Fedora at Czech conferences

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The busy autumn season of technical conferences is over. During that time, we represented Fedora at three conferences in the Czech Republic:

LinuxDays in Prague – over 1000 registered visitors make it the largest Czech Linux event (if we don’t consider DevConf.cz which is international). As every year, we had a Fedora booth there and we had the first opportunity to give away new Fedora handbooks. A couple of Fedora contributors also delivered talks, I myself spoke on Fedora Workstation and problems of Linux desktop in general.


OpenAlt in Brno – originally called LinuxAlt OpenAlt used to be the largest Czech Linux event, but the number of visitors has been stagnating or even declining. This year, the conference adopted a much broader range of topics and became a rather barcamp about “open topics”. This gave us an opportunity to approach different audience than the traditional Linux one. We again had a Fedora booth and because the conference is in Brno there were many talks by redhatters and Fedora contributors. I again had a talk on Fedora Workstation.


PyCon CZ – I didn’t attend this conference myself, but Miro Hroncok and Slavek Kabrda represented the Fedora Project very well there. It was the first PyCon in the Czech Republic, well attended. Fedora had a booth there and Miro and Slavek wanted to differentiate from others, so they purchased dozens of blue soda Zon and gave it away to thirsty visitors as a present from Fedora. This event allowed us to reach outside the traditional Linux community and approach our target audience – developers. I suppose Miro or Slavek will write a bit more about the event. And we’re already planning to participate in PyCon SK.


Author: Matej Stuchlik

We also organized a Fedora 23 release party in Brno which was extremely well attended. We picked the largest room in the new building of Red Hat (with 100 seats) and people couldn’t even physically fit in the room, so I suppose the attendance was >120 ppl.

This Thursday, we’re going to Prague to have a release party there. The release parties there are usually smaller (~30 ppl), but full of interesting people. For instance, the new Fedora handbook was an outcome of beer conversation after the F22 release party in Prague. It will be especially interesting because we were offered a venue in Etnetera, a company that use Fedora Workstation on a lot of PCs.

Only 10 days left to submit a talk to DevConf.cz 2016 CfP!

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The deadline of DevConf.cz 2016 Call for Papers is getting closer, it’s just 10 days away (Dec 1st). DevConf.cz is the biggest technical conference focused on Red Hat-related technologies. This year, there were around 1200 visitors and 150 talks/labs.

You can meet a lot of Red Hat engineers there and Fedora as the largest community project of Red Hat plays an important role in the conference. In fact, we’re planning to have a Fedora Day on the last day of the conference again. So if you have any Fedora-related topic, please consider submitting it. But even if it’s not Fedora-related, it will be very much welcome. The conference covers areas such as open source virtualization, containers, kernel, Java, networking, hardware, security, storage, software quality.


Getting Started with Fedora – Update

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Some time ago, I announced the ‘Getting Started with Fedora’ handbook which we had published in Czech. I also announced the plan to translate it to English, so that it can be translated to other languages. I asked around who could help me with that, especially to figure out the whole system how to get a translated print PDF from a document written in English. A couple of native speakers offered that they would help with proof reading, thank them for that, but first we need to figure out the whole system.

I spoke with Petr Čech who had done typesetting for the pilot edition. We agreed it wouldn’t be very practical to write up and update the handbook in TeX. He suggested we write it in DocBook which has good converters to TeX. Of course, you can’t create a good print PDF by an automatic conversion, so the TeX sources automatically generated from the DocBook file would be just a start point. Then someone would have to work on it to create an acceptable print PDF. Petr said he could be able to do the Czech and English version, but each localization would have to have a volunteer who would finish typesetting.

There are more markup languages that have converters to TeX, the advantage of DocBook is that it has pretty complex tooling around it, so it’d be easy to hook it up with Zanata for translations. But XML syntax of DocBook puts a lot of people off, that’s why guys from the RH Docs team suggested we use AsciiDoc which we can then convert to DocBook to work with the tooling we need. Now, we are in the phase of exploring if the conversion between AsciiDoc and DocBook is reliable because it doesn’t seem to work quite well for more complex documents. The handbook is rather simple, no tables etc.

We’ve also received feedback about the first edition. The handbook seems to be helpful because we gave it away to new students at the local technical university and they had much fewer questions about Fedora than last year. The most frequent question was: “Why is Fedora being replicated on my computers?” They asked because after a couple of kernel updates they suddenly had 3-4 Fedora entries in GRUB and users don’t have an idea what’s going on there. We should explain this in the handbook.

People also asked if we could cover the installation process more in detail. So in the next edition, we probably will cover at least two most common scenarios: installing Fedora on the entire disk and installing it next to Windows.

The biggest bummer of the first edition is that we link the Czech community portal on several places, even on the back cover, but we recently had a dispute with the owner of fedora.cz domain and had to move the portal to mojefedora.cz. This made all the links suddenly outdated.

‘Getting Started with Fedora’ handbook


I’m proud to announce that we’ve released a brand new ‘Getting Started with Fedora’ handbook. The goal was to create something that a user would get as an incentive to look at Fedora and what would walk them from getting it (e.g. at our booth at a conference) to getting familiar with the system (what Fedora is about and what it has to offer, how to get it, how to install it, how to use it).

I had the idea of such a handbook in mind for two years, but I never found enough time to work on it. I started during the last Christmas, but then I decided to get the Czech online Fedora guide into shape first and yeah, it’s never ending task. But at Fedora 22 release party in Prague, I spoke with Lukáš Kotek who liked the idea and responded: “Hey, I’m a high school teacher, I’ll have a plenty of time after June 30th, so I can work on it”. And he did. The content was roughly done in July, then we tuned it (myself and Jaroslav Řezník provided feedback), it went through proof reading (Kveta Mrstikova and Jiri Kroupa), then Maria Leonova added a cover, and Petr Cech did typsetting in TeX.

It was meant to be a pilot project. It’d have been better to do it in English first, but all people I gathered for it were Czechs, so it was much quicker to do it in Czech and have something finished as soon as possible. Early feedback from users is crucial here. And the feedback has so far been very positive, the handbooks were very popular at LinuxDays in Prague last week. So we’d like to go ahead and translate it to English. We will need native speakers who will proof-read it, but right now we’re looking for people who would figure out some viable system for translations which would make it easy to translate the handbook, which would handle updates etc.

The handbook could be a very good replacement of DVDs. USB sticks are still >10x more expensive than DVDs, but we were able to have the handbook printed in good quality for $.50* which is pretty close to DVDs ($.35). It doesn’t include media with Fedora, but it provides much much more information about Fedora.

We have a git repo for the handbook and you can also check out a PDF version.

* The owner of the printery turned out to be a Linux enthusiast, so he gave us a really good price and gave us a lot of tips to tune it to get better print results.


Fedora at LinuxCon Europe 2015

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This week, another edition of LinuxCon Europe took place in Dublin and as always Fedora was there. The Linux Foundation confirmed our booth quite late, just two weeks before the event, so we didn’t have a lot of time for preparation. On the other hand, we got the stand and three passes for free which was big help because the conference is otherwise very expensive (the standard pass was ~$1000). And I’d like to thank the Linux Foundation for the support.

2015-10-05 10.39.38

Giannis and Jon at Fedora booth

Because we had little time for preparation, our booth was only basic: we had standard swag (Fedora logo stickers, Fedora product stickers, badges, case badges, pens), a stand-up banner, and a laptop showcasing Fedora Workstation 23. Unlike last year, the stand didn’t have the best location, but we still got a reasonable number of visitors. Here are some of my notes from the event:
  • One guy from Fujitsu Finland told us they were using Fedora on mission-critical servers and it turned out to be working fine. They’ve got the latest and greatest, they can adapt to changes earlier (he specifically mentioned systemd), and upgrading from one version of Fedora to another is much easier than to upgrade from one version of RHEL/CentOS to another.
  • A developer from Intel told us that their whole Linux development team was using Fedora. They also ran Fedora on their booth (another booth that ran Fedora was some UEFI organization). I was looking for someone from Intel who has something to do with the Intel video driver development because Retrace Server is full of false positives from the driver, but Intel was mostly represented by embedded Linux team.
  • Some developers asked what laptops we could recommend to run Fedora on because there is no compatibility database. I recommended ThinkPads because I think they still have the best Linux support and they’re still the most popular laptops among Linux developers.
  • Quite a few people asked us why we have two booths at the conference. That was because there was also a booth of Red Hat. A lot of people apparently think that Red Hat and Fedora Project are the same things. Having a separate booth sends a strong message that Fedora is not Red Hat-only thing and it’s, in fact, the most independent among the Red Hat-backed community projects.
  • Even at LinuxCon there are people who have no awareness of Fedora, so paciently kept explaining what Fedora is about and what has to offer. Building awareness in the enterprise ecosystem is IMHO one of the main benefits of being at LinuxCon.
  • It was a bit saddening to see so many Macbooks at LinuxCon. I saw more of them this year than any other year before. Even people from the Linux Foundation were promoting their Linux certifications from Macbooks with OS X.
  • Many visitors asked about the new Fedora products (Workstation, Server, Cloud). Evergreen question was why we have Fedora Server if there is already CentOS. A lot of people apparently associates Workstation with something for developers and serious work only and ask if we have something for end users. Yes, our core target audience are developers, but Fedora is still very much useful for other end users, too. Maybe we should say that more clearly and loundly in our marketing messaging.
2015-10-06 14.10.57

Fedora running at Intel booth

At the end, I’d like to thank the Fedora Project for sponsoring my travel and lodging and Jon Archer and Giannis Konstantinidis for staffing the booth with me.

Brno will host LibreOffice Conference 2016!

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So I can finally share publicly that Brno will host LibreOffice Conference 2016. After GUADEC 2013 and Akademy 2014, it’s the third major desktop conference that will take place in Brno. The venue will be the campus of Faculty of Information Technologies of Brno University of Technology which is one of the major computer science universities in the country with a lot of open source participation. That’s also where GUADEC 2013 and DevConf.cz 2015 took place.

I was one of the initiators, but most of the work done on the bid was done by Jaroslav Řezník and OpenAlt group which will also provide the event organization with a legal entity.

The conference will take place in the second week of September, looking forward to meeting everyone interested in the open source office suit in Brno!

How ABRT helped us make Fedora Workstation more stable

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Last week, the official Fedora Project account asked users on social networks why Fedora is their distribution of choice. Probably the most frequent answer was that Fedora is THE GNOME distro, that it has the best supported GNOME, which really made me happy, but what made me even happier was that I found a lot of answers like “You won’t believe it, but I use Fedora for stability”. Indeed, the stability of Fedora has improved a lot since I started using it, especially in the last releases. How did we achieve it?

There are several reasons why Fedora is more stable than ever before. What plays an important role is that the significant changes have settled. GNOME 3 matures, the wild beginnings of systemd are also over, Anaconda has stabilized a lot, too. Another reasons is the Fedora QA team, which now has 10 people who test Fedora full time. This is something no other community can enjoy. If you add volunteers and the fact that the team uses more and more of automated testing, you get a lot of test coverage. What I think has also helped is focus. We created three official editions – Workstation, Server, Cloud and defined what MUST be good (the three editions) and what CAN be good (everything else – spins, labs,…). We have also changed the strategy. Fedora is supposed to be progressive, but it doesn’t mean we need to force immature features on users. However, we also doesn’t want to be too conservative and become another Debian. I think we have found a good balance. The strategy is to have stable defaults and experimental features as opt-ins that are just a few clicks away for early adopters who would like to test them (this strategy was used for DNF, and now we’re using it for Wayland). This way, Fedora is stable enough for users who just want to use it, and still fun for those who like living on the edge of future technology.

However, today I’d like to focus on a different factor behind improved stability of Fedora – ABRT, which stands for Automatic Bug Reporting Tool. It’s a tool that helps users report software problems. One of the main problems in software development is to get reports that are detailed enough so that the problem can be identified and fixed. If the report states: “I clicked a button and the window disappeared”, it doesn’t help you find the problem and it most likely won’t get fixed. But if the user attaches a backtrace and a set of relevant logs, the chances go up sharply. That was the first milestone for ABRT – to collect all relevant data in the system and help the user report it.

But the results was bugzilla flooded with ABRT reports. Developers simply didn’t have capacity to go through them and analyze them. They usually ended up filtering ABRT reports out. That was why ABRT went on to another milestone – to create statistics that would help maintainers identify which bugs affect a lot of users (and thus should be fixed) and which are just corner cases. And this finally made ABRT a very interesting aid for developers.

The statistics can be found on Retrace Server. They provide a lot of information. Not only can you find out how many crashes the bug is responsible for, which is the most important information for prioritization, but you can also learn in which release of Fedora, on which architecture etc. What is also very useful is that ABRT can group crashes together based on similarity. Then you can find out that, for instance, crashes in ten different components are caused by a bug in a single library these components are using. The number of reports in bugzilla has decreased significantly, too, because ABRT started identifying duplicates and creating reports only when enough info is collected.


Stats of a problem.

The desktop team started using ABRT roughly a year and half ago. Developers are told to check the stats if their components pop up in the chart of most frequent crashes. I regularly check it, too. And if I find something my team is responsible for, I notify the responsible developer about it. But it’s been quite boring lately. If you check stats from stable releases, you won’t find desktop components so easily. And ff you do find something from the desktop after all, it’s usually already marked as fixed.

But it was not always like this. Fedora is primarily a desktop distribution, so desktop components are heavily used and they were high on the list of most frequent crashes. But ABRT enabled us to prioritize and focus on the most frequent crashes. And you can see the difference in the real-life usage. I rarely experience a crash in GNOME or default Workstation applications.

After good experience with ABRT in GNOME, I also advised KDE maintainers in my team to use it to prioritize. When they went through the list, they found Plasma crashes that had an origin lower in the stack (X11 or drivers), so not easily fixable for them, but they also found quite a few trivial oneliners which affected thousands of users. The ABRT stats are also used by some of our partners. I know Intel uses them to monitor problems in their video driver (btw kernel is associated with most of the frequent problems, but in this case, the problems are not crashes, but rather kernel module oops which users don’t even notice). CentOS started using ABRT, too. That’s helpful if you want to identify frequent crashes in RHEL because if it crashes in CentOS, it most likely crashes in RHEL as well.

ABRT is also useful for users. Not only can it collect relevant information about a crash for you, and make it much easier to report it in bugzilla, but if you don’t want to deal with any bug reporting, you can at least let it send microreports which build the statistics. By doing so, you let us know that the crash that could be fully reported by someone else affects you, too. You can even go for silent microreporting which doesn’t disturb you at all. That’s what I turn on on computers of average users. They will never report a single problem themselves, but by sending microreports they still contribute to quality of Fedora.

I also use ABRT to report problems in software that is not part of Fedora repositories. ABRT collects info about a crash for me and I can pick what I need from it or send it to developers as a whole package.

ABRT has really significantly contributed to quality of Fedora, at least in the desktop part. Kudos to all who have worked on the project for that!

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