…and we’re back!  Or rather the site is, thanks to Eric who helps admin the VPS that this site runs on.

So much has happened in the meantime: PyCon Montreal, furthering my experience in working on Python microservices + Docker + Ansible, my dabbling in the startup and JS worlds.  And life in general, with friends getting married and life in general moving forward.

One of the lessons learned in this outage, is to keep better backups and use automated configuration managers when administrating a site.  I’d love to talk about my Ansible playbooks that are just now approaching the point where I have almost completely automated backups and deployments.  But I’ll do so at another time.

Ansible Role for NGINX, UWSGI and Supervisor Released!

What better way to start 2015 than to release new software?

As part of my efforts to create Rookeries, a modern Python-based CMS as a replacement for my WordPress sites: I am releasing an Ansible role to make it easier to setup WSGI apps on a private server.

The nginx-uwsgi-supervisor role is available on Ansible Galaxy.   This role setup NGINX and the UWSGI (WSGI app server) and supervisord infrastructure to make installing Rookeries or another WSGI app a breeze.   The goal is to make a Rookeries site as easy or easier to install and maintain than a WordPress site.

All the code for the role is host on Bitbucket, and mirrored on Github.

I am especially excited since this my first ever, fully functional, open source release.  I hope enjoy using and makes their life easier when build webapps in Python.

…And We’re Back!

Or rather I am back.  As in I am going back to blogging.  I apologize for the months of silence.  Moving houses, and migrating web hosting providers will do that to a person.  Migrating the web hosting to a completely self-managed environment was quite a learning process, and took quite a bit of time.  I did not realize at the time, that my websites would be down for months.  Fortunately everything is back to normal now.

I won’t commit to posting on a regular schedule, since that is simply not realistic.  However I missed quite a few excellent opportunities to blog in a timely manner.    Especially everything surrounding PyCon and all the new things I’ve learned since that time.  I will try to make that up by writing articles about events, knowledge and ideas.

It is good to be back.

Now a Professional Pythonista at Points!

I have been working for the past month as a Software Development Engineer at Points International.  While my role is not officially as a Python developer, a large portion of my work is building Python applications, services and libraries.  Also I get to develop in Java as well and maintain some very well engineered systems as well, so I get to deal with both worlds.  Even after a month, I am super excited to work at such a cool company and with awesome people.  It really feels like a bit of a dream job, in terms of what technology I get to use (Python, Linux desktops and distributed version control systems, w00t!) and the processes (yes Agile and proper software engineering totally works when done right).

But it is the people within the company that really makes it shine.  I get to be surrounded by smart, savvy, and welcoming coworkers, including a number of important and active Pythonistas that I look up to.  My team is just amazing, supportive, and I feel that in this short time span I’ve become a much better developer thanks to them.  Even on stressful days I feel motivated and excited to come to work and give it my all.  I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to be at Points. :)

Distro Hopping

Sorry for the much delayed update, however this year has been an hectic and busy one. (New job, new house, lots of random unexpected events along the way, like two funerals and two weddings in a single month, etc. Long story.) Plus I really hoped to change blog platforms, but that is a story for another time.

Explaining the Journey

With so many things changing in my life, I decided to change up the Linux distribution I’m running. Now I have a large set of requirements being both a developer and gamer. I need a distribution that can handle Python, Java, Android and Qt Linux development. Also I want my distro to run Steam, and handle the Nvidia Optimus graphics card in my laptop, properly.

(Sidenote: A word to the wise, avoid Optimus cards as they are a pain to setup under Linux. I got mine because I naively assumed that all Nvidia cards are easily and nicely supported under Linux. Recently I heard that Nvidia promised to help the Nouveau devs to make the Optimus experience under Linux nicer. But I would not hold my breath to wait for things to get better soon.)

Long Story Short

The shortest version of the story: After doing a fair bit of distro hopping including using some uncommon distros, I am back to using Kubuntu.

Specifically the path I took was:
Kubuntu → openSUSE → Mageia → Debian → Linux Mint → Sabayon → Kubuntu u2192

The rationale behind all this? Well read on. :)

Kubuntu → openSUSE

After hearing about Canonical’s plans to use their own display manager “Mir” instead of “Wayland”, and experiencing random breakage with Kubuntu I decided to change distros. When I heard that the main dev behind Kubuntu was not going to be funded by Canonical, I decided it was time to jump ship.

I decided to retrace my steps, and try new versions of distros that I used in the past. Technically before I started using Kubuntu I ran on Gentoo Linux. But I was not about to go back to compiling and configuring everything on my system. So my first stop was openSUSE.

SuSE and now its community driven variant openSUSE, always has been a very slick distro in terms of supporting KDE.  The version I was running was no different. I was also encouraged by the large number of packages available including a nice setup for both Steam and bumblebee (this being the program that adds decent support for Nvidia Optimus under Linux).

openSUSE is a gorgeous distro overall, except for one very important issue… openSUSE feels like it was built for a corporate desktop. The number of PolicyKit warnings that I received whenever I tried to suspend and resume was surreal. While I am familiar with the lingo and ideas behind SELinux, AppArmour, etc, I could not for the life of my figure out how to get my laptop to resume and suspend without some silly PolicyKit message blocking me. openSUSE was not meeting my needs.

openSUSE → Mageia

With openSUSE failing me, I decided to go further in time to my original distro Mandrake/Mandriva. I found out that some Russian firm had bought out the French made Mandriva and as part of a general restructuring effort laid off some of the maintainers. These maintainers started their own version of Mandriva called Mageia. While the distro and its infrastructure is still fairly young, I was encouraged by the fact that some experienced maintainers were behind the project.

I was amazed with the amount of polish but into a budding community driven distro. I ran against some rough edges with Python support, but those were resolved with some help and new updates. I was impressed and I took my first steps to becoming a maintainer myself. The community was very receptive and welcoming. While I ended up using Mageia for weeks, I did not stay with the distro.

Why didn’t I stay with Mageia? I could not get bumblebee running on my machine. I could of fought some more, learn how to maintain a package and help build out the distro. But after some introspection, I realized that I simply do not have time contributing as a maintainer to a distro. There is a lot of work involved, and considering everything going on in my life right now, I needed to get a distro I could rely on and work with right now.

Magiea → Debian

Debian seemed like the logical choice for a stable Linux. The distro is entirely community driven, and has been around forever. So after a bit of haggling with the network installer, I managed to get a KDE desktop running on Debian. Debian definitely run on mature, stable software, which is perfect for someone running a server or managing a desktop configuration that has been around for years. Unfortunately the Linux desktop has only become very stable and usable in past while. Also the Debian community are sticklers when it comes to open source licenses, and how distributable
the software is legally. Unfortunately again, closed source firmware and other software makes things much more difficult. Getting my Broadcom wireless network card, and my Nvidia graphics chip working was just not happening.

Also I assumed that since Ubuntu worked so well, that Debian would be just as well setup from the get-go. I realize now how much work Canonical put into configuring their Debian base and smoothing all the wrinkles out. However I was not up for doing all that work myself, just to stay with Debian.

Debian → Linux Mint

Debian stayed installed on my laptop for a mere two days, before I got fed up with it. The next logical choice to avoid Ubuntu, but get some of the niceties of the platform was to try out Linux Mint. One of my good friends runs it and she enjoys using it thoroughly. I also watched and read some good reviews about the latest stable release of Linux Mint 15, and how much polish the devs put into the KDE desktop. I was intrigued, so I tried it out.

Linux Mint 15 definitely has a lot of polish. However nothing that spectacular that does not come standard to KDE. Except for the extra System Settings panel to handle PPAs (private Ubuntu repos), which is pretty darn cool. I did run into issues with trying to run packages originally meant for Ubuntu. There were slight and subtle incompatibilities, and I eventually gave up trying to fix things.

Linux Mint → Sabayon

By now I had run into a moment of madness. No good easy-to-use RPM based distros remained to try out. Fedora sounded too experimental for my liking. The Debian universe had been pretty much a let down. I debated using Netrunner, a KDE distro, by Blue Systems. (Blue Systems being that weird German company that somehow funds KDE development on Ubuntu, Linux Mint KDE and Netrunner. But no one has an idea how they fund themselves. Maybe by European Union funds, which seems to be the popular way to fund nebulous entities and projects in Europe.)

So I had a moment of madness, and despair brought on by no new leads while looking at potential distros on DistroWatch ( In that moment I decided to try a system not based on the traditional package systems. That left systems in the Arch or Gentoo families. Arch itself fell into the too much maintenance category. Gentoo did as well. Manjaro looks promising, but I’ll wait until it matures or fades way due to its small team. I tried Sabayon Linux, something I did not expect to do.

Sabayon Linux is definitely much nicer than Gentoo to maintain. Everything worked out of the box too. Except Sabayon felt very much like an early adopters hobbyist distro. An update or a new package installation, downloaded half the universe. My laptop ran faster… and ate its battery so quickly that it would just shutdown… randomly while running on battery. I could run Steam and my development environments, just never without worrying about my laptop suddenly powering off.

I realized I could not continue on like this…

Return to Kubuntu

Now I am back to running on Kubuntu, and everything just works well enough. I could of gone back to Mageia, and hoped that the upcoming release of Mageia 4 would of resolved most of my issues. Ultimately I went back to Kubuntu, since for right now it works well enough and meets my needs.

I work with Ubuntu at my new workplace, plus I support a couple of other Kubuntu machines running at home. I no longer use the tools that caused me grief when some libraries changed in Ubuntu. For better or worse, support for new applications or hardware is targeted at Ubuntu. Also it is a bit of a relief that Blue Systems stepped in and now funds development of Kubuntu. Canonical’s plans for transitioning to Mir, still do not affect me at least on my current version. Also this might change in the upcoming release, and I maybe stuck on this version of Kubuntu for a while.

Or things maybe change, maybe Canonical will change its mind and work with the Wayland community. Maybe Nvidia will fix up their terrible driver support due to market pressures. Or maybe I will have to move off to Mageia or Manjaro eventually. In the meantime I can be productive, and once things will calm down again, maybe I’ll go on another round of distro hopping.

Update (2013 October 18): Just upgraded to Kubuntu 13.10 yesterday!  I am encouraged by the news that the Kubuntu devs will push forward on using Wayland and support Kubuntu into the future.  So it looks like I will continue using and enjoying Kubuntu well into the future.  Now I’ll just need to learn how to package DEBs, and I’ll be able to help out occasionally too. :)

Spring Cleaning for 2013

With Easter just around the corner and possibly spring coming shortly after–Canadians have to wait a bit longer for spring t0 properly arrive and winter to make her final exit–that it would make sense to update my blog.   Many things have changed in the past few weeks .  Like we have a new pope, Pope Francis, just in time for Easter.  (I’m not going to weigh in on my opinions of the decision of the Conclave, other than I have mixed feelings.  And each passing day does not ease my general feeling about unease.)  Some things have not changed.  Like most things in the world I guess.

With the slow coming of warmer weather, I have a good excuse for a bit of spring cleaning and growing myself.  In terms of spring cleaning, I have meant to really organize my activities and my surroundings.  Unfortunately since I had to make do without my laptop for a few weeks, that has not helped me get more things done.  Especially when it comes to dealing with my overflowing inbox.  Apologies for everyone expecting me to get back to them.  I’m getting there slowly.

I did get to play around with setting up Python on my hosting environment and with Clojure.  Clojure, while definitely useful still feels like an exercise in academics than industrial programming.  (Still one can write a full implementation of Snake/Nibbles in Clojure in under 100 lines of code?  Madness!)  Python on the other hand is too much fun to feel like work.  I considered using something like a static website generator like Nikola or benjen to port some of my websites.  But I think for kicks, I will go the route of using Flask and craft my own mini-site just because working with Python is a such a joy.

One unfortunately necessary bit of spring cleaning will be changing Linux distros again.  It seems that Canonical is doing a fair bit of wild experimentation nowadays.  Too wild and it smells like they are suffering from NIH (not invented here).  The idea to chuck out everyone’s hard work on replacing X with Wayland, with their own thing was just too much.  So it looks like I’m going back to openSUSE for good.  It is just a matter of when I get around to migrating all my systems over.  I have no real issue with Canonical doing what they want with their own distro Ubuntu.  I just don’t agree with the philosophy, and the needless experimentation, especially since I am quite happy with using a relatively standard KDE 4 desktop.

Hopefully once I finish all the spring cleaning I’ll get to finish up and show off some the projects I’ve been working on.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See Y’all in 2013!

Just a quick post this time, since this is one heck of a busy day.  Actually the whole year has been kept me super-busy beyond my wildest dream.  While I could of made do with less stress, it definitely pushed me to grow out of necessity.  I definitely am a stronger professional than in the beginning of the year.  I can consider myself a senior developer and be confident in my technical, communication and inter-personal skills.

And I learned to dance, no kidding.  I learned to do things I did not imagine I could do.  I feel that I am calmer, stronger and better person overall.  Of course I can not sit on my laurels.  There is still so much to do, learn and explore.  I look forward to this coming year.  Hopefully you do too.

I wish everyone a Happy Belated Christmas and Happy New Year!  See you all in 2013!

PyCon and Beyond

Last weekend I went to the first ever PyCon Canada.  What an incredible event!  I met so many friendly, amazing, smart and talented people.  I learned so many new things, that essentially my knowledge of Python, and web technologies practically jumped to the next level over the course of 2 days.  The entire event left so inspired, that I’ve been hacking on a Python web application that I hope to release into the wild sooner than later.  Another fun Django Toronto night followed, and I learned so much there too.  I really can not wait to try out all these new technologies.  I have not gotten in touch with everyone from PyCon and Django Toronto, that I would like to.  Just been so swamped.  But I promise to do so shortly.

In the meantime, I hinted at a Python based web application that I am working on.  I won’t go into the details of the site in this post, since I’d rather show it off than talk about it. :)  I plan on building it out using Flask, SQLAlchemy and Jinja2.  Currently I am working through those technologies to build a particular website, and hopefully mastering them as I work out the details.  More details will follow soon…

For those who missed out on PyCon CA 2012: the videos of the talk are already up!  Check them out!

Now Accepting Tips via Gittip

I know this is totally an artsy thing to do but… you can tip me now!  So if you find my blog entries or the code that I put up on Github useful, feel free to tip me for my efforts.  Thankful my day job at Bluerush pays for my day-to-day.  But I would appreciate even a minor tip or a tweet, if you find these things useful.  It is almost like buying me a coffee or a beer. :)