In my continuous attempts to free myself from proprietary webservices and run my own Free Network Services, I’ve finally set up my own GNU Mediagoblin instance. This is a multimedia gallery project to host, show and share several kinds of media files, like images, videos, ascii art, SVGs and even 3D models. From the Mediagoblin site it describes the project as:
MediaGoblin is a free software media publishing platform that anyone can run. You can think of it as a decentralized alternative to Flickr, YouTube, SoundCloud, etc.
One thing I noticed was that the quality of the images was not good. I enhanced the quality of the image resizes done by default and the improvement was noticeable. It’s still not as sharp as Flickr’s quality yet (I don’t know how they do it) but it is cleaner and with no artifacts.
Also I’ve enhanced the way the EXIF info is presented. I added a camera settings section that shows key relevant info most photographers are interested in looking at: what camera was used, when the photo was taken, exposure, aperture, ISO and focal length. By clicking the “Additional Information” button you can now see all the EXIF information on the file that was previously being omitted.
I hope my patches get accepted upstream and I plan to continue working on the project as I find it very useful. The planned features for future releases I’m eagerly waiting for are the API and the multiple file upload. That way I can post more of my content easily and maybe write a script to import all photos from Flickr. That would be nice.
I just want to give a heads up to all who downloaded Identica-mode 1.3 that some bug fixes were done yesterday very quickly and the oficial stable release is 1.3.1 as of now. The main issue was a bug displaying all messages highlighted as replies when the timeline was in ‘oldest first’ preference mode. Also there were some other minor fixes.
The first days of november I spent them at the Festival Software Libre 2012, in Puerto Vallarta. Like last year, this is an event where most of the free software minds in Mexico and other nearby countries gather to exchange and promote technology ideas and projects. The location as always is great, and it was very nice to see all the people I only get to see once or twice a year at these type of events.
This time I had the privilege to give three talks:
Free Network Services: where I talk about having freedom in a world of “the cloud” where everything is getting centralized again. I talk about federated services like open microblogging, and invite people to participate in projects like Mediagoblin and Statusnet or create new alternatives to known popular SaaS (software as a service) platforms. You can find the slides (in spanish) here.
Semantic web and SEO tips: starting with some history on search engines to provide context, I talk about how search engines work and how they rank content. I explain what semantic web is and how it can help us in search engine optimization of the sites we create. It was the first time I give this talk and I was happy to have a full audience room. You can download the slides for this talk (in spanish) here.
PHP code quality tools: another talk I gave for the first time. Here I talk about some common mistakes I’ve found over the years working on different PHP projects and companies, and recommend some tools that are available to address some of them. Here are the slides for the PHP code quality tool talk.
Aside of being a very good technical event, I also had a good time.
I saw how some baby sea turtles were liberated and later that night I got to liberate some others that were found at the beach. It was a great experience.
If you have the opportunity next year, I highly recommend you go to this event. It’s a great mix of technology, networking, relaxation, good scenery and good times. You don’t get all that in one package very often. Keep an eye on www.fslvallarta.org for next event dates and news.
I took a bunch of photos. If you want to see more, you can find them at my Flickr set.
This year I’ll be giving two talks at the Festival del Software Libre in Puerto Vallarta. This time I got invited on two topics, I’ll give my talk about DRM and for the first time I’ll be talking about Free Network Services (FNS), a topic I’ve been interested since my problems with google services and the increasing move of personal (and server) computing to the cloud. Although I definately cannot say that I do not depend on any cloud service (I do enjoy them), I am very aware of the risks. It’s not a technical talk at all, but a more philosophical one (FSF style).
I’m very happy to be invited to the event. I miss hanging around with all the friends from across the country, interesting and smart people that are always at software libre events. The exchange of ideas and debates are motivation boosters for new projects and great learning experience-sharing moments. Also the partying gets to be very hard as well… if you hang out with the right people.
It’s been a while since I went to my last free software/open source event and it’s been also quite some time since I’ve given my last talk. So I’m exited and nervous. I’m sure there’s going to be lots of interesting things going on and good stories to tell afterwards.
We got a new computer for the girlfriend some months ago. Since her old laptop was running Debian Lenny and she loved it, but the software packages were quite outdated, I decided to install Kubuntu 10.10 on her new laptop. Assuming that it would be easier to use with all of Canonical’s and community customizations, handle and detect new hardware drivers better and will have more updated software.
Turns out that she barely used her new laptop, complaining a lot about it. First, she had to get used to the new KDE 4 environment, when she got so used to KDE 3.5 on Debian Lenny, but change is something we all have to face. But the real problems were that hardware was not working properly, the touchpad had no scrolling and since its a single button pad with virtual buttons, the right button click didn’t work. Also, the Dolphin file manager would sometimes not refresh the files on the folders, so she couldn’t see some files that were recently saved. When trying to shutdown it would freeze up or the KDE shutdown menu window would not draw any options. When finally shutting down, it sometimes hanged at the end of the process, thus not turning off the computer.
After about a month of complaints and frustrations, she demanded me to install Debian back. I explained to her my initial decision to go with Kubuntu and that a new version 11.04 was coming out in a few days and that might fix her problems. But her argument was strong: “I need stability, and I don’t like to be on the bleeding edge since I’m not technical, I can’t troubleshoot the issues. Its fine for me to stay with the same stack of software for two years until the next Debian stable release.”
So I went ahead and installed Debian Squeeze on her laptop, expecting a lot of time spent in forums to get her new hardware working, configuring files, compiling drivers, etc. To my great surprise, everything worked out of the box, with very minimum custom configurations. She immediately started installing all her favorite software and was very happy with her new system’s stability and fast responsiveness. Software was (to the time of this writing) decently recent, and very stable so now she has completely ditched her old computer, feeling perfectly comfortable. Although she still misses KDE 3.5, she’s getting used to KDE 4 and customizing it her way.
What would happen if your access to most of your online services were to be disabled? What would you loose?
I’ve been in situations where we have to decide either to run certain applications on our server, like E-mail, scheduling, project management, etc. Or use the ubiquitous, given-for-granted web services from huge companies with huge servers, like Google.
Most of the time, the decision is in favor of thrid party providers for such services, since the comodity of being just a few clicks away is huge. Also, it gives a good sensation of reliability. Except for Twitter, most web services are available 99.999% of the time.
Mako Hill and others at the Free Software Foundation have been warning about the posibility of depending so much on 3rd party services (information at http://autonomo.us) that you can be left out without data if the provider ceased to exist, killed the service or kick you out. They even have a wiki with a list of free software alternatives you can set up on your own machines to replace such services.
Well, the idea of finding Gmail or any other 3rd party software service unavailable is pretty much inconcievable. But what about your account being disabled without notice or reason?
That exact thing happened to me this past Friday.
I was using my Gmail as usual in the morning, I went for lunch, came back and tried to log in. I got a message saying: Sorry, your account has been disabled. I filled out the contact form for support and only got an auto reply message and no help at all. The whole weekend passed and the situation was the same.
My account being disabled, meant that I had no longer access to my emails, my calendars, my rss feeds, my news, my homepage with its widgets and tools, my documents, notes, videos, website traffic statistics and finally my adsense account.
All these things I used to rely on Google, for the reasons stated at the begginning of this post. Bad idea.
What saved me
Fortunately for me, I had backups. I was recently testing a desktop rss feed reader aKgregator, and exported all my rss feeds from google reader to my computer. Since I’ve always hated web interfaces to interact with my email, I always checked my emails through Thunderbird via POP3.
I only lost access to my calendar appointments, my startup page widgets and some unimportant documents at Google apps, since I always use OpenOffice for all my documents. My videos that were uploaded are on my backup files and I don’t use Picasa for my photo album,though I do use Flickr, but all my pictures are perfectly safe on my backup files too.
Getting it back
So the whole weekend passed without any notice from Google support team. On monday, I started writing this post and looking for somone else that had a similar experience.
I came across this post with the story of Nick Saber. Same situation where his google account was disabled without any notice, warning or reason. On the comments I found that Google did replied to his emails and sent him this link. I followed the link and filled in the form with the questions. Minutes later I had an email saying that my account was enabled again. No explanations, nothing.
So if I never came across this blog post and this link, I would’ve never gotten my google services account back.
Even though I have my account back, my relationship with Google will never be the same. Gmail will never be my primary email address ever again. I’ll always check it though POP3 as it turned out to be great for me. I’ll only use the rest of the google services a a nice to have online access, but not as my primary source of these services.
I’ll be running my own services using free software on a machine I own from now on as much as its possible. I can never again rely on someone else’s computer services. Its not going to be as nice and comfortable, but it will be reliable and completely mine.
You should consider being in a situation like mine and not be left out in the cold when you get kicked out of a service without notice or reason, and without your data.