Debian

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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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Of European descent

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 04/18/2013 - 19:42

A colleague of mine at Facultad de Ingeniería pointed me to a note published in the Faculty's gazette about a short cycle of talks we had on April 4th, trying to get life and interest back in the once-active LIDSOL (Laboratorio de Investigación y Desarrollo en Software Libre, Free Software Research and Development Laboratory), which nowadays lies mostly dormant.

Good thing the official communication channels got notice of this! Only I am not sure if they can properly produce Spanish (as this feels more like an English redaction). Quoting only the first lines of the paragraph that referes to me:

La última conferencia fue presentada por Gunnar Wolf, que aunque su nombre nos hiciera pensar en una nacionalidad europea, él es nacido en tierras mexicanas pero con descendencias húngaras, austriacas y polacas.

Which translates to:

The last talk was presented by Gunnar Wolf, that although he has a name that makes us think about an European nationality, he was born in Mexican soil, but with Hungarian, Austriac and Polish descent.

As far as I can tell (and I am almost sure I know all of the story — At least on that regard), I have no descent yet. Not Hungarian, Austriac, Polish, nor of any nationality.

(nitpickers: Yes, similar words are often used. In Spanish, it would be correct to say de ascendencia húngara, austriaca y polaca, and in my attempt towards English translation, it would be of Hungarian, Austriac and Polish descent).

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So you want to be a leader

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 03/11/2013 - 18:46

So we are at the beginning of this year's Debian Project Leader elections. And yes, after Stefano's long and (IMO) very successful DPL term, I feel as my voting machinery is somewhat stuck; it will not be so easy to get it back up to speed. Anyway, I have glanced over the three platforms, but only actually read 1.5 from the three DPL platforms. I know that whoever succeeds, I will be quite happy with the results.

This year there are three runners for the post. I have worked in several teams with two of them, and would love to know better the third. In the same order as presented in the vote:

Gergely Nagy
I have not yet worked with Gergely, but enjoy reading him. The closest I have been to working with him was sketching a packaging tutorial during DebConf11, in Bosnia. Sadly, I was quite busy, and he picked up the complete workload — And correspondingly, got the credits. I can say that Gergely has a very important quality, the ability to put in seductively easy words the most complex processes. So, yes, being the Debian Leader post a public-facing one, I am certain he has one of the important qualities.
Moray Allan
We have worked together organizing DebConf for many years, first loosely as orga-team members, and starting two years ago (and together with Holger Levsen) as formal delegates. I think our team is quite well balanced, and Moray plays an important role. Holger and I are sometimes anxious to take measures, measures that IMO would have proven disastrous more than once. Moray is often the voice of reason. Given that another one of the DPL's roles is to mediate in social conflicts and keep Debian working smoothly (or something close to it ;-) ), that is also a very important trait of a DPL, and I'm also sure Moray would shine as a good leader.
Lucas Nussbaum
I have long been part of the pkg-ruby-extras team (although I am way less active than what I used to, where Lucas often dazzles us with his intense streaks of activity. Among this group of three, I see Lucas firstly as the most technically oriented, the biggest implementer. Also, as the proactive bug-finder and team-herder. And yes, Lucas is maybe the most enthusiastic about the (always) important Making Debian Sexy point. So, if elected, I'm sure this facet will also make him shine

So, it's not that I'm trying to bribe our next DPL with sweet nice words about how interesting a person or how good a friend he is, but am trying to look at the election process as something different. It seems for me that we are going to choose which Debian do we want to pursue for this starting period.

Now, for our soon-to-be-ex-DPL Stefano: As many will surely tell you (or already have): You rock. I truly enjoyed your DPL term, and there is much we should adopt and learn from your personality and leadership.

And, although it has waned over the past few years, many people tend to publish their (stated?) vote during the campaigning period. I (think I) have never done so, and this time I will surely not do so. Choosing a DPL involves personal feelings, sympathies, and many non-objective things. And although I know nobody will feel hurt if I don't put them in the first place, I prefer not to expose such issues. I can only assure you that this year, "None of the above" will sink to the bottom of my ballot.

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Dkg: Unwrap it with Blender. And ask @octagesimal / @casyopea !

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 02/28/2013 - 00:30

Daniel tells his story building a wooly mammoth, and throws some ideas on how this could be implemented easily with free software. But if I read his post correctly, Daniel still misses the precise ways to do it.

Our friends Octavio and Claudia (twitted hereby) have given some Blender courses here at our classroom at home (Guys! Come again! We miss you!), and host the Spanish-speaking g-blender community. At one of their courses, they showed how to model an object/character, and in order to color/texture its parts, you can unwrap it — This process yields a flattened image with the surfaces that build your object, that you can then color. Well, you can also use it as a base pattern to cut and sew your plush!

It is not meant to be used for this (although it works), so it won't give you the extra tabs to be sewn in place, and the joints might not be at the most comfortable places. But it is base you can work from.

Too cool not to repost

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 02/20/2013 - 21:54

[ post made mainly for those poor souls who don't yet follow Planet Debian, but do follow me ]

Earlier today, Roland Mas threw an idea towards whoever had too much free time: Implement a valid QR code construction that would become an interesting pattern when interpreted in Conway's Game of Life.

But, as Jurij Smakov promptly showed, there is only one flaw in Roland's request: The need for too much free time. Jurij replied within ~4hr with a arbitrary string to QR code converter that allows said code to be seeded into a Game of Life interpreter.

Jurij: You get all the geek points I had in store for this month.

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19 years of Debian

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 08/16/2012 - 12:19

Happy 19th birthday, Debian!

The Debian project is 19 years old now. Following Francesca's invitation (and Raphaël's lead, and using Leandro's image, collaboratively as it always happens here), I will tell a bit of my memories: How I got to Debian.

I am a Debian user since ~2000, and a Debian Developer since April 2003. But, just as Raphaël's, my history must go somewhat further back in time.

In 1992, I got my first 1200bps modem, and almost immediately became an avid BBS user (what's that? Javier Matuk talks [in Spanish] about BBSes in his newspaper column back in 1994). By mid 1993 I started operating my own BBS, CatarSYS. One of the key points that defined CatarSYS is that my focus was large-scale communication. I started connecting to several BBS networks, allowing messages to be relayed to distant people, mainly in the USA and Spain, and getting some feeds that could be seen as the poor man's Usenet.

At some point during the year I kept CatarSYS going, I got connected through a strange set of gateways to pure gold: A UUCP feed! This means, during some months, I operated the first (free, hobbyist) service that offered its users a free Internet mail address in Mexico. Yes, it was completely different to what we are used to today. I tried to connect to my provider at least three times a week, but this meant less than one week turnover time for messages sent to people anywhere in the world! But, back to Debian: Via this UUCP feed, I also got some real Usenet newsgroups — Including several on the comp.os category. I remember reading about Linux back then, and learning some commands, but didn't really get hooked into it.

I was in Israel from July 1994 to June 1995, doing completely non-computer-related tasks. Came back in 1995, and due to my father being an academic, got dialup internet access at home. WOW, *real* Internet!

It didn't take me long to start downloading Linux information and floppy images. One failed after another. But before the end of the year, I found in a bookshop a book (that included a CD-ROM) called "Build your own web server with Linux". WOW again — Remember this was still 1995! I bought it, and shortly afterwards, I had a Slackware system (Linux kernel 1.0.9) running. That meant many sleepless nights full of joy and frustration (as getting hardware to work was cloe to impossible).

By 1996, I got (within one week) my two first real jobs: A systems administrator at a small ISP and a highschool teacher. At the ISP, I got a spare computer to play with Linux, as –of course– the Big Server was running with Windows NT 3.51. Poor little machine... By then I was already a part of the Mexican Linux User Group. This group had just printed a batch of Linux CDs — RedHat 4.0. This was the first release that really made me happy and allowed me to do good work. Together with a friend I took to work with us, Juan Pablo Romero, we installed over a weekend a full replacement for our buggy NT machine, in much cheaper hardware. Of course, Linux was nowhere near corporate-recognition, and our project remained a project, not touching the Windows machine.

Anyway... Several years passed, and I was happy with my RedHat choice. I won't mention the milestones and job changes, as it would get boring and leave the point completely aside. By the year 2000, I was quite more involved with the LUG, as well as with the computer security group in DGSCA-UNAM. I became also an OpenBSD user, and had got so hooked up in free software that I felt the need to collaborate: To be a little part of one of those Big Projects that had given me so much. But which one?

I have never been much of a programmer — Yes, I can solve my everyday needs and have fun with it, and sometimes a bit beyond that. I enjoy programming. But all of my projects have begun little… and stayed little. I wanted to join OpenBSD, as it was a community I really believed in, but given my skillset (and given a flame-prone, aggressive developer community), I lost motivation to do so.

By 2000, I had also lost faith in RedHat. I don't have the exact dates, so I might be some months off — But after RedHat's IPO, I felt a sharp change. Version 7.0 was really demotivating — It tried to offer a polished desktop experience, but was really buggy, unstable, and full of bad decisions. In Mexico, Pepe Neif had taken up the job of making a derivative distribution of RedHat (called LinuxPPP), pressing hundreds of CDs and making a teaching program I was part of several times. Talking with Pepe (who continued to release based on RedHat 6), he told me he was interested in switching over to become a Debian-based distribution, but the job of migrating his installed base made the project stall — LinuxPPP reached only version 6.4.

But I installed Debian in early 2000, and loved it. I started getting familiar with its social philosophy and foundation documents at the same time I started migrating my servers from RedHat to Debian — This must have been by Spring 2000, as I installed Potato while it was frozen but not yet stable.

By January 2002 I applied for NM. My process took a long time, as my AM got MIA when he had already approved me (but before sending the AM report), so basically I had to go through AM twice — And by April 16, 2003, I got accepted as a DD. Contrary to what is acceptable today, I requested the full process to be done before starting to maintain any packages, as I didn't want to bother people with package sponsorship requests, so my whole process was done evaluating packages I would eventually upload.

Since becoming a DD, my main involvement in the project has been in packaging groups (I was a pkg-perl founder and member for many years, and am currently working in the pkg-ruby-extras group). But, as I said, my main strength is not programming — So my main involvement in Debian has been more social than technical: I have been a DebConf organizer since 2005, a very interesting, stressing, rewarding and (for some months) time-demanding role, and since 2009 I am part of the keyring maintainence team, which is much easier workload, although carries important ramifications.

So, after 19 years of Debian, and after nine years of me being part of it, Debian is clearly my strongest link to the Free Software community, a project I have grown to love and whose way of being I share and enjoy studying and explaining. And it is a technically excellent product, and a great place to start and keep learning both about how every aspect and layer of an operating system works, and how human-to-human interaction works in such a diverse, almost impossible environment happens.

Congratulations, Debian!

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