Older blog entries for mbanck (starting at number 20)

LinuxTag was a blast. I went there on Wednesday afternoon, quickly walked over the expo, noticed that no GNOME desktop was being displayed at the Novell/SuSE booth and that the Gentoo booth was sort of at the end of the world. I had the expression that the overall expo area had grown since last year, it always took me quite some time to find my way back to the Debian booth. Unfortunately, the hacking area this year was pretty, uhm, limited. On the other hand, the Debian booth was very nice this year. Highlight was a very slick 2m height case where all the merchandise was displayed. The whole booth was very well done as well and looked more professional than last year. Time was quite advanced, so I desperately tried to find somebody to watch the football game (Germany versus Czech Republic) with. Most of the Debian crowd did not seem to be particulary interested, so I decided to stick with the Credativ guys like Noel, Andreas and Michael. However, we walked across half the town looking for some greek restaurant, only to find out it was the wrong one. We finally settled for an italian restaurant just next to the LinuxTag area where I watched the first half of the game. I could not watch the second half though, as I promised to fetch our fearless leader from the Ryanair airport. When we came to the AKK (the gym hall we all slept at), we had a beer and I worked on my talk until around 3 AM. With some guys snoring, I had a hard time falling asleep and I woke up again around 7 AM when the first over-motivated people decided it was time to get ready for another day LinuxTag, sigh.

My talk on Thursday about the Debian GNU/Hurd port went okayish. I delivered it in german, which perhaps blocked me a bit as I had to translate a couple of terms on the fly and had the feeling of repeating myself without need a couple of times. However, interest was pretty high and there were quite a couple of questions, which encouraged me. Unfortunately, magicpoint did not want to run on my Debian GNU/Hurd installation this year and I did not have enough time to debug it, so I had to give the talk on GNU/Linux. After my talk I relaxed a bit and walked around the area. I missed the demonstration against software patents, Martin and me had lunch and went shopping in the city center. In the evening, the famous KaLUG party took place. I have to admit that I liked the setup last year better, at some distance to the AKK, where people sat down in the grass. Instead, the location was right next to the AKK this year, in the same place we used to hang out each night and morning. The people were quite cool though, I had some discussions with Martin, Frank and some others about the general way Debian is heading. I wisely drank a couple of beers this time, so I had less problems falling asleep than the night before.

On Friday I first attended Wolfgang's talk about GNU/Hurd and later Ian Murdock's keynote. I spent the rest of the day hanging around at the front or behind the back of the Debian booth, checking how Huedi, Flo and the others were doing at the hacking contest walking around LinuxTag with Martin and talking to Wolfgang at the FSFEurope booth. I also met Murray Cumming for the first time ever at the GNOME booth (which was right next to the Gentoo booth, I overlooked it on Wednesday) and had a nice conversation with him. He lives very close to me in Munich, so I thought it was funny to meet him at Karlsruhe. Luckily, I could convince Martin to take the Bus back to the airport, so I could attend the social event, which rocked big time this year. Dogi finally arrived while we were waiting for the bus to bring us to the social event location, a lido just outside of Karlsruhe. Apparently, we were lucky to be on one of the first buses, as we did not have to queue up insane amounts of time to get food at the (wonderful) buffet, compared to the people who arrived late. I hang around with the tyrolian Debian section, including Peter, Dogi and Huedi. Later on, I had a long discussion with Andreas about various topics including Gnoppix, and I watched the game France versus Greece together with the others (Funnily enough, I noted later on that the notebook which did the TV presentation was powered by WindowsXP). Some time later on, I bumped into Chris Halls, and we talked a bit about what he's doing in real life and for Debian. I always found it very impressive that he and Rene seem to manage the whole OpenOffice.org stuff in Debian mostly on their own. When I came back to the AKK, I found out that Dogi and the others were still outside, so we emptied the bottle of Bacardi I brought with me, blended with Dogi's orange juice. Florian Lohoff joined us, and told us a couple of hilarious stories on his own, so this was a great night. I guess I was pretty drunk at that point, because I even managed to sleep until close to 9 AM the next morning.

On Saturday I mainly listened to the 'hacking OpenOffice.org' talk by Michael Meeks and partly followed the talk by Georg Greve. I already listened to him last year, so I decided to move on after a couple of minutes (although he is a very inspiring speaker, much more so than RMS in my opinion). In the afternoon, I spent a while talking with Dogi in the beautiful park just outside of the expo area and then walked around the expo for a last time, before I attended the keysigning party However, I have not signed the keys from last years' LinuxTag, but I hope to do better this year. Later on, I discovered very much by accident that Christoph Lameter gave a talk about the performance of embedded systems and I took the oppurtunity to talk to him afterwards and tried to get his opinion on the situation of embedded systems in Debian. While I think that the modularity of the new Debian-Installer and the mainstream advent of Custom Debian Distributions should make for much easier handling of embedded issues, Christoph was not very interested in embedded systems inside of Debian. Rather, he seemed to believe in just sticking a full blown Debian installation on an embedded system (if the resources permit), or otherwise cross-compile something and copy it over. Anyway, I had a nice talk with him and showed him around the Debian booth a bit.

As a summary, I can say LinuxTag was again a nice experience. I only manned the booth for short while this year (as there was not enough space to display and promote the Debian GNU/Hurd port, unfortunately) and rather walked around and talked to people. I met a lot of old friends again and a couple of fine new people, and it is a pity that some others did not show up (mostly mako and Marcus). And of course Joey was too busy for conversation again this year.

10 Jul 2004 (updated 10 Jul 2004 at 13:37 UTC) »

I've got a new notebook. Somehow, I managed to get my parents to buy me a Thinkpad R51, after they got me to give my old notebook to my sister so she can write up her Master thesis.

The Thinkpad is extremely slick of course, albeit not extremely small or light. Installing Debian on it was pretty painless, I actually enjoy having a fresh install finally and watching how everything just works. However, it took me a while to figure out how to make exim4 work with GMX and SMTP-Auth and I still haven't figured out how to nicely integrate exim with tsocks, as I am still behind a SOCKS-proxy. Regarding the WLAN, I managed to install the ipw2100 centrino drivers in short time when I finally bothered. It's great to finally see drivers for this available, although they still require firmware.

APM suspend-to-ram is working very well, but I would like to have ACPI to also throttle the CPU and all. Unfortunately, going to ACPI S3 state and back somehow corrupts the WLAN and ethernet drivers, they stop to work after a while. Putting the Thinkpad to sleep and waking it up again makes the drivers work for a bit more. I just hope this gets fixed some day.

Other that that, I'm very happy with my Thinkpad. The keyboard is awesome (although it took me a while to adopt that the Esc key is above F1 now, being a vi junkie) and the display is great. GNOME-2.6 looks more beautiful than ever. Having a state-of-the-art CPU and 512MB RAM also helps a lot when compiling code. The only drawback is that history is repeating, though this time getting the Gigabit NIC working with GNU Mach might be harder. I plan to take the USB-2.0 and FireWire ports into use and buy an external harddisk case so I can take my data more easily with me.

19 May 2004 (updated 19 May 2004 at 14:10 UTC) »
"Sun should do Debian"

That's the private opinion of a couple of Sun people from their blog entries here and here last weekend. Jonathan Schwartz was already quoted in january that Sun would rethink their Linux desktop platform, currently based on SuSE. The question is which platform should Sun adopt instead, and a couple of people seem to push for Debian. The advantages for Sun's JDS would be quite obvious:

  • Sun would not depend on another company for their desktop system.
  • In contrast to Fedora, Debian is a really stable platform to build on, with a slow and predictible (at least quality-wise) release cycle.
  • Sun could gain a significant boost in community acceptance if the adoption of Debian would be done right.
  • Debian has always been a good base for others to build on. With the recent boost of development and usability of Custom Debian Distributions, using Debian as a base has become even easier and cleaner. The ideas of Bruce Perens and Ian Murdock are pushing this even further.

But what's in it for Debian? In my opinion, there could be quite a bit, if done right. Companies sometimes seem to be unsure on how they could help Debian. We don't need a lot of money, we've good a pretty good idea on how a Free Software Distribution should work and look like, we've mostly got enough hardware to keep us running (well, thanks to those guys) and we even seem to be getting just enough sponsors to make DebConf rock. But there are areas where we really could need a helping hand. So this is how I think Sun could help Debian:

  • They have done a great job helping GNOME's usability efforts. While debian-installer is a huge leap forward in terms of usability from older releases, there is still a lot of possible improvement (let alone for other tools like apt-get/aptitude) and any hint from Sun's professional usability experts would help us tremendously I think.
  • Speaking about debian-installer, Sun could perhaps even help in porting it to GTK+/GNOME, something which we plan for after the next release anyway.
  • On a lot of 'About' boxes and manuals for the GNOME desktop you find 'Documented by the Sun GNOME documentation team'. Doing documentation is frequently a problem for Free Software projects and there are a lot of loose ends in Debian in this regard as well.
  • Sun could also help with thorough testing of the base Debian distribution prior to release. Right now, we mostly rely on end user installation reports, very few developers actually install testing or try upgrading to it. Although we've got a QA team, getting help from professional testers would be very welcome.
  • Who knows, perhaps they could even help our sparc port eventually?
All this would of course depend on Sun's level of committment and whether they want to help Debian natively (something Skolelinux is doing with great success) or rather just use Debian as a base and substitute everything that is not there yet with their own (or other's) stuff. The latter would be fine (after all, it's Free Software), but the former would be much more appreciated by the Debian community for sure.

This is all just throwing thoughts together and of course Sun has not made the slightest notion to actually go forth about this officially. But if that should ever happen and if done right this could be profitable (in whatever sense) for both parties and the Free Software Community in general as well. I think Debian should support and welcome Sun in that case, with all due diligence. But in the end, it is our fundamental advantage that we can only profit from other companies' involvements, there is no way to buy us out and then lay off the Hurd freaks afterwards for example.

I've unsubscribed from debian-boot a couple of days ago after tbm started to flood the list with follow-ups on bug reports and other maintenance work. Great job, but too much for me to bear right now, unfortunately. I have to hand in my Diplomarbeit by the end of the month and so far I'm pretty good at avoiding IRC at least. I also pondered unsubscribing from -private and -vote, but things seem to have calmed down a bit lately, so I guess that can wait. Further, I managed to convince our admin at the university to install ion, so now I can use a decent window-manager which should get me a bit more productive as well.

I've met Bdale and a couple of other Debian guys from Munich last night. It was nice to see Bdale again and we had quite some interesting conversations about the current state of Debian and uncle Bdale also told us a couple of wonderful stories from way back then.

On the Hurd porting front, the patches for glibc and vim are in the packager's repositories pending uploads. The python case proved to be a bit harder than I thought but I think I've tackled that one now as well. I finally need to look at Roland's xattr patch for Linux again and check the pending issue, it would be nice to see that one go in some day. In other news, Barry deFreese managed to build the X11 libraries from X.org on GNU/Hurd yesterday which is really promising as X was next on my list anyway.

I also did some work on my own packages, uploading new upstream versions of chemtool and scmxx this week. Already a while ago, I set up a jack-pkg project on alioth with a mailing-list. Now I only have to figure out how to import the debian/-directory into CVS and then tell everybody who might be interested to join the effort. After the shock of the Sarge delay, I was less than motivated to go on fixing RC bugs for a while, and now I've got no time for that anyway. Since then, I've mostly recovered my faith and again hope we will release Sarge soon and that mako will get the FSF to fix the GFDL.

25 Apr 2004 (updated 25 Apr 2004 at 18:19 UTC) »

I'm a bit worried about the firmware issue. I support aj's decision to remove GPL'd firmware without obvious source availability, but I believe we should coordinate this with the other distributions to perhaps put a little more pressure on upstream or the vendors to fix this. After all, this is an issue for the whole Free Software Community. I tried to raise the question on slashdot, but my story did not hit the front page. The comments were mostly rather in our favour though, with the usual threshold of flamebaits and trolls. So this makes me hope we'd have the support of the wider community.

Even more worrying with respect to the kernel and releasing sarge than the firmware problem is the kernel security nightmare. I wonder whether we've learned the lesson from the woody release or whether we'll get a little bit of history repeating:

<Joey> aj: We cannot support both potato and woody
<Joey> supporting 17 architectures... I don't want to think about that...
<aj> Joey: so does that mean you'll be supporting none, or a select "n"? if the latter, which?
<Joey> aj: The current answer would be: no potato updates, and no woody updates, probably
-- #debian-devel, Mon Apr 29 2002 (two days before the designated release date)

At least, we seem to have identified the problem a bit earlier than last time and we don't need to change our archive infrastructure again this time.

So, what have I been up to? Over the last week I managed to get vim and python2.3 packages built for hurd-i386. Both being a bit hacked, they are on ftp.gnuab.org for now, but it seems that they could go into the main archive soon. Right now, I'm trying to build packages of the last big pile of rotten bits left in our toolchain, libc0.3. While I was worried that the GNU Hurd development seemed to be stalled again after a big boost at the beginning of the year, this is fortunately not the case. A new CVS module called 'fabrica' was created, which will contain the designated device-driver-framework for the Hurd on L4. Also, to my utter astonishment, Thomas Bushnell, BSG has started a discussion on bug-hurd all by himself, apparently inspired by reading code.

To my surprise, I really managed to stay off IRC for the most part of last week, which gave me a bit of extra time to fix one RC bug per day. Let's see whether I'll keep this up next week as well, after all:

<mhelas> bugsquashing is like drugs. if you started once, you will never give it up anymore.... ;-)

NP: GangStarr - Put up or shut up

19 Apr 2004 (updated 25 Apr 2004 at 19:33 UTC) »

So the hacking party is over. Besides Jens Schmalzing and me, most notably Frank Lichtenheld (the main BSP coordinator, coming from Karlsruhe), Andreas Barth (from the Debian QA team), Norbert Tretkowski (of backports.org, coming from Nuremberg) and Sven Luther (debian-installer powerpc port, coming from Strasbourg) were attending. Frank already arrived on friday and we both hacked at my place that evening. The main event began on saturday and after setting things up we were busy squashing bugs. We all went to a Biergarten for dinner and then continued hacking until 4:30 AM, which seems like a good indicator that poeple were enjoying it. After a very minor amount of sleep, we continued on sunday. The wheather was really excellent then, so we again went to a Biergarten in the afternoon.

The general mood was really good and people said they'd liked it quite a lot, which was also my personal impression. Coming together physically seems to be a good idea as we got a good number of bugs fixed or pending, while the only major contributions from people not in Munich were done by Goswin von Brederlow and also Micah Anderson. I wonder whether the other Debian developers don't feel like fixing bugs right now or perhaps are too busy or something. In addition to most of us fixing bugs, Jens told me that and he and Sven made quite some progress on the powerpc kernel front.

Personally, I also collected various patches to annoying bugs in dpkg on hurd-i386 making a package out of them for testing and managed to port the vim package to Debian GNU/Hurd for the most part, although it still needs some cleanup. I intend to take a break from Debian (or rather, IRC for a start) for a while now because I need to concentrate on finishing my Master Thesis until the end of May, unfortunately.

14 Apr 2004 (updated 14 Apr 2004 at 20:25 UTC) »

Being busy with university, I haven't been doing much for Debian or Free Software in general lately. The most notable thing was that I manged to get 3D acceleration to work on my OmniBook, thanks to Michel Dänzer's mach64 DRI packages. The speedup is quite noticeable, albeit not ground-breaking - at least now I can use pymol and Molekel without feeling like watching a slide-show. This episode also taught me that non-free software indeed is good for something, because it was struggling to get my roommates' Radeon card (or rather, linking the drm module for it) to work in 3D which actually made me wonder whether my notebook's graphics adapter would be able to do so as well. Other than that, I mostly broke jack's dependencies.

I am currently pretending to organize a small hacking event in Munich next weekend. It's going to be held along the next official Debian BSP and Frank Lichtenheld is going to come over to Munich to coordinate both of them. Further, Sven Luther will hopefully be around, as working on the powerpc port of d-i is planned as well. So, d-i hackers (or Debian people in general) don't be shy and come to Munich! I hope that a considerable amount of the Munich Debian guys will be around, in order to make that event fun to attend.

On some misc notes, I found out I'm living one subway station away from Murray Cumming and after looking at some of the other blogs in my quarter, of course I'm totally positive I've seen this girl somewhere before. Also, after having read Jeff Waugh's biography, I promptly logged into orkut again and finally became his fan on an official basis as well. In any case, OSCON looks like a wonderful place to be, if only it would be in Europe. Further, I appreciated that Ross Burton is listening to excellent music, although I was dissapointed to find out yesterday that our former, present and future DPL does not know about Eric B. & Rakim:

02:36 <azeem> warte bis -3:40 oder so, dann kommt Eric B. & Rakim :)
02:36 <tbm> kenn ich nicht

30 Mar 2004 (updated 30 Mar 2004 at 15:05 UTC) »

Last saturday I went to Linux-Infotag Augsburg together with Jens Schmalzing. For some reason, they thought installation presentations would still be en vogue and had people give presentations on installing Knoppix, Fedora, SuSE and Mandrake there. Jens decided that showing off an ordinary Debian woody installation was not worth the time and went for an FAI (Fully Automatic Installation) instead. He first explained stuff and then fired off FAI with one touch from his notebook, waking up, booting and installing the target box over LAN, without ever touching the box once. I guess people were quite impressed because he told me yesterday that the guys from the Augsburger LUG asked him to give the presentation again...

Unfortunately, he was talking quite a lot and it took him almost one hour (he thought it would take him about 30 minutes) to finish the presentation which left me with no time to show off debian-installer, as we orginally planned. Actually, we spent most of friday evening and some time on saturday trying to figure out how to boot and install d-i with a USB keystick (which was quite easy) and installing stuff over WLAN (which did not work due to the lack of an access point. We could get neither my prism2 nor his airport card to work properly with hostap). In the end we did a private presentation for two interested people in a different room using the sarge mirror on his powerbook, but driving to Augsburg still felt rather like a waste of time afterwards, as the event was quite small and there was not much else to see.

On sunday, I finally uploaded xdrawchem, my last major package lacking behind and it looks like ghemical will enter sarge tomorrow.

Yesterday, I met a couple of other Debian developers from Munich again in the Augustinerkeller, along with a couple of other interested guys. It seems we're trying to organize a hacking/bug-squashing party in Munich on April 17th/18th if there is enough interest. People from out of Munich can sleep at my place which is just around the corner of the mathematics department, where the session will be taking place, so I hope at least a couple of people from the rest of southern germany or austria will come around.

I've also played a bit with bitlbee, which looks really cool. Unfortunately, I was having issues with my SOCKS setup again, I'll have to sort that out. Further, I finally managed to change the key-bindings of ion2 to my likings (i.e. the way I had them configured back when I used ion), so I'll probably be using ion even more than before. I still have to check out Gnome-2.6 and see whether that makes me switch back to a fancy desktop environment though.

I'm a bit worried about the dedication to get sarge out of the door. There was a Bug-Squashing Party over the weekend which I was remotely attending, doing one sponsored upload, fixing Exult and trying to be helpful to others. Still, Frank Lichtenheld credited me for this small amount of work, which rather says it all about the attendence of the other Developers.

Most of the time during the weekend I tried to build glibc on hurd-i386. It turned out that there seem to be still some problems with Ogi's patch for ext2fs large stores, as I got quite some file system corruption and never managed to complete a build. Reverting to the hurd package from unstable and making a smaller partition made glibc compile fine, libc0.3-dev still needs to be fixed by Jeff Bailey though.

Over the last week, I got most of my Debian packages in shape for sarge. MPQC now built fine on all arches for the first time ever, and after fixing a bug in the test suite, a shared library of OpenBabel is ready to go into sarge now as well. This made it possible to get a ghemical package linked dynamically against OpenBabel and MPQC into unstable, which will replace the severly outdated version in sarge soon. I also fixed PyMOL, but it's still stuck in Dep-Wait on hppa due to a mistake with Build-Depends and despite a mail to debian-hppa. The last outstanding package now is XDrawChem and Warren Stramiello is fine with me uploading it.

Yesterday, I hacked sbuild to properly build source packages when requested.

11 Mar 2004 (updated 12 Mar 2004 at 10:47 UTC) »

Last week, I managed to successfully bootstrap a Debian GNU/Hurd system from GNU/Linux without having to natively setup the Hurd translators. The latest version of Roland McGrath's ext2-xattr patch seems to work fine now and made this possible. Other exciting news in this area is the apparent maturity of Ognyan Kulev's ext2 patch for large stores. Seems one of the major drawbacks of the GNU Hurd, namely the 2GB partition limit, is mostly resolved now.

Over the last weekend, I finally backported a couple of my chemistry-related packages, as one of the admins of my research group at the university seemed amenable to install them on our group server. Packages so far include chemtool, openbabel and xmakemol. I was not able to backport xdrawchem yet, as it seems to Build-Depend on Qt-3.2, even though upstream claims any version of Qt3 should do.

On Monday, I finally decided to do something about the allegations against the non-free removal and proposed a transition plan for the non-free packages to nonfree.org. No direct offers for help have emerged from the posting yet, but during the draft phase we've already found a host featuring a full-blown katie installation, which covers one of the biggest concerns already.

At the university, I finally had to code a bit for my master thesis. Sadly, it only involved adopting the i/o routines of a Fortran77 program to our needs. Very depressing job.

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