30 June, 2011

Blog: Dutch KDE BBQ

Sunday, Juli 10th I'll organize a KDE BBQ at my place, Cooklaan 7 in Utrecht. Anyone, including openSUSE or GNOME people more than welcome :D

You're welcome from about 14:00 and I'd appreciate it if you can give me a heads-up on Saturday so I can make sure I have enough food :D

The bbq will be done Dutch style - bring something yourself. But please, not too much, I don't want to have to eat meat for the next 2 weeks. I'll make sure there is some beer, veggies, bread etc of course. If the Weather gods don't like us we can eat inside and I might turn it into a curry cooking party or so but we'll decide that later on. In any case I'll take both herbivores and carnivores into account!

Getting there:
Public Transport: Go to Utrecht Central station, take the tram. Get out by Vasco Da Gamalaan. When you get out the tram, go right, then left to cross the street and go further in that direction. You'll pass a LIDL at which point you have to go left and you will find the Cooklaan as the first street on the left. Ring the bell at nr 7 and look sweet so I'll let you in.
Car: use open streetmap, Google Maps or TomTom... Don't forget to look sweet at the door ;-)

29 June, 2011

Desktop Summit: register your BoF!!!

A few weeks ago the registration for BoF's and workshops opened. Now, it is almost July 3rd - the deadline!!! So if you have something to discuss at the Desktop Summit, be smart. Not registering doesn't mean you can't have your BoF but it DOES mean it might have to be 9 in the morning, the day after a party. And we all know how well attended such BoFs are ;-)

Go to this page and register your workshop or BoF!

While on the subject of reminders:
- register for the Desktop Summit if you haven't already!!!
- Send in your session proposals for the openSUSE conference!

22 June, 2011

Time to register!

The Desktop Summit is getting closer. That means you really need to start planning travel and hotel and of course - register!

We need to plan our event properly, and for that we need the visitors to register in time. We might not be able to get you network access or have room for you in the social events like parties or trips if you don't register in time, so it's in everybody's interest if you do :D

If you're still wondering if you should go, remember this: if you are interested in the Linux Desktop, this is THE place to be. All key players are there! You can get to know them, learn, share thoughts and ideas.

And not to forget, we have a STUNNING line-up of talks, awesome keynote speakers and of course much much more.

So go, register today!

20 June, 2011

DS call for participation: BoF's and Workshops

The Desktop Summit schedule for the talks and presentations has been published a couple of weeks ago. Now Jon announced that it's time to start sending in sessions for workshops, BOF's and hack/teaching sessions! The dot has a more extensive announcement.

The important points:
All forms of hands-on activities that aim to further the Free Desktop are welcomed. Examples of such sessions include BoF, project and cross-project meetings, workshops, hacking sessions and training/teaching sessions. Each session is self-organized and it is up to the hosts and participants to decide if the session is to be loosely oriented around a set of topics, or have a well-defined agenda.

Each session is meant to be open to anyone who is interested, if you want to organize a closed session on a subject, contact the organisation (details below). We encourage participants to make use of the fact that the Desktop Summit will bring together people from several different communities, and the unique opportunities this creates.

The deadline for pre-registered sessions is July 3rd. Sessions registered before this time will be scheduled by the organization team between July 3rd and July 10th.

For sessions registered after this date, attendees themselves are responsible for finding a time and location for the session. Rooms will be available for this for the duration of the Workshop & BoF days, and the wiki can be used to coordinate.

This means that if you schedule in advance we can make sure there is no overlap between these sessions or talks and that the order makes sense. For example, first a talk introducing QML, then a workshop on QML & Plasma, then a hack session to write some applets. If you don't schedule now, you run the risk of having a BoF at 9 in the morning the day after a party, too :D

Note that obviously, you can't be sure yet about the topic of some sessions. Especially BoF's are supposed to be about relevant, recent things. So you're not expected to have a perfect topic yet, a rough outline is enough!

Now, go forth and shoot in a BoF, workshop or similar Read-Write session!

17 June, 2011

hettes and giving back Windows licenses

The dutch hettes is an open source webshop. I've been talking to them as they want to ship openSUSE on their computers.

Now they bump into an issue: the well known Microsoft tax is unavoidable, even if you don't want or use it! They can't ship back the licenses as MS doesn't accept that. In effect, their customers have to pay Microsoft even though they don't use their software.

It is called Tying and illegal, but who has the financial power to do something about it? In the USA, this has been solved - MS has been ordered to accept customers who send back licenses and give them $30 for each. They don't make it easy but at least it is possible now. However, as far as I know, in NL there is no such a rule and I'm not sure about the rest of the EU either. Hettes is talking to the Department of Economics in the Netherlands but frankly, I'm not sure that'll help much.

The question I'd like to put for you all is: what can Hettes do? Is there a way to get their monies back? How can we help them with this silly situation?

16 June, 2011

openSUSE conference sponsorship

On news.opensuse.org an article went out recently to ask for sponsors for the openSUSE conference. As the openSUSE conference this year is expected to attract some 500 attendees, we need a serious budget. Surely, the Platinum sponsor (SUSE) can take care of much, but we need to be able to support our many community members to come to the conference.


If you live in India, Brazil, Taiwan or Australia, it is not cheap to fly to Nuernberg. And we do want those people there! We are an diverse, international community, something to cherish. But we can't afford that without some serious sponsorship. So that's why I ask for help. We need YOUR help to find sponsors, contacts in companies, anything. Please, help us out, let us know! You can email me (jos at opensuse), or Izabel Valverde (izabelvalverde at opensuse).

08 June, 2011

On the value of contributing opinions

I recently read a mail on the KDE core-devel mailinglist by Eike Hein. It was quite a good description of the value of opinions and ideas for a FOSS project - something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately.

What is the value of an idea, suggestion or opinion? That is a much harder question to answer than it might seem. Free Software projects solicit user feedback in a variety of ways. For example via a bug tracker or comments on announcements. Users are sometimes asked to participate in mailing lists or on forums. Interestingly, both users and developers often complain about the process and results. Users feel they are not heard, developers say the comments are unfriendly, de-motivating or useless.

In Eike's case, he commented that the user was
sort of implying that the current placement of things in workspace isn't already the result of a thought and decision process, while not actually having done your homework yet on what the purpose of the components in question is
So, he felt attacked a bit - the user makes it seem like the developers just did something at random. And the user didn’t bother to inform himself, so the comments aren’t useful either.

value of input

Taking this serious, it raises the bar for input from an user: first of all, he or she has to assume thought has been put in the decisions by the developers. It might not seem that way sometimes - and it is not always entirely the case. But often, it also happens that the developers simply had more or other use cases in mind. As developer, you have more than one user so you have to make your application fit with more than one way of working. In this case, Eike elaborated on the design decisions here.

Second, input is clearly only useful if it is well thought out. Hein comments further in the mail:
Sorry but that doesn't cut it - starting a discussion like this on that sort of rickety foundation is likely to end up as a http://bikeshed.org/ discussion because the quality bar for participation is already so low: It's easy to have an opinion, but hard to argue for it, so everybody will chime in with a few quick words, and it won't amount to anything substantial.

I personally would like to echo his statement. Yes, opinions are easy - everyone has them. That doesn’t mean they are useful. Unfortunately, without putting in a serious amount of thought, they end up being trivial.

I stumbled into this myself, about 7 years ago. I was active in KDE-promo at the time. Being a student, I had time on my hands to read up on what was going on in KDE development on the KDE-core-devel mailing list. And I voiced my opinion on things there as well. Which was considered - well, noise. I wasn't a developer and most of what I had to say was subjective or irrelevant. This was, at some point, simply told to me in a friendly, private mail. I realized that the person writing that was very much correct and refrained from cluttering the threads on the mailing list from that point on.

So what then?

So this knowledge puts a burden on whoever wants to really contribute thoughts and ideas. Quoting Eike again:
Wanting to shape the product is awesome (we need more people looking at the big picture), but the only way to have debate like this is to do the up-front work so a thread can hit the ground running.

So, yes, throwing some trivial comments at a project is not helpful. If you want your input to mean anything, to be helpful, you'll have to put in more thought. Find out what the background is, why those decisions were made. This is not a trivial amount of work, I recognize that. Most users won't have time to put in that much effort in something.

But it also means that yes, developers do welcome input. They need it to create better products. And you don’t have to be a coder to help. You don’t have to be a designer or a marketing professional. You DO have to commit a serious effort, however. "talk is cheap" is not always true, but very often.

All this doesn't mean that if you're new, un-experienced or not all-knowing, you can't contribute. Of course you can. "There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers" and all that. But you have to be serious. You have to realize that adding trivial comments in a thread on a mailing list has a serious cost: time of the people reading it. Time which could have been spend on reading more important things, or even better: writing code.


In openSUSE, the -project mailinglist is known for having a (too large) number of trivial comments. In his announcement of Tumbleweed Greg mentioned that there had been discussions for years about doing a "rolling update" version of openSUSE on mailinglists and at conferences, but nothing has happened yet. He indicated that this is something he sees a lot. A word has even been invented for it: bikeshedding. Which basically means that people have lots of opinions on simple subjects but this provides little actual value. And when asking for input on a more complicated matter, where it is really needed, often responses are few and far between. This is exactly the problem Eike talked about. Many, if not most developers have unsubscribed from the list, or don't read it anymore. That is a serious issue. Think about it - does your opinion actually add anything to a discussion? Or is it just noise which keeps others away?

bikeshed.org is recommended reading on this subject!

07 June, 2011

Strategy voting has started!


Yup - we've got a strategy proposal under vote. Sorry it took so long. Everyone, both from the board and the strategy team, has been busy with the openSUSE 11.4 release and the upcoming openSUSE conference. But the board has asked Thomas Thym to get it out 2 weeks ago and he asked me to create a openSUSE Members poll (he's not a member yet). And I did. So if you're an openSUSE member, go to connect.opensuse.org and cast your vote!


I've blogged before about what this strategy is and isn't about but I'd like to re-iterate it one more time.

No, it's not about finding a perfect description of all of us. We're way too diverse for that to ever work. It also isn't about carefully describing a grand, detailed plan for what we will do. We don't tell our contributors what they can and can't work on. And it's not about writing a sexy and engaging text. The marketing team will do the marketing texts, this is too much based on compromise for that to be possible.

It is about having a reasonably accurate description of who we are, what we want and where we stand.

Yes, it does say some things about where we might not want to go or where we focus. That is because the majority of us focuses on certain things and doesn't care about other things. IF someone wants to take those things on, change that focus, fine. But they have to be prepared to do a LOT of work and get little support. In a sense, this 'strategy' can tell people they should join openSUSE because we are the perfect community to do what they want. Or not...

Now surely we can and will revise it in the future, but in small steps. We'll update it if people start doing cool new stuff, for example. We already had to add Tumbleweed and Evergreen! And if enough people want to work on mobile devices, ARM or other stuff - well, we just do it and then change our 'strategy'.

So, now go to connect.opensuse.org and cast your vote!

green picture in the article

On the green "I want you" picture on news.opensuse.org: I got it off the web and used Krita to make it green. I know, Krita is meant as an artist tool, a painting app. Wrong tool for the job. I just didn't think about using the Gimp... Actually, on my laptop I usually use Showfoto for these things which is far superior to both for basic photo manipulation. Forgot to use that too. Yes, right tool for the job isn't always high on my agenda, hehe.

The image in the previous Milestone 1 article WAS made with the right tool: Krita again. Just 5 minutes with the right brushes and layers and it's awesome... Obviously, this is NOT a serious proposal for openSUSE 12.1 artwork.

06 June, 2011

GSOC mentoring

Hi all,

Dave Neary has written an interesting blogpost on 'effective mentoring'.

If you don't feel like reading the whole thing (it's big, yes) I can give you some highlights on common issues that make mentoring less effective:

  • communication. Apprentices often expect their mentor to check in, the mentor expects apprentices to ask questions if they have any. This means it is a wise thing to contact your apprentice and:
    • ask how it is going, if they need any help
    • tell them they have to be pro-active: ask questions and give you reports. Just to correct their perception if they expected YOU to ask them! Make clear it has to be pull from their side, it won't be push from yours. Their GSOC project is their responsibility.
  • Mentoring doesn't stop in August: realize YOU are the friendly face to the project for the student/apprentice. Please be prepared to keep talking to the students and help them, even (especially!) if GSOC is over! And tell them so.
  • Regular meeting are really important. Have a weekly IRC chat and just talk. Both about personal things (get to know each other!) and about the project.
  • And please tell the students to help each other and others. That is both a learning experience for them, AND they understand others who are new better than anyone!

If you have questions, please ask on the mentor mailinglist, not only on IRC. Others can learn from the answers. Others here includes me, btw, I love to know what issues you bump into!

Good luck mentoring and remember, we want the students to STAY, not just fire some code at us and go again ;-)

02 June, 2011


I was feeling opinionated on legal stuff recently. Don't worry, it doesn't happen often and I wrote it off in a column on Harmony. Read it here on linuxuser.co.uk and feel free to comment below. After all, I love flame wars. But I have something else I'd like to get of my chest, about pragmatism vs idealism.
Black and White

Pragmatism and idealism

Now before I start, I'm not very much interested in legal stuff. On the other hand, I use the term 'Free Software' as opposed to 'Open Source' for a reason. I do care about the Freedom part in what we do. While it's not a huge issue for relatively rich people who live in relatively free countries (like the vast majority of European citizens for example), it bites when you live in Egypt or Iran. Take the GPLv2 vs the GPLv3. The GPLv2 ensures 'code' stays free. If you have a device with modified GPLv2 code on it, you have to share the code. But you don't have to allow your customers to replace the code on your device. That is unfortunate for iPhone users in the USA because it means they pay more for some things than they would have had otherwise. But for BlackBerry users in Iran, who can't set up their own Blackberry server to keep the prying eyes of their government out of their phone communication, it is a life-or-death situation!

Hence I completely, fully understand those who are pragmatic: if you look at yourself and most of your friends, there is no huge issue. And you don't have to be an activist. I'm not an activist, at least, most of the time. But when I see what happened in Egypt and then hear Mark Pesce talk about how he's working on a way to eliminate any central control over our communication (make the internet truly free and independent) I'm happy and proud to be part of the Free Software movement.

Sometimes the lines between pragmatism, extremism and full-fledged nutty-ism are vague - sure. The company which hired me has had its share of criticism - some fair, lots of it in the 'nutty' category. Such things often hurt more than they help. This complicates things - we want companies to work with us, but only following our rules. Mark recently was interviewed about those things, and he criticized this attitude strongly. And to some degree, I agree with him. But I also see the point of extremism here: you don't advance your cause if you water it down to nothing.

So it has to be about balance. And this, I guess, is a personal thing. Some people pride themselves on not working on Free Software for any company. Well, I did that for about 10 years and I feel I can make a lot more difference with the time and resources I now have. But at the same time, yes, my paycheck also means I have other obligations now. For me and what I do it is a net gain, for others maybe not.

Well, I don't have any answers here, just more questions. Sorry about that. I guess it's the nature of the thing!

Black and white

Feel free to discuss or attack and defend, my blog is open. I do ask people to be polite and show at least SOME cerebral activity, the brain-stem like responses I sometimes get really don't add to the discussion. Oh, and realize please that the world is not black and white. Unfortunate, I know, but it's reality and ignoring it doesn't make it go away.