Newsbruiser problem

gnome Comments Off on Newsbruiser problem

Elijah: you need to set a password (assuming this is the same problem Calum and I had).

Fear of losing

gnome Comments Off on Fear of losing

Dom: Fear of failure can be a big issue getting anything done, and failing publicly is even more scary.

For what it’s worth, last year I think you lost because of the way you came into the race – as a negative candidate disagreeing with a referendum decision. Given the work you’ve done on legal issues for the foundation this year, I think you would make a great board member, and I’m sorry you didn’t run.

Foz do Iguaçu – water, lots of it

gnome, wengo Comments Off on Foz do Iguaçu – water, lots of it

I was in Brazil last week, thanks to the funding of the GNOME Foundation, at Latinoware, giving a presentation “Getting started in free software” – a personal description of how I got involved in free software, and the lessons I have learned through it. I spoke about my experiences in the free software world, including my time with the GIMP,GNOME and OpenWengo. Before going, I didn’t really know what to expect. This was my first visit to South America, and while I had heard lots of good things about the free software community there, nothing prepared me for what we saw.

Joao Bueno of the GIMP at the falls

Foz do Iguaçu is a small town in Western Brazil dominated by two impressive landmarks – the Iguaçu falls, a dazzling array of waterfalls that stretched for several kilometers on the Argentina-Brazil border, and the hydro-electric power station at Itaipu, the biggest operational hydro-electric power station in the world. Latinoware was held in the grounds of Itaipu, about 2 kilometers from the dam.

On Wednesday, I got to visit the falls – an amazing experience. The array of wildlife on show is unbelievable, with Toucans, lizards, spiders, and the Wilber-like coati, the mascot of the town. And then there is the falls. According to Wikipedia, they consist of about 270 waterfalls, along a 2.7 km stretch of the Iguaçu river which divides Brazil from Argentina.

Itaipu is also amazing. The power station generates 25% of all of the electricity needs of Brazil, and 95% of the needs of Paraguay. One turbine of the Itaipu plant is 10 meters in diameter, and generates 700 MW of energy – more than enough to fulfill the needs of a city the size of Lyon.

I also got to visit Ciudad del Este, a free trade zone in Paraguay, across the Parana river from Foz. It reminded me of those no-man’s-land cities you occasionally see in spy films. This one city represents 60% of Paraguay’s GDP. You could buy anything – electronics, arms and clothes are apparently the most popular items.

The amazing Latinoware crowd

Thursday morning, I gave my keynote presentation in Itaipu. As I said, I didn’t know what to expect – the last thing I was expecting was 1200 free software advocates, mostly between 18 and 25 years old, coming to the conference. Aside from the size and age of the crowd, one other thing surprised me – the amount of women. A rough estimate put the number of female participants between 10 and 20 percent – coming from Europe, where we’re used to counting on the fingers of a few hands the number of women at a free software conference, seeing hundreds of women at the conference was a refreshing change. One last surprise was waiting for me in the opening addresses – several politicians, including Marcus Mazzoni, a former guest at GUADEC, and member of the regional government in the state of Parana, spoke of free software not just as a way of cutting costs, but first and foremost about sharing and community. First and foremost, free software is a social and cultural phenomenon in Brazil. I doubt many French politicians understand so well what free software is all about.

Women in Free Software

My presentation went well, I think – perhaps because the point above is one I hold close to heart. Free software is all about communities forming around ideas, and those communities are human. Almost everyone who gets involved in free software development gets involved through a friend. I also talk about the motivating factors people have which make free software attractive to them – and the thing that ties us together, I think, is the feeling that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, that we’re taking part in a movement, which is slowly changing the way the world sees technology, and the way technology gets created. We are changing the world.

Brasil – first impressions

gnome, marketing 6 Comments

It’s my first visit to Brasil, I’m still in Sao Paolo airport, and my first impressions are not yet made.

My first impressions of airports have been made for years, though, and nothing here changes any of my experience-driven broad generalisations.

“Duty Free” booze in Paris was more expensive than the same stuff in the superstore – they made up for it by having a good range of €100 – €500 collector bottles. Meh.

I bought a beer here in Sao Paolo airport, and paid twice what I would outside the airport (6 reals), and have spent 40 reals on international call cards and 20 reals on 2 hours wifi.

The exchange rate is somewhere between 2.30 and 3.00 reals per euro, depending on how badly you’re getting fleeced by the bureau de change, and whether you’re buying or selling euros. So taking 2.50 and a rough rate, that’s 8 euros for 2 hours wifi – which is expensive anywhere, never mind in Brasil. And I can’t figure out how to find an SMTP server I can send mail through.

Am I the only one who finds the mentality of fleecing international air travelers at every opportunity is really counter-productive? Surely places would like to make a good first impression? How about doing away with airport surcharges for taxis, and making an airport discount for anyone coming off an international flight?

I just found out that because of a last-minute conference rescheduling, I’ll be giving a keynote at Latinoware – talk about adding pressure. I tested the new laptop (a Dell D420, which does indeed rock once you get the widescreen sorted) with a CRT behind it, and it didn’t work too well – I’m hoping that by stopping the 915resolution hack at boot and constraining it to 1024×768 the projector will work. If not, I have not yet completely removed windows, dual boot to the rescue.

Latinoware 2006

gnome, marketing, wengo 1 Comment

Next week, I will be in Foz do Iguaçu in Brasil, to attend Latinoware 2006. I will be giving a conference on how and why we do free software – not so much from a technical point of view, but from a human perspective. It will be pretty similar to the presentation I gave last month in Lyon at les Journées du Logiciels Libres in Lyon, France.

This will be my first time in Brasil, and I am very excited about it – I hope I get a chance to go and see the falls – I’ve heard great things about the Devil’s Throat. I’d also love to get a chance (but I don’t think I’ll have time) to take in Itaipu, the world’s second largest hydro-electric power station after the Three Gorges in China, and a big GNOME user.

All aboard

wengo 5 Comments

Last Tuesday, I finished up with Cegelec – I had a nice time working there, and a really good spirit in our small team working on air quality software, so I will miss it a little, I think.

But not much, because starting tomorrow, I will officially be working for Wengo on the project OpenWengo.


I have butterflies – I have started to get to know the project over the past couple of months, and I’m looking forward to having more time to dive in and work on some of the issues the community has been having. It’s a great project, with great potential, and I’m hopeful I won’t piss everyone off too much for at least a couple of months.