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Re: Some questions about Debian

also sprach Lucas Nussbaum <lucas@lucas-nussbaum.net> [2007.09.21.0619 +0100]:
> I'm involved both in Debian and Ubuntu development, and I'm often
> frustrated by how little I know about the other distributions.
> After discussing this in a blog post[1], I got the impression that
> I wasn't alone in that case.

You say it right there: you're frustrated how little you know about
the "other" distributions, and yet in [0] you "complain" that we're
not bothering to reply.

0. http://www.lucas-nussbaum.net/blog/?p=252

Basically, you can answer all these yourself, but you say you want
someone else to do it. Well then, looking at the questions, all
I can say is that it's quite clear from them that you're of Debian
origin, so I expect to say 'yes' most of the time. Here we go:

> How many "pieces of software" do you have in your distribution? Do you
> distinguish between "source packages" and "binary packages"? (if yes,
> give numbers for both). Are there subdivisions in the set of packages (by
> kind of support, by "freeness")? Are all packages supported the same way,
> or are there different levels of support? (If different levels, how many
> packages are supported with each level?) Are some packages imported from
> another distribution, or are most of your packages done from scratch by
> your developers ?

I'd say we currently have around 10000 source packages and around
18000 binary packages, most of which run on each of the 11
architectures we support. We separate our packages according to
freeness, distinguishing between free, non-free, and those packages
that are free themselves but require non-free stuff to run. In
general, you can expect the more free packages to get more support.
Most of our packages are done from scratch by our developers,
although we do get occasional contributions from other distros, such
as Knoppix or Ubuntu.

> Q2. Your developers
> What's a "developer" in your distribution? How many developers do you
> have? How many of these developers were active in 2007? Does a company
> (which one?) employ a large number of developers? Do you have different
> "classes" of developers, or does everybody have the same access right to
> all your packages? How do you integrate new developers? How do you
> handle contributors who don't have access rights to the archive? (is
> there some kind of mentoring/sponsoring system?)

A developer with Debian can upload packages, vote in project
matters, and participate in private discussions, which are mostly
for housekeeping; we try to keep technical stuff from them. We have
about 1300 developers (I think), and I'd say no more than 400 of
those are active. We used to have only a single status of developer,
but are soon going to get "contributors" as well, who can upload
their own packages themselves. We also have mentors (for advising)
and sponsors (for uploading), as you suggest in the question.

We do not really integrate new developers but rather expect them to
integrate themselves by doing work and rising on the meritocratic
scale. That said, there are quite a number of developers out there
interested in helping newcomers, and forums such as debian-mentors
and debian-women, who make it easier for newcomers to get answers to
less challenging technical questions, without being flamed.

There are several companies employing larger numbers of our
employees, such as Hewlett-Packard, and possibly Canonical, although
their employees aren't allowed to develop Debian during company

> Q3. Developers and packages ownership
> What's the relationship between developers and packages? Does each
> package have an assigned developer, or can everybody modify all packages
> without stepping on anyone's toes? Are packages mostly maintained by
> teams, or by developers working alone?

Classically, in Debian every package is maintained by one developer,
although more and more packages are being team-maintained now, but
still not enough: we still have more single-maintained packages.
A maintainer is simply the official point of contact and
theoretically the only one who can make official uploads. However,
any other developer can upload packages according to a soft set of
rules. Some packages are maintained in version control systems and
it depends on each case whether other developers can commit or not.

> Other questions:
> - Did I send that mail to the right mailing list?

I would have said debian-project@lists.debian.org.
academic-debian@lists.madduck.net may have been another.

> - Which question should I have asked? What should I ask next?

For each:
  - why is the project doing it that way
  - what would (you like) it (to) do instead, if it could freely change?
  - compare to the way another distro does it: what are the
    advantages of your method?
  - compare to the way another distro does it: what are the
    disadvantages of your method?

> - Do you think that this initiative is interesting?

It's interesting, alright. I am not sure whether it'll be fruitful.
Or rather, I am not sure who the target audience of the results
would be.

> - Do you think that this should move to a seperate mailing list? Would
>   you participate in such a mailing list?

I would not.

> - Can you suggest a project that could host such a mailing list without
>   annoying anyone? :)


 .''`.   martin f. krafft <madduck@debian.org>
: :'  :  proud Debian developer, author, administrator, and user
`. `'`   http://people.debian.org/~madduck - http://debiansystem.info
  `-  Debian - when you have better things to do than fixing systems
"with sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine. however, this is not
 necessarily a good idea. it is hard to be sure where they are going
 to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly
                                                           -- rfc 1925

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