2021

2021, for me, was a year overwhelmingly about one blog post.

On December 8 2021, I posted this blog post:

https://blog.centos.org/2020/12/future-is-centos-stream/CentOS Project shifts focus to CentOS Stream

This ignited a firestorm that has raged all year, with articles almost every week about what we could have, should have, or might have done differently, and what the fallout will be for the coming years, for Linux, Red Hat, IBM, and technology in general.

There have, of course, been a LOT of tech controversies this year, but this is the one that I was responsible for.

To summarize:

CentOS Linux was a thing that a lot of people cared about. We changed it with an announcement of a new model, back in September of 2019. However, due to … reasons … the majority of the world missed the implications of this announcement until it was shoved in their faces in December of 2020.

That is, of course, largely on me, as it was my job to promote this new model. It is also, of course, on other people, since the notion that we would eventually switch entirely from the old model to the new model, while COMPLETELY obvious to anyone paying attention, wasn’t obvious to the majority of the user community, who had other things to be worried about.

2021, for me, was about rebuilding trust. The Dec 8 2020 announcement was, like I said, the obvious outcome of the September 2019 announcement. But when you give people something for free for 15 years, it’s reasonable for them to assume that you’ll keep doing it for another 15 years. We definitely could have handled that better. But, as Steven King says, the past is obdurate.

Today – 2021-12-31 – is the final day of CentOS Linux 8. And, frankly, the time had come for a new model. I think everyone is in (almost) universal agreement that CentOS Stream is a good thing. This was never about that. It was about how we messaged it.

Surprise, the wisdom goes, is the opposite of engagement. We surprised the user community.

It’s fine to say that they *shouldn’t* have been surprised. Y’know, if they had been paying attention. But we spent 17 years training them *not* to pay attention. CentOS Linux was thus, and would always be thus, we implied. Never, ever, promised. Never stated. Never guaranteed. But implied. And so people built their businesses – their livelihood – around that implied promise.

So, sure, we never promised. We always were very clear that we lived and died at the whim of RHEL engineering.  But, of course, to some people, that was, in fact, the promise – that we would forever live in that space where we rode on the tailcoats of RHEL.

And, so, as we go into 2022, I’m definitely proud of some of the things we’ve accomplished in 2021. We have moved from being just a clone of work that others do, to being a community that encourages participation.

It’s important to note, there have always been a core of passionate, dedicated contributors, but that they couldn’t change the base platform without compromising the definition of the project as a 1-1 clone of RHEL. Those people kept the project going for 17 years, and I don’t want, in any way, to downplay their contribution.

We have added several important new SIGs in 2021 – Automotive, Infra, KMods, Documentation, and Hyperscale.

And we have rewritten the governance of the project so that I can, today, really say that this is an open project. This is the thing that I’m most proud of.

And, again, I don’t want to downplay the work of the CentOS Core team for 15+ years – they were doing awesome work, in their weekends-and-evenings, without any financial support. But they were, for the most part, doing so without any real input from the larger community. Not because they didn’t care, but because their mission – produce an exact replica of the RHEL distribution – didn’t require community input in any meaningful way.

In 2021, we have made the board process more open (public board meetings and an open nomination process for board membership) and made the board less Red Hat centric. This is, probably, my biggest accomplishment in the past year. And I’m hugely proud of that, and appreciate the help of the entire board in that process, especially Jim Perrin, Brian Exelbierd, Carl George, and Karanbir Singh.

We also saw the rise of the “competing” RHEL rebuilds, and, frankly, I think this is a net win for the Linux ecosystem as a whole. Between Alma and Rocky, the “we build stuff on top of RHEL” ecosystem is stronger than it has ever been.  Alma has been, for the most part, cooperative and friendly, while Rocky has been built mainly on a platform of “Red Hat betrayed us and WE WILL HAVE OUR REVENGE”, but I am encouraged about how this conversation will become more productive in 2022.

Of course, I must mention Jack, who has been a breath of fresh air this year. Sometimes you encounter people who are too genuine, too sincere, and you question whether it’s for real? Jack is one of those people. And over the course of 2021, it has been clear that he is for real. He cares about community. He cares about the people that work and live and depend on our technologies. He is genuine. And, let’s be frank here – that’s not common.

And, so, I say goodbye to the most difficult, stressful year of my professional career (at least, I certainly hope so), and look forward to the coming year. I think we’ve done good things in this difficult year, and that it will bear fruit in the coming year.

The unsung genius of MTG’s writers

I’ve been thinking a lot about a recent tweet by Marjorie Two-Names:

I’ve long held the belief that Racist Barbie is playing a role, but this specific tweet brought me new appreciation for the people who are writing her lines. Every part of this tweet is crafted to offend someone, and stoke the hatred of someone else. I’m frankly in awe.

You can almost imagine her writing staff, having crafted this nugget of hatred, just waiting for the right opportunity to respond to someone with it. And the College Republicans obliged. Young, idealistic, eager to change the world. And ideal, with their 72k followers, for the Queen of Qanon to poison their idealism.

First, she calls Kwanzaa a “fake” – dismissing all of the celebration of African American culture as nothing more than a fabrication, designed to pretend that our African American brothers and sisters have their own identity separate from America as a whole.

And, really, isn’t it “fake” in some sense? I mean, in the sense that all holidays are made up. On a scale of July Fourth (ie, actual historical event that didn’t happen on July Fourth) to Talk Like A Pirate day, Kwanzaa is kind of a Mothers’ Day of realness, right? A celebration created to celebrate a concept. Is that “fake?” Sure, if you hate the concept, it is!

Next, she calls it a religion – which, obviously, it isn’t – so why does she do this? Because she wants us to believe that the African American identity is a cult – an anti-Christian, anti-American system of belief that we must fight. She wants to frighten good, god-fearing, decent white Christians with the doubt as to the motives of these subversives. How dare they subvert Christmas with this kind of anti-white propaganda?

Next we have “created by a psychopath”, which is just a whole rabbit hole of racism. There’s the narrative that Kwanzaa was created by the FBI, which is a truly fascinating pit of conspiracy. There’s the notion that Maulana Karenga’s pan-African movement in the 1960s was anti-American, and that it has anything to do with how Kwanzaa is celebrated today, or, more specifically, that anybody that celebrates Kwanzaa today is intent on overthrowing the government.

But, by calling it a religion, she subtly implies another one of her common themes – that this is really an arm of radical Islam, which is dedicated to destroying decent (ie, Christian) world views. The Faux News audience will likely assume that the psychopath to whom she refers is Mohammed, right?

It’s a lot to pack into 8 words, and that doesn’t even go into the notion that the College Republicans’ only legitimate purpose is to bring in new voters.

She has offended people who enjoy Kwanzaa, and also people who think that it’s a distraction from actual African American identity. She has offended white Liberals who know nothing whatsoever about Kwanzaa but feel like they should, and that they should defend it.

She has got people writing articles about this rather than about actual real things that are happening in the news.

She has drawn attention to Kamala Harris and her … somewhat questionable? tweet about celebrating Kwanzaa as a kid, before it had been invented.

She has emboldened folks who hate all this diversity crap, and who want an excuse to dismiss African American identity.

She has annoyed African Americans who don’t observe Kwanzaa themselves, due to its hyper-politicized roots and Karenga’s questionable life choices.

And all of this from a person who has again and again demonstrated that she is an ignorant, racist moron who loves controversy. So … yeah, she’s totally doing her job.

But who’s writing this stuff? Someone put that sentence together, and one has to respect the dedication of packing that much racism, hatred, and misinformation into 8 words. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that her writing team is composed of people who The Onion laid off when writing this kind of absurdist mishmash of tropes wasn’t funny any more because the actual President was saying worse from the Oval Office.

The GOP identified a Senate seat that there was no chance of losing, and put someone in it who is as loud and divisive as possible specifically for this purpose.

And what is that purpose, you ask? Simply stated, there are two purposes.

One, to “trigger the Libs.” To make their political oponents angry about inconsequential things, so that they aren’t spending time on thing that actually matter, and that they could win.

Two: To get the cheers of their so-called “base” – the white-supremacist, culturally-Christian, poorly educated lower/middle class who keeps voting for these morons, consistently against their own actual personal interests, out of hate of other and fear of change and of losing their precarious status quo.

She isn’t in the Senate to govern. She is there to say the insane things that respectable Senators (are there any of those left) cannot say without jeopardizing their seat. And here she is, doing her job again.

I can hardly wait to hear what she says on January 6th.

Christmas Carol reading, Dec 17 2021

I will be doing my almost-annual reading of Charles Dickens’ wonderful book, A Christmas Carol, on December 17th at 7pm, at the Bowen residence. (In person attendees must be fully vaccinated.)
 
You can participate online:
 
To join the video meeting, click this link: https://meet.google.com/miv-ukhw-wku
Otherwise, to join by phone, dial +1 631-522-4672 and enter this PIN: 979 262 939#
To view more phone numbers, click this link: https://tel.meet/miv-ukhw-wku?hs=5
 
We will have light refreshments, so please let me know if you’re coming, so that we can plan accordingly. Thanks.

List, Known, Stats

List, Known, Stats

(Via Weekend Wordsmith: https://twitter.com/WkendWordsmith/status/1455444 574227374082)

I made a list.
Several, in fact,
and a spreadsheet.

I calculated and compared
amortized and weighed all of the
numbers and stats,
looking for the right answer.

Is this the right thing?
Is there a right thing?

Turns out
life doesn’t consist
in what is known,
but rather in what is guessed.
One unknown carefully balanced
against another,
we pretend we can tell
which one would fall.

Sexism in Sci Fi

I’m reading “the queen of air and darkness” by Poul Anderson, and I’m struck, certainly not for the first time, by how often science fiction authors choose not to question sexism in human society.

The job of the science fiction author, after all, is to question everything. From relativity, to the presence of non-human species, to the notion capitalism or government or whatever. But more often than not, science fiction hold on to the notion that men run Society, and women are the followers.

I just read the phrase “she’s one of the three women ever admitted to the Club” – a phrase that I expect in Dickens or Isak Dinesen or Somerset maugham, but not in futuristic science fiction.

I recognize, of course, that it’s a function of its time. Poul Anderson was writing in a time when these things seemed unquestionable. But he questioned light speed travel, and assumed that we would eventually have colonies on other planets.

It’s just fascinating to me what the human mind is capable of questioning and what it assumes as immutable fact.

This is also one of the reasons that I enjoy Tad Williams and NK Jemesin and other contemporary Sci Fi writers who do throw out all of these preconceived notions.

I wonder, though, what a reader Thirty or forty years from now will say about the writers of today, and the things that they seemed unable to challenge.

What happened to Rackspace?

After 20 years as a Rackspace customer (Slicehost before they were acquired by Rackspace) I had my first negative customer experience today, and it seems like something has changed.

I attempted to delete a Cloud Server, and got a dialog that I need to call support (like, on the phone, like a cave person) to delete a cloud server. I mean, isn’t the whole point of cloud that it’s on demand?

So, I call, and after 10 minutes on hold, I get a support person who demands that I justify deleting the server instance. And then tries to talk me out of it like this is 1993 and I’m canceling AOL.

I FINALLY convince him that I want to delete it, and he says it’s policy that I leave it running for another week to ensure that there’s no data going to/from it. I said, I’ve already done that, because I’m a responsible sysadmin. But that wasn’t good enough.

So I shutdown -h now the thing, and and he still insists that it needs to run for another week (which I would, of course, pay for) just idling, to prove that it’s idle.

Finally, he opens a ticket, and then tells me I have to comment on the ticket “Yes I agree” before he can then action that ticket, and finally deleted the server.

BUT THEN, I discover that I have a “Cloud Files” instance with backup files going back to 2013 which I’m paying for, and the only way to delete them is ONE AT A TIME via a web interface. I am not making this up. You can, in fact, “select all” in the interface, but since it only displays 100 files at a time, and there are tens of thousands of files, this is going to take me the rest of my life.

So … for whatever it’s worth, I’m a happy Hetzner customer now. But, of course, in order to delete my Rackspace account, I’m going to have to call them again …

Grr

I’m feeling an awful lot of rage today for the people who consciously chose this reality that we are in right now. People who continue to choose it day after day.

People like Rand Paul who pretends to be a doctor while undermining medical wisdom.

People like Mitch McConnell with his “it never occurred to me” lies.

People like Donald Trump who put his own “only I can fix it” brand of ego ahead of helping the people that flocked to his hate-filled rallys.

People like the Kentucky State Legislature who, even today, are creating laws to put us in greater harm and sacrifice our children to their politics.

People like Tucker Carlson, who preach their lies to a captive audience of millions in order to improve ratings.

And for what? Profit. Ego. Personal power. And most troubling, specifically to make people they disagree with suffer.

Today, I can’t take my kid to something she wants to go to.

But much more importantly, hundreds of people will die today, most of them because they believed a lie that was consciously, intentionally told, by people who were in a position to, instead, prevent it. For the most part, the victims’ only crime was being gullible. The real culpability lies with powerful people who have the means to avoid the consequences of their actions.

It’s disgusting and evil. And knowing that the people that have done this will see absolutely no repercussions for their actions isn’t doing anything for my mood.

No, inclusive language is not NewSpeak

The Inclusive Naming initiative is an effort to remove language from software which creates an unwelcoming community. Words like ‘slave’, for example, are used extensively in software, when other words are both more meaningful and less problematic.

When I discuss this effort, by far the most common response that I get from detractors is that it’s Orwellian – that it is NewSpeak – that it is erasing words and forbidding subversive thought.

In Orwell’s book 1984, NewSpeak is a state-approved modification to language that uses vague, euphemistic words, when the clearer, more accurate word is deemed bad.

This is quite literally the opposite of what we are trying to do with the INI and related conscious language efforts. Instead, we are trying to replace metaphors like ‘slave’ with words that accurately describe what is happening in the software, while at the same time removing the association with the horrifying history of actual slavery in the real world.

The ideal that we are somehow forbidding the use of the word ‘slave’, in this example, is equally untrue. The word slave has a meaning, and a historical context, and should be used to reflect that meaning and context. Using ‘slave’ to refer to a database replica, for example, not only has these overtones from *actual slavery*, it also doesn’t accurately describe what is happening in database replication, which is confusing.

Technical documentation should avoid idiomatic phrases, colloquialisms, and metaphor, whenever possible, and should always strive to choose the word or phrase that describes the function or feature in the most unambiguous way possible. Words and phrases such as slave, blacklist, insane, and so on, not only violate that rule, but do it in a way that is likely to make segments of the population feel unwelcome or “othered“, which is the antithesis of community building.

The Big Book of Small Python Projects: 81 Easy Practice Programs (Review 1)

A few days ago I ordered “The Big Book of Small Python Projects” because of several reviews I’ve seen. I want to become more proficient in Python, and I know that it is pretty much impossible for me to learn any programming language unless I have an actual project to work on.

I’ve written a handful of small scripts with Python – stuff that automates aspects of my day job – but I haven’t had an opportunity to advance much beyond the basics. I need something that uses more complex data structures, since, to me, that’s the interesting part of a language, and what made Perl so useful and fun.

I’m only 3 or 4 chapters in, so I don’t have much to say yet, but here’s a few observations.

  1. The biggest detriment to using this book is, unfortunately, my eyes. I stopped buying paper books a few years ago, even though I love books, because the fonts are just too small. This is particularly problematic when I’m sitting at my computer, because that’s when I wear my computer glasses, which are optimized for a screen 18 to 24 inches away from my eyes – which, in turn, makes it that much harder to read tiny font on paper.

One of the selling points of this book is that you type in the code, rather than copy-pasting it, and that this implants it in your brain much more firmly. As someone who grew up typing in programs from Atari Magazine, I can definitely attest to the efficacy of this approach.

But I cannot read the code. In particular, I cannot distinguish ” from ‘ and ; from : and . from , which all make typing in code fraught with errors.

And so I downloaded the code from the website, and I expect that this will greatly reduce the efficacy of having the book in the first place. I should have bought it on Kindle instead. And I probably knew that going in.

2. The projects are fun, interesting, and … kinda useless. I cannot imagine myself adapting any of them to other purposes. And it’s the adapting that helps me learn. But I’m still *very* early in the book, so I am almost certain that this will improve.

But I still, always, need a project that directly benefits me, in order to really learn to be a “native speaker” in a new language.

3. I am still a native Perl speaker. I think of things in Perl idioms. I miss some of the Perl syntax – especially regular expressions, and the multi-dimensional data structures. It’s going to take me a long, long time to be as adept at Python as at Perl, if that ever happens.

So, that’s it. I will say more later, once I’m further into the book.

Ploughed Fields By Van Gogh

Ploughed Fields by Van Gogh

I stopped in Amsterdam
on the way to Edinburgh
expressly to see you.

Took the flight
with the absurdly long layover
so I could
take the train to Centraal
and walk the streets,
cross the canals,
smell the flowers,

to where you waited
among the sunflowers
and almond blossoms,

around the corner from
Paul’s room.

You drive a black horse,
a white horse,
across the Poughed Fields
while Vincent
paints you.

Did you talk to him?
Did you wonder what that
strange Parisian was doing?

But …
apparently I was supposed to buy a ticket
online.

So I’ll have to ask you
all these questions
another time.

 

The Margin Is Too Narrow