Stories and camels

On reading Michael Dehaan's post about Oasis's.. I realized that it answered my questions about Fedora in a very fundamental way. By story. Humans are not rational creatures.. we assume that we are but in the end we are driven by deep urges and feelings that make rational or logical decisions hard. As a friend of mine once said "The conscious is a tool to make stories about why the unconscious did things." or something like that...

Deep down inside most of us (I do not assume everyone is this way (not that will stop the 20 or so emails from people saying "I am not like that")) are driven by stories. We make our reality by the stories we tell ourselves and each other about what we have done and what we perceive the world to be acting. The better the story, the more we are driven by it. This can be for evil or good purposes.. but for the extent of this blog I will try to focus on the good.

If you look at distributions as caravans of people travelling through the wastes of the digital desert then you can see metaphors for each distribution (as mpdehaan says). This story is strong in that it says what kind of people we are looking for.

Fedora wants to be the explorer who is never happy to long at any oasis. We may linger at some, but not too many.. We are looking for new explorers but not just any 'newbie'. They have to be wanting to see new things, go over the next hill when the caravan leader calls out etc. On the other hand, we are not looking for barbarians or raiders. We want to set-up and trade at the next oasis or town.. not plunder and pillage... We do not poison the wells when we leave because we never know when we might come back in some form.. or when our elder Aunt's caravan (RHEL) might show up to set up a town. We are not thieves, if we find something stolen, we will endeavour to return it.

We have customs we follow and expect people visiting our camps to follow. If we share code with you, we expect it to be shared back. Things like that.


KDE vs GNOME arguments...

Computer Geeks get as attached to their brands of desktops as Car Geeks to their brands of cars. Reason goes out the window and people start hooting and hopping up and down like a scene from 2001. The arguments go on and on and on like a bad Air Supply cover band. At some point one side (say X) gets bigger than the other (say Y) and you end up with arguments of "Y is being discriminated against because it wasn't chosen." And then you get the arguments showing that Y is really a hidden majority put down in some sort of class warfare system.

It doesn't really matter if we are talking about (GNOME vs KDE) or (AfterStep vs E) or my first one.. tvtwm versus mwm. It seems to get the same arguments that the truck guys will go over engine builders or my uncles' favourite "Chevy versus Ford". Family dinners would go into the time out corners when one person or another went over some flaw or problem the other side in some model. I have seen other families get into fist fights over it.

A funny side story.. Ford versus Chevy debates were some of the biggest headaches of companies in the 50s onward. Arguments over whether one brand or another was the 'company car' would escalate to large shouting matches or threatened lawsuits. Some places would just buy enough of each brand to make sure they didn't end up with someone complaining. One uncle used to tell a story about how a Union strike fell apart because the company chose GM during the strike. The Ford people thought it was a deal to get them thrown out and the union was so much in turmoil they couldn't get anything done.

In the end, to most people, it is just a car. It gets you from one place to another.. and when it becomes anything more than that there is something you need to sit down and think "Why do I have to make this car my identity?" I say this as a guy who used to go on Emacs crusades. Why didn't Red Hat have emacs as a login shell? Why wasn't emacs the default editor when people opened up any document... etc etc.

I am not saying the KDE people should 'get over it' that GNOME is the preferred desktop or gets top billing. I am saying that they need to frame their arguments better about what they want and how they will accomplish it. Quit being passive aggressive. Quit taking any criticism of the proposal as an attack because it just makes people who might have been trying to help all the more to leave.


How to know you are being profiled :)

In coming back to Red Hat, I got a new account of ssmoogen and an email alias of my old one smooge. And I immediately got SPAM email to the old smooge account. Probably due to all the postings to Usenet and mailing lists from old. The interesting thing was that the content of the emails covered the following:

  1. Sleep aids

  2. Stay awake aids

  3. Pain killers

None of the other regular spams (dates with russian women, growth hormones/devices, etc). No it would seem that the SPAM engines have a good idea what the life of tech support person is... pain, sleep, pain, no-sleep, pain.. It was interesting that I haven't gotten any SPAM for crowbars, baseball bats, and rolls of carpet (cheap). I guess thats something to look forward to.

[PS I have never taken nor advocate taking any of the items listed above without a prescription/overview from a competent doctor.]

Voting in Fedora Elections

I voted, but I can say that once again I was underwhelmed by the voting method. I really think the method falls under the two much choice methods. I thought more about 'how to' vote than about the candidates. And again I just didn't feel that my choice of putting a 1 or 3 or a 5 was 'producing' an outcome. However I have railed about my lack of emotional connection to range voting in the past :).

In the end, I think that voting is a responsibility that people should exercise to be considered citizens of a community. When people do not vote even if its because they are content with who/how things are.. it removes a vitality that is needed to keep a community going.


RIP: My Precision Workstation

Well it would seem that during my trip to NC/Mass.. my home server, an old Dell Precision 360, started making noises.. you know those kind of noises where a fan's bearings aren't always smooth.. that kind of painful ear noises that can be 'felt' across the house at 2am in the morning when it starts... so the system got turned off until I could get home.

I opened up the box and realized how much dust can accumulate in a year in NM. Two cans of air later you could see the motherboard again... turned on the box and the sound came back again. Looking at the various fans it was not one but two fans.. one was in the powersupply and the other near off the CPU. The box is 6 years old so getting replacement parts isn't as easy as one would hope :).

The only grumpy part for me is that I had just gotten the box fully outfitted with Spacewalk before I left. I was planning on using it to snapbuild virtual machines for testing local services etc. I had just gotten it to the point of updating boxes when I left on Sunday... Well it looks like I will be saving up for another box again. Could be worse.. I could have forgotten to do backups.

Back at Red Hat Again

So after many years, I have come full circle and returned to working at Red Hat. I will be working in the Fedora Infrastructure team helping Mike McGrath. [My view is that I will be the Pimply Faced Old-Guy next to his Young BOFH.]

Red Hat flew me out to North Carolina on Sunday to attend a two day boot-camp. Got into North Carolina in at 1am and remembered that one needs gills. Made it to Red Hat nearly on time Monday, and had a great time learning how Red Hat has grown and changed since 2001. It was a great experience but I was worried I gave Greg Dekoenigsberg a heart attack when he saw me in the audience.

Like most boot camps it was a fire hose of data and information with lots of framing what the Red Hat vision and missions were. North Carolina reminded me of what the SouthEast can be like... two days of warm rainy days. However, the Chicken Biscuits made up for it 100% :).

I then flew to New Hampshire and drove from Manchester to Westford Mass at 1am. It was a quiet drive with the most beautiful orange-red crescent moon coming up over the horizon. I got in at the hotel and spent Wednesday meeting with some Fedora and RHEL people. Drove back to Manchester and took a 1730 flight back to NM via Minnesota. Got into Albuquerque again at 1am.

I spent most of Thursday in a fog of unpacking and trying to find my receipts. Friday was setting up the home office so that Monday I could begin working on projects. Worked on some more paperwork and caught up with email lists.

Its great to be back :).


Saturn Buyer

I have been a Saturn owner since I think 1996 when my family got a used 1994 Saturn from a dealer in Illinois. I remember it occurred when I had flown out to Boston or California to do on-site administration... and the 82 LTD had finally died on my wife. She had gone to a couple of places and found the usual "Hey little Lady" treatment until she went to the Saturn dealer. They only asked if she had any questions and to look around as much as she pleased. She found the car she wanted and when I got back I got the exact same treatment from them (which was refreshing from dealing with car dealers in the past where the guy gets a different story from the lady.) We were sold and when the car had problems two weeks later, they came got it, fixed it and got it back to us without any hard times (again a change from what I had dealt with). It was exactly what the motto said "A different kind of car company."

I remember being send flyers to drive to Tennessee for summer BBQ's... and knowing that if I went into a store there would be no haggling. They told me the price and I paid that price. When we moved to NC in 1997, we found the dealer in Chapel Hill used the same play book and things were covered. They knew what problems I had had before and would let us know that they had checked them. They had BBQ's and we had invitations. It was exactly the type of relationship I liked with a dealer/company.

And then there was dealing with GM. GM was a pain in the ass. I had a GM Credit card I had gotten in college. It had paid for college and had lots of points on it... Could I use it for buying a new Saturn? No... GM didn't allow that? If I went to a Chevy dealer did I get a one stop? No I got a pain in the ass "Well how much do you think this car is worth? Oh let me check with my boss in the back room" game. So when it was time to get a second car, we went with Saturn again.

However, it was clear that GM wasn't happy with Saturn anymore and as they started shuffling it around inside the company... VP's came and went.. BBQ's became less common and Saturn became more and more like another stagnant GM brand.

Anyway, I heard today that another company bought the brand. I wish them luck and I hope they are able to make cars that can attract the people who want "A different kind of car company" again.


Too much choice. (or not)

Choice can lead to paralysis and regret.. I realize that. The issue is learning how to make better choices and enjoying responsibility.

I followed Jesse Keatings blog link on links. It was a video by some psychologist named Barry Swartz.

I started off the talk hoping to learn on how to make better choices and strategies on how to better limit choice down. Instead I felt I got a mind talk on how I should welcome my new fascist masters. My jaw dropped on his diatribe (5:30) that he has to give out less homework because his students biggest concern is that they have to choose if they should marry or not. I am not sure that being married would have allowed me to have any less concerns.

At 7:47, I had to go and take a breather. He asks the question, is having more choice better today or worse and 'rhetorically?' says the answer is yes. He then goes and says we all know whats good about it... and I wanted to shout NO WE DONT. If we knew what was better about it we wouldn't have groups like the Taliban, No-Nothings, or similar fascist organizations. The whole goal of these organizations is about removing choice from people. Choice is bad because it means you might not fit into some selfmade definition of who you are, what you can do, and why you exist.

However sticking it out to 10 minutes started to get into why too many choices can be a problem.. The first is that too many choices can make people freeze because a) they want to make the right choice and b) they don't want to regret making the wrong choice.

And then we slide into how the world is better off without any choices. Because any choice must make people more unhappy and so we should decide for them... and then I decided a nice walk was what I needed. Because we go into how clinical depression is higher because we have to take responsibility for our actions and our choices.

There are parts of the talk that are useful.. but the presentation made it very hard for me not to walk off pissed. I realize that yes having a large number of choices makes me more responsible about things and I have to accept that responsibility if I do not wish to live in a fascist world.

I am not sure this is what Jesse had in mind with that link.. I will say that I understand emotionally what KDE people feel in various discussions over Gnome vs KDE in desktop layout and such.