Saturday, December 27, 2008

ModularIT a new community project for system administrators

I want to write today about what I have been doing lately.

After finishing my job related with public administrations' migration to free software in Extremadura and Malaga, Andalucia, Spain, I began to work again in November with my Canary Islands teammates (Grupo CPD) in ModularIT. This is a project we released under GPLv3 a few monthes ago that was ready to use but not to contribute to. In practice, as it happens too often, projects are published as free software but, since they don't have the proper design and a right tool, it is not possible for developers to work on it, so nobody use them.

This was exactly what it happened to us. We made a big effort then but another extra effort was needed. It is not enough to public the software and wait for the community to use it. You also need to take care of a few other things. We decided not just to offer a new 100% percent community project, but also to release a new version of ModularIT, to make the release more attractive. So additional technical wok have been done. My job has been (still is) to design and organice the community project, as long as helping in translations, requirement definition and promotion.

Yesterday, december 26th of 2008, we published ModularIT 1.1 (codename "Timanfaya") as long as the new project design, a new collaborative tool and a distributed repository (redmine + git). The first language for this new project is english, although we are still translating deployment and support guides from spanish. We hope some people and companies from other countries cooperate with us in this new adventure.

For a small company like us, mostly dedicated to give services to other companies, having a 100% community project means a lot of effort, but we are really happy for reaching this point. ModularIT is something we've been looking for so long ... We always felt that we have recieved more than we gave from the community. This pretends to change that feeling. :)

¿What is ModularIT? This is a hard question....

ModularIT is an architecture of distributed, virtualiced, integrated, monitored, and centrally managed network services based on software libre. You can get a better description here

ModularIT uses, among other technologies and projects, XEN, Puppet, Munin, Nagios, Posfix, Hylafax, Jabber, AIDE, SElinux, Dirvish, Alfresco, Samba, OpenLDAP, Asterisk or eGroupware. Our goal is to deploy, support and migrate a variety of network services with a limited amount of human resources, trying to manage them with an affordable effort, alowing us to increase the number and dimensions of our customers (number of servers and services) under our control (in different levels). ModularIT is a step forward in that direction, not the final solution, obviously.

Previous versions of ModularIT have been deployed, supported and maintained in our customers the last few years. What we present is an evolution of what we have been doing. It is not a new software that haven't been in production nor a bunch of appliance. We have been migrating our customers to this new ModularIT version for a few monthes and we feel confortable with the result. ModularIT has show us to be efficient. It is worth it for us. We hope it will also for other companies and system administrators.

You can try and judge by yourself. If you are interested in this solution, download it, deploy it and give ModularIT a try. If you think it is worth it, collaborate with us.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gran Canaria Desktop Summit 2009. Feel the power of the desktop community

So Gran Canaria Desktop Summit 2009 dates are already official: from friday 3 to saturday 11 of july. Check the news on GNOME and KDE webs.

This is good news because you will be able to book your flight in advance. It is a strong recommendation from the local team. It is not that there aren't plenty of flights to Gran Canaria from all over Europe. It is a matter of getting them as cheap as possible.
1000 people are expected and most of them will want to fly on 3-4 of july, so it is possible you just have the chance to get tickets quite expensive for those two days if you wait too long. Once the registration is open, you will be able to book the hotel. This point won't be a problem since there will be plenty of room available at affordable prices.

If you are a member of the KDE or GNOME community it is obvious that you should be interested in attending to the event. But if you are not, or if you have friends that likes computers, there are few reasons for comming or bringing them during those days. There are tons of events all around the world related with free software. But this is a community event, not a regular one.

You will have time to meet the developers, talk to them, disscuss with them and do some hacking with them if you wish. You will be able not just to attend to conferences but to actively participate, feeling like an actor and not just a viewer. It is also a good chance to know how a community works, understanding its innovation process and becoming a part of this unstopable wave. But above all, you will feel the power of the desktop community, larning why we feel so confortable about what we are doing, so secure about we are on the right direction but keeping a strong critical attitude.

GCDS'09 is 100% community sofware libre in motion. You can come and become a part of it or stay home and loose the momentum. The Canary Islands are waiting for you.

Come to the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit: GUADEC + Akademy 2009. Come to the big one.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Akademy-es a great success

Akademy-es is in its final day. It's been a great success so far. 65 peolpe have registered and, since it took place in La Coruña's college (Computer Science building), even more people attended to some talks.

This year has made a big different from the organization point of view. The organizers have previos experience, so everything was well prepared. We lacked more developers truly involved in KDE but is just a matter of time. Spanish community is still getting together. After that we will be able to grow fast. Definetly, the new formed KDE-España will help a lot. Right now there are many people that uses KDE in Spain and many young developers are beggining to program with Qt-KDE tools, so it is just a matter of time that more spanish developers participate actively in core-KDE projects.

Electing for the KDE-España board most of the spanish people that actively contributes to KDE have been a great decision. Other young guys identify the association with a strong KDE feeling. People with other profile or not actively contributing decided to stay back and we made a hit. Now it is time for getting developers involved, so its time for young KDE people like Albert (aacid), Rafael (ereslibre), Eduardo (edulix), Alex (apol), etc. They are the present of KDE in Spain and its future. By promoting and supporting them, KDE will be able to have in this country a strong community sice they have the energy needed. Spain is investing tons of money in free software and we cannot be on the bench.

From my point of view, this Akademy-es will definitly make a difference. Well organized and with KDE-España born, we have a great momentum that we all shoul feed. GCDS'09 will come probably too early for demostrating anything, but at least KDE-España will be ready to take full advantage of the event as association. I feel the KDE-España board is aware of that. They are prepared to organize some activities for getting some canarians young developers involved and to get credit for their job. That will be a great goal.

Now everybody can say there is a truly spanish KDE community. It will be obvious in just a couple of years.

Thanks to GPUL and the rest of local organizers. It has been a great job.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

What kind of variables do we need to study before writing down a migration project?

Before writing down a migration project for any organization, bussiness or public administration, it is critical to develop a methodology that ensures you have all the information needed to be able to design the correct procedure to switch PCs, users and network services from proprietary to software libre. To be able to design that methodology, one of the previous things you need to identify is which data you need to know from the pre-migration picture, how to collect it without having impact in the production process and how do you process it to be able to properly analyze it.

From my point of view these are the major variables (related with the workstation side, not the server side) that must be known. Most of them are obvious.

Hardware



Axioms:

  • The organization that is going to migrate don't know the hardware they have.

  • Migration is about machines.


We need to know the hardware of the PCs because of, at least, these major reasons:

  • To determine if it is Linux compatible.

  • If it is, which driver or module should be included in the Linux system to install (also which kernel).

  • To determine if we have to install proprietary drivers. This have many legal implications.

  • To determine the optimal parameters related with the monitor and the graphic card.

  • To predict the most obvious performance limitations.

  • To determine the peripheral drivers needed.



System and programs installed



Axiom:

  • Nobody knows what is installed at 100%. You will have to find it out.

  • Migration is not just about machines. It's also about applications installed



We need to know, at least, this information related with the software installed:

  • The operative system, version and service pack. Probably we won't be able to migrate every app, so virtualization will be proposed.

  • Applications installed and its version.

  • Plug-ins, virtual machines (like Java) and other "not .exe" programs.

  • Links to local and remote programs, specially those placed on the desktop. Users will want those in the new Linux system.



Everyday used apps



Axiom: migration is not just about machines and application installed but also about programs really used.


The fact that a user have many programs installed, doesn't mean he/she use them all. The determination of the applications that are really important for the user in his everyday work is required. The interactions (related with apps and data) with other users from the same or different departments, with customers or other companies, will give you clues to determine the migration procedures and the tools needed.

Most of the times, users only use a few apps frequently. If these frequently used apps are shared by some users, the risk increases. You need to know who introduces data in those apps, who stress them the most, who use them for just consulting data, who will use them in the future, if there are plans to change it... It's critical to find a good solution for those. So, the more you know about them, a better picture you'll get.

Data and archives



Axiom: data is as important as applications and machines

The data that must be investigated is, at least:

  • Data related with their work.

  • Personal data.

  • Data related with special programs like browsers or e-mail clients, etc.

  • Configuration data, for example, the e-mail client configuration information.

  • Where is the data stored.



Users



Axiom: users are as important as data and apps in a migration process.

Users are an important part of the migration. Maybe the most difficult one to analyze and satisfy.

Leadership



In any group, there are people that leads the rest in every single area. It is needed to determine which users are leaders when you talk about computers. Relations between users within a group should remain the same after the migration process. Changing the hierarchy after the migration means adding a new problem.

To maintain those relations, you have to identify and study those leaders and their relations with the rest of the employees. They will demand more attention from the migration team. If they collaborate, you will have a lot of help when problems begin to show up. If not, they can become your biggest problem.

Knowledge and skills



It is important to find out which users have a better understanding of the Windows system, who knows about linux or, at least, if there is anybody that uses (or know something about) software libre apps under Windows. It is easier now than before to find people that knows what software libre or GNU/linux are. Some uses a Mac or a linux distro at home. For those people, switching to linux is going to be easier. Detect them.

Another interesting variable to know about is the skill users have using computers. There are people that knows a lot about Windows. Those will have a greater resistance since getting the same skills unsing Linux will take them time and a lot of effort. In one second they will go from being independent to not knowing anything about the operative system they will be using. In order to define the education proccess they will have to go through, you need to know the actual picture.

Complains and suggestions



How many people uses gmail at work because their corporative e-mail sucks?

Listen to what every worker has to say about the tools and services they use. Ask them about their wishes. Every single worker has a little clue to make the company more efficient. Be aware of their demands to reduce their resistance to switch to software libre. Tell them the truth. No not increase artificially their expectations about the new system and tools.

Interactions



Axiom: migration is not just about machines, applications, data and users. It's also about interactions among these four variables. They are not independent.

The administrative structure of an organization sometimes is not exactly ported to the data, services or applications structure. Workers usually end up finding their way to do their job, overpassing imposed restrictions or corporative rules. They get paid for finishing their job, not for changing the rules. Many times is the technical team that allow them (or even help them) to brake some technical corporative rules, since they understand workers' point of view much better than corporative procedures or general politics.

How many executives use different tools and services than the rest of the workers? Sometimes this happens because of a good reason. But it is usual to see organizations that have people in command that do not give the technical department the credit they deserve, so they do not follow their advices. They do not respect the corporative rules either.

These special cases complicates the migration process since general procedures, politics (or even apps), are not followed by all the organization. It is necessary to understand what's going on (the workers vision) in every department in order to be successful. If you write down the migration project based exclusively on what technicians and directors tells you....you will probably fail.

Companies are not isolated. They interact with other companies and customers. Those relation must be analyzed, specially if software is involved. IT providers are specially sensible to any change. You need to count on them in order to determine the migration process. This can be a tough problem if those providers work with proprietary software and do not follow open standards. There is no unique solution for these cases.

Since no lost of production is desirable, the migration process is determined by variables like schedules of the organization, bussines high or low season, employees rotation, etc. You must take care of those also. You won't migrate a toy store during Christmas, right?

The final picture



You need to know what should be final picture from everybody's point of view. This is important not just to determine where is the final point, but because an evaluation must be done after the process is finished. A lot of parameters must be analyzed in order to make a fair evaluation. Costs, resources and time are important variables to follow, but not the only ones.

Risks



One of the obvious things I've learned during the last few years is that a migration process is not just a technical process. This is easy to say but hard to understand. The first impulse is to throw yourself in a technical spiral of solutions, trying to define the requirements as fast as possible, to find out the best product, install it, configure it and teaching users how to use it. On the server side, you can make mistakes and turn back to the original situation without being killed (at least sometimes). But on the PC ...

The following risks have to be taken in consideration before writing down the migration project:


  • The loss of data.

  • The loss of functionality.

  • The reduction of performance of the new system.

  • The lost of interaction capabilities (with other users or services). I'm ignoring this one in this report since usually is related with the middle-ware or the back-end as much as with the PC.



The loss of data



You can loose data because of three major reasons:

  • You didn't save it before installing the software libre system or you lost it during the process.

  • After the installation, the data is not fully accessible or usable.

  • The data was transformed into new formats and part of it have changed.



The loss of functionality



This problem is due to the change of applications and services involved in a migration process to software libre. Is also common in other processes, but in this one is critical.

The reduction of performance



Is common to think that Linux desktops are lighter than Windows but there are scenarios where this is not always true. Most of the times any reduction of performance is unacceptable. There are technical, economical but also psychological implications related with performance that have to be studied in detail.

Conclusions



So computers, apps, data, users and the interactions among these four variables must be carefully analyzed before writing down the project. How to collect and analyze this information is the first step of any migration process. I (and the hold team I've been working with) have spent most of the last 7 months collecting data, thinking about these risks, developing a methodology to do it and trying to find out solutions to be able to write down the best migration projetc possible for different public administrations from the south of Spain.

I've learned a lot.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who did make me believe?

There are different ways to end up in the software libre community. I used debian at college but I really perferred windows at that time. Once I was working, I got in touch with free software again. I began to use it and promote it. It took me two more years to really understand, then truly believe, in what I was doing. A simple action convinced me that it is not just a matter of software, bussiness, community or innovation, but a matter of justice. It was reading a book.

My own red pill (remember Matrix) was Lawrence Lessig's book "Free Culture" (Cultura Libre in spanish). It is a must, It's easy to read and easy to understand but deals with really deep concepts and feelings.

Lawrence Lessig is giving a talk in Vitoria, Spain, next month. I've wanted to write this post to thank him for changing my little world.

Lawrence, you lost the battle, but we will win the war. ;)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Migrating to software libre ... not just platform related problems

As some of you know, I'm working on a migration project to software libre of some municipalities close to Málaga. Meanwhile, we have been contracted as part of a group of companies that are migrating the economic department of the Extremadura Regional Goverment. So since March 2008, migration is a familiar word to me. There are some things that are common to many Public Administrations in Spain that has to be taken in consideration at the very beginning so the picture you will have to face can be understood.

Since Microsoft architecture has limitation in controlling the enviromet, and it is so expensive to do so, each technician, each user, has customiced his/her enviroment (department, server, desktop, network...) so much that migrating to any plattform (or even updating) can become a nightmare. The enviroment is heterogeneous.

Regional and local Public Administrations has grown so much in Spain the last 15 years that it has been imposible for most of them to stablish a general and strict politic related with technology and digital services.

Another key factor is that, until citizens has began to demand digital services, technical departments were underdimensioned and overcharged with low level job, due to that lack of that general politic and the way Windows is designed. Old school politics know everything about building houses (the major bussiness in Spain) but nothing about technology. That demand, plus a new generation of politics, are beginning to change this situation.

To migrate, a lot of data that is supposed to be known is not, so you have to collect it.

With this enviroment...linux has risen as an alternative of how things have been done in the past. It brings many advantages to solve some of the problems we have suffered, but not all of them. In fact, the deppest problems are not platform related. Let's talk about some of those (personal and general ones).

Migrating to linux means an enormous effort for a Public Administration. It has to be well done, by professionals. Big amounts of money and time are needed so usually politics decide to, also, add new services and new procedures. Migrating is not enough. A deep change is needed. So you end up not just migrating to linux, but improving the hold system, adding new services, new apps, new network topology, new methods, etc. The original migration project grows and grows adding pressure and stressing resources. Letting you go is a natural feeling when you believe in software libre and demand a change, but is a wrong way of approaching such a project. Migrating and improving are different concepts. Sometimes you need to take one step to one side (or even back) to be able to take many steps forward in the future.

I'm afraid many of the people I'm involved here in the south of Spain are putting into linux so much illusion that, when reality faces up, they will be a little dissapointed with the result. It is hard to reach 100% of the objetives. Without noticing it, I have ended up telling people to move slow, to be careful with the expectations, to make firm steps instead of running, to improve quality instead of quantity. Working in pioneer projects involve a lot of risk, so you usually need to be intrepid. But when people around has so many expectations, believing so much in what we are doing, in what free software can do for the people, this attitude has to turn into prudence. This is not usually well accepted. People begin to question if you really believe or you have doubts. For them, it is not a question of methodology or resources but a question of faith. So you have to stay strong to stay away of that big wave of illusion and keeping everybody on the ground. It is as risky as it can be an eviroment where no one around believes in software libre. I am used to this second one. I'm a newbie in facing the first one. So I'm learning a lot.

We have developed a new methodology and some simple tools to collect the data we need in order to define with accuracy the migration project. Since Public Administrations have hundreds of computer, not much information from other projects can be used. Scalability is a tough concept. Working in mEDUXa, the linux edu distro from the Canary Islands, have helped me a lot. Still there are many big differences. Schools are not regular Administrations, of course.

We are making a deep inventory of machines and apps installed and interviewing each and every public worker in its own desk, so they show us how they use the computer, share the information and interact with other workers, for example. I'm been doing many of those and it is beeing really interesting. Many conclusions are showing up that weren't expected. It is taken a lot of effort but it is totally worth it. It has been a money well invested.

After collecting all the the data, a good analysist has to be done (it is being done). Then, the real migration project begins. Technical solutions are well known. Most of them are well tested and have success stories behind them. We are not going to invent anything new in this area, I think by now. The risk is doing the migration smooth and softly, not stopping the services and making everybody feel confortable with the solutions. All this with limited resources and time.

For the Public Administrations involved, the analysis of the migration project will be the first time they think about the technology they use and the procedures the follow in a general approach, without names and surnames of any particular solution (take this as a wish). For many of them it will be the very first time they will be able to take key decisions related with technology. That is why it is important to give them all the information we can. They have to take their own decisions and they are not used to do this in technology. They usually just buy products (so decisions).

This is something some don't follow. I believe that trying to convince people to use this or that because you say it, because you are the "expert", is wrong. That's what have happened before (with propietary software) and the reason why many customers are so suspicious about software libre. In Public Administrations this is the root of many of the reactions against it (in politicians and, specially, in public workers). It is not that they don't trust the technical solutions we offer, they simply do not trust us. Our messege has a 100% commercial motivation form them.

After 6 monthes working here one clear conclusion has risen. Migrating Public administrations to GNU/Linux is way more difficult and more expensive than many people expected, but is possible. Much more than that...it is needed.

A wish ...

After I finish my job here it would be great to travel to other countries to get involved in Migration Projects to keep learning about different enviroment, facing new challenges, working with new and different people. Big deployments and migrations are a very interesting area to get involved. I've been working on it since 2005 and I feel I know nothing about it yet. Also, helping to spread GNU/Linux (software libre in general) makes me feel good. I like my job and I know I'm lucky.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

aKademy 2008

Akademy 2008 is close to end and I this is my own summary.

Organization and atmosphere

As it always happens, nothing is always perfect. But this year the job done has been amazing and the result is relevant. We will have to work really hard to make it better next year than this one. That is good news. The people related with the organization have done a good job and I only can thank them all for the effort.

Celebrating Akademy in the middle of europe (Mechelen, Belgium) has made possible that 350 people have came to the event. We expect 400 for next year, eventhough it will be in the Canary Islands (Gran Canaria). It seems that KDE is growing faster than it used to. Probably helps that KDE 4 is now a usable result in comparassion with last year, that was just a great idea in development. It is amazing that so many people have made agreements about desktop innovation and have respected the decisions taken eventhough the results are taking a long time to appear and many good job will be left behind (3.5 series). Although a lot of work is still needed, the actual state of KDE 4.1 makes more people believe it is not just possible, but it is desirable to keep pushing in this direction. KDE 4 series will be a perfect example of genuine innovation. I feel proud of being a tiny part of this.

Talks

This year I haven't been able to assist as much talks as other years since I had many things to accomplish during these days. In general I am satisfy with them. Maybe, since the project is getting bigger, we have to begin to separate pure technical confs. from other types of talks, since there are people and level enough to satisfy everybodys wishes. More non technicians are getting involved and they get absolutely lost in pure technical talks. The opposite also happens. Since there are only 2 days of talks, we have to be more accurate in the design of the schedule. But I inssist, this year have been a good one in this particular point.

The place

It is well known that sun and sea are a combination I need in order to be happy. From that point of view Mechelen is not the best place in the world for me. But, hey, it almost didn't rain and it hasn't been cold most of the time. So, comparing with other years...Mechelen was not bad at all. If next year in Gran Canaria rains, ... I'll shave my head. That cannot happen.

The job

Beside my homework, I of course attended to some BoFs related with next year event. Everybody looks happy about the job done so far. Everybody has gave us a lot of good energy and information related with present and past events. It will be extremely useful for us. I come back with tons of suggesstions and the feeling that co-hosting the event with GNOME have been a smart move made by both projects.

We need to become players of the same team to go for the 98% of the market that doesn't use any desktop libre. That is the real goal, the true challenge. Do we want to add efforts or play the game by our own? We will be able to answer this question after next year's event probably.

KDE-España

One of the multiple good news about KDE during aKademy 2008 is that KDE-España has born (or almost). We made a non official assembly here to talk about many stuff that our president, Albert Astals Cid, will explain soon. I'll just say that we have talk with Pedro Jurado (ermelenas) about collaboration between KDE-Hispano and KDE-España. Good things will happen.

Hopefully next year, in Gran Canaria Desktop Meeting, the association will have a general assembly, like GNOME-Hispano. It will be a huge chance for spanish developers to show how good we are doing.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What have I been doing lately.

A little more than four monthes has gone since I left Tenerife, Canary Islands, to work in La Axarquía, Málaga, in a migration to software libre project. Working with public administrations is different than working for private companies. Usually you have more time for finishing the projects but the administrative and management issues are more complex. Get away from problems and keeping focused on the job to do is the key for not getting frustated. The impact though will be enormous so it is worth it.

After surveying and interviewing hundreds of people, trying to figure out how they use computers and apps, we have almost done an inventory system we have made for this project (based on ltsp). Since it will be GPL, I hope more people use it, specially in migration to software libre projects, like the one I'm working on.

Since in summertime most of the public workers are on vacation in Spain, we will be able to check their computers easily. I hope we can make a good report with the data extracted. Then the technicians will concentrate efforts on testing how key private apps work when virtualiced (with XEN, VMWare, Virtual Box and Wine basically). This is important to define the migration project of the 31 municipalities involved (in fact it won't be that many since some of them do not want to migrate).

Between managing this project and the Gran Canaria Desktop Meeting, I have no time for almost anything else. By the way, the Cabildo of Gran Canaria (Gran Canaria's Gov.) have put me in charge of the relation with both, KDE and GNOME projects for the GUADEC+Akademy 2009 event. This was going to be my first Akademy with no specific job to do but, obviously, it won't. It will be another busy event for me. Maybe is better this way.

---

Last week it was announced that we will participate in the migration project of the Economics and Technological Innovation Department of Junta of Extremadura (Extremadura's regional Gov.). We are going to make the initial report of the current situation. That is, interviewing pubic workers, making an inventory of equipments and apps, defining by groups the knowledge of users related with software libre, etc. That is the milestone before the development of the migration project itself.

We are the only small company that will be working on this migration project so it has been a nice surprise for us. I'm travelling tomorrow to Extremadura for the very first meeting.

Can anybody give me the clue to work 25 out of 24 hours?

Windsurfers say.... No wind...no fun.

I say....no migration to soft. libre projects...no fun

Thursday, July 17, 2008

GUADEC + Akademy in Gran Canaria...thanks

Thanks for choosing Gran Canaria to host GUADEC + Akademy 2009. You have made us really happy.

We have a lot of work to do now. Since it is the first time both events takes place at the same time and place, we will face many issues for the very first time. It is going to be tough sometimes but we have the determination for solving them with the help from both, GNOME and KDE, staffs. All I can say is that we will try to integrate efforts and people following the spirit that have made possible this adventure (GUADEC+KDE). It is an example that should guide us during the following year.

I want to make a call to every KDE and GNOME community member for thinking about how can we use this conference to spread free software in Africa and to support african developers. Maybe it is not a major goal for most of us, but a little effort can have a huge impact in the area close to the Canary Islands, and even in other African countries. The Canaries are a piece of Europe in Africa. We have a chance to do something special, not just for ourselves and our communities, but for those countries who have in their people, its first and only valuable resource. Free software change things everywhere, but specially in those places.

Once again, thank you.

Monday, July 07, 2008

GUADEC + Akademy in Gran Canaria...why?

Why do we think GUADEC + Akademy 2009 should come to Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain? Well, here you have some ideas.

We have a compromise from the Gran Canaria island Gov and the Gran Canaria's college for spending a total of 250 thousand euros in this event. We will spend all the sponsorship we can get in other stuff because many of the things we offer will be already paid. Please visit this page to see the budget. It is well determined which concepts will be paid by the local organization: http://grancanariadesktopmeeting.eslic.es/index.php/Budget

But if money is not important for you, maybe the time you spend travelling is. There are a lot of companies that flies to Gran Canaria directly. When you get to Gran Canaria's airport, there is a bus that takes you to Las Palmas every 30 minutes. The trip takes 20 - 25 minutes and it leaves you at 10 - 15 minutes walking to any of the hotels we included in the wiki. All of them are close to the beach. So getting from the airport to any of the hotels is fast, cheap and easy: http://grancanariadesktopmeeting.eslic.es/index.php/Logistics

The Auditorium is in the city, not uotside of it, so there are plenty of places to go to eat or having a beer. That is really cool for going out at night so you don't need to pick up a car. If you prefer staying at the hotel hacking at night, the local organization will pay a room for hacking in two different hotels so everybody can choose what to do. There will be internet connection in those rooms, of course.

We have planned the visit to two different places of Gran Canaria for 1000 people, 500 hundred to each place. Enough buses will be rented with a guide that speaks english. Both visits are really cool so you all will have fun. We will also have tipycal Canarian food during the trip: http://grancanariadesktopmeeting.eslic.es/index.php/Official_planning#Sightseeing_and_touristic_visit

In order to ensure that the event will be more publicited than ever, the local organization will invite journalists from general international press and media (5 people). We want to make sure that the event has impact not just in technical media but in more general ones. We also will invite 5 representatives from oocidental african countries related with technology so they can get in touch with the free software community and begin to promote it in those countries. Our islands have a great relations in the area so this event can be used as a plattform to spread technology and free software among those countries: http://grancanariadesktopmeeting.eslic.es/index.php/Impact_and_publicity

Initially we have offered to celebrate the event from July 3 to July 11, but we can delay the event a week if it is neccesary. Gran Canaria is not too hot at that time since we have a subtropical weather so it is never too hot or too cold, but most of the year is sunny. That's why we are one of the most important touristic places in the world. In addition to that, we have a mature free software community. Both Canary Islands colleges have a Free Software Office that are part of the local staff, one of the oldest LUGs in Spain and the first spanish regional free software companies association are also a key part of it.

There is a lot of job behind this offer. We have been working for monthes to define every detail yo can see on proposal. Please, get into it and take time to read before voting. Even if you do not support us, you'll find out good ideas and interesting things you can suggest to other candidates now or in the future.

This is not a just a matter of where you want to go, is a matter of where would be better for both projects to celebrate the event.

I want to thank all the people that has collaborated with us in this project and also the people that supports us. This is beeing a great experience so far.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What is not on Gran Canaria Desktop Meeting's wiki

I haven't read the rest of the proposals yet. I prefer not to talk about our project in relation with the other two. I know the effort made by the other teams to make a proposal, it is enormous. All my respect for them. I want to make this clear first.

...

After attending to some big free software events, one of the major issues we (Gran Canaria Desktop Meeting team) have noticed is that most of them were organiced by people that are not professionals of these kind of thing. I've been in that situation also and the effort made is always huge. Tha software libre community have gone from local meetings some years ago to Akademy + GUADEC, with hundreds of visitors expected. This is a reflection of what softwre libre is going through.

This jump needs new methods applied to the major events. This is exactly what we wanted to offer. The guys that vote will say if we have accomplish it or somebody else have done it better.

The proposal is presented by the Cabildo of Gran Canaria, which is Gran Canaria's local Gov. It is not presented by the LUG (GULIC), the Canary Islands software libre companies association (ESLIC) nor any of the two Canary Islands Colleges (ULL and ULPGC). They are behind the Cabildo. This is a key point because it means we can count with people with a lot of experience in organicing even bigger events than ours. This is so true that the Cabildo has an organism, the Gran Canaria Convention Bureau, just for that. They have helped us a lot, not just giving us advice but also contacting people, hotels, asking for budgets, etc. They organice a major event per month.

Of course those organizations mentioned have actively participated in the proposal (and before that, the idea) and will be the heart and soul of the event, but we are only going to take care of those activities tlike the ones that needs technical skills or are directly related with the schedule. Since we are talking about two different events with some common activities, the complexity will be high. So not just many people is needed but also good coordination. This means more time spent by each of the local team members.

We are going to let the professionals take care of those kind of activities that are common to any big international event. This will allow the local team to focus energy in that extra job and also in stuff that haven't been done before and can make Gran Canaria Desktop Meeting the first of a new era of software libre inter community events.

For example, we describe in our proposal a variety of courses and other activities that need a lot of time to be made, but that can help a lot to increase the relations between GNOME and KDE people and, also, get new young local developers into both projects. They are affordable because we don't have to take care of the visit planned to the south and north of the island, for exmple. Professionals will be in charge of that. Moving 1000 people is really tough if you haven't done it before.

Following this line, we decided to celebrate the event (make the offer) in a place well prepared for big congresses: the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium and the Congress Palace next to it. Both are a first class infrastructure with, of course, a high cost, but it is worth it. The people that works there really know what has to be done to celebrate something like what we want to do. They will take care of the lights, the sound, the projectors, the security, the electricity and, with the collaboration of ESLIC, the internet connection.

Tha Cabildo can involve a travel agency, for example, to help organice the trip to Gran Canaria or nice activities for those who want to take a day off or bring your parents with you :), rent a car, etc.

Another thing that really make a difference is the place to stay the night. In a 20 min. walk from the Auditorium, there are more than 20 hotels that goes from 150 € to 20 € per night (regular prices). More than 20... that's a lot for a 350 thousand people city (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria). The Gran Canaria Convention Bureau has helped us to select some. I've been in some of them before and I'm sure nobody will complain about this issue if we are selected.

Many people think the Canary Islands are too far away. We are a little piece of Europe in Africa. But if you take a look at how many direct flights you can find to go there and the prices you can get, you will find out that we are much closer than you thought.

We recieve 10 million tourists per year by plane (that is like Brazil). There are 6 international airports in the Canary Islands. The biggest one is Gando, in Gran Canaria, so it has to be easy and cheap to come. For example, it is chaeper to fly from Frankfurt to Gran Canaria than do it from Sevilla to Zaragoza (two big spanish cities). And it is faster if, from Sevilla, you have to go first to Madrid to get to Zaragoza. This happens in every country when flying by plane. You can spent more time in a non direct short trip than in a long but direct one. For those who come from other continents, you can connect to Gran Canaria directly from London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Berlin, Lisboa, and other european capitals. Distance is a relative concept after all.

For further information, please read the wiki and ask what you want, make suggestions or ...whatever you want:

http://grancaanriadesktopmeeting.eslic.es

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gran Canaria Desktop Meeting: GUADEC+Akademy 2009 has been presented

The Hon. Cabildo de Gran Canaria, through its Secretary of Tourism, Foreign Trade and Technological innovation, under the leadership of its chairman D. Roberto Moreno Diaz, introduces The Canary Islands Generally speaking, and the island of Gran Canaria in particular as a candidate for the seat to hold GUADEC and Akademy 2009. An overview of the project, called Gran Canaria Desktop Meeting, which develops our proposal, is presented in this wiki.

The event will be held at the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium and the Palacio de Congresos de Canarias, next to the former. Hotels in various categories are available aroud the area, since it is located in the Playa de Las Canteras, at the island's capital city, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. In this Auditorium zone there are various bars, restaurants and leisure areas.

In addition to two government programmes, and in order to promote free software between the Canary Islands society, especially among young people, proposes a program of additional activities. To develop courses, workshops and other advocacy of free software.

This candidacy has the support of all actors of the Canary archipelago within the free software world. The Cabildo de Gran Canaria expresses its outright support for innovation in software as well as its commitment to free software. In addition, the nomination has support from major associations and National bodies, which gives a clear picture of the creditworthiness of the bid.

The Secretary of Tourism, Trade and Technological Innovation has to its credit events of great importance over the past few years. To do so, it has the support of the Gran Canaria Convention Bureau, specialized in this type of activity. This will provide the necessary professionalism in organizing an event of this nature.

Gran Canaria Desktop Meeting: http://grancanariadesktopmeeting.eslic.es

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Spanish small free software companies have a brand new voice: ASOLIF

The federation of spanish free software companies' associations (ASOLIF) was born few weeks ago. 7 regional small free software companies associations has joined efforts and have founded ASOLIF, which envolves a hundred free software spanish companies aprox.. Another 3 regional associations will get into the federation soon.

I wonder if there is such a movement in other european countries so we can collaborate in a more global scale. Since the federation of associations ASOLIF is formed by small companies, we need to become a big network to push strong and defend our points of view.

We do not have web yet, but you can e-mail us: asolif@asolif.org

I'll announce when it's done.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I'm alive after all

I've moved to Málaga two monthes ago for a year and I'm quiet happy about it. I came here to manage the first step of a project that will migrate 31 municipalities from a region called La Axarquía, which is close to Málaga.

After planning and scheduling the tasks, we are inventornig the computers and services these minucipalities have. I'm also surveying how public workers use the propietary apps they have installed so we can define the software libre tools we will install and the teaching project we will have to define in association with the migration process. We are also building up the team that will be working with us and explaining to politicians from these municipalities what we are trying to do. Nice job, isn't it?

We will present the first results in October probably. During june we will be working on a public wiki, so everybody can check and collaborate on what we are doing. The information will be mostly in spanish but we will translate what is relevant to english.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Some lessons learned

During the last few days I've been working hard in configuring a Pundit to be able to use a big LCD TV with DVI and S-video. The technicians from Grupo CPD developed a simple app for a local company. They sent a couple of pundits to me to test the app and place them in some offices. The app showes the departure and arrival time of the ships this company has to the passengers in the ship station.

Anyway, since the company bought some TVs different from what we told them to, with no analogic signal entry, I had to configure the dvi out of the pundit (with a debian sarge) so the video signal could show up on the TV. I decided to get into it eventhough I'm not an expert.

After a couple of hours reading and trying stuffs, I supposed that I had to buy an analog to digital signal converter. So I did and I spent another couple of hours trying to configure the xfree server. In fact, I tryed everything I knew and a lot more.

Since nothing I tryed worked fine I though that converting the analogic signal (that comes out from the VGA) into digital signal (that get into the TV from the DVI) was not the best approach. I tryed then to configure the dvi out from the pundit. I failed again. Since I do not know much about xfree, I switched to xorg. I failed once more. Then I tried with different distros (live-cd), different configurations, different digital monitors.... no result. ...so I took it personal and I read a lot more about ati drivers and xorg. I spent another couple of afternoons working on it but couldn't make it.

After a couple of weeks (probably more) I gave up and sent back the computers to our technical department in Gran Canaria (from Tenerife). I was afraid they would solve it in 5 minutes and laugh at me the rest of the year.

They just called me today(I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago). They configured it in 30 minutes. After trying a couple of things, the plugged a simple vga-dvi adapter and...it worked.

What have I learned from this?

1.- Don't take computers too personal. They have no feelings.
2.- I reafirm myself now in the idea that technicians must be well paid
3.- Don't try to emulate technicians. You won't get well paid doing so.
4.- Don't laugh at technicians when they fail doing something they do not get paid for if you use a computer as an everyday tool.
5.- Do not give them your personal mobile phone number

What has happened to me is probably good from a personal point of view once in a while (realice you have limits) and for the technicians (they laugh at you telling tons of jokes).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

We still have a lot to do

Just when you think we are beginning to win the battle, the enemy shows its weapons and get a step forward.

The Canary Islands Regional Gov. has made public a contract to buy MS Office licenses. They'll spend 3.3 mill €

We have improved a lot, but still have a lot more job ahead.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I'm moving out of the Canary Islands to Málaga for a migration project

I've been quiet lately....

I'm moving out the Canary Islands, where I've lived my entire life (except for one year I lived in the US). A friend of mine, Ramón Ramón (yes doubled Ramón), has called me to help him in a migration project to free software of La Axarquía, a group of municipalities close to Málaga, where Akademy 2005 took place, in Andalucía, Spain.

I will keep working in some of the projects I'm in right now in the Canaries, like trying to bring Akademy to these islands in 2009. I'm also going to be directly related with Grupo CPD as much as I can.

This is the first time such a migration project takes place in Spain. It is financed by Andalucía's regional Gov. and the company ITD was the one chosen to do it (they have contracted me as freelance) and Emergya, a free software company from Andalucía, is also involved.

My role will be to make the previous evaluation of each municipality and make the design of the migration project. That should take a year.

In Andalucía, GNOME rules, so it will be tough to introduce KDE, but now we have another warrior to try it. I leave a place where KDE is the most popular free desktop (Canary Islands) by a region where GNOME is, by far, the most popular.

Anyway, since Windows is the target...everything will be fine :)

This is a new milestone in my professional career so I'm excited about this new challenge. I hope we can do something that have impact in this region of Spain. We have the willing, the knowledge and the people to do it. If the politicians and the public workers of these municipalities want, we can make the difference moving from propietary to software libre.

What a nice project...isn't it? I feel lucky these days.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Kubuntu days...productive days

These last four or five days it have been Kubuntu days for me. For different reasons, I've have installed or upgraded Kubuntu in four PCs and used the Kubuntu Live CD to configure a graphic card of a computer with debian sarge installed.

Installing Kubuntu from scratch is a great sensation. It's fast and easy most of the times. My parents had at home a debian, then switched to Kubuntu Breezy and, during this weekend, I've changed their old PC by a newer one with Kubuntu Gutsy on it. They are happy because it was easy to configure the HP Laserjet 1018 (with breezy it was a nightmare for me). Everything works fine with no extra configurations. My mother not just use it, also promote it, which is something I've never expected. My father is getting into it, not 100% convinced yet

I also took a friend's PC and changed her old unupdated Kubuntu Dapper by a brand new Kubuntu Gutsy. After installation, everything worked fine, specially her usb-wifi stick, something she could not get working with the old distro.

I upgraded my office's PC from Kubuntu Feisty to Gutsy with the distribution upgrade tool. Everything worked fine except cups. I didn't have a backup copy of the configuration archive. Does anybody knows if it does one before changing cups by the new packet?

I also installed a Kubuntu in a quite old computer after adding some RAM memory (it has xubuntu). Now it has dual boot. It works quiet well although xubuntu works faster.

So, what is the point? It is that, for non technical users, as I am, Kubuntu have reached a point where I'm able to do with linux everything I used to be able to do in windows, install it, make partitions, configure a network, install apps, share printers and directories, configure wifi devices, create users, etc. very easily. In fact, I can do more things now that I could in windows.

We can improve a lot though, but it has been a confirmation of what I already knew (we all know). With linux I'm more productive, even in tedious actions like the ones I've done these days.

Friday, February 15, 2008

aKademy in the Canary Islands?

Sometimes it is hard or even impossible to achieve a goal no matter how hard you try. But sometimes things flow naturally and comes easier than you have ever expected. When I first told the people I work with that we should try to bring aKademy to the Canary Islands, everybody laughed at me. Few month later, some of them are even more excited with the idea of pushing hard to do it than myself.

We presented the idea to some people from the free software community here in the Canaries and they liked so we began to think about it was something we had to try. During aKademy 2007 I propose it to some of the e.V. members and they encouraged me to try it. So we are.

Now we are preparing a project to send to the e.V. to celebrate aKademy 2009 in Gran Canaria. We are working to compete with whatever candidate it shows up. Competition is good for everybody.

I hope we can finish our work soon and make a project we can be proud of. Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, sounds good for an aKademy, right?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Kubuntu...rescues another Windows. I need a special distro for this.

No matter how old I get, I can't get away from friends of mine calling me for help when their Windows have a problem. I have finally get to a point where they call me only when the fire is clearly visible, but still it is too often....

This week I had to do it again. I've became an expert:


  • Save the data...that means the whole harddisk, since you never know for sure where Windows apps save the key data

  • Check harddisk's integrity. It would be nice to have statistics about how often a harddisk breaks with windows installed compared with linux in the same enviroment.

  • Pass an antivirus, maybe you just have to restore a couple of archives.

  • Try to restore the windows installation (this doesn't work in 99% of the cases)

  • Format the harddisk

  • Install windows

  • Install drivers

  • Install apps

  • Restore data

  • Restore configurations

  • Install eDonkey or similar (this is a special category even for corporative computers) :)



I used to do some of these operations with Knoppix, but lately I do them with Kubuntu. I would like to use a pendrive specially prepared for this. I have a Mandrake one (from aKademy 2007) but I prefer a Debian based one (I'm more used to it). Is there any?

Maybe next time I have to help somebody to restore the Windows, I convince myself to do it. It is such a pain.....

Plone...we meet again

I have a nice love story with Plone. It is like a close friend that becomes a lover in different stages of somebody's life.

I first discovered Plone back in 2003. It was a great love story, I use it as intranet since then and worked in a few projects based on it. But since the end of 2005 I haven't been able to work deeply with it, so I haven't been able to test the newest version (other people from Grupo CPD were in charge of projects related with Plone). I was willing to work with the new version, specially after I met Alan Runyan during Software Libre Conferences that took place in autumn in La Laguna (Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. During the last 3 o 4 weeks I've the chance to use it again for a project, this time for a web portal.

Plone has grown up but still keeps in the user layer that mixture of functionality and simplicity I used to love so much, and the power and complexity that have attracted technicians these past 10 years.

I love this wiki way of generating contents that Plone has added to the new version. I'm a wiki fan and Plone can satisfy people like me.

Plone is not just the first and only really robust CMS, useful for big scale projects, it is a really good CMS, useful for medium size projects too.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

KDE 4, a motivation to keep fighting

I hear people talking about innovation everywhere. It is an easy concept to talk about but hard to put in practice. KDE community had the skills and the determination of doing something new back in 2005, when I first got in touch with the project, but that was not enough. We usually think that money is a key factor for innovation but history give us tons of examples of the opposite. This is one of them. Hardworking is a necessary one, but not sufficient.

To innovate we need freedom.

Now we are close to see the light. KDE 4 is almost out and I was wondering what does this milestone means for me.

We have put a lot of effort fighting against patents, propietary software, restrictive licenses, etc., not because we want to defeat our opponents but because we want to have freedom to innovate... and to have fun doing it. We deserve the chance of having something better, promoting that the people with the knowledge and the determination of going for something like KDE 5 (or whatever adventure they want) are able to try it, and maybe do it, just like KDE community has done in this case.

For me KDE4 means, overall, a motivation to keep fighting to make our way to the next stop easier, to gain more freedom to innovate much more than we've done so far...that has been a lot.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

ReciclaRed, a software libre edu project in the Canary Islands

ReciclaRed finished last December. During a whole year 20 students have been working hard to install and configure 14 computer labs in some public schools placed in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Canary Islands, Spain, as part of a project financed with EU funds through the Canary Islands Employment Department of the Regional Government.

This project was assigned to FUNDESCAN, a well known local foundation. Grupo CPD, the company I work for, was the technological partner. For ReciclaRed, a director, some teachers and one administrative were employed.

Beside cabling and building up the network of every computer lab, the students recycled hundreds of computers donated by public administrations and private companies and configured them as thin clients, using software libre to do so.

Students also learned to install and configured distros like Debian, Kubuntu or CentOS. All thin client systems had KDE as the default desktop with KOffice and KDE-Edu apps installed, among others. Software like LTSP, XEN, Mediawiki, Joomla, Firefox, OpenOffice, etc were also used.

This project wouldn't be possible with propietary software and it has been a clear success story with local media coverage (check this article in spanish). Some wiki pages written by the students and teachers has been already published. The rest will be public soon (with free license).