Debian

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The DPL Result 2006: Anthony Towns

Congratulations to Anthony Towns for winning the 2006 Debian Project Leader Election. Unlike last year, I voted against Anthony Towns because of a personal - rather than policy - disagreement. I'm not sure the policies are ambitious enough, but maybe they can be SMART. Good luck!


The DPL Debate 2006

So, we get to the end of the DPL Debate (my logs), I revise my opinions and make a first draft of my vote. Thoughts here are given with grouping people as I see similarities (3 collaboration-centrics, 2 I don't like and the 2 unusual).

Bill Allombert
a moderate, a change, a reluctant candidate. Maintainer of an important, widely-used but unfashionable package. Someone questioned status and charisma, but from watching the FOSDEM video, I think there's the stage presence. Needs work on presenting. How much does that matter, though? It can be learnt. Above NOTA for sure. Just not sure where.
Andreas Schuldei
Seems to have done both good and bad work in the DPL team, which I guess is to be expected. I am uncomforable with some of his opinions and I think he's made poor judgement calls like signing this mob-flaming - but I don't think he'd try to impose those opinions and all DPLs goof sometimes. I still think the small teams aim has many benefits. Above NOTA.
Jeroen van Wolffelaar
I'm not clear what he did in the DPL team during the year. I've listened to the FOSDEM talk, but still not clear. I am also uncomfortable with some opinions and judgements, even more so than Andreas. In debate, brazenly said he supported the first expulsion request. Gives a fairly good analysis of the problem, but: Physician! Heal Thyself! Placing unsure.
Anthony Towns
Lost my vote on Wed, 17 Aug 2005. Below NOTA.
Steve McIntyre
Commercialising debian on an ugly footing with DUS. It's wrong to try to call Debian Developers members of a retail business without asking them. Did something else I dislike a lot. Below NOTA.
Ari Pollack
If this was comedy, it needed to be funnier. Did something I dislike a lot. Below NOTA.
Ted Walther
Learned some things from last year. Heart seems to be in the right place. The interview with Aigarius suggests views not as simple as painted. Still a political disaster zone in internal debian matters (see platform, debate, ...). May be above NOTA in my vote this year.

Update: I slept well. Thanks for caring. Martin F. Krafft asked what's the point of this type of post, why we don't stand for DPL or "use the time to get some work done on Debian". For me, I'm trying to bias the vote outcome by persuading voters or candidates and draw attention to things that may have slipped past. There's no way I'd be elected DPL this year - mostly because of misperceptions I think, but mid-Feb to mid-March is always a bad time for me to explain myself - and I'm working on Debian things but I'm happy to spend extra time trying to identify a good leader. I never decide for sure until I fill out the ballot: some things can change in the last few days.

If you don't find my ideas thought-provoking, sorry. I know some do.

Update 2: The krooger effect

While discussing the debate with another DD, I noticed something interesting. While Ted Walther goes in too hard and too heavy in part III of the debate (lines 600 on in the log), two of his targets demand evidence rather than answer his questions.

One example was Jeroen van Wolffelaar responding to Ted Walther's questions like "do you think that trying to kick people out of the project because you don't like their religious views is something to sweep under the carpet?" with the answer "can you prove one quote where I'm discriminating based on religion?"

Why do that? It's usual to ask for evidence when one is undecided, but how could he be undecided about whether he discriminates based on religion? Why not reject that suggestion too? Some will assume the target(s) are avoiding or ignoring the question because they're undecided whether they need to confess yet, but don't want to lie. However, I decided I think Jeroen is ignorant or careless, rather than bigoted. At least he gave some answer, unlike several others.

The other notable evader IMO was Steve McIntyre about debian commercial activity and DUS's tax registration (presumably based on the -project and/or -uk list traffic from the last year) but I'm a bit too close to that for it to change my vote.

Even those who rank Ted Walther low should admit that he asked some of the trickiest questions in part III and mixed it up a bit.

DPL Voting 3

I don't care much whether someone attacks me because they want to or because they're led: I'll still dislike them. The candidate whose teammate told Anthony Towns to send that email isn't named, so DPL Campaign Redux doesn't change my vote. I don't want that sort of illogical inconsistent intervention from a DPL. In my opinion, None Of The Above should beat Anthony Towns.

By the way, other criticisms are vague because they would also involve publishing comments others made in private, which usually I won't do. Details available on request to DDs who ask.


How I read the DPL 2006 platforms

Bill Allombert
  • Lars Wirzenius had denominated himself
  • fully volunteer project implications
  • some rules for better communications
  • mediate
  • consider the distribution globally
  • "assistant" projects, Debian-specific projects
  • neutral observers
Jonathan (Ted) Walther
  • unpopular
  • GIANT ROBOTS sex JET PACKS sex CITIES ON THE MOON sex SPACE COLONIES sex FLYING CARS beer
  • Most of us are disfunctional in various ways
  • if a person tries to get another person kicked out of the Debian project, and they fail, they themselves will be kicked out. wiki
  • developers who didn't go through NM to go through it within the next year. From that point on, every developer would be required to renew their membership every three years, similar to drivers licenses [MJR: not English driving licences, it's not]
  • honor James Troup
Andreas Schuldei
  • not found on this server
Anthony Towns
  • a leadership hat
  • increasing its tempo
  • DPL and others actively and visibly recruit people on an ongoing basis
  • raise topics for discussion, and help guide them through
  • Gratuitous Song Parody
  • [seems to see the arbitrary expulsion and ban procedures as good developments?]
  • [title claims to be Ari Pollak's platform :) This is a good thing, will win votes.]
Steve McIntyre
  • [officer of the trader called "Debian-UK"]
  • regular status updates
  • agree a Debian code of conduct
  • more NM training can/should happen more within teams
  • more open discussion will happen naturally
  • Professionalism [(!) why not think of the children, too?]
  • detect [MIA] more quickly and more easily
Ari Pollak
  • half-joke candidate
  • half-DPL
  • Team Ari: Debian Police
  • who needs such complicated licenses, anyway?
Jeroen van Wolffelaar
  • DPL team
  • adoption of a code of conduct
  • insider reports
  • more use of the official wiki
  • Increase transparency of infrastructure teams
  • mediator/ombudsman ... team like the tech-ctte
  • actively approach the press

The above are in the reverse of the vote page order, in case you were wondering. I've not worked out my preference yet. Let's see what happens.

Other Views of the DPL 06 Platforms

Update 2

Update 1

Original post:


About the DPL 2005 election

In 2005, I started by helping to draft Branden in as a candidate, then tried to start some discussion on -vote. I seem to remember that I was pretty unhappy about the IRC debate, but very appreciative of the -vote summaries.

I voted against Matthew Garrett, which was wise voting, going by his part in the DUS fiasco and telling someone their beliefs about death were "a) wrong, b) broadly irrelevant, c) wrong" (see two and two) standing out among a catalogue of examples. The DUS fiasco is still relevant because it went unfixed for a year. Steve McIntyre helps run that business which ignored "An individual Developer may make any technical or nontechnical decision with regard to their own work" (debian project constitution) for no good reason. Surely it's obvious that should include DDs being allowed to decide what businesses they join?

Finally, Branden was elected as DPL, seems mostly silent since and has granted DUS a trademark licence. Oh well, can't win them all.

There's not enough mention of the 2004 campaign to be worth writing a whole section. Just one post, as far as I can see.


About #debian-tech

And now, a break from the DPL platforms to look at #debian-telet^H^H^Hch. ;-)

DPL 2006 candidate Anthony Towns defends #debian-tech, saying that the actions which frustrated joeyh were mentioned in another IRC channel. I don't IRC much any more, so I don't know: was joeyh online in that other IRC channel when the actions were mentioned, and did they ever reach a main discussion archive?

I feel that one problem in debian development is that too many discussions loop and not enough people give or follow references/links. However, if the source material never reaches public archives, it's impossible for anyone outside the original discussion to do so.

This is quite besides the discussion about how far charters and charter-admins should go. Selfbanning is a good move and I think it should stall most punishment processes, but it seems that some people keep on flaming long after a self-ban with a reasoning that seems to be: "they might hurt us later, so we should hurt them first."

Myself, I won't go in #debian-tech because "respect and courtesy" often really means "respect mah autoriteh" (bad), "respect the majority" (almost as bad) or simply BOGU, in my experience of debian.


What debian needs now...

...is love, sweet love.

Well, not exactly, but sort of. I mentioned part of this in public in various places, but I'd like to put it all in one place here. I'd like to see the debian lists have:

Comedy is when someone replies to tell others not to reply to the thread, then others reply to agree. Should taking meta-discussion to the absurd be a banning offence? Probably not, but it's a good laugh in a way.

I felt Anthony Towns's suggestion about mailing lists during the 2005 DPL campaign seemed a bit too automated and opaque, but a gentler variation of it might help a lot.

As a result of this comment by Brett Parker, I updated my list of list-friendly email clients and put it on the web. If you can expand or correct it, please email me.

Does debian need a steering committee?

Following the original idea and some other commentaries, this quote sums up my view:

"I've done this before, in various forms, and most of the time it follows the same predictable route: 25% of the time you get a really good committee and it's a blast for all involved; 25% you get a diabolical committee and it stands a chance of dying; half the time you get an average committee and it continues as it was before. The whole "committee" idea has some fairly major pitfalls to avoid: cliques, irrelevance and legality to name but three. [...] I think we should NOT form a committee." -- Me, April 1999

Follow the orange bounces carefully...

Like other people, I'm also getting bounces about mails sent to debian lists in 2005 that appear to be from MAILER-DAEMON@orange.fr - but on reading the headers of the error and the attached triggering message, it seemed to be some orange.fr user who has misconfigured their MTA and is injecting it with a load of old mail from a yahoo account. I'm told the user has been unsubbed - only 12 months of bounces to go...


Project Membership

The Dunc-Tank

An initiative to pay key developers, led by the project leader, trading on project goodwill, but outside the project.

Sponsorships

Uploading packages for other people.

Expulsions

The worrying expulsion-mania in 2005 and 2006:

Reforming the NM Process
Suggestion: Ask advocates to take on the formative/educational part of the current AM role and prepare a summary in a given format about the applicant. The summary could then be used as the basis for simpler summative testing by an AM, with swift referral back to advocate and applicant with direction, if the AM or FD is not satisfied. [link to mailing list post with more explanation and references] (Updated 2006-04-12T16:00+0100)
Non-DD Contributors want to vote for DPL
Mailing list post: Clytie Siddall asked: "I don't understand why this election is restricted to Debian Developers. What about all the other people who regularly contribute time and effort to the Debian project?" This is a known bug, I think, but I don't remember any of this year's candidates pledging to solve it. There seems few votes in fixing this bug, as ...
Revoking NM application due to inactivity from Debian [Windfluechter.Net]
DAMnation proves too much for one applicant

Expulsions

The Debian UK Society

I have no particular chip now that they don't try to involve me directly, but I doubt anyone else will want to point these problems out and get similar treatment from DUS-fans:

My current attitude is to start no action against DUS and to comment only when DUS is described misleadingly.

I have no problem with debian-uk (as against DUS) and I know and like some of the Debian UK people too.

Thanks to the Debian UK Society, I was menaced with expulsion a while back. Maybe this biases my view, but I think "expel them!" is used too quickly now. This isn't the Geek Social Fallacy joke. It's almost its inverse, with few willing to speak out in favour of a more gradual discipline system, for fear of GSF taunting. There are times when expulsion is needed, but there is now too little tolerance of different-yet-arguably-correct views instead of jumping straight to "expel them!"

In June 2005, Ian Jackson chastised me for directing a UK donation away from Debian-UK Society (DUS), quoting a chunk of debian rules:

"In particular, the Constitution says that `[a person] must not actively work against these rules and decisions properly made under them'."

Then I looked and I found the Constitution also says:

"Since Debian has no authority to hold money or property, any donations for the Debian Project must be made to SPI, which manages such affairs"

so anyone directing them elsewhere is actively working against the rules. I hate bureaucracy, so I find it amusing when the rules appear to support actions that I didn't check beforehand.

Also, it looks to me like the DPL endorsing a non-SPI-partner maybe isn't a properly-made decision (as others noted, the rules are rather confused on that). Finally, there's no need to play with the rules to let debian go outside SPI to accept donations from new countries. I suggest finding new partners for SPI as appropriate. No debian vote required.

In December 2005, I asked SPI to update DUS's trademark licence to SPI's current draft licence - which would've required DUS to stop asserting automatic DD membership, which they still did at the time - and to confirm that DUS had notified the Inland Revenue of their trading (agenda). I'm very unhappy with how SPI board member Ian Jackson handled this. He started by representing his situation in a way I disagreed with:

57:46 <IanJackson> Note that I speak as a non-member of Debian UK and have not been to any of their meetings. I do know several of the participants, some as friends, and consider them sound and sensible.
59:47 <slef> IanJackson: are you UK-resident?
59:53 <IanJackson> slef: Yes.
01:49 <slef> IanJackson: DUS claimed you are a member then. [...]

Then there was an irrelevant point about friendship, which I think was trying to suggest I dislike the DUS officers:

01:39 <IanJackson> Note that anyone in the UK involved with Debian who is at all familiar with the situation will also probably count Steve et al as friends or at least acquaintances.
02:06 <slef> Oh sure. I've nothing against them personally. I don't want to be in business with them.

Eventually, Ian Jackson advocated my expulsion:

08:44 <IanJackson> overfiend: I think you should refer MJ Ray to the NM-team for possible expulsion. (source)

Advocating expulsion! All I wanted was to remove the automatic membership of an unethical, buggy business venture of some UK DDs. Disproportionate punishment or what?

Previously, I wrote about DUS during the DPL elections (see above) and the DUS fiasco (2005).

The Second Expulsion Request?

Andres Salomon requested the expulsion of Sven Luther. I think this was rather different to the previous expulsion request (mentioned in public in the last-but-one paragraph here - yay privacy) because it isn't a religion-related which ethic is more important? but a straight: is this acceptable?

Personally, I have found correspondence with Sven Luther to be very difficult, but eventually possible (shameful example where I use email judo to eventually get discussion). I don't think repeatedly restating disagreements in firey language is a conflict resolution approach: maybe Sven Luther will learn in time and we need some tools to train such people.

For something as serious as an expulsion request, you really should have enough evidence beforehand (and good stuff, not "her religion offends me"). I think posting an expulsion request with "I'm looking both for people who have had conflicts w/ him" is shameful. There's no grounds for expulsion shown in this one... I'm not going to defend Sven Luther, but it looks like another expulsion request as a tactic in a personal dispute.

(I think this article upset Andres Salomon.)

Andrew Suffield and the debian/lesbian joke

Here's my view on it, briefly:

  1. Off-topic announcement by Raphaël Hertzog;
  2. Direct action by Andrew Suffield. Satire, nodding to the debian/lesbian merchandise which has been sold for years by shops and shows. Wrong, but understandable if you remember the OP killfiled Andrew Suffield;
  3. Roger Leigh uses last August on -private to advocate Andrew Suffield's expulsion (FWIW, I reread it and I don't believe Andrew was "detrimental to the project" - if so, a lot of the repliers should be in the expulsion queue first.);
  4. Andrew Suffield describes his actions (biased but accurate IMO);
  5. Joey announces the punishment;
  6. Andrew Suffield reduced his contribution in January 2006 (includes some advice to debian) and resigned a few weeks later (next by date has some comments on expulsion requests).

What happens next? I think the "last August" thing is part of why Andrew Suffield chose to leave debian when things changed in his personal life, although not itself the reason. His advice to debian included

"I'm not going to bother about the people trying to sabotage Debian's structure (mostly with 'good intentions', and you all know where that road leads) any more - if you lot want to reign them in, and I know a lot of you do, then you're going to have to do it on your own. It will probably be a few years before they can significantly affect me now, and when that happens I can always leave. All you people who aren't Ubuntu-loving, Nazi-hating, beer-drinking members of the correct religion and political party, you're going to have to do without my support in future. If you want to do something about it, you're going to have to *do* something, instead of just sitting around and complaining."

I don't remember being asked about my religious views during NM (and I think death is a religious topic, as do many others), so I'm surprised that the August 2005 incident is still being used to justify ignoring this advice. I disliked the death notice but I was quiet at the time, for various reasons (jet-lag and more). If what to do about death is still such a hot topic, I think debian must address it before any DDs grieve again.

The Dunc-Tank

First, my position: I'm in favour of paying people to work on debian, but I think the one-person job markets, lack of openness and trading on debian's goodwill makes the current configuration of Dunc-Tank unacceptable. This should not be a surprise: I questioned the one-person-time contracts right near the start, but - like so many questions - it went unanswered.

Secondly, I think this is wrong for the project. Damage was forseeable and maybe could have been mitigated, but Debian Project Leader Anthony Towns chose to raise the stakes, taking the funding outside the project, leaving no control for the developers except a recall vote, as far as I can see. The DPL wasn't recalled, but is still partly to blame for the damage, no matter whether more than half of DDs support him or not.

Finally, I'm unconvinced by Wouter Verhelst's arguments that USD 6000 is a fair price. The one-person market is nothing like a free market and that particular rationale seems wrong because:

  1. VAT is a Tax on Value Added, so the payment of 21% or whatever would be reduced by the VAT paid on any supplies, which reduces the effective total rate. Also, small businesses are exempt from VAT in some states, but most importantly, Stephen R. Langasek seems to be in Oregon and Oregon has no state sales tax [Oregon Department of Revenue] (see Brian M. Carlson's comment below). So, still 6000 left;
  2. Suburban office space in Oregon looks like it costs USD 13.50/sf/yr fully-serviced (source), so a month for one person (175sf) would be about USD 200. Even downtown Portland is only about USD 300. (Where did 500 come from?) So, 5700 left;
  3. Utilities: it's GBP 40 for phone+internet here and the rest are included in fully-serviced, as far as I know, so let's say USD 100, even though USA is reputedly cheaper? 5600 left;
  4. Accountant fees are pretty much constant if you have a working business, but USD 3600 for a year? I'd expect closer to USD2000 (so about 200 per month) for a one-person business. SPI seems to pay USD1000 for bookkeeping, but I can't find a direct comparable - anyone know? 5400 left;
  5. Social and other insurances tend to be related to income, working out around to a third or so in total in the UK IIRC. What's the current US rate? (Brian M. Carlson's comment below suggests it's more like 7% than 30%.) But, I'll be pessimistic and put USD2000. 3400 left;
  6. Double-taxation seems like something a good accountant should help to avoid - not heard of it being a significant problem often; 3400 left.

So, that leaves USD 3400, less some % for VAT maybe. Not well-paid IMO, but much more than living cost for many DDs. If any of the above figures are too high or low, please tell me and I'll update this.

Wouter Verhelst kindly replied to my comments on his calculation of Steve's net pay :

"The point wasn't getting a "correct" number; only Steve could produce those, if he wanted to. The point was proving that if you get 6000 for one month of work as a business, then those 6000 aren't what you can spend on your personal life. Whether the exact number is 2400 or 3400 is, thus, totally besides the point."

"But, yeah, thanks for the clarification :-)"

I agree that 6000 gross works out as a lower net figure. So what? That's obvious to anyone who works and has noticed their gross pay isn't what they actually get to use, even if these "people have never had to run a business". (And I think running a business is a choice, not something anyone ever "had to" do.)

If whether it's 2400 or 3400 net wasn't the point, why use inflated figures to advocate paying 6000 gross? My main point was: Dunc-Tank is not buying in a free market, so how can we tell what the fair rate is?

Wouter Verhelst replies again:

"With all due respect, but I can't shake myself free of the feeling that you're being intentionally obnoxious here."

"When I said "[...] these people never had to run a business", that wasn't intended to say that people who run a business "have" to do so, for lack of anything else. I mean, sure, there's choice, but that doesn't mean you can make this choice every day. Does the word "expression" mean anything to you?"

"Additionally, the numbers I gave were meant to give people a general idea; while they're roughly accurate for my case, they certainly aren't completely correct in the general case, and were never meant to be."

"Please stop putting whatever I say under the microscope like that, thank you very much."

I didn't need a microscope to spot the cracks in those numbers - our right-wing news media repeatedly points out that it's cheaper to do business in the US and casual web browsing finds figures. As I asked elsewhere, the general idea that net pay is less than the bill to the customer is widely known, so why use a detailed breakdown with higher figures to advocate US$6k? If the point is just "the 6k isn't net pay" then just write that. Personally, I think that point is mostly irrelevant, but the misleading breakdown looked like the sort of thing that dunc-tank should be publishing and isn't.

As for "these people have never had to run a business" - yes, it's an expression, but it suggests a compulsion which doesn't exist - why use it? If the point is just "these people have never run a business" then just write that. It's shorter and more honest, although probably wrong: you don't need to have run a business to know that the bill to customer isn't the worker's net pay.

I can think of many, many possible reasons for misdescribing something that some people choose to do as something they had to do, but I can't think of one I like. At worst, it's insulting to people who don't do their own business administration.

"With all due respect" maybe I am being "intentionally obnoxious" about the breakdown and misleading phrasings: I want to discourage people who post comments without any obvious attempt to get their facts straight, or who exaggerate. Both of those take us away from discussing more basic points like: dunc-tank's execution has damaged debian; and dunc-tank is buying from neither an open market nor an openly regulated one.

interalia commented:

"As a native speaker of English I would understand the statement, "you've never had to run a business" to imply that the writer thinks running a business is not particularly fun or enjoyable. Obviously people still do it anyway for other reasons, but "had to" here doesn't have to imply compulsion. It just expresses mildly the writer's lack of enjoyment of the task. I can see how this is a nuance that could be missed though, especially by non-native speakers."

That may be a big part of why that turn of phrase irritated me. It suggests something similar to Dickens's "it is considered a discreditable station - though it must be filled by somebody" defence (from Tale of Two Cities) that some Englishmen may know. I spend much time reminding people that the currently-common US-English money-above-all plc approach to business is not the only way. People can run responsible businesses if they choose - business can be fun and enjoyable. I think Dunc-Tank should be fun and enjoyable, but there's precious little sign of it yet.

Axel Liljencrantz commented:

"When you say "That may be a big part of why that turn of phrase irritated me", I interpret that as a form of admission that you chose to ignore what Woulter actually meant because you where bothered by his use of the english language. In other words, in stead of debating the issue, you chose to come down on a non-native english speaker because he does not speak the language as well as you do."

In short: that interpretation is nuts.

More fully: I don't know exactly what Wouter meant by it, as I'm no telepath. All I have to go on is the expression actually used. The idea that I would bash a non-first-language speaker for not speaking as well as a native is ridiculous. I speak several languages and I'm only too aware of the disadvantage, but it doesn't seem all that likely in this case: I suggest that anyone who knows the expression "X never had to run Y" probably also knows the simpler expression "X never ran Y", so reading something into the choice of that phrase is fair. It's more like how I tend to think someone's a bit careless if they get a name wrong ;-)

Also, this started as a parenthetical comment that someone picked up on. I would prefer to debate the issue - the US$ figure is irrelevant, because dunc-tank is not in an open market and not openly regulated - but no-one argues with that. Isn't it bleeding obvious that dunc-tank is a market for lemons?

Brian M. Carlson explained the lack of VAT:

"States in the US have either an income tax, a sales tax, or both. In the general case, non-profit corporations are exempt from taxation, as long as they have the proper paperwork. Also, certain essentials, such as necessary foods (cheese, but not soda) are exempt from sales tax where it exists."

"Since Steve is almost certainly not a non-profit, he will have to pay income tax to both the state and federal governments; the rate depends on his annual income. He will have to pay FICA (social security) taxes, which are approximately 7% of the income. Any amount over $90,000 is not taxable under FICA."

Thanks for the explanation. I hope it'll help other non-US people.

I had some other comments which I cover on my Business page.

Of course, the actual payment rate is minor to me, compared to the problems of dunc-tank being designed as a market for lemons and being driven through by brinkmanship.

Sponsorship

Sponsorship is when a debian developer (DD) reviews, rebuilds and uploads a package for a non-DD maintainer. Sometimes I am simply a sponsor for maintainers who do not want to become DDs for some reason. Usually, I do that when I use the package and would be hurt by its absence from debian. Other times, I try to be a mentor for students who will take the DD tests in the future. See the mentors FAQ and my sponsorship offer for more info.

The second of my New Model Advocate sponsorships to get a package into the archive was Panu Kalliokoski with the NEW tinyscheme package. It's good to have a lean, stripped scheme in the distribution for all those times when you just want to do a quick function or two. On the way, we bumped into various bits of policy like executable naming conflicts, but I think we ended up with a useful package. Thanks and welcome, Panu.

The first of my New Model Advocate sponsorships to get a package into the archive was Simon Boulet who takes over rsnapshot after the previous maintainer went MIA and I became temporarily disconnected from the package tracker (kudos to luk for stepping in). In this first round, we learnt about the keyring, lintian, the bug tracker and bits of package-building - and I mean we learnt: I found out some stuff I didn't know before, which I'll use in the future. Thank you and welcome, Simon Boulet.

A post to -project explains how to identify stealth sponsors.

Considerations

2006-05
  • Have asked about cvschangelogbuilder because of perl and previous contact with maintainer.
  • Won't sponsor ajaxterm because of python/javascript.
  • Won't sponsor treeviewx because of gnome/gtk2.
  • yorick already sponsored by someone else.
  • wormux already sponsored by someone else, possibly.
  • Won't sponsor pfm because of tcl/tk.
  • Won't sponsor aircrack-ng or dvbshout because of lack of test systems.
  • Won't sponsor NMU of gcc-h8300-hms because I don't see why it's an NMU.
  • Others not considered.
2006-04
  • Removed dcc from my sponsor system.
  • Won't sponsor texi2html because of gmail use.
  • Won't sponsor gnash because my sponsor system is too slow.
  • Won't sponsor paythyme because of Qt.
  • Won't sponsor drawterm because I have no way to test it.
  • music123 already sponsored by someone else.
  • Will sponsor rsnapshot new maintainer.
  • Will sponsor tinyscheme.

Bits from debian-legal

Fonts

Are they a type of program or an artwork and does it matter?

My debian-legal Page

My notes over on debian.org:

Sun Java and Free Software

A brief summary of the problems of sun-java and debian.

How not to run a consultation
Short article
Firmware: an attempt to waive part of the DFSG
My comments on the release manager's ill-considered attempt to hack the DFSG instead of fixing bugs. The original proposal has been withdrawn.
Gnuzilla and IceWeasel
Pointers to other work on the Mozilla trademarks and free software problems
That Bloody MPL Non-Summary Again
Mailing list post: Don't trust everything you read so much. That [MPL] draft summary was written by a [summary] newbie after practically no discussion. The MPL isn't [...]
Small helper for license checks [Tolimars blog]
Maybe the start of a series of useful notes?

How not to run a consultation

Recently, there have been some spectacularly bad examples of consulting users while drafting licences:

First, there was this entry from Creative Commons. Nowhere in the pages leading to cc-licenses does it tell you that emails are silently rejected if you post from a non-subscribed address. CC also has a bad obfuscation habit of posting text replies in PDF files.

Now we have the GPLv3 horror, where the Web2.0ish comments system gives random answers to some browsers, stack traces to others and has an email interface which rejects whatever comment I send it. Even if the comment system worked as designed, it still disagrees with the process document about how to send comments.

Both CC and GPLv3 probably have time to put these right, but please, if you're consulting on a copyright licence: make commenting simple and easy. Use html or text over the web and plain text by email, please. Don't require respondants to run your programs on our computers, or to decode large attachments just to see textual replies.

Gnuzilla and IceWeasel

See also more recent news on this topic.

On Firefo^WIceWeasel [WEBlog] is a pretty good introduction to the problems with MozCorp's approach to the trademarks. It is both non-free software and a practical problem that MozCorp wants a veto over debian package uploads (and, as a consequence, release policy). A more detailed summary is Return of Iceweasel [LWN.net], Mike Hommey debunks Mozilla's marketing manager's lies in Facts about Debian, Mozilla Firefox and Ubuntu [glandium.org] and Fire and Ice [Cutting Free] is a multi-distribution review (under the non-free-software FDL).

I noticed some [vitavonni] comments [raw output] about renaming Firefox to various things, to avoid the Mozilla trademark licence bugs. It seems unnecessary for a trademark to cause copyright problems - as Mike Hommey notes the Sun Java logo may be free.

Then ams@gnu told me about Gnuzilla and IceWeasel. Can we use/help them? asac "contacted the gnuzilla project and offered to join them" - great!

"Debian developer Eric Dorland confirmed to internetnews.com that Debian will re-name Firefox and that the re-naming process could be completed as soon as next week." (in Firefox Not Really Free? [Sean Michael Kerner], tip to /Jonas). He later explained further in Iceweasel it is [apparently I'm a dinosaur], which has some more coverage links.

Another hat-tip to /Jonas for this thought-provoking suggestion: are MozCorp deliberately trying to mimic X-Oz's role in the XFree86 farce?

JDLL and how bubulle upset Julien

To try and make it easier for non-Francophone Anglophones to understand this complaint and response in English about a protest by a few debian supporters at the Free Software Days (JDLL), an attempt at translating the email is below. Errors are all mine:-

Our community (Debian) has a defect: the noisiest (and evidently the most extreme) are always the most visible.

It is very regrettable that the people who say they represent Debian at JDLL, who are always only some of the 70 French developers of a thousand-developer project with many thousands of contributors, can have given you this totally false image.

Their provocation was totally purile, even if the subject is a true subject of discussion. Unfortunately, this sort of position will always exist.

I hope simply that the people who have been shocked by this childish behaviour and the also-totally-purile comments appearing in 24 hours on various blogs will have the intelligence not to fall in the same trap as their opponents, notably the easy amalgamation.

Extremism doesn't always win in Debian (and not even as often as that), compare the last votes: http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2006/10/msg00018.html http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2006/10/msg00017.html and so on.

I would appreciate it if this appears in your blogs to temper a little the unacceptable comments that you have received from certain people... and I allow myself to give you respectively meetings at the next Solutions Linux to discuss all this calmly over $BEVERAGE. [ENDS]

I think it was downright sneaky to send the above without making it clear that it is apparently a one-man initiative sent without consulting those criticised. That is always going to offend. The daft acts of people at JDLL cannot be corrected honourably by more daft acts!

The message also seems to me to suggest that it's somehow extreme to object to the Mozilla Corporation using trademarks to stop Firefox and friends being freely-modifiable free software (by requiring inclusion of material with no copyright permission to modify) and to try to dictate what goes into distributions. Unlike the firmware problem, Mozilla's trademark terminators are an obvious and active practical problem for debian maintainers and downstream. I hope the Mozilla fans who were upset by such a "childish" non-obvious reminder [JPEG, 70Ko] about the MozCorp trademark offensive will bring MozCorp into line. If not, I hope that the next time is better satire that informs more people and avoids the "purile" tag.

thebluesgnr commented:

"Including the Firefox logo with a red cross on it was childish. Maybe people should have the IceWeasel logo and even a "thank you" to Mozilla Corp. for providing about 100% of the code necessary to make IceWeasel happen"

"Yes, the logo is not compatible with the DFSG. Maybe others don't care about that, as simple as that. Mozilla may be acting out of line to you, but that doesn't mean you should do the same."

"What is far more embarassing than this "apparently a one-man initiative" letter was the initiative of a few people that while representing Debian did something very childish and rude. Hopefully they have learned their lesson."

Well, I've no problem with being rude to MozCorp when they are being so rude to distributors, but we shouldn't be childish. On my part, thank you to Mozilla's developers (not MozCorp) for the code, and I hope you're properly acknowledged in IceWeasel's About box, but no thanks for supporting MozCorp's drive to make your browsers clearly not free software.

Fonts

Are they a type of program or an artwork and does it matter? Yes, yes and not really.

One recent cause for concern is the increasing number of fonts under the so-called "Open Font License", including ttf-gentium and various others. The last released version of OFL does not follow the Debian Free Software Guidelines, partly because it uses copyright restrictions to enforce a sort of "super-trademark" for the font name in ways which, frankly, are a pain for making ready-to-eat font packages from OFL'd fonts. This is similar to some problems in old LaTeX licences which have been resolved in recent years. For further explanations, see this debian-legal thread from January. OFL's lead developer still claims it follows DFSG, despite various debian developers explaining how it does not.

There's a new draft of the OFL out, which I've yet to review (it's nuts here just now). Hopefully, the new version of the OFL will make it clear that you can mention the Reserved Font Name for compatibility and configuration, as long as one does not claim that a modified font is that named font. The review by Gerv may be helpful.

Sun Java and Free Software

The reference Java software is proprietary, owned by Sun. This means that you can write free software in Java, but it might not be useful on a computer that only uses free software. This is nicknamed The Java Trap in a 2004 essay by Richard Stallman.

Direction by the maintainer of a non-free-software implementation meant that free software implementations have to play catch-up and use tools such as the Classpath Exception to the GPL to increase the amount of free software which can be used on free software computers.

For the most part, the debian system has been a good promoter of free java systems, but in May, the ftpmasters and the project leader ignored the usual reviews and accepted the dangerous Sun Java Distributor License by uploading sun-java5 to the archive. This was widely criticised in discussions on debian-legal in May and June but many people avoided getting too involved, some hoping that only the ftpmasters who participated are left vulnerable to the bad licence.

In November, Sun announced the GPL release of Java, but don't get too happy yet. Sun's FAQ says "We expect to release a fully buildable JDK based almost completely on open-sourced code in the first half of 2007." Almost, in 2007. Close, but no cigar yet.

Josh Triplett commented:

"While I agree with you that we shouldn't celebrate completely yet, in Sun's defense I suspect it does legitimately take a while to deal with all the encumbered code they may have included."

"Amusingly, another part of their FAQ points out that their current release consists of the javac and hotspot JVM; that part we have already, and we don't really need Sun's help there. :) The release will only really become useful once we have the class libraries, and that does seem like the area where Sun might have the most external code included."

There's more discussion about the announcement, including links to some videos actually playable with free software, in RMS, previously, on Sun freeing java [General discussion list for the FSF Europe].

There's some more details and expert analysis in GPL Java: An interview with lead Kaffe developer Dalibor Topic.

Firmware: an attempt to waive part of the DFSG

Steve Langasek proposed ignoring part of the DFSG for "device firmware" and "works such as images, video and fonts". Not just to get the next release out, but perpetually.

Yet, the rationale claims this would be "not an amendment to the foundation documents" despite being in direct contradiction with them, far more obviously than the FDL position statement. Madness. Fortunately, it looks like the current secretary thinks it looks like an amendment.

I posted notes of other defects and unanswered questions to -vote. Another problem is that it combines two issues (firmware and data) that some people have different opinions on. I was amazed that the proposer dared to complain about possible side-effects that might obstruct his preferred outcome. It was a bad idea to combine the two issues anyway.

  1. Proposal: The DFSG do not require source code for data, including firmware (5th second on 2006-08-23)
  2. Proposal: Source code is important for all works in Debian, and required for programmatic ones (5th second on 2006-08-25)
  3. Proposal: Apologize for releasing etch with sourceless/non-freefirmware (maybe not enough seconds?)
  4. Amendment: special exception for firmware because of technicallimitations (5th second on 2006-08-29)
  5. kernel firmwares: GR proposal (5th second on 2006-08-31)

Some interesting (to me) references:

First of the gang to the vote

Strange comments from Release Manager Andreas Barth predicting that this resolution would mean:

'The debian-installer has to be changed prior to release of Etch. This change alone would delay by at least 6 months, according to Joey's estimations.'

The resolution does not specify how it should be implemented technically. I'm pretty sure other options (such as dropping some hardware support from the official release) have been mentioned and there are probably suggestions that I'm unaware of. If the release managers choose to delay the release until debian-installer is changed, then that is their choice.

'Even fonts and videos would fall into the category where we would need source - but what is the source of a font? or a video stream? (and yes, fonts are "works that are executed by other means", i.e. displayed on the screen) That is a great new place for lots of new discussions that don't really help our users, but will definitly waste lots of time.'

The source of a font is what you used to make that font. Similarly for other work. It's pretty obvious in most cases.

As far as I understand the concept of streaming video, we don't have it in the release, so that one seems a strange argument to me.

'We would be in a very bad situation e.g. with the debian-keyring (and all other sort of crypthographic stuff) - I definitly don't plan to distribute the sources for my public key (as the sources can also be used to generate the private key).'

I think this is the only interesting point: but is the debian-keyring made up of programs, rather than data that is input to a program? Do the private keys contain instructions which are executed by GnuPG?

If not, note that source provision is only "strongly recommended" not required and there is a pretty strong reason for it not to be included in this small case.

'In summary, this proposal would delay the release of Etch by at least 6 months, probably even one year. Of course, any of the pending GRs can still overrule the result of this GR, but - that is not something we should be proud about, or even plan.'

In summary, I think we should remember that predictions can be wrong as well as right, even from a release manager, whether or not they are being paid for their time by an external organisation. Of course, the release manager could try to make those predictions true, but that would be pretty cynical.

Vote to reaffirm DFSG 2!

Update: shortly after publication of the above, someone at TU Wien wrote "yay for debian-legal fuckheads". Good argument(!) I can see why you are at university(!)

Also, Andreas Barth's last blog post keeps changing the date, so it sits in the top place on planet for ages. I didn't think it was so weak as to need that sort of help. This update suggests it might be a software bug, though.

No web comments here on this one. Comment on debian-vote or by private email to the posters instead, please. Please note that the original proposal has been withdrawn.

Ubuntu's Choice

Scott James Remnant summarises the different path taken by Ubuntu about firmware as having set them on Slippery Slopes. As a reaction, FSF has backed an Ubuntu-based distribution which takes a more debian position about programs (but not manuals) called gNewSense

Alex Valentine commented:

"Yet another FSF forking project, quite an innovation. Let's take an existing project that works fine and make less compatible, in the name of "freedom," and plop a bunch of Gnu/ GNU/labels/."

Ubuntu seems to be getting criticised a lot this week and there's enough people who don't think it "works fine" to start a distribution. JOOI, what else were FSF forking projects? I can think of several reimplementations, but not that many forks.

thebluesgnr commented:

"An Ubuntu guy complaining about forking... unbelievable."


Packages

April 2006: The package tracker used to allow unsubscription fraud but Raphael Hertzog fixed it.

4 July 2006: Something strange just happened during an apt update. It started repeatedly downloading lots of pdiff files, averaging 3kB/s (usually 100+kB/s) and then the update aborted with an 'internal rred error'. Rerunning the update didn't download any pdiffs and didn't abort. What's going on? Looks like I just met apt bug 372712. Surely we should default=off an option that reduces speed to 3% of what it was?

Kris Metzker commented:

"Re: apt bug 372712 - I had something similar happen to me, although I wasn't updating at the time. I was browsing and hadn't even clicked on anything. I thought it might have been some sort of attack (???). I'm not really a hacker, so I don't know."

Fun with no builder

My main debian builder went off-line a little while ago. I'm trying to find a replacement, but it seems it will take a little while, what with everything else going on.

By a builder, I mean an unstable machine capable of building packages. Most of my machines run stable, as they're doing Real Work and "not breaking" is one of debian's best features. Surprisingly, it seems that the debian project machines either don't have chroots on which developers can install build-deps, or I didn't find the right instructions.

I was offered a free virtual host for package building, but I don't feel comfortable building packages on a remote server I don't control and whose security I can't really verify. Now, I've built an unstable chroot on one of my company's more secure servers and built the package there. There were a few complications, such as the debootstrap version in stable not being able to build an unstable chroot, but a quick backport fixed that. debootstrap seems a lot slower than I remember. Am I doing something wrong? Is there a better solution for building packages if you don't have a local unstable machine up?

Sven Mueller commented:

"There is a better solution for building packages if you don't have a local unstable machine up. Use pbuilder (w/ or w/o the pdebuild "frontend"). I had refrained from setting up pbuilder for quite a while, and was amazed how easy it was when I eventually did. The only "problem" is that you probably want to make sure that at least "debian/rules clean" works even under Debian/stable. But I personally like to keep my packages buildable under stable anyway (since I usually use backports of them on production systems)."

I tried pbuilder at first and it failed because of the aforementioned debootstrap stable/unstable difference. After I read up on debootstrap, I didn't really see what pbuilder added to the system besides more tarball processing, so I didn't bother trying it again after debootstrap worked. Am I missing out on anything important?

Mark Brown commented:

"pbuilder provides management of the chroot environments (you can have several set up and it'll let you choose between and update them) and a convenient front end for building packages in a chroot (you can just point it at a package and say "go build this in a chroot")."

I'm probably being dense, but I still don't see a benefit. A chroot is more-or-less just a tree on the disk so I can have several set up anyway, updating them is just running update inside the chroot and I just mv the package into the chroot and say "go in that chroot and build this".

Maybe pbuilder just isn't beneficial for me.

pbuilder fans to the rescue

Erich commented:

"Pbuilder is great (and cowbuilder even more so). First of all, it makes setting up and upgrading chroots easier (even easier than dchroot etc.), but it will also handle dependencies and do install/removals (well, technically it won't remove stuff, the chroot is just thrown away afterwards). That way, pbuilder helps getting build dependencies right, and ensures the package is currently buildable (not with some library package you still happen to have on your system, but that has been removed from Debian; not uninstallable for some reason etc.). This makes the job easier for porters, since a FTBFS is less likely to be an error in packaging by the maintainer... At some point I had like 6 pbuilder chroots... woody, sarge, unstable, woody with some backports, sarge with SELinux backports, unstable with experimental.

Sure, we don't need debhelper either? After all, it just does some cp and mvs, doesn't it? There IS some benefit in having stuff automatized in a standard way; even though we could all do our chroots ourselves, I want to express my thanks to the pbuilder (and cowbuilder) authors and maintainers for making life EASIER for me. A lot easier. I could live without, but I would probably not keep that many chroots."

Ken Bloom added:

"One important feature of a pbuilder chroot is that pbuilder installs build-dependencies as you ask it to build debian packages, and removes them as soon as it finishes building the packages. In this sense, pbuilder is specifically intended to replicate the buildd environment, so you can find out whether your packages will break on a buildd (e.g. whether you've remembered to include all of the build-deps in debian/control, because things will break on the buildds if you forgot to add a build-dep because the build-dep was just lying around on your system (or in your unstable chroot)."

Sven Müller wrote:

"Well, pbuilder has several benefits, but the most important one to me is that it restarts from a clean system (only base packages + build-essentials installed) on each build. Sure this adds to the time needed for the build, but it also makes sure that I get all build-deps right and that the whole build process is as reproducible as possible."

Ben Hutchings commented:

"The major difference between pbuilder's approach and simply building in a chroot'ed installation is that pbuilder tries to build on a minimal system plus the specified build-dependencies. If you always build with pbuilder or similar it's much less likely that you will miss a build-dependency or otherwise produce a package that can't be auto-built elsewhere."

I take the clean chroot point as a clear benefit, but it still strikes me that there are easier ways to do the same thing (rsync --delete) without all the waiting around for pbuilder on my slow mipsel. I guess that's the difference with debhelper: debhelper use doesn't seem to slow me down.

Sven Müller commented:

"Well, if pbuilder slows you down too much, perhaps cowbuilder is the right one for you. I haven't tried it myself yet, but it is supposed to eliminate the worst delay pbuilder introduces: The unpacking of the base.tgz minimal chroot archive."

Nelson A. de Oliveira asked:

"Have you tried cowdancer + pbuilder? It makes creating packages really fast (there is no more need to uncompress the tarball, for example)."

I looked for cowbuilder, but there's no package called that, so I was quite glad for the second comment. I'll backport cowdancer and give it a go. Thanks!

Comments are moderated (damn spammers) but almost anything sensible gets approved (albeit eventually). If you give a web address, I'll link it. I won't publish your email address unless you ask me to, but I'll email you a link when the comment is posted, or the reason why it's not posted.

This is copyright 2006 MJ Ray. See fuller notice on front page.