edubuntu, Debian Edu and Skolelinux. Debian Junior sounds the most interesting, and I may very well give it a try. Anyone have suggestions/thoughts/experience with one of these distros?

Installing Linux Mint Debian – with an end goal of Debian & GNOME 3?

Has anyone done this? I tried installing straight Debian a few months ago and ran into wi-fi driver issues along with not being able to figure out which CD/DVD’s I needed to install w/o having to download massive quantities *during* installation. I realize this isn’t a problem for most people anymore, but I average 10-20k down, 40-60k on a really, really good day. As a result, I ended up back with Ubuntu 11.10 & now 12.04 w/ GNOME 3, since it works without massive install headaches & hours and hours and hours downloading just to get it to work.

Anyhow, Ubuntu 12.04 is about to come out and I know I’m going to end up upgrading to something in the next couple months and I think its time I gave Linux Mint a shot – I’d like to see what the fuss is all about, and I’d like to get on a more straight Debian, rolling release schedule for myself at least (though I’m really not sure what I’ll do for all my family/friends that I have setup on Linux these days).


Any suggestions? 


The last week has been pretty crazy. Kevin & I flew out of Columbus on Thursday ~1:30pm and arrived in Brussels ~8am Friday morning. We were to fly out of Brussels at 10am, but missed the check-in time by about 10 minutes due to cancelled trains, which led to us having to rebook for another flight which was supposed to leave at 12:10… but due to mechanical issues didn’t actually take off until nearly 2pm. So, we’re now supposed to arrive back in Columbus ~7pm, assuming we don’t miss our connecting flight in Washington DC. Of course, once we get back to Columbus we still have a 2.5-3hr car ride home, and then school and work all day Wednesday. Here’s hoping we make it in time, and survive the next couple days of insanity.

Anyhow, our trip to Brussels & FOSDEM 2012 has been amazing and certainly something that neither of us will soon forget. Its been a crazy whirlwind tour, and I know we’d both have liked it to last a bit longer, but its still been fun. FOSDEM 2012 was my first conference & Kevin’s first time in Europe, and I think we made the best of it. We got to met tons of great people both at FOSDEM & all around Brussels, wander around the city, see some, though certainly not all of the cool stuff in Brussels, and have just had a great time.

At FOSDEM I met dozens of amazing and inspiring people including Karen Sandler, Allan Day, Dave Neary, Seif Lofty & many, many more. After arriving in Brussels on Friday we spent the next 4 hours incredibly lost before finally finding our hotel & taking a much-needed nap. The afternoon was spent seeing Brussels, getting lost again, and finally finding the Delirium Cafe where the FOSDEM Beer Party was held, which was fantastic. We ended up spending most of the night with a group from Barcelona Spain, with whom we went out to eat & then to another bar across from the Manneken Pís before finding our way back to our hotel rather late.

On Saturday, Kevin & I walked to FOSDEM, where I spent most of Saturday manning the GNOME booth in the K-Building, though I did get to attend a couple of sessions, including part of the Legal Issues room fill in and Grey Areas of Software Licensing by Dave Neary , as well as the Cross Desktop group picture & Allan Day’s GNOME 3: Every Detail Matter’s, which hopefully reminded people that the little things really do matter!

That night we went to the GNOME Beer Party at La Becassé which was a blast. Kevin & I spent most of the night chatting with Mario Sánchez Prada of Igalia about pretty much everything – computers, kids, video games, languages, and just life in general. I/we apparently stayed up a bit late though which led to me missing a couple of the talks in the morning which I was hoping to catch, most notably GNOME 3.4 accessible: Status, news, future by Alejandro Piñeiro Iglesias and The Anatomy of a role playing game by Arthur Huillet.

I did manage to make it back to FOSDEM & the GNOME booth in time for the mini-marketing meeting, during which we touched on a wide range of issues. Topics included the redesign of the website, the Annual Report & the overall direction of GNOME in the coming months/years. One of our most important tasks in the coming weeks will be the publication of the annual report, which covers both 2010 and 2011. Another major topic was the re-design of news.gnome.org being done by Christy Eller & Allan Day, including the future of the news site, GNOME Journal, Quarterly reports, the GNOME Foundation site and how to better streamline all of them. One over all theme seemed to be a need for new content, on everything from news articles, how to articles on specific applications, interviews of developers, hackfest reports and pretty much anything else. If you’re interested in writing please let us know!!

After the mini-marketing meeting I spent the rest of the day attending sessions. I started with Seif Lofty & Allan Day’s How to trick a developer into becoming a designer, which was informative while also being humorous and engaging. I next attended a Lightning talk on libre.fm & GNU FM by Michael Sheldon, and caught part of the lighting talk on Netmagis by Jean Benoit, before returning to the Cross-Desktop room.

My last couple hours at FOSDEM were spent in in the Cross-Desktop room attending the last 3 sessions there – WebKitGTK+ status and roadmap to WebKit2 by Mario Sánchez Prada & Philippe Normand, Getting into GNOME by Ekaterina Gerasimova & David King and finally Web applications in GNOME by Xan López.

Getting into GNOME was the most interesting for myself, mostly since I felt that they were speaking to me & many others in my position. There are literally millions of users of free and open source software, but only a thousand actively contribute. Bridging this gap will be the key to the long-term survival and success of free free/open source software.

I know I’ve used Linux & GNOME pretty consistently for the last 10+ years but only found out how to get involved in the last few months. Not because I didn’t want to, but simply because I didn’t know that I could. Up until this past fall I was under the impression, as I suspect many are that there wasn’t a lot to be done outside of coding, which I, and undoubtedly many other users simply don’t know how to do. However as I’ve discovered over the past few months, this simply isn’t true. GNOME (and, I suspect most if not all other free/open source projects) need people to do lots of things which don’t require coding – writing news articles, documentation, making art work, manning booths at conferences (of which there are dozens! There’s probably even one close to you!!), and much more.

So, if you use/love free/open source software, please get involved! Its not hard and every contribution really is appreciated no matter how small. Even hanging out on irc.gnome.org & answering questions in #gnome or #gnome-love when your available, is appreciated. Even if you think ‘oh, I don’t know enough to answer questions…’ you probably do. I know I never thought I’d be able to help people, but I have! Its not hard, and it’s incredibly fulfilling when you do. Alternatively, pick a specific project and see what they need help with. Theres sure to be something that you can do to help!

Overall, I’ve had a great, if slightly crazy week, and I hope to make it to many more conferences in the future. If you haven’t made it to one yet, I highly recommend it!!

Countdown to FOSDEM!!

The countdown has begun! Today, I am doing laundry, and cleaning out the fridge & the house just in general, in anticipation of our upcoming trip to Brussels & FOSDEM 2012! Kevin & I will be flying out of Columbus on thursday afternoon and thus arriving in Brussels, friday morning ~8am. Most of friday will be spent wandering around Brussels before attending the FOSDEM Beer Party that evening, FOSDEM on Saturday & Sunday, and then another day of exploring Belgium before flying back on Tuesday morning. It’ll be a quick, but hopefully fun & productive trip.

I keep going over the schedule at FOSDEM, going back and forth on what I want to attend, as there are so many fascinating sounding events! I’m pretty sure I want to attend  Transifex: Localizing your application (mostly since I’m currently taking a class on multilingual translation systems) , but otherwise, I really have no definitive plans. I’m sure I’ll figure it all out once I’m there though, and suspect that I’m better off having few definitive plans so that I can be flexible for when I hear about something especially cool. Anyhow, I am super excited – to be attending FOSDEM, to be traveling, and to be kid-free for the first time in nearly 5 yrs! (Kevin’s mom has agreed to watch our boys while we’re gone – to which I can only say Thank You Amy!! :))

So, any suggestions? What events are you planning to attend? What do you recommend? What should we make sure to see/do in Belgium? We’re up for pretty much anything! 🙂

Karen Sandler’s Keynote address to Linux Australia conference


This is the keynote address that Karen Sandler (executive director of the GNOME Foundation) recently gave to the Linux Australia conference. It goes to the heart of why software is important, and why we should all have access to the sourcecode of the products which we all use everyday.

Karen has a rare heart condition and needed a defibrulator/pacemaker. One of her first questions when talking to a cardiologist about it was ‘what does it run’ – to which he had no answer, and didn’t understand why she cared. Yet, she cared for the same reason that *everyone* should care. ‘New’ defibrulators today are openly broadcasting over wifi patient details – so that when a patient walks into his/her doctors office, they no longer have to take their pulse – its on the computer already. Seems like a nifty feature, right? But the problem is, its not just broadcasting that info in the doctors office. It’s broadcasting it 24/7. In the mall. At school. In the airport. Everywhere. And the devices have been *proven* to be hackable – that is to say, it *IS* possible to hack into them and make them give the patient a shock. Or stop working entirely. Or any number of other things.

And yet, no-one can legally look at the software. And its not even reviewed (or tested!!) by any 3rd party – not by the FDA, not by anyone at all outside of the company that makes it. They say its ‘bug free’ – but anyone who knows about computers knows that there is *no such thing* as bug-free code. No. Such. Thing.

It goes to the heart of why open source is so important today – because we use computers constantly, everyday, without even thinking about it. We no longer drive cars; we ride in computers that drive. We no longer fly in airplanes; we ride in computers that fly. We no longer vote in elections; we tell a computer how to vote *for* us. Etc. And virtually all of these computers run on proprietary software which no-one outside the company that makes it has access to, to double check its safety, its security or anything else. And most of us don’t think twice about it.

Anyhow, its a long talk (nearly an hour), but is completely worth it. Its the reason that I use, love, and support Open Source Software. Its the reason why we all should.