Archive for the ‘lang:en’ Category

Individuals contribute 20000 USD to make GNOME more secure and more privacy aware

Sunday, July 21st, 2013


I’m so excited. I’ve just pushed the last update to the current Friends of GNOME banner. We received donations worth 20000 USD to make GNOME more secure and privacy aware. It’s so awesome to see so many individuals donating to make GNOME better for them and ultimately for all of us.


We got 250 one-off payments and roughly 650 periodic payments from payment plans over the last 7 months. During that period, 52 payment plans were created with the average amount of 10 USD per month (the default setting). However, 51 plans were cancelled :-\ The one-off payments were worth 17600 USD and hence the average donation was about 70 USD.

Depending on how you do the math, the cost of taking the one-off donations was between 3.3% and 4.4%. I find that number surprisingly low, probably because I still can’t make sense out of PayPal’s fee structure. But there are probably some hidden fees that turn up once you actually want to do something with the money, i.e. have it wired somewhere.

A very big “Thank You” to all the donors who generously allow us to continue our mission to produce a Free Software desktop for everyone. You guys rock. Seriously.

The new GNOME board, which is already serving since the beginning of this month, will meet during GUADEC and probably call for bids some weeks later.

Finding Maloney

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Every so often I feel the need to replace the music coming out of my speakers with an audio drama. I used to listen to Maloney which is a detective story with, well, weird plots. The station used to provide MP3 files for download but since they revamped their website that is gone as the new one only provides flash streaming.

As far as I know, there is only one proper library to access media via Adobe HDS. There are two attempts and a PHP script.

There is, however, a little trick making things easier. The website exposes a HTML5 player if it thinks you’re a moron. Fortunately, it’s easy to make other people think that. The easiest thing to do is to have an IPaid User-Agent header. The website will play the media not via Adobe HDS (and flash) but rather via a similar, probably Apple HTTP Live Streaming, method. And that uses a regular m3u playlist with loads of tiny AAC fragments :-)

The address of that playlist is easily guessable and I coded up a small utility here. It will print the ways to play the latest Maloney episode. You can then choose to either use HDS or the probably more efficient AAC version.

$ python ~/vcs/findmaloney/ 
mplayer -playlist,q10,q20,.mp4.csmil/master.m3u8

livestreamer "hds://,q10,q20,.mp4.csmil/manifest.f4m" best


GNOME.Asia Summit 2013

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

This year’s GNOME.Asia Summit took place in Seoul, Korea. It’s my second GNOME.Asia Summit after the previous one in Hongkong and it’s again amazing to see how nice the local team put everything together.


Initially I thought I’ll go to Seoul straight from LinuxTag which would have been quite stressful. Unfortunately, LinuxTag didn’t happen for GNOME :-\ We lacked people to run the booth and it’s insane to try to run the booth with only two or three people over four days. So I went more or less straight to Seoul. Via CDG. So far I didn’t like that airport because it is huge and transfers between terminals are very slow and the terminals themselves rather poor in terms of infrastructure (power, seats, WiFi, shops). But terminal 2E was surprisingly nice. It’s got designeresque chairs to sit in, lots of power sockets, free WiFi, some shops, water fountains, and it’s generally airy. So thumbs up for that.


As for Seoul, things went surprisingly well. While i did organise this GNOME.Asia Summit to some extent I didn’t expect things to work out that nicely. The local team, which was pretty much unknown to me, was surprisingly big and they found a good venue and good sponsors.

GNOME Asia Summit

Lemote gave us a few laptops to give away *yay*. A raffle was organized and the best speaker got the biggest machine. I didn’t win in the raffle, but I got a machine as the best speaker. It’s a Lemote Loongson. I don’t know yet whether it is what I need. I have a very underspecced Lenovo ideapad which barely runs GNOME. Running anything that requires memory is really dreadful. Yes Firefox, looking at you. And some things like Gajim, an XMPP client, don’t even work because the machine starts to swap so heavily that every TCP connection times out. Again and again. I have to explore whether the Lemote laptop performs any better. It’s MIPS after all. And according to Wikipedia the CPU alone draws 15W.


Anyway, the conference itself was good and I felt that it was bringing together people nicely. I hope that it relevant Korean businesses are happy, too. We will have to see though whether any measurable output has been generated.

The reactions to my talk about GNOME 3.8 were, as already mentioned, positive. To my surprise I have to say. I was still a bit tired and jetlagged, but from talking to people afterwards I know that I inspired some folks to take a closer look at GNOME. You can find my slides here.


I found a surprising large number of other talks interesting, too. Unfortunately, the aforementioned laptop died while taking notes so I can’t provided a nice summary. The most interesting thing I found was a talk about seafile. A Dropbox-like tool which sounds really good. But to be ready they have to fix some design problems like depending on a local webserver or not using established authentication and encryption protocols (think SSH).


I’m happy for the GNOME.Asia. May it prosper in the future. I hope we can gain some more sponsors for future editions of the event and also for GNOME. As other people already stated: I’d like to thank the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring my attendance at the conference. I’d also like to thank the conference sponsors for their support, including NIPA, Lemote, LG, Google, Linux Pilot, ONOFFMIX and

Sponsored by GNOME!

RIP Atul Chitnis

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013


I am sad to read that Atul Chitnis passed away at the age of 51. I met him several times during and it was a pleasure to meet the driving force behind that conference. While certainly being a controversial figure in the Free Software world, he did a lot of good things for our communities and ecosystems. Let’s hope the team takes the heritage and continues to make great events for India.

A journey to an updated Linux 18

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Oh what joy this whole GNU/Linux thing brings. I took a few days off to upgrade my machines. I had the pleasure to update one laptop twice, i.e. from the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS to the current 13.04 and a desktop from Fedora 17 to Fedora 18.

The Laptop was almost easy. It took long time for the system to install packages. And there are stupid dialogues to confirm which block the whole process. Not very nice. I let it run for a couple of hours, everything went more less fine until I couldn’t log in anymore. LightDM saved my GNOME preference but there was no gnome-session left. So I went to the console and got myself ubuntu-gnome-desktop (arr. stupid wordpress doesn’t render apt:// links).

The second update from 12.10 to 13.04 took as long as the first, with nothing noteworthy happening. Interestingly though, it didn’t want to install the 13.04 unless being told to install a “development release”. Bollocks.

Anyway, Ubuntu’s GNOME runs almost nicely on my tiny laptop. GNOME-Shell is very slow when it comes to alt-tab. It takes three or four seconds to switch a window. Distraction free computing at its best.

The Fedora desktop is full bucket of joy. The FedUp utility keeps what it promises. It’s surprisingly refreshing. This time, the whole upgrade procedure worked flawlessly. No really! In 2013! I’m amazed. It only took a while for it to fetch everything but then a reboot straight into the upgrade system made the magic happen. Very cool.

Not so cool was the surprise of the machine not booting. Of course. Systemd hung somewhere in NFS related daemons and bailed out because they failed. The old GRUB menu entry booted a little further, just until sendmail, and enabled me to investigate.

Sendmail could not be brought up, because “-bd is not supported by sSMTP”. Right. I have sSMTP installed. And to make a long story short, something did place an init script in /etc/rc.d/init.d/. And that script failed now. NOW. After a couple of years. It was probably never used but got activated with the migration to systemd. Anyway, you might want to delete your stray init scripts and eventually get rid of the packages altogether.

Then GDM wouldn’t come up. Only flicker. It took me a while to find the relevant log files (thinking that everything was in the Journal by now…) but grepping for the usual “EE” and “WW” didn’t reveal much.

# grep -r -e EE -e WW /var/log/gdm/
/var/log/gdm/:5.log.1: (WW) warning, (EE) error, (NI) not implemented, (??) unknown.
/var/log/gdm/:5.log.1:Initializing built-in extension MIT-SCREEN-SAVER
/var/log/gdm/:5.log.1:(WW) Falling back to old probe method for vesa
/var/log/gdm/:5.log.1:(WW) Falling back to old probe method for modesetting
/var/log/gdm/:5.log.1:(WW) Falling back to old probe method for fbdev
/var/log/gdm/:5.log: (WW) warning, (EE) error, (NI) not implemented, (??) unknown.
/var/log/gdm/:5.log:Initializing built-in extension MIT-SCREEN-SAVER
/var/log/gdm/:5.log:(WW) Falling back to old probe method for vesa
/var/log/gdm/:5.log:(WW) Falling back to old probe method for modesetting
/var/log/gdm/:5.log:(WW) Falling back to old probe method for fbdev
/var/log/gdm/:1.log.2: (WW) warning, (EE) error, (NI) not implemented, (??) unknown.

But. There were also the logs for the “slaves”. They contained:

gdm-simple-slave[1030]: WARNING: Failed to give slave programs access to the display. Trying to proceed.
gdm-launch-environment][1046]: pam_unix(gdm-launch-environment:session): session opened for user gdm by (uid=0)
gdm-launch-environment][1046]: pam_unix(gdm-launch-environment:session): session closed for user gdm
gdm-simple-slave[1030]: GLib-GObject-CRITICAL: g_object_ref: assertion `object->ref_count > 0′ failed
gdm-simple-slave[1030]: GLib-GObject-CRITICAL: g_object_unref: assertion `object->ref_count > 0′ failed

And there was a hint given by systemd:

# systemctl status gdm --full
gdm.service - GNOME Display Manager
Loaded: loaded (/usr/lib/systemd/system/gdm.service; enabled)
Active: active (running) since Fr 2013-05-03 12:22:04 CEST; 9s ago
Main PID: 1843 (gdm-binary)
CGroup: name=systemd:/system/gdm.service
└─1843 /usr/sbin/gdm-binary

Mai 03 12:22:07 bigbox gdm[1843]: gdm-binary[1843]: WARNING: GdmDisplay: display lasted 0.510350 seconds
Mai 03 12:22:07 bigbox gdm-binary[1843]: WARNING: GdmDisplay: display lasted 0.510350 seconds
Mai 03 12:22:07 bigbox gdm-simple-slave[1997]: WARNING: Failed to give slave programs access to the display. Trying to proceed.
Mai 03 12:22:08 bigbox gdm-simple-slave[1997]: GLib-GObject-CRITICAL: g_object_ref: assertion `object->ref_count > 0' failed
Mai 03 12:22:08 bigbox gdm[1843]: gdm-binary[1843]: WARNING: GdmDisplay: display lasted 0.507905 seconds
Mai 03 12:22:08 bigbox gdm-binary[1843]: WARNING: GdmDisplay: display lasted 0.507905 seconds
Mai 03 12:22:08 bigbox gdm-binary[1843]: WARNING: GdmLocalDisplayFactory: maximum number of X display failures reached: check X server log for errors
Mai 03 12:22:08 bigbox gdm-binary[1843]: WARNING: GdmDisplay: display lasted 0.509609 seconds
Mai 03 12:22:08 bigbox gdm[1843]: gdm-binary[1843]: WARNING: GdmLocalDisplayFactory: maximum number of X display failures reached: check X server log for errors
Mai 03 12:22:08 bigbox gdm[1843]: gdm-binary[1843]: WARNING: GdmDisplay: display lasted 0.509609 seconds

Aha! There is the problem! But.. what is it? No indication whatsoever. Not even a tiny hint as to where to look next.

I decided to make baby steps and tried to bring up X on my own. My computer liked “X”. But it didn’t “startx”. That in turn revealed a missing library. But the current version is .49. Why on earth would something try to link against an old version? “yum distro-sync” proves me right that my packages are up to date. I thus set out to find the weird library causing me trouble. But there were many!

# ldd /lib64/ | grep not => not found => not found => not found

I thought I got rid of them by doing

for f in /lib64/*.so; do ldd $f | (grep -q “not found” && echo $f); done | xargs yum remove -y

but that didn’t help. The ldd resolves symbols recursively but I really want to know the symbols needed by the library itself, not its dependencies. Readelf comes to mind. And after chasing a few libraries manually, I was tired so I came up with

for lib in $(cat /tmp/libs); do echo $lib; for l in $(readelf -d /lib64/$lib | grep NEEDED | cut -d[ -f2 | cut -d] -f1); do echo $lib: $l; done; done | less

which showed nicely which library the culprit was.

It was /lib64/ from harfbuzz-0.9.13-1.fc20.x86_64. Where does this package come from, you may ask. So did I. I didn’t know how to make yum tell me, but I found out that it belonged to the F17 texlive repository.

Interestingly enough, yum check told me that there was a problem but couldn’t handle it. The solution, very similar to the command above, but with an important difference:

yum --disablerepo texlive distro-sync

Hope this will be useful to someone in the future. Chances are quite good.

Scale Text to the maximum of a page with LaTeX

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Being confronted with having to produce a simple poster that holds just a few letter but prints them as big as possible, I found myself needing to scale text (or a letter) on a page.

At first, I found \scalebox, which unfortunately takes a scaling factor, and not two dimensions. Instead of trying to do math, I found \resizebox which does take dimensions (width and height).

You could think that simply scaling up to the \textwidth is enough, but it’s not as you can see from the following “l” which was typeset using this code:


And here’s the result:

"l" doesn't scale on A6 landscape paper

So the character doesn’t scale well in the sense that if it is too narrow, it would grow too tall. Unfortunately, it doesn’t automatically keep the aspect ratio and it doesn’t take such an argument as \includegraphic does. Fortunately, you can still make it keep the aspect ratio by globally setting the appropriate flag! So the following will work as expected:



Another last thing is then multiline and centered output. The awesome people over at texexchange have a solution:


% This seems to fully work



% Trying to other method with the table



And the rendered result:

20th DFN CERT Workshop

Monday, March 25th, 2013

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this year’s DFN Workshop which happened to be an anniversary as the event turned 20. Needless to say that I didn’t make all 20 ;-) Well, I did a few anyway.

The keynote was surprisingly political. Marcus J. Ranum (Tenable Network Security) talked about Cyberwar – A Matter of Logistics and Privilege and made witty and thoughtful points. So he asked questions such as whether Stuxnet was an act of terrorism and whether its victims could sue the US to get their damages reimbursed. Highly interesting subject, highly interesting speaker.

Jan Ole Malchow presented “distPaste”, a HTML 5 based webapp that uses all the browsers to store data. So a distributed storage. Might be related to the fun project

Jens Liebchen from the awesome Redteam Pentesting did again a nice presentation this year. They got a new “Multi Function Printer” like a Canon C5051i (so a huge thing…) and had certain requirements regarding its security. He presented a threat model and shared some insights he gained while dealing with the vendor, and, more importantly, after having analysed the machine himself. It turns out that the device has a regular hard drive and runs some flavour of Linux with a big BLOB for their services. However, data was found to be spread over the partitions even though they bought a licence for “secure deletion” of data. They, rightfully, did not expect to find traces of their print or scan jobs. He mentioned that the security properties of such devices were not assessed yet. So there are loads of toys to play with.

Also funny was the work of Benjamin Kahler and Steffen Wendzel who did “Wardriving against building automation“. Basically, the question was how easy it is to break into a network and remote control the building, i.e. open doors and windows. Turns out, there are standard products which are not well secured and the deployment is usually not done properly either, so that network boundaries either don’t exist or can be passed easily.

The security of Android-App’s SSL/TLS usage was presented by Matthew Smith. They examined many many “Apps”, decompiled them and statically analysed how well they handle various conditions when building up a TLS connection. Apparently, many programs just do not care about the security properties of their TLS connection so that they just disable the verification of the certificate chain. The model is said to be too complex and too burdensome to set up during development. They also recommended to introduce a new privilege, namely sending data unencryptely. So that a user could select that an application must not transfer data as plain text.

Besides listening to the talks and chatting to people, I tried to get on the wireless in the hotel. Turns out, they interfere with your traffic, i.e. they block everything and redirect your web traffic to present you a landing page from which you are supposed to log in to the gratis wireless. The credentials to be entered were the room number and the last name of a guest of that room. Well, given the speakers and attendees list (or some knowledge of popular names in the region) it seems easy enough to just poke some data in and hope for the best. Or, instead of doing that manually, have a program doing that for you. Voila, je vous presente “petitelysee”. A simple Python script to try to log in to a landing page. As I’ve said, it’s the result of three hours or so work. So it’s not very nicely done and I obviously didn’t try it out. It has just been coded in a way that I *think* might work.

GNOME.Asia 2013 is now Calling for Papers

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

A shameless copy from over there:

GNOME.Asia 2013 is calling for papers. GNOME.Asia Summit is Asia’s GNOME user and developer conference, spreading the knowledge of GNOME across Asia. The conference will be held in NIPA Business Center, Sangam-dong Seoul, Korea on May 24 -25, 2013. The conference follows the release of GNOME 3.8, helping to bring new desktop paradigms that facilitate user interaction in the computing world. It will be a great place to celebrate and explore the many new features and enhancements to the ground breaking GNOME 3 release and to help make GNOME as successful as possible.

Call for Papers

Submit a Talk!

Important Information

The deadlines:

  • Submission: March 8th, 2013
  • Notification of Acceptance: March 15th, 2013


  • Conference Date: May 24th – 25th , 2013
  • Venue: Nuritkum Square – Business tower(3F, 4F), Sangam-dong 1605, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea

Main Topics

Possible topics include, but are not limited to

    1. How to Promote/Contribute to GNOME in Asia
      • GNOME Marketing
      • Promotion of Free and Open Source Software
      • How to run a Local GNOME User Group
      • Asia Success Stories/Local GNOME Projects
      • GNOME and Education
      • GNOME Outreach Program for Women
      • Google Summer of Code
    2. Hacking GNOME
      • Lastest Development in GNOME
      • GNOME 3 & GNOME 3 Usability
      • GNOME Human Interface Engineering (Icons and Graphic Design)
      • Bugsquadding in GNOME
      • GNOME Accessibility
      • GNOME 3 Coding How-to
    3. Adapting GNOME to New Types of Devices
      • Develop GNOME on mobile device, like smart phone, tablet PC
      • Develop GNOME on embedded system or open source hardware
      • On-going Projects, Success Stories
      • Find FOSS Friendly Hardware Manufacturers
    4. Localization & Internationalization
      • Translation
      • Input Methods
      • Fonts
    5. Other topics

Any topics related to free and open source which are not listed above is still welcome.

Lightning talks

A five-minutes presentation to demonstrate your work or promote an interesting topic. Reservation and on-site application are both accepted.

A standard session at GNOME.Asia 2013 will be scheduled as 45 mins (35 mins talk + 10 mins Q&A). Please take into consideration any time you will need for preparation. The session could be a technical talk, panel discussion, or BOF.

If you’d like to share your knowledge and experience at GNOME.Asia 2013, please fill in the form at before March 8th, 2013. Please provide a short abstract about your proposal (under 150 words). Include your name, biographical information, a photo suitable for the web, a title, and a description of your presentation . The reviewing team will evaluate the entries based on the submitted abstracts and available time in the schedule. You will be contacted before March 15th, 2013 on whether your submission has been accepted or not.

All interested contributors are highly encouraged to send in their talks. Please help us to spread the invitation to other potential participants. Even you do not plan to be a speaker, please consider joining GNOME.Asia 2013. This is going to be a great event!


Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Phew, I’m excited about FOSDEM and also exhausted. We had a nice GNOME presence with a lovely booth, many helpers and nice shirts. Thanks to everyone involved who made it such a success.

Our current T-shirt was designed last minute by Andreas, printed last second by an awesome printing shop, and I like it very much. Especially the girly shirts have a nice colour. The shirt accompanies our current Friends of GNOME campaign about Privacy and Security.

In case you haven’t heard: GNOME is raising money to make GNOME more privacy aware, i.e. to allow to you to use your computer anonymously or leave as few traces behind as possible. Also security is a vital part, so maybe the money will be spent on enabling the chat to transfer files encryptedly or better OpenPGP integration into GNOME. If you want to support these goals, consider becoming a Friend of GNOME. Also, if you only want one of those shirts, become a Friend of GNOME, because at a certain level, you will be eligible to get hold of one of those t-shirts :-)

Unfortunately, our donation process depends heavily on Paypal and is quite US centric. That’s not very nice, the majority of donations does not come from the US. In fact, many donations come from Europe.

Anyway, I couldn’t attend a single talk at FOSDEM, because I was so busy with the booth and with maintaining relationships with friends from other Free Software projects, i.e. OpenSuSE. They had, again, a very nice presence and “The Old Toad”, a nice German beer, which is really needed since the Belgian beer is barely drinkable ;-)

As for the GNOME night out, the GNOME Beer Event, it was seriously crowded. While we occupied the upper floor of a bar the last year, we had two floors this year. We did advertise it. Well enough it seems. We went through the building we had our booth in and taped loads of paper onto the walls and pillars. Not only beer event ads but also posters about GNOME Outreach program for Women or the fact that we had T-Shirts on sale.

Our stand was probably the second most beautiful after the OpenSuSE one. Our T-Shirts were aligned up nicely and we sold quite a few of them. Preliminary statistics suggest that we managed to convince people to buy something between 100 and 150 t-shirts. Next time we better try to provide more girly shirts in larger sizes as they ran out quickly. The KDE folks did have many girly shirts but overall their booth didn’t seem to be as well run as the other years.

While the booth generally went well, our interaction story with the people isn’t great. So far, we have a demo machine in the middle of the table which makes it really hard to do stuff together or to show off things, because you can’t really look at what the person is doing neither can you easily show stuff. So maybe putting the machine on either edge of the table would help.

I’m looking very forward to next year’s FOSDEM, hoping that we will have, again, a great set of people willing to spend their time standing there for GNOME.

Talks at 2012

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Let me recap the talks held at a bit. It’s a bit late, I’m sorry for that, but the festive season was a bit demanding, timewise.


The conference started off smoothly with a nice Indian breakfast, coffee and good chats. The introductory talk by Atul went well and by far not as long as we expected it to be. Atul was obviously not as energetic as he used to be. I think he grew old and does visibly suffer from his illness. So a big round of applause and a bigger bucket of respect for pulling this event off nonetheless.

The first talk of the day was given by Gopal and he talked about “Big Data”. He started off with a definition and by claiming that what is considered to be big data now, is likely not to be considered big data in the future. We should think about 1GB RAM now in our laptops. Everybody ran 1GB or more in their laptops. But 10 years ago that would not have been the case. The only concept, he said, that survived was “Divide and Conquer”. That is to break up a problem into smaller sub problems which then can be run on many processing units in parallel. Hence distributed data and distributed processing was very important.

The prime example of big data was to calculate the count of unique items in a large set, i.e. compare the vocabulary of two books. You split up the books into words to find the single words and then count every one of them to find out how often it was present. You could also preprocess the words with a “stemming filter” to get rid of forms and flexions. If your data was big enough, “sort | uniq” wouldn’t do it, because “sort” would use up all your memory. To do it successfully anyway, you can split your data up, do the sorting and then merge the sort result. He was then explaining how to split up various operations and merge them together. Basically, it was important to split and merge every operation possible to scale well. And that was exactly what “Hadoop” does. In fact, it’s got several components that facilitate dealing with all that: “splitter”, “mapper”, “combiner”, “partitioner” , “shuffle fetch” and a “reducer”. However, getting data into Hadoop, was painful, he said.

Lydia from KDE talked about “Wikidata – The foundation to build your apps on“. She introduced her talk with a problem: “Which drugs are approved for pregnancy in the US?”. She said, that the Wikipedia couldn’t really answer this question easily, because maintaining such a list would be manual labour which is not really fascinating. One would have to walk through every article about a drug and try to find the information whether it was approved or not and then condense it to a list. She was aiming at, I guess, Wikipedia not really storing sematic data.

Wikidata wants to be similar to Wikimedia Commons, but for data of the world’s knowledge. It seems to that missing semantic storage which is also able to store information about the sources of the information that confirm correctness. Something like the GDP of a country or length of a river would be prime examples of use cases for Wikidata. Eventually this will increase the number of editors because the level to contribute will be lowered significantly. Also every Wikipedia language can profit immediately because it can be easily hooked up.

I just had a quick peek at Drepper’s workshop on C++11, because it was very packed. Surprisingly many people wanted to listen to what he had to say about the new C++. Since I was not really present I can’t really provide details on the contents.

Lenny talked about politics in Free Software projects. As the title was “Pushing Big Changes“, the talk revolved around issues around acquiring and convincing people to share your vision and have your project accepted by the general public. He claimed that the Internet is full of haters and that one needed a thick skin to survive the flames on the Internet. Very thick in fact.

An interesting point he made was, that connections matter. Like personal relationships with relevant people and being able to influence them. And he didn’t like it. That, and the talk in general, was interesting, because I haven’t really heard anyone talking about that so openly. Usually, everybody praises Free Software communities as being very open, egalitarian and what not. But not only rumour has it, that this is rarely the case. Anyway, The bigger part of the talk was quite systemd centric though and I don’t think it’s applicable to many other projects.

A somewhat unusual talk was given by Ben & Daniel, talking about how to really use Puppet. They do it at Mozilla at a very large scale and wanted to share some wisdom they gained.

They had a few points to make. Firstly: Do not store business data (as opposed to business logic) in Puppet modules. Secondly: Put data in “PuppetDB” or use “Hiera”. Thirdly: Reuse modules from either the “PuppetForge” or Github. About writing your own modules, they recommended to write generic enough code with parametrised classes to support many more configurations. Also, they want you to stick to the syntax style guide.

Sebastian from the KDE fame talked about KDE Plasma and how to make us succeed on mobile targets such as mobile phones or tablets. Me, not knowing “Plasma” at all, was interested to learn that Plasma was “a technology that makes it easy to build modern user interfaces”. He briefly mentioned some challenges such as running on multiple devices with or without touchscreens. He imagines the operating system to be provided by Mer and then run Plasma on top. He said that there was a range of devices that were supported at the moment. The developer story was also quite good with “Plasma Quick” and the Mer SDK.

He tried to have devices manufactured by Chinese companies and told some stories about the problems involved. One of them being that “Freedom” (probably as in Software Freedom) was not in their vocabulary. So getting free drivers was a difficult, if not impossible, task. Another issue was the size of orders, so you can’t demand anything with a order of a size of 10000 units, he said. But they seem to be able to pull it off anyway! I’m very eager to see their devices.

The last talk, which was the day’s keynote, went quite well and basically brought art and code together. He introduced us to Processing, some interesting programming IDE to produce mainly visual arts. He praised how Free Software (although he referred to it as Open Source) made everybody more creative and how the availability of art transformed the art landscape. It was interesting to see how he used computers to express his creativity and unfortunately, his time was up quite quickly.

Drepper, giving quite a few talks, also gave a talk about parallel programming. The genesis of problem was the introduction of multiple processors into a machine. It got worse when threads were introduced where they share the address space. It allowed for easy data sharing between threads but also made corrupting other threads very very easy. Also in subtle ways that you would not anticipate like that all threads share one working directory and if one thread changed it, it would be changed for all the threads of the process. Interestingly, he said that threads are not something that the end user shall use, but rather a tool for the system to exploit parallelism. The system shall provide better means for the user to use parallelism.

He praised Haskell for providing very good means for using threads. It is absolutely side effect free and even stateful stuff is modelled side effect free. So he claimed that it is a good research tool, but that it is not as efficient as C or C++. He also praised Futures (with OpenMP) where the user doesn’t have to care about the details about the whole threading but leave it up to the system. You only specify what can run in parallel and the system does it for you. Finally, he introduced into C++11 features that help using parallelism. There are various constructs in the language that make it easy to use futures, including anonymous functions and modelling thread dependencies. I didn’t like them all too much, but I think it’s cool that the language allows you to use these features.

There was another talk from Mozilla’s IT given by Shyam and he talked about DNSSec. He started with a nice introduction to DNSSec. It was a bit too much, I feel, but it’s a quite complicated topic so I appreciate all the efforts he made. The main point that I took away was to not push the DS too soon, because if you don’t have signed zones yet, resolvers don’t trust your answers and your domain is offline.

Olivier talked about GStreamer 1.0. He introduced into the GStreamer technology by telling that its concept is around elements, which are put in bins and that elements have source and sink pads that you connect. New challenges were DSPs, different processing units like GPUs. The new 1.0 included various new features better locking support that makes it easier for languages like Python or better memory management with GstBufferPool.

I couldn’t really follow the rest of the talks as I was giving one myself and was busy talking to people afterwards. It’s really amazing how interested people are and to see the angle they ask questions from.