Getting better gifts at SFD

sfdThanks to Freeflying, I have been involved with Software Freedom Day since August 2007. We, at the Beijing LUG organized the Beijing chapter that year, with the support of COPU, were one of the 2007 winners and I started to get involved with the great organization behind SFD. In 2008, I (and the Beijing LUG) took care and shipped all the goodies for the first 300 registered teams, and co-organized 3 events in China. This year I’ve been promoted Vice President of SFi and as such, can’t hide as being just another volunteer (though I am just ‘another volunteer’). So in order to give better support to all the teams out there making SFD happen every year, we’d like to know what kind of goodies we can send out that will help you to make a better event. Of course, we’re running on a limited budget (10,000 T-shirts won’t make it really) but it’d be really nice to get a global brainstorming going and see how SFI can provide better support. You can either get back to me by commenting on this blog or by emailing our mailing list. Looking forward to hear from everyone!

Gdium One Laptop Per Hacker Program

gdiumSeems like this Christmas will bring me a great gift: my time back! As you might have noticed I haven’t been able to write much, nor was I able to attend any of the last 6 months BLUG meetings or even spend time with my lovely girlfriend! All this time was not wasted, I have in fact joined a great new project managed by Dexxon, the company making the Gdium, which goal is to “provide access to information affordable to all, so that all can exercise their right to education”. So we’re building a 10″ MIPS based netbook (Loongson based to be precise – the Chinese CPU) running a customized version of Mandriva Linux (MS Windows won’t run on it) and developing an online platform to promote Open Education and provide the means to use Open Source Software and the community to build sufficient resources to make this dream come true. The “Gdium.com” foundation is being set up to manage the resources and ensure the durability and non-profit side of the project. 3% of all Gdium sales will go to finance that foundation. Of course we want to involve the community and developers straight from the beginning and as such are starting the “One Laptop Per Hacker” program where one can purchase an early release of the Gdium (with some known issues) at 250 €. So if you’re feeling like helping out and making this dream happen, please join us!

Switched to Mandriva…

Mandriva Linux

I finally did it! Been talking about ditching Ubuntu for ages and never found the time (you know… backup, new install, restore, get familiar, etc.). It turns out that last Thursday while extending my /home partition with a LiveCD, for some reasons something went wrong and I ended it with my bigger partition having the same remaining free space as before being extended (I had a 20GiB unused space on the disk initially). Thinking I had been lucky not to lose anything, I backed up and installed Mandriva One. It’s a bit like going back to my first love Mandrake (second actually, started Linux with Red Hat when it was free many years ago)! Of course I preferred the name back then, but for obvious reasons they couldn’t keep it.

So Mandriva has actually a specific ISO file for Asia which can be downloaded from a Chinese mirror maintained by our good friend Funda. It includes all the necessary files to support Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Malay and a few more languages I think. Installation was almost ok, couldn’t do it in 3D mode but hey, I can live with that (the install button just wouldn’t click).

The first 6 hours using Mandriva where a bit challenging in the sense that I had to get familiar with urpmi and how to do things. They do have a great Linux Control Center (mcc) where you can find all the things to be configured in one single location. Their network manager is also very powerful and has all the options one should expect from such a tool. Had a little rendering problem with my Chinese fonts (using English desktop with Chinese enabled) which was due to a conflict with the Japanese fonts. Well in short after two days of discussion with Patrick who visit us regularly, Funda and Freeflying on #mandrivacn I got everything fixed, missing applications from the repositories backported and a service that really impressed me: Kudos to Mandriva and its community.

Now an other reason for supporting Mandriva is that they’ve been trying to build a community here, have hired people to improve Chinese support and are even building the operating system that will run on the Gdium (the Loongson based general purpose Chinese CPU). So definitely an interesting distribution worth following and encouraging.

I again extend a big thank you to Funda, Freeflying and Patrick for their help, and recommend everyone to give it a try.

Meeting with Mozilla Europe

As mentioned previously I had the opportunity to meet and discuss with Tristan Nitot, Mozilla Europe President, while in Paris. We exchanged views and tactics about web standards promotion and Firefox adoption in different markets.

Tristan like some of us at the Beijing LUG is a man who does what he believes in, no matter what it takes, and started Mozilla Europe as a volunteer. He invested his time (and therefore money) where his heart was when AOL got rid of Netscape and fired everybody. Since we don’t hear much about what’s happening in China with Mozilla Online, I asked him what he thought helped Mozilla in Europe and if there was a “magic recipe” for success…

When starting the Mozilla Europe Association, Tristan and other members of the Firefox community tested the most visited 1000 sites in each European country, analyzed what was not working well under Firefox and emailed the fixes to each webmaster. Definitely a long and tedious process, but worth doing if you care about the web. The second step, Tristan said, and probably a very important one too, was market share. With currently 28% market share in Europe any webmaster with a bit of brain will care for standards.

Another significant detail I liked about Mozilla Europe, is that they share their office with Mandriva (a Linux distribution) and are definitely close to all things community and Linux – a bit too much sometimes admitted Tristan.

Now where does this put us, poor “Chinese mortals”? Mozilla China is in the same building as the Microsoft MSN team, Netease, Google and Sun, has very low market share and often manages to cancel (at the last minute) when invited (and confirmed) at open source conferences or community driven events. Mozilla is after market shares even in China and therefore I really wonder what is their current strategy.

To conclude it was really refreshing to be able to discuss about real problems and find out what worked in Europe. I sincerely wish Mozilla China can learn from this openness and apply some of it in our middle kingdom.

Golden Bull Award

For those of you reading the Beijing LUG site you already know we received an award last Saturday: the Golden Bull Award. I tend to be overly emotional in these kind of situations (no, I didn’t cry but hey, it was intense) and really felt proud to be representing our community, what we have done during the past year together and how fun it has been. It’s also a good feeling to be acknowledged by the leading Chinese IT community and developer magazine, us, a bunch of “laowai” who initially just wanted to have a couple of beers together and talk about Linux. We’re now a very mixed group of both Chinese and foreigners doing our best to continue to have fun while making a difference. On top of that there is a great article on ZDNet Asia front page where Peter blogs about Open Source and China, the direct link to this article is here and it talks about what we did in 2007 under the BLUG and basically why we got this award. I could add a lot to the article such as the Chuan committee, the openLibrary, the quadcopter group and all the guys who help us for each and every single project. It’s going to be soon a year that I am the BLUG President and I am so proud to be a member of this group – you guys are so easy to represent! I wanted to let you know that I wouldn’t have done it without all of you, all the work, passion, energy and support you showed. That really helped me to continue giving time (and money sometimes), and I truly hope you will give me more of the same this year 😉 A proud Beijing Linux User Group member.

The past 3 days

If you were looking for me on the BLUG website, through email or IM you probably had a hard time to see me anywhere. Well this is because the Beijing LUG helped to organize the Linux Developer Symposium held in Beijing on February 19th and 20th.

Thanks to the Linux Foundation and COPU normal people like you and me (well almost normal…) had access to guys like this for over 2 days. Attendance was exceptional, there were cool Linux devices all over the hall (including some belonging to BLUG) as well as Linux books, and Linux people. Everybody was discovering, listening to the words of wisdom from International AND local Linux Masters (some also from the BLUG 😉 ) chatting, even hacking the whole first day. The second day was more relaxed and oriented towards opening a dialog between developers and experts. Knowing a little bit of China, I was a bit afraid that the BOF session wouldn’t be so successful, I was so wrong! We talked about all kinds of topics (Linux related), developers could directly address their issues and get instant reply. I spent a lot of time at Andrew Morton’s table and topics ranged from stable kernel choice strategy for embedded devices, patches submission processes, Google Summer of Code in China and how to get the word out (and I am sure Andrew will notify Google about developers suggestions), I could event ask for a ‘Google Summer of Code for seniors’ (there was not such thing in my young age) but I don’t think we’ll see this one anytime soon (you can’t blame me for trying) .

Last but not least, Linux Foundation and COPU agreed to “give us” all the speakers for a dinner on the last night, just for our Beijing LUG members (some of us couldn’t make it to the conference because of work) and I really want to thank Jim and Angela from the Linux Foundation for being so nice to give us this opportunity and sponsoring it.

At the end of those 3 days (it actually started on Monday for us) I can see how this has helped to create bridges between communities – western and Chinese or within China – to help gurus and apprentice developers to better cooperate. On top of that the whole conference was very well organized thanks to COPU and the volunteers from AKA-Embedded Linux and Beijing LUG. I really want to thank in no specific order our members as well as Sun China who has been very supportive. Without Alex Lau, Anthony Fok, Anthony Wong, Wang Lei (Ray), Gabriel, Hou Zhengpeng (Freeflying), Sun Liantao, Annie Li, Emily Chen, Alfred Peng, Alex Peng, Coly Li, Pockey Lam, Ollo Schwan (ling yao yao ling), Poly Wang and whoever has contributed without telling me, this event would not have been what we achieved.

Also a very special thinks to Song Kewei from COPU for his devotion to open source, his sense of humor and his kindness, to Angela from the Linux Foundation for her professionalism and patience with my bad jokes, to Jim for his good jokes and the idea of maybe starting a beer fund, David Neary from the Gnome foundation for his duty-free bottle of Single Malt that we killed while waiting for Jeff Waugh Monday night (get well soon Jeff), and also his great sense of humor, Amiram Hayardeny from Sun for his fast positive response to support us if we had budget problems on the dinner we organized, and some of the staff of the Park Plaza hotel for getting us all the Yanjing beers from the other tables.

I also want to thank Professor Lu for his work behind the scene throughout the government to get Open Source where it is today in China, and his stamina at every conferences he attends. We sometimes tend to forget that Professor Lu achieves things for Open Source that none of us could ever dream of. Thanks to Professor Lu and Song Kewei’s help I have understood lots of things about China and how to get things done here and it’s been a fantastic ride!

One more time thanks to all of you!