Debian

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Finally: A student once again

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 01/21/2014 - 21:47

Formally, today is my first day as a student on a formal, scholarized institution — Basically for the first time in almost twenty years!

Yes, those that know me know that I aspire to live the life of academia. I have worked at public universities for almost all of my adult life (between 1997 and 1999 I worked at a local ISP and at a private school), and have had a minor academic position («Técnico Académico») for almost ten years. And not having a proper degree limited me from pursuing anything further.

Then, in early 2010 I presented the written exam. By late 2010, the corresponding oral exam. That allowed me to get my formal diploma in December 2010. By the end of 2011, I requested to be a teacher in the Engineering Faculty of UNAM, and started teaching Operating Systems a year ago, in January 2012.

So, a good advance in the last few years... But I know that if I just sit here, I won't be able to advance my position towards really entering the Sacred Halls of Academia. And there are some rituals I have to comply with. One of those rituals is... Devoting some long time to studying under the formal structures.

Ok, so I'm finally a postgraduate student — I have enrolled in Especialidad en Seguridad Informática y Tecnologías de la Información, a short (one year) postgraduate program in ESIME Culhuacán, of Instituto Politécnico Nacional (a small campus of Mexico's second-largest university).

Some friends have asked me, why am I starting with a Specialization and not a Masters degree. Some simple reasons: Just as when I went to Tijuana in 2010 to do my written exam, once I got and started with the paperwork, I didn't want to let it go — If I postpone it, I will probably lose the push to do it by May-July, when the Masters admission process starts. Also, this specialization can be linked with the masters degree on the same topic given at the same campus. This program is one year long, and the masters two — But having them both takes 2.5 years. So, not such a bad deal after all. And finally, because, after such a long time without being scholarized, I fear not having an easy time getting to grips with the discipline. I can commit to overworking myself for a year — If it's too much for me, I'll just stay with that degree and give up. I expect to like it and continue... But it's also a safe bet :-)

Now, there has to be a downside to picking up this path: Of course, my free time will be harshly reduced. I have reduced my Debian involvement in the last year, as I devoted a huge chunk of my time to teaching and book-writing... This year... We shall see what happens. I can for now only confirm what I have said publicly but inside our team only: I have requested to my peers and to our DPL to step down as a DebConf chair. I love organizing DebConf, but I don't want to be formally committed to a position I just cannot fulfill as I did when I started with it. As for package maintenance, by far most of my packges are team maintained, and those that are not are relatively easy to keep track of. And of course, I'll keep an eye on my keyring-maint duties as well — Will even try to link that work with what I do at school!

Anyway, lets see what comes now!

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Talking in Paraná: Free Software philosophy / the Debian project. PS: Want to contribute?

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 11/10/2013 - 20:46

I'm very happy: I was finally able to present a talk at a Free Software conference in Paraná, Argentina — Regina's hometown. Not only in Paraná, but at the Vieja Usina culture center, half a block away from her parents' house. So, I must doubly thank Laura: First, for letting us know there would be a Free Software conference there, and second, for taking some pictures :-}

What was this conference? Conferencia Regional de Software Libre, organized by Grupo de Usuarios de GNU/Linux de Entre Ríos (GUGLER). Of course, flying to Argentina (and more specifically, to Paraná, which is ~500Km away from the international airport) just for a one day conference was out of the question — So I gave the talk by videoconference. Of course, given we will be travelling for the December vacations to Argentina, I expect to meet in person the GUGLER guys soon.

I gave a single talk, mixing together two different topics: (my very personal take on) the Free Software philosophy and Debian's place in the Free Software universe. I had a very good time giving the talk, and while I was unable to look at my audience, I got reports saying they were happy and interested. I even got some mails from them, which makes me quite happy ;-)

Now, one of the recurring points whenever I talk about Debian: I often tell people that I cannot tell them why they should use Debian instead of other distributions. My years testing every distribution I come across are long gone, and I nowadays am familiar with Debian only. But I also tell them that personally I gain nothing by having more Debian users in the world — What I want to achieve is the next logical step: To have more people contributing to Debian. So, here is a great opportunity for interested people, specifically a group that often has a hard time finding a way to collaborate with Free Software projects.

Today, Paul Tagliamonte published a call for proposals for Debian 8 (Jessie)'s artwork. So, given many people always want to find a way to contribute to Free Software without being a coder, here's a golden opportunity. You can look at the themes sent for Debian 7 as a reference; look also at the technical requirements for your artwork, and... Well, you have until early February to work on it!

After Debian's 20th birthday, everybody's life gets back to normality...

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 08/18/2013 - 21:37

As I slowly read my good friends wishing each other a good trip, telling they got home safely, and the IRC channels form thick drops of a bitter-sweet etheral substance, I cannot help feeling DebConf13 is over — For me as well, from the distance. Many friends gave me warm greetings, and without being there, gave me that beautiful feeling of real community that Debian has given me for ten years already, since I met in real-life many of its developers at DebConf3 in Oslo. And –yes, I have stated this far too many times– I have attended every DebConf since (and worked organizing most of them). This year, over 300 people were gathered in Switzerland to enjoy the always most intense weeks of the year.

This year, I was unable to attend due to calendar clashes. Even so, without the stress that organizers have, and thanks to the great work of the always-loved Video Team, I think I was able to be present at more sessions than at in any of the last few years. Oh, and for the readers of this blog who were not there — Do you want to follow what was presented? You can download already the videos for all of the recorded presentations (that were, due to the planned coverage and the manageable size of the Video Team, about ⅔ of the total scheduled sessions). And, as always, I was able to follow many very interesting talks and take part of a couple interesting meetings/BoF sessions. I still have a bit of catchup, partly due to the timezone difference (I was only at one of the sessions during the Swiss morning, at 02:30 local time, the pkg-ruby-extras team BoF).

Anyway... Not being there, I surely was an avid consumer of the photos posted in the DebConf13 gallery, and will surely follow it for some more time as some of you upload your pending material. It was clear from the beginning that, no matter what your definition of consensus is, the chosen venue was beautiful. A beautiful place between the lake and the mountains where our sportiest guys had a very good share of morning runs, cycling sessions, competition sports of different types, outright plain fun for attendees of all sizes and all species...

But, hey, wait! During a chat in the course of DebConf, a friend told me a bit worried that all this beauty and fun might make our dear and very important sponsors they are paying for a geek vacation, is it so? No, not at all. Not by a long stretch. And just looking at those same galleries makes it clear and obvious. After all, it's widely known that Debian is the operating system for the gurus. Simple: It's impossible to have all those geeks without getting amazing work done, in ways that even seem clichés (this last photo had Joey Hess explaining dpkg format version 3.0 (git) ideas, sketched after waking up at 3AM on the first sketching surface available to him). After all, Debian people are famous for their inclination to use any excuse to open their computers and hack away. We can find Debianers hacking in small spaces and also hacking out in the fields. But this time, people were able to hack indoors while enjoying the nature and hack outdoors under a tree. And, yes, one of the things that makes organizing DebConf worth it is, after ≈eleven months having low-bandwidth meetings over IRC, having the opportunity to plan for the next days face to face, in a relaxed but work-full environment.

Anyway, here at home I didn't sit idly just longing over them. How could I? We are just celebrating the Debian Project's 20th anniversary!

http://gwolf.org/content/jonathan-host-and-organizer-rancho-electr-nico">Jonathan, a Debian enthusiast, student at my university, and collaborator for several free software-related collectives in Mexico City, invited me to the celebration at Rancho Electrónico (which I recently mentioned in this same blog). While I was unable to stay for the whole celebration, we had a very good time; I talked about some ways on how to contribute to Debian. Although I didn't have much of a presentation prepared for it, I feel it was successful and interesting for the attendees — I just hope to start seeing some of them get into any of the ways for helping Debian soon. I also stayed as a listener and ocassional commenter for a talk on the Debian Project's history and goals, and to a presentation on a nifty electronic music programming tool called Supercollider (of course, available in Debian).

Now, "regular" life should continue. For some value of "regular".

At Rancho Electrónico

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 08/18/2013 - 20:35
At Rancho Electrónico

Paying attention to another presentation at Rancho Electrónico's Debian 20th anniversary celebration

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Jonathan, host and organizer at Rancho Electrónico

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 08/18/2013 - 20:32
Jonathan, host and organizer at Rancho Electrónico

Jonathan came up with a large chunk of the organization for Debian's 20th anniversary celebration at Rancho Electrónico. Thanks!

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Starting my talk for Debian's 20th birthday at Rancho Electrónico

Submitted by gwolf on Sun, 08/18/2013 - 20:26
Starting my talk for Debian's 20th birthday at Rancho Electrónico

Starting a very improvised talk at Debian 20th anniversary party at Rancho Electrónico

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Not in Switzerland — But still, cheering for Debian's 20th anniversary!

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 08/09/2013 - 11:19

So... Well, contrary to the popular sentiment in Planet Debian, this year I'm very sorry to inform that...

-(

This is the first DebConf I miss in ten years, so... Yes, it's a big bummer for me. I'm not attending because this year, DebC(amp|onf) coincide with the two first weeks of classes at my university — And as a new teacher, I cannot afford to miss it!

Anyway, but that should not stand in the way to attend a nice Debian 20th anniversary party!

Parties will be held around the world. (Didn't find your city? Plan something and add it *now!*). In Mexico City, the nice guys at the very interesting Rancho Electrónico hackerspace took the lead, and organized the following activities:

Debian Day 2013 Mexico City program

Don't you yet know the hackerspace? You should go there! It's in a very centric location, just two blocks West from Metro San Antonio Abad (Juan Lucas Lassaga 114, col. Obrera). And the only two times I have been there, it has been good fun. Surely this Saturday we can have a nice party as well!

The planned activities are from 13:30 to 20:30. See you there!

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A little extra value in 3.0 (quilt) format

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 05/24/2013 - 21:28

Wouter still does not like the 3.0 (quilt) packaging format. And as he writes on his blog, I shall answer on mine.

And what if one of the blogs becomes unreachable with time? Aha! That's one of the weaknesses, Wouter, on yuor closing comment:

I have all my packages stored in git with a proper Vcs-Git: header; if people really want to look at individual patches, they can just use debcheckout, kthxbye.

I am aware this would not be so much of an argument, or so much of a change. But the way I view a shipped package is that it should, by itself, be as a snapshot with its whole, full description. Say that three years from now Apple has scrubbed your brain and you went to work with them. And you decided to pull all of your non-iOS repositories. They have convinced you working for Debian is bad for mankind. So you erase all of your Git repos, including those in Alioth or whatever.

But Debian Wheezy has some of your packages. And three years from now, I decided to be the maintainer.

So, having fully commented and individually marked patches is a sort-of-way to avoid a situation akin to the tentacles of evil.

Now, it's not that I'm criticizing your workflow. I have sen many ways to manage patches in quite a natural way, and I undestand it might be way easier when dealing with complex packages (FWIW I usually deal with very little complexity). Still, it is an argument.

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Talking about Debian while Debian was getting released

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 05/07/2013 - 11:59

Last Saturday, I was invited to talk about Debian to Hackerspace DF, a group that is starting to work at a very nice place together with other collectives, in a quite centric place (Colonia Obrera). I know several of the people in the group (visited them a couple of times in the space's previous incarnation), and wish them great luck in this new hackerspace!

Anyway — I was invited to give an informal talk about Debian. And of course, I was there. And so was Alfredo, who recorded (most of) it.

So, in case you want to see me talking about how Debian works, mostly on a social organization level (but also regarding some technical details). Of course, given the talk was completely informal (it started by me standing there, asking, "OK, any questions?"), I managed to mix up some names and stuff... But I hope that, in the end, the participants understood better what Debian means than when we started.

Oh, and by the end of the talk, we were all much happier. Not only because I was about to shut up, but because during my talk, we got notice that Debian 7.0 "Wheezy" was released.

Anyway — If you want to see me talking for ~1hr, you can download the video or watch it on YouTube.

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Ten years already!

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/18/2013 - 20:49

(actually, please set your calendars to the day before yesterday — I had a mental tab on this, but it seems watching mental tabs is a low-priority task for brain.sched)

Ten years ago today, I got that long awaited mail telling me I had passed all of the needed hurdles and was accepted as a Debian Developer. We were at the first third of a very long release cycle, and the general spirit of the project was clearly younger — both as in "things moved easier" and "we were much more immature" — Try to follow the mailing list discussions we had back then, and even with all the vitriol that's every now and then spilled on debian-whatever@lists.debian.org, it's clear we have more experience working together.

And yes, the main change that ten years bring to a group of people is social. I was at DebConf in Oslo when the now-historic presentation that prompted the birth of the Debian-Women group was given — Surely, Debian (and Free Software) still is by far predominantly male and white — But I fel it's no longer a hostile group, much to the contrary.

Over the years, I was first active (as was the norm by then) as a "solo" maintainer. When Joachim Breitner started the pkg-perl group in 2004, I joined, and was part of the group while an important part of my work was based in Perl. I joined pkg-ruby-extras, and slowly migrated my technical work from one to the other. For several years, I also maintained the Cherokee webserver. I started getting involved in DebConf organization in 2005, and (except for 2008, as I took a vacation from many topics due to personal issues). Back in 2009, I became an official delegate! I joined Jonathan McDowell handling keyring maintenance. One year later, another delegation: With Moray Allan and Holger Levsen, the three of us became the DebConf chairs.

This last couple of months, I have been quite inactive in most of my Debian work. I took up teaching at the univerity, and have been devoting what amounts to basically a full time job to prepare material. I expect (hope!) this craze to reach back a "workable" level by late May, when the course finishes, and I can retake some of my usual Debian tasks.

Anyway — 10 years. Wow. This project is one of the longest commitments in my life. I am still very happy I joined, it still thrills me to say I am part fo this great project, it still makes me proud to be accepted as a peer by so many highly skilled and intelligent people — But, as I have repeatedly stated, I see Debian more as a social project (with a technological product) than as a technical one. And as such, I am really happy to have made so many good, close friends in this project, to have the opportunity to work and exchange points of view about anything, and have this large, highly disfunctional but very closely regarded family of friends.

So, guys, see you this August in Switzerland. I will be among the group celebrating we have been there for half of the project's history!

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