HFD swag posted despite LibreOffice…

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!

Maintaining multiple websites

As we have just finished upgrading the Beijing GNU/Linux User Group website I was realising that I actually maintain around 10+ community sites using various pieces of software (and plug-ins) and I was curious to hear how people in the same position were keeping track of all this. I currently use a mixture of emails, Gjots, Firefox built-in password manager (which loses password every now and then) and of course, my neurones. I am in fact wondering how the tasks could be optimised to make sure you get to track every single piece of software used, security announcements, new releases, special custom job done here and there, “watch-out lists” when you’re doing a server move or re-install, know which site to update when there is such a need to upgrade and probably more. So what are you tips or experiences on the matter?

Software Freedom International 2010 Presidency

Catching up with life since my return from GNOME.Asia Summit as a lot of things have happened as well last month. On December 1st the SFD General Assembly was held (IRC meeting) and as our former president Robert Schumann stepped down I was elected the new president for 2010! This is definitely a big responsibility and I will try to keep up the good work that has been carried out since 2004. The good thing is that we have more board members this coming year (some new ones and some older ones) which hopefully will help us to do more. I want to thank everyone for their support and more specifically my colleagues from SFI, our sponsors, the members of the Beijing LUG and all the SFD team leaders around the world without whom we would never have done so much. so, Thank you all!

SFD 2009 Packing Video

I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to Daniel for making the SFD Schwag Packing Video this year. Daniel actually already did the Beijing SFD 2007 video which got us elected as Best SFD Event that year and will follow us during the whole Software Freedom Day in Beijing, where we will have 10 teams pushing Free and Open Source Software (and 85 teams nationwide thanks to SFI, BLUG, COPU, Sun and Mozilla – more about this later). So right now just sit back, relax and enjoy the show!

SFD 2009 Goodies Packing from Daniel.

Mplayer, a Webcam and ASCII Art

While discussing education and Open Source in Cambodia with a friend from the Phnom Penh LUG he gave me a little trick to play with mplayer if you have a webcam. Definitely something you can do with your Gdium and its built-in webcam, or any similar hardware. Open a terminal window and type:

mplayer tv:// -vo aa -monitorpixelaspect 0.5

Have fun!

Loongson day in China


Today Sunday April 12th, 2009, is a special day this year. Not only it’s Easter Day and also the Khmer and Thai New Year (hello my dear friends), but this year in China the Loongson Club is organizing the Loongson Day in 10 cities around the country. Kudos for their effort, doing the same event in many places at the same time is really a challenge.

Of course Dexxon will be in the Beijing (the whole Chinese team) and Shanghai chapter (Freeflying will represent us) as well as Chengdu, where we sent a Gdium to Shi Nan, the person putting all these efforts in building a Loongson community in China.

Other cities covered (without a Gdium though) are Shenzhen, Wuhan, Hefei, Chongqing, Changsha, Guangzhou and Nanjing. So I wish a very nice Loongson day full of chocolate eggs and parties to every one!

OLPH presentation to CSDN

csdn.netI had the pleasure to be interviewed in Dexxon Beijing office last month (February 18th) by CSDN.net journalist Mr. Zhou (周至) about our now famous OLPH program. CSDN.net, for those not familiar with the Chinese developer scene, is one of the major source of information, news and knowledge about IT on this side of the planet, combining a portal, an professional IT community, an online education platform, a recruitment site and an offline magazine (Programmer). February was just when we started to deliver those Gdiums to OLPH members in China and we have since seen quite a lot of activity. One notable effort is actually the submission of a Google Summer of Code idea from openSUSE to have it ported to MIPS. Three students from Beijing have already emailed the mentor who contacted me to know if we still had Gdiums for his project (and yes we do…). A lot of other great efforts are being carried out and one should probably read our planet to know more.

Now back to the topic, you can find both the text version of the questions and the video of the interview (in English) on CSDN live channel with a direct link right here! As usual if you have any further question don’t hesitate to post them in the comment section right below or on OLPH forum (if you’re a registered Gdium.com member).

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!

Linux is not good for you…

A friend of mine was telling me how she went to buy a new computer, asked to have Linux on it, and was told “Linux is not good for you at home” and that she shouldn’t worry, they’ll just install her Windows XP and all the things she really needs, “for free”. Yes this happened in China, but it probably already happened elsewhere.

Don’t worry she’ll install Linux all by herself I am sure, the real problem is no longer that consumers are not aware nor ready for Linux, sales persons are not! It’s probably harder for them to get familiar with Linux and make an effort to learn something that’s good for their customers rather than launching Norton Ghost, partitioning the disk into Nx20GiB partitions (that’s how they prepare PCs here…) and copying all the virus, spyware and malware infected bootleg versions of Windows they’ve been distributing for ages.

This friend of mine is no tech person, just uses a computer and I guess, has been hearing about Open Source, Linux and Software Freedom. So it’s nice to see that our efforts are paying off. Now how can we reach those stores in China (and elsewhere) and get them to become familiar with Linux installs, and… why not… even do Linux promotion?

Dokuwiki on Debian

dokuwikiWent through my n+1 installation of my preferred wiki, dokuwiki on a Debian server and for the first time run into a small error, a warning actually, that would systematically be displayed on the wiki page header:
Warning: mb_strrpos() [function.mb-strrpos]: Empty haystack in /../../inc/pageutils.php line 142
Warning: mb_strrpos() [function.mb-strrpos]: Empty haystack in /../../inc/pageutils.php line 155

The error was there whether I used aptitude or manual install and I couldn’t find anything online or in the bug tracker about it. Finally went under Dokuwiki IRC channel and with the help of “Chris–S” narrowed down the problem to either mb_string overloading or stricter error checking.

The fix? Changing:
mbstring.func_overload = 7
mbstring.func_overload = 0
in php.ini and restarting Apache. This is a system wide change, there is also a way to change it per site using a .htaccess file. Hope that helps someone.