Search Results: "Martin Zobel-Helas"

3 June 2015

Raphaël Hertzog: My Free Software Activities in May 2015

My monthly report covers a large part of what I have been doing in the free software world. I write it for my donators (thanks to them!) but also for the wider Debian community because it can give ideas to newcomers and it s one of the best ways to find volunteers to work with me on projects that matter to me. Debian LTS This month I have been paid to work 10.25 hours on Debian LTS. In that time I did the following: Other Debian work Package Tracker. The Debian system administrators upgraded the machine hosting to jessie and I dealt with the fallout. Fixing the Apache configuration was easy but DACS also broke and I had to disable it (thus breaking login via Fortunately Enrico Zini and Martin Zobel-Helas debugged the problem and restored it. Sponsorship. I sponsored a dolibarr upload and many tryton-modules-* uploads to bring Tryton 3.6 to Debian (and granted DM rights on the newly introduced packages to Matthias Behrle who is maintaining those packages). Misc stuff. I discussed multiple feature requests with Dmitry Smirnov for dh-linktree. Packaging. I uploaded a new upstream version of cpputest. I did that twice actually because the first version had failing tests (see #784674). I also filed #784959 on blhc because I saw what looked like a false positive report for a missing hardening flag. I uploaded Django 1.8 to experimental. This is a major upstream release and shall ideally only be uploaded to sid after having reported problems on reverse dependencies. I doubt we will have the time to do this I started working on Publican 4.3.0 but the test suite fails and it s not even the fault of publican for once. It s a bug in libxml apparently. Thanks See you next month for a new summary of my activities.

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17 February 2014

Martin Zobel-Helas: Have YOU registered Services at Debian Services Census?

Enrico and me have just started a census on Debian Services floating around, and we want YOU to participate!

The Debian Services Census is an attempt to gather detailed information about software services for the Debian community. It doesn't matter where these services live or who provides them. For now we are only interested in their existence.

Services can be anything from the mail forwarding service for addresses that lives on operated by DSA, web applications, email bots, command line scripts you can run on machines, automated package checkers that report bugs to people, Debian-related services that people run on their own infrastructure like and son on. Have a look at for more examples.

If you think it's a service, then we think it's a service too and we want to know about it. Feel free to contribute data whether you are the maintainer of that service or not.

Here is how to let us know about the service:
  • please visit and verify if the service is already listed there
  • if the service you had in mind is *not* listed, please create an entry for it using the "Add a new service" button.
If you are the maintainer of a service, we also encourage you to subscribe to the mailing list, which is a low-traffic list and should be the contact point for inter-service communication and coordination.

Update: Up to now, 51 services have been registered (most of them within 24 hours after the d-d-a mail, WOW), but we are sure that there are a lot of more services, that still need to be registered. Help us to get a complete list!

1 January 2014

Debian Sysadmin Team: Martin Zobel-Helas: Howto mess up the Debian Project homepage

I recently blogged about the GeoDNS setup we plan for Even though all DSA team members agree that the GeoDNS setup for should come alive as soon as possible, we still fear to break an important service like security.d.o. Yesterday I decided without further ado to float a trial balloon and converted DNS entries for the Debian Project homepage to our GeoDNS setup. While doing so, we found out that some part of our automatic deployment scripts still need to be adjusted to serve more than one subdomain of the project. That setup is live for about eighteen hours now, and the project homepage now resolves it IPs via GeoDNS. For now, we are using senfl.d.o for Northern America, and for Europe and klecker.d.o for the rest of the world. From what I can see from GeoDNS logs, it seems to work fine, and the load stays reasonably low, so after a short test period we might add additional services like to GeoDNS.

Debian Sysadmin Team: Martin Zobel-Helas: about to be shut down

We are re-purposing as a new security mirror to be shipped to South America. The most of you have used as in the past will cease to exist in the near future. will cease acting as a dns server for the zone in a few days, therfore we will add two new hosts, senfl.d.o and ravel.d.o. All other services formerly hosted on raff.d.o should have been already moved by now, we just want to encourage those of you who had a login on raff, to backup your home directory if you care of the data stored there, as we will not move that. Current plan is to shut down current raff by end of the year (so in about 7 days).

Debian Sysadmin Team: Martin Zobel-Helas: RFH: ferm integration into dsa-puppet.git

The Debian Project currently runs about 100 machines all over the world with different services. Those are mainly managed by the Debian System Administration team. For central configuration management we use Puppet. The Puppet config we use is publicly available here. Our next goal is to have a more or less central configuration of our iptables rules on all those machines. Some of the machines have home-brewed firewall scripts, some use ferm. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to provide us with a new dsa-puppet git branch with a module "ferm" that we can roll out to all our hosts. It might want to use information from the other puppet modules like "apache2_security_mirror" or "buildd" to decide which incoming traffic should be allowed. DSA will of course provide you with all necessary further information.

Debian Sysadmin Team: Martin Zobel-Helas: Dropping zone

While setting up GeoDNS for parts of the zone, we set up a new subzone This was mainly due to the fact we didn't want to mess up the existing zone while experimenting with GeoDNS. Now that our GeoDNS setup has been working for more than half a year without any problems, we will drop this zone. We will do that in two phases.

Phase 1 Beginning on July 1st, we will redirect all requests to to a static webpage indicating that this subzone is deprecated and should not be used any more. If you still have in your apt sources.list, updates will fail.

Phase 2 On August 1st, we will stop serving the subzone from our DNS servers.

Conclusion In case you use a entry in your /etc/apt/sources.list, now is the best time to change that entry to Both zones currently serve the same content.

6 November 2013

Olivier Berger: Generating WebID profiles for Debian project members

I ve been investigating the generation of WebID profiles for Debian project members for some time. After earlier experiments on, in a static and very hackish manner, I ve investigated the use of Django. Django is no random choice, as it is being used in several ongoing efforts to rewrite some Debian Web services. Among these is a new LDAP UserDir, which could replace the current version which runs, started by Luca Filipozzi and Martin Zobel-Helas. I ve worked on integrating some of the LDAP querying code written by Luca together with the Django WebID provider app written by Ben Nomadic (both modified by me), and the result is a bit hackish for the moment. It s very early, but allows the generation of WebID profiles for Debian project members, using data queried in Debian s LDAP directory, and adding TLS certs to the profiles. The TLS certs could in principle be used later as a WebID + TLS authentication mechanism. There s plenty of work ahead, and this may never be deployed, but as an example see the kind of way such WebID profile documents may look (in Turtle format) :
@prefix cert: <> .
@prefix foaf: <> .
@prefix rdf: <> .
@prefix rdfs: <> .
@prefix wot: <> .
@prefix xml: <> .
@prefix xsd: <> .
<> a foaf:PersonalProfileDocument ;
    foaf:primaryTopic <> .
<#gpgkey> a wot:Pubkey ;
    wot:fingerprint "ACE46EBD89F6656D6642660BE941DEDA7C5BB6A5" ;
    wot:pubkeyAddress <ttps://> .
<> a foaf:Person ;
    cert:key [ a cert:RSAPublicKey ;
            rdfs:label "key made on [...] on my laptop" ;
            cert:exponent 65537 ;
            cert:modulus "bb7d5735181c7687a09abf3c88a064513badfe351f14fc2d738978a7f573d12eb831140a7a02c579f31f4617c14145493aeff4009832ba7fd1c579d6da92f68cd4437072266b000451d6eb45c03cd00b20e1f2230d83bdc3caeebb317e6618dd38a3f53abbbb2b6495a893495d3df685a2f0f599be8a74ef88841ce283dd8f65"^^xsd:hexBinary ],
        [ a cert:RSAPublicKey ;
            rdfs:label "key made on [...] on my laptop" ;
            cert:exponent 65537 ;
            cert:modulus "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"^^xsd:hexBinary ] ;
    foaf:homepage <> ;
    foaf:mbox "" ;
    foaf:name "Olivier Berger" ;
    foaf:nick "obergix" ;
    wot:hasKey <#gpgkey> .
If you re interested in WebID in the frame of Debian project services, see the discussion list.

15 February 2013

Kartik Mistry: My fantastic four aka #DPLgame

* Inspired by DPL Game post. Not in order,
1. Christian Perrier
2. Martin Zobel-Helas
3. Russ Allbery
4. Cyril Brulebois Pick anyone. All four are capable leaders! Although, I only met Christian personally from list, I ve watched others doing great work in Debian since long time.

Francesca Ciceri: The DPL game

In his latest bits from the DPL, Stefano wrote:
I'd like to respond (also) here to inquiries I'm receiving these days: I will not run again as DPL. So you have about 20 days to mob\^Wconvince other DDs to run, or decide to run yourself. Do not to wait for the vary last minute, as that makes for lousy campaigns.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present you... THE DPL GAME GOALS:
The goal of the game is to let people know you think they'd be nice DPLs.
The point is not to pressure them, but to let them know they're awesome and make them at least consider the idea to run for DPL. The winners are those who have at least one of their Fantastic Four running for DPL. Bonus points if one of them ends being the next DPL. RULES:
Name three persons (plus a reserve, just in case) you'd like to see as candidates for DPL. Publicly list them (on your blog or on using the hashtag #DPLgame) or at least let them know that you'd like to have them as candidate for DPL (via private mail).
You may want to add a couple of lines explaining the rationale for your choices. AGE:
The more the merrier Some suggestions on how to play:
First think of the qualities a DPL needs to do, in your opinion, a good job. Then look around you: the people you work with, the people you see interact on mailing list, etc. There must be someone with those qualities.
Here are my Fantastic Four (in rigorous alphabetic order): In my opinion, they all more or less have: enthusiasm, a general understanding of dynamics inside the project and of various technical sides of the project itself, ability to delegate and coordinate with different people (inside and outside the project), good communication skills and some diplomacy and ability in de-escalating conflicts. These are people I worked with or I observed working and discussing on mailing lists, and I think they'd do a good job. But -hey!- we are almost a thousand of developers and you cannot possibly know everyone or observe all the people who work in the various teams. This is why you should pick your four names!

6 April 2012

Rapha&#235;l Hertzog: People Behind Debian: Francesca Ciceri, Member of the Debian Press & Publicity Teams

Francesca Ciceri, photo by Andrew McMillan, CC-BY-SA 2.0

I met Francesca in Debconf 11 in Banja Luka. If I recall correctly, it s Enrico Zini who introduced me to her, because she was the madamezou (her IRC nickname) who started to get involved in the publicity team. Since then and despite having a bachelor thesis to complete she got way more involved and even gained official responsibilities in the project. Before starting with the interview, I wanted to mention that Francesca is drafting a diversity statement for Debian I was expecting the discussions to go nowhere but she listened to all objections and managed to improve the text and build a consensus around it. Thank you for this and keep up the good work, Francesca! Rapha l: Who are you? Francesca: My name is Francesca, I m 30 and I studied Social Sciences. Currently I live in Italy but I m planning to go abroad (not a lot of jobs here for geeky social scientists). Apart for Debian and FLOSS world in general, I have unrestrained passions for chocolate; zombie movies; sci-fi; zombie books; knitting sewing crafting and DIY in general; zombie videogames; bicycles; pulling apart objects to look inside them; splatter B movies, David Foster Wallace s books, playing trumpet, and did I already mentioned zombies? Days are too short for all this stuff, but I try to do my best. Raphael: How did you start contributing to Debian? Francesca: Some years ago I was stuck in bed for literally some months, due to a grave series of migraine attacks. I wasn t able to do anything: no social life, no books or television. So, I decided to turn on the laptop and do something constructive with it: I was already a Debian user and it seemed quite logical to me to try to give back to the community. I am not a coder and I ve not studied Computer Science, so my first step was to join an Italian Debian on-line community (Debianizzati) and help with tutorials, users support, wiki management. In a couple of months I learnt many things: helping other users with their problems forces you to do lots of research! My first contributions to the Debian project were mostly translations of the main website. Translators are the perfect typos spotters: they work so precisely on the text to be translated that they finish to do a great QA job. This is how I ve started to contribute to the Debian website: with very simple things, fixing typos or wrong links or misplaced wml tags. I still remember my first commit to the website: the idea was to undercase some tags, but it ended up that I misplaced some of them and in addition I fixed them only in the English page and not on the translations as well. When after a couple of minutes, K re Thor Olsen a long time contributor of the team and now webmaster reverted my commit, I felt so stupid and full of shame. But, to my great surprise, no one treated me like an idiot for that error: Gerfried Fuchs, one of the guru of the team, replies me in a really helpful and polite way explaining what I did wrong and how to do things correctly. I think this episode was a turning point in my Debian life: there s this idea that Debian Developers are just a bunch of arrogant assholes and maybe it was true in the past, but for my experience they are not. Well, at least the ones I met and work with ;) .
To my great surprise, no one treated me like an idiot for that error.
Since then, I joined the WWW team and helped them apply the shiny new design provided by Kalle S derman. A lot of work was done during the week immediately before the release of the new website. Oh that was a week! We worked night and day to have the new design ready for February 6th, and it was fantastic when we finally published it, simultaneously with the release of Squeeze. At the same time, I started to contribute more actively to the Debian Publicity team, not only translating news but also writing them. It can sound scary for a non native English speaker to write something from scratch in English, but you have to keep in mind that your text will be reviewed by native speakers before being published. And we have some fantastic reviewers in the English localisation team: particularly Justin B Rye, who is tireless in his effort and more recently Moray Allan. I think I m particularly lucky to work with all these people: there s a special mood in both Publicity and WWW team, which makes you feel happy to do things and at the same time pushes you to do more just because it s fun to work with them sharing jokes, ideas, rants, patches and hugs. Rapha l: I believe that you have been trough the new member process very quickly. You re now a Non-Uploading Debian Developer. How was the experience and what does this mean to you? Francesca: Becoming a Debian Developer was not so obvious for me, because I didn t need to be a DD for the work I do in Debian. For instance, I don t maintain packages, so I had no reasons to want to become a DD in order to have uploading rights. For a while I didn t really feel the necessity of being a DD. Luckily, some people started to pester me about it, asking me to apply for the NM process. I remember Martin Zobel-Helas doing this for an entire week every single day, and Gerfried Fuchs doing it as well. Suddenly, I realized that people I worked with felt that I deserved the DD status and that I simply had thought I didn t. As a non coder and a woman, there probably was a bit of impostor syndrome involved. Having people encouraging me, gave me more confidence and the desire to finally become a DD. And so I did. The process for non uploading DD is identical to the one to become an uploading DD, with one exception: in the second part of the process (named Tasks and Skills) instead of questions about how to create and maintain packages, there are questions about the non packaging work you usually do in Debian. The general resolution which created the possibility to become a non uploading DD gave us a chance to recognize the great effort of Debian contributors who work in various area (translations, documentation, artworks, etc.) that were not always considered as important as packaging efforts. And this is great because if you are a regular contributor, if you love Debian and you are committed to the project, there are no reasons to not be an official member of it. With regards to this, I like the metaphor used by Meike Reichle in her recent talk about the Debian Women Project (video recording here):
a Debian Developer status is a lot like a citizenship in a country that you re living in. If you live in a country and you don t have citizenship, you can find a job, buy a house, have a family [...] but if this country at any point in time decides to go into a direction that you don t like, there s nothing you can do about it. You are not in the position to make any change or to make any effect on that country: you just live there, but there s no way that you can excercise influence on the people who run this country.
Rapha l: You recently joined the Debian Press Team. What does it involve and how are you managing this new responsibility? Francesca: The Press Team is basically the armed wing of the Publicity Team: it handles announcements that need to be kept private until the release, moderate the debian-announce and debian-news mailing list and maintain contacts with press people from outside the project. The real job, so, is done within the Publicity Team. The most important part of our work is to write announcements and the newsletter: while the newsletter is published bi-weekly, the announcements need to be write in a shorter timeframe. Localization is really important in spreading Debian word, so we work closely with translators: both announcements and DPN are usually translated in four or five different languages. The publicity work could be stressful, as we have strict deadlines, we need to take quick decisions and often do last-minute changes. Personally, I like it: I work better under pressure. But I know that is sometimes difficult for contributors to accept that we can t debate endlessly on details, we have just to go on and do our best in a given timeframe.
The publicity work could be stressful, as we have strict deadlines, [ ]. Personally, I like it.
Raphael: You re one of the main editor behind the Debian Project News. What s the role and scope of this newsletter? Francesca: Debian Project News is our beloved newsletter, direct successor of the Debian Weekly News founded by Joey Hess in 1999 and later kept alive by Martin Schulze. In 2007, Debian Weekly News was discontinued but in 2008 the project was revived by Alexander Reichle Schmehl. The idea behind DPN is to provide our users an overview of what is happening inside and outside the project. As the core team of editors is formed by three people, the main problem is to be able to collect enough news from various sources: in this sense we are always glad when someone points us to interesting blogposts, mails and articles. DPN is also a good chance for non coders to contribute to Debian: propose news, write paragraphs and review the draft before the publication are quite easy tasks but very useful. English native speakers can do a proofread (as no one of the main editors is a native speaker) while others can always translate DPN in their native language. People who want to help us can take a look at our wiki page.
DPN is also a good chance for non coders to contribute to Debian.
Just yesterday I realized that since January we don t miss or delay an issue: so I d like to thank the fantastic team of editors, reviewers and translators who made it possible. The team is now working on another way of spreading Debian s message: a long-time project is finally becoming real. Stay tuned, surprise arriving! Raphael: You re trying to organize IRC training sessions but that doesn t seem to take off in Debian, while it s quite common in the Ubuntu community. How do you explain that? Francesca: I m not sure about it: both Debian users and contributors seemed to appreciate this initiative in the past. I was quite surprised by the amount of Debian members present during the various sessions and by the amount of interesting questions asked by the users. So the only reason I can think about is that I need to put more enthusiasm in convincing the teams to do it: they need more encouragement (or to be pestered more!). I, for myself, think that IRC training sessions are a great way to promote our work, to share our best practice, to talk about our project to a wider audience. And I ll sure try to organize more of them. Help, suggestions, ideas are really welcome! Raphael: If you could spend all your time on Debian, what would you work on? Francesca: There is a project I d like to give more love, but I always end up without the time to do it: the project. Back in 2007, Holger Levsen founded it with the aim of reducing the gap between Debian contributors and Debian users, giving all an opportunity to contribute, share ideas and more. The project was discontinued and I d really like to revive it: in these years various things have changed, but I think that the core idea of having a node to connect existing local communities is still good and doable. In Debian we don t have the wide and well articulated local infrastructure present in other distributions (Ubuntu, particularly, but also Fedora): even if I don t like too centralized structures, I think that a better connection between the project and local groups of users and on-line communities would be a step forward for the project. Being part of the Events Team, I m aware of how much we need to improve our communication with local groups. An example is the events organization: sometimes, Publicity and Events teams even don t know about regional Debian related events (like booth at conferences, workshops, talks, install parties, etc) and this is a shame because we could offer a lot of help in organizing and promoting local events. What we lack is better communication. And project could give us exactly this. Could be a cluster of local groups, a platform for events organization and even a useful resource for newbies who want to find a local group near them. I started some effort in this sense, sending a proposal about it, working on a census of Debian local groups. Any help is appreciated! I m really curious to see how many Debian communities (from all around the world and the web) are out there, and I d love to have members from these communities better connected with the Debian Project. Raphael: What s the biggest problem of Debian? Probably the bikeshedding feticism of almost all of us. It s the other side of the coin of Debian s commitment to technical excellence and our perfectionism, but sometimes it leads just to endless discussions about details, and it is a blocker for various initiatives. In Debian, you have to be really patient and in a way stubborn to push some changes. This is frustrating sometimes. On the other hand, I really appreciate how people take some times to think to each proposals, give some feedback and discuss about it: the process could be annoying, indeed, but the result is often an improvement of the initial proposal. Raphael: Is there someone in Debian that you admire for their contributions? Most of my teammates are simply brilliant and adorable and hard-working. But I have to admit that I particularly admire David Pr vot: beside being a webmaster he does a lot of things, from French translations to DPN editing. All his contributions have a great quality and he s able to push you always further in doing things and doing them better. He is a good example of how I d like to be as contributor: smart, tireless, friendly.
Thank you to Francesca for the time spent answering my questions. I hope you enjoyed reading her answers as I did. Note that older interviews are indexed on

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.

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29 March 2012

Carl Chenet: Debian developer

I received the email yesterday and was like wow, I m in . I would like to thank: Sorry for the other readers who will find this post boring, but it means a lot to me :)

4 February 2012

Stefano Zacchiroli: bits from the DPL for January 2012

Fresh from the oven, monthly report of what I've been working on as DPL during January 2012.
Dear Developers,
here is another monthly report of what happened in DPL-land, this time for January 2012. There's quite a bit to report about --- including an insane amount of legal-ish stuff --- so please bear with me. Or not. Legal stuff Most of the above wouldn't have been possible without the precious help of folks at SFLC working for SPI and Debian. Be sure to thank SFLC for what they're doing for us and many other Free Software projects. Coordination Nobody stepped up to coordinate the artwork collection for Wheezy I've mentioned last month, so I've tried to do a little bit of that myself. The -publicity team is now preparing the call for artwork and hopefully we'll send it out RSN. In case you want to help, there is still a lot of room for that; just show up on the debian-desktop mailing list. Sprints A Debian Med sprint has happened in January, and Andreas Tille has provided a nice and detailed report about it. Some more sprints are forthcoming this spring, how about yours? Money Important stuff going on Other important stuff has been going on in various area of the project in January. I'd like to point your attention to a couple of things: Miscellanea In the unlikely case you've read thus far, thanks for your attention! Happy Debian hacking.
PS as usual, the boring day-to-day activity log is available at master:/srv/leader/news/bits-from-the-DPL.*

11 December 2011

Stefano Zacchiroli: bits from the DPL for November 2011

Mako's IronBlogger is a great idea. I often find myself postponing blog posts for a very long time, simply out of laziness. IronBlogger provides a nice community incentive to counter (my) laziness and blogging more often. As a related challenge, we have to face the fact that different subsets of our communities use different media to stay informed: mailing lists, blog (aggregators), social media, IRC, etc. Disparities in how they stay informed are a pity and can be countered using multiple medias at a time. Although I haven't blogged very often as of lately, I managed to keep the Debian (Developer) community informed of what happens in "DPL land" on a monthly basis, by the means of bits from the DPL mails sent to d-d-a. While the target of bits mails perfectly fits d-d-a, there is no reason to exclude a broader public from them. After all, who knows, maybe we'll find the next DPL victim^W candidate among Planet readers! Bonus point: blogging this also helped me realize that my mails are not as markdown-clean as I thought they were. I still have no IronBlogger squad, though. (And sharing beers with folks in the Boston area is not terribly handy for me ). Anyone interested in setting up a BloggeurDeFer in the Paris area? (SCNR)
Dear Project Members,
another month has passed, it's time to bother you again about what has happened in DPL land in November (this time, with even less delay than the last one, ah!). Call for Help: press/publicity team I'd like to highlight the call for help by the press / publicity teams. They are "hiring" and have sent out a call for new members a couple of weeks ago. The work they do is amazing and is very important for Debian, as important as maintaining packages or fixing RC bugs during a freeze. It is only by letting the world know what Debian is and what we do, that we can keep the Project thriving. And letting the world know is exactly what the publicity and press teams do. If you're into writing, blogging, or simply have a crush for social media, please read the call and "apply"! Interviews November has apparently been the "let's interview the DPL" month. I've spent quite some time giving interviews to interested journalists about various topics. For both my embarrassment and transparency on what I've said on behalf of Debian, here are the relevant links: Assets Legal advice (work in progress) Relationships with others Miscellanea Thanks for reading thus far,
and happy hacking.
PS as usual, the boring day-to-day activity log is available at master:/srv/leader/news/bits-from-the-DPL.*

9 November 2011

Martin Zobel-Helas: How to read Debian's mailing list archives locally

From time to time i want to answer on mails on Debian mailinglists that i am not subcribed to. To have proper reply-headers set, i usually copied the archive mbox from to my local machine. Now i found a much nicer way.
apt-get install fuse afuse sshfs
adduser zobel fuse
mkdir ~/fuse/
afuse -o mount_template="sshfs %r:/ %m" -o unmount_template="fusermount -u -z %m" -o timeout=60 ~/fuse
mutt -f /home/zobel/fuse/

18 August 2011

Rapha&#235;l Hertzog: People behind Debian: Peter Palfrader, Debian System Administrator

You might not know who Peter is because he s not very visible on Debian mailing lists. He s very active however and in particular on IRC. He was an admin of the OFTC IRC network at the time Debian switched from Freenode to OFTC. Nowadays he s a member of the Debian System Administration team who runs all the servers. If you went to a Debconf you probably met him since he s always looking for new signatures of his GPG key. He owns the best connected key in the PGP web of trust. He also wrote caff a popular GPG key signing tool. Raphael: Who are you? Peter: I m Peter Palfrader, also known as weasel. I m in my early 30s, born and raised in Innsbruck, Austria and am now living and working in Salzburg, Austria. In my copious free time, other than help running Debian s servers I also help maintaining the Tor project s infrastructure. Away from the computer I enjoy reading fiction (mostly English language Science Fiction and Fantasy), playing board games and going to the movies. Weather permitting, I also occasionally do some cycling. Raphael: How did you start contributing to Debian? Peter: I installed my first Debian the week slink came out. That was Debian 2.1 for the youngsters, in early 1999. The one thing I immediately liked about slink was that Debian s pppd supported RAS authentication which my university s dial-up system required. No way I d go back to SuSE 5.3 when I had working Internet with my Debian box. :) During that year I started getting involved in the German language Debian channel on IRCnet which got me in contact with some DDs. Christian Kurz (<shorty>) was working on Debian QA at the time and he asked my help in writing a couple of scripts. Some of that work, debcheck, still produces parts of the qa.d.o website, tho the relevance of that nowadays is probably negligible. While trying to learn more Perl earlier, I had written a program to produce syntax highlighted HTML for code snippets in various languages. I didn t really know what I was doing but it kinda worked, and probably still does since I still get mail from users every now and then. I figured that it would be really nice if people could just get my software together with Debian. According to code2html s Debian changelog the initial release of the package was done on a weekday at 2:30 in the morning early in 2000, and if my memory serves me correctly, shorty uploaded it shortly afterwards. I started packaging a couple of other piece of software and in the same year I sent my mail to the debian account managers to register my intent to become a DD. No new developers where being accepted at that time since the DAMs wanted to overhaul the entire process so I wasn t surprised to not get any immediate reply. Of course what the silence also meant was that the mail had been lost, but I only learned of that later when I took all my courage to ask DAM about the status of application a couple months later. Once that was sorted out I was assigned an AM, did the usual dance, and got my account late in November 2000. Raphael: Four years ago, the Debian System Administration team was a real bottleneck for the project and personal conflicts made it almost impossible to find solutions. You were eager to help and at some point you got dropped as a new member in that team. Can you share your story and how you managed the transition in the difficult climate at that time? Peter: Ah, that was quite the surprise for an awful lot of people, me included. Branden Robinson, who was our DPL for the 2005-2006 term, tried to get some new blood added to DSA who were at the time quite divided. He briefly talked to me on IRC some time in summer 2005, telling me I had come recommended for a role on the sysadmin team . In the course of these 15 minutes he outlined some of the issues he thought a new member of DSA would face and asked me if I thought I could help. My reply was cautiously positive, saying that I didn t want to step on anybody s toes but maybe I could be of some assistance. And that was the first and last of it, until some fine November day two years later I got an email from Phil Hands saying I ve just added you to the adm group, and added you to the debian-admin@d.o alias. and welcome on board . *blink* What!? My teammates at the time were James Troup (elmo), Phil Hands (fil), Martin Joey Schulze and Ryan Murray (neuro). The old team, while apparently not on good terms with one another, was however still around to do heavy lifting when required. I still remember when on my first or second day on the team two disks failed in the raid5 of aka ries. Neuro did the reinstall once new disks had arrived at Brown University. I m sure I d have been way out of my league had this job fallen to me. Fortunately my teammates were all willing and able to help me find whatever pieces of information existed that might help me learn how does its stuff. Unfortunately a lot of it only existed in various heads, or when lucky, in one of the huge mbox archives of the debian-admin alias or list. Anyway, soon I was able to get my hands dirty with upgrading from sarge to etch, which had been released about half a year earlier. Raphael: I know the DSA team has accomplished a lot over the last few years. Can you share some interesting figures? Peter: Indeed we have accomplished a lot. In my opinion the most important of these accomplishment is that we re actually once again a team nowadays. A team where people talk to one another and where nobody should be a SPoF. Since this year s debconf we are six people in the admin team: Tollef Fog Heen (Mithrandir) and Faidon Liambotis (paravoid) joined the existing members: Luca Filipozzi, Stephen Gran, Martin Zobel-Helas, and myself. Growing a core team, especially one where membership comes with uid0 on all machines, is not easy and that s why I m very glad we managed to actually do this step. I also think the infrastructure and our workflows have matured well over the last four years. We now have essential monitoring as a matter of course: Nagios not only checks whether all daemons that should be running are in fact running, but it also monitors hardware health of disks, fans, etc. where possible. We are alerted of outstanding security updates that need to be installed and of changes made to our systems that weren t then explicitly acked by one of us. We have set up a centralized configuration system, puppet, for some of our configuration that is the same, or at least similar, on all our machines. Most, if not all, pieces of software, scripts and helpers that we use on infrastructure is in publicly accessible git repositories. We have good communication with other teams in Debian that need our support, like the ftp folks or the buildd people. As for figures, I don t think there s anything spectacular. As of the time of our BoF at this year s DebConf, we take care of approximately 135 systems, about 100 of them being real iron, the other virtual machines (KVM). They are hosted at over 30 different locations, tho we are trying to cut down on that number, but that s a long and difficult process. We don t really collect a lot of other figures like web hits on or downloads from the ftp archive. The web team might do the former and the latter is pretty much impossible due to the distributed nature of our mirrors, as you well know. Raphael: The DSA team has a policy of eating its own dog food, i.e. you re trying to rely only on what s available in Debian. How does that work out and what are the remaining gaps? Peter: Mostly Debian, the OS, just meets our needs. Sure, the update frequency is a bit high, we probably wouldn t mind a longer release cycle. But on the other hand most software is recent enough. And when it s not, that s easy to fix with backports. If they aren t on already, we ll just put them there (or ask somebody else to prepare a backport for us) and so everybody else benefits from that work too. Some things we need just don t, and probably won t, exist in Debian. These are mainly proprietary hardware health checks like HP s tools for their servers, or various vendors programs to query their raid controller. HP actually makes packages for their stuff which is very nice, but other things we just put into /usr/local, or if we really need it on a number of machines, package ourselves. The push to cripple our installers and kernels by removing firmware was quite annoying, since it made installing from the official media next to impossible in some cases. Support for working around these limitations has improved with squeeze so that s probably ok now. One of the other problems is that especially on embedded platforms most of the buildd work happens on some variation of development boards, usually due to increased memory and hard disk requirements than the intended market audience. This often implies that the kernel shipped with Debian won t be usable on our own machines. This makes keeping up with security and other kernel fixes way more error prone and time intensive. We keep annoying the right people in Debian to add kernel flavors that actually boot on our machines, and things are getting better, so maybe in the future this will no longer be a problem. Raphael: If you could spend all your time on Debian, what would you work on? Peter: One of the things that I think is a bit annoying for admins that maintain machines all over the globe is mirror selection. I shouldn t have to care where my packages come from, apt-get should just fetch them from a mirror, any mirror, that is close by, fast and recent. I don t need to know which one it was. We have deployed geodns for a while ago, and it seems to work quite well for the coarse granularity we desired for that setup, but geodns is an ugly hack (I think it is a layer violation), it might not scale to hundreds or thousands of mirrors, and it doesn t play well with DNSSEC. What I d really like to see is Debian support apt s mirror method that I think (and I apologize if I m wronging somebody) Michael Vogt implemented recently. The basic idea is that you simply add deb mirror:// or something like that to your sources.list, and apt goes and asks that server for a list of mirrors it should use right now. The client code exists, but I don t know how well tested it is. What is missing is the server part. One that gives clients a mirror, or list of mirrors, that are close to them, current, and carry their architecture. It s probably not a huge amount of work, but at the same time it s also not entirely trivial. If I had more time on my hands this is something that I d try to do. Hopefully somebody will pick it up. Raphael: What motivates you to continue to contribute year after year? Peter: It s fun, mostly. Sure, there are things that need to be done regularly that are boring or become so after a while, but as a sysadmin you tend to do things once or twice and then seek to automate it. DSA s users, i.e. DDs, constantly want to play with new services or approaches to make Debian better and often they need our support or help in their endeavors. So that s a constant flow of interesting challenges. Another reason is that Debian is simply where some of my friends are. Working on Debian with them is interacting with friends. I not only use Debian at I use it at work, I use it on my own machines, on the servers of the Tor project. When I was with OFTC Debian is what we put on our machines. Being a part of Debian is one way to ensure what Debian releases is actually usable to me, professionally and with other projects. Raphael: Is there someone in Debian that you admire for their contributions? Peter: That s a hard one. There are certainly people who I respect greatly for their technical or other contributions to Debian, but I don t want to single anybody out in particular. I think we all, everyone who ever contributed to Debian with code, support or a bug report, can be very proud of what we are producing one of the best operating systems out there.
Thank you to Peter 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.

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29 June 2011

Martin Zobel-Helas: Bosnian Beer?

When traveling I usually try local brands of beer. This became some sort of hobby, and usually gives me a good possibility to get in contact with the locals. For DebConf11 so far I have been suggested to try Tuzlanski (Tuzla) and Nektar (Banja Luka). Any other suggestions what should be tried?

22 June 2011

Martin Zobel-Helas: How YOU can help Debian!

I recently had been ask how persons usually not involved in Debian's development process can help Debian. This is a question that pops up quite often, so I thought I should write down a bit of that.

Help to make Debian a better OS
If you are using Debian, and you want something of your OS changed, open a bug report. This varies from wishlist bugs if you want to have an enhancement of a package over normal bugs for stuff that you think is a real bug up to serious or grave bug, if you found a security bug. Send a mail to or use the tool reportbug and describe the problem you have found. Find more information here. Be as verbose as possible when explaining your problem. This will make it easier for the package maintainer to help you and to understand the problem. If you are not sure which package to report the bug against, report it against unknown. The bug will be taken care of, there are guys redirecting those bug reports to the appropriate package!
You could also help to verify bug reports. There are dozens of packages around, that have hundred of open bug reports. It will help the Debian package maintainer if you can tell him a "me too", esp for complex problems, or if you found out how to reproduce a bug.

Help by spreading the word
If you are using Debian, speak about it! If you have problems with Debian, speak about it! If you like Debian, speak about it. Read the debian-user mailing list (or a localized one) and jump in if users have the same problem you had, and help them.
All sort of publicity will help Debian. If there is a small exhibition near to your living, speak there about Debian, and how you are using it. Speak also to Debian, we can help you to announce your presence at that exhibition and provide you with information material in various languages. Good contact point for that is, or one of the debian-events-* mailing lists on If you need help, ask for it. Also, you can help Debian manning an exhibition. If you see events in your area, offer to help and don't be shy. Other way to help is working with the publicity team and prepare press announcements, the Debian Project News (DPN), contact journalists or press media if interesting things happen in Debian.

Help Debian to organize stuff
There are many ways to help Debian organize itself. For example the annual Debian Conference DebConf is a big organisation monster, and you don't need to be developer to help with that. Sometimes it's as easy as helping in the video team taping the conference, help at the front desk with registration, sorting badges or speaking to the caterer about needed foods. We also have miniDebConf or so called Debian Bug Squashing parties from time to time. Your company could provide office rooms, you could provide crash space for developers to sleep or even by sponsoring some beverages or food. Also helping around exhibition is a good idea. If your company is willing to print some flyers or posters this can help us.

Help by translating or writing documentation
Debian's website and all of the software Debian delivers should be available in all languages around the world! Good starting point for that is and the Debian Internationalization Mailing list. Also writing or extending documentation is a job everyone can do. If you are using a piece of software heavily and miss documentation, speak to the Debian package maintainer (you can find our at$yourpackage) and start submitting bugs with documentation.

Help by donating
There are actually many ways to help by donating (not only by money). Surely Debian will accept money donations via one of it's official representation (ffis, SPI,, ...). On the other hand donating can be as simple as allowing your employees to work some specified time on the week on Debian! Or you donate machine hardware (probably not your old ones that you used five years and which are not under warranty now any more, sorry...), bandwith or colocation in your datacenter. Speak to the hardware donations team if you want to know the current needs.

I only wrote down a very few areas where you can help Debian, and there are plenty more! Don't hesitate to jump in to help. If you don't understand stuff: ask! But be prepared that you will be pointed to URLs where the stuff you ask for is documented. Helping Debian sometimes starts with reading tons of documentation (and i am sure you will find errors in that documentation to fix!), but after a while it makes a lot of fun to work for and with Debian. Find your own area to work on within Debian, and don't think you can't help. Even graphic designers, lawyers or clerks can help Debian!

I started using Debian around 15 years ago and became Debian Developer around 6 years ago. Within the last six years I had been in various positions inside Debian (listmaster team member, volatile team member, release team member and Stable Release Manager, Debian Sysadmin Team member) and got to those just by jumping in where help needed.

11 June 2011

Martin Zobel-Helas: I am going to DebConf11

DC11_web_120x240_03.pngI am going to DebCamp11 and DebConf11. I hope I can do some productive work with the website team, as well for the DSA team. Maybe I can find someone for a little skill-exchange regarding pylons.

During DebCamp I will most probably helping setting up the local infrastructure, esp for video streaming. Maybe I will also find some time for OpenStreetMap during DebCamp.

Let's hope for a good and productive DebConf with all the other DDs I haven't seen for years.

6 April 2011

Gerfried Fuchs: The Canterbury Project

The Background If you weren't online last Friday you probably have missed the big news announcement on the various community distribution websites. The main pages of them got replaced by a placeholder announcing the birth of The Canterbury Project. People started to wonder whether it is an April fool's prank or for real. This blog post is meant to shine a bit more light on it and address one comment received about it. If you go to the news item on the Debian site you'll get your answer about that it indeed was an April fool's prank. The idea for doing something in coordination with other distributions came to me when I thought about last year's (or was it already two year's ago?) prank that the various web cartoon sites pulled: they replaced their main page with the page of another cartoonist. My original idea was actually along that lines. So I started to dig up website contacts from different distributions, I was aiming at the big names in the community distribution sector. Given that my time is pretty limited these days with renovating the house we plan to live in soonish I knew I had to let in others in within Debian. I though didn't want to involve too many people, for several reasons: it should be a surprise to as many as possible, but more importantly, I didn't want to shy away other distributions by an overwhelming Debian involvement. That's also part of the reason why I didn't contact many Debian based distributions. So first contacts where made, a dedicated IRC channel used for coordination, and people involved joined in. Then the thing happened which the Free Software community is so well known for: additional ideas came in, two people independently addressed me whether it wouldn't be better that instead of a circle replacement of the frontpage, why not display the same page on all of them. And one of them added that a corresponding news item might make sense. So there we were, having to think about text to put into two things: the news item and the replacement page itself. At this stage Alexander threw in a project name with a background that was adopted. Francesca started with an idea for the news item, I started to put quotes in and asked for ones from the other involved people that fit their distribution well. Klaas came up with a template for the replacement page that we tweaked. Fortunately we ended up being five distributions and the colors of the banner did match the distribution ones rather well (except for one, we had to tweak the color of one banner). The Credits We were all set, and actually everything went fine. And it definitely caught the attention. This blog post goes out in thanks to the following people: I hopefully haven't forgotten anyone. There surely were some more people involved in the other distributions, and I guess the named people weren't aware of all the ones involved inside Debian. Feel free to drop missing names in the comments. Addressing Feedback Finally, let me address one concern raised: someone claimed that the real joke with this prank was that we would consider collaboration to be a joke. Actually, the total opposite is the case here. That it was possible to pull it off should be proof enough that Collaboration Across Borders actually is possible. And the background information put into the news section of the replacement site is real. Also, my personal quote in the news item was meant dead honest. I do believe that DEX has a limited point of view and only tackles part of the problem. Unfortunately, for such efforts to really come to life it takes people with a really long breath and dedication to it. Efforts like the VCS-PKG and the Freedesktop Games effort are more or less stalled. Even though a lot of people do believe in stronger collaboration to be a good thing, the basis is not working out too well. I'm in the fortunate position that for some of the packages I maintain there is exchange between packagers from different distributions to avoid common troubles. If it can't be done in the big it should at least be tried in the small. I want to specifically highlight again one part of the updates in the replacement page: the CrossDistro track at this year's FOSDEM. This one was more than fruitful, on several levels. From what I've heard a lot of discussion happened besides the talks too, and connections got established. It doesn't sound unlikely like this might be done again next year. So again, thanks for enjoying this April fool's prank, thanks to everyone who helped to deliver it, and especially a lot of thanks to the people who this might have got thinking of possibilities to improve on the collaboration front!

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23 December 2010

Matt Zimmerman: Rejoining Debian

A couple of months ago, Debian project membership voted, after extensive discussion, to implement a fundamental change in the Debian community: to welcome as members people who make a valuable contribution to the project, even if they are contributing something other than source code. This was a tremendous milestone for Debian, and one which made me feel proud to have been a part of the project. Historically, only developers had been eligible for membership, including voting and other formal privileges. Although other kinds of contributions were welcome, this disparity gave the impression that they were less valued than code contributions. It seemed to me at the time that Debian s mission was to package all of the free software in the world, and if one s efforts didn t go directly to improving packages, they just weren t as important. I don t remember when I first installed Debian, but I made my first contributions to the project in 1999, and officially joined as a developer in 2000. After several fun and rewarding years of packaging and development, I started a very demanding day job, and spent more and more of my energy into that, and less and less coding for Debian as a volunteer. However, my job with Canonical involved working with Debian, and that was a primary reason why it was interesting to me. It was an opportunity to introduce a whole new population of people to the things I loved about Debian. The reality, of course, was more complicated. Following the launch in 2004, Ubuntu grew quickly in popularity and scope, diverged from Debian in significant ways, and relations between Debian and Ubuntu became strained. Canonical grew quickly as well, and the combination of a growing community, a growing company and growing user adoption was a challenge for everyone concerned. As a Canonical manager and a Debian developer, I felt the strain as much as anyone. Meanwhile, and I felt more and more alienated from Debian. Debian developers who had been friendly in the past became suspicious of Ubuntu and me and I quickly became an outsider. My code contributions to Debian continued to decline, and I was no longer maintaining any packages. In Debian at the time, that meant that I didn t exist. I saw it as an important part of my job to work with my counterparts in Debian, in a coordinating role, but found this increasingly impractical. In 2007, I received an inquiry from the Debian Account Manager, who had noticed I wasn t actively involved in packaging, and wished to disable my account for security reasons if I wasn t using it. Although I wanted to remain active in the Debian community, I had to agree that it wasn t good security practice for me to hold onto my developer privileges. I relinquished my upload rights, with the option to come back if I resumed my development work, and officially became a nobody: I lost the right to vote, my email address and mailing list subscriptions, and all other official ties with Debian, except for the record of my GPG key in a special emeritus keyring for informational purposes. Last month, Enrico Zini announced instructions for contributors to apply for membership under the new guidelines, which recognize many kinds of contributions, not only code. Today, after a three year hiatus, I am proud to be the first Debian member to be accepted through this new process. I expect to continue to submit the occasional patch, but my primary interest is in healing the rift which still exists between Debian and Ubuntu by contributing in a more personal way. Please feel free to contact me if you d like to work together on this. You can reach me as mdz at either or, or on IRC. I would like to thank Stefano Zacchiroli, for proposing the General Resolution which enabled Debian to make this transition, and for all of his other work as Debian Project Leader to help Debian grow and improve. I also appreciate Enrico Zini, Jonathan McDowell and Martin Zobel-Helas for expediently processing me and working through the technical changes needed to implement the resolution correctly. It s good to be back.