linux.conf.au 2011 call for papers

We’re seeking a wide range of papers across the whole spectrum, encompassing programming and software to desktop and userland, education, community and law…

Some typical topics (but not limited to these) include:

  • Aspects of kernel development, including recent data structures and algorithm developments
  • Database and File system developments
  • Desktop topics, covering aspects of the user experience
  • Networking topics, from device drivers to servers
  • Novice user’s introduction to exploring FOSS
  • Professional development, including Software Engineering & System Administration techniques
  • Scalability, both embedded and enterprise
  • Development topics, including concurrency and toolchain advancements
  • Open Source Software usage, including business, education & research
  • Graphics & sound advancements, from low level drivers to end-user applications
  • Open Source culture, including open content creation

More information is here, and submissions close August 7.

Unlike for the previous three conferences (Melbourne 08, Hobart 09, Wellington 10), I’m not heavily involved in selections: I will be reviewing abstracts but not (co-)chairing the process. I probably won’t even be at the infamous day-long meeting to finalise selections, a long awaited visit from Andrew’s sister will clash.

I’m hoping to attend the conference — it’s fairly safe to say by now that unlike this year, it will not clash with giving birth — but I’m not sure yet. It probably will clash with producing a PhD thesis, and ACL (computational linguistics’ main conference) usually has a deadline that nicely clashes with LCA too.

Another round of “real names will solve everything”, Blizzard edition

This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

Via everyone everywhere, Blizzard’s (developer of World of Warcraft and the Starcraft and Diablo franchises) game discussion forums are the latest online forum to come up with the bright idea to make everything all better by requiring people to use their legal names.

Here’s their forum announcement:

Recently, we introduced our new Real ID feature – http://www.battle.net/realid/ , a new way to stay connected with your friends on the new Battle.net. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about our plans for Real ID on our official forums, discuss the design philosophy behind the changes we’re making, and give you a first look at some of the new features we’re adding to the forums to help improve the quality of conversations and make the forums an even more enjoyable place for players to visit.

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it… the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before.

Links abound:

  • Blake: Blizzard Wants The World To Know Your Name: This is an important issue, because names carry markers of gender, ethnicity and real-world relationships that may be irrelevant to someone’s game play, but open up the possibility of harassment. It also makes it easier for harassers to follow people beyond the internet, making it a matter of personal safety. I find Blizzard’s decision unfortunate in every possible way.
  • everstar: WoW Fail: That means every post you make will have the name linked with your account published. On a public forum. Where everyone can see it. If you want to ask a question in their Customer Service forum, if you want to post a Bug Report, if you want to talk to other people in your realm, the name associated with your account will be displayed. And it’s supposed to be your real name. (via hoydenabouttown on Twitter)
  • Lodur (semi-supportive), Real ID on Blizzard forums, the good and the bad (via James in the linkspam): Some are concerned for their safety. They fear stalkers and real life harassment and fallout from the forums following them into real life. As a person who has worked in internet security for a long time, I can tell you the chances of this are pretty slim.
  • Miss Medicina, And I Didn’t Even Catch Her Name… : Being a WoW gamer is not exactly a mark of prestige in my field. It would not be a hobby that worked in my favor, but in fact, more than likely the opposite… The people who work at Blizzard don’t have to worry about their future employers knowing how much time they spent on the WoW forums.
  • Apple: Real ID, RP, and why only one person gets to have mine and RealID Forums (via James)
  • Chastity, Seriously Not Okay (via James): It is a common misconception that trolling is caused by anonymity. It is not. It is caused by people being assholes. Frequently, it is caused by people being racist asssholes or misogynist assholes or various other sorts of assholes who like to target people of a particular type.

See also wot Skud said.

Ways to spend my time

Ideas already for my unexpected surfeit of time in 2010!

Joining the Sydney Recorder Society. I played recorder a lot in high school, through to seventh grade AMEB. I have very rarely played since, nor in fact really missed it, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t enjoy playing again. I’ve also been interested in improving my singing and perhaps joining a choir for many years but up until now I’ve had money or time for music, never both.

My mothers’ group is joining an indoor netball tornament. People tend to salivate at the idea of me playing defence for their netball teams; I’m not actually terribly good at anything other than casting a long shadow, nor do I find netball itself the most fascinating of sports, but it doesn’t sound like it will be a terribly serious team and playing a season would probably be pleasant enough.

Finally doing some sewing on the machine we were given more than a year ago.

Working on the children-on-the-Internet project described here.

Reading habits

I intended to write this as a comment at Matt Zimmerman’s post on ways he reads, but it got rather long.

Let’s start with books. I also don’t read as much as I used to, but I am trying to do more of it and less of other reading. I was struck by Kate Harding’s post on reading:

… that’s a wonderful thing, especially for people who for various reasons can’t be physically present everywhere they might like to be, or who find it much easier to be social this way. But for me, the blessing and the curse of it is, I spend much more of my life than I used to thinking about what I’m going to say next. I’m composing a comment in response to what I just read instead of sitting with it; I’m having “chats” with friends where there can be no pleasant silences without one of us wondering if the other is still there; if I’m observing the world around me, half the time I’m thinking, “How do I make this a funny tweet?” When I was writing for Broadsheet, I read other feminist blogs desperately looking for fodder, rather than just taking it all in because it’s smart and interesting — which is exactly what got me interested in them and made me want to start my own in the first place.

All that thinking up something to say gets fucking exhausting.

I’m not going to insert the mandatory I love the feel and smell of paper thing about books here: I for one couldn’t give a toss about it and, except for the heavy metal aspect (and what an aspect it is), bring on the e-reader revolution. I will happily remove bookshelves from my home and hang nice things on my walls. But the thing about books is that, allowing for 95% of everything being crap, they’re planned, revised, edited, checked and they have a lot of space to say what they’re saying. There are exceptions, but the general rule is that I get a lot more out of one good book read over a few days than I do out of 100 good blog posts over that time.

I’m trying to work out what to do about news. The trouble with news is that I do need an editor: I like to know what’s going on in the world but I don’t naturally find out about it in my normal activities. I find out things from social justice blogs, which are important to me, and I find out things from the Sydney Morning Herald’s website, and there’s a lot of things in between I am missing out on. I tried Google News, but I think the cramming of all that news onto one page makes me run and hide. I actually suspect the answer here is TV news bulletins and I’m thinking of adding, say, the ABC’s and SBS’s evening bulletins to my life on a regular basis. Then I know roughly what’s going on and there’s plenty of detailed print journalism to turn to when I want to follow something up.

I read a lot of email still, although for years I’ve been limiting (non-work-related) mailing lists to a 75% test: if I am not reading 75% of the posts to the list, I unsubscribe. Regular readers of technical mailing lists will immediately understand how few mailing lists I am subscribed to now.

I was until recently fairly firmly on the mailing list site of the mailing-list-versus-web-forum debate. But I’ve realised that this is really more about tools, that is, mail readers are more mature than forum interfaces *and* you can use your favourite mail reader for all lists. Each forum has its own, bad, UI, on it’s own, regularly crashing, server.

But some of the features of forums, especially but not only the ability to move or delete or edit posts or entire threads after publication, are useful for high volume discussion. I’d love to see work on development of both standards and tools for more moderated threaded discussion that does not bind as tightly with a single UI. (I’ve used Usenet/NNTP. It’s not what I’m looking for.) Really I’d love to do that work, even, but it’s not a one-person job, buy-in is needed from software developers and users.

At the moment I follow a few web forums, mostly related to parenting things. I resist becoming too actively involved (ie, I’m not a regular poster at any and certainly don’t want to moderate, I keep the relationship to a state where I can regularly take breaks of months from a given forum and no one notices).

I read a lot of blogs (really, a lot). They get subjected to the 75% test too, largely, at least if they update frequently. About a year ago I gave up trying to be basically completionist: if I went away and you blogged during that time, I didn’t read it.

For a long time now I’ve been a fan of personal life-blogs over most other genres. I want to keep up with the educated, researched, niche blogs like Language Log or LWN (OK, the latter doesn’t think of itself as a blog, but it’s in my feed reader, so to me it is) but I find it difficult to be in the mindset to read it as I go through my reader and I can’t think of a good model for setting them aside and going through a bunch of them, especially since I do web reading at my desk. I also want to keep up with hypertextual discussions on social justice issues, but that also easily becomes a second full-time job.

I used to like the big aggregators, but now someone needs to do a highlights column. I care deeply about my baby and my PhD, but I don’t really care about the life milestones of, say, a given random Ubuntu developer. If someone else could pick the top three technical blog posts of the week and I could just read them, I’d prefer that.

I read less and less of microblogs or Facebook and I think it’s going to stay that way. I feel a bit bad about it, since I like writing a microblog, I just don’t like staying on top of my stream. I’m very over the 140 character limit too, it’s too easy to get into needless arguments because my teeny sentence missed a nuance and then I have to clarify with someone, 140 characters at a time. I read direct replies to me, and every so often I surf over and read the most recent 50 or so items I’m subscribed to and that’s about it.

There’s things about Facebook I like (more generous character limit, reply threads, the ‘Top News’ sorting) but I do intend to leave. Just, people keep announcing the birth of their babies exclusive to Facebook. Knock it off!

I don’t really find shared links as useful as Matt does, possibly I need a better tool for it. But I think the theme of most of this is that really, I am turning to edited content, sometimes by pros and sometimes by very smart people who spend a lot of time on the ‘net. I am not cut out to be an editor in that sense, at least, not most of the time. Probably no one is.

Stuff I’m against, privacy edition

The ALP’s proposed mandatory ‘clean feed’, see Save the Net, No Clean Feed, Open Internet and, especially if you are going to vote in Victoria in the 2010 Federal election, Filter Stephen Conroy.

Recording of email and correspondence history for Internet users in Australia:

Currently, companies that provide customers with a connection to the internet don’t retain or log subscriber’s private web browsing history unless they are given an interception warrant by law enforcement, usually approved by a judge. It is only then that companies can legally begin tapping a customer’s internet connection.

In March 2006, the European Union formally adopted its data retention directive (PDF), a directive which the Australian Government said it wished to use as an example if it implemented such a regime.

The EU regime requires that the communications providers from certain EU member states retain necessary data as specified in the Directive for a period of between six and 24 months.

One internet service provider (ISP) source told ZDNet Australia that the Australian regime, if implemented, could go as far as recording each URL a customer visited and all emails.

But, just when you decide to vote for the Liberal-National Coalition (or MAYBE NOT)… Youth privacy at risk under the Mad Monk:

At the heart of the near-universal support for adolescent health privacy is an extensive body of data. The research shows that the greatest barrier to young people seeking medical help is the fear their parents may find out.

In Australia, “mature minors” are authorised to make decisions about their medical treatment. A mature minor is a tween or teen with sufficient understanding and intelligence to understand the nature and consequences of the medical intervention proposed, and to give informed consent to it.

While all those under 18 must be accessed on such criteria, it is generally assumed that those over 17 are mature minors, that those 14 to 16 are reasonably likely to be, and that those under 14 may not have capacity to consent, particularly in relation to more serious treatments. The requirement for confidentiality is a corollary of the mature minor framework.

Never one to let evidence muddy the waters of ideology, the now Opposition leader Tony Abbott was part of a government that in 2003 lifted the age at which information about a child’s healthcare visits could be accessed by their parents from 12 to 14. As Health Minister he vigorously argued for this threshold to be lifted again, from 14 to 16. Had he succeeded, an entire group of Australians would have been denied independent and confidential medical care, despite most qualifying for it.

The end of 2010

Although there’s always a possibility, it seems that regular childcare will not be available for my son Vincent until early 2011 (yes, I’ve had his name down for ages, although not since birth, since I was pretty sick afterwards).

What this means: my supervisor and I have agreed that I can’t resume my PhD studies if I am doing fulltime baby care. My experience so far meshes with this: I can poke at my code and read the literature, I can’t really pound on it in forty-five minute chunks a few times a day, and it would be a waste of both of our time if I was to be formally re-enrolled now.

So it looks like I have six months or so to kill, and I’m thinking about what to do with that time. I may or may not have some paid work lined up for some hours of the week. I’m hoping not to spend the rest aimlessly noodling around on the ‘net, well, not all of the rest. Options include more paid work (if you for some reason have paid work that can be done by a — skilled! — programmer/writer/researcher in forty-five minute chunks, get in touch), hacking, writing. Looking forward to coming up with some projects!

larch: migrating mail between IMAP accounts

I recently had to move several gigabytes of email (not my own, work-related) into Google Apps (Gmail). As best I can tell, the way most people do this is that they grit their teeth and they open up a graphical email client and drag folders one-by-one. It’s a one-off job for most people.

There were a couple of reasons I didn’t want to do that. One is that I was on my parents’ DSL connection at the time and pushing gigabytes of data through someone’s DSL is a violation of good guest principles, at least in Australia. The other is that we have over 500 folders in the account I’m talking about: that’s a lot of mouse pain.

Anyway, here’s your answer, if you are in the same position as me. After substantial searching, at least for this kind of tool, I came across larch, which is a Ruby command-line tool for IMAP-to-IMAP moves, most tested on Gmail and essentially designed for the “move my mail archives into Gmail” use-case. It’s much more mature than most of the one-off scripts people have thrown up on the ‘net. It certainly seemed robust over this volume of mail, although I did have to run it a couple of times to get past a few errors (it does not re-copy already copied mail, so re-runs are fast). It deserves more search juice.

If you wanted to keep two accounts permanently in sync, offlineimap would be the tool of choice, although the manual still seems to regard IMAP-to-IMAP syncing as not as robustly tested as its core mode of operation, which is IMAP-to-Maildir.

Long term storage of digital memories

For once, and with trepidation, I actually do ask for advice!

My parents have several digital cameras and a digital video camera. It would be nice to have access to family photos and movies past their next hard drive crash and/or computer replacement. But all consumer digital media seems unreliable enough for long or even medium term storage of family photos and similar.

I could organise some kind of backup routine for them, but the developing and nagging and testing and recoveries involved would annoy all three of us; contrary to the common parent-of-geek mythology my parents are no slavish devotees of my computing advice and like to keep a great deal of control themselves. And I get bored with that stuff. I want more set-and-forget: ok, stick your photos here and they’ll be there ten years from now.

One possible solution would be something like here, upload them to [some remote hard drive of mine]. Advantages: I have, unlike quite a few commercial entities, managed to hang onto a great deal of my digital files for ten years. Disadvantages: the software for this largely seems to suck in that it will be difficult to give them the motivation in terms of "and it will be shared with family really easily!": lots of creating galleries and so forth required to make things findable. I use F-Spot and Gallery and both of them leave sad dingy marks on my soul sometimes. I value the resulting organisation enough to do it, they probably do not, at least initially.

So should I just tell them to pay for a Flickr account? Or maybe Picasa? Or some similar website I probably haven’t heard of? I realise that stuff in the big wet cloud is vulnerable to both commercial failure of the provider and catastrophic failure on the part of their sysadmins, but at least it’s not vulnerable to my boredom or that of my parents (although Flickr at least is vulnerable to forgetting to pay Flickr). What has good desktop tools with the fewest clicks between plug camera in and digital files are safely squirreled away and as a bonus available for viewing by selected people?

I realise none of this is fail-safe, and if they aren’t interested in preserving the data it ultimately won’t happen, I just want to lower the barriers as much as possible and give it the best chance.

If you have thoughts and don’t know how to get in contact, email per this.

‘net hiatus again

I think I say this too often to be believable, but I am again declaring an incomplete ‘net hiatus so that I have time for both my baby and some part-time work on my PhD. What this means specifically:

  • no IRC;
  • almost no time in blog comments;
  • considerably less blogging for Geek Feminism, although I’m not going to stop entirely (I write fairly seldom for Hoyden in any case, so cutting that down isn’t on the cards); and
  • very little time on identi.ca/Twitter/Facebook.

A week or so back I started dropping people from my identi.ca/Twitter lists and will probably drop very many more. If you tweet more than a few times a day and/or if you regularly live-tweet events, you will almost certainly go, I just can’t follow you in a way that’s sensible for me. Others may go as well. (Please, no ‘splains about Twitter lists. I know they exist and how to use them.) If you notice me unfollowing you… it’s not you, it’s me. On Facebook I’ll not drop friends, since it’s harder to re-add them, so there I will use lists.

I’ll still be reading blogs and such, but I’ve reset my feed reader down to twice daily checks. I can be reached via email in the usual way.

On reluctant car ownership

Two facts about me. One: I’ve never owned a car. Two: I have an eleven week old baby son.

Fact number two might be about to change fact number one, but I wish there was some intermediate option.

I quite like driving on the open road, especially manuals (stick shifts), but I’m not very experienced in good cars and therefore haven’t developed expensive tastes. I also abhor heavy traffic, and would prefer public transport commuting as long as it is working, air-conditioned, and not packed to the gills. (I am aware that this rules out many commutes.) I like walking to the shops and have tended to live places which are close to public transport and grocery shopping. It’s worked pretty well so far and frankly I’d probably prefer to go on like that indefinitely.

But some things that were easy before are a righteous pain in the neck now. We can’t just get a taxi, for example, we have to go to serious effort to get one with a car seat, and even then I’m told they often turn up with the wrong one, or it’s badly fitted. (Some people advise to purchase one and take it with us but… they’re enormous. What the hell do you do with it at the other end?) Trips to visit my parents on public transport used to involve changing modes of transport twice. Now they involve changing modes of transport twice with twice as many bags with a recently woken and cranky baby, who may well remain disrupted for the rest of the day, while simultaneously cringing every time he makes a noise (he cries very loudly), and possibly being outright verbally abused by people for ‘allowing’ him to do so. Not to mention the chance of not getting a seat at all and having to stand with him for an hour, and the total lack of nappy change facilities.

Same thing, although not as lengthy, applies to visiting many of our friends and going on some of our favourite outings.

Rental cars aren’t going to cut it often, since one-way trips in them are so ludicrously expensive and so is keeping them for the middle bit of long trips.

Since I don’t care enough about cars to have a particular desire to own one individual car, I really wish there was a truly cross-transport flexible system in which I could both use public transport and borrow various sizes of car in the car sharing style and in the one pricing system. In an ideal world the fitting systems for baby restraints would also be improved so that they were spring-loaded and snap fastened too.

When the government gets serious about ending or changing car dependence (which I don’t expect to see awfully soon) they should look into this for me.