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.


‘Getting Started with Fedora’ handbook – update

In October, I announced that we’d finally finished and printed a handbook for users who start with Fedora. It was a pilot created in the Czech community of Fedora, so we wrote the handbook in Czech first. The goal was to translate it to English if it proves to be good.

It’s proven to be good, no doubt about it. But translations to English are still not finished. We’ve created a repository on GitHub. The handbook was re-written in AsciiDoc (originally it was composed in Google Docs and then converted to LaTex). We didn’t hook it to any translation system simply because we don’t have any experience with that and haven’t found any volunteer to help us with that. So it’s being translated by simple re-writing in English which is not as bad as it sounds. It would not scale with frequent releases and heavy versioning, but the handbook is not very release specific (on purpose) and we’re not planning to do more than one release a year. In the repository, there are currently two directories with translations (Czech and English).

Due to lack of time, I’ve only been able to translate 4 chapters out of 10. And it’s not going to improve any time soon. That’s why I’d like to call for volunteers who know both Czech and English and would be willing to help. Translations to English don’t have to be perfect. Several native speakers have already offered me that they could do some grammar polishing, but it needs to be translated at least in “rough” English. I’ve considered Google Translate, but that would probably be too rough.

Anyone out there to help?


Getting Started with Fedora – Update

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.