Search Results: "Josselin Mouette"

22 January 2010

Russell Coker: How to Lose Customers

Bruce Everiss who is famous for being threatened with legal action by Evony has been writing about the supposed losses from game piracy, in his latest missive he copies the text from a number of blog comments without citing the original authors [1]. He copied my text without citing me as the author (which is at best shoddy journalism and by a fundamentalist attitude such as his could be considered as piracy). He also copied my text in with a bunch of other comments which he attributes to The thieves . It s unfortunate that Bruce doesn t seem capable of understanding irony, he wrote There is no doubt whatsoever that downloading and playing a game that should have been paid for is theft and then copied part of the text of my comment where I provided a dictionary definition of theft that directly contradicts his claim. If he was at all interested in quality writing he would cite his references and then when a dictionary is cited which disagrees with his opinion he would at least try to find a dictionary with a more agreeable definition. It shouldn t be THAT difficult to find a dictionary that has multiple definitions of theft of which one is agreeable to the MAFIAA [2]. Now if Bruce had properly read my comment he would have seen I ve started watching content from sites such as (in the little time I have for such things) and I only play games that are part of the Debian distribution of Linux (free software) which makes it very clear to any reasonable interpretation that I am not a game pirate and probably not even a movie pirate. I did mention in a comment on Bruce s blog that the DVD experience of being forced to sit through a whinge about piracy was a factor that made buying a DVD a worse experience than downloading it, a concept that I expanded into a blog post on the relative technical merits of DVDs and pirate MP4 files [3]. That post received a number of interesting comments including one from Josselin Mouette which had some useful technical detail about subtitles and audio track storage. I had believed that there were some real technical advantages of DVDs but Josselin corrected me on this matter. Also one thing that is noteworthy is that Bruce seems to use a copyright picture in almost every post but he doesn t attribute any of them. It does seem unusual for someone to use commercial artwork without any copyright or trademark notices attached. This usually isn t a big deal for a blogger, a liberal interpretation of copyright and trademark law is usually expected in terms of blogging corporations will tend to be hesitant to invoke the Streisand effect by suing a blogger (EG Bruce blog came to fame when he was sued by Evony). But when a blogger is writing about the importance of not pirating anything it would seem sensible to go to the effort of citing trademark and copyright references and also mentioning the licence agreements under which the IP was used. I believe that any loss of customers and revenue by the MAFIAA and the gaming industry is due to the actions of the companies involved. They should just try to make their customers happy, otherwise they lose the customers. The same goes for bloggers. I read blogs written by people who disagree with me, and sometimes by people who offend me on occasion. But Bruce is making baseless claims while deliberately ignoring evidence. He is calling for strong anti-piracy measures while doing what could be considered as pirating my work. He uses words in ways that conflict with dictionary definitions, and he calls for an end to our current legal system by demanding punishment based on three accusations rather than any legal process. I even pointed out to Bruce that if there was a three strikes law regarding accusations of copyright infringement then his blog would be offline after three accusations by Evony. Sorry Bruce, if I was looking for irrational rants about copyright then I would look at what the members of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) are doing [4]. The SFWA people demonstrate as much knowledge of computers and the Internet as Bruce does, but they are at least really good writers. If it was just me unsubscribing from Bruce s RSS feed then it wouldn t matter (I m one of tens of thousands of readers). But I expect that a large portion of the new readers Bruce acquired after being attacked by Evony will disappear when they see Bruce as the attacker and everyone who uses the Internet as a potential victim of the Three Strikes law.

26 November 2009

Josselin Mouette: The new faces of Europe

This is it. We know the faces of people who will count in Europe during the 2009-2014 period. And we can count on them to make the EU weigh even less than it did until now. Jos Manuel Dur o Barroso, president of the European Commission. For 5 years, this ultra-liberal brought in his fanatic views of the free market, leading to unprecedented removals of regulations and legislations that could prevent large corporations to extort money from citizens. He holds a non-negligible responsibility on the (still unsolved) bank crisis of 2007. Yet, citizens voted en masse earlier this year for the EPP all across Europe, leading to his renewal. You get the commission you deserve. Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council. This is no secret that this transparent non-leader was the choice of Sarkozy after Tony Blair turned out to be an unsustainable choice. Yet, none of the 26 other members of the Council dared to raise a single finger against this choice. Sarkozy has completely lost his credit in France, but that doesn t prevent this council of cowards from trusting him, apparently. It s not as if there weren t good candidates, like Jean-Claude Juncker or Vaira V e-Freiberga. But having a competent, Europe-friendly president who actually knows his files and speaks many languages would have cast shadows on those who don t (see below). Catherine Ashton, foreign ministry of the EU. If there was any worse possible choice, I don t know which. This was the only position supposed to be affected to a socialist. And since the Labour party is still member of the PASD, despite their insane liberal economic policy and their full-scale paranoia leading to unprecedented freedom hunting in the UK, the position was given to someone from this party. And among them, they chose a person with a reputation of sloppiness and incompetence, who doesn t speak correctly a single foreign language. It is probable that, just like Van Rompuy s going to be Sarkozy s puppet, she s going to be the UK Foreign Office s servant. And we continentals all love the Foreign Office s policy, which is often in complete opposition to what the rest of Europe feels like. Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament. You don t know him? Neither do I. A weak parliament goes with a weak parliament president. This way, the European Council has its hands free for behind-the-curtains arrangements, rather than letting the citizens representatives take action. Martin Schultz, president of the PASD group at the European Parliament. In order to ensure his place as president of the Parliament for the second half of the period, he betrayed his own people, and accepted any rotten compromise the EPP would propose for the key positions. Socialists have never been so weak in Brussels, and the total absence of leadership has something to do with it. Makes you proud to be European, heh? And of course you already know the real faces of Europe for the next years. Sarkozy, Merkel, Berlusconi, Brown. The main leaders from Western Europe, with their rotten governments who swore to slay any of the remaining personal freedoms in each of their countries. What a great image for EU in the world. What a great example to set. But again, you get the leaders you deserve. That s the whole point of democracy.

21 November 2009

Josselin Mouette: GNOME on Debian GNU/kFreeBSD

Since today for kfreebsd-amd64, and probably tomorrow for kfreebsd-i386 too, the gnome metapackage is installable on Debian GNU/kFreeBSD. In the end, this should hopefully give a fully functional desktop for these brand new architectures (to be included in the Squeeze release), with a few notable exceptions: Apart from that, everything is supposed to work. So, if you want this to mean something, what we need now is some people to test the whole thing and find out if it actually does. Do you feel like helping? Install Debian GNU/kFreeBSD on your favorite virtual machine, upgrade it to the latest sid version, and apt-get install gnome. For everything that s not as enjoyable as it should be, report bugs.

19 November 2009

Josselin Mouette: Why python2.6 is still not in unstable

Getting python2.6 as the default ASAP is currently the #1 priority for the Python modules team. I also consider it very important and tried to help with it, but it is starting to get depressing. The plan is to fix all packages in unstable to be compatible with python2.6 first. This would be easy if there hadn t been a very badly planned change in the installation paths that came together. Because of it, quite a number of packages have to be fixed. Two months ago, I filed a lot of bugs in that order. I missed a number of issues, but overall, almost all packages have been fixed, thanks to Kumar Appaiah, Bastian Venthur and everyone else who sent patches and NMUs. One of the biggest issues, though, comes from python-central. Since it doesn t handle some of the new paths that were introduced (which is somehow ironic, since the python-central maintainer, Matthias Klose, is also the python maintainer who did this change), a large number of packages FTBFS when built against python2.6. In Ubuntu, it turned out to be a giant mess, most packages using python-central needing changes, and we wanted to avoid that. This is why Piotr O arowski sent a NMU for python-central that fixes these issues for good. Guess what happened? Matthias Klose uploaded a new version that does not include the python2.6 fixes, completely discarding the work that has been done. And of course, making the upload of python2.6 to unstable, which was ready to be done in a few days, impossible. I think it s fine if Ubuntu maintainers don t have the time to handle their packages in Debian. But it is clearly not acceptable to hold back development in Debian, nor to treat it as a garbage dumpster where you can send all the crappy software solutions that were badly designed in Ubuntu to duplicate them in Debian. This is what Matthias has been doing for several years. For how long are we going to tolerate such behavior? For how long will we leave such a critical package in the hands of a single person with no interest in Debian?

18 November 2009

Josselin Mouette: Getting rid of HAL, second attempt

Some time ago, I made an attempt at a gvfs package with disabled HAL support. The latest upstream version allows to use DeviceKit-Disks instead, through the gnome-disk-utility library. This change was supposed to bring a lot of improvement, among which: Unfortunately, it turned out as a real fiasco, since there is no support for IDE CDs using ide_mod in DeviceKit-Disks. Upstream only uses libata, and Fedora has no requirements for compatibility with kernels shipped more than 2 months ago. The change had to be backed out. What you don t know yet is that Michael Biebl is awesome. Not only did he find some ways to comply with Bastian s requirements, but he implemented IDE CD support in DeviceKit. Which was not really easy. So, I d appreciate if some adventurous people could test the experimental gvfs packages in which there is still DeviceKit support. Please look for any regressions in them, especially with regard to removable media handling.

16 November 2009

Josselin Mouette: Recipe for FAIL #47: rely on software without any people maintaining it

So, it s been 3 months since the last commit on GNote, and 1 month since it was officially abandoned. And nobody stepped up to maintain it. I can certainly understand why Hubert s motivation declined, GNote being a project to fight boredom , and all the innovation happening in tomboy. But if you remember all the fuss around Tomboy and GNote, thanks to Roy Schestowitz and his little minions, this is actually quite a tasty way for things to turn out. The utmost victory of the anti-Mono zealots was the decision from Fedora to include GNote by default and to drop Mono. Well done. I m still savoring my pop-corn.

11 October 2009

Josselin Mouette: So what?

So, Waldi filed #545032, arguing the udev rules shipped in devicekit-disks are broken. He even added a conflict in dmsetup because of that. Whenever you ask him about this issue, the only things he answers are: It would be nice if all of this was true, but: The result: GNOME is currently not installable on a system with LVM. There is no foreseeable possibility to fix that. Great. Thanks.

4 October 2009

Romain Beauxis: What they could (not) have said..

So apparently the debate on sexism is going on, and there are interesting contributions, in particular that blog post from Josselin Mouette. I mostly agree with Josselin. Parts of what he writes is a better expanded version of my answer on Daniel Kahn Gillmor's post. A nuance.. However, I think a nuance needs to be added. Josselin says that clich are mainly a rhetoric artifact that helps focusing the audience's mind to a specific image. Quite true. However, not all those clich may be used. For instance, I've been thinking of the following. Please, pretty please, do not get offended, this is just rhetoric arguments.. !
  • The new startup system in Ubuntu is like black people: it runs faster but it is not really clever.
  • Using a workaround for a fixing a bug is like a stinking french using perfume instead of taking a shower.
  • The bug report system is greedy as a jew.
As you may understand, only one one this clich actually makes me laugh. The two other one are strongly offending. So, not all clich are acceptable, even when used as a rhetoric form of humor. So what is the difference ? Well, I guess it is pretty clear: the black people have suffered from slavery for centuries, and are being discriminated every day based on the clich that people have about them. Similarly, the Shoah during the second World Wild War was a horrible massacre, and no one wants to use any of the clich that were very common before this happened because we have respect for this History. However, the stinky French are not really being discriminated, even though they are supposed to be arrogant socialist womanizers :-) Now, coming back to our topic, sexism, the nuance I would like to add is that of the relative overlooking of the discrimination being applied against women. I do not think I am really entitled to tell about the daily discriminations that women suffer from, but the reason why I think we accept to easily the clich about women is probably because we do not understand how bad it can be for them. And I believe this has to come with man's ego because trying to understand how it is to live the life of a woman is probably what we lack. Lagniappe An interesting related though that came to my mind in this debate about clich is about Orwell's writings. When reading Down and Out in Paris and London, I was quite offended by the use of clich about Jews and also Armenians. This was really offensive for a modern reader. But Orwell is a writer that was the perfect opposite of a dogmatic, and he constantly revised his judgment, which is why I like his writings. In particular, in his Tribune chronicle on December 10th, 1943, which is an awesome contribution in the topic so racial discrimination and social issues, we can read the following [1]:
Is there anything that one can do about this, as an individual ? One can at least remember that the colour problem exists. And there is one small precaution which is not much trouble, and which can perhaps do a little to mitigate the horrors of the colour war. That is to avoid using insulting nicknames. It is an astonishing thing that few journalists, even in the left-wing press, bother to find out which names are and which are not resented by members of the other races. The word 'native', which makes and Asiatic boil with rage, and which has been dropped even by British officials in India these ten years past, is flung about all over the place. 'Negro' is habitually printed with a small n, a thing most Negroes resent. One's information about these matters needs to be kept up to date. I have just been carefully going through the proofs of a reprinted book of mine, cutting out the word 'Chinaman' wherever it occurred and substituting 'Chinese'. The book was written less than a dozen years ago, but in the intervening time, 'Chinaman' has become a deadly insult. Even 'Mahomedan' is now beginning to be resented: one should say 'Muslim'. These things are childish, but then nationalism is childish. And after all we ourselves do not actually like being called 'Limeys' or 'Britishers'
I cannot say how much I recommend reading these chronicles, printed under the name Orwell in Tribune.

[1] I would like to reproduce the whole text, but I only have the printed copy, and I am kind of lazy :)

3 October 2009

Josselin Mouette: Sexism . Again.

I can t say I m surprised, but I m still appalled by reading, again, a completely out-of-reality polemic about a leader of the Free software community being called sexist (among other nice names), after an innocent and random word used in a talk. Oh noes! Serving in the navy will hurt! It s often that you hear jokes or references picturing French as arrogant, Italians as womanizers, geeks as bearded and smelling under the arms, sailors as gay, et c tera. It s called a clich , and it helps people understand each other because it s part of the collective imagination. If you insert a reference to an Italian in a speech about womanizers, it helps picturing the clich of a guy in a black Armani suit, wearing sunglasses and using gomina. It doesn t mean you think Italians are like this, and if it ever convinces someone that they are so, it means that someone really had trouble using the thing she calls brain to begin with. The same goes for a talk about people not being familiar to computers, that is using women as a clich . When you look for a picture in your mind of someone who has trouble with using computers, what do you find? A granny fighting with her keyboard which keys are not in alphabetical order, or a busty blonde following with her eyes each movement of the mouse cursor. It s only natural to use these pictures as a ground for communication, and it doesn t mean you think bad of grannies or busty blondes. And if, because of that or of anything else, some people end up thinking that women can t use a computer, or that they are not equal to men in this regard, these people are the sexist ones. Not the guy who drew that picture in a magazine you read 10 years ago and forgot since, nor the one using it as a reference. My intolerance is worth more than yours And instead of actually focusing on educating or slapping those people, some of us are conducting a witch hunt, in which anyone implying the very existence of different categories of people, called men and women, regardless of his merits or opinions, is called a sexist and has stones thrown to him on several public fora. This is not acceptable. Do not let your speech be dictated by intolerance. If you apply the same reasoning to anyone that could be possibly hurt, in a completely literal and simplistic analysis of the speech, you can stop right now using any kind of metaphor, idiomatic expression or proverb. All that remains is a poor, sterilized speech. And when the speech is poor, the ideas get poorer as well. Imagine what would a complete stranger reading those blogs understand. She would surely picture hackers as a completely misogynistic community in which people only talk about women (whether it is for sexist jokes or for rhetorical discussions about them) and never talk with them. Which would be utterly wrong, since hackers (and geeks in general) are on the contrary open-minded and friendly to feminism, compared to the rest of the population of course, except for the OMG OMG it s a woman! We need to be nice!!! kind. And this is actually the reasoning that hides behind all this insane RMS and Mark Shuttleworth are sexist trolls. The picture they are giving of women are that of fragile little things that need to be protected against any attack of all these evil misogynist bearded geeks. Pretty ironical for people who claim fighting for gender equality, isn t it? Questioning the unquestionable Frankly, RMS and Mark are among the people I trust the less in the community, but I don t need to paint them as misogynists for that. Look at what they say instead of how they say it: one is an intolerant man who used to be a visionary but turned his principles into dogma; the other has seen the light and behaves as if he was the savior of Free software. I d prefer if we questioned their vision and leadership based on their ideas and actions, not on distorted ways to interpret what they say based on a few people s neuroses. Or, to say it shorter: dudes, get a life.

24 September 2009

Josselin Mouette: Nautilus hiccup in unstable

In my haste to fix #545254, I have uploaded nautilus 2.28.0 a bit too early. If you have not upgraded yet, please don t install 2.28.0-1! If you have already upgraded, you should install 2.28.0-2 as soon as it is available, and then remove any ~/.nautilus/metafiles/migrated-to-gvfs files. This way you will find back your metadata (icon positions on the desktop, window sizes, emblems ) at the next login. Sorry for the inconvenience.

21 May 2009

Josselin Mouette: Reporting useful bugs

Here are a few hints if you want your reports to be treated more promptly. When testing fails, try unstable If you are running testing, not all bug reports are interesting. More specifically, the relevant ones are about insufficient dependencies that let slip into testing a non-working combination of packages. Think of the I upgraded foo, then bar broke category. Otherwise, the reason why reportbug looks for newer versions of a package in unstable is that, in most cases, the bug is fixed in unstable. If you can, always try the unstable version before reporting the bug. Report bugs against the failing package This is related to printing in a GNOME program, so I report this against libgnomeprint. Always file reports against the failing program. If there is a library involved, reportbug will include the necessary information so that the maintainer can easily reassign. If you re not sure of the affected package, use a metapackage (for example, gnome for GNOME-related packages). Do not second-guess the origin of the bug After upgrading libfoo, bar starts crashing, so I m reporting it against libfoo. Unless you can tell which function is at fault and how this is ABI breakage, you should report the bug against the program that crashes. The program s maintainer will reassign if needed, and will hit the library s maintainer with a hammer if needed. Don t forget to explain what s wrong The frobniz in libfrob is broken, you should change /usr/share/libfrob/blah line 13 to something else. I don t know what libfrob is about, but I have some problems that look frobniz-related. Do not second-guess, always start explaining what bug you are seeing first. Your attempts at investigating it can be interesting, but don t forget to explain what bug lead you on investigating. What is the use case we should cover? I m trying to do that with your package and it looks extremely complicated/doesn t work as expected/fails miserably. Your package is clearly broken! If your attempts to do something that should be trivial, given the purpose of the package, fail, then you are probably looking at the problem at the wrong angle. There may be a much simpler, though radically different, way to do what you are trying to achieve. In these situations, always include in your report what you are trying to do and why you want to do it. strace is not a general-purpose debugging tool Whether you observe a crash, a deadlock or a livelock, strace is not the tool that will give us information. The only thing you do by adding a strace log to the bug report is making it unreadable with its thousands of lines of output. For the specific cases that require strace for debugging, these traces are welcome but if you re not sure, don t attach them. The developers will ask them for you. Otherwise, the general-purpose debugging tool is gdb. Use reportbug There is a good reason why some packages include bug control files and scripts. Use a reporting tool that takes them into account. Unless you are requesting an enhancement, always use reportbug. Please avoid reportbug-ng since it only provides parts of the required information.

25 March 2009

Josselin Mouette: Don t worry, your data is still safe

Seen on Slashdot: a large discussion forum site hacked through its backups. I had seen this coming. And it s just the beginning, you can expect this to be a major attack vector in the next years. Until people understand it s not possible to secure data without securing the network.

24 March 2009

Josselin Mouette: Dear lazyweb,

Due to the repeated tendency of our friends of the MPAA beloved government to create laws that turn computer and Internet users into criminals, I m considering to shutdown any kind of non-encrypted communications that I initiate from France. Therefore, I m looking for cheap dedicated hosting in an Internet-friendly country, in a way similar to what we have here with OVH or Iliad. My requirements are: I m fine with blades, but not with virtual hosting. Suggestions are welcome. I m currently considering hosting solutions in the Netherlands, but I d appreciate some advice.

20 March 2009

Josselin Mouette: Which logo for the main GNOME menu in Debian?

Up to lenny, our GNOME desktop lacks a bit branding. We used to have the splash screen but it doesn t show up anymore, so that only leaves the background. It has several times been requested to put a bit of branding in the menu, as most distributions do, and this has been in my mind for a while. I have uploaded a first attempt to unstable. Since I didn t want the branding to be too intrusive, I used the swirl foot logo of the pkg-gnome page. So far, the reactions haven t been very enthusiastic, that s why I m writing here. Any change generates an amount of grumpiness, and it s hard to distinguish what s caused by the mere fact that something broke people s habits, and what s really changed for the bad. This is why I have set up a little poll where users are welcome to voice their opinion. What should we set as the main menu icon? I also welcome proposals for some other icon that would be better for this place. Actually, that would be my favorite option if I had something to propose, as I m not enthusiastic about any of the available ones. Time to be creative! So now is the time to express your preferences. If you have comments, please put them in the blog entry, not in the poll page. EDIT : I found that some opacity settings in the SVG I used for the swirl foot icon were completely wrong. Here is a new version, taking account what has been proposed in the comments:

26 February 2009

Josselin Mouette: Y U SO MEAN

25 January 2009

Josselin Mouette: It s winter, and it s cold

23 January 2009

Josselin Mouette: On the good use of compiler warning flags

The gnome-power-manager developers like clean code. Actually, more than clean code: code that will not generate a single nitpicking warning. The package builds with the following C compiler flags:
-Werror -Wcast-align -Wno-uninitialized -Wall -Wformat-security
Sometimes the compiler is more clever than the coder On the SPARC architecture, -Wcast-align really starts to mean something. Unlike most other architectures, any alignment error on here will leave you gather your teeth spread on the floor after you ve been hit by a SIGBUS. It tries to catch at build time alignment errors resulting from a cast between pointers to different types. Together with -Werror, it triggered a first FTBFS bug. The error occured on the following code:
        if (XRRGetOutputProperty (brightness->priv->dpy, output, brightness->priv->backlight,
                                  0, 4, False, False, None,
                                  &actual_type, &actual_format,
                                  &nitems, &bytes_after,  ) != Success)  
                egg_debug ("failed to get property");
                return FALSE;
        if (actual_type == XA_INTEGER && nitems == 1 && actual_format == 32)  
                *cur = *((int *) prop);
                ret = TRUE;
        XFree (prop);
        return ret;
More precisely, the error occurs when casting prop (which is an array of pointers) into an int *. The compiler is clearly right. The alignment requirements are different for a pointer and an integer; therefore, casting a pointer to a pointer into a pointer to an integer will always work, but dereferencing the pointer later will possibly cause a crash. Turning this expression into a memcpy leads to code that should always work. Lesson learned: do not design APIs where an array of pointers can actually store integers. Have you ever heard of opaque structures? and sometimes it is not This was not enough and a second FTBFS bug showed up. Here, the error happens in the following code:
static inline GstBuffer *
gst_buffer_ref (GstBuffer * buf)
  /* not using a macro here because gcc-4.1 will complain
   * if the return value isn't used (because of the cast) */
  return (GstBuffer *) gst_mini_object_ref (GST_MINI_OBJECT_CAST (buf));
GstBuffer is a structure which contains a GstMiniObject at the beginning. Therefore, you conduct operations on the GstMiniObject through a mere cast. The first cast (GstBuffer GstMiniObject) is fine, but in the second cast (GstMiniObject GstBuffer), the compiler suspects a problem, since the alignment requirements on GstBuffer are stronger than those on GstMiniObject. The compiler is wrong because it didn t read the API documentation; otherwise, it would have known that gst_mini_object_ref can only return NULL or its argument, which means there can t be any loss of alignment. Since there are no function attributes to express such complex things, we are still forced to rely on the developer having correctly read the documentation. Way to go, compiler. Lesson learned: there are good reasons why some warnings are not part of -Wall. Especially, it is dubious to use them with -Werror. Does anyone know whether it is possible to apply -Werror only to some of the warnings and not to all of them? It would sound like a useful improvement.

29 December 2008

Adrian von Bidder: KDE vs. GNOME

No, I don't claim KDE is perfect. Especially the way the transition to KDE 4 is (not) being handled. (I don't mean within Debian, this is a KDE problem.) But beyond dumbing down the UI as even a very prominent Linux developer repeatedly commented on, Josselin Mouette just confirmed my decision to stay away from GNOME. Yes, there are other desktop environments and window managers, and I haven't done more than look at XFCE very briefly, but just now I'm quite happy with KDE 3.5, and am waiting for KDE 4 to become actually useable.

28 December 2008

Theodore Ts'o: Debian, Philosophy, and People

Given the recent brouhaha in Debian, and General Resolution regarding Lenny s Release policy as it relates to Firmware and Debian s Social Contract, which has led to the resignation of Manoj Srivastava from the position of Secretary for the Debian Project, I m reminded of the following passage from Gordon Dickson s Tactics of Mistakes (part of Dickson s Childe Cycle, in which he tells the story of the rise of the Dorsai):
No, said Cletus. I m trying to explain to you why I d never make an Exotic. In your calmness in the face of possible torture and the need to kill yourself, you were showing a particular form of ruthlessness. It was ruthlessness toward yourself but that s only the back side of the coin. You Exotics are essentially ruthless toward all men, because you re philosophers, and by and large, philosophers are ruthless people. Cletus! Mondar shook his head. Do you realize what you re saying? Of course, said Cletus, quietly. And you realize it as well as I do. The immediate teaching of philosophers may be gentle, but the theory behind their teaching is without compunction and that s why so much bloodshed and misery has always attended the paths of their followers, who claim to live by those teachings. More blood s been spilled by the militant adherents of prophets of change than by any other group of people down through the history of man.
The conflict between idealism and pragmatism is a very old one in the Free and Open Source Software Movement. At one end of the spectrum stands Richard Stallman, who has never compromised on issues regarding his vision of Software Freedom. Standing at various distances from this idealistic pole are various members of the Open Source Community. For example, in the mid-1990 s, I used to give presentations about Linux using Microsoft Powerpoint. There were those in the audience that would give me grief about using a non-free program such as MS Powerpoint, but my response was that I saw no difference between driving a car which had non-free firmware and using a non-free slide presentation program. I would prefer to use free office suite, but at the time, nothing approached the usability of Powerpoint, and while dual-booting into Windows was a pain, I could do a better job using Powerpoint than other tools, and I refused to handcap myself just to salve the sensibilities of those who felt very strongly about Free Software and who viewed the use of all non-Free Software as an ultimate evil that must be stamped out at all costs. It is the notion of Free Software as a philosophy, with no compromises, which has been the source of many of the disputes inside Debian. Consider, if you will, the first clause of the Debian Social Contract:
Debian will remain 100% free We provide the guidelines that we use to determine if a work is free in the document entitled The Debian Free Software Guidelines. We promise that the Debian system and all its components will be free according to these guidelines. We will support people who create or use both free and non-free works on Debian. We will never make the system require the use of a non-free component.
This clause has in it no room for compromise. Note the use of words such as 100% free and never make the system require the use of a non-free component (emphasis mine). In addition, the Debian Social Contract tends to be interpreted by Computer Programmers, who view such imperatives as constraints that must never be violated, under any circumstances. Unfortunately, the real world is rarely so cut-and-dried. Even the most basic injunctions, such as Thou shalt not kill have exceptions. Few people might agree with claims made by the U.S. Republican Party that the war in Iraq qualified as a Just War as defined by Thomas Aquinas, but rather more people might agree that the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler would be considered justifiable. And most people would probably agree most of the actions undertaken by the Allied Soldiers on World War II battlefields that involved killing other soldiers would be considered a valid exception to the moral (and for those in the Judeo-Christian tradition, biblical) injunction, Thou shalt not kill . As another example, consider the novel and musical Les Mis rables, by Victor Hugo. One of the key themes of this story is whether or not Thou shalt not steal is an absolute or not. Ultimately, the police inspector Javert, who lived his whole life asserting that law (untempered by mercy, or any other human considerations) was more important than all else, drowns himself in the Seine when he realizes that his life s fundamental organizing principle was at odds with what was ultimately the Right Thing To Do. So if even the sixth and eighth commandments admit to exceptions, why is it that some Debian developers approach the first clause of the Debian Social Contract with a take-no-prisoners, no-exceptions policy? Especially given the fourth clause of the Debian Social contract:
Our priorities are our users and free software We will be guided by the needs of our users and the free software community. We will place their interests first in our priorities. We will support the needs of our users for operation in many different kinds of computing environments. We will not object to non-free works that are intended to be used on Debian systems, or attempt to charge a fee to people who create or use such works. We will allow others to create distributions containing both the Debian system and other works, without any fee from us. In furtherance of these goals, we will provide an integrated system of high-quality materials with no legal restrictions that would prevent such uses of the system.
This clause does not have the same sort of absolutist words as the first clause, so many Debian Developers have held that the needs of the users is defined by 100% free software . Others have not agreed with this interpretation but regardless of how needs of the users should be interpreted, the fact of the matter is, injuctions such as Thou shalt not kill are just as absolute and yet in the real world, we recognize that there are exceptions to such absolutes, apparently unyielding claims on our behavior. I personally believe that 100% free software is a wonderful aspirational goal, but in particular with regards to standards documents and firmware, there are other considerations that should be taken into account. People of good will may disagree about what those exceptions should be, but I think one thing that we should consider as even higher priority and with a greater claim on how we behave is the needs of our users and fellow developers as people. For those who claim Christianity as their religious tradition, Jesus once stated,
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Even for those who do not claim Christianity as their religious tradition, most moral and ethical frameworks have some variant on the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you . I would consider, for example, that the Golden Rule is at least a high priority claim on my behavior as the notion of free speech, and in many cases, it would be a higher priority claim. The recent controversy surrounding Josselin Mouette was started precisely because Joss has taken a something which is a good thing, namely Free Speech, and relegated it to a principle more important than all else, and claiming that any restraint on such a notion was equivalent to censorship. I think the same thing is true for free software, although it is a subtler trap. Philosophical claims than 100% free software as most important consideration is dangerously close to treating Free Software as the Object of Ultimate Concern or in religious terms, idolotry. For those who are religious, it s clear why this is a bad thing; for those who aren t if you are unwilling to worship a supernatural being, you may want to very carefully consider whether you are willing to take a philosophical construct and raise it to a position of commanding your highest allegiance to all else, including how you treat other people. Ultimately, I consider people to be more important than computers, hardware or software. So over time, while I may have had some disagreements with how Mark Shuttleworth has run Canonical Software and Ubuntu (but hey, he s the multimillionaire, and I m not), I have to give him props for Ubuntu s Code of Conduct. If Debian Developer took the some kind of Code of Conduct at least as seriously as the Social Contract, I think interactions between Debian Developers would be far more efficient, and in the end the project would be far more successful. This may, however, require lessening the importance of philosophical constructs such as Free Speech and Free Software, and perhaps becoming more pragmatic and more considerate towards one another.

Josselin Mouette: The session non-manager

For various reasons (which in the end boil down to lack of manpower), we are quite late in the process of packaging GNOME 2.24. (This is almost finished now, I ll keep you informed.) Which is why I may sound coming a bit late on noticing this one, but I was really speechless. The problem: session management has flaws Currently, a session manager uses XSMP (the X Session Management Protocol) to talk to applications. What it means is that for applications supporting this protocol, it is able to do more than simply starting and killing them: it will also remember their state, and offer them a way to shut down gracefully. However, XSMP is really a shitty protocol I won t explain why here, you will find tons of better explanations on the intarweb. The gnome-session developers, being quite aware of this issue, did what anyone interested enough would have done: they designed a new protocol, based on D-Bus, and implemented it. The new protocol is not considered stable yet, but it is simple, efficient and above all, reliable that s a giant leap forward. For this reason, I was very excited to see what gnome-session 2.24 would look like, since it brings major cleanups in the code. The solution: remove session management! When I first started it, it did not restore my saved session. I simply supposed that the format of the saved session had changed, and that writing a conversion tool would be in order. Wrong. Let s bring the session preferences:
The UI of this dialog hasn t changed since 2.22. However, I do not resist the urge to show you the code behind the Remember Currently Running Applications button:
static void
on_save_session_clicked (GtkWidget           *widget,
                         GsmPropertiesDialog *dialog)
        g_debug ("Session saving is not implemented yet!");
As for the check box on top of it, it sets a GConf value that is never read anywhere. If you know the long term plans for GNOME, it makes sense: when gnome-shell replaces the panel and the window manager, it will also be responsible for starting the visible applications, while gnome-session will deal with what s happening behind the scenes. But gnome-shell is still far from ready, and you need something in the meantime for the basic requirements of a session manager! Backwards compawhat? The surprises don t stop here. I also noticed that logout was much faster instantaneous instead of the usual 2-3 seconds. The reason why logging out is this long currently is not because it takes long to kill applications; it s because the session manager kindly requests applications supporting XSMP to shut down before killing them. If a document isn t saved, an application will be able to prevent the logout process. Guess what? Now gnome-session completely ignores XSMP applications. Since it doesn t need them to register for saving the session, it also saves the time to ask them to close cleanly. The result is that you will see a lot of such dialogs:
It s very nice to replace a flawed protocol ; and really, the new protocol goes in the correct direction. But let s be realistic, it s impossible to immediately port hundreds of applications to a new protocol without having a transition time during which both protocols are supported. You also need to consider your protocol as stable before asking other developers to port their applications. And to get it accepted, you need to standardize it; would have been the correct body. (Currently, the protocol lies in the org.gnome namespace, not org.freedesktop.) Release management at its best Wait aren t there some distributions out there which already released stable versions with GNOME 2.24? The answer is yes. At least Ubuntu Intrepid and Fedora Core 10 ship with a session manager that: It s good to see such improvements on the session manager coming, and I m really thankful to the gnome-session developers to work on it. What I wonder is: It definitely looks like we re not the only ones who could improve our release management processes. So what? This is a very good example of a lack of big picture thinking. On one side, there is a brilliant design and its good implementation. On the other side, two major regressions from the user s point of view the kind of regressions that make people fly away. If there s one thing that I ve learned from working in IT, it s that you must often keep your brilliant designs as long-term goals. In the short term, you will run a bastardized version of your brilliant design that will make you cry; but it will work. When you need to talk to shitty applications or with shitty protocols, you need to write shitty code.