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.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fermented food - fun new thing

Fermented food isn't new, of course, but it is new that I'm doing it. I don't cook or bake much these days, since there is usually just Bob & me to eat it. After reading about how easy it is to make fermented food, though, I decided to try it again. I used to make cultured buttermilk, years ago, but how much buttermilk can one person drink? Also had a yogurt maker, but it made such itty-bitty cups of yogurt, it was just too much trouble.

I also had a kombucha tea culture going for a long time, but once I got diabetes, I decided that that much sugar was not good for me. This time, I started with kefir, which I tried in Estonia every day for lunch. It was delicious! And it's easy. I ordered "kefir grains" here: Cultures for Health. More about how to make kefir here:

Looking through this page with lots of links,, I found one for fermented carrots sticks, which looked interesting.


The recipe is:
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
  • 1 tablespoon whey
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 3 cloves of garlic, quartered (optional)
  • Filtered water

Place the carrot sticks into a quart mason jar (or other quart sized container with a lid that fits snugly) and add the rest of the ingredients, shaking gently to settle the carrots if needed.
Fill to within one inch of the top with filtered water.

Cover tightly and allow to sit at room temperature for 4-7 days; you can try them at 4 days and see if you want them to be more sour or not, to get them more sour/soft leave them out at room temperature longer. Because the carrots are more dense, they take longer to ferment than other lactoferments like sauerkraut or pickles. They also stay crunchier, which we like!

After fermenting at room temperature, keep in your fridge- they last for months!

I bought a couple of bunches of organic carrots, which filled on smaller jar, and one a bit bigger. I had no whey yet, so I used 2T of salt in the smaller jar, and 3T in the larger.  I used garlic in both jars, and dried dill.

Once I get some whey from my kefir, I'll try that as well. Can't wait to taste them on Monday! Also, need to get to more canning jars. I know where they are in the garage, but so far, too high to reach, even with a ladder!

Next up: Sauerkraut. This looks great:

Nice short list: