Up and down the hillside

We just got home from a week of holidays in Norway, with lots of spectacular scenery and fresh air.

Energy consumption up and down the mountain.

The cabin was located about 900 meters above sea level. The first 600 meters climb from Oslo during the course of a few hours went by almost unnoticed. The last ~300 meters were for us from flat Denmark a bit more unusual.

Notice how the energy consumption of our Tesla 3 rose significantly during the last approx 600 meters climb to the cabin, and how the trip downhill actually charged the battery instead of using energy (the green area on the graph).

Attention Ubuntu One administrators / Canonical Server Staff

When your service over a period of several days is unavailable (or at least very flacky) for a number of users, it would really be appreciated if you would at least give some kind of acknowledgement of the problem, and a time frame for when you would expect the problem to be fixed.

A Twitter account that has last been updated July of last year and a wiki Status page that states “Service information available“, with latest updates from March last year is not good enough.

I enjoy my Ubuntu One file storage, but when a problem is happening for four days, without any information given to the users, I start looking around for alternatives. We all know they are out there…

(Yes, I did file a bug report…)

UDS Blog-o-Rama: My first UDS

So, I’m attending my first UDS in my hometown of Copenhagen.

As a non-developer my primary focus has been on the community track, but in general it has been exciting just to be around all the great people who make Ubuntu happen.

I think the most important thing I will be taking with me from this UDS is the use of Launchpad Blueprints for team-management. My understanding is that so far Blueprints have primarily been used by development-teams to track and manage their work, but there is no reason for LoCo teams and other teams to not use Blueprints.

Thanks to Randall for organizing this blog-sweatshop-o-rama :)

Photo by: Will Scullin

Would you pay for Open Source Software

Recently Peter Toft wrote a blog entry (in Danish) entitled Hånden på hjertet: Vil du betale for Open Source?, which roughly translates into
Honestly, would you pay for Open Source?

The blog post and the associated comments are all in Danish, but those who answered yes can be split into three groups (I’m generalizing a bit here, read the comments, if you want the details)

  • Yes, and I do occasionally. Either through one-time donations or buying merchandise.
  • Yes, and I have some sort of monthly subscription/membership, like jointhegame.kde.org/ or FSF.
  • Yes, but I don’t know where to throw my money.
    If I had to support the development of all the (open source) software I use, it would ruin me, because I use so many open source programs. If there was a central place I could pay, and have my money distributed, that would work for me.

I myself belong in the first category, mainly through merchandise purchases.
But I must admit that I do share some of the thoughts of the people in the last category. If I want to donate my money to pay for developer hours and I don’t want the hassle of shopping around, to locate and distribute money to all the many projects deserving support, where do I go?

So I would like to bring Peters question to the wider audience of Planet Ubuntu. (If you found this blog post through some other means, feel free to share your thoughts as well).

Would you pay for Open Source Software?

If yes, what would/do you pay for?
A specific product, monthly subscriptions, merchandise or something else?

If no, why not?
Is free the most important aspect of Free Software?
Are there to many places to throw your money, so you choose not to at all?

Would you be interested in donating to some sort of foundation, whose sole purpose it was to pay Open Source developers to work full time on what ever project they were working on?
Photo by: Philip Taylor

Happy World Blood Donor Day! #WBDD

Today, June 14, is World Blood Donor Day, and this years theme is Every blood donor is a hero.

I like the idea of being able to stand tall and say proudly that every three months I help save lives, even though I don’t wear a cape or similar hero-outfit.


I find that giving blood takes less that 30 minutes and is generally no hassle at all. My next donation is this coming Monday, and I’m already looking forward to the free juice and biscuits.

If you are not already a blood donor, please consider signing up.


We have Jam in Denmark as well. We just call it Marmelade.

We meet at Carlton at 10 o’clock Saturday September third.

Anyone is welcome, no special skills required. If you would like to test the latest Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot you should come by. (At that time Beta1 should just have been released for your testing pleasure.)
If you would like to work with translations, that is an option too. There will be people present with experience in that area if you need a quick introduction.
The jam is also a great opportunity to learn about working with bug work in Ubuntu, and how we use Launchpad to do bug-work.

If you happen to be somewhere else than near Copenhagen during the Global Jam, but still want to participate, take a look at the list over here, where all the jams from around the globe are listed: http://loco.ubuntu.com/events/global/1011/detail/.
If there is no jam near you, get in touch with your local LoCo team and talk to them about the possibility of having a jam. It doesn’t need to be big, fancy and 100 people. I know from experience that a few people meeting in a living room to jam can be a positive experience.

Image by: tyo.. The labels are actually in German, but I didn’t want to use more time looking through Flickr.

The two greatest things about Google+

I have been looking around Google+ the last few days and it seems nice. The interface is intuitive, the Android app works fine, and the idea of putting your friends and acquaintances in circles to sort them by your relationship with them is (while not a new concept) clever.
In general I like most of the Google services and this one has that google feel that makes your average google fanboy (like me) feel good using it.

There is really no reason to pretend that Google+ is not taking on Facebook (I think Google themselves are the only ones claiming that it does something different from what Facebook does), so a comparison is straight forward.
On both systems I can stay in touch and share with people I know. That is basically it, and both systems do this. Who does it best isn’t really that important. As with all social networking tools, what matters most is if the people I want to socialize with are using the system.

So, is there any reason to believe that Facebook and/or Google+ is going to be the last social network I’m going to sigh up with? Properly not.

So as a user, I’m really interested in being able to migrate my data  (content, connections, personal info) easily from one network to the next.
And that is the first great feature of Google+. Getting your data out is easy – there is a menu option under Account Settings called Data liberation. It let’s you export your data nice and easy. (See the screen shots to your right.)

The other great thing is the option to delete your account. Facebook has been infamous exactly because this is so hard to do with Facebook accounts. First you have to go through the process of deactivating your account, and only then can you request it to be deleted. But Google is presenting this option one click from my Google+ frontpage.

These two features of Google+ is, in my mind, helping people understand that they are free to leave any social media site, and if they can’t bring their data with them, it’s not really the right place to be to begin with.

But I may be wrong. In the end, the most popular site is properly going to be the one with most kittens

Kittens! by jameswragg

Is Google+ going to take out Facebook?

So, what is Google+?

That was the question that struck me today while reading xkcd.
It would seem that Google is trying their hands at a full scale social network.

They have tried and failed not quite succeeded in the past. Google is fantastic at seaching, presenting information and seraching and processing your own data.
Their social services have been less successful.
Google Buzz never really took off, and their collaborative tool, Google Wave is now being killed off (at least as a Google service).

But maybe this time they will succeed. The central difference between Facebook and Google+ seems to be what Google describes as circles. Basically you have to sort your contacts. This ensures that things you just want to share with a select few of your contacts doesn’t reach the eyes of all your contacts. The obvious example being the pictures from last night that you may want to share with your close friends, but maybe not with your boss.
Facebook does have something like this implemented (they call it lists), but it is far from intuitive to use.

Another strength that Google has in the coming struggle with Facebook is their track-record. Google has a motto of don’t be evil. Facebook has with their actions time and time again showed that they in fact don’t care about the privacy of their users.

From my point of view, anything else than Facebook can almost only be better. However, that it will be up to everyone to make up their own mind on this matter. The problem with social media is that what really matters is if the people you want to interact with are using your network of choice or not. Not much fun sharing funny stories only with your self…

One issue that Google+ won’t be tackling, in regard to privacy, is the fact that all the data will be located on Google’s servers. Being an American company, that means that quite a lot of law enforcement agencies will have access to the data – and they don’t have to inform the people whose data gets handed over.

In the long run I hope to get all my social media needs fulfilled by some sort of distributed system, where I at least have the option to control my own data. When it matures out of the current testing status, Diaspora might be a candidate to provide this.
In the meantime I am very interested in seeing how well Google manages to implement their Google+ social network. As I stated above, from my point of view, anything is going to better than Facebook. The possible integration with other Google services, such as Picasa, also seems interesting.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Running a Diaspora pod on Ubuntu 10.10

Edit: Since Diaspora has switched from mongo db to mysql, the procedure below is now outdated. I may or may not update this page, or write a new guide.

During the holidays I have had some time to look into Diaspora.
Diaspora is a distributed social network, with a focus on privacy, security and ownership of ones own content. Everyone is free to run their own pod, and users on different pods can connect and communicate with each other. (Diaspora servers are called pods). The Diaspora software is still being developed and is in an alpha state.

Installing Diaspora
There is a great guide to installing Diaspora on Mac OSX, Ubuntu or Fedora here.
On Ubuntu 10.10 it boils down to this.

First install some required packages.
sudo apt-get install build-essential libxslt1.1 libxslt1-dev libxml2 ruby-full mongodb libssl-dev imagemagick libmagick9-dev git-core redis-server rubygems
sudo gem install bundler
sudo ln -s /var/lib/gems/1.8/bin/bundle /usr/local/bin/bundle

Then get Diaspora and the required gems.
git clone http://github.com/diaspora/diaspora.git
cd diaspora
bundle install --path vendor

Configure Diaspora and nginx
cd config
cp app_config.yml.example app_config.yml

now edit app_config.yml and change the hostname. If you want your pod to be able to send e-mail also edit the mailer_on and smtp_* entries. All the rest is for more advance settings, and your pod should run just fine with the default settings.

One last thing that needs to be set up, before you can enjoy your very own Diaspora server is a proxy, so that requests sent to port 80 are routed to port 3000.
I use the nginx server, as recommended.

Create a file called diaspora in /etc/nginx/sites-available with this content (where you of course change name-of-your-domain to the relevant string):

server {
        listen   80;
        server_name  diaspora.name-of-your-domain;
        access_log  /var/log/nginx/diaspora.name-of-your-domain.access.log;
        location / {
                proxy_pass http://name-of-your-domain:3000;

Activate it with
sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/diaspora /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/diaspora
Then restart the nginx server with
sudo /etc/init.d/nginx restart

Finally, if you also want to allow the users of your pod to propagate their status to Twitter and Facebook, you should follow this easy guide on how to configure the oauth_keysm.yml file.

You should now be able to start your pod by issuing
from the diaspora directory.

Running Diaspora
However, this way of starting the pod can result in an inability to add contacts from other pods. So inspired by this you can do the following.

sudo update-rc.d -f redis-server remove
sudo sed -i 's/daemonize yes/daemonize no/' redis.conf
sudo /usr/bin/redis-server /etc/redis/redis.conf &

(You will need to start the redis server each time you reboot your host, or if the server fails in other ways.)

Now, each time you want to start your Diaspora pod run the following three commands from the diaspora directory. Wait for one service to start, before starting the next.

ruby script/websocket_server.rb &

QUEUE=receive,mail,receive_local,socket_webfinger,http_service,http,receive_salmon bundle exec rake resque:work &

bundle exec thin start -p 3000 -e development &

You can of course do this more elegantly, by wrapping it up in some scripts, but hopefully you get the idea. So instead of using the script/server script I use those three commands to start my pod.

Now your pod should finally be ready for use.

Now what?
So, should everyone run their own server? Properly not. Diaspora is still so early in the development process that normal users should think twice before using it. The features are limited, and there are still plenty of bugs.

But if you want to see what it can do, look for bugs or are just curious, then why not?. However, you don’t need to run your own pod for that. There are plenty of pods out there that accept new user signups.
Take a look at the list over here: http://podup.sargodarya.de/.

You should also feel free to use my pod, located at diaspora.compadre.dk.
What ever you choose to do, please note that this is still alpha-software, and should be treated as such.

If you need someone to add as contact for testing purposes, feel free to add me: soeren_b_c@diaspora.compadre.dk.

For more info about Diaspora see:

https://joindiaspora.com/ – the official Diaspora website, that also hosts a pod, run by the core developers. Currently the pod at joindiaspora.com is closed for new signups, but due to the distributed nature of Diaspora any pod should be fine, as long as you trust the people running the pod.
http://podup.sargodarya.de/ – list of running pods.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaspora_%28software%29 – Wikipedia article

Slicehost vs. Linode vs. ???

I have some projects in mind that would require some hosting – and not just some casual web-hosting, but actual root access.

If I will ever get the time to work on the projects is another issue, but the first step would be to actually get some hosting.

A quick Google search seem to indicate that Slicehost and Linode pretty much provide what I’m looking for, at a reasonable price.

So far I’m leaning towards Linode. Mainly because they have a data center in London, and I might as well have the host as close to me as possible, should all cables across the Atlantic suddenly be severed.
They also seem to have a little lower prices on what to me looks like comparable products. But I haven’t made up my mind yet.
If you have any experience with either of the two companies I would appreciate your thoughts in the comments below.
Also, if you know of companies that provide similar services (within the same price range), let me know, but my quick Google search seems to come up with only the two companies.

Thank you in advance.