Search Results: "Mark Shuttleworth"

23 April 2021

Matthew Garrett: An accidental bootsplash

Back in 2005 we had Debconf in Helsinki. Earlier in the year I'd ended up invited to Canonical's Ubuntu Down Under event in Sydney, and one of the things we'd tried to design was a reasonable graphical boot environment that could also display status messages. The design constraints were awkward - we wanted it to be entirely in userland (so we didn't need to carry kernel patches), and we didn't want to rely on vesafb[1] (because at the time we needed to reinitialise graphics hardware from userland on suspend/resume[2], and vesa was not super compatible with that). Nothing currently met our requirements, but by the time we'd got to Helsinki there was a general understanding that Paul Sladen was going to implement this.

The Helsinki Debconf ended being an extremely strange event, involving me having to explain to Mark Shuttleworth what the physics of a bomb exploding on a bus were, many people being traumatised by the whole sauna situation, and the whole unfortunate water balloon incident, but it also involved Sladen spending a bunch of time trying to produce an SVG of a London bus as a D-Bus logo and not really writing our hypothetical userland bootsplash program, so on the last night, fueled by Koff that we'd bought by just collecting all the discarded empty bottles and returning them for the deposits, I started writing one.

I knew that Debian was already using graphics mode for installation despite having a textual installer, because they needed to deal with more complex fonts than VGA could manage. Digging into the code, I found that it used BOGL - a graphics library that made use of the VGA framebuffer to draw things. VGA had a pre-allocated memory range for the framebuffer[3], which meant the firmware probably wouldn't map anything else there any hitting those addresses probably wouldn't break anything. This seemed safe.

A few hours later, I had some code that could use BOGL to print status messages to the screen of a machine booted with vga16fb. I woke up some time later, somehow found myself in an airport, and while sitting at the departure gate[4] I spent a while staring at VGA documentation and worked out which magical calls I needed to make to have it behave roughly like a linear framebuffer. Shortly before I got on my flight back to the UK, I had something that could also draw a graphical picture.

Usplash shipped shortly afterwards. We hit various issues - vga16fb produced a 640x480 mode, and some laptops were not inclined to do that without a BIOS call first. 640x400 worked basically everywhere, but meant we had to redraw the art because circles don't work the same way if you change the resolution. My brief "UBUNTU BETA" artwork that was me literally writing "UBUNTU BETA" on an HP TC1100 shortly after I'd got the Wacom screen working did not go down well, and thankfully we had better artwork before release.

But 16 colours is somewhat limiting. SVGALib offered a way to get more colours and better resolution in userland, retaining our prerequisites. Unfortunately it relied on VM86, which doesn't exist in 64-bit mode on Intel systems. I ended up hacking the x86emu into a thunk library that exposed the same API as LRMI, so we could run it without needing VM86. Shockingly, it worked - we had support for 256 colour bootsplashes in any supported resolution on 64 bit systems as well as 32 bit ones.

But by now it was obvious that the future was having the kernel manage graphics support, both in terms of native programming and in supporting suspend/resume. Plymouth is much more fully featured than Usplash ever was, but relies on functionality that simply didn't exist when we started this adventure. There's certainly an argument that we'd have been better off making reasonable kernel modesetting support happen faster, but at this point I had literally no idea how to write decent kernel code and everyone should be happy I kept this to userland.

Anyway. The moral of all of this is that sometimes history works out such that you write some software that a huge number of people run without any idea of who you are, and also that this can happen without you having any fucking idea what you're doing.

Write code. Do crimes.

[1] vesafb relied on either the bootloader or the early stage kernel performing a VBE call to set a mode, and then just drawing directly into that framebuffer. When we were doing GPU reinitialisation in userland we couldn't guarantee that we'd run before the kernel tried to draw stuff into that framebuffer, and there was a risk that that was mapped to something dangerous if the GPU hadn't been reprogrammed into the same state. It turns out that having GPU modesetting in the kernel is a Good Thing.

[2] ACPI didn't guarantee that the firmware would reinitialise the graphics hardware, and as a result most machines didn't. At this point Linux didn't have native support for initialising most graphics hardware, so we fell back to doing it from userland. VBEtool was a terrible hack I wrote to try to re-execute the system's graphics hardware through a range of mechanisms, and it worked in a surprising number of cases.

[3] As long as you were willing to deal with 640x480 in 16 colours

[4] Helsinki-Vantaan had astonishingly comfortable seating for time

comment count unavailable comments

1 September 2020

Russell Coker: BBB vs Jitsi

I previously wrote about how I installed the Jitsi video-conferencing system on Debian [1]. We used that for a few unofficial meetings of LUV to test it out. Then we installed Big Blue Button (BBB) [2]. The main benefit of Jitsi over BBB is that it supports live streaming to YouTube. The benefits of BBB are a better text chat system and a whiteboard that allows conference participants to draw shared diagrams. So if you have the ability to run both systems then it s best to use Jitsi when you have so many viewers that a YouTube live stream is needed and to use BBB in all other situations. One problem is with the ability to run both systems. Jitsi isn t too hard to install if you are installing it on a VM that is not used for anything else. BBB is a major pain no matter what you do. The latest version of BBB is 2.2 which was released in March 2020 and requires Ubuntu 16.04 (which was released in 2016 and has standard support until April next year) and doesn t support Ubuntu 18.04 (released in 2018 and has standard support until 2023). The install script doesn t check for correct apt repositories and breaks badly with no explanation if you don t have Ubuntu Multiverse enabled. I expect that they rushed a release because of the significant increase in demand for video conferencing this year. But that s no reason for demanding the 2016 version of Ubuntu, why couldn t they have developed on version 18.04 for the last 2 years? Since that release they have had 6 months in which they could have released a 2.2.1 version supporting Ubuntu 18.04 or even 20.04. The dependency list for BBB is significant, among other things it uses LibreOffice for the whiteboard. This adds to the pain of installing and maintaining it. It wouldn t surprise me if some of the interactions between all the different components have security issues. Conclusion If you want something that s not really painful to install and run then use Jitsi. If you need YouTube live streaming use Jitsi. If you need whiteboards and a good text chat system or if you generally need to run things like a classroom then BBB is a good option. But only if you can manage it, know someone who can manage it for you, or are happy to pay for a managed service provider to do it for you.

2 December 2016

Matthew Garrett: Ubuntu still isn't free software

Mark Shuttleworth just blogged about their stance against unofficial Ubuntu images. The assertion is that a cloud hoster is providing unofficial and modified Ubuntu images, and that these images are meaningfully different from upstream Ubuntu in terms of their functionality and security. Users are attempting to make use of these images, are finding that they don't work properly and are assuming that Ubuntu is a shoddy product. This is an entirely legitimate concern, and if Canonical are acting to reduce user confusion then they should be commended for that.

The appropriate means to handle this kind of issue is trademark law. If someone claims that something is Ubuntu when it isn't, that's probably an infringement of the trademark and it's entirely reasonable for the trademark owner to take action to protect the value associated with their trademark. But Canonical's IP policy goes much further than that - it can be interpreted as meaning[1] that you can't distribute works based on Ubuntu without paying Canonical for the privilege, even if you call it something other than Ubuntu.

This remains incompatible with the principles of free software. The freedom to take someone else's work and redistribute it is a vital part of the four freedoms. It's legitimate for Canonical to insist that you not pass it off as their work when doing so, but their IP policy continues to insist that you remove all references to Canonical's trademarks even if their use would not infringe trademark law.

If you ask a copyright holder if you can give a copy of their work to someone else (assuming it doesn't infringe trademark law), and they say no or insist you need an additional contract, it's not free software. If they insist that you recompile source code before you can give copies to someone else, it's not free software. Asking that you remove trademarks that would otherwise infringe trademark law is fine, but if you can't use their trademarks in non-infringing ways, that's still not free software.

Canonical's IP policy continues to impose restrictions on all of these things, and therefore Ubuntu is not free software.

[1] And by "interpreted as meaning" I mean that's what it says and Canonical refuse to say otherwise

comment count unavailable comments

2 July 2016

Jonathan Carter: So, that was DebCamp16!

Picture: Adrian Frith

University of Cape Town, host location to DebConf 16. Picture: Adrian Frith

What an amazingly quick week that was Our bid to host DebConf in Cape Town was accepted nearly 15 months ago. And before that, the bid itself was a big collective effort from our team. So it s almost surreal that the first half of the two weeks of DebCamp/DebConf is now over. Things have been going really well. The few problems we ve had so far were too small to even mention. It s a few degrees colder than it usually is this time of the year and there s already snow on the mountains, so Cape Town is currently quite chilly.
Hacking by the fire at the sports club

Gathering some heat by the fire at the sports club while catching up to the world the day before it all started.

All Kinds of Quality Time I really enjoyed working with the video team last year, but this year there was just 0 time for that. Working on the orga team means dealing with a constant torrent of small tasks, which is good in its own way because you get to deal with a wide variety of Debian people you might not usually get to interact with, but video team problems are more fun and interesting. Next year I hope to do a lot more video work again. If you re at DebConf over the next week, I can highly recommend that you get involved!
Video team hacking away at problems

Video team members hacking away at problems late at night during DebCamp

The first time I met Debian folk was early in 2004. I worked at the Shuttleworth Foundation as Open Source Technical Co-ordinator at the time, and Mark Shuttleworth had them over for one of the early Ubuntu sprints in Canonical s early days. I was so intimidated by them back then that I could hardly even manage to speak to them. I was already a big free software fan before working there, but little did I even dream to think that I would one day be involved in a project like Ubuntu or Debian. My manager back then encouraged me to go talk to them and get involved and become a Debian Developer and joked that I should become I guess that was when the initial seeds got planted and since then I ve met many great people all over the world who have even became friends during UDS, DebConf, BTS and other hackfests where Debianites hang out. It gave me a really nice warm feeling to have all these amazing, talented and really friendly people from all over coming together in this little corner of the world to work together on projects that I think are really important.
Finding a warm space to work in the Happy Feet hack lab

Finding a warm space to work in the Happy Feet hack lab

Oh the Chicken Back at DebConf12, someone (I don t remember the exact history) brought a rubber chicken to DebConf who was simply called Pollito ( chicken in Spanish). Since then the chicken has grown into somewhat of a mascot for DebConf. Back in 2012 I already imagined that if we would ever host a DebConf, I d make a little of picture book story about Pollito. Last year after DC15, when bringing Pollito over, I created a little story called Pollito s first trip to Africa . I was recovering from flu while putting that together and didn t spend much time on it, but it turned out to be somewhat of a hit. I was surprised to see it in the #debconf topic ever since I posted it :) We gave a tour of the campus on the first and second days and it was quite time consuming and there was no way we could do it every day for the rest of DebCamp, so on the 2nd day I smacked together a new rush job called Pollito s Guide to DC16 . The idea was that newcommers could use it as a visual guide and rely on others who have been there for a while if they get stuck. I wish I had the time to make it a lot nicer, but I think the general idea is good and next year we can have a much nicer one that might not be quite as Pollito focused.
Pollito's Guide to DC16

Pollito s Guide to DC16

Debian Maintainer After all these years, I finally sat down and applied to become a Debian Maintainer, and the application was successful (approved yesterday \o/). Now just for the wait until my key is uploaded to the keyring. I haven t yet had time to properly process this but I think once the DebConf dust settles and I had some time to recover, I will be ecstatic. Some actual DebCampy work Everywhere I go, I see people installing a bunch of GNOME extensions on their Debian GNOME desktops shortly after installation using (I noticed this even at DebCamp!). A few months ago I thought that it s really about time someone package up some of the really popular ones. So I started to put together some basic packaging for AIMS Desktop around a month ago. During the last few days of DebCamp, things were going well enough with the organisational tasks that I had some time to do some actual packaging work and improve these so that they re ready for upload to the Debian archives. The little DebCamp time I had ended up being my very own little extension fest :) I worked on the following packages which are ready for upload: I worked on the following packages which still need minor work, might be able to get them in uploadable state by the end of DebConf: The actual packaging of GNOME extensions is actually pretty trivial. It s mostly source-only JavaScript with some CSS and translations and maybe some gsettings schemas and dialogs. Or at least, it would be pretty trivial, but many extensions are without licenses, contain embedded code (often JavaScript) from other projects, or have no usable form of upstream tarball, to name a few of the problems. So I ve been contacting the upstream authors of these packages where there have been problems, and for the most part they ve been friendly and pretty quick to address the problems. So that s it, for now. I couldn t possibly sum up the last week and everything that lead up to it in a single blog post. All I can really say is thank you for letting me be a part of this very special project!

18 February 2016

Matthew Garrett: Canonical, Ubuntu and why I seem so upset about them all the time

I had no access to the internet for most of my childhood. Nobody in my area knew anything about programming. I learned a great deal from a number of CDs that included free software source code and archives of project mailing lists. When I got to university, I learned even more by being able to develop a Debian-based OS for use in our computer facilities. That gave me the experience and knowledge that I needed to become involved in Debian development, which in turn gave me the background required to be able to help Ubuntu become the first free software operating system to work out of the box on modern laptops. From there, I've been able to build my career around developing free software.

Ubuntu can be translated as "I am who I am because of who we all are". I am who I am because people made the choice to release their software under licenses that permitted examination, modification and redistribution. I am who I am because I was able to participate in communities that took advantages of those freedoms to produce new and better software. I am who I am because when my priorities differed from those of existing communities, it was still possible for me to benefit from their work and for them to benefit from mine.

Free software doesn't mean that the software is entirely free of restrictions. While a core aspect is the right to distribute modified versions of code, it has never been fundamental to free software that you be able to do so while still claiming that the code is the original version. Various approaches have been taken to make it possible for users to distinguish modified versions, ranging from simply including license terms that require modified versions be marked as such, to licenses that require that you change the name of the package if you modify it. However, what's probably the most effective approach has been to apply trademark law to the problem. Mozilla's trademark policy is an example of this - if you modify the code in ways that aren't approved by Mozilla, you aren't entitled to use the trademarks.

A requirement that you avoid use of trademarks in an infringing way is reasonable. Mozilla products include support for building with branding disabled, which makes it very straightforward for a user to build a modified version of Firefox that can be redistributed without any trademark issues. Red Hat have a similar policy for Fedora and RHEL[1] - you simply replace the packages that contain the branding and you're done.

Canonical's IP policy around Ubuntu is fundamentally different. While Mozilla make it clear that you simply no longer have a right to use the trademarks under trademark law, Canonical appear to require that you remove all trademarks entirely even if using them wouldn't be a violation of trademark law. While Mozilla restrict the redistribution of modified binaries that include their trademarks, Canonical insist that you rebuild everything even if the package doesn't contain any trademarks. And while Mozilla give you a single build option that creates binaries that conform with their trademark requirements, Canonical will refuse to tell you what you have to do.

When asked about this at SCALE earlier this year, Mark Shuttleworth claimed that Ubuntu's policy was consistent with that of other projects. This is inaccurate. Nobody else requires that you rebuild every package before you can redistribute it in a modified distribution - such a restriction is a violation of freedom 2 of the Free Software Definition, and as a result the binary distributions of Ubuntu are not free software. Nobody else refuses to discuss whether you're required to remove non-infringing trademarks in order to be able to redistribute. Nobody else responds to offers to make it easier for users to produce non-infringing derivatives with a flat refusal.

Mark claims that I'm only raising this issue because I work for a competitor and wish to harm Canonical. Nothing could be further from the truth. I began discussing this before working for my current employers - my previous employers had no meaningful market overlap with Canonical at all. The reason I care is because I care about free software. I care about people being able to derive new and interesting things from existing code. I care about a small team of people being able to take Ubuntu and make something better in the same way that Ubuntu did with Debian. I care about ensuring that users receive the freedom to do this without having to jump through a significant number of hoops in the process. Ubuntu has been a spectacularly successful vehicle for getting free software into the hands of users. Mark's generosity in funding this experiment has undoubtedly made the world a better place. Canonical employs a large number of talented developers writing high quality software, many of whom I'm fortunate enough to be able to call friends. And Canonical are squandering that by restricting the rights of their users and alienating the free software community.

I want others to be who they are because of my work and the work of all the others like me. Anything that makes that more difficult saddens me, and so I do what I can to fix it. I criticise Canonical's policies in the hope that we, as a community, can convince Canonical to agree that this kind of artificial barrier to modification hurts us more than it helps them. In many ways, Canonical remain one of our best hopes for broadening the reach of free software, and this is why it's unfortunate that they do so in a way that makes it more difficult for people to have the same experiences that I did.

[1] While it's easy to turn a trademark infringing version of RHEL into a non-infringing one, Red Hat don't provide publicly available binary packages for RHEL. If you get hold of them somehow you're entitled to redistribute them freely, but Red Hat's subscriber agreement indicates that if you do this as a Red Hat customer you will lose access to further binary updates - a provision that I find utterly repugnant. Its inclusion reduces my respect for Red Hat and my enthusiasm for working with them, and given the official Red Hat support for CentOS it appears to make no sense whatsoever. Red Hat should drop it.

comment count unavailable comments

19 November 2015

Matthew Garrett: If it's not practical to redistribute free software, it's not free software in practice

I've previously written about Canonical's obnoxious IP policy and how Mark Shuttleworth admits it's deliberately vague. After spending some time discussing specific examples with Canonical, I've been explicitly told that while Canonical will gladly give me a cost-free trademark license permitting me to redistribute unmodified Ubuntu binaries, they will not tell me what Any redistribution of modified versions of Ubuntu must be approved, certified or provided by Canonical if you are going to associate it with the Trademarks. Otherwise you must remove and replace the Trademarks and will need to recompile the source code to create your own binaries actually means.

Why does this matter? The free software definition requires that you be able to redistribute software to other people in either unmodified or modified form without needing to ask for permission first. This makes it clear that Ubuntu itself isn't free software - distributing the individual binary packages without permission is forbidden, even if they wouldn't contain any infringing trademarks[1]. This is obnoxious, but not inherently toxic. The source packages for Ubuntu could still be free software, making it fairly straightforward to build a free software equivalent.

Unfortunately, while true in theory, this isn't true in practice. The issue here is the apparently simple phrase you must remove and replace the Trademarks and will need to recompile the source code. "Trademarks" is defined later as being the words "Ubuntu", "Kubuntu", "Juju", "Landscape", "Edubuntu" and "Xubuntu" in either textual or logo form. The naive interpretation of this is that you have to remove trademarks where they'd be infringing - for instance, shipping the Ubuntu bootsplash as part of a modified product would almost certainly be clear trademark infringement, so you shouldn't do that. But that's not what the policy actually says. It insists that all trademarks be removed, whether they would embody an infringement or not. If a README says "To build this software under Ubuntu, install the following packages", a literal reading of Canonical's policy would require you to remove or replace the word "Ubuntu" even though failing to do so wouldn't be a trademark infringement. If an email address is present in a changelog, you'd have to change it. You wouldn't be able to ship the juju-core package without renaming it and the application within. If this is what the policy means, it's so impractical to be able to rebuild Ubuntu that it's not free software in any meaningful way.

This seems like a pretty ludicrous interpretation, but it's one that Canonical refuse to explicitly rule out. Compare this to Red Hat's requirements around Fedora - if you replace the fedora-logos, fedora-release and fedora-release-notes packages with your own content, you're good. A policy like this satisfies the concerns that Dustin raised over people misrepresenting their products, but still makes it easy for users to distribute modified code to other users. There's nothing whatsoever stopping Canonical from adopting a similarly unambiguous policy.

Mark has repeatedly asserted that attempts to raise this issue are mere FUD, but he won't answer you if you ask him direct questions about this policy and will insist that it's necessary to protect Ubuntu's brand. The reality is that if Debian had had an identical policy in 2004, Ubuntu wouldn't exist. The effort required to strip all Debian trademarks from the source packages would have been immense[2], and this would have had to be repeated for every release. While this policy is in place, nobody's going to be able to take Ubuntu and build something better. It's grotesquely hypocritical, especially when the Ubuntu website still talks about their belief that people should be able to distribute modifications without licensing fees.

All that's required for Canonical to deal with this problem is to follow Fedora's lead and isolate their trademarks in a small set of packages, then tell users that those packages must be replaced if distributing a modified version of Ubuntu. If they're serious about this being a branding issue, they'll do it. And if I'm right that the policy is deliberately obfuscated so Canonical can encourage people to buy licenses, they won't. It's easy for them to prove me wrong, and I'll be delighted if they do. Let's see what happens.

[1] The policy is quite clear on this. If you want to distribute something other than an unmodified Ubuntu image, you have two choices:
  1. Gain approval or certification from Canonical
  2. Remove all trademarks and recompile the source code
Note that option 2 requires you to rebuild even if there are no trademarks to remove.

[2] Especially when every source package contains a directory called "debian"

comment count unavailable comments

18 August 2015

Matthew Garrett: Canonical's deliberately obfuscated IP policy

I bumped into Mark Shuttleworth today at Linuxcon and we had a brief conversation about Canonical's IP policy. The short summary:
The even shorter summary: Canonical won't clarify their IP policy because they believe they can make more money if they don't.

Why do I keep talking about this? Because Canonical are deliberately making it difficult to create derivative works, and that's one of the core tenets of the definition of free software. Their IP policy is fundamentally incompatible with our community norms, and that's something we should care about rather than ignoring.

comment count unavailable comments

30 April 2014

Russell Coker: Links April 2014

Yves Rossy is the Jetman, he flys with a wing and four jet engines strapped to his body, he gave an interesting TED talk about flying along with some exciting videos [1]. Larry Brilliant gave an informative and inspiring TED talk about stopping pandemics [2]. I thought that Smallpox was the last disease to be eradicated but I was wrong. Michael Shermer gave an interesting TED talk about pattern recognition and self deception [3]. It s a pity that the kissing prank shown at the end only pranked women, they should be less sexist and prank men too. Raffaello D Andrea gave an interesting TED presentation about Athletic quadcopters [4]. It s very impressive and has the potential for several new human/machine sports. Lisa D wrote an insightful article about Prejudice Spillover discussing the way that people who aren t in minority groups only seem to care about injustice when a member of the majority is targetted by mistake [5]. Ron Garret wrote an insightful post about the Divine Right of Billionaires which debunks some stupid arguments by a billionaire [6]. Ron says that it s often instructive to examine incorrect arguments, especially when those arguments are advanced by smart people and demonstrates it in this post. Lisa D wrote an interesting post about her problems with financial aid bureaucracy [7]. She intended the post to be a personal one about her situation, but I think it illustrates problems with the various aid programs. If aid was available to her with less bureaucracy then she would be doing paid work, completing her studies, and heading towards post-graduate studies. Mark Shuttleworth wrote an insightful article about ACPI, security, and device tree [8]. It s the first time I ve seen a good argument for device tree. TED presented an interesting video-conference interview with Edward Snowden [9]. It s unusually long by TED standards but definitely worth watching. Tom Meagher (who s wife was raped and murdered two years ago) wrote an insightful article about rape culture [10]. Key Lay (the Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police) wrote a good article encouraging men to act to stop violence against women [11]. It s particularly noteworthy when a senior police officer speaks out about this given the difficulties women have had in reporting such crimes to police. Emily Baker wrote an insightful article about the lack of support for soldiers who survive war [12]. A lot of attention and money is spent remembering the soldiers who died in the field but little on those who live suffer afterwards, more soldiers die from suicide than enemy fire. Daniel Pocock wrote an informative article about the failings of SMS authentication for online banking [13]. While he has good points I think he s a little extreme. Stopping the least competent attackers is still a significant benefit as most potential attackers aren t that competent. Jess Zimmerman wrote an interesting article for Time about the Not All Men argument that is a current trend in derailing discussions about the treatment of women [14]. The Belle Jar has an insightful article Why Won t You Educate Me About Feminism about some ways that men pretend to care about the treatment of women [15]. Jon Evans wrote an article for Tech Crunch about the Honywell Bubble Count measure of diversity in people you follow on social media [16]. Currently on Twitter I follow 57 accounts of which 15 are companies and organisations, so I follow 42 people. I follow 13 women 31%, for a visible minority group other than my own it s 2/42 or 5%, for people who live in other countries I think it s 8/42 (although it s difficult to determine where some people live) which is 19%. So my Honywell number is 55. The Top Stocks forum has an interesting post by a Coal Seam Gas (CSG) worker [17]. It seems that CSG is even worse than I thought. Ashe Dryden wrote an informative post for Model View Culture about the backlash that members of minority groups (primarily women) receive when they speak out [18].

7 March 2013

Pau Garcia i Quiles: Mark s divisive leadership

Mark Shuttleworth recently critized Jonathan Riddell for proposing Xubuntu and others join the Kubuntu community. I thought I could make a few amendments to Mark s writing:

Jonathan Mark says that Canonical Kubuntu is not taking care of the Ubuntu community.

Consider for a minute, Jonathan Mark, the difference between our actions.

Canonical Kubuntu, as one stakeholder in the Ubuntu community, is spending a large amount of energy to evaluate how its actions might impact on all the other stakeholders, and offering to do chunks of work in support of those other stakeholder needs.

You, as one stakeholder in the Ubuntu community, are inviting people to contribute less to the broader project [all the X and Wayland -based desktops], and more to one stakeholder [Unity and Mir].

Hmm. Just because you may not get what you want is no basis for divisive leadership.

Yes, you should figure out what s important to Kubuntu Ubuntu Unity and Mir, and yes, you should motivate folks to help you achieve those goals. But it s simply wrong to suggest that Canonical Kubuntu isn t hugely accommodating to the needs of others, or that it s not possible to contribute or participate in the parts of Ubuntu which Canonical Kubuntu has a particularly strong interest in. Witness the fantastic work being done on both the system and the apps to bring Ubuntu Plasma to the phone and tablet. That may not be your cup of tea, but it s tremendously motivating and exciting and energetic. See Mark? I only needed to do a little search and replace on your words and suddenly, meaning is completely reversed! Canonical started looking only after its own a couple of years ago and totally dumped the community. Many people have noticed this and written about this in the past two years. How dare you say Jonathan or anyone from Kubuntu is proposing contributing less to the broader community? The broader community uses X and/or Wayland. Canonical recently came with Mir, a replacement for X and Wayland, out of thin air. Incompatible with X and Wayland. No mention of it at all to anyone from X or Wayland. No mention of it at FOSDEM one month ago, even though I, as the organizer of the Cross Desktop DevRoom, had been stalking your guy for months because we wanted diversity (and we got it: Gnome, KDE, Razor, XFCE, Enlightenment, etc, we even invided OpenBox, FVWM, CDE and others!). I even wrote a mail to you personally warning you Unity was going to lose its opportunity to be on the stand at FOSDEM. You never answered, of course. Don t you think Mir, a whole new replacement for X and Wayland, which has been in development for 8 months, deserved a mention at the largest open source event in Europe? Come on, man. It is perfectly fine to say yes, Canonical is not so interested in the community. It s our way or the highway . But do not pretend it s anything else or someone else is a bad guy. In fact, is there any bad guy in this story at all!? I think there is not, it s just people with different visions and chosen paths to achieve them. Maybe Mir and Unity are great ideas, much better than X and Wayland. But that s not what we are talking about. We are talking about community, and Canonical has been steadily destroying it for a long time already. If you cannot or do not want to see that, you ve got a huge problem going on.

27 November 2012

Benjamin Drung: Code name for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

Every Ubuntu release gets an alliterative code name from Mark Shuttleworth. It is a composition of an adjective and an animal. The upcoming Ubuntu 13.04 has the code name Raring Ringtail . Since nearly the beginning, the code names follow the alphabetical order. We will reach the letter Z with Ubuntu 17.04 if no letters are skipped. Will we wrap then and begin with A again? At UDS-R in Copenhagen, Mark Shuttleworth jokingly said between Jono Bacon s introduction and Mark s keynote speech, that vegetables will be used once we run out of letters. He proposed the code name for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS: Brilliant Broccoli!

17 November 2011

Raphaël Hertzog: People Behind Debian: Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu s founder

I probably don t have to present Mark Shuttleworth he was already a Debian developer when he became millionaire after having sold Thawte to Verisign in 1999. Then in 2002 he became the first African (and first Debian developer) in space. 2 years later, he found another grandiose project to pursue: bring the Microsoft monopoly to an end with a new alternative operating system named Ubuntu (see bug #1). I have met Mark during Debconf 6 in Oaxtepec (Mexico), we were both trying to find ways to enhance the collaboration between Debian and Ubuntu. The least I can say is that Mark is opinionated but any leader usually is, and in particular the self-appointed ones! :-) Read on to discover his view on the Ubuntu-Debian relationship and much more. Raphael: Who are you? Mark: At heart I m an explorer, inventor and strategist. Change in technology, society and business is what fascinates me, and I devote almost all of my time and wealth to the catalysis of change in a direction that I hope improves society and the environment. I m 38, studied information systems and finance at the University of Cape Town. My hearts home is Cape Town, and I ve lived there and in Star City and in London, now I live in the Isle of Man with my girlfriend Claire and 14 precocious ducks. I joined Debian in around 1995 because I was helping to setup web servers for as many groups as possible, and I thought Debian s approach to packaging was very sensible but there was no package for Apache. In those days, the NM process was a little easier ;-) Raphael: What was your initial motivation when you decided to create Ubuntu 7 years ago? Mark: Ubuntu is designed to fulfill a dream of change; a belief that the potential of free software was to have a profound impact on the economics of software as well as its technology. It s obvious that the technology world is enormously influenced by Linux, GNU and the free software ecosystem, but the economics of software are still essentially unchanged. Before Ubuntu, we have a two-tier world of Linux: there s the community world (Debian, Fedora, Arch, Gentoo) where you support yourself, and the restricted, commercial world of RHEL and SLES/SLED. While the community distributions are wonderful in many regards, they don t and can t meet the needs of the whole of society; one can t find them pre-installed, one can t get certified and build a career around them, one can t expect a school to deploy at scale a platform which is not blessed by a wide range of institutions. And the community distributions cannot create the institutions that would fix that. Ubuntu brings those two worlds together, into one whole, with a commercial-grade release (inheriting the goodness of Debian) that is freely available but also backed by an institution. The key to that dream is economics, and as always, a change in economics; it was clear to me that the flow of money around personal software would change from licensing ( buying Windows ) to services ( paying for your Ubuntu ONE storage ). If that change was coming, then there might be room for a truly free, free software distribution, with an institution that could make all the commitments needed to match the commercial Linux world. And that would be the achievement of a lifetime. So I decided to dedicate a chunk of my lifetime to the attempt, and found a number of wonderful people who shared that vision to help with the attempt. It made sense to me to include Debian in that vision; I knew it well as both a user and insider, and believed that it would always be the most rigorous of the community distributions. I share Debian s values and those values are compatible with those we set for Ubuntu.
Debian would always be the most rigorous of the community distributions.
Debian on its own, as an institution, could not be a partner for industry or enterprise. The bits are brilliant, but the design of an institution for independence implies making it difficult to be decisive counterparty, or contractual provider. It would be essentially impossible to achieve the goals of pre-installation, certification and support for third-party hardware and software inside an institution that is designed for neutrality, impartiality and independence. However, two complementary institutions could cover both sides of this coin. So Ubuntu is the second half of a complete Debian-Ubuntu ecosystem. Debian s strengths complement Ubuntu s, Ubuntu can achieve things that Debian cannot (not because its members are not capable, but because the institution has chosen other priorities) and conversely, Debian delivers things which Ubuntu cannot, not because its members are not capable, but because it chooses other priorities as an institution. Many people are starting to understand this: Ubuntu is Debian s arrow, Debian is Ubuntu s bow. Neither instrument is particularly useful on its own, except in a museum of anthropology ;)
Ubuntu is Debian s arrow, Debian is Ubuntu s bow.
So the worst and most frustrating attitude comes from those who think Debian and Ubuntu compete. If you care about Debian, and want it to compete on every level with Ubuntu, you are going to be rather miserable; you will want Debian to lose some of its best qualities and change some of its most important practices. However, if you see the Ubuntu-Debian ecosystem as a coherent whole, you will celebrate the strengths and accomplishments of both, and more importantly, work to make Debian a better Debian and Ubuntu a better Ubuntu, as opposed to wishing Ubuntu was more like Debian and vice versa. Raphael: The Ubuntu-Debian relationship was rather hectic at the start, it took several years to mature . If you had to start over, would you do some things differently? Mark: Yes, there are lessons learned, but none of them are fundamental. Some of the tension was based on human factors that cannot really be altered: some of the harshest DD critics of Canonical and Ubuntu are folk who applied for but were not selected for positions at Canonical. I can t change that, and wouldn t change that, and would understand the consequences are, emotionally, what they are. Nevertheless, it would have been good to be wiser about the way people would react to some approaches. We famously went to DebConf 5 in Porto Allegre and hacked in a room at the conference. It had an open door, and many people popped a head in, but I think the not-a-cabal collection of people in there was intimidating and the story became one of exclusion. If we d wanted to be exclusive, we would have gone somewhere else! So I would have worked harder to make that clear at the time if I d known how many times that story would be used to paint Canonical in a bad light. As for engagement with Debian, I think the situation is one of highs and lows. As a high, it is generally possible to collaborate with any given maintainer in Debian on a problem in which there is mutual interest. There are exceptions, but those exceptions are as problematic within Debian as between Debian and outsiders. As a low, it is impossible to collaborate with Debian as an institution, because of the design of the institution.
It is generally possible to collaborate with any given maintainer [ ] [but] it is impossible to collaborate with Debian as an institution.
In order to collaborate, two parties must make and keep commitments. So while one Debian developer and one Ubuntu developer can make personal commitments to each other, Debian cannot make commitments to Ubuntu, because there is no person or body that can make such commitments on behalf of the institution, on any sort of agile basis. A GR is not agile ;-) . I don t say this as a critique of Debian; remember, I think Debian has made some very important choices, one of those is the complete independence of its developers, which means they are under no obligation to follow a decision made by anyone else. It s also important to understand the difference between collaboration and teamwork. When two people have exactly the same goal and produce the same output, that s just teamwork. When two people have different goals and produce different product, but still find ways to improve one anothers product, that s collaboration. So in order to have great collaboration between Ubuntu and Debian, we need to start with mutual recognition of the value and importance of the differences in our approach. When someone criticises Ubuntu because it exists, or because it does not do things the same way as Debian, or because it does not structure every process with the primary goal of improving Debian, it s sad. The differences between us are valuable: Ubuntu can take Debian places Debian cannot go, and Debian s debianness brings a whole raft of goodness for Ubuntu. Raphael: What s the biggest problem of Debian? Mark: Internal tension about the vision and goals of Debian make it difficult to create a harmonious environment, which is compounded by an unwillingness to censure destructive behaviour. Does Debian measure its success by the number of installs? The number of maintainers? The number of flamewars? The number of packages? The number of messages to mailing lists? The quality of Debian Policy? The quality of packages? The freshness of packages? The length and quality of maintenance of releases? The frequency or infrequency of releases? The breadth of derivatives? Many of these metrics are in direct tension with one another; as a consequence, the fact that different DD s prioritise all of these (and other goals) differently makes for interesting debate. The sort of debate that goes on and on because there is no way to choose between the goals when everyone has different ones. You know the sort of debate I mean :-) Raphael: Do you think that the Debian community improved in the last 7 years? If yes, do you think that the coopetition with Ubuntu partly explains it? Mark: Yes, I think some of the areas that concern me have improved. Much of this is to do with time giving people the opportunity to consider a thought from different perspectives, perhaps with the benefit of maturity. Time also allows ideas to flow and and of course introduces new people into the mix. There are plenty of DD s now who became DD s after Ubuntu existed, so it s not as if this new supernova has suddenly gone off in their galactic neighbourhood. And many of them became DD s because of Ubuntu. So at least from the perspective of the Ubuntu-Debian relationship, things are much healthier. We could do much better. Now that we are on track for four consecutive Ubuntu LTS releases, on a two-year cadence, it s clear we could collaborate beautifully if we shared a freeze date. Canonical offered to help with Squeeze on that basis, but institutional commitment phobia reared its head and scotched it. And with the proposal to put Debian s first planned freeze exactly in the middle of Ubuntu s LTS cycle, our alignment in interests will be at a minimum, not a maximum. Pure <facepalm />. Raphael: What would you suggest to people (like me) who do not feel like joining Canonical and would like to be paid to work on improving Debian? Mark: We share the problem; I would like to be paid to work on improving Ubuntu, but that s also a long term dream ;-) Raphael: What about using the earnings of the dormant Ubuntu Foundation to fund some Debian projects? Mark: The Foundation is there in the event of Canonical s failure to ensure that commitments, like LTS maintenance, are met. It will hopefully be dormant for good ;-) Raphael: The crowdfunding campaign for the Debian Administrator s Handbook is still going on and I briefly envisioned the possibility to create the Ubuntu Administrator s Handbook. What do you think of this project? Mark: Crowdfunding is a great match for free software and open content, so I hope this works out very well for you. I also think you d find a bigger market for an Ubuntu book, not because Ubuntu is any more important than Debian but because it is likely to appeal to people who are more inclined to buy or download a book than to dive into the source. Again, this is about understanding the difference in audiences, not judging the projects or the products. Raphael: Is there someone in Debian that you admire for their contributions? Mark: Zack is the best DPL since 1995; it s an impossible job which he handles with grace and distinction. I hope praise from me doesn t tarnish his reputation in the project!
Thank you to Mark for the time spent answering my questions. I hope you enjoyed reading his answers as I did.

Subscribe to my newsletter to get my monthly summary of the Debian/Ubuntu news and to not miss further interviews. You can also follow along on, Google+, Twitter and Facebook .

32 comments Liked this article? Click here. My blog is Flattr-enabled.

31 October 2011

Rapha&#235;l Hertzog: The promising OpenMediaVault failed its debut as free software project

Volker Theile is well known for his work on FreeNAS. But at one point, he decided to give up on it and to restart from scratch but this time based on Debian (instead of FreeBSD). OpenMediaVault is the name of this new Debian based product. Here s how he defines the project:
OpenMediaVault is the next generation network attached storage (NAS) solution based on Debian Linux. It contains services like SSH, (S)FTP, SMB/CIFS, DAAP media server, RSync, BitTorrent client and many more. Thanks to the modular design of the framework it can be enhanced via plugins. OpenMediaVault is primarily designed to be used in home environments or small home offices, but is not limited to those scenarios. It is a simple and easy to use out-of-the-box solution that will allow everyone to install and administrate a Network Attached Storage without deeper knowledge.
Even though all the work was private, he managed to attract an important following, and I must say that I was looking forward to this project. He regularly blogged on his progress, sharing some good-looking video of the resulting product (example here). The first public release (Version 0.2, codenamed Ix) happened on October 17th. I have yet to try it but I took a look on the website. As a Debian developer, I was keen on seeing the source code and how the project was managed. The GPLv3 license is presented as an important feature and I was expecting a well-managed open source project. The fact that it was a private one-man project up to now did not bother me, we re quite used to the scratch your itch kind of start for free software projects. Enough to say is that I have been very disappointed. First you come across a contributor agreement, it s frowned upon by many free software developers. But why not, maybe he bought the argument of Mark Shuttleworth and wants to give it a try. But then I looked at the subversion repository, it s obvious that it s just a dumping ground of files that are managed somewhere else in another repository. A bit like Android which is not developed in the open but released as a whole from time to time. But the worst was yet to be found on the licensing page:
Beside being freely available for personal end-users, System Builders and System Integrators, in general Installers, require a commercial license for OpenMediaVault.
Besides the fact that I m still not sure what this means, I would like to know how he reconciles this requirement with the terms of the GPLv3. It s a shame that a so promising project ends up being a disaster from a free software perspective. Have you tried OpenMediaVault already? If yes, I d be glad to read your thoughts in the comments.

9 comments Liked this article? Click here. My blog is Flattr-enabled.

22 October 2011

Adnan Hodzic: My DebConf11 summary and its after effects

Even though some three months have passed since DebConf11 has successfully ended, I still wanted to give you just a glimpse on how some parts were played through the eyes of a lunatic (read: organizer). Of course, blog post can t come close near of explaining anything but at least it should give some insight and hopefully some pointers to the future DebConf organizers. If you don t feel like reading this much text you can listen to last episode of This Week In Debian podcast and after it just head to Beginning of the end part. DebConf11 First of all I d like to apologize if I offended or hurt anyone in this whole process as it wasn t my intention and during DebConf organization this is nothing irregular, for you to get hurt or you hurting somebody else. One thing that got stuck with me this whole time is when Mart n Ferrari approached me after I did bid proposal of Bosnia/Herzegovina for DebConf11 back on DebConf9 and told me you have no idea what you just got yourself into I played cool and said something along the line of coure I do and boy did I lie. During DebConf organization you re bound to make some of your decisions instantaneously in which you ll lose something, the most you can do is assess what s the thing you can cut the cord on, even though if that thing or a person for that matter might have meant something to you. You ll lose things, relationships, friendships, contacts at the times sense of humor and maybe even common logic. Some of it comes back to you, some the very next day and for some it may take longer. Some of it was lost irreversibly, but even in that case it wasn t lost and could even be traced to some other cause. One thing that I m thankful for is that I didn t lose, not lose but even get distanced from those close to me, and that I didn t lose guy who was with me in this from very first day, my right hand, my partner in crime Velimir ( aroundthfur ). It s not even losing I m talking about here, because even by losing you re gaining something and this is part of your everyday life, it s just that your life frame kinda gets stuck on fast forward button. So once the ride s over you may feel bit dizzy asking yourself what just happened. During this time I was also contacted by Google recruiter regrading software engineer internship but to make a long story short I didn t make it due to my heavy involvement and my lack of time (read: fail). But I don t find this as losing either, first time I was contacted by them, next time they ll be contacted by me maybe even for different position this time (project manager? Big Smile. Even this DebConf wasn t our first bid we lost DebConf7 bid to Edinburgh, but it is perseverance that got us here. The moral I m trying to tell here is if you have a goal never back down from it. What I found to be our biggest problem and what I personally found as most painstaking in all of this was having and reporting to so many different sides and different groups while trying to keep them in same communication channel. Even my right hand (Velimir) was apart from me (Vienna), then place where two of us are coming from is not the place where DebConf is getting organized in. As in the end we ended up having all the parties separated and pulling to their own side, from Government of Republika Srpska to NGO to Debian to local team and to those who remained as undeclared . Option of cutting the cord in this case was missing as these were the components that DebCon11 was made of. Of course this meant you ll be missing workforce and there were days you d wake up driving >= 200 km/h (literally) with one hand on the wheel, other on the phone and your other right hand (Velimir) holding your RedBull. But you wouldn t do this just because you had to and there was no one else to do it, you d do it because you re responsible for the sake of the project and won t be just sitting there because by some unwritten hierarchy rules you re supposed to sit and supervise things. I d advise you do the same thing when you see there s no one else to do something, even if it means making coffee for one of the teams. I m not trying to scare you away from organizing your own DebConf, on the contrary after all I ve been through in past two years if someone asked me would I do it if I knew it was like this, without a doubt my answer would still be fsck yea . All the previous DebConf organizers told me about all of this, but why didn t I give up? For the same reason you won t give up and for the same reason why we believe in the same goal. If anything this is one of the stories you ll want to tell your kids about so When I was your age I used to sleep naked in the snow would turn to When I was your age I organized DebConf11 in Maybe this blog post wasn t even necessary and some things weren t supposed to be said, I guess sometimes I just can t shut up Smile For those who were on DebConf11 I hope you enjoyed and had a great time, otherwise I m saying all of this in vein. As organizer all you see is problems and you miss most of the confrence, but by what I know there are 11 candidate bids for DebConf13 and for me hearing that tells me the results of our efforts. DebConf11 after effects I could write a whole novel about this, but to keep it as short as possible, for last two years as a side project I was working on an idea of Government or some of its institutions migrating to Linux. At first I was somewhat loud about it, then after Microsoft heard about it and after they tried stopping the idea by trying to scare me by trying to interfere with my private life; as that didn t work its lobbyist came even near of obstructing the whole conference within the Government. For the sake of the conference, I convinced the Government that by supporting DebConf it doesn t mean they need to move to Linux and publicly stopped talking about it. I also convinced them that our only goal was to have successful conference and promote alternative options and open ideas. I wasn t lying as I saw this as new opportunity of them concluding on their own why they should or shouldn t not move, the better conference was the more chances of success we had. That s why I tried pushing as many representatives from various companies as in this case we would use reverse psychology where basically no one or few know what Linux or Debian for that matter is, but everybody knows who Google is, so if you have participants from i.e: Google or Austrian E-Health care system talking about how they are using your technology is better way to explain what s it all about really. Eventually Microsoft even had their first ever conference in Bosnia/Herzegovina and you wanna take a wild guess where it was held? Smile In the end we had a great conference, after the conference we were the ones that were approached by some big local companies interested in future co-operation and in the end a meeting with Mark Shuttleworth and President along with the core of Government was scheduled. Topic? Migration to Linux. For me personally this meeting went better then I could possibly even picture it, many topics were discussed and basically it was up to us/me to make a draft of the project plan and submit request for proposal to the Government. There was still some lobbying but it seemed as it all disappeared, runway was clear and open for the lift off. Necessary contacts with potential future partners were made and before any meetings were scheduled I announced I ll be taking a short break. I missed this years vacation, for matter of a fact I missed going to a vacation for last two years. I decided going to Dubrovnik for few days, just to recollect my thoughts, recompile my kernel and switch to lower gear as I was stuck in 6th gear for way too long. Beginning of the end Being on this vacation , even if it was only for few days this gave me an opportunity to look at it all from a different prospective, different angle and that s when it came to me. I realized that even before I was finished with one project without even realizing I was already involved with another one, one that would take much more time and one that might leave me wondering ~5 years later with question what if? After all if get involved with something I m not going to back out, it s either failure is not an option or I won t start doing it at all. Even if it brought me everything I wanted, how would you know if that s what you wanted if you haven t thought about it first? Having DebConf for the first time in this region already showed some (positive) results, but for seeing the actual results it may take a bit longer. We sowed the seeds now the best thing we can do is leave them as it is and see if anything grows out. Of course I could lean over them and protect them from any natural or any other type of hazards, this would also mean when I m not around it wouldn t know how to protect itself on its own. Besides all, interfering with natures way of doing things is rarely a good option. I consider myself to still be relatively young and threatening my well being over safe keeping some seeds and watching over if they grow into something or not doesn t really seem that attractive to me. Maybe one day I ll decide to leave the land, maybe I won t even get to see if anything grows out after all. Maybe some day someone will find this fruit, recognize its worth and claim it as it s own, maybe over time everybody forgets everything and even that this land once was a fertile ground. Maybe, maybe not. I m still a student, I was supposed to graduate last year but I took less classes last year so I wouldn t snap under all the pressure. That s why this year I have less classes and am supposed to graduate in May, that s less then a year until then and I just want to devote some time to myself, figure out what I want with me life, learn the things I want to learn, do the things I want to do. I want to turn back to working on Eclipse, I have some good plans for Eclipse and Android developers, lately I ve been slacking off way too much but I think I have a good excuse Smile In the end, all I know is that I still want to change the world, whether it s doing that inside of Google or in my own company, or some third place; or I ll just be laughing at this statement only time will show. I m hoping that now with all of this out of me I can finally finish the DebConf11 chapter of my life.

18 October 2011

Rapha&#235;l Hertzog: What about creating The Ubuntu Administrator s Handbook?

I am currently running a crowdfunding campaign whose ultimate goal is to liberate the English translation of a French book that I have written. This book will be named The Debian Administrator s Handbook because it has primarily been written for Debian. Creating a new Ubuntu book based on The Debian Administrator s Handbook But since Ubuntu is based on Debian, a large part of its content applies equally well to Ubuntu. While discussing with Mark Shuttleworth, he suggested me to reuse those parts and to create a new book dedicated to Ubuntu. It would also cover the latest cloud technologies that Ubuntu has been delivering (since this is a topic that the current book does not cover). This is something that I have been envisioning for a while and something that I would be ready to try if we manage to complete the liberation of the current book. This project would then bring a truly free book to the Ubuntu ecosystem. Why? The official Ubuntu books are not really free There s a policy in place that ensures that official Ubuntu books use a free software/culture license and they are effectively available under the terms of a Creative Commons Share Alike license. But try to create a derivative book you won t find the sources (LaTeX or DocBook usually with most big books). You can only find a few PDF copies if you google for it. But this is really not the preferred form of modification for such a book. Those books are also not packaged. Ubuntu much like Debian deserves to have a good book embodying the values of free software that can be shipped together with its product. When I speak of liberation of the book, I really mean it in the way that free software hackers are used to: a public Git repository containing the DocBook sources, the pictures and the .dia files for the various schemas. Help Ubuntu by spreading the word I understand that at this point this proposed Ubuntu book is really hypothetical ( vaporware one could say) but we need to go step by step to make it a reality. And the first step is to ensure that we manage to liberate the Debian Administrator s Handbook. For this I am seeking the support of the Ubuntu community to promote the current fundraising campaign. If the perspective of the Ubuntu book is not enough to convince you, you ll be glad to learn that I also commit to give back to Ubuntu 15% of the money raised via the link below (once VAT has been subtracted). Click here to go to the crowdfunding campaign page and pledge a few euros. Then share this article (or the link and convince others to participate. At this point, the liberation target is entirely reachable with your help and the help of the community: the remaining 18 K needed in the liberation fund represent 720 persons giving 25 EUR each or 1800 persons giving 10 EUR each. Thank you very much for your support and your help in this project!

One comment Liked this article? Click here. My blog is Flattr-enabled.

23 July 2011

Stefano Zacchiroli: harmonious assignments

why proprietary relicensing is unacceptable for a Free Software enthusiast The past few months have witnessed a large debate about copyright assignment, which seems to has neared its peak around the time Project Harmony has released version 1.0 of its agreement templates. (Note: I use the expression "copyright assignment" in this post, but I'd happily include into it both actual Copyright Assignment Agreements CCAs and Contributor License Agreements CLAs, as both could be used to permit various forms of proprietary relicensing.) Mark Shuttleworth has been one of the most prominent voices campaigning in favor of copyright assignments (to for-profit companies). A couple of interesting blog posts of his where this is evident are "On balancing economic power in the FLOSS ecosystem" and "The responsibilities of ownership". Voices against the opportunity of increasing the popularity of copyright assignments are aplenty and it is pointless to repeat good arguments which I find fully convincing. If you are interested in the subject, here are a few good reads I recommend: What I would like to add to the debate is the point of view of a Free Software enthusiast, not unlike yours truly. I contribute to Free Software not because it is superior to proprietary software in either its software products or in its development methodology. (It actually is superior in many cases, but that's just not my primary motivation.) I do contribute to Free Software to build a world in which users are in complete control of the software they run. Let's assume we have a broken toaster at home. We are all free to (1) open it up and try to repair it by ourselves. If we don't have the needed knowledge, we are free to (2) hand it over to a person that we trust and who does have the needed knowledge to repair it. That failing, we can (3) ask the toaster producer to repair it for us. Many people like me simply don't accept to live in a world where, once all the toasters will be software-driven, the only repair option will be (3), just because the toaster software is proprietary. (Given various kind of [broken] metaphors have been used to explain copyright assignments, it seemed sensible to propose my broken toaster metaphor in exchange.) When I contribute to some Free Software project, I not only care about being able myself to get a Free Software licensed copy of the whole product (i.e. the original software product + my own contribution). I care that all recipients of the product, present and future, will be able to get that contribution with enough freedoms attached to put them in control of the software that includes it. This desire can be fulfilled with a varying degree of success, depending on the license of the code base I contribute to. For instance, I find more pleasant to contribute to a copyleft licensed code base than to a weak-/non-copyleft licensed one, and more pleasant to contribute to an AGPL-ed web app than to a copyleft web app. It also means that, given the option, I will not allow the code base maintainer to re-license my contribution under terms that allow distributing it without suitable freedoms attached. Different contributors will be ready to accept different re-licensing promises, but the mere fact we are debating all this and that companies like Canonical feel the need of campaigning for copyright assignments is evidence that many contributors like me exists and actually have a problem with allowing downstream relicensing of their contributions. What is feared the most is of course proprietary relicensing. According to my moral horizon this is the case not because the company might end up gaining money out of my code: I wouldn't have a problem with that. The reason is rather that the company will be able to distribute my own code in a way that grants less freedoms to users than those that were implicitly "agreed upon" when the contribution has been written. In that respect, I can't help thinking at harmony agreements as a large scale smoke screen experiment meant to convince volunteers that copyright assignments are something Free Software needs. By exploiting the creative-commons-like "it's easy, just choose one" scheme, Harmony takes the chance of offering misleading options such as the one labeled "any OSI approved license". Via that option, which is seemingly fine, the copyright recipient will be allowed to relicense the contribution under some non-copyleft license (e.g. BSD) and from there do essentially what they want. All in all, companies campaigning for copyright assignments seem to have failed to understand two main points. The first one is that contributors motivated by Free Software ideals want the code to remain free not only for themselves, but for all recipients of the code. I'm not claiming that all contributors to FOSS projects belong to this category, but the fact that there is a considerable amount of such people is undeniable. Hoping that they will be fooled by tricks like the "any OSI approved license" agreement is foolish. The second is that while volunteer Free Software communities do respect companies that provide huge amounts of code contributions, they also expect companies to figure out by themselves which business models make their businesses sustainable. Telling volunteers that current business models are not sustainable without proprietary relicensing is worthless. Volunteers just don't care. They want software freedom guarantees and are not willing to renounce to them in exchange of the wealth of companies, not even under the (implicit) threat that otherwise those companies will be forced to reduce the amount of their code contributions.
Update: explain in the initial note why my reasoning here encompasses both CCAs and CLAs. Thanks Tollef for noticing that it wasn't clear.

16 April 2011

Russell Coker: Who is the Best Free Software Advocate?

TED is offering an audition for future talks in New York on the 24th of May [1]. It would be good if we could have someone advocate Free Software there. The audition is a 1 minute talk, the speakers who pass the audition may be offered full ~17 minute lecture slots at the next TED conference, and some of the minute long talks will be published on (which has many viewers).Larry Lessig has previously given a TED talk about laws that strange creativity [2], while this is fairly typical of the type of talk that TED promotes (in terms of politics and presentation quality), a talk doesn t have to be so well produced to make the grade. Firstly some TED talks seem to be accepted with a lower presentation quality due to the speaker having some special knowledge a TED presentation doesn t have to be so slick if the speaker is sufficiently famous or the talk is particularly interesting. Also there are TEDx events which are organised independently, have less international attention, and therefore less competition for speaking slots. Larry gave a more recent talk at the TEDxNYED event about re-examining the remix and lessons that people on the political left can learn from conservatives about remix legislation [3], this talk is much more informal and also unfortunately has a much lower recording quality. But as it s published on it will still get a large audience.Promoting Free Software to the TED audience (which includes many senior politicians and other VIPs) would be a major achievement. Even a TEDx talk that gets published on would get seen by a huge and important audience.Who is capable of giving such a talk? Larry got a standing ovation for his TED talk so it seems most likely that he can give another TED talk without going through the public audition process, but it seems that he has other priorities at this time. Probably most people who have more than 10 years experience doing Free Software development and who have a reasonable amount of experience giving lectures at Free Software conferences could at least manage the TEDx quality and a good portion of the speakers from any of the major Linux conferences could potentially give a talk of TED quality if they spent enough time preparing it.What methods of funding are available? There are probably very few people who would travel far to give a 1 minute talk, Mark Shuttleworth is one person who can afford to travel for such things and who could potentially give a great TED talk (his story is the sort of thing that seems popular with the TED audience). Would any of the Free Software organisations sponsor someone to give such an audition? I would support having Debian funds spent on travel for one of the better Debian advocates to travel to NY for the audition I m sure that there are many other Free Software things that can be done in NY to help justify the expense. Maybe this would be something that is suitable for corporate sponsorship.Finally it seems like a good idea to create some very short talks anyway. It would probably be useful to have leaders of the Free Software community publish minute-long video talks about their favorite projects anyway. In some ways a short talk is a higher form of art than a long lecture, I think that the best talk I ever gave was my 5 minute lightning talk about installing SE Linux.UpdateTED now has a blog post with a FAQ about the talks [4]. Larry Lessig is the first example they cite of how to give a great TED talk!Also you can submit a video without attending New York and there is no restriction on publishing the video elsehere. So if you want to make a great 1 minute video about something important you can just send it to TED and see what happens and then publish it on Youtube or one of the other video services too.

6 March 2011

Tim Retout: Software Architect

I've been promoted - my job title will now be 'Software Architect'. This seems to mean I'll be writing documents rather than code - any higher-level, and I'd need Mark Shuttleworth's spacesuit. Is this a good thing? Anyway, I celebrated by opening my last bottle of Debian wine. <spam>Unfortunately, I can't take up my new role until we have hired a replacement. UK-based developers who know Perl and ideally PostgreSQL might want to look at the job description, although I'd recommend sending your CV and covering letter to me directly. I don't get a referral bonus, it's just that I don't like what that agency does with your carefully-crafted application.</spam> I'd like to thank everyone who maintains LaTeX for their assistance in this matter. In other news, I'm studying a couple of Open University courses part-time - one on software development (i.e. UML), and one on interaction design. They're going well so far - I've had a couple of tutorials, and the first part of an assignment came back with good marks. I've been reading the Lean Software Development books by Mary and Tom Poppendieck. They seem to put Agile development into a 'respectable' historical context of similar improvements in manufacturing, which might be useful for persuading project managers.

2 March 2011

Lucas Nussbaum: Banshee and Ubuntu

[ If you haven't heard of this debate yet, you probably want to read Vincent Untz's and Mark Shuttleworth's blog posts. ] Last year, I gave a talk at FOSDEM about Debian and Ubuntu (slides of a slightly updated version). One of my points was that Debian has better values, being a volunteer-driven project where decisions are taken in the open. In contrast, Ubuntu is a project managed and controlled by Canonical, and recent history has shown that Canonical had no problem imposing some decisions to the developers community: first with the inclusion of UbuntuOne, then the switch from Google to Yahoo! to Google as the default search engine, both to increase revenue streams. So one should not be surprised by the Banshee story. I find Mark s justification quite difficult to buy, and similar to Apple s model where 30% of the revenues from the App Store go to Apple, and 70% to the seller of the application. For those wondering how much work was done by Canonical directly on the Banshee package: the banshee package in Ubuntu natty is based on the package currently in Debian experimental. The package is mainly maintained in Debian by an Ubuntu developer not paid by Canonical AFAIK, Chow Loong Jin. There are some differences between the Debian package and the Ubuntu package, which are fairly limited (full diff here) and mainly about enabling UbuntuOne and disabling the other music stores. That patch itself apparently was provided by Jo Shields, who doesn t seem to be a canonical employee. (Feel free to correct me) I think that one of the conclusions to draw from this story is that we now have several proofs that Ubuntu isn t a volunteer-driven project, and that volunteer contributors should really decide whether they are OK with working for free for Canonical, or if their free time would be better spent on other projects where they actually have a chance to influence decisions. From the Debian POV, I m still convinced that we should take the feedback that we receive from Ubuntu in consideration to improve our Debian packages (by looking at patches made by Ubuntu, or at bugs reported in Launchpad). But my motivation for contributing to Ubuntu directly has just diminished a bit more (not that it was very high before).

14 January 2011

Jordi Mallach: New project to discuss

Reading Scott's recent announcement on his move to Google was both surprising and a pleasure. Surprising, because it'll take time to stop associating his name to Ubuntu, Canonical, and the nice experiences I had while I worked with them. A pleasure, because his blog post was full of reminiscences of the very early days of a project that ended up being way more successful in just a few years than probably anyone in the Oxford conference could imagine. Scott, best of luck for this new adventure! Scott's write-up includes a sentence that made me remember I had been wanting to write a blog post related to all of this, but was pending Mark Shuttleworth's permission for posting:
Ok, Mark wasn t really a Nigerian 419 scammer, but some people did discard his e-mail as spam! Scott James Remnant
Many know the story of how I ended not being part of the Super-Secret-Debian-Startup Scott mentions. I even wrote about it in a blog post, 3 years ago:
[...] nothing beats the next email which sat for some dramatic 6 months in my messy inbox until I found out in the worst of the possible scenarios. Let's go back to late February, 2004, when I had no job, and I didn't have a clue on what to do with my life.
From: Mark Shuttleworth <>
Subject: New project to discuss
To: Jordi Mallach <>
Date: Sun, 29 Feb 2004 18:33:51 +0000
I'm hiring a team of debian developers to work full time on a new
distribution based on Debian. We're making internationalisation a prime
focus, together with Python and regular release management. I've discussed
it with a number of Debian leaders and they're all very positive about it.
I'm not sure if I totally missed it as it came in, or I skimmed through it and thought WTF?! Dude on crack or I just forgot I need to reply to this email , but I'd swear it was the former. Not long after, popped up, the rumours started spreading around Debian channels. Luckily, I got a job at LliureX two months later, where I worked during the following 2 years, but that's another story. I guess it was July or so when Ubuntu was made public, and Mark and his secret team organised a conference (blog entries [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]), just before the Warty release, and I was invited to it, for the same reasons I got that email. During that conference, probably because Mark sent me some email and I applied a filter to get to it, I found the lost email, and felt like digging a hole to hide for a LONG while. I couldn't believe the incredible opportunity I had missed. I went to Mark and said "hey, you're not going to believe this", and he did look quite surprised about someone being such an idiot. I wonder if I should reply to his email today...
When the usual suspects in the secret Spanish Debian Cabal channel read this blog post, they decided Mark deserved a reply, even if it would hit his inbox more than three and a half years late. :) With great care, we crafted an email that would look genuinely stupid in late 2007, but just arrogant and idiotic in 2004, when Ubuntu was just an African word, and the GNU/Linux distribution landscape was quickly evolving at the time, Gentoo Linux had the posh distribution crown, that Debian had held for quite a few years. I even took enough care to forge the X-Operating-System and User-Agent headers so they matched whatever was current in Debian in February 2004, and of course, top-posting seemed most appropriate. So Mark woke up that Monday, fired up his email client, and got... this:
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2004 09:47:55 +0100
From: Jordi Mallach <>
To: Mark Shuttleworth <>
Subject: Re: New project to discuss
Organization: SinDominio
X-Operating-System: Debian GNU/Linux sid (Linux 2.6.3 i686)
User-Agent: Mutt/
Hi Mark,
Thanks for your email. I nearly deleted this e-mail because for some
reason I thought it was targetted spam.
Your project looks very interesting, almost like a dream come true.
However, I feel a bit uneasy about your proposal. Something just doesn't
Why would someone start a company to work on /yet another/ Debian
derivative? Have you heard about Progeny's sad story? I think it's a
great example to show that Debian users don't want Debian-based distros,
they want people to work on the "real thing". Besides, I don't think
there's much more place for successful commercial distros, with Red Hat
and SuSE having well-established niches in the US and Europe.
Also, why focus on Debian specifically, Why not, for example, Gentoo,
which has a lot of buzz these days, and looks poised to be the next big
To be honest, I think only a few people have the stamina or financial
stability to undertake a project like this, so I'd like to know
a bit more about you, and details on how you plan to sustain the
Those are the main issues that worry me about your project. Other than
that, I would be interested in taking part in it, as I'm currently
unemployed and working on something Debian-based would be just too good
to miss.
You can reach me at +34 123 45 67 89, or if you feel like flying people
around Europe, I probably can be in the UK whenever it fits you.
Thanks, and hoping to hear from you again,
On Sun, Feb 29, 2004 at 06:33:51PM +0000, Mark Shuttleworth wrote:
> Hi Jordi
> We haven't met, but both Jeff Waugh and Martin Michelmayr recommended that
> I get in touch with you in connection with a new project that I'm starting.
> I'm hiring a team of debian developers to work full time on a new
> distribution based on Debian. We're making internationalisation a prime
> focus, together with Python and regular release management. I've discussed
> it with a number of Debian leaders and they're all very positive about it.
> Would you be available to discuss it by telephone? I'm in the UK, so we
> could probably find a good timezoine easily enough ;-) Let me knof if
> you're keen to discuss it, when and what number to call.
> Cheers,
> Mark
> --
> Try Debian GNU/Linux. Software freedom for the bold, at
As you can imagine, his reaction was immediate:
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2007 11:13:54 +0100
From: Mark Shuttleworth <>
To: Jordi Mallach <>
Subject: Re: New project to discuss
Jordi! I just got this now! Did you recently flush an old mail queue?
With thanks to all the Spanish Cabal members who were involved!

25 November 2010

Rapha&#235;l Hertzog: People behind Debian: Colin Watson, the tireless man-db maintainer and a debian-installer developer

Colin Watson is not a high-profile Debian figure, you rarely see him on mailing lists but he cares a lot about Debian and you will see him on Debconf videos sharing many thoughtful comments. I have the pleasure to work with him on dpkg as he maintains the package in Ubuntu, but he does a lot of more interesting things. I also took the opportunity to ask some Ubuntu specific questions since he s worked for Canonical since the start. Read on. My questions are in bold, the rest is by Colin. Who are you? Hi. I m 32 years old, grew up in Belfast in Northern Ireland, but have been living in Cambridge, England, since I was 18. I m married with a stepson and a daughter. I became interested in Debian due to the critical mass of Debian work happening in Cambridge at the time (and perhaps more immediately because my roommate was running Debian: hey, what s that? ), started doing random bits of development in 2000, and joined as a developer in 2001 (a really exciting time, with lots of new people joining who became integral parts of the project). I d only really been intending to do QA work and various bits of packaging around the edges, and maybe some work on the BTS, but then Fabrizio Polacco died and I took over man-db from him, and it sort of snowballed from there. I graduated from university shortly before becoming a Debian developer. I worked for a web server company (Zeus), then a hardware cryptography company (nCipher), before moving to work for Canonical in 2004, since when I ve been working full-time on Ubuntu. By this point, I suspect that going back to work in an office every day would be pretty tough. What s your biggest achievement within Debian or Ubuntu? One thing I should say: I rarely start projects. Firstly I don t think I m very good at it, and secondly I much prefer coming on to an existing project and worrying away at all the broken bits, often after other people have got bored and wandered off to the next new and shiny thing. That s probably why I ended up in the GNU/Linux distribution world in the first place, rather than doing lots of upstream development from the start I like being able to polish things into a finished product that we can give to end users. So, I ve had my fingers in a lot of pies over the years, doing ongoing maintenance and fixing lots of bugs. I think the single project I m most proud of would have to be my work on the Debian installer. I joined that team in early 2004 (a few months before Canonical started up) partly because I was a release assistant at the time and it was an obvious hot-spot, and partly because I thought it d be a good idea to make sure it worked well on the shiny new G4 PowerBook I d just treated myself to. I ended up as one of the powerpc d-i port maintainers for a while (no longer, as that machine is dead), but I ve done a lot of core work as well: much of the work to put progress bars in front of absolutely everything that used to have piles of text output, rescue mode, the current kernel selection framework, a good deal of udev support, several significant debconf extensions, lots of os-prober work, and I think I can claim to be one of the few people who understands the partitioner almost top to bottom. :-) d-i is the very first thing many of our users see, and has a huge range of uses, from simple desktop installs to massive corporate deployments; it s unspeakably important that it works well, and it s a testament to its design that it s been able to trundle along without actually very much serious refactoring for the best part of five years now. I have a soft spot for man-db too. It was my first major project in Debian, starting out from an embarrassingly broken state, and is now nice and stable to the point where I recently had time to spawn a useful generic library out of it (libpipeline). What are your plans for Debian Wheezy? d-i has a lot of code to deal with disks and partitions. Of course a lot of it is in the partitioner, and for that we use libparted so we don t have to worry very much about the minutiae of device naming. But there are several other cases where we do need to care about naming, mainly before the partitioner when detecting disks, and after the partitioner when installing the boot loader. Back in etch, we introduced list-devices , which abstracted away the disk naming assumptions involved in hardware detection. In wheezy, I would like to take all the messy, duplicated, and error-prone code that handles disk naming in the boot loader installers, and design a simple interface to cover all of them. This has only got more important following the addition of the kFreeBSD and Hurd d-i ports in squeeze, but it bites us every time we notice that, say, CCISS arrays aren t handled consistently, and it s a pain to test all that duplicated code. I d also like to spread the use of libpipeline through C programs in the archive, which I think has potential to eliminate a class of security vulnerabilities in a much simpler way than was previously available. If you could spend all your time on Debian, what would you work on? I would love to systematically reduce the need for the current mass of boot loaders. There s a significant cost to having so much variation across architectures here: it s work that needs to be done in N different places, the wildly differing configuration means that d-i has to have huge piles of code to manage them all differently, and there are a bunch of strange arbitrary limitations on what you can do. The reason I m working on GRUB 2 is that, in my view, it s the project with the best chance of centralising all this duplicated work into a single place, and making it easier to bring up new hardware in future (in a way that doesn t compromise software freedom, as many proprietary boot loaders of the kind often found on phones do). Of course, with flexibility tends to come complexity, and some people have a natural objection to that and prefer something simpler. The things I don t quite have time to do here are to figure out a coherent way to address the specific over-complexity problems people have with the configuration framework while still keeping the flexibility we need, and to do enough QA and porting work to be able to roll out GRUB 2 at installation time to all the Debian architectures it theoretically supports. What s the biggest problem of Debian? Backbiting, and too much playing the man rather than the ball. With one or two honourable exceptions, I ve largely stopped reading most Debian mailing lists since it just never seems a productive way to spend time compared to writing code and fixing bugs; and yet I m conscious that they re one of the primary means of communication for the project and I m derelict in not taking part in them. I do find it a bit frustrating that people are seen primarily in terms of their affiliations. I suppose it s natural for people to see me as an Ubuntu guy , but I don t really see myself that way: I ve been working on Debian for nearly twice as long as I ve been working on Ubuntu, and, while I care a great deal about both projects, I ve put far more of my own personal time into Debian and I try to make sure that a decent number of the things I m involved with there aren t to do with work. Work/life separation is a good thing, not that I m very good at it. Generally speaking, when I m working on Debian, I m doing so as a Debian developer, because I want Debian to be better. When that s not the case, if it matters, I try to indicate it explicitly. You re working for Canonical since Ubuntu s inception. If you were Mark Shuttleworth, is there something that you would have done differently? We had many good intentions when we founded Ubuntu. We also had a huge amount of work to deliver, to the point where it wasn t at all clear whether it would be possible (the warty release was named based on the expectations of it, after all, and came out much more usable than we d dared to hope). In hindsight, it might have helped to be quieter about our good intentions, so that we could exceed expectations rather than in some cases failing to meet them. That might have set a very different tone early on. (Personally, I m happy I m not Mark. The decisions in my office are much easier to take.) It seems to me that the community part of Ubuntu is much more eager to cooperate with Debian than the corporate part. It s probably just that more and more Canonical employees are not former Debian contributors. Do you also have this feeling? Are there processes in place to ensure everybody at Canonical is trying to do the right thing towards Debian cooperation? Just to be clear, I m wearing my own hat here which, ironically, is a fedora rather than a company hat. It makes sense for Canonical to be taking on more non-Debian folks; after all, we can t simply hire from the Debian community forever, and a variety of backgrounds is healthy. As you say, it may well be natural that Ubuntu developers who don t work for Canonical are more likely to have a Debianish background, as it tends to take something significant to get people to switch to a very different family of GNU/Linux distributions, and changing jobs is one of the most obvious of those things. Certainly, there was a definite sense among the early developers that we were all part of the Debian family and cared about the success of Debian as well. As Ubuntu has developed its own identity, people involved in it now tend to care primarily about the success of Ubuntu. At the same time, pragmatically, it s still true that getting code changes into Debian is one of the most economical ways to land them; changes made in Debian or upstream land once and tend to stay in place, while changes made only in Ubuntu incur an ongoing merge overhead, which is not at all trivial. In many ways it s human nature to try to fulfil your immediate goals in the most direct way possible. If your goal is to deliver changes to Ubuntu users, then it s natural to concentrate on that rather than looking at the bigger picture (which takes experience). Debian developers often fail to send changes upstream for much the same reason, although there s more variation there because they re normally working on Debian of their own volition and thus tend to have wider goals; the economics are more or less parallel though. Thus, I think the best way to improve things is to make it the path of least resistance for Ubuntu developers to send changes to Debian. We re already seeing how this works with the Ubuntu MOTU group; if you send a patch for review, or work on merging a package from Debian, very often the response includes have you sent these changes to Debian? . We re working on both streamlining our code review through a regular patch pilot programme and requiring more code review for changes in general, so I think this will be a good opportunity to ask more people to work with Debian when they propose changes to Ubuntu. For myself, this may be obvious, but I notice that I m much better at getting changes into Debian when I already have commit access to the Debian package in question. All the work on improving collaborative maintenance in Debian can only help, for Ubuntu as well as for everyone else. It doesn t make so much difference for large changes that require extensive discussion, but there are lots of small changes too. Canonical is upstream of many software projects (unity, indicators infrastructure, etc.). Why aren t those software immediately packaged in Debian? Do you think we can get this to change? I m not sure what the right approach is here, particularly as I haven t been involved with much of that on the Ubuntu side. I suspect it would be helpful to look at this in a similar way to Ubuntu changes in general. It s understandable that those developers have getting changes into Ubuntu as their first goal. And yet, having code in Debian offers a wider, and often technically adept, audience, and most developers like having their code reach a wider audience even if it s not their first priority, particularly if that audience is likely to be able to help with finding problems and fixing bugs. It should be seen as something beneficial to both distributions. The hardest problems will be with things that aren t merely optional add-ons (which should generally be fairly non-controversial in Debian, given the breadth of the archive in general the existence of things like bzr and germinate as Debian packages was never a hard question), but which require changes in established packages. For example, gnome-power-manager in Ubuntu is built with application indicator support, and that s an important part of having a good indicator-based panel: a lot of the point of indicators is consistency. Since I do very little desktop work myself, I don t know exactly what would be involved in making it possible to choose this system based on a Debian desktop, but I think it s probably a bit more complicated than just making sure all the new packages exist in Debian too. Obviously you have to start somewhere. Is there someone in Debian that you admire for his contributions? Christian Perrier is absolutely tireless and has done superb things for the state of translations in Debian. And Russ Allbery, even aside from his fine ongoing work on policy, Lintian, and Kerberos, is a constant voice of sanity and calmness. Release management is incredibly hard work, as I know from my own experience, and anyone who can sustain involvement in it for a long period is somebody pretty special. Steve Langasek and I got involved at about the same time but he outlasted me by quite a few years. He deserves some kind of medal for everything he s done there.
Thank you to Colin for the time spent answering my questions. I hope you enjoyed reading his answers as I did. Subscribe to my newsletter to get my monthly summary of the Debian/Ubuntu news and to not miss further interviews. You can also follow along on, Twitter and Facebook.

11 comments Liked this article? Click here. My blog is Flattr-enabled.