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 ├╝bercool 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!!!