POSSCON: Open Source in the South East

It seems the majority of tech conferences are located in California and there aren’t near as many to choose from on the East Coast of the United States. There are even fewer in the South East. I only know of two open source conferences in the area and that’s why if you live nearby, I strongly recommend you reserve March 28-29 on your 2012 Calendar for the Palmetto Open Source Software Conference (POSSCON). I consider myself very fortunate to be working with Todd Lewis and the others on the POSSCON team to help make this year’s POSSCON another top-notch event.

POSSCON brings together developers and business leaders together in a fun, professional environment to discuss and learn about the latest open source technologies and how to use them in your . Bringing the best of open source concepts to the business world is what makes this conference unique. As Jim Jagielski said last year, “Imagine if OSCON and OSBC had a baby: its name would be POSSCON.” In addition, the conference always has good turnout from the government and healthcare sectors, many of whom are still learning all that open source has to offer.

Now in its fifth year, POSSCON brings world-class content and speakers to Columbia, South Carolina. The featured speaker this year is Scott McNealy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. As one of the most influential leaders in Silicon Valley, McNealy has a unique perspective on open source’s place in business. Larry Augustin, another driving force in open source and founder of SourceForge will also be keynoting. As there are too many great speakers to list here, please visit our website to read about the others.

This year’s tracks are Technical, Big Picture, Education, and Demo. The education track is one of our perpetually popular tracks; it was about the first to fill up with speakers this year. Ubuntu sysadmins will get a chance to learn more about JuJu with Canonical’s Charm School.

Early Early Bird Registration ends tomorrow so register now for the best deal on one of the best open source conferences in the South. And we’re still looking for sponsors to allow us to continue to make POSSCON an affordable opportunity for everyone.

Posted in Conferences, Linux, Ubuntu

Link: Ubuntu in the Corporate

I read this post today by Neil Broadley and thought it would make good reading for the Ubuntu Planet because personally I like hearing about how Ubuntu works in real world deployments.

Posted in Ubuntu

Accidental dput upload

Today, I uploaded the latest development build (3.3.4) of the Totem video player to the GNOME3 PPA (Rico actually did most of this packaging). The Ubuntu Desktop Team is keeping Totem 3.0 in the normal Ubuntu archives because newer versions of Totem require clutter which means users would need to have working 3D graphics which isn’t the case for everyone. For instance, I am “lucky” enough to own a Dell Mini which came with Ubuntu pre-installed but also unfortunately came with the poorly supported Intel GMA500 “Poulsbo” graphics cards and the open source drivers don’t really do 3D yet.

The purpose of the GNOME 3 PPA is to provide the pieces of GNOME that don’t make it into the archives (specifically, GNOME 3.0 for Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty” [no longer supported], 3.2 for Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric”, and 3.4 for Ubuntu 12.04 “Precise”) and Totem is a great example of one of these pieces.

But when I went to upload totem, I used the following command

dput ../build-area/totem_3.3.4-0ubuntu1~precise1_source.changes ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3

which didn’t do what I expected. For some Linux commands, the order of arguments doesn’t matter; for quite a few others like dput, order is important. dput completely ignored the “ppa:gnome3” part of my command because the destination has to go before the .changes filename. If no destination is listed before the .changes filename, then dput by default uploads to the official Ubuntu archives. Within a few minutes, I was contacted by the ever watchful Martin Pitt and Micah Gersten to find out if I really meant to do that.

For the Ubuntu archives,  packages in main like Totem can only depend on other packages in main, but the new totem depended on a universe package, mx. Because the new Totem was in dependency hold and didn’t actually build, Colin Watson was able to delete the source package and I uploaded a new totem-3.0.1-0ubuntu13 to replace it (which made a stop in the new queue first). If the package had built (which happens automatically unless there’s a dependency hold or the archives are frozen), we would instead have had to upload an ugly name like 3.3.4really3.0.1-0ubuntu1. Uploads to the Ubuntu archives must always have a greater number than previous uploads so that upgrades work (except -proposed but that’s different) but there weren’t any binary packages produced for anyone to upgrade to so this worked. By the way, the “really” uploads aren’t always accidents; sometimes Ubuntu developers decide that it would be better to remain with an older, more stable package when the newer version is found to not work very well.

I’m posting this  so that when someone else does this in the future, they’ll have a bit of a writeup on what needs to happen to fix it. Also, I’ve fixed my dput so this won’t happen so easily to me in the future.

  1. Edit /etc/dput.cf .
  2. In the [DEFAULT] section, change the value of default_host_main to local. Leaving it blank isn’t a good choice as dput will default to uploading to the Debian FTP incoming server which isn’t a great place to accidentally upload something either.

I strongly recommend that anyone with Ubuntu upload rights make this change to their dput configuration, but I wonder if dput should be made more foolproof and not default to uploading to the Ubuntu official archives?

Posted in Ubuntu

Ubuntu 12.04: Now With Quieter Logins

Peter Savage

With all of the changes in Ubuntu’s desktop over the past few months, it might seem remarkable that Ubuntu’s logon sound has been basically unchanged in 5 years. The sound theme was designed by a community contributor named Peter Savage. Back in those “edgy” days, Ubuntu had more of an African flavor which is of course reflected in the sound theme. (Peter also has contributed to Edubuntu and wrote Emblem Divide, a sci-fi book distributed at no cost but the author encourages readers to contribute to charities.)

I had only been using Ubuntu for a few months at that point so I have a hard time remembering what the earlier sound theme was (which had been introduced for Ubuntu’s first release, Warty Warthog in 2004). For historical reference, here are the sound clips:

Warty Startup

Warty Shutdown

Edgy Login Sound

For a while, I was thinking that Ubuntu should have a community contest similar to the wallpaper and countdown banner ones. More recently, I think that it would be better not to have a login sound at all. How many of us have had our computers (Ubuntu, Windows XP or whatever) or cellphones loudly announce to everyone that they have been turned on, too often at the wrong time? I think a historical reason for the logon sound was because computers used to take a long time to turn on. Fortunately, Ubuntu boots pretty quickly these days so that reason is obsolete.

Today, I uploaded a new version of libcanberra to Precise (12.04) which disables the login sound by default:

  * 02_disable_login_sound.patch:
    - Disable the login sound by default, since it seems to be more
      disruptive than helpful especially with faster boots

If you still like hearing the login sound, click Startup Applications in the system menu at the top right of your computer and make sure the GNOME Login Sound box is checked. (Or if you’re using Ubuntu 11.10 or earlier and don’t like it, make sure that box is unchecked.)

I’d like to close by reminding you that it’s possible to contribute to Ubuntu without being a Canonical employee and without even being a programmer. You contributions can have a big impact like Peter’s 7-second composition which has been heard by tens of millions of people since 2006.

Posted in Ubuntu

How to Sync Packages from Debian to your PPA

If you’re a PPA maintainer, what do you do when you have the cool app (or a newer version of that cool app) you want to use has already been packaged in Debian but isn’t available in the Ubuntu repositories yet? I couldn’t find documentation on how to sync to a PPA so I thought I’d share what I figured out today.

  1. First, install ubuntu-dev-tools.
  2. Then run syncpackage --no-lp nameofpackage
  3. Then upload to your PPA: dput ppa:username/ppaname *source.changes

The --no-lp option is very important; if you don’t use that, syncpackage will attempt to upload to the main Ubuntu repositories.

If you’re running Ubuntu 11.10, step 2 will sync from Debian unstable for upload to Oneiric. If this isn’t what you need then use -d to specify the Debian download series and -r to specify the Ubuntu upload series.

Here’s a real-world example:
$ syncpackage --no-lp tracker -d experimental
syncpackage: Downloading tracker_0.12.4.orig.tar.bz2 from ftp.debian.org (7.640 MiB)
syncpackage: Downloading tracker_0.12.4-1.debian.tar.gz from ftp.debian.org (0.018 MiB)
dpkg-source: info: extracting tracker in tracker-0.12.4
dpkg-source: info: unpacking tracker_0.12.4.orig.tar.bz2
dpkg-source: info: unpacking tracker_0.12.4-1.debian.tar.gz
signfile tracker_0.12.4-1.dsc Jeremy Bicha <EMAIL>
signfile tracker_0.12.4-1_source.changes Jeremy Bicha <EMAIL>
Successfully signed dsc and changes files
$ dput ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3 tracker_0.12.4-1_source.changes
Checking signature on .changes
gpg: Signature made Sun 09 Oct 2011 11:28:07 AM EDT using RSA key ID EBFE6C7D
gpg: Good signature from "Jeremy Bicha <EMAIL>"
Good signature on /home/jeremy/devel/nemiver/temp4/tracker_0.12.4-1_source.changes.
Checking signature on .dsc
gpg: Signature made Sun 09 Oct 2011 11:28:06 AM EDT using RSA key ID EBFE6C7D
gpg: Good signature from "Jeremy Bicha <EMAIL>"
Good signature on /home/jeremy/devel/nemiver/temp4/tracker_0.12.4-1.dsc.
Uploading to ppa (via sftp to ppa.launchpad.net):
tracker_0.12.4-1.dsc: done.
tracker_0.12.4.orig.tar.bz2: done.
tracker_0.12.4-1.debian.tar.gz: done.
tracker_0.12.4-1_source.changes: done.
Successfully uploaded packages.

EDIT: micahg has suggested backportpackage which can do all this and more. One command can pull from any official Debian or Ubuntu repository, build locally, and upload to your PPA.

Posted in Ubuntu

Getting Started with GNOME Shell & Fallback in Ubuntu 11.10


A Garden Gnome with a conch to his earWhether Ubuntu users are fans of Unity or not, I expect many are interested in at least looking at what GNOME Shell is. This wasn’t easily possible in Ubuntu 11.04. (As explained elsewhere, converting Unity–including rewriting it as a Compiz plugin–and migrating to GNOME 3 was too much for one cycle. And arguably, it wasn’t certain if GNOME 3 would be ready in time or not.) But in Ubuntu 11.10, all it takes to try it out is to simply install gnome-shell. Log out and choose GNOME from the gear next to your name as you login.

You’ll also likely want to install gnome-tweak-tool since Ambiance doesn’t fully support GNOME Shell yet and will look out-of-place with orange-striped titlebars. Once in gnome-tweak-tool (it shows up in the application launchers as Advanced Settings), go to the theme panel and set Window theme to Adwaita. If you are already running GNOME Shell, you’ll need to reload either by logging in and out or via a shortcut by pressing Alt+F2 and entering the letter r. It’s probably a bug that you can’t change the window theme live but since Adwaita is Sanskrit for “one and only”, perhaps the GNOME developers aren’t too worried about that. (Just kidding.)

There simply isn’t space here to explain the new interface for GNOME Shell so if you want to learn more, I recommend you look at:

GNOME Fallback

Album Cover for "The Fallback: Left Foot Forward"Some may also be interested in continuing to run gnome-panel, which is the basic component of GNOME Fallback. All you need for that is to install gnome-panel. Choose GNOME Classic for a Compiz version or GNOME Classic (No Effects) for the plain Metacity version. (By the way, Unity uses Compiz and Unity 2D uses Metacity but they look quite a bit different.)

While about 20 panel applets are included, if you use third-party panel applets you’ll likely find that these haven’t been ported to gnome-panel 3 yet. Notably absent also are the indicators which may still be ported before Ubuntu 11.10’s release but this hasn’t been completed yet. Note that even after the indicators are converted, they likely won’t be turned on by default as the Ubuntu Desktop developers prefer to keep gnome-panel mostly “vanilla” because maintaining a bunch of patches is a pain. There’s a theory that gnome-panel users may prefer the plain GNOME look instead of the Ubuntu feel.

You probably also want to know that editing the different parts of the panel now requires holding down the Alt key. Once again, Ambiance doesn’t display quite right with gnome-panel but this time it’s the GTK+ theme that you’ll want to switch to Adwaita with gnome-tweak-tool.

I believe the vast majority of GNOME developers do not use GNOME Fallback and I recommend you begin looking at switching to an alternate desktop environment. It’s still supported but it won’t be forever.


Ubuntu 11.10 is still in beta with a fair amount of bugs and is not recommended if you don’t know how to fix your system when things break. Because GNOME Shell wasn’t fully supported in Ubuntu 11.04 (despite the existence of the Ubuntu Desktop-sponsored PPA. Thanks ricotz for keeping it updated!), Shell users should consider upgrading. GNOME Panel users on the other hand will definitely get a worse experience, at least until the indicators are converted. And Unity users should only upgrade if you don’t mind running beta software and know how to fix things when they go wrong. Anyway, Ubuntu 11.10 will be officially released in a bit over 1 month!

Posted in Ubuntu

Should Upstream Contributions Count?

The Ubuntu Community Council will be deciding in a week or so whether upstream or external contributions count for Ubuntu membership & commit privileges. I always thought that all contributions that were for the good of Ubuntu counted. I believe part of my thinking comes from Mark Shuttleworth’s quote in 2005:

Every Debian developer is also an Ubuntu developer, because one way to contribute to Ubuntu is to contribute to Debian….Without Debian, Ubuntu would not be possible.

But it looks like I hold the minority viewpoint.

I believe contributors should not be penalized for working upstream. For instance, I could write Ubuntu desktop documentation or I could write the documentation for Gnome, knowing that my work would be shipped with Ubuntu & other distributions. I could fix KDE bugs by patching Kubuntu or I could fix them at the source (Kubuntu in particular does try to fix as much as possible at the source). Gwibber is shipped by default in Ubuntu but not as far as I know in any other non-Ubuntu derivative distribution. Should Gwibber developers be held back because they did not make their software Ubuntu-only?

Upstream contributions should carry significant weight. It is definitely not Ubuntu’s philosophy to discourage improving upstream.

An upstream developer who has no involvement with the Ubuntu community should not gain Ubuntu status, but an individual who does have strong Ubuntu social connections but contributes upstream should get appropriate status. More specifically, Ubuntu membership should be granted, and PPU (per-package upload rights) can be granted if the individual has decent Debian packaging skills. Core & MOTU upload privileges must only be given to those with strong, proven packaging skills…which obviously includes many Debian Developers.

Therefore, my opinion is that significant upstream contributions should count as significant contributions to Ubuntu if they are indeed significant to Ubuntu. However, it is important that the prospective member also be a part of the Ubuntu community and hold to Ubuntu values.

Posted in Ubuntu

Be Sure Your Adobe Flash Player is Up to Date

Hi, just a public service announcement to remind you that if you use Adobe Flash Player, it is important that you keep up-to-date. Fortunately, the Ubuntu repositories already have the latest security update for 10.04, 10.10, 11.04, and the still-in-development 11.10, so you should already be safe but it doesn’t hurt to check Update Manager to make sure that you’ve installed all your updates. (Remember that you need to restart your web browser to use updated plugins.)

However if you use Windows, you’ll need to update manually. Remember that Adobe has two installers for Windows, one for Internet Explorer & one for all the other web browsers. While you’re at it, be sure to update Adobe Reader if you use it as there’s a security update for that too this week. You should also ensure that that you don’t have any versions of Java older than 6 Update 26 installed in Windows either. I use FileHippo.com’s Update Checker to keep up-to-date since Windows Update doesn’t include third-party software.

I strongly recommend that you not use Adobe’s native 64-bit “Square” Flash plugin either on Windows or Linux. Adobe hasn’t bothered to update their preview release since last November and there have been several critical security updates released since then. Although Windows users are most at risk, these vulnerabilities affect Linux too. I realized today that I was still using a PPA build of this 64-bit plugin and therefore was opening myself up for trouble. I replaced it with the ordinary flashplugin-installer that is in the Ubuntu repositories.

If you go to this page on Adobe’s website, you can verify that you have version or later installed. Android should be using or later.

Mozilla has a handy website you can visit to see if your web browser plugins are up-to-date. You don’t have to be using Firefox to use it as it works for most browsers.

If you’d like more technical information about how important this week’s Flash security update is, check out this post.

Posted in Linux, Ubuntu, Windows

Improvements to the Gnome 3 PPA (5 May Edition)

Before today Gnome 3 PPA users on Ubuntu were unable to log in to Unity or Ubuntu Classic unless they kept gnome-session at version 2.32. I got this bug fixed. Basically, gnome-session changed the login configuration format. While both the old and new formats work on 2.32, at least in Ubuntu 11.04, with gnome-session 3 only the new format is supported. KDE’s login was unaffected as it uses a different mechanism.

Remaining issues: Unity 2D has not been updated with the new login format so you will still be unable to log in to that version. I’m not sure whether this will be backported to  11.04 or not. I might package this in my own PPA but this isn’t something that I expect the official Gnome 3 PPA to include, as it would be a maintenance headache to keep the PPA version up-to-date with whatever updates Unity 2D puts out. Also, I helped break the Guest login feature as the name for the sessions have changed to use the upstream gnome-fallback naming.

Another bug I fixed this week was that telling gnome-tweak-tool on the File Manager tab to Have file manager draw the desktop didn’t actually work. Now it does. Be aware that actually setting this will cause the file manager to not open when you tell it to from several of the most obvious links in the interface. You can still run nautilus .  from the command line (and yes, the period is important) to work around this bug which will be fixed in the next version of nautilus but it might be a few weeks before that fix reaches the PPA or Oneiric. I still don’t know whether we’ll turn on desktop icons by default; I presume we will as right-clicking to change the desktop background won’t work otherwise.

I also restored the “Home Folder” shortcut to Unity’s Launcher, although since I guess many people weren’t using Nautilus 3 and Unity at the same time, few noticed it was broken.

Since this is my first post about Gnome 3 fixes, I’ll also mention some older fixes I did to get Gnome 3 working better for Ubuntu. I restored the missing “System Settings” link to the Session menu and I fixed the “Sound Preferences” link in the Sound menu. I also fixed a cheese dependency so video effects would work instead of crashing cheese when clicked.

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Posted in Ubuntu

How to Use the Gnome 3 PPA in Ubuntu 11.04

Updated: 5 May 2011

How do you use Gnome Shell on Ubuntu 11.04? The simple answer is you don’t. Yes, there is an experimental PPA but it will break your computer.

Why will it break my computer?

The Ubuntu Desktop Team has been very busy getting Ubuntu 11.04 out the door. The transition to Unity in this release is the biggest change in Ubuntu I can remember. The Desktop Team is not really very large and most of the members have other responsibilities and interests. There were many bugs that needed looking after.

At the beginning of the 11.04 Natty release cycle the Ubuntu developers (those that do the work to get a new and improved Ubuntu to you every 6 months) decided to hold off on the transition to Gnome 3. With Unity alone, this release cycle was going to be very busy and transitioning to Gnome 3 is not as simple as just pushing some updated packages. As Gnome 3 had already missed 2 releases and was scheduled to the 3.0 release just a few weeks before Ubuntu 11.04 had to be released, I can understand that decision.

A few Gnome 3 packages were allowed in if they were judged not to be too disruptive (we have a new Help viewer and new Desktop Help and there are other examples). An example of how things could break is that mousetweaks 3 was shipped in 11.04 but it does not work right with Gnome Control Center 2.32 so I believe mousetweaks will have to be downgraded.

How will it break my computer?

  • You will not be able to log in to Unity 2D until the required gnome-session support is enabled in Unity 2D.
  • For me, gnome-power-manager is broken, meaning I don’t get notifications of my battery status. I have had my computer spontaneously turn off because it had been accidentally unplugged for 2 hours, causing me to lose work.
  • The new GDM login screen looks nice but it has various issues on Ubuntu.
  • GDM 3 will mess up your $PATH and possibly your locale settings. This means you can’t run games normally.
  • The System Log Viewer won’t actually display system logs.
  • Your theme will be broken; in other words, your Ubuntu will look uglier.
  • You will not be able to use the new overlay scrollbars.
  • By default, you will not have icons on your desktop. You can change this, but the file manager won’t work right. You can still run nautilus .  from the command line (and yes, the period is important) to work around this bug which will be fixed in the next version of nautilus.
  • If you’re one of the few who don’t use Ubuntu’s default black screen as your “screensaver”, be aware that Gnome 3 does not really support other screensavers.

Please tell me how to break my computer

If you want to break your computer, simply install the gnome3-team PPA. If you can’t figure out how to do that, this PPA is not for you.

Apt-pinning is a good way to use some software from a repository without using other software. The Ubuntu wiki uses the example of the Mozilla daily repo where you may want bleeding edge versions of Firefox but not Thunderbird. Even with apt-pinning or blacklisting, there are some bugs and interface problems which are unavoidable if you use this PPA.

To enable an improved Gnome 3 experience, the Desktop Team provides a version of network-manager that does not launch the normal nm-applet you will need if you want to use wifi on Unity easily without logging in to Gnome Shell first. To blacklist the PPA version, create a new file:

sudo nano /etc/apt/preferences.d/network-manager-gnome

and put this in it:
Package: network-manager-gnome
Pin: release o=LP-PPA-gnome3-team-gnome3
Pin-Priority: -10

Now you should be able to do a full upgrade. Install gnome-shell, gnome-fallback-session, and gnome-tweak-tool. You’ll need gnome-tweak-tool to set your icon theme back to something normal. Personally, I recommend setting your GTK+ theme to  Adwaita and your  icon-theme to ubuntu-mono-light (on the Interface tab).  To show icons on your desktop, switch to the File Manager tab and switch on Have file manager draw the desktop. Reboot.

I want my computer unbroken

I can’t really provide support for those who install this PPA. It may have lasting effects which are not easily fixed.

Nevertheless, this is a simple description of how you do it. From a command line:

sudo apt-get install ppa-purge
sudo ppa-purge ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3

It will ask you for confirmation. Choose Yes. You may need to reinstall ubuntu-desktop afterwards. I talked to one individual today who had trouble with the login screen.

In Conclusion

Now that Ubuntu 11.04 has been released, developers will be hard at work to get Gnome 3 ready for 11.10. Some of that work may trickle down into the PPA but it is generally a bad idea to attempt to replace a large portion of the Desktop with a beta PPA so you will probably just have to wait for 11.10.

Some view this as a big conspiracy that Ubuntu is trying to kill Gnome or Gnome Shell. This is not true but some people will always assume the worst about individuals who make different decisions than they would have. Ubuntu 11.10 will ship with an even better Unity and Unity 2D powered by Gnome 3. Gnome Shell and Gnome Fallback (currently named gnome-session-fallback in the Debian/Ubuntu repositories, but is basically just a newer version of Gnome Panel) will be an easy install from the default repositories and fully supported. I expect there will be an unofficial Live Gnome Shell Ubuntu CD then also but I don’t think the Ubuntu developers see much interest in making that an official flavor for a variety of reasons.

I will try to update my blog if I receive any additional tips.

I am a Ubuntu volunteer who has submitted some patches to Ubuntu & the Gnome 3 experience in Ubuntu. I also am part of the Ubuntu Documentation Team.

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Jeremy Bicha

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