SCALE 11x - Day 1 Report

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This is my first time at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) and it is their 11th year. You see, just a few days ago I had no plans to attend but then Kirill Kolyshkin contacted me via IRC asking if I was available to attend to help staff the OpenVZ booth. If you haven't heard of Kir before, he is the OpenVZ Project leader who is employed by Parallels. Having never attended SCALE I was very excited about going and checked with my two bosses (the wife and work) to see if I could go. Luckily both gave the thumbs up.

SCALE is actually FRIDAY - SUNDAY. Turns out that the Exhibit floor doesn't open until SATURDAY. Living in Montana my flight took me through Denver and by the time I got to Los Angeles and had ridden a free shuttle bus to the Hilton it was about 3PM PST.

I was so excited about going to SCALE, I had trouble sleeping Thursday night and add jet lag to that... I didn't have a whole lot of energy and went to bed around 8PM. Between hitting the hotel and going to bed though, I did do a few things.

1) I stopped by the exhibit floor to see how everyone was getting along setting up their booths. The exhibit floor is actually in two large rooms on the ground floor of the Hilton. One room is smaller than the other and the OpenVZ Booth (#93) is in the smaller of the two. I found the OpenVZ booth and I saw that Kir had already gotten it set up with a nice OpenVZ/CRIU banner and a large flat screen monitor.

2) I then checked in and got my room keys at the Hilton. I'm on the 12th floor. I went up to the room and got my netbook on the network to check my email and get on IRC. In IRC I saw Larry Cafiero. Larry is a SCALE promoter and PR person who is trying to work with a few of us in Montana to get a Montana Linux Fest in the not too distant future. Larry asked me to go to the Catalina C room to visit with him to touch base. I have visted with Larry several times at various shows (LFNW and UTOSC) when he was still associated with the Fedora Project. We chit chatted about the trip thus far and when I might start concentrating more on a Big Sky Linux Fest.

3) I attended Robyn Bergeron talk entitled, Managing the release and life cycle of an open source software project in a community. She jokingly said it as the longest presentation title ever.

4) Then I went to Carls Jr across the street from the Hilton and had one of their turkey burgers.

5) Then I went back to the room and the phone rang. It was Kir. His room is on the 3rd floor. He said he was doing some last minute work on his CRIU presentation (that is on Saturday at 3PM in the Century CD room) but that he wanted to get together to discuss the latest happenings in the OpenVZ world and what he has been working on... so I'd be better prepared for the booth. So, I went down to his room and we talked for about a hour or so. I got a gigantic brain dump worth of information. Turns out Kir (and his wife and two children) moved from the Moscow Russia area to the Seattle area sometime in December. Parallels has a small office there. Also in the same office is Linux kernel hacker and Parallels CTO of Server Virtualization, James Bottomley. You might have heard that James has been working lately on a secure boot setup for The Linux Foundation. Anyway, Kir mentioned that James wanted him to attend Matthew Garrett's Saturday morning keynote entitled, The Secure Boot Journey. Kir also wants to attend a presentation on Linux Native Containers (LXC) and of course he has his own presentation at 3PM. That means I'm going to be at the OpenVZ both for quite a while by myself. That's ok. Kir said that if there were any presentations I wanted to go to on Sunday, I could. I haven't really looked at the schedule yet.

Then Kir's wife and children (a boy and a girl) got back to the room after having toured around Hollywood. It just so happens that the Kolyshkin family had driven down from Seattle to L.A. which is quite the drive (about 1,000 miles or more?) although believe it or not, still shorter than some of Kir's flights over from Moscow to the US for various trade shows. They invited me to dinner but I was still full from the turkey burger and declined.

I went back to the room only to notice the Fedora Project had pushed out a considerable number of Fedora 18 updates including the 3.7.9 kernel and Firefox 19. I got my netwook all updated. I ssh'ed into my MontanaLinux build hosts at work and rebuilt with all of the updates. While that progressed I watched a little American Pickers on the History channel. It wasn't too long after that that I drifted of into the world of slumber.

I just woke up about 4AM PST and began writing this blog post. Getting up so early, I have about 5.5 hours before the opening of the OpenVZ booth. Wooo hooo.

I definitely have a lot to share from the talk I had last night with Kir but I'll wait until later to do so. Hmmm, I guess I do have to turn the light on in the room to get the coffee pot going. :)

I didn't bring my video camera because I thought I'd be stuck in the booth the whole time but I did bring a camera so expect lots of pictures from Saturday and Sunday. Assuming I have Internet connectivity (we as supposed to) at the booth, I'll be on IRC "live from the SCALE booth" just for the fun of it.

Oh, I guess I missed Jono Bacon's presentation late Friday about the Ubuntu Phone. In all honesty, I had no interest in attending.

Comments to DistroWatch's Fedora 18 Review

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DistroWatch had a review of Fedora 18 in today's Weekly Edition. I spent a little while commenting on it on their site so I thought I'd share it here too. For the context of my comments, you might want to read/skim the review first.

@12 - When I first started using the new installer (about two months ago with the Alpha release) I too was appalled with it... yes, especially the partitioning portion After doing several installs I figured it out. I'm a long time Fedora user and I was used to Anaconda... and the new installer is a lot different. The resistance to change and not actually reading the screens is what made it a bad experience for me. Once I decided to give in and actually read the screens, it started making sense. I think a lot of the issues that people perceive with the new installer has to do with the fact that it is very easy to use now. Almost too easy for us with Linux experience. As a result, too easy becomes hard... but once you do it a few times and actually read the screens, it works well. I have done various installs and I haven't had the first bit of trouble with it. One thing I haven't done though... is try to install Fedora on a system that has another Linux distro on it. Maybe it isn't well suited for that. For new Linux users, I think it is more friendly and usable than the previous installer and that was one of their goals with it. What is there isn't an accident. They did mockups and planned for quite a while... and how it turned out is exactly how they planned it except for any bugs that might have creeped in.

@Jesse Smith - I agree with most of your review. I've been fairly lucky and haven't had any problems with the video cards I've used (about a dozen) except for one. I'll grant you that if the video sub-system is not optimal, it becomes less pleasant to use.

Fedora really needs to do something with PackageKit. I understand that it is a distro-neutral package manager and is fairly easy to use... but it just plain doesn't work well... which is why I think everyone who isn't afraid of the command line (and we aren't) use yum. Hopefully they'll change that... and given the fact that they are working on an alternative to yum which will probably land in Fedora 19, I think that is likely to happen. No disrespect to Richard Hughes who I believe wrote the bulk of PackageKit.

Regarding GNOME 3 and launching applications and switching between them... there are a few ways to do that and I think you picked the slowest way with the most steps. As @vw72 pointed out, GNOME 3 has search-based launching capabilities so why not hit the logo key, start typing and select with mouse (or hit enter). That is the fastest way. Another way would be to add your most commonly used applications to the dock (drag and drop to add) and just launch applications from there.

Regarding switching between applications there are several hotkey ways to do that too. My preferred way is Alt-Tab. For any applications where you have multiple windows open, Alt-Tab is augmented with Alt-~. Another way to do it, especially if applications are on different virtual desktops, is to simply switch directly to the desktop your application is on. The hotkeys for that is Ctl+Alt+up/down arrow.

While GNOME 3 takes a little getting used to and can fail completely on unsupported hardware... and be slow on hardware that is sub-optimal... on systems where it loves the hardware, I find it to be a pleasure to use. I also use KDE, XFCE, LXDE and others... depending on my needs and the hardware I'm running on.

Regarding the "various applications have slightly different looks and everything doesn't seem to be integrated as tightly as it could be" thing. I agree... but that really isn't something I care about. I use a lot of applications from a lot of different desktop environments and there isn't really an easy way to make everything integrate with every desktop environment. All of them share way, way more than they differ so it really isn't much of a challenge to use. I'd prefer Fedora to continue doing what do and focus less on the "make everything have GNOME topbar menu entries" work. I'm a Fedora fanboy so I know I'm not typical but hey I dig what they do.

Regarding it was still released too early assessment... maybe... but in Fedora's defence... as long as it isn't a critical bug (aka a show stopper) why delay the release? That's what updates are for... and as you mentioned, they have a firehose of updates. As you are probably aware, a lot of things change and are updated during the lifecycle of a Fedora release. They can add new desktop environments. They can upgrade existing desktop environments and the kernel version. They add new packages... and they fix a lot of bugs. With tens of thousands of packages, there are always bug fixes and updates to do. It is unfortunate that Fedora doesn't refresh their install media during the lifecycle (so there are lots of updates) but that is understandable given their short release cycle and that they are usually supporting 3 releases much of the time. Some have called Fedora 18 the worst release ever... but I totally disagree with that. I find Fedora 18 where I want to be.


Videos: Fedora 18 Desktops Tour

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I created some fairly short screencasts showing off GNOME, XFCE and KDE on Fedora 18. This was primarily to show students in a class I'm doing the basics of each desktop and some of the common customizations I prefer to make but I thought I'd share them more widely. The were done using a SPICE connection to a remote KVM virtual machine and recorded on my local system with qt-recordMyDesktop. Then I used ffmpeg to convert them from ogv to webm.

Please note that microphone I used sucks and has a lot of background hiss. I have a better microphone coming for future videos but if anyone wants to do some Audacity filtering magic on them to clean them up, be my guest. They are 1280x800 in size and in webm format. I've embedded the GNOME one and provide links to the others below. Enjoy!

fedora-18-kde-desktop.webm (57.5 MB)
fedora-18-xfce-desktop.webm (24.8 MB)
fedora-18-gnome-desktop.webm (42.3 MB)

I may do a few more... for MATE, Cinnamon, and LXDE but I haven't done them yet.

Opinion: Comment to SMLR episode 68

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I listen to several audiocasts and the vast majority of them are Linux related. I often feel compelled to comment on topics that are interesting / important to me. I thought hey... MontanaLinux.org always needs more content so why don't I start posting them here too? So here goes the one from today.

I watched the video stream of the raw recording for the Sunday Morning Linux Review episode 68. Embedded below. Note, they (mostly Mat) occasionally use "adult language".

My comments on the show:

Greetings again,

I started using Fedora 18 with the Alpha, and then shortly after the Beta was released I had switched to it on most of my personal systems (work, home). I run Fedora on desktops not servers.

Anyway... yeah the new installer was a big shock. I was horrified by it for probably a month... mainly because I was so used to the previous one and was a ninja at using it. Then when I realized I had to actually read the text on the screen and learn the new installer... and started doing so... it started making sense and it actually works well / fine. So far as I know the vast majority of complaints about the new installer and partitioning functionality in the Fedora 18 installer... are just people being resistant to change.

Some might ask if everyone liked the previous installer and were used to it, why did they change it? That is a rather complex question to answer but the Fedora people did blog about it and plan for a long time before doing it and they had very good reasons. I didn't spend a lot of time hunting down the exact links but this is a good starting point:

http://blog.linuxgrrl.com/category/fedora/anaconda/

Those are anaconda related posts by Máirín Duffy who is a graphics designer who works for Red Hat who did all of the mock-ups along the way... and who blogged at length on the topic. You think I write a lot? I pale to her. :)

Regarding the feature proposal to make Cinnamon the default desktop environment for Fedora 19. That was a proposal but it'll NEVER fly. And in reality, who cares what the "default" desktop environment is as long as you can easily get what you want from other live media spins? The "installer only media" DVD lets you pick one or more desktop environments. Given the fact that there currently isn't a Cinnamon spin in Fedora... I'd say someone should start one first and get it going... before they start proposing making something default that doesn't exist.

Regarding Mat's comment that Richard Stallman should just go away... Everyday Linux also had a big rant against Richard Stallman in their most recent episode. I'm a big supporter of RMS but that doesn't mean I agree with everything he does or says... but all of this RMS hate needs to stop. A few developers left the FSF? Big deal. I'm sure it was a big deal for those developers and the software they were working on, but in the big scheme of things... this sort of thing happens all the time everywhere.

I've been listening to SMLR for about 6 months now and enjoy it greatly. Keep up the good work Tony, Mat and Mary!

Video: BillingsLUG / Linux on Billings KULR 8 TV News

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The BillingsLUG folks got a call from the KULR8 people about wanting to visit their meeting last night and they did some interviews for a segment on the news broadcast last night. The full article can be found here. Here is the video of the segment in webm format. Feel free to download it and play it with your preferred video player if you have trouble playing it in your browser. VLC is recommended.

Download link: KULR8-Linux-20130117.webm (9.6MB)

While watching the video, don't forget to play, "Name that LUG member".

Yet another blog post about remixing Fedora

While I'm considering writing a review of Fedora 18... I'm not sure how useful it would be. I mean, I"m a Fedora zealot, right? Every release of Fedora is awesome! If every package of their tens of thousands of packages isn't perfect on release day, that's ok... there will be a constant stream of updates over the release life cycle. Over the course of the next 13 or so months they even continue to grow the updates repository by adding some new packages (that weren't available on release day).

My personal remix of Fedora (MontanaLinux) was completed by the official Fedora release date. Since then I've rebuilt it to include the firehose of updates that have come out in the two days it has been out. Those updates include going from KDE 4.9.4 -> 4.9.5, Firefox 18, Kernel 3.7.2, etc. The remix also has a lot of desktop environments (KDE, GNOME, XFCE, LXDE, CinnI love it.amon, MATE, OpenBox, and few others) as well as desktop software (LibreOffice, Calligra, GIMP, Inkscape, Dia, Scribus, etc). Also included is a bunch of stuff from RPMfusion (multimedia stuff like VLC, gnome-mplayer, ffmpeg, etc), Google Chrome browser, and the Adobe Flash plugin. It has all of the software I used to install manually post install.

I have written about this a few times over the last couple of years... but with each release I like to retell the story. My remix is nothing special. I just took the stock Fedora KDE kickstart configuration and added a bunch of additional packages to the list. The iso file is right at 2GB and it is somewhere between 5-6GB installed. Building it is fairly easy... a single command line with a few options. It takes about 30-45 minutes to build... but I have a local repository mirror. If you are downloading all of the rpms from the stock Fedora mirrors it might take a while to download the ~2GB worth of rpms. :)

While there is some overhead and time involved with building ones own remix I think it is really worth the effort if you happen to do a lot of installs. I have not bothered much with customizations nor re-branding. Fedora makes it so easy to re-spin (using only stock Fedora Project packages) and/or remix (using additional third-party packages not included in Fedora). Some of us actually even enjoy doing it.

Fedora just releases so many updates that using their stock install media a month or more after initial release is just painful... with all of the updates you have to do post install. Since it is so easy, I rebuild about every week to two weeks... to incorporate updates... so my remix is always current.

Thanks Fedora Project! Thanks Red Hat for sponsoring Fedora! Thank you to developers who interact with us users on the bug reporting systems. You actually listen and fix bugs in a timely fashion. Keep up the good work.


Opinion: What if Linux became closed source?

Bryan Lunduke wrote a piece for Networkworld... or something like that. I'm NOT going to link to it because I don't want to encourage more page hits for such lunacy. I heard the article when I listened to the latest Everyday Linux podcast. I strongly recommend that so check it out if you haven't already. One of Montana guys is one of the hosts. They don't always get it right, but they do make me think.

Anyway, I found myself hitting the "contact us" link and writing the following:

Just got around to listening to the latest episode of Everyday Linux. The article by Bryan Lunduke is moronic. That isn't to say that Bryan Lunduke is a moron... but I disagree with a lot of the stuff he says and this is another example. Posing the scenario and asking if you would still use Linux if it went closed source... is like asking Christians, would you still love Jesus if he was really Satan. Yeah, that's a lame comparison on my part but the point is that being free software (and open source) is the core of Linux. It is THE development model that lead to Linux. It is something Linux has been for more than 21 years now. Linux would not exist if it weren't for the fact that it was free / open software. It is what allows thousands of companies to sponsor the work that interests them and also what has allowed tens of thousands of volunteers to scratch their itches for the features they wanted improved or added. Simply put, if Linux were to become closed source, its development model would change and the number of outside contributions that it receives would stop. In essense, Linux would stop being Linux. Given the fact that the only way Linux could become closed source would be if tens of thousands of copyright holders all agreed to do it, that's never going to happen.

While Bryan was trying to enlighten us to the fact that many of us do compromise our free software values in those software categories where free software either doesn't exist or is significantly under-featured when compared to the closed alternatives... that really isn't a useful exercise other than to indicate the areas where free software needs more help.

Sure most of us "end user" types don't look at, read, modify and share source code changes... because most of us don't program at all... but switching something from free / open source to closed would basically be putting one of its feet into the grave. Does that sound dramatic? Well, let us consider... just how many software companies have existed during the 4 or so decades that personal computers have been around? How many of those companies are still around? How many of the top selling pieces of software from 21 years ago are still around and popular? How many companies have gone under with their closed source products dying with the company? How many companies / products have changed hands over and over... with competitor A buying out competitor B just so they can kill or co-opt their products? Now contrast that to how many pieces of FOSS from 21 years ago we still use. Yeah, the vast majority of drinking age free software has grown and evolved because of changes in the industry and user needs... so it definitely hasn't stayed frozen in time... but the fact is that the bulk of it still exists (assuming it was useful software to begin with) and is still being used. Because it is free and open... people have been able to modify it and keep it relevant... and as a result... even us end users who don't program at all can enjoy the benefits.

So, to answer the question... if Linux became closed source would we still use it? Ok, let's pretend that fire extinguishers somehow became flame throwers... I'm sure one or more people / groups would fork the last free release and give it a new name... and it would overtake the closed source Linux which would quickly fade into irrelevance. Don't believe me? There have been a number of major marketshare leaders that have made seeming tiny little changes in their license agreements... that caused them to be forked and replaced. Think Xfree86 or OpenOffice. There are certainly many more less well known examples I could mention, but I'm sure you get my point. So the answer is yeah... Linux would get dropped like a digital hot potato and we would just all move on.

Any other questions?

So to recap, Free and Open Source software's major strength is in the freedom it gives to developers... who then pass it on to users... who may or may not even notice. And of course, just being FOSS does not guarentee success. There are plenty of failed FOSS projects and Linux is really the biggest exception rather than proof of the rule.

Video: Jon Corbet's Linux Kernel Report

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Jon Corbet from Linux Weekly News gave a refreshed Linux Kernel Report at the LinuxCon Europe 2012 recently. I think I've posted every Kernel Report Jon has given in the last couple of years so why stop now?

Here's a link to the webm.

Video: Where Are We Going?

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The videos from LinuxCon Europe 2012 are starting to come out. Here's one with Linux Torvalds and Dirk Hohndel on where we are going. Credit for this video goes to The Linux Foundation.

Here is a link to the webm.

Fedora 18 Pre-Release Report

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Fedora 18 Spherical CowFedora 18 Spherical CowI've been remixing Fedora 18 pre-release for quite a while now. As you may recall The Fedora Project has delayed the release of Fedora 18 Beta several times now... mainly due to blocker bugs in their new installer and Fedora Updater (fedup). I think the rest of the distribution has benefited from the delays because I've been running it a while and it has been very solid for me... as or more solid than Fedora 17. In fact, Fedora 17 and Fedora 18 share a lot in common... because a Fedora release, during its lifecycle, gets a lot of updates and upgrades.

I started by putting Fedora 18 on my netbook. Then I put it on my home desktop system. I ran it for more than a month... oh, and by the way, I disable the updates-testing repository. Since it has been so solid on my hardware at home I finally decided, perhaps being a little haphazard, to put it on my workstation at work. When did I decide to do that? Well... I picked the day before Thanksgiving about 1 hour before it was time to go home. Care to follow me on my journey?

Update: (8PM, Thanksgiving) - I noticed an email that said that there was a Fedora 18 Beta release Go/No Go meeting today and that the decision had been made to finally release the beta on Tuesday, Nov. 27th... the so called "exploding turkey" release. Yeah!