The Power of Open Source Communities

This week, the open source world was rocked by Groupon staking claim over the GNOME trademark. The GNOME Desktop Environment, supported by the amazing community has held the right to the name since more than a decade. It was quite shocking to know that Groupon being large organization with a legal team could be so ignorant (or apathetic). They were filing 28 trademark applications for ‘GNOME’.GNOME came out with a strongly worded article on their blog protesting the move, and the whole open source world (yes…not just GNOME) came out to their defence, donating to help counter the move by Groupon. The intense pressure paid off, and Groupon decided to drop their interest in GNOME.

This is a massive win for open source in general. It was heartening to see that open source organizations united to defend the GNOME community. This brings to mind one image which Ralf Flaxa shared at the openSUSE Summit, about how open source communities are perceived from the outside world.

Open Source Communities

Instead, we are just one big happy family :)

I recently attended Open Source India at NIMHANS Convention Centre, Bengaluru. I was quite disappointed by the conference, which claims to be the biggest open source conference in Asia. Though the talks were really nice and informative, I felt they focussed too much on the industry using open source software. They left out the most important aspect of the Open Source Movement: THE COMMUNITY. There were no talks which discussed on how people could contribute to open source communities. What I love about open source conferences is how people from different communities get together and brainstorm about what works and what doesn’t. This aspect was totally missing. Instead, what we got was a bunch of people talking about how they are giving back to the community. I expected more from a conference of this scale.

Upgrading from openSUSE 13.1 to openSUSE 13.2

openSUSE 13.2 is out and gets a host of new stuff. Right from new desktop environments (KDE, GNOME, MATE…its got it all), there is plenty of stuff to write about. For those running on openSUSE 13.1, upgrading is pretty simple and takes only about 20 minutes.

1.) Open Software Repositories from YaST
2.) Disable all the unnecessary repositories (keep only OSS, debug, update repositories)
3.) Change the 13.1 in the Repository URL to 13.2
4.) Open Terminal. As root, run ‘zypper refresh’
5.) Once the repositories are refreshed, run ‘zypper dup’
6.) Go through accepting some licenses. Let the magic run

This should upgrade the system from 13.1 to 13.2. Have fun :)

A Truly Asian Summit

What a conference!!! openSUSE Asia Summit was unforgettable. The whole event had an amazing feel to it, and I had a rocking time in Beijing. openSUSE really has one of the best and most helpful communities, and the people are amazing. I had the pleasure of interacting with the active organization community. You guys absolutely rock!!!

Here are some of my experiences, and things I learned at the conference:

A little history:
The beginnings of the summit go back a year to Thessaloniki, where the idea of the Asia Summit was first mooted. Due to time constraints and clashes with openSUSE Summit in the US called for the event to be shifted to 2014. I had interacted with Sunny and Max in Thessaloniki and loved the idea of having an openSUSE event in Asia. At oSC14 in Dubrovnik, it was more or less confirmed that the summit would take place.

The Organization Team:
I joined the organization team a little late. The others had already done a lot of the hard work. I helped around a little with the invite letter and the promotion of the logo contest, and trying to find people to help around with the artwork. The opening session, where we welcomed the attendees in our native languages was cool. Also, Sunny’s speech in the beginning, which took us through the past one year was memorable, and I still remember each and every word of it.

I would take this opportunity to thank the openSUSE.Asia Summit
organization team. Today, now the openSUSE.Asia summit has started,
I’m reminded of the journey we took to get here.
I can not forget our weekly meetings, which often lasted to midnight.
I can’t forget 137 cards in trello for the preparation tracking.
And I can’t forget hundreds of emails about the Summit in our mail
boxes.

When we were on the way to reach this summit, we encouraged and
supported each other. Even though we were tired, we never gave up,
because we did believe we would finally be here. It is my honor being
a member of such a great team!

There are 17 people in the organization team, I won’t list everyone’s
name because we are a team, and we couldn’t have make any success
without each of us.

-Sunny

The organization committee did a fantastic job with the event and everything was planned to perfection. I would love to work with you all to host openSUSE Asia Summit next time as well (hopefully in India ;) )

New things:
I absolutely loved the concept of ‘Chops’ where the workshop speakers would put a lovely ‘Geeko’ stamp on the brochure for the participants for the performance in the workshop. More than judging the performance, it gave us a good chance to interact with the attendees and have a lot of fun in the process. The gifts for the speakers and for the chops were great and well thought out. Personally, working with the organization team was very fruitful and I learned how an event of this scale is organized from the ground up. Additionally, being a room coordinator was a novel experience as well.

The Event:
To put the event in a single word: memorable. It was a very well conducted event and the speakers did a great job. The workshops and talks were conducted both the from the point of view of newbies as well as seasoned contributors. I particularly liked Richard’s opening session where the direction that openSUSE (with respect to Factory and Tumbleweed) is taking became clear. There were workshops on Bugzilla and OBS which were really helpful for getting new contributors involved.

Talk is Cheap. Show me the Code:
This was the single biggest lesson I learned during conducting my sessions. While taking the Qt Workshop, I was talking about basic object oriented concepts like Inheritance. The attendees (mostly students from the university) gave me a blank look. I was not sure whether they understood me or not. I ultimately decided to show them some code. They understood that. At that point I realized that there is one universal language that we could communicate with: CODE. That made the job a whole lot easier, and the rest of the sessions went well. I also made some ‘brilliant’ errors during the workshop, which demonstrated some or the other concept with respect to Qt. Overall, had a fun time conducting the workshop.

Food:
Being a vegetarian, I was not sure how I would survive in China. I absolutely indulged myself and tried out plenty of stuff. I have never eaten so much in a conference than I had in Beijing. Thanks to the awesome community guys, specially David who helped me a lot in finding out things to eat. The food was amazing. I can safely conclude that the Chinese take their food seriously. Plus, I learned how to use chopsticks properly. Thanks ftake for that ;)

China and Sightseeing:
This was one trip where I did not do much sightseeing. I had talks for both the days and could not spare the time. To my dismay, I found that visiting the Great Wall requires a full day, and I had just about 6 hours to spare. In the end, I just visited the Forbidden City and the Bird’s Nest (Olympic Stadium). I should have made my travel plans a little better and stayed an extra day.
I found Beijing to be an excellent city. I managed to get around pretty comfortably on the subway despite the language issues. I found the subway system quite effective and very cheap (2 Yuan is dirt cheap). The only problem I faced was the air pollution, which was a little unexpected. Other than that, the people were amazing and really helpful.

TSP:

Thanks to the openSUSE Travel Support program, that I, and many others got to attend the event. It is really an amazing program, and I hope that contributors use it very effectively.

Geckos at Beijing

oSA14

Geckos are taking over China, at the openSUSE Asia Summit to be held this coming weekend in Beijing. It is the first time that an openSUSE event of this scale is being held so far east of the Geeko Meridian. The organizing committee has worked their socks off for the event, and things are shaping up well. The schedule is ready and their are some great talks lined up. Overall, it promises to be a great event. As for me, I am going to speak about the Google Summer of Code, openSUSE Activities in India and a workshop on the Qt Framework.So, see you in Beijing ;)

http://summit.opensuse.org

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GSoC 2014 Experiences

Whew…Another Summer of Code done with. New experiences, Lessons learnt, a lot of code became mainstream. Overall, an excellent program. So, here are my experiences for this years program:

1.) We participated with ownCloud, Zorp and MATE desktop. I personally think participating with other organizations is a good think and fosters collaborations between the open source communities. It is something we expect to continue in future versions of the program.

2.) As opposed to previous years, all our students managed to complete the program successfully. Their work was praised by the community as a whole. A big Thank You to all the students for their awesome work, and specially to the mentors who keep the wheels rolling.

3.) Me and Manu tried to address the shortcomings of the previous year. We decided on two ‘rules’ for selecting students

- All students must be vouched by a professor (to try and solve the problem of disappearing students).
- All students must send weekly update mails to the opensuse-project mailing list.

The first proposal was met by stiff opposition by some mentors. We even discussed this on the gsoc-mentors mailing list. While well intentioned, I admit that we did not expect many things. We assumed it would be as easy to get a vouch from a professor in Europe and the US as it is to get in India We realised much later that professors don’t have the level of interaction with the students as they do here in India. We scrapped the rule. The original problem is still not solved, and though we have not been hit by it this year, we are open to suggestions on how we can address this problem.

About the weekly mails on the mailing list, I feel it was a good decision. While students may feel that it is excessive ‘red tape’ and totally unnecessary (blogs and project specific ML’s serve well enough), it does help us in the off chance that something goes wrong. We had some experiences in the last edition and felt that it was better to enforce it as a rule. Additionally, it gives community members to provide feedback and improves the visibility of the student’s work.

4.) A lot of work done for openSUSE. Projects such as TSP (Travel Support Program), OSEM (Open Source Event Manager) benefited a lot from the program.

5.) This year, Google is celebrating its 10th anniversary of the program, and having a reunion meet for the same next month. Dominik Bamberger and Artem Chernikov are going to represent openSUSE at the summit.

6.) Mentoring is a tough job and it takes a lot of the mentors time. Henne pointed out that the program is not so rewarding to a mentor, and that we could incentivize mentoring. A lot of ideas were bounced around and we hope to work on them as well.

Lastly, I will be speaking about the Google Summer of Code, and our own experiences at next month’s openSUSE Asia Summit (Yay!). So for this year, over and out :)

openSUSE Asia Summit – How to Help?

openSUSE will host its first Asia Summit at Beihang University in Beijing, China in October. This is the first time the lovely green chameleon will host an event in Asia. This summit has been in the pipeline for a while and will finally see the light of day, thanks to the amazing openSUSE community in China.

To make this event a success, we need a lot of help. If you want to help around with the event, there are many ways to do that.

  • If you are into artwork, we require posters, logos and a lot of artwork that goes into the event. There is also a Artwork and Logo contest.
  • Submit a Talk/Workshop. This is the mainstay of the conference, and there will be many talks throughout the conference. CfP is open for End User Track, Business Track, Community and Project Track, Technology and Development Track.
  • For Django developers, openSUSE is using a voting tool called ‘Snoek’, which was developed during one of the SUSE Hackweeks. Support is needed for adding features like openID support and some more feature enhancements

A big thanks to those who are working round the clock to make the event a great success and to set the bar for future summits. I will keep writing more about the Summit in the weeks to come.

For more information about the summit, the following link can be used

http://summit.opensuse.org/

Experiences from openSUSE Conference 2014

CSC_0177

Another openSUSE Conference, another Country, but the same awesomeness. I attended the openSUSE Conference in the amazing city of Dubrovnik (more commonly known as King’s Landing), and it was another spell binding experience. Right from the talks, presentations, people (I cant stress on this one enough) to the location, everything was impeccable. I sit down to pen my thoughts at another experience, and memories which I will cherish. There was plenty to enjoy, learn, discuss at the conference, which lived upto its tagline – ‘The Strength to Change’. I highlight some of my experiences in this rather lengthy post.

The Location:

The location was just spectacular. I have been a ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ fan for quite some time, and had a vivid image of what King’s Landing would look like. It lived up perfectly to its name. I think Dubrovnik was ‘meant’ to play host to King’s Landing in the series. Visiting the Walls, Fort Lovrijenac (The Red Keep) felt like I had landed inside the world of Westeros.

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The Conference was held in the University of Dubrovnik. It was a pretty nice location, very close to Oldtown in a nice, peaceful location.

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Video Team:

This was something new to me. I helped around with the video team in mixing videos, and handling the camera for some of the talks. I had never done this before, and Christopher Hoffman gave me a great hands on. It was a pretty nice experience, working with Stephan Barth, Dubravko Jakovljević, Sarah, Jurgen, Marcel. I hope to be helping around with the video team at the next oSC as well.

DSC_2017

The Presentations:

As always, the presentations were top notch. Mentioning some which I really liked

  • Design and Branding – Kenneth Wimmer. This one cleared up some confusion there was with the openSUSE artwork. I really like the cool and funky new Geekos ;)
  • Almost every talk by Jos Poortvliet
  • SLE and openSUSE by Jan Weber
  • YaST Module from Scratch by Josef Reidinger (This one was cool!!!)
  • oSC15 by Bruno Friedmann
  • The upstream view of MySQL – Norvald H. Ryeng
  • The TSP talks by Izabel and Ancor

The Townhall Meeting:

I missed a part of the townhall partly due  to the incessant rain, but I got in time for the bulk of the discussion. The burning issues in the townhall were related to the openSUSE Release Cycle, and how Factory fits in. The discussion was pretty interesting, though the outcome will probably be clear in the current weeks. As of now, openSUSE 13.2 is slated for a November release.

openSUSE Summit:

At oSC13 in Thessaloniki, I had met Yan Sun, where she had put forth the idea for an openSUSE Summit in Asia. She put forth the proposal to the board in the last conference, though due to some issues, the dates kept shifting, though the event had been approved. Now, it looks like the event would be held in October/November in Beijing. I had a good discussion with her on topics such as talks, presentations and the TSP, which would be a vital cog for the conference. I am hoping to attend the event and give a presentation. Lets see how that works out. Fingers crossed on this one :)

Anahuac Gil:

Yes…I had to devote a whole section to this amazing person from Brazil, and one who made the conference even more memorable. I first met him at the hotel with Izabel, and we got down to talking. The discussions were amazing on talks from our diverse, but to a certain extent, similar cultures to the evil aspects of Google (and the nexus with the NSA :D). For a whole hour, he shed light on Cuba, which was pretty amazing. Whenever the guy talks, people listen intently. I enjoyed talking to him, and his banter of ‘You are TOO SLOW man!!!’ has stayed with me. Reaffirms my belief that conferences are a great place to meet people and understand different cultures.

The openSUSE Party:

Geekos love to party…plain and simple. After a hard and long conference, we had the main party at Eastwest Beach Club Banje, on the Adriatic shore. It was quite a picturesque place. The food was pretty nice, though I could hardly find stuff I could eat (considering I dont eat meat). Still I had a fun time interacting with people. I met with Peter Czanik, who works with Balabit Security, an organization we are collaborating with in the Google Summer of Code. We had a lengthy discussion on topics ranging from Hungary, Balabit, GSoC to name a few.

The best part of the party was certainly the dedication to Hans de Raadt. He could not make it to the conference, and he is going to organize the next oSC at the Hague. Netherlands. The Geekos gave an awesome tribute to Hans

IMG_20140427_194005

I got together with a group of Greekos, and talked about the Google Summer of Code. IMO, Greekos are really the most passionate community within the openSUSE Community. I am hoping they participate next year in GSoC :)

Craziest and most fun part – Geekos exchanging ID Tags in football style. I have no idea who ended up with mine. I now have Tomas Cech’s ID tag instead of mine :D

Travel Support Program (TSP):

The Travel Support program has been integral for me attending the conference. It is an awesome tool which enables contributors to attend events which help openSUSE as a project grow. Being sponsored to the openSUSE Conference is a great feeling, and urges you to contribute more towards this awesome project. The talk discussing the openSUSE Travel Support Program by Izabel laid out some clear points

  • Contribute. It is not a free ride.
  • We want to support as many people as possible, but you have to ask for help
  • It is not just attending the event in the shadows. Get Involved. It is as much ‘during’ the event, than it is ‘before’
  • If you have been sponsored to the conference, remember that it is at the cost of someone else. Make it count…

Prior to the Trip:

This one perhaps warrants a separate blog post, as a guide on how NOT to travel, but I am going with the flow. I made a hash of my reservations, which almost cost me attending the conference.

  • I booked flight tickets through Germany, without realizing that I would need at least an airport transit visa. I assumed I would get a German visa, which would allow me to enter Croatia as well. The Embassy of Germany rejected my application, and I was stuck in Limbo for some time. I specially went to Delhi to apply for a Croatian visa, and got it a few days before the trip, leaving me no time to apply for the German visa
  • I canceled the tickets through Germany, and in panic, booked tickets going through Austria, without realizing that there is a 20 layover in Vienna, which would have been intolerable, and that I would potentially overstay on my visa.
  • I tried looking for an alternative, and was on the verge of booking tickets to Moscow, only to see the price double while I blinked.
  • I ultimately ended up canceling the ticket through Austria, and booking through Istanbul, which was a ‘sensible’ route, though it involved a flight plan which went: Bangalore -> Mumbai -> Istanbul -> Zagreb -> Dubrovnik. Travel Hell!!! I am sick of flights…
  • I missed the last day of the conference due to these issues, and also ended up spending some more on extending my hotel reservation, which was for a day less.

As the dust settles on the openSUSE Conference, I can only reflect on the awesomeness over the past week. It has really left a lasting impression over me. Thanks to the Geekos around the world, who make the openSUSE Project a success