GUADEC 2022

Photograph of GUADEC attendees eagerly gathering around a digital sign displaying the Ubuntu desktop in Guadalajara, Mexico.

I spent a week at GUADEC 2022 in Guadalajara, Mexico. It was an excellent conference, with some good talks, good people, and a delightful hallway track. I think everyone was excited to see each other in person after so long, and for many attendees, this was closer to home than GUADEC has ever been.

For this event, I was sponsored by the GNOME Foundation, so many thanks to them as well as my employer the Endless OS Foundation for both encouraging me to submit a talk and for giving me the opportunity to take off and drink tequila for the week.

For me, the big themes this GUADEC were information resilience, scaling our community, and how these topics fit together.


Introductions

Stepping into the Guadalajara Connectory for the first time, I couldn’t help but feel a little out of place. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, but this was still my first GUADEC, and my first real in-person event with the desktop Linux community in ages.

So, I was happy to come across Jona Azizaj and Justin Flory’s series of thoughtful and inviting workshops on Wednesday morning. These were Icebreakers & Community Social, followed by Unconscious bias & imposter syndrome workshop. They eased my anxiety enough that I wandered off and missed the follow-up (Exploring privilege dynamics workshop), but it looked like a cool session. It was a brilliant idea to put these kinds of sessions right at the start.

The workshop about unconscious bias inspired me to consciously mix up who I was going out for lunch with throughout the week, as I realized how easy it is to create bubbles without thinking about it.

Beyond that, I attended quite a few interesting sessions. It is always fun hearing about bits of the software stack I’m unfamiliar with, so some standouts were Matthias Clasen’s Font rendering in GNOME (YouTube), and David King’s Cheese strings: Webcams, PipeWire and portals (YouTube). Both highly recommended if you are interested in those components, or in learning about some clever things!

But for the most part, this wasn’t a very code-oriented conference for me.

Accessibility, diversity, remote attendance

This was the first hybrid GUADEC after two years of running a virtual-only conference, and I think the format worked very well. The remote-related stuff was smoothly handled in the background. The volunteers in each room did a great job relaying questions from chat so remote attendees were represented during Q&As.

I did wish that those remote attendees — especially the Berlin Mini-GUADEC — were more visible in other contexts. If this format sticks, it would be nice to have a device or two set up so people in different venues can see and interact with each other during the event. After all, it is unlikely that in-person attendees will spend much time looking at chat rooms on their own.

But I definitely like how this looks. I think having good representation for remote attendees is important for accessibility. Pandemic or otherwise. So with that in mind, Robin Tafel’s Keynote: Peeling Vegetables and the Craft of (Software) Inclusivity (YouTube), struck a chord for me. She elegantly explains how making anything more accessible — from vegetable peelers to sidewalks to software — comes back to help all of us in a variety of ways: increased diversity, better designs in general, and — let’s face it — a huge number of people will need accessibility tools at some point in their lives.

“We are all temporarily abled.”

Community, ecosystems, and offline content

I especially enjoyed Sri Ramkrishna’s thoughtful talk, GNOME and Sustainability – Ecosystem Management (YouTube). I came away from his session thinking how we don’t just need to recruit GNOME contributors; we need to connect free software ecosystems horizontally. Find those like-minded people in other projects and find places where we can collaborate, even if we aren’t all using GNOME as a desktop environment. For instance, I think we’re doing a great job of this across the freedesktop world, but it’s something we could think about more widely, too.

Who else benefits, or could benefit, from Meson, BuildStream, Flatpak, GJS, and the many other technologies GNOME champions? How can we advocate for these technologies in other communities and use those as bridges for each other’s benefit? How do we get their voices at events like GUADEC, and what stops us from lending our voices to theirs?

“We need to grow and feed our ecosystem, and build relations with other ecosystems.”

So I was pretty excited (mostly anxious, since I needed to use printed notes and there were no podiums, but also excited) to be doing a session with Manuel Quiñones a few hours later: Offline learning with GNOME and Kolibri (YouTube). I’ll write a more detailed blog post about it later on, but I didn’t anticipate quite how neatly our session would fit in with what other people were talking about.

At Endless, we have been working with offline content for a long time. We build custom Endless OS images designed for different contexts, with massive libraries of pre-installed educational resources. Resources like Wikipedia, books, educational games, and more: all selected to empower people with limited connectivity. The trick with offline content is it involves a whole lot of very large files, it needs to be possible to update it, and it needs to be easy to rapidly customize it for different deployments.

That becomes expensive to maintain, which is why we have started working with Kolibri.

Kolibri is an open source platform for offline-first teaching and learning, with a powerful local application and a huge library of freely licensed educational content. Like Endless OS, it is designed for difficult use cases. For example, a community with sporadic internet access can use Kolibri to share Khan Academy videos and exercises, as well as assignments for individual learners, between devices.

Using Kolibri instead of our older in-house solution means we can collaborate with an existing free software project that is dedicated to offline content. In turn, we are learning many interesting lessons as we build the Kolibri desktop app for GNOME. We hope those lessons will feed back into the Kolibri project to improve how it works on other platforms, too.

Giving our talk at GUADEC made me think about how there is a lot to gain when we bring these types of projects together.

The hallway track

Like I wrote earlier, this wasn’t a particularly code-oriented conference for me. I did sit down and poke at Break Timer for a while — in particular, reviving a branch with a GTK 4 port — and I had some nice chats about various other projects people are doing. (GNOME Crosswords was the silent star of the show). But I didn’t find many opportunities to actively collaborate on things. Something to aim for with my next GUADEC.

I wonder if the early 3pm stop each day was a bit of a contributor there, but it did make for some excellent outings, so I’m not complaining. The pictures say a lot!

Everyone here is amazing, humble and kind. I really cannot recommend enough, if you are interested in GNOME, check out GUADEC, or LAS, or another such event. It was tremendously valuable to be here and meet such a wide range of GNOME users and contributors. I came away with a better understanding of what I can do to contribute, and a renewed appreciation for this community.

My tiny file server with Ubuntu Core, Nextcloud and Syncthing

My annual Dropbox renewal date was coming up, and I thought to myself “I’m working with servers all the time. I shouldn’t need to pay someone else for this.” I was also knee deep in a math course, so I felt like procrastinating.

I’m really happy with the result, so I thought I would explain it for anyone else who wants to do the same. Here’s what I was aiming for:

  • Safe, convenient archiving for big files.
  • Instant sync between devices for stuff I’m working on.
  • Access over LAN from home, and over the Internet from anywhere else.
  • Regular, encrypted offsite backups.
  • Compact, low power hardware that I can stick in a closet and forget about.
  • Some semblance of security, at least so a compromised service won’t put the rest of the system at risk.
Continue reading “My tiny file server with Ubuntu Core, Nextcloud and Syncthing”

Ubuntu installer slideshow customization, with pictures!

I have escaped the perilous grasp of Perl, and I bring news:

If you make a localized Ubuntu ISO like the Italian CD, you can customize the installer slideshow, with translated screenshots and more!

How? Follow me!

First, you need to be running Ubuntu 12.10 with the latest version of the Ubuntu defaults builder — 0.35. I assume you already know about the defaults builder, since you are making a localized ISO. If you do not, start with this explanation about localized images. Don’t worry: the defaults builder is a great tool that makes this very easy!

Continue reading “Ubuntu installer slideshow customization, with pictures!”

I have a craving for keywords

Something interesting is going on with Gnome Shell and Unity: it is becoming very normal to search for applications. But search is more than just typing something’s name in a box: With the web, search has become synonymous with asking questions and getting answers. With really good searching, people can find what they need by saying what they want to do. So, I think searching for applications is something that should be addressed strongly to provide a great experience.

I have a hunch that one part of this puzzle is already mostly here. It just needs some glue. Almost every application is associated with at least one category, like BlocksGame and VectorGraphics. I’m hoping we can leverage that data to make searching more excellent.

Now, just in case I’ve lost anyone: there is cake involved!

I made the Category Keyword Collector to explore my theory.

If enough people enter enough data, I’m hoping we’ll see some interesting trends in how people describe applications. Ideally it will all line up and we can create a wonderful thing that expands each standard category into a bunch of searchable keywords. More likely we’ll see where the problems lie in my theory, and of course I’m hoping good things will emerge from that.

Tastier than it looks! (More so with a smaller mug and a crunchier cookie)

So, this is where the true heroes among us venture forth to the website.
Please play with it! It really enjoys the company, and it will only take a few seconds. I promise!

(Sorry about the bumped post. Blogger spat out uglier HTML than usual and I had to pick at it)

Using ubiquity-slideshow for loco websites

David P let me know that some loco teams are interested in using Ubuntu’s installer slideshow on their websites. It could serve as a quick tour of Ubuntu in their language. Lots of people do lots of work to localise this stuff, so using that work in other places sounds fun. I would like to quickly show how to do that with the slideshow. Mostly this is using jQuery and the jQuery.Cycle plugin, so if you just want to make a cool presentation from scratch, that is the place to look.

So, let’s make this simple by using the released package that is shipped in Ubuntu. If you want to make changes or update the localization, let me know and I can write about that (though I hope the Readme in lp:ubiquity-slideshow-ubuntu does the trick).

You can install the installer slideshow for your version of Ubuntu. It is ubiquity-slideshow-ubuntu in the repositories. (Or -kubuntu if you are using Kubuntu, etc). The binary and source packages are also available at the usual place on Launchpad. The actual content we are interested in installs to /usr/share/ubiquity-slideshow. It is all regular HTML, so pretty easy to play with. First, copy the slides folder to somewhere in your home folder; we will work with that now.
Obligatory copyright notice: the slideshow is licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3. A file with more details installs to /usr/share/doc/ubiquity-slideshow-ubuntu/copyright.

Now, open the slides folder. This may look overwhelming at first, but we will fix that. There are a whole bunch of folders named like loc.zh_TW and each one contains a version of the slideshow’s text for a specific locale (where everything after loc. is the locale code). In addition, each slide in the slideshow is its own file like photos.html and the slideshow itself is glued together by index.html, which has a list of all the slides in order. The slideshow can be told to run with a specific locale, where it loads the slides from that locale’s folder instead of the usual place.

You probably only need one locale, so let’s just deal with that now: open the folder for your locale. (If you don’t know your locale code, this table might help). Now move the contents to the slides folder, replacing the existing English slides. Now delete all the locale folders. (It’s quick to do that in Nautilus: press ctrl+s, enter loc.* for the pattern and hit OK, then delete the selection as usual). We don’t need directory.js, either, so delete that.

Now let’s test this to make sure everything is working. If you try opening index.html in your web browser, it will open that but the slideshow won’t show up. This is because your browser is being sensible and it is blocking the Javascript I mentioned from loading anything on your hard drive. You have a few options instead. Upload the slideshow to a website, or run a local http server. Of course, Python makes this easy. Head to the slides folder in a terminal and runpython -m SimpleHTTPServer…now, if you go to http://localhost:8000 in your web browser, the slideshow should appear.

Okay, great! Now what?
Let’s fix this up to make it look good on your website. First, open index.html in a text editor.

Remove the line that loads directory.js, which looks like &ltscript type=”text/javascript” src=”directory.js”&gt&lt/script&gt. We deleted that file earlier because it just describes the directory structure so the script knows what locales are available. Since we removed all the other locales, it serves no purpose (and actually slows down page loading since the browser will always request that file).

If your locale is a right-to-left language, add class=”rtl” to the <body> tag. This turns on the right-to-left rules in general.css.

About halfway down, you will see a list of items like<div><a href="welcome.html"></a></div>You may have noticed that the first and last slide are pretty specific to actually installing Ubuntu, so they aren’t really suited for what we are doing here. If you want, just remove the first and last ones from the list and they won’t be shown. You can also re-order these or add new slides in a similar way. If you’re wondering, the Javascript at the top of the file loads each of those listed slides using XHR.

Of course, linking someone to index.html as we have it now is a little boring. I encourage you to copy and paste the #slideshow element and stick it in another web page. It could make a nice decoration. As long as your page loads the slideshow’s css stylesheet, jquery, jquery.cycle and slideshow.js as in the <head> section, it will work out fine. (Though you may need to make some slight changes to general.css so it doesn’t interfere with the rest of your page. The likely offenders are at the top and there is a rule at line 202, affecting all IMG tags, that you may want to remove).

I should point out that this is (and always will be) intended to be used in one place: while installing Ubuntu. So, its design could change drastically. I would love to keep this going, but it’s mostly a lucky coincidence that it fits in websites today.
(It would be neat to see a loco-web-resources project on Launchpad, but I don’t think I’m the guy to spearhead that)

I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will try to answer.