Dear IRC user

Please consider switching to screen+irssi, or bip+xchat, or irssi_proxy+irssi or xchat, etc. (This post and its comments has more details).

It is very annoying when you ask me something while I’m away, then disconnect, and then when I finally answer you, you are not connected anymore. If I’m away and you are going to disconnect, please send your question by mail or jabber.

Various stuff

New QA website

I modified‘s stylesheet/template, using the PTS‘s stylesheet as a basis. It looks a bit better. The content was also updated, so we should stop receiving totally outdated answers to the “What does the QA team do?” question in NM. Now, who is going to do the same thing with :-)

Closing bugs in removed packages

When packages are removed from unstable and testing, their bugs are not necessarly marked as closed, so they can’t be archived. A few days ago, there was about 3300 open bugs filed against removed packages. Thanks to the work of Barry deFreese, Marco Rodrigues and Raphael Geissert, we are now down to ~2500 bugs. If you want to help, just drop in #debian-qa and ask about our scripts/process. (There are some tricky details)

DEP #1: NMUs

With Bas Wijnen, we finally announced the DEP about NMUs we have been working on. Please join the (currently very quiet) discussion!

19 new Debian Developers! \o/

I am very happy that 19 contributors who were waiting for their accounts, sometimes for a very long time, became Debian Developers today. This is great news for them, and for the project as a whole. Many thanks to all people involved for making this possible, including Joerg Jaspert, Steve McIntyre and James Troup. And congratulations to (using their account names) kibi, plessy, gregoa, goneri, tincho, akumar, filipe, miriam and the others I haven’t had the chance to work with yet.

It also seems that the various pending issues (updating keys that expired, etc.) have been resolved, which is great news for several of our current DDs.

But this doesn’t solve the DAM problem on a permanent basis. Something interesting about today’s events is that the account manager asked the system administrators to create the accounts, which is a nice way to offload part of the process. But the keyring maintainance is still a SPOF. A tool has been developed to allow multiple people to collaboratively edit the same keyring (and it’s used to maintain the Debian Maintainers keyring), but I’ve heard that some people weren’t satisfied with it, unfortunately. Let’s hope that this is solved soon, so the next ones to go through NM won’t have to wait that long!

4 months and 10 days without any new Debian developer. Is Debian dying?

Update (2008/04/18): 19 Debian Developers accounts were created today! See this post for details.
It has now been more than 4 months since the last Debian developer account was created. 18 contributors have been through all steps, and are simply waiting for this simple administrative task to be done.

We are sending a terrible message to potential contributors. We have strong requirements on the technical level of our developers. During the new maintainer process, we ask them to answer about 80 questions about Debian. We ask them to do grunt work. We review their reports twice (New Maintainers’ Front Desk, then Debian Account Manager). But even after we are totally satisfied about what they did, even after they became more qualified than many of our current DDs, we ask them to wait for months, so that the only person allowed to create accounts can finally do his “job”.

It discourages the contributors currently in the NM process. I’ve seen several signs of frustration, or even depression. Some of them reduce their involvement in Debian, so we lose them before they even became Debian developers. Some of them consider resigning from the NM process. We should all feel guilty about that.

But it also discourages people from joining Debian. Instead, they go to other more welcoming projects, which is totally understandable. Debian isn’t the only distribution with developers from the community those days. There’s Gentoo, Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE. Some of those have nice programs for new contributors, like “school” sessions. Sure, Debian is the “biggest” distribution without a company behind it. But is independance worth all the trouble?

Of course, we have Debian Maintainers. DM is great for people who want to work on their packages. But, when we are trying to release lenny, we need more: people who are going to go through RC bugs, submitting patches. Who are going to do QA work. In short: people who care more about the whole distribution.

Can we afford not recruiting anybody? Can we run Debian with the current manpower? I don’t think so. There are more than 550 RC bugs in lenny, many packages are currently blocked from migrating to lenny because they are RC-buggy, and many packages are orphaned or neglected. There are also a lot of bugs which haven’t been filed yet (I asked for help with running piuparts, which would probably result in 100-200 new RC bugs, but nobody had time to help). Most of the work that needs to be done is not rocket science. We could use a lot more manpower. Currently, the same small set of developers is doing most of the grunt work. They will get tired too.

So, what can we do, as simple developers? There’s no magic solution, but we can try a few things.

  1. It seems that some people disagree that there’s a problem. Let’s prove them wrong: we could start a blog meme with “I, too, agree that the Debian accounts and keyring situation is severely hurting Debian, and that a solution needs to be found RSN.” It’s not going to solve the problem by itself, but it will at least show that we consider it very important. Pressure could help.
  2. We could start discussing solutions together. Our newly elected DPL said that he would talk with the problematic teams to determine how the situation could be improved. Unfortunately, this has been tried in the past (and failed). It might work this time, of course, but we could prepare a backup plan. So let’s find one or two good plans, and vote on them. (I liked the idea of giving accounts creation/management to DSA. After all, it’s only an sysadmin task once the report has been approved by FD and DAM.)
  3. We could push forward Josip Rodin’s proposal about infrastructure teams. It might not solve the DAM problem immediately, but would probably help avoid similar problems in the future.
  4. Notes:
    1. Maybe the 18 waiting accounts will be created today or tomorrow. Even if that happens, it won’t solve anything. Waiting 4 months for a simple administrative task is not acceptable, and we need to fix that problem anyway.
    2. Account creation is not the only problem. Some people have been unable to upload packages or to vote for the DPL election, because their PGP key expired, and nobody updated it even if they have been asking for more than 4 months.

Things you should know before buying an Asus EEE PC

I’ve been using an EEE PC since december, and people keep asking me if they should buy one. So here are some things you should know before making a decision.


The screen is small, but that’s OK. I couldn’t find many applications that didn’t work in 800×480. And for the remaining ones, you can usually use hacks such as running the app in a larger virtual desktop. Not ideal, but it works. Regarding usability, it’s not a too big problem. Jut expect to use many apps maximized, and use scrolling and virtual desktops a lot. (Important note: Xmoto doesn’t work!!)


The keyboard is probably a bigger problem than the screen (I hadn’t expected it to be a so big problem before buying the laptop). Every other keyboard seems to have HUGE keys after typing on the EEE PC keyboard. But with some training, you can type quite fast, even if probably not as fast as with a full size keyboard. The layout of the “special” keys is quite good (esp. the PgUp/Down, Home and End keys on the arrows. I should remap my other keyboard like that).

Battery, power consumption

One big problem with the EEE PC is that it consumes a lot of power while sleeping (using suspend to RAM). If you leave it sleeping for more than a few hours, expect the battery to be empty. That really sucks, especially since suspend to disk isn’t really a good option on such a device. Another problem related to power is that charging the battery is quite slow.

SDHC card reader

If you want to expand the storage capacity of your EEE PC with the SDHC port, choose your SDHC card carefully. There are only a few cards that work. The other ones will cause write error (they will work in read-only mode, so I’m using an external card reader to write, which sucks). A list of supported cards is available in the EEE PC manual.

Random Q&A

Q: I don’t have a laptop. Should I buy it?

A: If you want to do a lot of real work on it, it’s probably not a very good idea. There are faster (but bigger) laptops at around 450-500 EUR. They are probably a much better option. The EEE PC is perfect as a the second laptop you only bring to places where you want to stay connected, read email and surf on the web (like conferences and meetings).

Q: Does the VGA output works well?

A: Yes. And it uses an Intel video card which works like a charm with xrandr. I already gave several presentations and classes using it. The laptop can output 1280×1024 (maybe 1600×1200, not sure). The only problem is that you will only have the top-left part of your slides on the laptop’s screen, because of the smaller resolution there. Annoying if you plan to read your slides.


So, should you buy one? If you can’t wait, go ahead. If you can wait, it might be a good idea to wait until Asus fixes some of the problems (the SDHC card reader and the power consumption while sleeping are the most annoying ones).