My travels within Asia.
It has been almost a full year since my last log entry. It has been a busy work year, I attended some nice conferences and did minimal FLOSS stuff.
On the work side of things I was a third of an Australian VoIP startup that came and went. I setup Debian servers, installed OpenSIPS and associated software, wrote OpenSIPS scripts, wrote peripheral software and did customer support. We had a good thing going there for a while, some fans on the Whirlpool forums but in the end there wasn't enough money for the requisite marketing and local market circumstances were squeezing Australian VoIP providers anyway.
At LCA 2010 in windy Wellington, New Zealand the distributions summit organised by Martin Krafft was one of the highlights. It was dominated by Debian/Ubuntu talks but there were some other interesting ones, especially the one on GoboLinux's integration of domain-specific package managers. Also excellent were the keynotes given by Gabriella Coleman (Best & worst of times), Mako Hill (Antifeatures) and others, which I felt gave LCA an improved and very welcome focus on software freedom. There were quite a few Debian folks at LCA, it was great to hang out with them during the week and afterwards. Monopedal sumo with mako and others was hilarious fun.
At the Thailand Mini-DebCamp 2010 in Khon Kaen, I was glad to see Andrew Lee (Taiwan) and Christian Perrier (France) again and meet Yukiharu YABUKI (Japan) and Daiki Ueno (Japan). In addition to the five international folks, there were quite a few locals, including Thailand's currently sole Debian member, Theppitak Karoonboonyanan. The event was hosted at Khon Kaen University and opened with my talk about the Debian Social Contract and the Debian Free Software Guidelines. This was followed by a number of talks about Debian package building, a 3-day BSP where we touched 57 bugs, a great day of sightseeing and talks about i18n, derivative distros, keysigning, mirrors, contribution and a discussion about DebConf. During the week there was also the usual beersigning, combined with eating of unfamiliar and "interesting" Thai snacks. After the conference Andrew and I roamed some markets in Bangkok and got Thai massages. Beforehand I also visited a friend from my travels on the RV Heraclitus in Chiang Mai, once again experiencing the awesomeness of trains in Asia, unfortunately during the dry season this time. I took a lot of photos during my time in Thailand and ate a lot of great and spicy food. As a vegetarian I especially appreciated the organiser's efforts to accommodate this during the conference.
At DebConf10 in New York City, by far the highlight was Eben Moglen's vision of the FreedomBox. Negotiating the hot rickety subways was fun, the party at the NYC Resistor space was most excellent, Coney Island was hot and the water a bit yuck, zack threw a ball, the food and campus was really nice. Really enjoyed the lintian BoF, ARM discussions, shy folks, GPLv3 question time, paulproteus' comments & insights, wiki BoF, puppet BoF, derivatives BoF, Sita, astronomy rooftop, cheese, virt BoF, Libravatar, DebConf11, Brave new Multimedia World, bagels for breakfast, CUT, OpenStreetMap & lightning talks. Having my power supply die was not fun at all. Afterwards I hung out with a couple of the exhausted organisers, ate awesome vegan food and fell asleep watching a movie about dreams. One weird thing about DebConf10 was that relatively few folks used the DebConf gallery to host their photos, months later only myself and Aigars Mahinovs posted any photos there.
At FOSSASIA 2010 in Hồ Chí Minh City (HCMC) was a mini-DebConf. I arrived at the HCMC airport and was greeted by Huyen (thanks!!), one of FOSSASIA's numerous volunteers, who bundled me into a taxi bound for the speakers accommodation and pre-event meetup at The Spotted Cow Bar. The next day the conference opened at the Raffles International College and after looking at the schedule I noticed that I was to give a talk about Debian that day. Since I didn't volunteer for such a talk and had nothing prepared, the schedule took me by surprise. So shortly after an awesome lunch of Vietnamese pancakes we gathered some Debian folks and a random Fedora dude and prepared a short intro to Debian. The rest of the day the highlights were the intro, video greetings and the fonts, YaCy and HTML5 talks. The next day the Debian MiniConf began with Arne Goetje and everyone trying to get Debian Live LXDE USB keys booted on as many machines in the classroom as possible (many didn't boot). Once people started showing up we kicked off with Thomas Goirand's introduction to the breadth of Debian. Others talked about Debian pure blends, Gnuk and building community and packages. The second last session was about showing the Vietnamese folks in the room how to do l10n and translation since Debian had only one Vietnamese translator (Clytie Siddall). After manually switching keyboard layouts (seems LXDE doesn't have a GUI for that) on the English LXDE installs, the two Cambodian folks were able to do some Khmer translation too. This was a great session and it resulted in two extra Vietnamese translators joining Debian. It went over time so I didn't end up doing my presentation about package reviewing. We rushed off to a university where the random Fedora ch^Wambassador was hosting a Fedora 14 release party in a huge packed classroom. There were a lot of excited faces, interesting and advanced questions and it was in general a success. Afterwards we had some food, joined up with some other speakers and ended up in a bar in the gross tourist zone. On the final day we hung around in the Debian room, went downstairs for the group photo and final goodbyes. Later we found a place with baked goods, coffee and juices and navigated the crazy traffic to a nice local restaurant. The next morning Arne & I went to the airport, others went on a Mekong Delta tour and Jonas hung out with the organisers. I took less photos than at other events but got a few interesting ones.
I avoided doing a lot of FLOSS stuff over the last year, I hope to work on some things in the coming months;
- revive various (semi-)abandoned upstream projects
- do some more work on the Debian wiki
- contribute to RC bug squashing efforts
- push the VoIP company patches upstream
- contribute to debexpo/debshots/lintian/qa
- contribute to the Debian multimedia/FSO teams
- promote/organise/rejuvenate the Debian games team
- announce the Debian derivatives census more widely
- finish writing a SANE driver for my scanner
- finish the removal of defoma from Debian
- watch some videos from LCA and DebConf
I'm also planning some interesting travel and acquiring some new technological goods, more on those in some later posts.
- GPG key, better late than never Thanks to go to ana for her howto.
- linux.conf.au, I hear awesome folks are going to be there!
- battery, sucks to be at a conference with a crap laptop battery
- regret, using and working on non-free software is driving me insane
- hope, to meet Debian folks in Thailand again and eat Thai food
- want, to escape the internets for the sea and local wilderness
- wish, that there was more time in a decade, year and day
Thanks to all the Debian, FLOSS and Indymedia folks out there, you've made the last decade much more enjoyable.
KL airport has free wifi, it works fine on Windows, but my Linux install relies on DHCP to get an IP address, gateway and DNS servers. I tried capturing some wifi traffic with wireshark, but had no luck. I remember in Thailand having to write down network settings from Windows computers in netcafes, then manually apply the settings after booting the copy of Debian on my external hard-drive. I'm currently using NetworkManager. On the way home from DebConf I'd like to be able to use the net in KL. What nasty Windows protocol am I missing support for?
So, back to geekery after too many months away. While we were in Thailand, I met Theppitak Karoonboonyanan and his friend Neutron Soutmun and a couple of others from the Thai Linux community. Thep is in the NM process for Debian, he maintains Thai support packages in Debian and Neutron is a Debian user. Neutron writes firmware for GPS receivers (IIRC) and other GIS stuff, I'm hoping he will get involved in the debian-gis subproject. I think I convinced Neutron to at least think about applying to NM :D. We talked about a lot of things, mainly about Thai localisation and the challenges involved. He mentioned that the language barrier is a big problem for Thai people, so their main focus has been firstly infrastructure (text rendering, layout and wrapping, fonts, input methods, locale, etc) and now translation (and the associated, laborious localisation efforts). He told me a bit about the writing system and how it is related to other systems in the area. Thep also mentioned the possibility of debconf9 being in Thailand, I recon it would be bloody awesome to have debconf in Asia. At least one other Debian Developer is interested in this, madduck is the initial instigator. I hope we both make it to debconf in the UK this year. I also visited the open source lab at NECTEC (the Thai National Electronics and Computer Technology Center), which is government funded. There, they develop LinuxTLE (an Ubuntu based desktop distro), LinuxSIS (a simple internet server for schools and businesses) and do lots of translation and advocacy work within NECTEC and with businesses and other organisations within Thailand. One thing about LinuxPLE which I noted was that during the post-install GUI configuration step, there is an option to setup the system to use fonts from a mounted Windows partition. IIRC, they explained that they found this was important because of a reliance on Microsoft fonts in Thailand. While I was there, I went to a couple of other labs and saw a demo of a cool Thai OCR and car registration plate recognition system, English to Thai machine translation (text) and direct English speech to Thai speech conversion. They were also working on some medical imaging and speech recognition stuff that I didn't get to see. I also met the founder of linux.thai.net, whose company develops this online map for Bangkok..
Also posted some photos from our trip through Thailand.
Arrived at Ko Phuket a few days ago, I'm off the ship and at a hotel. In Bintan, we saw an interesting looking resort with plenty of coconut trees, logs and other stuff floating in the harbour, a snake oil merchant (with a live cobra), barges and transformer ferries, pouring rain and bad drainage. We left Bintan, went south for Selat Durian, then north past Singapore Straits, into the infamous Straits of Malacca and north past Malaysia and to the tourist island of Phuket. Along the way, we saw the coals of sunset, massive jellyfish in the dark green water, huge queues of massive ships covering the horizon as we passed the entrance to the Straits of Singapore, lights from Singapore in the distance, the pirate-free Straits of Malacca, where many large cargo and other ships passed us, the fleet of lights/boats that sprung up as if from nowhere some 50 miles off Phuket, the last sunrise on the ship (in a bay near Phuket) and an awesome NYE party on the ship.
Leaving the Heraclitus has been hard, I'm gonna miss that black and red ship and the awesome crew who got us the 3000 or so nautical miles from Cairns to Phuket. Now it is time to visit some Thai Linux developers and return to Australia.
The past few weeks, we changed our route to visit an uninhabited island (aka Ko Pulau Island) said to be "National Geographic, man" by some Americans we met in Kupang. On the way to Ko Pulau Island we saw a large school of pilot whales and dolphins, a humpback or other whale close to shore, a blue starfish and hot water vents nearby on the same mostly dead reef, a flock of birds feasting on a dense school of fish, a manta ray, a bonfire on the beach shared with the kids of Rote (who we swapped roast banannas and coconuts with), a clean hull and renewed sea-sickness. At Ko Pulau Island, we saw a long white beach made of small bead things instead of sand, with surf at either end and reef in between, a green lagoon with islands being eaten away at the base, a monkey-head rock, pink coral, reef fish, sea urchins, various pieces of flotsam washed up on the beach (flip-flops, a light-bulb, bottles, wood, burnie-beans, nautilus shells, a seabird egg, a dead seabird and other crap), sunset over the ocean with golden cirrus in the sky, turtle nests, tracks and hatchlings scurrying off into the water, Indonesian fishermen in need of water and turtle eggs, tidal pools with the occasional crab, ghost crabs darting towards the water, a pandanus stand, a small cave surrounded by discarded turtle eggshells, spinifex, hermit crabs, scrambling lizards, sunburn and other things. Later in our voyage, we saw a big lone flying fish, land looming mountainous on starboard, TNI, gratis reef fish, water buffalo and threatening rain clouds. The next major stop was a bay on the south side of Sumba, black cliffs to port and an eroded hillside to starboard. There, we enjoyed the excellent snorkeling against the cliffs and off the beach, birds calling from the forest, wasps - shiny blue and otherwise, meeting roaming cows in the forest, forest fungi and other sights. We met some fishermen and drove through the forested slopes toward a nearby city. On the way, we visited an Indonesian village and saw their traditional animist temple, ample baby pigs & dogs, tons of kids trying to get in photos, satellite dishes and graves in front of houses. Unfortunately, I crashed once we reached the hotel, missing eating and night life, but I did enjoy the sights from the windows of the cramped 4WD we were in. We headed for the 9.8 knot passage of Selat Sape, complete with eddies, currents, a barracuda and the steep slopes of a silent volcano. Since there, we saw an increasing number of interesting and curious Indonesian vessels, fish traps, the grey shapes of dolphins swimming in the aqua water under the bow, a floating sandal, a school of mahi-mahi jumping out of the water, a misty night, numerous schools of feeding fish, entangled luminescent trails left by dolphins swimming in the phosphorescent water beneath the bow, flashes of lightning in the distance, our first rain since Cairns, the associated storm, Jack the fisherman (a mast hallucination) and other things. Our next stop was Kalimunjava (north of Java, Indonesia), more than half way to Phuket. We spent a week there, watched lightning, collected rain, visited the local school, dived and snorkelled on the magnificant reef with some really nice university students (hi Lely, Dudu, Jaos and others) from Java who were doing a study on the corals and hiked up the steep slopes of the island. From there we ambled past Borneo, towards Bintan, near Singapore, experiencing the first non-calm seas in ages, dolphins in the storm, floating lines of debris, big barges, container ships and megatankers, a fancy, shiny yacht, fishing vessels with 50,000 lights, Rain Drop and it's egg (child of Rain the gecko), amazing cloudscapes at sunrise, throughout the day and at sunset on the way. Amazingly, we met the ∞ (Infinity, the new PCRF vessel) one find day in the South China Sea on their way to Bali. Eddie saw them from 5 miles away and knew almost straight away it was them. Michelle came on board and a lone daytime cumi (squid) swam between us as we parted. Before we arrived at Pulau Bintan (near Singapore), we saw seasnakes and a palm tree floating and lots of wind and rain.
We will probably arrive in Thailand by January and I'm thinking of passing thru Sydney on the way home, so let so please mail me if you want to meet up.
We arrived in Kupang (West Timor), will be heading off on Tues 7th to motor through Indonesia and towards Thailand, hopefully visiting Roti, Flores, Sumbawa and or other islands in the area along the way. We've seen the ever-changing iridescent colours of a dying mahi-mahi, tuna blood, misty hills of a strange new land looming on the horizon, the unfamiliarly shaped Indonesian fishing and other boats, dead-calm seas in the early morning, a bossy French warship, customs planes flying overhead and calling us every day, the eerie blue of the deep ocean with floating jellies at a swim stop, taking down the mainsail in the channel, shitter crabs, oil platforms in the distance, flocks of flying fish getting out of our way during a calm sunset, bird-stowaways, the amazing crystal goo of phosphorescence off the bow, zillions of mini-buses (taxis) in Kupang and many other things. The open-sea sailing has been mostly relaxing, although we motored a lot of the way from Thursday Island. I'm hoping there will be some more wind, but it looks like we'll be motoring to Thailand (to arrive after Christmas), maybe against the wind since the season has changed. I'm looking forward to finally doing some diving and snorkeling during the next leg of the journey.
If there are any Indonesian Debian or Indymedia folk that would like to meet up with me for a keysigning and or bintang, please send me an email and I'll try to let you know if an opportunity arises.