About a month and a half ago, I got an email from someone studying at the HELMo institute for higher eduction in Liège, Belgium, inviting me to talk at their conference which was held today. In the email, they asked me to talk about "Debian and Open Source", which is such a wide subject that I could talk about it all day; and then they gave me 20 minutes to do it. So I picked "Debian", and focused a bit more on that, only to find out when I saw their schedule that they'd put "Open Source" there instead. Hrm. Oh well.
The talk itself went pretty good. I believe I managed a good balance between introducing Debian to those who've not heard of it before, and explaining to those who have, how this Debian thing works (or is supposed to work). The fact that the audience consisted of first- and second-year IT students made this easier (in case you were wondering: the third-year students, who're supposed to graduate at the end of this eyar, organized the thing). I got some interesting questions afterwards (which is always a good sign), and only positive comments as well (which is even better).
After me, Lionel Dricot held a talk which was titled "Pirate Party", but which could be summarized as his personal history into the open source world, followed by some parallels between the open source world and the pirate party.That, too, was an interesting talk, even if I'm not sure I'd vote for the pirate party (which isn't even possible in Mechelen, but ignoring that).
All in all, a nice use of my time.
So, the vote is over, and Stefano won.
During many past DPL elections, I've made my vote public, and this one is no different:
V: 1223 597c362e6156ec7e37b334837161da26
That's me, in this list. Obviously I wouldn't run if I'm not serious about it, so I voted myself first. As to the other part: I thought long and hard about that, but eventually came to the conclusion that both Stefano and Gergely had properties as a candidate that I liked, and properties that I didn't like, and that therefore I couldn't prefer either of them over the other. I found Gergely's platform to be fairly similar to my own, which is a good thing; but there were a few details that made me have some pause about his candidacy. And while I stand by the things I said during campaigning about Stefano as a DPL, the truth is that the project could be far worse off than to have him re-elected.
As to the outcome... I can't say it's entirely unexpected. I knew it was a long shot even before I started, and then campaigning didn't excactly go as I would have hoped. I expected to lose, but not by such a margin—what Stefano did wasn't winning, it's called 'trashing the opposition'. Congratulations, zack, for a truly exceptional performance; and thanks, also to Gergely, for being a worthy opponent.
In closing, I'll say that I don't think I'll run again. I've gone through the process three times now, and have never gotten very close to winning; this probably means that what I feel about the position of DPL is somewhat removed from what the project as a whole thinks about it. So, absent some radical changes in either the project itself or in the way I look upon it, another candidacy from me is highly unlikely.
I guess I'll have to find other ways to spend my time...
My first ever Linux installation was done in the late nineties—1998 or thereabouts—but was a RedHat 4.5 installation rather than a Debian one. The reason for that was fairly simple: the Infomagick sixpack CD set that I'd bought contained RedHat, Debian, and Slackware, but the RedHat installation was the only one that could be installed directly from CD—the other two required me to write floppies and boot from those to start the installation, and I wasn't very fond of that idea.
It was only a few years and a few broken RedHat upgrades later that I saw the light and considered trying out this Debian thing that some of my classmates were talking about. The fact that I'd just bought my own computer (rather than having to compete for time with my siblings on my parents' computer) was a good reason to do a fresh Linux installation. I'd been planning to install Linux From Scratch, but as what was still known as the LFS HOWTO told me you'd need a working Linux installation to do that, I considered my options. Since I'd developed a strong dislike of RedHat, I wasn't interested in doing another RedHat anymore. So, I downloaded the most recent version of Debian at the time (Potato Test Cycle III), wrote it to a CD, and installed. I've probably still got the CD lying around somewhere.
A few months later, I found these "Linux Gazette" packages in the archive, with the latest packaged issue being 47, but the latest upstream version being much higher. Trying to figure out what was going on, I mailed the maintainer, Adrian Bridgett, who encouraged me to take over maintenance. Thus began my life of actively contributing to Open Source software.
In November 2000, I applied to become a Debian Developer. In January 2001, Martin Michlmayr was assigned to be my AM. And in early February 2001, now just over ten years ago, I'd become a Debian Developer. Yes, that was fast, and no, I probably wasn't really ready yet, at the time.
Originally, I only cared much about these Linux Gazette packages. But, as time went on, I started looking around, too. A friend passed me an old Macintosh Centris 610. As I tried to install Debian on it, I found that it didn't actually run very well. This turned out to be due to it having a broken 68LC040 processor, so I bought me another m68k-based mac, one with a full 68040 processor (a Centris 650). Thus I became involved in the m68k port and buildd maintenance.
As these old machines came with 80MB or 250MB SCSI hard disks of which I had none laying around, and a then-recent Debian installation had minimum requirements of about 200MB, I was in need of network storage to be able to do anything useful with the mac. NFS didn't work as expected; the RTC implementation on m68k mac hardware was reverse engineered and didn't work too well at the time, which meant that the clock would run slower if the machine was under load, and that in turn would mean that make would get confused about timestamps, since they would suddenly appear to originate from the future (in NFS, it's the server that assigns time stamps, not the client). There was a simple solution, however; Pavel Macheck had written this neat 'Network Block Device', which would let the client do its own filesystem on network storage. Only it wasn't packaged; but then, that was easy to fix. Thus I started maintaining the single piece of software that I've worked the most on, to date.
A few years later, Pavel lost interest in maintaining NBD, and handed over upstream maintenance to me—and maintenance of the kernel side to Paul Clements. Thus began my life in upstream work. And while I originally joined Debian with the intent of using it as a learning experience and stepping stone on my way to more "important" free software, I found that it wasn't as satisfying as was my work for Debian.
Over the years, there's been this duality where I've felt like I was doing too much and not enough at the same time. Too much, because the things I was doing would eat up much of my spare time, leaving little time left for other hobbies. Not enough, because I witnessed other people doing much more for Debian than I did, and I wanted to make a difference.
As the years passed by, many things have changed. Not only in Debian, but also besides it. I became an independent contractor, focusing mostly on supporting people in using Debian (although I support them with other distributions, too). The importance of a port went from 'something which these weird porter people are doing, and that we should probably help them with if it doesn't work, but is their problem really' to 'something that I really really really have to make sure works for my packages', and back—for the port that I cared about most. After several years of trying, I finally managed to explain to my parents what this Debian thing is, why it matters, and what my role in the whole thing is. We did a few releases, some taking longer than I would've liked. People joined the project, and left again. Some of my friends died. My fame in the project rose, even though I wasn't aware of it initially; and thus I was rather surprised when someone asked me whether I was "the Wouter Verhelst" at a key signing party.
Recently, I've started looking back, and considered the things which Debian has meant to me. Ten years ago, I was 22, still in college, and had way too much spare time on my hands. I'd recently gotten my first Internet installation, and all these online communities were very new to me. Yes, that was all probably rather late. Debian has changed my life in many ways; it has allowed me to meet various kinds of people, both online and in meatspace. I've been to Helsinki, Edinburgh, Mar del Plata, Càceres, and New York City, places that I might otherwise not have visited. Each of these trips was an incredible experience that I have fond memories of; and while the most fond ones originate from Helsinki, I cherish the memories of each of these trips as some of the best trips I've ever done. Working on Debian has forced me to learn about the inner workings of a Linux-based system, which is knowledge that has helped me tremendously professionally, too. And finally, working on Debian has given me a unique perspective on this whole FOSS community, which has helped shape my ethics and my view of the world. While I believe that I would've subscribed to most of that ideology at any rate, I'm not sure that the details of my beliefs and understanding would've been exactly the same. And while I don't agree on every position that the project subscribes to as a whole, I do believe that the philosophies that lie at the core of this project contain just the right mix of pragmatism and ideology that makes it possible for our project to thrive in a changing world of not only a growing group of people who subscribe unconditionally to the free software ideals, but also business people who care mostly about money.
Over the years, somehow I moved from "one of the recent batch of new Debian Developers" to "someone who's been with the project longer than most". It still feels weird to see people shut up because you've built up a reputation in some area, and you give your gut opinion on some subject without researching it too much. I try not to let that happen too often.
Today, ten years and just over a week ago, my life as a Debian Developer started, and it would change the way I looked at the world, the things I would do in my spare time, and the people I would meet. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Thanks, Debian, for what's been a blast; may the next ten years be as inspiring to me and everyone as the past ten!
The DPL vote is over. I did not win, apparently. Let me start off by thanking the other candidates for running, and congratulating Stefano for winning.
My own results aren't too bad; I beat 'none of the above' by a comfortable margin of almost 10 to 1, and ended up defeating Charles Plessy by a slightly smaller margin. My margin to NOTA was far better than during the previous DPL election that I participated in, though I did end up defeating more than half of the other candidates back then, which I didn't this time around. All in all, not enough to win, but enough to conclude that I might have a chance some other time. Margarita and Stefano were just better candidates this time around.
My own vote was:
[ 2 ] Stefano Zacchiroli [ 1 ] Wouter Verhelst [ 4 ] Charles Plessy [ 2 ] Margarita Manterola [ 3 ] NOTA
If you run, you have to be serious about running, and support yourself. So I did. After that, I wasn't sure that Stefano would do a better job than Margarita (or vice versa), so I put them at the same spot. Finally, I became convinced during campaigning that Charles has a lot to learn still about what lives in the Debian community, and I am of the opinion that feeling the community is a vital requirement for a DPL; so that ruled him out.
So why did I not win? Obviously because there were better candidates in the election, but the real question is: why is that the case? What did I do, or what did other candidates do, that meant they fared better than I? One possibility was given on IRC:
< svuorela> ol: and "I'm running because no other runs" is also not a good way to get votes ...
Which is fair enough; but I did run with the intention of winning, and I did try to make that clear. I'm hoping that worked out okay, which would imply that there could be other reasons. I'd like to know about those. So if you voted, and did not place me on the top spot, I'd very much appreciate learning about your motivations for doing so—especially so if you were one of the 39 people who would rather have redone the vote than see me win. Comments on this blog post are welcome, or by private e-mail if you'd rather not see them made public.
As I do every year, this year too I asked for a devroom and a booth at the yearly FOSDEM meeting in Brussels, Belgium.
We've been granted a booth. We've not been granted a devroom.
This is not because the organizers hate Debian, but because the organizers wish to organize things slightly differently this year. As a matter of fact, they've not granted a devroom to any distribution project.
Does that mean we can't hold talks at FOSDEM? Certainly not.
Instead of a bunch of distribution devrooms, there will be a 'distribution miniconf' that the Debian distribution has been invited in. What wasn't clear from the initial mail (at least not to me), however, was that talk proposals can already be sent in.
If you want to hold a talk about a Debian-specific subject, you should subscribe to the relevant FOSDEM mailinglist, and send your proposal there. However, do note that since it will not be a Debian-specific event anymore, that while the talk may be about something related to Debian, it should target people who may be involved with other distributions. The goal is to learn from eachother.
With that out of the way, I guess the booth will gain on importance this year, since there will not be any other Debian-specific bits anymore. As such, if people would like to come up with suggestions on what to do with it, that would be greatly appreciated. These should probably go to email@example.com.
See you at FOSDEM,
So apparently Steve got re-elected this year. Congrats, also to Luk; and to Zack, who didn't do too bad.
Careful readers may notice that, for the first time since early 2001 when I achieved Debian Developer status, I did not exercise my right to vote. This was not because I didn't care about the vote, but because if I were to vote honestly, I would've done something like '11-', which has mostly the same effect as not voting. The candidates this year were both equal in my opinion, so I just didn't bother.
This friday, I had to go to a customer whose office is close to the Brussels South station. As I went back, I missed the train to Mechelen by a few minutes, and had to wait about 20 minutes (IIRC) for the next one.
So rather than sitting there, doing nothing and twiddling my thumbs, I thought I'd go to the ticketing office and ask about prices.
Since trains can only be booked about three months in advance to the actual trip, now is still too early to get a definite price. However, I asked for an estimate, and they were kind enough to get me one.
Looks like a one-way ticket from Belgium to Madrid is going to be €150ish. Of course that doesn't get me to Caceres yet, but since I'll need to get from Madrid to Caceres whether I go there by train or not, that isn't going to make a real difference.
I'm sure it's going to be cheaper if I book a flight with the likes of Ryanair or some such, of course, but €300 isn't too much of an inconvenience; and taking a train rather than a flight is much more appealing to me. So that's what I'll do.
Also note that Bdale Garbee will be doing a Debian keynote talk on saturday morning.
Anyway, the picture I took of you back in Argentina isn't great hackergochi material; it cuts off part of your chin and the top of your head, which will get you a very very ugly hackergochi if you try to use it. Trust me—been there, done that. In addition, it's very likely that you like the picture because of the somewhat dark background, even if only subconsciously; by turning it into a hackergochi, you cut out that background, so the appeal of the picture gets lost somewhat.
Since you won't be at FOSDEM, I can't offer to take another picture of you. And since the picture you refer to is mostly great because of the lighting (which will no doubt be completely different, it freezing right now over here and everything) and the lens I used (which wasn't mine, but belonged to someone else; I just borrowed it for a few hours), I seriously doubt that I'll be able to get a picture that's in any way similar to the one you seem to like so much.
Having said that, taking a good hackergochi picture isn't too hard; just think of a few basic things while taking it. If you're not happy with any of the pictures you already have, then take a new one! The following might help you with that:
After that, just cut out the head and add a dropshadow. Even if you're not very familiar with The Gimp, that shouldn't take you a very long time; andn The Gimp is fun enough to play with anyway. Hints: Look for 'scissors select'; the dropshadow is in 'filters' -> 'light and shadow' -> 'dropshadow'
Good luck :-)
Lessons learned: using the phrase third, final, and slightly desperate is an excellent way to motivate people into reacting to your Call for Talks. I've even had to reject some people now, unfortunately.
Maybe next year, I'll use that phrase in my first call for talks.
Then again, maybe not.
Anyway, of course that does mean that there are no slots available anymore. If you wanted to hold a talk in the Debian devroom, you've had plenty of opportunity and will now have to wait until next year.
There are still some minor loose ends that need to be filled in (of course there are always people who will wait until the very last moment to send mails they need to send... including me), but once that's done, I'll announce the schedule on the -events-eu mailinglist, and probably here too. And if you're worried that the word 'desperate' perhaps got us some boring talks in the end, don't be; the talks that are on the schedule are, I hope, all very interesting. Watch this space!
So, things left to do, in no particular order:
That's it for now, I guess. Back to your regularly-scheduled flamewar.