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Project Fi and replacement phones: Android could learn from Fedora…

12 January 2016 by jzb

nexus2cee_project_fi_hero_thumbI’ve had really good luck with smartphones (/me knocks on wood) over the years. I’ve dropped phones a number of times, but other than a few scuffs and scratches, no permanent damage. (My first-generation iPhone did have an unfortunate encounter with a softball years ago, but since then – smooth sailing.) This weekend, though, I biffed the Nexus 6 just wrong on the tile floor and the screen got the worst of it.

This is one of the big downsides for Project Fi, in my opinion. With normal carriers, I can saunter into a physical store and have a replacement same-day. Or next morning if it happens to be 11 p.m. when the phone has its unfortunate incident. Project Fi? No such luck.

The good news: Project Fi’s support was super-helpful and efficient, and they had a new phone on its way to me right away. My phone’s unfortunate incident was last Friday, and I had a new phone in my hands Monday. Even better, they only charged me $100 to replace it. (One of the phone screen replacement shops near me wanted $249 and seven days to get parts…)

The bad news: As alluded to above, the Nexus 6 isn’t a super-popular phone. If it breaks, good luck finding parts right away. Samsung phones and iPhones are the phones that have the most market share (apparently) and finding accessories and replacement parts for those is a lot easier. (And cheaper – if I’d had an iPhone or Galaxy with a broken screen, there were plenty of specials on replacing the screen for less than $99.)

The other downside? The phone Project Fi shipped out to me is a stock Nexus 6… with the original Android 5.0-something installed. Meaning I’ve spent hours updating the damn phone. And the backup didn’t take all the way (I’m guessing because old phone had the latest 6.0-whatever and the new phone didn’t, but it forces you to try the restore first…) So when it’s all updated, I’ll need to do a factory reset and then try again to do a restore.

As luck would have it, my laptop was flaking out yesterday and I wound up doing a full reinstall of Fedora 23 Workstation. That took all of maybe an hour from start to finish, installing Fedora and then rsync-ing my data back to the new laptop and so on. It’d be great if Android were as easy to work with as Fedora!

2 comments | Categories: Fedora | Tags: , ,

Proprietary tools for FOSS projects

05 November 2015 by jzb

slackMy position on free and open source software is somewhere in the spectrum between hard-core FSF/GNU position on Free Software, and the corporate open source pragmatism that looks at open source as being great for some things but really not a goal in and of itself. I don’t eschew all proprietary software, and I’m not going to knock people for using tools and devices that fit their needs rather than sticking only to FOSS.

At the same time, I think it’s important that we trend towards everything being open, and I find myself troubled by the increasing acceptance of proprietary tools and services by FOSS developers/projects. It shouldn’t be the end of the world for a FOSS developer, advocate, project, or company to use proprietary tools if necessary. Sometimes the FOSS tools aren’t a good fit, and the need for something right now overrides the luxury of choosing a tool just based on licensing preference. And, of course, there’s a big difference between having that discussion for a project like Fedora, or an Apache podling/TLP, or a company that works with open source.

Fedora is generally averse to adopting anything proprietary, even using things like YouTube or Twitter to promote Fedora tends to generate discussion and questions about whether it’s proper to use proprietary services. Grudgingly, though, most folks have accepted that to promote Fedora you have to go where the people are–even if that means using non-FOSS services. Apache has been more willing to adopt non-free services (e.g., Jira) where acceptable FOSS services exist. Not surprising, because Apache’s culture is more “use open source because it’s pragmatic” rather than driven by ideology. (That is painting with a very broad brush, and I think you can find a diverse set of opinions within Apache, including mine.)

Generally, though, I worry about making too many concessions to non-free software. I worry that we’ve gone too far towards business concerns, and too far away from wanting to change the world for the better. There’s a balance to be struck, I think, where we put food on the table, build successful companies and successful and sustainable communities. Where we use tools we’ve built to do our work, and tools we can improve, but don’t rake people over the coals because of the tools they choose or make bad business decisions out of a desire for purity.

This post asking people not to use Slack really resonates with me. I see this as a wholly unnecessary adoption of proprietary software where there’s a reasonable and serviceable alternative. The good news, I think, is that Slack seems to be spurring some development of better IRC alternatives that might not have developed without Slack. And it’s spurred more people thinking about the tools they use, and whether they’re open, and what that means. Full disclosure, I have a personal Slack account. I’ll use it to chat with friends, just like I’ll use Facebook or Google Hangouts. But I don’t see recommending it for an official channel for, say, Project Atomic.

Leave a comment | Categories: Apache, Fedora, Linux, Random | Tags: , , , , ,

Is that the right mailing list? Is that the right audience?

28 October 2015 by jzb

email-icon-postQuick thought for the day: are you sending that message to the right mailing list?

If you work in open source, odds are you spend a lot of time working with people via email. At Red Hat we have internal mailing lists for developers that work on projects, and external mailing lists for projects, as well as internal lists for specific groups, topics, etc. I’m also, less than I’d like these days, involved in the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) and it has user lists and developer lists for projects, announce lists, and a variety of private lists for projects and specifically for members, fundraising, and so on.

I could write volumes about what’s good and bad about various Mail User Agents (MUAs) and mailing list software. But this is not about that–this is about bad habits that people fall into when opening and conducting discussions on mailing lists. Specifically, whether they’re going to the right place.

All too often, I see people opting to go for the least-public list when opening discussions. Part of this, I think, is just human laziness. You get into a routine, and stick with it. This is doubly hard to overcome when an initiative starts “behind the firewall” and then moves into the public.

Part of this is a tendency to stay with a familiar group. It can be “scary” to expose your ideas, commentary, plans, or whatever to a large audience. It can also, honestly, be annoying. Everybody has an opinion, and filtering through all the opinions and commentary can be a royal pain in the posterior. Separating the wheat from the chaff can be tricky when you do opt for openness and then have to filter through all of the digressions, uninformed opinions, and (occasionally) dissent to come to a decision.

I could probably write volumes on this topic, but I promised a quick thought. So, in a nutshell: Think before you start a conversation on a mailing list. Are you sending it to a private list to avoid discussion or exposure, or is there a good reason the conversation needs to be private? (Alternately, are you sure of the audience you’re sending to? Are you sending anything group/company confidential to too wide an audience? It happens infrequently, but it can be a big problem when it does.) If not, then break the habit and opt for openness. You might just be surprised how effective that can be, so give it a shot.

Leave a comment | Categories: Apache, Fedora, Linux, Social Media | Tags: , , , ,

Headed to OSCON

19 July 2015 by jzb

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!

Leave a comment | Categories: Apache, Fedora, Gluster, Random | Tags: , , , ,

Another 4K Update: Dell P2815Q 28″ Monitor

20 May 2014 by jzb

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.

Leave a comment | Categories: Fedora | Tags: , , ,

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

09 March 2014 by jzb

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?

13 comments | Categories: Fedora, Linux | Tags: ,

Brief Review: Seiki 4K 39″ TV/Monitor

25 January 2014 by jzb

Just a bit ago, I blogged about getting a 4K monitor working on Fedora 20. Now that I’ve had a bit of time with the monitor, I wanted to comment on the experience a little.

Reviews on various sites really bagged on this monitor’s color/clarity compared to traditional computer monitors. While I don’t doubt discerning users might find flaws in this monitor, it’s just fine for my use case. That is, I spend the day using IRC, a few terminals, Web browser, PDF reader, mail client, and maybe LibreOffice.

If I’m using any sort of image editing/photo editing software, it’s strictly for cropping and re-sizing. So, honestly, it doesn’t matter to me if things are perfectly color-calibrated or if it’s good for gaming.

Compared to my 27″ Apple Cinema Display, I’d give it a B- or C+ for picture quality. But a small sacrifice of picture quality is well worth the extra desktop space.

Daily Use

The productivity increase I got from the 4K monitor was so great, I finish my work in half the time and have been promoted twice in the last week.

Uh, OK… not really. But we geeks are always chasing that tiny productivity boost, or searching to zap annoyances in our work day – and I’m happy to say there has indeed been a productivity boost and some zapped annoyances.

You can’t really quantify the improvement you get from a new setup like this, but if I had to… I’d say it’s 10%, maybe 15% more productive. I find myself spending less times tabbing through things, I can actually have four to six things open at the same time for a task without any need to tab through windows and find something. Example: Planning the Infrastructure.Next events, I can have a few emails or Web browsers open that have speakers’ abstracts, the Lanyrd page for Infrastructure.Next @ SCALE and Infrastructure.Next @ Ghent, a terminal for using middleman to update Red Hat’s Open Source Community blog, and still keep an eye on IRC/IM.

Ergonomics

The 39″ monitor is the same distance as the 27″ monitor, which admittedly is not the best layout ergonomically. The top and far right/left of the monitor are just high/far enough away that it’s slightly uncomfortable. I’d like to push the monitor back about another six to eight inches, but there’s not room on my desk.

Annoyances

A few annoyances with the setup so far.

First, the power management and Fedora don’t seem to get along. I had to turn off power management in KDE, because either Fedora was crashing, or the monitor wasn’t waking up again or taking a signal after KDE put the display to sleep.

The monitor has a sleep feature that kicks in at a regular interval, and the option to turn it off is greyed out in its menu. So, every few hours I get a overlay display on the monitor telling me it’s going to sleep in 60 seconds. So I grab the remote, mash a button, and it stays awake. (Or if I’m not at the computer, I have to power it on again when I get back to the desk.)

Not a huge deal, but also a bit annoying.

It has a PC input for sound, but I haven’t found a way to select that input while also using HDMI, which is annoying.

The only workable input to get the 4K resolution is HDMI. I’d like to use DisplayPort, but that’s not an option for this display. I’ve read a bit about “active” DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapters that might let me use the laptop DisplayPort successfully, and I’m going to try that soon.

tl;dr

For my use, the positives outweigh the negatives, though I debate whether I should have waited for the Dell 4K monitors. Higher cost, but probably better quality and easier to set up.

But, you get what you pay for. The Seiki is cheap and available now. It works well enough that I’m sure I’ll get quite a bit of use out of it. Worst case scenario, I could always use it as a TV if 4K ever really becomes a thing for Blu Ray/streaming video and replace it with a Dell or another proper 4K monitor when they become more available.

If you spend all day at the computer, I’d strongly recommend checking it out.

Leave a comment | Categories: DevOps, Fedora | Tags: , , , , , ,

4K and Fedora?

12 January 2014 by jzb

Decided that mere 2560×1440 resolution was just not cutting it on the desktop, so I ordered a 39″ Seiki 4K monitor on Amazon. Should be arriving tomorrow. Wondering if anyone else in Fedoraland has set one of these puppies up, and if so – what video card and drivers you’re using?

I have a Dell dual-Xeon workstation with a nVidia Quadro NVS 295. A bit of googling suggests that it might have trouble driving something with a resolution higher than 2560×1600. Any experience with this video card and Fedora would also be welcome!

2 comments | Categories: Fedora, Linux | Tags: , , , ,

FOSDEM Distributions Developer Room: Call for Participation

03 December 2013 by jzb

FOSDEM LogoOnce again, FOSDEM will have a cross-distribution miniconference on 1 & 2 February 2014. We’d like to invite submissions of talks, Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions, or round-table discussions from any interested representatives of Linux distributions or individuals who have a topic of interest related to Linux distributions.

Proposals should be submitted through the FOSDEM proposal system (Pentabarf) here:

https://penta.fosdem.org/submission/FOSDEM14

You’ll add your session title, speaker bio, and abstract for the talk. If you’ve presented or submitted at FOSDEM previously, you should have an account in Pentabarf. If you haven’t created an account, but have presented at FOSDEM previously please contact me before creating an account – the odds are you have an account that was created previously by the FOSDEM organizers.

Deadline for submissions is 22 December 2013. Since we’re on a tight timeline, this is unlikely to be extended.

In addition to speakers, we also need one moderator for each day, and a video volunteer for each day. The moderator will introduce the speaker, keep time, and pass the microphone around for questions. The video volunteer will handle recording of sessions with provided equipment. (Don’t worry, we’ll also provide training as well.)

The call for participation is going out a bit late, so please do speak up quickly if you’re interested in participating! Also, please do help spread the word so we can ensure the best possible program for this year’s FOSDEM.

1 comment | Categories: Apache, Fedora, Linux | Tags: , , , ,

Apple’s “Pathological” Approach to Customers

04 November 2013 by jzb

I think Lawrence Lessig puts his finger on it pretty well with this post about the problems with Apple’s “communication” strategy about bugs/feature removal in upgrades:

But the argument I want to advance here is different. It is that in the “hybrid economy” that the Internet is, there is an ethical obligation to treat users decently. “Decency” of course is complex, and multi-faceted. But the single dimension I want to talk about here is this: They must learn to talk to us. In the face of the slew of either bugs or “features” (because as you’ll see, it’s unclear in some cases whether Apple considers the change a problem at all), a decent company would at least acknowledge to the public the problems it identifies as problems, and indicate that they are working to fix it.

Why is that what decency requires? And why, then, is the pathologically constipated way in which Apple communicates with its customers indecent?

Because when you see the incredible effort that is being devoted to dealing with these either bugs or features, there is an obvious incredible waste of time and resources that Apple could avoid simply by saying what they know.

For many users, communication is one of the strongest arguments for open source.

The fact that the source is open may not make a lick of difference to people who aren’t good with code, and/or are uninterested in spending the time to maintain or add features, or fix bugs. But they can have a direct line of communication with the developers who are working on features. Maybe a project you’re using goes in a direction you don’t like (for example) but at least you see the “WONTFIX” in the bug tracker. With Apple? Who the heck knows?

Many of the freedoms that are important to open source/free software folks seem like abstractions to non-developers. Apple provides a really good object lesson that shows that there are concrete reasons, beyond just hacking the code, that users should prefer open source.

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