Bobulate!?

You know, I’ve been blogging under the "bobulate" flag for several years now (before that, in the early days of fruitsalad.org, it was "frond") and it never struck me before to actually go looking for other bobulators. Thankfully I did, because I ran across two fascinating sites.

One is bobulate.com, which to me feels a little like reading some of Tycho‘s best — intricate sentences that release their meaning slowly, when teased apart by the mind. A tea or coffee simile may apply as well.

The other is the writing of Whitney Hess, user-experience designer. UX is not my cup of tea, but it’s wonderful to watch someone else with enthusiasm and talent do it.

So much serendipity in searches — I spotted these two while searching for what I thought were good keywords for my previous power consumption measurements on desktop systems. Another item that popped up was a collection of opinions of the solicitor of the department of the interior (of the USA) regarding the sale of alcohol on Indian reservations in the 1970s.

Dear Bangalore

Only a few more weeks (what, three?) until conf.kde.in, and it’s great to see a gentle stream of microblog posts come by with new features at the conference. I see there’s certificates for attendees. I find this slightly worrying, as I’ve had to sign a few in my time. Both for university courses and workshops, so I know how long it takes for 200 of them.

I’m looking forward to being on the road again, and to seeing Pradeepto, Prashanth, Akarsh and the rest of the people down south. I’m bad with names, so to all I’ve forgotten to mention explicitly here: see you soon, nonetheless. To all whom I’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting, too: see you soon. It’ll be fun and educational.

One of the things that attendees might be warned against is my motivational tool. Aye, it is my quivering pink rod which will accompany me to India. Every Akademy since Mechelen has seen it in action.

Last — and so far only — time I was in Bangalore was for FOSS.in, I think in 2008. The printing on the mug has faded, but some memories stand out. Falling asleep in the hallway, for one. Millipedes. Wandering around looking for the best food (with success) for everyone’s needs. Watching in horror as Mumbai was attacked. Well, that’s rather a mixed bag of memories, isn’t it.

Remember to follow the identica stream with conference information.

New Power Measurements

Some time ago (must have been over a year) I did some power measurements with a simple at-the-wall-socket power meter. For a short while they were on sale at electronics stores all over the place, as part of a "know your power use" campaign.

I’ve been sick for the past week (again) and one of the therapeutic things I did was rearrange my home office ; now the wall socket is easily accessible again and the servers are piled one on top of the other. I decided to do a little measurement and see what computation actually costs me. Bear in mind that this is totally unscientific, based on running a complete system through a power bar plugged into a meter and then watching the meter and guessing averages.

The system under test is an Intel i7-860 with 8GB RAM. Possibly the most difficult part of this test is actually putting the system under load. I’m hard-pressed to get more than, say, 25% load. One (single-threaded) simulation, one dual-core virtual machine running OpenIndiana and compiling KDE .. I tried to get kdesrc-build working quickly to see if that would load the machine too, but that was a bit of a disaster (aside from I’d forgotten that it would take an hour of just network activity to get the sources up-to-date). Something for another blog entry.

Anyway, here’s some brief power use information, for the complete system — that is, monitors and other peripherals that are switched on when I’m at my desk.

Samsung 206: 10W when "off", 39W when on, 10W when it goes to standby.
Iiyama E430: 10W when "off", 33W when on, 10W in standby.
CPU: 10W when "off", 64W on boot.
Complete desktop: 140-190W while logging in (after cold boot), 130W at an idle desktop, 170-200W when under load.

There’s two things I’m going to take away from this: at 200W total power draw for my desktop, that’s a ridiculous amount of computation power per watt. Second is that I’m going to switch off the power bar when I switch "off" the machine in the evenings, because 30W for standby is a bit much.

EBN resumes service

The EBN machine, which hosts api.kde.org (sadly under-maintained) and www.englishbreakfastnetwork.org (Krazy code checking tools) and solaris.bionicmutton.org (OpenIndiana packages of KDE4) and some other things like an anonsvn mirror (note to self and/or sysadmin: need to set up anongit mirror, too), is back up. The usual “oh, drat” accompanied the downtime, like needing to do a failsafe boot because coming up to a full OpenSUSE desktop login (headless!) causes a panic.

EBN scheduled downtime

The university where the EBN is hosted is having some scheduled downtime to replace the air-conditioning units. The maintainence window starts in 10 hours and is 4 hours long, so from 7am to 11am on Saturday, February 12th in the Europe/Amsterdam timezone (GMT+1 right now). I don’t know how long the work will take, nor when exactly the machine will be back up (it takes a while to press the “on” button on so many machines), but it’ll be down for a bit. I expect to HACF the machine early tomorrow morning, say 6:50am.

KDE 4.6.0 on OSOL

Although KDE 4.6.0 was released nearly two weeks ago, I had not yet gotten around to announcing the availability of KDE 4.6.0 packages for OpenSolaris / OpenIndiana. The KDE4-OpenSolaris team (mostly Jan and Pavel right now, since I’m distracted) are really on the ball and the packages went up on release day. You can find them in our pkg repository and the corresponding specfile repository.

[[ Shout outs to other packages: Gökmen, wow. That’s slick. If I was going to be anywhere near FOSDEM, I’d line up behind Jos in congratulating you on a nice release. ]]

Long-term Management

My friend Armijn sent me this, and asked if I would pass it on. He adds as a word of warning “this is a post that can easily ruin your mood“.

Almost all free software developers I have met are always very enthusiastic about their programs and what to add and improve in the future. Very few of them think what happens afterwards. With this I don’t mean what happens after those additions and improvements (your answer would probably be “more additions and improvements”), but I mean when there is no future. When you’re no longer coding. When your uplink is permanently disconnected. When you’re dead.

Planning for the inevitable is not something we want to think about (thinking about your own mortality is not many people do for fun), but it is something we need to do, all of us. I was remembered about this by two recent events. One was when at gpl-violations.org we got a report about a violation in the Apple AppStore. Since I had already dealt with the same developer in the past (it was resolved very amicably) I decided to connect the reporter directly with the developer. The reporter got an unexpected surprise in the form of an e-mail from the developer’s father who said that his son had died half a year ago and he could not get himself to pull the app from the App Store, as a tribute to his son. Eventually we got sources when one of the developer’s friends (another engineer) was involved to lift the sources from the deceased developer’s laptop.

Another example was when a webmaster of a website that my dad regularly contributed to, died in a fire in his house. The website contained many years of research, at least 10 years, but possibly many more. Many people had contributed to this research, but the data was only available through the website. The database itself was hosted on baseportal.com which allows people to have a free database. How to get the data back, especially someone else’s data is completely unclear. At the moment people are trying to reach the heirs of the webmaster so they can salvage the data and make sure the webpage continues as a tribute to the original webmaster.

The common theme is that these people were very passionate about what they did. They truly loved their work and it work was appreciated by many. But when fate struck it turned out that they had not taken care of what would happen after they would pass away. I am very sure that they didn’t expect this to happen so soon, or never realized that this could be an issue. But in the digital world, with lapsing domain name registrations, databases and webspace being deleted because of unpaid bills, offline development trees and uninformed heirs this is becoming more and more of a risk.

So, what can you do prevent this from happening with your code and data? First, move your development as much online as possible. The KDE project has great infrastructure for this. Second, think about assigning your copyright to KDE e.V. with the FLA. If you don’t want to do this, make sure that your heirs know what you have been doing with free software and what they can and cannot do with the code. Show them that you care a lot about this.

Don’t let this story scare you too much. Keep coding, with passion, knowing that if you have taken the right measures your code will live on and will (hopefully) be used, reused and adapted by many people, even after you are no longer here.

— Armijn

The distance to here

I’ve been using the wayback machine to take a look at the site I had when I was active in the KDE FreeBSD community, the one on fruitsalad.org. That was ages ago, and the distance to here is enormous. I’m going to try to import the old blog entries and comments — from an extinct MovableType installation — to my current WordPress setup, in an attempt to bring things back under one roof.

I do hope that it doesn’t mess up syndication when all kinds of newly-published but back-dated posts arrive. But if 2004 suddenly swamps Planet KDE, then you know what’s causing it. I just added the oldest post I could find, march 6th 2004, as an experiment. I remember writing the pseudo-CMS that powered my oldest blog posts, too. Vade retro, historia!

Post-Madrid

I gave a fairly long talk on “Management of KDE” in Madrid, to about 20 people. Aleix followed up with a talk on KDE Espana and then a Spanish gentleman from the Apache Foundation followed, so we had four hours of Open Source community management in a row. Now, my Spanish isn’t very good at all, but the neat thing is that I can understand a talk in Spanish on legal issues such as software patents. Verily, legalese is the universal language.

As far as Madrid itself goes, I saw an anticapitalist march while on the way to the restaurant for the research-meeting-dinner, and walked past a half dozen museums at 3:45am on a saturday morning on my way to the airport shuttle bus.

6am flights are less pleasant in actuality than when you book them, thinking “I’ll be home on time for coffee!”

I’ll say one thing for Madrid: excellent public transport. Maybe because my destinations (Madrid on Rails and the hotel next to the Anthropological museum) were chosen for being close to metro stops, but Madrid’s metro system beats, say, London Underground hands down. Even if it doesn’t have a “mind the gap” announcement. The museums look nice in the dark, too. Maybe some day I’ll visit longer than a 2×12 hour meeting and check it out.

Thanks to Felipe and the LibreSoft guys for having me over.