February 2008 Archives

Call me!

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I just added the Grandcentral Call Me button to the sidebar. The main reason for deciding to do this was to assist with people signing up as Fedora contributors that may need a real, live human on the other end of a phone. I encourage other contributors to do it for the same reasons. Unfortunately, it only works in the US

One minor request - respect my time zone :). I'm in the Eastern time zone. Also, there's a "keep my number private" button that's checked by default. The likelihood of me answering the phone goes way up if that button's not checked :). The phone that it goes to gets lots of telemarketing calls too, for some reason.

If for some reason I'm not available or don't answer the phone, do feel free to leave a voicemail :).

I'm about ready to announce the official launch of the bug triage movement (aka BugZappers) within Fedora. There's a few things that we still have to do in order to have a successful launch, so this isn't the announcement :). Instead, I thought that I would post some comments on the journey to this point.

I'm a professional sysadmin (though I do much more than that now). I've been using RHL/Fedora/RHEL for around 7 years at this point. I finally found myself in a position where I had some free time, and wanted to give back to the community that helped me get where I am today - I'm a big believer in the open source philosophy - if you use open source software, it is your responsibility to give back to the community. I looked for ways that a badmintons could give back, threw out some darts, and it landed on bug triage. This is not a particularly glamorous thing, however it needs to be done.

I was expecting to join a vibrant triage community when I decided that's what I wanted to do. I started by closing out a few old bugs, and got a pointed response from one of them. This caused me to question where exactly this "community" was. I very quickly found that there was no organized "triage community" within Fedora. It had been done before, however it fell apart when the leader went back to school. Drawing from this experience, it became clear that someone needed to create a sustainable community around this. That's not easy, and I knew going in that this was going to be no walk in the park, but much of what I do is not easy :). I was ready for a challenge. In the past, Fedora has made the mistake of expecting community to "just happen", which it doesn't, unless you have clear leadership, documentation, and the leaders have a strong will to succeed.

I recognized this as a golden opportunity to not only become involved in Fedora, but to become a leader. I took this and ran with it, and about 3 months later, after lots of hard work, we're almost ready to launch this program upon the world, complete with clear procedures, documentation, and a support structure for folks to go to for help. We're also going to seek new, more non-traditional contributors to Fedora in this area. I am personally willing to help contributors that may have a difficult time with the sign-up process (which in it's current incarnation can be rather tedious, unfortunately - work is ongoing to make this MUCH simpler). I will do anything that I can in order to lower the barriers of entry to the project.

It's a quite common misperception that one has to be a code ninja in order to contribute to an open source project in a meaningful way. This is simply not true, and I'm hoping that my efforts in bug triage can open the door of the "non-traditional" contributor to the world that is Fedora. Folks that contribute to triage can also contribute to numerous other parts of the project - there's a whole world out there for non-developers to contribute to - for instance art, documentation, and marketing, just to name a few.

I'd also like to thank John Poelstra, without whom none of this would have been possible. He is another wonderful example of what leadership should be, and he's mentoring me along finding my way through the maze of Fedora projects and committees whose work we touch that need to be cognizant of. Thanks for everything, John!

Back to working on one of my deliverables!

NYC Taxi Court

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So, I had my day in court today that everyone is entitled to. I just realized that I had not blogged about my original grievance - so we'll go into that first.

It was a cold November night around Thanksgiving. I was out at Standings, a sports bar in the East Village. As I recall, it was raining or something, so I wanted to walk the minimal amount necessary to get home at a reasonable price (meaning I wasn't so intoxicated or the weather wasn't so bad that I was willing to pay a taxi to take me all the way to Jersey City - my apartment is a mere 2-3 minutes outside of the Holland Tunnel, but going through that tunnel jacks the price of a cab ride up from like $10 to $40). So I wanted the driver to take me to the World Trade Center PATH station. I noticed upon getting into the cab that it was equipped with the new passenger enhancements. If a taxicab is so equipped, they are required to allow you to use a credit/debit card in order to pay the fare. At the end of the trip, there's a little monitor in the back of the cab that asks if you want to pay by cash or credit. When I selected credit, swiped my card, and was in the process of the transaction, the monitor went dark. The driver then claimed that it was "too late" to process the card. I happened to have enough cash to pay the fare, and everything was fine.

I took a note of the medallion, and immediately after getting out of the cab I called 311 to report the incident. Within a few days, I received a confirmation that they had received my complaint and asked if I would be willing to attend a hearing on the matter. Responded (online) that I was able to attend a hearing, stated a time preference. etc. A month or so later, I received notice that the hearing had been scheduled for today. Took the day off work (kinda needed a day off anyways), and went down to the taxi court.

Got to the building, showed photo ID at the lobby, and went up to the eighth floor. Several people were waiting in the waiting area, explained to the lady behind the desk that I was there for a hearing. She asked if I had the letter (which I of course had forgotten), asked me name, noted that I was on time, and directed me to a waiting room where nobody else was - the complainants area. Then the bailiff came, asked if I had a cell phone, and asked me to set it to vibrate, and then escorted me to the "courtroom", which was nothing more than an office with a desk, some chairs for the parties, and a few chairs for whomever else might be interested (the hearings are open to the public). The driver (who was represented by counsel) came in a minute after I did. It started with a brief recount of the charges against the driver, and after I gave a brief statement, the judge asked if I would be amenable to withdrawing my complaint if the driver gave me the fare that was charged back, since there is the possibility that this was an honest mistake. I stated that would be acceptable, and the driver's attorney turned to him and told him that if he gave me $10, this whole thing would be over. He refused, a position that I think was baffling to everyone in the room - for the low price of $10, you escape any sort of hearing - don't ask me what was going through his mind.

After stipulating that there was no challenge to my identity, in other words, that I was in fact in the cab in question at the time that I was alleged to be there, I gave a full statement, with the judge asking several clarifying questions. the driver was allowed to present his case.

The attorney for the driver was actually quite effective, and he wound up convincing me to withdraw my complaint (which is probably in the interest of all parties). The reason for this was that I had no hard evidence to support my claim, and I conceded that this really could have been an honest mistake.

So in the end this never happened. However, I think that I won (and I'm sure the other side thinks the same). The reason that I won is that I taught this driver some tough and valuable lessons - passengers are not afraid to make complaints to the TLC and show up for the hearings, and put them out of work for however much time it takes them to prepare for and attend the hearings, as well as to hire an attorney to represent them. The driver promised to be more careful in the future.

The judge thanked me for my time, noting that I did the right thing to file a complaint, and show up for the hearing, pretty much affirming what I already knew - that this is a top priority of the commission, and that there are also undercover efforts going on to assist in enforcement of these regulations.

What did I learn from this? Next time that I wish to make a complaint against a driver, I will have hard supporting evidence to back it up - be it video from a cell phone, etc. And I should have attended some hearings prior to today to get a feeling for what it was like first.

Meh. My birthday.

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So it was my birthday last Wednesday. Nothing earth-shattering happened, in fact I did absolutely nothing. Except that I have to update my little blurb on Blogger to say that I'm 29 now and have officially one more year left to live (for some definition of live) - life as we know it ends at 30, right? Gack, I can't even bear the thought :)

Fedora 9 Alpha

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Yes, I know - I'm a few hours late with this. But Fedora 9 Alpha hit the streets this morning, and it's nothing short of incredible the amount of work that has gone into this release.

Among the new features are experimental ext4 filesystem support (note the word experimental, and don't take it lightly - it's not even presented as an option unless you mutter an incantation at anaconda) - the first time that this has shipped in a major distribution that I'm aware of, LUKS encrypted block device support in anaconda, partition resizing at install time for ext2/ext3 AND NTFS partitions, KDE4, and a number of other smaller features.

Give it a spin, either via a LiveCD or installing a system via the torrents and direct downloads available at http://fedoraproject.org/get-prerelease. File any bugs that you find in Bugzilla.

NYC Sucks

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As many of you know, I live in the "NYC Metro Area", specifically, downtown Jersey City, NJ (in an area often referred to as "Wall Street West" for the heavy concentration of financial firms here). At any rate, I had to go into our Manhattan office recently - no biggie, I'd been there many times before and knew exactly the most efficient route to get there, right? Not so fast. In order to get from New Jersey over to Manhattan, you have to take the PATH train - again, no issue, since I do that quite often to get into the city for pleasure.

Well, the PATH train stop that I get off at to go to our office right by the Staten Island Ferry Terminal is WTC. They are obviously doing a lot of construction down there, and have been for some time. But what they did last weekend takes the cake for inconvenience to commuters - they closed the very heavily used sidewalk south of the station on Church street for "ongoing construction". It used to be that you could go straight south to Liberty Street - a few months back they closed that portion of the sidewalk - an inconvenience, but not a really huge one. Now they've closed the entire thing, which I knew about before going over there, but not really concerned about - until I got there and saw a mob of people, all trying to get across one crosswalk, no matter where they were going - it wound up being a sort of pedestrian gridlock.

I have no idea how long this construction that they're referring to is "ongoing" for, but let's hope a relatively short period of time.