Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dropbox in Kubuntu Raring

Upgrades to the release candidate today went swimmingly. I tested on both this laptop, using the 64-bit release, and on my netbook for the 32. Everything is gorgeous. KDE 4.10 is like butter.

However, dropbox stopped working. A quick google later, and by using the code from the GetDropbox site, and instructions on setting up auto-start from Richard's (Nixternal) blog, I once more have a working dropbox, on both test boxes. I use it often to share docs between my computers, and the occasional file with the public.

Quoting from :

The Dropbox daemon works fine on all 32-bit and 64-bit Linux servers. To install, run the following command in your Linux terminal.
cd ~ && wget -O - "" | tar xzf -
cd ~ && wget -O - "" | tar xzf - 
Next, run the Dropbox daemon from the newly created .dropbox-dist folder.
cd .dropbox-dist
 What you need from Nixternal's blog is the section Configure Dropbox to run at start-up. It would be great to have kfilebox again, but until we do, this is pretty easy.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Promote Lamarckian evolution through GSoC

A short TED talk by neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran inspired me to blog one more time about our upcoming Google Summer of Code project. Whether you are thinking of applying, are preparing to mentor, or are part of a team with some project ideas, give a listen (it's only 7:44 minutes) about how we are literally built to teach and learn from one another.

What caught my ear was his comparison of Darwinian evolution, which is very slow, with Larmarckian evolution, which can leap ahead, exactly as our culture does. The students who struggle in GSoC, are the ones out of touch with the team, and with their mentors. Sometimes it is the students who withdraw contact when they're in trouble, and sometimes mentors are the ones who are not staying in touch. Either way, the team can notice what is happening, and in a friendly, helpful way, draw the two back into contact.

Success happens when we communicate, because that's how learning happens. Students, when you encounter difficulty, please remember to get into the IRC channel, and if no one answers, write an email. Don't wait a day; don't wait an hour. The summer rushes by and you need all the time so that you can relax and do good work.

Mentors, please experiment with your student at the beginning of your bonding time, what forms of communication work the best for the two of you, or three of you if you have a mentor team. Google hangouts or other voice chats work, as long as someone writes an email summing up the understanding of the road ahead. IRC is important for the team, and students can get a bouncer account by asking the KDE sysadmins once their developer accounts are in place.

Stay in touch! As Vilayanur Ramachandran says,
There is no real independent self, aloof from other human beings, inspecting the world, inspecting other people. You are, in fact, connected not just via Facebook and Internet, you’re actually quite literally connected by your neurons.
So work with your brain, and stay connected.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Progress? It depends on your perspective

I had a disturbing discussion with a family member recently. There were no arguments over facts; we agree on the facts underlaying our discussion. Yet I was shocked at how discouraged he was by the state of the world, and the prospects for progress. No matter what examples I raised, he had more examples which convince him that we're moving backwards. Neither of us managed to convince the other to change their mind. That part wasn't unusual! But I'm unused to encountering this negative view of the universe. I live in the US, and I know that our politics is full of fail!

In the FOSS community, I rarely come across this depressed perspective. In fact, quite the opposite. So I've been thinking about why this is. Perhaps it is because we are involved in changing the world! After all, we aren't just building and distributing free software; we're showing the world that freedom and friendship work. We constantly demonstrate that we can cooperate; with team members, with up and downstreams, with for-profit companies and with non-profit groups, with government and educational groups, and on and on.

We promote freedom, we promote equality, we promote quality. We constantly develop new friendships, we pay attention to our users, and those users help us help them by filing bug reports, cooperating with quality initiatives, by testing, by donating money. We learn to promote our projects, learn to give talks, speeches and reports, learn to build websites, write documentation, learn to communicate in multiple venues, and even learn to recognize bad behavior by friends and team members, or maybe even burnout in our own lives. And of course, we learn what to do in those tough situations, along with dealing with bugs in our software, crochety hardware and processes, or outdated techniques.

I've been reading a book about increasing brain fitness, (bad title warning): Make Your Brain Smarter, by Sandra Bond Chapman which might shed some light. In the section about innovation and creativity, she says you:
incite innovation ... when you: ... broaden and revamp your perspectives... by reading different types of books, exposing yourself to different types of people.... Dismantle old linkages of information to allow new thoughts to brew, ponder free-flowing ideas, consciously ... convert ideas into deliberate change [and] reflect and learn from mistakes -- quickly. [p. 115]
This is what I see in Linuxchix, in the KDE and Kubuntu teams I work in, and on the lists, forums, planets, and in IRC. I hear new perspectives, hear about books, hear from new people, and different people, see new ideas, and old ideas blown up, and see how immediate feedback improves quality fast. Every day!

I think these experiences explain the difference between hope and despair between my family member and me. Not only do I see many groups in my country and around the world who are making a difference, I'm part of a great movement which is improving the world. Whether or not this is the "year of the linux desktop," we are making great software, software which we use, software we are proud to share with the world. We're not only having fun doing it; we're part of how you make the world a better place.

PS: We're getting smarter and healthier as we do so, I hope. By the way, I'm encouraging my family member to get involved in our projects. Here's hoping.