A pattern I see quite often on help channels goes like this.

<new person> How do I foo the bar?
<experienced person> new person: Run baz --quux and look at ../wibble.bob 

at this point the new person has the information that they wanted and can carry on with whatever it was that they were trying to do.

Quite often, however, the conversation continues thus.

<another experinced person> new person: Also, you could run flubble --grog --foo | mycoolscript > ../wibble.bob to get the same effect

Add in experienced person then trying to justify their initial recommendation, and another experienced person then counter-arguing (possibly highlighting new person all the way, if we're on IRC or a social network that allows this) and you have a confusing experience for the newcomer.

Let's try to think about the information we're conveying to newcomers and how we're doing it. Easing people in to our projects gently is a friendlier approach, and will result in happier newcomers who are more likely to stick around.

Posted Mon 03 Jun 2013 14:38:18 BST Tags:

Long time no see, old friends (since April last year).

If you regularly read Japanese or Chinese text on Ubuntu, this post is a request for your help. If you don't, then skip on by.

In the 12.10 cycle, we eliminated fontconfig-voodoo, which was a script that enabled certain font configurations based on the locale of the user running language-selector (or driving fontconfig-voodoo manually from the command line). It was always intended to be a temporary measure pending proper support for locales in fontconfig itself. Since that has arrived now, in 12.10 we made use of this functionality to eliminate fontconfig-voodoo altogether.

It wasn't quite right though. Some users weren't seeing their fontconfig configuration applied when it should have been.

I've been working on that a bit this week and last by trying to tweak the configurations we're shipping to make the applications happen when they should, and also moving the configurations out to the font packages they refer to, instead of being in a centralised location (language-selector-common). However I can't read Japanese or Chinese text so that's where you, dear reader who hasn't skipped over this post, come in.

If you can reproduce the original bug — seeing badly rendered Japenese or Chinese text on Raring — then please upgrade to my PPA with the proposed fixes and report back in the bug whether they help you or not. Without your feedback, we won't be able to achieve as high a quality end result as is possible, because I'll be flying blind.

Posted Thu 24 Jan 2013 17:41:43 GMT Tags:

passport OH MY

An exciting update on my previous post. I found it this morning.

It was in a cupboard.

At the back.

Behind several boxes.

In a screwed up bag.

How in the world did it get there?

Ho hum.

Posted Fri 20 Apr 2012 10:53:22 BST

I don't know why I decided to look since I knew it was in there, but it's a good idea I did.

My passport isn't in its usual location. I can only assume that I failed to put it back there after returning from UDS last November.

Turned the room upside down. No sign yet.

At least the passport office do a one week replacement service, which is a "bargain" at £112.50 (plus a trip to Peterborough).

Where else should I look?

Ho hum.

Posted Mon 16 Apr 2012 23:03:21 BST

I got a beer bread kit from Mum for Christmas this year.


It seems pretty easy, so for a pre-new-year treat, I gave it a go.

simple to make ready to go

Of course, for the beer I'm using one of my first batch of home brewed beer that I made just before the holidays. :-)

professionally crown capped a nice colour, and not too cloudy too

Chuck it in…


Mix it for around 30 seconds.

bash it about, and this comes out

Discover there is no bread tin here, so use cake tins instead.

baz it in the oven

Flatter than it should be, but otherwise YUM YUM YUM

hells yeahs

Posted Sat 31 Dec 2011 18:24:17 GMT Tags:

After a tiring UDS in which I very nearly achieved my goal of mentioning Debian in every session and conversation, I ventured out to a nearby outlet mall.

scary monster

Imagine my surprise when this little chap ended up in my bag!


and then I found out where the Angry Birds hang out when taking a break from destroying those evil pigs


and after this twin impact, I needed some retail therapy. This is probably the second pair of shoes I have ever purchased for myself.

Good week :-). And so to the delayed flight home…

Posted Sun 06 Nov 2011 00:07:25 GMT Tags:


This is a quick public service announcement. Earlier today, ajmitch reminded me of a little gotcha that exists around Mono applications in Ubuntu 11.10. As a five second summary, in 11.10 the Debian Mono team switched the default runtime version from 2.0 to 4.0. This involved recompiling (and sometimes patching) all libraries and applications in the distribution with the new verison.

That's all well and good for programs you get from the repositories, but unfortunately that is not always the case. Sometimes you may receive an application precompiled or from a PPA that was originally compiled against the 2.0 profile. If you have an 11.10 system with its updated 4.0 libraries, that's not going to work. You'll get errors like

Missing method System.Reflection.PropertyInfo::op_Inequality(PropertyInfo,PropertyInfo) in assembly /usr/lib/mono/2.0/mscorlib.dll, referenced in assembly /usr/lib/mono/gac/glib-sharp/

Unhandled Exception: System.MissingMethodException: Method not found: 'System.Reflection.PropertyInfo.op_Inequality'.
  at Gtk.ListStore..ctor (System.Type[] types) [0x00000] in <filename unknown>:0 
  at Sysinfo.Sysinfo..ctor (System.String[] args) [0x00000] in <filename unknown>:0 
  at Sysinfo.Sysinfo.Main (System.String[] args) [0x00000] in <filename unknown>:0 
[ERROR] FATAL UNHANDLED EXCEPTION: System.MissingMethodException: Method not found: 'System.Reflection.PropertyInfo.op_Inequality'.
  at Gtk.ListStore..ctor (System.Type[] types) [0x00000] in <filename unknown>:0 
  at Sysinfo.Sysinfo..ctor (System.String[] args) [0x00000] in <filename unknown>:0 
  at Sysinfo.Sysinfo.Main (System.String[] args) [0x00000] in <filename unknown>:0 

which is a classic indicator that Mono tried to run an application using the 2.0 profile using libraries compiled for 4.0. A quick workaround is to force the application to run using 4.0, like so

mono --runtime=v4.0 /usr/lib/myapp/myapp.exe

which will get the program running and is useful if you don't have the facility or the inclination to rebuild it.

(You can skip the rest if you're not a developer)

If you are able to recompile the program then you can do the above, but you can also rebuild the program against the 4.0 profile to fix the error properly. The most important thing for package maintainers to know is that (for Debian and Ubuntu only), you ought to be using the distribution's default compiler to build your software. This means that you should tell your build system to use /usr/bin/mono-csc. If you don't then you'll get whatever the upstream maintainer has used, which is likely to be gmcs, the 2.0 compiler. When you use mono-csc, you get the distribution's default compiler and if the default runtime is changed in the future then compatibility will be a no-change rebuild away.

Posted Wed 19 Oct 2011 20:48:59 BST Tags:

tasty beerskis

Greetings real ale fans,

This most exciting time of year is almost upon us again. Yes, it's the Nottingham Robin Hood Beer Festival!

This year I have followed in the footsteps of Alex and Karen and decided to trawl through the list of over 900 beers so that I can best sample the delights on offer. My selection is here. I'm attending on both the Thursday and Saturday, so there's plenty of time for me to sample a reasonable number of different ales.

Beer aficionados, I'd welcome suggestions for alternative beers to try, if you'd recommend any of them. I promise to update the list after. I might even be tempted by the ciders, perries and wines. Generally I tend to prefer paler ales, but I also quite like a mild given half the chance.

See you on the other side!

(Image by Ant & Carrie Coleman, cc-by-nd 2.0)

Posted Wed 12 Oct 2011 22:41:55 BST Tags:

dangly bikelets

Dear lazyweb,

In a couple of weeks I'm likely to be going cycle touring around the North East of England. This will involve first taking a train from Nottingham. While looking at train options just now, I was reminded of a little survey that I wanted to conduct.

Taking bicycles on trains in the UK can be a hit-or-miss experience.

The UK's train routes are operated by a variety of train operating companies who each have different policies on taking bicycles on their trains. Some require a reservation, some do not. Some do not even allow reservations at all. There's no official database of these policies. It is up to you to check all of the companies' websites individually. As far as I can tell it is impossible to make a cycle reservation online. If you don't make a reservation, chances are that you'll be OK, but there are no guarantees you won't find yourself stranded in Bolton when none of your connections will take you.

The number of spaces reserved for cycles is extermely limited. Two seems to be the most common number that a train can officially carry (you may be able to stash it in the vestibule). Even given this, it is usual to find that the cycle spaces are taken up by prams, luggage and other crap when you actually board the train, so the effective number may actually be 0.

However, it is thankfully not uncommon to find staff and other passengers who are more than willing to go out of their way to help you if they see you are trying to take a bicycle onto a train. :-)

Anyway, I'm interested in how this situation is in other non-UK countries. Better or worse? A lot of countries certainly have a more cycle-friendly culture — I'd like to know how this kind of thing works there so that I can write a Strongly Worded Letter about how we Should Be Doing Better.

(Image by onohiroki, CC-by-nd.)

Posted Sun 14 Aug 2011 15:09:31 BST Tags:

Here's some information.

  • The DMB grants both Ubuntu Membership and upload rights to (portions of) the Ubuntu archive. Both are assessed rather differently (one community and one somewhat more technical). Most of the current argument is about Membership (the only person the DMB deferred for upload rights was correctly so; it was a Per-Package Uploader application for packages which were not in the archive yet)
    • The rest of the current argument stems from the DMB failing to achieve quorum a few times.
      1. This is not a unique problem to the DMB. All boards (up to and including the Technical Board and Community Council, FWIW) experience this from time to time.
      2. We are conducting an internal poll to find a new meeting time which is more amenable to achieving quorum, and exploring alternatives such as using email voting a bit more. We are firm in wanting to retain the basic structure of our application process though.
  • Sometimes people who encourage others to apply for membership have a different idea of what is required than those assessing the applications do. Sometimes these people doing the encouragement get annoyed when people they have pushed are deferred because of this. Membership boards expect to see a significant and sustained period of contribution, where sustained ordinarily means at least 6 months. Please bear this in mind.
  • Members of most of these membership-granting boards are volunteers, and I imagine their motivation for wanting to participate on the boards is to recognise and reward contributors for doing excellent work. They are contributors themselves who have feelings and motivation, both of which can be taken away when others let their frustration have a target. Please let cool heads prevail, even when you are disappointed.
  • As project leaders have repeatedly said, we elect governance bodies to take decisions, and we should trust them to make those decisions. If people are deferred, I expect everybody involved to deal with the situation with grace and sensitivity. If someone wishes to appeal, they should do this through the appropriate private communication channels first, only going public if this does not work.
  • The Community Council is going to consider to what extent upstream contributions shall be able to form an individual's portfolio of contributions as part of their membership application.
  • When you discuss someone's work, particularly if you are trying to change the way they go about it, it is polite to include them in the conversation. When this happens repeatedly in a short period of time, people may begin to suspect something strange is going on.

Is risking alienating people who have volunteered to serve as community leaders really worth this? Remember, we are only talking about a handful of deferrals here. Every one of those people is welcome to come back once they have addressed the issues at hand.

All of this could have been dealt with with some sensitive private communication.

Posted Thu 04 Aug 2011 18:13:49 BST Tags:

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