Fedora InstallFest @ FIT BUT

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Yesterday, I and Fedora QA guys were helping new students at Brno University of Technology to install and start using Fedora. On Thursday, I had a presentation in front of 300 students in a “Basics of Programming” class, gave away some DVDs, stickers, and offered them to come to our Red Hat lab on Monday if they need any help to install and use Fedora.

Morning was pretty boring. The only attendee we had was an old retired guy who saw the announcement on the Internet and came to solve several smaller problems he had with Fedora. What was interesting was that he asked how to get into the magical command line everyone had been talking about on the Internet. He had been maintaining and using Fedora for over a year and hadn’t had a clue what the command line was.

After lunch, students started coming and it was an interesting experience for all of us. They all came because they couldn’t install Fedora themselves. We had to tackle many UEFI-related problems. Our specialist for it was Kamil Parál who I now call the Master of GRUB. There is a big improvement in UEFI support between F20 and F21, so in two cases we didn’t have a choice and had to install F21 in the end although it is still just alpha. Another very frequent problem was dual graphics cards. Unfortunately both things are very common on Windows laptops nowadays. And I must say installing Linux into dualboot on a standard Windows laptop is often a struggle, much bigger than it was like 3 years ago.

Nevertheless, we were able to get Fedora working on all laptops except for one that had a broken partition table and the owner didn’t want to format the hard drive.

Several findings from the event:

  • it’s a really good idea to advertise Fedora at universities and introduce it to new students because many of them are tempted or even encouraged by teachers to try Linux. And if you introduce Fedora to them there are high changes it will be the Linux of their choice. I introduced Fedora to another group of 300 students yesterday which makes it 600 in total and because the student are strongly advised by the teacher to use Linux for their C projects I’m pretty sure we’ve achieved tens, maybe even hundreds of installations.
  • it’s a great experience to interact with the users. Computer science students are the target audience of Fedora Workstation and it’s very beneficial and eye-opening to see how they interact with Fedora, what they struggle with. It’s something every Fedora developer should try from time to time, to get out from our shells and go see how our target audience use our software. That would definitely help user experience of our software.
  • it was a very beneficial thing for the QA guys because they could see how Fedora (mostly Anaconda in this case) worked on real life hardware. Most of the testing is done in virtual machines and if they test on real hardware it’s mostly ThinkPads with an empty hard drive. Our ThinkPads usually have Linux-friendly hardware and no crazy Windows installations. But the world is full of Acers, Asuses, Dells with all kinds of Windows setups. BTW we’ve invited an Anaconda developer to the next installfest that will take place next Monday.
  • installfests still matter. We’ve solved problems with wireless network drivers etc., but UEFI and dual video cards have come to the scene and a lot of people struggle to install Linux on their computers again.
  • DevAssistant should be our big thing for developers. Something others don’t have right now. I’ve been explaining it to devel beginners and have been observing how they interact with it and unfortunately I have to say it’s not very useful to such target audience. It has many design flaws. It doesn’t explain what it is doing and why, what is the result. I think Mo nailed it very well.

Flock: Behind the Scenes 4

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Another set of news and tips from the organization of Flock 2014:

Offline guide for Guidebook.com – I’ve published an offline guide for Guidebook.com. You can download their apps for Android or iOS and they even have a web mobile version, so you can use it on other platforms, too. The “Flock 2014″ is currently pending approval, but it should be available really soon (UPDATE: it’s been approved and is available!). The guide contains the conference schedule, maps (conference venue, how to get to parties, hotel,…), information about social events, lunches,  Diplomat Hotel, Sinkuleho dormitories, mobile data plans, public transport in Prague, taxi services, useful websites and apps for visiting Prague, numbers and contacts for emergency situations. You can also connect with other attendees through it or receive important messages from us, organizers, during the conference.

Some tips:

Transport in Prague – a lot of people ask about this because every Flock attendee will have to get around in Prague somehow. I strongly recommend you use public transport. The Prague public transport has been rated as 4th best in Europe. It’s safe, cheap and runs 24/7. You can find more info about it on the Transportation page at flocktofedora.org. Taxi drivers in Prague have generally a bad reputation because of overcharging. It’s not really necessary to take a taxi from the airport to Hotel Diplomat or Sinkuleho dormitories because it’s very easy and quick by bus. If you need to take a taxi, it’s better to order it via an app or call rather than flagging it down on a street. Recommended taxi companies:

  • Tick Tack – comfortable Audi A6 and A8 cars, accepts also credit cards or euros, multimedia passenger system where you can track the taxi on a map, watch TVs, wifi on board, power plugs, phone number: 14222.

Mobile Data Plans – many of us with smart phones can’t imagine being without Internet connection and data roaming is still pretty expensive in most countries. For this purpose, you can buy a Czech SIM card and prepay a data plan. There are three mobile network providers (Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2) and a handful of virtual operators (TESCO Mobile, Sazka Mobile, Mobil.cz,…). See emails from me and Jaroslav Řezník for data plans and price comparison. Vodafone has a store right in the arrivals hall of the Prague airport. T-Mobile and O2 have stores on Vítězné náměstí (Victory Square) which is just a few minutes from Diplomat Hotel and Sinkuleho dormitories. Mobile networks in the Czech Republic are based on GSM 900 and 1800, Edge, 3G and Prague should be fully covered by LTE.

Useful websites and apps for visiting Prague:

My Prague – interactive guide to Prague, hundreds of points of interest, web app at mypragueapp.com or in Google Play and App Store.

Prague Minos Guide – a comprehensive guide to Prague, hundreds of points of interest, offline maps,… in Google Play and App Store.

CG Transit – the best app for timetables and searching journeys, timetables are paid for, but have free one-month trials, in Google Play and App Store.

Other timetables and transport connection searching – website IDOS.cz, Pubtran (for Android), Jízdní řády iDNES.cz (for iPhone).

Google Maps use local timetables to find the best journey using public transport in Prague. The easest way to get around!

SMS ticket – an app that makes purchasing sms tickets for public transport faster and more convenient, but you still need to have a Czech sim card, Google Play, App Store.

Sejf – an app that allows you to pay for public transport tickets and other services (parking,…) even if you don’t have a Czech sim card, Google Play, App Store.

Czech Money – yes, the Czech Republic hasn’t adopted euro, but still has Czech crowns (CZK). The Czech National Bank has created an app to show what coins and banknotes look like and what are their security measurements so that you never get fooled by fake money. Google Play, App Store.
Lunchtime – lists daily lunch options in near restaurants, lunchtime.cz or in Google Play or App Store.

Cheapest Taxi Prague – an app that helps you order a taxi, in Google Play and App Store.

Taxi.eu – another app that helps you order a taxi, not only for Prague, in Google Play and App Store, or web app.

If you know other useful websites and apps I’ll be happy if you share them with others in comments.

Flock: Behind the Scenes 3

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I’ve got another set of updates from the Flock organization for you:

Flock apps for BB10 and SailfishOS – Jaroslav Řezník has created a mobile app for those who are using Blackberry 10 system (is there anyone out there?). The Jolla phone and its SailfishOS has been quite popular among open source geeks. If you have one, check out an app that was created by Jozef Mlích. It’s available in the OpenRepos. So together with the Android app, I wrote about in the first article, we already have three apps. I’m also working on an offline guide for Guidebook.com.

Social events – we finally made a decision about social events (what, where, when). There will be one on Wednesday and the main one will be on Thursday. We’re also thinking about organizing an unofficial kind of gathering in some pub on Tuesday where you can come to meet others after you arrive to Prague and get accommodated.

Printouts – Sirko Kemter is working on conference booklets. The last thing he was missing was information about social events which is now solved. Ryan Lerch has prepared badges. They will be from the same vendor as last year, produced in the U.S. and brought to Prague. We’re looking for a volunteer who would help us with navigation signs and mainly schedules we will post on doors of lecture rooms.

And some tips for the promised section “Getting ready for the trip to Flock”:

  • Money – I’ve already been asked by several people what currency they should bring to the Czech Republic. Believe or not even though the Czech Republic is a member of the EU we don’t have euro. Our currency is Czech crown (CZK). Would you like to get more familiar with the Czech coins and bills? Download a mobile app release by The Czech National Bank. It will show you all details and security measurements.  You won’t make a mistake if you bring euros or US dollars because these are the most widely accepted foreign currencies in exchange offices. Euro is even accepted in some stores, restaurants, or gas stations. GBP or CHF are also fine while not as common as € or $. You’ll be able to exchange other currencies, too, but you most likely will get worse exchange rates. Payment cards (Mastercard, VISA) are quite widely accepted and if you need cash you can get it from ATMs which are at every corner. So I recommend you bring just little cash with you from home. And prices? The Czech Republic is a fairly cheap country. You can check a list of price samples by expact.cz or prices for tourists in Prague by PriceOfTravel.com.
  • Language – believe or not the language of the Czech Republic is not English (I met several people in Asia who were surprised that English is not the (only) native language in Europe), it’s… surprise, surprise… Czech. Czech is a West Slavic language which is very similar to Slovak, fairly similar to Polish and Slovenian, and only remotely similar to Russian and other East Slavic languages. I heard that some of Flock attendees’ve started learning Czech to make a nice touch while communicating with locals. Czech is said to be difficult, but read tips by an Irish polyglot who learned Czech in just 2 months and says it’s not difficult at all! The most common foreign language is English. Almost all people under 30 have learned it at primary and secondary school, but only 10% of the population rate their English proficiency as good. The second most common language is German. It used to compete with English for the status of the first foreign language, but has been completely ran over by English in the recent years, but is still the second foreign language at most schools. Other common foreign languages are French, Spanish, and Italian, but they have much fewer speakers here than English and German. Russian was a mandatory language at schools before 1989, but this language won’t help you much in the Czech Republic nowadays unfortunately. Most people who learned it don’t remember it any more because they learned it because they had to, not because they wanted to, and they never really practiced it.

I’m going to GUADEC 2014!

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I’m going to GUADEC 2014 in Strasbourg! Last year, I was one of the organizers and I planned to enjoy this year’s GUADEC just as an ordinary attendee. But I assigned myself at least some job. I’ll be covering the conference for Fedora Magazine.

I’m looking forward to meeting other Fedora guys there!

Flock: Behind the Scenes 2

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Last week I decided to blog about things from the organization of Flock 2014, so that you can see what’s going on “behind the scenes”. Today, I’ve got another set of things that may be interesting or useful for Flock attendees:

Registration – some of you have noticed that the pre-registration on the conference website is closed and you cannot register for Flock any more. I wasn’t directly involved in spinning off the registration and setting the deadline, but I suppose it’s because of planning. The whole pre-registration is mainly for planning purposes. We needed to know how many people would attend, so that we could plan social events, lunches, t-shirt production. Of course, we have to leave ourselves some time and can’t wait till the beginning of the conference. All the mentioned things are currently planned for 250 ppl. The number of attendees registered has pretty much reached that. Of course, you can attend Flock even though you’re not registered, it’s free and open to attend, but we can’t promise that you’ll get a t-shirt, lunches, and tickets to the party.

Problems with visas – some sponsored attendees reported problems with getting a Schengen visa.  That resulted in rebooking flights which put even more pressure on our limited budget for this year’s Flock. Ruth Suehle started a discussion on the flock-planning mailing list about how to avoid such situations in the future. There have been several suggestions. Examples how other projects have solved it. Some people even suggested that we should not sponsor people fully next time. Frankly, the Fedora Project has been quite generous at his covering both travel costs and accommodation even at the cost of additional rebooking. When we organized the Flock Sponsorship Program for EMEA we set the limit to $200 and told ppl that they could apply if they think the amount would help them. Travel itinerary and lodging options are their business.

Cool Guide to Prague – one of my colleagues pointed me to a very interesting guide to Prague (and not only to Prague, it’s a Europe-wide project). It’s called USE-IT and it offers a map of the city with recommended points of interest, Czech phrases, pieces of advice how to act “like a local”. All put in a fun way. We’d like to give away printed versions at the conference, but you can check it out already now and learn something in advance ;)

In one of the future posts, I will share other tips and sources of useful information with you, so that you can get ready for your trip to Flock.

Flock 2014: Behind the Scenes 1

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Flock 2014 is just three weeks away and conference organization is getting into its most intense phase. I’d like to periodically blog about organizational stuff and our progress in the last couple of weeks before Flock. To make things that seem to be a bit behind the scenes more open and transparent.

Venue – the venue has been secured for some time. We originally planned to have everything in one shiny building that is shared by the Faculty of Architecture and the Faculty of Information Technologies. We had a deal with FIT, but people of FA, which is charge of the large lecture rooms, started being trouble makers and asked for much more to rent the rooms. FIT managed to rent two large lecture rooms from the Faculty of Civil Engineering. They’re in a different building, but the buildings are connected and the walking distance is not so bad. Moreover, the large rooms will only be used for the first two days, then Flock will only take place in rooms of FIT.

The campus is otherwise a perfect location for us. The building of FA and FIT is right next to a new library building where you can find a cozy café. It’s a 5-minute walk from a metro station from where it’s just 10 minutes to the city center. You can get there from the airport in less than 20 minutes without having to change buses.

Accommodation – this was actually a hard task. Prague is one of the top tourist places in Europe and August is high season. All hotels are booked and rates are pretty high. We checked all possible hotel options in the neighbourhood and the only suitable was Diplomat Hotel. They gave us a flat rate €90, but then a lot of people noticed that their current rates were cheaper. So we asked the hotel to match the price and they gave us €80 (+Internet connection which is not normally included). But some damage had already been done and I guess a lot of people had booked their rooms directly which left us with a lot of unocuppied rooms. So if you’re planning to stay in the hotel (either sponsored or paying for yourself) please book your room ASAP because we have to cancel reservation of unused rooms.

Because quite a few people couldn’t afford the hotel, we came up with a low-cost option which is student dormitories very close to the venue. This option is considerably cheaper (€17 for a double-bed room), but it’s also not so comfy as the hotel (bathroom is shared with other rooms on the same floor and no breakfast). It’s great that both options are within a few-minute walk from the venue and the stop where all buses from the airport go is even right in front of the hotel, so if you’re coming from the airport, you just can’t miss it.

Lunch – this also seemed to be a hard task. There are no large restaurants around to accommodate 200+ people within 2 hours. We explored the idea to give people meal tickets they can spend in restaurants around like last year in Charleston. Unfortunately widely accepted meal tickets are tax deducted and are only intended for employees in the Czech Republic.  Student cafeterias are closed during summer and they didn’t seem to be interested in making some extra money by opening one of them for us. We asked catering companies how much lunches that they would bring to the venue for us would be and the quotes were ridiculous (above $20). We even started planning to use food supplier of our office in Brno and ask them to bring lunches from Brno every day. But that would be a logistic nightmare. Fortunately Miro found an academic restaurant in nearby dormitories which is able to handle such a large group of people and gave us reasonable quotes. So we won’t let you starve at Flock!

Coffee at the venue, another crucial element of every conference, is yet to be solved, though.

Social events – we explored a lot of options because Prague offers quite a few interesting venues for parties. Now, it’s narrowed down to two or three. We’re still working on it. I don’t want to reveal the options to keep it as a surprise. I think most of us want to go for something memorable, not just yet another pub party. On the other hand, the number of sponsors is much lower than last year and it has inevitable impact on our budget.

SWAG – I think Maírín made a really nice artwork for conference t-shirts. They’re already ordered. We ordered them when there were 220 registered people, we ordered a few extra, but if you registered too late we might not have one for you. But there will probably be some late cancellations so I guess everyone will get one. And other SWAG? It’s more or less treated as nice-to-have if we have any money left.

Information for attendees – we understand you will be coming from all parts of the world and to make your trip and stay as smooth as possible we’d like to provide you with as much information as possible. Luděk Šmíd has prepared a Flock app for Android. Check it out and report problems! Jaroslav Řezník is also working on an app for BB10 and Jozef Mlích on a version for SailfishOS.

I’ve also started working on a guide for Guidebook.com. I used the app for the first time when I attended FUDCon APAC in Beijing and I found very useful that I can download all important information to my phone even for offline usage. I’ve added maps, info about accommodation, useful websites and apps for Prague, public transport. Let me know what kind of information you expect there. It’s a pity there is no such solution as Guidebook.com that would be open source. There are so many open source conferences. Why not to create an ultimate solution for all of them? We have actually started thinking about evolving some of our conference schedule apps into something like Guidebook.com.

Invitation letters – we sent out quite a lot of letters of invitation. It was mostly done by Květa Mrštíková. I just created a template and then signed prepared letters. And I had the first call from an embassy. A consular office of the Czech embassy in New Delhi wanted to confirm two applicants who hadn’t had a history in the Schengen area. I hope everything went through.

Looking forward to meeting you in Prague!

 

EMEA sponsorship program for Flock

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The budget of Flock is rather limited this year and it’s just enough to cover travel and lodging subsidies for speakers which is why the EMEA regional community decided yesterday to organize a small sponsorship program for EMEA contributors who would like to attend Flock 2014 that is going to take place in Prague on Aug 6-9 and haven’t received (and will not receive) any sponsorship as speakers. This program will allow us to bring more people from the community. And because the conference is taking place in Europe this year we can bring more people for relatively smaller money.

The overall amount of money allocated to the program is $2000. The funding limit per contributor is $200. The number of sponsored people is not limited and we will satisfy funding requests until we hit the limit of $2000. Candidates that have been actively contributing to the Project in the last year and have some work agenda for Flock (meeting team mates, organizing a “do” session,…) will be given a priority.
The program is funded from the EMEA budget and is intended for contributors from this region. Other regions are assessing their budget situation and might come up with a similar program for their contributors.

If you’d like to ask for a sponsorship, please file a ticket in the EMEA trac, mention your recent contributions to the Project and reasons why you want to attend Flock, and specify how much money you need (remember, the limit is $200).

The deadline is June 24 (12am UTC). The EMEA community has delegated the decision to FAmSCo, so FAmSCo will then pick the best candidates if there are more requests than the available funding.

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