On to Fedora 23 and New Tools

Even though Fedora 23 isn’t quite out the door yet, officially, I have been poking at the alpha and beta because… that’s what you do. Well, it’s what I do, anyway. Call it a form of desktop wanderlust, I am always itching to see what’s next and what might be new and fun around the corner. (This also has the benefit of hitting bugs before folks who feel slightly less adventurous.)

I’ve put Fedora 23 onto a ThinkPad T430s and decided to go with KDE rather than GNOME this time around, and to experiment with different mail clients as well.

Right now, I’m tinkering with KMail – past attempts at KMail have resulted in dissatisfaction, but I’m giving it another go. Thunderbird has been disappointing lately, and I’m curious whether I can adopt the whole KDE PIM / KOrganizer suite. With any luck it’ll go smoothly and I can blog about that. Or it may fail spectacularly and I can try to find time to blog about that, we’ll see.

It’s been a while since I used KDE for any amount of time. If you have some KDE tips and tricks, please share!

Headed to OSCON

oscon-logoOnce again, time for the annual trek to Portland, Oregon for OSCON — perhaps for the last time!

Next year, OSCON is going to be in Austin, TX — which seems like a bit of a mistake to me. Portland and OSCON go together like milk and cookies.

If you’re going to be at OSCON, make sure to drop by Open Cloud Day on Tuesday, and come by the Red Hat booth to say hello!

Presentations and Sharing Slides

Warning: Massive generalizations ahead!

It’s pretty common for conference organizers and attendees to ask presenters to provide their slides after the talk to share/post on the event site. While well-meaning, I’m not sure this is an entirely positive trend.

A slide deck that stands alone is often a sign of a poor presentation. If I can read the slides and get a lot out of them without the presentation they accompany, odds are you could have just written a short post that would have conveyed nearly as much information without the need for people to sit through a presentation. (Much less travel a great distance to see it.)

As a corollary to the above, if the presenter is using slides that convey most of the information, then the attendees are probably spending more time watching the slides and/or checking their phones/laptops than actually paying attention to the speaker. Again, what’s the point of sitting through a presentation if you can just read the slides and get most of the information that way?

Yes, you can have meaningful slides that support a presentation and are useful afterwards. For example, if you’re doing a presentation with a lot of data/charts, having those to refer to after the presentation is a good thing. Having code examples, or follow-along examples is a good thing.

I’m writing this, of course, because I received a request for slides for a presentation I gave recently (at SCALE) and was thinking about how often I’m asked for slides before a presentation even begins. (“Will the slides be available?”) In this case, the presentation has some slides that will be useful for attendees — but a lot of the slides are just enough text to spark my memory for the next topic.

Sometimes I’m tempted to chuck presentation-ware altogether and just give a presentation from notes accompanied (when appropriate) with a demo. A live presentation should be about an experience that is more than a person droning on at the front of the room that adds little or no value to the text on a screen. If it’s not, what’s the point?

This is something I’ve been turning over in my head for a while, and I think one of my goals for 2015 is to raise the bar on my own presentations. Suggestions welcome!

Happy 21st Birthday, Slackware – and Thanks, Patrick!

Slackware 9621 years ago today, Patrick J. Volkerding announced the 1.00 release of Slackware Linux to the comp.os.linux newsgroup. As Patrick wrote at the time, “This is a complete installation system designed for systems with a 3.5″ boot floppy. It has been tested extensively with a 386/IDE system.” Times, and technology, have changed quite a bit — but Slackware continues to stay true to Patrick’s original vision and provide users with “the most ‘UNIX-like’ Linux distribution out there” with simplicity and stability “while retaining a sense of tradition.”

Slackware had just turned five when I first discovered it and, by extension, Linux. It was the first Linux distribution that I’d ever used and it was a wonderful platform to learn on. Made even better by the fact that Patrick was quick to respond to emails asking for support, and provided gentle guidance to updating XFree86 so that I could actually use X on my blazing fast Pentium 133MHz machine with eight whopping megabytes of RAM.

Slackware wasn’t quite the first Linux distribution, but it outlived its predecessors as well as many Linux distributions that came after. Slackware has not only continued to provide new releases at steady intervals year after year, but it’s done so with a fairly small (but mighty!) core team of developers led by Patrick.

If you’re in the Linux or open source community, you should take a minute today to raise a glass to toast the Slackware distribution. I’ll be hoisting a beer (though a better one than PBR…) to Slackware, and its team. Thanks for introducing me to Linux, for staying true to your vision, and for providing so many users with so much goodness over the years. Here’s to Slackware, Patrick, and all the other folks who’ve made Slackware great over the years – and to many more releases and birthdays to come!

[Link] The Compositional Nature of Vim

Nice piece on “The Compositional Nature of Vim” over on Ismail Badawi’s blog:

There’s a combinatorial effect here. If I know about o operators, m motions and t text objects, I can do up to o * (m + t) different things. Every new operator I learn lets me do up to m + t new things, and every motion or text object I learn lets me do up to o new things. Once you internalize vim’s language for editing text, then not only does editing text efficiently become easier, but you also start learning at a much faster rate, as every new thing you learn interacts with all the things you already know.

If you’re still learning Vim (and despite using Vim for ~15 years, I count myself in that group), take a few minutes to read (or at least skim) this post.

The Compositional Nature of Vim »

Another 4K Update: Dell P2815Q 28″ Monitor

Some time ago, I bought a Seiki 39″ 4K monitor/TV for use with my Fedora 20 workstation/laptop. While the resolution was great, I just couldn’t get it set up where it wasn’t a pain in the neck. Literally.

But having a taste of the 4K good life, I was unhappy going back to the 2560×1440 resolution of the Cinema Display…

Right now, there’s not a ton of 4K monitors on the market – at least not affordable ones. But I happened to find a Dell P2815Q 28″ monitor at MicroCenter over the weekend, and decided to go ahead and pull the trigger.

Like the Seiki, the refresh rate at the top resolution (3840×2160) is much lower than you’d find with standard monitors. So if you’re looking for a gaming rig, pass this by for now.

But, the Dell has a few advantages beyond being a more manageable size for a desktop:

  • It has DisplayPort / MiniDisplayport inputs. The Seiki only has HDMI.
  • Adjustable height.
  • Rotation – though the video driver for Fedora 20 didn’t seem to like it when I tried to rotate the Dell to a portrait mode. Some more tinkering will ensue there before I figure out where the problem lies.
  • Three USB 3.0 ports (can plug into your desktop’s USB 3.0 slot).
  • Supports DisplayPort Multi-Stream Transport (i.e., you can plug in a second monitor for two displays). I haven’t tried this, yet.
  • Color seems better than the Seiki, though still a bit washed out. Not a lot, but not as crisp as the Cinema Display.

So far, no problems with the display, and I’m really happy to be back to a 4K desktop.

I’d only recommend getting a 4K display for early adopters, though. I suspect the prices will continue to plunge, while the quality and refresh rate will improve. But if you’re like me and spend way too much time at the computer, it’s worth considering.

Enigmail, and Not Signing by Default

5267337900_1156156de0_qA few weeks ago, I added Enigmail to Thunderbird for signing and encrypting mails. Most of the time, though, I don’t really feel a need to sign or encrypt mails (or have a need to decrypt or check signatures). For most folks, the GPG signature is just more noise — sort of like the footers that say “for the environment, please don’t print this message” or the useless legalese footers about “this email and any attachments to it may be confidential, blah blah blah.”

Not wanting to inflict that on people unnecessarily, I looked high and low in the Enigmail preferences to find a setting to turn signing off unless wanted. No dice. I looked in the general preferences for Thunderbird. Also no dice.

Finally, this morning, I tried googling it (again) and found what I was looking for… it’s in the per-account settings (of course).

Under “OpenPGP Security” un-check the “Sign non-encrypted messages by default” and all’s well. You can still sign when needed (for instance, if you’re sending a message to a project’s announce list about something security related, folks might want a signed message…) but won’t clutter up your emails with the GPG signature otherwise.

(Icon credit to Flick user Live4Soccer(L4S).)

Upstream Podcast: Episode 6 – Interview with Marvin Humphrey at ApacheCon North America

Got a bit behind in editing, but here’s the latest Upstream podcast. This one features Marvin Humphrey of the Apache Software Foundation. Really enjoyed speaking with Marvin (on and off mic) and hope you enjoy listening to the podcast as much as I enjoyed speaking with him!

If you’d like to catch prior episodes, you can find all episodes listed on Red Hat’s community blog, or subscribe to the RSS / iTunes feed for Upstream:

Have thoughts on the podcast? Would love to hear them! Let me know who I should talk to, what kind of topics you’re interested in, and what’s good/bad about the ‘cast. Thanks!

Lo & Behold: It Just Works (with the Right Adapter…)

A while back, I bought a 4K monitor and set it up with a tower workstation because I had no luck getting it going with my main laptop, a ThinkPad T530.

I was not optimistic about the odds of getting the 4K monitor working with this laptop at all, especially not without the proprietary drivers. But, I had noticed some discussion about an “active” Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter working where others hadn’t. I had to pick a few things up at MicroCenter today, and managed to find one such adapter that was about $25. (The rest were about $10.)

Logged out of the desktop, unplugged the Cinema Display, and plugged in the 4K display. And, to borrow a phrase, “it just worked.”

Nice. Very, very nice. The adapter brand is Accell, by the way, if anybody else is looking to get a similar setup going.

Your GNOME Tips, Tricks, and Such: Tell Me Them

GNOME Logo Decided to mix things up a bit and start using GNOME on Fedora 20 as my main desktop, at least until such time I get bored with it, annoyed with it, or something else catches my attention.

Had been using KDE as my desktop, and that was working just fine: I just decided to change things up a bit when I reconfigured my system recently. (Added a second SSD so I’d have room for a CentOS partition.)

First thing I did was install GNOME Tweak Tools, because… no minimize button makes me crazy. Whether it’s “better” to have a minimize button or not, I’ll leave to UX/UI folks to debate. What I know is I’ve been using window managers of some type or another for more than 20 years that have a minimize button, and while this old dog isn’t too old to learn new tricks, I’m choosy about which tricks I’m willing to spend the time learning.

Added Guake because a drop-down terminal is a nice thing to have. Added Pidgin because I prefer that to Empathy.

I will note, I’m using GNOME on my work-issued ThinkPad T530 with a 27″ Cinema Display connected (when I’m home). (Nice of the Lenovo folks to have a Mini DisplayPort connector on these…) If I recall correctly, GNOME got dinged for poor multi-monitor support some releases ago. If that was actually a problem, it seems to be handled by now. Everything is working quite well in that regard.

What GNOME extensions would you recommend? Any tips, tricks, or hidden gems might I find in current GNOME that are worth looking for?