Thursday, December 29, 2011

Announcing the Novacut 11.12 components

This was a shorter development cycle because this month we began a new release process, which includes a week-long quality step leading up to the release. The goal is to deliver higher quality stable releases and to deliver them more smoothly.

Note that this week-long quality step wont cut into development time as we'll be starting on the next month's release at the start of the quality week. This is more just a change in how we time things, so that there's time for both manual and automated testing to validate the release.

Shiny, shiny

All the same, this was an action packed month and we probably delivered more exciting, user-visible change than any previous month. The crown jewel is that we landed the first of the beautiful UI design work that James Raymond has been doing:

This month was all about Dmedia, and we made great progress there, including getting video playback working inside our HTML5 UI, all thanks to GStreamer.

But next month is going to be all about Novacut, and we seem on track to land the first take of our cutting workflow. If you're interested in what's in store, considere attending our next weekly IRC meeting, which will resume on Sunday, January 8.

Special thanks

Get the bits

Packages are available in the Novacut Stable Releases PPA for Ubuntu Oneiric and Precise. And you can download the source code from each component's Launchpad project page. Whoa, seven components and counting:

Contribute to 12.01 and beyond!

We always release on the last Thursday of the month. The 12.01 components will be released on Thursday January 26, 2012, and development is already underway. To see what's in store for the next releases, checkout the 12.01 milestones:

That's all, folks!

Thanks to everyone who is helping make this dream a reality!

Jason Gerard DeRose

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why Novacut Makes Me Feel Like a Superhero

As a kid, I was drawn to biographies about social activists.  I especially loved reading the personal accounts of people who witnessed the visionary bravery of Martin Luther King, Jr., John and Tina Trudell, Caesar Chavez, Mother Jones, Gandhi, etc.  In my eyes, the superheros that I watched on cartoon Saturdays didn't hold a candle to these real-life ACTION heroes, for they actually changed the world.  They played a pivotal role in making the world kinder and gentler. 

At the age of ten, I couldn't tell you why I was compelled to read stories about a small woman with a big voice getting arrested for inciting a workers riot.  I could tell you definitively that it wasn't about the raw, frenetic energy that defines any major strike, but I couldn't pin-point my interest either.  Now, however, with a bit more life experience under my belt, I know where my fascination came from.  I was electrified by the ability of these ACTION greats to help people see that they weren't pawns in some power broker's game - that they were the ones with the real and lasting power.  They had the power because their collective labor is what made industry, towns, cities, and nations work.  My heroes clearly saw this reality, named it, organized people around it, and made a stage for it to be witnessed by others.

Marianna Rafaele: The great Ubuntu Developer Summit organizer and hero of mine

So what does all of this have to do with Novacut?  Well, here I go climbing onto a very shaky limb...I believe, with complete and total faith, that Novacut will be a stage for the collective power of artists (from Bangladesh to Los Angeles) to shine.  HDSLR cameras, nonlinear editing, and the internet have redistributed power in the entertainment industry.  These technologies have shown us that story tellers are of much greater value than all of the big Hollywood producers combined.  Novacut's distribution platform will simply be a centralized hub - a stage - on which the story teller's value will not only be witnessed but also allowed to be appreciated in a very direct way by his or her fans.

Playing a small part in the building of Novacut's distribution platform, I sometimes notice a superhero quality welling in my chest - a feeling of being a part of something with the potential to show people with a story to tell just how powerful they really are.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Announcing the Novacut 11.11 components

This release is several days late, but I wanted to get the demo we showed off at the Ubuntu Developer Summit to a point where anyone could play with it. Unfortunately, we still don't have a nice way to set up the real-time sync, so it's not easy to play with this collaboratively (but for people familiar with CouchDB... setup up two-way continuous replication of the "project" database).

The point of this demo was just to show that the real-time collaboration works, so note that this doesn't at all represent the UI that will ship in the first Novacut beta release. This demo also isn't hooked up to the render server, although the UI does produce a valid Novacut edit description in CouchDB.

While at UDS and Linaro Connect, we used Dmedia to import over 700GB of video, audio, and photos. This was quite an abusive field test, and Dmedia passed with flying colors (although we'll be making several refinements based on the experience). We had four dual-slot card readers, and found ourselves importing as many as six cards at once.

We'd love testing and feedback on our revised import workflow, but we still aren't recommending Dmedia for general use... so as usual, please don't trust your data to it yet. Although Dmedia withstood its trial by fire, there is an incompatible database change we'll be making this month to make a "project" a clear unit of collaboration. Apologies that this keeps getting pushed back, but waiting is better than data loss, trust me.

Weekly Novacut IRC meetings

Starting this Sunday we'll be doing weekly IRC meetings at 16:00 UTC in the #novacut channel on freenode. We deliberately scheduled our meeting right after the Blender Sunday meeting to make it easy for people to attend both.

In case you haven't heard, the new Mango Open Movie project is going to be a VFX-intensive live action short shot in 4k. We're hoping that Dmedia can be used during Mango for ingest and asset management. So if you can attend the Novacut meeting, please consider stopping by #blendercoders on freenode the hour before.

Better Precision

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" will be a very important release for Novacut, so we're going to switch to it as our primary development platform very early (probably this week, actually). This fits nicely with the fact that Ubuntu is striving to maintain the daily quality of Precise Pangolin throughout its development cycle. We'll try to stay compatible with the current stable Ubuntu (11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot") for as long as possible, but we feel that being in great shape for 12.04 is a higher priority.

As Dmedia is getting dangerously close to being useful to "real people" (aka not just nerdy developers like yours truly), we're making a change in how we do our monthly stable releases to ensure that they're high quality. On the 2nd to last Thursday of the month (one week before release), we'll freeze the release branch and build packages in the new Novacut Pre-Stable PPA. Once these packages have been tested and we know the upgrade works smoothly, we'll copy them into the Novacut Stable PPA for general consumption.

Special thanks

Get the bits

Packages are available in the Novacut Stable Releases PPA for Ubuntu Oneiric and Precise. And you can download the source code from each component's Launchpad project page. Whoa, seven components and counting:

Contribute to 11.12 and beyond!

We always release on the last Thursday of the month. The 11.12 components will be released on Thursday December 29 2011, and development is already underway. To see what's in store for the next releases, checkout the 11.12 milestones:

That's all, folks!

Thanks to everyone who is helping make this dream a reality!

Jason Gerard DeRose

Monday, November 21, 2011

Note on Ubuntu One dropping CouchDB sync

Today it was announced that Ubuntu One will be dropping support for CouchDB sync. We already knew this was coming as John Lenton and Stuart Langridge kindly gave us a private heads-up the first day of UDS, but now that it's public, I wanted to clear the air about how this affects Novacut.

How does this affect Novacut?

In the short run, this has little impact on Novacut. Because of the scaling difficulties presented by the particular way Ubuntu One needed to use CouchDB, we couldn't reliably sync larger databases like dmedia through Ubuntu One anyway, so we weren't counting on this being available (not that it wouldn't have been nice).

And as of several releases ago, we just happened to migrate away from desktopcouch to my experimental desktopcouch alternative, dc3. This was done to work around some areas where desktopcouch was a bit awkward for what we were trying to do (or maybe my spidey sense was tingling, hehe). Point is, even if desktopcouch is removed from the Ubuntu archive, that's no skin off our backs as we no longer use it.

So for now, we'll keep using dc3 and CouchDB as we currently do, and as long as CouchDB remains at least in Ubuntu Universe (which being in Debian, it will), we're all fine and good.

What will Novacut do longer term?

We're going to closely follow the U1DB development, which John and Stuart discussed with us a bit at UDS. My first impression is that although U1DB (as currently envisioned) might not be a good fit for the Novacut editor, U1DB does seem a better fit for the Novacut player than CouchDB is. As U1DB will be in-process and not require a per-user server, it's more amiable to say TVs and Tablets (big grin).

I must admit that I consider Erlang a liability on the desktop, both because it means dragging in an additional run-time and because it doesn't easily integrate with the platform (dbus, etc). So I was already longing for something like CouchDB, but written in Python or Vala... and U1DB might be just the ticket.

All the same, we could end up sticking with CouchDB, or at least sticking with it server-side. If possible, it would be nice for our components to work equally well with CouchDB or U1DB. Time will tell.

Regardless, I'm going to be involved with the U1DB efforts where I imagine my experience building "painfully ambitious" desktop apps that use documented-oriented databases will prove useful :P

Friday, October 28, 2011

Announcing the Novacut 11.10 components

Another month, another release. This release still isn't interesting to the end user, but that day is getting close.

Progress report

As usual, a ton of work was done on dmedia. We still don't recommend you trust your data to dmedia, but assuming it survives the next month of testing, we'll green-light dmedia for general use in the 11.11 release.

We made considerable progress on real-time collaboration with CouchDB and WebKit, but we're keeping these bits under wraps for now so we can unveil our new demos next week at the Ubuntu Developer Summit and Linaro Connect.

The key collaborative pieces will be split off into a standalone component for easy reuse. I think this sort of architecture is going to truly define a new category of app that takes full advantage of both local and cloud computing resources while delivering a consistently great user experience even when offline.

This month it also became clear that we should build Novacut on GStreamer 1.0, which will be released later this year. GStreamer 1.0 is going to be fiercely competitive, particularly for video editing. And hey, how about pro video editing on ARM? With GStreamer, we can be first to that party.

Special thanks

Get the bits

Packages are available in the Novacut Stable Releases PPA for Ubuntu 11.10. And you can download the source code from each component's Launchpad project page. Whoa, seven components and counting:

Contribute to 11.11 and beyond!

We always release on the last Thursday of the month. The 11.11 components will be released on Thursday November 24 2011, and development is already underway. To see what's in store for the next releases, checkout the 11.11 milestones:

That's all, folks!

Thanks to everyone who is helping make this dream a reality!

Jason Gerard DeRose

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Announcing the Novacut 11.09 components

Another month, another release. This release still isn't interesting to the end user, but it's an exciting release for anyone interested in Novacut UI development.

Enabling UI innovation

We decided to build Novacut around CouchDB because it basically gives us real-time collaboration for free. But as long as we're using CouchDB, WebKit becomes a really attractive option for building the UI as we have a local web server to talk to.

There is another reason to use web technology... many people know it. I'd say these days there are probably more world class UI designers building with web tech than everything else combined (if anyone has actual facts to prove or disprove this, would love to know).

But the benefit of building with web tech is lost if the development process is too awkward or unfamiliar. Web developers expect to be able to change a file and hit Reload, so a big goal this month was to make our UI development that easy.

As you can see in this video, I think we've pulled it off: change a file, hit Reload. Plus, we really hope other apps start using this sort of architecture, so we split the key bits into a standalone library called UserWebKit.

Getting dmedia production ready

Most of the month was spent doing massive work on the road to rubber stamping dmedia as "production ready", which means two things:

  1. We're extremely confident that dmedia will never cause data loss
  2. We're prepared to maintain indefinite backward compatibility with the initial dmedia database format

Recommending dmedia for day-to-day use is both very exciting and rather terrifying. Protecting your data is a big responsibility, and this has obviously weighed on my subconscious. A few weeks ago I actually had a bad dream that Philip Bloom was trying out dmedia and it lost some of his files!

But the point is, we take protecting your data very seriously... and we wont call dmedia "production ready" without good reason.

Get the bits

Packages are available in the Novacut Stable Releases PPA for the soon to be released Ubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric" . And you can download the source code from each component's Launchpad project page. Whoa, six components and counting:

Special thanks

This release wouldn't be possible without the hard work and expertise of the following people:

Contribute to 11.10 and beyond!

Want your name in next month's release notes like all the cool kids above? If you look at the Jump in section on this page, you'll see a link to the Bitesize Bugs for each component. These are bugs that should (in theory) require little coding, but will get you familiar with the Launchpad workflow, running the unit tests, and, importantly, get your name in the release notes.

We always release on the last Thursday of the month. The 11.10 components will be released on Thursday October 27 2011, and development is already underway. To see what's in store for the next releases, checkout the 11.10 milestones:

That's all, folks!

Thanks to everyone who is helping make this dream a reality!

Jason Gerard DeRose

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Announcing the Novacut 11.08 components

I'd first like thank everyone, all 802 of you, who backed us on Kickstarter, and everyone who helped spread the word. And I'd like to thank those who supported us earlier via PayPal: you gave us the benefit of the doubt back when there was less reason to do so. We feel extremely lucky to be able to keep working on Novacut full-time.

Meet our release process

As this is our first release day since Kickstarter, I figure it's a great time to introduce the many newcomers to our release process.

We do monthly, time-based releases. Realistically, a software project can only make a commitment to either what features will be released, or when a release is made. From observing other projects, and from personal experience, I feel a commitment to when is far more productive, so that's what we do with Novacut.

The way to manage time-based releases (without things becoming stressful) is to keep the trunk branches always in a high-quality, releasable state. This helps keep everyone productive as developers aren't slowed down by bugs in the trunk as they work on new features. And new features are only merged to the trunk once they have good test coverage and have reached an acceptable quality level.

For a highly user-focused project like Novacut, time-based releases are great because we never go more than a month without getting a new stable release into our users' hands. This means we can't get too far off track before our users give us a reality check. Actually, as we do automatic daily builds throughout the month, those adventurous enough to use our daily builds PPA wont let us go more than 24 hours without a reality check.

New YY.MM version scheme

Those who having been following things for a while are probably surprised by the 11.08 version number. I mean, wasn't this supposed to be the belated dmedia 0.8 release? Nope, we turned things up to eleven.

Hehe. Okay, a more serious explanation: We're building Novacut as a collection of simple, focused components. For example, novacut builds on dmedia, which builds on filestore. As things are moving so quickly, there will be API changes between the layers fairly often. So for example, a given month's dmedia release will require that same month's filestore release.

Rather than having to remember that dmedia 0.9 requires filestore 0.2, I decided to go with a common YY.MM (year and month) version scheme used across all the components. So next month, dmedia 11.09 will require filestore 11.09, and so on.

What's new in the 11.08 components

For the end user, this release is still boring and rather useless. Sorry, nothing shiny for you to play with just yet! There should be some shinny next month, and substantial shinny in the 11.10 release.

However, for developers 11.08 is a quite exciting release. For one, this is the first release of the novacut component itself, which did its first video renders earlier this month. This also marks the first release of filestore as a stand-alone component, which includes the new Skein-based dmedia hashing protocol.

Packages are available for Ubuntu Natty and Oneiric in the Novacut Stable Releases PPA. And you can download the source tarballs here:

Special thanks

This release wouldn't be possible without the hard work and expertise of the following people:

Contribute to 11.09 and beyond!

Want your name in next month's release notes like all the cool kids above? If you look at the Jump in section on this page, you'll see a link to the Bitesize Bugs for each component. These are bugs that should (in theory) require little coding, but will get you familiar with the Launchpad workflow, running the unit tests, and, importantly, get your name in the release notes.

We always release on the last Thursday of the month. The 11.09 components will be released on Thursday September 29 2011, and development is already underway. To see what's in store for the next releases, checkout the 11.09 milestones:

That's all, folks!

Thanks to everyone who is helping make this dream a reality!

Jason Gerard DeRose

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Crowd-Sourcing Granny Stories

Hanna Sköld, the very talented writer and director of Nasty Old People, is involved in a new film project titled: Granny's Dancing on the Table.  This project has taken on a form that I've never seen in the film-making world before.  It deeply engages the project's audience (through interactive creative process) prior to an actual theater and/or online release of the film.  But how?  How is Sköld and her "granny-universe" community pulling off this feat?

Months ago I wrote about Hanna involving her fans in the actual screen-writing process - about the writing workshops that she's been holding in coffee shops and libraries, as well as the Q & A that she does through Facebook and then incorporates into her character development work.  Well, Hanna hasn't stopped here!  She's continuing to encourage people to participate in this very community-oriented creative process, asking them to contribute stories and photos of their grandmothers.  All of these stories and photos will then be compiled for an online exhibition and a few street exhibitions (from Sweden to Serbia to Germany to Spain).  Hanna told me that the exhibition will be:

A space where grannies can be remembered and exist.  It's also a way to tell a female history through the stories of ordinary woman from around the world, stories that have never been told. I think all of these stories put together will be a powerful manifestation connected to our roots. 

So if this wonderful crowd-sourcing project strikes you as interesting - if you're inspired to honor the spirit and legacy of your granny - take the time to upload a story and photo to the Facebook page Hanna established for these two fast approaching exhibitions (which are happening in about 4 days).  Hanna told me that you're welcome to share any story that touches your heart.  She said it can be about "spectacular happenings or everyday stories".  And if you never knew your granny, she suggested that you upload a photo of your granny, and then write a line or two about what she means to you or how you have pictured her over the years.  

Just a little side note before I click "publish post".  I contributed my granny story a while ago and found the sharing of my thoughts about her an interesting process.  My grandmother has committed a lot of brave and unconventional acts in her lifetime, but the first thing that I wanted to tell the world about had nothing to do with her great adventures.  My first thought, best thought focused on her infectious laugh.  And this made me think, "Is my vision of happiness rooted in how I see my grandmother?"  An interesting question that came from this interesting project.  Thank you Hanna!  

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Novacut Developer Day!

So this Saturday, August 20th, we're going to have our first Novacut Developer Day. If you're interesting in getting involved with Novacut development, or just want to learn more about our development process or technology stack, please join us in the #novacut IRC channel (freenode).

We're planing for a 3 hour event, from 16:00 - 19:00 UTC. In some common time zones:

  • India: 9:30PM - 12:30AM
  • London: 5PM - 8PM
  • US Eastern: Noon - 3PM
  • US Central: 11AM - 2PM
  • US Mountain: 10AM - 1PM
  • US Pacific: 9AM - Noon

If you can't make it, don't worry: the IRC logs will be available.

This developer day is going to be focused on the Python code in our backend components, and the overall Novacut service architecture. You'll be able to ask lots of questions, and we'll walk you through the basics step by step.

We'll have three 1-hour sessions:

Ubuntu is our primary development platform, and so things will be easiest if you have an Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal install handy, even if just running in VirtualBox.

To be ahead of the game, you should add the Novacut Daily Builds PPA and install a few things in advance, which you can do easiest by copy and pasting these 3 commands:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:novacut/daily
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install bzr couchdb python3-microfiber python3-filestore

And you probably want to read this so you have a bit more background before Saturday.

We hope you to see you then!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Novacut: The Big Picture

Well, in case you haven't heard, Novacut is back on Kickstarter! It's been a long road since the last time we tried kickstarter, we've communicated with artists and learned a lot, and we're off to a *much* better start than last time. With all the talk about UX Designs, progress on our distributed media library nearing production readiness, Artist Diaries, the excellent branding Ian 'IZO' Cylkowski has provided us, and the glowing endorsement by two independent filmmakers, I thought it would be a good time to talk about why we're doing all of this.

First and foremost, we're here to support the artist. We're here to give artists the tools they need to be more profitable and without giving up creative control, ownership, or compromising their creative vision. Sure, we're making a professional-level video editor, we're bringing great new tools to Linux, we're building a platform for collaboration and sharing between fans and artists alike, and that's an ambitious (and some might say crazy) goal in itself, but all those things are a means to an end. We're doing this for the artists who are already out there trying to tell terrific stories.

I don't think I can put it any better than Jason DeRose in the Editor UX, "The Novacut vision is bold and a bit wild, certainly a lot of work. But we're also rather realistic because we have a laser focus on helping those artists who right now are leveraging HDSLR cameras to tell wonderful stories, with impeccable production quality, and are doing so on shoe string budgets you wouldn't believe." I should know because I think I'm one of the people he was talking about because you probably wouldn't believe the budget for my series if I told you.

The best way for artists to be profitable is the same as any other business: increase revenue and decrease costs. Anything that helps you do either of those is a huge win, but anything else is a distraction or worse, it's hurting you.

The biggest thing an artist, any artist, can do to generate more revenue is to radically increase the size of their audience. You don't do this by hiding your work; You don't do this by demanding payment at every turn; and You don't do this by punishing fans, even casual ones. As an artist, fans are your most treasured asset, and as such, you should do everything you can to forge a better relationship. First they see something of yours (most likely for free), then maybe they'll share it with others, perhaps comment on it, make suggestions. Once there's some sort of connection, many of them will be happy to provide you with money and other things of value.

Novacut is working to help artists make money by providing a distribution platform for free culture films and serials. Jason always talks about the "low hanging fruit" and how it's best to excel in some area your competitors do poorly or are completely blind to. As it turns out, almost nobody is helping artists make money distributing direct-to-fan works, and even fewer are targeting Ubuntu (or any other Linux distro for that matter). So this leaves a huge niche that isn't being filled, with millions of potential fans who are either being ignored or deliberately refused access to many existing platforms and a wide variety of artists whose needs are very poorly met.

The Novacut platform will let artists reach a big audience and provide opportunities and reasons for fans to support them. The wider an audience we can reach and the more of these fans we give a sufficient "reason to buy", the more profitable these artists will be. We don't need DRM or anything else that gets in the way of the artist-fan relationship. We're all about forging strong connections between artists and fans, and giving those fans great reasons to support the artists.

While we'd love to reach every computer, and even TVs and tablets, Ubuntu is a great place to start. It's a pretty big potential market, which is being ignored by the competition, so we can get a leg up here with minimal effort, and since our core technology is already native to Ubuntu, it's even easier for us. This way, we can very quickly build a large fanbase to support great artists, and do it better because of our focus.

The other way to make artists more profitable is to save them time. Time is money as they say. If we can help artists save time, eliminate unnecessary risks, and make it easier and more efficient to collaborate, we'll have helped them tell their stories better, faster, and easier. This frees them up to be even more creative and helps them better connect with fans.

This is what the Novacut editor is all about, helping artists edit video better. Again, there's a lot of low hanging fruit here. The team has put a lot of effort into designing the user experience, focusing the design around saving time, reducing risk, and enabling collaboration. The UI will feature an efficient editing workflow and be designed to tie in with similar components when available, rather than becoming a complicated mega-application of its own. Dmedia, the Distributed Media Library is the critical piece that reduces the risk that artists will lose important files or wasted effort *and* enables real-time collaboration between artists over the Internet. Dmedia automatically ensures that media files are backed up and transferred where needed and keeps track of edits much like distributed version control systems such as git and bzr. Alternative edits can be worked on in parallel on one machine or many and reviewed or merged at any time. This makes it easier to explore a number of alternate edits and experiment with each new cut. If a change doesn't pan out, it's no great loss, all of your previous edits are right there.

We're using peer-to-peer and distributed version control to enable distribution costs and enable greater collaboration. Eventually we hope fans will be able to take advantage of this collaborative editing environment to create remixes beyond anything we're familiar with thanks to the powerful source and metadata artists can make available on top of Novacut.

As ambitious and challenging as this project is, there's a wonderfully narrow focus here. Where many applications are focusing on feature after feature, Novacut seeks to be measurably superior in the few key areas that matter to its target audience: independent narrative filmmakers shooting with Canon HDSLRs. Novacut will likely be suited for many others, but this is where it starts. We shouldn't try to compete feature-for-feature with every pro tool in the industry, but find ways to simplify the process. We're working smarter, not harder.

The Novacut vision is bold and a bit wild, certainly a lot of work, but by innovating where the industry hasn't even tried, paying close attention to what artists need, and keeping a laser focus on helping these artists tell their stories we can create a wonderful tool, with impeccable quality, on a shoe string budget you wouldn't believe.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Novacut Artist Diaries

Jason is putting the finishing touches on Dmedia (the back-end for Novacut's video editor).  So the next step for Novacut's video editor is the design of its UX/UI.  Jason has drafted a document around Novacut's UX/UI design focus.  However, this document isn't the end all, be all for our design process.  It is a living thing that will change and grow with feedback from video editors.

So this is where Novacut needs a hand from artists. We need artists to share their everyday experiences with the tools they are using to make film and TV.  We need screen casts, sketches, notes, blog posts, etc. that are focused on how artists are using their current editing software, and how these tools are slowing down their creative process.   In short, this blog post is a call to artists - a call for their participation in the creation of the first distributed video editor.  It's a call for a record of YOUR experience.     

If you need a few ideas to help jump-start your Novacut Artist Diary, Jason (Novacut's lead developer) is particularly interested in learning about how video editors organize video files as they come in.  How do editors organize files in relation to the storyboard/storyline that the director has laid out?  He's also curious about what editors want to do with their editing software but can't.  So go nuts - transform the pain points that you struggle with everyday in your creative process into a wishlist!

When you're ready to share your literary and/or visual journal, upload your screen-casts to the Novacut Artist Diaries Group on Vimeo, and/or email me a link to a Google doc, blog post, etc.  As information rolls in, I'll consolidate surfacing themes into a public Google doc.  I'll also regularly blog about these themes, as well as information that Jason's looking for in his effort to make a silky smooth user experience for video editors.  Until the next blog post, get crazy with your wishlist and share!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The new Novacut brand and identity

Thanks to the inspired, visionary work of Ian 'IZO' Cylkowski, we have a stunning new brand and identity for Novacut.

To appreciate the full spender, please check out both the final Novacut identity guidelines, and the first draft (which shows the depth of background research IZO did):

A million thanks, IZO! Everyone should go to his website right now and marvel and more of his work!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Announcing dmedia 0.7 "delegate"

I'm happy to announce the 7th release of the Distributed Media Library (aka "dmedia"). At this point dmedia is really just for developers and highly adventurous end-users, but the design and implementation are both progressing quickly.

You can download the source tarball here: dmedia-0.7.0.tar.gz

Packages are available for Ubuntu Natty in the Novacut Stable Releases PPA.

What's new in dmedia 0.7

This was a slow month as I was in Budapest for two weeks for the Ubuntu Developer Summit and a bit of vacation.

The only new feature is I added the TransferManager for dispatching and managing uploads and downloads. And Bilal Akhtar reworked the Debian packaging to split dmedia into simpler components, although that's only in the official packaging, hasn't yet made is way into the internal packaging that I use for daily builds and monthly releases.

For details, see bugs fixed in the dmedia 0.7 milestone.

Special thanks

Contribute to 0.8 and beyond!

We do monthly time-based releases, always releasing on the last Thursday of the month. That means we promise to make a release on time each month, but never promise what exact features will land.

dmedia 0.8 will be released on Thursday June 30 2011, and development is already underway. To see what's in store for the next release, checkout dmedia 0.8 milestone.

That's all, folks!

Thanks to everyone who is helping make this dream a reality!

Jason Gerard DeRose

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

See you at the Ubuntu Developer Summit!

Once again, Jeff, Tara, and I will be attending the Ubuntu Developer Summit. What a crazy blur the last six months have been... can't believe it's UDS time again already!

Us Novacut folks are bringing 3 blueprints to the table:

(Big thanks to Bilal Akhtar for setting up that first one!)

While at UDS, we also have a delicious treat for everyone: we're going to unveil the beautiful, stunning brand and identity design that Ian 'IZO' Cylkowski did for Novacut. Our plan is to unveil it Tue May 10, in the evening (Budapest time), and we'll unveil it online at approximately the same time.

If you're going to be at UDS and want to chat with us about anything at all, assume we want to chat with you too, because we do! Come find us, give @novacut a mention, or email (that will go to all 3 of us, so better chance of one of us noticing). And Tara will again be doing video interviews, so if you want to be interviewed, find Tara. We have a better audio setup this time, so things should go a bit smoother.

Plus, if you can't attend in person, you can still particpate remotely. Please feel free to chime in on IRC (whether it's a session we're in or not... remote participation is open to all).

Oh, and we're going to be giving the Disributed Media Library a brutal trial by fire: we'll be using dmedia to ingest and backup all our video and audio. Last UDS we brought home nearly 500 gigs, and I expect this time will be even more. Some features (like uploading to Amazon S3) just landed in trunk, so I'll no doubt be hacking/fixing as we go... should be fun.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Announcing dmedia 0.6 "go time"

I'm happy to announce the 6th release of the Distributed Media Library (aka "dmedia"). This is a special release because today also marks the release of Pioneer One episode 4, and Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal. At this point dmedia is really just for developers and highly adventurous end-users, but the design and implementation are both progressing quickly.

You can download the source tarball here: dmedia-0.6.0.tar.gz

Packages are available for Ubuntu Natty in the Novacut Stable Releases PPA.

What's new in dmedia 0.6

In this release dmedia has been further split into simpler components. This means we can use a very minimal dmedia install for media consumption apps like the Novacut player, and only install the other components when apps like the Novacut editor need them.

Highlights include:

  • Thanks to David Green, the media browser has a basic Application Menu, giving it nice integration in Unity
  • Almost declared the version zero schema final, but decided to wait another month (this is a big decision because we will maintain compatibility with the version zero schema indefinitely)
  • Split into two DBus services, one that will provide the core functionality all dmedia apps need, and a second that just takes care of the Pro File Import UX
  • Added new core API entry point

For details, see bugs fixed in the dmedia 0.6 milestone.

Special thanks

Contribute to 0.7 and beyond!

We do monthly time-based releases, always releasing on the last Thursday of the month. That means we promise to make a release on time each month, but never promise what exact features will land.

dmedia 0.7 will be released on Thursday May 26 2011, and development is already underway. To see what's in store for the next release, checkout dmedia 0.7 milestone.

That's all, folks!

Thanks to everyone who is helping make this dream a reality!

Jason Gerard DeRose

Monday, April 11, 2011

Transcript of UDS-N Interviews

Interview #1: Elliot Murphy talks about how remote participation works

I'm Elliot Murphy.  I'm an Ubuntu developer and I also work for Canonical.  I've been involved in the Ubuntu community for 4 years now, and I'm here at the UDS for Natty Narwhal.  One of the things I find interesting about of the core values of Ubuntu is accessibility.  So even though it's really cool that a bunch of us get together in person every six months to work on Ubuntu, and plan out the next release, we also put a fair amount of effort, expense and planning into enabling remote participation.  So even people who aren't able to fly across the ocean and be here in person can participate in the sessions that are interesting to them.  This is something that we've tried over and over again and it's gotten better each time.  And now it's gotten to the point where it works really, really well; so I think other conferences should do this as well.  It's been surprising to me personally for some of the projects that I've worked on just how useful the remote links are, and how successfully they've worked.  So what we do... we've got about eight parallel tracks in sessions going on in each of them; they're an hour each.  In each room, we have two projectors.  One projector shows an IRC channel that the public can dial into and there's a bot that keeps time, how long is left in the session, what the current topic is and so on.  So everyone in the room can see that (whether they have they're laptop out or not) as well as those people participating remotely.  The other projector shows Gobby, which is a collaborative document editor, sort of real-time editing...multiple people can edit at the same time and see each others changes.  So everyone in the room can see the minutes being kept, like the notes and action items from the discussion, but people remotely can participate as well.  And then the third step is that we have a live audio feed right out of the room.  So the way that works is everybody in the room is talking and discussing the blueprint, but people participating remotely can ask questions and provide feedback in IRC.  Then people in that room will notice that feedback, read it out loud to the room, and that sort of completes for the remote participants.  I think this is something that we've kind of taken for granted, but I think it's a really cool feature of the Ubuntu Developer Summit...that it's accessible to even those people who aren't here in person.

Interview #2: Jono Bacon talks about making community building and music personal

Jason: So we're at UDS-N and I'm talking to Jono Bacon.  So Jono I think a while back you said, "I need a job and so I'm going to make up a word to describe this job and I'm going to call it 'community manager'."  And it's really taken off as an interesting discipline in open-source and it's kind of spilling out into the rest of world.  Ubuntu started out very community focused...what's your take on how this role as community manager has helped steer this evolution? 

Jono:  I think it has changed over the years as people have understood it.  I think community's really a black art.  There's no rule book to it.

Jason: Except the one that you wrote.

Jono:  The Art of Community is an attempt to distill one person's approach, which can maybe help people come to their own decisions about how to do it.  But one of the things that I like about it is that it's not a logic oriented job; it's not like you sit there and say I want to do this thing in my community and I'm going to follow these five steps.  It's about feel and reaction to what's going on around you, which means it's a risky job.  It has happened to me plenty of times where I made bad decisions; it's human nature.  But I think it's evolved over the years; different people have different perspectives on it.  There's a common divide engineer oriented community manager or a market oriented community manager (particularly in the area of open-source).  Some people see the role as waving your hand around conferences, and doing talks, and getting people psyched about stuff.  And Some people see it as lowering the bar in terms of helping people collaborate around all depends on the project..

Jason: What's in store for things on the community side for the new cycle?

Jono:  It's going to be busy cycle for us...the move to Unity is something we're all embracing.  There's a technical change to bring Unity into Ubuntu...onto the desktop.  We're wrapping our arms around it as the community.  I'll be working with the accessibility team this week to help them make the accessibility in Unity Rock.  If it's not accessible, we're not shipping it.  So there's a lot of work there.  We really want to continue the growth in making Ubuntu really accessible for developers as well.  It should be really easy to write an Ubuntu application, write something that runs really well on Ubuntu, something that's really easy to get into the software center.  So improving developer awareness - things like that.   We also want thing that I talked about in my plenary on Wednesday is that I want to make Ubuntu personal.  Ubuntu should be a personal experience, a personal timeline that people go through, not a process experience.  Ubuntu has grown into a pretty big community these days; the way that you deal with scale is you put a set of processes in place, so when all of this chaos is happening you can bring order to it...but processes are less personal.  I'm really trying to bring that personal spirit back so you join have a set of people that you trust, a set of people that help you learn the ropes and be involved.  So people feel like they're not only helping a really awesome OS develop but also have great friends while doing that.

Jason:  So more mentorships, less process.

Jono:  Yeah there's a guy...I wish I knew his name who was in a session the other day and he said (he's involved in Debian, good friends of Ubuntu), "Debian is what got me interested in the community, but I met one person and I had a 20 minute conversation.  And it's that one 20 minute conversation that convinced me to stay.  I felt inspired and encouraged."  This one person really sold the experience for him.  Everyone should have that 20 minute conversation - that one person who says this is why it's cool (as opposed to a Wiki page that says why it's cool).

Jason:  You just made an album release.  Can you tell us a bit about that?

Jono:  Severed Fifth is my Creative Commons music project.  The idea is twofold.  One is I've always been into music; I've been playing in metal bands since I was's to make what I think is good music.  To be blunt I want to change the music industry; it's a big lofty goal but I think it's broken.  It's wrong how it works.  There's too many bands out there (doing such good work) working their socks off at gigs, pouring their heart and soul into it, and they're not get the recognition they deserve.  So severed fifth is a project in which we give all the music out for free.  You can download it, you can do what you want with it.  We're building a community around it; it's like an open-source approach to music.  We've got a community doing all kinds of great stuff.  Someone's made a fanzine, someone's making an Android app; there's a frets on fire game that's being made.  People contributing photography and video.  People contribute all kinds of stuff because the music's free (just like people participate in Ubuntu because they've got free access to the tools, so we're trying to do that around music).  We've just released Nightmare by Design, which is our first, real proper release.  We did one before hand but that one was just me and that one was a full on death metal album.  But this one's more accessible, much more fun.  I think people can really get into it.  We're doing some shows in the Bay area.

Jason:  You also have a pay what you want option that's on the page; have you gotten much response around that yet?

Jono:  There's a series of experiments (when I was thinking about how Severed Fifth was going to work)...ideas that are coming out one by one.  For example, if you record an album and give it away for free, first of all will anyone download it?  And then if people start to dig it, will a community form around it?  There's been a couple of experiments; one of them was around how to you fund a band.  Because a band is expensive...we have a rehearsal space in Oakland that we pay $400 a month just to be in there and what we did was Severed Fifth fair pay.  I want the term fair pay to be something that all bands use; the idea is simple you go there and pay what you think is fair and affordable.  For example, there's a guy (Monte) that pays $25 a month and he's like, "That's one pizza; I get thinner and you get a band (I don't know how big this guy is)."  Another friend of mine pays $1; he's fallen on tough times recently. I think it's the right thing to do. The response has been surprisingly good; we've gotten in total $6-800 in a month.  We won't get rich off of it...but we don't want to do that.  We just want to cover some of these costs; it's useful for that.

Jason:  You should track OS used vs. amount donated.  Have you looked at the Humble Indie Bundle stats?  20% of those participated were Linux users; they were 20% more likely to donate...

Jono:  There's such a huge disconnect.  People think that kids these days don't want to pay for music; they just want to download it.  They don't care about the artists.  There's so much propaganda nonsense that's being pushed out there by people like the RIIA; it's untrue.  There's been so many people with Severed Fifth who've donated because they want to support the band...they've volunteered (I haven't pressured people into it).  To me it shows that people who believe in a project will support it financially.  But everyone has to have equal access to downloading it and using it; people can use it in YouTube videos.  Hopefully people will use Novacut to make some videos with it.  I think that's why people do it.  If the music were just an album, they wouldn't do it.  They'd be like, "I just paid $10 for the CD what are you talking about?"

Jason:  I think that fans want to support the artist, but you know that the artist gets 2 cents on the dollar.  But if you give them a convenient way to support you directly, you can get a surprising response.

Jono:  I had a conceptualized idea around Severed Fifth.  One of the guys who's a real idol to me when I was getting into metal (who played in a band called Machine Head) - he's really helped severed fifth.  I bumped into him at an airport.  He's connected me with bunch of musicians; some of the stories that they've told me about the industry...really matched with my experiences as an unsigned artist.  You put your heart and soul into an album and then you sign it to record label and the label controls the distribution.  It's hard because all musicians want is to go out and do album is just a means to spread awareness so you can go out and play shows.  Usually you sell enough albums and then you get tour support, but a lot of these labels don't do much marketing, so a lot of times you don't sell enough albums to get tour support.  Whereas when you're in control of the content, you can say, "Just download it; grab as much as you want!"  So you don't limit the amount of awareness that you can build; I believe you can get tour support in other ways.  It's a big experiment but I think it has the potential to reap significant rewards.

Interview #3: Matt Zimmerman talks about UDS History and culture, plus Linaro

Jason:   Matt you told me that you've to every UDS so far.  Can you tell us how the summits have changed over time and what you'd like to see happen in the future with them?

Matt:  We're much more organized now than we used to be (as you can imagine).  The first proto UDS (before we were calling it that) was just people working on the project getting together face to face for a few days or a week; it was more like an agile development sprint where we'd get together and actually work on the project and talk about what we wanted to do.  Over time as we wanted to do more projects, and more people got involved,  we had to make it more structured.  We never wanted it to be like a tech conference where people just give talks; we wanted it to be very action oriented (like we'd come out of it with a plan and a direction for the next release) more of a workshop than a conference.  I think that gives it a different character from a lot of other software events.  Even though people do come here just to see what's going on and participate; it's very open to people getting involved and influencing what's going on as well, which is something I like about it.

Jason:  The remote participation stuff is entirely unique (maybe) to this type of summit; I've remotely participated a couple of times and it's definitely a cool thing.

Matt:  Yeah, we've tried that a couple of years now.  We've tried a couple of iterations; we tried people participating with head-sets and microphones and having cameras with shotgun mics picking up audio in the room; the way that things are set up now are the latest refinement of that.  I think the IRC angle is interesting; it's a very flexible way for people to insert themselves into the conversation without interrupting people.  We actually had two-way voice in a teleconference where people could dial in and ask a question; it was really neat but difficult in practice.  When there are a lot of people talking in the room, it's difficult to interject and when you did it was disruptive (or you ended up with feedback).  We've had to make a lot of adjustments over the years. 

Jason: IRC is nice too because people can paste in a link.  It seems to work really well.

Matt:  People didn't always pay attention to it, and then having it on the projector was an improvement.

Jason: So people were all watching it on their laptops in theory.

Matt:  And all in one channel because there weren't very many of us.

Jason:  Can you tell us about where you see Ubuntu going in this next cycle...especially Ubuntu on ARM hardware.  I think this is a huge opportunity for Ubuntu to move onto more consumer electronic devices, but also on a new class of servers...

Matt:  Have you talked to people with Linaro yet?

Jason:  No we haven't yet.

Matt: Those folks are at the center of what's happening there.  It's an interesting shift for us, as ARM hardware becomes more powerful and capable for the kinds of devices that people want to run Ubuntu on and the breadth of devices and the relatively low cost.  There's a few people here carrying around ARM based laptops that weigh about as much as that microphone you're holding and have a battery that lasts most of the day.  So I think between ARM laptops, tablets, and everything else that people want to build, it's great to have Ubnutu as a platform that works on all of those devices.  It remains to be seen exactly which device categories will become dominant and what the best fit for Ubuntu will be.  But right now a world of possibility is opening up.

Jason: Can you tell us about the Linaro project?

Matt:  So they launched early this year.  It's a meeting place, a common ground, for different companies who are making ARM hardware to collaborate on making Linux work better for ARM and ARM devices.  Here at UDS there's quite a lot of people representing and participating in the Linaro project, who maybe don't normally work together on some of these problems they're facing separately.  Linaro's giving them a forum to talk about things like power management, graphics, getting the tool chain right, getting their kernel patches upstream, and all of these things that need to happen to help them get to the next level and enable the next generation of tech development on mobile devices.  This is the second time that UDS and Linaro have happened together, and this time it is much bigger.  I'm really happy about the turn out of different vendors.

Jason:  Part of the goal of the ARM project is also standardization within ARM itself in terms of boot sequence and firmware.  Have vendors been pretty receptive of that?

Matt:  There are people coming from different places and priorities, but where it adds up to less work (it takes less time to make a device and you can leverage common code), I think it's a win for everybody.  You do see progress on getting some of those problems solved.  Do you want to talk about the culture at UDS?  You can ask me about what happens outside of sessions.

Jason:  All of us have said over and over that people here are so nice here, and it's fun.  I'm sure there was a very deliberate process to cultivate that kind of feel.

Matt:  Similar to other free software conferences this is a gathering of people who work together and communicate with one another throughout the year but they don't see each other very often.  There's familiarity but there's also so much that's unknown and people are getting to know each other a lot better and building relationships here.  We have tried to cultivate that in terms of choice of venue to the sorts of activities that we organize.  Something that I really enjoy that has grown up over the past few years...we have quite a few talented musicians in the community...we started out with informal jam sessions with acoustic instruments and now we have equipment, amplifiers, microphones, sound sounds great and it's a lot of fun.  It's something that people don't get to do with their friends very often.  So it's part of the event that I really look forward to.

Jason:  There's a costume party tonight right?

Matt:  There is.  I didn't come with a costume but I'm sure I won't be the only one who didn't come prepared for that.  There will be a great concert and people unwinding after working very hard for a week.  That's another thing about UDS - it's not something that you can lay back and enjoy.  There's a lot of energy output during the week.  In the past, we sometimes did it for two weeks and that was extremely exhausting.  We've actually scaled it back (in part) because people get burned out after doing this for too long.

Jason: Thank you.


Link to the video that goes with this transcript:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Announcing dmedia 0.5 "so shiny"

I'm happy to announce the 5th release of the Distributed Media Library (aka "dmedia"). At this point dmedia is really just for developers and highly adventurous end-users, but the design and implementation are both progressing quickly.

You can download the source tarball here: dmedia-0.5.0.tar.gz

Packages are available for Ubuntu Natty in the Novacut Stable Releases PPA.

What's new in dmedia 0.5

This release mostly focused on making sure the critical JavaScript in dmedia (and Novacut) is very readable, maintainable, and backed with a boatload of unit tests. We want to make our platform a pleasant playground for UI designers, and this was a needed step.

Highlights include:

For details, see bugs fixed in the dmedia 0.5 milestone.

Special thanks

Contribute to 0.6 and beyond!

We do monthly time-based releases, always releasing on the last Thursday of the month. That means we promise to make a release on time each month, but never promise what exact features will land.

dmedia 0.6 will be released on Thursday April 28 2011, and development is already underway. To see what's in store for the next release, checkout dmedia 0.6 milestone.

That's all, folks!

Thanks to everyone who is helping make this dream a reality!

Jason Gerard DeRose

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Jono Bacon, Ubuntu's community manager, does a great videocast every Wednesday.  He talks not only about Ubuntu related topics, but also things that personally interest him (e.g. his band Severed Fifth).  And if listeners request a little death metal guitar playing before he closes a videocast, he happily obliges.  What I love about Jono's Ustreaming is that he lets listeners get to know him as a person.  He has a magical way of spreading the word about what Ubuntu is doing by simply sharing what he finds interesting about Ubuntu and beyond.

Because Jono is "the man" in terms of community management, I've decided to follow his lead and do a weekly videocast about Novacut.  It's a good way to answer questions that people have about what we're trying to accomplish, but more importantly, to get a sense about what people want.  We want to know what you want from your viewing experience; what you want in terms of TV and movie making tools so that you can tell the story you want to tell; what you want regarding a relationship with your favorite artists and/or fans; and so on.  Instead of shoving what we think you want down your throats, we've decided to start by simply asking: "What do you want from Novacut?"  Starting this Thursday (tomorrow) around 12 pm Mountain Standard Time, we'll start asking this question from a variety of angles.  We're excited to hear what you have to say so stop by Ustream tomorrow and join in the conversation!

By the by, the next Novacut release is happening tomorrow so Jason (Novacut's lead developer) will kick off our great Ustreaming adventure.  He definitely wants to talk about Novacut's video player and library (dmedia), but will be glad to answer any not-so-technical questions that you have too.  It'll be just another way that people interested in Novacut can get to know Jason better.  Until then, take good care all!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Women at UDS-N Transcript

Interview #1: Penelope Stowe

Penelope: Yeah, this cycle with the development of unity as the new desktop...currently from the past Unity there has been no accessibility support.  Instead, with this one we're creating an entire framework.  Luke Yelavich has been moved to the accessibility team to work on this.  And so as the accessibility team, we get to coordinate all of the QA, all of the documentation and everything else so he can focus on that.  It's a big cycle and it's a big project as well.  It's not unachievable.  We don't see a problem getting it done.  It's just going to be a lot of work, a lot of time and effort.  But we're all really excited about this.  I've spent my week alternating between fear and bouncing off the walls because this is a huge chance for us.  We've never, as the Ubuntu accessibility team, had the chance before to create a whole, real working product to make Ubuntu more accessible.  And the amount of support from Canonical, from members of the community, from everyone has just been phenomenal.  And it's something that's going to be really special, and it's exciting!

Interviewer:  So how did you first get involved with Free Software, and how did you first come to Ubuntu?

Penelope:  I first got involved because I have friends who use Linux.  I'm not from a technical background.  I was an English major.  I've worked in publishing.  However, I did admittedly take a few Computer Science classes in college.  But that actually came because I already had friends who were Linux users.  And so first I started using Linux, and then started alternating with Mac OS.  And then it took a good two years using Linux before saying, "O.K. I'm going to get involved."  And I started out doing the Ubuntu Classroom team, which does classes in IRC for a whole range of users, and I got involved in the Ubuntu Women team (which encourages women to use Ubuntu).  And then what started to happen was that I got more and more involved, and the physical condition that I have started to progress and it started to be: What are the alternatives for me to be able to type?  And it turned out...I started going to people about this and they had no answers.  And I started thinking, "We're a big distribution; we have to have an accessibility team."  Everything was 3-6 years out of date.  And so I thought, "I'm just going to go ahead and take this over."  So that was 6 months ago (a little over 6 months ago).  And that's what I've been doing ever since.

Interviewer:  That's awesome.  So, can you tell us some of the specific features that will be worked on this cycle. What the starting points are.

 Penelope:  The big starting point in terms of accessibility is creating a framework that the existing Linux accessibility things such as At-Spi can then work with.  Basically it's creating something that can talk to At-Spi and that can receive information from At-Spi, but that will also talk to other things too.  This a two part thing because Unity currently doesn't have keyboard navigation support so both things will have to happen: Put in the keyboard navigation for people who need keyboard navigation vs. mouse navigation and for everyone else, and create this framework that can talk to the existing accessibility programs out there such as Orca, such as the various on screen keyboards so that things will work. 

Interviewer:  Nice.  In the last session I sat in on, you all were talking about the accessibility personas you're developing, and that seems like a cool thing to help developers.  I know that when I'm working on something I don't deliberately make things inaccessible.  But a lot of people don't have the knowledge and they make silly mistakes.  So can you tell us a bit about the personas?

Penelope: So the idea behind the personas is to create people, essentially, that can be used as use cases.  So usually you hear about personas in terms of design personas, but we want ours to be used for design for development.  So it's essentially taking it from: Well, we need accessibility to work for a screen-reader to I need my program to be accessed by John, who is blind - who is a full-time student, swims, and his life goal is to be a filmmaker.  So it gives a personality and a face and a name rather than just abstract concepts about accessibility.  Our personas are going to be totally blind, partially sighted, deaf, mobility impairment, and cognitive impairment (which, in our experience, seem to be the main or basic use cases that cover the widest range of computer users with physical or mental impairment).  

Interviewer:  That's great!  Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Penelope:  Well, thank you very much for interviewing me, and I'm really excited for this cycle!  And I'm really excited for Unity; I think it's a really exciting step for Ubuntu, and it's a really exciting step for the accessibility team!  And it's going to be a great cycle!

Interview #2: Michelle Hall

Interviewer:  O.K. I'm here with Michelle Hall at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Orlando, Florida, and I'm going to have her talk about the charity that she and her husband established.  So take it away!

Michelle: Tell me what you'd like to know.

Interviewer: First, where did the idea come from?

Michelle: It originated with our little boy.  He has special needs; he's on the autism spectrum, and we decided that when he wouldn't let go of his daddy's computer that we needed to give him his own.  But we couldn't find something that worked for his own needs (he couldn't track the menu system).  So Michael, my husband, created this distro (i.e. Qimo) and we started working with it and then gave it to Quinn.  And we had an excellent response so we decided to take it out to the community at large.  And we've had great response!

Interviewer:  Very nice.  So we were talking, before I turned on the camera, about the traveling you and your husband have done to spread the word about what you're doing, and to help others do the same thing in their local communities.  Would you talk about this a little?

Michelle:  We traveled originally to L.A. for SCALE (the Southern California something Linux Expo).  Not this February but the previous February.  And out there we talked to a number of individuals who said, "This is a brilliant idea; what can we do to help?"  And we were picked up by a large number of press and the message was carried.  And this past year at SCALE I met a woman who had come to see me to tell me that she had taken Qimo into the Russian orphanage she works with for the Russian orphans...she's working on teaching them English, and she's using our program to help them learn English.  And hopefully get them adopted.

Interviewer:  Very Nice!  So we've been asking this general question: "What got you started in Open Source/Free Software?

Michelle:  I was dragged kicking and screaming into this.  My husband's the computer geek.  I am not.  I am not technical.  I majored in English Literature in college.  I I don't want to get into this.  No!  And then we started the charity.  And then we started getting emails from the Open Source community saying, "We want you involved...Come On!"  I resisted and resisted, and finally I met some women who were much like I am.  And finally I said. "O.K. I feel safe."  And I jumped in - into the deep end feet first but that's o.k.  And I've been involved for almost two years now, and really having a lot of fun!

Interviewer:  Very nice!  So is this your first UDS?  What do you think!?

Michelle:  I've be surprised and extremely pleased.  I expected to walk into sessions and be the only woman in the room.  I was afraid of walking into sessions that I had no clue about, but I've been really pleased.  I haven't gone into a session where I've been the only woman.  The community has been wonderful!  I haven't had any problems at all.  I've been very pleased!

Interviewer:  Well, do you have anything that you want to talk about in terms of your charity or your loco?

Michelle:  It's really simple.  If you have a computer at home, sitting in a closet, get it out, fix it up, give it to a child.  We work with at risk kids, and the letters I've gotten have been incredible.  We worked with a bunch of migrant children because we work right outside of the strawberry fields.  So we worked with these families who had incomes of $200 a month.  And the little girls would come to me and say, "We want to be teachers but we don't know how; we want to make our mommies proud and not work in the fields like they do."  So if you have a computer, don't take a sledge hammer to it.  Recycle it; give it to a child - to a little daycare that can't afford a computer.  That's all the change that we have to make.

Interview #4: Valorie Zimmerman

Interviewer:  We're here at UDS-N and I'm here with Valorie who is a documentation writing rock-star from Washington.  I really wanted to interview you because documentation is one of those unsung hero things that's really hard to do.  It's fantastic that there are technical writers willing to do that hard work.  So can you tell us a little about yourself and the work that you do?

Valorie:  O.K., I'm not a professional.  I have written in my life as a student, as a mom, in some of the jobs I've had.  My last child left home, and I felt like I wanted to get involved in the Open Source area more intensively.  I'm not a programmer in any way, or even very technical at all.  So I looked around and thought, "What's my favorite program?"  AmerRock.  The greatest music player ever.  And I wrote to the mailing list and said, "Hey your handbook is really bad; it's so old that it's unusable."  And they said, "You're right."  And I said, "Can I help?"  And they said, "You're on!"  So I ended up running the team.  So we gathered some more people...really when we started working other people just pitched in.  We have a quick-start guide done, and we're working on more technical stuff where we have screenshots of everything, explanations of every menu choice, and that sort of thing.  So I saw the end of this project approaching and thought, "Well, Kubuntu is what I use so why not ask to help in the same way?"  And they again jumped on me and said, "Our documentation writer just left so let's go!"  I haven't really learned anything yet, so I plan to tomorrow (I guess) and we're on our way.

Interviewer:  How did you originally get involved in Open Source?

Valorie: My son got tired of doing my Windows...Well I can do updates, but when things crashed he got tired of reinstalling Windows.  So he said, "Mom I think you're ready for Linux."  It's funny because I knew that he was interested in Linux.  I had bought him the 5 & 1/4 discs years ago (like a stack of 20 slack ware discs).  So I helped him get started in Linux.  He installed Mandrake years ago, and I found the Linux Chics (who were a great support).  So I didn't have to ask him for everything, and then by the time that I moved to Kubuntu, I found the Ubuntu Women (quite a few of whom had started with Linux Chics and who again became my support system).  One interesting thing, a friend who I met on My Space actually, mentioned that she'd been using Linux and I said that she should join Linux Chics.  And she said, "How do I do that?"  So I started telling her about IRC, and she didn't even know what it was.  So I helped her get onto IRC, and now she's starting Kernel development.  And so now when I have a problem guess who can help me!  So the burden is even less on my son.  So it's the circle of life I guess.  It's great!

Interviewer:  That's a  really cool story.  Yeah, I think about seven years ago I had a similar negotiation with my mom.  Maybe there wasn't much negotiating but I said, "I'm not doing this any more."  And I had her start using Debian at the time, but yeah, it made my life tons easier.  And then you're involved in the loco in Washington?  Can you tell us a bit about that?

Valorie:  Yes.  Some the people in Ubuntu Women, which is primarily a project to help women integrate into the Ubuntu community as a whole...We're not our own little thing; we're all involved in other things.  I met another person from Washington (through Ubuntu Women) and said, "Wow I heard about this concept called loco; why don't we do something?"  And so, yeah, I'm about to become one of the leaders of the loco which is still small.  We have the Seattle/Microsoft problem but we're working and we'll get there.  It's been great to meet Laura who's on the Loco Council...very helpful.  Jono Bacon...all of the people I've met have been just wonderful.  Talked to some Canonical employees.  The whole thing about UDS when they sponsored me...I sit down with a table full of people I don't know and we all introduce ourselves and start talking and it's just been a wonderful experience!  Every minute!

Interviewer:  So this is your first UDS?

Valorie:  Yes it is!  And again, the Ubuntu Women...I said, "Well I'd never be sponsored."  And they said, "Why not ask?"  And so I thought, "Why not ask?"  They could say no; they could say yes, and they said yes.  So here I am!

Interviewer:  Is there anything else you'd like to...

Valorie:  I'd like to say to the non-technical end-user: "Get involved!"  If you follow your interests, if you follow you heart, you cannot go wrong.

Interview #4: Amber Graner

     I tell people a lot of times, though now like my friends in the community, if I say this in an IRC channel, in good humor, will kick me out of the channel...I have this talk about the non-technical end-user, and I got really tired of saying that I'm a non-technical end-user.  I got tired of typing non-technical end-user.  So I started saying, "I'm an NTEU."  I'm into it; I'm not into it, and so it kind of caught on.  But it's not a I wouldn't call someone else an NTEU.  It's more like a self identifying term and it's relative.  It's a relative term.  Because all of the people I had experience with in Open Source (were people like my husband) were developers - were people who worked on Kernels, who worked on a base OS, who worked on maintaining a batch (or those type of things)...they were really skilled developers.  Well...sitting next to them and seeing their skills (my technical skills weren't like theirs) so I didn't always feel like I was technical.  Well, when you separate yourself from that group, no matter whether you installed Ubuntu yesterday, or have been involved in Open Source since the release of Linux's first Kernel, there will always be someone more technical than you and you will always have something to share with someone else.  So no matter how non-technical you think you are, you will always have something to share with someone else.  There will always be something that you can teach someone else.  While other people might say, "Well you wrote a script or you did this or you're not technical"...Well relatively speaking to who I'm surrounded by everyday I'm not the technical user.  But if you back it up a bit and I'm with my kids, or their teachers, or their friends, or my family members, I am the technical one in the room.  So it's really encouraging those people who self identify as the non-technical end-user that's important.  They are important in this technical organization.   
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