Koha turns 15

I’m not totally sure, but I think the 9th of September was when we first had a working DB connector going, the base of what would become Koha. Work started on September 6, but I think the 9th was when we first had some working code. So that would make it 15 years old today. Some useless facts:

Feel free to chip in with any other facts you can think of.

Posted on September 9, 2014 at 1:34 pm by Chris · Permalink · One Comment
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Unsung heroes of Koha 29 – Jim Minges

I only ever met Jim in person once, at ALA in New Orleans a few years ago but his reputation well and truly preceded him. For those who don’t know Jim is retiring from his role as Director of NEKLS (Northeast Kansas Library System). But in his time as Director, NEKLS have embraced not only Koha but Open Source in general. Here is just a small part of that story, from facts I have gleaned by asking around. Please if anyone has any corrections, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Back in the day, NEKLS had a shared regional catalogue (I’m going with NZ english spelling before someone corrects that:)) called NExpress. They joined another consortium that was running a Sirsi system. Due to a variety of reasons including the desire to be in control of the system, to be able to mold it to their needs and to be in control of the implementation, they decided to move to another ILS. Due to those same reasons it really could only be an Open Source system, other systems simply can not be modified to anywhere near the same extent. Of course when choosing Koha, the monetary cost came into consideration, buying licenses for the 13 libraries that were part of the shared system at that time was a decent chunk of money.

Being the Director, the buck stopped with Jim, and he made the decision (trusting in the skills and knowledge of his staff) to go with Koha. As NExpress is all about resource sharing, the value of a project where sharing is the core became pretty evident. From what I can tell from reading and talking with people who worked with Jim, the values resonated with him personally as well. Under Jim’s leadership NEKLS began to cooperate and share on a world stage, developments paid for by NEKLS are being used by libraries in every corner of the world.

However this certainly wasn’t the only hard Koha related decision Jim had to make, when Liblime moved away from the community, and began to offer support only for their fork of Koha, NEKLS had to decide what it would do. So despite it being a very hard decision to make and that it would most certainly involve ramifications, Jim took the bold choice to move from Liblime before the contract had ended and back to Koha (supported by ByWater Solutions).

The takeaway from me is that Jim is the kind of leader any organisation deserves, but so few get. Someone who can make the tough choices, but who trusts the knowledge and expertise of his people to guide those choices.

So thanks Jim, Koha and it’s community would be a poorer place without you.

Posted on August 20, 2014 at 11:27 am by Chris · Permalink · One Comment
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Unsung heroes of Koha 28 – Rachel Hamilton-Williams

A few years ago, and I’m sure that everyone would know of Rachel, however over time as new people join the community it’s important to refresh the collective memory.  Without Rachel Koha wouldn’t exist, it’s as simple as that. Not many people would be game to agree to have their company write a library system in 3.5 months, even less would be able to make it happen. Rachel did both those things. She managed the project, provided lots of testing, did all the design including UI and UX, as well as making sure all the other clients of Katipo continued to be looked after.

Even though Rachel isn’t very active in the community anymore, Katipo still provide the hosting of the main mailing list, and Rachel helps to look after maintenance of the list. After 15 years (we started in August 1999) I am sure neither Rachel or I thought Koha would be as popular as it is now, and without Rachel it most definitely would not have been.

Posted on August 17, 2014 at 9:39 pm by Chris · Permalink · One Comment
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Gatekeepers or Gatecrashers

This post is a collection of not fully formed thoughts, ideas that I have been mulling over since my VALA boot camp on epublishing. Take them with a grain of salt please.

Traditionally information professionals, be they Archivists, Librarians, Curators or the rest of the cultural heritage sector, have been seen (rightly or wrongly) as gatekeepers of knowledge and information. These days as information becomes more and more locked down (DMCA, DRM, never expiring copyright, etc) the term gatekeeper becomes more and more accurate.

Every DRM encumbered book a library lends makes DRM one little bit more accepted. Every borrower who is helped to jump through the ridiculous hoops that DRM puts in front them is one more step in normalising it. When we make gallery exhibition apps that work only on ‘I’ devices we encourage our users to use proprietary software. In essence I contend that we are actually providing a disservice when we do these things.

Luckily at the same time this increased lock in is occurring, the Open Access movement is also increasing. I say Open Access not Open Data, because data is just 1s and 0s it is useless without software. And if the software I need to access the data isn’t Open, then I don’t have Open Access.

So I think we need to become gatecrashers, we should at the very least be pointing out the gates are there, and who put them there, at best we should be busting them open. Let’s promote Open Access, that’s Open Data and Open Software, at every opportunity we get. Let’s push back against those who would put knowledge in a walled garden. Let’s storm the gates and send them crashing open.

Posted on July 5, 2014 at 5:18 pm by Chris · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Geek · Tagged with: ,

How to avoid burn out

One of the great advantages of working on Free Software is the openness and transparency, not only of the code but of the processes around creating the code.  Weirdly (or perhaps not weirdly) this can also be a disadvantage. We can see all the bugs … we know we can fix them, but also sometimes  we can’t fix them as fast as we want. Or  we can see the bugs but don’t have the time, or the permission, to fix them. This can be hugely frustrating, and can cause us to feel like we are not making any progress. What can exacerbate this is the fact we can see all the process, if our patch gets stuck at QA, or signoff, we can see this, it’s all open.

How do we get around this? I don’t really have the answer, but what works for me is mini breaks. Take a week off, or even a day or two off every time you begin to feel a little burnt out. Work on another project, read a book, knit a scarf .. do anything except work on patches in your evenings :) This works for me, a few days off and I’m excited and ready to go again, what never works for me is trying to slog on through it.

Posted on June 25, 2014 at 10:25 pm by Chris · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Geek

Some Catalyst stats from Koha 3.16.0

For 3.16.0 there have been a total of 1262 changesets from 77 different developers.

Catalyst submitted 44 of those changes, and the Catalyst Academy another 13.  Also Catalyst signed off (tested) 172 patches, and the Academy students signed off another 21.

I want to make a special mention of Aleisha Amohia here, who has been coming in to Catalyst every couple of weeks for a few hours after school to test patches.  She has 1 patch and 8 signoffs in Koha 3.16.0



Posted on May 23, 2014 at 9:55 am by Chris · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Who drives the bus?

In late April I attended a symposium on supporting cultural heritage with open source software. It was a great symposium, with lots of very interesting discussion. One thing was brought to my attention though, that I wanted to write about here, is that there was a perception that the development of features in Koha is driven by the developers. I’m not sure how this was arrived at but it couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact of the many thousand features in Koha, less than 50 (and 50 is probably too high) have come from anything other than directly from a library’s desire.
Developers may drive things like the switch to Template::Toolkit, or adding DBIX::Class, but almost every end user feature has come as a result of a library asking for it. There are no focus groups, no marketing departments deciding what features to add based on what they think people will buy. Features are added to meet the needs of users, when/if those needs are articulated.

I’ll finish with this quote from irc

oh except that time .. when katipo decided to write an ils just for fun, then forced HLT to use it

Posted on May 9, 2014 at 3:01 am by Chris · Permalink · Comments Closed
In: Koha · Tagged with: ,

Here I fixed it for you.

Over at the NZ Herald they have a story about Maurice Williamson. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11247889. And in typical NZ media fashion, they other all ethnicities except pakeha, IE the only ethnicity that is mentioned is Chinese, and more than once, so I fixed it for them



Pakeha National MP Maurice Williamson has revealed he used Chinese businessman Donghua Liu’s holiday home in the Coromandel and did renovations on the property, despite earlier claiming Liu was not a friend.

The new details about his relationship with the wealthy Chinese investor and National Party donor came as Mr Williamson denied arranging preferential treatment for Liu.


Announcing his resignation as a minister yesterday, the Pakeha MP distanced himself from the businessman. He told reporters outside his Pakuranga electorate office that they were not friends, noting that Liu did not speak English, and they did not socialise.

He later told TV3’s Campbell Live that Liu owned a bach next to his family’s holiday house at Pauanui, and the Pakeha MP used Liu’s property and did minor repair work on it while the businessman was in China.

“I’m a fan of being a handyman and the house was good to be able to use while we were doing it,” he said.

Mr Williamson recommended the neighbouring holiday home to Liu when it went on the market.

He also said he had had dinner with Liu as part of a group five or six times.

It has previously been reported that Mr Williamson lobbied for Liu to gain citizenship – against the advice of Government officials.

A Herald investigation today reveals Liu’s citizenship ceremony was held in Mr Williamson’s electorate office, the day after he was granted the status of a New Zealander.

But the Pakeha MP rejected accusations that he had allowed Liu’s wealth, donations or friendship to influence his judgment.

Mr Williamson said he believed he was doing his job as a Pakeha MP when he contacted a pakeha police superintendent to inquire about two domestic violence charges laid against Liu in December.

He had been “shocked” at the charges because Liu had required a clean record to get a New Zealand visa.

Asked why he told the superintendent about Liu’s large investments in New Zealand, he said it was to provide “background” for police. But he admitted that he had made an error in judgment.

“There is clearly a perception that a Member of Parliament should not call the police at all about a case and I will make sure I will never do that again.”

He was “shattered” and “gutted” about his demotion to the backbenches and his family were “in a bit of tatters”.

Pakeha Prime Minister John Key was in no doubt that Mr Williamson had “crossed the line” by contacting the police about the Liu case.

“There’s no grey in this. In the end there’s a line. The line says that ministers do not involve themselves in police prosecutions, because constabulary independence runs at the heart of the New Zealand judicial system. Ministers cannot, in my opinion, make phone calls when there’s an ongoing prosecution, whatever the motivations.

“The minute he made the phone call, in my view, he crossed the line.”

Mr Williamson vowed to hang on to the Pakuranga seat he has held for 27 years.

He has already been chosen as National’s candidate in the electorate, which he retained in 2011 with one of the largest majorities in the country – 13,800 votes.

He could have new competition. Pakeha Conservative leader Colin Craig and Pakeha Act Party leader Jamie Whyte have both expressed interest in standing there.

Dr Whyte, who grew up in Pakuranga, said last night he had new confidence after yesterday’s events.


Posted on May 2, 2014 at 7:45 am by Chris · Permalink · Comments Closed
In: Arsehats

Atlanta .. the food and drink version

So while I was in Atlanta I went on a mission to try as much southern food and local Atlanta beer as I could. Some of the places  I visited were

If you are ever in Atlanta you should totally try them. Publik and Tap for local beer, and good food. The other 2 for some of the best food you will ever taste. Your Doctor won’t thank you, but your taste buds sure will.

Finally, I also ate a cheeseburger from Five guys, so I’ll leave you with this, which is a more eloquent version of my reaction

Posted on April 30, 2014 at 10:53 am by Chris · Permalink · Comments Closed
In: Travel · Tagged with: 

International FOSS developer cooperation

A few weeks ago my laptop died so I needed to buy a new one.  As I am heading off to Atlanta for the  Supporting Cultural Heritage Open Source Software Symposium, I thought hmm, I could get a System76 laptop and pick it up when I’m there.

Equinox Software  support both Evergreen and Koha and are based in Atlanta, even though I have never met most of them, they agreed to have the laptop  delivered there. So when I get to Atlanta, I will go pick it up, exchange some beers, then go back to my hotel and check out my presentation out of git ready for the next day.

So thanks to a company that specialises in Linux laptops, and another that specialises in FOSS library software, I will have a brand new laptop running Linux in 3 days time.

Update: Here it is, so far I love it.

2014-04-23 15.39.51

Posted on April 20, 2014 at 9:34 pm by Chris · Permalink · Comments Closed
In: Geek