Pascal’s place


Views on technology and libraries

Indiana Linux Festival 2011

We’ve just finished up the inaugural Indiana Linux Festival this past weekend, held at the Wyndham airport down in Indianapolis, and for a first Linux conf, I think this was a success overall.

This was my first experience as an Event Owner, responsible for organizing Fedora’s presence at the show, and I learned a fair amount. I’ve organized multi-day conferences and workshops before in my $DAYJOB, but the organizational culture and set of norms is different in every community, so there are always things to learn.

Ben Williams from Virginia Tech and I were the Ambassadors responsible for the Fedora Booth at ILF this year, and I was very pleased and thankful to have Ben’s presence this year, since it has been about 18 months since I last worked a Fedora booth at the Ohio Linux Fest 2009. Ben arrived Thursday night, and I drove down from South Bend Friday morning.

First off, I continue to be impressed with the help that the Fedora Ambassador team has for these events. I was able to request both the Fedora Event banners and one of the four North American EventBoxen easily with a TRAC request, both shipped to my home via UPS. The EventBox holds all the essentials that an Ambassador needs for a Fedora booth at a conference:

  • OLPC XO-1 and HP netbook with Sugar and Fedora 14, respectively
  • lots of the latest release media, in 32-bit DVD, 64-bit DVD, and 32-bit Live CDs
  • t-shirts to give away
  • pens and pins
  • temporary tattoos, case badges, stickers, and the new windows keyboard button sticker

We did find that we needed to add a multi-outlet surge protector aka “FriendFinder” and a pair of scissors, which Ben and I procured Friday at good ole K-Mart. We also updated the HP mini to have the latest Fedora 14 install on it, replacing some of the live-bootable images on the netbook. Friday was also an InstallFest day, so we headed in to the Wyndham after returning from Wal-Mart and met Dru Lavigne, the new Community Manager for BSD-PC, based out of Ottawa, Canada. It was nice to meet another distro community manager, and we swapped details on the state of hardware driver support in BDS-PC and Fedora a bit. We had one chap, Tom, visit us and ask to get some help on installing Fedora on his older Windows XP PC. Tom, a adjunct faculty member at the local Ivy Tech community college, brought back the deskside unit with two LCD monitors shortly before we were to close up the InstallFest room for the day, and so we moved to the vendor exhibit area and commandeered a table to get Tom started. Booting off a USB stick with Fedora 14 64-bit, we ran into a bit of weirdness when Fedora installed the bootloader on sda1 (as expected), but which was actually on the USB stick and not the internal drive. We backed out of that and I headed up to our hotel room to grab a F14 64-bit DVD, which did the trick. Tom took copious notes while Ben was installing F14 in a dual-boot setup so he could retain his Windows XP partition. Tom left happy and enthusiastic about making the switch to free software as his spring schedule permitted. Success!

Saturday was the main conference day, and Ben and I headed down to the vendor exhibit area around 7:30 am to set the booth up. We were a bit groggy, as we’d been up until midnight watching the VCU-Florida State Men’s NCAA game, which resulted in a thrilling win for VCU, heading to its first NCAA final four! I’m usually a breakfast person, but this morning I was fine with a Starbuck’s from the hotel and an apple I’d brought along with me. The Fedora banners set up easily, although I was a bit vertically challenged to hook them at the top of the banner pole; I’ll need to use a chair if I ever have to set these up myself! 🙂 We were able to negotiate a different table than the organizers had originally assigned us to so that we were less squeezed in and the banners wouldn’t block traffic flow in the room. We ended up next to the good folks from <a href=";Dual Core, in from Cincinnati, and who were going to perform at the after party Saturday night. Some of the other sponsors at the fest included, where we met Fedora Board member David Nalley who had some pretty cool CBGBs-inspired t-shirts, the good folks from Ohio Linux Fest, which was the inspiration for ILF, BeagleBoard, BSD-PC, the husband and wife team from Linux in the Ham Shack, who did some interviews at the Fest, as well as some local IT consulting firms. It was also great to see Brian Pepple, who drove over from Columbus for ILF. Brian, a former Fedora Engineering Steering Committee chair and active Gnome contributor and packager is an old friend from OLF and Ben and I joined him for lunch on Saturday to catch up on news, Fedora and otherwise.

The crowd at ILF was about what one expects at a Linux festival, the majority of the crowd is 18-25, with a significant 40+ demographic as well. There were 250 pre-registrants for ILF, which is a good number for a first year conf. We handed out plenty of media, trying to get these in the hands of users before Fedora 15’s mid-May release date that is steadily approaching. There are always a few families that also come together, and the kids always gravitate to the OLPC XO to explore that. We face theis and the netbook out to the crowd with the webcam turned on, which always draws people in, and they continue to be amazed that Fedora-based Sugar runs the XOs.

Fedora has an excellent reputation for supporting the Linux community, and many people remarked to us at the booth that Fedora seems to “be everywhere” at Linux conferences nationwide. Indeed, we do try to have a presence at as many events as we are able. There was a Indiana Ubuntu community booth across from us at the meeting, but it was unmanned, with media on the table and a couple issues of Ubuntu Magazine. Attendees appreciate having people at a booth who can answer questions and help troubleshoot issues they may be having.

After a full day on the exhibit floor, we packed up the banners and the EventBox, now much lighter than we brought it in at. Overall a great linux festival. The hotel was nice, with generally good free wireless, a great location that was easy to get to, and a good community that came out to participate in the very good series of talks and birds of a feather events around the meeting.


Filed under: fedora, travel reports,

Drupal 6 and Fedora Insight: Working with Views and CCK

I’ve been helping out with a new site for Fedora Project (linux distribution) information that we’re calling Fedora Insight, and here’s my recent worklog on this, specifically finding out how CCK and Views work.

Paul had created two fields using the Content Construction Kit (aka CCK) module in Drupal for FWN issue and beat, and added these to the content creation form . The default view for this was to associate each beat’s Drupal node to a Book that constituted an FWN issue See FWN 239 as an early example. What we needed to do next was create a new View that would display all of the nodes from a particular issue in a single page. Being someone who works in libraries, there are a lot of sites that use Drupal, and I knew of this active group, Drupal4Lib, a discussion list for libraries that use Drupal, so I joined and asked around. Several posters pointed me to “passing an argument via node id” to the view. That was a start, and I poked around a bit and created a new View, with the content_issue field that Paul created in the CCK passed to the view, and I set the path for the new View to use /fwn. Finally, I entered some sort criteria to display the issues in descending order, and applied a filter for the node type = weekly news beat. Now I can reference all of the beats associated with an issue easily — ie. /fwn/247. I’ve marked up the latest FWN in just such a way.

What remained was to display the title of each beat, since this was passed in the CCK as a hidden variable. So I edited the “Weekly news beat” content type, managing the fields, and turned the Beat Label from “Hidden” to “Above” in the “Display fields” tab. For some reason this didn’t work at first, so I figured I still have to mess around with the View to make it visible. I can’t actually see the title of each beat yet, so will still keep on working with this, but have made definite progress!

Filed under: fedora

FUDCon Toronto 2009: Day 1, Part 1

A bit late, but finally have some time to post about the Fedora Users’ and Developers’ Conference, aka FUDCon, which was recently held in the Seneca College buildings on the York University campus, in north Toronto.

Apart from attending the Fedora Ambassador Day at Ohio Linux Fest 2008 in Columbus, this was the first ‘official’ Fedora event I’d ever attended, and didn’t know quite what to expect. There were an amazing number of people attending from across North America and quite a few from Europe as well, so I knew this was going to be a great learning opportunity and chance to contribute!

The York campus is pretty large, but well-marked and after driving around a bit I was able to locate the parking garage behind the York Lanes mini-mall. A short walk south a bit and in to the Seneca @ York building.

I happened to meet Mel Chua from the Red Hat Community Team and she got me my nametag and t-shirt. I was just in time for the barcamp pitches that would be the focus of the first day.

Wow! That was really the line for the barcamp pitches?! There must have been 40-50+ people in line, waiting to give their 30-second summary of what they wanted to present that day. I’d been to one barcamp before, but it was nothing like the size of this, and it was amazing really to see how this model can scale to a meeting with 175+ people. It was really great to put faces to names that we see on the Fedora lists and in the Fedora Weekly News beats each week. The sessions were broken down into two tracks: User and Developer. This offered a nice mixture of general to specific, novice to advanced topic sessions, and with such a variety that it would be hard to choose what to actually attend!

As people finished their pitches, they passed their one page sheets to get posted outside the room on the wall, where people could vote on the sessions. Considering each proposal that we’d heard, all the attendees placed a mark on the sessions that they thought were worth having from a broad perspective, not just what they planned to personally attend. A bit of controlled chaos here, as folks were released into the hallway to vote a couple rows of seats at a time. Next, after everyone had voted, the sessions that had the most votes were placed on another wall, into the schedule for the day! There were about 10 concurrent sessions, running 50 minutes each from 11:00 am through 6:00 pm with an hour for lunch. A lot of the sessions were team-presented, really showing the collaborative community that is Fedora, and also leveraging different and complementary skill sets that co-presenters brought to the session.

The schedule went up on the wiki, so both attendees and remote folks could see what sessions were going on in which room at what time for the remainder of the day.

We had five rooms on the first floor of the building and then another 4-5 on the second floor.

Attendees were encouraged to live transcribe the meeting on IRC channels that were set up for each room, which was an interesting way to engage remote attendees in each of the sessions. Fedora uses something called zodbot on the fedora* channels on, which allows one to record a meeting and have log files automatically output to a location where they can be linked to to more widely share. A great idea, as this essentially documents the Con as we go along through the schedule with very little effort!

Tomorrow I’ll get into the rest of FUDCon Toronto 2009 Day 1. Stay tuned!

Filed under: fedora,

One Laptop Per Child presentation at Notre Dame

Chuck Kane, OLPC President and COO and ND ’79 grad, came to talk to a very full room at the Eck Center last night, and I think he was quite successful. OLPC is starting a program this summer to recruit college students to help with OLPC deployments in two locations in South America and one in Africa, which is pretty exciting stuff. The talk was sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns on campus here, and about 80% of students at Notre Dame participate in some service project over their undergraduate experience, so the interest in this project is not too surprising.

There was some discussion about the fallout with Intel which was interesting to me, since I hadn’t followed much of the story. Powerful videos of photos taken at many many OLPC XO deployment locations and the look of joy and excitement and hope on the faces of these kids as they explored computing for the very first time, many of them not even have ever been exposed to an electrical device let alone a sophisticated information device such as a laptop. I was amazed that they have been building this effort through a total of 23 employees. Hundreds of volunteers in the linux and application community, hundreds more working on deployments worldwide, and then multitudes participating in Give 1 Get 1 and other donation campaigns. The second generation XO looks gorgeous too — that is pure engineering beauty. What a powerful 90 minutes!

As a librarian and educator, I’m particularly interested in the content we can build for the OLPC programme. I’ll certainly be exploring this with my other colleagues here at ND and across the great swath of community involved in the dream to provide a better education for this planet’s 1 billion children.

As a Fedora enthusiast and Ambassador, I now have a better understanding of the critical value that’s added by the community supporting and enhancing Sugar, the user environment that comes with the OLPC XO. From here on out, the Fedora and Sugar communities are 100% responsible for the operating system, UI and applications within the XO. That’s a great responsibility, but also a wonderful opportunity to get directly involved in further development of the OLPC!

Filed under: fedora, ,

Ohio LinuxFest: the strength of community

This past weekend I attended the Ohio LinuxFest for the first time in Columbus, OH.  I’ve been meaning to attend OLF for a few years now, although up until this year I have had a meeting within about two weeks of OLF so haven’t been able to attend.  Well, this year I decided in favor of OLF and am very happy I decided to attend.

Ohio LinuxFest is in its sixth year, and drew over 1,000 attendees to the Columbus Convention Center this past weekend.  The Con was held on Saturday, with a variety of workshops and Linux Professional Institute (LPI) training held on Friday for additional cost.  Sunday after OLF the Fedora Ambassadors Day, North America was held, with 10 Ambassadors attending, more of which I’ll get to below.

This is a remarkable meeting is so many ways.  First of all, you don’t have to pay to attend, which is a wonderful way to lower the bar for making this meeting as accessible as possible for enthusiasts and professionals alike.  This year, over half of of the event budget was covered by OLF’s many generous sponsors.  The budget is then supplemented by a supporting level registration for individuals, which this year was $65, and included a t-shirt, lunch on Friday, drink tickets for the pre-party and post-party that free registrants didn’t receive.

Secondly, there is much to be said for bringing a community together and having lots of networking and social time to discuss, plan and innovate new ideas that they are passionate about.  The OLF schedule had a full day of contributed and solicited presentations on a wide variety of topics, combined with two excellent exhibit areas (for the Gold sponsors and the Bronze sponsors), as well as Birds of a Feather (BOF) informal meetings where interested groups could get together.  Throughout the meeting, Hewlett-Packard generously supportted an ongoing theater where everything from Revolution OS to CGI-rendered shorts made with Blender were shown, all with free popcorn.  Add to this a great pre-party at a local microbrewery 2 blocks away on Friday night, and a raucous and fun after party with live music, Atari 2600, Intellistation and NES gaming corners, and this was a great Con indeed.

Personally, I learned a bunch of things of very practical use.  Chatting with Andrew Latham, a linux consultant out of Warsaw, IN I learned that I could possibly solve some problems I’d been having getting a proprietary Windows application that I need to run as a static binary under WINE; I learned about Cheese, an nicely-featured application packaged in Fedora that Paul Frields demoed at the Fedora booth, which should work great with the Lenovo W500 that I will have coming to me in the next few weeks; I learned about IceCast from Clint Savage, a great way to capture audio discussion at a meeting and stream it out on a public channel; I learned about some of the other newer cluster file systems such as GLustreFS and PVFS2 from Joe Landman’s Scaleable Informatics booth at the show; discovered Linux Reality and the Linux Link Tech Show (TLLTS) podcast folks; found out about Zenoss, a new open source/commercially supported server infrastructure management portal, to name but a few specifics.

The other primary reason I attended was in my role as a Fedora Ambassador.  The Fedora Project held its first renewed Fedora Ambassador Day/North America following OLF, and we also had on hand lots of Ambassadors from Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, New York, Utah, South Carolina, Virginia to help out with the Fedora booth at the meeting.  Paul Frields, the Fedora Community Manager was there and really helped the profile of the Project at OLF.  The booth was very successful: we gave away hundreds of copies of Fedora 9 CD & DVD releases and re-spins, stickers, t-shirts and buttons.  Attendees loved the two OLPC XO machines that we had, running a variant of Fedora 7, an ASUS EEE running Fedora, and multiple other laptops that Ambassadors brought to the meeting.  I got the opportunity to  meet so many of the folks that I have worked with since I joined the Ambassador project back in May, which was really great.  I do think that face-to-face meetings are qualitatively better than working electronically only, since this cements relationships, common purpose and shared excitement and fun!  Specifically, I met two other Ambassadors in Indiana, Shaun Malette and Scott Williams, met our regional Ambassador Coordinator, John Rose, all the way in from Iowa, met lots of other guys with similar seeming boundless  energy: Clint Savage (our leader for FADNA ’08) and Jeffrey Tadlock (FaMSCo), Ben Williams (Fedora Unity), Jon Stanley (FESCo, Bug Zappers), David Nalley (Fedora News and others) and Brian Powell (Bug Zappers).  It was wonderful to discuss and plan some shorter term and longer term goals for North American Ambassadors, including AmbassadorKits, mentoring new Ambassadors, representing Fedora in the community, and strategies to further the Fedora Project in the LUGs and local communities where we live and work.

I’d highly recommend OLF as one of the premiere Midwest Linux events that is quickly becoming a Con of national visibility and draw.  Mark your calendar for October 16, 2009 in Columbus!

Filed under: fedora, travel reports, , ,