a week at angaza

wigglepus

It’s been an exciting first week at Angaza, ramping up and getting to know my new team.

Things move fast here. Not only am I trying to internalize a new set of business partners, product lines, roadmaps, and metrics, but of course the new code base as well.

Speaking of which, I’ve already pushed code to production twice this week, with my first deploy on Wednesday. Not quite as fast as Facebook, who famously have their new engineers deploy on day 1, but for us, day 3 surely ain’t bad.

And after multiple mind-melds with the team, I’m even more excited than ever about our mission to bring energy independence to those most in need.

Finally, the icing (or perhaps more accurately, the home made thousand island dressing) on top is the amazingly delicious food provided by Hattery.

Happy Platypus Friday!

hattery-reuben

men without a country

An excellent essay from recent Jeopardy! phenom, Arthur Chu, on the topic of race, specifically being Chinese in America:

This Is Not Your Country.

You can live here. You can make friends. You can try to live by the law and be a decent citizen and even maybe make a lot of money.

But you will never, ever belong. You will never, ever be one of them. And you must never, ever trust them.

[...]

We all live here. We all make friends here, eat the food, watch the movies, maybe even make money.

It’s just some people belong here, and others don’t.

I can pretend to belong here better than Trayvon was ever given the chance to. The white racist looks at me and sees a stolen job or the slow decline of national prominence, but he doesn’t see a rapist, a thug, a barbarian at the gate. I fear being snubbed and sometimes spat on but rarely shot. And that is a very important difference.

But it is still not my country. However hard I try, however well they treat me, however much we all smile at each other and however much people praise the “model minority” I am, I know it is not.

Read the whole thing.

And if you’re still resisting the idea that racism is alive and well in this country, look no further than Harry Reid, not only a United States fucking Senator, but the god damned Senate Majority Leader, who apologized about making a joke about how an Anglicized Chinese name sounds to an English-only speaker.

Reid said he was having a problem “keeping my Wongs straight” after introducing someone at the luncheon.

I’ll close with a long essay about the class origins of racial politics:

So, who are they really, these hundred thousand white supremacists? They’re every white guy who believed that this land was his land, was made for you and me. They’re every down-on-his-luck guy who just wanted to live a decent life but got stepped on, every character in a Bruce Springsteen or Merle Haggard song, every cop, soldier, auto mechanic, steelworker, and construction worker in America’s small towns who can’t make ends meet and wonders why everyone else is getting a break except him. But instead of becoming Tom Joad, a left-leaning populist, they take a hard right turn, ultimately supporting the very people who have dispossessed them.

They’re America’s Everymen, whose pain at downward mobility and whose anger at what they see as an indifferent government have become twisted by a hate that tells them they are better than others, disfigured by a resentment so deep that there are no more bridges to be built, no more ladders of upward mobility to be climbed, a howl of pain mangled into the scream of a warrior. Their rage is as sad as it is frightening, as impotent as it is shrill.

I’m Asian and I’m pissed.

kwaheri, canonical. hujambo, angaza.

Four and a half years ago, I joined Canonical to pursue a mission and a dream: to deliver successful products informed by open source values to real human beings.

Looking back, I’m proud to have played a very minor part in the commercial successes we’ve achieved, from shipping millions of pre-loaded Ubuntu laptops, thin clients, countless secret futuristic demos, and of course, our imminent phone launches with various OEM partners and operators.

And now, it’s time for me to move on to a different mission. Lately, I’ve grown more concerned and disturbed by the gulf between the developed vs developing worlds, and so I’ll be joining a very small, very early startup here in San Francisco to bring clean solar energy and modern financing + credit histories to off-grid and under-banked populations in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Pakistan.

It seems I am forever destined to work at companies with impossible-to-pronounce Swahili names. My new gig is at Angaza Design, and “angaza” means:

give light, illuminate, irradiate, shine

Apropos, no? And here’s another backgrounder on the problem Angaza is trying to solve.

For those curious, I will be staying in San Francisco for the next bit, and indeed, I will actually be going to an office on a daily basis for the first time in a long time, which means that my pants budget will increase dramatically. My new role will involve writing a lot more code than I currently do which I’m eagerly anticipating.

My last day at Canonical will be Friday, September 5 and I start immediately thereafter at Angaza.

Here’s to the future, shining brightly.

sf housing, burrowing owls edition

The best explainer I’ve yet seen on the SF housing issue, by Kim-Mai Cutler: How Burrowing Owls Lead To Vomiting Anarchists (Or SF’s Housing Crisis Explained).

Long and detailed, it’s great for a lazy Sunday coffee and reading session.

And an op-ed in the NYT about subsidizing suburbs: America’s Urban Future by Vishaan Chakrarbati.

I am not arguing that people should not live in suburbs. But we shouldn’t pay them to do so, particularly now that our world and the desires of our population are evolving.

Happy Sunday!

previewing Ubuntu Savvy

One of the key design goals we had in mind when we set out to create Ubuntu for phones and tablets (henceforth abbreviated here as Ubuntu Devices (vs Ubuntu Desktop)) was how to balance continuing our rich heritage of downstreams, be they community remixes or commercial products, against the idea of preventing platform API and UI fragmentation, which is the Android antipattern.

A while back, my boss Victor wrote a blog entry titled Differentiation without fragmentation which gives a key insight as to why fragmentation occurs:

Fragmentation occurs when the software platform fails to provide a supported mechanism to differentiate.

Victor then goes on to describe our Scopes framework which is a core design concept that spans implementation, functional, and visual layers to enable our downstreams to differentiate.

Part of my job is making what Victor says actually come true, and as we started thinking through the actual mechanics of how our downstreams would start with a default Ubuntu Device image and end up with a customized version of it, we realized that the nuts and bolts of what an OEM engineer or enthusiastic community member would have to learn and understand about our platform to actually make a working device image were too complex.

So we roughed out some ideas and after several months of iterating in private, I’m pleased to announce the preview of the Ubuntu Savvy phone customization suite. It consists of several parts:

The prototype of Tailor, our tool to manipulate the Savvy source tree and deploy to your phone is definitely in early stages. But click on the screenshots below to get a sense for where we are going. We want it to be painless and fun for anyone to make their own version of Ubuntu for devices in an officially supported manner.

tailor-1   tailor-2

If you are interested in learning more about our plans or you have ideas for ways that you’d like to customize your version of Ubuntu or you’re interested in improving code, tests, or docs, please come to our vUDS session.

Carrier/OEM Customizations on 2014-03-13 from 15:00 to 15:55 UTC.

A final note, Ubuntu Savvy builds upon a lot of work, from the fine folks in UE who helped design a flexible, decoupled image architecture, to the SDK team for providing some nice QML code for us to re-purpose, and to my entire team, both present and emeritus (such as mfisch and sfeole). Thanks to all.

We invite the broader Ubuntu community to help tinker with and tailor Ubuntu.

Upward and onward!

barcelona, 2014

john

This year was my first time attending MWC and it was quite the experience. I’ve been to some conferences before, but the sheer scale of this one was amazing.

And although it was my first time attending in person, it certainly wasn’t the first time I helped the team prep for the show on the technical side. A hectic several weeks of landing fixes and features, to an installation party on Sunday night, and rushing to the booth early Monday morning to do a final pass of updates before doors opened at 9am, the team on the ground with super support from the team on the homefront worked until the literal last minute to produce the best software build we could for a week of intensive demos. It wasn’t perfect, but no demos ever are, and I was extremely proud of the end result.

My job was to be a booth babe and give demos of Ubuntu phones and tablets to interested passers-by, but I lost my voice on Monday (possibly laryngitis) and was thus relegated to back room tech support for the rest of the week.

typical euro lovers' room
note how close the bathroom on the right is to the beds

There was also an unfortunate incident with mussels and food poisoning that I’ll not expand on here, but if you want full details, talk to my hotel roomie Cimi who got the Full 3D/HD experience at 4am. Sorry Cimi!

After the crazy week, Cimi and I spent the weekend decompressing by taking in the sights, before starting our second week in Barça, where the plan was to work remotely whilst eating as much jamón ibérico as humanly possible.

parc guell

The last time I was in town, I saw quite a lot of the major tourist attractions (thanks to turbo-mom who just pushed our family to maximize every moment), but two things we missed were the Miró museum and Montserrat. So that was Saturday and Sunday, respectively, and I’m pleased to report both were worth the wait.

In fact, I hadn’t realized what a fan of Miró I was, and speed-bingeing on the Wikipedia article on the Spanish civil war made the experience all the richer.

giant vending
world’s biggest vending machine

The remainder of the week was fairly nondescript. We enjoyed hanging out in the quiet Sant Andreu neighborhood and doing our interpretation of local life, namely sleeping in until 10am, working a bit, enjoying siesta from 1500 — 1800, eating tapas, maybe working a bit more, and saving everything else for mañana.

All the photos from the trip are in barcelona 2014, and to wrap it up, my first ever attempt at video creation is below.

Ciao!

current reads

Two good articles came across my plate recently. If you need some good lunch time reading, give these a spin.

This article is from 1999 (!!) and I think provides very useful context to the current housing debates raging in SF and SV. I don’t think SF Weekly has ever been accused of having a conservative bias.

Welcome Home
How shortsighted neighborhood activism fuels the city’s housing crisis, and pushes the best of San Francisco deeper and deeper into the suburbs

A more current article analyzing the end game for Taiwan. It made me feel depressed, although I can’t rationally say why.

Say Goodbye to Taiwan

ousdouca