Tag Archives: mhvlug

10 Years of MHVLUG

10 years ago today I was on a plane, back from Portland, Oregon, to experiment on something new. For the previous 3 months I’d been working towards a kickoff for a local Linux Users Group.

We had a venue: the Mid Hudson Library System Auditorium. We had a date and time:  Wed the 5th of March, 6pm. We had a speaker: Michael Kaegler talking on Linux Firewalling. We had a mailing list and a website, and could clearly see there was interest in the group. But we’d never had a meeting, so this was the moment of truth.

But I was on a plane, racing to get back for the meeting. A month prior my job had changed, I’d started working on OpenHPI, and I’d picked up some standards work, and that meant a trip out of Portland for a 2 day standards meeting with a lot of Intel folks. I managed to get a flight which “should” get me back in time, but I had a plan B to have a Mike Salerno kick off the meeting in my absence. I landed at 5:15, was in my car by 5:30. The meeting was at least 35 minutes away, and there was traffic. Plan B was going to have to be good enough.

When I walked in the door I was blown away. The room was packed! There were at least 35 folks when I arrived, and over the course of the meeting it grew to 50. Wow. I was hoping that it would be more than just me and a few coworkers, but never had I imagined this. I wondered how long this experiment would run, fully imagining that after two years we’d run out of steam and interest and move on.

It’s been 10 years, and MHVLUG is still running strong, better than ever.

For everyone that was part of our first decade, making MHVLUG successful: Thank You. This is a community first, and it’s the people that make this awesome.

For everyone that hasn’t checked us out yet, our 10th Anniversary meeting is tomorrow. We’re going to be talking about: Linux where you least expect it. There will be cake, coffee, and conversation. There will be time for socializing and mixing, to become part of this dynamic community. Join us as we start decade number two.

OpenStack Talk at MHVLUG

On Wed, Sept 5th, I’ll be giving the talk on OpenStack at MHVLUG. The last six months working on the project have been really spectacular, great learning curve, really good community members, and a very exciting potential for where the project is going to go. I’m quite looking forward to going back to work next week after this summer holiday, because I can’t wait to get back into the code.

I’ll provide my personal take with current trends in cloud computing, and hopefully create a lot of in room discussion. We’ll go from that industry lens, to a deeper look at OpenStack. I’m a big believer that like operating systems, web stacks, and virtualization, the essential infrastructure of cloud computing needs to be open source.

If you are in the Mid Hudson Valley next Wed, come check out my talk.

Drupal Meetup Events Module

I just released version 1.1 of the meetup_events module for Drupal. I started building this about 6 months ago when we started using Meetup for Mid Hudson Astronomical Association to draw in new members.

I hate data entry. I find entering the same data twice into a computer one of the most soul sucking things I could do. So having both events on our website, and on meetup, meant I needed to automate things.

Meetup events was thus born. The model is simple, your Drupal site is considered the authoritative resource. You select which node types (which have date fields) you want to sync to meetup, and whenever you create or update an event of that type a meetup entry is made (or updated) accordingly. The body content that is synced is tokenized (and I added a few tokens for getting nodereference content). Venues are a little hokey right now, but I just provide a selector for a numeric field either on the main type or on a nodereference which maps to it.

meetup_events settings

Once you set up the module, including your API key and group url, you pretty much forget it is there. Then you just edit as per normal. Any time you save a type that you are syncing you’ll notice this:

Which includes a link to the meetup event that was just saved.

One of the more recent things I worked on was integration with views so that there is now a Meetup Events: Meetup Link view field for nodes. If you add that to a node listing (and you’ve registered for an oauth key) you’ll get the meetup dynamic RSVP button for your event.

That required a bit of tweaking of the rsvp javascript to make it play nice with Drupal, but given that the meetup team was kind enough to release that code under open source.

There is plenty of work remaining here, ways this could be nicer, but I’m pretty pleased with the results so far. It’s made me learn a bunch about Drupal’s ctools module, more than I ever wanted to know about the drupal settings system, and how to pull in incompatible versions of jquery in custom tools.

I’ve also been really happy with my experience with the Meetup team. They’ve added multiple API calls for me to make my life easier. Thanks guys. If every developer facing team acted like that, the world would be a much better place.

The meetup platform is turning out to be a really great way for our Astronomy club to draw in new people, and I’ve started using it for MHVLUG now as well. Now that I’ve got meetup_events, I can do that seamlessly without data duplication, or degrading our native experience. If you are interested in doing the same, check out the module. Bugs and patches welcomed.

My Unity Tweaks

Last night our MHVLUG meeting was a Desktop Shootout, where people showed off their Linux desktop environments what they liked and what they didn’t. I went last, presenting Unity, and got a few good questions and comments about how I did things.

White listing the Tray

I have a number of apps (RedShift GUI and an IBM firewall thing being prime examples) that minimize to the system tray. Under default Unity this means there is no UI for them. So I’ve done a broad white listing all all applications in the tray. It definitely looks a little uglier now, but at least it works. 🙂

Alt Tab

The default alt tab behavior drives me nuts, because it collapses 2 chrome windows into a single item. So you can’t quickly use it to flip between 2 browser windows. This is provided by the Unity compiz plugin. Fortunately you can just load up one of the other compiz switchers instead.

Run ccsm (Compiz Config Settings Manager) and scroll down to the Window Manangement section. You’ll want to enable “Application Switcher” and configure Next Window (All windows) key stroke there.

If there are other questions you think off, please just ask in comments, and I’ll update the post with the answers.

The Future of Libraries

The metafilter comment that’s been circling about what the massive cut to library funding in California really means:

Every day at my job I helped people just barely survive. Forget trying to form grass roots political activism by creating a society of computer users, forget trying to be the ‘people’s university’ and create a body of well informed citizens. Instead I helped people navigate through the degrading hoops of modern online society, fighting for scraps from the plate, and then kicking back afterwards by pretending to have a farm on Facebook (well, that is if they had any of their 2 hours left when they were done). What were we doing during the nineties? What were we doing during the boom that we’ve been left so ill served during the bust? No one seems to know. They come in to our classes and ask us if we have any ideas, and I do, but those ideas take money, and political will, and guts, and the closer I get to graduation the less and less I suspect that any of those things exist.

I’m a big supporter of libraries. We give annually to our local library (both financially and books and DVDs). I think Librarians are some of the few folks that really get what Copyright should be, and are very reliable advocates for sane copyright policy.

But at the same time I’ve got substantial frustration with parts of our libraries. I’m involved with multiple organizations that create really high quality educational content (MHLVUG and the Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association being the topic examples). For 9 years we used the Mid-Hudson Library System space (for a fee) with MHVLUG. It was a great space, but there was a huge missed opportunity, as our relationship with MHLS was always just that of a tenant. At the end, MHLS cutbacks meant we had to find another space, where we moved to Vassar College.

Contrast this with the Astronomy events I’ve led at Vassar College’s Farm Preserve. Not only were we given space, but we were wrapped into their series of events on the Farm Preserve, with joint advertising by the College. That led to huge turn out, and lots of positive feedback for both the College and our group.

The Library could be this kind of thing. And if it was, it would have the Hubble effect, where the citizenry were so invested in the organization that they wouldn’t let it get cut. There are some libraries that are thinking about, and embracing these kinds of ideas. The Fayetteville Free Library is doing some amazing things with setting up a Fab Lab. Lauren Smedley is an inspiration to what the future library could be, and lots of kudos to FFL for hiring her to try to make this happen.

I’m hopeful by nature, and I think our libraries will transform, eventually. But I do think it’s going to take a new generation of librarians to think past just books, and think about community at a broader level.

Centers of Gravity

The past couple of years something interesting has been happening with the Linux Users Group, it’s growing. After a long number of years of lulling in the low 20s and sometimes teens in meetings, we’re now regularly in the 30s and ran up past 40 folks twice last year. Our last meeting had 34 people in the room for the lecture, and 19 come out to dinner afterwards (and this is all in a new location that’s slightly harder to find). I’ve had various theories as to why, but another one cropped up last night after the Hudson Valley Drupal Meetup: Telecomuters.

There is a new reality out there, with a very large chunk of the population telecommuting. But giving up an office means giving up lunch with colleagues, and the small talk and hallway chatter that gets the brain juice flowing. These things are really important for a healthy psyche, and a healthy business, so people are reaching out for new face to face venues to get those interactions. This has taken the form of coworking spaces, regional conferences, and users groups. These are becoming new centers of gravity for the tech world.

Last night, after the Hudson Valley Drupal Meetup, some really cool connections were made between local folks, and I’m really excited to see what comes out of it. None of it would have ever happened without this growing constellation of face to face technical communities we’ve got in the Hudson Valley: MHVLUG, Squidwrench, and emerging so, the Drupal Meetup.[1] I am really fortunate to be a part of this, and to have great peer Organizers in Sean Swehla and Ben Stoutenburgh that are equally dedicated to fostering this. While each of these entities are distinct things, they feed into each other very strongly, which is becoming a great virtuous spiral.

If you haven’t checked out your local technical community, you are missing out. Start with Google and Meetup and see what’s going on, because you might be really surprised and impressed with what’s in your own back yard.

1. I play favorites here because these are the groups I’m actively involved with, but we’ve got a more comprehensive list at the HVSTEM Calendar.

Getting Involved in Open Source

The first week of 2012 was pretty jam packed for me, which is a good thing. One of the many things that made this week busy was my talk, entitled “Getting Involved in Open Source” at MHVLUG.

This presentation was one of the hardest I’ve had to pull together, as well as one of the most fun to give. I had 3 entirely different slidedecks, each with their own narratives, each with their own dry runs, before I found something I felt would keep everyone engaged, not be too abstract, and time in at 1 hour. (The final dry run was 1:03, the live presentation came in at 1:05). That left plenty of time for questions, and still the ability to end the meeting by the advertised 8pm.

The focus on this talk wasn’t building your own open source project, but really about interacting with various communities. I told stories about reporting bugs, fixing small features in projects, getting into flame wars, getting ignored, and becoming the accidental maintainer of projects. The core center of the talk was a tale of 3 projects: 3 drupal modules that I’ve submitted issues and code to, that have gone in completely different directions. This was to make the most important point of the talk:

Open Source, it’s made of people!

When folks get involved in Open Source, they think that it’s all about code. My experience has been that while the code is very important, the people are just as important. Understanding how to interact with a wide range of personality types is one of the most important skills for an open source developer. How do you get conversations rolling? How do you get your ideas listened to? When do you know it’s not going to work, and a new approach is required? When do you just walk away from an idea, because it won’t fit in this community?

With 37 folks in attendance, this was one of the larger MHVLUG meetings. The fact that it was also in our new location, made me really happy with those numbers. A very good way to kick off the new year.


Upcoming Talk: Getting Involved in Open Source

We’re circling around on January again, which means it’s time for my annual talk at MHVLUG. One thing that’s really fascinated me over the last year is recovering and revitalizing open source projects whose maintainer has wandered off. The talk was mostly going to be about that, but after a bunch of conversations, I realized that I probably needed a talk of more broad appeal.

The new talk is going to be: Getting Involved in Open Source. This is going to be both a personal journey, as well as a list of lessons along the way. The successes and failures are going to be basically mine alone. After over a decade working in open source, I’ve got bumps and bruises all over the place, but fortunately no mortal wounds.

I’ve already got slides and talking points spinning in my head, things I haven’t thought about in years. This is going to be a really fun talk, and should be very educational to people with all levels of open source development.