Lars Wirzenius: Debian, 2004


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Debian: Adopted vorbisgain

I adopted the vorbisgain package from Tollef Fog Heen, found a new upstream version (only minor changes, however), packaged and uploaded it, and it should now be built on most (I think all) architectures.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Debian: No more sex for Debian

The ftp administrators have removed, on my request, the package "sex" from Debian. Hopefully this does not make Debian less fun for people.

The "sex" package was for my editor, "Simple editor for X", which I wrote almost a decade ago. I had grown tired of using text-mode editors such as Emacs and vi, and wanted something simple and fast to use in a graphical environment. At that time the two major widget toolkits were Motif and Athena. Motif was non-free, though the lesstif project was trying to clone it in a free manner, so I chose Athena for my editor. Athena is what, for example, xterm uses, but it has otherwise mostly faded away and is rarely seen on a modern X desktop. On the other hand, when it is seen, it tends to be immediately recognizable, as it is visually different from pretty much everything else.

Programming with Athena widgets was somewhat tedious and about a light-year behind using GTK+ with Python and libglade. Since SeX was tied to using 8-bit characters, and I wanted to move to using UTF-8, earlier this year I abandonded it for something else (a quick hack written with GTK+, Python, and libglade). I have been reluctant to touch SeX for quite a while, so when a "fails to build from source" bug was created when a library it uses changed, I decided it was time to stop having SeX in Debian.

As far as I know, SeX has never had more than a few users and I suspect most of those had abandonded it before I did. Certainly, when I checked the Debian popularity contest pages, no-one reported using it.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Debian: DebConf5 IRC meeting

We had an IRC meeting about DebConf5 last night (Finnish time). I acted as secretary and have now put the minutes in the wiki. The entire IRC log is also on the web. Please see for instructions on joining the DebConf5 mailing lists, and links to the archives.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Debian: Debian Lessons updated

I published my draft for the new version of Debian Lessons. Perhaps it will be of interest to some people in the future. The old one got a fair number of hits over the years, though few people referred to it in discussions, so I don't think it had much of an impact.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Debian: Happy Birthday, Debian

Yesterday, Debian became eleven years old. I went out for an ex tempore drink with liiwi and part, two other Finnish Debian developers. Perhaps we should plan for something more formal for the next birthday.

I don't have any memory of when I became a Debian developer. I know it happened while Bruce Perens was the Debian project leader, but that doesn't narrow it down enough. I seem to have written to the comp.os.linux.misc newsgroup in August, 1995, recommending Debian. I mention in that article that I've used Debian for a year, so I probably became a Debian user during the summer or early autumn of 1994.

A couple of quotes that amuse me follow.

Debian is still BETA, and their package tools are still evolving. However, it works, at least if you're willing to use the command line package installation tool. They don't have all the small goodies that Slackware has in a pre-packaged form, but that is changing, since it is possible (I don't know about easy, since I've never done it myself) to produce Debian format packages. The archives are slowly filling up.

Well, that surely has changed: as far as I can tell, Debian is now bigger than any other distribution.

A Debian package is _one_ file, which includes a description, and doesn't give a damn about which floppy it should be stored on. In fact, the way to install Debian is roughly:

  1. Boot from installation floppy.
  2. Install base system from a three floppy set.
  3. Boot base system, and configure it.

Install rest by doing essentially:

mount /cdrom

cd /cdrom/debian/binary

dpkg --install --auto `find . -name "*.deb"`

go eat something, or something


The debian-installer has taken Debian quite a long way from those days.

Debian lacks some frills, like colors during installation, but the system works pretty well.

Ah yes, colors, that's what was missing from the installation.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Debian: dd-list

Every now and then, there is a need to produce a list of Debian packages, for example when discussing an upcoming mass-filing of bugs. If such lists are long, it is best to sort them according to the maintainers of those packages to make it easier for people to find their packages. I assume there is some tool for this, but I failed to find one and wrote dd-list. Perhaps it will be of some use for someone, but if not, it was a nice waste of time while I waited for something else to compile.

Debian: Did some Debian work, finally

I have yesterday uploaded a package of my own (publib) to fix a release critical bug (the package failed to build from source), and today I have adopted gif2png from John Goerzen and uploaded it to fix a minor bug (badly generated manual page source). Despite the heat wave, it seems that my brain is finally starting to function. I even seem to be getting over my disappointment in the Debian project. Now, if only it decided to get some actual work for my employer, things would be good.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Debian: Diplomats or ombudsmen

I'm beginning to think that Debian has grown too large and too old. We try to go in too many directions at once. We have too many opinions of what is the right thing to do. We are too large for us to know and respect each other as persons rather than Debian making aliens, Some of us have been annoying or nagging or prodding or flaming each other for too many years and that history pops up every time there is friction.

Perhaps what Debian needs is a group of active diplomats or ombudsmen to handle conflicts between groups within the project. I've pretty much lost faith that the culture of aggression on Debian mailing lists will go away on itself.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Debian: My GR 2004-004 vote

I have just sent in my vote for Debian's current General Resolution vote on "Sarge Release Schedule in view of GR 2004-003". On request from Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho, here's my vote and my reasons:

[ 2 ] Choice 1: Postpone changes until September 2004
[ 2 ] Choice 2: Postpone changes until Sarge releases
[ 2 ] Choice 3: Add apology to Social Contract
[ 4 ] Choice 4: Revert to old wording of SC
[ 2 ] Choice 5: "Transition Guide" foundation document
[ 1 ] Choice 6: Reaffirm the current SC
[ 3 ] Choice 7: Further discussion

I feel, fairly strongly, that compromising on the freedom in order to get sarge released is not a good thing. Even if it enranges everyone, I feel that it is better to do the right thing with regard to freedom and release sarge without the bits that we cannot call free according to our guidelines. Thus, #6 is my first choice.

However, I can live with postponing the move of the non-free bits to suitable places until after sarge has released, if most other developers think that is the way to go. By my reading of the ballot, and about three thousand messages on the -devel and -vote mailing lists the past couple of days, #1, #2, #3, and #5 achieve this in different ways. I don't have a preference between them, they're all good enough for me. Thus, they are all ranked as my second choice.

This leaves options #4 (undoing the previous General Resolution) and #7 (further discussion). I strongly feel that #4 is the wrong thing to do. I voted for the change the previous General Resolution made. Thus, I place #4 below "further discussion".

These choices are mine. I have tried to balance ideological purity and practicality. Other people will have chosen differently, of course. The discussions leading to and during this vote have formed a very hot flame war, and, have, I think, harmed the project more than they have helped. Hopefully, after this is over, we can soonish go back to work on Debian, even if we have disagreements. That is something Debian as a project needs to learn: how to cope with unresolvable disagreements between its participants.

I haven't done much for Debian myself in the past year or so. Mostly this has been due to being greatly overworked and stressed out. I am now on my vacation and I think I'm ready to start doing light hacking on my packages (of which I'm upstream as well), but I'm not able to promise any schedules.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Debian: Debian sauna

Thanks to Jaakko "liiwi" Niemi, my long lost identical twin brother, we have got F-Secure to sponsor a sauna for us. It will be on Saturday, July 3, 12-16. I'll mail those who indicated interest earlier.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Debian: DebConf5 in Finland?

I'm told that DebConf5 will be arranged in Helsinki, Finland, next year. This is exciting. I created mailing lists for this on, on request from Andreas Schuldei, and he is supposed to advertise them in the appropriate locations.

Although I've been pretty exhausted the past year, due to work, and not done very much for Debian, I'll at least try to become active in organizing DebConf5. I might even finally get around to updating my Debian Lessons text. I have a bunch of ideas for improvements, but haven't had the energy to do the update.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Debian: Hostility pattern

Debian seems to be locked into a pattern of hostility. Like a schoolyard bully and his victim, it seems that we are unable to break the pattern, even if we realize that it is wrong and destructive to us all. For school bullying, an intervention sometimes works. Perhaps Debian isn't too big an organization for that, though I can't imagine who would do it.

I realize I've said similar things before. This time, I'm writing it in my log. I don't want to discuss anything on the mailing lists anymore.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Debian: Debian sauna snowballs!

There are now a whopping seven people interested in the Debian sauna happening. That's actually a pretty good size for a small informal gathering.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Debian: Non-free General Resolution vote

Joey Hess's log entry convinced me. I have now voted for the removal of non-free.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Debian: Debian sauna

There has been a little bit of interest in a Debian sauna in Helsinki, Finland, which I sort of proposed in a previous log entry. My plans are now more concrete. I propose the weekend of July 2-4. This is the weekend after GUADEC 2004, which is in southern Norway. The proximity might make it possible for some people to visit both.

Thus, the plan is for people to arrive on Friday or Saturday and hang around until Sunday. There will be at least one visit to a sauna (nudity is not required, whatever Wikipedia says), probably on Saturday. You can sleep on my living room floor, if you don't want to pay for a hotel; I only have an extra mattress. I have ADSL. We can make food ourselves, or go eat out. If the weather is favorable, a picnic at Suomenlinna would probably be nice. Helsinki has other sightseeing opportunities as well.

This is meant as a social occasion, but hacking is of course allowed.

If you're interested, let me know. Since arranging this doesn't require much from me, there is no real deadline.

Debian: Debconf3 pictures

Better late than never. I finally managed to put a gallery of pictures from Debconf3. Sometimes things would go smoother and faster if I didn't insist on writing the tools first.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Debian: convmv uploaded

After over three weeks of slacking, I've finally sponsored an upload of convmv 1.07 to Debian, written by Bjoern Jacke and packaged for Debian by Raphael Zimmerer. I expect this tool to become useful for myself, as soon as I start switching to using UTF-8 for everything. It converts filenames from one encoding to another.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Debian: debian-installer beta 2 works for me

I tried out the beta 2 version of debian-installer, the up and coming Debian installation program. It worked pretty well: I was able to install the base system from the CD with the minimum of questions. All the hardware was automatically detected. It isn't pretty, but that's not as important as working.

One of the nice touches is that the CD-ROM image contains an md5sum.txt file in its root, which makes it easy to check that the CD-R was burned correctly and works. Every image should do that. I've been doing it for a while now for my own disks, and it really helps when you want to check that your backups and archive files are intact.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Debian: Hello, Planet Debian! Come to Finland?

This log is now visible on Planet Debian. Hi! I'm occasionally rather verbose and my web log is not often particularly restricted to Debian and free software issues. If this bothers anyone, feel free to mail me.

On IRC I got the silly notion that some of the European Debian developers might enjoy a visit to Finland. Summer, very short nights, some sightseeing, possibly a cottage and a sauna at a lake, with possibly some hacking thrown in. Not exactly a Debconf/Debcamp like thing, mostly a purely social occasion. Call it a massively overorganized keysigning meet. Free sleeping place on the floor. One person on IRC showed interest, but would anyone else be interested?

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Debian: No longer getting security announcments twice

A year or two ago I started getting all mails from the debian-security-announce mailing list twice. Then recently this suddenly stopped. I'm glad it stopped, though I'd be more glad if I knew why. As it is, the list software Debian uses (a heavily customized SmartList, I think) is scaring me. I wish I could get them to use, say, Enemies of Carlotta, which at least is possible to understand.

I should hack EoC to be more what Debian needs, if I want that to happen.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Debian: Jeff Bailey taught me something

At Debconf3, last July, Jeff Bailey held a presentation on giving presentations. It has probably been the single most useful thing for me from the whole week I spent in Oslo: I've used what I learned there at several occasions since. I think, though I can't measure for certain, that my presentations have improved since. At least when I remember to talk slowly and breathe occasionally.