Please step away from the computer!

It’s getting closer to the end of the year, and that little voice in the back of my brain is telling me that I need to step away from the computer and try to fit in a little rest and relaxation.  I’m not sure about the rest and relaxation part, but I’m am going to take a break from the computer by going on a vacation to Ireland and England with my family over the holidays.  I’ll most likely be away from email and the internet most of the time from tomorrow until January 1st.  If and when I do find internet access, I’m most likely to check a dedicated email address (vacation (at) jaredsmith (d0t) net) first.

I’ll also point out that the end of the year adds an interesting dynamic to open source communities.  For some, the holiday season gives them extra time to work on their favorite projects and try new things, while for others the holidays mean taking a break from working on their projects.  Please keep that in mind over the next couple of weeks.  (As an example, almost all of Red Hat is off work the week of December 27th.)

If you need to contact me while I’m away, I’ve left a UK cell phone number with each member of the Fedora Board, which should be able to reach me while I’m on my adventure.

I wish each and every one of you a happy holiday season, however you choose to celebrate the season.

Where is Jared this week?

I’ve had a bit more travel than is usual this month, which means I’m writing this blog post from a hotel room outside of Boston.  Boston, you ask?  What am I doing in Boston?  I’m here for the rest of the week having some meetings at the Red Hat offices here in Westford, MA this week.  I came up here in June when I was interviewing for the FPL job, but hadn’t been back since, and I thought it was about time to hop back up and spend some time in some meetings with some of my friends and co-workers here.

Today, I caught up with Paul Frields and Kara (from Red Hat’s press team) to talk about press blog entries and video highlights for the Fedora 14 release. I also talked with John Poelstra and Paul and Spot (via phone — poor guy is recovering from a nasty case of the flu) about the hiring process for the Fedora Program Manager job. (If you’re interested in the job, send either John or me your résumé now, before it’s too late!)  I also had the chance to have some very informal meetings in the hallway with folks like Dan Walsh, Luke Macken, and Dave Malcolm.  Since I’m a remote employee, I don’t get the chance to rub shoulders with these folks often enough, so I enjoyed chatting with them.

Tomorrow, I’ve got a higher-level meeting with several Red Hat managers to get some feedback from them on how they think Fedora is working as an upstream for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, as well as how I’m doing as the new FPL.  My primary role in the meetings is to listen, and to gather feedback as we near the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, while the experience is fresh in everyone’s minds.

This meeting is a mechanism to gather ideas and comments from folks in Red Hat who aren’t necessarily engaged in Fedora on a day-to-day basis. In a way, Red Hat is not just an active participant and heavy contributor in Fedora, but is also somewhat of a customer, in that Fedora is an upstream from which Red Hat Enterprise Linux draws. It’s a helpful learning experience to hear firsthand accounts from a customer, and I hope this meeting will be no exception.

That feedback becomes part of the larger fabric of possibilities that can inform our future strategies. If there are opportunities for improvement that might interest the community, the entire Fedora team will collaborate to address those items, just as we would on any feedback. For example, FUDCon Tempe in January will be a great opportunity to discuss ideas for improvement in Fedora in a high-bandwidth fashion, and I’m looking forward to the ideas that come out of the time there.  Another key goal for my meeting tomorrow is to give some of my thoughts and ideas back to Red Hat about the things I’ve seen during my first few months on the job.  I’m a big fan of continual improvement, and I think these feedback sessions are one healthy and important way to make sure we’re making progress.

On Thursday, I’m doing a quick (15 minutes or less, I promise!) presentation to the Desktop team inside Red Hat, to let them ask some questions and get to know me a bit better.  Should be pretty informal, but it’s a chance for me to get to know them better and vice versa.  I’m also hoping to track down a few minutes to chat w/ Mo Duffy to tell her what an awesome job the design and website teams are doing on the new design of the Fedora website.  (If you haven’t checked it out yet, you really should.  I can’t tell you how pleased I am with the way it’s shaping up.)

On Friday, I’m doing a podcast with Paul Frields for “This Week in Fedora” from Frostbite Media.  I did an interview with them a few weeks ago, but they invited me back, and I’m sure Paul and I will have an enjoyable time talking about our favorite subject.  I’m also hoping to squeeze in time to shoot a bit of video for one of the Fedora 14 release videos.  (Not that I really want to appear on video, but I do enjoy talking about the upcoming Fedora 14 release…)

Between all the meetings, I’ll be catching up on email, participating in IRC meetings, and helping coordinate all the moving parts of the release so that we can hopefully ship Fedora 14 according to our schedule.  All in all, it’s shaping up to be a busy week here, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Utah Open Source Conference

The next event on my busy schedule for October is the Utah Open Source Conference, just south of Salt Lake City at the Larry H. Miller Campus of Salt Lake Community College. I’ve been involved with the UTOSC conference since my good friend (and fellow board game enthusiast) Clint Savage first started the conference. Since then I’ve watched it grow and mature into one of the best regional Linux conferences in the world.

I’ll be doing quite a bit at the conference — I’ll be giving a keynote address on Thursday afternoon called “Swimming Upstream: How Distributions Help Open Source Communities”.  I’ll also be giving a presentation on Friday regarding easy system deployments using tools such as PXE booting, kickstart scripts, cobbler, puppet, and func.  I’ll also be helping out in the Fedora booth and spending some time with the rest of our fabulous Fedora crew at the conference.  I also told the organizers that I’d be happy to help out in any other ways, just like the good ol’ days when I was the person in charge of handing out name badges. (Last but not least, I’ll be thrashing all my friends in the “Board Game Bash” on Saturday night — this is my chance to show them who’s boss.)

I hope to see you at the Utah Open Source conference this week!  If you’re at the show, please stop by and say hi. I’d love to talk with you!

FUDCon Zurich, Day 0

This morning I arrived in Zurich for the FUDCon conference here, which starts bright and early tomorrow morning.  Getting here was a bit on the interesting side… On my flight from Richmond to Atlanta yesterday, one of the plane’s engines started overheating, so we cut the flight short and landed in Greensboro, NC instead. (Rumor on the plane was that Air Force One was also landing there about the same time, and they had to wait for us — I’m not really sure I believe any of that story.)  After a couple of hours of waiting, they put us on another plane and got us to Atlanta.  Luckily, I had time to catch my connection in Atlanta for Zurich.  The flight was uneventful, and I spent the time typing on my laptop and sleeping for a few hours.

I arrived here in Zurich about 8:00am this morning, and quickly caught the hotel shuttle to the hotel.  The hotel didn’t have my room ready yet, so I hung out in the lobby for a few hours and worked on some presentation slides I’ve been meaning to touch up.  By noon Jesse Keating had arrived, and Tom and Mo showed up soon after that as well.  After a shower, I felt human again.

A bit later this afternoon, the four of us met up with Adam Williamson (who was already here) and went out for lunch.  Sandro had recommended we try a traditional Swiss restaurant called “Swiss Chuchi” which is right outside the Hotel Adler fairly close to the central train station.  We took the S7 train from right next to the hotel (in the direction of Rapperswil) to the main train station (Zurich HB or “Central”), then caught a tram from there to area of the restaurant.  It took us a few minutes to find the right street from there, but soon we were eating.  Several of us tried different flavors of fondue.  It was delicious.  While there, we ran into Bert from Belgium.

After finishing lunch, we caught a tram towards the ETH Zurich campus to check in with Sandro and Marcus and see if we could help get things setup.  I read the map wrong and took us several blocks out of the way, and then we had a hard time finding the right building.  In the end, we found where we were supposed to be, and helped setup power and network for the conference.  (For the record, we’re in the CHB building, on floor D.) From there, we took the #10 tram back to the central station and the S7 train (in the direction of Winterthur) back to the hotel.

I’ve now caught up on a few more emails, made a quick call home to my wife, typed this blog post. Now I’m ready to call it a night.  The conference begins at 9:00 in the morning, so I’d better get some sleep.

Become an Advisor to the Fedora Board!

One of the things I love about Fedora is it’s dedication to transparency. In today’s Fedora Board Meeting, it came to our attention that we haven’t done a good job of letting people know how they can communicate with the Fedora Board. I took the action item to try to rectify that, and one way I can do that is via this blog post. :-)

The best way to ask a question of the Fedora Board is to join the advisory board mailing list. The list is open to all interested parties, and serves as a place where the Fedora Board and the community at large can make suggestions, ask questions, and foster discussion on a wide variety of topics that involve the Fedora Board. Most of the items that the Board gets involved in are discussed on the list[1]. As the chairman of the Board, I also use the topics from the advisory-board list to set the agenda for the our weekly Board meetings.

Another way to interact with the Fedora Board is through our public IRC meetings. The schedule shows the exact dates and times of our IRC meetings, and our meetings typically happen every two weeks or so.  The meetings take place in the #fedora-board-meeting channel on the Freenode IRC network.

If you have a question, comment, or concern for the Fedora Board, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  We value your input!

[1]  There are a few private matters that aren’t discussed on the advisory-board mailing list.  These typically involve situations where important relationships would be damaged if details were made public, such as personnel issues or fiduciary matters.  As a Board, we’re very sensitive to these issues, and try to be as open and transparent about them as is reasonable.

FISL, Day 2

Day two of my trip to FISL (Friday) started out with me waking up a bit late and scrambling to get ready on time. Rafael kindly picked several of us up at the hotel and drove us to the conference. I spent the morning talking with people both in the Fedora booth and in several of the other booths around the show. I also spent some time in a press interview with Linux Magazine. For lunch, we ate at the buffet and I got to experience the famous banana sushi first hand.


In the afternoon, I cheered Dennis Gilmore on as he gave a presentation on RPM packaging in Portuguese. He doesn’t speak much Portuguese (yet!), but he was brave enough to translate his talk into Portuguese and read it as best he could. After Dennis did his talk, I ran over to the large presentation room for my presentation. I talked about how Red Hat and Fedora work together, how Fedora makes a good upstream for RHEL, and how Fedora works with upstream communities. Several hundred people attended the presentation, and I thought it was well received.

After the presentation, I ran into a Brazilian friend of mine doing VoIP work here in Brazil. We chatted for an hour or so about various topics including Fedora, VoIP, and cultural differences between Portuguese-speaking and Spanish-speaking countries in Latin American. After another stint at helping out in the booth, we all ran back to the conference hall for a great presentation on SELinux from Douglas and Marcelo from Red Hat. By the time their presentation was done, it was 9:00pm and we were all hungry. Luckily, some of the Fedora folks had organized a pizza party, so we weren’t hungry for long!

FISL, Day 1

Day one of the FISL conference (at least for me, as I arrived on Thursday) was mostly spent in airplanes.  My flights took me from Dulles to Orlando to São Paulo to Porto Alegre.  (Nothing is better than having a flight attendant wake you up at 3:00am to feed you and airline dinner, right?)  When I landed in Porto Alegre, Leo and Rafael were kind enough to pick me up and drive me to the FISL conference.  I was impressed with the size of the conference and the variety of the booths.

Fedora booth
The Fedora booth at FISL

I have to admit — I was a bit stunned when I saw the Fedora booth.  It looked absolutely gorgeous!  I had no idea when I walked in whether we were sharing Red Hat’s booth or would have our own; little did I know that we’d have the best looking booth at the show.  The location of the booth was perfect — we were right on the corner where people would pass by on their way to the big lecture hall.

After shaking hands with the Fedora ambassadors and volunteers and saying hello to the folks in the Red Hat booth, I gave a quick impromptu speech (in Spanish, by request) to the crowd that had gathered around our booth, and then sat back and watched as Toshio gave a great talk on packaging RPMs for Fedora, with a lot of additional explanation in Portuguese from Rafael and Leo.  (We had several other presentations right there in the booth as well over the course of the day.)  At that point, we had about fifty people gathered around the booth, so we handed out media and stickers and helped answer questions.

Fedora booth at FISL
Crowd around the Fedora booth

After the show wound down for the day, we went to dinner at a traditional Brazilian churrascaria. The food was delicious — I ate too much food, and forgot how much I like the Brazilian soft drink called Guaraná. It was the perfect way to end the day.  On the way back to the hotel, I got to see a bit of the city of Porto Alegre.

First day on the job

My Lenovo T510 laptop
My T510 laptop

As many of you may well know, today was my first day as a new employee of Red Hat and as the new Fedora Project Leader.  I spent the day today in “new hire orientation” meetings at Raleigh, which were interesting.  I was impressed by how much time Red Hat took to make sure the new recruits understood the open source way, and where Fedora fits in the mix of things. Some of the highlights for me were Max Spevack explaining open source communities and their importance, and Michael Tiemann (one of my favorite speakers to listen to) giving an excellent presentation on how open source can be a transforming tool for information technology departments.  We also spent time filling out paperwork and making sure we had all our ducks in a row, and ended the day with an ice-cream social.  I’ll be in new hire orientation tomorrow as well, and then head directly to FUDCon Santiago tomorrow evening. Paul Frields has graciously agreed to help me get up to speed in my new role, which I especially appreciate since I’ll spend the next two weeks on the road.

This evening I also was able to start getting Fedora installed on my new laptop.  I opted for a Lenovo T510, mostly because it had been years since I’d used a new ThinkPad, and I wanted to try something that was likely to be a bit outside of the mainstream.  (I have this weird habit of finding the oddball hardware bugs in Fedora.  Some people go out of their way to make sure their hardware is going to be compatible.  As for me, I throw Fedora on weird hardware and see what breaks.  Call me crazy…)  This laptop is a bit bigger than most people would want to carry around, but I’m happy with it.

Paul Frields was kind enough to take a first stab at getting the laptop setup while I was still in my meetings.  Apparently there’s an issue with the new VT-d feature (Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O) of the Intel chipsets, as Paul had to disable it in the BIOS to keep anaconda from crashing with what appeared to be memory-corruption issues. Once we got that tracked down and disabled in the BIOS, I threw Fedora on the machine and it’s been running great ever since.  So far, everything has worked great.  I was a little worried about how well this new wirless chip would be supported, but it’s working very well.  I was even able to setup a quick ad-hoc wireless network for Paul to be able to connect his laptop through mine.  Suspend/resume worked out of the box, as did the Nouveau driver.  There’s a bit of funkiness with the reporting of the second battery, but I’ll do some more troubleshooting on that over the next few days and file a bug.

The day ended with an excellent sushi dinner (thanks Paul!), and now I’m back at the hotel getting more software installed on the laptop and working on presentations for FUDCon Chile and FISL.  All in all, I can’t complain about my first day on the job!

Wearing a new hat

Well, it appears that the news is out about my new role in the Fedora community. (I apologize for the slow response — I was at Scout Camp with my son last week when Paul made the announcement, and have been busy tying up loose ends at my current employer.)  I’m very humbled to be able to follow in the footsteps of some very fine leaders such as Greg and Max and Paul.  I’m sure many of you are wondering “Who is this guy?” and “What is his vision for Fedora?”

First, let me introduce myself.  My name is Jared.  In short, I’m a big Linux nerd.  (How does that analogy go?  “Nerd is to geek as Star Trek is to Star Wars.”  Or did I get it backward again?)  I’ve been very lucky to have been employed by some great companies over the past several years — companies that had the vision of how to both use and contribute to open ecosystems.  Most recently, I’ve been working for a company called Digium, which is the benevolent corporate sponsor of the Asterisk open source telecommunications platform.  I’ve done both community relations and training work for Digium, and I learned many valuable lessons that I hope to use in my new role.  Before working full-time on Asterisk, I spent a number of years doing large-scale Linux systems administration and network operations for a large web analytics company.  When I’m not on the road, I’ll be working remotely from my home in Virginia.  My wife and I used to joke that maybe I’d get lucky and get to work on free software when I retire; luckily for me, the opportunities came much sooner!

I’ve been using Fedora ever since it was announced, and was using Red Hat Linux before then. I very passionately believe in the freedom and community that Fedora represents, and want to do everything I can to further the cause. Over the past few years, I’ve gone from being an end user of Fedora to being a contributing member of the Fedora team.  I’ve come to learn that our greatest asset within Fedora is our vibrant community of users and contributors. More specifically, I love the way our community can help individuals rise to their fullest potential and become leaders.  I’m a firm believer that if you give someone the tools they need and a little bit of vision and then get out of their way, they’ll come up with solutions you never dreamed of.  I’ve seen it happen time and time again in different open source communities, and each time it gives me more hope for the future.

Please bear with me over the next few weeks as I wrap my head around this job and start to articulate my goals and visions for Fedora. I’m sure there are a lot of things for me to learn, and I look forward to sharing some of my knowledge along the way as well. I’ll be on the road for the next few weeks (another blog post about that shortly!), but I’ll be blogging more while on the road.  You can also catch me via email or IRC.  (My IRC nick is “jsmith”.)

Here’s to a bright future for Fedora!