13 December, 2011

GNOME in Rio de Janeiro

On the beach, no less! At Copacabana, the most prestigious beach in Rio, I discovered proof of gnomes. It seems they try to hide by stepping in other people's footsteps. That's not working very well, as you see - it's clear they're there. I leave it up to you to decide what this means (but I do agree that the GNOME team deserves a break and Copacabana is a great place for that).

The beach is pretty, we went for a swim at night. Careful with the waves, they're really huge... I lost my flipflops in the water but miraculously found them again :D

Oh, and yes, we've finally seen Jesus! See the picture below, he's the dude in the back playing 'airplane'. We also enjoyed great (and unfamiliar) fruit juices and some more beach. Have some red stripes again. Tomorrow we'll try and see some trees, then we fly back to the Gauchos.

08 December, 2011


While Calligra 2.4 did not make it as part of openSUSE 12.1, its latest beta is available in the KDE:UpdatedApps repository and I hope Tumbleweed will pick it up too. I'm quite excited about this release and I'd like to share why!

Little intro

As you might or might not know, Calligra is the result of a split of the KWord maintainer with the rest of the KOffice team. The ODF based Suite has a wide range of applications. From Krita, the most versatile and usable sketching and painting application on Linux (click for an experts opinion), and Kexi, the most powerful and complete database tool available as Free Software - to Words, Karbon and Stage. These last, as well as all the other applications in Calligra, are far less mature than Krita and Kexi. The team has been limiting their scope, focusing on getting them stable and usable while skipping on features.

But despite lacking quite some features, these apps are OK for the basics. And they have excellent ODF support as well as the best DOCX support available outside of MS Office. Not that I like that format - but you unfortunately need to be able to open it if you want to work with non-linux users these days...

The most interesting part of Calligra is its architecture. Calligra developers call Calligra 'the webKit of office suites' because the applications are only a thin layer over the powerful core. This design has proven itself when the Calligra developers ported their applications to platforms like Nokia's N9 (where it ships as standard office suite) and KDE's Plasma Active. There are currently four distinct GUI's for Calligra Core!

What's exciting

For me, the exciting part about Calligra is that it's fast and easy to use. OpenOffice.org and later LibreOffice always suffered from performance and stability issues and the betas of Calligra have been extremely nice in those regards. The UI is also a delight compared to the competition. Words has a few nice improvements compared to the previous version and it's far more useable on a small, wide screen laptop. As I only write basic documents and don't use fancy features in my presentations, Words and Stage suit me quite nicely - while keeping my rather slow laptop from cranking up the cooling fan.


More importantly, for me at least, is that when working with Calligra, you feel potential. It takes innovative approaches to user interface elements and thanks to its design, anyone could whip up a new interface in a short time. This is what Free Software needs - a powerful base to innovate on! If you think you can do better with an Office UI, whip something up in QML (javascript)...


The app I use most is Stage, the presentation tool. It works quite comfortable compared to the competition, faster and more stable too. The coolest thing I was looking forward is the Infinite Canvas support in Stage, which will allow it to do Prezi-like presentations. Would be great to have such a cool feature in a proper presentation app instead of needing flash or having to build SVG files by hand... Unfortunately it's not there now but planned for the next release.

Getting it

You can get Calligra stuff for openSUSE by just clicking here (One Click Install)or by adding the KDE:UpdatedApps repository by hand. Currently it's all at Beta 3 but of course newer versions will be packaged in no-time!

Nightly builds

I've been trying to build packages pulling the code directly from git in OBS but I'm not smart enough to use this cool feature :(

Help or tips are appreciated. This stuff does not seem to be documented anywhere, at least not n00b-style. If I manage to get this working I promise to write a 'how-to' to turn an OBS project using a 'fixed' tarball into a 'nightly building' thing pulling directly from a SCM - there are quite a number of projects who would probably love this. I'll also try and provide nightly-build Calligra packages for other distro's.

06 December, 2011

Being in the know

'being in the know' means something like being one of those people who knows what is going on. When it comes to Free Software events around the world where openSUSE is involved that means being on the opensuse-ambassador mailing list. That's where we discuss events and where you can send invites you receive for openSUSE attendance. Like, for example, this one:


My name is Erin Tyler and I am with the Palmetto Open Source Software Conference (POSSCON), one of the largest open source software conferences on the east coast. We would like to invite OpenSuse to participate in POSSCON 2012, scheduled for March 28 and 29 in Columbia, SC, USA.

Thank you for any consideration,
Erin Tyler
Coordinator, POSSCON 2012

If you want to be there or at any other event to represent openSUSE, let us know - mail the ambassador list!

04 December, 2011

Beautiful weather


As you can see in the picture, I have parked my ass on the beach. Visiting OpenBeach in Brazil, yup yup. Time for some much-needed relaxation - I'm taking pretty much the rest of this month off.

I have already transformed from a White Wale to a nice Red Lobster. Of course I failed to put the sunscreen on myself evenly so it's more like a Red Panter. Greatly enjoyed the pirate party on the first evening (Friday night) although it lead to a little bit of a headache the next day. Something to do with the beer, I guess. Yesterday did fairly little - today, churrasco and chimarrão (and Matte).


I still will do a little bit of work (nobody would expect otherwise, right?) but it'll be as minimal as I feel I can get away with. I do have some blogs scheduled, which will go out over the coming days. Which doesn't mean I actually am online, for some reason wherever I go the internet seems to stop working. Bad karma or something - I wouldn't be able to reply to any mail if it wasn't for offline IMAP. Aaah, just means I have no choice but to relax more :D



08 November, 2011

12.1 closing in!

We're about to put the finishing touches on openSUSE 12.1 and the amount of activity in the openSUSE IRC channels is impressive. I see people working 12-14-16 hours a day, fixing the last issues, writing release notes, and in short getting this release ready for our users. Respect!

I myself have upgraded my laptop to openSUSE 12.1 RC2 now and I got to see the new Plasma Desktop. Overall, the difference between Tumbleweed and 12.1 are minimal. As expected, considering Tumbleweed (openSUSE's cool rolling release repository) was a hair away from 12.1, the biggest differences are probably artwork and of course Plasma 4.7 instead of 4.6...

KMail2 and Feeding Nepomuk

Ok, there is KMail2 which gave some work. It is really a mixed blessing. A bit slower in opening mails and folders, MUCH faster in checking and downloading new mail (awesome for bad network connections!), painfully big memory usage. There is a problem with the akonadi_nepomuk_email_feeder (yes, feeds mail from Akonadi in Nepomuk for indexing and search) where the queue fills up memory. My 6GB of mail surely doesn't fit in my 2GB ram so that's painful! But it fills up slowly while processing mail so restarting it every 30 min during the night (akonadictl restart) gave it a chance to index all my mails. And this problem is being worked on...

Less nice is the constant use of memory (MySQL alone is 120 MB), but I hope there is room to optimize things further. At least it's pretty much stable, which is a bigger deal than memory usage to me. Thanks to Sebastian being supported by donations we have a faster and more stable Nepomuk, making search finally usable for me. Also nice.

Talking about faster and more stable, KWin is noticeably faster again, and blur works great now :D

Other new things

I've also installed the 3rd beta of Calligra which is available from the KDE updated applications repo. It is not perfectly stable (reported my first Tables crash already) but Stage now works with all the standard openSUSE 12.1 presentations, unlike the older KPresenter version. That is good news as it's still quite a bit faster than LibreOffice. Not more stable, yet, both are unfortunately quite crash-happy.

I haven't had time to check out Snapper myself, mostly because but I've seen a demo at Brainshare and let's just say I greatly look forward to Desktop Integration! Being able to see previous versions of files and to roll back is really cool, especially once you don't have to go to a separate app anymore but can do it from the file manager.

Played with SAX3 a bit, broke my xorg.conf. Looks like the automatic configuration works better than my manual one...

And yes, systemd boots up marginally faster. And it doesn't seem to break things for me so I'm content with it.

Now, I have to finish some more writing!

27 October, 2011

Discuss here...

On the openSUSE Factory mailing list a bikeshed was started talking about how 'SUSE controls openSUSE' (see my earlier blog about bikesheds).

Luckily, several people were kind enough to point out how off-topic this discussion was on a developers list. And how horrible the timing was with regards to the openSUSE 12.1 release, keeping everyone from work.

But the discussion was not entirely irrelevant, as Robert noted - if people still think that SUSE somehow, magically, makes things happen in openSUSE, it's worth talking about that. Just not on a developers' list where people try to get work done!

Your point is irrelevant! I refuse to listen!

Wrong list

If you're new to how Free Software communities like openSUSE work, this discussion is relevant. I know that the way many communities work is not very transparent to outsiders. And openSUSE is probably not the best in this area. But where to discuss this?

For the contributors to openSUSE, who have been around a while, this is no issue. So this discussion does not belong on a developers' list. If it was a widespread problem it might belong on our project mailing list. But in this case, even that is a bit overkill in my opinion. Hence this blog.

As reminder: if you start such discussions again and again on the wrong lists you will ultimately be kicked from development lists for disturbing the Force. Please don't do it!


Let's talk HERE

So, let me try and provide a more 'proper' place for this discussion: here. I'll start off with explaining how 'we' make decisions and what SUSE's role is. Feel free to ask questions or discuss this further below. And yes, it might make sense to collect the results of this discussion into a wiki page describing our 'governance' to avoid such discussions in the future. Volunteers welcome, remember, talk is cheap!


Unlike most other large distribution communities like Debian, Fedora or Ubuntu, openSUSE does not have a clear structure. We have the openSUSE Board and a release management team but that's it. There are of course groups in openSUSE - the edu team, the marketing team, translators, the boosters. But they are just gatherings of people who do a certain thing, not people who (can) tell others what to do. We have no Engineering Steering Committee or Technical Board, nor (benevolent or not) dictators, project leaders or anything else telling anyone what to do. Yes, as I've said many times before, that includes me: 'community manager' is a SUSE title, not openSUSE, and I have no say over whatever anyone of you do. Nor do I want to!

Decision making

So how DO decisions get made? Recently an interview was done with Michael Miller, who himself clearly was a bit surprised about how things worked. But, as the interview shows, he gets it now: people do what they want in openSUSE. That includes SUSE engineers - SUSE rarely tells their engineers what to do in openSUSE. Most are active as volunteers and those who are paid to do things (like myself) have a huge amount of freedom to do what they think is best for openSUSE. Robert wrote the same in a response to the initial questions. Read his mail.

It is very simple. The decisions get made by those who do the work, by consensus and on technical grounds.

Example process

Let me give an example: replacing the sysvinit boot system in openSUSE with systemd.

Who's involved in the decision to do systemd or not? Four (groups of) people:
    1. the maintainer(s) of the current init system
    2. whoever proposes the new solution (can be same as 1
    3. The release team
    4. All developers who need to adjust to systemd

Step 1. Those involved discuss and decide.
Now the maintainers of sysv init (1) and those working on systemd (2) talk together. If 1 decides that 2 has a great idea, they will stop maintaining the 'old' system and move over to systemd, together with 2. steps

Step 2. Release team gets involved.
They will then tell the release team, which will look at it from a technical point: will it break things? They will demand from 1 and 2 that they ensure no or very little breakage.

Step 3. Public discussion.
It is now time for the wider project, especially those who are influenced by this decision, to hear about the plan from the maintainers (systemd mail to -factory on June 2011). At this point, the rest of the distro contributors and possibly, in case a developer blogs about this, the rest of the world can also respond. Everyone can either come with additional constraints/limitations or object to the change wholesale. In both cases, they can either hope to convince the maintainers to take on the constraint or objection, or offer to solve the problem (and/or maintain the old system) themselves. Obviously, if the vast majority of the fourth group, everyone who needs to work with systemd, objects - there's a big chance the maintainers will cave. But they don't have to and if nobody else steps up to maintain the old system, well, everyone will just have to suck it up!

Note that in no way can the rest of the community (or anyone else for that matter) demand that the maintainers will listen to them. If you can't convince them with arguments nor provide an alternative with your work, well, too bad for you. This is how Free Software works.

Step 4. The decision
So yes, in the end, the maintainers decide. The release team will have the choice of not accepting their work (and how to schedule), of course, but if nobody has an alternative, that's unlikely. And the same goes for everyone else: you can vote with your work or your feet. Making noise just means the developers put your mail address and IRC nick on their blacklist.

This does not mean developers don't listen to users - they do. But they do via the channels they like to do it (blogs, bugzilla, openFATE, reading the openSUSE Forums). And in no way do they have to. Some prominent FOSS projects are maintained by people well known to not listen to users, and power to them. You're free not to use their software, so they don't have to listen! You can of course pay them, like with the Nepomuk fundraiser set up by it's author and the Krita fundraiser before that. Then yes, they will listen...

But SUSE...

No, SUSE does not control openSUSE. They do NOT interfere in this process. Remember how openSUSE picked a new release schedule? A new default desktop (KDE)? I can tell you that in both cases, SUSE management was not really convinced it was great for SUSE or openSUSE. But they did not interfere.

Obviously, SUSE, as a community member, sometimes wants things. So SUSE does occasionally tell their engineers to work on a specific thing in their paid time. Then the community can accept, or not, what these engineers do. Following the exact same process.

So if things don't go how you like them to go, well, don't blame SUSE. Blame yourself as you are the only person to blame. Because you didn't do anything about it. do, as in work, by the way, talk doesn't count as I said before. It just keeps people from doing their work but doesn't produce anything.

Question Everything

Discussion, questions

I agree the above is a bit opaque sometimes. We don't have a very clear list of maintainers and the process as I describe is maybe still not very clear. Even if it's clear now, it's not written down anywhere other than here. Feel free to ask for further explanations or challenge my assumptions. And volunteer to move this to a wiki page on the openSUSE wiki so we can educate newcomers better.

18 October, 2011

Almost too much going on...

Been a busy week, last week. There was Plasma Active One, OwnCloud 2.0, openQA 1.0 and KDE's 15th birthday. Each of them deserves a lot of attention, which they got. I'll just add my thoughts!

Plasma Active One

Let's start with Plasma Active One. Now that is one heck of an exciting technology. Where the Linux Desktop will probably follow the general 'desktop computing world' into a (far less relevant) niche, tablets are hot. There is quite a bit of competition: iPad of course, and Android. Soon Microsoft will come out with something that might be viable on tablets. But the competition also means the market is dynamic and people are used to choice.

Plasma Active is an unique product in many ways. The UI itself is quite different from competitors, yet easy to use and intuitive. There are innovations like the heavy use of Activities and Nepomuk, stuff like Share-Like-Connect. And the way it is developed by a dedicated team, using 'agile' techniques and working with a number of companies is really interesting. I have a tablet with it and despite the horrible hardware in there (essentially GPU acceleration doesn't work) it's easy to see the potential.

Obviously I'm excited to see the team using the openSUSE infrastructure and technology. And it's working for them. OBS allows the team to have the new code packaged and available for the interaction designers overnight, resulting in a fast design-implement-discuss cylce which is surely part of the success of Acive One.

I think the Plasma Active team is on to something and congratulate them with their first release!

OwnCloud 2.0

OwnCloud 2.0 made a stunning release as well. Their new platform is easier to use, introduces a huge number of new features and... we're working on integrating it in openSUSE. You can already download an SUSE Studio image (Virtual Machine, USB, CD or Hard drive images available) to get it up and running in minutes. If you enter your Amazon Cloud credentials you can deploy it to EC2 without even downloading anything! Other stuff I am not allowed to speak about or I'll be jumped by a couple of big, German openSUSE dudes who can crush my back by looking at me.

As Frank said, the biggest thing he's proud off with OwnCloud is the community, and right he is. I met some of them at the Desktop Summit in Berlin but there's a whole bunch more and they are like busy bees. Just following their mailing list a little, I can't wait for the next release! So, OwnCloud team - congrats on your release!

openQA 1.0

On the same day as OwnCloud 2.0 came available, openSUSE released openQA 1.0. openQA is basically a tool which boots up an ISO file into a VM, giving (where needed) input via virtual keyboard or mouse events and takings screen shots of the process. It then compares the screen shots to reference screenshots and BAM, you know if the ISO did what you expected! It is stunningly easy to use on your own computer: clone the git repo and start the tests by running os-autoinst/tools/isotovideo [isodisc]. You'll get a log file as well as screen shots and a video of the whole boot - installation - run process in a directory.

The tests are written in Perl, something not everyone loves, but the whole thing is quite flexible and can be used to test ANY operating system. There's some support for Fedora, Debian and openIndiana but if Microsoft is interested in getting some QA to their OS they can get support in quite easy ;-)

I think, while there's work to do, for an 1.0 openQA is pretty cool and there's plenty of application for it. Let's hope other distro's will look at it, see if they can use it to improve the state of Linux quality all over the place.

So, openQA team, congrats on the successful release!

KDE is 15 years old!

15 years ago KDE was started. In that time it has evolved into the largest and most vibrant Linux Desktop project. I'm proud of this 15th birthday milestone! The cool thing about such an anniversary is that you tend to look back at what has been. But KDE has always been a community which looks forward. New technologies and innovations continuously flow from the community and while I would love it if the Free Desktop world would be a bit less 'NIH', much of this is adopted in other places at some point. Everyone knows about WebKit for sure but it is also cool to see KWin lead in the efforts towards Wayland and openGL-es, Nepomuk innovate on the semantic desktop and Plasma Active shows the world what a 'device spectrum' UI should really look like!

So instead of dwelling on the past (and yes, I've done and seen plenty in my ten "KDE years") I'll look forward to the future too. And I bet the next 15 years will see KDE continue to grow like Paul Adams' graphs show us. I'm proud to be part of two communities which are so close - openSUSE and KDE. And I congratulate my KDE friends with their 15 year birthday and celebrations!

I hope this week will stay a bit more quiet as I have some time off ;-)

06 October, 2011

Fights? Do something!

The worst thing that makes conflicts do damage is related to a (possibly mis-attributed) quote of Burke:
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

If somebody is behaving badly, don't let them do their damage. Realize that by not stepping up you are partially responsible for the damage being done to the motivation of whoever is being abused. I'm assuming you care about your community? Then speak up! Often, people who are being rude don't even realize that. It is learning for them too. And if they DID realize it and keep doing it, moderation is a mail or ping away.

Yes, openSUSE has moderation. At the conference it was decided to have a reminder of that on our mailing lists. They now feature a footer which tells you how to contact our mods. We have the guiding principles and if people cross the line, you can refer to them. If whoever crosses the line is new to our community, mail or ping them privately. If they keep doing it, feel free to tell them in public they should stop. If they still don't, ask a moderator...

Midnight Adventure in the Japanese Cemetery

Yes, we have freedom of speech. But this is our corner of the web and if people want to be assholes, well, let them get their own blog to rant. This also applies to bikeshedding: it does damage, so do something if it happens!

29 September, 2011

MeeGo and openSUSE - an invitation

Dear MeeGo friends!

Yesterday a big announcement was made by Intel and Samsung. It entails another big change of directions for Moblin/Maemo/MeeGo.

Where to go Next

Many people in your community wonder where to go now. Yesterday, at a MeeGo meet in Tampere, many wondered if Intel will let the community contribute to Tizen. Will Samsung work in the open? Intel and Linux Foundation didn't build a great track record with MeeGo and some said they simply didn't believe in it anymore. Many clearly care about the great community which was build over the last years and are afraid it will break up.

Aaron Seigo spoke some wise words. He said: "don't rely on what big companies might or might not do. Find out what YOU want and how to get there!" And indeed, community is about making your choices together. Not depending on corporate players acting as ADHD kids in a candy store, tasting every candy then dropping it.

We've got room

So, I invite you to a community which you already know. A community which, like MeeGo, is young and vital. You're familiar with the Open Build Service and with tools like zypper. You know these come from a community looking beyond their borders - projects like Smeegol and Ayatana are good examples. Of course I talk about openSUSE.

And while we do have a large, corporate sponsor, they depend on us. Yet we don't exclusively rely on them. Many independent developers and companies are active in the openSUSE Community. Moreover, SUSE has proved on several occasions to respect the wishes of its community, even if it's uncomfortable with the choices, and we've been working on setting up an openSUSE Foundation with SUSE buy-in as well.

We're open to innovations

openSUSE is very flexible and open as a community. No complicated governance, no top-down management, like our large competitors. Just FUN. As result, we do awesome stuff! From OBS and the upcoming new thing, to the übercool Tumbleweed.

And timing is excellent: Andrew "Smeegol" Wafaa has recently announced the start of an effort to bring openSUSE to ARM devices. Progress was already made during this week's SUSE Hackweek and the mailing list is buzzing with activity!

You're welcome at openSUSE

In short, I would like to welcome you in openSUSE's ARMs. We've got the attitude which will fit you and we've got the technology and infrastructure to support you!

There is a nice wiki page on participating in openSUSE if you want to learn more. But to get things going, I suggest to start a discussion about how we can help you guys and girls on the openSUSE Project mailing list. Of course, feel free to visit our IRC channels.

See you at openSUSE and have a lot of fun!

oSC 11: more quotes

Last time I blogged about the Conference I had a nice conference quote in there. Well, I've got a few extra for you. And I'd love to hear more in the comments section!

Henne about kicking somebody from the mailing list:
... sometimes they try to work around it and come back with another mail address and we do this dance of me blocking that too, then having to block their IP range, them coming back via a proxy, me blocking the proxy etcetera for a month of so, until somebody gives up... And that somebody is always them 'cause I get paid!

Klaas shared about his relationship:
I still have frequent conflicts with my wife because I keep leaving my dirty socks on the couch...

Gregory while discussing moderation:
Some people just are annoying and bikeshed all day long. But our project is about collaboration and if you're just there to voice your opinion, get an island!

Henne admitted:
No, I've got no life, ask my girlfriend...

A must-see from the conf are the ~100 geeko-everywhere pictures that Pascal Bleser took. Enjoy a few highlights above and below and go to Pascal's Picasa page by clicking the pics!

28 September, 2011

Tumbleweed image dream

At the (pretty cool) openMind conference in Tampere, Finland, it came up that a big advantage of Tumbleweed is that it always has the latest hardware support. Thanks to the rolling release, Tumbleweed comes with the latest Linux kernel which plays a big part of the hardware support of a Linux distro.

If your hardware does not work properly with the 'stable' release of openSUSE (or other distro's) trying the latest kernel can solve that. But that's hard to get on your system, even with stuff like the openSUSE Kernel repositories because it usually requires you to first install something.

Van openMind 2011

So here's something I think would be very cool to have: a weekly Tumbleweed image build in KIWI/OBS so people can test (LiveCD/USB image) and install Tumbleweed directly! Building this should not be crazy hard and we might be able to automatically test and thus verify basic stability with openQA... It would offer state of the art hardware support with openSUSE!

20 September, 2011

Deathstar User Group at CLS

A pretty cool session at the Community Leadership Summit was the Death Star Usergroup session, led by Simon Phillips. My notes on this one are below...

You Gotta Find Your Deathstar

The Deathstar User Group

Imagine you're part of an User Group. The UG of an Deathstar, no less. Despite the obviously evil intentions of your organization, you are not evil. Still, you and your fellow UG members stay there. Either because Darth Vader gets you if you refuse. Or because you want to 'change the system from the inside'. Or you simply like big explosions and blowing up planets. In any case, you have to deal with things. How do you explain to your family what you do every day? To your friends? "Yeah, I work on a Deathstar. We blow up rebel planets, killing anyone we see!" And how do you deal with the choices you have to make? Do you tell your friends that the planet you just destroyed was really only inhabited by evil wrong-doers who attack law and order? Or do you admit the planet was full of innocent woman and children and was only destroyed because Darth Vader had a bad day? When do you refuse an order? Can you face the consequences?

Hard choices. Simon Phillips, ex-community manager at Sun, organized a session about this subject. The question: how do you handle the suggestion (or reality!) that your employer is not 100% well intended?

Companies are reptiles

Simon shared an interesting story. He once visited an alligator farm. A trainer there fed the alligator, entertaining the public. At some point he was standing close to an alligator who was just lying in the sun. Somebody asked: "does the alligator know you so he doesn't attack?" The trainer explained that he wasn't afraid, but not because the animal knew him or respected him. He said: "A reptile acts on instinct, and instinct alone. They fights when they are afraid, attack when hungry. If they're neither, they will just lay in the sun. Right now, for example, he's been fed and is not afraid of me. So I am safe. But I should never expect him to delay even one second to attack me, just because I happen to be the guy who feeds him every day." According to Simon, companies are like reptiles. They don't have moral standards. They are not evil, nor good. They just need to make money. If something threatens that, they attack. If they are safe and not hungry, they just lie there - and let their employees do whatever doesn't threaten their income.

Of course, we should also realize that IN those companies, persons of flesh, blood and emotions run the show. They have obligations to their company but they also have their own goals. Even on a Deathstar, many people want to do the right thing... With a few other people from companies like Adobe, Microsoft and Oracle there, it was interesting to hear stories about what was going on at these companies.

Evil Merlin

Evil actions or just accidents

A funny observation is that often, people perceive evil intentions behind actions which are entirely or almost entirely random. Big companies do weird stuff. One part of the company wants to go left, the other part wants to go right. Sometimes timing is strange. This leads to all kinds of conspiracy theories. I always think: "Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity". It's as true about companies as it is about people, if not more. The big, evil plans people see are often just a random coincidence combined with (good or bad) luck and a healthy dose of incompetence.

Of course, these things can be just as damaging. Oracle has been miss-handling their Free Software projects to the point where they simply killed them off entirely. Is that evil? Does Oracle hate Free Software? It's far more likely that they just don't understand it. They lost incredible business value and probably still don't realize it... Obviously, we (as in Free Software contributors) should be careful in dealing with them. Giving them a hard time doesn't help them learn but might convince them how hard it is to work with Free Software. But we shouldn't trust them too much either until they've shown that they (finally) get it. Which will take a while...

The Prophet Jeremiah

Self-fulfilling prophecies

The bad thing about having people focus so much on "this and this company is evil" is that it results in less positive relationships with companies than we could have. Take Microsoft. Sure, their business relies on proprietary software. And parts of what they do is threatened by Free Software so not the whole company is a big fan of 'us'. But not so much that they try to kill any FLOSS they can. There are plenty of people in Microsoft who believe in the model of Free Software and in collaboration with the community. Microsoft is churning out Free Software, contributing to FOSS projects and doing all kinds of interoperability stuff. In part because their customers simply demand it from them. In part because some people in the company simply believe there are opportunities there and nobody stops them. But we shouldn't expect the company to trow away their current cash cows like Windows and Office - they're a company and make money on proprietary software. Realize that companies are even legally obliged to act like that: if CEO would do something 'because it is the right thing', and not pursue income, the shareholders can sue him!

A company can only ever do good as long as it makes business sense. That's why it is so awesome to work for a company which does indeed make money on doing the right thing. Developing and distributing Free Software, a FOSS consultancy company, a hardware company sharing it's source code with others... Even then, you might occasionally bump into 'Deathstar issues'. But usually you can convince management to do the right thing. And if not, contain the damage as much as you can.

Fun With Droids

Take a stand, or?

That's not to say there are no people who just close their eyes and keep happily hacking (operating the Deathstar) while their work actually is damaging. Just looking at the interesting technology and the work you do is no excuse if the end result means you're collaborating on something bad.

Yes, in some cases - you might have to take a stand. I know people who quit because they couldn't reconcile their role in what their company was doing. And I respect that greatly. But I don't look down on people who keep trying to change things for the good. It's a hard and often not exactly thankful job which deserves equally much respect! It is a though call and I think we all have to realize that we don't know the full picture. We can't see what happens internally in a company, we can't judge how much chance there is to turn things around.

It was an interesting session ;-)

17 September, 2011

oSC 11 take-away

Writing a blog about oSC is quite difficult. I've been asked a few times what I thought about the conference. Well, let me be honest - I was stressed like a headless chicken. I didn't attend half the sessions I wanted to and didn't sleep very well during the nights.

On the other hand - the sessions I did attend were interesting, meeting all the openSUSE people was really awesome and the parties and barbequing evenings were really fun. I think that's the main thing I took away from oSC and I know this goes for many other people as well: awesome community! Quite a few people remarked on the open atmosphere and the friendly people and that's what really matters to me.

I guess I simply need to digest the conf a bit longer until I can say more. So let me just quote from Kostas:
Drinking beer with Greg KH: great. Having him carry your beer: priceless

10 September, 2011

Cheese at oSC

When I traveled to Taipei I discovered something truly painful: there is no cheese in Taiwan.

Mc Donalds

Of course I had noticed none of the (great!) dishes featured cheese and of course I had grown a bit weary by the cheeslessness. But when I asked my new friends about the lack of cheese, and their response was "Cheese? Oh, yeah, that's the stuff Mc Donalds puts on a hamburger, isn't it?" I truly cringed.


I can live for a while without my favorite cheeses, even survive bad cheese. But NO cheese? Now I'm all aware of the fact that many Asian people can't digest milk products very well or at all, and I'm deeply sorry for them. But still, a country with no cheese? At least you could smell it, yes? Believe me, stinky Tofu is NOTHING compared to the smell of some of the fine French cheeses. I'm talking about the ones more hairy than your dad; the cheeses that could easily walk away from you if they weren't too proud to do it. REAL cheeses!

Anyway. I brought cheese to the openSUSE Conference from the Dutch cheese store below.

Van oSC 2011


Talking about the conference, over the last couple of days, a huge amount of work has been put in the "Zentrifuge", the location for the openSUSE Conference. And I really mean huge, the place was - well, what do you expect of an empty, old industrial complex... It was empty ;-)

So we now are doing the finishing touches, and I'd like to share some pics of the work! I've put them on my picasaweb, have fun!

oSC 2011

Edit: note that you're all welcome at the conference location from now on! If you arrive before 18:00 however, you'll be put to work. After that, we have a nice pre-registration party with beer and pizza!!!

08 September, 2011

So, how useful was it?

A while ago I blogged, asking if the materials we provided on the openSUSE wiki for speakers at oSC was useful.

What stuff?

As a reminder, the materials I'm talking about included:
And I also wanted to write an article on how to organize a Hack session/Developer Sprint but that's on ice for now.

I used a web poll for people to answer and you can see the results in the poll below.

Free Web Poll

Unfortunately, right now, only 9 people answered. Only 3 of them read it and considered it useful information but didn't use it for the openSUSE conference, 4 of them didn't notice it (while 2 would have liked to see it) and 2 people saw it but didn't need it.

So, does that mean I should stop to spend my time on such things, or does it mean people didn't see my blog or didn't bother to answer?

07 September, 2011

Bikeshedding and CLS

I wrote a blog about bikeshedding some time ago. At the Community Leadership Summit this subject came up and as I promised to write some blogs about that and because the openSUSE conference is coming I decided that this should be the topic for my second CLS notes blog.

bike shed, brighton bicycle storage
What color should it be?


So what was bikeshedding again? It happens if on a mailing list or a IRC channel a subject comes up which is trivial enough for everyone to have an opinion on. The result is that everyone feels obliged to share that opinion and challenge whatever anyone else comes up with. Leading to a long and mostly useless discussion.

That is bad because, especially on lists with many subscribers, it clutters hundreds of mailboxes of busy people with pointless mails and it needlessly complicates decision making. Which in turn leads to people starting to ignore the mailing list or even unsubscribing. Usually the people who do a lot of work are the ones leaving, while those who prefer talk over work will stay... See bikeshed.com to learn where the term comes from.

Dealing with bikeshedding

So bikeshedding is bad and it's something to avoid. How? There are a few ways in which you can avoid it.

1 - Change the culture

First of all, bikeshedding is a 'cultural' thing. If it's seen as acceptable, if people say 'all opinions are valuable here', well, it won't stop. So people will have to speak up against it. Tell others "ok, it's been enough, let's move on" or "This is not on-topic, please don't do that". This is a responsibility of all people on the list in the spirit of Edmond Burke's "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" ;-)

2 - Be a good admin

But preventing bikeshedding and off-topic comments it is especially a responsibility for list admins and moderators: stop bikeshedding threads. On forums this is usually quite well established, on mailing lists less so.

Intervening as list or IRC channel admin should be done in the proper way: "praise in public, punish in private" is the golden rule here. Tell people privately that it's been enough. When a big group in thread engages in bikeshedding, give a general warning like "Ok, enough bikeshedding, please end this thread". It is possible on most mailinglists to block threads, so that might be a good next step if things don't improve. If people keep engaging in bikeshedding or other abusive things and don't listen (or fight your decision) a 24 hour ban can be a good cooling down period for some.

Oh, that's censorship? So we should allow a few people to make a whole list useless to protect their freedom of speech, you say? Realize that anyone can exercise that right in many places! A community has every right to have rules protecting their communication channels. openSUSE has these described on the mailing lists wiki page and our Guiding Principles.

3 - Try to turn it around

One thing a moderator but also anyone else on the mailing list could do is recognize the value of people who bikeshed. I've been talking all negative about it, but the discussions and sometimes conflicts which take place on the list also show that people care. One interesting tip which was brought up at CLS was to give people who often are involved in bikeshedding and conflicts a 'job'. After all, they seem to care a lot - giving them some responsibilities diverts their (negative) energy to something positive! It takes skills to turn a negative into a positive but it can be a powerful thing.

4 - From the start

A way of preventing bikeshedding lies in how topics are brought to the mailing list. Not only the kind of topics (irrelevant topics are of course bad) but also how you start. Yes, we are an open community, but that doesn't mean that you can't prepare your mails. It can help a lot if you first talk to some key people involved in what you want to discuss and include in your first message a list of the 'obvious' arguments. This prevents the first 20 mails from being trivial and keeps the thread short. Which in turn prevents these basic arguments from being brought up again and again because they people didn't bother to read the huge thread!

Amsterdam bikes
We need plenty of bike sheds, let's build one in each color...


If people take others up on their behavior and when list or channel admins moderate actively a lot of bikeshedding can be stopped. And prevented - yes, people learn, albeit slowly. You'll get a few fights and disagreements as those 'corrected' often don't like being corrected. But realize that the 'silent majority' will be grateful for it and the list will become more useful. And discussions can be shortened considerably if the topics are presented well prepared.

I do think that we, in openSUSE, allow too much bikeshedding at times, which hurts us. Feel free to argue with me at the openSUSE conference if you agree or disagree! But don't bikeshed about it ;-)

I think openSUSE can improve with the lessons learned in other, more established communities where the culture is so that bikeshedding rarely happens.

06 September, 2011

Bretzn at oSC

So there is the cool Bretzn project which was about creating a plugin for IDE's to compile and publish code via the Open Build Service and the Open Collaboration Services and then letting the user install, rate and comment on apps via a desktop client.


This last step, the client, unfortunately isn't finished yet - you can find the current code on gitorious but it still needs work. The underlying stuff is done, however so it shouldn't be that much work to finish it. The team working on it had to move on to other things - jobs, clients, real life stuff.

Too bad, as that means the chances of this making it into openSUSE 12.1 aren't big. So Bretzn is looking for help! According to Frank Karlitschek, finishing the client shouldn't take much more than 6 weeks volunteer's work. It's currently done with QML but obviously a contributor could take it in another direction. Sure is, however, that whoever takes it on can count on some pretty good mentoring from Frank, Frederik and others.


So - anyone around who's interested in a cool, cutting-edge GUI project for openSUSE & KDE? Note that in typical openSUSE fashion, this tool is not meant to be openSUSE specific - or even KDE specific. The Appstream project is working on a GNOME GUI based on the Ubuntu Software Center and sharing most of the infrastructure. It's a cross-distro effort, with people from Fedora, Debian and other distro's involved!

If you're interested, contact me (just post below) or talk to us at the openSUSE Conference!!!

31 August, 2011


A few weeks ago the results of the voting for the openSUSE Strategy came in. 90% agreement, nice!

And another number - I've talked about the openSUSE strategy in no less than 8 posts already. Sjeeminee. Re-reading, I noticed this one where I mentioned that Fedora was also 'doing strategy'. I see that the Fedora Board has created a Vision statement.

Obviously Fedora is quite different from openSUSE (see their Leadership system) and they worked quite differently compared to what we did. Other communities are also having 'strategic discussions'. Looks like we set a trend ;-)

It was quite a learning experience. Doing this in such a large community, with so many ways to let people provide input - wow. I think we did very well. Thanks in part to tools like co-ment and of course the input of many people. I think it's impressive that we did it so open and bottom-up!

In any case, I'm happy with the outcome and I'd like to echo the statement in the article: we're still looking for feedback and further refinement and the strategy mailinglist will stay open! And you're always welcome to provide input in-person at the openSUSE conference.

30 August, 2011

10 steps to building a local community

I've had the question a few times: how do I build a community [here]? With here being in a variety of countries and places. As I speak to quite a few people who lead local communities, I decided to put together a presentation with 10 steps. Feedback on this is obviously welcome, such a thing is never complete! The presentation can be found here and the notes have far more that what I put below.

Step 1: just start!

Start organizing meetings around the subject of your passion! That's all it takes. Pick an interesting subject, find yourself a speaker and get going. Start small: invite friends and collegues. A first meeting with 5 people is fine!
  • find a free venue, small is OK. Meeting room at company is always nice, but universities and schools often have something too
  • pick a time after work. 7-9PM works usually fine.
  • Make sure you have coffee, tea, cake. Not full catering or dinner but basics
  • try to offer this for free (see Step 5: sponsorship)

Step 2: Get interesting stuff to attract visitors

People come out of interest. So, you have to have interesting meetings. For that, speaker quality is crucial.
  • Get a good speaker to talk about an interesting subject! Someone who KNOWS HIS STUFF, preferably not a marketing person... but an engineer or so.
  • meet them before the session to get to know them
  • make sure they have a good presentation (eg avoid death-by-powerpoint etc), help them to improve if needed
  • maintain a good relation with speakers - you might want to invite them again!

Step 3: Make sure they stay

Make people feel welcome! A few tips:
  • make sure you talk to new people and introduce them to others. And introduce them shortly to the group before the talks!
  • if your group grows bigger, pick someone to do the introduction for you: appoint a 'director of communication'!

Step 4: Advertise

Getting the word out is important.
  • set up a nice website with info on the upcoming meetings (something blog-like is fine!)
  • write short reports on the meetings
  • use social media: facebook, twitter/identi.ca etcetera. Be sure to automate as much as you can, often you can link those sites to your blog.
  • provide a place to talk online. Forum, mailinglist, comments on your blogs...

Step 5: Find sponsors

To pay for the coffee and tea it helps to have sponsors.
  • try to find local sponsors and don't stop at one so you don't overtax that one sponsor
  • ask in the meeting if people know potential sponsors
  • don't ask too little money.If you ask $250 you might get 3 sponsors and if you ask $1000 you might only get 1 but - well, do the math... You must realize that $250 or $1000 is almost the same for a company, considering how much trouble they have to go through!
  • Let sponsors pay for things directly to save yourself the tax trouble; or use American Express gift cheques
  • reward the sponsors: put their name on your web site, talk to them about what you do, invite them, let them know they matter!

Step 6: Bring friends

Encourage your visitors to talk to others and bring friends. Reward them with some goodie if they do!

Step 7: Reward creativity

Often, people come up with interesting, fun, weird, creative stuff. They create a nice logo for your local community, postcards with the logo, want to give a origami course to fold it, stuff like that.
SUPPORT IT. Creativity is good; it's fun and showing the love! Talk about it, give people a chance to show what they did. It's good teambuilding!

Step 8: Find minions

You need to off-load work at some point. Find people to help you!
  • give responsibility, don't micro-manage. Mistakes are OK, be patient!
  • value all contributions, no matter how small, it always helps
  • give credit where credit is due. If someone takes care of something for a while, give them a title. Nothing's wrong with being Coffee Master!

Step 9: Be ready for bad weather

Keep the community healthy and fun. That means also to take action when the harmony is threatened.
  • set up a simple code-of-conduct on your site. Nothing complex, just "behave or you're not welcome"
  • if someone mis-behaves, take them apart, talk to them. If they persist, tell them they can't come for a while. Don't argue: it's YOUR event, YOU make the rules
  • if a public apology is warranted, do it yourself. Be non-specific, just say "something not OK happened, I'm sorry. The person(s) involved are sorry and won't do it again."
  • if the people involved don't learn, they're not welcome anymore, period. If you let it drag too long to keep that single person in the group you can loose the whole community! Nobody is worth that, even if they do a lot of work and don't mean it that badly.

Step 10: Have fun!

With all the tips and ideas in here, you would almost miss the most crucial and important point. If YOU don't have fun, you'll be burned out quickly. So make sure it's fun for yourself.


And bonus openSUSE tips

For openSUSE and other communities which have a connection to a global community, I have an additional tip: stay connected!
  • Follow the international news site(s), blogs and mailinglists. Blog yourself about the events, let people know your community exists.
  • And the other way around: discuss the international news in your local community. A 30 min "what happened this week/month" can be fun and interesting.
  • Make sure you invite people from the international community to big events in your country; let the team know and let them meet with the international community members!
    use the materials the international community creates:
    • translate articles or discuss the topics in there;
    • ask for goodies, DVD's to hand out, other materials!
    • use the travel sponsorship where needed to go with your team to events!
    • use the materials on the marketing wiki, talking points, release announce information and other stuff to make sure you say the right things!
    • and use the graphics, folders, flyers and other things created by the international team!
  • have a release party around releases!
  • come to the openSUSE conference to talk with other leaders of local communities and learn!

29 August, 2011

CLS, DS, COSCUP... Plasma Active, ARM, ...

It's been quite a while since I wrote a decent blog and it might be a while longer until I really get to it. I do have a lot to write about, however. First about the Community Leadership Summit - the notes of which I'd like to turn into a few blogs. Second, the Desktop Summit, which was awesome. And third my trip to Taiwan. Finally the upcoming openSUSE conference which is going to be awesome. But let me get the most important stuff out of the way first.

Desktop Summit Awesomeness

At the Desktop Summit (which imho was a great success) I organized 3 food cooking parties where we made some Asian-inspired curries. I've put the recipes on-line for those who asked for it. Find them on the Desktop Summit Food page.

At those cooking evenings we had between 25 and 30 people join us each night. It was big fun, we had good food (and beer and more) and I really intend to do it again next time. As a matter of fact, I hope to do the cooking again at the openSUSE Conference. And remember - if you don't use openSUSE that doesn't mean you can't come and enjoy the company, food and discussions about all kinds of things. See for yourself in the detailed program. You can also learn how IO travels in the kernel, how to use the mtux console multiplexer, the sessions about GIT, cross-cultural communication, GCC and Kernel stuff and more. And that's just stuff from day one, we have about 100 sessions in 4 days.

Talking about cool stuff, on Tuesday we'll have an 8-bit music workshop... Seriously, I look forward to that. If you want to join, hurry up, the conf takes place September 11-14!


Taipei and Plasma Active

Last week I made a trip to Taiwan to meet the openSUSE community there. There's quite a bunch and they did awesome at the booth at COSCUP. Really cool. We had lots of interesting stuff there, flyers, geeko's, stickers, USB sticks and Aaron left his Plasma Active tablet (runs openSUSE, of course) at the booth a few times. That thing drew quite a crowd - and rightly so. I hadn't seen that much of it but Plasma Active is really something very interesting. It's a unique touch tablet UI, yet easy to use and intuitive. Build in just a few months it's amazing to see how well it works already. The team aims to stabilize it in the next few months and I'm absolutely certain it will result in a pretty darn impressive product.

Aaron spoke quite a bit about how well the Open Build Service works for them during development. The team works closely with an interaction designer and obviously she's not such a hugely technical person. With a traditional development process someone would have to do packages for her - or she'd have to learn how to check out a repository and then compile and install stuff herself. Thanks to OBS, packages are build continuously and very easy - a dev checks some code in and the next day the designer can give feedback! Continuous build services are not unique of course but they usually don't come easily, don't produce packages, etc. build.opensuse.org has an easy web interface, can build for all major Linux distro's and architectures (yes, including ARM) and is of course entirely free.run it in-house,

I'm quite proud that openSUSE proves to be so successful for the Plasma Active team. They also build packages for MeeGo, as they want to support ARM systems. I know several openSUSE contributors want to have ARM in openSUSE, well, Plasma Active is at the openSUSE conference so we can meet and talk about it there...

Anyhow. So Taiwan was fun. You can find some pics of COSCUP on flickr and I have an image of two of my hosts as well as fellow visitor Aaron below :D

You'll probably find all three of them at the openSUSE conference too, btw.

05 August, 2011

DesktopSummit about to start!

I'm already late to be at Humbolt and help the team to prepare for the arrival of many hundreds of Free Software desktop* contributors.

For those who missed the mail by Claudia with some last minute information, let me include the most important stuff:

  • Pre-regisration starts at 16:00 at C-base, coolest place in Berlin. Be there for a badge and beer! If you can't make it you can register on Saturday but you'll have to enter the building via the back ;-)
  • Lunch vouchers for food at the uni cost 17 euro
  • Yes, bad weather here, lots of rain. Get Umbrella's...

For more info, see the the desktop summit wiki and here. Contact info can be found here.

Have a good trip if you're not there, and if you've arrived already, enjoy your stay!!!

*I'm unsure what to say these days - "desktop" doesn't cut it, but "UI" or user interface is too vague, user experience too fancy, "desktop/mobile" too long etc etc etc...

31 July, 2011

Harmony horrors

Besides the positive things, there's some less nice stuff to talk about.

On the other side of the web, I kept discussing Harmony with Allison (Canonical) until I asked something and got no response anymore.

Bringing up arguments like "it provides more clarity to contributors, a 'check point' to look at the legal situation and reassurance of legal status to users" or the already-debunked "but it is helps protect the copyrights and handling of disappearing contributors" doesn't convince me that contributors should sign away their code while running the risk TO GET SUED BY THE COMPANY THEY JUST GAVE THEIR CODE TO FOR WRITING IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. Seriously, that's a risk, read Michael's post.

The whole problem with CLA's and the like is and remains that you give but don't get even the least of protection or right. All risk remains with you - if you overlooked any patents on the code you just signed away to the company, they can sue you, or let others do so. And you can infringe on patents of the code you yourself just wrote. And in case you're defending yourself in court, they can sell your patents you need to defend yourself to the company attacking you (or they already might have, years ago). So they get to monetize your contribution any way they see fit, including selling it to the highest bidder, patenting it and suing anyone who writes something similar. You get - well, what do you mean, you want something?
You got to write code for them, didn't you? For free! You should be happy you got to contribute to such a great company! Now get out of the way or we sue you!

Honestly, I wasn't enthusiastic about Harmony but as I'm no lawyer and not really capable of reading the legal speak of the (hard to get to) licenses I didn't know it was that bad. Ok, it's a 1.0 release, signing it might burn your house or let anyone sue you. I'd say a warning on the site might be in place...

Read Michael Meeks' interesting insights. Little to say after that, imho. The pro arguments are not convincing at all, the con's are big. I'd recommend to never sign a CLA or work for any company requiring you to do so - unless they pay you of course. After all, that's the whole point:
If a company wants ownership to your code, they should pay you!

30 July, 2011

KDE release on Radio Antwerp

As usual lots going on. I haven't mentioned it anywhere yet, so: congrats to all KDE peeps for the release of SC 4.7 ;-)

I presented the release on Radio Antwerp Centraal a few days ago. I had helped out a bit with the release announcement but hadn't had a recent look so I had to catch up to the major highlights quickly. Worked out great, though. Also discussed Tumbleweed and GNOME with the radio dude. Not sure what the initial plan was but I found myself talk for a full program in the end... Surprise, huh?

On the other side of the world I went to CLS last week. Still have to turn my notes into something readable - struggling with crappy sleep, family visits and other time-eating things. And the DS is upcoming... But I'll blog about this later, promise!

17 July, 2011

Harmony 1.0 is out

Well, well. Almost nobody noticed as they didn't make much noise about it, but Harmony 1.0 is out. I made my opinions quite clear in my blog and column about Harmony and said we'd have to judge once something came out. Well, let me just quote Richard Fontana from Red Hat, who's saying what I think (but more politely):
(...) I say to Mr. Shuttleworth, with all respect, that I cannot join him in any support of the Harmony initiative.

I surely don't support it anymore than he does and agree that as far as I can tell, Harmony has much more potential to do damage than good in the world of Free Software. But let's see how the discussion goes at the Desktop Summit Panel on Copyright Assignment, who knows, Mark might convince us...

Edit: read this blog by Bradley Kuhn if you want to know why Harmony is harmful... Long but good.

14 July, 2011

oSC2011 CfP & reg

Titles are supposed to be short, right?

The full text would of course be "openSUSE Conference 2011 Call for Papers and Registration" and yes, that's what it is about: on Monday we've extended the deadline for the CfP so you can still shoot in session proposals. And today the registration has opened so you can let us know you'll be there :D

Chat ... va pas trop mal aujourd'hui !

We want to let you all use this conference to get something done which is why we focus so much on interactive sessions. BoFs, workshops, hack sessions... Think about yourself! What do YOU want to accomplish? What does YOUR team need to talk about? What features should be finished? What decisions should be made? Use the conference for that!

Shoot in a proposal here!!!

And as I said, registration is open, register now!

BTW I just updated the links to openSUSE conference posters, there are two of them now. One by Robert Lihm with a big Qr code, the other, designed by two Greek Georges, is a bit more Green :D

12 July, 2011

Open Build Service and Renault

A while ago, Renault employee Xavier notified the OBS mailing list that Renault is using the Open Build Service internally for building packages.

Anyone up for asking Xavier a few questions and writing a nice article for news.o.o about this? It's easy as the mail already contains a lot of info, otherwise we can ask Xavier for some more input and I'll obviously help with the writing...

06 July, 2011

Getting the new MS fonts in LibreOffice - or rather, forget about it

Learning point of the day:
when on the website of a company with dubious business and legal practices READ the fine print...

I already wrote most of the following article (actually more, including making screen shots) before I did that.

But in the interest of not having wasted that time, let me explain how to get the new Microsoft Office fonts in LibreOffice (or the older OpenOffice) and why it is illegal to do so under non-Microsoft OS'es like most phone, tablet or Linux systems. Windows users can just install MS Powerpoint Viewer to get the fonts, see link below!

The Font Issue

If you get a document with fonts you don't have, the result can be bad. Layout will surely not be proper and for some reason LibreOffice and Calligra pick a horrible replacement on my computer - Alien Leage, see screen shot. Guaranteed to make any normal document unreadable. And the idiotic 'reading mode' of LO makes it impossible to change the font until you've saved the file somewhere. The benefit of that mode always escaped me in MS Office, at least I knew how to turn it off...


Anyway, enough ranting - a solution. If you don't have the new Microsoft fonts like the new Win7 fonts including the often-used Calibri, you can start to search the web for obscure download sites where, after you decided not to enjoy some online casino, enlarge a body part or clean your computer from viruses, you might find potential candidates in zip or rar form.

Luckily, there is a better way - get the stuff from the source. Install the free Microsoft PowerPoint viewer with Wine. Serious! You can get it here. The second image in this blog shows the three major steps you have to go through to install this using PlayOnLinux (plain wine might not work but this does). In the end it shows a selection dialog which you have to point to the executable and the font files would obviously end up in C:\Windows\fonts of the PlayOnLinux map (~/.PlayOnLinux/).

To install them, navigate your file browser to ~/.PlayOnLinux/wine/C/Windows/Fonts, right click the font and choose under 'actions' for 'install'. If your file browser isn't decent enough to help you with this, find a font manager with "alt-F2" "font" in a Plasma Desktop or "win key" and "font" in a GNOME Shell.

A different way to get to the font files is to use cabextract. Download the PowerPoint file to a folder, open a console & go to the folder, and use cabextract (twice):
cabextract PowerPointViewer.exe
cabextract ppviewer.cab

Then install the fonts via file manager or font manager.

Obviously, Windows users install the PowerPoint viewer and it will install the fonts automatically, or they similarly extract them from the installer.

The snag

I would recommend to do this, if I had not discovered the following section on the download page of the PowerPoint Viewer site:
You may use the fonts that accompany the PowerPoint Viewer only to display and print content from a device running a Microsoft Windows operating system.
What a ridiculous limitation... In other words, people send us documents written in the default font of their OS but it's illegal for users of other systems to view them properly. I call it abuse of market power and it makes me feel how I imagine Thom felt when he wrote about Microsoft's extortion against Android makers. If you can't win by creating a better product...

And of course I only discovered this AFTER doing it (works fine) and writing this article.


I'm happy to be active in the world of Free Software, openSUSE and KDE. We invite our 'competitors' to our conference or simply share it with them! We're not afraid as we believe in ourselves. Looks like Redmond lost confidence in their own products long ago...

04 July, 2011

oS strategy

The voting for the oS strategy ended on the 30th but the board decided to extend it a bit. Which makes sense, quite a few members were not aware of the voting. Seems like many of them don't read the planet very often ;-)

So, we will extend it with two weeks & send out a mail to all members notifying them of the voting...

Obviously, you don't have to wait for that mail - if you read this you can also
go here, log in and vote!

From the email:

What do I vote for?

We realize the vast majority of you simply prefer to focus on writing code and building packages. 'strategy' might not be the most interesting thing in the world. However, it does influence at the very least how we communicate about ourselves and how we are seen. Think about texts on our websites, what our ambassadors say about us at conferences. This is an important goal of the strategy - not only decide upon the direction we want (after all, the current document simply describes the status quo) but also define our communication!

Obviously there are many more reasons why we did the strategy discussion - after all, many people asked for it, not just marketing. But communication is an important part of it... And:

We need to know if the end result of the discussions about strategy reflect how you see openSUSE. Even if you disagree, it is important for us to know that - we accept any outcome!

In short, please vote, even if you want to neither answer yes or no - there is a third option ("Abstain, I can't decide").

Note that the document isn't meant to be final and should be revised in the future. That's also why we're still very much open to feedback!