Category Archives: Technology

Now brought to you by Fedora*

I’ve been an Ubuntu user since about September or October 2004. I bought my first up-to-date laptop hardware in New York City (a Fujitsu Lifebook, still my favourite of my laptops), replacing a Toshiba Libretto I’d bought in late 2002 or early 2003 at more than five years of age and which I’d managed to squeeze Debian onto against its will. In 2004 my husband was working for the company later to be known as Canonical and so I became a beta tester (I think not a highly contributing one) for the distribution soon after revealed to be Ubuntu. And that was pretty great for me, basically Debian with a regular release schedule centered around up-to-date GNOME.

In January this year I appeared on My Linux Rig and you can see I was still an Ubuntu desktop user. I wrote:

I am curious about how Fedora is doing these days, but realistically switching distributions is more work than upgrading Ubuntu so I am likely to stick with the path of least resistance.

But rumblings were changing my mind. Late last year I made a belated upgrade to Ubuntu 12.04 (after I submitted my PhD in May), at which point for reasons I now forget it became impossible to use GNOME 2/Metacity. I wasn’t particularly enamoured of GNOME 2 by that point in any event, but I’d resisted switching because my husband has been using Unity for considerably longer (he is a fan; he may have been dogfooding for Canonical fairly early, although he’s worked for Google since mid-2011 and I am not sure of Unity’s timeline there) and I really struggled with it when I used his machine. Much later it emerged that he doesn’t use workspaces at all in Unity, so that may be responsible for his desktop being a bit Mary-hostile.

I gave Unity and GNOME Shell about two hours each on my desktop and decided that I liked the latter better. GNOME Shell wasn’t ideally supported in Ubuntu 12.04 and 12.10 but it worked well enough to keep me from the pain of re-installing. But then I upgraded to 13.04, and GNOME Shell crashed about every half an hour on my hardware and graphics seemed unstable in general. Unity was rather better, needing a restart “only” a few times a week. But I really missed GNOME Shell. I was tempted to move to a distro that follows mainline GNOME at that point, but the decision was sealed when I began to learn about Canonical’s plans for the desktop stack. I don’t actually have a strongly held opinion on a lot of the issues: the value or otherwise of collaborating with upstream in general or with GNOME or Wayland or Xorg in particular, the relative technical merits of any current proposal, the risks of splitting the Linux desktop and so on. I just have a preference for vanilla GNOME 3 and Canonical’s development direction suggested Ubuntu was increasingly less likely to cater to me as time went on. And less likely looked pretty bad when 13.04 already rendered it nearly unusable.

Well, I guess I do have a preference in a way, I’m using Fedora — rather than any other distro with a good GNOME 3 stack — to support Red Hat (in a small way), in that they are active in developing the software I like at the moment.

In terms of work, I really didn’t want to switch. Reinstalling my machine and setting up my work environment has been exactly as annoying and boring as I expected it would be, I have a whole second post coming with notes on all the gotchas I encountered configuring Fedora. There is nothing fun about installing or configuring Linux, and FedUp better do what it says on the tin and take me to Fedora 20 and so on when the time comes. (Ubuntu’s preferred upgrade path, by the by, hadn’t worked for me for at least five releases, I was therefore still using apt-get dist-upgrade.) It took me a month to get from “I want to switch to Fedora” to actually installing it, and it probably would have been at least another month if Unity hadn’t crashed on me about three times in an hour last week.

So here we are. Initial signs are promising. My install, while boring, went cleanly. GNOME 3 on Fedora is much more stable than GNOME 3 or Unity on Ubuntu 13.04 on my hardware.

Hopefully I won’t be doing this again before 2022.

* Not really, my servers are still Ubuntu LTS and will likely stay Ubuntu LTS or, if there’s some Unity-equivalent disruption in the Ubuntu server experience, which I can’t imagine, Debian.

Filling a car: user interface commentary thereon

I don’t own a car, so while I’m a bit late in life for this tradition, I’ve nevertheless been driving my father’s car while my parents are overseas. They’re back today, so last night I decided to fill the tank for them before they got back.

I wasn’t coming into this in the best of states. I had a three year old child in the car. It was evening peak hour in Sydney, and although I was yet to realise that events in Moore Park were slowing traffic even more than usual back as far as the Lane Cove tunnel (for reference, Moore Park and the Lane Cove tunnel are 15km apart on entirely different sides of Sydney Harbour), I had already had to turn from Lane Cove Road onto Epping Road, which has to be one of the worst designed intersections of all time, except for all other intersections of major arterial roads in Sydney, which are also awful in peak hour. (For example, it was often considerably faster to get off my bus on the Pacific Highway, walk 1km around onto Epping Road, and catch an entirely new bus further ahead in the queue than it used to be to wait for the bus to turn that same corner.) But Lane Cove and Epping is my especial enemy after most of a decade at Macquarie University, I can’t even go into it now. And finally, I was late to meet my sister, who was sitting on the front step of my house in the dark.

Then I pull up to a pump, which is also (I knew) on the wrong side of the vehicle, run back and forth between the drivers seat and the fuel hatch (on opposite sides of the vehicle) until I find the latch for it, unhook the hose from the bowser, drape it over the top of the car, and get a good look at the fuel cap for the first time. “DIESEL”.

Before everyone reaches for smelling salts, all that happened here is I said “oh for real?”, put the ULP hose away, got back in the car, moved it, hunted around on foot for the diesel pump, found it, moved the car there, filled the car, spilled big splotches of diesel all over my dress (that made for a fun drive home, ugh, sorry your car interior smells of diesel Dad, but I also note it smelled strongly of cattle before that), paid for the fuel, got back in the car, apologised profusely to my 3 year old — who is very well behaved in cars, those of you who’ve heard my story about him in planes will be surprised to hear, and who hadn’t peeped the whole time other than to say “oh no Mama diesel” sympathetically — and drove home in infuriating traffic, about 45 minutes late to hand over the car to my sister.

So far so good right? But my point is this. That label “DIESEL” was in a nice elegant thin font in white letters on the fuel cap. It was big but it didn’t look so terribly important, I can imagine “TOYOTA”, say, being lettered much the same (or “NO SMOKING” which is important in general, but less so to me in particular). I probably only would have needed to have been in about a 10% worse mood to have just missed it entirely and filled the tank with ULP, which I just now confirmed is as expensive a mistake as I thought it was, and this morning my parents would be flying into the country in order to find that I’d wrecked the engine. Good grief.

My point is this: it would be nice if that cap was, say, all in red, and burned to the touch in the close proximity of ULP or something (yeah yeah, not really). In order to avoid a mistake that would cost weeks and ten thousand dollars to rectify, and moreover would be at the expense of my father’s very car reliant job too, there’s elegant white lettering on black? There aren’t even differently sized or shaped interfaces? At least I can take a UI design lesson from it: I will always in future imagine evening peak hour, a toddler, running late, and how to help that person not spend ten thousand dollars on a momentary oversight.

And if you have a diesel vehicle and want to loan it to your frazzled adult daughter (or frazzled adults of your acquaintance in general) I see that there are after market mis-fuelling prevention devices. Good to know someone stepped in. Although at this particular service station, I would have had to pull it off again because it was a high flow bowser. So, you know, not exactly ideal still.

Why my phone is silent during LCA talks

I don’t especially like Tasker’s interface, but setitng one’s phone to silent is nice enough to bust it out, so I thought I’d explain how I do this during linux.conf.au.

A bit of background: Tasker is an Android application (not free in either sense of the word) that does things to your phone when certain conditions (called contexts) are true. For example it could change the wallpaper (task) when you have unread text messages (context). I have, for example, Tasker tasks that turn my phone to silent between 10:30pm and 7:30am local time; and to run rsync backup (which copies the contents of my phone to my home server, ie backs it up) every time it is both on power and connected to my home wireless network.

Tasker somewhat trades between UI simplicity and power in favour of power (although even then I think there are better possible UIs for it). You can generally find specific apps that do individual Tasker-like things (for example, I would not be surprised if there was a ‘Silent at Night’ app), but Tasker lets you specify a wide variety of contexts and tasks.

First: the LCA calendar iCal is in my Google calendar, so it’s available to Tasker through its Calendar contexts. So that’s prior to setting this up.

The basic setup would be this:

  1. Go into Tasker.
  2. Add a Context (called eg ‘LCA activities’), select ‘State’, ‘App’, ‘Calendar Entry’.
  3. In Calendar Entry, go down to Calendar, press the search icon, select your LCA calendar.
  4. Press the tick.
  5. Now it will prompt you for the task, which is silencing your phone. Select ‘New Task’. Name the task (‘Silence’): it might be useful for other contexts!
  6. Press + to add an action. Select ‘Audio Settings’ and then ‘Silent Mode’. Turn ‘Mode’ to ‘On’. Leave ‘If’ alone. Press tick to approve the action and then tick to approve the task.

After this teeny (ahem) amount of work you now have a Tasker task that silences your phone during any event on the LCA calendar.

Fine print

My setup is a bit more complicated than this because I thought ‘wait, I want my phone to ring during meals’. This is a pain in the neck to do.

I added a second Context (long hold on the existing context), another Calendar Entry, also on the LCA calendar, but I also searched for location, selected ‘MCC Foyer’ (which is where the morning and afternoon teas are) and selected the Not tickbox, to make it a negative context. The total effect is that when there’s an event in the LCA calendar AND when there’s not an event in the LCA calendar that is in MCC Foyer, the task triggers. But that’s quite a bit nastier.

It can end up being easier to have a calendar that amounts to a ‘Do Not Disturb’ calendar, which isn’t ideal. Some people do something like “silence during anything in my work[/personal] calendar that’s marked busy”, etc etc, which would be longer lived than my LCA recipe. BUT at least my LCA recipe buys us silence for this conference!

Teach me py.test (Haecksen miniconf, Tuesday)

I didn’t manage to go speaking-free for LCA2013 after all, because I have volunteered to help out my roommate Brianna Laugher with the py.test presentation in the Haecksen miniconf.

The plan is that we will do “Teach me py.test” along the lines of Steve Holden’s “Teach Me Twisted” session at PyCon 2008 (see Catherine Devlin’s report). The idea of the session is that I (genuinely new to py.test, although not to either Python or to unit testing in general) will hook my laptop up to a projector and learn how to write tests in py.test, with Brianna teaching me.

We have pulled some of the business logic out of Zookeepr into this git repository in preparation for the talk at 16:05 in MCC6. I am not sure how much we will cover in 25 minutes, presumably not a lot, but it should be an interesting experiment in presentation style.

Fun at LCA 2013: my picks for Thursday and Friday

Thursday

I rarely go to LCA’s tutorials, but really, after years of not having to worry too much about distributed version control systems due to having in-house technical support from my husband, a (now former) Bazaar developer, it’s probably time that I came to grips with git. Hence Git For Ages 4 And Up (Michael Schwern) is tempting, hopefully it’s OK for those of us who do use terms like “directed acyclic graph”. This does mean missing Wiggle while you work (Neil Brown) though: apparently you can’t be a git beginner whilst being interested in newfangled patching algorithms.

After lunch The IPocalypse – 20 months later (Geoff Huston) calls to me: it’s the sequel to his LCA 2011 keynote, which is the one that stood out to me. (Well, and Mark Pesce’s, yes, but funnily enough his actual content largely passed me by.) All that doom and gloom, and now what? Has IPv6 cost us our Internet?

A Tridge talk (Building a free software telemetry radio system) is an even more obvious pick than a Matthew Wilcox talk. (Although why did we put that particular talk up against Buffer Bloat? Tridge is going to talk about TCP performance issues.)

In the afternoon Keith Packard has a new passion (Teaching Robotics and Embedded Computing with Legos and Arduino) and then Ristretto: run-time types for JavaScript (Shane Stephens) sounds alarming. In a good way.

Friday

It might also be a two-tute LCA, with Beyond Alt Text: What Every Project Should Know About Accessibility (Denise Paolucci) up first. BUT NovaProva, or How I Did Six Impossible Things Before LCA (Gregory Banks) is the good crack (“NovaProva implements true reflection in C/C++”???), so… difficult!

After lunch, Asheesh Laroia’s Quantitative community management is closer to what I do but I am also curious about The real story behind Wayland and X (Daniel Stone). In the final session, probably Building Persona: federated and privacy-sensitive identity for the Web depending on how my conference energy is going.

And then where?

I’m headed back to the USA in March for PyCon, and I’m looking forward to having way (waaaaaay) less commitments than I did at Wikimania 2012, and therefore being able to catch more of the talks. And not dragging myself to my hotel room at 4pm to order crème brûlée room service because I am too tired to figure out how to work the lifts. (It was good crème brûlée though!) The Ada Initiative will probably be running some non-talk activities though, so it won’t be wall-to-wall talks. And then a second return to the USA for AdaCamp SF. And that really might be enough for one year, but if not, there’s always Kiwicon.

Fun at LCA 2013: my picks for Tuesday and Wednesday

I’m currently regarding LCA 2013 as my last LCA for a while. Never say never: LCA 2014 bids came in from Sydney (so, local to me) and Perth (where I’ve never been and would like to go). But I first went to LCA in 2001 and then later went to 2004 and since 2007 I’ve been to LCA every year, except for 2010 and that only because I had a baby in the middle of the conference.

LCA used to be my main way of reconnecting with open source while I was working on my PhD. But now I work for the Ada Initiative and open source (and open stuff) events are a big part of my job. While I have more time and energy for conferences I am attending them for very different reasons now and the lure of the new is getting strong.

Because my volunteer time is diminishing, LCA 2013 is definitely the last LCA in which I will have had significant input into the program (Michael Davies and I are co-chairs of the conference program this year, as we were for 2010). So, it’s something of a farewell tour for me and I’m looking forward to the program we worked so hard putting together.

Monday

… actually my non-LCA-ing family is still in town Monday, so I’ll probably go to Bdale Garbee’s keynote and then hang out with them. Off to a great start here, I know.

Tuesday

Radia Perlman’s keynote is the keynote I am most looking forward to this year. Following that several of my peeps are giving Haecksen talks before lunch:

  • Feminism, anarchism and FOSS – Skye Croeser
  • Overcoming imposter syndrome – Denise Paolucci
  • Security – Joh Pirie-Clarke

People may be especially interested in the Imposter Syndrome talk, Imposter Syndrome being the feeling that you’ve achieved your current position or status totally fraudulently and are going to be discovered any second and publicly humiliated. It’s very common among people who are in quite critical fields (like academia). Denise was among our Imposter Syndrome facilitators for AdaCamp DC.

I am not sure after lunch, but Web Animations: unifying CSS Transitions, CSS Animations, and SVG (Shane Stephens) is a definite contender. In the afternoon The Horrible History of Web Development (Daniel Nadasi) sounds interesting (although it’s the kind of talk where an abstract would be really useful in determining whether I want to go) but so do What we can learn from Erlang (Tim McNamara) and Concurrent Programming is not so difficult (Daniel Bryan)

Wednesday

Trinity: A Linux kernel fuzz tester (and then some) (Dave Jones) is very tempting in the first slot, but I think I will go to Think, Create & Critique Design (Andy Fitzsimon) because I want to “speak” design semiotics a little bit better and have for a long time. Talking to graphic designers is actually part of my job.

In the second slot I am not entirely sure, but probably Open Source and Open Data for Humanitarian Response with OpenStreetMap (Kate Chapman) since I periodically dabble in OpenStreetMap.

After lunch my pick is definitely Free and open source software and activism (Sky Croeser). I’ve been following Sky’s activism and research since the EFA lamb roast fun and met her at AdaCamp Melbourne. I want to hear what she has to say about (h)ac(k)tavism.

Not as sure about the following slot (in a moment of mischief, we put the DSD’s talk right after Sky’s, but I’m not especially interested) but the biggest contender is The future of non-volatile memory (Matthew Wilcox) because he usually is one of the highlights of the LCA lower-level technical talks.

The first slot after afternoon tea I am not committing, but it does contain Pia’s grand scheme Geeks rule over kings – the Distributed Democracy. After that I think Copyright’s Dark Clouds: Optus v NRL (Ben Powell) is required: it isn’t LCA without emerging feeling distinctly gloomy about the current state of the intellectual property framework.

Product review updates: Shoeboxed & GoGet

I had some success in 2012 at subscribing to things that made my life a bit easier to organise, so, a couple of updated reviews.

Shoeboxed (original review)

What: a service where you package up a bundle of papers to be scanned, and they scan them, do some basic data entry (vendor, date, total amount, total GST) and store them on their website for you.

Current impressions: it’s still a pretty good fit for our needs: whenever a piece of paper enters our house that we have any belief we may need to access for paperwork purposes, we ship it off to them for scanning, data entry and shredding. The big test was doing our 2011/2012 taxes, and it was great to just enter a search term and have the document we needed show up among the top hits. We’ll keep using it for the foreseeable future. We don’t even really need the numerical amounts entered, since we don’t do personal bookkeeping at anything like that level.

I’ve also started forwarding them PDF receipts I get in the mail, and those work well: the PDF is pulled out and added to the data entry queue the vast bulk of the time. They’re much less good with HTML/text email receipts; it’s a harder problem though.

The major downside that has emerged is the length of time the processing takes, at least on the entry-level plan that we are on. It takes about two weeks from popping the envelope into the mail to the scans being available, and the delay is the scanning itself, not the data entry, so we can’t even access the raw images during this period. (There’s two ways to tell: one is that data entry for documents we upload in electronic form is usually complete within hours, the other is that the scans eventually show up in our “uploaded documents” queue waiting for their own data entry, and that happens about 24 hours before we get the “envelope processing now complete!” email.)

This is slower than the pricing plan states. It is mostly annoying for my business receipts: I do do double-entry bookkeeping for those, and in order to stay on top of things I like to do bank reconciliations sooner than 2 to 3 weeks after spending the money. I expect though that most businesses would subscribe to one of the higher volume plans (ours is 50 scans a month) which also have faster turnaround times.

GoGet car sharing (original review)

This has been a great replacement for car ownership, for us. Neither of us commutes by car (it would be a thoroughly silly way to pay for a regular commute), and we don’t even use cars every single weekend. But we do travel a lot to places where it is either essential or nice to have a car for the weekend, and make shorter trips to places that are a pain to wrangle a young child, associated supplies, and ourselves to on public transport (eg, Sydney’s beaches).

It’s also nice to have access to the vans. I’ve only done amateur furniture removal once this way, but they’re nice and roomy (we got two couches and a double mattress into one trip) without being as difficult to drive as the trucks one gets from rental companies. Also potentially much cheaper for small things, to be hiring by the hour!

For whatever reason, the contention for them has not been as bad since around about April. We can almost always get our first or second choice of car with as little as an hours’ notice. This is excepting the local iMax (8-seater) which you have to book up to 6 weeks in advance, but we very rarely need an 8-seater, luckily. We also regularly are later than we planned to be, and only once have I had to hurry back because someone else had booked the car for the next hour: every single other time we’ve been able to extend the booking into the free next hour. Several more cars have been added to the neighbourhood since around then.

We’re getting used to the child car-seat issue. It helps a lot that one of the nearby cars now has a car seat in it. We still often have to fit or re-fit the seat; I now believe the commonly cited statistic that around about 70% of self-fittings are incorrect. Ours definitely aren’t as tight as a professional fit sadly, but at least unlike everyone else we don’t have the back of the child’s belts wrapped around the adult belt that holds the seat itself. However, fitting a seat is a lot less onerous than carrying a seat to the car (while persuading a toddler to walk with us) and then fitting it! It will be good to have him in a booster though.

It’s not especially cheap: our monthly spend is somewhere between $200 and $500 (the high end in months like December and January, with multiple visits to different family in different cities). And we’re definitely using cars more often than we would if we had to sort out an entire car hire from scratch from a daily company every single time.

If there was one feature I really wish they’d add, it would be the ability to conditionally cancel a booking. The present situation is this: if you cancel with 48 hours before the start of the booking, it’s cancelled and you do not pay anything and the car is available for someone else to re-book. After that, you simply cannot cancel (not even any portion of your booking that is more than 48 hours in the future). What I’d like is the ability to do something like cancel at any time, thereby having the car available for booking by someone else, and, if there was less than 48 hours’ notice, incur the difference between my original hourly fee and any hourly fees they were able to get from any new bookings for that car. Then they have the same situation as now with regard to not losing my booking fee, but the neighbourhood is not locked out of the unused car for the duration of my abandoned booking. We felt this keenly when we had to walk away from our entire Easter weekend trip at the last minute due to acute illness.

We don’t intend to purchase a car again any time soon.

Mourning the Squeezebox

Logitech has discontinued their Squeezebox line of wireless music players.

Background: the Squeezebox was a device originally by Slim Devices, later acquired by Logitech. The Squeezebox (SB) originally supported playing music which was streamed over your home over a custom protocol, it involved running a server process written in Perl on the machine which contained the music. For several years, there has also been a My Squeezebox service which streams music over the Internet. The server/My Squeezebox can in turn stream podcasts, radio stations and so on.

We bought our first Squeezebox in, I think, 2008, which drives some Yamaha reference monitors I’ve had since 2001 (and then spent 7 years searching for a half decent networked music playing solution in order to use them more than occasionally) and added a Squeezebox Boom, which is about the size of a classic micro hi-fi system and has built-in speakers, a year later. We’ve been using them ever since. Both were already discontinued models in favour of the SB Touch and SB Radio, but were receiving firmware updates and support. All support for the entire ecosystem is now being ended by Logitech, in favour of the Ultimate Ears (UE) brand, which so far contains one wireless music player, the UE Smart Radio.

Possible replacements:

The Logitech UE system. Pros: I believe it’s similar hardware, and the SBs have worked well for us. Cons: the UE line only contains one wireless player right now, the UE Smart Radio, and it does not support use of your own speakers. UE devices do not understand the SB protocol, so unless we junked our SB devices we’d need to run two server processes and would lose things like syncing all our players to play the same thing at the same time. Linux is no longer officially supported for running the server software. In addition, I haven’t got confirmation of this, but it seems it is impossible to use the UE Smart Radio without signing up for an online service, which raises the spectre of not being able to play my music when the ‘net is down, or possibly at some point in the future having the UE suddenly stop working forever, when that service is in turn discontinued.

The Sonos. Pros: I don’t follow the wireless music market closely, but I understand this is the brand that’s associated with quality music engineering. Technically, it can stream music from a SAMBA share as well as from the Internet. Cons: it too has made its deals with the we’re-watching-you devils: It will only play RadioTime’s approved podcasts, obviously there’s a workaround involving downloading to the SAMBA share we would use, but that’s still annoying. We again lose the house-wide syncing if we keep our (not cheap, and still functional) SB devices in the house. The podcast thing suggests that the Sonos may also be vulnerable to “do the players still work if Sonos goes away?” concern, but again, I don’t know.

The Roku Soundbridge. Pros: I believe it understands the SB protocol, which means it would be the best fit for our existing music network. Cons: there only seems to be one model in its lineup too, a speakerless one. I’m not intending to buy separate speakers for every room we want music in. Otherwise this is probably the most seamless replacement for an SB.

Bluetooth speakers. Or I guess a receiver, in the case of my reference monitor. Pros: a bigger market to buy from, way less vendor-dependent (even if documented) custom streaming protocols to deal with. Cons: Bluetooth support, or alleged support, in car stereos has not endeared this solution to me, to me Bluetooth means “does not work-tooth”. I have no idea how to achieve the multiple rooms with the same music effect either. And it then leaves the problem of queueing up the music on the headless server. I spent several years seeing how bad all MPD clients could be, I’m not keen to go back to that. In addition, we have enough trouble getting 802.11 signals to span our house, never mind Bluetooth.

I think at this stage, given that luckily the SBs are not going to stop working unless the hardware fails or the software stops running on later versions of Linux (both are possible, of course), that what we’ll probably do is try and snag a SB Radio or two before they get too hard to get hold of, stick with them and our existing devices until the bitter end, and then hope that Bluetooth or some later protocol and its Linux support are up to what we want to do. Since we aren’t likely to subscribe to streaming services in the very near future, this is viable.

If Logitech eventually puts out firmware support for the UE protocol onto older SB hardware, as Gadget Guy suggests they will (but there’s no sign of it on the Logitech forums), it will be more tempting to move to UE than otherwise, at least if the server is known to work on Linux. Otherwise, an additional strike against Logitech products is that they’ve substantially damaged my faith in their longevity. Quoth Matthew Moskovciak on CNET It may be wise to see how Logitech handles its Squeezebox customers before committing to the new UE ecosystem. There’s probably 12 to 24 months of endgame in that.

Update: Sue Chastain has more info, including an apparent confirmation that the UE Smart Radio will indeed not work in the absence of an Internet connection, even when playing locally stored music.

Now Wikivoyaging!

It’s amazing how many people I meet who got en-wikied by Wikitravel, the freely licenced worldwide travel guide founded by Evan Prodromou and Michele Ann Jenkins. I was always a bit sad that it wasn’t a Wikimedia project (once I knew there were Wikimedia projects aside from Wikipedia). I was a heavy editor in 2004 and 2005 and became an administrator in 2006, and still (well, as of yesterday) held that role on the website although I haven’t been very active since 2007.

For entirely separate reasons, I ended up keynoting Wikimania this year, which was great and terrible timing as far as wikis for travel went. Great, because it was at Wikimania that part of the discussion about founding a Wikimedia Foundation travel wiki was going on (Internet Brands owns the Wikitravel trademark and domain name), and I was told about it by one of the people active in it. Terrible, because I was so exhausted and overwhelmed after AdaCamp and my keynote that I didn’t do nearly enough at Wikimania. (The evening of the keynote, I went to my hotel at 4pm and ordered room service dinner. Thank you, room service crème brûlée, for getting me through that night.) I did meet someone who was among those spearheading the proposal to have a WMF travel wiki, but I didn’t attend the travel wiki meetups, nor log in anywhere to express an opinion among the various proposals.

It seems that what was eventually decided was to immediately import content originally written for Wikitravel into an English language version of Wikivoyage, which had already assembled a German and Italian community to create a non-commerical wiki travel guide some years back. The edit history of Wikitravel as of early August has been imported (since August, Internet Brands turned off the API access to Wikitravel changes), with further edits being made by Wikivoyagers including many former Wikitravel (and current, perhaps?) editors. Wikivoyage is in turn being imported into WMF technical infrastructure very very soon (possibly Monday US time), but I finally happened to want to do some editing last night, so I jumped the gun and joined the live version of English Wikivoyage! If you remember me from Wikitravel, say hi.

It’s already possible to use Wikimedia Commons images on Wikivoyage, for which I’m very grateful. I’ve put all the research I’ve done for my upcoming trip to SEE A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE into the Solar eclipses travel article, a perfect use-case for Commons images, which has hundreds of shots of eclipses. I’ll see if I can find a good replacement for the very mediocre image from my 2006 trip to Cairns still used on that article.

Ada Lovelace Day: Marita Cheng, Robogals founder

Today, October 16, is Ada Lovelace Day: write or record a story about a woman in science, technology, mathematics or engineering (STEM) whose achievements you admire.

This is a slightly updated version of a profile that has appeared on Geek Feminism and Hoyden About Town.

Marita Cheng was named as the Young Australian of the Year winner at the beginning of the year. She’s been involved in volunteering since she was a high school student, and in 2008, early in her undergraduate studies (mechatronic engineering and computer science at the University of Melbourne) she founded Robogals, which is an engineering and computing outreach group, in which women university students run robotics workshops for high school age girls.

Marita, while still in the final year of her undergraduate degree, is also an entrepreneur and has been previously awarded for her work as founder of Robogals, including winning the Anita Borg Change Agent award in 2011. In 2012 she travelled to several countries with the aid of the Nancy Fairfax Churchill Fellowship to study “strategies used to most effectively engage female schoolgirls in science, engineering and technology.”

While I have heard of Robogals, I hadn’t heard of Marita specifically before she became Young Australian of the Year. One of the fascinating things about starting the Ada Initiative is slowly discovering all the other amazing women who work in technology career outreach and related endeavours. But it’s a little embarrassing, judging from her bio, to have not heard Marita Cheng’s name before the beginning of the year!

Further reading: