Challenging times for Debian

So, the release team announced yesterday that squeeze will freeze in december 2009. This decision was motivated by several things (TTBOMK):

  • while time-based releases are not a good idea for Debian (“We release when it’s ready”), time-based freezes make a lot of sense, and gives every team the opportunity to do its own scheduling
  • freeze in december / release in spring work well (no freeze during debconf, longer nights to hack on Debian)
  • Ubuntu releases LTS versions every two years. Freezing in december 2009 will allow to synchronize with future LTS releases, provide many packages with the same version, and leverage that for support.

Now, this decision raises several questions:

  • will there be attempts to overrule it? Strangely, the discussion at debconf was quite calm. Of course, there are counter-arguments, but nobody has mentioned the willingness to overrule the decision. This has been mentioned by people who are not at Debconf, who might have a different POV.
  • will we manage to freeze in a reasonable state? We will need to rely on fully functional infrastructure: working buildds, short NEW queue, transitions that don’t block stuff for too long, etc.
  • will we manage to leverage collaboration with Ubuntu? Releasing with about the same versions is one thing, but how will we work together while preparing those versions?
  • after the releases (both Ubuntu’s and Debian’s), users will get to choose between two very similar distributions. We need to think about how Debian will differenciate itself from Ubuntu: what should we emphasize? How are we relevant?

Anyway, it seems that we have gone a long way in just a few years. In january 2006, while I was not a DD yet, I prodded Raphael Hertzog about sending his famous “For those who care about their packages in Ubuntu” email, where we described the Ubuntu release process for their first LTS release. The goal was to give interested DDs a chance to take a look at the status of their packages in Ubuntu, so Ubuntu would release with the best possible version. 3.5 years later, we are talking about synchronizing releases.

Debconf TODO List (help needed and welcomed!)

So, here are the things I plan to work on during Debconf. If you are interested in one of those topics, don’t hesitate to talk to me and help (even if you are not at Debconf). I’ve always dreamed of people squashing items on my TODO list.

Ultimate Debian Database:

  • make all the example scripts nicer: requires HTML skills, mostly, and it’s also a good way to get started with UDD, so I would very much like someone else to do that.
  • split email into name and email in the bugs table (based on work by Olivier Berger)
  • Importer for DEHS (Need to talk with Raphael), MIA status, wanna-build (maybe), britney output (maybe).
  • Rewrite bapase using UDD.

Ruby packaging:

  • Work on the packaging of Ruby 1.9.1 together with the interpreter crew.
  • Continue the work on ruby-support and on the new ruby policy, so it becomes usable.

Other stuff:

  • Release a new version of feed2imap and ruby-feedparser
  • Work on developers-reference a bit. Upload a new version.
  • Work on websec a bit. Upload a new version.
  • Work on xmpp4r. Try to integrate some of the ideas of xmpp4r-simple so people stop using a wrapper that uses busy waiting.
  • Work on suuntux a bit. But that looks compromised since I forgot my Suunto serial cable.


  • UDD importer for DEHS done, after a SQL hacking session with raphael

Slides from RMLL (and much more)

So, I’m back from the Rencontres Mondiales du Logiciel Libre, which took place in Nantes this year. It was great to see all those people from the french Free Software community again, and I look forward to seeing them again next year in Bordeaux (too bad the Toulouse bid wasn’t chosen).

The Debian booth, mainly organized by Xavier Oswald and Aurélien Couderc, with help from Raphaël, Roland and others (but not me!), got a lot of visits, and Debian’s popularity is high in the community (probably because RMLL is mostly for über-geeks, and Debian’s market share is still very high in this sub-community).

I spent quite a lot of time with the Ubuntu-FR crew, which I hadn’t met before. They do an awesome work on getting new people to use Linux (providing great docs and support), and do very well (much better than in the past) at giving a good global picture of the Free Software world (Linux != Ubuntu, other projects do exist and play a very large role in Ubuntu’s success, etc). It’s great to see Free Software’s promotion in France being in such good hands. (Full disclosure: I got a free mug (recycled plastic) with my Ubuntu-FR T-shirt, which might affect my judgement).

I gave two talks, on two topics I wanted to talk about for some time. First one was about the interactions between users, distributions and upstream projects, with a focus on Ubuntu’s development model and relationships with Debian and upstream projects. Second one was about voting methods, and Condorcet in particular. If you attended one of those talks, feedback (good or bad) is welcomed (either in comments or by mail). Slides are also available (in french):

On a more general note, I still don’t understand why the “Mondiales” in RMLL’s title isn’t being dropped or replaced by “Francophones“. Seeing the organization congratulate themselves because 30% of the talks were in english was quite funny, since in most cases, the english part of the talk was “Is there someone not understanding french? no? OK, let’s go on in french.“, and all the announcements were made in french only. Seriously, RMLL is a great (probably the best) french-speaking community event. But it’s not FOSDEM: different goals, different people. Instead of trying (and failing) to make it an international event, it would be much better to focus on making it a better french-speaking event, for example by getting more french-speaking developers to come and talk (you see at least 5 times more french-speaking developers in FOSDEM than in RMLL).

I’m now back in Lyon for two days, before leaving to Montreal Linux Symposium, then coming back to Lyon for three days, then Debconf from 23rd to 31st, and then moving to Nancy, where I will start as an assistant professor in september (a permanent (tenured) position).

LDLC: plus jamais !

Je viens de vivre une expérience intéressante, qui m’a décidé à ne plus jamais commander de matériel chez LDLC. Je voulais acheter un adaptateur USB vers série (DB9) pour pouvoir continuer à utiliser Suuntux avec mon nouveau PC portable, qui n’a pas de port série.

samedi 7 mars: je vais sur LDLC, et commande un adaptateur USB/série. Je prends le moins cher, car je ne compte pas le pousser dans ses derniers retranchements ni en faire une utilisation intensive: ma montre fait du 9600 bauds de toute façon.
mardi 10 mars: le facteur passe une première fois. Mais comme LDLC fait toujours exprès de mettre un carton énorme pour éviter qu’il rentre dans la boite aux lettres (même si votre commande rentrerait largement dans votre boite aux lettres avec un carton adapté), je dois attendre que le facteur passe 2 fois, puis aller chercher le colis à la poste (un plaisir).
jeudi 12 mars: je peux enfin récupérer mon cable. Je branche, le périphérique est correctement détecté par le noyau, mais ça ne marche pas: je ne lis que des 0 (caractère numéro 0, pas caractère ascii “0”). Je cherche pendant une heure, sans réussir à trouver la solution. Ca ne marche pas non plus avec un autre PC. Le périphérique marche bien quand je le branche sur un autre PC avec un port série. Premier mail au support de LDLC.
vendredi 13 mars: premier mail du support, qui me demande plus d’informations sur les tests réalisés.
jeudi 19 mars: après quelques échanges avec le support de LDLC, je renvoie l’adaptateur (deuxième passage à la poste), et j’en recois un autre (troisième passage à la poste). A l’ouverture du colis, je commence à comprendre l’origine de mes problèmes: visiblement, les adaptateurs USB/série vendus par LDLC sont fabriqués à l’arrache: le boitier était mal moulé (tordu), et il manquait même une des vis. Et, ça ne marche toujours pas.
jeudi 30 mars: je renvoie l’adaptateur USB/série pour recevoir un avoir. (quatrième passage à la poste)
lundi 6 avril: je recois le rapport du service de test de LDLC. Résultat: Cable Usb/Vga OK. !! J’espère qu’ils n’ont pas trop abimé leur prise VGA (3 rangées de pins) en la branchant sur l’adaptateur série (2 rangées de pins).
jeudi 9 avril: je recois dans ma boite aux lettres un adaptateur commandé, pour 5 euros de plus, sur Amazon. Je le branche, il marche immédiatement. (d’ailleurs c’était le même driver que ceux de LDLC)
lundi 20 avril: 3 autres échanges de mails pour réussir à récupérer l’avoir. Ils m’avaient oublié.

– beaucoup de temps perdu pour avoir essayé d’économiser 5 euros
– le service client de LDLC est réactif (rarement plus de deux jours d’attente pour une réponse) mais pas efficace du tout
– LDLC vent du matériel qui ne fonctionne pas
– Le service de test de LDLC ne sait pas reconnaitre une prise série DB9 d’une prise VGA
– Renseignements pris, il semble que la qualité de service de LDLC s’est sérieusement dégradée ces derniers temps (depuis un rachat), et qu’il vaut mieux se tourner vers des concurrents, comme RueDuCommerce ou