Get Your Sleep and Excercise

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Fishbowl Sessions

This morning I attended a session on burnout. It was different to usual sessions in that the table has been removed from the room and the chairs were arranged in such a way that there is an inner circle and an outer circle. People who are more interested in the topic sit in the inner circle and people who are interested in keeping up to date or who might contribute more casually sit in the outer circle. This experiment is called fishbowl sessions, it’s happening with all the sessions in room 11 today.

Burn Out


We had a really good discussion about burn-out, what causes it, coping mechanisms and how to avoid it.

This is some of the things that were mentioned:

Burn-out sometimes tend to happen in cycles, and it can also easily be triggered by external factors, like burning out at work or even when your boss runs into burn-out. Negative influences seem to make burn-out worse, while spending quality time with people who share your views seem to  cool the burn-out somewhat. Many people used to do free software as a hobby and now doing it as a job as well. It’s important to get new hobbies, go work at the zoo. Having a girlfriend helps a lot in terms of grounding and having someone to talk to. Otherwise having a friend that knows you well and understands you can work just as well. Perhaps putting together a talk on burn-out that could be presented to loco teams would be of much value. Mike Basinger mentioned that he’s come accross members who have even been suicidal and that it helped a lot when they were refered to a professional. Can a whole team burn out? Some people have seen some situations where that has happened. A burn-out / health session on communities will probably be held at future UDS’s as well.

Taking on too much – Don’t kill yourself trying to be the next Colin Watson

In a project such as Ubuntu, there are lots of people we look up to and try to aspire to be like. It happens regularly that someone works really hard trying to catch up to someone elses skill level and they end up doing more damage to themselves than good. Many people actively take on too much, finding themselves to juggle too much and not doing enough leading up to more frustration. Jono mentioned that Canonical is an interesting company in the sense that managers actively have to tell their team members to stop working. It was also mentioned that it’s important to let people know that Ubuntu is like a big machine and there are lots of big and small coggs and that if a small one breaks, it can have massive implications for the bigger machine and that they are also important.

Mark Shuttleworth Shares Tips on Burn-Out

Mark often walks into sessions for a few minutes. I think he takes just enough time to gauge what the discussions are about and if it’s going into the right direction and tone. He said that what works well for him is to get to bed and get some decent sleep, and then get some good excercise when he wakes up. Other people in the session confirmed that excercise has indeed helped them in feeling good and being more productive.

So, there you have it. If you want to be a good developer or contributer and make Ubuntu as good as it could possibly be, then take care of yourself, stay healthy and as Jono said earlier this week… eat your vegetables :)

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Renewed enthusiasm for Edubuntu

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Renewed Enthusiasm

Recently I’ve been wondering if I really want to be involved with Edubuntu or not, I blogged about it, and have been talking to Jordan Mantha about a lot of the issues we have had. I also booked a ticket to Barcelona for the Ubuntu Developers Summit, so that we could get a few people together to figure out how we can make Edubuntu a good choice for educators and something that people will be happy and proud to contribute for. I was very pleased when I applied for accomodation sponsorship and Canonical said they’d pay for accomodation and my flight tickets (thanks Canonical, it’s very much appreciated), but I think I’m even more excited about the renewed energy in the Edubuntu community. In just the last two weeks we’ve had a surge in enthusiasm and new people dropping by being *very* eager to participate and contribute. It creates a problem where we have too many ideas and some people who are new who want to get something into Edubuntu but who don’t quite understand how Ubuntu’s processes work yet, but I’m not complaining, I think it’s great that people care about Edubuntu again, and we have ideas on how to get around those problems.


I thought I’d jump right in and mention some of the things that we’ve been discussing recently. Currently, Edubuntu has just been an add-on CD with packages for an Ubuntu installation. There’s plenty of good reasons for this, such as the amount of space available on a CD (Ubuntu already fills a disc so you have to remove things in order to add anything else), being desktop agnostic, etc. However, the feedback that we received suggests that most people prefer a full distro installation.

We’re not sure how it’s going to happen yet, but we’re probably going to have full releases again that can be installed via DVD or USB disk. Plenty of people have stressed how important it is to be able to demo Edubuntu properly. We’re also going to be looking at getting an LTSP instance in the live environment, which will be a challenge doing it right but will also aid in demo’ing LTSP.

We also want to work better with upstream projects. It’s been stressed in Ubuntu and upstream projects how beneficial a good relationship between Edubuntu and the upstream projects can be. Edubuntu will aim to make Ubuntu (and hence the Edubuntu system) a great distribution for running KDE Edu, Sugar, Moodle an easy to use school LAMP stack and more.

We also want to integrate better with all the desktop environments. Gnome has great usability features, which makes it a good option in educational environments, but it consumes resources relatively heavily compared to Xfce which offers fairly good usability as well. Besides that, there are even lighter environments such as LXDE which runs very well on very old hardware. The improvements since KDE 4 can’t be ignored either, plasmoids for example has lots of potential in education, and considering that KDE-Edu uses KDE and QT libraries, it makes good sense to use KDE in an educational environment . We want Edubuntu to be able to easily integrate with the major desktop environments, even the Ubuntu netbook remix. Whatever the user’s choice of desktop is, we want to integrate the best that the free software world has to offer in terms of education for that environment on Ubuntu.

Also in big demand is ease of use. People keep requesting that things are easier, and that Edubuntu, Ubuntu and LTSP is in need of better documentation. We’ll keep this in mind with the changes and plans we introduce over the next few releases, and do our best to make sure that what is put out there is as supportable and intuitive as it could be.

How we see this happening

What’s mentioned above is certainly not going to happen in one release, and some of the things may take many releases to get just right. We’re considering keeping the Edubuntu distro releases as only LTS, and not releasing any other releases inbetween. This way we have to worry less about constantly testing discs and focussing more what’s on there. Perhaps add-on discs will still ocur for every release, there’s some detail there we still need to flesh out.

The plan is also to have various PPA archives available in the edubuntu-dev PPA, some for experimental or hacky code that might not be quite ready for Edubuntu, as well as stable updates for Edubuntu  that can be installed with confidence by users. We’re mostly going with PPA’s initially since we only have one core-dev. Hopefully that will change over time but for now the PPA’s should work as a good interim solution. There might also be community spins for very specialised installations, but we don’t want to dilute Edubuntu too much so it’s something we still have to consider.

Everybody’s Welcome

Bringing the best of education and education-related technologies to Ubuntu means that we have to extend out to others doing similar work, whether it’s K12-LTSP, Skolelinux, Guidalinux-EDU, Debian-edu, OpenSuse-edu,  etc. In my opinion we can learn a lot from them, and if they are having any kind of problem that we have dealt with already, then we should give them a hand as well.

Actually, I can’t say it better than Jordan Erickson, read his message sent to edubuntu-devel earlier here.

It is our goal to make Edubuntu easy and worth while to contribute to. If you’re interested in becoming involved, you are absolutely more than welcome to introduce yourself on the edubuntu-devel mailing list or joining us on the #edubuntu IRC channel.

PS: I haven’t slept much the last 2 days, so if things don’t make sense, I’ll try to clear it up later!

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Ubuntu-ZA Loco Discs Have Arrived

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Our Ubuntu-ZA Loco CD’s have arrived, and in record time! Thanks to Canonical for providing these discs to the Loco Teams!

This time round we allocated all of the CD’s to our members via our wiki, initially I thought that 250 discs wouldn’t be enough, but there’s enough so that every one who requested CD’s could get, we just had to trim down a few requests here and there. Allocating the discs before hand works quite well, next time we’ll have even more structure, perhaps our own little shipit-like web application where people can choose their region and a contact person who it can be sent to (if there’s already something like this, please let me know).

I think that this set of CD’s is the best looking of all the discs ever sent by Shipit, nice work artwork team!

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What should become of Edubuntu?

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First, A little background.


Edubuntu was initially created based on discussions that took place at the first Edubuntu Summit that took place in London in July 2005. The first release of Edubuntu aimed to be a turn-key solution that provided an LTSP computer lab with the best educational applications that were currently packaged in Ubuntu. It was to Ubuntu what the K12LTSP project was to Fedora, and schools around the world took advantage of the benefits that Edubuntu offered.

As time progressed, there were 3 full-time Canonical staff working on Edubuntu and Education withing Ubuntu. There was even a full time Ubuntu Education Manager. A technical problem that plagued Edubuntu since the very start was the amount of free disc space on the CD’s that were distributed. Often, funcionality or language packs had to be removed that would otherwise be in Ubuntu to make space for the programs and libraries that was shipped with Edubuntu. LTSP had become incredibly easy to install on Ubuntu, to the point that it was just an installation option from the installation CD, which impacted on the need for the turn-keyability of Edubuntu. Since the Edubuntu and the Ubuntu disc already shared about 90% of the same data, it made sense to make Edubuntu an add-on CD to Ubuntu. That way, there’s much more free space available on the installation disc, and the ease of installation of an LTSP lab wasn’t really compromised, all that was required after an Ubuntu LTSP installation was to insert the Edubuntu disc and install the required packages. Edubuntu was also adapted to Intel Classmate PC’s and other netbooks used in education and is installable via a USB flash drive.

Current Status

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Jordan Mantha, who has been juggling his work and his dissertation with Edubuntu work, there has been an Edubuntu release with this release of Ubuntu (Jaunty) and the previous one (Intrepid). If it wasn’t for Jordan, these releases simply wouldn’t have existed. The Canonical staff that were involved full-time either moved to other projects where they were more needed, or moved on from Canonical alltogether. Edubuntu is currently completely a community driven project with the backing of Canonical in the form of hosting, build services, bug trackers, etc, similar to the Xubuntu project. If there’s no community, there’s simply no Edubuntu at the moment. This isn’t necessarily a problem, back when we had 3 full time Canonical staffers working on the project, it certainly had an effect on the growth of our community. When there are people who are paid to do the work, then everyone assumes it will be done and they get less involved. When the involvement of the Canonical Education team was the highest in Edubuntu was when community participation dived to its lowest. Unfortunately, community participation hasn’t recovered yet. I do think however that one full-time staff member in Edubuntu would be beneficial.

From now forward

With the last few releases, I’ve been asking myself whether I really want to continue being part of Edubuntu. I haven’t been contributing, and I didn’t want to be in it half-hartedly. Yesterday I got a notification from Launchpad that my Edubuntu membership is about to expire, and I considered just deactivating my account, and then I realised that I really do want to be part of this, but it has to be pretty much all or nothing.

I believe that the Edubuntu project is neccessary and that it will add value to the education world, but in order to make it grow again we need to fix its vision and goals, and get people involved that care about the project and who wants to make Ubuntu the killer system for educational environments.

I think we need to answer the following:

  • Who are our users and potential users? What do they want from us?
  • What does Canonical want and expect from the Edubuntu project?
  • How can we align the above with the available amount of resources, as well as find ways to increase current participation?

I’m sure that Canonical had certain goals in mind when Edubuntu was founded, and I also don’t think that the project has quite become what they have hoped it would be. I think it’s important to satisfy the needs of the users of the project as well as the sponsors.

Some people suggested that it’s better to contribute to the upstream educational projects rather than Edubuntu directly. I think fixing upstream bugs and adding features is awesome, but having a pre-packaged solution for teachers is equally cool and just as important.

I’m sending a link of this entry to the edubuntu-devel list, where I hope that Canonical will provide some answers on the future of Edubuntu. Feel free to follow and get involved in the discussions there.

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KDE 4.0 in Debian and Ubuntu

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Tomorrow is the release of KDE 4, one of the most eagerly awaited software releases for 2008, and it’s interesting to see how the various GNU/Linux distributions are coping with it.


In Debian, they will be shipping with KDE 3.5 (most likely 3.5.9), since KDE 4 will not yet ship with all the components that a user would expect. The biggest part that is missing is the Kontact groupware client suite. Debian users will however, be able to download and install KDE 4.0 from experimental. Read all about it in the debian-devel-announce post from the Debian Qt/KDE team, I enjoyed the part at the end:

P.S.: Anyway, you never know what the future will bring, we will review our decisitions with respect shipping KDE 4 in Lenny in a few months.

So anything possible, I think it would be really cool if a user could easily install KDE 4.0 in Lenny if they wanted to.


Ubuntu (or I should rather say Kubuntu), is more future orientated, and follows its philosophy of release early and release often. The Kubuntu team will maintain both KDE 4 and KDE 3.5 packages for Ubuntu 8.04, which means that users get easy access to both the latest cutting edge software, and they get to use the rock solid, tried and tested version if they need to do so. Future Kubuntu development will however, be focussed on KDE 4, read the post by Jonathan Riddell to the kubuntu-devel list for the details.

The downside is that the Kubuntu packages for 8.04 won’t fall under the Canonical LTS (Long Term Support) banner. I don’t think this is a problem though, within a year we will probably see a KDE 4.1 release, which would be much more complete and bullet proof, and I doubt anyone would actually want to run KDE 4.0 after 18 months when there would be vastly superior versions available. I think both these distributions made sane decisions. I’m not really following what the other distributions will be doing, but I’m sure there will be lots of noise about it after tomorrow :)

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Canonical opening up, what about Apple?

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Storm, the Python-based ORM used by Launchpad, has been released under a free license. In a bug report comment, our benevolent dictator stated that “We are all actively working on making Launchpad open source.”. I hope that this is just the first step, and that we’ll see more components being re-licensed soon. I don’t understand how keeping Launchpad proprietary will make Canonical more money, but I’ve decided to trust their judgment and their business plan.


I’m not sure if I should trust Apple that much though. They have purchased CUPS, the printing system used in Ubuntu and many other unix-like systems. Apple has licensed CUPS for MacOS X for several years now, and many people have questions on the reasons for the buy-out. I’ve been wondering whether Apple has some fears around the freshly released GPLv3. Apple has manufactured printers in the past (I’m not sure if they still do), and they probably own a significant amount of patents regarding to printing.

I don’t have anything to base it on, but perhaps they anticipated CUPS being released under the GPLv3, which might have an affect on the value of their patents if they ship CUPS in MacOS. Buying out CUPS means that they can keep the software under the older license, which does not cover patents. Maybe, it’s nothing like that at all. Perhaps we’ll see CUPS getting even better, and be able to get great commercial support for CUPS directly from Apple. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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