Tag Archives: Ubuntu

A book in the Human Library at WOMAD2010: A tale in tweets…

One Sunday morning in June, while I was lazing in bed, I received this tweet:

how about it @lauracowen? would be good to have a female geek @ #WOMAD

I spent the next hour absorbed in reading the Human Library website and the WOMAD website on my mobile phone. Then:

@littlecough oo sounds cool. To be a book you mean?


@lauracowen yep...need to challenge preconceptions about IT geeks! I need a couple of 2hr shifts from each book


laura agreement

And that was that. I was committed. In public.

The Human Library is a fascinating idea that originated at Roskilde Festival 2000 in Denmark:

Borrow a person you normally would think you would not like. We have a wide selection of unpopular stereotypes. Everything from gays to hip hoppers to immigrants. Take a walk, have a talk or dont. Just remember to give back the person within two hours.

As a book, I had to have a blurb to be printed on my metaphorical back (in practice, it was to go into a printed catalogue of the available books for visitors to browse). The idea of the blurb is to be controversial and encompass some of the popular stereotypes about the subject. At which point, I started to struggle. So, I turned to Twitter again:

Tweeps, what stereotypes of female geeks have you come across, or you believe are true? Much appreciate any responses. Thanks :)

Initially I got self-consciously positive comments about women in IT such as:

actually the best IT Manager I ever worked for was female

Whilst a nice sentiment, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. So I tried again:

Okay, I'll rephrase...what stereotypes have you heard of female geeks? I promise not to believe it's your beliefs unless you say otherwise!

I figured an example or two might be helpful to get the ball rolling:

laura second crowd sourcing request 2

Um...or...'weird'...or...pls help...I'm struggling here!

That seemed to do the trick:

  • glasses
  • bad hair
  • love pink
  • like to be hit on by male geeks
  • all lesbians
  • the movies portray glamorous sexy chic
  • no fashion sense
  • most assume you have to be tougher and not at all girlie to be a female geek also
  • butch short hair
  • glasses
  • Glasses
  • pigtails
  • glasses and very girly
  • there aren’t enough/many of them
  • not as technical as male geeks

As you can see, there were quite a few responses, once unleashed. You can probably also see that some of them contradict others (eg ‘love pink’ and ‘not at all girlie’). I think that just goes to show that whatever you think about girl geeks, you’re probably wrong. 🙂

Anyway, thank you to everyone who helped crowd-source my blurb. You can read my published blurb on the Human Library at WOMAD website.

My next task was to un-earth my 15+-year-old tent, and put it up in the back garden:

Me and my tent

And I bought some purple festival wellies on ebay.

On the weekend itself, I pootled up to Charlton Park, the venue for WOMAD 2010. After some difficulties with the lack of signage and not being able to find the right entrance, I was presented with not only a free weekend ticket but a CREW pass and backstage privileges:

WOMAD pass

Which, once I’d found Katy (@littlecough), I discovered meant that I could pitch my tent in the crew’s campsite. Basically it just meant I had to walk further but I could go pretty much anywhere and there seemed to be a higher ratio of toilets and showers to campers. I appreciated that a lot throughout the weekend.

So, the Human Library. Well, I had two 2hr sessions on the Saturday. The Human Library was based in a couple of pretty yurts on the edge of the festival.

The Human Library

It was a slightly odd experience being a book. It felt a wee bit like we were being pimped out – 8 of us books sitting out of sight on The Shelf (a row of chairs by the door with a label around our necks). The customers signed up at the desk outside the yurt and were then led inside to meet their book who would then take them to a free table and cushions somewhere in the yurt, or outside on a bench to chat for 30 minutes.

Some books were instantly popular, like the Tsunami Survivor and the Psychiatrist, who both seemed to be booked out in advance for every half-hour slot. On paper, it was less obvious what a Girl IT Geek was so I tended to be the pot-luck book; people who were interested in the Human Library and wanted to try it out would often just pick one of the books not currently out on loan.

Inside the Human Library yurt

I don’t think I got any advance bookings at all but I was borrowed for most of the slots. I found that I was every so slightly nervous at the start of each of my ‘readings’ because I don’t usually find it very easy to just start a conversation with someone, even though I’m usually happy to talk to random strangers who strike up conversations on trains. My first borrower was an academic who was, himself, slightly apprehensive, I think, and very serious. We had an interesting discussion about energy use and flying. He pointed out that academics typically made their careers from becoming experts in very very specific areas, and then it’s a career highlight to arrange a conference in that area in an exotic location that you have to fly to. We discussed how video-conferencing could be improved and the problems we’d each experienced with it.

After that it becomes something of a blur. I talked to a primary school teacher about energy monitoring and how it can be hard to reduce household energy usage when you share with friends. I talked to a musician about Open Source Software (he’d tried Ubuntu but didn’t think it had the software he needed for his music) and the software we use to produce the UUPC podcast. I talked to a single mum from New York and her young daughter about using computers and how awkward it is to get photos off a camera, on to your laptop, edit them, upload them. And I did a joint booking with the Vegetarian Ecologist for a group of teenage boys with whom we discussed Second Life, Open Source Software, home automation, and agreed that my Christmas tree lights project really was very geeky. (You can see me as a book in one of the photos on the Human Library at WOMAD website.)


It actually went really well, though it was exhausting. In all but one of my bookings, we were still happily chatting away when the 30 minute bell rang to say the session was over. In the one that finished slightly early it just came to a natural end of conversation, which was fine. Over all my bookings, I think I probably ticked all the boxes of things I’m interested in and have blogged or tweeted about at some point…usability, climate change, energy monitoring, Open Source Software, Ubuntu, my Christmas lights project…

In the odd session when I stayed on the shelf, I chatted to some of the other books, including the Dyslexic Egyptology Student book, who was inspiring in what she does, and it was fascinating to listen to her talk about her life as the daughter of the Council Tenant Mum of 7 book. The Dyslexic Egyptology Student also had a great story to tell about some ace young girls who borrowed her and shyly asked her about her dyslexia and whether she’d got bullied about it and whether she thought they could go to university as they too had dyslexia.

The librarians

The sessions all ran really smoothly and the yurts were lovely and shady from the hot sun outside. I really enjoyed being a book and would recommend it as an experience to anyone. I think it would also be a brilliant way for a company to do diversity training. A few weeks later, I read a profile by a guy at work who has multiple sclerosis; the insight I got into his life just from reading that article had a similar effect on me as listening to some of the books talking at the Human Library.

As for the rest of the festival, I ate breakfast at the frightfully middle-class Riverford organic cafe (as in the delivery people), and learnt how to plait garlic (a fine skill, I feel), though I didn’t win the Riverford garlic-plaiting competition. I ate loads of vegetarian food from the various vans and stalls, discovered the lovely hot apple and cinnamon at the Tiny Tea Tent:

Hot apple and cinnamon at the Tiny Tea Tent

And watched the bubble experts (as seen on Blue Peter many many years ago making massive bubbles around small children):


As I left Charlton Park on the Sunday afternoon, leaving the WOMAD 2010 music festival, I realised it was the first time since Friday lunchtime that there was no soundtrack. Since I arrived on Friday, there’d been a constant music bed of drums, singing, guitars, or PAs. WOMAD wasn’t somewhere I would’ve gone had it not been for taking part in the Human Library but it was a fun experience, and I saw both Cerys from Catatonia and Chumba-wumba live (she sang Mulder and Scully; they refused to sing Tub-thumping). Sadly I missed the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace wrote the world’s first computer program in 1843. The computer on which the program would have run, Charles Babbage‘s Analytical Engine, was never built, though Babbage continued with his designs until his death and is remembered as the father of computers. The purpose of Ada Lovelace Day is to sing the achievements of women in technology and science – often their contributions go unnoticed.

On Ada Lovelace Day, today, anyone and everyone is encouraged to blog, podcast, videocast, tweet about the achievements of a woman in technology and science.

Laura Czajkowski

I met Laura Czajkowski last September when part of the Ubuntu UK Podcast team shipped off to Dublin to attend her OssBarCamp conference, have a weekend of geekery, and an evening of BBQ and cocktails. Since then, I’ve seen Laura working passionately to help kickstart the Ubuntu Women Project and I’m aware that she is also on the Ubuntu NGO project which looks at how to make it as easy as possible for charities, not-for-profits, and other NGOs to benefit from Ubuntu and Open Source Software.

After I tweeted a few weeks back that I was working on OggCamp10 planning stuff, she replied, offering her help. I wasn’t sure how serious she was but as we had a load of large tasks that needed doing around that time, I figured it was worth asking. Within a week, she was a fully signed-up member of the OggCamp planning team (ie she gets all the emails and can edit the wiki), despite having her own conference to organise as well. OMG Ubuntu published a great interview with her today.

Ana Nelson

Another ace woman I met in Dublin that weekend was Ana Nelson, who Laura had finally convinced to present about her documentation automation work. I swear (as a former technical writer), the stuff she develops on should be used by corporations everywhere to maintain their vast documentation libraries and to save their skillful writers from spending hours manually updating screenshots and code snippets. Her talk at OssBarCamp was fascinating and understated – she sat on a chair, speaking her way round a printed, illustrated mindmap, punctuating it all with physical props like wooden toys and knitting needles. Her tweets are no less insightful, witty, and slightly off-beat.


So they’re just two of the women in the Open Source world (in particular, the Irish Open Source world) who’ve inspired me recently. Go check out their blogs to find out more.

Installing Rational Software Architect 7.5.4 & WAS 7 on Ubuntu Karmic

N.B. I updated the bit about dash/bash on 23rd March after feedback from Gavin and Dom (see below). 🙂

This week, I decided to install Rational Software Architect so that I could try out (again) the User Interface Generator which comes with IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management Server–and other products too, I believe. You can find out more about what user modelling is and how you can use the UIG in RSA (lovin’ the IBM TLAs yet? 😉 ) in this series of articles on developerWorks. The rest of this post is not about the UIG but about how to install and configure Rational Software Architect for WebSphere, which is relevant to anyone wanting to do this, regardless of whether they’re wanting to use the UIG.

So I wanted to install Rational Software Architect (RSA; an Eclipse-based piece of software) on to Ubuntu, which is what I run on my work machine, a Thinkpad T61p. Not only that, but I wanted to install RSA for WebSphere, which includes WebSphere Application Server Test Environment (WAS). This meant that I was installing not one but two pieces of software that are not officially supported for Ubuntu Karmic (or indeed for Ubuntu/Debian as far as I know). But as the Linux binaries are .bin files rather than .rpm, life should be easy.

And indeed installing it is. It’s when you want to create a WAS profile that the fun starts. And that’s where it had all fallen apart for me when I tried much the same exercise this time last year. That time, I gave up.

This time, I tweeted my predicament, knowing there were people who might know the answer. Unfortunately, the person I thought might know the answer had failed in much the same way as me only 6 months ago and was now relegated to using Windows. Still, others came back to me, including Gavin Willingham, who I’d not met before but who works possibly 10 minutes walk from my desk, and Jay Limburn, who I’ve known for a year through Twitter and internal instant messaging but, though he also works max 10 minutes walk from my desk, never met in person until yesterday (he’s shorter and blonder in real life).

So, if you’re trying to install RSA for WebSphere 7.5.4 with WAS Test Environment 7.0 (other versions probably work the same way), I’ll end the suspense and start here:

Running the installer

  1. Download the many parts of RSA for WebSPhere 7.5.4 and WAS Test Environment 7.0 with licence/activation bits and pieces. (NB this isn’t free software; you have to buy it from IBM so I’m assuming you’ve got that far by now.)
  2. Extract all the zip files. If you do a right-click > ‘Extract All’ on the zip file in Ubuntu, the extraction tool doesn’t like to overwrite directories of the same name, so you end up with directories called ‘RSA4WS’, ‘RSA4WS (2)’, ‘RSA4WS (3)’, and so on when actually, you want the contents of each of those directories to be in the same place. So move the directories around so that you have just 3 directories:
    • RSA4WS (contains 7 directories called ‘disk1’, ‘disk2’, ‘disk3’, etc)
    • RSA4WS_SETUP (don’t do anything with the contents of this one)
    • WAS70 (contains 4 directories called ‘disk1’, ‘disk2’, etc)
  3. In the RSA4WS_SETUP directory, as sudo, run launchpad.sh to start the installation process.
  4. Follow the installer through but when it asks you for a user name and password to create a WAS profile, select that you will create a profile later and that you don’t want to create one now. The installation should run cleanly (if you let it try to create a profile, it will fail part-way through the installation).

You should now have a nice installation of RSA with WAS on your Ubuntu box. Next, you need to create a WAS profile so that you can use the in-built WAS server for development and testing (or in my case, to run the user interface generator).

Creating a WAS profile in RSA

There are a few things that prevent this just happening (some are generic Linux things and some are specific to Ubuntu):

  • On Ubuntu, /bin/sh uses dash, not bash, but WAS scripts seem to use bash specifically, so the profile creation scripts fail.
  • Something extra that I have no understanding of is required in the eclipse.ini file (which is key in starting the Eclipse-based RSA environment).
  • The default location in WAS’s profile creation wizards is in the /opt part of the main file system which you typically won’t have write-access to as a normal user.

So here’s what you need to do (at least, this is what I did and hopefully will work for you to to get a running WAS server in RSA):

  1. Change Ubuntu’s /bin/sh to use bash instead of dash.
    In a terminal (sorry it’s the command line but you’re changing some system settings here that you would very very rarely have to do normally, or just if WAS didn’t specify bash specifically), run the following command and select the bash option as the default for /bin/sh:

    sudo dpkg-reconfigure dash

    (As pointed out by @oldmanuk (Dom Evans), this is the proper way to reconfigure where /bin/sh points to (though I used Gavin’s method). )

    After you’ve created your WAS profile and everything’s up and running nicely, run the command again to change back to using dash. The benefit of using dash is speedier boot time, which is lost if you leave the setting as bash (see https://wiki.ubuntu.com/DashAsBinSh – thanks Dom).

    Now you’ve sorted out the bash/dash problem. One down; two to go.

  2. Check that you have a version of xulrunner installed (I have no idea what xulrunner is for but, looking in Synaptic Package Manager, my Ubuntu installation included xulrunner-1.9l.1-gnome-support, but not the xulrunner package itself, which seems to be fine for RSA purposes).
  3. In your RSA installation, find the eclipse.ini file. I installed RSA to the default location so mine was in /opt/IBM/SDP. In a terminal change to that directory:
    cd /opt/IBM/SDP
  4. Open the eclipse.ini file in a text editor, such as gedit:
    sudo gedit eclipse.ini
  5. Add to the end of the file the following line:

    (From an Ubuntu forum post.)

    Now you’ve sorted out the ‘xulrunner’ problem and you can actually start RSA. Two down; one to go.

  6. Start RSA from the Applications menu: Applications > IBM Software Delivery Platform > IBM Rational Software Architect for WebSphere 7.5.4.
  7. RSA should suggest a directory in your home directory in which to put the RSA workspace. That’s fine; I just accepted the suggested location.
  8. When RSA has opened (NB, my Welcome view doesn’t load – I don’t think that’s a problem), give it a moment to think, then it’ll pop up a wizard to create a WAS profile.
  9. In the profile wizard, clear the option about security unless you know what you’re doing with WAS security and have a need to use it in a development environment.
  10. You’ll also notice that there’s a warning about the currently selected location for creating the profile. This is the third problem I listed above. The default location shown is for creating the profile in the installation directory of RSA. Change the location to a directory in your home directory. For instance, I told it to use /home/laura/IBM/profiles.
  11. When the wizard has created the profile (which will take a few moments – you can see the activity in the bottom-right of the RSA window), the default server for the profile is listed in the Servers view on the right-hand-side of the RSA window.
    The server is listed as ‘stopped’.
  12. Right-click the server then click Profile. This opens a dialog box about the profile; I just accepted the defaults then it failed to start the server (the error said it had failed to start within 300 seconds). But when I repeated this step, the server started.

And that’s as far as I’ve got but it’s further than ever before. If I come across any more gotchas, or take some screenshots, I’ll update this post.

Yes, it is a pain to have to do all this but remember that WAS isn’t supported (as far as I know) on Ubuntu Karmic. If you want it easier, install it on something that is supported. If you want it on Ubuntu, I hope this post (and the others I cribbed information from) helps. 🙂