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...California State University Stanislaus

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  • Nekhelesh Ramananthan: Adventures in Podbird

    A few months back before the release of the first Ubuntu Touch phone, I started to think about apps that a new user might look for. Several apps came to my mind like Whatsapp, Google+, Youtube, Reddit, Facebook, Games, Podcast Manager etc and while I certainly cannot help out with every one of them (despite wanting to), I figured I would try to help app developers who are creating apps which fulfils a certain use case. One such app that caught my attention was Podbird which was being developed by Michael Sheldon.

    Podbird was this simple podcast app that used the Itunes database to allow for searching and adding a podcast and a few other nifty features like downloading podcasts for offline listening. It was a great start to a use case that I could relate to. I mean who doesn't like to listen to podcasts on their phone? Here is a screenshot of Podbird v0.5 for those who haven't used it yet.


    I joined the Podbird team to ramp up the development efforts and provide a podcast manager that would ease the transition for a new user. Features are being added to Podbird at a steady pace and I thought I'd share some sneak peaks of what to expect in v0.6.

    First of is the most requested feature which is to auto-download new episodes on app start up (Bug 1435556 ). While implementing this feature, I revamped the settings page to be more organized and explanatory.

    If you also look closely at the settings page, I also added the option to hide listened episodes.


    I also added a welcome wizard to introduce the app to the user and help get started with Podbird.


    We are fully committed to providing a great Podbird experience in all languages. And so once these features land in trunk, we will be making a call to get translations as we have added quite a number of new strings and then release this new version to the store.

    Oh also before I forget, Podbird is essentially being made by developers and as obvious as that might be, we are not designers. We have tried our best to make Podbird easy and intuitive to use. On my request, the Podbird UI is now being scrutinized by Kevin Feyder whose apps I have always come to admire. With time, we should see his designs and opinions being reflected in Podbird.

    Hopefully by the time we hit our first major milestone v1.0, Podbird should be feature par with podcast manager of other platforms.

    Chirp... Chirp...

  • Forums Council: Forum Council Addition

    For some time now we have been 1 short of a full council. A few months ago we started a new process, Super Moderators , this has now born fruit.

    While we were always hoping that Super Moderators would work, as we all know, that’s not always the case in practice.

    As it did work for us, we’d like to welcome Slickymaster to the Forum Council, we are sure he will add as much here as he does elsewhere in the Ubuntu family.

  • Benjamin Mako Hill: RomancR: The Future of the Sharing-Your-Bed Economy


    Today, Aaron Shaw and I are pleased to announce a new startup. The startup is based around an app we are building called RomancR that will bring the sharing economy directly into your bedrooms and romantic lives.

    When launched, RomancR will bring the kind of market-driven convenience and efficiency that Uber has brought to ride sharing, and that AirBnB has brought to room sharing, directly into the most frustrating and inefficient domain of our personal lives. RomancR is Uber for romance and sex.

    Here’s how it will work:

    • Users will view profiles of nearby RomancR users that match any number of user-specified criteria for romantic matches (e.g., sexual orientation, gender, age, etc).
    • When a user finds a nearby match who they are interested in meeting, they can send a request to meet in person. If they choose, users initiating these requests can attach an optional monetary donation to their request.
    • When a user receives a request, they can accept or reject the request with a simple swipe to the left or right. Of course, they can take the donation offer into account when making this decision or “counter-offer” with a request for a higher donation. Larger donations will increase the likelihood of an affirmative answer.
    • If a user agrees to meet in person, and if the couple then subsequently spends the night together — RomancR will measure this automatically by ensuring that the geolocation of both users’ phones match the same physical space for at least 8 hours — the donation will be transferred from the requester to the user who responded affirmatively.
    • Users will be able to rate each other in ways that are similar to other sharing economy platforms.

    Of course, there are many existing applications like Tinder and Grindr that help facilitate romance, dating, and hookups. Unfortunately, each of these still relies on old-fashion “intrinsic” ways of motivating people to participate in romantic endeavors. The sharing economy has shown us that systems that rely on these non-monetary motivations are ineffective and limiting! For example, many altruistic and socially-driven ride-sharing systems existed on platforms like Craigslist or Ridejoy before Uber. Similarly, volunteer-based communities like Couchsurfing and Hospitality Club existed for many years before AirBnB. None of those older systems took off in the way that their sharing economy counterparts were able to!

    The reason that Uber and AirBnB exploded where previous efforts stalled is that this new generation of sharing economy startups brings the power of markets to bear on the problems they are trying to solve. Money both encourages more people to participate in providing a service and also makes it socially easier for people to take that service up without feeling like they are socially “in debt” to the person providing the service for free. The result has been more reliable and effective systems for proving rides and rooms! The reason that the sharing economy works, fundamentally, is that it has nothing to do with sharing at all! Systems that rely on people’s social desire to share without money — projects like Couchsurfing — are relics of the previous century.

    RomancR, which we plan to launch later this year, will bring the power and efficiency of markets to our romantic lives. You will leave your pitiful dating life where it belongs in the dustbin of history! Go beyond antiquated non-market systems for finding lovers. Why should we rely on people’s fickle sense of taste and attractiveness, their complicated ideas of interpersonal compatibility, or their sense of altruism, when we can rely on the power of prices? With RomancR, we won’t have to!

    Note: Thanks to Yochai Benkler whose example of how leaving a $100 bill on the bedside table of a person with whom you spent the night can change the nature of the a romantic interaction inspired the idea for this startup.

  • Riccardo Padovani: My opensource contributions in March 15

    This month was amazing: first Ubuntu Phones reached users, and so now we have feedbacks from actual customers, and we’re seeing platform growing.

    If you have published any app on the Ubuntu Store you know what I’m talking about: in last two weeks there were a lot of new downloads by new users. In this moment 100 balls, a little game I published, has more than 1200 download by something like 1000 users (actually, 936).

    If I think where we were 2 years ago, it all seems a miracle: community and Canonical are doing a great work together, and we finally reached the market with a real device, and others are coming. Wow!


    First of all, thanks to all you who follow me, this blog has a number of visitors I never expect. I know I say that every month, but every month is a surprise. When I reboot this blog three months ago, my expectation was to have 4000 page view every month. Without calculating who read articles on Ubuntu Planet or in a RSS Reader, this blog had 26,866 page views by 5,916 unique visitors in 30 days. Thanks to all! And I only wrote 2 articles!

    Stats are calculated by CloudFare, I don’t have Analytics or others trackers on the site. It just counts the number of request it has. And I think this is the last month I use CloudFare, as I describe below


    As I mentioned last month, I used your donations to buy a VPS. I’m still configuring it, but I’ve already installed OwnCloud and an irc bouncer and a webmail. It still misses the website itself, and then some tests to see performances.

    When it will be live I’ll write a post about the configuration, with all details.

    This is only thanks to your donations, I’ve no words to say how much grateful I am. I’ll continue to do my best to make Ubuntu better, thanks for your support.


    In March I received 55 euros in donations. It’s astonishing. I really, really appreciate to see my work is appreciated so much. I’ll can pay a good VPS, and have some good Italian coffees to have more energy to contribute opensource projects :-)

    What I did

    Some of you already know: in March I did surgery to the left eye to correct myopia: it was a success (also the one I did in February to right eye) and it’s amazing to see without glasses.

    Now, it’s time to describe what I did in March. Considering the surgery, the uni and life in general I’m satisfied about what I did.

    Browser app

    The month start was a bit frustrating: I was working on new tab improvements, but I found a lot of upstream bugs in Qt, and I wasn’t able to land improvements I did. I tried different approaches to the problem, but every approach hit a different upstream bug. Unfortunately, I’m not good enough to fix upstream bugs: I took a look, but Qt code isn’t simple.

    Luckily, after a couple of weeks, Olivier (main browser app developer) said me to leave that branch, for now, and focus on settings. He implemented settings in the backend itself and found a very elegant qml solution to manage search engines (I was writing a long C++ class to do that), and I wrote the UI for settings.

    The branch has been approved yesterday night: I know in some parts of the world was already April, but here was still March, so it’s one of the March’s contribution I’m most proud of.

    Thanks to oSoMoN for the mentorship and the patience reviewing my branches and suggesting me best practices.


    Calculator Reboot

    Do you think your app is perfect? Then popey hasn’t tested it yet! So you fix all bugs popey found, and you think you’ve done, but then there is Joe, the product manager. And he will find user cases you have never think to.

    So we’re continuing to fix bugs, and I hope we will able to include it in the OTA update of next week. Quality of apps has to be very high to be included in the default image, so we want to fix all bugs before releasing it. It’s not easy, but we’re near enough.

    At the moment we have only one blocking bug about keyboard, and I hope to fix it today or tomorrow. If I’ll able to fix it, then the calculator app will be pushed to thousands of phones next week. No pressure at all.

    Meanwhile, you can test it on your phone looking for Ubuntu Calculator App Reboot on the store. Please leave us your feedbacks, so we can improve it :-)


    Michael Zanetti worked hard on reminders last month, and a lot of improvements will land in next OTA image (we hope). I reviewed all its branches, and it’s a luck for me: I learn lot of things doing reviews, probably it’s the best way to improve my code skills: of course, then I have to try to use what I read!

    Other than that, I did usual things: bugs report, a very little patch for Telegram, some code for ubuntu-it, promotion of Ubuntu on social networks, support on Italian forum and on IRC and so on.

    Have you ever thought about helping the Ubuntu development? There are a lot of things to do, and you don’t have to be a developer: we need translators, testers, promoters and so. Try to take a look here, and, if you have any doubt, write me. I’ll be more than happy to address you to the right place to start to contribute.

    Just think: two years ago, when I started to do things for Ubuntu Phone, I knew very little about developing world, and know I’m doing cool things that reach thousands of users. Wow!

    Someone asked me how to start, well, I have no good suggestion: find something you like, and try to improve it. As soon as I’ve time I write a blog post with my story, maybe for someone could be useful: but remember, you have to create your own story, don’t copy others, it’s useless. Be yourself and try to change the world in your way :-)

    You know, I’m a student and I do all this in my free time. So, if you like my work and want to support me, just send me a Thank you! by email or offer me a beer:-)


  • Raphaël Hertzog: My Free Software Activities in March 2015

    My monthly report covers a large part of what I have been doing in the free software world. I write it for my donators (thanks to them!) but also for the wider Debian community because it can give ideas to newcomers and it’s one of the best ways to find volunteers to work with me on projects that matter to me.

    Debian LTS

    This month I have been paid to work 15.25 hours on Debian LTS. In that time I did the following:

    • CVE triage: I pushed 37 commits to the security tracker and contacted 20 maintainers about security issues affecting their packages.
    • I started a small helper script based on the new JSON output of the security tracker (see #761859 for details). It’s not ready yet but will make it easier to detect issues where the LTS team lags behind the security team, and other divergences like this and will speed up future CVE triage work (once done).
    • I sent DLA-174-1 (tcpdump update fixing 3 CVE) after having received a debdiff from the Romain Françoise.
    • I prepared DLA-175-1 on gnupg, fixing 3 CVE.
    • I prepared DLA-180-1 on gnutls26, fixing 3 CVE.

    That’s it for the paid work. But still about LTS, I proposed two events for Debconf 15:

    A Debian LTS logoIn my last Freexian LTS report, I mentioned briefly that it would be nice to have a logo for the LTS project. Shortly after I got a first logo prepared by Damien Escoffier and a few more followed: they are available on a wiki page (and the logo you see above is from him!). Following a suggestion of Paul Wise, I registered the logo request on another wiki page dedicated to artwork requests. That kind of collaboration is awesome! Thanks to all the artists involved in Debian.

    Debian packaging

    Django. This month has seen no less than 3 upstream point releases packaged for Debian (1.7.5, 1.7.6 and 1.7.7) and they have been accepted by the release team into Jessie. I’m pleased with this tolerance as I have argued the case for it multiple times in the past given the sane upstream release policy (bugfix only in a given released branch).

    Python code analysis. I discovered a few months ago a tool combining the power of multiple Python code analysis tools: it’s prospector. I just filed a “Request for Package” for it (see #781165) and someone already volunteered to package it, yay \o/

    update-rc.d and systemd. While working on a Kali version based on Jessie, I got hit by what boils down to a poor interaction between systemd and update-rc.d (see #746580) and after some exchanges with other affected users I raised the severity to serious as we really ought to do something about it before release. I also opened #781155 on openbsd-inetd as its usage of inetd.service instead of openbsd-inetd.service (which is only provided as a symlink to the former) leads to multiple small issues.


    Debian France. The general assembly is over and the new board elected its new president: it’s now official, I’m no longer Debian France’s president. Good luck to Nicolas Dandrimont who took on this responsibility.

    Salt’s openssh formula. I improved salt’s openssh formula to make it possible to manage the /etc/ssh/ssh_known_hosts file referencing the public SSH keys of other managed minions. I was looking for a free software solution to handle membership management of a large NPO and I discovered Tendenci. It looked very interesting feature wise and written with a language/framework that I enjoy (Python/Django). But while it’s free software, there’s no community at all. The company that wrote it released it under a free software license and it really looks like that they did intend to build a community but they failed at it. When I looked their “development forums” were web-based and mostly empty with only initial discussion of the current developers and no reply from anybody… there’s also no mention of an IRC channel or a mailing list. I sent them a mail to see what kind of collaboration we could expect if we opted for their software and got no reply. A pity, really.

    What free software membership management solution would you use when you have more than 10000 members to handle and when you want to use the underlying database to offer SSO authentication to multiple external services?


    See you next month for a new summary of my activities.

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