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  1. Staring Ahead At 2017

    2016 was not the best of years. While my parents have told me that it wasn't a bad year, my "log line" for year was that this was the year I was under investigation, threat assessment, and who knows what other official review. These things kinda happen when you work in the civil service of a president who sometimes thinks he is a Stuart monarch and even worse acts like one from time to time.

    Tonight I spent some time playing with a software-defined radio. A project in 2017 is to set up an automated recorder out in the garage to monitor the CBC Radio One outlet that is audible from the other side of Lake Erie in southwest Ontario. Right now there is a bit of a noise problem to overcome with some antenna construction as the waterfall display below shows I can barely even hear the local outlet of NOAA Weather Radio (KEC58) out in Erie, Pennsylvania amidst some broad-spectrum noise shown in yellow:

    Seeking the station at 162.400 MHz

    Even though it isn't funded, I'm still looking at the Outernet research project. By way of Joey Hess over in the pump.io spaces, I see I'm not the only one thinking about them either as there was a presentation at 33c3. Eventually I'll need to watch that.

    I will note contra David Tomaschik that disclosure of employee information that is available under the Freedom of Information Act isn't really a hack. In general you can request that directory information from any federal agency including DHS and FBI. The FOIA micro-site created by the US Department of Justice can help in drafting your own inquiries.

    The folks at the Ubuntu Podcast had an opportunity to prognosticate about the future. With the storm and stress of my civil service post, frankly I forgot to chip in. This happens increasingly. Since I used to be an Ubuntu-related podcaster I can offer some prognostication.

    My guesses for 2017 include:

    • I may not be a federal civil servant by the end of 2017. It probably won't be by my choice based upon the views of the incoming administration.
    • 2017 will be the Year of Xubuntu.
    • Laura Cowen will finish her PhD.
    • Lubuntu will be subsumed into the Kubuntu project as a light version of Kubuntu.
    • There will be a steep contraction in the number of Ubuntu derivatives.
    • James Cameron will retcon the Terminator franchise once again and now call Skynet instead Mirai.
    • The United States will lose a significant portion of its consumer broadband access. The rest of the world won't notice.
    • I may celebrate New Year's Eve 2017 well outside the Continental United States and quite possibly outside US jurisdiction.

    To all a happy new year. We have work to do.

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  2. Heading Into Christmas

    Nine months ago I had a blog post up about "Apologizing". This continues what was said there as the matter I was apologizing about then finally came to a conclusion. You can read that if you want.

    Many folks who frequent a variety of "hacker" events worry about the so-called Five Eyes and, if they're in the US, the actions of "three letter agencies" towards them. I can nowadays say that I was under investigation for the vast majority of 2016 by "three letter agencies" as well as four letter agencies, five letter agencies, and bureaus you've probably never heard of. Those investigations are successfully concluded although they got really messy at points where I had to limit contacts with "non-US persons" and verify if people in the US that I came into contact with were US citizens or not.

    When you're involved in Linux at large or even the Ubuntu realm more specifically, that's incredibly restricting. I could end up apologizing until well beyond the heat death of the universe to people I had to ask questions of so that I could be prepared for sit-down meetings with investigators. All of this came about simply due to a transfer request to move from one federal civil service job to another. That wound up on hold initially for an investigation that went 9 months overdue and then even as that is finally done the job transfer is stuck on hold for an additional fiscal year.

    I had yet another co-worker literally carried out on a stretcher from the job last week. Our attrition rate at work has been phenomenal over the past several months. We're not BOFHs by any stretch but we're in a high pressure environment as civil servants handling the cases of citizens and beyond. The stress of our work gets bad enough at points that when we talk about "group rates" for counseling sessions it is more a form of dark humor than anything else. This is why the extraordinary measures were taken to even attempt the transfer request with all the restrictive hoops that cut me off from the community. The gamble was to get through processing things and then be able to re-join community activities. Sadly it didn't work and I've been watching crewmates get ground down.

    As we've discussed in The Group, the plan for many of us is to leave the civil service. As I've been studying hard about mass care, the Incident Command System, as well as doing more to back up the ministry of West Avenue Church of Christ it seems that that is something to slide into. I could also concurrently pick the almost moribund not-funded research project up off the floor as the Outernet satellite effort keeps taking new directions but there is little external evaluation of it such as I propose to do. Getting out would allow me to be able to contribute back to the Ubuntu realm at least somewhat once 4 hours of the day spent commuting get reallocated to other uses.

    For others looking at contributing, all I can say is not only am I not a lawyer I am also not your lawyer. For US tax guidance, Chapter 24 of Publication 17 Your Federal Income Tax may be quite useful to read as it talks about deducting contributions. If you look at Table 24-1 and decide that you want to support the "Domestic Mission Field Activity" at West Avenue Church of Christ that I already do work in, you can write to:

    West Avenue Church of Christ
    5901 West Avenue
    Ashtabula, OH 44004
    United States of America

    I wish I could say the congregation has a website or an electronic presence but it doesn't so postal mail is it. The Field Activity has seen actions like me preaching in the woods as well as helping put together the church's outreach float in the Ashtabula City Christmas parade. When the regular pulpit minister is out, I'm the normal backup.

    Unlike the "Holiday Hole" by the folks at Cards Against Humanity, I would say something productive would come out of funding me working 2017. External evaluation of the Outernet satellite effort can finally get underway. I would be aiding in the care of souls from a different perspective compared to metaphorically swinging the sword of state in my current job. I could probably sleep far more easily than I currently do. Some publishing work would be done as papers would be printed.

    Since various efforts from the Software Freedom Conservancy, Free Software Foundation, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are also out there I'll say that frankly there isn't a fixed dollar amount sought. I don't hazard a guess what will come. Ohio will have an increase in its minimum hourly wage for 2017 and the Ohio Development Services Agency released an updated scorecard as to what the "median income" and other stats are for Ashtabula County. For far, far less than was raised for the Holiday Hole that was later filled back in by the Cards Against Humanity folks I can walk away from the conundrums of what it would mean to be a civil servant in the time of President Donald Trump.

    If I don't catch up with you otherwise, have a merry Christmas. I've been "disappeared" from IRC for quite a while. I hope to fix that one of these days...

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  3. Ubuntu Community Appreciation Day 2016

    A screenshot of Ubuntu Planet showing a blog post by Svetlana Belkin

    A screenshot of Ubuntu Planet showing a blog post by Svetlana Belkin

    I had almost forgotten about Ubuntu Community Appreciation Day 2016. There is much for me to appreciate this year. I have had to absent myself from many community activities and functions for almost the entire year. There have been random blog posts and I have popped up on mailing lists at the weirdest of times but I have mostly been gone.

    Being under audit and investigation for almost the entirety of 2016 can do that to you. Working in a government job also causes such things to happen, too. Thankfully I’m not moving onward and upward to higher office but I’m now thoroughly vetted for all sorts of lateral moves.

    The Xubuntu Sticker from SpreadUbuntu.org found at http://spreadubuntu.org/en/material/sticker/xubuntu-sticker made by lyz

    The Xubuntu Sticker from SpreadUbuntu.org found at http://spreadubuntu.org/en/material/sticker/xubuntu-sticker made by lyz

    I thoroughly appreciate and miss the Xubuntu team. A great distro continues to be made. I wish I was still there to contribute. Life right now says I have other missions to undertake especially as social fabric in the United States of America seems to get all bendy and twisty.

    Tomorrow is another day.

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  4. From Yakkety To Zesty

    I've seen Ms. Belkin go ahead and wrap up the Y (Yakkety) season while giving a look ahead to the Z (Zesty) season. I'm afraid I cannot give as much of a report. My participation in the Ubuntu realm has been a bit held back by things beyond my control.

    During the Y season I was stuck at work. I have a hefty commute to work which pretty much wrecks my day when included with my working hours. My work is considered seasonal which for a federal civil servant means that it is subject to workload constraints. Apparently we did not have a proper handle on workload this year. The estimate was that our work would be done by a certain date and we would go on "seasonal release" or furlough until we are recalled to duty. We missed that date by quite a longshot. After quite a bit of attrition, angry resignations, people checking into therapy, people developing cardiac issues, and worse my unit received "seasonal release" only last Friday. Recall could be as soon as two weeks away.

    The only main action I really wanted to handle during Y was to get a backport in of dianara and pumpa if they dropped new releases. I was a little late in doing so but I just got the backport bug for dianara filed tonight. I kept stating I would wait for furlough to do the testing but furlough took long enough that a couple versions of dianara went by in the interim. Folks looking at pump.io have to remember that even the website to a server is itself a client and new features have to be implemented in clients for the main server engine to pass around. The website isn't the point to pump.io but rather the use of a client of your choice is and a list is being maintained.

    I don't really know what the plan is for Z for me. Right now many eyes around the world are focused on the election for President of the United States. People regard that office as the so-called leader of the free world. That person also happens to be head of the civil service in the United States. Neither of the major party candidates have nice plans for my employing agency. Both scare me. A good chunk of the attrition and angry resignations at work has been people fleeing for the safety of the private sector in light of what is expected from either major party candidate.

    Backporting will continue subject to resource restrictions. I remain a student in the Emergency Management and Planning Administration program at Lakeland Community College with graduation expected in May 2017 subject to course availability. Right now I'm working on learning about the Incident Command System and how it is applied in addition to Continuity of Operations.

    Graphic From FEMA's Emergency Management Institute IS-800 Class of the Incident Command System
    Graphic From FEMA's Emergency Management Institute IS-800 Class of the Incident Command System

    Time will tell where things go. Clues are not readily available to me. I wish they were, perhaps...

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  5. Talking Dollars

    One of the hardest topics to talk about in a blog post is business. When it comes to the world of free software, it is generally assumed that there is an algorithm to take care of that. There are also folks out there who are dismissive of "business concerns" and lay concern that nobody should be concerned about your business model while they themselves receive compensation for work in someone else's business model.

    I haven't had much time due to the pressures of my job to spend on the fundraising campaign to raise money to get out of my job. Yes, it is an unfortunate catch. There was a research project proposed that may need some tweaks now but fundamentally remains concerned with reviewing access methods to the Internet via satellite. Considering the SpaceX disaster recently that destroyed Facebook's hardware that was to be deployed to space for Internet.org-based access, it is still a live topic without much open or published research. The basis for even doing such a thing started with a satellite called PACSAT launched in the early 1990s but to hear talk of these satellites today you'd think it was a totally new innovation.

    By the numbers:

    Total Sought

    $80,000.00

    Year 1 Annual Compensation

    $20,000.00

    Year 2 Annual Compensation

    $20,000.00

    Office Rent (Both Years)

    $12,000.00

    Communications (Both Years)

    $5,000.00

    Printing (Year Two)

    $3,000.00

    Travel (Year Two)

    $2,000.00

    Taxes & Other Compliance Costs (Year Zero)

    $18,000.00

    Now, these numbers at immediate face value look bizarre. What could cost so much? Isn't research free to conduct? Shouldn't anyone be glad they have a great employer?

    First and foremost, bear in mind that I am a civil servant. If you are having a difficult time watching news about the US presidential election, imagine what it looks like to me. The outcome of the election leads to a new chief executive and that may lead to many changes at work. None of the impending scenarios look that great that may yet take effect as of inauguration at 12:01 PM Eastern Time on January 20, 2017.

    Research isn't free to conduct. It takes time and that has a cost. Printing the results of research and presenting it somewhere also costs money, too. Working out of my home is not as doable as it might have been previously due to the number of family members being housed under one roof making it hard to have work space set aside. On the other hand there is a nice luthier's workspace here.

    Some specific structures were decided upon in putting this together. First and foremost was the need for leasing office space. As noted above, I don't have space to work out of home easily. Since the original proposal happened to have some actual functional research to it involving the mounting of antenna masts and other equipment, finding space elsewhere would be important. I put a new roof on the house not that long ago and do not have that much space to place antennae.

    This would have been structured as sole proprietor. That means that the judgment call was made that the project was small enough to not require the founding of a company to sustain a time-limited endeavor. After canvassing multiple potential fiscal sponsors, there was not a suitable match available in northeast Ohio that could be found either. Apparently smaller questions like this don't fit places like an already existing aerospace institute (not big enough) and too many local academic institutions are too focused on social justice/LGBT issues nowadays to do much cross-functional information science research. Paying the various fees to the Ohio Secretary of State for incorporation plus the minimum of $850 in user fees to the Internal Revenue Service itself to ask it for non-profit status was thought to be overkill for just one research project alone.

    In the sole proprietor status, all money received would book as income directly to me and I would be taxed on all of it. I would take a direct tax hit in one year even though the project is designed to run for two years. Ideally the running time was planned to be January 2017 through December 2018. Considering who my current employer as a civil servant happens to be, I'm actually well-trained for handling the paperwork involved in such issues and handling compliance in reporting the income. That's also why such a hefty chunk is broken out in the amounts above for paying taxes as well as covering other compliance costs. Income isn't tax-free when you're starting from scratch. This is the least complicated option financially and structurally.

    As to the other figures, they're not that hard. The annual compensation is a bit of a cut in pay from what I currently earn per year. I would be able to pay the mortgage but won't be buying diamond rings for anybody any time soon. Telecommunications costs are projected based upon the not very competitive market locally. Printing would involve having copies of the project final report produced for distribution. Travel would involve getting to a conference location to speak.

    These aren't the simplest decisions to make on how to proceed in setting things up. They are the difference between trying to proceed and giving up. As we continue to reinvent the wheel in providing Internet via satellite yet don't have a strong literature base about such forms of data transmission, there is a hole to be filled. Waiting for the perfect fiscal structure to support such research may easily result in the research becoming moot as time slips away.

    Some dollars have actually been received. Admittedly the goal is still pretty far away. I've not come close to "packing it in" and giving up just yet. Funds can still be donated here: https://www.generosity.com/education-fundraising/fixing-potholes-of-the-information-superhighway

    Creative Commons License
    Talking Dollars by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
    Based on a work at https://identi.ca/alpacaherder/note/GpHahBCeT7uy5xDPPziBhA.

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  6. Omnibus Grab Bag

    Poking My Head Back In

    It seems that I occasionally end up mentioning that I am still out there. This time it came about through leaving comments on a merge request. I haven't done such in a while due to the demands of my job. My account hasn't been hijacked on Launchpad and it really is me. After some time to reflect during the day I've come to recognize how jaded and cynical I can get in my day job.

    Other Changes

    It feels horrible not being a online content creator lately. I'm still a podcast listener and a working list of what I subscribe to is available via gpodder.net. I encourage everyone to subscribe to Cybersauce World News, the Podcast Of Power.

    I will be creating some content and presenting it on August 21st. This will be done primarily with F/LOSS tools. On behalf of the domestic missions Field Activity for West Avenue Church of Christ I will be preaching and leading Sunday services at the Music Along the River festival in the Harpersfield Covered Bridge metropark. The event has a Facebook presence. I've submitted a holding title for the Sunday sermon but may still change my mind as to what I'm speaking about. Initial thoughts were to be working from James 5.

    Repeating Something From Elsewhere

    My job is not good for my health. My last medical appointment was one where the medical provider yelled at me asking why I was still there. Complaints about having to pay the bills, keeping a roof over not just my head but also the heads of my parents, and more were offered as reasons as why I'm still there.

    We've been trying for games to help keep stress down. One has been to take a somewhat blanked out map of the USA and just put tick marks down each call to track which states are calling. That way you can see if the flavor of your day is Sunny Southwest, New England Chowder, Cajun/Gulf Coast, Cloudy Northwest, or EXTREMELY ANGRY New Yorker. Too many of the EXTREMELY ANGRY New Yorker especially with a helping of snotty Jersey boys leads to having A Bad Hair Day. My call queue keeps coming up Cajun/Gulf Coast.

    It could be said that The Process Is The Punishment in dealing with my employer. That brings up Eighth Amendment concerns over cruel & unusual punishment. Then again, so do random thoughts about how unusual flogging might be if you took out the horse whip and substituted in the biggest fish possible and greased it in while lashing at a person in a flogging. That amendment to the constitution prohibits not just cruel punishments but also unusual ones that may shock the conscience but are not necessarily considered "cruel".

    To bail me out of my nation's federal exchequer for something more stable yet sane such as the aerospace research project trying to consider the Outernet platform as it wants to move to cubesats even though it ignores cubesat history and suffers from a rejection by NASA to its aspirations while also evaluating what the startup is doing now, funds can be donated here: https://www.generosity.com/education-fundraising/fixing-potholes-of-the-information-superhighway/

    The deadline for that is September 30th, the end of the federal government's fiscal year. I may be furloughed at any time before then as it stands now but September 30th is the hard upper limit due to the current lack of approved appropriations legislation. After furlough I am out without a job until an indefinite recall date. Raising the cash lets me quit my current post and conduct research for two years, publish papers, present at conferences, and build new directions.

    Upgrade Paths

    My laptop is now on Xubuntu 16.04 (64-bit). Assessing the household's machinery shows a surprising number of 32-bit machines. The one currently active is sitting on Lubuntu 14.04. Other machinery is in mothballs but is still usable. I've got some hard decisions to make.

    Creative Commons License
    Omnibus Grab Bag by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
    Based on a work at https://identi.ca/alpacaherder/note/SvpAZ05qTcy4mRdMZcWBaQ.

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  7. Nobody Can Help If You Don't Tell Them You Need Help

    The Hatch Act, such as it is, makes it difficult for me to say much about politics under disability of being a federal civil servant in the United States. I can say that recent political wrangling at the federal level has resulted in many co-workers talking about running away from the current posts to seek duty stations abroad or private sector work abroad. Regardless of their political affiliation, many mandarins are not exactly looking forward to what is to come based upon the current political news.

    For a while there has been development of an "Abandon Ship!" plan. Prior versions of this included myself and more than few co-workers seeking to leave the federal civil service. Time has passed and some people managed to carry out their parts of the plan on their own by moving onward and upward.

    With some of the lunatic things being tossed about today concerning the death of former US President John F. Kennedy piled on top of other madness over the past eight months, I've come to the point of having to accelerate the single-person version of the "Abandon Ship!" plan. I've written and conducted research in information science and information policy. After putting together a two year program of work, I think it is time to return to that instead of helping move the federal bureaucracy forward.

    A fundraising effort via Indiegogo's "Generosity" platform has been set up. Considering the cost for two years of operations, the need to lease office space and pay for the overhead of that since municipal laws say I cannot work from home, regulatory compliance costs such as taxes, and hardware acquisition it isn't really a lot of money. I would not be a rich man from this.

    What's the Ubuntu angle? For fans of The Big Bang Theory, they might remember the episode in which Howard, Leonard, and Sheldon try to patent an invention. Howard gets shot down as he is a federal civil servant from NASA on a loan back arrangement to the school so the government owns his intellectual property developed or thought of while on-duty. Simply avoiding my massive commute to and from my "Post of Duty" would leave me more time to make contributions before even getting to who controls my IP output.

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