Goal Setting

Mon 20 April 2009

Ubuntu 9.04 will mark the tenth release of Ubuntu. Rather than party and engage in self congratulation, I'd like to engage in a retrospective.

The rocky trail traveled

In November I helped facilitate a collaboration between a Fedora Board member and the organizers of Ubuntu Brainstorm, to test some social network datamining. I'm assuming the conclusion was that the votes were too sparse to draw any strong conclusions about niches interested in specific subjects. Certainly, there's an element of privacy that restricts what can be done here even if it is viable.

I joined MetaFilter and started following the ubuntu and linux tags on AskMeFi. So far, I've racked up four or five "best answers". It's a very similar project to Answers, except there's a five dollar sign up fee that appears to boost the coherence of the questions and replies. And it has RSS feeds, which is nice for turning down the rate of flow out of the firehose.

In January, I tried to get ubuntu CDs in the local college library. They refused a free donation, citing a budget crunch. They also feared a slippery slope where once they started accepting some software, they'd have to start buying other programs for circulation. Amusingly, the library already carries Ubuntu books, and provides the CDs they come with. I believe the reason it was refused was political rather than fiscal: officially accepting software means budgeting for software, which would likely slant the budget in favor of the technology librarians over other subject areas.

Where I specifically fell down over the past six months was in testing and fixing Jaunty. Traditionally, I use my TabletPC to test tools in ubuntu+1 that support the TabletPC hardware. Fingerprint readers, wacom, handwriting, and so on. Unfortunately, I had to loan that device out to a family member who's computer has gone out of commission. Add on top of that a new job with far less spare time, as a system administrator, and triaging and testing fell behind.

Blazing a new way forward

I don't feel like I've accomplished much in the past cycle. To better motivate myself, I'm going to publicly commit to making some changes. For the future, it's time to right-size my goals. I'll do some new stuff, and drop some of old.

For sure:

  • Promote Ubuntu. I've volunteered to present the Ubuntu netbook remix at an upcoming LUG meeting. Hopefully I'll have enough CDs and stickers to go around.

  • Evaluate desktop backup tools. We have a lot of backup tools in Ubuntu. Newly minted Ubuntu Member mterry even wrote and packaged one. We always tell people to make backups before upgrading, but there isn't a lot of attention paid to it by the community. I'm taking notes on 8 backup tools thus far. Since I've got a desktop that's been running Ubuntu, and upgraded from warty through the ages to jaunty, keeping around the accumulated changes interests me.

  • Share-alike. I'll revisit the library's policy on software and try the public libraries instead if they still can't accept free software.

Maybe:

  • Address bug #290159. There's a patch, I forwarded it upstream for review, and it sorta stalled out. Unfortunately, the upstream author is also the Debian maintainer, so there's no extra opportunity for collaboration and peer review there.

  • Test and triage wacom. Without 24/7 access to hardware, triaging reports is hard and testing is even harder. If I get it back, I'll be in a better place to dedicate some time to handle it.

  • Pitch in for the Ubuntu education project. I have experience with popular existing web courseware tools, but not Moodle. Helping out with that may be interesting. I'm not sure where exactly this is being organized though.

  • Package KeePass 2.0 In a previous post I asked about software for managing team secrets. Keepass 2.0 fills a niche we need at work, so it'd be nice to have it available on Ubuntu workstations. Upstream is dicey though; a single developer who doesn't publish a public source repo, just binaries with corresponding source. Hopefully he'll publish a new version that fixes one or two bugs we've encountered and reported in testing.

Step Down Considerately:

  • Fingerprinting in Ubuntu. This is a bad idea who's time has come. Unfortunately, there's too much bad to unwind. Thinkfinger in Ubuntu is an SVN snapshot of a dead project, who's packaging I don't fully understand. fprint is potentially the replacement but I haven't had time to read how PAM changed since Hardy. But basically, now that I know that it can work, I'm not sure it should.

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