AWSOME has the potential to be really awesome

Earlier today, Canonical announced AWSOME

I'm honestly pretty stoked about it. At the last UDS, Mark Shuttleworth expressed his concern over the state of AWS compatibility and how important it was.  As part of follow up conversations, Vish, Gustavo and I talked about ways to address it, and the one which everyone was the most pleased with was the idea of a gateway service that could talk AWS on the one side and OS API on the other. This would allow the code paths inside of Nova to become simpler, and innovation at the API layer inside of OpenStack could proceed as architecture dictated. At the same time, as a separate project, developers on a gateway wouldn't have to get nova core devs to care about AWS APIs at all, and themselves could write the service to be as robust and full-featured as they want.

Decoupling FTW!

Anyway - I'm at conferences a lot and I have conversations with people alot about ways in which they can help to solve the problems they are experiencing. It's not nearly so common that people step up to the plate and just fully own doing something about it - so I'm extra excited about AWSOME's existence for that reason alone.

At the moment it's listed on Launchpad as being AGPL (although this is not reflected in the source tree), which obviously would exclude it from being an official part of OpenStack, and probably from being deployed on any of the public clouds being stood up. However, if the details of getting it licensed Apache can get worked out, I would certainly personally support including it in OpenStack.

Thanks for the work Canonical! I'm excited to poke/learn more.

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Tags: ubuntu

death by a thousand cuts

It's amazing to me what features drive decisions when choosing a technology. In my case, it's a clock applet, but let me set a little bit of a context first.

I stopped configuring my UI environment several years ago, opting instead to use the experience that had been designed for me by the fine folks at Ubuntu. This wasn't entirely just blind trust or pleasure - but rather that the defaults were sensible enough, and I wanted to be in the business of doing things, not spending an hour deciding what font I wanted my desktop to display. I believe I've been doing this since dapper, if not earlier.

Until now.

I tried. I mean, I've bitched at Jorge some in person, but I ran Unity starting with Natty up until last week. I ran it as provided, as intended, and I tried to learn to think about things in the way it was asking me to.

Unity is generally a decent piece of software. I don't hate it by any means and it is certainly workable. I can see how, if one wanted to design a single user interface that would work on laptops, tablets and phones that Unity might be what you'd end up with. There are weirdnesses, such as alt-tab having become counter-intuitive and seemingly non-deterministic. That the launcher buttons launch a program the first time you click them and switch to the program subsequently makes sense for every application I run - except for terminal windows. Of course, since Unity isn't designed with me in mind (even though I'm a stalwart and loyal Ubuntu user who evangelizes it to eveyone I meet) it's to be expected that UI behavior around having 20 different terminal windows open might fall through the cracks 

None of the things I didn't like about Unity were monumental though, and I learned to deal with them in the spirit of being a good sport and knowing that sometimes initial distaste is really just distaste for change itself.

On a lark last week, while reading about Mint, I decided to give the Mint Gnome Desktop Extensions a try - which meant installing Gnome 3 - so I gave that a try too. Same thing, really - gnome-shell, MGDE - they're both fine. They're both weird in a their own way, and I'm sure I could get used to both of them if I cared to spend the effort - but they aren't any better than Unity, nor is Unity any better than either of them. They're all just new and weird and will take getting used to for a person who has used and loved an X11-based desktop as his primary interface since 1999. I've got habits. I expect them to work. On urging from a friend, and since I was already trying out alternatives, I gave XFCE a shot. It's also fine. It behaves more like how I'd expect things to behave than the others do, that's for darned sure.

So I had some alternatives, and they either fixed some things I mildly cared about, or they didn't and just chose their own unique ways to be weird... essentially a wash.

Except for the one thing.

The thing that, it turns out, has become the one must-have feature for me. The thing that I had before and now have lost. And the one thing that I tried in each of the environments to find a good solution for.

And failed. 

And that's the Gnome2 Clock Applet.

I have, on more than one occasion, lorded it over my friends who are silly enough to run something that isn't Linux about how bad-ass my clock applet is. They have nothing like it. It's a feat of UI brilliance. It works like a normal user expects a clock to work, and then it has additional features that are perfectly discoverable without having to read documentation. So it's got all of the power that a power user might want, and yet has sensible defaults and behavior if you just want it to be a clock.

Let me tell you some of what it does for me:

 

  • It is a clock.
  • In a very succinct way, it also shows me temperature and weather.
  • When I click it, it shows me a calendar, and an expandable list of locations.
  • It lets me add a set of locations
  • It shows me those locations as dots on a world map.
  • That world map has a daylight/nighttime line drawn across it.
  • It shows me the times of all of the locations, as well as the weather indicator.
  • It lets me change my location by clicking a button. 

 

NOW - the pure UI designers out there will scream - why does your clock show you weather information? That's unrelated to the time!!!

See - that's what's brilliant about the applet. It seems to understand that it's not actually a clock - even though that's the first element of it that you see. It's a location information and management applet. For a clock to truly and properly work these days, it kind of has to know where you are in the world (a feature of all clock systems on all computers at this point) Once it knows that - well then - why not be a gui interface to both managing that location and providing information that is dependent on that location. For someone who travels as much as I do (none of my family ever know what city I'm in) it's a godsend. With one click, I tell my laptop where I am, and it keeps a summary of essential information about that location in a useful location quickly within my eyesight. It recognizes a use case - a real use case. It recognizes that my location may not be a fixed quantity, and that I might want to deal with that in a seamless and sensible manner. It also recognizes that, in addition to just being able to change locations - I might work regularly with people all over the globe, and sometimes it's really handy to be able to simply and easily see whether it's appropriate to assume that they are awake or not. On top of all of that - if YOU happen to not need any of that, you don't have to know that any of that is there.

Unity has a clock applet that lets me switch locations - but no weather. I have to add the weather indicator for that, and then I have to maintain two location lists and update it in two places.

Gnome3/MGSE is even worse - the weather indicator that it has doesn't seem to support location lists - only your current location - and you are required to enter that location using cryptic weather station id codes.

XFCE's clock doesn't even support showing me the current date.

So I've decided something. For now, I will run Gnome Classic (aka Gnome 2) and I will continue to enjoy my user interface experience, complete with consistent operation of all of the buttons on my computer and an amazing location application that is unmatched across any operating system. Gnome 2 was the last thing that both worked well and was designed with me as a target user. When such a time comes that I am, for whatever reason, prevented from running it, I suppose I can sit down and port the features I need to whatever new environment I have to run - but it would be really outstanding if instead the people running the project that I'm ostensibly a member of started caring about me again.

11 comments
Tags: ubuntu

Two subjects are one too many for a blog post

It's my turn to apologize. Andrew and I apparently really angered people by being upset about something last week, and for that, as he already has, I apologize. I don't like making people angry or upset.

I believe Henrik made an excellent point, which is that for various different reasons, there are those of us who were upset when Oracle bought MySQL and yet felt complelled to not communicate this publically. To be honest, emotions related to a business transaction ARE a little weird, so I'm not sure it's completely odd that people don't know how to appropriate express them. But as Henrik rightly pointed out, the Oracle takeover has been the elephant in the room (sorry Postgres - it's not you) and we've all been spending a good amount of energy NOT talking about it, because talking about it only leads to people getting upset. As I said before, I don't like making people upset, so I'll try to keep my comments there to myself for the most part.

I'd also like to apoligize for writing a blog post with too many thoughts. I only included the discussion of the naming as what I thought was a humorous take on the backstory of why I was writing in the first place, I see the folly of my ways there. In the future, if what I want to talk about is annoyance at people eye-rolling at my passion for Open Source, I will endeavor to only talk about that. That way, with a single topic post, when it's referenced other places, there will be no confusion.

To sum up, I am sorry for causing any confusion or any anger or for making anyone upset.

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Oracle do not, in fact, comprise the total set of MySQL Experts

There's been quite the thread on Google+ (my how technology changes quickly...) over a comment Andrew Hutchings made on an Oracle MySQL Blog Annoucment for their new "Meet The MySQL Experts" Podcast. I should have ignored it - because I honestly could not give two shits one way or the other about Oracle or any podcasts that they may or may not decide to broadcast. But to be straightfoward about it ... the title of the podcast is ludicrous. In case you were wondering, "The" in English is the definite article and implies a singular quality to the thing that it describes... effectively implying that Oracle's MySQL Experts are, in fact, the only MySQL Experts. We all know that's false- Percona and SkySQL are both full of experts as well - likely have more MySQL Experts per-capita than Oracle does, as if a per-capita measure were important. Of course, as Matt Montgomery pointed out, there is absolutely no reason for Oracle to point people toward's someone else's experts ... and that's fine. It's just that there are other ways to phrase the title that still assert Oracle's product and trademark and which are not, from a purely grammatical sense, lies. "Meet Our MySQL Experts" or even "Meet MySQL Experts" or "MySQL Experts Talk to You" or "Hey! Look! MySQL Experts are going to drink Black Vodka!" (ok, probably not the last, since that would point people to MariaDB - but it is at least a true statement... MySQL Experts WILL, inevitably, drink Black Vodka)

As I said earlier though - I don't really care about Oracle... they have no impact or meaning in my life... so if they want to either play silly grammatical games OR be unaware as to the actual meaning of words in English - that's fine. But then Matt Lord said something that really pissed me off:

 Any religion and its dogma can be problematic in the real world, whether or not it involves any kind of deism or not. :)

Too often people confuse FOSS with the cathedral and the bazaar, shared development, shared ownership and other high minded ideals and frameworks. In the end, it's a trademarked and in-house developed product that is released as FOSS. It's not a cross, don't try to impale yourself on it. :D

It's not that big of a deal people! We're surrounded by beauty and tragedy, this is just work.

Now, first of all, I like Matt Lord. And with that in mind, I have the following to say:

I am fully in support of trademarks and trademark protection. I am fully in support of people making a living doing what they do - especially if they are doing it by providing a service. I recognize that Oracle owns the trademark MySQL and can do with it as they see fit.Oracle does, in fact, own the product called MySQL, with all of the rights that go along with that... and honestly I do not think they are being bad shepherds of that product. Whether I like Oracle or not, it is undeniable that they are now a part of the MySQL picture, and I say good for them.

The reason I get pissed off is the attitude that it's not that big of a deal. The MySQL trademark and the business around MySQL is a BIG DEAL to Oracle, and if I were to try to put forward the opinion that they should just, you know, stop caring about it, people would think I was crazy. Why is it so unreasonable then for me to care about the portion of this that I happen care about? Why is it not ok for me to NOT be in this for the money, for me to NOT be in this just as work?

I think it might be worthwhile reading The Cathedral and The Bazaar again - because it describes the two different models you are talking about rather than being a single entity that one might confuse FOSS with. The Cathedral, as described in the book, is the model traditionally taken by the MIT and Gnu-derived projects,  (although emacs has a more open dev model now) and is currently also employed by Oracle on MySQL. In fact, it has been the MySQL model for quite some time - well before Oracle entered the picture. It involves a mostly closed dev process from which code drops are made unannounced and at the whim of the folks in the Cathedral. It's not de-facto a bad thing, it's just a description of a process. With the Cathedral, ironically enough, it is the ideals of Free Software (that the software itself be free) that are more important and that an open development process is less important. The Bazaar, on the other hand, is the process Linux uses - where all of the development is done in a distributed manner and in the open. The assertion in the book, and one of the philosophical differences between Free Software and Open Source (which makes the use of FLOSS or FOSS completely ludicrous) is that having an open development process is more valuable than just the software being free, although the by-product of an open development process is that your software sort of has to be Open Source. The irony here that I mentioned earlier is that, of course, Oracle approaching its Free Software offerings via the Cathedral model gives it none of the benefits you would think a corporation might want from an arrangement such as Eric Raymond's Open Source Bazaar model might afford them, and instead themselves choose to operate under a set of zealous ideals much more akin to Richard Stallman.

I'm sure that analogy is not pleasing to either Stallman or Ellison.

Although I understand that the ideals behind Free Software may not be important to you, I do not think that there is any constructive reason in the context of a discussion about Oracle's business practices asserting trademark ownership to imply me subscribing to those ideals is silly. It would be very difficult to accurately describe the success of any of the currently valuable pieces of Free Software as not due in any large part to those of us who routinely impale ourselves on the cross of Free Software. MySQL AB's business strategy itself, which involved attaching FUD to discussions of the GPL to incite people to buy licenses that they quite simply did not need ... (a perfectly valid if devious business strategy) was predicated on the existence of such an enormous shit-ton of users that they could focus on converting a percent of a percent of those users into customers and still wind up selling the business for a billion dollars. That shit-ton of users grew out of the emergence of LAMP as the dominant pattern for the Web. LAMP arose because it was technically much better than any of the alternatives... and the pieces of LAMP became dominant because of the work of a set of people who do, in fact, care about the ideals of either Free Software or Open Source.

You seem to be quick to put things in business perspectives and to remind people that it's ok for Oracle to do business. I agree. It's ok. But we wouldn't have had MySQL to work in the first place for if it wasn't for a bunch of people for whom it was not just a job, for whom it was not just work and for whom the ideals you are looking down on are not silly things.

So disagree with me all you want to about the effects of Oracle's choices on the health of MySQL. Defend Oracle all you want to on whatever terms you want, in whatever way you want to define a set of values such that they are positive. I'm right there with you on some of it, I might disagree with you on other bits, and that's just life and how we go on being people ... but please do not smirk and snicker and roll your eyes and tell me that the things that I think are important are not. I assure you, I find them to be very important and I do not believe I am the only person who does.

9 comments

Theatre of Specificity, or, The Day I Agreed With Paul Mullin

I don't find myself agreeing with Paul Mullin every day. In fact, it's kind of rare when we do see eye to eye. However, his most recent post, with an absolutely superb chunk of text from Rebecca Olson is spot on.

Rebecca's position actually reminds me a bit of something that Andrew Lazarow says, albeit from a different angle, which is that it's useful to see theatre as a retail transaction. You need to define for the audience what you are going to provide so that they can adequately make a choice about your production, and then you need to deliver the thing that you claim you are going to provide. At the end of the day, often audiences are going to be judging you against the criteria that you yourself have set up for them, so it's encumbent on you to communicate with them effectively.

To move a little further with the retail analogy ... the only retail establishment which tries to offer you some smidgen of every possible choice is WalMart. I don't hear anyone in the Seattle arts community (or any arts community, really) clamoring for more WalMarts at the expense of smaller specialized boutique stores. Why then should they expect me to be interested in theatres who are trying to turn themselves in to an artistic WalMart. For that matter, one of the ways in which WalMart succeeds is by homogonization and national resource and logistics consolidation. Does this remind anyone of our larger houses tendency to cast from New York? Why wouldn't they? It's much more efficient and allows them a much easier method of churning out the same tired cycle of crap that's happening in every other sad regional theatre in the country.

Of course, as with all analogies, it's not perfect, and at this point I've babbled on for too long. Suffice it to say that today I agreed with Paul Mullin, so I'm going to make the case that if we both agree on something, the chances of it being wrong are pretty slim.

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Tags: theatre