copies of the “Don’t Ban Digital Innovation and Consumer Rights” petition

I’ve just picked up a number of copies of the petition from the printing place. They’re ready to go out. If you (or your LUG, your business or friends) can get signatures on it and would like a number of physical copies to hand out, let me know and I’ll mail them to you.

Bundles could be going out as soon as tomorrow.

I also sustained a paper cut while carrying them upstairs. See, I spill blood in this cause!

parent hacks: Cottonelle Kids shows kids how much toilet paper to use

parent hacks: Cottonelle Kids shows kids how much toilet paper to use
“Also, I buy the kind with aloe. If you’re sweet to your bottom, your bottom will whistle a happy tune.”

This gave me a good chuckle.

There has been way too much discussion about toilet habits in the free software community this year. Perhaps it was just the descriptions of gastro on the lca delegates list.

Mikal has also blogged about this.

Perth Penguinista is back

Perth Penguinista: How to trash a non-life

It’s really great to see you back blogging Leon.  Here too (Perth Penguinista: Free in many ways). I have a few friends who work (or have worked) in hospitals. Let us just say that the tales of computer woes are not to be underestimated.
So cheers to the hospital staff that’s made sure the words still flow (and make sense!)

Incidently, I found the DVDs of the first two series of Scrubs for a reasonable price the other day, So for the past few days I’ve been watching a lot of Scrubs.

MemberDB – A Membership Database 0.4

MemberDB – A Membership Database

I released 0.4 today. A rather long awaited release. No doubt there’ll be bugs and the need for a 0.4.1 or something – but this is relatively bug free and has a bunch of new cool stuff to chew on.

It’s also the first real release to support MySQL 5.0 (previous releases won’t work as MemberDB heavily uses views).

baz 404 .listing

Guess you're happy with that answer. To fix the mirroring, he needs to create the non-zero sizes (contents don't matter) in the  ARCHIVE/=meta-info/http-blows file.
Then he needs to run archive-fixup on the name of the mirror
So, for example, if he can ssh to where the mirror is, he can echo "yeah" > HERE/IS/MY/MIRROR/=meta-info/http-blows, then back on the machine that has the original source, run archive-fixup ARCHIVE-MIRROR

Thank you interweb, you fixed it.

GNOME board discussions

Seeing that I’m on the board of a FOSS related group (Linux Australia), I naturally take an interest in how similar organisations do things.

So it’s been interesting watching what GNOME Foundation has been doing. I haven’t been watching that closely, but planet GNOME helps :)

jdub blogs about his choices in the upcoming vote on GNOME Foundation board stuff. He does have a good point here, as do others indicating they’ll vote the other way.

Jeff is totally right that it’s not the board that should be the great doers – they should represent and get the admin stuff done (or delegate it to appropriate parties – such as accountants).

I think we’ve gotten better with LA stuff by educating members on this issue. People are learning that you shouldn’t vote for the person who’s had the most cvs commits to $project. You should vote for the person who can make sure the organisation can continue but is also approachable and will bring views to the rest of the board (i.e. represent).

One idea is to maybe have an advisory committee. This can be larger and represent all interested parties. The (smaller) board could then go to them for advice on what the larger group thinks.

I do think that 11 sounds big – but just reducing numbers won’t necessarily fix any problems.

Good luck guys – you are living in interesting times!

must be time to use the OSDC conference registration/paper submission site

it’s annoying. grr.

but, on the other hand, I am speaking about MySQL 5.0 at OSDC.

This is even cooler as 5.0 has gone GA. So it’s not “upcoming features” it’s the “here and now”.

I’ll now have to release MemberDB 0.4 (the MySQL release). Converting the Linux Australia installation over at some point soon too. The 0.4 tree fixes enough bugs that it’s worth it (one of which Pia found the other day).

MemberDB election-results performance on new laptop

So I picked up my new laptop on friday. It’s an ASUS V6V – nice and fast, light, good resolution screen and lots of disk and RAM (it came with 1GB, I’ve got 2GB).

Anyway, the transfer of data from my PowerBook went fine. I waited for xfsdump to dump /home from the powerbook to a firewire drive (and for “waiting” I do mean going out and seeing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – which was very good).

Installing Ubuntu on the ASUS went like a dream. Everything, and i do mean everything worked out-of-the-box with only one tweak. That was uncommented the ACPI sleep configuration option do-dad in /etc/default/acpi-something-foo to get suspend to ram working.

The WEP didn’t work in the installer, so I initially just used the GigE adapter until the first reboot.

The firewire drivers don’t really behave with this laptop atm… that dreaded “aborted sbp2 command” error too often – so abandoned that and futzed around with a private net and NFS to xfsrestore /home.

Go to bed, awake later to find /home on new laptop (with an extra 23GB of free space!). I had to, of course – rebuild those essential packages for x86 instead of ppc – namely wesnoth.

oh, and cleaning out the ppc binaries from my mysql bk trees and doing a x86 build (I also had to change my CC from ‘ccache distcc powerpc-linux-gcc’ to ‘ccache distcc i386-linux-gcc’). One thing is for certain, it’s quicker at building things – even if the fan ramps up a bit when doing so :)

MySQL builds pretty quickly when you have a 2.8Ghz P4 and a 2.13Ghz Pentium M building it.

Anyway, set up all the apache foo for hacking on the LA website and MemberDB today. A load of the elections-result page on digital (the LA server – dual PIII 1.133Ghz) takes about fourteen or fifteen seconds using PostgreSQL as the database.

I previously reported that using MySQL (InnoDB tables) I got about twice the performance on my old laptop (1Ghz G4).

Well, on this one (2.13Ghz Pentium M) I’m getting the page loading in under three seconds. Sweet. Maybe I won’t go ahead and try to optimise some of the queries :)

(the query cache is probably coming into this – but i did do the query several times – so it’s not as if there’s any unfair advantage anywhere).

I’m using the 5.0.12-max-beta gcc dynamic build as downloaded from for these runs. All other packages (apache2, php) are as shipped in Ubuntu. The my.ini file is as-shipped (err.. i think so: no query log, no binlog, slow query log enabled and some paths changed)

University computer clubs

davyd: request for help asks what other university computer clubs there are out there. I know there is the Monash IT Society (formerly the CSSE Student Club – where CSSE is Computer Science and Software Engineering).

hey, if we’re lucky – Monash will still actually have a Computer Science degree in a few years. If we’re even luckier, we’ll have people left to teach it.

I sincerely hope that actual Computer Science (and the staff who teach it) are treated better elsewhere in Australia.

Hey, if UCC is going to maintain this list, it’s probably worth having a relatively prominent pointer to it on the LA website.

Election results page performance

Did the switch of the election-results page from postgresql to mysql today. It’s about twice as fast (crappy statistics there, but it’s an approximation).

This is using InnoDB tables.

With prepared statements we should be able to increase performance even further. I enabled the query log for a load of the page – we’re doing about 3,500 queries. Hrrm…. not so good. But using prepared statements should give us maybe another decent boost (a fair bit IIRC the parser overhead)

Linux® in Australia

Jon talks about recent happennings with securing the Linux® trademark in Australia.

In what we laughingly call the past, we discovered that Linux was not a registered trademark in Australia and such our legal options in the case of someone abusing it.

So, we set out on the road of securing the trademark. It’s a long process (we’ve also put in some applications for some of the names LA uses) and our legal dude (I think they call them lawyers now, but ‘legal dude’ sounds cool) Jeremy Malcolm has been great in sorting out the stuff you need to sort out.

So, the way the Linux® trademark works is that Linus owns it, but since he has little interest in having to do the legal footwork (something about prefering to hack and spend time with family – you know, things he’s good at) there’s an organisation called the Linux Mark Institute (LMI) to administer it.

So, we’re (LA) being the good guys and making sure we’ve got good legal ground to stand on in Australia – and we’ve gotten Jeremy to do what’s needed to secure the trademark – which is (basically) prove that the right person is going to own it and it’s a good thing to have.

Getting people to say that they respect and support the trademark (by having an appropriate license from LMI) puts us in a better legal position.

Of course, letters from lawyers can scare people – but don’t be scared, this is just warm and fuzzy things for the good of us all.

(Small, cute, furry creatures not included)

organisational structure and being sustainable

Michael Davies made a very astute comment on Saturday night (while at the “Everyone from the South Australia Linux community (e.g. LinuxSA) is welcome to join the Linux Australia committee for dinner and discussion dinner” – Michael showed up, and he’s really cool – so that’s good. SA – we were there to hear your voice! in person! as always though, you can post to linux-aus and discuss there – but it would have been nice to see more of you!).

We had been discussing during the day (at our face-to-face meeting) the sustainability of the way Linux Australia is run. Michael made the comment that currently we are taking the risk of being sustainable only through, by sequentially burning out really good people.

One of the reasons Andrew Cowie and myself wished to continue on the LA board this year was to ensure the future operation of the organisation by making sure it was being organised and run in a way that made it sustainable and be the biggest success possible. Both of us have been involved in organisations in the past (as have many other people in the broader community) that have suffered from individual burnout, poor policy, top heavy (insert word i’m thinking of here) and a bunch of other non-useful things.

We had a discussion amongst ctte where some of the following were raised (intermixed with my personal opinion and whatever – it’s my blog dammit! :)

  • it is a volunteer organisation – the people putting in their time are not employees. The situation of calling someone into a meeting and asking “why haven’t you done this” with a “it’s your job dammit” tone, just isn’t what you can do.
  • The burden of doing accounts is an unreasonable one. The treasurers job is one of supervising, not dealing with every single expense and account keeping. It’s a lot of work. We have two treasurers as well (one specifically looks after LCA stuff, and the elected one, Mark, takes care of fitting it all together, and all the LA stuff that goes on. Talk about a large amount of work – and I think my taxes and finances are a lot and annoying. This, I think (and expressed) is currently one of our biggest problems. We have been lucky with people, and Mark does deserve a rich life outside of work and LA treasury. It is my opinion that hiring help to do a lot of the financial work is something that is not only a good idea, but easily justifiable as an expense and something we should seek to make happen. I hope this will move forward over the next few months. Remember folks, if the finances are stuffed up, we don’t have an LA, and hence we do not have an LCA.
  • We need to run at least cost neutral – positive cash flow is a good thing as it means we have money we can spend on other projects and initiatives (there have been many great ideas that simply require too much volunteer effort and/or cash to do properly). It would also be very nice if our running costs were covered purely by interest on existing funds. Being in a strong financial position is a good thing. Being Free Software is not being pov and cheap. It’s about being successful and free.
  • The committee has limited time. They are busy, active people (at work, at life, in the FOSS world). They also deserve time to spend with partners, friends and sipping large alcoholic drinks from coconut shells on tropical islands. It is my strong beleif that the committee taking on the role of the Board and of the Executive is unsustainable and will lead to burnout of all the enthusiasm and see the best people stop doing things for the organisation. Eventually, the org will collapse. This is bad.
  • I guess this is probably no longer being short dot points (which i am such a fan of).
  • There is a distinct difference between Board and Executive. The Board is responsible for ensuring the continuation of the organisation. Primarily, this means ensuring that we don’t go broke. Approving budgets, the treasurer overseeing financial goings on and setting the organisation in the right direction for prosperity (e.g. deciding that having an LCA is the right thing to do and sending random people off the street to tropical islands is not)
  • The executive is the people who go out and do work. Task oriented kind of approach. This has worked really well for LCA organisation. Everything is task based (e.g. “We need to get a venue”, “we need to have a CFP”).
  • A simple way to look at it would be the LA board deciding “this organisation should have a LCA” and then finding people to EXECUTE this decision – i.e. the LCA organisers. We approve their budget and act as check-and-balances and other such responsible things. Remember, failed LCAs loosing big bucks translates into either much lower key future LCAs or no more LCA.
  • It is my view that very few people have a solid understanding of organisational structure, problems, safeguards and making an organisation sustainable. The fact that we have spent many, many hours discussing such things (and all learning a lot from each other in the process) – with the specific goal of making LA better – is something that our membership does not have. They have decided that it’s us who should spend the time worrying about such things. I have never been to a business school and nor do I have any desire to go to one (and, my bet is, nor does a lot of
  • One day we are going to get sued (or audited, or something where we need to prove we are not a pack of fools). We need to have due diligence. This stuff is boring. It is not what people spend their weekends doing for fun. Accountants go skiing too remember, they don’t spend their spare time with spreadsheets and using GNUmeric for fun! There is paperwork (govt stuff, tax stuff, formal minutes of formal meetings, documentation of decisions, policies, finances etc).

There was also a interesting discussion (with several different viewpoints) about how to ensure that the board is made up of the best people possible. This includes having people on there with knowledge of the organisation. There is no doubt that the new members this year will testify to the fact that there is a lot they don’t know. They are getting used to the roles. Just as those of us who have been on it before did when we joined.

It would be really bad if, when someone is getting used to their role (for example, someone with a high up position of great importance – e.g. president, treasurer) and there suddenly is an election. It takes more than 6 months to get into a role. An election is yearly. Members have not had a chance to see these people in their roles – they have seen them get used to them. As a real-world example, if Mark had not continued in his role as treasurer (and then some!) we could, quite potentially, have been fucked. He has been setting up a lot of infrastructure. It’s not there yet – but it’s getting there. Personally, I am quite partial to the idea of having only half the committee stand for election each year. This will ensure continuity between boards and allow people enough time to get into their role and actually be in it.

“To facilitate the enthusiasms of the linux community”

It’s a phrase we came up with in the first ctte meeting I was at. It may, on the surface, to some, sound like marketing doublespeak. Think about it, it’s not. It’s actaully really accurate. If we facilitate, we win (we facilitate – i.e. oversee and fund – It works really well). If we were to run it each year, we’d loose. If we facilitate enthusiasm for a project, we provide a bunch of admin stuff (and possibly funds), leaving the people with the enthusiasms to get on with the enthusiasm.

Anyway, sorry I don’t have time to make it shorter. I hope this helps people understand some stuff of where I’m coming from and I hope people will correct me where I’ve written crack.

comments welcome!

gems from, after the pub

* MacPlusG3 wonders wtf is happennning with is imaps connection
<bernard_> MacPlusG3: 21:59 < cef> yup.. dropping my mtu to 1478 fixed it
<bernard_> ?
<bernard_> though I'm on burgmann wireless here and pulling mail over imaps just fine.
< -- womble has quit ("ZZZzzz...")

Bblog: Westpac: standards avoidance

Bblog: Westpac: standards avoidance

Hrrm… I really hope that everything works fine in mozilla derived browsers.

Personally, I use epiphany. It was ready and working before firefox was (although I used it exclusively for a hell of a long time on IRIX last year). So, if it doesn’t work, and they’re not going to fix it – I’ll have to seriously consider switching banks.

This is an extra annoyance as Mark Tearle has gone through a fair bit of re-organising moving LA’s bank accounts over to Westpac (largely because their internet banking stuff made a lot more sense for us).

The old site was great. I only ever had one problem with it – mozilla based stuff rendered the page slightly wider than the screen. But, I’ve happily put up with that. Everything worked .No bloody java stuff required (this is due to the problems of getting a working java plugin on linux-ppc – i don’t want binary only stuff).

I could view things, bpay, export statements out into a format suitable for import into GNUcash.

So Westpac – will you loose a customer? I guess we’ll soon find out.