Canonical Voices

How I roll ...

Read more

The guidebook mobile schedule for UDS-P is now ready, install it here:

And just search for UDS in the application. Then you’ll have the UDS schedule, events, sponsorship information, and maps in your pocket:

The schedule updates every 10 minutes, and there’s a convenient QR code on each schedule page so at UDS itself you’ll be able to just take a shot of one of the scheduling monitors, or from the QR codes we’ll have plastered around the venue.

Read more

NOTE! We are starting a bit early today at 1300UTC, and also today tomorrow we have Rick Spencer’s Q+A. Rick is the engineering manager for the Ubuntu Platform, so he’s got good working knowledge of Ubuntu as a whole, so bring your hard questions!

Here’s the logs from yesterday’s sessions:

And here’s the schedule for today!

Read more

We had some great sessions yesterday, here are the links to the logs:

We’ve got some nice content for you today too, starting at 1400UTC:

  • Daniel’s going to do a 2 hour block on how to get started with Ubuntu Development
  • Contributing to the Ubuntu Friendly program (this is a great project, it takes about 15 minutes and anyone can do it, it’s a great way to give back to Ubuntu.
  • and Ubuntu Brainstorm, will your idea change the world?

Read more

Open Week Starts today!

Join us in #ubuntu-classroom IRC! Here’s the schedule

Read more

Being able to find each other is a key part of building community. I mean, what’s the point of having a release party if no one knows where to go? This is why we have tools for bringing people together. We call it the LoCo Team Portal. It’s a portal where local community teams can claim their space, list their events and meetings, as well as allowing people to show their interest, check out where events will be, register their interest, and so on.

It’s got nice map integration too, tell me this isn’t nice:

Nice huh? It’s all in Python and django, and Chris Johnston’s looking to see if anyone is interesting hacking on it with him. You can find their info here: http://loco.ubuntu.com/about/

Read more

Let's make it personal.

One thing Jono’s talked about in the past is how to make Ubuntu more personal. One of the things that suck about the internet is that we’re all behind monitors and keyboards, and it’s hard to remember that there’s a human being on the other end of the line.

Things like Google Hangouts are helping too, it lets us just talk and be more like we are in real life than typing in an IRC window. We totally suck at not learning from social networks and making it …. MORE FUN:

Wow, how horrible. Ok, well, I guess that guy is boring, but what about as a group?

Well, Launchpad does have a team picture view, but I can never figure out how to use it because LP for some reason makes it so hard to set your avatar that most people don’t bother. Also, I think we’re going about it the wrong way. Too sterile. Now what if I told you you could work with these people:

Wow! That’s a dynamic group of people! I already know a bunch more about those people just by those pages than a list of their PGP keys. And if you didn’t know Graham already, you’d totally want to hang out with that guy.

Now, I’m not saying everyone should go delete their home page on Launchpad and use about.me. Let’s look to see what Mozilla’s doing:

Hey, now that’s more like it. Structured, but fun. I can see the people I work with, and remind myself about how ridiculous that moustache is. It makes it more personal, reminds me that we’re part of a large team. Mozilla makes the code to mozillians available. Maybe what we need to do is to integrate something like that with the LoCo directory.

It gives people a place where they can say “I’ve done this!”. Make it so we can thank people right on their page. +1 them, leave a comment. “Man Nigel, you really saved my buns last cycle by working on summit, you’re legend.”

Oh neat, a person’s amazon wishlist right on there? Awesome, let me buy them something, or flattr them, or whatever.

Anyway, some food for thought for UDS.

Read more

Click on me for the schedule

We’re all set to go for Open Week. We’ve got some great sessions lined up.

We’ve got contributing at a local leve, loco team portal, juju for devops, getting started with ubuntu development, ubuntu friendly, ubuntu brainstorm, translations, writing your first app, leadership, social networking via gwibber, bug hunting, ubuntu orchestra, xubuntu, advanced dual booting techniques, Ask Ubuntu, Acessability in Ubuntu, and then I wrap it up with my session on how to use Unity like a boss.

Through unfortunate timing, Mark will be on holiday next week, so we’ll have to make that up to you. But hey, after 4 years of answering user questions every cycle, we let him slide.

Tell a friend!

Read more



RIP Cliff Burton (25 Years ago today)

Read more

Apparently my new apartment is also a Faraday cage, and I can’t get any cell phone signal. Walking outside gets me 3g and full signal, but inside, nothing. Thanks to Google Voice though, I’ve been able to just route all my calls to my PC, so I can still do my conference calls.

However, this isn’t so reliable, especially when multiarch was landing and I didn’t figure out how to install the binary plugins for gtalk. Or when I happened to be rebooting into a new kernel, or like the time I forgot to open gmail for a few hours and missed my wife’s call to ask me what kind of tacos to bring home. Dreadful.

So I needed something more reliable for voip that didn’t need a working computer. I’ve not had a SIP provider in a long time and I didn’t want to deal with the complexities of setting up my own thing (more on this later). Plus, I like my Google Voice and phone set up, I don’t want to add another number, etc. Also doing it “the right way” with SIP means getting a phone with an ethernet jack plug on it, which apparently quadruples the price of the phone.

I briefly investigated consumer femtocells. But that’s a pipe dream, and even if they were around and affordable you know carriers are looking forward to charging you for having one even though you’re the one paying for them to get the damn signal into your apartment to begin with.

“But Tmo has wifi calling!”

Yeah but only on tmo branded phones, which means my wife can use it but I can’t use it on my Nexus. Plus if you think Android battery life sucks without wireless, you should try wifi calling, not only kills battery life, it turns the phone into a 300 degree rock next to your face.

“Oh I know, I’ll get something like a Skype phone but for Google Voice”

Doesn’t exist. This kind of sucks, I would so pay for a cheap GV phone with all my gmail contacts on it, etc. However, this exists:

It’s 43 bucks. Ethernet goes into my switch, and any normal POTS phone goes into the other plug. I log into their website, add my gmail credentials, and then when people call me my normal phone rings. Since normal POTS phones are cheap I picked up a dual handset one for about $30, so I have a phone in my office and phone in my bedroom.

I plugged it in and had dial tone and was making a call in about 3 minutes. The box is clever too, when I have a gtalk voice mail the normal “voicemail” icon on the normal phone blinks. It has caller ID, etc. When I want to make a call I just ring it via my gtalk plugin in Chrome and the phone rings and I pick it up. I suppose I could use all the buttons in the front (they call it a dialpad) to dial a number which matches another person’s phone, but that’s crazy talk.

Pros:

  • No phone bill.
  • I don’t eat cell minutes. When doing calls during the day, I’m calling via Google Voice. In fact, most of my calls are in the day, will this save me enough money to go down a minutes plan on my cell? I’ll find out.
  • They have an Android app if I wanted to do wifi calling.
  • The have always-free Obi to Obi calling via a unique number, sort of like how BBM is.
  • If I wanted to go full SIP, etc., I can just add it to their service part in the web UI. I can add multiple accounts, so I’ve added my wife’s GV number as well, all with the same unit.
  • Normal phones are pretty awesome. I got a VTECH set which does call transferring, has really great range, DECT, long battery life, and I can expand to multiple handsets.

Cons:

  • Google Voice dialing is only free for the rest of 2011. If GV’s international rates are any indication, this will be cheap if they do decide not to extend free calling. It’ll likely be cheaper than whatever stupid rate your cable company wants to charge you for the exact same thing. And here’s what’s nice about this device, if GV gets expensive I’ll just use whatever other SIP provider is out there.
  • No 911. There are services that you can pay to have e911 service for a cheap monthly rate, but I haven’t investigated. I’ve also not had a land line in so long that I won’t miss this, though it’s important to some people.
  • 3rd party service has your gmail credentials. (EDIT: I suppose you could create a new gmail account, set up GV, and then forward your normal GV # to that if you’re concerned about that).

They also have the Obi 110, which has an additional POTS plug for you to connect to your existing phone service so that you can also use a normal land line for things like 911, but VOIP for long distance, etc.

Read more

It ends up Nicko McBrain (the drummer from Iron Maiden) own a BBQ joint in Florida, quite close to me.

He wasn’t around but apparently he stops by at night after he golfs. And they have wireless. I think I’ve found my new coworking space.

(More pics)

Read more

I’m looking for instructors for Ubuntu Open Week, which is traditionally held on the week after release on #ubuntu-classroom on Freenode. Want to teach a course on something? Here’s a great way to jump in and help out.

Ubuntu Open Week

(Original Post) (Logo by htorque)

Read more

The Unity team is doing an “Ask me Anything” on Reddit if you want to join in.

Read more

Just buy this....

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s my idea of AC/DC was basically everything after “Back in Black”, which made them a household name.

I finally snagged the new Blu Ray of Let There be Rock, which is great for people like me because it’s a good time capsule to what that era was like. My only image of Bon Scott was just the replays on the radio.

However, on Blu Ray you can really watch his performance as a front man to a rock band, and it’s amazing. 

They really did a good job on the quality, other than the aspect ratio, which unfortunately isn’t widescreen.

You won’t care though, just put the DTS track on and let Bon Scott fill you in on old school AC/DC in their 1979 glory. He died 2 months later. :(

Read more

For 11.10 the launcher team worked on a new alt-tab. Here’s how I use it to switch between not only applications, but windows within applications.

(Sorry about the flicker, seems to be a result of recording it)

Read more

Etherpad Lite is awesome. Have you ever organized a conference, large meeting, or foocamp and thought “wow, I could really have used an etherpad at this event.” But many times organizers don’t have the resources to get this kind of stuff running. Now, in an effort to make it trivial for anyone to set up an etherpad, James has implemented an etherpad lite formula for ensemble. 

Here are the steps. First install and configure Ensemble, this is just putting your AWS keys in an environment file and/or using a PPA if you’re not on 11.10. Then we bootstrap, snag James’ formula, and then deploy it in EC2.

ensemble bootstrap
bzr branch lp:~ensemble-composers/+junk/etherpad-lite
ensemble deploy --repository= . etherpad-lite

Right now we’re grabbing formulas from Launchpad but in the future that will be much more user friendly, where you can search for formulas right from the ensemble command (Like apt-cache search). It takes about 5 minutes to bootstrap, and then another 5-10 minutes to deploy, since it’s installing everything we need for Etherpad Lite and then installing it on EC2.

Then let’s check in how that’s going with:

ensemble status
2011-08-30 13:24:33,166 INFO Connecting to environment.
machines:
  0: {dns-name: ec2-107-20-19-203.compute-1.amazonaws.com, instance-id: i-6b706b0a}
  1: {dns-name: ec2-107-20-7-236.compute-1.amazonaws.com, instance-id: i-8f6b70ee}
services:
  etherpad-lite:
    formula: local:etherpad-lite-5
    relations: {}
    units:
      etherpad-lite/0:
        machine: 1
        relations: {}
        state: started
2011-08-30 13:24:35,883 INFO 'status' command finished successfully

Ok as we can see there the service has state:started, which means it’s running. Node 1 is our instance so let’s hit it up, we hit up port 9001 because that’s the Etherpad Lite’s default port:

http://ec2-50-17-151-64.compute-1.amazonaws.com:9001/

Neat huh? Ok so I don’t have a fancy URL like pad.socallinuxexpo.org (Hint hint Gareth!) but you get the idea. I’ll leave it running for a while so you can mess with it. When your conference is done, save your data and tear it all down with

ensemble shutdown

or keep it around, up to you.

Currently it’s only running in a single instance, there’s no logic in the formula for load balancing or anything yet, but James tells me it scales pretty nicely on just once instance. You’ll also note that I don’t have to know/care about building node.js or npm or any of those dependencies. The formula author basically does the work for everyone, ONCE, and then people like me who aren’t familiar with deploying this sort of app can just enjoy using Etherpad Lite.

Ok so now $your_favorite_event can have an etherpad very easily. We’ve already made it easy to get mediawiki, it’s my hope that eventually we’ll have formulas for every service a conference would need to get running so they can just fire it up.

This is just an example on the public cloud, later on we’ll show you how to deploy to bare metal using these exact commands. 

Read more

Alex has found a great workaround for fixing web applications in Unity.

BAMF has been plagued by this bug, which basically means it groups Chromium and Chrome windows under the browser icon. That means my gmail, IRC, music, etc. all get matched as generic browser windows instead of separate applications.

It’s quite easy, you just edit the .desktop that Chromium makes and tell it to make a user profile someplace else and somehow this is enough for BAMF (and therefore Unity) to match the window as a separate application. What’s the result? Finally, each application shows up independantly on the launcher:

Those used to just all file under my Chrome icon. And of course, the big one, alt-tab:

I’ll update my instructions on webapps in Unity later tonight, or an enterprising person can go and update it if you want.

Thanks Alex for finding this workaround, I’ve been crippled by this for a long time, now I just updated a few files. This should tide us over until Trevino gets back from holiday and fixes it for real. (This is a bug I certainly won’t miss).

Read more

Since every one else is doing it, I thought I’d play with more Ensemble tonight, but instead of firing something up I started working on a formula for summit, the tool we used to schedule UDS.

First Chris Johnston and Michael Hall started an etherpad with the instructions for installing summit (and we’re doing one for the LoCo directory too since we like biting off more than we can chew).

Here’s the first cut of the install script based on those instructions, then I went ahead and ran it in a VM to make sure it worked non-interactively. The documentation recommends that you have a plan before you start. Basically you are scripting an install on a brand new OS installation so you have to think of things you might normally take for granted, like remembering to install bzr or git before you pull something, heh:

When attempting to write a formula, it is beneficial to have a mental plan of what it takes to deploy the software. In our case, you should deploy drupal manually, understand where its configuration information is written, how the first node is deployed, and how further nodes are configured. With respect to this formula, this is the plan.

I did ok until I got to the python manage.py syncdb part of summit, which asked me a question, but not bad for the first shot. 

Of course, had I picked something packaged it wouldn’t be so complicated, my install script would just be an apt-get command but I think it’s useful to be able to just fire off an instance of summit right from trunk. 

The ability to just grab whatever you want right from trunk and fire off an instance is pretty powerful, I’m looking forward to seeing James Page’s etherpad-lite formula be ready so anyone can just fire one up for $your-favorite-conference.

Read more

Today Ask Ubuntu celebrates it’s first year in existence. Though publicly launched on the eve of 10.10.10, the site went into private beta one year ago today. At the time Evan Dandrea had seen Area 51 and had proposed an Ubuntu Stack Exchange. 

I was just as confused as everyone else. It wasn’t until I spoke with Evan at Debconf 10 where he explained it to me. In fact, you can probably call this the first time the idea of mercilessly removing horrible content from Ubuntu properties got started in my brain.

His gist was this; like with code, there is just no replacement for peer reviewed content that focuses on quality. That’s basically the mission of the site. So with that, I dove in head first and decided that I was going to help will this site into existence. 

It took us a while (from end of July until October actually) to find our feet. That’s where we honed down our FAQ, what was ontopic and what wasn’t, we narrowly focused what we would be good at, answering people’s questions. We would heavily leverage the existing wiki documentation, bug reports redirected to launchpad, discussion moved to the forums or IRC. No distractions from the mission, ask a question, get an answer; the rest is just furniture.

So how are we doing?

We are currently the 4th largest Stack Exchange according to traffic (behind the original trilogy of Stack Overflow, Super User, and Server Fault). Here’s where you can sort the criteria. During the release of 11.04 we hit around 45k traffic, which is about 50% of Server Fault’s traffic (in less than a year!).

While all that is fine and good, what about user engagement? Well, currently we have about 19,000 registered users, here’s the breakdown by reputation. (Reputation is a measure of how much other user’s trust you).

Stack Exchanges are unique in that priviledges to run the site are earned by the votes from your peers (which is measured in reputation). The more reputation you earn, the more rights you have to edit the content on the site. A user with 20,000 reputation is basically a moderator, but the important one to me is 2,000. This is the level where you no longer need to have someone peer review every edit, and editing is how content stays fresh and relevant. 

I consider everyone with over 2,000 reputation to be a heavily engaged user on AU, someone who has taken a personal interest in making the site succeed. We have 85 people with over 2,000 reputation, meaning we have 85 people continuously improving the site at a high engagement level.

Surprisingly, you’ll see over 18,000 people mostly just consuming the content. This is the userbase we serve the most, but you can see how a relatively small group of people can make something good happen.

And what about the end result? So far our accepted answer rate sits at 81% (which is about the same as the original trilogy sites). We’re constantly looking for ways to improve quality; I sometimes yearn for the day when we could answer 95% of the questions,  but hey, with great size comes great craziness of unanswerable questions.

I have a ton of people to thank, you all know who you are, the first pile numbers at about 85 people. We’ve all been putting in crazy hours to make this work. For me personally it’s been an about one hour before work, most of lunch, and multiple hours after work. (Spouses getting Ph.D’s are good for internet participation!) 

Now that the first “ooh ahh” year is out of the way, the next comes the grinding run into the playoffs. There’s no doubt in my mind we can eclipse Server Fault provide better quality for end users, it’s just a matter of time and workin’ hard. 

If you’re feeling intimidated by it just dive in and get started, we’re friendly, and remember that reputation is a measure of trust, not exactly skill (where else would I outnumber Kees Cook in anything by 16,000 units?)

You can earn reputation by asking good questions, submitting edits to make content relevant for today, or by answering questions. Once you have the 15 rep required to vote you can very easily determine the quality of the site by just voting a few times a day. The quality of the content is determined by it’s people, so I’m looking for experts, people who want to be experts, beginners, medium level, and whoever to dive in and help someone out.

Here’s to another year!

Read more