Libraries in Barcelona!

Barcelona Library at Sarria

When I lived in Spain, I would have given anything for a good public library – especially one with English books. Well, now they have them!

There are very nice public libraries in Barcelona. They were quite popular – people were waiting outside for the one I visited to open. Inside they were light and spacious with lots of magazines, computers, a children’s section and foreign language sections … in addition to the regular books you usually find in a library.  Every floor and section had a lot of people in it on the Saturday I visited.

My friends say they also see more people reading in public places like the metro.

Crime in Barcelona

Crime appears to be up in Barcelona. Many of the local residents blame the economy and the huge number of foreign immigrants.

It’s affecting people’s behavior. At dinner at a nice restaurant, a friend told me not to leave my bag on the chair next to me. While visiting a friend on her rooftop terrace, we ran downstairs to grab a camera and we locked the rooftop door for the 60 seconds we’d be gone.

The anecdotal evidence I heard (in one day!):

  • My friend’s mom had her car tires slashed – while she was driving – and people on mopeds approached on both sides and took her purse from the passenger side.
  • Another friend’s condo building has had 3 breakins in the past month through the rooftop patio door.
  • A guy I spoke to at the airport had lost his blackberry at a restaurant and his wallet at the entrance to his hotel. (He was not very savvy. He left his blackberry on the restaurant table when he went to the bathroom. He handed his hotel card key to someone standing outside the hotel dressed like a hotel bellhop to help him unlock the exterior door.)

I don’t pretend to know all the causes or even concrete numbers but it makes me sad that crime is growing in the city. While there’s always been pickpockets and robberies from parked cars, I have never heard so many people talking so much about it.

Best hotel in San Francisco … not yet

I’m not looking for the best hotel as in the fanciest hotel. I’m looking for the cheapest hotel that is still good. Or at least clean, safe and convenient.

I travel to San Francisco a lot and I’ve been looking for the best and most economical option for quite a while. I’ve stayed at a lot of San Francisco hotels during my quest. This last time I stayed at the Best Western Americicania. I’m still looking. Next time I’ll be staying some where else.

The Best Western wasn’t the perfect hotel for me because:

  • It was loud. I was woken up at 4:30am by traffic noise. I should have asked for an inside room. If you stay there, be sure to ask for an inside room.
  • The internet was down. While on business trips, I usually use my down time to get work done. What else are you going to do in a hotel room by yourself? Especially at 4:30 in the morning …

My criteria for the perfect hotel in San Francisco is:

  • Cheap. I try to travel cheaply when on the GNOME Foundation’s dime. It feels ridiculous to spend several hundred dollars a night for a bed for a night but in San Francisco that’s what most of the hotels are asking. (The Best Western was $100/night, not bad for the location. And it was clean.)
  • Private room. I need my down time and alone time. I usually use it to work but I need it to recuperate. Especially at a conference where I’m meeting with tons of people every day.
  • Safe. As in the room is safe, not it has a safe. Goes without saying. Plus if I don’t feel safe, I don’t sleep well.
  • Clean. The Best Western was very clean, I was impressed there.
  • Internet. I work in my room. What do you do in your room at 4:30 am with no internet? I ended up heading out to a coffee shop.
  • Treadmill. I like to run everyday – it makes up for all the junk you eat on the road. It’s often not daylight when I run so I’m not going to run outside.
  • Quiet. I added this requirement during my last trip. Some sleep is important. Especially when you don’t have any internet. I have friends that always travel with ear plugs but I can’t sleep in them.
  • Private toilet. (The last time I stayed in a dorm and ran into someone in the hall at 3am while half asleep and just about screamed, I decided I wanted my own toilet in my room. 🙂
  • Within walking distance of the venue I’m going to. The closer the better. That way I can use breaks to get some alone time and get some work done. Or fit a run in. If it’s not close, I consider the walk my exercise. But that means I can’t run back to my room for a quiet place for phone calls or conference calls.

What I definitely do not need is:

  • Fancy anything.
  • A big room.
  • Desk.
  • Room service.
  • Restaurant.
  • Fridge/minibar.
  • Concierge.
  • TV.
  • Alarm clock.
  • Ice machine or vending machines.
  • Well equiped gym. (I just want a treadmill.)
  • Parking.
  • Phone.
  • Bathtub. (Just a shower.)

I would think I’m not alone here, surely they could make a more economical business hotel option than the $200-500 that the standard business hotels charge?

How do you find the perfect hotel for you when you’re on a business trip?

Zuca, a suitcase designed for travel

I got a Zuca Pro for Christmas and I love it. I think Zuca should be paying me sales commissions because every where I go, I get asked about it. At a recent conference, one colleague, after hearing me explain at least 10 times what my suitcase was, suggested that I just ask for the stage to give a 10 minute demo to everyone! (And I got emails afterwards asking where to buy one!)

You should get a Zuca if:

  • You love having a suitcase with just the right place or pocket for everything.
  • You like having a conversation piece.

The Zuca was designed for travel. It comes with:

  • 5 color coded pack-its in different sizes,
  • a clear bag for cosmetics for Zuca-insidegoing through airport security
  • lots of pockets, including one waterproof one big enough for several swimsuits or workout clothes and outside ones that can hold keys or laptops.
  • a built-in seat for airport waits
  • very stable wheels and handle
  • the right size to roll down the airplane aisle without hitting everyone
  • handles on the top and bottom for easy picking up
  • an extra long towing handle

Pros, the things I like about my Zuca:

  • Organization. The built-in packets make it easy to pack and to find whatever you are looking for. With 5 packits, there’s enough for all my clothes. The extra pockets are also very convenient. I use the waterproof one for workout clothes, the outside one for my laptop, the mesh one for my shoes, …
  • Seat. I thought the seat on top was kind of funny but I’ve used it quite a bit. When there’s a wait at my airport gate, I just wheel my suitcase over to the wall and sit down and lean against the wall.
  • Stable. It rolls much better than my old Dakota suitcase.
  • Capacity. It looks smaller than my Dakota – it is smaller – but it holds all the same stuff!

Cons, things I don’t like so much:

  • Overhead bin. It doesn’t fit handle out in the overhead bin of all airplanes. However, it still looks small and compact and I haven’t had anyone complain about it.
  • Overstuffed. While it hold all the same stuff as my Dakota, it is not as easy to get to everything. Zuca-stuff-outside The door that the packits go in through is narrower than a stuffed packit. You have to pull the top one out before you can get to the others. If you are using all the packits, you can’t just open up your suitcase and shove your coat in on top, you have to organize and arrange. (Note that on short two day trips I don’t use all the packits and my coat fits fine.) At the hotel, you aren’t going to want to leave all the packits in the suitcase, you’ll need to put them in a drawer or spread them out so you can get to them easily.

The Zuca makes it really easy to organize and pack. It’s also very comfortable to roll through the airport. And it’s a conversation starter where ever you go! I’m very glad I have one.

(This suitcase is the Zuca Pro which is not the same as the Zuca Sport which is more of a bookbag.)

How does Malaysia encourage so many women in software?

 In 2003 I gave a talk in Malaysia. What I noticed immediately is that my audience was well over half women. This was really noticeable because they were all wearing brightly colored hijabs. Usually I scan the room and count how many women I can find – usually on my fingers even in a room of hundreds. Hijab-programmer-womanYet here were hundreds of women attending a talk about the economics of open source software!

I've wondered ever since what they do so differently in Malaysia that they get so many more women involved in software. Is it something we could do as well?

A recent study offers a theory:

in Malaysia jobs in technology
are seen as appropriate for women: Men do not perceive indoor work as
masculine and much of society stigmatizes women who work outdoors as
lower class. Computing and programming are seen as “women-friendly”
professions, with opportunities opening up since men are not
interested in competing for these types of jobs. “It’s a woman’s world
in that respect,” said Mellstrom.

So women that work in software are higher class. Where as in my experience it's often been insinuated in the US that if you are attractive or social, there are better careers for you. "You're a programmer?? You don't look like one!"

Where should I be this year?

It's time to decide what events I want to attend this year. Usually I figure it out a bit as I go but with multiple calls for papers deadlines coming up and invitations to speak coming up earlier than ever before, I decided it was time to create a plan for the year.

Every time I'm invited to talk or I see a conference that looks interesting, I struggle with the decision.

The main reasons for going are:

  • To meet with people. There's nothing that substitutes for a face to face meeting. It's especially important when meeting new people but it's really good for keeping up on existing relationships. There are very few business relationships that I have been involved with that didn't start with some type of face to face meeting.
  • To create new business relationships. See #1.
  • To promote GNOME and free software.
  • To energize myself. I find attending conferences a great way to get new ideas, meet with others with excited about similar topics and a great way to keep things moving. Although they usually mean a lot of time "away from work", i.e. my desk, I still get a lot done and have a lot of energy for new projects.

The main reason for not going are:

  • Time away from home.
  • Time away from my desk and the projects I'm working on.
  • Financial impact. Not just of travel but also conference fees if I'm not speaking. (That's one of the reasons I always submit a talk proposal if there's a conference I want to go to.)

So the things I consider are:

  • Who will be there? This is the most important fact to me. I want to meet new people and organizations we might partner with and I want to meet people I work with but don't get a chance to see often.
  • How long will it take me to get there? How much time will I be away from home and how many hours will I have to sit in an airplane or airport?
  • Will I have a chance to speak? This helps greatly not only in promoting GNOME but in meeting people. If you are on the agenda and speak, more people will come up and introduce themselves and their ideas. If I'm not speaking, will I have to pay conference fees?
  • How much will it cost? Sometimes the event will help with the cost. Several of the events below are covering my travel costs. Some events are quite expensive to attend if you are not speaking.
  • Can someone else do this? If there is a community member who would like to attend the conference and speak on behalf of GNOME, I'd love to have them go instead.
  • Frequency or how close it is to another event. In order to help with the time away from home problem, it helps to not have too many events one right after the other. Otherwise my family tends to go a bit crazy while I'm gone.

So I open up my proposed travel schedule to all of you. Any thoughts or input? Note that this is my conference travel schedule and there are still other trips that might come up like marketing hackfests and partner meetings.

Here are the relevant events I think are happening this year. Let me know if I left one out. I bolded the ones I think I will end up attending. This is not necessarily a commitment, just my first draft or proposal.



  • FOSDEM. Has great GNOME attendance and participation so others can help work on relationships.
  • Mobile World Congress.
  • TED. I'd be so excited if I ever got to attend this conference and I'd be ecstatic if I ever got invited to speak. (And then I'd spend months preparing!) Luckily for all of us, all their talks are on the web.
  • SCALE. I'm sad to be missing this one this year as it's one of my favorites, especially the Women in Open Source day.
  • FOSS 2010 Workshop – attending and participating.
  • IASA Denver – presenting at their monthly meeting. (I like speaking with and meeting the community in my area.)


  • OpenMobility USA – speaking, hoping to build relationships with GNOME's mobile partners.
  • OSBC – Open Source Business Conference – would like to attend and speak because it's a great conference to meet up with people.
  • WhyFLOSS Madrid 2010
  • EclipseCon
  • LibrePlanet – There's a track for Women in Free Software on Sunday that I'd like to participate in. GNOME has been actively working with the FSF on ways to encourage and promote women in free software. I also need a trip to the east coast if I'd like to sign the GNOME Foundation's bank's signature card. (And that'd be good because I could back up Rosanna and help with wire transfers.)
  • FOSS Nigeria 2010. I'm working to get a couple of GNOME folks to this conference to present and represent GNOME. Preferably people that live a little closer – at least people in Europe.
  • UKUUG Spring 2010 Conference
  • OpenExpo 2010 Bern





  • aKademy 2010
  • 2010 Community Leadership Summit
  • OSCON 2010. Lots of people to meet with, interesting talks, lots of side meetings.
  • GUADEC. Nobody should miss this one. 🙂 Seriously, this one has lots and lots of people I need to meet with not to mention the Board of Directors and Advisory Board meetings and lots of working groups.



  • Ohio LinuxFest 2010 – Attending, giving keynote!
  • Linux-Kongress 2010
  • Grace Hopper I'd love to see a booth at Grace Hopper for free and open source software projects, not just companies, so that students and women looking for new careers, hobbies or skills can get some good info. (I've been on a panel the last couple of years.) This is also a very energizing conference for me.


  • OSWC – 2010 – Some year I'd love to attend this conference but my impression is that it's already well attended by GNOME folks and October is a hard month for me to travel.
  • Boston Summit – I really want to get to the Boston Summit this year but October is a hard month for me to travel, especially on weekends. So we'll have to wait and see.
  • OSiM World. A good event for meeting people in a great location (London) for meeting lots of people. But in October.



  • The get things done month. 🙂

Thanks to these websites for the lists of events.

So once again, I open up my proposed travel schedule (and the criteria I use) to all of you. Any thoughts or input?

Do they think our enemies are stupid?

According to Lucky and confirmed by many people online:

many international United aircraft have their in-flight entertainment
systems disabled due to the “airshow” feature, where you can see the
location of your aircraft.

Let's ignore the fact that you could easily carry a GPS on to the plane (soon we'll outlaw GPSes, watches, phones and laptops) and just point out that with the departure time, arrival time and flight path, you can figure this out. Or at least anybody with some school math classes can.

And if not, you can always look it up ahead of time on one of many websites like FlyteComm. So obviously they are just trying to stop stupid terrorists and make life miserable for the rest of us. Smart terrorists will continue about their business as normal.

Even worse, there are also rumors that there will be no electronics on flights to the US:

Multiple sources, among them Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing,
have also been told that no electronics are allowed on international
flights. None. So you can't even play video games to distract yourself
from how badly you have to pee.

Now if someone was using electronics to detonate a bomb, couldn't they just lean down and push start in their bag? They wouldn't need to hold it and stare at it for a 10 hour flight.

Somebody needs to tell all these people (TSA? airlines? congress?) to calm down. If you are a US citizen, please call your congressmen and women!

TSA needs to take parenting classes

The TSA and the airlines need to take parenting classes. The New York Times now says some airlines won't allow us to hold anything during the last hour of some flights:

“Among other things,” the statement in Air Canada’s Web site read,
“during the final hour of flight customers must remain seated, will not
be allowed to access carry-on baggage, or have personal belongings or
other items on their laps.”

To me this seems like a worried parent. They heard that their kid was drinking beer at a party, so no more parties. They heard that their kid was drinking with their friend Bob, so no more hanging out with Bob. They heard that their kid could buy drugs at school … so no more school? You can't control every detail of other people's lives in order to eliminate a risk. You need to address the risks a different way.

I'm not saying that parenting classes will teach the TSA and the airlines how to deal with the terrorist threat (unlike a kid you've raised, they don't even know who the terrorists are), I'm just saying that trying to lock down everything is overreacting and unlikely to solve the problem.

No more than 3 ounces of any one liquid, taking off your shoes, putting your laptop in a bin by itself, not holding anything during the last hour of flight. That's like saying no parties, no Bob, no school.

Like any high school kid looking for beer is sure they could find some, I am 100% sure I could get on any inter US flight with a ticket under any name you'd like. (Well, maybe not an Arabic name.) I'm sure that any large, organized group could get a bomb on an airplane. I'm sure that anyone who really wanted to could put a bomb in schools or public places.

(I mean, really, instead of taking a 12 ounce bottle, how hard would it be to take four 3 ounce bottles? Or to have all your fellow terrorists carry some of it and combine it in the airport? Sometimes I think this rule was made by airport vendors hoping to sell us more drinks.)

The things that TSA and the airlines are doing are not preventing all the risks of air travel and they are wasting a lot of (our) time and money trying to make us (or them) feel safer without eliminating the risk.

Kilograms, stones and miles

I had a few minutes today between an interview and dinner so I decided to sneak in a quick run. Being in Oxford, I assumed the treadmill was calibrated in kilometers like many countries in Europe. I did a quick mental calculation and bumped up the speed to 12 km/hour. Or so I thought. Turns out 12 miles/hour is very, very fast! For the record, the weights were all in kilograms and the scale was in stones.

JimLinwood I recovered from my 12mph sprint with the OSS Watch folks and Richard Melville from UKUUG with a glass of mulled wine at the Turf Tavern. I found it fascinating that it's been a tavern since the 17th century. Ross Gardler and Gabriel Hanganu took me on a short walk this afternoon and I have to say the whole city of Oxford is fascinating. (I also learned this is where my alma matter Rice University got the college system. And where the dining hall scenes in the Harry Potter movies were filmed.)

Photo by Jim Linwood.

Yeah, questions!

I love presentations where the audience has lots of questions and comments. Not only does it mean the audience is engaged but the audience's questions (and their answers!) make the presentation richer.

So I'm quite excited that the GNOME Asia Vietnamese conference attendees ask lots of questions. (It's quite different from other Asian countries I've been to.) I've been asked:

  • What is a desktop?
  • What's the difference between GNOME and KDE?
  • How old are you?
  • What development tools would I use to work on free software?
  • Is this your first time in Vietnam?
  • As a woman, do you think IT is boring?
  • Where can I download GNOME?
  • How long are you staying here?
  • What do you think of the free software community in Vietnam?
  • Are there tools to help blind users use GNOME? (The guy who asked, who is blind, won the laptop running GNOME during the Lucky Draw. How cool is that?)
  • What did you study at the university?
  • Don't you want to sit at the front of the room?
  • Do you work at a university campus?
  • … and many, many more.

I've been asked questions during my presentation, during others' presentations, in the hall, … some of them make me want to ask the asker a bunch of questions in return …