OSDC.tw: making conferences fun again

Sunday, Apr 19. 2009  –  Category: OpenSolaris, OpenSource, Songbird, Travel

I spent yesterday at OSDC.tw (Open Source Developers Conference, Taiwan), organised by Hsin-Chan Chien.  I presented Songbird, giving an intro to the app, talking about the ways it could be extended, and demo’ing the app and some of the extensions/Feathers available.  (If you look at the slides, there are a good number that I included that I didn’t get to speak to as I was trying to plan for the contingency of not having Internet and needing to fill in the demo time).

What struck me about the conference was the community feel.  This is easily up there with FISL and FOSDEM as one of the best conferences I’ve been to.  It was grass-roots organised, staffed by volunteers, and though it had some corporate sponsors, it didn’t feel corporate in any way.  There were (IIRC) 230 attendees, with two talks going on any given time over the 2 day weekend (with in-depth tutorials on Friday).  While this is a far cry from the thousands of people at OSCON and multitudes of talks going on at any given time… but IMHO, it was far far better.  Having only two talks at a time ensures that each talk has a good # of attendees (avoiding the OSCON scenario of talks with only 5 or 10 attendees which sucks).  OSDC.tw also really fostered more of a community feel; I saw people chatting and meeting new people, hanging out and discussing technology and having Q&A over tea-time.  Having the regularly scheduled tea-time breaks in one central area really fosters a nice sense of community as well.

In addition to my talk Sunday morning, I got to meet Tim and Bob of the Mozilla Taiwan Community, and went to lunch with clkao, gugod, obra, and a few other folks.  During the afternoon I had a discussion in IRC (#osdc.tw on Freenode) with some folks on ZFS, and ended up giving a lightning talk in conjunction with in2.  She gave some quick slides and introduced ZFS in Chinese, and I followed up with a rapid-fire 5 minute demo (managed to throw up a Virtualbox install of OpenSolaris (snv_101b) quickly) of snapshots, cloning, rollbacks, sends and receives.  My demo was particularly well-illustrated when I accidentally rm -rf’d an SVN directory before snapshotting.  :-)

I also saw Rasmus’s talk on PHP performance and scaling… his example of profiling and optimising Laconica was particularly interesting given our use of Laconica for Songbird’s murmuration project.  But the best talk of the day, by far, was Yusuke Kawasaki’s talk on JSAR (Javascript Augmented Reality).  I can’t even begin to describe his demo of Air Xiaolongbao and Air Pudding, but it was very akin to his hilarious Air Yakiniku video on YouTube.

After the conference we had a great speaker dinner… I can’t think of any other conference where every speaker could get together afterwards and have a big dinner.  I got to chat some more with obra, xdite and met Paul Bakaus (the undisputed and renowned jQuery UI world expert ;-) ).

I’m really hoping I’ll be able to attend OSDC.tw 2010 next year, and I’d certainly encourage anyone organising conferences to pursue this sort of community grass-roots feel.  It was a far far cry from the huge corporate conference feel, and if anything felt more like a huge user-group get-together.

Update: Photos from Yusuke’s talk here, and photos from dinner here

I’d been looking for a good way to do server-side mail filtering with client side configuration… and short of some lame CGI interfaces to editing your .procmailrc, I hadn’t found much until I discovered Sieve a few days ago.  To skip a long and boring story, I rebuilt a bunch of packages (yay for JDS’s spec build system) for the following:

Quick summary: Dovecot is a wicked awesome IMAP server.  Sieve provides a way of doing mail filtering.  managesieve is an protocol to allow users to modify their sieve filters via the IMAP protocol.

I use Roundcube Webmail on my server, and there is a super-nice Roundcube Managesieve plugin available.

So I built and installed my Dovecot packages, installed the Roundcube Managesieve plugin, and I’m off and flying with awesome client-configurable mail filtering while allowing the mail filtering itself to be done server-side.

I’ve made the packages available here (14 MB download).  This SVr4 pkg contains SFEdovecot, SFEdovecot-cmusieve, SFEdovecot-managesieve, and the SFEdovecot-root (configuration files) packages.

Dear Sun, learn to trust your own community.

Thursday, Jan 15. 2009  –  Category: OpenSolaris, OpenSource, Sun

Dear Sun,

I feel like we have trust issues.  Everytime I think we start to be good, and do good things… you go and do something to turn a good thing bad.  Let’s take this latest case of your “Free CD” button at the top of the OpenSolaris.org homepage.  I know you meant well… but see, you actually came out looking like… well, kind of an asshat jerk.

I’m really disappointed that you have, yet again, chosen to blatantly disregard the community process setup by the OpenSolaris Governing Board, in partnership with Sun representatives themselves.

To be clear, I think a free CD button is not a bad idea.  While I disagree with the current page (let’s throw a big blank looking page with a login that doesn’t use the same login as the previous page!), I think the concept isn’t bad.  I’m all for furthering adoption of OpenSolaris technologies.

What I think is a huge wad of community FAIL is how you’ve trampled all over the process that you yourself helped setup.  I’m of course, talking about the website review process.  The OGB chartered the Website Community Group to own the homepage.  Informally, the Website CG was given the responsibility (on behalf of the entire OpenSolaris.org membership) of updating the homepage with fresh content.

You’ve screwed up quite a few times before… the first time resulted in the establishment of a Website Editorial Board (which became a Review Committee) to review changes made to the homepage of OpenSolaris.org.  The second time resulted in Sun having a “Sponsored Links” section of the homepage where it could freely publish content without having it go through review.  Through both of these incidents, we communicated with you via the Sun/OGB liason, and worked out a policy and process agreeable to all parties.

We know the review process works because the Website CG (courtesy of content leader Michelle Olson) formulates, reviews, and publishes content every month in a timely and successful fashion.  The Website CG follows the process, and gets things done.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m finding it harder and harder to trust you these days with respect to anything that might require community input.  For every good thing you do with open source (GPL OpenOffice?  Great!), you shoots itself in the foot on others (sh*t on the community?  Boo!).

So here’s an open letter to the nameless executives pulling the puppet strings from behind the curtain: please… just follow the process that YOU agreed to.  It’s not hard.  It’s quite easy.  Your own employees are quite familiar with it.  Trust your employees, your engineers, and better yet… start to trust in your community.  You’d receive far less backlash and hate if you actually played by the rules that you yourself laid down.


Your biggest fan, Steve.

YABS on Songbird on OpenSolaris

Wednesday, Dec 17. 2008  –  Category: OpenSolaris, Photos, Songbird, Sun

YABS on Songbird on OpenSolaris

YABS on Songbird on OpenSolaris

I just noticed that the YABS Feather looks awesome on Songbird on OpenSolaris.  The color and style of the skin just fit really well in terms of the blue highlights matching with the blue OpenSolaris default theme.

YABS is, quite possibly, my mostest favouritest Songbird Feather.


Friday, Dec 5. 2008  –  Category: OpenSolaris, Songbird

Aside from 2 hours spent idling on 880 today, I spent most of the day at FOSSCamp… congrats to Jorge of Ubuntu for putting together a great unconference. I sat in on a session led by Jono regarding how distributions (with a bias towards Ubuntu of course) could facilitate less fearful (my emphasis, not his) experimentation with packages by users. He raised some good points that were inhibiting users from trying out new programs because of how programs wouldn’t (or couldn’t) necessarily clean up after themselves. From the OpenSolaris perspective, IPS + ZFS snapshots obviously solves this quite easily… it was interesting to see people discussing various solutions that seemed more like workarounds to me. Honestly – it seems better/less-work to just port ZFS (or implement filesystem-level snapshots on Reiser/ext3/etc.) and use that.

After a lunch break graciously provided by Google, I sat in on an interesting session about open source business models. This was sort of a free-form session that had the potential to be really interesting, though the 1 hour was not nearly enough. We spent half an hour listing open-source companies that were successful (monetarily speaking) and a few that weren’t). We then classified them into various classifications of business models (acquisition, consulting, support, carrier/affiliate/referral, etc.) and then tried to break it down into pros and cons and general thoughts about each business model. It was an interesting exercise, and it was interesting to discuss some companies (big and small) that have tried (or are trying) with multiple models (Sun being an oft-repeated example).

At this point I broke off to have a session about visualising digital media collections. This is something I’m pretty interested in to try and break the spreadsheet style of navigating and interacting with my music collection. I’ve done one experiment with ♪Photo, and am interested in doing some more, so I wanted to chat with some folks to see different ways people interact with their media libraries. Dan Mosedale of Mozilla Messaging fame was there and brought up some interesting points on how interacting with mail contacts shared some interesting organisational challenges with media. We talked some about music recommendation services, and anti-recommendation services (more on this later). mpt of Ubuntu offered up some good thoughts on trying to classify artists by similarity … perhaps either by visual organisation (e.g. visual ordering), or as a way to influence playback. Dan mentioned it would be interesting to choose moods of music for playback (citing Tangerine as a similar model) so that he could play ‘upbeat’ or ‘mellow’ music based on properties like BPM.

At this point, Chris Blizzard wandered in… it was great to meet him finally after reading many of his blog entries from Planet Mozilla. From here we diverged into showing off a few other features of the newly launched Songbird 1.0, resulting in Chris installing it for the first time. Yay!

From there we went next door for Dan’s talk on Mozilla Messaging where there were some good (and opposite end-of-the-spectrum) questions from Ubuntu folks interested in Thunderbird on the enterprise, and Thunderbird on mobile devices.

At the end of that session Jorge brought a few folks over who had just installed Songbird for the first time who had some really great praise and comments for us. It’s super gratifying to have someone come up who has just installed Songbird for the first time and gets it… especially having worked so hard on it for the past year. We got lots of warm praise and supportive words for getting Songbird into Ubuntu’s repositories.

To that end, I’m really looking forward to going back down to Google again on Wednesday to meet with Jorge and the rest of the Ubuntu MozillaTeam to go about seeing what we can do to resolve that.

Songbird 1.0!

Tuesday, Dec 2. 2008  –  Category: OpenSolaris, Songbird

We launched 1.0!

Alfred built Songbird 1.0 packages and tarballs for OpenSolaris (SPARC & x86), which I’ve linked off our contributed builds page. Hopefully they’ll find their way into a pkg repository near you soon.

SF OSUG (2008.11)

Monday, Nov 24. 2008  –  Category: OpenSolaris, Photos

We had a pretty good turnout for our monthly San Francisco OpenSolaris User Group meeting tonight (Luc, Riku, edp, Shannon, comay, Rafael, and myself), with the exception of our fearless leader Miss. Michelle. I finally remembered to bring my camera this time so I took some photos. We mostly chatted with comay about the upcoming 2008.11 release, and discussed the multiple repositories and how package installation and repositories would be structured in the future.

Rafael and I also discussed evangelism of OpenSolaris to Linux audiences. Rafael had recently presented at the Ontario Linuxfest, and I had previously presented at SVLUG. We tossed around the idea of presenting to an SF LUG.

The full photo album of the meetup is here.

Songbird on OpenSolaris b99

Wednesday, Oct 15. 2008  –  Category: OpenSolaris, Songbird

Installing & Running Songbird on OpenSolaris b99

Installing & Running Songbird on OpenSolaris b99

Upon seeing comay’s tweet, I updated my OpenSolaris machine to the newly posted b99 packages and had the pleasure of typing:

$ pfexec pkg install SUNWsongbird

joyous day. :-) This is our first distribution to carry Songbird in its package repository, so I’m hugely psyched. Major props to Alfred for pushing through all the hard integration work to get Songbird into OpenSolaris.

Is Sun Solaris on its deathbed?

Thursday, Sep 25. 2008  –  Category: OpenSolaris

… that provocative question is the title for InfoWorld’s latest article here. I saw the article come through on one of the lists I’m on, and well… it’s crap.. the author tries to pass it off as an objective article debating the future of Solaris. To present both sides, he gives:

  • 14 paraphrased paragraphs fed to him by the Linux Foundation executive director detailing why Linux is better.

  • 4 paragraphs from a Sun marketing director on why Solaris is better.


Here’s the thing…. I like both Linux and OpenSolaris. I’m not sure why all this animosity has to exist? What does (Linux Foundation Executive Director) Jim Zemlin have against OpenSolaris that makes him make unfounded claims^Wlies for? I’d be much happier if we went head to head on technology instead of FUD (which, I might point out, is something Linux-heads used to decry Microsoft for). In fact, may I point to an article from May of 2007 in Businessweek where none other than Jim Zemlin himself asks Microsoft to stop engaging in FUD (though that particular FUD was around IP and patents).

Perhaps Jim is scared because his empty claims that nobody uses DTrace or ZFS are just that… empty.

I was at the office today listening to my coworkers talking about improving the performance of Songbird, and how we can optimise things like our database interactions. What amazing tool are we using to do this? Shark & DTrace. What platform are we doing this on? Mac OS X. What platforms benefit from this work? Every other platform… our Linux builds, our Windows builds, and yes… even the OpenSolaris builds built by our community.

I was at the Toronto MozCamp last weekend and Mozilla developers there were talking about how they use DTrace to profile and improve performance of Firefox and XULRunner. I’m willing to bet anything that they aren’t doing that on OpenSolaris (correct me if I’m wrong mfinkle).

So uh… yeah, sorry Jim. But none of the people I cited above are “Sun Microsystems sales representatives”. The technology is good. Don’t spread your own FUD about how nobody is using it, or how it has no traction when you have nothing to back that claim up. I bet a helluva lot more people are using DTrace than SystemTap. Here’s the thing… when you spread baseless slander like that instead of actually talking about your own technologies, and citing concrete technical reasons why they are better (why not talk about LVM, or SystemTap?), then you just sound like …. well, like one of those Sun sales reps you just slagged.

My favourite bit was where he suggests Sun should GPL DTrace & ZFS instead. In two consecutive paragraphs, Jim goes from (paraphrased): “Nobody even uses that stuff, we have competing technology!” to “Sun should give it to us.”. Nice, really slick there Jim.

Continuing in this vein of poorly-written drivel, the article then goes on into why OpenSolaris is better, saying ‘”I think Solaris is absolutely a great OS,” says Neil Wilson, a former Sun employee who later left the OpenDS project. Solaris is “absolutely far superior to Linux for the cases where the hardware support is there,” he adds.’ This is… might I venture, more of the same unsubstantiated crap. Only here at least it’s one sentence instead of 14 paragraphs. Say WHY it’s better, instead of just a random quote with no basis or facts to back it up.

I’d like to see us move away from this kind of crap-journalism to more objective articles grounded in technical facts and benchmarks than just ghost-written pieces by directors peppered with random quotes.


Monday, Jul 28. 2008  –  Category: OpenSolaris, OpenSource, Songbird

Day 3 (Friday) for me was … well… rough. I woke up feeling completely nauseous. Given that I had done a wee bit of drinking the night before, I was inclined to think it was alcohol-related. (Good thing I had that handy dandy hangover kit from Beerforge!)

After spending until the full 12:00 checkout time puking in the toilet, I was ready to write-off alcohol for the rest of my life. Many many many apologies to Eric Jung of Mozdev for ducking out in the middle of our lobby conversation to go throw up in the hotel lobby bathroom. Many apologies to the folks who also witnessed me puking off the side of a MAX platform (fortunately it was one near the airport which was all rock and weeds off the platform)… and apologies to the folks at the security line at the airport when I went rushing past to the bathroom to go puke… and to the folks on the plane who had to watch me rush to the bathroom three times en route (you might (or might not) be happy to know only two of those times resulted in puking, the third was mostly dry heaves).

At this point, I realised it might not be the alcohol. By the time I landed in SF and puked once more (sorry SFO deplaning passengers!), I was pretty sure it was food poisoning. Talking to my wife (who, unlike me, actually HAS medical training), my er… other symptons, definitely seemed to point to food poisoning.

Food poisoning is a really really really unbelievably shitty thing to have when you’re flying/traveling. And that’s all I have to say about that.

So in the end, after a couple days of being sick to my stomach – I’m pretty much all better.

And I take back my thoughts at writing off alcohol. Sweet sweet tasty beer.

(and one final apology to anyone reading this who gets offended by posts about puking)

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