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Swimming Upstream



October 27, 2010

Introduction to Puppet @ NY GNU/Linux Meetup Group

Filed under: Events andJournals at 4:59 am Comments Off

Finally, I made myself a member of local GNU/Linux User Group in NYC, after moved to here 2 years ago. The first meetup meeting I attended was about Puppet.

It’s indeed a cute name for a data center configuration management tool. Puppet configuration (.pp files) are written in Ruby, which allows great flexibility to configure how software are installed and configured on client machine. Facert, another Ruby project, discovers all system information to be used by Puppet configuration.

Several group members are experienced user of Puppet and share their knowledge selflessly. I look forward to the next meeting on Linux security tomorrow.

Product link: http://www.puppetlabs.com/

I also found a good technical article about Puppet online: http://www.sparksupport.com/blog/puppet-configuration-management-tool

February 6, 2008

Happy Spring Festival!

Filed under: Journals at 5:41 pm (7 comments)

It’s Spring Festival eve tonight, which is the equivalence of western Christmas in China. Following the tradition, people will fire crackers and fireworks at midnight, which will turn the city into a battlefield. Personally I prefer to celebrate it in a quiet way, hence I made this piece of drawing to share with friends.

Happy Spring Festival!

2008_springfestival.jpg

June 8, 2007

Open Source in China?

Filed under: Journals at 2:36 pm Comments Off

Last week a journalist of an open source magazine in UK asked me several questions on the subject of Open Source in China, here I am sharing the answers:

  1. Question: Can you tell me how you got involved in open source, and how healthy and vibrant you perceive the free software movement to be in China?
  2. Answer: I was involved with free software when I joined UNDP China as an IT manager back to 5 years ago. There are several Linux servers in UNDP’s server room which are my responsibility to administer. I then bought several Linux books and taught myself some simple Linux commands. I end up like these linux servers very much for their outstanding performance and stability. That’s the start of my Linux experience. I was lucky that Beijing Linux User Group was just founded when I joined it and I become an early and key member of the team, which put me in the social scene of open source people in Beijing. I have kept learning new tricks from other geeks since then.

    The free software movement in China is quite vibrant comparing to other developing countries in Asia (not Japan, South Korea or Taiwan). I’d say it’s also quite healthy in the sense that it encourages sharing, innovation, and self learning among young generations, but there are also some main drawbacks which may cause the development of free software unsustainable in long term:

    1. Lack of commitment and support from big enterprises, which in many cases due to people’s lack of understanding about Open Source license.
    2. Absent/lack of Free Software concept/knowledge on computer textbooks in current education system

    These days I have read some new actions taken by Chinese government to improve the situation of the above mentioned problems, and I believe those changes are for good.

  3. Question: We hear good news stories about Chinese organisations adopting open source from time to time. What is your view of government and enterprise migration to Linux in China? Is Linux still very niche, or do you believe it is really gaining a foothold in the country?
  4. Answer: In my view these migrations were only good when it brought values to the Chinese organizations, with improved efficiency/security and reduced cost. As a fan of free software, I am aware of the philosophical and technical implications of FOSS to society in general, but when it comes to the business world, I believe the product value is almost the only key factor. Linux has gained a foothold in China only in some industry where it actually demonstrate a significant competitive advantage than other platforms, like in telecommunication sector. By the time more innovative solutions are developed based on Linux, I believe it will gain foothold in other business sectors too.

  5. Question: A lot of people in the UK think of China as having a huge pool of computer scientists who could play an important role in the growth of open source if they learn on Linux-based systems rather than Windows. (I read that 100,000 programmers graduate in China each year.) Can you give me your perspective on that? Do you think it is possible that some of the Linux migrations in Chinese schools and universities will lead to a Linux-based IT industry in China in a few years?
  6. Answer: Free software in the sense that it gives user the freedom to study it and improve it, made it a perfect educational OS for computer science student to understand how the wheels been invented in the first place. I am a strong advocate for computer science student should develop their skills on Linux along with other skills on other platforms, then it’s up to their own decision for which platform that they’d like to adapt when they become decisions makers for enterprise IT solutions. I believe some Linux migrations in Chinese schools and university will give students access to know/learn about Linux, and in long term will be favorable to a widely adaption of linux technology in IT industry. It’s favorable to students too for they would have built a more flexible/agile skill set which will lead to better job opportunities.

  7. Question: With software piracy rates in China so high and proprietary software being almost free as in beer, do FOSS advocates like yourself have to work harder to persuade users to try Linux than advocates in other countries?
  8. Answer: I don’t like to use the word persuade. It’s true that there is almost no economic incentive for users to opt Linux over Windows on their PCs in China, but let’s face the fact that this option has rarely been an economical decision. Even in developed countries, where people has to pay for proprietary software as enforced by copyright law, how many Linux users have chosen Linux merely because it’s free as in beer? Linux is a better product than Windows in many perspectives, and my role is to introduce people come to see Linux as they are, I am passionate about this job but there is no such a message in my speech that Linux is better than Windows in every perspective, and personally I think strong/aggressive selling is actually manipulating other people’s mind, I have tried to respect every individual’s own judgment to make the best decision for themselves.

I am posting this blog as part of the discussion initiated by Stephen Walli, who has got plenty of wise opinions on Open Source business in general:

http://stephesblog.blogs.com/my_weblog/2007/06/open_source_bus.html

April 20, 2007

F/LOSS or FOSS?

Filed under: Journals at 2:10 am Comments Off

This is a latecoming blog entry for the Open Source Software Summit in Beijing on March 27th, 2007. I won’t talk in length about the event here since it’s an old event and there are already some blogs entries:

* Stephen Walli’s blog and Flickr stream
* Jim Grisanzio’s blog and Flickr stream
* Nat Torkington’s blog commentary.
* Michael Iannini’s blog coverage for ZDNet Asia.
* Jing Jing Helles Flickr stream.

During the event I noticed an unfamiliar term in Nat Torkington’s presentation. When he was referring to Free and Open Source Software, instead of using aconym FOSS (which is most familiar to geeks in China), he used the term F/LOSS (Free/Liberal Open Source Software) in his presentation.

FLOSS

I brought up a question about this term to Nat during his Q&A session, he explained that it is a widely used term in Europe. I was surprised that he was not at all concerned about the acronym as it reads like floss, and carris a bad meaning with ‘LOSS’. In my superstitious asian culture, people spend their lifetime to give good and lucky names to their kids, their business, their pet, or anything that they are entitled to give names. It’s a science developed in thousands of years and rooted deeply in culture. Europeans might not care about it, I am sure Asian geeks will be reluctant to use F/LOSS for Free and Open Source Softwares.

An interesting case about cultural difference, even when we are speaking the same language – English.

February 19, 2007

It’s the Year of Pig, Warthogs!

Filed under: Journals at 11:48 pm Comments Off

It’s the second day of Chinese new year today. Like every product release of Ubuntu, every Chinese year is associated with an animal code, and this year is the year of pig. : )

Here is a card for you and for a splendid year of Ubuntu.

pig.gif

December 12, 2006

Beryl Rocks!

Filed under: Journals at 2:05 am Comments Off

Ginger, my IBM X60 laptop, had a plastic surgery (implanting Beryl on her face) during the weekend, and looks very SEXY now:

screenshot.png

screenshot-1.png

screenshot-2.png

Being vain and proud, I have been showing off her new look to all geeks I know here – all they could say is to admit Beryl is super cool. : )

However prettiness comes with a price. Ginger gets slow after Beryl was loaded, and once a while my keyboard wouldn’t response… Quinn Storm, could you guys fix this for all users who is crazy about your work?

If Ginger is considering to get a boyfriend of her class… there are some Beryl guys from Japan and South Korea who are pretty hard core:

File Sharing for Edgy Release Party

Filed under: Journals at 2:05 am Comments Off

Some people showed interest on the gift design I did for the Edgy Release party in China, and I have promised to share the artwork. For various reasons (travel and getting sick) this is coming quite late (sorry!), the image files are available on a wiki page I created in Ubuntu artwork category now:

https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Artwork/Incoming/Marketing/EdgyPartyChina

On another blog entry about the Edgy release party I also promised to share the audio file of Mark Shuttleworth’s speech, unfortunately all recordings I have collected so far are in poor quality or incomplete, so there is no audio file available after all. : (

November 26, 2006

Changing the world in small way

Filed under: Journals at 4:43 pm Comments Off

This is the email I got the other day:

Dear ubuntu administartor,

At first, please allow me to introduce myself, my name is xxxxxxxx, I come from china, I am a teacher in an out – of – the – way village. The whole school only me a teacher and dozens of schoolchildren. We would very much like to know the outer world computer – the only court open to us. We want to get more storing of information, we want to study the linux, our school have no internet, and have no the Compact Disk ReWriter, also we want to download the Ubuntu 6.10 from the internet, but the ISDN is very slowly, So we very much in need of you to help. we want the Ubuntu CD! we will like to have you consider ourselves. And we will to share the Ubuntu for our friend, and to spread the ubuntu
Thank you,the best wish & blessing.

xxxxxxxx
mychinese name is:xxxxxxxx
my site:xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
my postcode:xxxxxxxx
my telphone:xxxxxxxx

Emails like this made me see the meaning of my work and found I am doing something to help people (especially poor people) to connect to the rest of the world with a Free OS. We are not making money off this one, and this has nothing to do with business, but none the less it motivates me much more than money could work on me.

I have got some beautiful CDs for this guy and will send it off first thing tomorrow.

edgy-cover-mid.jpg

October 5, 2006

What users want?

Filed under: Journals at 1:13 pm Comments Off

There has been a hype about Freespire that it is giving what users want by allowing users pick either commercial or non-commercial Linux applications using CNR (Click and Run). The theory sounds very appealing, thinking that this is actually offering a lucrative incentive for software developers to develop commercial applications on Linux OS, and at the same time relieves some users’ concerns about possibilities of using their favorite applications on Linux (which has been a main barrier for many Windows users opt not to use Linux), I am pleased to see that this feature is made free and available in Freespire 1.0.

Also Debian based, Freespire has been picked in many occasions to be compared and evaluated against Ubuntu (plenty of reviews and tests on this subject over Internet). According to Matthew Newton’s article “Free Agent: The Latest Free Linux“, Freespire is not yet mature enough to substitute Ubuntu on users’ desktop with these yet-to-be-improved drawbacks:

* Hardware support, where Ubuntu is still leading the game, hardwares working in Ubuntu maybe not working in Freespire;

* Software dependencies, the apt-get (or Synaptic software manager) is actually more user friendly when it comes to search and install new softwares because it checks software dependencies for users and get the whole thing up and running with a single click (or a single command). It was found that CNR failed to check software dependencies when users choose to install a new application. This is going to drive users crazy when things don’t work out of the box.

In my opinion, none of the above defects are critical in long run since they could be easily corrected by a group of talented engineers. At the moment, Ubuntu is still in the cutting edge of desktop Linux operating system with many of our innovative and robust features like upstart etc. At the time Freespire is seeking improvements, Ubuntu will not stay still but will also be dashing on making Ubuntu a better system for users. In fact, the rule of survival in OSS world is not to beat our competitors, but to over beat ourselves consistently and quickly(!).

Competition offers us the perspective of benchmarking and stimulates innovation and diversity. Here is the eternal question to all OS suppliers: What users want? and how should we deliver?