January 2010 Archives

So I'm in Raleigh for the Fedora Events FAD, had an interesting time getting here - I had some things to do earlier in the day before I left in the evening for the FAD, so I got home maybe an hour before I had to leave for the airport, and had nothing packed or prepared for it; Typical late planning me. So I got home maybe an hour before I had to leave for the airport (took the E train to the Airtrain). I figured that with all of the increased security and whatever, it would take me forever and a day to get through security.  Not the case - flew right through and there was nobody at JFK. You would think that for having such low volume all of the flights would be on time, but it would seem that's not the case  we were delayed somewhere around 90 minutes getting out of JFK to come to Raleigh because of some weather in Montreal apparently. Got here and Mel Chua picked me and Dennis Gilmore up from the airport and went back to the hotel.

This morning, we were at the Red Hat offices bright and early, and got to work. Most of our work from today has been captured on the wiki, but I figured that I'd go into a few highlights of what I thought was most important.

We started out the day with four basic questions, and everyone put post-it notes on the whiteboard around that question. The four questions were what makes a good FUDCon, what makes a good FAD, what the difference was between a FAD and a FUDCon, and how to get stuff from point A to point B.

We only really got to the first of those four questions today, and by far, the item that makes a FUDCon most successful is ponies. But Paul threw that one out right at the beginning!

Seriously, we came up with some great ideas of what makes a FUDCon successful, and split that up into several distinct action items that we are going to further define tomorrow - they can also be found on the wiki, but I'll hit what I thought were to two most cogent things - what have we done right in the past that we want to preserve for future FUDCon's - in other words, what are the requirements to hold a successful FUDCon, and what things would we like to see change in the future about the event. 

We then reviewed the presentation done by the awesome marketing team of the results of the survey from Toronto, and wrote down the recurring themes that we saw from that on the other side of the whiteboard. Then we began the process of taking things from the post-it side of the board where we laid out "what makes a good FUDCon" and aligned those things with the feedback topics, mostly around the "things we want to keep that are required for a successful FUDCon", and "things that we would like to change at future FUDCon's" 

We came up with a number of things in both camps, but I figured that I would touch on one that's probably not reflected on the wiki, but was captured in a video that Mel is posting somewhere.

The discussion centered around four things that wound up on the board - really they were just different ways of stating two opposite things - more planning sessions and less planning sessions. I think that both ideas are important, and I think that we came to some understanding as to how to achieve all of the goals at the same time. . We debated things going both ways, and what I think we walked away from that conversation with is that while both types of hackfests are important, they each have different goals, and the FUDCon hackfests that we have today generally could use improvement on the former category - for instance, for the Fedora Talk FAD that we had in Fredricksburg, going into the FAD we knew exactly what we wanted to have accomplished coming out of the FAD, and had some measure on how to judge that as a success or failure. We don't have the same accountability for a hackfest at FUDCon. With so much debate going back and forth, we eventually came to the conclusion that while nothing is "broken" about the current hackfest process, however, we could do a better job of encoruaging planning going into the hackfest so that a defined set of goals is laid out prior to the hackfest (where that goal could be simply having a design for the "brainstorming" type of hackfest to having X, Y, and Z features implemented for the pre-planned type of hackfest) that we can objectively measure the success or failure of the hackfest against.

We then went to focus our efforts on capturing these items (and others that we came up with while doing so) on the wiki.

All in all, there will be 7 items that we hope to knock out tomorrow:

  1. Generic FUDCon calendar - i.e what FUDCon happens in which region of the world around what time frame (generally aligned to Red Hat fiscal quarters)
  2. A specific instantiation of that calendar for 2010 - because we're already in 2010 talking about this, the 2010 one may differ slightly form the one going forward
  3. The bidding process for where to hold a FUDCon
  4. Things that we like about the current FUDCon, and what is required in order to make a FUDCon a success - a minimum level of infrastructure, people, etc.
  5. What would we change about FUDCon, and what specific problem area that we identified does that either definitely or perhaps solve
  6. A "FUDCon organizer HOWTO guide"
  7. Clearly defined process and standards around attendee sponsorship
I think that I've rambled enough for one blog post :)
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Oh noes! My blog was down!

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It seems that my blog has been down for a few days :(  My hosting provider, Linode, sent me a notice that they would migrate my Linode due to some power maintenance where it was - I didn't think that was a big deal, just a reboot, right? Of course, when things reboot, you find that MySQL and Apache weren't set to come up on boot :(.  Of course, I didn't notice it until I went to go write something in the blog and it didn't work.  Maybe I should do some monitoring of my blog. I love Lindoe though - at least they notified me that there was maintenance on the host and it's my lazy self that didn't actually check that everything was going to be OK - probably better than some VPS providers out there that would just take it down and not let you know! If you are interested in Linode, sign up here!
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Events FAD coming up!

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I can't wait for the Fedora Events FAD that's happening next weekend in Raleigh - we have some lofty goals for the FAD, but I think that the most challenging is going to be fixing the "we broke BarCamp" bug from Toronto.  As we scale in Fedora, we're going to hit this sort of challenge at lots of events.

I think that some of the issues were related to communications failure, though - there was plenty of confusion at the hotel about exactly what time we were supposed to be at the venue, therefore, lots of people showed up late. I'm not sure what exactly can be done about this - post signs at the hotel explaining when folks need to be there? A fudcon-attendees mailing list? These are just a few of the options to consider, I'm certainly open to other ones.

Also, not a slight at the location, but having to take mass transit that only comes once every 15 minutes or so is guaranteed to create issues - the bus was simply not designed to carry THAT many people getting on at the same time. All of the other times at FUDCon that I can recall, the venue was within easy walking distance of the hotel, a definite plus (come to think of it. I'm not sure that was the case at my very first FUDCon - 2008 in Raleigh).

Another thing that we need to deal with is the inevitable fail that comes with putting lots of geeks in a single hotel - the network will be absolutely useless - we need to just accept the fact that at the hotel, we'll have no connectivity to the outside world. We've seen this time and time again, yet we still don't have a way to deal with it and still communicate. I think that while IRC is a wonderful medium of communication, without network connectivity it doesn't work out so well.  I think that one solution to this is the mailing list that I alluded to above - email is a wonderful asynchronous communication mechanism, add to that that many of us have smartphones that can send and receive mail even when we have no other form of connectivity (IRC from a smartphone is just painful :D)

At any rate, I'm looking forward to the FAD so that we can discuss these and lots of other interesting and exciting topics!
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So we're finally complete with the Fedora mailing list migration.  As I write this, we're just putting the finishing touches on prior to opening the floodgates to the world. I'd like to thank Marek Mahut, from Red Hat IT, and Dennis Gilmore for helping to get this massive effort completed.  I'd also like to share a few stats about what we did today.

Lists migrated: 121
Number of archive messages migrated: well over a million (I have no way to give an exact number, but users@lists.fedoraproject.org - the former fedora-list - had well over 400K messages, and other lists had large numbers as well)
Time the migration took in all: approximately 14 hours
Number of lists currently being hosted on Fedora infrastructure: 165

Thanks for being patient with us through this, this migration allows Fedora to be more in control of our own "IT destiny" than ever before!

If there's a problem, feel free to open a ticket in the infrastructure trac instance!


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I just submitted the following outage for post on fedora-announce and fedora-devel-announce, just in case someone doesn't read those and reads planet instead, I've posted it here since it's so important :)

----

Outage Notification - 2009-01-09 - 2009-01-10

There will be an outage starting at 2009-01-09, which will last
approximately 48 hours.

To convert UTC to your local time, take a look at
http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Infrastructure/UTCHowto
or run:

date -d '2009-01-09 HH:MM UTC'

Affected Services:

Mailing Lists

Unaffected Services:

Buildsystem
CVS / Source Control
Database
DNS
Fedora Hosted
Fedora People
Fedora Talk
Mirror System
Torrent
Translation Services
Websites


Ticket Link:  https://fedorahosted.org/fedora-infrastructure/ticket/1912

Reason for Outage: Migrate mailing lists from RHT infrastructure to Fedora infrastructure.  Note that this outage will not be for the entire 48 hours, however, there will be times when mailing list traffic will be queued rather than immediately delivered. This will occur as large lists are migrated.

We will attempt to minimize any impact.  Note that as the mailing lists are being renamed as well, therefore, the List-ID headers will change. You can find further information about the changes at https://www.redhat.com/archives/fedora-announce-list/2009-December/msg00011.html

Thanks for your patience while we undertake this massive migration effort.

Contact Information:

Please join #fedora-admin in irc.freenode.net or respond to this email to track
the status of this outage.

It's my duty to remind people of the Fedora mailing list migration that will be taking place on January 9 and 10, 2010. All of your list ID information and headers will change, resulting in a need for you to adjust your mail filters accordingly. The original announcement about this with many more details is here. That is all :)

Friends of Bobst

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Well, I try to do something charitable every year, and when that charitable thing actually benefits me, the more the better!

I joined the Friends of Bobst Library, mainly so that I could get access to a university library to do some research for a blog post that I've been working on for a long time but hasn't really gotten anywhere (save the last two weeks). No details on what it is yet, that will be a surprise! But suffice it to say it requires much research :). The library is generally open 7 days a week from 7AM-1AM (for non-NYU peeps like me, the two lower levels are generally open 24hrs for the NYU crowd). Unfortunately, most of my time has been spent in the reference centers, and not on the north side of the building with magnificent views of Washington Square Park, since with their guest wireless you can't access the online databases that they subscribe to, but you're welcome to use their machines in the reference centers and save your work to a USB stick.

I found another post from another friend of the library, and unlike him, I hope they spend some of my $225 on the heating system! This place is frigid in the winter, and according to him, an oven in the summer! Just wonderful :)

MagicJack

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Well, I picked up this little thing called a Magic Jack the other day, and so far, despite the other negative reviews that I'm seeing out there on the Net, I actually like it! I bought it because I have a really nice Polycom speakerphone that had been sitting in the box gathering dust ever since I moved and dispensed with a landline, and for a total cost of $40, even if it didn't work, no great loss. There are some pretty serious drawbacks, though:

  • No Linux support (not a deal-breaker for me, as long as it support an Intel-based Mac, which it does)
  • Your computer has to be on, it's essentially a USB ATA I think (again, no big deal for me, could be a deal-breaker for some)
  • The software is not the best in the world - it pops up in the middle of what you're doing anytime you make or receive a call (not a biggie for me, since I rarely actively use my Mac for anything, I mostly use my Fedora box)
  • When you sign up, they try to upsell you on a number of things (a vanity number for $10, 5 years of service, prepayment for international calling, etc)
However, in spite of these drawbacks, there are a lot of good things about it as well:

  • You plug any analog phone into it, and it works just like the phone did before - it's so simple that your Grandma could use it :)
  • Call quality is good to excellent - I've only had a few issues with it
  • So long as you have Internet access, you can take your phone with you - there's even a softphone if you want to dispense with the analog phone attachment and just use a USB headset. This is most important if you're traveling internationally, you can take a US phone with you.
  • Speaking of international, all calls to Canada are free with magicJack (they're billable by most cell phone carriers). If you pre-pay, there are also low international calling rates as well.
In spite of the name, there's nothing magic about the magicJack either. It's just a standard SIP phone with this little piece of hardware. It appears to me that they're using Asterisk in at least some capacity, since the voicemail appears to be straight Asterisk. The unfortunate thing is the requirement to use their software, however, there are hacks out there on the Internet for obtaining the SIP credentials and just using it as a straight SIP trunk into Asterisk. I've not done this, because I actually like the hardware they make you use :)

FUDCon day 1+2

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OK, so this is a late blog post for day 1, but the reason for that will be forthcoming.  Here's a make up post for both! :)  Alright, well this REALLY didn't happen, saw this hanging out in my drafts when I went to make another blog post.  Ooops!!! Long live FUDCon :)

So we arrived on the FUDBus from Boston much earlier than anticipated, due to the ease of crossing the Canadian border (much easier than I thought - they asked no questions, and took my ID and gave it back to me in about 10 seconds), along with everyone else. We were probably in and out of the border at about 20 minutes or so.

We got in Friday night around 9PM, and stayed up for quite some time in the hotel lobby as is normal for a FUDCon, and went over to the "Irish Pub" (yes, that's what the sign said)

The session pitching unfortunately got started late, and was entirely too long.  I know that it ruins the spirit of a true barcamp, but something online for doing session pitching prior to the conference, and a limited number of slots reserved for "day of" type things might actually be better,  Dunno on that one, though

After the delayed session pitching, there were a good many sessions, all of them entirely excellent! First session that I went to was a session on eclipse for Fedora packagers and C/C++ developers, and I thought that Eclipse was only for Java peeps!

After a decent lunch, I went to Simon's talk on Zikula and how to integrate that into the Fedora Infrastructure, and talked to him later about the "state of Zikula in Fedora".  I mentioned some of the release practices of Zikula, and he made me see things from their point of view. Specifically, the issue that I had was when I was doing a review for a plugin, there are two things that I ran into. First, there is no direct way to download the tarball (or zip file, as the case may be) from the upstream website.  Secondly, the contents of that tarball, even though it may be named the same, are not actually the same.  The reason for this is that when someone does translations, the translators expect the translations to show up immediately, with no interaction from the developers. This is slightly different than how most upstreams handle translations, only picking them up when a package is rebuilt (and having scheduled rebuilds to do nothing but pick up new translations)

After that, I attended the sysadmin and developer panel, where we explored the diametrically opposed desires of sysadmins and developers - sysadmins desire a stable system since we are the ones that get woken up at 3AM when the developer's code that uses the newest bling that no one can support breaks in the middle of the night, while developers always want the newest bling.  I really think that we can coexist peacefully though :)

Then I attended a session on getting rid of dist-cvs!!!! Yay, it's about time! We're going to be moving to git ,and migrating away from the common module and make entirely! Part of the work required to do this is already ongoing as part of my work to migrate the CVS filesystem to use filesystem ACL's rather than using the existing mechanism of a flatfile that's checked by CVS hooks. Most of the code is written, I just need to figure out how to make it do only incremental updates (there's code there to pass it things on the command line to act on, maybe the best way is not in the script itself, but in something external that calls the ACL-setting code???)

Laslty, there was a session on MediaWiki formatting for non-experts, presented by our great Wiki czar, Ian Weller. I personally learned a great deal, because I'm not head down in the wiki all day, but I do have to edit it occasionally, and it seems that every time I do I quite thoroughly botch it up in new and interesting ways.

 I got a lot done at the hackfests around the mailing list migration project as well as the aforementioned filesystem ACL setting script. I also potentially interest a new contributor to the project since I happened to be on IRC at the right time and he needed some guidance on ways to contribute to Fedora, so I happily provided that and introduced him to some folks that could get him going!

All in all, it was an excellent FUDCon, and well worth my time going there!