Thursday, March 22, 2018

Coding and Gardening

Warning: metaphors ahead! May be inappropriate or stretched.

Reading through student proposals for Google Summer of Code yesterday, I took a break from sitting in front of a keyboard to get some gardening done. We've had a few windstorms since I last raked, and with spring beginning, a few weeds have been popping up as well.

One of the issues I've been reminding almost every student about is unit testing. The other is documentation. These are practices which are seen as not fun, not creative.

Raking isn't seen as fun or creative either! Nor is hunting and digging the wily dandelion. But I rake away the dead branches and fir cones, and snag those dandelions because later in the season, my healthy vegetables and beautiful flowers not only flourish without weeds, but look better without litter around them. In addition, we chop up the branches and cones, and use that as mulch, which saves water and keeps down weeds. The dandelions go into the compost pile and rot into richer soil to help transplants be healthy. In other words, the work I do now pays off in the future.

The same is true of writing unit tests, commenting your code, and keeping good notes for user documentation as well! These are habits to build, not onerous tasks to be put off for tomorrow. Your unit tests will serve you well as long as your code runs anywhere. The same is true of your commented code. And finally if you code is user-facing, user documentation is what lets people use it!

So students, please remember to put those necessary bits into your proposal. This along with good communication with your mentor and the entire team are absolutely crucial for a successful project, so bake these into your plans.

More zsync magic for LTS updates

I wrote before about how to update superceeded ISOs using zsync, and it's time to do that again, now that 16.04 LTS has the latest point release, to .4.

So the new command needed, after cd /path/to/iso is

cp kubuntu-16.04{.3,.4}-desktop-i386.iso && zsync

The magic I didn't fully understand was the {.3,.4} part. Now I get that it is saying copy the files ending in .3 and replace them with files ending in .4.

I wanted also to point out that zsync is also invaluable for testing, because Ubuntu spins daily ISOs. For instance, on the qatracker such as the most recent for testing the above point releases, there are a number of small CD icons. When you click on one, you are led to a small page with for instance, the following links to get xenial-desktop-amd64.iso:
RSYNC rsync -tzhhP rsync:// 
ZSYNC zsync 
GPG signature 
MD5 checksum
The http link will download via your browser to your ~/.Downloads folder unless you have set that otherwise. Fine if you want your testing ISO to be there. If instead you do zsync by

cd ~/Downloads && zsync

in the commandline, you will see a remarkable difference in how long it takes to download the second and subsequent times. Rsync does roughly the same thing. For these you do not need the "copy" cp step.

Get familiar with zysnc and use it more. It will save you time and make you more productive.

(originally posted a couple of weeks ago, but to my genealogy blog by mistake)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Heading out of winter and into Spring

This winter seemed long in many ways, and not just the weather. In life, progress continues during the winter, but it can be slow and hard to see.

Finally though, the snowdrops are up, dogwood tree buds are swelling, and progress is finally apparent in many areas of volunteer life - KDE, Kubuntu, and my genealogy society.

In KDE, Plasma 5.12 has been released, and it is great! It has been released in time to make it into Kubuntu Bionic, our next big release which will become an LTS. Plasma 5.12 is a great fit there, since it is also an LTS. After living through the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerability early-exposure, it feels great to finally be back on track. We have it available right now in Artful (17.10) as well: I'm using it now.

I'm also using the new KDE browser Falkon, which has not yet been released. I've written to the developers in hopes of a KDE release in time to make it into Bionic.

On the social front, it's great to look forward to Akademy in Vienna this August! I have hopes that many of our Kubuntu team will be able to attend, for the wonderful face-to-face meetings of Akademy. And this year, a special treat for me, since the great Boud and Irina have invited me to stay at their house for the week before Akademy and then make our way together from their home to Vienna by train. This will remove so much of the pain of travel!

Finally, my genealogy society has suffered greatly while Rootsweb was down. But our website is finally up again at and our Facebook presence is undergoing some long-needed maintainance as well. Finally, our Program committee has been doing fantastic work getting interesting speakers. It's fun to go to meetings, fun to do my work on the newsletter, and fun even to go to board meetings! You can't ask for better than that!

Even in my own genealogy research, is making it easier than ever to find cousins, and more ancestors. Also looking forward to Google Summer of Code if KDE is accepted as an organization. It will be another very busy year!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Seeding new ISOs the easy zsync way

Kubuntu recently had to pull our 17.10 ISOs because of the so-called lenovo bug. Now that this bug is fixed, the ISOs have been respun, and so now it's time to begin to reseed the torrents.

To speed up the process, I wanted to zsync to the original ISOs before getting the new torrent files. Simon kindly told me the easy way to do this - cd to the directory where the ISOs live, which in my case is 

cd /media/valorie/Data/ISOs/


cp kubuntu-17.10{,.1}-desktop-amd64.iso && zsync

Where did I get the link to zsync? At All ISOs are found at cdimage, just as all torrents are found at

The final step is to download those torrent files (pro-tip: use control F) and tell Ktorrent to seed them all! I seed all the supported Ubuntu releases. The more people do this, the faster torrents are for everyone. If you have the bandwidth, go for it!

PS: you don't have to copy all the cdimage URLs. Just up-arrow and then back-arrow through your previous command once the sync has finished, edit it, hit return and you are back in business.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beginning 2018

2017 began with the once-in-a-lifetime trip to India to speak at That was amazing enough, but the trip to a local village, and visiting the Kaziranga National Park were too amazing for words.

Literal highlight of last year were the eclipse and trip to see it with my son Thomas, and Christian and Hailey's wedding, and the trip to participate with my daughter Anne, while also spending some time with son Paul, his wife Tara and my grandson Oscar. This summer I was able to spend a few days in Brooklyn with Colin and Rory as well on my way to Akademy. So 2017 was definitely worth living through!

This is reality, and we can only see it during a total eclipse

2018 began wonderfully at the cabin. I'm looking forward to 2018 for a lot of reasons.

First, I'm so happy that soon Kubuntu will again be distributing 17.10 images next week. Right now we're in testing in preparation for that; pop into IRC if you'd like to help with the testing (#kubuntu-devel). next week!

Lubuntu has a nice write-up of the issues and testing procedures:

The other serious problems with meltdown and spectre are being handled by the Ubuntu kernel team and those updates will be rolled out as soon as testing is complete. Scary times when dealing with such a fundamental flaw in the design of our computers!

Second, in KDE we're beginning to ramp up for Google Summer of Code. Mentors are preparing the ideas page on the wiki, and Bhushan has started the organization application process. If you want to mentor or help us administer the program this year, now is the time to get in gear!

At Renton PFLAG we had our first support meeting of the year, and it was small but awesome! Our little group has had some tough times in the past, but I see us growing and thriving in this next year.

Finally, my local genealogy society is doing some great things, and I'm so happy to be involved and helping out again. My own searching is going well too. As I find more supporting evidence to the lives of my ancestors and their families, I feel my own place in the cosmos more deeply and my connection to history more strongly. I wish I could link to our website, but Rootsweb is down and until we get our new website up......

Finally, today I saw a news article about a school in India far outside the traditional education model. Called the Tamarind Tree School, it uses an open education model to offer collaborative, innovative learning solutions to rural students. They use free and open source software, and even hardware so that people can build their own devices. Read more about this:

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The power we have as bystanders


It seems such a passive word for a passive role.

Let's consider how it is instead a position of power.

First, as a bystander, I can observe what is happening which nobody else sees, because nobody else is standing exactly where I am. Nobody else has my mix of genes and history and all of what makes me who I am and so I see uniquely.

As bystanders each of us has power we often do not grasp. It is of the moment. We can plan, and prepare so that we are ready to act, intervene if necessary; build up potential energy. While remaining polite, I can step in to help, intervene, participate, engage. I can ACT.

Pro-tip: run this program (courtesy of the Linuxchix:

1. be polite
2. be helpful
3. iterate

Boom! You have a team.

Supporting free software is one of the things I do. Right now is a great time to help support KDE.

KDE Powers You - You Can Power KDE, Too!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Kubuntu Artful beta 1 milestone released today

I'm happy to announce that Kubuntu Artful beta 1 milestone released today, having passed all the mandatory testing, thanks to lots of testers! Thanks so much to each of you.

If possible, we'll also be participating in Beta 2 with the next round of KDE bug-fix releases for the last testing milestone before release of Kubuntu 17.10 on 19 October 2017.

Release notes:

If you would like to help us seed the torrents, go to To quickly find all the betas: control f and type beta.

Join us in freenode IRC: #kubuntu-devel with praise, help, or bug reports.