Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fedora @ HackMIT 2017 Wrap-Up

Justin Flory and I attended HackMIT 2017, MIT's annual hackathon. A hackathon is a programming competition; usually teams of up to 4 have 1 to 2 days/nights to complete a project, and then the projects get judged. For example, one team developed software that uses a webcam to detect if students are falling asleep in class, and take appropriate action.

The event went very well. Over half of all people who came to the table were enrolled in computer science (or a similar major) and have used linux anywhere from a little bit to a lot. A huge majority were using Python in their curriculum.The fact that Fedora workstation is focused on software developers was a huge selling point. Some of the things shown off were:

  • GNOME Terminal's features added over the last 4 years (since developers a large portion of their time in the terminal.) Specifically, reflow support, and notifications for long-running commands completing (for example, build commands.)
  • GNOME Builder as an IDE for graphical (Python) development.
  • Python 3.6 in Fedora 26.
  • The page listing all the features in Fedora Python Classroom (lab.)
  • The Python page on the Fedora developer portal.
  • How easy it is to install a complete web application stack, like Python + Flask + MySQL, with a single dnf command.
Some other highlights of the event were:
  • Sanqui provided a Fedorator. It was a great conversation starter, and a few people flashed Fedora onto their USB key via it.
  • Flatpak was a great to show off. I would browse to , download a ~5KB .flatpakref file, and open it in GNOME Software. Users would then see the description, screenshots, and metadata. This is the perfect example of how an awesome new technology is integrated into both Fedora (and GNOME,) and a way to differentiate Fedora from other distros.
  • WRT the last point, the captain of George Tech's Counter-Strike (Global Offensive) eSports team stopped by. He was delighted to see both GNOME Twitch and Discord available via Flatpaks. (Twitch and Discord are essential services for eSports.)
  • GNOME Software was a great demonstration of how Fedora is easy to use.
  • Several people run Linux servers already. We installed Cockpit on the demo laptop and showed it off. The fact that it is installed by default on Fedora server enables us to say that Fedora server is easier to use than other server distros.
  • 2 people needed help using other Linux distros, and I was able to help them successfully.
  • Several people either are using Fedora or have used it, and they liked it.
  • The OLPC continues to be a great conversation starter.
  • The Motorola Lapdock + Raspberry Pi also drew the interest of a few people. However, it ran into a couple of instances where either it froze up, or the usb data connection (to the keyboard & trackpad) was lost. I chose not to leave it in the event box due to these issues; discussion with other ambassadors about this is ongoing.
There were also 2 Fedora use cases that students mentioned, which were particularly noteworthy:
  • One student said he is interning at a Biotech company where he deploys a production application on Fedora server. The application is a in-house-written ERP system.
  • Another student said he is doing computational biology on Fedora systems. They use GPUs to accelerate it. They compared multiple Linux distros, and chose Fedora because it is all around the best for their work.
Also, I do want to point something out that we did differently. Instead of putting the multi-iso on the event box's laptop's hard disk, we put Fedora Workstation on it. We then loaded it up with numerous development tools. For example, we installed builder, created a demo project, and then the demo project pulled in the GNOME runtime. All this software would have exhausted the RAM disk used by the ISO.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Fedora @ FOSSCON 2017 Wrap-Up

FOSSCON is an annual open source conference held in Philadelphia. It also focuses on amateur radio and open education. It drew over 300 attendees this year.

Louis Wust (my friend who is a Fedora user, but not an ambassador) and I attended.

The event went well. Some highlights were:
  • 2 Fedora contributors came to the table.
  • About 8 or so additional people who came to the table currently use Fedora. Another 15 or so have used it in the past.
  • Flatpak support (as built into GNOME Software) was an awesome selling point. You can just download the .flatpakref files from and GNOME Software will offer to install them, along with screenshots.
  • The fact that Fedora has Flatpak support integrated, even into GNOME Software, was a way of differentiating Fedora from other distros.
  • For server admins, Fedora modularity/Boltron sparked people's interest.
  • Multiple developers were interested in Builder.
  • I brought along my Raspberry Pi and Motorola Lapdock that I am gifting. People were happy to see that such a small computer can run Fedora 26 with MATE and GNOME, even the latter with Wayland support.
  • christel, who is the head of the freenode project, stopped by. She mentioned an event in the UK, and that she would like Fedora to attend. I referred her to FamEMEA and #fedora-ambassadors.
  • The swag was extremely popular, as always.
  • The OLPC XO-1 may be 10 years old, but it still does an excellent job of drawing people to the table.
  • The Ubuntu US PA loco and Arch Linux ARM were there, and were friendly neighbors.
Some downsides though:
  • I tried to show someone DevAssistant. Unfortunately, it looks like it was removed as of Fedora 26.
  • It Motorola Lapdock blocked the view of the Raspberry Pi. Many people thought the Motorola Lapdock was simply a regular laptop.
  • Early on, someone pointed out that I should show off Fedora's amateur radio software. Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared to do this.
  • There were 2 issues with flatpaks. One is that it seemed to cause the live DVD ramdisk to run out of space. The other is that some apps on the website do not have screenshots.

I would like to thank Louis for attending, even though he is not an ambassador. Frequently I would be showing off Fedora to attendees and answering their questions, while Louis would be talking to the Linux users that come to the table and want to talk about their favorite text editor for 20 minutes.

Mike DePaulo (left) and Louis Wust (right)

Front of the Motorola Lapdock + Raspberry Pi
Rear of the Motorola Lapdock + Raspberry Pi

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Having rpmbuild to put its output in the current directory

Mikolaj Izdebski showed me how to do this.

To have rpmbuild put its outputted RPM and/or SRPM in the current directory, add the following lines to your ~/.rpmmacros :
%_topdir %{lua:print(posix.getcwd())}
%_builddir %{_topdir}/builddir
%_rpmdir %{_topdir}
%_sourcedir %{_topdir}
%_specdir %{_topdir}
%_srcrpmdir %{_topdir}
%_buildroot %{_topdir}/root

You can then run a command like `rpmbuild -ba foo.spec`

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Fedora @ Bitcamp 2017 Wrap-Up

Bitcamp is an college hackathon (programming competition) held annually at the University of Maryland. With roughly 1,000 attendees, it is a major one.

Corey Sheldon and I attended it this year as Fedora project ambassadors.

Overall, the event went well. Some highlights were:
  • Numerous people had used Fedora. Some hadn't, but had used CentOS or RHEL.
  • One person came up and said that he had been using Fedora heavily, and would like to contribute to it. We referred him to #fedora-join on FreeNode and to
  • 2 people came up and wanted to see Wayland. One was particularly delighted to see it on Fedora 25. I showed off the smooth animation in GNOME Shell, and the fact that apps resize perfectly smoothly ("Every frame is perfect.")
  • Ubuntu's recent announcement that they will migrate to GNOME made it easier to sell Fedora Workstation.
  • The OLPC XO-1 drew lots of attention, as always.
  • A user came along who loved Linux Mint. I showed him that Cinnamon is available in Fedora, and he was pleasantly surprised.
  • A user came up and asked about running Fedora under VMware. I was able to tell him that Fedora includes the VMware drivers (and the guest tools.)
We received some interesting questions:
  • 1 user asked if there were any benefits to using Fedora when other are using it (a network effect.) He used the example of iMessage (on iOS) only working properly with other iMessage users. This was a perfect opportunity to explain how open source does things differently. We prefer to implement open protocols, and often multiple protocols, as in the example of Pidgin. And we do not limit apps to running on our Linux distro; we create upstream open source projects that can be packaged for other distros, and often ported to other operating systems.
There were some interesting requests for help with projects:
  • 1 user was trying to setup a web application written in node.js. He was using http-server and Chrome, but Chrome limited the usage of certain features (specifically, accessing the webcam) to https. So I helped him generate  an ssl certificate and have http-server use it.
Some things that did not go well:
  • Starting with Fedora 24, DevAssistant was removed from the workstation DVD. This was a major selling point at hackathons last year, since it makes it easy for hackers to get started on their projects. It was also a clear demonstration of Workstation's emphasis on developers.
  • The live DVD sometimes ran out of ramdisk space as we were installing software.
  • The Wi-Fi became painfully slow once attendees pored in. Fortunately, we got a switch later on.
  • We ran out of pens and the stickers that say "fedora."
Since this was a college hackathon, I would like to end with a quote from a computer science professor:
I wish students would stay up for 36 hours working on my programming assignments.