Wednesday, September 26, 2007

US States visited

Gads, I've been swamped recently. Ah, well, who wants a boring life?!

It turns out that in my 38 years I've been to much of the US:

Edit: Red states are the states I've visited. Thanks to rbu for the catch.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Lighting our mixer

I'm learning how to use my Nikon D50 with off-camera flash.

Here's a shot of our mixer:

Kitchen Aid mixer

and here's a shot of the set-up:

Kitchen Aid mixer set-up shot

Learn to light (better than I have so far) at

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Marathon training, take 2

Well, it's official. I'm an assistant coach for the Woodlands Fit "red
group" (the 10-or-more minutes/mile pace group), and I'm 25 weeks (or so) away
from running my second marathon. It's been quite a year.

I started running in 2004, when I decided that I really needed to get some
exercise, I couldn't find three people to play volleyball with me, and I needed
a sport that was inexpensive. Running seemed to fit the bill. I ran a couple
of 5K races in early 2005, neglected to buy new shoes, and developed a nasty
case of plantar fasciitis that took me out of running for over a year.

By this time last year, though, I had just started running again when I saw an
ad for Woodlands Fit at Luke's Locker (during the Wine Walk, of all things).
I'd already run some 5K races, and I was planning to train for a 10K, but I
thought training for a half-marathon might not be too far out of my reach.
Well, actually I was pretty sure that it would be out of my reach, but it would
at least be fun to train with other people. Shrug

So, I went to the first meeting last year, shyly talked to a few people there,
and somehow got talked into running the 3-mile time trial, despite the fact (a)
I hadn't run anything farther than 1.5 miles at a stretch in over a year, (b) I
wasn't planning on training for the marathon, but the half marathon, and (c) it
was darn hot. After the second mile, I felt like I was going to die, but I
finished. (This would become a theme.) I then made the fateful decision that
I would train for the full marathon, even though I was still planning to do the
half. (I'm not sure how I was talked into that, but I suspect that Beth
Whitehead was involved in the process somewhere.)

My wife, upon being informed that I had done something so foolish, ordered
me to go see our physician and get checked out. Smart girl.

Thus began my foray into endurance running. Running minutes at home, often
with Ophelia (my dog), wasn't too bad. Hills were harder. Beth would fib to
me that the hills were almost done (those other hills we still had to climb
weren't real hills, she'd say) to get me past them. For the first several
months I couldn't see how the 3.2 mile Thursday social run could possibly be
considered "an easy 3 miles", as I frequently had to walk during some portion
of the run.

Then there were the Saturday runs. Almost every Saturday my run was farther
than I'd ever run before. Almost every Saturday I felt like I was going to die
trying to run that distance. Almost every Saturday I had to walk at least some
portion of the run. Nonetheless, with the help and encouragement of many
Woodlands Fit runners, I survived every single run. It's possible that I'm a
tad stubborn. Also, the fact that my wife was incredibly proud of me didn't

(As an aside, you know you're a runner when you're running a long run, and
you actually forget that it's raining!)

On 14 January 2007 I completed my first (and, so far, only) marathon in roughly
five hours and thirty minutes. I'd have liked to have finished faster, but I'm
not really complaining.

After finishing the marathon, some sense returned, and I thought, you know, I
don't really need to run another of these. Famous last words, of course.
Three Saturdays later, I was out with the group at 6am again, running in the
rain. Since then my 11+-minute/mile pace has somehow been replaced by a
Wednesday speed run at 9:20 over nearly 5 miles. Of course, since I'm running
faster, I still feel like I'm going to die during some of these runs. On the
other hand, 3.2 miles actually does feel like "an easy distance" now, at least
most of the time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Invitation to join the Software Freedom Conservancy

A little over a month ago, Gentoo was formally invited to join the
Software Freedom Conservancy. In their own words:

The Software Freedom Conservancy is an organization composed of Free and
Open Source Software (FOSS) projects. As a fiscal sponsor for FOSS
projects, the Conservancy provides member projects with free financial and
administrative services, but does not involve itself with technological and
artistic decisions.

By joining the Conservancy, member FOSS projects obtain the benefits of a
formal legal structure while keeping themselves focused on software
development. These benefits include, most notably, protection from personal
liability for project developers. Another benefit of joining the
Conservancy is that projects can use it to hold assets, which are managed
by the Conservancy on behalf of and at the direction of the project. The
Conservancy is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, so member projects can
receive tax-deductible donations to the extent allowed by law.

Since that time, the Trustees have been discussing what this would mean for
Gentoo, whether or not it's a good idea, and collecting additional information
about what would actually happen if we were to take them up on their offer. No
decisions or commitments have been made yet, of course, since this sort of
decision isn't one that could be made without community acceptance. I think we
have enough information, though, that we can put out the information we have
and start a real discussion with the Gentoo community.

So, what would it mean for Gentoo to join the Conservancy? First, the Gentoo
Foundation, Inc, Gentoo's not-for-profit corporation, would cease to exist,
with the Foundation's assets being transferred to the Conservancy.

Deep breath

Yeah, at least on the surface that seems like a terrible idea. What makes
it not terrible at all, at least in my opinion, is the fact that at any
time Gentoo may walk away from the Conservancy, taking all of our assets
with us. Moreover, if Gentoo were a member project of the Conservancy it
would be the conservancy who handled all of the financial management,
tax filings, and legal protections (for no fee), which are all things that
the current, previous, and original Trustees have all been really bad
at doing.

So, here are the details. Gentoo would have to sign some variation of the
agreement that is at
To put that agreement in context, the Conservancy folks provided us with a
legal-to-normal-human-being translation:

Subject: Gentoo: invitation to join the Conservancy
Date: Wed, 06 Jun 2007 19:44:40 -0400
From: Karen Sandler <>
To: Michael Cummings <>

Hi Michael,

We're really excited that you are considering joining the Conservancy and
are pleased to extend an invitation to Gentoo. Attached is a draft of the
fiscal sponsorship agreement that representatives of Gentoo will need to
sign in order to join the Conservancy. Please read this agreement and
share and discuss it with all of the key people involved in Gentoo. Some
of the denser provisions of the agreement reflect the special
considerations necessary to support the Conservancy's tax exempt status.
However, on the whole, we believe that this agreement fairly and clearly
sets out an advantageous relationship for the Conservancy's member

As some of the paragraphs specifically indicate, the agreement can be
tailored to reflect Gentoo's particular needs. To help you in your review,
below is a section-by-section walk through, giving an explanation of the
significance of each provision. If there are any sections that seem
confusing or that you feel should be changed to reflect Gentoo's needs,
please don't hesitate to discuss them with us.

Introductory Paragraph

This paragraph identifies the parties to the contract. It's more
thoroughly explained in paragraph 6, but the point of this paragraph is to
name the people who sign the agreement.

Recitals (the "WHEREAS" section)

These paragraphs set forth the basic understandings of the parties.
Similar to the "preamble" found in the GPL and other Free Software
licenses, these are not operative provisions of the document. Instead,
they give the context of the agreement.

In this specific case, the key points of understanding are that the purpose
of Gentoo is to forward FOSS and that both the Conservancy and Gentoo want
Gentoo to join the Conservancy. The Conservancy's mission (and charitable
purpose) is to advance only FOSS development, so it is important that this
context be stated clearly.

Paragraph 1 - Term of Agreement

This paragraph says that Gentoo is part of the Conservancy as of the
signing date of the agreement. It cross references the terminations
provisions in paragraph 7 (which is explained in greater detail below).
Note, though, that Gentoo can choose to leave the Conservancy at any time.

Paragraph 2 - Project Management and Activities

a) Both parties agree that Gentoo will be FOSS. As noted above, this is
the fundamental goal and charitable purpose of the Conservancy. The
Conservancy will not sponsor proprietary projects.

b) This clearly sets out the limits of the Conservancy's management over
Gentoo. Due to requirements connected to the tax exempt status that the
Conservancy is seeking to achieve, the ultimate legal control of the
projects must be in the hands of the Conservancy. From the IRS's
perspective, the projects compose the Conservancy, and the purpose of
its tax exemption is to forward the FOSS mission of those projects.

However, the Conservancy does not want to interfere with the successful
software development work already underway in member projects; such
activity should continue after the agreement without interruption or
interference. This paragraph delegates part of the Conservancy's legal
authority back to the developers, so that Gentoo can run itself in
day-to-day matters.

The only limitations that we must place are to prevent Gentoo from
producing non-free software (as per the Conservancy's charitable
purpose) and from spending money or conducting activities that would
jeopardize the Conservancy's tax exempt status. All the ordinary
activities of FOSS projects come well within these limitations. Some
specific activities that are restricted include lobbying activities and
spending money in ways other than consistent with the charitable
purposes of the Conservancy (i.e., forwarding FOSS).

Note that developers of Gentoo, in their capacity as individuals (when
not representing Gentoo), still may engage in for-profit service
businesses related to their Free Software work. The work of Gentoo
itself must fit the guidelines, but individuals are free to act in their
own capacity in other endeavors.

If you are ever concerned that a particular activity -- be it one
carried out for Gentoo or one that an individual developer engaged in
independently -- might be a problem, you can always ask the
Conservancy's lawyers for clarification.

c) As discussed above in (b), this section describes the corporate
relationship of the project and the Conservancy. For clarity, it refers
to section (b), which delegates the actual management of Gentoo to the
relevant developers. The Conservancy, when acting as a fiscal sponsor,
must have the legal authority to manage Gentoo, even though section (b)
delegates the day-to-day operations to the developers.

d) This section clarifies that Gentoo can't represent the Conservancy
without getting written authorization first. If you'd like to represent
the Conservancy at a conference or other such event, you can always talk
to us about it.

Paragraph 3 - No Fees

It's just as it sounds. The Conservancy provides services to projects to
benefit the Free Software community and does not ask member projects to
bear the overhead costs. Of course, projects are welcome to make donations
to the Conservancy if they desire.

Paragraph 4 - Project Fund/Variance Power

This sets out the financial structure in connection with the relationship
described above in paragraph 2. The Conservancy will maintain a separate
bank account for Gentoo and, for tax purposes, the Conservancy will report
all of the income to Gentoo in its IRS filings. Gentoo therefore will not
need to file any separate tax returns with the IRS. The Conservancy will
keep the financial books for Gentoo. The developers will direct the
Conservancy to spend the money on behalf of Gentoo, within the limitations
imposed by the tax laws. The Conservancy will receive any checks on behalf
of Gentoo, and it will also write checks on behalf of Gentoo.

Paragraph 5 - Project Fund Management/Performance of Charitable Purposes

This paragraph clarifies that all assets will be devoted to the project's
purposes, as those purposes are a subset of the Conservancy's purposes.
Assets cannot be used in connection with activities that would jeopardize
the Conservancy's tax exempt status. As discussed above, in practice, most
typical expenses of FOSS projects will come well within these limitations.
Activities that are restricted include lobbying activities and spending
money in ways other than consistent with the charitable purposes of the
conservancy (i.e., forwarding FOSS).

Paragraph 6 - Representation of the Project in the Conservancy

As the note in this section indicates, we understand that each project will
have its own management structure that it has developed to reflect its size
and community. This paragraph requires that certain representatives be
named as the individuals that can officially communicate decisions on
behalf of Gentoo. This can be a single maintainer, a committee of
developers or a few specified representatives. To the extent that it makes
sense for Gentoo to have a committee of representatives, we should indicate
how decisions can be made by that committee. For example, should all
decisions be communicated to the conservancy by all members of the
committee or would a simple majority suffice? Can any one representative
communicate official decisions on behalf of all? Gentoo should also
consider adding a mechanism here for adding and removing representatives
over time. We're happy to discuss methods that have worked for other
projects with you to help you select the solution that is right for you.

Paragraph 7 - Outstanding Liabilities

In this section, Gentoo confirms that it has told the Conservancy about any
liabilities that might be outstanding prior to joining the Conservancy.
This gives the Conservancy some assurance that its due diligence process
has been complete and that the Conservancy's board received all of the
information it needed to properly evaluate the project. Liabilities
include, for example, financial obligations, such as any debts or
outstanding bills, or any legal claims that could be outstanding against

Paragraph 8 - Termination

Projects can leave the Conservancy at will. This section sets out the
mechanisms for termination to make sure that when a project leaves the
Conservancy it does so without jeopardizing the tax exempt status of the
Conservancy (and, consequently, the status of all of the other projects in
the Conservancy).

There is a 60 day notice requirement so that a new tax exempt non-profit
can be found for Gentoo to join. If there isn't another fiscal sponsor or
other tax exempt non-profit to take over Gentoo, Gentoo can incorporate as
a separate entity and apply for tax exemption recognition. If there is no
separate entity -- for example if a project loses momentum and has been
abandoned by its developers -- the Conservancy must be left with the assets
for use by the Conservancy for other FOSS-related charitable work.

These restrictions would also apply to any separate tax exempt entity, so
if Gentoo were to incorporate and achieve tax exemption outside of the
Conservancy, it would have to deal with the same considerations upon any
wind-up or distribution of assets. Members of the Conservancy's board are
familiar with non-profit wind-down situations, and can assist in the
unlikely event that this unfortunate outcome occurs.

Paragraph 9 - Miscellaneous

These provisions are standard agreement boilerplate - they clarify the
enforceability of separate provisions, specify that the contract be
governed by New York Law and state that any amendments to this agreement
need to be agreed to in writing by all of the parties.

Paragraph 10 - Counterparts/Facsimile

Although it's good to have original signatures in the corporate records,
this allows you to simply sign the signature page and fax or scan a copy
for the contract to take effect.

We hope this break down has made it clear why the agreement is structured
in the way that it is. If any provisions seem problematic to you, let us
know and we'll work with you to try to build an agreement that works for
both of us. We look forward to Gentoo joining the Conservancy!

Karen Sandler
Software Freedom Conservancy

An obvious question is what would happen with our current paypal account, bank
account, store, etcetera. Here's what we have so far:


Since I currently handle most of the financial details for the Conservancy,
I answered some your questions below (the conservancy@ address goes to both
me and Karen). I've left one of the questions to Karen.

Michael Cummings <> writes:

> a. What happens to our existing bank account, paypal account, and
> cafepress account?

Speaking non-legally (IANAL), they become assets of the Conservancy,
earmarked for the Gentoo project. They could be spun out of the
Conservancy if Gentoo decides to leave the Conservancy and sets up another
501(c)(3) non-profit.

We'd suggest closing the bank account so that we can open one for Gentoo at
our bank. We keep all the project earmarked accounts in one place, and
this makes it easier for us to manage the finances for you.

For the Paypal account, it would be set up to transfer the money into the
Gentoo bank account at the Conservancy. Although, we'd actually prefer
that the Paypal account be shutdown if possible and set up an address at
the Conservancy's Paypal account. However, this means that the email
address used for people to send money to the Paypal account would have to
change. This has been a problem for some projects.

I am not sure how we'd handle the Cafepress account, as we've never handled
one of those before, but it could probably be configured in a similar way.
We'll work with you find a reasonable solution.

> b. How involved is the process of spending money? In this kind of dire
> circumstance, currently this process is rushed so that within a day of
> discovery the part has been ordered and paid for. How does this work
> with the fiscal workings falling under the Conservancy?

We'd recommend in this situation that someone from the project use their
personal credit card or other financial instrument, and then submit a
reimbursement request with a receipt to the Conservancy. We can't turn
around payments in 24 hours, but we typically process reimbursement
requests within two weeks. (We do processing once per week, so the most
you'd usually have to wait is two weeks.)

> Can you walk us through the normal procedure for handling these more
> doldrum scenarios as well?

Currently, you just send an email to <> with
a receipt and/or invoice attached and a brief note describing what the
expense is for. If we have any questions pursuant to our due diligence for
making sure the expense fits the 501(c)(3) status of the Conservancy, we
send them to you. Once the questions are answered (or if there are no
questions), we send a check either directly to the vendor, or, in the case
of a reimbursement request, to the project contributor who made the
original expense. We can also wire money to vendors/individuals, but this
incurs fees for the project so we try to avoid it.

> 2. Outstanding liabilities. In reference to paragraph 7, we don't have a
> current filing. Our income used to be below the cutoff that required a
> non-profit to file, though we're not sure if that's still true or not.

I'll leave this one for Karen.

Bradley M. Kuhn
President, Software Freedom Conservancy

I'm currently working with Ms. Sandler to get our various "liabilities" worked out.
We may need to pay some taxes on the store profits, although that would be minimal
since it's a pretty small part of Gentoo's income. We've never filed the official
IRS paperwork, although it's not generally required for a non-profit our size.

For the most part, the Trustees think that this is either a good idea, or at least
a better idea than what we've had so far. Comments? Although comments are
enabled on my blog, it might be better to comment on -dev instead.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Meadow Creek Schooling Horse Show

Sarah and Ronan did quite well last weekend:

Sarah and Ronan win Meadow Creek

Monday, June 11, 2007


ronan20070217_1879.jpg, originally uploaded by g2boojum.

Post from flickr.Overly serious self portrait

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Rosco gel sampler

I'm having fun with my Nikon D50. Using the DIY macro studio
and two external flashes:

Rosco gel sampler

Learn to light (better than I have so far) at

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Encoding a VHS-C capture

I recently needed to take a raw mpeg-2 file that I obtained
from my pvr-250 capture card (pulling from a VHS-C camcorder),
and convert it to something that would fit on youtube. Here's
the magic mencoder incantations that I used:

$ mencoder 20051204.mpg -edl poker.edl -ovc frameno -oac mp3lame \
> -lameopts vbr=3 -o frameno.avi
$ mencoder 20051204.mpg -edl poker.edl -oac copy -ovc lavc -lavcopts \
> vcodec=mpeg4:vpass=1:vbitrate=863:vhq -o output.avi -vf scale=320:240
$ mencoder 20051204.mpg -edl poker.edl -oac copy -ovc lavc -lavcopts \
> vcodec=mpeg4:vpass=2:vbitrate=863:vhq -o output.avi -vf scale=320:240

Using "edl" to cut out the stuff I didn't want was really nice. No
need to get avidemux to compile!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Lower limit of free software packages in the tree?

Ever wonder what portion of the portage tree is free software, and
what portion is proprietary? Here's an estimate.

Total number of packages:

feynman grant> paludis --list-packages --repository gentoo | \
> sed -n -e 's/^\* \(.*\)/\1/p' | wc -l


Total number of packages w/ LICENSE containing [gpl|as-is|bsd]:

feynman grant> paludis --list-packages --repository gentoo | \
> sed -n -e 's/^\* \(.*\)/\1/p' | while read a ; \
> do paludis -qM ${a}::gentoo | grep LICENSE: | \
> cut -d: -f2 | grep -i --quiet '[gpl|as-is|bsd]' \
> && echo ${a} ; done | wc -l


So, if I did things right, we're looking at roughly 96.7% of the
tree. Thanks to ciaranm for the lengthy one-liner, although any
mistakes are definitely my own.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Gentoo past, present, and future

(If you saw an empty post on planet/universe, my apologies. I
need to work on my pyblosxom workflow, it seems.)

The real power base of Gentoo is not infra, the Council, the trustees,
or devrel. It's the developers. We have the credit and the blame
for what Gentoo is, has been, and will become.

Before that, though, a quick comment about Seemant's recent posts about
poisonous individuals ( I
think Seemant makes a number of good points, but I have a different
interpretation of many of those events than Seemant has. I'll cover some of
them below, but let me address his comments about Kurt Lieber here. I think
Seemant is wrong in his assessment of Kurt. Oh, the facts are essentially
correct: Kurt was in charge of infra, he was one of the primary people pushing
to extract the reins from drobbins hands, and he strongly pushed for the
establishment of the Gentoo Foundation. He's also bright, and frequently sure
of himself even when he's wrong, and when he eventually does lose his temper
he can be just as inflammatory as some of the more infamous of our community.
I also have little doubt that Kurt believed that if he were in charge of
Gentoo, then things would be better. Nonetheless, I don't believe that Kurt
was subtly trying to become Gentoo's Svengali. What I did see was that Kurt
had a different mindset from many of the devs (myself included). Kurt viewed
things from an infra perspective and with big-business sensibilities: security
should be paramount, devs are a potential threat as well as an asset,
enterprise Gentoo should be a goal, etcetera. (Of course infra has a culture
of mistrust; that's their job. It's also why infra is lower on the
organizational chart than the Council.) It was hardly surprising that Kurt
would clash with Seemant and others (again, including myself) from time to
time, given those differences of opinion.

Okay, back to the real point of this post.

Once upon a time, Gentoo was drobbins' baby. It was his project, his guiding
philosophy, and his say as to who was a dev, and who wasn't. Becoming a
dev was mainly a matter of submitting ebuilds and patches until somebody
got tired of committing them to CVS on your behalf, and decided that it would
just be easier if you were a dev so that you could do it yourself. In
those days I knew the name of everybody in #gentoo (or was it #gentoo-dev,
I don't remember). Whether due to drobbins' ideology or sheer pragmatism,
during that period Gentoo established a defining tradition of our community:
we provide our devs with nearly unfettered access to make changes, and we
trust them not to do anything too stupid (or at least to fix things if they
do). The idea is that our talented devs with time and ability _should_ be
able to make sweeping changes when need be. As such, Gentoo is very much a
distribution founded on trust, and that tradition of trusting our devs
survives to this day.

It may have been a golden age, but it was hardly perfect. Drobbins had
vision, but he could also be capricious and dismissive when somebody disagreed
with him. He had to learn management skills on the job, and although he got
much, much better, he occasionally made mind-blowing mistakes. Early devrel
would often do a great job, but sometimes turn around and collectively blow up
at somebody, shattering any good will they had built up. Read through the
various bugs and mailing lists, and you'll see that the current mistrust that
Gentoo devs have for powerful groups is perfectly rational, even though it is
remarkably unhelpful. Learning to govern ourselves properly has been _hard_.

It's important to note, though, that we're not done yet. Right now
Gentoo is a barely-herded collection of projects. The elected Council
has some power, but neither they nor the devs who elected them have really
come to terms with how much they have. I would say that the current Council
is trusted not to do anything too awful, but not really trusted to actually do
much that is useful. They are working to change that, though, however slowly
they may be moving. Meanwhile, Gentoo is still growing (yes, we are
still gaining new devs far faster than we lose old ones), and we're
still putting out new releases and maintaining the tree, so there's
time to work on figuring things out.

So, what does the future hold for Gentoo? I've no idea, but I expect good
things. I predict that we won't return to the days of a single
strong leader, despite the number of folks who seem to think that
doing so would solve all of our problems. Those folks might be correct,
except for the niggling fact that leading Gentoo is a full-time job, with no
pay, and so we haven't seen a lot of people stepping up to the plate to do
that job. Sorry, Seemant, but we're going to have to learn to live
with an elected governance committee, I suspect. Will we turn into
Debian? Yes, and no. Gentoo is a rare beast--a community distribution.
Almost all of the work is done by volunteers, and those volunteers will
only work on what they want to work on. Not everybody will agree, so
lengthy discussions on -dev aren't going away. In those respects,
we're very much like Debian. Similarly, we do most of our work
out in the open, so all of our disagreements and spats are available for all
to see. Ideologically, though, we're still quite different. We're less
rules-bound, we tend to favor pragmatism over ideological purity, and
we favor flexibility and power over stability.

I do hope that we can overcome this current lack of courtesy on the
mailing lists, irc, etcetera. I have no good suggestions on how to
accomplish this goal, I'm afraid, but I can offer one bit of history.
Back in the day, I helped to write the infamous Gentoo etiquette guide.
My assumption was that it was a gentle guide-to-the-clueless on how to
behave without causing too much friction. I never expected that anybody
would actually try to enforce it, especially not without running it
by the rest of the community first. Any solution in Gentoo has to
have the support of the majority of devs, or it's worse than

If you've made it this far, I'm quite impressed!

A few minor thoughts:

  • Ciaranm suggested that the heated discussion between he and drobbins
    was an attempt by drobbins to grab power. I doubt it. He just
    believed that he understood the problem and knew precisely how
    to fix it. Impressive hubris, and he got smacked down pretty
    hard, but that's different from malice.

  • Most devs are working hard on their own areas, and ignoring all
    of this stuff. Thank goodness.

  • Darn, I miss danarmak. Feel free to return anytime, Dan!


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