A year without blogging… I thought I would never succeed! Don’t get me wrong I do write quite a lot online, I have too, and my blog really gets some thing once everything else is written.

So without further ado I will show you a beautiful photo of the balloons we are sending for HFD (taken by Pockey and licensed under CC-BY to HFD):
HFD Balloons

Now why did the HFD swag leave only today (instead of Saturday as they should have)? Well I think I suck at LibreOffice: once a year I am used to take my “latest” copy of LibreOffice and remember how to print labels for all the teams in the world. SFD is of course a lot bigger than HFD but it’s been going on since 2004. Either way it kind of used to work, with a lot of glitches, but it was working. The last time I used LibreOffice I felt I had to complain to one of the main developer and so I found out that I was running a two year old release. This time after trying the latest available version under the latest Fedora and not being successful I went for an upgrade and am now running release 4.0.1! Yes, 4.0.1! Well let me tell you that not only the “optional” address line that some teams have and some don’t always print and there is no way to automatically do without it, but worth, even after selecting “database” as source (the other modes didn’t find the sheet whether under 3.6 or 4.0.1) I ended up with 11 pages of 8 labels for 53 teams. Yes you read me right… that is somewhere between 81 and 88 mailing addresses. What happens is that LibreOffice simply duplicates some of the addresses it takes from the database, and not next to one another, just randomly. So while the first 5 pages printed ok (oh yeah, they print only odd page numbers. So page 2 becomes 3, 3 becomes 5 and so on. I have no idea why but that’s the standard way) I started to find a second team from Japan. We only had one team in Japan, so I checked: same name, same address. Then next to it was the same team from India, then a new team, then a redundant team and so on, without any logic. After trying different “technique” to get only 53 teams in my labels, I had for only choice to finish the printing under a non-free office software running under a non-free operating system. This was a lot easier in many ways and I really pity the people who have no other choices. In fact I truly wonder how they manage.

Let me show you a beautiful second photo bearing the same license as the previous one, so you’ll be even more happy to have registered early:
HFD Swag
All is not lost and I will join the few people who have complained about the feature being less than usable for office workers. Hopefully the new bug miscalculating the number of recipient will be easy to correct and the whole clarity of the function will start to take shape. I sometimes really wonder how people use free office software, not being a user myself. And often the five minutes a year I dive in end up taking me the whole week and not wanting to go back. Hopefully those five minutes will be more valuable this year!

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After all this months saying nothing I was in fact working really hard on bringing a new celebration to life: Culture Freedom Day! Of course I didn’t do it alone and was heavily supported in my work by Pockey Lam and the members of the DFI board (yeah, we added a new name to our organization over the winter as many more things will be coming up and SFI was too limiting). I could probably write a lot more about the reasons of creating a new international day “just” for Free Culture but it’s all writen already here.

Two months left to the celebration, real work is actually really starting now ;-)!

Happy Culture Freedom Day to all

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ColorHugIf like me you are running GNU/Linux and have spent a little money on a nice LCD/LED screen (or simply a modern laptop with great colour and resolution) you may have noticed that getting your colours right has been a challenge: indeed all the screen calibration devices are proprietary, do not have native software running on GNU/Linux and are rather pricey. Well this is over! Richard Hughes from the GNOME project among other things has just launched a fully open source hardware/software colorimeter project: the ColorHug!

It has a GPL bootloader, GPL firmware image and GPL hardware schematics and PCBs. It’s faster than the proprietary hardware, and more importantly a lot cheaper. [...] I’m offering a 20% discount on each unit, on the assumption the first users will be testing the firmware and reporting problems. If you want to support a cool open source project, I’m asking £48 for each unit, plus postage and packaging.

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As the main website puts it the discount is based on the understanding you’re helping out testing the hardware and software and it might be a bit more complicated than just plug-and-play. You will always be able to update the firmware to the latest versions as the hardware is improved.

Well this is what I’ve been looking for for years so I already made my pre-order and if like me you’ve been longing to see real colours on your screens and can help out with the project then just go and pre-order yours as well!

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As the title says it, I will be finally celebrating SFD tomorrow. That’s only one month and 10 days after the official date. Since we are doing this in Shantou University we had a few scheduling issues and were trying to also coordinated with Professor Mao from Taiwan, himself SFD organizer this year. I will be presenting “Why Software Freedom matters” which I initially wrote for GNOME.Asia 2011 and then reviewed with Richard Stallman to share it with SFD teams this summer. Pockey will be presenting “Why and how to contribute to Free Software”. The STU Linux Association will present as well but I am not aware of the specific topics yet.

And for those who wonder what’s happening with SFD during the “low season” we still need to open the 2011 competition. Unfortunately my 3 development machines have died on me over the past month and I did struggle with Debian not installing from USB or burned CDs to be faulty (Murphy’s law you know, I really feel great about the whole thing! :( ). On the bright side this will give equal time to all teams to submit their report.

Last but not least the SFI Board will have a meeting early next month and should finalize a few cool things we’ve been discussing at the last meeting. So stay tuned!

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Chinasfd.org is back online!We have been working on getting Chinasfd.org back online as we lost access to sfdchina.org (our old home for the past 3 years) due to an unwilling admin to give us access to both the domain and the server. That also means we had to start from an old backup I had “somewhere” (backup backup backup, and always do backups!) which was half working for no reason (oh, did I mention you also need to test your backups?).

Once the fun was over, all the work of updating content, upgrading to latest versions of stuff and integrating the new rocking SFD map and registration system (and localizing it) took place. I also want to thank Candis, our hosting partner in Asia, who is always here to support us whenever we need space and bandwidth.

Now, the system is only half integrated as I still need to figure out how to write an API to synchronize registrations between global SFD and local chapters. I personally feel this direction could boost SFD celebrations by letting local organizations handle promotion AND registration themselves (on their own infrastructure) while still getting the same centralized point where everyone knows how to find all the teams in the world.

We are still far from it as for example shipping companies require addresses in English only which means even if the form is localized and hosted by a local representative, people would still need to use English for the address. Also telephone format is an issue as a few of our team leaders never had to make international calls in their life and wonder what is their own international dialling code. Localizing the form and getting more teams will surely reveal several other issues.

But at the end of the day those problems of having new teams that we never heard of before are good problems to have. They are problems we need to resolve with highly motivated individuals or organizations in specific regions who could make SFD grow and therefore boost FOSS awareness and adoption. In China for example the local chapter takes care of getting their own team packs and shipping it to teams. This is one way and I am sure there are many others.

SFD preparation has been a blast for me this year and I can only think that 2012 will be even better. In the meantime let’s get ready for Saturday 17th, 2011 and Happy SFD to all! I’ll be celebrating in Shantou, China, where will you be?

I'm speaking at SFD, are you?

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GNOME Release Team

Already 5 days in Bangalore, India and time to give an update on what has been done and what’s left to finalize. I have indeed been silent the past 2-3 months preparing the GNOME.Asia Summit and working on Software Freedom Day to get up to speed for 2011. So I am at my first GNOME hackfest and from what I have been told, one of the biggest ever. In total we have about 16 people working on the GNOME 3.0 release, from making sure we catch all the critical bugs, to fixing them, writing documentation (I’ve just been assigned to write some missing sections – that will be my first contribution to the GNOME code base) and preparing the associated marketing campaign (which has already started of course).

On top of those major tasks we are also providing training to the students of Bangalore (2 days totalling 200 seats), organizing a business session with case studies to explain to local companies how others make money with GNOME and Free Software, running a helpdesk to support people curious about GNOME 3.0 and, making sure that all the necessary tasks for the GNOME.Asia Summit have been completed. I have to send a huge thank you to Bharath for his devotion and support everyday and all the sponsors who have made this great event possible. It is a real pleasure to see so many people supporting us and we can definitely feel the pressure not to disappoint anyone.

In that respect I have been particularly impressed with the release team who is not taking their task lightly and have somewhat skipped the group meals since Tuesday. They still move from the hotel to the hackfest location with us but seldom leave their keyboards. The above photo is a shot I just took in their room before writing this post… Of course no one in the team has written their talk for the weekend, but that shouldn’t prevent participants from attending ;-)

On the bright side we have reached 1400 registrations for the summit and I doubt anything could stop the success of what we’ve been working on for the past 6 months. India even got qualified for the cricket world finals, which has only happened twice since 1975 (2003 best runner up, 1983 winner). So obviously everything is on our side and the 3.0 release should be a magnificent one.

Last but not least I want to thank the GNOME Foundation for its support and allowing me to join the hackfest and the conference.

Sponsored by the GNOME Foundation

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Google Code-in 2010

I’d like to mention to all the students potentially reading my blog that I am mentoring one task of the many GNOME tasks that GNOME has submitted this year. Google Code-In for those not aware, is something similar to Google Summer of Code except it’s happening now and targeting pre-university students (13-18 years old). Tasks are also supposed to be completable within 3-5 days maximum. So if you’re interested just drop by at the task website and apply for the task you’re interested in. You can find further information here specific to GNOME and Google Code-In. You can also leave me a comment here or find me on IRC (BLUG_Fred).

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GNOME T-shirt ContestFor the designers out there I’d like to mentioned that the GNOME Foundation is launching a T-shirt design competition to prepare for the launch of GNOME 3.0. So if you have a bit of designing skills and would like to see the millions of us, GNOME users, wearing your art, then give it a try. First prize also entitles you for U$100 and 2 T-shirts of your own design, though we all know no one does it for the money!

Now for those of you just curious to see what the latest GNOME Shell looks like I recommend trying out compiling from the GIT repository as explained here starting around the middle of the page. It’s definitely nice to see Free Software innovating and coming up with complete new ideas and interfaces in desktop computing. Note that this is still a work in progress (code freeze should happen around February-March) and might not work so well on your machine. Tip: ‘ALT+F2 – debugexit – ENTER’ gets you out!

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Gnome Foundation SponsoredAn update from the GNOME Summit where we’re reaching the third and last day of this great event. Attending the summit has definitely given me a much better idea of who are the real people behind those chopped-off heads from the GNOME Planet and who does what. I’ve been impressed and inspired by some of the people contributing to GNOME as a hobby and not because they are being employed by a company investing in GNOME. There are way too many people to name them all, but Jason from the marketing team is one of them. It has been also very enlightening to see how some of the people having the luck of getting paid for their work on GNOME had GNOME flowing through their veins and caring so much about things such as branding and how we should all be involved in GNOME directions as community members. In fact the common denominator of all those people attending is the passion that fuels their interest and commitment to GNOME and all its related issues. I was also very happy to meet Xan again, who also attended the GNOME.Asia Summit in Taipei this summer, and Srini from India and many more guys (the list is way too long).

On the third day we are lucky enough to be hosted in the MIT Media Lab which is a beautiful building with a splendid view on the river. We have a huge 9 panels LCD screen for presentations and discussions, plenty of rooms and empty spaces to drill down on all the potential issues remaining before the GNOME 3 release.

I’ve taken on the initiative to put up a group of sales presentations for GNOME, highlighting both the benefits and the technology of GNOME geared towards decision makers and engineers (so it’ll probably be 2 different presentations) to entice them to use GNOME on whatever project they’re doing. I’m hoping to use those more specifically for all the device manufacturers I meet regularly in South China and would definitely be excited to see products coming out with GNOME (rather than anything else).
So quite a few challenges ahead and some work to do as the information related to GNOME and its technologies or applications in the real world is spread over several persons within the GNOME community. But that’ll be a great way to meet more GNOME developers and make plenty of new friends!

MIT Media Lab - GNOME Summit

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Gnome Foundation SponsoredLast minute decision (and thanks to a misunderstanding) I’m attending the GNOME Boston Summit and will use this opportunity to build a sales presentation for GNOME technologies geared towards device manufacturers. The GNOME Foundation is again financially helping me to go there, as they did for GNOME.Asia Summit. It’s pretty interesting to see the latest directions in GNOME Shell and be part of discussions about what effect could be integrated here and there and listen to people giving feedback on the various issues left before the final release. I’ll probably blog more the conference tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

Last but not least I’ll use this opportunity to meet up with SFI board member, founder and treasurer, Matt Oquist as he lives about 3 hours from Boston and we’ll be talking about Software Freedom Day. That’s pretty exciting all by itself as we’ve been talking and doing things together for over 3 years now without even meeting each others.

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