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:

Snímek z 2017-09-12 16-58-50

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.


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.

Fedora, GNOME

Flock & GUADEC 2016

The last two weeks were pretty busy for me because I travelled to two of my most favourite conferences – Flock and GUADEC.

Flock was held in Krakow this year, so the traveling was a sort of easy for me. Krakow is just 350 km from Brno which is about 3.5 hours by car. The conference was again organized in the hotel where almost everyone stayed. The same setup was already in Rochester last year and people appreciated it. It’s very convenient. You don’t have to travel to the venue, you can sneak out to have a nap, which is super useful if you’re fighting jet lag, and you can use hotel facilities such as a gym or swimming pool.


I had one talk and one hackfest at Flock. The talk was about Fedora SWAG. I’m still quite a lot involved in SWAG production for the EMEA region and it was a pleasure to state that the things have improved since the last year and a lot of ideas we had at Flock in Rochester actually got implemented.
The hackfest I organized was about writing AppStream metadata for application add-ons. I started the initiative in December and since then dozens of add-ons appeared in GNOME Software because they got AppStream metadata. The hackfest was partly a workshop because it took me quite a while to explain everyone what to do to make an add-on appear in the default app catalog in Fedora. I also learned new things. Richard Hughes who is very involved in upstream AppStream and works on GNOME Software participated and I, for example, learned that the way I had added keywords in metadata XML files was wrong. And Richard learned that I was doing it wrong because it was not documented anywhere.

I also attended many other talks. Matthew Miller’s keynote on the state of Fedora Project was very informative. I’m happy to see Fedora grow and I’m especially happy that our team plays a big part in it (Workstation makes ~80% of all ISO downloads). My boss Christian Schaller had a talk on Workstation which was pretty interesting, but because my team is deeply involved in many of the Workstation initiatives there was not much new to me. I also enjoyed talk by Jonathan Dieter who has run Fedora on 100+ computers in a high school in Lebanon and it was very interesting to listen to what it takes to use Fedora in such a deployment. Jonathan also noted that he hasn’t had a single major issue with Fedora in the last 3-4 years. Improved quality of Fedora was a theme that repeated in many other talks.
What was the main topic of the conference was modularity. Langdon presented a progress of this initiative. I must say I knew very little about it and I was quite surprised that the planned solution is built around RPM rather around increasingly popular containers.
I also met Pawel Hajdan of the Google Chrome team. Conversations with him very very informative and interesting for other Red Hat desktop team members, too. We discussed AppStream metadata for Chromium, Chromium for Flatpak, Chrome on RHEL etc.

Just a couple of days after I returned home from Flock I travelled to GUADEC which is the primary conference for GNOME users and developers. I didn’t have any talk or workshop, but a couple of my reports spoke there. This time the traveling was a bit more difficult. We went by train, had to take 6 of them, and traveled 1000 km. But the whole Brno crew made it to Karlsruhe sound and safe.


There were many talks by Endless people. I’m really happy that Endless increases its investment in GNOME. It’s always better to have several major corporate contributors. Endless also proves that it’s possible to build a different shell on the top of GNOME, make your own UX story and still use most of the GNOME components.

I really enjoyed Owen Taylor’s talk on Fedora Atomic Workstation. Read-only OS, all apps in containers, development environment separated from the system… tt will be a radical change, but with a lot of potential benefits. I also like that Owen already has a clear idea about it and an already working prototype.

On Monday, I attended a Flatpak BoF. I expected it’d be mostly about portals, but portals were mentioned just briefly. Most of the discussion was about some centralized Flatpak repository. Someone suggested something called FlatHub which would be a place for Flatpak repositories where developers can build and distribute their apps, something like Copr for Flatpak. This can’t be exposed to average users though. We want to avoid a mess of 10 builds of GIMP without guaranteed quality. So there needs to be something called FlatStore where only approved and trusted developers can distribute their apps. So only GIMP developers themselves would be able to distribute GIMP there. There were many practical obstacles discussed. Should we build everything on store servers or allow developers upload binaries (building some desktop apps could be very resource hungry), who should run such a store (GNOME Foundation, FreeDesktop.org, a company?), how distributions will accept something that is built outside their control etc.

I enjoyed all days of both conferences. Very well organized, but still with the “for contributors by contributors” feeling. GUADEC 2017 will be in Manchester. Where Flock 2017 is going to be held is yet to be announced. The only certainty is that it will be in North America, so much more travelling for me next year, but I hope to visit both again.


Fedora and Flock on Telegram

The Fedora community is growing on Telegram. The group chat which I originally created for Flock 2015 and which was later changed to become a general group chat for Fedora users has grown into the size of >300 people.

We also started a Fedora News Channel as a sort of experiment because it’s increasingly difficult to use social networks such as Facebook for spreading the word for free and IM networks may be the new way to get information to users. The channel is currently followed by 294 users, but some messages get three times as many hits because they’re delivered to every subscribed user and they may be share them further. Compare it to Facebook where our messages reach 10% of subscribed users at average.

I’ve also been asked to create a group chat for Flock 2016. So if you’re going to Flock and wanna follow what’s going on there, join it!

Fedora, GNOME

I’m going to GUADEC and Flock!

Tomorrow, I’m traveling to GUADEC 2015 which is held in Göteborg, Sweden. It’s going to be my 4th GUADEC and the location is kinda special to me. When I was a kid and was a lot into football, my most favorite goalkeeper was Thomas Ravelli who played for IFK Göteborg which thus became my favorite foreign football club. I was in Göteborg five years ago and it was indeed a beautiful city, but I didn’t manage to purchase an IFK jersey. So hopefully, I’ll have an opportunity this time.

I’m also very much looking forward to the weather because the weather forecast for Göteborg is 18-20C while temperatures in Brno are getting back over 35C. We’re having the hottest summer all my family relatives remember. We might get more than 30 tropical days (30C and more) this year, so the cold Swedish climate will be a nice retreat from the heat.

But I’m primarily looking forward to the conference itself. The schedule doesn’t look too busy, but I’ve still found a lot of interesting talks and some hard collisions of areas of my interest. I will surely attend talks by Caolan and Stephan from my team. And I’m glad there are actually quite a few talks on LibreOffice.

BTW I’ve also created a group chat in Telegram for the conference (you can join it by following http://bit.ly/guadec15tg). At this year’s Akademy, they used it as the official means of communication and they found it very useful and popular. Open source conferences traditionally use IRC channels, but at conferences you get disconnected and connected very often and that’s not where IRC excels. Moreover a group chat in Telegram can be hooked with an IRC channel via a bot. I most likely won’t have time to set up the bot, but if someone wants to volunteer…

The annual conference for Fedora contributors – Flock – is very close after GUADEC this year. I won’t even have time to travel back home, so I’m flying to Rochester, NY directly from Göteborg. I will have two talks there (both on the same day, it actually be the first time in my life I have two talks on the same day). One is on the long-awaited transition from FAmSCo to FOSCo/CommOps and the other on Fedora SWAG. I’d like to conduct it rather as a discussion than a typical talk because both topics have a lot to discuss.

I’ve also created a group chat in Telegram for Flock. To join, just follow http://bit.ly/flock15tg. I, Kushal Das, and Dennis Gilmore used it to communicate at FUDCon APAC and found it very useful, so why not to include more people?

After Flock, I’m taking a week off to travel around the East Coast to see old friends, do some shopping etc. I also hope finally go to Quebec City which I’ve always wanted to visit.


Flock: Behind the Scenes 4

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

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.

Flock: Behind the Scenes 2

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.