17 May, 2012


re:publica #rp12

About two weeks ago I went to Re:Publica, a hipster event (can I say that?) in Berlin. It was an interesting event - related to the stuff I usually visit, yet different. I'll go over the differences, then present what I see as the challenge for Free Software events: get those creative, digital and always-online people closer to us!


The main audience of the event could probably be best described as people interested in the 'digital lifestyle'. People who use smartphones, are always on-line. They find their places-to-go on foursquare, talk to their friends on facebook, share their opinions on twitter, Whatsapp with their love - but they don't hang out on IRC or visit forums very often and they probably have a Macbook Air and a high-end android phone. Yes, not that different from us.


The event featured talks on things like the web, new cloud services like on-line music and creativity like music and video tools, open video etcetera. But that was only about 10-20%. Another 20-30% was about the future - social media, social innovation and more. To my surprise, the remaining 50% of the talks was about Freedom - and I use the capital for a reason. The Occupy movement, Digital Restrictions Management, Net Neutrality, Open Data, Digital influence on revolutions, eco-journalism, (internet) governance. Very close to what we, the Free Software community, hold dear (and find interesting!) Yes, not so different from us.

re:publica #rp12

Marketing and artwork

You can imagine - an event organized by hipsters creative people looks good. It does! Team t-shirts were sponsored by spreadshirt and had the title 'actionist'. There was a big wall with the program, using pictures of the speakers, QR codes and more weird stuff. A twitter stream on a screen is old, people. Here, if you tweet a hash-tag you get your face as part of a logo shape or you get a gift if you check in with foursquare. That's more like it. Oh, and they had a 'carry your own chair' program - not unlike we did at the last openSUSE conference at the end of each day, except that it was 'cool', not 'please help us out with moving chairs'!

There were other things, too. Interesting or just plain weird stickers - with just a QR code or a shortened link, or only a slogan. There was stuff like a live steaming camera so you could interact with people on-line (easy to do: a laptop with a webcam connected to a google hangout?!?) and plenty of other good ideas. Surely different from what we usually do!

Challenge for us?

I lately have been feeling that Free Software is loosing the battle for the hearts. Privacy and security are not important, internet is just a tool. We've been trying to educate people about Freedom but they don't care.

I was wrong. Collaboration and Freedom DO matter and people know it. We just don't reach the most of those who care about these things. This is where our challenge lies!

After talking with others and thinking about this, I conclude that there are two things we have to do better:
    Positivism. We have a tendency to 'lecture' about the dangers of DRM, closed standards, government control and other things. Wake up! Look around you! Online Collaboration has given us Wikipedia. Online Communication has supported revolutions in the Middle East. Social Media gave us the Occupy Movement. And everyone's using Android phones. Yes, there are challenges, but let's celebrate our successes too! Relevance. We often are perfectionists. Build alternatives instead of interfacing with what's out there. But most people don't care that much for a slightly more secure system if it makes getting the latest stuff harder. People don't care about a perfectly free Cloud solution if it's more difficult or doesn't work with what they have. We must realize that a Can do attitude gets us far further than a Can't do way of thinking. And we have to make sure that what people care about is what we care about. Talking to others, sharing data, working with what's out there and checking if what we do has real-world value!

re:publica #rp12


At least at the conference's I'm involved in I'll be trying to broaden the audience a bit and attract people outside of our usual circle. By changes to the program (workshops on Krita, Gimp, Blender, Kdenlive and Inkscape? ownCloud? web stuff? Talks about Wikimedia, the EFF, net neutrality, copyright?) and by advertising/spreading the word in less usual places (maybe an Apple fan magazine or a design paper). Let's see if we can get more people to see what we do, get involved, care!

Awesome images by Renehamburg on flickr

16 May, 2012

openSUSE at LinuxTag Berlin 2012, SUSE Hiring!


It's almost that time: in one week LinuxTag opens its doors! Courtesy of your friends at Fedora and openSUSE, there will be 'Beefy Miracle' hotdogs and 'Old Toad' beer. And together with the numerous other projects we bring you talks about Linux and new Free/Open Source technologies, interesting people to talk to and lots of fun and party!

Cool stuff in the booth area, BEER AND HOTDOGS!

This year, openSUSE & Fedora gang up to both support you, the visitors, and LinuxTag, our gracious hosts. We'll hand out 'Old Toad' beer and 'Beefy Miracle' hotdogs for a small donation (€1 per item) to the LinuxTag e.V.! So there you have it:

Come, buy and eat hotdogs and drink beer in support of LinuxTag!

(the openSUSE beer is actually free as the catering didn't like us asking for donations to LinuxTag. However, we strongly suggest to give a donation anyway)

Sessions at openSUSE booth

At the openSUSE booth we'll also have short hands-on tech sessions every day. The schedule:
  • Wednesday-Saturday
    13:00 your ownCloud by yours truly
  • Thursday
    15:00 Colour Management by Kai-Uwe Behrman
  • Friday and Saturday
    15:00 AppArmor Crashkurs by Christian Boltz

Work work! Looking for a job?

I've also heard that two HR people from SUSE will be at or around the booth during most of Friday and Saturday. We're 20 years old, still going strong and have plenty of opportunities so if you're interested in an exciting job at the greenest company in the FOSS world, ask for Johanna Grau or Nadine Pieper!

I'm greatly looking forward to seeing all the friends from various Free Software projects again, like GNOME, KDE, LibreOffice, Fedora, TuxRadio, FreeBSD and many others. And you of course, dear reader!

    (yes, the posters are all mine. Didn't know I had it in me. Honestly, they're all rip-offs of real art of course, the first two based on the official LinuxTag poster and the 'we believe' is something which fuzzily came to me this morning after a way-to-short night. The art is inspired by suse.com/careers - I really like that. It is, of course, all in github (I really DO believe) and merge requests or suggestions are very welcome. But before tomorrow, it has to be printed for LinuxTag!)

14 May, 2012

SUSE 20 years old!

I've been with SUSE now for almost 2 years now and it's been quite a ride. SUSE itself, however, has been having fun long before I joined. Heck, even before Free Software was on my radar (that's somewhere around 2000), SUSE was already going strong! November it'll be 20 years. Cool to see that in that time, Linux went from 'nothing' to "two-thirds of the global Fortune 100 uses SUSE Linux Enterprise"!!!

At SUSECon there'll be a celebration, the geeko's will re-do that at the openSUSE Summit afterwards. But SUSE has already been gearing up for the celebrations, putting up this infographic for example, see also on the right. Quite cool ;-)

There's another one showing 'where SUSE leads', the 11 good reasons why SUSE is the savvy Linux choice. It is used on the careers page with the header "where SUSE leads, YOU lead". Nice touch :D

Join us?

Talking about careers, I know the SUSE Studio team is looking for an UI designer. If you've played with SUSE Studio you know you've got some big shoes to fill. But it is an amazingly cool project with an amazingly cool team and an amazingly cool project lead - that would be Cornelius Schumacher, or Mister President for you!

The Boosters are also looking for new blood and so are many other teams in SUSE. Just have a look on this page for the job openings, about 40 at the moment.

At LinuxTag in Berlin, about three weeks from now, there'll be two SUSE HR people, who can answer any questions you might have. So, if you wanna work on awesome stuff for the Greenest company in the F/LOSS world, come and talk to us ;-)

See you at LinuxTag!

11 May, 2012

fork on github?

Got lots of comments on my blog "on the value of collaboration". Some positive, some less so - but that's all fine. Today I wanted to point to one thing I had in there as a link: snapper.

Fork me on Github

Remember my blog about the Qt based firefox-like webbrowser Qupzilla and Fork me on Github? The new snapper website has a nice "fork us on github" button which does indeed link directly to the github repo of snapper!


So snapper is a frontend for creating and handling the snapshots the new btrfs Linux filesystem can make. This was initially written by SUSE engineers for SLE and also made available for openSUSE - that's SLE's upstream after all. And the team thought it makes sense to make it available for other Linux distributions as well, as there's lots more interesting work to do in FOSS than re-writing tools from one distro to the other.

Thus right now Snapper is available for the following Linux'es: Ubuntu, Fedora, Red Hat, Debian, Mandriva and of course openSUSE.

The GUI is written as a YaST plugin to make it available for commandline users as well as both on GNOME and KDE. We have ported LibYui to other distro's but I don't know if that's already enough to have the plugin create a gui on say Gentoo or Ubuntu. Help and collaboration in that area is very much welcome - LibYui is on sourceforge.

Get it

So if you want snapper, get it at this link! You don't have to thank us but if you have ideas for improvements and some hacking time, please think about forking github repo and of course, once things are up and running, creating a merge request!

Thank you for collaborating ;-)

09 May, 2012

LFNW and other event awesomeness

Just had a look at the events openSUSE ambassadors have been visiting lately. From March 1 to April 30 we're talking about over 20 conferences and meetings! That's quite impressive. I myself have only visited a few in that time - most notably LinuxFest NorthWest (in Bellingham, Washington, USA), Chemnitzer Linux Tage (my blog) and I went to Re:Publica in Berlin. And later this month there'll be LinuxTag in Berlin. I'm organizing the openSUSE booth there so if it's a mess, you know who to blame ;-)

LinuxFest NorthWest

Let's talk about LFNW now. It was Carl Symons (your most dedicated dot editor) who bugged me for roughly a year about the event, including mentally preparing me by giving a LFNW t-shirt at the last Desktop Summit. And there was going to be an openSUSE booth, with Bryen, Brandon, James and even Michael attending. At that point, there was no going back - I had to come.

ownCloud talks

I submitted a talk about ownCloud - Carl told me I had to talk to the other ownCloud presenter who turned out to be Michael Gapczynski, ownCloud hacker and fresh employee of the new ownCloud Inc. We ended up giving two successive talks, me introducing ownCloud and walking through installation, setup and basic usage followed by Michael going into the development of ownCLoud Apps. The room was loaded, quite cool. Oh and I debuted pictures of Popcorn, our dog.

If you want to see the presentation, come to LinuxTag - I'll give a talk together with ownCloud founder Frank Karlitschek and we'll most likely follow the same schedule of me introducing oC & going over installation, then Frank going into a bit more detail.

13 yo Moe Jackson in action at LinuxFestNorthwest.
She had never touched a tablet before but Krita had her tied to the screen
for 3 hours creating awesome things!


The openSUSE booth at LFNW was well visited. We had one of those big "what's cool about openSUSE" posters, people took pictures of it or wrote down the links. A clear hint that we need flyers with that info! We also promoted the openSUSE Summit quite a bit but for some reason folks considered it a bit far away ;-)

Other stuff

The organization organized a party with food & drinks in a museum of electronic stuff - truly interesting. Some of the visitors spend hours zapping themselves with static electricity, others admired the weirdest devices from the onset of the electrical age. Hundreds of vacuum tubes, old radio's (even a bunch of mechanic music devices), lamps, early telegraph systems and more than you can see in a mere few hours. Awesome. Oh, and good beer - if you like Ale that is (I don't).

There was good food outside, daily, a large booth area with interesting projects and lots of talks. And probably most important, a really relaxed atmosphere with many technical people. It was all about the cool stuff, not about politics or corporate things. All in all, I can say - LFNW is an awesome event and if you can manage, you HAVE to go!

I made a video of the Museum we went too, see this Youtube video:

(or click)

(thanks to KDENlive inspiring me to make this, that app is just too cool. And oh, when I say "SUSE who paid" - that's of course for ME and my time, not for LFNW (SUSE was a sponsor, but not the only one by far).

Re:Publica, LinuxTag

I'll blog about Re:Publica tomorrow and LinuxTag about a week before it starts.


07 May, 2012

On the value of collaboration

I finished my monthly column for Linux User last night - way late, as usual. It was about a number of projects openSUSE has going on to improve software installation. Porting Ubuntu Software Center to PackageKit, website integration in OBS, the improved online software store and last but not least the release of the snapper website. And I noted that all of these are cross-distribution: we're not just trying to improve openSUSE, we're trying to improve all Free Software. And it's not just us - I feel there is more and more collaboration in the Linux space (not that there aren't exceptions of course).

As conclusion, I wrote that
I personally believe that any project which fails to have this ambition will fail to really make a difference in the long run. Free Software is not just about 'abiding by the rules of the GPL' - it is about working with others.

What happens if you don't collaborate?

Let's talk about that. Who remembers Xandros? Linspire? They once were quite popular Linux distributions. So, they contributed a lot back to Free Software, right? Not really... They didn't work up-stream, instead, they built unique features like the Xandros Filemanager and Linspire's software management tools. Sounds familiar? right...

So, I believe that if you try to isolate yourself from the rest of the Free Software world, you're not only doing yourself a disservice, but all of Free Software. You can claim you contribute - lots and lots. Bringing in new users, making things simpler for end users (that's what Linspire and Xandros said, yes). But if you don't do it in a collaborative fashion, you have to carry more and more load yourself. Red Hat and Novell learned that the hard way - and now both companies have a strong policy: nothing goes in unless it is upstream. Yes, that benefits Free Software, of course. It's how we work. Even Google gets that and puts in significant resources to get their changes in the Linux kernel.

If you don't do that - you're work is irrelevant for the future of Free Software. Distribution-specific package managers are a great example: any distro hopper who has been around for a while can't count the different tools he/she has been using on two hands anymore. I know I can't. Most of these were cool, really. And most are dead code these days. Let me repeat:
non-collaborative efforts fail to make a difference for Software Freedom in the long run

But... but... but...

You'll say: but the code is free! Yes, it is. Which is about as valuable as... Let's see - how many distribution-specific package managers have been ported to others? Exactly. Very few. And most of those have very quiet lives. You say - but Linspire did lots of marketing. We brought new users in contact with Linux. That's cool, don't get me wrong. But at the same time they were channeling effort to a small world-on-its-own instead of directing these people towards understanding the wider ecosystem. It's not the number of users that counts, but what you do with it.

Collaboration is not easy - I really applaud the efforts of dantti who's putting in lots of hard work to improve the situation in the software installation area. I really look forward to the day openSUSE uses Apper as the one and only package manager on KDE desktops (we're working on making Ubuntu Software Center PackageKit based for GNOME desktops). And I call on other Linux Distributions: put your efforts in a place where it matters. Collaborate. Especially those calling themselves proudly KDE distributions - put your efforts where your mouth is... KDE's a very open, collaborative project and this is a real step forward for Free Software!

Of course, the same goes for GNOME projects. Ubuntu Software Center is a nice piece of software and if we make it work on top of PackageKit it's not hard to adopt it. Port it to GTK3, integrate it in GNOME shell, make it better for all of us. Maybe, some day, even Canonical will see the light and collaborate...

Edit: Before going live, I added this as 2 reviewers of this blog pointed this out:
  • Canonical fans might think that as usual this is all about them.
    It's not, actually. Surely Canonical is a great example of the next Lindows - no company stays around forever. Some day, SUSE won't be around either - nor will Red Hat. And as I said I believe that without collaboration with others there will be no 'legacy' - but the desperate attempts by Mark to justify the lack of collaboration wasn't what prompted this blog. It was actually the positive side of things - the work openSUSE does, of course, but also Fedora (Kevin Kofler worked on a cross-distro GSOC project last year) and the awesome debian-screenshots people. And many people around GNOME and KDE - those smart enough to realize that collaboration makes Free Software stronger and building your own garden makes it weaker.
  • But who cares about the benefit to Free Software?
    I do. But if you don't, I don't judge. Most people don't care much about a great deal of things others do care about. From puppies to privacy invasions to dictatorships to hungry children. You can't care about everything and if a Linux distro does what you need from it, despite not working with others and you couldn't care less, why do you even bother reading my blog?