Wednesday 30 March 2011

Global Jam in Montréal

So we're doing it again!

It's obviously getting a bit on the late side to announce this, but I only got the confirmation for our location this weekend -- after work or when I had a second, I wrote the Ubuntu-Quebec mailing list invitation, dented about the event, and created the LoCo directory entry for this event already.

So once again, people wanting to help improve Natty Narwhal or who would like to know more about bugs, triaging, fixing bugs, testing the new release or even writing documentation for applications, and living around Montreal, Qc, don't hesitate to come join us at SUPInfo Montréal this weekend. The closest subway station is McGill on the green line, then about 3 minutes walking time ;)

We're holding our sessions on *both* Saturday and Sunday, from 11am to 5pm on each day.

SUPInfo Montréal
752 Sherbrooke West
Montreal, Quebec

Agrandir le plan

Thursday 24 March 2011

Idea #27250: Auto eth0 isn't very user friendly. Many people wont know what it is.

The Problem

In case you didn't already figure it out, the title refers to a quite popular idea on Ubuntu Brainstorm. It also refers to a bug report against NetworkManager in Launchpad: bug #386900.

This is one issue I'd particularly like to solve soon. Although it most likely won't change for Natty (given that we're in Feature Freeze, and UI Freeze incessantly), I believe the question truly can be brought to a concensus and fixed early in the Oneiric cycle (and actually be made available upstream for everyone's benefit).

I think much of the issues coming from this bug report stem from diverging expectations of people who just care about their wired connection working and likely don't need to change it all that often, and people who actively use NetworkManager's connection profiles to achieve various things.

First, some background:

Why "Auto eth0" ?

The name "Auto eth0" comes from... well, the fact that it's a connection that was created automatically by NetworkManager with the simplest default settings (that is, just use DHCP to set an IP address), and the fact that it was created for the interface eth0. As such, people with multiple wired network cards would then get one "Auto XXXX" profile for each wired card. This profile should take care of 90% of all use cases, since most people will just want their system to be plugged in, their home router to hand over an IP address and be able to get online.

What's this with profiles ?

I just mentioned that the connection names shown are profiles. This is actually very important to me and quite a lot of people, because there are often cases where one would want to use specific network settings when at work and while at home. In other words, one could use "Auto eth0" at home with a simple setup, and benefit from a "At work" profile which sets a static IP address, or different DNS search strings (what would let your computer access "planet", instead of "" in Firefox, for instance).

Why so many issues ?

I guess this all falls apart when you consider that most people probably won't use alternate profiles for wired connections. DHCP tends to get most things right from the start, which make profiles not very useful unless you want to do very specific things with your connection.

Add to this the fact that not everyone knows that eth0 is what Linux calls your first wired network card (instead of say "Local Area Connection" as I believe it is on Windows), and you have a nice little mess to untangle.

Fixing all of this

I can't say I have all the answers. It's still unclear to me how much information is absolutely required, and I'm well aware that we can't really please everyone.

However, I've added a proposal to the brainstorm idea (Solution #7). It goes like this:
I'm suggesting the name of the profile to be something like "Default". It should not be tied to any particular adapter.
This way, any new connection use that profile which will have default settings to use DHCP and the usual (as Auto eth0 is set). All adapters could share it, so adding a new interface to a computer would still just "work".

For notifications, I suggest the following changes:

- The title should mention "Wired network", and probably the same of the interface (eth0 in most cases).
- The text of the notification should say:

Connection established, using profile "Default"

or whatever profile in use.
Furthermore, perhaps items in the network menu shouldn't list the full details of the network card (it's full name from udev as it does now). Instead, the interface name would be sufficient. I expect people who use multiple cards to know what eth0 and eth1 mean and refer to.

Lastly, drop the "Auto" from user-created wireless network profiles too. Since they are created by the user and carry the name of the wireless network, "Auto" is both unnecessary, and possibly incorrect (since people can change the settings after creating it).

I'd very much like anyone with an opinion on this to vote on Ubuntu Brainstorm for the idea they prefer, and comment with why my suggestion breaks things for them if it does. I certainly could have forgotten things. Comments on this blog are welcome too ;)

Wednesday 9 March 2011

This weekend's GeekFest in Montreal

We had a table at this weekend's GeekFest geek festival in Montreal. It was awesome! Tons of people, and even better, tons of interest about Ubuntu and our LoCo team.

We gave out CDs, stickers, some extra FSF stickers I had in my backpack, and generally told people all they wanted to know about Ubuntu, gaming on Ubuntu (we had a demo of World of Goo running on one of the laptops for a good part of Sunday), and the Ubuntu Quebec LoCo team. It was very interesting to hear people tell us they already knew about Ubuntu or used it at home, at work, etc; yet still didn't know about the local community team and the help resources we offer.

One of the things we focused on was how Ubuntu Quebec has a mailing list and forum to provide help, announce events and just generally discuss things, as well as our IRC channel on Freenode (#ubuntu-qc, for those who don't know!). Lots of people were surprised to hear of a user group for Ubuntu but very interested by it. I printed and gave out nearly 40 business cards with contact information for the LoCo team.

I am very happy to have been helped by two very active members of the team: Christian Parent (Mobidoy) and Philippe Gauthier (deuxpi), and joined on Sunday by Eric Beaurivage (sipherdee), another LoCo team member. Without them, we certainly couldn't have been able to speak to so many people, and we definitely wouldn't have had any time to visit the other kiosks (can't just stay sitting... if you hold a kiosk in a conference, just got to go see the other things!).

Christian always has very cool ideas, this weekend it was to show his new laptop sticker (a mouse pad glued to the laptop).

Some other interesting aspects:

To our right was the kiosk of devLAB, a project to start programming contests, identify new technologies, etc... Did I get this all right? Sure hope so. The great thing too is that they were interested by our Global Jam ideas, so there may be collaboration on that aspect to come for this cycle's Global Jam event in Montreal. That still needs to be discussed on the mailing list.

We met with someone from Foonzo Café, a new café in Montreal near Peel metro which runs all their systems on Ubuntu! They have some 80 seated places, so we may consider holding the Montreal release party there for Natty. Check how the discussion unfolds for this on our mailing list.

And last but not least, we met with Carlos and his brother who started "Carlito's Contraptions". They work on Nao the robot to develop applications, have it do stuff... While Nao doesn't exactly run Ubuntu (it's really a stripped down Linux with the bare minimum), their development systems are Ubuntu. They were nice enough to allow us to take action shots of Nao with a Ubuntu logo sticker. First it was on a GeekFest pin attached to Nao with sticky-tack, then they put another sticker directly on Nao's right arm. Rock on guys!

Take a look at all the pictures on my Picasa Album: "GeekFestMtl 2011".