Ubuntu Berlin @ LinuxTag 2010 – pickings

Saturday evening this years LinuxTag, Europes largest open source fair, closed its doors. As LinuxTag is presented at Berlin, the „Ubuntu Berlin“ was happy to support it in different activities. Let me sum up some of them:

1) Ubuntu Community booth

The „ubuntu Deutschland e.V.“, Ubuntu and Kubuntu community presented their work at a community hosted booth. A bunch of Ubuntu Berlin members supported the booth, answered hundreds of questions and helped with the proceedings.

2) Talks

Saturday Featured a lot of Ubuntu focussed talks. For the first time „Ubuntu Berlin“ and its members hosted a remarkable amount of them, e.g.:

  • Anselm Helbig – Ubuntu Berlin Lightning Talks (tmux)
  • Benjamin Drung – Ubuntu in 50 minutes, Packaging for Debian and Ubuntu
  • Caspar Clemens Mierau – Ubuntu Berlin Lightning Talks (Vimperator), Gnome-Do, Ubuntu in 50 minutes
  • Daniel Holbach – Fixing Bugs in Ubuntu (see slides), Ubuntu in 50 minutes, Ubuntu Berlin Lightning Talks (liblaunchpad)
  • Marcel Eichner – Ubuntu Berlin Lightning Talks (Franklin)
  • Torsten Franz – Supporting Ubuntu

Ubuntu in 50 minutes talk at LinuxTag 2010
minutes before the „Ubuntu in 50 minutes“ talk

3) Interviews for Radio Tux

Several members of Ubuntu Berlin gave interviews to the well known German Podcast „Radio Tux„. Daniel’s talk on bugjamming has been released already. Be sure to check the archive for other releases within the next days.

4) LinuxTag BBQ

Last but not least: The  „End of LinuxTag BBQ“ at c-base, sponsored by Canonical, has been a great success again. Three barbacues and about ten „Grillmeister“ (you cannot translate this) provided more than hundred visitors with tasty food. Members of various types of open source communities had interesting chats while relaxing at the banks of the Spree.

As Ubuntu Berlin’s support for the LinuxTag continuously increased within the last years, I am sure next year will even better. We’ll see.

Ubuntu Berlin LinuxTag BBQ today

For those of you currently staying in Berlin for the LinuxTag 2010: I know where you are going today evening after the fair closes. For the third time Ubuntu Berlin hosts a LinuxTag BBQ at c-base, the sunken starbase in the heart of Berlin. Be sure to grab free food there – friendly sponsored by Canonical (thank you!) and a refreshing botte of beer or the beloved Club Mate at the bar for reasonable prices.

The BBQ opens around 6pm. If you don’t know how to get to c-base from the LinuxTag area, a friendly team will guide you – just have a look at the official announcement. The last two your showed, the LinuxTag BBQ is a perfect ending as a large crowd of open source developers and community members of all free project types take the possibility to chat and relax directly at the riverside of the Spree. Don’t miss that :) See you there.

My Mom Runs Ubuntu – Update for Ada Lovelace Day

Just a couple of days ago I wrote update the upcoming „Ada Lovelace Day“ – celebrating women in technology on the 24nd of March, which happens to be today. The day pledges for blog posts about this topic and here we go with an Ubuntu flavored version.

At Ubucon 2008 in Göttingen, a German Ubuntu User Conference, I noticed that a lot people hanging around discussed how nicely their parents and especially moms are using Ubuntu. No hazzle, no further explanations needed – it just worked. And often they don’t even know or notice that they are using Ubuntu, as they just standard software like Firefox and Thunderbird. As this user group doesn’t belong to the tweeting, facebooking, social web society, I decided to found a launchpad group named „My Mum Runs Ubuntu„, that has no further meaning than joining it means your mother runs Ubuntu – a simple way of giving this „silent“ user group at least a number and a marker on a map.

I was surprised how fast the member list grew and happy to see that it’s members came and come from all over the world as you can see below:

"My Mom Runs Ubuntu" global map (map by Google)

"My Mom Runs Ubuntu" global map (map by Google)

So this is not about a single heroine in technology – it is about a general movement:  I am convinced, especially Ubuntu with it’s focus on an intuitive interface seems to keep the entry level very low and therefore attracts user groups that might be a suprprise for a lot of people. I know dozens of techie people stating that free operating systems are way too complicated to use for them. When telling about „My Mom Runs Ubuntu“ they run out of reasons. At least there is nothing more convincing on using free software than people that are just using it on a daily basis without the need of telling everybody as they just take it as normal. I am sure, this user group continues to grow and am

So, if you already have a Launchpad account and your mum runs Ubuntu, too, give her a voice by just joining the group.

And if you think, this post misses real techie heroines, check the „Ubuntu Women“ project, featuring some of the most active members of the Ubuntu community.

Ada Lovelace Day Logo

Ada Lovelace Day Logo

Ada Lovelace Day on 24nd of March

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

On the 24nd of March – next Wednesday – the „Ada Lovelace Day“ is taking place. If you don’t know Ada Lovelace so far – you should: She lived in the early 19th century, and is known today especially for her work on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. Ada is regarded not only as the first female programmer, she is actually regarded as the world’s first computer programmer.

The „Ada Lovelace Day“ celebrates the achievements of women in technology and science and pledges for blog posts about this topic. As the Ubuntu community tries to emphasize the involvement of women in the contribution to the project (e.g. see Ubuntu Women), there might interesting stories about an Ubuntu specific focus on this day’s topic.

I am looking forward the 24nd, there are over 1000 blog post pledges so far. In case you use twitter, have a look at the hash marks #AdaLovelace and #ald10.

GNU Emacs workshop at c-base / Berlin

Emacs? Emacs! I proudly announce the first Emacs workshop held by the incredible Anselm Helbig (also known as „mnemonikk“), starting next Monday, the 22nd of March at c-base/Berlin/Germany. If you ever wanted to start using Emacs as an advanced editor and development environment, this is the right kick off workshop for you. Anselm is ready to answer all your questions regarding installation, configuration, usage and programming of the GNU Emacs editor. The focus of the workshop is a hands on experience rather than a lecture.

A detailed German description of the workshop can be found in Anselm’s blog. The workshop is free of charge.

When backups fail: A mysql binlog race condition

Today I ran into my first MySQL binlog race condition: The initial problem was quite simple: A typical MySQL master->slave setup with heavy load on the master and nearly no load on the slave, which only serves as a hot fallback and job machine, showed differences on the same table on both machines. The differences showed up from time to time: entries that have been deleted from the master were still on the slave.

After several investigations I started examining the MySQL binlog from the master – a file containing all queries that will be transferred to the slave (and executed there if they don’t match any ignore-db-pattern). I grepped for ids of rows that have not been deleted on the slave as I’s interested if the DELETE statement was in the binlog. In order to read a binlog file just use „mysqlbinlog“ and parse the output with grep, less or similar. To my surprise I found the following entries:

$ mysqlbinlog mysql-complete-bin.000335 | grep 1006974
DELETE FROM `tickets` WHERE `id` = 1006974
SET INSERT_ID=1006974/*!*/;

As „SET INSERT_ID“ is a result of an INSERT statement it was clear, that MySQL wrote the INSERT => DELETE statements in the wrong order. As INSERT/DELETE sometimes occur quite fast after each other and several MySQL  threads are open in the same MySQL server, you might run into a rare INSERT/DELETE race condition as the master successfully executes them, while the slave receives them in the wrong order.

As a comparision this is a normal order of INSERT and DELETE (please note that the actual INSERT is not displayed here):

$ mysqlbinlog mysql-complete-bin.000336 | grep 1007729<br />SET INSERT_ID=1007729/*!*/;<br />DELETE FROM `tickets` WHERE `id` = 1007729<br />

Actually this all so far. Lesson learned for me: A mysql binlog might get you into serious trouble when firing a MySQL server with INSERT and DELETE on the same rows as the linear binlog file can fail the correct statement order, which might be a result of different MySQL threads and an unclean log behavior. I have not yet found a generic solution for the problem but I am looking forward to it.

„human“ Ubuntu Karmic Koala release notes – a reminder


Karmic is to be released any minute now, so just as a reminder:

Over the last weeks I started writing „human“ release notes that concentrate on the most important changes that impact the users work. They are available on the Ubuntu Wiki:


If you like, you can add a screenshot of Empathy (and Pidgin?) video chat in action or send them to me, so I’ll upload them.

Please note, that Ernst Sjöstrand just dropped me a line, that he had the same idea of writing „human“ release notes, but focussed on main packages and there forked the work on


In my eyes the human release note project is yet at an early stage but I got a lot of positive feedback and think the work can be continued with the next Ubuntu Lucid Lynx release in an advanved way with more contributors.



Ubuntu Karmic Koala and Ubuntu Berlin enter metro system again

Once again, „Berliner Fenster„, the company behind the Berlin inside metro tv advertising system was so kind to provide the Ubuntu Berlin Karmic Koala release party at c-base and the release of Ubuntu with it’s own spot. It  will be shown for three days from 29th to 31th this month every 15 minutes on hundreds of screens viewable by more than a million passengers:

If you cannot see the embedded spot, click on this link.

It’s really nice to have this great audience-appealing support once again, as it presents Ubuntu in a totally non-techie medium, reaching an audience that is hard to reach and that has time to consume  input – as the screens inside the metro trains are quite appealing.

I’ll see if I can post some real life pictures of the spot soon.

Towards a „human“ Ubuntu (Karmic Koala) release note

These days I am busy preparing my talk about news in Ubuntu Karmic Koala which I’ll present at least three times: at Ubucon (Göttingen), Ubuntu Karmic Koala Release Party (Berlin) and Brandenburger Linuxtag BLIT (Potsdam). This is the third time I am going to present news in an Ubuntu release to a broader audience, therefore I gained experiences in researching information about an upcoming or just issued Ubuntu release.

While collecting new features and changes in Ubuntu I continue to notice that I am quite unsatisfied with the information provided for a release. Let me tell you why and what I suggest to change this.

The Status Quo

Ubuntu is released twice a year. Every release means thousands of changed packages, fixed bugs, enhancements and new functions. With every release a release note is added to the release overview page. Lets have a look at the first paragraphs of the most recent release note for Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope:

These release notes document known issues with Ubuntu 9.04 and its variants.
System Requirements

The minimum memory requirement for Ubuntu 9.04 is 256 MB of memory. Note that some of your system’s memory may be unavailable due to being used by the graphics card. If your computer has only the minimum amount of memory, the installation process will take longer than normal, but will complete successfully, and the system will perform adequately once installed.

Systems with less memory may be able to select „Install Ubuntu“ from the boot menu to run just the installer, rather than the whole desktop, or may be able to use the alternate install CD.

Recommended packages installed by default

In accordance with the Debian Policy Manual (which says „The ‚Recommends‘ field should list packages that would be found together with this one in all but unusual installations“), the package management system now installs packages listed in the Recommends: field of other installed packages as well as Depends: by default. If you want to avoid this for specific packages, use apt-get –no-install-recommends; if you want to make this permanent, set APT::Install-Recommends „false“; in /etc/apt/apt.conf. Be aware that this may result in missing features in some programs.

Interesting and useful information, in a way. But in my eyes not what I am looking for when looking for a „human“ release note. The current release notes are focussed on technical details and written in a language that might appeal an advanced audience like linux pros, developpers and system administrators. These are important target groups, of course, but they are not the only target group for a release, are they? Actually I hope, these people, and I count myself to them, are only a minority of Ubuntu users.

Who do we want to talk to?

So what is a suitable and broad target group for a release (note) that does not focus on techies? The answer is fairly easy: It’s the main group of average users who just wants to do things with their machines: office work, surfing the web, using social services, organizing their family pictures, watching video streams and so on. They don’t care that much about version numbers, framework changes and new apis. They use the computer as a tool and that’s exactly what makes Ubuntu „human“ for me and for them.

If these users consider upgrading to or installing a new release, where do they get hints about features that might convince them of doing so? Well, from online and print magazines as well as blogs featuring the new release. But as these texts also need to be written – where do the journalists and bloggers get their background from? Well, they need to collect small pieces of information on the web, which is an exhausting job as there is no official and comprehensive document and you need to collect and prove every bit of information while still risking missing important facts. So the second group of people a release note might address besides average users are people writing texts: journalists and blogger.

Let’s call these groups non-technical, though they might be pros. They play a non-technical here role as even if they are technical journalists or developers they want to know about features that support their day to day work.

What do we want to tell?

So let’s rethink a release note from user’s point of view. Let’s say the user uses OpenOffice.org for writing documents and doing spreadsheet calculation, Firefox for surfing, Evolution for Mail, Pidgin for Chat. What might be facts that’d get his attention in the upcoming Karmic release? Let’s try a too short example list of interesting facts about the upcoming Karmic Koala release (PLEASE NOTE: These are just sample notes – neither long enough nor well proved enough, so don’t complain about them, please 😉 )

  • The new „Ubuntu Software Center“ has been introduced as a replacement for the „Add Software“ Synaptic (?) stuff and comes with a task oriented clean interface and even showing screenshots of a lot applications before installing them. Software installation has never been so easy.
  • The network manager has been revamped. Mostly unnecessary details have been removed from the standard dialogues. Using the network manager got more intuitive. Dealing with wifi networks is easier to manager as you have to make less decisions.
  • The computer janitor, a tool for removing outdated and unused software, got extended so the interface displays more useful information making it easier to decide what to remove.
  • […]
  • Firefox 3.5 is the new default browser. Besides increased stabililty and faster page rendering it brings a private surf mode, leaving no traces on disk, you can use specific searches for bookmarks and history in the address bar, […]
  • Evolution is now able to import data from the hamster applet via iCal.
  • The default chat client Pidgin has been replaced by Empathy, which is a port of the Gnome Desktop environment and well integrated. Empathy comes with a clean interface, video and audio chat features. You should give it a try. Pidgin is still available via the Software Center of course.
  • […]

I think you get what I am trying to tell: Giving the user facts about features that have impact on his user experience and his daily work. There is even an example of a quite felicitous note release that is closely connected to an Ubuntu release: The Gnome Project presents outstanding multi-language (!) release notes with appealing language, screenshots and a clean structure. Have a look at the release note for Gnome 2.28 that gets shipped with Ubuntu 9.10.

Ubuntu cannot copy these notes at a whole as they some parts differ in Ubuntu. For instance Empathy has no geolocation bindings so far in Karmic (think that has been ripped as it would exceed the size for the standard iso image). And Ubuntu is not only Gnome, like Kubuntu is not only KDE.

Towards a collective, human release note

Putting my notes together, here is my pragmatic-let’s-make-improve-it-suggestion:

The Ubuntu project already makes massive usage of wikis. As a lot of people collect useful and user-oriented information about a release and users as well as journalists and bloggers are happy about structured collections of features, we should combine our efforts in documenting what’s so special about a release. The following four types of features might be of broader interest:

  1. Daily use applications like all applications that ship with the standard iso as well as often installed ones like Thunderbird, VLC media player, and so on.
  2. Changes within Gnome that made their way into Ubuntu like new applets, improved tools and settings.
  3. Important changes on the technical framework having an impact on user experience (like better boot times due to upstart, faster file access by using ext4, …)
  4. New bleeding edge features that show the upcoming feature but are not visible by default (like gnome-shell).

In fact a document containing all those information can get quite long. But hey: It would finally be a decent starting point, gives user to opportunity to read on and bloggers and journalists a kick start right from the scratch.

Doing things right here right now

After writing all this I’d like to channel interests into an pragmatic approach. I already emphasized how useful a wiki’d be in our case of collaboratively writing a release note for the masses. So let’s start right away, now, and hit the „edit“ button on:  The Karmic Koala „Human“ Release Notes. I just added some topics and text snippets as a starting point. I think the structure can work this way. Let me know, what you think. At the end it would be great having interesting screen shots showing some of the news and changes.

As I’ll attend the Ubuntu Global Jam this Saturday, I’ll use the time for extending the document. A perfect day for this task.

Keep in mind who we want to reach

Keeping an eye on the target groups – users, journalists and bloggers – helps keeping the „human“ release note straight forward. Friendly language is fine here, talking about frameworks not – at this place. Don’t forget: We still have a technical release note.

Now it’s up to you: What do you think about my proposal? Would you like to join working on a more user focussed document? Let me know.


Wouter sent a hint on the http://www.ubuntu.com/products/whatisubuntu/904features/ page. Indeed I did not know it so far (I did not find an easy click-way from the Ubuntu home page to this document so far), and am investigating the document right now. So far I can tell that it is, of course, more suitable to my requirements than any other document so far, but I already guess that it is still not exactly what I need. Be it the late publishing of the document regarding the release date.


After having reviewed the document I still miss a „human“ release note. Why? Well, the document from above is rather a description of a current release, repeating a lot of already known facts from previous releases and therefore doesn’t focus on changes in the release. Nonetheless I totally agree to Wouter, this could be more prominent, but we still another type of release notes.

Global Jam Participation – Ubuntu Berlin is prepared – are you?

(Wow, I needed to type „Global Jam“ more than once as I’s used to write „Global Bug Jam“.)

I am happy looking forward to the third „Ubuntu Global Jam“ taking place from 2nd to 4th of October 2009. „We“, meaning „Ubuntu Berlin„, Daniel Holbach, Benjamin Drung and me, already managed to prepare the local Jam session as far as possible:

  1. We found a place with power supply and network uplink: the c-base, where Ubuntu Berlin became some kind of resident.
  2. We decided to schedule our Global Jam for Saturday, the 3rd of October, from 11 am to 7 pm, which should allow people with different personal schedules to join us at least for some hours.
  3. We added our Global Jam to the official team list.
  4. We set up a core team with responsibilities for different aspects of the Jam. Daniel Holbach and Benjamin Drung will care for bug triaging, bug squatting and packaging while I’ll work on and present translation and documentation.
  5. We announced our Global Jam participation and invited more people to join us on several mailing lists (from Ubuntu Berlin lists over local Berlin Linux lists to c-base lists).
  6. We started to announce our invitation on different twitter feeds, our facebook group, identi.ca and some blogs. One of them you are currently reading :)
  7. Last but not least I dropped some lines on the Ikhaya-suggest-an-article box, one of the most read German Ubuntu ressources.
  8. We will continue inviting people on personal basis as there are a bunch of people able to support us and just need a small friendly push… :)

I admit I am curious about this years participation and impact. And you? What are your hints for setting up a Global Jam session? Or do you need any more advices? Let me know. I am curious. Really.