Notes by Stephen Michael Kellat
Archive for March 2013

Potholes in the Information Superhighway

2013-03-14 by Stephen Michael Kellat, tagged as essays

Well, I lost yet another live feed. Two weeks ago I could not listen live to my British counterparts recording the Ubuntu UK Podcast. On Wednesday, March 13th, I watched my feed disappear when trying to watch the Linux Outlaws record live over Hangouts On Air.

The day was a big news day. After all, Pope Francis was elected. Various websites were dying under the load as people earnestly sought out information about the new leader of the largest group of Christians on this planet. I could blame that as to why I lost the feed.

The problem is that this happens even when there is not a major planet-wide news event like the election of a Pope happening. If you live outside urban areas like I do in North America, you find that Internet access is often less than optimal while there is little choice as to provider. The data at is often not amusing if you live in what is derisively termed "fly-over America". The results from at home base only show a download speed of 1.57 Mb/s and 0.96 Mb/s up even though we pay for a little bit more than that. Ashtabula County also ranks near the bottom of Ohio counties in terms of speed available for consumer broadband.

Live streams over the Internet are problematic. In many respects, they are attempts at replicating paradigms that already exist in different forms. In doing such replication, though, you find that the Internet really is not as efficient as more traditional methods of broadcasting. The Internet was built for a world structured on store-and-forward communications instead of constant multimedia streams.

Outside relocating my domicile, I am stuck with what I have for Internet access. I remain often surprised I can keep ZNC up and running as much as I do. As for how I update packages let alone download them I move increasingly to the paradigm of downloading all packages for an operation first then undertaking the upgrade or the installation. This means using the "-d" flag when running "apt-get upgrade" increasingly and generating download scripts in Synaptic first instead of just executing installations and upgrades.

The Internet used to be described as the Information Superhighway. Where did those potholes in it come from and why do they seem to be prevalent in my area?

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Potholes in the Information Superhighway by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

Ever Onward

2013-03-07 by Stephen Michael Kellat, tagged as essay

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. -- Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (King James Version)

Well, UDS-1303 is now over. It appears that some folks in the community have been overtaken by the number of changes that have been proposed recently. That much is understandable. During sessions I participated in during UDS-1303, I kinda was a broken record talking about the need for change management.

For many this has been a time to speak. Indeed, there was much discussion during the summit. There were also many announcements of community members departing.

It is unfortunate that community members are departing. I hope they find success in their new endeavors. With the state of the technology world as of late, departures need not necessarily be permanent as paths may well cross again in the future. With new synergies erupting in the most unexpected of places it is inevitable that we may perhaps meet again.

The bumper sticker sized key to UDS-1303 is that discussion happened in a format very different from an e-mail list. For the proposals that were initially made by e-mail, this pretty much had to happen as slinging decontextualized text back and forth in that communications paradigm can be limiting. After concerns, proposals, counter-proposals, technical nightmares, fears, anticipations, hopes, and potential excitements more were expressed I look forward to seeing a more fleshed out proposal for rolling releases.

The problem is that at the broadest level it is easy to talk about rolling releases. When you get down to the nuts and bolts of it is when it gets pretty complicated and can at times resemble a Gordian Knot. As evidenced at UDS-1303, there are many possible methodologies and risk is unavoidable.

As initially proposed, I did not favor the proposal due to uncertainties and a lack of nuts & bolts details. After the discussions that have ensued, I'm ready to wait for the full proposal to be released by Rick Spencer that is fleshed out so that I can consider this further. I heard many interesting potential approaches to the nuts & bolts of doing this during UDS-1303 and eagerly await what is settled on as the proposal.

To ease getting into this, I offer a suggestion that may help with implementation of any such proposal. Since I don't have posting permission to ubuntu-devel, a proper developer might pass this along for me. A recurring issue that popped up during UDS-1303 is that systems for automated testing, package management systems, and more will need to be built to accommodate a switch in paradigm. I am not sure we should do that while also working on a release. Dispensing with the 13.10 release and instead using that period to build the infrastructure necessary to make the switch successful may be worthwhile. From the discussions that arose it did seem like that was going to be a major undertaking. Having a firm foundation prior to a paradigm shift seems like a simple safety measure to me regardless of whatever may be decided.

Happy Feature Freeze! Life rolls ever onward...

Paradigm Shifting Without A Clutch

2013-03-01 by Stephen Michael Kellat

Within the Ubuntu realm there have been some dramatic changes that have erupted at the end of February 2013. The first shift was that the Ubuntu Developer Summit has shifted to an electronic-only format with the first one in the new style set to launch within a week of announcement. The second shift was the announcement that rolling releases are under formal consideration with that release paradigm change being under consideration at the hastily-announced event.

Where is the Ubuntu realm going? If you have the answer to that, you are among a select few. For the various flavors such as Xubuntu, Kubuntu, and Lubuntu this is perhaps a systemic shock as the main flavor is now making fairly radical changes that may or may not fit with the goals of the flavor projects. The main line of Ubuntu is seeking convergence where it dominates the desktop, the tablet, and the phone. Rolling releases will presumably be needed to keep up with the fast-paced phone realm.

This is a bit of a change. Is the desktop where the future of computing is headed? Is the desktop going away in favor of pocket computers that somewhere inside still have a tiny amount of circuitry that results in them being called "phones"? That much is uncertain. The gamble being made by Canonical as it adds yet another mobile operating system to an already crowded space is that that is where things are headed. As noted by Anna Leach on The Register earlier in February, total planet-wide sales of cellular phones declined 1.7% last year. Half of all cellular phones on the planet sold in 2012 were made by one of the following three manufacturers/design bureaus: Apple, Samsung, Nokia.

Right now there is a bit of a rupture as to where Ubuntu and its flavors are progressing. That is unfortunate. There remains quite a bit of uncertainty in the market and no clear breakthrough leads yet that are truly destroying one segment of the market for another. The desktop is not dead and the cell phone seems mature/stagnant in terms of innovation at the moment.

Between the UDS changes and the rolling releases proposal, we are effectively rolling the dice. As a user of Xubuntu on a BeagleBoard-xM, I have to watch the development of the rolling release proposal very carefully to see if I am not left behind as Personal Package Archives (PPAs) do not build for ARM architecture routinely. My board is already considered unsupported but I would still like some flavor of Ubuntu, preferably Xubuntu, to still be able to boot on it. Indicators currently are not pointing towards that but towards a major drive now to get Ubuntu Phone ready and live as soon as possible.

Let us all hope that this roll of the dice is the right one.

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Paradigm Shifting Without A Clutch by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at