Test post with an embedded wave

Hello all, the latest craze is the Google Wave preview. I am in, so I am testing how a Google Wave will look when primitively embedded into a blog post using Wavr plugin for Wordpress. And here it is:

[wave id="googlewave.com!w+Vc58PZQwA"]

Update: to make it work - replace in the Wavr source the URL to the WavePanel to "https://wave.google.com/wave/" and to determine your wave url, go to your wave interface, click on a wave and look on you address bar for something like "googlewave.com!w+Vc58PZQwA". If you have '%252B' in the URL, replace it with '+'. You might have to un-urlescape something else as well, so remember that '%25' is a url escape for '%'.

Debconf9 photos and banter

A bit more than a week after Debconf9 ended here is a post summarising what I remember about it - for myself to look back to later, for others that were there for a good memory, for those that were not there for insight and for organisers of future Debconfs to improve.

Let's start with something most people know - I took photos, a lot of photos. The main photo naturally was the Debconf9 group photo (also http://tr.im/dc9group and an annotated version). Please look for people that are missing their IRC nicknames. I have uploaded the best of my photos on Flickr and all good photos in full resolution on the Gallery site. All of these photos are licensed CC-BY 2.0 or 3.0 or GPL v2 or v3 (your choice).

Now about the organisation. The place reasonably easy to get to but not particularly fast or cheap - from airport to the venue it took 1 hour in metro, 3 hours in a bus or train and a half an hour walk (or 5 minutes in a taxi) for the sum of 22 € and 4.5 hours or 27€ and 4 hours one way. While we all accept the time waisted in airports, getting from the airport to the venue should be easier and cheaper than this.

While it was crazy hot outside (38-40 C) there was great air conditioning everywhere, so we did not feel the heat most of the time (except if you walked from bus/train to the venue or did the climb during the day trip). Having air conditioning in the room was a godsend - I do not think I would be able to sleep otherwise. Also free water from a drinking fountain where you could also refill your water bottle was a great touch. The rooms were great - two beds, air conditioning, bathroom, shower, desks and closets where one could unpack their things. And we did not have to move to other rooms in the middle, it allowed us to unpack and feel comfortable instead of living out of the suitcase the whole time. I'm not sure if it will be possible for future Debconfs to get rooms with only two beds, but I think that even with 4 people per room would have been fine, provided that there are enough bathrooms/showers, enough space to unpack everyone's clothes, enough sockets to charge some stuff overnight and enough WiFi coverage in rooms to get some late emails without going to the hacklab.

Which brings me to Internet and hacklabs. I must say that Internet was great this year - it was fast enough not be a major problem, it was almost everywhere (a bit more signal in the sleeping rooms would be better), it was up and running from day one of the Debcamp and it was stable through (I think there was one or two interruptions). It would be nice to see people write a blog entry about how exactly it was done. As far as I know it was very helpful to have several kilometres of CAT5 cable, several large switches and a huge amount of identical WiFi routers all flashed with OpenWRT (and then some more smaller routers also flashed with OpenWRT to plug some holes). I heard there were two Internet connections joined together and a complex firewall/transparent proxy/traffic shaper and also a local Debian mirror that was DNS-redirecting people to it from all the regular Debian mirrors people use at home. The hacklabs were also nice - when the Debcamp started the second hacklab was lacking most tables and chairs, but when those arrived there was plenty of space. Other common issues such as access to a free switch port for people without wireless and access to power sockets were also handled well and fast. It was very nice that organisers always had a few spare power strips or a spare patch cable at hand.

This year there was a siesta break in the proceedings. While it was in line with local traditions (take a several hour break during the hottest hours), it did not do much for the secondary stated reason - to get out and see the surrounding, because half of the attraction of getting out (shops and bars) were all closed during the same siesta time. IMHO we should have used the great aircon of the venue and continued the talks from mid day to 18:00 (when the siesta ends) and then make a break until dinner so that we could go out and enjoy shops and bars and historic places during a cooler time of day. If there is a break in proceedings, then it should be at the time when people are most likely to enjoy the surroundings. I doun't know the schedules in NY, but if the museums close at 18:00, then there should be a break during the day to allow people to get to those museums.

Food was there and it was there every day, but it was not particularly great. Aside from typical problems with vegetarians and vegans (even salads had pieces of meat in them), I did not find the food to be compelling most of the time. I do not like fish and there was a lot of fish. Mostly it was good fish and sometimes it was so well done that even I enjoyed eating it, but other times it was full of fish bones and/or tasteless. Too often the dinner consisted of a salad, a deep-fried piece of meat and spoonful of dry fries. It would not kill them to put more fries on the plate and have some kind of sauce for them. One thing that was great in food were the fruit deserts - apples, oranges, peaches and nectarines were fresh and juicy and then there were melons! I typically hate melons because the ones I can get in shops in Latvia are dry and bitter, but the melons here were bursting with sweet juice - heavenly stuff. In the future it would be nice if the food selection and amounts per portion could be checked and agreed upon with the caterer in advance. Also the timing should be adjusted - it is too early to end breakfast at 10:00, especially with dinner starting at 21:30 - there is way too little time to socialize with other people after dinner and then to get a decent sleep. Talks can start at 10:00, but breakfast should go up to 11! I did like the water bottles and wine jugs on the tables and the beer being served as part of the food - that was a nice touch that many people enjoyed.

The daytrip was a nice distraction in the middle of the conference - a trip to a swimming pool made from a river bed blocked by a damn with an optional hike up a mountain to a spectacular cascade of natural water pools and slides that a river has carved in the solid rock or the mountain valley. Most people did the hike - it was steep and hot and rocky, but the payout (the water fun) was there at the end, and it was great! Wonderful warm water and unexpectedly deep pools that both locals and us jumped into from rocks of differing heights. I am more of a climber than a jumper so instead of jumping off a cliff, I spidermanned up the cliff up from the water. I did not have any safety, but if I did fall I would have fallen into the water, so felt almost safe :) After the hike, the jumps and a hike back downhill we went into the buses and joined up with the people relaxing in the pool or in the bar right next to it. And after an hour or two later the day trip was over. While this was fun I would have preferred if after the hike we would have gone to some castle or other tourist attraction for more of a 'trip' experience than sitting by a pool chatting.

Formal dinner was another traditional thing that we did this year. We walked over to a restaurant overlooking the city, sat down at many different tables occupying most of the place and then the waiters brought us plates with bits of food. Each plate was basically a set of 4 snacks for 4 people - a plate of cheese, a plate of ham cuts, a plate of steamed vegetables and a plate of grilled meat. After that was coffee and desert. In my opinion the grilled meat was overcooked, the vegetables were passable, 1 of 5 cheeses was great (the local soft speciality) while other were ok and the ham cuts were ok. Desert was average. In all I was neither impressed by the food nor filled by it. There was also entertainment - a singer with two dancers. They ware way too loud, so loud in fact that police came and shut the performance down, I did get a few interesting photos but otherwise I did not like them. They came to our venue the next night to continue the performance, luckily it was in an isolated patio and did not disturb people sleeping.

Wine and cheese party on the other hand was simply great this year - there was a huge selection of wine and cheese as we were in the right part of the world for that. There were 7 tables full of cheese, wine and bread and also some extra stuff such as a barrel of peanuts and some great tea from Taiwan. People were walking around for hours eating cheese, cleaning the taste off with bread and wine, chatting and doing it all over again at another table. I left the patio at around 2am and there were still several dozen people around chatting, eating, drinking wine and tea. I'm not sure how to get an event of similar size in NY as it is not allowed for travellers to bring cheese into US, only commercial import with an appropriate licence is allowed.

I also have my praise for the video team, but I'll hold on to that and the feedback about the talks until I see the recordings of talks that I missed, so I can also recommend the must see recordings.

All in all it was a great event - meeting all the great Debian people again, coding some stuff, having fun and talking about the future of Debian in a more relaxed atmosphere than an IRC chat room. Debconf 9 was great, see you all next year at Debconf 10 in New York!

Debconf9 group photo

DebConf9 group photo

90 photos taken, 16 of them used, hugin took more than an hour to render the base of the 98.5 Mpix image, then I needed to fix 10 faces by manually pasting in non-distorted version of a face and then add 2 more people to the photo, add logos and texts, sharpen the image, smoothen the edges and export with 96% quality JPEG so that the total size is below 20 Mb limit of Flickr. Enjoy! :)

And then there was Debconf9

First I will point to resources that will receive more updates than this blog:

  • My Twitter feed - if I have a bit of info to get out, I'm more likely to tweet it out there, rather than writing a blog post about it.

  • #debconf9 Twitter feed - me (and other people) posting Debconf9 related info on Twitter are likely to use this hashtag to tag the information ( Identi.ca tag feed is also useful).

  • My photos on Flickr - I will be uploading photos and adding them to this set as the event progresses. A few are up already ;)

So, about me now. I got a cold last week and only barely recovered before flying off to Debconf. Flew to Madrid via Frankfurt-Hanh airport with Ryanair with no complications. Slept on both flights with iPhone playing Howard Stern recordings into my ears. That device can play music for a surprisingly long time in 'airplane mode'. Ryanair were very fast with luggage both times - only around 5 minutes passed between me getting to the baggage retrieval point and getting my case. Took the metro to a hostel and just crashed there - I think I had the fever return at that point. (2€ metro, 18€ hostel+2€ padlock rent)

In the morning, after breakfast at the hostel took the metro to the south bus station got a ticket to Caceres and got into the bus half an hour later. (1€ metro, 20.03€ bus, 1.5€ a 1.5l bottle of water) The bus was great - air conditioning with vents at every seat that you can regulate a bit, nice quiet radio music, tinted windows so that sun does not burn even if it shines on you and a 20 minute break in the middle of a 2.5 hour journey. No toilet on the bus though.

After getting off the bus in Caceres, I tried to follow the directions, but got a bit disoriented and walked towards the train station. So for anyone taking the bus - after leaving the bus terminal, turn right, go until a large road this will be the Avenida de la Hispanidad, cross that road and turn right, then follow the instructions. You will need to turn left at the third roundabout. If you arrive during the day (09:00-21:00) either bring a lot of water and stop to rest in shadows or just get a taxi - the heat here is no joke.

I myself walked the walk with bags at 15:00 and it was not pretty. Maybe that is part of the reason why I am lying in my room today - exhausted with a bit of a fever, drinking some medicine that I took along just in case and only venturing out for water, food and to take pretty pictures for all you guys at home. I hope I will get better tomorrow so that I can really take part in the Debcamp.

Google Wave

So, the latest buzz on the web is all about Google Wave. I would urge everyone developing stuff for the Internet and technological people depending on the Internet for their daily work, to watch that introductory video. The concept is frankly mind-blowing. If this is done right and embraced by all the right people, Google Wave could be the new platform concept that could be used to create new generation of email, instant messaging, collaboration software (CMS, wiki, Sharepoint, workflow, ...), blogging software and forum software and do all that while integrating back with current technologies, like Twitter and RSS feeds.

It remains to be seen what parts will be open source and federated and what parts will remain Google-only services. For example, I am convinced that Spelly the spellchecker bot and Rozy the automatic translation bot will be hard to impossible to federate. This being Google, it is practically a given that the code will be good, but a bit hard to understand and contribute to. Management of the free software community and proprietary community relations will likely be the key to the success of this technology.

I love the technology itself - imagine that you have a web blog. The blog software makes each your blog post a wave. When people leave comments on the post, these comments show up in your 'email' inbox. You can reply to people right from there. By default your replies will show up on your blog and also show up in the email inboxes of the commenter, but you also have the option to mark your reply private and only send it to the commenter. Also it looks to be possible to choose to host all the data yourself or to make Google host all your blog and comment data and make your blog just be a frame where this data is displayed in, possibly allowing you to use very, very minimal system resources to maintain the blog even in a case of Slashdotting. I hate blogs without comments, let's replace them all.

I would also love to see replacements to Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Sharepoint be built using Wave technology with a full support to ODF if possible. Imagine collaborative document editing in OpenOffice using this technology in the backend. It would be one huge project, but it should be possible. Companies currently pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up MS Exchange+Sharepoint+Active Directory to be able to simply share documents in their Intranet and see who edited a document (no live editing, no change tracking). It is possible to make a much better product with ODF and Google Wave and it is possible to earn a bunch of money supporting such a product for companies that need support contracts. If it would be possible to licence spellchecking and translation services from Google in a way where a box is installed in customers data centre and the data to be spellchecked and translated never leaves that data centre, then I believe that people would be willing to pay for this superior spellchecking and translation experience.

We need open source products that people can depend on. We also need ways for business people to sell services with an easily visible added value so that they can make money and contribute their developer work hours back to the open source projects. We (the free software community) have great ways to get a positive feedback loop with users that can develop software, but when our users have no interest in developing anything, the feedback loop breaks and free software growth slows down. There is a lot of untapped potential in this area - we just need to find a way to convert needs and demands of non-developers into code.

I'm gonna stop this rant before it diverges even further off topic, but the main point is - go watch the Google Wave demo, read the tech specs and think how you could integrate that into your free software project.

Useful wave discussions (will update as I find more):

Croud clapping

If you want to get a 'croud clap' effect then you not only need to multilpy a clap, but also make a Gaussian distribution of timing and loudness variation. The tighter the distribution, the more 'organised' will the clapping be. With a very wide deviations you will get a natural white noise clapping.

Re: HOWTO prep for migration off of SHA-1 in OpenPGP

Daniel says that we should move away from SHA1 by switching hash algorithms for signatures and generating keys that use at least SHA256 from SHA-2 family. I have been bitten by non-default GPG options before. So I propose that we do a security release of GPG that changes the defaults of key generation and key signing in such ways that SHA-1 algorithms are not used by default for any operation, unless a backwards compatibility option is used.

Book review - Moon is a harsh mistress

I finally made myself read a classic sci-fi book and the choice fell on The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein. I missed this writer somehow while I was growing up and reading all the books I could find left and right. I sure will seek out and read more of his work now.

The book hooked me with a story about a computer becoming so complex that it becomes self aware. As a programmer, the first chapter was funny as hell. But from there the computer was not the main plot line, but rather was a tool for a job, a mission, a purpose. And that was good, because there is only so many ways you can skin a cat in binary. Or make an AI make bad attempts at humor.

The core of the book is a much more interesting political struggle for independence. From use of a gravity well as a weapon to forming an ideal structure of a rebel organization, the book is just a phenomenal food for thought. In modern economic times the passages about how money is made and destroyed for political purposes might be interesting as well. Discussions about election systems and the actual role of government are timeless as well. It also has the best description of how an electromagnetic catapult can be used for space transport. If this book will not make you want to go and make an independent colony on the Moon (excuse me, Luna) then I don't know what will.

There are some Russian words and expressions used, such as 'gospozha' that yu should find the meaning of when you see them, to fully appreciate the feeling of the story, but that is about the only negative thing I can say about the book. The audiobook, that I also listened to was voiced with a Russian accent that helped to set the mood as well.

Most recommended to: computer geeks, revolution geeks, government basic structure geeks, space colonization geeks.

Superbowl 2009

It has become a hidden tradition for me to watch Superbowl every year, despite disappointment in the game and coverage quality in the years before. It started as before: pre-game show, pre-pre-game show, coin toss show and kick-off show ... It is clear that the show is planned by and for advertisers and not for the viewers. That is a shame and a disgrace - the viewer must be the master of the TV programming and NOT the advertisers. In soccer the program starts, you see the captains exchange a handshake, you see the referee throw a coin and 10-15 seconds later the game is going full steam. Why do you need 3 ad breaks and 2 songs before the game is beyond me - get to the game!

The camera work and NBC commentary is MUCH better than last year - stable shots with good close-ups and explanations that actually make sense even to people that are not American football experts. Oh and they actually use units - saying "they won x out of y games this season" and not "they are x in y this season", mostly at least.

The game had more fun than usual in the beginning, but the legal things slow it up again - it is weird that a guy got over the line but was called beck because of the knee touching and then a penalty for a 'false start'? Too much rules and regulations. Soon you'll have a team of lawyers on the sidelines and lawyer drafts will be more important than player drafts. And then again 'holding' and 'chopping' - isn't that what the blockers are supposed to do? Is that some kind of sissy sport?

Maybe not. 100 yard interception return run ... I am speechless. Now that was a great, great play. That episode alone made watchig this thing worth it. Not the best sport thing I've seen, but the best American football moment for sure.

I like the basis of the game, it is a good game, but there is way too much fluff on it. That game needs to be cut down - less rules, less breaks, less interruption, less advertisements, less time to think and relax for the players. 10 seconds of play and 5 minutes of players chatting is not a sport, even curling has more action. The whole Superbowl should be over in 1 hour real time. If the TV transmission starts at 17:00, it should be done before 18:00. There is no content there to justify anything longer than that.

Why is there a limited number of challenges? Do the referees make only a limited number of mistakes per game? No. Illogical.

And when I though it was done and sealed, Arizona does a great drive and get a great touchdown. One more drive like that and the game could go either way. Now that is a good game. But again penalties spoil the whole game ... Fitsgerald gets a touchdown, another great play to turn the game around, but only because of the holding penalty giving Arizona 'safety' score. Not deserving in my opinion. And the Steelers drive back ... AMAZING game! Now this is actually close to the best sports game that I have ever seen. I sure was not expecting that. And Arizona tries to drive back again. I was sleepy when I started to watch this, no sleep now. That was a great game. Despite all the commercialization, it is still a great game and it is very watchable if you download it from the Internet or watch it with TiVo and can skip the adds and the slow parts.

Rails on Python?

Matt, if you want to have something Pythonic that is as comprehensive as Rails is, look at TurboGears. Look at version 2.0 that is currently is in beta. The documentation is incomplete, but it is rather usable already. It is built around Pylons providing a neat pre-configured package of everything you need to develop a good website. And if you don't like parts of it, you can replace parts of it with other things or even write your own parts.

Other people prefer Django, but it is too monolithic, non-modular and heavy to me.