Monday, December 29, 2014

The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

I just want to mention The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. I loved that "How a group of hackers, geniuses, and geeks created the digital revolution" began with Babbage and Lady Lovelace.

We're familiar with many of the people and projects Isaacson discusses, but there were many people of whom I knew nothing. Vannevar Bush, for instance, and his prophetic essay, As We May Think in July 1945.

What I appreciated most was the focus on collaboration. Time after time "lone geniuses" labored alone, and saw their work die with them. The work that lasts is done by teams of people who both inspire and perhaps annoy one another, but manage to bring their skills and  best selves to the group effort.

A good read.

PS: A day later, I'd like to add that we need better STEAM education from preschool through college, for boys and girls. Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics for all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Solstice greetings, happy Christmas, looking ahead to the new year

Time to sum up 2014 and look ahead to 2015.

I'll start with the bad in my personal life: I heard this week that my dear younger cousin has cancer in his lungs, brain, bones and lymph. This is very hard to accept. He is only 57. My dad continues on his slow downward slide, but I think Brian will go first. I don't see how it is possible to beat cancer that is basically everywhere. My long-time Alsachat friend Maria has gotten word that she too has cancer, and they hold out some hope. She has cancer in one ovary and is on chemotherapy.

The good: my husband has worked his last day at Boeing after over 30 years there, and is retiring officially at the end of the year. His plans for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail are falling into place; he has most if not all his equipment, and has tested it, and the clothing he'll wear, and food he'll eat. He is hiking over 20 miles many days, and I think if the weather holds out for him he'll make his goal of walking from Mexico to Canada from April to September. to follow his progress.

Bob's schedule will complicate mine this year. I'm unsure whether travel to Europe will be possible, although my son Thomas has offered to live here when I leave, feed my cat, make sure the bills are paid, Bob's blog updates are published, and food boxes sent. I hope this all works out.

Also this past year we made some progress in remodeling our house; our new bathrooms are awesome! Bob gave me a 23&me kit for Christmas in 2013, and I got results this year. It's been quite fun to find distant "genetic" cousins, and also do some research and database cleanup. Gramps is great!

In mid-summer, Bob and one of his hiking buddies wanted to do a hike from half-way up Lake Chelan to Stehekin at the north end of the lake via the Lake Trail. I took the ferry north with them, and waved goodbye when they hopped off the boat at the trailhead. At Stehekin, I bussed up to the Ranch, where I had the most lovely peaceful stay. Bob and Patty eventually got to Stehekin and joined me at the Ranch for a day, before we left on the fast boat down-lake to Chelan, and then the drive home. Patty and I plan to meet Bob at the Ranch this year, near the end of his hike. Should be fun!

Now for the KDE and Kubuntu side of my life, which was really rich this past year. As KDElibs were split into the KDE Frameworks, I was asked to edit another book for KDE, about the Frameworks. Since I'm no coder, we assembled a team to work at the Randa Meetings. See some of my blogs about this or for more. In short: we have a good start to our book and hope to publish early in 2015. Also in KDE this year, Plasma 5 has debuted, and the Visual Design Group (VDG) has attained world domination. That team is the bubbles in the champagne of the KDE community for sure.

At the end of April I staffed a booth at Linuxfest Northwest for Ubuntu and Debian. Unfortunately, I was mostly alone except for *lots* of visitors who wanted DVDs or USB drives of the latest ISOs. Sooooo busy! This year, I think we'll have a KDE booth. I don't think I'll have time for burning ISOs unless we share with Ubuntu and there are others to staff the booth too.

This year I've already committed to traveling to Spokane for a new Linux fest there in May. Should be fun!

Early in August 2014 I flew to Geneva and met up with a friend I only knew online before now. I also got the chance to meet up with Christian, and another friend I only knew from Kubuntu IRC. Then the best train ride in the world to Randa, where we got together with all the Frameworks team to get our book well underway. Because of some connectivity problems, we ended up with the best process ever: our book chapters live in each of the Frameworks git repositories. We have a process to assemble all the chapters simply, so people can get PDFs or ePubs. Stop by #kde-books on freenode if you'd like to help out.

Early September, it was time to meet Scarlett, another person who was a friend only online until then, and fly to Vienna together. There we met Stefan, who walked around his beloved Vienna showing us his favorite places. What a great lead-up to Akademy in Brno! A very nice part of this trip was that it was sponsored by the Ubuntu Donors since we were headed to the annual Kubuntu meet there at Akademy. Such support feels great. I'll write a separate blogpost about Akademy, the plans and work we did there, and how much progress has been made.

This fall, some cool things happened. Locally, we got a KDE Meetup going. That helped a lot when the LISA/USENIX conference happened in Seattle, because quite a few of us could plan to be there to staff the KDE booth. One of our guys sat in front and used Krita to draw stuff most of both days. That drew a lot of interest from many of the attendees. Finally, I was a lot more active in our KDE mentoring programs this year, first Google Summer of Code, then Season of KDE this fall, and now Google Code-in through the next few weeks. I do love working with my fellow admins, the mentors, and especially the students. It is really cool to see how we can all work together.

Altogether, 2014 was an amazing year, absolutely full of wonderful experiences and learning. While some terrible times lay ahead in 2015, many exciting opportunities await as well. Hopefully the mourning is balanced by the work, the friendships, the research, writing, cleaning, simplifying .... too many more verbs to list.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Institutions in KDE?

The Randa Meetings are becoming an institution in KDE. Really? And is that a good thing, or not. When I complimented Mario Fux on the excellent on-going work he is doing on the Randa Meetings, he was surprised and maybe offended that I called it an institution.

I've been thinking about this since reading The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama. The basis of my comment is that in some ways, our KDE community is like a state.
Modern political order ...consists of ...[first] a modern state, with competent and honest officials, not prone to nepotism, corruption, and clientelism. Second is the rule of law, or binding constraints upon the rulers as well as the ruled. Third is accountability, usually via elections but also via a sense of responsibility towards the people, a sense of ruling for the common good.
 - from, a review of the book.

What supports and keeps a state alive are institutions. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia, social institutions are ... sets of rules and norms that organise human activities within a society. These rules and norms aren't just written law, such as our Code of Conduct and Manifesto, but also the unwritten "way we do things here." We have our habit of collaboration, our e.V., Akademy, our infrastructure, our coding style, APIs, documentation, and so forth.

And what is cool is to see that we continue to adapt to a changing world. I see the Frameworks effort as leap forward in our ability to adapt. The Plasma 5 work has flexibility written into it from the beginning, especially important as new form factors come onto the market. And we seem to be doing this within our community as well as in our code.

Fukuyama spoke not only about the development of the major institutions: the state, the rule of law, and accountability, but also of political decay, which happens when institutions grow rigid, and don't change with the times. I see the opposite with KDE.

Randa Meetings are a beautiful example of how one great idea has grown into something people look forward to, plan for, and support in many ways. We've had sprints for a long time, but now the year's calendar feels empty if there is no Randa meeting planned. The teams there not only do a sprint as usual, but also feed on the energy of the other teams around them, and collaborate on the fly. The Randa Meetings, like Akademy, have become indispensable; a norm. And that's a good thing.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Community Working Group needs you?

Hi folks,

Our Community Working Group has dwindled a bit, and some of our members have work that keeps them away from doing CWG work. So it is time to put out another call for volunteers.

The KDE community is growing, which is wonderful. In spite of that growth, we have less "police" type work to do these days. This leaves us more time to make positive efforts to keep the community healthy, and foster dialog and creativity within our teams.

One thing I've noticed is that listowners, IRC channel operators and forum moderators are doing an excellent job of keeping our communication channels friendly, welcoming and all-around helpful. Each of these leadership roles is crucial to keeping the community healthy.

Also, the effort to create the KDE Manifesto has adjusted KDE infrastructure to be directly and consciously supporting community values. The commitments section is particularly helpful.

Please write us at if you would like to become a part of our community gardening work.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ubuntu Community Appreciation Day - Thank you!

See for more about this lovely initiative.

Thank you maco/Mackenzie Morgan for getting me involved in Ubuntu Women and onto freenode.

Thank you akk/Akkana Peck, Pleia2/Lyz Joseph, Pendulum/Penelope Stow, belkinsa/Svetlana Belkin and so many more of the Ubuntu Women for being calm and competent, and energizing the effort to keep Ubuntu welcoming to all.

Thank you to my Kubuntu team, Riddell/Jonathan Riddell, apachelogger/Harald Sitter, shadeslayer/Rohan Garg, yofel/Philip Muscovak, ScottK/Scott Kitterman and sgclark/Scarlett Clark for your energy, intelligence and wonderful work. Your packaging and tooling makes it all happen. The great people who help users on the ML and in IRC and on the forums keep us going as well. And the folks who test, who are willing to break their systems so the rest of us don't have to: thank you!

There are so many people (some of the same ones!) to thank in KDE, but that's a separate blogpost. Your software keeps me working and online.

What a great community working together for the betterment of humanity.

Ubuntu: human kindness.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Science, facts, values and morality

Just finished a very good book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris. It is quite meaty, as Harris is a neuroscientist, but this book is not about the brain, but about the basis of morality.

He says, science can help us ... understand what we should do, and should want ... in order to live the best lives possible. [28] He continues, there are right and wrong answers to moral questions, just as there are right an wrong answers to questions of physics, and such answers may someday fall within reach of the maturing sciences of mind.

Harris argues that the split between facts and values--and therefore between science and morality--is an illusion.[179]

And he claims that morality and values relate to facts about the well-being of conscious creatures .... and that consciousness is the only intelligible domain of value. He asks, what is the alternative? I invite you to try to think of a source of value that has absolutely nothing to do with the ... experience of conscious beings. [32]

An enjoyable, thoughtful book. Part of it is a spirited urging of his fellow scientists to stop ceeding the realm of morality to religion, as so often happens. Those sections were the most enjoyable. Most world religions have done a terrible job of describing morality, much less modeling it. If world religious leaders want to continue to speak of morality, they will need to step up their game.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Google Code-In Application Deadline soon - Get your tasks in now!

Hi folks, if you have been thinking about participating in Google Code-In, which is held from December through mid-January for teens not yet in college or university, now is the time to describe your tasks and get them onto the spreadsheet.

Ten to twelve organizations will be chosen to participate, and the more high-quality tasks we have available for the students, the more likely it is that we (that is, KDE) will be chosen to participate.

It is a lot of work for mentors who have lots of tasks, but each task is not much work. It would be excellent to have many mentors, each with a few tasks. By the way, many tasks can be "re-used," such as testing a certain number of bug reports.

Keep in mind that application teams and KDE distributions are welcome to bring in tasks too, as long as they are KDE-related.

For more about how to structure the tasks, see We need each task tagged as coding, documentation/training, UI, outreach/research or quality assurance.

The form for entering your tasks is here:

Our deadline for application is Monday, November 10th at 19:00 UTC.

Holidays are coming - give big!

Most of us don't need more 'stuff'. In fact, we often have too much!

The same can't be said for most charities and non-profits. The world-wide economic downturn has hurt them, along with many public services. The same is true for our beloved KDE e.V., which is why we've had separate fund-raisers for specific events such as the Randa Meetings the past couple of years.

This year, we are trying to get a bit of breathing room before the spring sprint season hits, and already have over 12000€ and 400 donors! So the word is getting out.

If you use and love the KDE community and our software, please give. If not, please pass along the appeal to those who may not have heard about our end-of-year fundraiser.

Thank you.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Filing bug reports for fun and profit

Profit? Well, I didn't make money from filing a bug about redshift, but I did get the lovely little application running on my computer again.

Since jumping to an testing install of Plasma 5 in my upgraded Kubuntu, I've been filing bugs as I find things not working. It took me a few days to notice that redshift no longer worked, because I didn't always use it. But when I had my eyes dilated for my annual eye exam, I needed it! And it crashed.

I love filing bugs using ubuntu-bug from the commandline. I would love to see KDE build this capability as well, because the little application gathers useful information automatically, and uploads it to the bug tracker. Man ubuntu-bug says it reports problems  to your distribution's bug tracking system, using Apport to collect a lot of local information about your system to help the developers to fix the problem and avoid unnecessary question/answer turnarounds. Dr. Konqui does this sometimes, but a little cli app would be nice as well.

You can read my bug report here if you like, but to make a long story short: there is still no working Plasma 5 widget, but redshift is a commandline application. The kindly person who answered my bug report sent me to the website, where I found that I could create my own config file, which might be a workaround to the lack of a widget, but it works. The gtk widget did not work, by the way.

Writing a config file sounds daunting, but I just copy/pasted the working config on the website, changed it to fit my system, and saved it as ~/.config/redshift.conf

In the commandline, when I typed redshift & - my screen pinked up a bit. Lovely!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Season of KDE - Let's go!

We're now in the countdown. The deadline for applications is midnight 31 October UT. So give the ideas page one last look:

We even got one last task just now, just for you devops -- UPDATE: this task is taken.

Please talk to your prospective mentor and get their OK before signing up on . If you have already signed up and your mentor has signed off on your plans and timeline, get to work!


UPDATE: Because of the glitches in the schedule, we are extending the student deadline a few days, to match the mentor deadline for logging into and making an account on

Please don't delay. Make all necessary accounts, subscribe to KDE-Soc-Mentor or KDE-Soc list, and get the proposals posted and approved. Please ping us in #kde-soc if there are any problems we can help you with. Otherwise, get to work!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Testing A11y in Plasma 5

I made the jump on all available computers, and am now running Plasma5 on the foundation of Kubuntu 14.10 everywhere. Once the upgrade work was done, I filed a few bugs, and then wanted to test accessibility (often abbreviated a11y), since Qt5 has a11y built-in.

Jpwhiting in #kde-accessibility found Frederik's blog:, where I found that the key was setting up the environment to expose KDE software to the mostly-GNOME a11y applications. For now this must be done via the commandline:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.a11y.applications screen-reader-enabled true

It is a work-around, but it works!

Once orca is installed, and the environment is set up, you will hear each letter as you type, and when you open menus, they are read aloud. I understand it will read IRC channels aloud, but I don't want this! Some people use this method to study while they do something else, which sounds cool.

KDE developers, please test your ported code for accessibility. If you don't have time, please ask for testers to file bugs.

Distro testers, please test your install screens and upgrade paths for, at the very least, successful screen reading. There is really is now no excuse to keep blind users from using our wonderful software.

Qt 5 is accessible! Are we using it to serve our blind users?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Session notes/research for Linux Unplugged 63

Interview today for Linux Unplugged 63 which was fun! However we never discussed Kubuntu, which I understood was the subject. I had gotten together facts and links in case they were needed, so I thought I would post them in case anybody needs the information.

Created and supported by community:
Professional support for users:
Support by Blue Systems to some developers & projects:
Infrastructure support by Ubuntu, KDE, Blue Systems and Debian
Governance: Kubuntu Council

How to contact us:, freenode irc: #kubuntu (-devel), kubuntu-user list, kubuntu-devel list, kubuntuforum
  - Documentation on KDE userbase:
  - Kubuntu in the news:

* our "upstream" KDE is also making big changes, starting by splitting kdelibs into the Frameworks, and basing them on Qt5
  - that work is largely done, although of course each library is being improved as time goes along. Releases monthly.
  - We're writing a KDE Frameworks book; more about that at
  - Developers: apidox at

* KDE has now released Plasma 5, based on those new frameworks
  - that is nearly done, and 5.1 was released 15 Oct.
  - lots of excitement around that, because it looks and works really elegant, smooth and modern
  - Riddell: 14.12 release of KDE Applications will be in December with a mix of Qt 4 and Qt 5 apps, they should both work equally well on your Plasma 4 or 5 desktop and look the same with the classic Oxygen or lovely new Breeze themes

*  so our upstream is up to lots of new wonderful stuff, including using CI too (CI: continuous integration with automated testing)

* meanwhile, bugfixes continue on KDE4:

* Our base for 14.10 (codename Utopic Unicorn) is that stable KDE platform.
* At the same time, we are releasing weekly ISOs of Plasma 5, to make
it easy for people to test
 - Riddell: We're releasing a tech preview of Kubuntu Plasma 5 as part of 14.10 for people to test. I'm using it daily and it's working great but expect testers to be competent enough to check for and report beasties

* we're following along to KDE's CI effort, and doing that with our packages
  - see #kubuntu-ci IRC channel for the reports as they are generated
 - Riddell: gory details at
 - packages built constantly to check for any updates that need changed

* Our new packaging is now in Debian git, so we can share packaging work
  - as time goes on, all our packaging files will be there
  - tooling such as packaging scripts are being updated
  - Debian and Kubuntu packagers will both save time which they can use to improve quality

* moving from LightDM to SDDM (Simple Desktop Display Manager), KDE/Qt default
graphical login program

* moving to systemd replacing upstart along with Debian and Ubuntu at some point in the future

* moving to Wayland when it is ready along with KDE (Kwin); now on xorg windowing system. We do not plan to use Ubuntu's Mir

* Testing until release (please!) on the 23rd:

* Testing Plasma 5:
(fresh install)

* Another way we stay close to KDE is that since Ubuntu stopped inviting community members to participate in face-to-face meetings, we have a Kubuntu Day with Akademy, KDE's annual meeting. Thanks to the Ubuntu Contributors who paid the travel costs for some of us to attend

Thanks to Jonathan Riddell for his clarifications and corrections

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Start your Season of KDE engines!

Season of KDE (#SoK2014) was delayed a bit, but we're in business now:

Please stop by the ideas page if you need an idea. Otherwise, contact a KDE devel you've worked with before, and propose a project idea.

Once you have something, please head over to the Season of KDE website: and jump in. You can begin work as soon as you have a mentor sign off on your plan.

Student application deadline: Oct 31 2014, 12:00 am UTC - so spread the word! #SoK2014

Go go go!

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, ages and nationalities.

The Nobel Peace Prize was inspiring to see this week. A young Pakistani girl who was already known locally for supporting the right of girls to attend school was shot by the Taliban to shut her up. Instead, she now has a world stage, and says that she is determined to work even harder for the right of girls to go to school. I really liked that Malala shares the prize. CNN:
Awarding the Peace Prize to a Pakistani Muslim and an Indian Hindu gives a message to people of love between Pakistan and India, and between different religions, Yousafzai said. The decision sends a message that all people, regardless of language and religion, should fight for the rights of women, children and every human being. -

Another of my heroes spoke out this week: Kathy Sierra. Her blog is reprinted on Wired: After the absolute horror she endured, she continues to speak out, continues to calmly state the facts, continues to lead. And yet the majority lauds her attackers, because they are Bad Boyz! I guess. I don't agree with her that trolls always win, because I can't. Kathy Sierra is still speaking out, so SHE wins, and we all win.

I just finished a lovely book by Cheryl Strayed: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Cheryl isn't my hero, but during her journey she became her own hero, so that's OK. My husband is going to walk that trail next year, and reading her book makes me so thankful that he is preparing and training for the journey! Her honesty about the pain she endured when her mother died, and her marriage ended, brought to mind many memories about the death of my own mother, and the death of another of my heroes, my cousin Carol.

Carol died 11 years ago, and I still painfully miss her. I know that her son grieves her loss even more deeply. I hope your journey has taken you to a place of rest, my dear Carol.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Good Notes

Final lovely quote from Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. Please get the book for yourself if you want to know how to foster creativity in a community or company.
In the very early days of Pixar, John, Andrew, Pete, Lee, and Joe made a promise to one another. No matter what happened, they would always tell each other the truth. They did this because they recognized how important and rare candid feedback is and how, without it, our films would suffer. Then and now, the term we use to describe this kind of constructive criticism is "good notes." 
A good note says what is wrong, what is missing, what isn't clear, what makes no sense. A good note is offered in a timely moment, not too late to fix the problem. A good note doesn't make demands; it doesn't even have to include a proposed fix. But if it does, that fix is offered only to illustrate a potential solution, not to prescribe an answer. Most of all, though, a good note is specific. "I'm writhing with boredom," is not a good note.
Catmull quotes Andrew Stanton at length explaining the difference between criticism, and constructive criticism, ending with: It's more of a challenge. "Isn't this what you want? I want that too!" [103]

I think this bit is the key: good criticism focuses on the common goal: a great product. It inspires, rather than creating defensiveness.

I read Reviewboard feedback in a sort of random way, and see a lot of "good note" behavior. But that timely part is sometimes missing. We have some Reviewboard requests languishing, along with patches in bug reports. Fortunately, the Gardening project has sprung up to improve this part of the community. Help out if you have time! and

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Explaining bands of nothing, BASH bugs, and old research

I heard a really interesting little show on the radio tonight, about the man who explained 'bands of nothing.' "Astronomer Daniel Kirkwood... is best known for explaining gaps in the asteroid belt and the rings of Saturn — zones that are clear of the normal debris." He taught himself algebra, and used his math background to analyze the work of others, rather than making his own observations. The segment is only 5 minutes; give it a listen.

This reminded me of the how much progress I used to make when I did genealogy research, by looking over the documents I had gotten long ago, in light of facts I more recently uncovered. All of a sudden, I made new discoveries in those old docs. So that has become part of my regular research routine.

And perhaps all of these thoughts were triggered by the BASH bug which I keep hearing about on the news in very vague terms, and in quite specific discussion in IRC and mail lists. Old, stable code can yield new, interesting bugs! Maybe even dangerous vulnerabilities. So it's always worth raking over old ground, to see what comes to the surface.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Overcoming fear

In the last few posts, I've been exploring ideas expressed by Ed Catmull in Creativity, Inc. Everyone likes good ideas! But putting them into practice can be both difficult, and frightening. Change is work, and creating something which has never existed before, is creating the future. The unknown is daunting.

In meetings with the Braintrust, where new film ideas are viewed and judged, Catmull says,
It is natural for people to fear that such an inherently critical environment will feel threatening and unpleasant, like a trip to the dentist. The key is to look at the viewpoints being offered, in any successful feedback group, as additive, not competitive. A competitive approach measures other ideas against your own, turning the discussion into a debate to be won or lost. An additive approach, on the other hand, starts with the understanding that each participant contributes something (even if it's only an idea that fuels the discussion--and ultimately doesn't work). The Braintrust is valuable because it broadens your perspective, allowing you to peer--at least briefly--through other eyes.[101]
Catmull presents an example where the Braintrust found a problem in The Incredibles film. In this case, they knew something was wrong, but failed to correctly diagnose it. Even so, the director was able, with the help of his peers, to ultimately fix the scene. The problem turned out not to be the voices, but the physical scale of the characters on the screen!

This could happen because the director and the team let go of fear and defensiveness, and trust that everyone is working for the greater good. I often see us doing this in KDE, but in the Community Working Group cases which come before us, I see this breaking down sometimes. It is human nature to be defensive. It takes healthy community to build trust so we can overcome that fear.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Candor and trust

Catmull uses the term candor in his book Creativity, Inc., because honesty is overloaded with moral overtones. It means forthrightness, frankness, and also indicates a lack of reserve. Of course reserve is sometimes needed, but we want to create a space where complete candor is invited, even if it means scrapping difficult work and starting over. [p. 86] Catmull discusses measures he put into place to institutionalize candor, by explicitly asking for it in some processes. He goes on to discuss the Braintrust which Pixar relies on to push us towards excellence and to root out mediocrity....[It] is our primary delivery system for straight talk.... Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems, and encourage them to be candid with one another. [86-7] Does this sound at all familiar?

Naturally the focus is on constructive feedback. The members of such a group must not only trust one another, but see each other as peers. Catmull observes that it is difficult to be candid if you are thinking about not looking like an idiot! [89] He also says that this is crucial in Pixar because, in the beginning, all of our movies suck. [90] I'm not sure this is true with KDE software, but maybe it is. Not until the code is exposed to others, to testing, to accessibility teams, HIG, designers--can it begin to not suck.

I think that we do some of this process in our sprints, on the lists, maybe in IRC and on Reviewboard, but perhaps we can be even more explicit in our calls for review and testing. The key of course is to criticize the product or the process, not the person writing the code or documentation. And on the other side, it can be very difficult to accept criticism of your work even when you trust and admire those giving you that criticism. It is something we must continually learn, in my experience.

Catmull says,
People who take on complicated creative projects become lost at some point in the process....How do you get a director to address a problem he or she cannot see? ...The process of coming to clarity takes patience and candor. [91] We try to create an environment where people want to hear one another's notes [feedback] even where those notes are challenging, and where everyone has a vested interest in one another's success.[92]
Let me repeat that, because to me, that is the key of a working, creative community: "where everyone has a vested interest in one another's success." I think we in KDE feel that but perhaps do not always live it. So let us ask one another for feedback, criticism, and strive to pay attention to it, and evaluate criticism dispassionately. I think we have missed this bit some times in the past in KDE, and it has come back to bite us. We need to get better.

Catmull makes the point that the Braintrust has no authority, and says this is crucial:
the director does not have to follow any of the specific suggestions given. .... It is up to him or her to figure out how to address the feedback....While problems in a movie are fairly easy to identify, the sources of these problems are often extraordinarily difficult to assess.[93]
He continues,
We do not want the Braintrust to solve a director's problem because we believe that...our solution won't be as good....We believe that ideas....only become great when they are challenged and tested.[93]
 More than once, he discusses instances where big problems led to Pixar's greatest successes, because grappling with these problems brought out their greatest creativity. While problems ... are fairly easy to identify, the sources of these problems are often extraordinarily difficult to assess.[93] How familiar does this sound to us working in software!? So, at Pixar,
the Braintrust's notes ...are intended to bring the true causes of the problems to the surface--not to demand a specific remedy. 
Moreover, we don't want the Braintrust to solve a director's problem because we believe that, in all likelihood, our solution won't be as good as the one the director and his or her creative team comes up with. We believe that ideas--and thus films--only become great when they are challenged and tested.[93]
I've seen that often this last bit is a sticking point. People are willing to criticize a piece of code, or even the design, but want their own solution instead. Naturally, this way of working encounters pushback.

Frank talk, spirited debate, laughter, and love [99] is how Catmull sums up Braintrust meetings. Sound familiar? I've just come from Akademy, which I can sum up the same way. Let's keep doing this in all our meetings, whether they take place in IRC, on the lists, or face to face. Let's remember to not hold back; when we see a problem, have the courage to raise the issue. We can handle problems, and facing them is the only way to solve them, and get better.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Accessible KDE, Kubuntu

KDE is community. We welcome everyone, and make our software work for everyone. So, accessibility is central to all our work, in the community, in testing, coding, documentation. Frederik has been working to make this true in Qt and in KDE for many years, Peter has done valuable work with Simon and Jose is doing testing and some patches to fix stuff.

However, now that KF5 is rolling out, we're finding a few problems with our KDE software such as widgets, KDE configuration modules (kcm) and even websites. However, the a11y team is too small to handle all this! Obviously, we need to grow the team.

So we've decided to make heavier use of the forums, where we might find new testers and folks to fix the problems, and perhaps even people to fix up the website to be as
awesome as the KDE-Edu site. The Visual Design Group are the leaders here, and they are awesome!

Please drop by #kde-accessibility on Freenode or the Forum to read up on what needs doing, and learn how to test. People stepping up to learn forum
moderation are also welcome. Frederik has recently posted about the BoF:

A11y was a topic in the Kubuntu BoF today, and we're going to make a new push to make sure our accessibility options work well out of the box, i.e. from first boot. This will involve working with the Ubuntu a11y team, yeah!

More information is available at and

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fixing mistakes and growing stronger

In Creativity, Inc., Catmull explores an example of where their structure had created some problems, and how they identified and fixed that, improving their over-all culture. I know this is a wall of text, but Catmull asks excellent questions. I felt it was worthwhile to copy for you. He says,
Improvements didn't happen overnight. But by the time we finished A Bug's Life, the production managers were no longer seen as impediments to creative process, but as peers--as first-class citizens. We had become better. 
This was success in itself, but it came with an added and unexpected benefit: The act of thinking about the problem and responding to it was invigorating and rewarding. We realized that our purpose was not merely to build a studio that made hit films but to foster a creative culture that would continually ask questions. Questions like: If we had done some things right to achieve success how could we ensure that we understood what those things were? Could we replicate them on our next projects? Perhaps as important, was replication of success even the right thing to do? How many serious, potentially disastrous problems were lurking just out of sight and threatening to undo us? What, if anything, could we do to bring the to light? How much of our success was luck? What would happen to our egos if we continued to succeed? Would they grow so large they could hurt us, and if so, what could we do to address that overconfidence? What dynamics would arise now that we were bringing new people into a successful enterprise as opposed to a struggling startup?

What had drawn me to science, all those years ago, was the search for understanding. Human interaction is far more complex than relativity or string theory, of course, but that only made it more interesting and important; it constantly challenged my presumptions.... Figuring out how to build a sustainable creative culture--one that didn't just pay lip service to the importance of things like honesty, excellence, communication, originality, and self-assessment but really *committed* to them, no matter how uncomfortable that became--wasn't a singular assignment....

As I saw it, our mandate was to foster a culture that would seek to keep our sightlines clear, even as we accepted that we were often trying to engage with and fix what we could not see. My hope was to make this culture so vigorous that it would survive when Pixar's founding members were long gone. [p. 64-5]
Again, I see an almost perfect match between their task and ours, where ours=KDE e.V.. In the Community Working Group (CWG) in particular, I see my task as essentially gardening. This includes improving the soil, weeding, but never removing valuable little shoots which can grow into exciting new directions for the community. Of course I can't carry the metaphor too far, since others do the planting. But we can keep the conditions for growth optimal with our work.

In the documentation workshop yesterday, we explored the current state of the KDE documentation, how we can improve access, and grow the documentation team again. We also found some large choke points, which includes We really need a web team! is valuable real estate on the web, which has been neglected for too long. More about that later.....

For now, looking forward to another day of hard work and fun in Brno!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Late posting: Heading to Brno for Akademy!

So excited to be in the air over Seattle, heading toward Vienna and Brno, and Akademy! Beside me is Scarlett Clark, who will be attending her first Akademy, and first Kubuntu meeting. We've both been sponsored by Ubuntu for the costs of travel; thank you! Scarlett was telling me, as we waited to board our first flight, how long she looked for a place to contribute to a Linux community. She said she tried for years, in many distributions, on mail lists and in IRC. What she was told was "do something." How does a first-time contributor know what is needed, where to ask, and how to make that crucial first step?

I was glad to hear that once she found the KDE-doc-english mail list, that she was encouraged to stick around, get onto IRC, and guided every step of the way. I was also happy to hear that Yuri, Sune and Jonathan Riddell all made her feel welcome, and showed her where to find the information she needed to make her contributions high quality. When Scarlett showed up in #kubuntu-devel offering to learn to package, I was over the moon with happiness. I really love to see more women involved in free and open source, and especially in KDE and Kubuntu, my Linux home.

I was a bit sad that the Debian community was not welcoming to her, with Sune the one bright spot. Yeah SUNE! (By the way, hire him!) I think she will find a nice home there as well, however, if our plans to do some common packaging between Kubuntu and Debian works out in the future. It was interesting to see the blog by the developers of systemd discussing the same issue we've been considering; the waste of time packaging the same applications and other stuff over and over again. So much wasted work, when we could really be using our time more productively. Rather than working harder, let's work smarter! Check out their blog for their take on the issue:

Welcome to Scarlett, who is planning to get her blog up and running again, and on the planets. She'll be saying more about these subjects in the future. Scarlett, and all you other first-time Akademy attendees, a hearty hug of greeting. Have a wonderful time! See me in person for a real hug!

PS: I couldn't post this until now, Sunday morning. The Debian folks here, especially Pinotree have been great! I look forward to our meeting with them on Thursday morning.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Creativity and KDE

Creativity Inc., by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar

My book to read for this trip finally arrived from the library last week, and I could hardly wait to dip into it. I see a profound parallel between the work we do in KDE, and the experiences Catmull recounts in his book. He's structures it as "lessons learned" as he lead one of the most creative teams in both entertainment and in technology. His dream was always to marry the two fields, which he has done brilliantly at Pixar. He tried to make a place where you don't have to ask permission to take responsibility. [p. 51]

Always take a chance on better, even if it seems threatening Catmull says on p. 23. When he hired a person he deemed more qualified for his job than he was, the risk paid off both creatively and personally. Playing it safe is what humans tend to do far too often, especially after they have become successful. Our stone age brains hate to lose, more than they like to win big. Knowing this about ourselves sometimes gives us the courage to 'go big' rather than 'go home.' I have seen us follow this advice in the past year or two, and I hope we have the courage to continue on our brave course.

However, experience showed Catmull that being confident about the value of innovation was not enough. We needed buy-in from the community we were trying to serve.[p 31] My observation is that the leaders in the KDE community have learned this lesson very well. The collaborative way we develop new ideas, new products, new processes helps get that buy in. However, we're not perfect. We often lack knowledge of our "end users" -- not our fellow community members, but some of the millions of students, tech workers and just plain computer users. How often do teams schedule testing sessions where they watch users as they try to accomplish tasks using our software? I know we do it, and we need to do it more often.

Some sources rate us as the largest FOSS community. This can be seen as success. This achievement can have hidden dangers, however. When Catmull ran into trouble, in spite of his 'open door' management style, he found that the good stuff was hiding the bad stuff.... When downsides coexist with upsides, as they often do, people are reluctant to explore what's bugging them for fear of being labeled complainers.[p. 63] This is really dangerous. Those downsides are poison, and they must be exposed to the light, dealt with, fixed, or they will destroy a community or a part of a community. On the upside, the KDE community created the Community Working Group (CWG), and empowered us to do our job properly. On the downside, often people hide their misgivings, their irritations, their fears, until they explode. Not only does such an explosion shock the people surrounding the damage, but it shocks the person exploding as well. And afterwards, the most we can do is often damage control, rather than helping the team grow healthier, and find more creative ways to deal with those downsides.

Another danger is that even the smartest people can form an ineffective team if they are mis-matched. Focus on how a team is performing, not on the talents of the individuals within it.... Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.[p. 74] One of the important strengths of FOSS teams, and KDE teams in particular, is that people feel free to come and go. If anyone feels walled out, or trapped in, we need to remove those barriers. When people are working with those who feed their energy and they in turn can pass it along. When the current stops flowing, it's time to do something different. Of course this prevents burnout, but more important, it keeps teams feeling alive, energetic, and fun. Find, develop, and support good people, and they will find, develop, and own good ideas."[p. 76] I think we instinctively know in KDE that good ideas are common. What is unusual is someone else stepping up to make those "good ideas" we are often given, to make them happen. Instead, the great stuff happens when someone has an itch, and decides to scratch it, and draws others to help her make that vision become reality. 

The final idea I want to present in this post is directed to all the leaders in KDE. This doesn't mean just the board of the e.V., by the way. The leaders in KDE are those who have volunteered to maintain packages, mentor students, moderate the mail lists and forums, become channel ops in IRC, write the promo articles, release notes and announcements, do the artwork, write the documentation, keeps the wikis accurate, helpful and free of spam, organize sprints and other meetings such as Akademy, translate our docs and internationalize our software, design and build-in accessibility, staff booths, and many other responsibilities such as serving on working groups and other committees. This is a shared responsibility we carry to one another, and what keeps our community healthy.

It is management's job to take the long view, to intervene and protect our people from their willingness to pursue excellence at all costs. Not to do so would be irresponsible.... If we are in this for the long haul, we have to take care of ourselves, support healthy habits and encourage our employees to have fullfilling lives outside of work. [p. 77] This is the major task of the e.V. and especially the Board, in my opinion, and of course the task of the CWG as well. 

Isn't this stuff great!? I'll be writing more blog posts inspired by this book as I get further into it. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

Interesting, engaging, and sometimes challenging. My only criticism of the book is that he dwells a bit on fads in academia which are fading, but since he's been extensively challenged by that crowd, I suppose it is forgivable.

I'll quote extensively from the last chapter, but first, Emily Dickinson (quoted in that final chapter):
The Brain--is wider than the Sky--
For--put them side to side--
The one the other will contain
With ease--and you--beside-- 
The Brain is deeper than the sea--
For--hold them--Blue to Blue--
The one the other will absorb--
As Sponges--Buckets--do-- 
The Brain is just the weight of God--
For--Heft them--Pound for Pound--
And they will differ--if they do--
As Syllable from Sound--
And the beginning of the final chapter:
The Blank Slate was an attractive vision. It promised to make racism, sexism, and class prejudice factually untenable. It appeared to be a bulwark against the kind of thinking that led to ethnic genocide. It aimed to prevent people from slipping into a premature fatalism about preventable social ills. It put the spotlight on the treatment of children, indigenous peoples, and the underclass. The Blank Slate thus became part of secular faith and appeared to constitute the common decency of our age.  
But the Blank Slate had, and has, a dark side. The vacuum that was posited in human nature was eagerly filled by totalitarian regimes, and it did nothing to prevent their genocides. It perverts education, child-rearing, and the arts into forms of social engineering. It torments mothers who work outside the home and parents whose children did not turn out as they would have liked. It threatens to outlaw biomedical research that could alleviate human suffering. Its corollary, the Noble Savage, invites contempt for the principles of democracy and of "a government of laws not of men." It blinds us to our cognitive and moral shortcomings. And in matters of policy it has elevated sappy dogmas above the search for workable solutions. 
The Blank Slate is not some ideal that we should all hope and pray is true. No, it is anti-life, anti-human theoretical abstraction that denies our common humanity, our inherent interests, and our individual preferences. Though it has pretensions of celebrating our potential, it does the opposite, because our potential comes from the combinatorial interplay of wonderfully complex faculties, not from the passive blankness of an empty tablet. 
Regardless of its good and bad effects, the Blank Slate is an empirical hypothesis about the functioning of the brain and must be evaluated in terms of whether or not it is true. The modern sciences of mind, brain, genes, and evolution are increasingly showing that it is not true. The result is a rearguard effort to salvage the Blank Slate by disfiguring science and intellectual life: denying the possibility of objectivity and truth, dumbing down issues into dichotomies, replacing facts and logic with intellectual posturing. 
The Blank Slate became so deeply entrenched in intellectual life that the prospect of doing without it can be deeply unsettling. ...Is science leading to a place where prejudice is right, where children may be neglected, where Machiavellianism is accepted, where inequality and violence are met with resignation, where people are treated like machines? 
Not at all! By unhandcuffing widely shared values from moribund factual dogmas, the rationale for these values can only become clearer. We understand *why* we condemn prejudice, cruelty to children, and violence against women, and can focus our efforts on how to implement the goals we value most. ... 
... Acknowledging human nature does not mean overturning our personal world views... It means only taking intellectual life out of its parallel universe and reuniting it with science and, when it is borne out by science, by common sense.
This book was published in 2002, and I think Pinker and his fellow scientists who investigate human nature are beginning to make headway. This book was a good reminder of some of the nonsense we are now sweeping into the dustbin of history, and new understanding of human nature now coming to light.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Counting the days until Akademy!

It seems so soon after returning home from Randa and Geneva, but already the day of departure to Vienna and then Brno looms. So excited! For starters, both Scarlett and I got funding from Ubuntu so the e.V. is spared the cost of our travel! I've often felt guilty about how much airfare from Seattle is, for previous meetings. We're having a Kubuntu gathering on Thursday the 11th of September. Ping us if you have an issue you want discussed or worked on.

Also, Scarlett and I will be traveling together, which will be fun. And we're meeting Stefan Derkits in Vienna, to see some of his favorite places. Oh, a whole day in Vienna seems like heaven. We have a hostel booked; I hope it's nice. Now I need to figure out the bus or train from Vienna <> Brno.

Then there is the e.V. annual meeting, which I enjoy since I was admitted to membership. It is great to hear the reports personally, and meet people I usually only hear from in email or IRC.

Finally, there is Akademy, which is always a blur of excitement, learning, socializing, and interacting with the amazing speakers. My favorite part is always hearing from the GSoC students about their projects, and their experience in the KDE community. After Akademy proper, there are days of BOFs, and our Kubuntu meeting. This part is often the most energizing, as each meeting is like a small-scale sprint.

Of course we do take some time to walk through the city, and eat out, and party a bit. Face-to-face meetings are the BEST! Sometimes we return home exhausted and jetlagged, but it is always worth it. KDE is a community, and our annual gathering is one important way for us to nurture that community. This energizes the entire next year of creating amazing software.

An extra-special part of Akademy this year is that we are planning to release our new KDE Frameworks 5 Cookbook at Akademy. Get some while they're hot!

Learning to git

A few years ago, I learned from Myriam's fine blog how to build Amarok from source, which is kept in git. It sounds mysterious, but once all the dependencies are installed, PATH is defined and the environment is properly set up, it is extremely easy to refresh the source (git pull) and rebuild. In fact, I usually use the up-arrow in the konsole, which finds the previous commands, so I rarely have to even type anything! Just hit return when the proper command is in place.

Now we're using git for the KDE Frameworks book, so I learned how to not only pull the new or changed source files, but also to commit my own few or edited files locally, then push those commits to git, so others can see and use them.

To be able to write to the repository, an SSH key must be uploaded, in this case done in the KDE Identity account. If the Identity account is not a developer account, that must first be granted.

Just as in building Amarok, first the folders need to be created, and the repository cloned. Once cloned, I can see either in konsole or Dolphin the various files. It's interesting to me to poke around in most of them, but the ones I work in are markdown files, which is a type of text file. I can open them in kate (or your editor of choice) either from Dolphin or directly from the cli (for instance kate ki18n/

Once edited, save the file, then it's time to commit. If there are a number of files to work on, they can be all committed at once. git commit -a is the command you need. Once you hit return, you will be immediately put into nano, a minimal text editor. Up at the top, you will see it is waiting for your commit message, which is a short description of the file or the changes you have made. Most of my commits have said something like "Edited for spelling and grammar." Once your message is complete, hit Control X, and y and return to save your changes.

It's a good idea to do another git pull just to be sure no one else has pushed a conflicting file while the commit message was being crafted, then git push. At this point the passphrase for the ssh key is asked for; once that is typed and you hit return, you'll get something like the following:

Counting objects: 7, done.                                                                                                                                                                              
Delta compression using up to 8 threads.                                                                                                                                                                
Compressing objects: 100% (4/4), done.                                                                                                                                                                  
Writing objects: 100% (4/4), 462 bytes | 0 bytes/s, done.                                                                                                                                                
Total 4 (delta 2), reused 1 (delta 0)                                                                                                                                                                    
remote: This commit is available for viewing at:
   1d078fe..90c863e  master -> master                                                                                                                                                                    

In this case, the new file is now part of the KDE Frameworks 5 book repository. Git is a really nifty way to keep files of any sort organized and backed up. I'm really happy that we decided to develop the book using this powerful tool.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Randa Meetings sprint: KDE Frameworks Cookbook progress

We groaned and suffered with the up-and-down network, and had to abandon our plan to write and edit the book on Booki at Flossmanuals. So we began to create text files on Kate or Kwrite, but how to share our work?

The best answer seemed to be a git repository, and our success began there. Once created, we consulted again and again with the Frameworks developers in the room across the hall, and brainstormed and wrote, and even created new tools (Mirko). Our repo is here: kde:scratch/garg/book. If you want to see the live code examples, you will need this tool: .

I'm so happy with what we have so far! The texts are just great, and the code examples will be updated as they are updated in their repositories. So if people planning a booth at a Qt Contributor Conference, for instance, wanted to print up some copies of the book, it will be completely up-to-date. Our goal is committing every part of the book so that it can be auto-fetched for reading as an epub, pdf, text file or printed as a book.

It is a tremendous help to be in the same place. Thank you KDE community for sending me here, all the way from Seattle. Thank you for bringing all the other developers here as well. We are eating well, meeting, coding, writing, walking, drinking coffee and even some Free Beer, and sometimes sleeping too. Mario brings around a huge box of chocolate every night. We're all going to arrive home somewhat tired from working so hard, and somewhat fat from eating so well!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Coming up: excitement and work

First, many of us will be taking off this week for Randa, Switzerland. Many sprints are taking place simultaneously, and the most important to me is that we're writing another book. Book sprints are fun, and lots of work! As well as the team in Randa, a few people will be helping us write and edit from afar, and I'll be posting a link soon so that you can help out as well.

Here is a recent article on Randa and what goes on here: Most of the attendees are traveling on funds contributed by the community. Thanks so much! I hope our work will be worth your generosity.

Today, the Akademy session schedule was announced: This will be my third Akademy, and they are always fascinating, friendly, educational, and just plain awesome! At this point, we're still open for more sponsorship of Akademy, and registration seems a bit slow. If you are interested, please register and make your way to Brno for Akademy. If you know a company who is not yet a sponsor and should be, please urge them to register as a sponsor now.

The talks will be great, as will the "hall track." Following the formal meeting, we have a few days of informal talks, mini-sprints, and workshops. This is when Kubuntu will be meeting, which is why Ubuntu sponsored me to attend! \o/ Thanks so much for that, generous Ubuntu users. To sum up, I'll quote Myriam from the above article:
While a lot of the work in Free Software is done over the internet, nothing replaces the real life meetings, as it provides an extra drive in terms of motivation. Modern software development is mostly agile, something even corporate software development is using more and more. Due to the global distribution of our contributors; Free Software development has always been agile to start with, even if we didn't put a label on it in the early days.
And in agile development; sprints are a very important element to push the project forward. While sprints can be done over the web, they are hindered by time-zones, external distractions, availability of contributors, etc. Having real life sprints, even if those are few, are more productive as all the hindrances of the web meetings are eliminated and the productivity is greatly enhanced. [emphasis added]

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Final 10 days of the Randa fundraiser - Please help!

Hi folks, we're heading to the deadline. Please help put us over the top!

If you've already given money, please help by spreading the word. Small contributions not only count up quickly, they demonstrate that the free community stands behind our work. Mario gives a nice wrap-up here: Show us you care.

Personally, I'm scared and excited by the prospect of writing another book, again with people who over-the-top smart, creative and knowledgeable. I will personally appreciate widespread support of the work we'll be doing.

If you already know about the Randa Meetings, and what our confederated sprints can produce, just proceed directly to and kick in some shekels!

And then please pass along the word.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Metalinks, an excellent fast way to download KDE files

My G+ repost of Harald's announcement of the Plasma Next ISOs got some complaints about slow downloads. When I checked the with KDE sysadmins, I got some great information.

First, torrents aren't available, since 1. that requires dedicated tracker software, which isn't needed since 2. KDE doesn't distribute many large files.

However, files available at and have a Details tab, where metalinks and mirrors are listed. I knew nothing about metalinks, but we could all benefit from them when downloading large files.

PovAddict (Nicolas Alvarez) told me that he uses the commandline for them: `aria2c` for instance. I had to install aria2c for this to work; and the file took less than 15 minutes to download.

I read man wget and it seems not to support metalinks; at least I didn't find a reference.

Bshah (Bushan Shah) tried with kget and says it works very well. He said, New Download > Paste metalink > it will ask which files to download.

He also found the nice Wikipedia page for me:

Thanks to bcooksley, PovAddict and bshaw for their help.

PS: Bcooksley adds, the .mirrorlist url is generally what we recommend for people to use anyway. So even if you don't point to the metalink, please use the .mirrorlist URL when posting a file hosted at or If people forget to do that, click that Details link to get there for the hashes, lists of mirrors, and metalink files.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Primes, and products of primes

I was finding it difficult to stop thinking and fall asleep last night, so I decided to count as far as I could, in primes or products of primes. I'm not sure why, but it did stop the thoughts whirling around like a hamster on a wheel.

Note on superscripts: HTML only allows me to show squares and cubes. Do the addition.







Please comment if I got the coding or arithmetic wrong! It's been fun to figure all this out -- in my head if I could, on paper if I had to.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Emotional Maturity and Free / Open Source communities

12 Signs of emotional maturity has an excellent list of the characteristics we look for in FOSS team members -- and traits I want to strengthen in my Self.

1. Flexibility - So necessary. The only constant is change, so survival dictates flexibility.

 2. Responsibility - Carthage Buckley, the author of 12 Signs of emotional maturity says:
You take responsibility for your own life. You understand that your current circumstances are a result of the decisions you have taken up to now. When something goes wrong, you do not rush to blame others. You identify what you can do differently the next time and develop a plan to implement these changes.
The world is a mirror. Sometimes when things go wrong, I mistake what I see as caused by some malevolent force, or even someone being stupid. The human brain is designed to keep us from recognizing our own errors and mistakes, unfortunately. So I need to remember to take responsibility, and seek out evidence of personal shortcomings, in order to improve.

I want my team members to do the same! When someone has caused a mess, I want them to take responsibility, and clean up. I want to learn to more often do the same.

 3. Vision trumps knowledge - If I have a dream and desire, I can get the knowledge I need. Whereas a body of knowledge, by itself, doesn't make anything happen.

Good marketing sells the sizzle, not the steak. In other words, make people hungry, and they will buy your steak. Tell them how great it is, and they'll go somewhere they can smell steak! When working in my team, I need to remember this.

4. Personal growth - A priority every day. Who wants to be around stagnant people?

5. Seek alternative views - This one is so difficult, and so important. The hugely expanded media choices available to people now leads to many of us never interacting with people who disagree with us, or have a different perspective. This leads to groupthink, and even disaster. One way to prevent this in teams is to value diversity, and recruit with diversity as a goal. 

 6. Non-judgmental - Another hard one. Those who seek out alternative views, will more easily recognize how different we all can be, while all being of worth. And when we focus on shared goals rather than positions, we can continue to make shared progress towards those goals.

 7. Resilience - Stuff happens. When it does, we all can learn to pick up, dust off, and get going again. This doesn't mean denying that stuff happens; rather it means accepting that and continuing on anyway.

8. A calm demeanor - I think this results from resilience. Freaking out just wastes time and energy, and gets me further off-balance. Better to breathe a bit, and continue on my way.

 9. Realistic optimism - I love this word pair. Seeing that a glass is half-full, rather than half-empty is a habit, and habits can be created. Bad habits can be changed. Buckley says that success requires effort and patience. Your goals are worth effort and patience, creativity, and perseverance.

10. Approachable - Again, a choice. If I'm open to others, they will feel free to offer their help, encouragement or even warnings. If seeking alternative views is a value, then being approachable is one way to get those views.

11. Self-belief - I think this can be carried too far, but if we've looked for alternative views and perspectives, and created a plan with those views in mind, then criticism will not stop progress. When our goals are deeply desired, we can be flexible in details, and yet continue progress towards the ultimate destination.

12. Humor - Laughter and joy are signs that you are healthy and on your right path. The teams I want to work with are those full of humor, laughter and joy.

PS: I was unable to work the wonderful new word bafulates into this blog post, to my regret. Please accept my apologies.

Monday, June 2, 2014


I try never to give advice unless I'm asked. However, tonight I thought I would offer the world the advice I give myself. This is probably not what I would have advised when I was younger, but I wish I had, every day.

Find joy and beauty everywhere, every day, every moment. It is around you; learn to see it.

Love yourself, and treat yourself with kindness.

Breathe deeply, and drink lots of water.

Love with an open heart, and care for those who love you back.

Spend no time and energy on those who pull you down, even family and "friends."

Value your opponents; they keep you honest, and learning. Collaborate with them if possible.

Make your bed every morning. Excuses are boring!

Brush and floss every tooth you want to keep. Get regular checkups, and follow the expert's advice.

Listen twice as much as you talk. That's why you have two ears, and only one mouth.

If you mess it up, clean up the mess. NOW.

Stay active, and keep challenging yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.

Do something scary as often as you dare. Travel! Make friends with strangers!

Spend your time and energy on the important, rather than being distracted by the urgent.

If you are unhappy, do something kind for someone else, secretly if possible.

Laugh, sing and dance as often as you can. Celebrate!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Exciting! Writing another KDE book: Frameworks in Randa

Returning to Randa is always tremendous, no matter what the work is. The house in Randa, Switzerland is so welcoming, so solid, yet modern and comfortable too.

KDE is in the building mode this year. If you think of the software like a house, Frameworks is the foundation and framing. Of course it isn't like a house, since the dwelling we are constructing is made from familiar materials, but remade in a interactive, modular fashion. I'd better stop with the house metaphor before I take it too far, because the rooms (applications) will be familiar, yet updated. And we can't call the Plasma Next "paint", yet the face KDE will be showing the world in our software will be familiar yet completely updated as well.

However, this year will see the foundation for KDE's newest surge ahead in software, from the foundation to the roof, to use the house metaphor one more time. I really cannot wait to get there and start work on our next book, the Framework Recipe book (working title). Of course, travel is expensive, and most of us will come from all over the world. So once again, we're raising funds for the Randa Meetings, which will be the largest so far. The e.V. is a major sponsor, but this is one big gathering. We need community support. Please give generously here:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thank you, Jerry Seinfeld

Seinfeld has a stand-up routine about how your party self wants to be wild and crazy, because the person who will suffer the hangover is "Morning Guy." This was how I thought and why I procrastinated for most of my life. Eventually I figured out that my Self today and my Self tomorrow -- same Self.

I value kindness, and try to be kind and thoughtful to others. So why not be kind to my Self too? In my effort to make life more peaceful and happy, I've gradually started to be kinder to my future self, and have reduced procrastination quite a bit. Along the way, I've discovered how much easier it is to just do a small task when I notice it needs doing, rather than putting it off. My attitude about those little tasks has changed too, and they hardly seem like work. Instead, they feel like being kind to my Self.

This all seems like a virtuous circle, since doing small tasks immediately keeps life simple and clean, and living in a clean, calm environment makes it easier to do the work to keep things up. This seems to be valuable everywhere; in the daily schedule, around the house, at work, in relationships.

Perhaps it was easier to fall into this way of working since I've been started some practices like making cold-brew coffee and fermented foods, both of which need to be started hours or days before they are ready to consume. Every time I finish preparing a new batch, I feel like I'm 'paying it forward' to my future self. The work we've been doing on our house also helps in a major way.

For those who call this kindness "selfishness," consider the so-called Golden Rule, restated by Jesus as love your neighbor as you love yourself. That final phrase says it all; self-care is at the core of love.

And it all counts.

  • Making your bed when you get up, counts.
  • Brushing and flossing your teeth, counts.
  • Eating breakfast, counts.
  • Washing up, counts.
  • Making a meeting on time, counts.
  • Writing a thoughtful email, counts.
  • Helping someone in IRC, counts.
  • Eating vegetables or fruit instead of junk food, counts.
  • Drinking water instead of a sugary beverage, counts.
  • Walking up a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator, counts.
  • Picking up a bit of trash, counts.
  • Getting to bed in time to have a full night's sleep, counts.
  • Writing a blog post, counts!

Anyone who has flown in a jetliner, has heard the advice: If you are traveling with someone, and the oxygen masks drop, do not help them put on their masks first. Put on your own mask, then help others!

Many of the ideas that have helped me get to this place come from which is invaluable. It is one thing to give yourself credit for the progress you make, but it is amazing to have a team of people cheering you on!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Problem redimensionated into challenge, thence into success

Problem: our Dish DVR died. And it died before I backed up the content, and that content was hundreds of old Doctor Who episodes I was collecting until I could watch in some kind of decent order.

Since it would briefly come back to life if allowed to rest for awhile unplugged, I bought a backup hard drive of the proper sort (with its own power supply), and plugged it in. However, the DVR died before backing up commenced.

This DVR is leased, so Dish sent along a new one, asking that I return the broken one within 10 days. Yesterday a technician showed up to be sure that everything was working, since the new machine had taken quite long to get a watchable image. I asked him if it was possible to move the old hard drive into the new machine and do the backup, before sending the old machine back? He said yes, although he couldn't do it for us.

So, new challenge: remove the old hard drive from the old DVR. I found a wikibook about the DVR here: There the author says,
With no A/C power connected - from the old 922, pull the internal hard drive and set it aside. To do this remove 4, back cover screws (black,) then slide the cover back about 1/2 inch and tilt upwards to remove.
Well now, here was my first problem. Screws, no biggie. But "slide the cover back"? It simply would not move for me. However, teamwork to the rescue. My husband Bob used the straight-slot screwdriver and pried with a bit more power than I would have used, and slide, it did. From there on out, the problem was redimensionated (thank you genii for that beautiful term!) and it was only a matter of more screws, unhooking the power and motherboard connection, and sliding out.

After using my husband again to help me slide out the TV cabinet and photograph and then remove the DVR hookups, I used the same procedure again. Remove the cover, then the HD, and then switched the old HD into its place. I left off the cover, and then Bob hooked up the new machine again, and we turned it on to wait. After the backup hard drive was plugged in, this slow beast restarted again, but we had a new option: backup. Just to be safe, we selected only the Doctor Who eps. If there is room once that's done, I'll select the rest of what I want. The backup is now proceeding, and the readout reports that it will take another 10 hours. OMG, usb is slow!

So, redimensionating is cool. I'm going to try to remember to do it more often. Also, many thanks to the dish tech and wikibook author who both shared their information freely, and my husband who supplied support, muscle, and didn't give up!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Today's catch-up meeting with the Ubuntu Community Council

The Kubuntu team has been thinking about what to bring up to the CC for a few weeks, and at our Mumble meeting, discussed it there as well. Rohan Garg, Scott Kitterman, and Philip Muscovac (Shadeslayer, ScottK, and Yofel) attended with me (thank goodness!).

We put all our discussion items on a wiki page: Since the moin moin wiki is unreliable, here is our list:

Summing up -- PAST

Since last year, the threats of legal action against Mint and other derivative distributions have upset our community. We were disappointed in the reaction of the CC -- it seemed to us that the CC was just doing as Canonical directed, rather than work with Mint to bring them into the community.

We continue to feel apprehension over Wayland/Mir situation, which has brought the Ubuntu brand into controversy, and has caused a lot of bad feelings from our upstream. We hope for peace and technical excellence.

We are missing our face-to-face UDS meetings with the rest of the Ubuntu community. Last year and again this year we've arranged a Kubuntu meeting at the KDE yearly meeting, Akademy. Last year we met in Bilbao, this year it will be held in Brno, in the Czech Republic. However, we really miss being able to touch base with the rest of the Ubuntu community.

We have our own webserver now, at will be moved there soon.

We're now using the KDE wikis to develop our user docs, and some community wiki pages. Moin moin is just not reliable. We've gained some more translations this way for the documentation. We ran out of people who were experts in Docbook, which is why we started using the MM wiki. is for writing; when docs are done they are moved to the website.

We are wondering about the state of donations. On the donations page, a report is promised, but we've not seen one, and none are linked to.


Discussing how to handle KDE's new Frameworks, Plasma Next, and new Qt. In 14.10 we'll be rather conservative, and offer the newest stuff being released this summer in a PPA. We may be able to spin an ISO of this software; we are still pondering our best path forward.

It was encouraging to hear from Mark Shuttleworth during the meeting, as well as Jono on the funding report. I'm not sure any issues were resolved, but it did feel like the air was cleared.

Full text of the meeting is here: Thanks to tsimpson for the link. :-)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Good Advice from Bad People: Selected Wisdom from Murderers, Stock Swindlers, and Lance Armstrong

Wow, what a book title: Good Advice from Bad People: Selected Wisdom from Murderers, Stock Swindlers, and Lance Armstrong, by Zac Bissonnette. I heard the author talk about his book on the Tavis Smiley radio show earlier, and it made me think about Jonathan Haidt's point about how people have wonderful advice for others, even when they themselves seem unable to follow it.

That got me thinking about some recent discussions, arguments and even fights in the KDE community in the past few months. Some arguments are exciting. You hear the deep thinking, the examination and presentation of fresh points of view, and hear people thinking together. This is what we want for every conversation! But sometimes instead, you hear criticism, to which the reaction is defensiveness. This is painful to watch, as both (or all) sides are injured, and their hurt is being ignored.

What makes the difference? It seems to me what is lacking in the second scenario is trust. Haidt advises asking people for their advice and judgement about you, and listening with an open mind and heart.  That is rather hard to do when it is your project that is being measured and criticized. Yet it is critical to success, because we often literally cannot see flaws in our processes and products that others can see quite clearly.

One thing that has bothered me for years in the whole FLOSS movement is the attitude towards users, as "lusers." I know that started out as a pun, but it seems to me that it correctly labels the orientation that developers often have. Good projects have people who use bug reports, critical blog posts and complaints on the lists, forums and IRC as feedback, in order to not just fix crashes, but to make their product better. Projects in trouble make it difficult to file bugs, or simply ignore them, and rather than viewing criticism as feedback, interpret it as a personal attack.

Unfortunately, I am seeing this defensive attitude far too often lately in KDE. This can happen within teams, when someone proposes a new idea, and then others shoot it down. I don't mean they dispute the idea, or propose a different alternative, but rather state the criticism in a take-no-prisoners way. I've also seen this after a release, when an aspect of the new application or feature is criticized by users. Rather than collaborating with the reporters, to make the application or feature better, the discussion is framed as a war by both sides. In other words, "KDE developers are dictators" vs. "KDE users/distributions/packagers hate progress".

Guess what? Wars aren't productive of good software, and are destructive to every combatant and even those within earshot. Fortunately, later I heard Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and president of Pixar and Disney animation, about managing creative people and his new book Creativity Inc: Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration. Catmull gives the credit for the success of Pixar to an open, nurturing work environment. I think we need to focus on this more in our community. It should be safe for anyone to talk to anybody. According to Catmull, at Pixar they assume that any movie is crap when they start out. But somewhere in the idea is some spark that can become great. He says,
I've spent nearly forty years thinking about how to help smart, ambitious people work effectively with one another. The way I see it, my job as a manager is to create a fertile environment, keep it healthy, and watch for the things that undermine it....The thesis of this book is that there are many blocks to creativity, but there are active steps we can take to protect the creative process....identifying these destructive forces isn't merely a philosophical exercise. It is a crucial, central mission.
He used a term I love, candor. He says that creating a safe space where people can fully express their thoughts and feelings is key to keeping creativity flowing. Of course I'm going to read this book! Here is the interview (11 minutes):

We already have the Team Health Check which can be found here: I'll use Catmull's book to look again at that team tool, and see if it can be improved.

For now, I hope that before any of us speaks or writes, we'll think about our choice of words. Candor is crucial. Remember though, that feedback can be framed as helpful information, or as an attack. You might mean your feedback as helpful, but can it be read as harsh criticism? If so, please edit before publishing. Developers, think about how to invite candor, by asking others for their honest feedback. Welcome reports of problems, bug reports, and respond in a collaborative way. If you need someone to triage bugs to keep sane, ask for that help! Everything you can do to lower the barriers to honest criticism, the better your work products will be.