Category Archives: Ubuntu

SOPA/PIPA is a symptom

Larry Lessig is something of a hero of mine. He’s a Harvard law professor who started out campaigning against modern intellectual property extremism that is locking up our culture and making creativity and innovation more and more difficult and more and more expensive. He created the Creative Commons to give artists a way to contribute to a free culture that they benefit from, despite laws which make that increasingly difficult.

A few years ago, though, he stopped fighting the battle against copyright extremism.

He stopped because he realized that increasingly overreaching copyright laws were merely a symptom of a much larger problem. It, along with inaction on climate change, pizza being classified as vegetables, ruinous deregulation and subsequent bail-outs of the financial industry and hundreds of other dysfunctions in American government were going to continue unless it is addressed.

The problem, as he sees it, is that people in government spend nearly as much time seeking campaign contributions as anything else. That large contributions grant access to the political process that ordinary citizens can’t hope to have. And that cynicism about this is so widespread, no-one in America believes that government can solve any real problems anymore.

I’d encourage you to watch the video above. He makes a very compelling argument.

And if we’re feeling smug as Canadians, well, we do do at least some of this right. The Harper Government has already erased some of the Crétien era campaign finance reform, however. And the US State Department exerts considerable sway in Ottawa, enough to get US-style copyright legislation like Bill C-11 passed. We are not immune.

Even if SOPA and PIPA are defeated, it’s inevitable that something like them will be passed eventually. Because Congress will eventually obey their paymasters as soon as it politically expedient to do so. It’ll happen unless the system is changed. Unless we are persistent and vigilant.

Unity and Daisy-Weaving

I’m giving a talk on Unity at KWLUG tomorrow (Monday) night. I was going to say something, but I really couldn’t do it any better than Paul Nijjar‘s announcement on the KWLUG mailing list:

Just like every other desktop environment recently, the GNOME desktop environment has been looking to update its WIMPy interface. GNOME 3 brings with it two prominent options: GNOME-Shell and Unity. Which interface will be the ultimate victor?

In the left corner, wearing orange trunks, is the Unity Upholder, Darcy Casselman. In the right corner, wearing aubergine trunks, is the GNOME Shell Gorilla, Chris Irwin. In this desktop deathmatch, Darcy and Chris will battle to the.. wait a minute. They aren’t fighting! They’re standing together weaving daisies into each other’s hair! (Where did they find daisies in January?) They aren’t going to fight at all! Instead, they will be demonstrating the strengths of the two desktops, discuss their goals, and address some common complaints. They will start spreading the love at 7pm.

If this sounds too touchy-feely for you, how about using your brains? This month’s FLOSS Fund nominee is MusicBrainz, a project to develop an encylopedia/database of music information, all released under open licences. You can use MusicBrainz to tag music or build website that play with data via web services. If you are so inclined, you can make a donation at the meeting, or by getting in touch with me.

The meeting will be held at our usual location

St John’s Kitchen
97 Victoria Street North
(Corner of Victoria and Weber Streets)

There is some Hippie Bus parking in the Worth a Second Look parking lot, and if you are crazy you can park your bike along the side of the building. Photos and maps of the location are on the website.

I don’t think I have enough time to grow my hair long enough to get daisies in there. Come out and watch Chris and I sing the free software desktop environment equivalent of Kumbaya tomorrow night.

Recognizing city teams

Free software and open source, at least the non-corporate part, is a reputation economy. Sure, lots of people do things to scratch their own itch, but by and large, the ones who go above and beyond do it at least in part to be recognized–if not thanked, then at least acknowledged.

Ever wonder why nearly every LoCo team centres around a single urban centre? The team nominally covers a large geographical area, but with a few (admirable and welcome) exceptions, a state team or a national team is a city team that just happens to be in that state or country. One of the main raison d’etres for LoCo teams is getting people to meet up in person; to grow the community face-to-face. If the closest face-to-face meetup is a six hour drive away, you’re probably not going to be meeting anyone, ever.

From my own experience, growing new city teams in a LoCo outside the initial centre is tough to do. If you found a LoCo, though, you (likely) get a sweet title like “LoCo Contact,” and you get to basically run the show if you want to (not that you should…). What’s in it for someone to do the same sort of work in another city, only to be overshadowed by someone else who got their first? Sure, some people will take on the job for its own sake, and those guys are awesome. If we want Ubuntu LoCos to spread to more cities within LoCos, we need to think about what motivates people.

And I think recognition and acknowledgement would help. I think people need something to rally around and be proud of if they’re going to go to the effort of building that thing. I think we need city teams.

I do not think we should dissolve the current LoCo team structure and recognize only city teams.

Regional LoCo teams come with a lot of overhead. There are websites, forums and mailing lists to administer, team reports to write, regular IRC meetings to run. That’s not even considering re-approvals and other maintenance by the LoCo Council and CD shipping costs from Canonical. It’s not feasible for every city team to have the rights and responsibilities a LoCo team has today.

But it’s entirely feasible to recognize and manage city teams within regional LoCos. It’s possible (and cheap!) to acknowledge their leaders.

And it’s not something the LoCo council or the LTP developers need to do much of anything about. I think the recognition might mean more to a lot of people if it came from the central governance bodies, but I acknowledge these folks have a lot on their plate already. This is something LoCo teams can do themselves.

So something I’m going to push for this cycle, with our website refresh, is to acknowledge the people doing the work in Ubuntu Canada’s two current city teams–Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo–and any new ones that might spring up, to ensure they have their own space and they get their due. And maybe that’ll encourage more people to take up the mantle.

Ubuntu LoCo Teams and the 200 Million

During Jono’s video Q&A a couple weeks ago, Jono was asked what ordinary users and enthusiasts could do to help Ubuntu reach its goal of getting 200 million users in 4 years. This was his response:

“The most important thing folks like you can do to help Ubuntu get to 200 million users is join your LoCo team. LoCo teams are critical to the future growth of Ubuntu.”

I was scheduled to give a talk about Ubuntu Canada at the Free Software and Open Source Symposium on Saturday. That comment made me change my focus a bit.

The reason is I don’t think the things that we as a LoCo team do will make any sort of dent in that 200 million target. That’s not to say I’m not very proud of what we do. I think we do a great job of supporting and energizing the community that’s already here. Ubuntu Hours, Global Jams and release parties are fantastic opportunities to meet, work with and get to know other Ubuntu users. But besides perhaps making the community more vibrant and thus more attractive, I don’t think they do much to recruit new users.

So I put the challenge out to the people at the conference: what should Ubuntu Canada be doing to help us meet the ambitious 200 million goal?

There were a few suggestions:

  • Raise money for marketing campaigns and advertisements
  • Develop and discuss concrete ways Ubuntu solves specific problems real people have
  • Encourage entrepreneurs to start businesses to support Ubuntu
  • Do more to make people aware that commercial support is available from Canonical
  • Work with groups like GOSLING to help get Ubuntu into Canadian governments
  • Work with the universities (particularly in my town of Waterloo) to promote Ubuntu there
  • Provide training seminars in libraries and community centres
  • Get involved in local events like the multicultural festival

And all those ideas are great, but it seems to me it’s still scratching the surface.

If LoCo teams are going to be a significant force in recruiting 200 million Ubuntu users, we have to become a movement. Something that permeates the culture.

I don’t have a lot of experience starting movements. Who’s with me? What should LoCo teams be doing to make Ubuntu a household name?

Ubuntu 11.10: Oneiric Ocelot Party in Kitchener!

[The Oneiric Ocelot] Ubuntu 11.10–the Oneiric Ocelot–is set to release this week. As usual, we’re hosting a release party at Kwartzlab to celebrate.

Join us Saturday, October 15th at 4pm (till late) and celebrate the latest and greatest release of Ubuntu! Release parties are a fantastic opportunity to meet other Ubuntu users face to face. And, hey, it’s a good excuse for a party.

We’ll have cake, devilled eggs, commemorative collector’s CDs and a fast repository proxy to help with upgrades!

For any other Canadian Ubuntu users reading this, if you’re not in Kitchener-Waterloo (or Toronto) and there’s no party in your area, you should host one! Join the Ubuntu Canada mailing list and let us know where and when your party is. Tell your friends and post on local message boards. We’ll help do what we can to announce it to the Canadian Ubuntu community.

If you are in KW and want to help publicize the event, please print out some posters and paste them up around town.