Fedora, Red Hat

Fedora at Bratislava OpenCamp 2018

A few months ago I was invited to represent Red Hat and Fedora at a new conference in Bratislava – OpenCamp. All the Open Source/Linux conferences in Slovakia I’ve been to were rather small compared to Czech ones. But OpenCamp was promising a new fresh start. So I registered a Red Hat/Fedora booth and also submitted a talk on the present and future of Linux desktop.

I convinced Jaroslav “Rezza” Řezník to run the booth with me, so we could recall the good old days when we regularly staffed Fedora booths at conferences. Last Saturday early in the morning we loaded my car with Fedora and Red Hat swag, computers, and banners, and headed to Bratislava. Fortunately Brno and Bratislava are connected by highways, so the journey takes a bit over an hour.

opencamp
Me and Jaroslav at the booth.

EDIT: The original photo had Pepe the Frog and other references to the alt-right movement on the wall behind us. The wall was created by university students and because we’re not anyhow associated with the movement and don’t want the photo to send any unintented messages I just GIMPed it out.

The conference was located in the new building of FIIT of Slovak Technical University. I really liked the large hallway that had enough space for booths and hallway discussions. That’s something we miss for conferences at FIT BUT. In the morning we found out that our booth was located in an area where there was no power plug. So we had to be moved and it was a lucky move because we ended up in front of the main room and got a lot of visibility.

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Author: OpenCamp organizers, more pictures in the gallery.

The booth was mostly about showcasing Fedora Workstation. We had a HiDPI laptop connected to a standard DPI display to show people HiDPI support in Fedora. We also prepared 10 features that are the best in Fedora or even unique to Fedora. We picked those which are concrete and easy to show, and tried to avoid something like “Fedora brings new versions of software in a stable form” because it’s too vague and subjective.

Two days before the conference I found components for Fedorator in our office and under the impression that it only takes to assemble it and load a ready-to-use ISO on an SD card I asked Jaroslav if he could get it ready. Jaroslav spent two days and the whole conference day on it, but in the last hour of the conference he was able to create a Fedora installation USB drive with it 🙂

We got surprisingly a lot of attention, e.g. from Ubuntu users who feel the attention to the desktop is not the same any more there and look for alternatives. We were also quite new to people because although we had attended various conferences in Slovakia we never had a booth there. I made several new contacts for mojefedora.cz.

My talk was right in the morning and didn’t start very well. First we couldn’t get the projector up. When it was finally projecting something I couldn’t get any output to it (through USB-C->HDMI adapter). In the end I had to use a Windows 7 computer that was part of the room equipment. And even that didn’t work very well because the HDMI connector was aparently loose and the projector lost signal every time I touch the computer. Otherwise the talk went well and I got a fairly big audience in the room. Because we started 10 minutes late I didn’t have any time for questions and had to tell people to come to our booth if they want to ask me anything.

The only dark spot on otherwise a really good day was that someone scratched my car with another car. I still quite can’t imagine how he/she could manage it because the parking lot was almost empty.

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Nextcloud Talk: video conferencing the open way

For instant messaging I’ve been primarily using Telegram. I think it’s a good compromise between openness and features and mass adoption. It can also do encrypted audio calls, but it can’t do video calls and audio/video conferences of multiple people.

nextcloud

That’s why I was looking for some tool for video calling and conferencing. I didn’t want something completely closed (Skype, Hangouts,…) and ideally something I can run on my server.

I’ve been a big fan of Nextcloud and running it on my Fedora VPS for 1,5 year. In my opinion it’s a great open platform for online services. They used to offer SpreedMe service which was pretty clumsy and difficult to install and I never fell for it. Fortunately they recently announced Nextcloud Talk, a complete rewrite, open source and based on WebRTC. Is it what I was looking for?

It requires Nextcloud 13, so I had to wait until this version was out this week. (I actually find it quite strange to announce and do a big PR for an app that requires a version of Nextcloud that hasn’t been released yet.) The installation is super-simple now. You just go to the application store, click “Enable”, and that’s it.

I’ve been using it for several days, so what is my experience with it? You can make calls with other users in your Nextcloud instance (it also supports federation, so you can extend it to users of other connected instances), but you can create a conference room to which you can invite other people via a link (can be protected by a password).

Besides basic audio and video calls it allows you to share a screen and there is a text chat available to participants which is handy e.g. for sharing links. It just works in modern browsers. You send someone a link, they open it, and you can start talking. Nextcloud Talk also have apps for Android and iOS, so you can join calls from your phone. But they can only do video and audio, they don’t support text chat yet and you can create a new call room in them.

Feature-wise Nextcloud Talk is already fairly close to Bluejeans, the enterprise solution we use for video conferencing in Red Hat.

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Are there any problems? It’s the first release, there definitely are. One-to-one calls between registered users work reliably. I can’t say the same about conference calls with unregistered users. I tested it with two colleagues of mine who I invited via a link. I could only see video of one of them, he could see me, but couldn’t see the other person… Also connecting all participants is not always reliable.

Nextcloud offers its own STUN server. In settings you can add more STUN servers or even TURN server (but it’s not very desirable because all traffic then goes through your TURN server). I wonder if that would help.

There are also some problems in the UI. You can close the panel with the chat, but the icon for getting it back is black and it’s placed in the black corner of the video output of the other person, so it’s invisible. The UI of the mobile app sometimes sort of freezes, so it’s impossible to hang up.

But overall Nextcloud Talk looks very promising as a solution for those who want to easily deploy a video conferencing system on their premise. As I said one-to-one calls already work well for me and I hope the video conferences of multiple people will improve with future releases or I will find settings that fix the problems I’m having.

Fedora, Linux

Attended Flock 2017

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure to attend Flock 2017, the annual Fedora contributor conference. It moves between North America and Europe and after Krakow, Poland last year it took place in Hyannis, Massachussetts.

The conference started with the traditional keynote by Matthew Miller on the state of the Fedora Project. Matthew does a lot of data mining to create interesting statistics about how the project is doing. The keynote is an opportunity to share it with the public.

The Fedora user base is still growing as you can see on the chart of IP connections to Fedora update servers. Fedora 26 exceeded F25 just before Flock:

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Here are also geologic eras of Fedora as Matthew calls them. As you can see there is still a decent number of very old, unsupported Fedora installations which are still alive:

Snímek z 2017-09-12 17-03-29

It’s a pity that Matthew didn’t include the slide with ISO download shares of Fedora editions and spins. But last time he did Fedora Workstation amounted to ~80 % of all ISO downloads.

But by far the most popular part of the project is EPEL. Just look at its number of IP connections compared to all Fedora editions:

Snímek z 2017-09-12 17-08-50

Which brings me to another interesting talk I attended and that was EPEL State of the Union by a Fedora Project veteran Stephen Smoogen. As a Fedora packager I also maintain a couple of packages for EPEL, so it was interesting to hear how this successful sub-project is doing.

There were not many desktop-related talks this year. No “Status of Fedora Workstation” any more. It was very modularization and infrastructure focused. One of a few desktop talks was “Set up your own Atomic Workstation” by Owen Taylor, who is experimenting with distributing and running Fedora Workstation as an atomic OS, and Patrick Uiterwijk, who has been running it on his machine for a year or so (had a similar talk last year). Wanna try it yourself? Check out https://pagure.io/workstation-ostree-config

Although I didn’t attend the talk about secondary architectures by Dan Horák, we ended up talking and I was very happy to learn that the secondary arch team is doing automated builds of Firefox Nightly to catch problems early. That’s great news for us because with every major release of Firefox secondary architectures consumes a lot of our time. I asked Dan if they could do the same with WebKitGTK+ because it’s a very similar case and it looks like they will!

Several months ago David Labský created a device called Fedorator as his bachelor thesis supervised by a Fedora contributor and Fedora badge champion Miro Hrončok. The device lets you create a bootable USB stick with a Fedora edition of your choice. It’s Raspberry Pi-based, it has a touchscreen. The design is open source and you can assemble it yourself. Two months ago I got an idea to get David to Flock, buy components and assemble a dozen of fedorators which Fedora ambassadors can take home to use at local events. The result of it was a session at Flock where participants indeed assembled a dozen of fedorators. I only provided the idea and connected David with the right people. It wouldn’t have been possible without help of Brian Exelbierd, Paul Frields and others who arranged a budget, bought components etc.

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I also did have a session, but unfortunately it was a complete failure 😦 I coordinate the Fedora Workstation User’s Guide project whose goal is to produce a printed guidebook for new users. We’ve had a Czech version for the last two years and we just finished the English one. I wanted to work on content changes for the next release and help people start versions translated into their languages. Unfortunately my session was scheduled at 6pm on the last day when everyone was ready for dinner or was even leaving the conference. It also overlapped with the docs session which people who I knew had been interested attended.

In the end, not a single person showed up at my session which is my new personal record. I’ve done dozens of talks and sessions at conferences, but zero audience was a new experience.

Anyway, if you’d like to produce a handbook in your language to use at booths and to spread the word about Fedora, check the project on Pagure. As I said the 2017 release is out and will only receive bug fixes, the content is final and thus it’s safe to translate.

Although my session was not really a success I’m still glad I could attend the conference. I had several hallway conversations about the project and countless other interesting conversations, learned new things, caught up with Fedora friends.

GNOME

Attended GUADEC 2017

Although I was still recovering from bronchitis and the English weather was not helping much, I really enjoyed this year’s GUADEC. Last 3 GUADECs suffered a bit from lower attendance, so it was great to see that the conference is bouncing back and the attendance is getting close to 300 again.

What I value the most about GUADEC are hallway conversations. A concrete outcome of it is that we’re currently working with Endless people on getting LibreOffice to Flathub. In the process of it we’d like to improve the LibreOffice flatpak, so that it will be a full replacement for the traditional version in packages: having Java available, having spell-checking dictionaries available etc.

I also spent quite a lot of time with the Engagement team because they’re trying to build local GNOME communities and also make improvements in their budgeting. This is something I spent several years working on in the Fedora Project and we have built robust systems for it there. The GNOME community can get an inspiration from it or even reuse it. That’s why I’d like to be active in the Engagement team at least a bit to help bring those things into life.

Fedora, Red Hat

DevConf.cz 2017

Another edition of DevConf.cz took place last week. It was already the second edition I didn’t organize. This year, I was involved in the organization even less, just helping with the program and serving as a session chair for one day. So I could enjoy the conference more than ever before.

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DevConf.cz is still growing. This year, we had over 1700 registrations and ~1600 ppl actually showed up. This time, we also know for sure because it was the first edition when we did a registration and check-in. DevConf.cz is growing into a smaller FOSDEM with more focus on open source enterprise technologies and I think it even covers this area better than FOSDEM. The number of talks and workshops was also a bit higher, I think (200-250).

The opening keynote was pretty interesting. Tim Burke, the VP of Red Hat, announced a focus on integration of different Red Hat products and this year he showed it had actual results. People could see a demo of using different Red Hat products from hardware provisioning to deploying an app to OpenShift from JBoss Developer Studio. I hope that we as the desktop team will be able to contribute to this. Fedora Workstation is a great OS for developers and it should be the best OS for developers that want to develop on Red Hat platforms. I’d love us to get to the point where starting to develop with Red Hat technologies is just a matter of a couple of clicks/commands.

Another highlight of the conference was Hans de Goede’s talk “Making Fedora run better on laptops”. Hans announced a new team which is part of the desktop team and which will work on better hardware support in Fedora and RHEL (with the focus on laptops). We will finally have laptop models which will be officially supported!

The desktop track took place on Sunday. I session-chaired it, so I was more or less obliged to watch it all 🙂 Matthias Clasen prepared a very good presentation on Flatpak. His talk and, in fact, the whole track was interrupted when the projector system broke down. Unfortunately it was a failure in one of the main hardware components which couldn’t be fixed immediately. Matthias had to carry on without the projector and I must say that despite all the difficulties he did very well and there was a lot of questions. Meanwhile we managed to get a backup room where we moved the track once Matthias’ talk was over. Unfortunately the room was much smaller and a bit hidden which might have had an impact on attendance. So not so many people had an opportunity to watch another interesting talk – “Fedora Workstation – removing obstacles to success” by Christian Schaller who outlined some of our plans for the official Fedora desktop edition.

The weather during the conference was extraordinarily cold and a new term – devconflu – was invented. But I really enjoyed it, just had to give up FOSDEM for it. I was not up for another DevConf.cz+Red Hat internal meetings+FOSDEM this year.

BTW all the talk recordings are already online. Check out the DevConf.cz Youtube channel.

Fedora, GNOME, LibreOffice

OpenAlt 2016

OpenAlt, a traditional open source conference in Brno, took place last weekend. I gave talks on Wayland and Flatpak, and organized a Fedora booth.

logo-openalt-conference

 

Originally, I planned to give a talk on Flatpak only, but then the organizers came to me if I could find someone who could give a talk on the status of Wayland because people ask for it. And because I couldn’t find anyone else, I had to do the talk myself. OpenAlt was promoted live on Czech Television (something like BBC) and the Wayland talk was featured as one of the hot talks for which people should attend OpenAlt.

Both talks were in the main hall and both attracted quite a lot of people although Wayland was more popular in the end. Both topics also stirred quite a lot of interest and many people came to me afterwards to discuss the topics more in detail. LinuxEXPRES.cz has already released an article based on information from my Flatpak talk.

There were other interesting desktop-related talks. Dan Vrátil, an ex-member of our team, gave a talk about the history of KDE and he ran the presentation on KDE 1 (in Fedora 25), so he literally went back in time 🙂

Jan Holešovský talked on LibreOffice Online and Katarina Brehens on LibreOffice adoption in Germany.

Brno is a stronghold of Fedora mainly due to large presence of Red Hat, so OpenAlt is a lot about meeting our current users. We had some Fedora winter hats and t-shirts for them. Many users were happy to hear that Fedora 25 has much better and currently probably the best-among-distributions support for switchable graphics cards and much easier way to install nVidia drivers.

I had an interesting chat with a guy from sledovanitv.cz, a local startup providing TV streaming. He mentioned that they originally wanted to install Fedora on their laptops, but WiFi didn’t work (missing Broadcom drivers) and they gave up. So we definitely have another major hardware PITA in line to fix.

We also organized the 4th Linux Desktop Meetup. This time on Friday as “OpenAlt Edition”. And we had a special guest from Mozilla CZ who gave a talk on what’s going on in the Mozilla community. Some of the stuff was really exciting and Mozilla guys are interested in participating in future meetups even though they live in a different city.

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LibreOffice

LibreOffice Conference 2016

LibreOffice Conference 2016 is over and for us organizers it’s a time to reflect.

libocon16-logo

It was the third big open source desktop conference we’ve managed to get to Brno (after GUADEC 2013 and Akademy 2014). 3 days of talks, 150 attendees from all over the world, 4 social events.

The conference went pretty well from the organizational point of view. Feedback has been very positive so far. People liked the city, the venue (FIT BUT campus is really, really nice), the parties, and catering during the conference. TDF board even lifted Red Hat to the highest sponsorship level for the amount of work we did for the conference. The only major bummer we had was no online streaming. It’s quite easy to set it up with the university’s built-in video recording system, but the university didn’t allow it in the end. Nevertheless, we treated online streaming as nice-to-have. Video recordings are important to us and we’ll do our best to get them online as soon as possible.

I’ve (co)organized quite a few international conferences, but what was new for me was an attendee who gets seriously sick and needs medical services. One of the Libocon attendees got a serious infection in his leg and we spent a lot of time driving between hospitals, talking to doctors, arranging things. Everything ended well and the attendee got so better than he was even able to fly back home as he planned originally which didn’t look very likely at the beginning.

What I really don’t like doing is being an organizer and speaker at the same conference. As an organizer you’re just too busy and can’t concentrate on a talk you’re supposed to deliver. I volunteered to do an introductory talk in the Friday’s Czech track. I was even given already prepared slides and using someone else’s slides is another thing I don’t like doing. So as you can imagine it was not one of the best talks of my career 🙂 But the Czech track turned out to be quite good overall. I just wish more people had come, but if you only have <2 weeks to promote the program you won’t get crowds to the conference.

I’d like to thank The Document Foundation for a great cooperation, and all attendees for being so kind and forgiving us minor glitches in the organization. It was an exhausting, but great experience, and I hope to see everyone in Rome next year where I can again be in the comfortable seat of a visitor.