GUADEC 2018 Day 1

At 8.30 i took off Thursday morning to start my journey to Almería. I took the plane to Madrid and had 1 hour to get hold of a taxi and reach a train taking me to Almería. There I was fortunate to meet Julian and Tobias who were hacking on Fractal and making mockups.

We arrived 10.30 in the evening at Civitas for pre-registration. I met up with my roommate Niclas, who is also from Open Source Aalborg  (Denmark) like myself. The day after started with tomato spread on bread.

Everyone gathered to get with the bus and we arrived to the university.

GUADEC was kicked off in a big hall with Nuritzi, the GNOME Foundation president on stage.

After watching a couple of talks I had volunteered for the infodesk and helped giving attendees lunch tickets.

Of course, I also brought the socks and the GUADEC team had this year’s GUADEC t-shirts for sale.

This wraps up todays’ events for me. I’ve already managed to chat with many GNOMEies again and I’m looking very forward to the next days!

(All pictures are CC-BY-SA 4.0 by me).

Coming Up: GUADEC 2018, Annual Report 2017 & Release Video 3.30

Now that my master’s thesis is over,  I finally have time to make some noise in here again!


GUADEC is coming up and I’m super excited for it! My hand luggage will be packed with socks and I plan on becoming a red shirt again this year, as is tradition. I can recommend volunteering to anyone who has tried attending GUADEC before, it is an excellent way to get to know some fellow conference attendees.

This GUADEC I also plan helping with the newcomer initiatives, very possibly including a newcomer workshop. I have also volunteered to help making intros and outtros for the recorded talks.

Annual Report

The Engagement team delivers an annual report every year and this year it will cover what happened from October 2016 to September 2017. I have volunteered to do the layout and you can follow it’s progress in the Annual Report 2017 Finalization Gitlab issue. Any help on fixing the last few TODO items in there would be appreciated!

Release Video for GNOME 3.30

GNOME 3.30 is scheduled to release on the 5th September 2018. With GUADEC coming up I want to shift focus onto the release video and collect as much information about new features as possible while I have the opportunity to talk to our awesome GNOME developers face-to-face.

If you could be interested in helping me prepare the 3.30 release video, please follow this gitlab issue for updates. I will continuously update the issue as I and others make progress. With this issue, I hope it is easier for everyone to track the release video development and participate! Let me know if you are interested in helping. Thanks!


FOSS North is a nordic free software conference happening annually in Gothenburg, Sweden. I have attended most of them since it started. It is no more than a ferry ride away from me and I also enjoy the conference size. Bastien and Kat coordinated that the event box was sent to my address in good time. Additionally, Nuritzi and Carlos sent additional GNOME stickers which I packed down along with some 20 pairs of GNOME Socks in various sizes.

The Stenaline Ferry. (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

During the conference I was staying with Andreas and had a great time. The first day at FOSS North was just half a day, but on the second day we set up the GNOME booth. As per tradition, we had booth right next to KDE which is always a great opportunity to chat and make jokes on social media. I’m really happy to help GNOME being present even at events which have smaller scale than FOSDEM and I’m looking forward to the next FOSS North already.

The GNOME Booth at FOSS North (CC-BY-SA 4.0)
GNOME Merchandise at FOSS North (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

After FOSS North we went to a User Experience event focusing on people’s attitude towards technologies of the future. I was particularly caught by Sara’s talk where she showed her use of collages to dive into users’ tacit knowledge and desires.

UX Meetup (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

All in all a great trip. It seems that I am carrying lots of GNOME merchandise currently (event box, posters, stickers, leftover shirts, socks..) so if there is any conference where you think it would nice to have GNOME present, let me know and we can look into it!

Reflections on Distractions in Work, Productivity and Time Usage

For the past year or so I have mostly worked at home or remote in my daily life. Currently I’m engaged in my master thesis and need to manage my daily time and energy to work on it. It is no surprise to many of us that working using your internet-connected personal computer at home can make you prone to many distractions. However, managing your own time is not just about whipping and self-discipline. It is about setting yourself up in a structure which rewards you for hard work and gives your mind the breaks it needs. Based on reflections and experimentation with many scheduling systems and tools I finally felt I have achieved a set of principles I really like and that’s what I’ll be sharing with you today.

Identifying the distractions

Here’s a typical scenario I used to experience: I would wake up and often the first thing I do is turn on my computer, check my e-mail, check social media, check the news. I then go eat my breakfast and start working. After a while I would find myself returning to check mail and social media. Not that much important necessarily happened. But it’s fairly easy for me to press “Super” and type “Gea” and press “Enter” (and Geary will show my e-mail inbox). It’s also fairly easy to press “Ctrl+L” to focus the address bar in Firefox and write “f” (and is autocompleted). Firefox is by default so (ironically) helpful to suggest At other times, a distraction can simply be an innocent line of thought that hits you fx. “oh it would be so cool if I started sorting my pictures folder, let me just start on that quickly before I continue my work“.

From speaking with friends I am fairly sure this type of behavior is not uncommon at all. The first step in trying to combat it myself was to identify the scope of it. I don’t blame anyone else for dealing with this – I see this more as an unfortunate design consequence of the way our personal computers are “universal” and isn’t context-aware enough. Afterall, GNOME Shell was just trying to be helpful, Firefox was also just trying to be helpful, although they are also in some aspects making it easier for me to distract myself like that.

Weapons against distractions

Let me start with a few practical suggestions, which helped me initially break the worst patterns (using big hammers).

  • Stylish: using Inspection tools and CSS hacks I remove endless scrolling news feeds, and news content from websites that I might otherwise on reflex open up and read when in a distracted scenario. The CSS hacks are easy to turn off again of course, but it adds an extra step and makes it purposely less appealing for me to do unless it’s for something important.

  • BlockSite: I use BlockSite in “Whitelist mode” and turn it on while I work. This is a big hammer which essentially blocks all of internet except for whitelisted websites I use for work. Knowing that you can’t access anything really had a positive initial psychological effect for me.
  • Minimizing shell notifications: While I don’t have the same big hammer to “block access to my e-mail” here, I decided to change the order of my e-mail inboxes in Geary so my more relevant (and far less activity prone) student e-mail inbox appears first. I also turned off the background e-mail daemon and turned off notification banners in GNOME Shell.
  • Putting Phone in Ultra Battery Saving Mode: I restrict my phone to calls and SMS so that I don’t receive notifications from various chat apps which are irrelevant whilst working. This also saves the battery nicely.

My final weapon is The Work Schedule.This doesn’t sound new or surprising and we probably all tried it, however with more or less success.

..Schedules can be terrible.

I’m actually not that big a fan of putting microscheduling my life usually. Traditional time schedules are too focused around doing things from timestamp X to timestamp Y. They require that you “judge” how fast you are in working and their structure just feels super inflexible. The truth in real life is that my day never look like how I planned it to be. In fact, I found myself sometimes even more demotivated (and distracted) because I was failing to live up to my own schedule and by the end of the day never really managed to complete that “ideal day”. The traditional time schedule ended up completely missing up what it was supposed to fix and help against.

But on the other hand, working without a schedule often results in:

  • Forgetting to take breaks from work which is unhealthy and kills my productivity later.
  • No sense of progress except from the work itself but if the work is ongoing for longer time this will feel endless and exhausting.
  • Lack of work duration meant that my productivity continued to fluctate between overwork and underwork since it is hard to judge when it is okay to stop.

The resulting system

For the past couple of weeks I have been using a system which is a bit like a “semi-structured time schedule”. To you it might just seem like a list of checkboxes and in some sense it is! However, the simplicity in this system has some important principles behind it I have learned along the way:

  • Checking the checkboxes give a sense of progress as I work throughout my day.
  • The schedule supports adding breaks in-between work sessions and puts my day in an order.
  • The schedule makes no assumptions about “What work” I will be doing or reaching that day. Instead it specifies that I work for 1 hour and this enables me to funnel my energy. I use GNOME Clock’s Timer function and let it count down for 1 hour until there’s a nice simple “ding” to be heard when it finishes. It’s up to you whether you then take the break or continue a bit longer.
  • The schedule makes no assumptions about “When” I will do work and only approximates for how long. In reality I might wake up at 7:00, 8:00 or 9:00 AM and it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that I do as listed and take my breaks in the order presented.
  • If there are aspects of the order I end up changing, the schedule permits it – It is possible to tick off tasks independent of the order.
  • If I get ideas for additional things I need to do (banking, sending an important e-mail, etc) I can add them to the bottom of the list.
  • The list is made the day before. This makes it easier to follow it straight after waking up.
  • I always use the breaks for something which does not involve computers. I use dancing, going for a walk or various house duties (Interestingly house duties become more exciting for me to do as work break items, than as items I do in my free time).
  • In the start you won’t have much feeling for how much work you can manage to make and it is easy to overestimate and get out of breath or unable to complete everything. It works much better for me to underestimate my performance (fx 2 hours of focused work before lunch instead of 3 hours) and feel rewarded that I did everything I had planned and perhaps even more than that.
  • I insert items I want to do in my free time into my scheduling after I finish work. These items are purely there to give additional incentive and motivation to finish.
  • The system is analog on purpose because I’m interested in keeping the list visually present on my desk at all times. I also think it is an advantage that making changes to the list doesn’t interfere with the work context I maintain on the computer.

Lastly, I want to give two additional tips. If you like listening to music while working, consider whether it might affect your productivity. For example, I found music with vocals to be distracting me if I try to immerse myself in reading difficult litterature. I can really recommend Doctor Turtle’s acoustic instrumental music while working though (all free). Secondly, I find that different types of tasks requires different postures. For abstract, high-level or vaguely formulated tasks (fx formulating goals, reviewing something or reflecting), I find interacting with the computer whilst standing up and walking around to really help gather my thoughts. On the other hand with practical tasks or tasks which require immersion (fx programming tasks), I find sitting down to be much more comfortable.

Hopefully my experiences here might be useful or interesting for some of you. Let me know!

Reflections on the GNOME 3.28 Release Video

I just flipped the switch for the 3.28 Release Video. I’m really excited for all the new awesome features the community has landed, but I am a bit sad that I don’t have time to put more effort into the video this time around. A busy time schedule collided with technical difficulties in recording some of the apps. When I was staring at my weekly schedule Monday there didn’t seem much chance for a release video to be published at all..

However, in the midst of all that I decided to take this up as a challenge and see what I could come up with given the 2-3 days time. In the end, I identified some time/energy demanding issues I need to find solutions to:

  1. Building GNOME Apps before release and recording them is painful and prone to error and frustration. I hit errors when upgrading Fedora Rawhide, and even after updating many apps were not on the latest version. Flatpak applications are fortunately super easy to deal with for me, but not all applications are available as flatpaks. And ideally I will need to setup a completely clean environment since many apps draw on content in the home folder. Also, currently I need to post-process all the raw material to get the transparent window films.
  2. I run out of (8GB) memory several times and it’s almost faster to hold power button down and boot again, than to wait for Linux memory handling to deal with it.. Will definitely need to find a solution to this – it builds up a lot of frustration for me.

I am already working on a strategy for the first problem. A few awesome developers have helped me record some of the apps in the past and this has been really helpful to deal with this. I’m trying to make a list of contacts I need to get in touch with to get these recordings done, and I need to send out emails in time with the freezes in the release cycle. It makes my work and the musician’s work much easier if we know exactly what will go in the video and for how long. I also had a chat with Felipe about maybe making a gnome shell extension tool which could take care of setting wallpaper, recording in the right resolution and uploading to a repository somewhere. As for the second problem, I think I’m going to need a new laptop or upgrade my current one. I definitely have motivation to look into that based on this experience now, hehe..

“Do you have time for the next release video?” You might ask and that is a valid question. I don’t see the problem to be time, but more a problem of spending my contribution energy effectively. I really like making these videos – but mainly the animation and video editing parts of it. Building apps, working around errors and bugs, post-processing and all that just to get the recording assets I need, that’s the part that I currently feel takes up the most of my contribution energy. If I can minimize that, I think I will have much more creative energy to spend on the video itself. Honestly, all the awesome contributions in our GNOME Apps and components really deserve that much extra polish.

Thanks everyone for helping with the video this time around!

Behind the GNOME Booth, FOSDEM 2018

I did catch a cold, but I had a great time at FOSDEM this year! Friday was spent reviewing a branch with Florian which adds a disconnect entry to the context popover in Polari. It has now landed.

Saturday was spent selling lots and lots of socks. I choose this year not to go to any talks and instead hangout with fellow GNOMEies in the booth and have a chat with bypassing users. I’m accumulating many advertising arguments for buying socks including that it allows you to have feet on your feet and that you have an excuse to say “GNOME Socks!” as much as you want, once you own a pair. ;-) Kat brought the awesome hoodies and then we had a big load of leftover t-shirts from GUADEC 2017 which we more or less sold (I think there’s still some 20 left in small). In the end we sold a 160 pairs of socks which is almost half the enormous stock of socks I purchased. When the evening came by and the booth had to close, we went to the GNOME Beer Event in La Bécasse, where I had my annual taste of Lambic Blanc, which is one of the few beers I really enjoy drinking.

420 pairs of lovely GNOME socks ready to warm your feet. (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

Sunday went by with more booth-standing and then a GNOME Newcomer Workshop. We tried a new format which involved me matchmaking newcomers with existing GNOME developers from projects each newcomer was interested in. Instead of going big classroom style, the idea is to get more 1-on-1 and pair programming going during workshops. Thanks to Elias, Xaviju, Gwan and Florian for attending the workshop! I hope I’ll get to chat with you in the chatrooms, or who knows maybe meet again at GUADEC 2018?

In the evening me, Tobias, David and Julian hung out in the apartment I had arranged where I cooked an oriental lentil soup with flatbread. Coming to GNOME Recipes soon™!

Photos by Julian Sparber, food by me.

GNOME at FOSDEM 2018 – with socks and more!

Sunrise over Hobart seen from Mt Wellington, Tasmania (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

It’s been a while huh? The past six months held me busy traveling and studying abroad in Australia, but I’m back! With renewed energy, and lots and lots of GNOME socks for everyone. Like previous years, I’m helping out in GNOME’s FOSDEM booth at the FOSDEM 2018 conference.

FOSDEM 2016. (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

I have arranged a whopping 420 pairs of GNOME socks produced and hopefully arriving before my departure. baby Socks, ankle socks, regular Socks and even knee socks – maybe I should order an extra suit case to fill up. Even so, I estimate I can probably bring 150 pairs at max (last year my small luggage held 55 pairs..). Because of the large quantity I’ve designed them to be fairly neutral and “simple” (well, actually the pattern is rather complicated).

Sample sock made prior to production.

Breakdown of the horizontally repeatable sock pattern.

I plan to bring them to FOSDEM 2018, Open Source Days in Copenhagen, FOSS North and GUADEC. However, we have also talked about getting some socks shipped to the US or Asia, although a box of 100 socks weigh a lot resulting in expensive shipping. So if anyone is going to any of the aforementioned conferences and can keep some pairs in their luggage, let me know!

Apart from GNOME Booth staffing I am also helping out with organizing small newcomer workshops at FOSDEM! If you are coming to FOSDEM and is interested in mentoring one or two newcomers with your project, let us know on the Newcomer workshop page (more details here too). Most of all, I look forward to meeting fellow GNOME people again as I feel I have been gone quite a long time. I miss you!

GNOME 3.26 is here

..and I did a video! (click the picture below to watch it)

Activity on the GNOME 3.26 Release Video

You might notice by comparing to the 3.24 release video that I’ve been considerably less active on this cycle’s video. The biggest factor playing into this is that I have moved to Brisbane, Australia where I will be staying for the next few months (it’s lovely btw!) with less time to contribute. Secondly the time span between GUADEC and release has been considerably shorter which has pressured this cycle’s release material a bit. An unfortunate consequence of this is that translators have very little time to translate the video.

The GNOME 3.26 Release video in Blender’s VSE.

To make the video efficiently I have skipped much content in the animation step. The manuscript has been tailored to only concern the screencasts which has meant that I could focus my time editing everything together in the Video Sequence Editor. This limits what I can do creatively, but I also learned that for some aspects of the video, simple is better too. I was initially working with Simon on music, but he unfortunately found himself ill prior to the release so we have this time used a nice soundtrack from the Youtube Audio Library.

My plan for next time is to start earlier and try to get a collaboration going with developers about screencasting as soon as new features land. Having fellow contributors helping me screencast really saves me a lot of energy and time – which I in turn can put into making a better release video. Acting earlier should hopefully give me a better opportunity to write the manuscript and send it off to Karen for voice-over production, so we can have timing in place as early as possible. This should give me and Simon better room to closely collaborate on audio and visuals and have the video translated in as many languages as possible before release.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped me with this video, you know who you are! :)

3.26 Release Video in the Works

3.26 is sneaking up on everyone and last week I started working on the release video which process you can follow on the wiki, I will keep it updated as I move on. I plan to be doing major work in the green screening, animation areas and video editing myself but others are contributing with soundtrack, writing the manuscript and recording videos. There are plenty of things to do here and we are working on a pretty tight deadline (Wednesday the 13th September), so feel free to chime in or grab hold of me by e-mail. The tight time schedule is an interesting challenge and im taking the opportunity to test a new workflow. As a matter of fact, I have already “produced the first iteration” of the video using placeholder content to get an idea of the structure, timing etc. Now it’s just about getting the real high quality material in there.

GUADEC 17 Day 1

Friday marked the first day of GUADEC and me and Carlos had our talk named “Newcomer Genesis Evolution”. In case you missed, I’ll provide the slides for you here. A video is also coming up later.

Download slideshow

Volunteering at the merchandise table went well and by the end of the day we were all out of GNOME socks. I didn’t work on t-shirts this year but they look nice!

GUADEC 2017 Registration Desk (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

GNOME Socks! (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

I attended the newcomer lunch and got to meet some cool people who were attending GUADEC for the very first time. Later in the afternoon Julita had a talk showing all the events she has been holding to engage newcomers which was great to see.

Julita giving her talk “Different ways of outreaching newcomers” (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

The day ended with a rainy trip to The Wharf with dinner and chat. Onto day 2!