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Jonathan McDowell: Back from DebConf 14

Fri, 12/09/2014 - 14:03

I previously forgot to mention that I was planning to attend DebConf14, having missed DebConf13. This year the conference was held in Portland, OR. This is a city I've been to many times before, and enjoy, but I hadn't spent any time wandering around its city centre as a pedestrian. I have to say I really prefer DebConfs that are held in middle of city. It always seems a bit of a shame to travel some distance to somewhere new and spend all the time there in a conference venue. Plus these days I have the added lure of going out and playing Ingress in a new location. DebConf14 didn't disappoint in these respects; the location was super easy to get to from the airport via public transportation, all of the evening social events were within reasonable walking distance (I'll tend to default to walking when possible) and the talk venue/accommodation were close to each other and various eating + drinking options. Throw in the fact at Portland managed to produce some excellent weather (modulo my Ingress session on the last Saturday morning, when rained on me) and it's impossible to fault the physicalities of DebConf this year.

This year the conference format was a bit different; previous years have had a week long DebConf before the week of the conference itself. This year went for a 9 day talk schedule (Saturday -> Sunday) with various gaps of hacking time interspersed. I've found it hard to justify a full two weeks away in the past, so this setup worked a lot better from my viewpoint. Also I rarely go to DebConf with a predetermined list of things to do; the stuff I work on naturally falls out of talks I attend and informal discussions I have. Having hack time throughout the conference helped me avoid feeling I was having to trade off hacking vs talks.

Naturally enough a lot of my involvement at DebConf was around OpenPGP. Gunnar and I spent a fair bit of time getting Daniel up to speed with the keyring-maint team (Gunnar more than I, I'll confess). We finally set a hard timeframe for freeing Debian of older 1024 bit keys. I was introduced to the Gnuk, which is a particularly interesting piece of open specification hardware with a completely Free software stack on top if it that implements the OpenPGP smartcard spec. Currently it's limited to 2K keys but it's hoped that 4K support can be added (and I ended up spending a couple of hours after the closing talk hacking on the source and seeing how much needs to change for 4K support, aided by the very patient Niibe). These are the sort of things that really benefit from the face time that DebConf offers to the Debian project. I've said it before, but I think it's worth saying again: Debian is a bit like a huge telecommuting organization and it's my opinion that any such organization should try and ensure its members actually spend some time together on a regular basis. It improves the ability to work remotely a hell of a lot if you can actually put a face to the entity you're emailing / IRCing and have some sort of idea where they're coming from because you've spent some time with them, whether that's in talks or over dinner or just casual hallway chats.

For once I also found myself considering alternative employment while at DebConf and it was incredibly useful to be able to have various conversations with both old friends and people who were there with an eye on recruitment. Thanks to all those whose ears I bent about the subject (and more on the outcome in a future post). Thank you also to the many people involved with the organization of DebConf; I've been on the periphery a few times over the years and it's given me a glimpse into the amount of hard work all of the volunteers (be they global team, local organizing team, video team or just random volunteers) put into making DebConf one of my must-attend yearly conferences. If you're at all involved in Debian and haven't attended I strongly urge you to do so - I'll see you all next year at DebConf15 in Heidelberg!

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Jonathan McDowell: Breaking up with America

Sat, 06/09/2014 - 22:38

Back in January I changed jobs. This took me longer to decide to do than it should have. My US visa (an L-1B) was tied to the old job, and not transferable, so leaving the old job also meant leaving the US. That was hard to do; I'd had a mostly fun 3 and a half years in the SF Bay Area.

The new job had an office in Belfast, and HQ in the Bay Area. I went to work in Belfast, and got sent out to the US to meet coworkers and generally get up to speed. During that visit the company applied for an H-1B visa for me. This would have let me return to the US in October 2014 and start working in the US office; up until that point I'd have continued to work from Belfast. Unfortunately there were 172,500 applications for 85,000 available visas and mine was not selected for processing.

I'm disappointed by this. I've enjoyed my time in the US. I had a green card application in process, but after nearly 2 years it still hadn't completed the initial hurdle of the labor certification stage (a combination of a number of factors, human, organizational and governmental). However the effort of returning to live here seems too great for the benefits gained. I can work for a US company with a non-US office and return on an L-1B after a year. And once again have to leave should I grow out of the job, or the job change in some way that doesn't suit me, or the company hit problems and have to lay me off. Or I can try again for an H-1B next year, aiming for an October 2015 return, and hope that this time my application gets selected for processing.

Neither really appeals. Both involve putting things on hold in the hope longer terms pans out as I hope. And to be honest I'm bored of that. I've loved living in America, but I ended up spending at least 6 months longer in the job I left in January than I'd have done if I'd been freely able to change employer without having to change continent. So it seems the time has come to accept that America and I must part ways, sad as that is. Which is why I'm currently sitting in SFO waiting for a flight back to Belfast and for the first time in 5 years not having any idea when I might be back in the US.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Engledow (stilvoid): Lessons learned

Fri, 05/09/2014 - 08:51
  • Apparently I am unable to summarise.

  • When going on holiday somewhere, research things we might do once there rather than rely on local knowledge.

  • I am mildly allergic to raw tomatoes and need to stop bloody eating them.

  • Fork out for the TomTom map wherever we go. My aged TomTom One is still far better than anything I've found on Android so far.

    • Google Maps does not do navigation in Turkey.

    • Not all road signs in Turkey are reliable. Some rely on local knowledge.

  • Whatever the heat, keep feet covered at night; the mosquitos love them. Ouch.

  • Lost luggage will only turn up after you've given up hope and have bought replacements for the important stuff.

  • Turkey has inherited several things from French immigrants of yore. Notably, quite a bit of vocabulary and their driving style.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Engledow (stilvoid): O Baggage Where Art Thou

Fri, 05/09/2014 - 08:32

Owing to various factors, I'm finding it difficult to recall the things that have happened and in what order over the last few days so, for my own purposes, I'm going to note them down here.</pointless-intro>

Edit: Those were not notes. I'm a waffler.

tl;dr: We got tired, the airline lost one of our bags, we did stuff, the airline found the bag.

Monday

Woke up around 9, considered the fact that we had until around 5pm to tackle tidy the house, tackle the Everest of dishes, wash all clothes, pack, and then leave for our holiday.

Farted around a fair bit and eventually resigned ourselves to coming back to a less-than-perfectly-tidy house. I scaled Mount Crockery at least.

Around 18:30 we eventually left for Stansted. We made good time and arrived plenty early enough for our 23:35 flight to Istanbul. On check-in, we were told the flight was delayed and was expected to depart between 01:00 and 01:30. Just what we needed with our already over-tired 2 year old.

We decided we would try to take it easy; we had a pint and I walked around the airport with the little man until he had calmed down a bit.

Tuesday

Eventually, the plane was ready for us to board at 01:15; we did so.

The flight passed easily enough. We were served a hot meal as soon as we hit cruising altitude and then we all slept through until descent. The landing was smooth and early morning Istanbul seemed warm and inviting.

Until we had found ourselves still waiting for our luggage ninety minutes later.

2 hours later, we learned that one of our bags had been lost. After some half-hearted arguing (we were just too tired), we filled in a form and left the arrivals hall with our remaining luggage. Unfortunately, the one that was missing contained most of our clothes and, frustratingly, toys and clothes for my sister-in-law's newborn.

Brother-in-law was waiting patiently outside for us. I guess he'd been there a while because he looked very relieved to see us. We made our way to the car hire place to find that, because we were so much later than we'd told them (by this time we were 3 hours later than we had booked the car for) they had decided we'd cancelled and gave our car to someone else. After some more arguing (half-hearted again), they found us another car of "equivalent size" and told us to wait round the front.

The car was a Ford Fiesta. I'm not one of those blokey types that know about cars. But I can say with certainty that I will never buy a Ford Fiesta and hope never to have to drive one again. It was tiny and weird. If we'd had our missing bag, I don't think we could have fit everything in the car. mumble mumble small mercies or summat

With the help of b-i-l, we found our way to his house - driving on the "wrong" side of the road in a "wrong"-hand-drive car after a long and stressful night with not much sleep was fun - and greeted s-i-l and her new baby and then had breakfast.

Then we slept. Then we went to the park. Then we slept.

Wednesday

The oddity of travelling at night then sleeping in the day but still being tired enough to sleep again at night was a new experience for me and I am still feel quite confused but I think I've managed to convince myself that everything above under "Tuesday" is correct.

On Wednesday, we decided on the strength of internet reviews to visit Polonezköy. Don't bother, it's rubbish. We pressed on then to the "nearby" beach. It turned out to be a 45 minute drive and a storm broke out along the way. When we arrived at the little seaside town (I don't remember its name) there was nowhere to park. Being already in a grump, we decided to head home and call the day a complete loss. Half way home, we decided we would visit Kartal instead; a town near s-i-l's.

Kartal was nice :)

Thursday

Shopping in Kadıköy, ferry to Beşiktaş, more shopping, ferry back, home. In all, a nice day. Rounded off by some quality time with a beer on the balcony. It is way too hot indoors, even at night.

Just after midnight, the airline called us to say that they had found our missing luggage and would be sending it to us tomorrow.

Fresh pants!

Categories: LUG Community Blogs