23 Feb 2005 mbanck   » (Journeyer)

My Thinkpad's harddisk started to spew out errors in early December, and it took me some time to, ehm, update my backups and get a new harddisk shipped. When the new disk finally arrived, I decided to install Ubuntu on it; partly due to a Warty CD being a bit easier to reach than a Debian one, partly because I don't like having to remove all the KDE applications after doing a Sarge desktop install.

Over the last couple of months, I became co-maintainer of some packages, namely exult (an Ultima7 game engine, I have since taken over maintainership completely), sbuild (the version in the archive directed for end users), crosshurd (a hackish way to bootstrap a Debian system (Linux, BSD or Hurd) using parts of debootstrap and apt-get) and perhaps most notably the hurd package itself. Since I started my Ph.D. in November, I had to cut down on time devoted to Debian and mostly looked after the hurd package. The most important change here was the inclusion of Ognyan Kulev's patch for large stores, finally killing off the legendary 2 GB partition limit.

Upstream Hurd development continues to be very seasonal. Thomas and Roland have mostly disappeared again, but Marcus and Neal are now working on the L4 port with increased energy and the progress they make is awesome. First, Neal finished the initial memory management framework. A short while later, Marcus reported the first successful execution of a user-space program on Hurd/L4. Marco mostly focused on Grub2 over the last months but lately came back and finished the console repeaters and the Hurd part of DHCP support.

However, there have been a lot of new people getting involved both in Debian GNU/Hurd and the Hurd/L4 port, together with the Hurdfr project getting more active recently. A constant flux of incoming patches and some duplication of work resulting from this forced us to turn on the patch tracker of the pkg-hurd alioth project. Likewise, the hurd-l4 mailing list has seen a couple of new faces, most notably Matthieu Lemerre (who already sent in a bunch of useful patches) and Johan Rydberg (who has been active in the Hurd community for several years and now got commit rights to the Hurd/L4 source). Also, Andrew Resch managed to boot into the Hurd from a CD via GRUB and Ben Asselstine even got it booting all the way into the Hurd console and multi-user mode. This is an important step on the way to a native installer.

The Debian GNU/Hurd port is currently pretty well off, we have a stable toolchain and noticably increased the user experience lately as mentioned above. However, the sarge release is more and more becoming annoying for us, as important packages like coreutils or krb4/krb5 (which are needed for openldap and thus a lot of other stuff) are not getting fixed for us. Last week, I spent two nights fixing xfree86 for GNU/Hurd, but the patches did not get considered for the latest upload, which is pretty demotivating. Besides this, the next steps are probably looking at debootstrap and later debian-installer and then porting GNOME.

After having been demotivated to help on the sarge release due to the lack of progress on testing-security over summer, I got back into bug fixing in autumn when I had the feeling that the ftp-masters and buildd wizards were creeping back out of their holes and some slow progress was being made. I attended the Bug-Squashing Party in Frankfurt in late November, driving there together with Andreas Barth and meeting Frank Lichtenheld, Wesley Terpstra, Norbert Tretkowski and others. I took a look at RC bugs for the first time in 6 months and managed to fix quite a few. The connection between release progress and my bug-fixing motivation occured to me only afterwards, I wonder how many other Debian people were sub-conciously putting off fixing bugs due to being frustrated by the release process. The total lack of attendence at the spring Bug-Squashing-Parties on IRC suggest there are quite a few, so I was really happy to see people from the UK and Australia participate as well.

Next stop: FOSDEM.

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