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Archive for the ‘eV’ Category

Long-term Management

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

My friend Armijn sent me this, and asked if I would pass it on. He adds as a word of warning “this is a post that can easily ruin your mood“. I’m posting it here as well as on my new blog, as its theme is the future.

Almost all free software developers I have met are always very enthusiastic about their programs and what to add and improve in the future. Very few of them think what happens afterwards. With this I don’t mean what happens after those additions and improvements (your answer would probably be “more additions and improvements”), but I mean when there is no future. When you’re no longer coding. When your uplink is permanently disconnected. When you’re dead.

Planning for the inevitable is not something we want to think about (thinking about your own mortality is not many people do for fun), but it is something we need to do, all of us. I was remembered about this by two recent events. One was when at gpl-violations.org we got a report about a violation in the Apple AppStore. Since I had already dealt with the same developer in the past (it was resolved very amicably) I decided to connect the reporter directly with the developer. The reporter got an unexpected surprise in the form of an e-mail from the developer’s father who said that his son had died half a year ago and he could not get himself to pull the app from the App Store, as a tribute to his son. Eventually we got sources when one of the developer’s friends (another engineer) was involved to lift the sources from the deceased developer’s laptop.

Another example was when a webmaster of a website that my dad regularly contributed to, died in a fire in his house. The website contained many years of research, at least 10 years, but possibly many more. Many people had contributed to this research, but the data was only available through the website. The database itself was hosted on baseportal.com which allows people to have a free database. How to get the data back, especially someone else’s data is completely unclear. At the moment people are trying to reach the heirs of the webmaster so they can salvage the data and make sure the webpage continues as a tribute to the original webmaster.

The common theme is that these people were very passionate about what they did. They truly loved their work and it work was appreciated by many. But when fate struck it turned out that they had not taken care of what would happen after they would pass away. I am very sure that they didn’t expect this to happen so soon, or never realized that this could be an issue. But in the digital world, with lapsing domain name registrations, databases and webspace being deleted because of unpaid bills, offline development trees and uninformed heirs this is becoming more and more of a risk.

So, what can you do prevent this from happening with your code and data? First, move your development as much online as possible. The KDE project has great infrastructure for this. Second, think about assigning your copyright to KDE e.V. with the FLA. If you don’t want to do this, make sure that your heirs know what you have been doing with free software and what they can and cannot do with the code. Show them that you care a lot about this.

Don’t let this story scare you too much. Keep coding, with passion, knowing that if you have taken the right measures your code will live on and will (hopefully) be used, reused and adapted by many people, even after you are no longer here.

– Armijn

(As a closing note, the FLA that KDE e.V. uses was developed by the FSFE.)

Asking for Hardware

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Last week I tried to ask for hardware — 1GB ECC PC-2700 DIMMs, to be exact — and got no response, while Aaron didn’t call for hardware and got a bunch of offers to buy monitors and such.

Now, Aaron has since explained that the problem holding back the resolution of the bug that triggered his "donation drive" isn’t a lack of hardware, but a lack of a specific setup and workflow. And it looks like the resolution of the bug has been attempted. Pretty cool stuff — but it’s not the bug resolution that I’d like to write about here.

First off, a "hardware pool" for KDE developers has been tried before. Several years ago (I tihnk it was) Scott Wheeler tried to set one up. The idea would be that spare hardware would get passed around or sent to KDE developers who needed something extra. The idea never took off, and eventually the plan shut down. There were three reasons for this, basically:

  1. Sending hardware around is really darn expensive. By the time you’ve covered postage and insurance, it can be nearly as expensive as just buying something locally. So it’s expensive to send stuff.
  2. Customs are a nightmare. Switserland doubly so. I remember long ago someone sent me a spare Palm Vx from the US. It was a used device, and the Vx at that point was already no longer on the market here. Dutch customs assessed me around 50 EUR in import duty. So it’s expensive to receive stuff.
  3. There are remarkably few hardware requests. Apparently KDE developers work within the constraints of what they have, rather than what they would like. A few times I’ve blogged about left-over hardware that I would give away (in spite of points 1 and 2) and got no response. Maybe my leftover hardware (usually around 3 years old) is just too crappy even to give away.

There are a few exceptions to #3. There was a donation drive to get Krita developers some specific hardware. Maemo devices have been distributed to the KDE community at various events in order to drive enthusiasm and interest for the devices. Those are unusual cases, though.

Now, there is an organization that can help with hardware needs. It’s KDE e.V. The association’s mandate is to support the community. That includes providing hardware if needed. Let’s look at this from two sides:

For the potential hardware donor, KDE e.V. accepts donations in cash (tax-deductible in Germany) and in special cases could receive hardware, too. There are two ways to help KDE e.V. You could donate directly to KDE e.V. and add a note describing what the donation is for. (For legal and tax reasons there is no guarantee that the donation will be used as requested) You could also join the game and systematically support KDE e.V. in its work. Resources that KDE e.V. gathers (e.g. money) are put to work supporting the community. That is usually in the form of travel and lodging for events and workshops, but could cover other forms of support as well.

For the potential hardware recipient there are standard procedures for requesting support. There are forms on the KDE e.V. website. If you need something special (e.g. a second video card and a monitor) then you can ask the board beforehand if that falls within the mandate and if so, request reimbursement afterwards. As a general rule, I think that peculiar or special hardware has a better chance of being supported than general upgrades and hardware requests with a strong and specific KDE purpose are more likely to go through, too. Ask first.

So yeah, if you need a bi-polar defrobnicator to bobulate your Plasma widgets, then by all means do two things: ask if KDE e.V. will help you out there, then blog that you need such a thing and encourage people to donate to KDE e.V. for one. Then wait, buy the stuff yourself, and do cool things.

As far as my desire for more memory for my SPARC workstation for KDE package builds on that platform, well, I think the board of KDE e.V. (myself included!) would answer "too niche, too expensive for the projected benefit of all two KDE4-on-SPARC users."

Fight the wall of text!

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Dion Moult has just called for people to help out with fighting the wall of text that is www.kde.org. I just started with ev.kde.org for somewhat the same reasons. The KDE e.V. website explains what the e.V. does. You can find blog items about KDE e.V. here and there — for instance, from Sebas regarding the recent board meeting or the previous meeting in may, or from myself on the november meeting or regarding the -vorstand list or mentioning it in passing around Akademy. And our president, Cornelius Schumacher, wrote a nice what-is-KDE entry in October of this year. Frank and Celeste don’t tend to write about KDE e.V. business as far as I know, but I’m tired of searching right now.

So every now and then we try to explain what KDE e.V. is, what it does, how it’s run and what the KDE community can expect from it and how the KDE e.V. membership can contribute to the success of the association. I often liken KDE e.V. to a city’s amateur soccer association. You can play soccer without being a member, but if you want to support soccer in the city in a general fashion — for instance lobbying to make sure that the city keeps playing fields accessible — then being part of the association becomes important.

Anyway, that kind of stuff needs to be on the KDE e.V. website without being a wall of text.

The KDE e.V. website has an additional challenge right now: it switched its look from the older KDE 4.0 look to the latest "Chihuahua" technology produced by the KDE web-team. It looks much nicer now — even if it is width-limited to 800px. However, navigation has suffered because the e.V. site has a bunch of specific documents that are most useful, together with a deeper tree of stuff.

I have started by adding a "quick links" box to the front page, pointing to specific contact information, members and the most interesting forms and events things. Note that we don’t have a really good setup for the forms and events right now, that’s something to be partly automated and generally improved in the next weeks.

What I’m looking for is people who will go over the e.V. site checking links, double-checking texts, pointing out ambiguities and missing information, suggesting navigation improvements etc. etc. Throw stuff in the comments on this blog or send them to kde-ev-board (in the domain of KDE). Most important though is probably getting some nice graphics for various bits and pieces. I’d like the quick links box to have some cutesy icons (Eugene, this means you!). Some identifying graphics elsewhere as we run into identified needs. Perhaps a little CSS spice here and there.

The KDE www team lives in #kde-www on Freenode, and the KDE e.V. website lives in /home/kde/trunk/www/sites/kde-ev on KDE’s SVN server.