SCaLE 13x!

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It's been a fun several days out here in LA with the Fedora gang - myself, Tom Callaway, Clint Savage, Scott Williams, Brian Monroe, and countless others. On the first day out here (Thursday) we had an awesome Fedora Activity Day, which involved hacking on Beefy Connection, which is something that we started at the SCaLE FAD last year and didn't complete (and didn't work on during the intervening year, but who's keeping track?). Let me explain a little bit about Beefy Connection and what we're intending to do.

Let's pretend that you're at a conference (like SCaLE) and you have a booth. One of the main reasons that we run booths like this is to recruit new contributors. We of course could have them sign up for a FAS account on the spot, and we've tried doing that in the past. However this ignores the reality that at many conferences, we have either very limited or no Internet access available to us at the booth (this is fortunately not the case at SCaLE, where the Internet access is completely awesome!). Therefore, we need something to keep track of the people that have expressed interest, and follow up with them later. If you have something like this, you can also reach out to the leadership of the particular areas that people have expressed interest in (for example, an Ambassador mentor for an Ambassador) and have that person or people follow up.

We did this with an application that we're calling Beefy Connection (a nod to the Beefy Miracle). There are two parts to the app, a frontend that you use at the conference, and a backend that will need to be hosted somewhere. The frontend is a web application that runs on localhost and connects to a SQLite database stored locally. It takes all the data in (including pictures of the potential contributor!) and stores it. Later, you give that data to the backend service, which will keep track of who we've reached out to and their status (something similar to a CRM system, but certainly not full-blown CRM).

We wound up with a working version of the application that we successfully used at the Fedora booth on Saturday and Sunday!

Speaking of the Fedora booth, there's some pictures that Scott took that are pretty awesome, and we all had a great time. I was there the majority of Saturday (excepting the time that I went out to BevMo with Clint - which turned into a trip all over the LA metro - Uber in LA is super-cheap!) and things went fairly well. We had both the Lulzbot Mini (the little brother of the Taz) and the Fedora Jam spin in full effect this year! I think that the reception of the booth was pretty good, and people were intrigued both by the open hardware of the Lulzbot (I had a few conversations with folks about this) and the open software of the Jam spin.

All in all, SCaLE was awesome, and I'm looking forward to a great event next year! The only thing that sort of sucks about it is traveling from New York, but such is life! At least the weather is better here than in NYC at this time of year, which is one of the main reasons that I come (and it's immediately after the end of FRC build season, so it's a great way to decompress from that!)

We need to talk

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Given the recent tragic apparent suicide of Robin Williams, I think that it's time that we have a hard conversation in this country that thus far, no one has been willing to have on the topic of suicide, mental illness, and depression. There is a very poignant TED talk on the topic by Kevin Breel, a Canadian teenager who has become a very large mental health advocate.

It's been said that Robin Williams was in a very dark place, suffering from a severe depression and a recent re-admittance to an alcohol treatment program. Whatever it was that caused him to take his life, there was help available for it. That's the message that I want to convey right now. Whatever the problem, there is help. There is someone that will listen.

There are certain populations that are more at risk for suicide than others. As a gay man, for example, I'm 4 times as likely to take my own life as my straight peers (during teenage years at least - that's the statistic that I easily found). Alcoholics are 120 times more likely that the general population to attempt suicide, and alcohol is involved in a full 25 percent of suicides every year.

For each of these populations, there is specialized help available. For example, the Alcohol Hotline is available at 866-925-4030. If you're a LGBT youth, the Trevor Lifeline is available for you at 866-488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Center is available at 800-273-8255. Regardless of the reasons that you think that life cannot continue, it can.

This isn't something that I've talked about publicly before, but in any given year, 1 in 4 American adults, myself included, suffer from some form of diagnosable mental illness. I'm typically a little dodgy about what I do on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings with those around me - let me tell you what it is now. I'm attending therapy sessions (a gay men's interpersonal group on Tuesday, individual on Wednesday) with two awesome therapists and some of the most awesome group members that I know, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that or worth hiding about it.

There's help for anything that you can imagine, and a shoulder to cry on. It doesn't have to be a therapist (though that has worked for me), or a suicide hotline. Perhaps it's a loved one, a friend, someone in the religious community that you attend - but there is someone.

There's such a stigma attached to asking for help for problems related to your mental health, and there really doesn't need to be. People think that asking for help is a sign of weakness or that they can't deal with their problems on their own. Nothing could be further from the truth, reaching out for help means that you are in touch with yourself, and are realizing that there are some things that you can't deal with by yourself. Would you perform surgery on yourself? Of course not - so why attempt to perform "surgery" on the mind by yourself?

To take one example of the stigma, when I broke my wrist, everyone was very accepting of what the problem was, and very tolerant. We're tolerant and accepting of any body part breaking, except for the brain. It's time to change that, it's time to get mental health on an even keel with physical health. There's nothing wrong with going to the doctor for whatever ails you physically, but when it comes to mental health, no one talks about it. This has to change.

One other important factor that people neglect when talking about suicide is the impact on the people that you leave behind - their lives are forever changed by what you do, and not for the better. They now have the trauma of the loss of their loved one to go through, and that's never an easy thing to deal with.

In conclusion, help is available, and it's available 24/7. Suicide is a permanent "solution" to a temporary problem, and it's not the answer. Be strong, and reach out for help when you need it.
As most people know, I live in NYC. Park Slope or Prospect Heights (depending on which map you follow), Brooklyn to be more precise, and I don't own a car. This means that I take either a taxi or a subway (mostly the latter) to get where I want to go.

When I do decide that I need a taxi, it's probably because I am feeling lazy about going to the subway after a night out drinking, or it's too late and I don't want to run the risk of it taking me an hour to get home. Whatever the reason, I decide that a taxi is the order of the night. Most of the time when this happens, I'm in the East Village (a neighborhood in Manhattan) where cabs are plentiful. I go to the street and hold up my arm to an available taxi (I hate people who just stick their arms pointlessly in the air. Pro tip: if the medallion number is lit up, the taxi is available. If not, it's not - don't hold your arm out, no matter how vigorously you wave it, that cab isn't stopping for you). Then I tell them I want to go to Brooklyn. Instantly, one of three things happens:

  • The cab immediately proceeds to Brooklyn without further comment.
  • The driver yells and curses at you, but still goes to Brooklyn.
  • The driver refuses to go there (this is illegal, and has only happened to me once)
If the driver seems conversational after taking the first option, I'll apologize for taking him "all the way" to Brooklyn. Most of the time, they're just like "no big deal, we have to do it". But something that a driver said to me a few days ago got me thinking.

"You know, all of the business at this time of night is south of 14th St anyways. So me taking you to where you're going in Brooklyn is very much like taking someone to the Upper West Side - I'm coming back empty either way, and the distance is the same, so there's zero use in complaining".

This was well after midnight, probably around 2AM or so. I was thinking "you know, that's probably right!". If all taxi drivers were as enlightened as this gentleman, the world world be a better place indeed.
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FESCo townhall tomorrow

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I just got suckered into volunteered to moderate the FESCo townhall tomorrow, Nov 27 at noon Eastern (17:00UTC). So if you're interested in hearing from the candidates (all of whom are awesome), show up on Freenode in #fedora-townhall-public (where you get to ask questions) and #fedora-townhall (where the candidates answer questions). Also note that at the previous link there are questionnaires that the candidates have taken a lot of time answering, make sure to read them!

Minutes and a IRC transcript will be posted afterwards, so if you can't make it, please at least read the transcripts!

Event Report: CPOSC 2012

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Well, I'm writing this on the train on my way back from CPOSC 2012, another great year for the regional Central PA conference - it's small enough that you can really spend lots of time with someone, but big enough that it's worth my while to come from NYC for it and run a Fedora booth. I took a few photos of the booth that I was sadly alone at the booth for the first time this year, so I didn't attend any of the talks, but hopefully the slides will be posted for a few of them (I particularly wanted to go to "Why we love Git")

The event itself was a success, I got into a lively debate with someone from Perl Mongers about why he wouldn't even consider Python - he had the number one complaint that I hear about Python that folks tend to get over quickly (I know that I did) - the syntactical significance of whitespace. I personally think that this is one of the great features of Python since it enforces coding in a style that can be maintained. We agreed to disagree on this point, but it was a productive conversation.

There was also the requisite person that had no clue what Fedora was, and a few conversations about "selling people on moving to Fedora from Ubuntu". It's there that I think we have a particularly strong story, with the extremely anti-community announcements coming out of Canonical in the past few weeks - saying that there were developing some features of Ubuntu out of sight of the community until they were ready. I pointed out some stickers on my laptop (projects for which Fedora is either heavily involved or upstream), and particularly Katello - explaining how it is next-gen systems management that you can actually see and use today, no matter how immature it might be. 

I also had a conversation with the organizer of FOSScon, which is another FOSS event in Philadelphia which takes place in August, and he'd love to have a Fedora table there! I told him to send me the details, and we can make that happen! All in all, a very successful event, and I can't wait for CPOSC 2013!

Now off to home to prepare for a hurricane that hopefully won't disrupt my life too much! I'm seriously planning for a dud, but I'm ready for minor inconvenience.
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Minor blog issue

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I'm not sure if anyone noticed or not, but I moved the blog to a new box (still at Linode) - the old one was an F10 box (yes, it was still kiciking!) and the new one is a CentOS 6 box. In the migration, the CSS was pointing to my old server directly, rather than the CNAME Not sure how that happened or how it escaped my testing, but alas, it's fixed now :). My extremely limited knowledge of CSS was put to good use!!!!
If you read this story, the first thing that it says (in the gray box beneath the "Banned Too" graphic) is that a US judge has ruled that Samsung is in violation of four patents by Apple for it's Galaxy Nexus (a great phone might I add). Ignoring the validity or wisdom of software patents for a moment (that's a topic for a completely different post), let's break this down.

IANAL, but no one has decided anything, for one. The judge has granted a preliminary injunction against Samsung. The bar for a preliminary injunction in the United States is four-fold:

1) The likelihood of success on the merits of the case. Note that the ACTUAL success has not yet been decided.
2) The moving party must face the likelihood of irreparable damage if the conduct is allowed to continue.
3) The balance of harms weighs in the favor of the party seeking the injunction - i.e. the moving party (Apple) stands to harm more from the continued conduct than Samsung does by not being allowed to continue.
4) The public interest would be served by the injunction.

All that the judge has decided is that the test above is fulfilled - most importantly, Apple has demonstrated that they would suffer irreparable harm (in lost iPhone sales) if the Galaxy Nexus were allowed to be sold.

Do I agree with even the granting of a preliminary injunction? Absolutely not. This is Apple becoming SCO, and nothing more. They're arguing cases against the wrong people (going after consumers rather than the producer of the allegedly infringing product, presumably because they know that device manufacturers don't have the coffers that Google does to mount a protracted defense and are likely to settle rather than face that possibility). One can hope that the tactic will reduce them to the irrelevance of SCO in the long term - nothing more than a litigation machine of failed cases.
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For some reason, the mulitouch touchpad in my laptop doesn't seem to work very well in Fedora - particularly when I try to click and drag something, the mouse just jumps all over the screen. Not a big deal, I just have to use an external mouse in order for it to be usable. I seem to have lost the one that I was using, so at the SFO airport I picked up a Microsoft wireless optical mouse. I've had a number of Microsoft products before, and I've always been impressed with the quality of their hardware - so much so in fact that I've only had it break on me once. Unfortunately, this particular mouse that I picked up had a immediate mechanical defect - the scroll wheel didn't work right. If I apply pressure to the left of the mouse, it works - but that's really annoying and it's not a 100% solution.

So I called up Microsoft, and got the best customer service EVER. Without being placed on hold, they took down my information, informed me that they no longer made the product that I bought 2 days ago (WHAT?!?! How long has this thing been sitting on the shelf?), but would be happy to do one of two things - either refund my money if I sent the receipt in (I'd have a hard time doing that, I don't generally save those things!) or just send me a new mouse of the newer model that they DO now make, no questions asked. I obviously took the second option, and I'll have it soon enough!

Other companies should follow the lead of this great customer service!

Well, I found it!

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I wrote a previous post about not being able to find St. Louis Cardinals gear in NYC. Well, I just thought that I'd follow up that post that I've found somewhere that sells stuff locally (I got a jersey there, they had some t-shirts as well, but not in my size sadly).

Well, I'm here to tell you where to find such things! None other than the great Paragon Sports. It's quite a jungle of interconnected stores (the sales rep told me that when he first started working there, he would get lost because there's 7 interconnected buildings forming one store!).

Not only do I think that Paragon is great because of the fact that they carry (some) Cardinals gear, but rather that they carry everything else too! And by everything, I mean any possible item that you'd require for any type of sporting endeavor from skateboarding to kayaking to everything imaginable in between, either playing it or as a fan. Not a bad spot.

So why would I write this to a (primarily) non-NYC audience? Because they have all this stuff, and they also have competitive pricing and online ordering - you don't need to go to the interconnected maze of a store at 18th and Broadway, you can make them come to you!
As a lot of people know, I'm a huge baseball fan, in particular the St. Louis Cardinals. Since I'm out of market for the Cardinals, I subscribe to a wonderful service that lets me see the Redbirds here in NYC - every game, except if it's blacked out for some reason (Saturday afternoon games - don't get me started on those, games against the Mets where I have local coverage available, etc). They do this in Flash, which is all well and good - I can install Adobe's Flash on Fedora without a problem. The problem comes in that I have a great three monitor setup. I can dedicate one of them to watching the game full screen, and the other two to doing something useful. Oh wait - that feature only works in Windows!

It seems that the Linux version of Flash grew multi-monitor support, so that I can indeed use one screen to watch the Cardinals. The problem is that if that window loses focus for any reason (like I go do some web browsing or whatever), I go back to the windowed view (which is quite small on a 24" display). In Windows 7, this doesn't happen.

So what does this mean? For the majority of baseball season, I'm relegated to Windows on my main workstation. This makes me a sad panda.

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