How do non-coders give to open source?

In my life outside of Gentoo, I’m a graduate student in biochemistry and biophysics. But in a previous incarnation, I was a professional copy editor with about 5 years experience, and I worked at a number of newspapers.

As you know if you’ve ever read anything written by most open-source programmers, English grammar and spelling often are not their strongest suits. I’d like to give back to the community in a way that few people can, and that’s by copy editing. The rarest skills in open source are those that seemingly have nothing to do with open source.

That brought something to my mind. How do people with these rare open-source skills make themselves valuable to the broader community? No Web sites exist that say, “Copy editors sign up here. Graphic artists, head over that way. Public-relations experts, first hallway on the left. Lawyers, off this way, please.” The closest thing I know of is, but that’s for just one narrow niche.

Do we need something like this? I say yes. The non-coding contributors to open source represent the rarest commodity we have. We need to find a way to get them involved, and to tell them how to get involved.

As a postscript, anyone who needs copy editing for your open-source project, just drop me a note and I’ll try my best to help you out.

New printer. Or, why not to expect new things to work well in Linux.

My old HP PhotoSmart printer died the other day, so I headed to OfficeMax to pick up a replacement. Figured that if I’m going to get one, I might as well get a good one. Spent $200 on the PhotoSmart 8250, and another $100 on the miscellaneous junk one has to get with a new printer (spare ink cartridges, usb2 cable, more photo paper, etc).

I did some research before buying it and it looked like it ought to work alright, since showed the 8200 as fully supported. We got it home and it printed on standard paper nearly instantly, which I was quite pleased with.

But when I tried to print photos from Gimp, things went downhill fast. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to take paper out of the photo tray. I tried for hours, all these different combinations of settings plus the photo-tray button on the printer. I also upgraded from gimp-print 4 to the latest gutenprint 5.0.0-rc1, and that didn’t help either.

Somehow I’m left feeling like ESR.

Hopefully some sink time will get it supported. In the meantime, I’ll probably be trying the printer on OS X.

Ticket update

This morning, I went in to the big traffic+city violations hearing and waited my turn. All along I debated whether to go with guilty, no contest or not guilty. I figured that not guilty would be more likely to get me a stiffer fine if I couldn’t get the ticket dismissed because I’d require a trial etc. No contest seems like a really lawyer-y thing to do, and I wanted to come off as a nice guy.

So I decided to just plead guilty and hope for a lenient sentence, after explaining the situation. And damn, I couldn’t have asked for better. The judge bent the rules and let me go to traffic school instead of putting the ticket on my record. Normally, only minors can do that, but he figured since I’m still a student and I have a clean record, it was pretty fair. Also, I have to write an essay about what I learn.

Unfortunately that still means I’ll be paying about $225 instead of $425, for random fees and the class. But suddenly that amount is so much more reasonable, especially when considering I won’t get an insurance increase along with it. I got a delayed payment plan, so I’ll have some time to come up with it.

Reviving a flying horse and other sundry

I just booted up the Pegasos again and updated it to current Portage stuff, so I can start testing modular X on PPC. Next week, I should have some more time to begin working on this, because I have two midterms this Friday: quantum mechanics and linear algebra. Hope they go well; I haven’t made it to class much so far.

On the bright side, today my scores came in for my first departmental exams. First, I’ll have to explain what they are. Each quarter, starting in the second year, graduate students take an exam consisting of two questions. The questions are quite complex and regularly take multiple pages to answer. General topics are posted the Thursday before the exam, which is on Tuesday. We take all the time off in between and study 12+ hours a day.

Well, except for me. Relatives were in town for the weekend, so I didn’t get to study very much at all until Monday, with the exception of a few late-night jaunts to Shari’s (the local 24-hour restaurant).

To stay in the program, we need to pass 6 questions out of 12 opportunities, which many students barely make (and a few don’t). Minimum passing score is a 70.

My scores were an 89 and a 79. So tonight I’m going to celebrate.

[Gentoo] Is professionalism a good thing?

Take a look at this great entry from the Passionate Users blog, based on a speech by Paul Graham.

Given all the talk about professional behavior lately on Gentoo public and private lists and IRC channels, it’s worth some thought.

I think this post really typifies the place Gentoo is at now — choosing between professional and staid, or “start-up”-like and crazy. But perhaps we can have the best of both worlds.

Hardly any real e-mail anymore

Out of procrastination, I decided to check my junk mail stats this morning. Since Aug. 1, 2004, I’ve gotten 153,828 e-mails. Out of those, server-side spamassassin caught 52,805 as spam. That’s about one-third spam, two-thirds real mail.

After that, I have Thunderbird’s junk mail filter. Since January 19, 2005, it’s caught 5701 spam. Let’s extrapolate that back to Aug. 1 to get around 8800 spam it would have caught, assuming roughly the same amount goes out every month.

Now my “real” e-mail percentage is down to (153,828 – 52,805 – 8800) / 153,828, or about 60%. But of that, I still have to mark undetected spam as junk so the filter will catch it next time. I’d estimate this is about 10% of the remaining email. Next, let’s consider that I haven’t used Thunderbird solidly for the past year, and take off another 10% for that.

So let’s say around 50% of what I get is real mail, and 50% is spam. Consider this: each day, I get around 360 e-mails. Half of that is spam, so I’m reading 180 real e-mails every day. I’m not on any high-traffic lists anymore, so these are all pretty relevant.

Once I’m done reading, how much of my spare time is left to do actual work?

How’s that compare with other people?