Moving On.

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Moving On
"Moving on" -- picture by .craig taken from Flickr, licensed under a CC-BY-NC-ND license.

The Short Version: As many of you might have noticed, my activities within Sugar Labs have been fading lately. I'd like to take the only responsible step and hand my responsibilities off.

The Long Version: I didn't expect to see myself writing this email. I'm currently a student at Olin working really hard to make it through finals and at the same time fighting RSI and dealing with other things ( But I also feel that I've been dragging this e-mail out way too long. I'm sorry. Nevertheless, I'm proud of what we accomplished over the past years.

I have great memories from the initial release of Sugar on a Stick at LinuxTag ( and I still smile when I think of how we recovered from the ridiculous unsustainability of the second release ( and eventually even made the third release as a team together ( Looking back, I found myself skimming old wiki pages and blog posts (

I'm particularly thankful for the experiences I had and the people I met. However, I feel that it's time to move on. I'll be unsubscribing from a couple of mailing lists, but I'll continue to work on bridging open source and education on various levels and I'm always open to direct email. Just a ping away. Email this address.

For Sugar on a Stick, Peter Robinson has alreading been leading the effort up to the latest Mango Lassi release of Sugar on a Stick and done an incredible work over the past year, leaving me confident that everything was taken care of when I had to focus on my studies (both in Germany and the US). I know from personal experience that taking on this work isn't an easy task and I don't want to assume that you're just going to continue doing it infinitely. It is your call. But you've done a great job. Thanks, Peter!

Good luck Sugar Labs. You've come a long way. Don't lose track of your mission.

Everything's not lost?

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UPDATE 2011/11/29: Bernie Innocenti is awesome. As of this morning, I have my emails back. I won't take this post down, but put this update on top of it. I got all emails back, but I'd still very much appreciate suggestions on an email workflow. Sorry once again for the noise, folks.


I lost all my email tonight.

Do Not Panic

The story of how this happened involves a series of miscommunications, the phasing-out of Google Apps from, and a hard lesson about infrastructure and backups; the details aren't really important, but what is important (to me) is that I've lost every single email - work and personal, list and private - that I've sent or received since I first started getting involved in open source three years ago.

After several hours of panic, I decided to write a blog post in an attempt to let people know. So:

  1. If you're waiting for an email response from me on something, I no longer have your email; please resend it. If I don't get it again, I can't reply to it.
  2. If you have emails you've sent to me that mean something to you, or think I might like to have again (personal notes, etc.) - please forward it to me. I have a lot of memories in my inbox of friendships that started online. This is probably one of the hardest things to lose.
  3. If you've suggestions on an email setup that doesn't randomly lose emails - email me. I'd love suggestions on hosting, filters, backup, workflow and applications, and how to deal with data loss in general.
I did reroute my emails so that all my addresses go to a place I can access -,,,, - so things you send to any of these addresses will not get lost. (Although I'm using webmail until I figure out a better infrastructure/workflow, so it may be clumsy/hard for me to respond compared to my old workflow, so please be patient.)

My life was clearly not exciting enough. Thanks for understanding, everybody - and I'm sorry for the noise here. I'm going to go and listen to this now:

A Kid in the Candy Store

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"Well hello there..." says the JetBlue screen welcoming me on board to my flight to Chicago. That was three days ago. Now I'm sitting in a hotel room in Champaign, after the wrap-up of the Engineer of the Future 3.0 conference at the University of Illinois (this was actually a few days ago -- there'll be an article about the talk Mel and I gave soon). But really, when did I blog the last time? Has been quite calm here over the past month. What happened?

500 Days of Summer (new)

"500 Days of Summer" -- picture by gtall1 taken from Flickr, licensed under a CC-BY license.

Reminds me of one of my favorite movies, 500 Days of Summer. Summer, the girl, explains to Tom, the boy, what happened in her previous relationships: life.


"Olin sunset" -- picture by Sean Munson taken from Flickr, licensed under a CC-BY-NC-ND license.

Now I'm not breaking up with anybody, but life has just been incredibly busy in the past months. First things first. Olin. My school. The place I fought to get to and finally ended up at. It's tough. It's a tough place. Incredibly tough. People don't necessarily understand the workload that comes with being at a place like Olin. In one of our classes, Modeling and Simulation, we're working on projects that get eventually turned into poster presentations. For my second project, I worked with my partner on a model for a passive solar house. It might be worth noting that this requires the knowledge of thermodynamics, which is usually an entire class at other schools. We picked up the stuff we needed on our own -- in two weeks.

One of the things that I've been trying to work on lately is awareness. Coming from three years of open source experience into academia, people don't necessarily see what the open source way can do for them. Some of the frustration I felt over the past weeks was that the feeling that the work overload coming from this place I wanted to be at was preventing me from doing the things I actually wanted to do and cared about. I felt overwhelmed.

On the side of less amusing things, I've also been hit significantly by RSI I over the past weeks. I felt stronger pain a couple weeks ago in my hands and wrists; things got worse and worse since then and my neck, shoulders and legs are affected (this post is brought to you by language recognition software). I'm trying to treat this as good as I can: upgraded to ergonomic mouse and keyboard and went to see a therapist and eventually a rolfer.

I'm nowhere near out of all this. Worse came to worse and it pulled me down altogether quite a bit. Now I'm writing this with an eye on the upcoming break. It feels like it might go upwards again. Soon.


"IPC Boogie 2009, diving after Wayne" -- picture by divemasterking2000 taken from Flickr, licensed under a CC-BY license.

On Saturday, Mel and I went with Heidi Ellis from Western New England College and a couple of her students to the GNOME Summit at MIT. That being their first hackathon, we both served as tour guides, poking them towards talking with people and asking questions. Sometimes, the easy things are the hard ones.

A couple of days later, Mel picked me up at Olin and we went to talk at Western New England College about the challenges of release engineering. After exposing the students to Etherpad (which they immediately picked up), I talked about the way distributions are built and how dependency chains are related to that. We explained package managers by assuming that we want to install Firefox:

  • Sebastian says: "Heidi, please install Firefox!"
  • Heidi goes, looks into her database, notices that Firefox needs a couple of other libraries which aren't present on the system - like Mel.
  • Heidi checks whether Mel satisfies Firefox' dependency and comes back, asking whether the installation of Mel is okay.
  • Sebastian agrees.
  • Heidi installs Mel first, then Firefox.

Talking with Heidi later, we noticed that the students actually were excited: they didn't fall asleep during class - but found that there was something else out there, that there was more.

On Wednesday, Heidi came out to Olin. I had set up meetings with a number of faculty and Mel and I showed her the campus.


"Untitled" -- picture by Melissa Audrey taken from Flickr, licensed under a CC-BY license.

At Friday before both Mel and I flew out to Illinois, we stopped by an European store in Boston. It was a tiny store, but it had all the things I recognized from home -- like chocolate. There I was: a kid in the candy store.


"Dandelion Fireworks-PHOTO 183-The halfway mark" -- picture by aussiegall taken from Flickr, licensed under a CC-BY license.

A day full of... rhinos?

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"What exactly is the relationship between a rhino and a collaborative text editing platform?", you may ask. Word has it that I didn't even know myself. Now let me tell you who does: all the folks attending the Etherpad FAD at Olin College (shameless plug). And yes, that includes me, too.

Etherpad FAD Rhino
(image released under a CC-NC-ND license by Mr. Physics on Flickr)

And so today happened to be the first day of said FAD. We had a good crowd, both from the Olin and Fedora community - current students and alumni hacked side-by-side with open source community members, with the goal of making the Etherpad more... accessible. One valuable resource (and I recommend you to read the entire book, yes) was a certain part of a book called The Open Source Way. We spent most of the afternoon and evening comparing the differences between the upstream versions and forked libraries that come pre-bundled with Etherpad (it's a bad thing, really). People split out in teams and tackled different areas: without the people with Java and JS knowledge who were diff'ing different pieces of code and trying to find patches to let the entire project still work out, we packagers wouldn't even come close to getting Etherpad into Fedora.

But now we are. There are a couple of libraries missing. But we are close. Want to help? Come and join us for day 2 in #etherpad on FreeNode!

Oh, and about these rhinos? Yeah, finding a bunch of them bundled in a single project gave us quite some pain.

Dear Intarwebz: Can Haz Teh Data?

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So, as some of you my know, I'm as a couple of days ago a freshman at Olin College in Boston. One of the classes I'm taking there is called Modelling and Control of the Physical World, or ModSim for short. It's a great class. Actually, the professor who wrote Think Python, an open source text book on learning Python, is teaching it.

We've just been given our first project. As part of that, we're working in teams of two. My project concerns the development of primary education in developing countries (there's a project description out here, look at the first case). 

We've already been looking at the Education Policy and Data Center's website; however, I was hoping to find further data. We are looking at a variety of countries right now, as we're writing our own project description. Notable examples include Nepal and Pakistan.

We are looking for data that would help us model "the demographics of primary education in developing countries, and the challenges associated with achieving universal primary education by 2015." So statistics on schooling numbers, population and age ranges, drop out and graduation rates, ratio of funds spent on education, pupil/teacher ratio and that sort of thing would be very helpful.

Note that this is a little time-sensitive. We don't have to finish our project until October, but we have close interim deadlines coming up - so if somebody runs into some data over the weekend, this would be greatly appreciated!

Also let me know how you would like to be cited in my project so that I can properly credit and thank you for helping me find data!

There's a new home for Etherpad packages.

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So Mike McGrath announced Pretty cool, right? I updated the Etherpad packages for F13 and moved them there. Want to try them out? Awesome. Follow this quick guide:

  • become root and switch to the /etc/yum.repos.d directory
  • execute wget
  • call yum install etherpad and install it together with its dependencies
  • switch back to your home directory
  • start the mysql server by running service mysqld start
  • prepopulate the database by executing
  • and now it's time to start the server:
That should get you an Etherpad instance running on port 9000. Let me know how it goes. Also, for some strange reason, the Koji scratch composes don't seem to run through, while they do on my local machines. If you're interested in helping out to get this packaged properly, check out the page for the FAD we're tying to organize around Etherpad ( or ping me on IRC. I'm sdziallas there.

A whole bunch of Sugar Activity Updates is coming...

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Since they haven't been pushed to the testing repository, yet, you can grab the builds from Koji (the links are on each update's page) or wait a few days and then run yum --enablerepo=updates-testing sugar-*. We're particularily interested whether #1900 is fixed for you with the latest Read update and whether the other activities still perform as they should.

Summer of Code: Moar Newz.

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I've been a little calm in terms of blogging about GSoC lately, since I'm getting ready for my move to the US. There are a couple of things I've been working on lately after pushing the sugar-smolt code upstream, though.

  • One of the major obstacles for the user in terms of creating Sugar on a Stick - and we have received reports about this - is that the instructions are either outdated or confused and the interfaces very wildly between different platforms and distributions. We've started addressing the first by working on a Creation Kit for SoaS v3. This doesn't mean all is shiny now, but we're getting there. We've recommended Fedora's LiveUSB Creator over the past release cycles when possible and would to continue to build on that. Hence, I've been trying to make it easier for users of other distributions to use the LiveUSB Creator. While I haven't had much success, yet, this is something I'd like to keep an eye on.
  • I've been working with Peter Robinson on getting Sugar into EPEL. We've gotten a large chunk of packages built already in the appropriate branch. Watch out for announcements coming your way.
  • Lucian, who's also doing a GSoC at Sugar Labs and working on porting Browse to Webkit (the result being Surf), has fixed one of the major regressions that affected SoaS v3. The Read activity didn't work due to upstream changes in evince's python bindings (#1900). However, thanks to this work, I've been able to take a new activity bundle, package it, and push it as an update to F13. It's currently in testing, so if you do get a minute, please comment on the update.

Sugar Smolt is now in... Smolt!

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I've been working on a Sugar GUI for Smolt as part of my GSoC. Thanks to Mike McGrath, this code is now part of smolt's next branch in GIT. I'm pretty well on schedule with that, given that next week, midterms are happening. You can either check the code out yourself already or wait for a new release coming out. We're also looking forward to including this code in the next iteration of Sugar on a Stick, where it'll help users to submit their hardware profiles more easily.

Thank you, folks.

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I'm going to Olin. It's the place I want to go to. I didn't imagine this to happen, but apparently, sometimes everything in the universe aligns and a lot of magic happens.

A close friend of mine once said, that sometimes, no matter how many more words one strings together, one can't get any closer to the true sentiment. He's right. So thank you, folks, for being there and making this happen. This is totally awesome.

Recent Comments

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