Moving Forward: 2009

January 21st, 2009

EDIT: Fixed typos/grammar errors. Thanks Sho! My English-fu is failing me…

2009 didn’t kick off quite well. I got the flu immediately after New Year’s day and that lasted for almost a week. Luckily for me, my midterm exam that was scheduled on the 10th was postponed for the 17th. Even that was a disaster (here’s to hoping I didn’t mess that one up).

But regardless of that, there were a few highlights this month that tells me that 2009 will be an exciting year. KDE 4.2, which is going to be released really soon now, marks another milestone release from the KDE 4 series, boasting a lot of improvement and interesting changes. Furthermore, last week, Nokia, now the owners of Qt Software (formerly Trolltech) announced that the next release of Qt will also be available under the LGPL, hopefully pacifying/satisfying a lot of “I-don’t-want-to-use-Qt-because-of-the-license” people. And last but definitely not the least, hopefully this month, I will be getting my Nokia N810!! So yes, 2009 is probably going to rock!

And what new year would be complete without a set of new year’s resolutions? Here’s my 10 Commandments for 2009.

  1. Discipline and Focus. Combat procrastination, perhaps my numero uno character flaw.
  2. Be Health Conscious. The final months of 2008 really shook me up physically. It’s time to pay more attention to my health and weight (and shape :P ).
  3. Blog Early, Blog Often. But also Blog Shorter. I should try writing more in shorter spurts than writing a novel in one go. And maybe not limit myself to only KDE/FOSS subjects (though those won’t appear on Planet KDE unless relevant).
  4. Finish pending projects ASAP before turning to new ones. Prevent “project” creep from overwhelming me.
  5. Schedule. Try as I might, I couldn’t live without some form of structure or guidance. While I do like the occasional spontaneity, I cannot thrive on random chaos. Of course, the effectiveness of a schedule relies on resolution #1…
  6. Code more! My primary motivation for free software and KDE was programming. 3 years later, I haven’t done much progress. Time to move forward! Need to spit out actual KDE and Qt code.
  7. Get a hobby. There’s life away from computers… I just need to discover it.
  8. Sharpen the mind. I’ve been worried (read: paranoid) that my memory and sharpness seems to be declining lately.
  9. Save money. Need to pay back Mama for (half of) the N810 :D and probably open up my own bank and PayPal account.
  10. Document! Take note of important procedures I’ve done or scripts I’ve used. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to redo something I’ve done before, only to realize I’ve forgotten how I did it in the first place. It’s a habit I hope to develop and carry over to coding.

And now for the hardest part: actually doing all these. :D


2008: Looking Back

January 17th, 2009

One of the disadvantages of working to make other people’s holidays happen is that you get little time to enjoy it yourself. And then you get sick and swamped with the after-holiday realities of life (homework, midterms, clutter, etc.). So late as I am, here’s my “end of the year” review for 2008.

2008 was an exciting, if not turbulent, year, personally and FOSS-wise. It was a year of many changes. It started with a bang with the first release of the KDE 4 series on January 11. I’m not going to talk about whether 4.0 was a success or not. History will be the judge of that and, as far as I am concerned, it is already in the past, with KDE 4.2 just around the corner. Needless to say, those were trying times for the KDE community. Big, revolutionary changes, even if they are for the better, ruffles feathers. And some birds squawk louder than others, sometimes unnecessarily.

One good thing that came out of storm was the realization of a need to nurture the community and its members, whether they are developers, contributors, administrators, or end users. Thus, the KDE Community Working Group (of which I am a part of) as well as the KDE Code of Conduct were born. Later on, facilities such as UserBase and the new KDE Forums appeared to answer the growing needs of the community.

Last year also saw the rise of a new generation of mobile computing devices (netbooks, Internet tablets) and a renewed interest in smartphones. Nokia Internet Tablets, Asus Eee PC, HP Mini-note, MSI Wind, the iPhone, and Neo FreeRunner, just to name the most popular ones. And there are a lot of less known but equally powerful and interesting devices out there (a lot coming from Asia). While some are debating whether this is just a passing trend, or whether so-called Linux netbooks actually do more harm than good to Linux and free software, it cannot be argued that these devices have shifted a lot of attention towards mobile software platforms (Maemo, Android, OpenMoko, LiMo, netbook distributions) and the usefulness of Linux on those platforms. It may have also influenced a new lifestyle. The road warrior’s life has just gotten more exciting.

On the personal side of things, 2008 was also a sea of changes. I was able to go back to school for my second degree (Diploma in Computer Science) through a home study/distance education program. It has its ups and (major) downs, but at least I get to study at home for a degree that I’m really interested in. I’ve also gained some more responsibilities in our parish community. This means more things to do, meetings to attend, and people to work with. That’s the easy part. The hardest part for me personally is that I will be dealing a lot with Microsoft Office software and documents. I’m not a purist, but I would rather be using native GNU/Linux free software apps than having to deal with these. Unfortunately, some of the layouting/numbering in MS Word documents makes using OpenOffice.org unreliable.

New roles, new responsibilities, poor time/goal management, and personal procrastination. This meant that a lot of my personal TODO stuff went the way of the tide. High tide or low tide? Depends on the moon. Some got done, other got half-cooked, and at least one got dropped. I was finally able to finish my own C++ studies and reading my Qt book (sadly for me, that same book is now available for free from Qt Software). But of course, reading and doing tutorials is one thing, actually coding is another. Then there are documentation projects that I’ve done for Source Mage GNU/Linux (enough to warrant initiation into their circle of mages) and UserBase, as well as a Yakuake website. Sadly, while those exist, I’ve left them in an unfinished state. Hopefully not for long.

But the greatest casualty for me this year was Kubuntu. Partly because of my schedule, partly because of personal reasons, but mostly because I haven’t really been using Kubuntu as my main distro for almost a year, my contribution and presence in Kubuntu declined severely, to the point that I felt that it was no longer reasonable for me to remain as a Kubuntu member. So I said my goodbyes as I wait for my membership to expire at the end of the month (which also means goodbye to Planet Ubuntu). That said, I promised my friend(s) that I’d still help with the local Ubuntu community whenever possible, to help promote FOSS in general and ensure a KDE presence in the Philippines.

Yes, a lot of changes in 2008. Some good, some bad. Some revolutionary, some evolutionary. Whatever they were, these changes paved the way and laid the foundations for even greater things. Onward to 2009!

And now off I go to take my midterm exam… binary system and assembly language :/


Paalam Kubuntu

December 13th, 2008

UPDATE: I’d just like to make it very clear that I am not leaving KDE nor GNU/Linux. There is no revenge or rebellion. It’s just that I have no longer been using Kubuntu, that I’ll be focusing on KDE (upstream), and will no longer be able to fulfill duties and responsibilities that an Ubuntu membership entails.

“Paalam” means “goodbye” in Filipino (or at least one of its meanings). This is basically my farewell speech as I leave Kubuntu, at least the organization/community. My Ubuntu membership expires next month, and I’ve decided not to ask for renewal. I don’t really have a position of great importance in the community/development, so this might seem excessive. But I think it’s polite to “step down considerately” instead of just disappearing without a word. (Although I have actually been MIA from Kubuntu for the past months already. I’m just making it formal and final).

Kubuntu was my first ever GNU/Linux distribution, and I have no regrets whatsoever that I chose it over dozens of other “KDE-friendly” distributions. Over time, I have grown to love some parts of Kubuntu and dislike other parts (I won’t dwell on those in this post). But what has drawn me the most was the awesome community. I don’t think I would have ever survived my first days in GNU/Linux without their support. The spirit of community was just so great that I couldn’t help but be drawn in and “pay it forward.” And that is how I got started with helping out in the community and eventually earning my membership badge (oooh shiny!!!). I started out with community support and usually relaying messages/information between users and developers. I did set my sights higher though, but, alas, those never came to pass (aside from a few brief stints at packaging and coding). I apologize to my fellow (soon to be “former”) Kolleagues for not being able to deliver what I sought to do. I haven’t been using Kubuntu on my main (desktop) computer for more than a year now. And although Hardy is still installed on my laptop, that rarely sees the light of day (I mostly boot into *cough* Windows). So I could no longer do decent user support, since I’m no longer that familiar with the system. Major Major Edit: For some reason (that still escapes me), at least 3 people have (mis)interpreted this as saying that I’m leaving GNU/Linux for Windows. I would just like to note that the laptop has the Windows (as well as Kubuntu, Gentoo, and Source Mage) just for gaming and the occasional stubborn MS Office work. The desktop, my main baby and workhorse, is still fully GNU/Linux.

And so I take my leave. The thing I’m going to miss the most is really the community, both international and local. There isn’t really a strong KDE presence here in the country, and very few (I think only one other) KDE developers. So I’m really going to miss community activities that I’ve been used to seeing and experiencing in Kubuntu.

Anyway, let me end with an exhortation to the Kubuntu community (mostly the non-developers). Kubuntu is a fully community- and volunteer-driven distribution. It is the product of the selfless hard work of (a relatively few number of) Kubuntu ninjas who are dedicated to delivering the best of Debian, Ubuntu, and, of course, KDE in a shiny package, all in their spare time (they have families and day jobs like any normal person). And they need all the helping hands they can get (there are a lot of ways to contribute). Good intentions and constructive criticisms are just not enough. You want to make Kubuntu shine and be the best? Help make it happen!

To the Kubuntu developers: farewell and thank you for the cookies, the long pointy stick, and the pink ponies! See you on the wider KDE land! :D


Still Alive and Qt’ing (end-of-the-month log)

December 1st, 2008

Whew! November is finally over! I never expected it to actually be that hectic, usually because nothing much happens except in the first week (Mama’s birthday). But that is precisely what happened. Ironically, it has probably been one of the most productive months I’ve had this whole year.

I could probably say that half of the busy-ness of November was devoted to personal matters: birthdays, church/community activities, and health problems. I got a very big wake up call regarding my physical status, so I need to put a lot of effort into losing weight and staying fit. I’m not sure if the hacker’s diet is something that I can apply, given culture and situation considerations, but I’ll give it a try. In the meantime, I’ve taken some preventive measures and have declared war on all forms of soda/pop/soft drinks/whatever-you-call-them-in-your-country which started three weeks ago. That means (sniff) farewell to Mountain Dew.

But I’ve also been busy with the tech side of life. School has started again next month, and this time my subjects are more interesting and challenging (and the books equally incompetent) than last semester: Data Structures and Algorithms and Computer Structure and Organization. I’m really starting to feel that I’ve enrolled in a Computer Science course.

I was also finally able to finish (technically) a major web-related project that has been going on (very slowly) for months. It was my first attempt at using Textpattern, which probably gives me enough experience to start migrating my whole site over to it. Sure it’s not as simple as WordPress, where you can just install it (or have it installed) and blog away. But it isn’t that complicated. Understanding how it’s basic presentation components work together is the key. The hardest part for me was actually “translating” the plain XHTML/CSS to Textpattern, complete with dynamic content and such. In a way, it’s a lot like programming with a library (TXP Tags), which I actually found appealing.

Last, but definitely not the least, I managed to cram my way through my Qt book finally. Although I have to admit that skipped on a few chapters that either didn’t interest me or were well beyond my current areas (databases, threading, OpenGL, embedded). I focused mostly on the beginning chapters, which is IMHO the minimal Qt necessary to start KDE hacking. Just for fun, I put together this very simple, crude, and primitive “web browser”:

My Crude Browser

(P.S. This made an early college Windows fantasy of mine come true. But I have no intentions of going beyond that). The book, by the way, is available for free (legally) at the Qt documentation pages (unfortunately, only the first edition is available for free, which is a bit dated now).

But more than actually finishing a book that I bought a year ago, this milestone practically means that I’m ready for real KDE coding, which has been the ultimate goal for the past 2 years. I might be able to blog about the many KDE tutorials as I go along (but knowing my own blogging discipline, or lack of it, I won’t hold my own breath). Now I’m really excited.

Cheers to an eventful November and here’s to an even busier December! :D


UserBase: A Tour

October 10th, 2008

Taking a break from my website “duties” (some other blog post), I thought of doing some UserBase “marketing”. This has been one of the pet projects of the KDE Community Working Group and one that I’ve been personally and deeply involved in. This “tour” tries to highlight some of the features and goals of the wiki.

What is UserBase?

Formally speaking, KDE UserBase is a community-driven site aiming to become a knowledge base targeting end-users. In short, it is a community wiki for users and KDE usage (For KDE development and system administration, we have KDE Techbase). It’s goal is to collect, collate, and connect resources, information, and links that are relevant and of interest to KDE users. It also aims to be a kind of home for KDE users everywhere, a place where they can share knowledge with one another, and possibly even discuss certain issues (to a limited extent since KDE has more proper venues for certain topics). The UserBase page explains in more detail.

UserBase Features

UserBase is still a toddler compared to other KDE websites. And yet I am completely amazed at how much it has grown since our “soft launch” last September. The wiki has quite a number of content already, and in different languages as well. And we’re expecting more to come (hopefully after more “publicity”). At the moment, we’ve grouped all content roughly into four categories, as shown in our front page:

Introduction to KDE
These pages contain introductory material to both KDE and UserBase. Hopefully, it will grow to give new and prospective users a glimpse into KDE, its parts (such as Plasma), and the community. It is also the home of the new KDE 4 FAQ as well as the KDE Glossary.

Resources
This section contains links to sites, pages, IRC channels, forums, etc. where you could get help for issues as well as further information about KDE and KDE applications. Maybe it could even include in the future a list of distributions that ship KDE. A Troubleshooting section is available for technical issues as well. There’s even a page that gives advice on how to properly ask for help. A bit of courtesy and good old preparation goes a long way in getting helped.

Application Catalogue
A directory of the different kinds of software distributed by KDE as well as programs created by the community. I think this has the most exhaustive list of core KDE applications in existence (without scouring through SVN like I did). Some pages for applications may contain more details than others. The policy is to provide essential information about an application and links to other resources, specially its website, if it exists.

Tutorials
This is where I’m hoping the bulk of UserBase will be. Guides. HowTo’s. Tips & Tricks. You name it. It’s a place where you can go crazy sharing with the rest of the world your neat little trick for boosting productivity 500%. Found a hidden feature or an easter egg? We’d love to hear about it. Of course, official documentation will always be available at the KDE Documentation site, and artwork is always welcome at KDE-Look.org.

So, what can UserBase do for you?

If it hasn’t been obvious yet, UserBase aims to be something like a central directory for KDE information. It may or may not contain the information itself, but if there’s information out there, UserBase will provide a link. So users won’t have to dig through thousands of Google search results. Of course, it will be impossible to link to each and every KDE-related content out there, but at least UserBase could be a starting point.

Now… what can you do for UserBase?

These may probably sound nice and all, but there’s one important piece missing; YOU. A community endeavor such as UserBase will only truly succeed with the support of, well, the community. And that includes you. At the moment, there is still a lot of content that needs to be written, a lot of KDE resources unaccounted for, and a lot of tips that are unshared. UserBase is a way for users to get more involved with KDE and to help build up the KDE community and a great way to contribute to this awesome project.

We’re looking forward to seeing more content, more links, and more interesting tricks in UserBase. And we’re looking forward to hearing from you, KDE users. So head on over to userbase.kde.org, log in with your Open ID account, and start typing away.

P.S. Be sure to read the Contribution Guidelines on your way there.


Coming soon…

UserBase is still growing. We (the CWG as well as some KDE system administrators) are constantly thinking of ways and extensions to improve the wiki. So a bit of patience is requested if some stuff still don’t work or don’t work properly. And probably leave a note in the page for UserBase technical issues.


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