Older blog entries for jaldhar (starting at number 17)

28 Apr 2004 (updated 28 Apr 2004 at 02:57 UTC) »

Mountains and Molehills

Bah I say! Bah! A vote on the document that defines the very foundation of Debian philosophy is met with resounding apathy. Amongst the ones who did vote some are saying "But we didn't know we were voting for _this_." (Come to Jersey City. The local Democratic party machine loves people like you.) And then aj has to go and posit a totally far out interpretation of the (modest--I actually read them) changes to the social contract that might require us to delay the release of sarge until next year.

The new wording in the social contract says "We promise the Debian system and all its components will be free." This indicates an ideal state which hasn't been reached but we are working towards. We have not lost any honor or credibility etc. by saying "Yes this stuff is important but right now we're doing a release. We promise we'll get to it ASAP post-sarge." All the GR did was make the language explicit. There is no new sentiment expressed in the social contract which wasn't there before. So if we could weasel out of postponing (not ignoring) the GFDL issue for example then, there is no reason why we couldn't do that now. In fact I bet you we will find a way. [update: Steve Langasek is doing just that.] So apart from general confusion and consternation amongst people who are unfamiliar with Debian and some unnecessary wear and tear on my 'd' key, what did all this brouhaha actually acheive?

-- Disgusted, Tonbridge Wells.

Dovecot 1.0 test1 .debs

Now that Timo has released an alpha version of the Dovecot mail server I have prepared .debs and put them on src.braincells.com. Given Timos' caveats about the raw nature of the code (e.g. mbox doesn't work, recent flags are broken,) these packages are deliberatly non-aptable. You need to download them and manually install them with dpkg -i. Do not use them if you are at all worried about potentially losing mail.

My Article In Linuxworld Magazine

I wrote an article about Debian which will appear in the May issue of Linuxworld Magazine. The print version isn't out yet but there is a .PDF you can download here. The article for some strange reason is not in the table of contents, you can find it on pages 44-47.

If you've seen my "Introducing Debian GNU/Linux" flyer, then you'll recognize most of the contents of this article as I basically took that and added some more hyperbole and a goofy headshot.

Shivaratri and Debian-IN

Wednesday night was Mahashivaratri. There was a record crowd at our mandir which meant long delays in getting darshan. I spent the night praying (and drank bhang) so I was totally out of commission on Thursday. Today I'm mostly recovered though.

Speaking of Indian matters, it looks like Debian-IN is finally getting off the ground. I now have a couple of volunteers and the first packages should be along soon.

Shailaja Learns A New Word

Today my daughter (now 27 months old) turned to my wife, pointed to my laptop and said "Jyo mummy, Debian chhe." ("Look Mummy it's Debian.") Is being potty-trained a prerequisite for the new maintainer process?

A Community Replacement for Linuxworld?

Today (well, yesterday by now) I attended a meeting on Debians' behalf of several New York-area free software groups. The meetings agenda was to try and begin to organize a replacement for Linuxworld which as of next year is moving to Boston. Committees were formed to work on various tasks. Yours truly is doing the vital task of name/logo/mission statement brainstorming. More news as it happens.

Using Filenames With '*' In Them In Makefiles

While packaging the latest webmin version I had an interesting time trying to figure out how to do stuff to files with names like config-*-linux. The trouble is '*' gets interpreted as a wildcard character. Normally in bash on the commandline to get a literal '*' you would just do this: config-\*-linux. But in a makefile, it gets converted to config-\\*-linux. Increasing the number of slashes was suggested but to no avail. The correct answer is $$'config-*-linux' (You have to use two dollar signs so it doesn't get interpreted as a make variable.)

Wave Your Freak Flag High!

Februarys' Linux Journal has an article by Doc Searls (the man of bronze?) called "DIY-IT: How Linux And Open Source Are Bringing Do-It-Yourself to Information Technology" which includes the following quote:

"I'm seeing far more Debian than any report gives it credit for", 
says one technologist working for a large vendor that has partnerships 
with Red Hat and SuSE.  "Red Hat and SuSE may sell more, so they show 
up on surveys that follow sales.  But in terms of implementation, Debian 
is pretty big."

So all you stealth Debian users, stand up and be counted!

Linuxworld 2004
Here's my report on this years Linuxworld Conference and Expo where Debian once again had a booth in the .org pavilion.

Some of you may already know my theory on how the location of the .org pavilion indicates the health of the Linux business world. For those who don't, here's an explanation. In the glory days of yore when Red Hat and VA Linux had mega-IPOs, Mozilla was open sourced, and the penguin hordes were about to reduce Redmond to a charred and smoking ruin, the .org pavilion was relegated to the very back of the show floor. As times became more dire, it started creeping up until the fell winter of 2003 when it was actually in the front where ordinary people could see it. This year it was in the middle and to the left side so I predict a good year for the Linux industry. The booth was your basic 10' x 10' at the end of a row with a table, two chairs and a waste paper basket. We had one ethernet feed so had to bring in a hub. There was supposed to be WiFi access but hardly anyone ever got it working.

Debian developers manning the booth this year for one or more days were Clint Adams, Phil Blundell, Adam DiCarlo, Jimmy Kaplowitz, Joe Nahmias, Matt Taggart, and myself. We were also visited by Andres Saloman, Laurence Lane, and Bruce Perens who wanted to get his key signed so he can get back into Debian development with his User Linux initiative.

We decided we were going to do some proper PR this year but had some mixed results some of which were due to totally underestimating the response we thought we would get. I was going to produce posters and flyers. The first printer I approached to make the posters botched the job so at the last minute I had to have one made at Kinkos. They charged a hideous amount of money so I only had one made. The flyers were good but I didn't make enough and they were gone by Thursday morning. Kinkos struck again with the banner Jimmy was going to have made. It never showed up. Luckily we didn't pay for it either because once again they charged way too much. Matt and Adams' efforts were more fruitful. Matt brought swirl t-shirts, this year in powder blue with "debian/rules" on the back. (We also had a box of beige shirts with Tux on the front courtesy of TinyApps.org.) and Debian stickers and case badges. They were a huge hit as always. Adam did a phenomenal job in procuring CD donations. They also flew out of our hands in breathtaking quantities. One slight miscalculation was I asked him to get lots of Sarge netinst CDs with beta 2 of the new installer. My reasoning was that the perennial complaint is that "Debian is too hard to install." so people would be really interested in trying our new installer. But it turned out it was 7-cd sets of Woody which people were really interested in which surprised us all. All these efforts netted us as a total of over $2,000 for the project, a substantial increase over last year.

Once again Sun lent us a computer and once again we had trouble getting Debian installed on it. (Though for a different reason than last time.) We gave up and showed Debian on our laptops. Phil had an IPaq too which looked really cool. Over in the KDE booth they were demoing KDE on Debian machines and our favorite distro was to be found scattered throughout other booths too.

Last year the big event which drew people to us from other distros was Mandrakes' bankruptcy. This year it was Red Hats' refocus of their distribution. Now I understand their reasons (and I'm not just saying that because of the gift of a cardigan I got for attending a presentation for RHCEs) but it has a lot of their customers and supporters worried and Debian is looking like a tempting option for such people. Over all, I was impressed by the more sophisticated knowledge of the various distributions people were showing. Well I did get one person asking me "what is a Linux distribution?" but that was only one. Debian seems to have much better name recognition these days. Even novices want to use Debian. I felt I had to caution them, "Are you sure? Debian is not the most newbie-friendly distribution." but no they wanted Debian. A lot of this publicity is due to commercial distributions like LibraNet, Lindows, and Xandros as wells as Live CDs like Knoppix and Morphix which are based on Debian.

On Friday, I was interviewed by SYS-CON radio and may also do an article about Debian for Linuxworld magazine which they publish. The interview went pretty well. I didn't mumble or ramble on too much. I forgot most of the DFSG and social contract which is a little embarrassing but did manage to mention the more salient bits.

Next year the show is leaving New York for Boston so this may be my last as an Exhibitor but I had a good time and met many interesting people. Getting thankyous from satisfied Debian users really makes all the work worthwhile.

I would like to personally thank all the developers and volunteers who manned the booth, About Debian, BSide Internet Media, The Computer Depot, the crepe lady, DebianVendor.org, Innovation Software Group linux-cd.com, Linux Central, the Pakistani taxi driver with who I had an interesting chat about the similarities between Islam and Hinduism even though we missed the Javits center in the process, Red Hat (haha), The Sphere, Sun, SYS-CON Media, tinyapps.org, and any other helpful person or company who I may have inadvertently failed to mention due my lousy memory.

I Jump On Bandwagons Jackie Chan style
In a typical pattern for me I got so enthusiastic about blogging I went got myself 4. All of which now are in total desuetude. My solution? write myself software for a master blog from which I shall update all the others. Yeah that's the ticket.

So what have I been up to lately? Last Tuesday I gave a talk at the Long Island Linux Users Group (LILUG.) It was originally going to be about IMAP but we ended up discussing Debian instead. Get involved in your local LUG it's good fun.

Indian language support in Qt
Version 3.2.0b1 of Trolltechs' Qt toolkit now has more complete support for Unicode encoded Indian languages. The Debian maintainer is saying it's going to be a while before there are official packages so I made my own and voila! all KDE apps are now able to display Hindi, Sanskrit, Gujarati etc. It's not perfect. Jodaksharas do not seem to be supported so for instance vya in my surname is shown as v-virama-ya but at least it's readable. Now to figure out how to do input.

pgp4pine Debian Package
I did an NMU as the package was totally broken. I fixed all extant bugs including a release-critical one and updated it to the latest version.

This isn't quite free software but the source is available. It's software for playing and adjudicating games of Diplomacy via email. We recently released version 1.4.0 which fixes many bugs and adds some new variants and other features. I did the autotools stuff and will also make .rpms and .debs

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