Coming to Montreal?

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I was excited to add my name on the participants page for the GNOME Boston Montreal Summit set to happen October 12 to 14th. Are you planning on coming? Take a minute and add your name so that the organizing team can better plan.

The Summit is always informal and really fun and productive, so if you’re driving distance to Montreal and still uncertain, just come!

We’ve also added a page to request travel sponsorship. If you need to request sponsorship, please fill out the table asking for the relevant information by September 26.

Can’t wait to see you there!

Vote for my SXSW proposal

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I have been realizing that I need to talk about the medical devices stuff more outside of the core free software space as it’s the kind of argument for freedom that anyone can understand. Tech savvy people, in particular, who haven’t thought about the issue are the perfect audience. So I’ve submitted the talk to SXSW Interactive. The voting process continues through Friday, so if you have a minute to create a profile, please go ahead and vote for it. I’d love for GNOME and sofwtare freedom to have a presence at such an important tech conference.

Take a moment today and donate The Ada Initiative

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As you enjoy your weekend, take note that today is the last stretch of the Ada Initiative fundraising campaign.

I actually promised at the first AdaCamp in Melbourne that I would blog about Imposter Syndrome, and so now I will finally make good on that promise. The experience at AdaCamp was amazing for me and the more support we can drive to The Ada Initiative to be able to continue their good works the better! I was so lucky to attend, as I was keynoting LCA and Marina Zhurakhinskaya suggested I look into going a couple of days early for it.

AdaCamp was actually my very first unconference, and I remember being a little bit nervous when I put a post-it up on the wall suggesting an Imposter Syndrome session. I had never talked about Imposter Syndrome in public before and I wasn’t sure it was the best topic to propose (especially around so many talented and accomplished women). When the time for the session came, the room was full. I was floored.

For those of you who don’t know about it, Imposter Syndrome is exactly as it sounds. It’s the feeling (no matter how capable you are) that you are a fraud and that at any point you will be found out to not know what you are talking about. There are many better descriptions that a basic web search will bring you to. In my case, I am lucky enough to be in such niche fields that I *know* there aren’t that many people who know as much or more than me about the particular issues. I mean, how many people have thought deeply about free and open source software in medical devices from a public safety perspective? How many freedom fighting cyborg lawyers can there be? And yet, every time I’m asked to do an interview or make a speech I worry that I’ll be asked a question that I won’t know the answer to and it will turn out that I don’t know what I’m talking about afterall. I scour my research in a panic beforehand, every time. Of course it turns out that when I don’t know the answer to a question, it’s for good reason. But when the presentation or interview is over I am so relieved to have scraped by again. Rationally, I’ve known for some time that this is a bit silly.

I was once asked to be interviewed for a documentary on software patents (Patent Absurdity). I referred the interviewer to a number of other experts, including Dan Ravicher, Eben Moglen and Mark Webbink, saying that I wasn’t the right person to speak on the issue. The interviewer told me that he had asked quite a number of women to participate in the documentary but that they all had said the same thing as me. He told me that in fact, more than one person he’d consulted had suggested me for the interview and so he was sure I was right for it. He also told me that he was having the hardest time getting any of the women who other people had suggested as knowledgable to agree to an interview which made the documentary look very off balanced (especially as compared to the recommendations he was getting from other experts). So I agreed to do the documentary. It was very eye opening for me.

When I found out about Imposter Syndrome the first time I couldn’t believe that what I was feeling was actually part of a documented phenomenon. I read about accomplished women (and some men too) who felt the way I did and I started to feel like I had some tools to deal with it. But really it was during the AdaCamp session that I felt I had turned a corner. I still feel small waves of panic when I must hold myself out as an expert, but I have much more confidence in my knowledge and value as someone worth consulting on all matters related to software freedom.

The Ada Intiative is such an important organization (I’m one of their advisors now). Please take a minute today to give them a donation. Our free and open source software communities are already better for their work. If you’re reading this after the fundraising campaign is over, please still give them a donation!

GNU is turning 30

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I mentioned in my report at the Annual General Meeting during GUADEC that the 30th birthday of GNU is coming up and I hope you’ve all been thinking of ways that GNOME can participate! I taked to Libby, FSF Campaigns Manager, this week and she filled me in a bit on the plans. The event will be held at MIT and will be largely comprised of hackfests and meetings, rather than conference style presentations (though RMS will be speaking). Registration is already up and today is the deadline to apply for travel scholarships, so move fast if you need one!

Do you have any great ideas for a hackfest or meeting we could hold there? We need to start organizing soon, as the event is at the end of September. I’d also like for us to organize a GNOME dinner on one of the days. Let me know if you’d like to help organize.

We’re engaged

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One of the many awesome things that happened at GUADEC was that the GNOME marketing team was able to meet again, pretty soon after our New York hackfest. The most visible thing that was decided at this meeting was to change our name from “marketing” to “engagement”. The team has actually been wrestling with this since New York. We realized that using the term “marketing” to describe us was misleading. Marketing is often associated with commercial companies and suggests that we’re trying to sell something (and maybe something that’s not that great either) to make a profit. It also implies that we’ve got professional marketing help. In fact, the team is more about outreach, education, promotion and advocacy. Since we can’t fit all of those words into our name, we decided to go with “engagement” – the aim of all of our activities is to get people to see how great GNOME and our community is, and to make them want to participate more in both our project and the dialog about it. (We also took a little inspiration from Mozilla.)

So thanks to great work by Andrea and Allan and the rest of the team, we’re officially called the “engagement” team, and you can find us on at #engagement. The team is amazing – it’s a very diverse group of people, all doing this work as volunteers in their spare time. The group meets every other week and has been impressively productive lately. If you’d like to contribute to GNOME but aren’t sure how, engagement is a great place to start. Plus the IRC channel is just a really nice place to be. Come talk to us!

A sad piece of news about Barnaby Jack

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I’m so sad to write that Barnaby Jack has died. I saw it in this Chicago Tribune article. There don’t seem to be many details about his death except that the police have ruled out foul play.

Barnaby and I were in touch about his work and we were going to schedule him as a guest on the oggcast Bradley Kuhn and I host, Free as in Freedom. I was floored when Barnaby wrote me and said that my presentation was partly the inspiration for his research on medical devices. Hearing about his work helped me stay focused and continue advocating in this area.

I was so impressed by Barnaby’s work that I mention it all the time. I was just interviewed by Linux Format at OSCON a day or two ago and brought him up then, recommending his work. White hat hacking is incredibly important in demonstrating that the systems we rely on are vulnerable in a way that people can understand. Until it was demonstrated that pacemaker/defibrillators could be maliciously hacked by Kevin Fu and his colleagues, no one took my concerns seriously at all. And then Barnaby took it to the next level. His genius and the focus he brought to the task made it possible for me to explain why proprietary software in medical devices (and in all of our society- and life-critical software) is so incredibly dangerous. Not to mention his flair of picking projects and ability to execute on them (he’s probably most well known for getting cash machines to spit out money).

We never got to have our talk where he was going to walk me through the nuts and bolts of the specific attacks he was working on. I am stunned. And saddened. Barnaby did amazing work and I’m so sorry it had to end.

Who do *you* think deserves the pants?

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GUADEC is fast approaching! (Take a minute and register now if you haven’t already.) One of the fun things about GUADEC is that we give an award to an extraordinary contributor. It’s called the pants award.

Yes, the award is an actual pair of pants. Pretty cool, no?

The criteria for the award is quite simple. This person:

  • must go above and beyond in his or her contributions to GNOME. This should be outside (or in addition to) any responsibilities to an employer for work on GNOME.
  • can’t be a board member (since the board decides who the winner is).
  • should ideally be attending GUADEC to receive the award in person.

The award can be for any work on GNOME – documents, design, translation, marketing, sysadmin, code, bug triaging… anything! Last year’s winner, Marina Zhurakhinskaya, won primarily for her amazing work on outreach.

Got someone in mind? Go ahead and email to let the board know!

Do you want GUADEC in your city?

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We just published the call for bids for GUADEC 2015. It’s a lot of work to host GUADEC but also really fun, and you can show off where you live! The announcement links to a How To for writing the bid, which I really recommend. Kat’s been going through some of the old bids and updating it, which I think has been really useful. The board is plannng to talk to bidders at GUADEC so you need to let us know by August 1 if you’re planning on throwing your city in the ring. You won’t have to send the final bit until the end of September so there’s plenty of time to work out the details. Because we now plan GUADEC two years in advance it’s potentially easier to plan on a lower key basis (theoretically!).

Thinking of submitting but not sure? Feel free to chat with me about it. As we approach my second GUADEC I finally feel like I’m starting to get a handle on what’s involved.

And of course, many thanks to this year’s organizing team. Please buy them a drink in Brno – they deserve it for all of their hard work!

Laptop donations

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We announced yesterday that GNOME received generous donations of high-definition display laptops, which we’ll distribute on a rolling basis to GNOME contributors. This is an exciting development as it provides an opportunity to get GNOME more functional on newer equipment and to improve touch screen support.

We got one laptop from Brion Vibber and five more from Intel. It took us some time to coordinate the delivery of the laptops, but Matthias Clasen stepped up to the task and has volunteered to keep them rotating around. The initial holders are Jon McCann (US), Jasper St. Pierre (US), David King (UK), Allan Day (UK), Carlos Garnacho (Netherlands), Jakub Steiner (Czech Republic) and Alexander Larsson (Sweden).

Check out the work that Alexander Larsson has already done!

There’s a short waiting list for the next crack at this hardware – if you have some work you’d like to do to improve GNOME, let me or Matthias know. And thanks to Brion and Intel!

Here’s Allan Day’s excellent picture of one of the machines in action…

Looking good!

Looking good!

A small step for the FDA

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Many of you have seen my talk about medical devices and general software safety. In fact, I’m up in the Boston area, having given a similar talk yesterday at the Women’s Leadership Community Luncheon alongside the Red Hat Summit. Well, I seem to have gotten through, at least a little! While I was giving the talk yesterday, the FDA finally admitted that there is a big problem. In their Safety Communication, the FDA says that medical devices can be vulnerable to attack. They recommend that manufacturers assure that appropriate safeguards are in place to prevent security attacks on devices, though they do not recommend how this should be accomplished. They say:

The extent to which security controls are needed will depend on the medical device, its environment of use, the type and probability of the risks to which it is exposed, and the probable risks to patients from a security breach.

As I’ve been saying for a few years and as you can see in the paper I wrote when I was at the Software Freedom Law Center, software is more secure when the code is published for review by all. Allowing device manufacturers to keep their source code proprietary prevents us from developing the societal mechanisms and review that will truly keep us safe. As a patient and as a software expert, I applaud the FDA for taking this step, and I hope they will make a real strike for safety by at least encouraging if not requiring these companies to publish their code.

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