Search Results: "Michael Banck"

25 July 2017

Gunnar Wolf: Getting ready for DebConf17 in Montreal!

(image shamelessly copied from Noodles' Emptiness) This year I will only make it to DebConf, not to DebCamp. But, still, I am very very happy and excited as the travel date looms nearer! I have ordered some of the delicacies for the Cheese and Wine party, signed up for the public bicycle system of Montreal, and done a fair share of work with the Content Team; finally today we sent out the announcement for the schedule of talks. Of course, there are several issues yet to fix, and a lot of things to do before traveling... But, no doubt about this: It will be an intense week! Oh, one more thing while we are at it: The schedule as it was published today does not really look like we have organized stuff into tracks But we have! This will be soon fixed, adding some color-coding to make tracks clearer on the schedule. This year, I pushed for the Content Team to recover the notion of tracks as an organizative measure, and as something that delivers value to DebConf as a whole. Several months ago, I created a Wiki page for the DebConf tracks, asking interested people to sign up for them. We currently have the following tracks registered:
Andreas Tille
Debian Science
Michael Banck
Cloud and containers
Luca Filipozzi
Systems administration, automation and orchestation
Gunnar Wolf
We have two tracks still needing a track coordinator. Do note that most of the tasks mentioned by the Wiki have already been carried out; what a track coordinator will now do is to serve as some sort of moderator, maybe a recurring talkmeister, ensuring continuity and probably providing for some commentary, giving some unity to its sessions. So, the responsibilities for a track coordinator right now are quite similar to what is expected for video team volunteers but to a set of contiguous sessions. If you are interested in being the track coordinator/moderator for Embedded or for Systems administration, automation and orchestation or even to share the job with any of the other, registered, coordinators, please speak up! Mail and update the table in the Wiki page. See you very soon in Montreal!

8 November 2016

Jonathan Carter: A few impressions of DebConf 16 in Cape Town

DebConf16 Group Photo

DebConf16 Group Photo by Jurie Senekal.

DebConf16 Firstly, thanks to everyone who came out and added their own uniqueness and expertise to the pool. The feedback received so far has been very positive and I feel that the few problems we did experience was dealt with very efficiently. Having a DebConf in your hometown is a great experience, consider a bid for hosting a DebConf in your city! DebConf16 Open Festival (5 August) The Open Festival (usually Debian Open Day) turned out pretty good. It was a collection of talks, a job fair, and some demos of what can be done with Debian. I particularly liked Hetzner s stand. I got to show off some 20 year old+ Super Mario skills and they had some fun brain teasers as well. It s really great to see a job stand that s so interactive and I think many companies can learn from them. The demo that probably drew the most attention was from my friend Georg who demoed some LulzBot Mini 3D Printers. They really seem to love Debian which is great! DebConf (6 August to 12 August) If I try to write up all my thoughts and feeling about DC16, I ll never get this post finished. Instead, here as some tweets from DebConf that other have written:

Day Trip We had 3 day trips: Brought to you by

DebConf16 Orga Team.

See you in Montr al! DebConf17 dates: The DC17 sponsorship brochure contains a good deal of information, please share it with anyone who might be interested in sponsoring DebConf! Media

3 June 2015

DebConf team: Final Call for DebConf15 Proposals (Posted by Michael Banck)

Call for Proposals Deadline The deadline for submitting proposals is approaching, with only 12 days left to submit your event by June 15th. Events submitted after that date might not be part of the official DebConf schedule. We are very excited about the upcoming conference, and we would like to encourage you to send your proposals. It s an important part of the conference to hear and discuss new ideas. If you have something that you d like to present but you have not submitted your event yet, please don t wait until the last minute! Check out the proposal submission guide and submit your event. If you have already submitted your event, do take this opportunity to login to summit and review it, expanding the event description to be more descriptive and appealing to the attendees if necessary. Second Batch of Approved talks We are happy to announce the following talks that are already approved: Please hurry up and share your ideas with us. Propose your event before the deadline is reached. Looking forward to see you on Heidelberg, The DebConf content Team

18 March 2015

DebConf team: DebConf15 Call for Proposals (Posted by Michael Banck)

We re now calling for proposals for DebConf15. Proposals are accepted from now until 15 June 2015. To submit an event, go to the Propose an Event page once you are registered for the conference. The DebConf Content Team will decide on a first round of submissions in May, so be sure to submit your proposal soon if you need it to be accepted by then, e.g. for sponsorship requests. The current, non-exhaustive list of proposed topics is: For all further information, please see the Proposals page of the DebConf15 website.

26 February 2015

Michael Banck: 26 Feb 2015

My recent Debian LTS activities

Over the past months, my employer credativ has sponsored some of my work time to keep PostgreSQL updated for squeeze-lts. Version 8.4 of PostgreSQL was declared end-of-life by the upstream PostgreSQL Global Development Group (PGDG) last summer, around the same time official squeeze support ended and squeeze-lts took over. Together with my colleagues Christoph Berg (who is on the PostgreSQL package maintainer team) and Bernd Helmle, we continued backpatching changes to 8.4. We tried our best to continue the PGDG backpatching policy and looked only at commits at the oldest still maintained branch, REL9_0_STABLE.

Our work is publicly available as a separate REL8_4_LTS branch on Github. The first release (called 8.4.22lts1) happened this month mostly coinciding with the official 9.0, 9.1, 9.2, 9.3 and 9.4 point releases. Christoph Berg has uploaded the postgresql-8.4 Debian package for squeeze-lts and release tarballs can be found on Github here (scroll down past the release notes for the tarballs).

We intend to keep the 8.4 branch updated on a best-effort community basis for the squeeze-lts lifetime. If you have not yet updated from 8.4 to a more recent version of PostgreSQL, you probably should. But if you are stuck on squeeze, you should use our LTS packages. If you have any questions or comments concerning PostgreSQL for squeeze-lts, contact me.

10 May 2014

DebConf team: DebConf15 organisation kicked off in Heidelberg (Posted by Martin Krafft)

The lobby of the youth hostel Heidelberg (by Richard Hartmann) The DC15 team met Saturday at the Heidelberg International Youth Hostel to kick off the organisation of DebConf15. While a handful of team members unfortunately had to excuse themselves, 18 people showed up, and the spirit level was high. Self-contained in beautiful surroundings The youth hostel Heidelberg from the outside view (by Richard Hartmann) The youth hostel is the expected venue for DebConf15, which is slated to take place in August 2015. It sleeps more than 400 people, and it features two large conference rooms. Several smaller rooms can be used for team meetings and impromptu birds-of-a-feather sessions. A panoramic view of the city of Heidelberg (by Michael Banck) The venue is located a little bit outside of Heidelberg s centre, right on the side of the Neckar river, north of the Heidelberg Zoo, west of a university campus, and south of a sports field. Fantastic, child-friendly DebConf venue The courtyard of the youth hostel, used for eating and socialising (by Richard Hartmann) The large cafeteria and the plentiful outside space usable for eating, working, chatting and playing make it a fantastic venue for DebConf. And far away from traffic, with a play area, space to run around, and the zoo next door, it s very suitable to families with children, too. Become part of the team! If you are interested in being part of the organisation of our conference, we welcome you on our mailing list and look forward to your contributions! There is also the #debconf15-germany IRC channel on, and we have a list of DC15 sub-teams to give you an overview. Feel free to add yourself, or just help out and someone will add you. (Photos by Michael Banck and Richard Hartmann, used under the terms of the CC by-sa licence 3.0)

21 November 2013

Michael Banck: 21 Nov 2013

PostgreSQL talk at Linux-Stammtisch

Next Wednesday (November 27th), the Munich Linux-Stammtisch is happening again. This time the topic will be Open-Source databases. Mathias Brandstetter will present MySQL and I will give a talk about PostgreSQL.

So if you are from or around Munich and using/interested in PostgreSQL in particular or databases in general, come around! The Stammtisch is in the Maximiliansst berl at Hofbr ukeller, starting from 19:00. As a Brotzeit is sponsored for attendees, you need to sign up either at the Xing page or here.

30 August 2013

Justus Winter: What will I do next? cgroupfs \o/

With the ifupdown fixes that I published last week I actually reached my initial goal, that is to make Debian/Hurd boot using sysvinit and the initscripts provided by Debian. So on Monday we were discussing in #hurd what I could do next. Michael Banck suggested that I should port Upstart, but we agreed to do something different instead for two reasons:
  1. Upstart and systemd are somewhat competing to be the default init system for Debian, and we felt it might be inappropriate to get involved with this question as porting Upstart to Hurd would probably also enable it to be used on FreeBSD. The Upstart folks could then point out that Upstart is more portable because it runs on all kernels used by Debian.
  2. Upstart uses ptrace(2) to track child processes of servers it monitors. Obviously this is kind of a hack, and it was conjectured that Upstart would eventually use cgroups to do that. Also, the Hurd lacks support for ptrace(2) (that is most likely by choice by the way, ptrace(2) is not a nice interface and the Hurd (Mach actually) has much nicer interfaces to implement a debugger).
So we decided that no matter how the struggle between Upstart and systemd turns out, the Hurd would eventually need to support cgroups. So I started to write a cgroupfs translator, it is in its early stages but it already looks and acts a lot like Linux' cgroups:
% settrans -ac cg ./cgroupfs --release-agent=foobar
% ls cg
release_agent  tasks
% tail -n3 cg/tasks
% mkdir cg/foo
% echo 1266 >> cg/foo/tasks
% tail -n3 cg/tasks cg/foo/tasks
==> cg/tasks <==
==> cg/foo/tasks <==
To make this fully functional I will have to modify /hurd/proc and most likely also GNU Mach, but on the bright side this will help make subhurds (Hurds native, by-design-for-free-and-without-overhead container like functionality) work better and more securely (among other things this could enable non-root users to start subhurds). I will also look into porting libcg (I have a hacky patch series ready) so that we can actually test the cgroupfs translator. All current users of the cgroup interface are very Linux specific (surprise!), and libcg looks like the easiest one to port. And they do have a test suite that could help me improve the cgroupfs translator.

5 May 2013

Michael Banck: 5 May 2013

Debian 7.0 "wheezy" has been released this weekend!

Quite a few new Debichem packages are now available in a stable Debian release for the first time:

18 January 2013

Michael Banck: 18 Jan 2013

What I have been up to over the last couple of years

I have now worked at credativ for four years. A sizable part of that time I spent working with the Munich City Council's LiMux project. The focus of our work is helping them with their LDAP/web-based GOsa user and system installation(based on FAI)/configuration/management system. Personally, I mostly did project management and QA besides occasional coding, bug fixing and on-site consulting.

Contrary to a lot of our other customers, the Munich city council openly acknowledges the work by external companies and lets us talk about it as well. I wrote a lengthy blog post (now available in english) last month about our work. It explains how the LiMux project is using GOsa and FAI and work we did for them.

The project took a long time, but managed to pull off the mass migration over the last two years and reached their goal of 12000 migrated workstation last November. It is now widely regarded as a "success story" by german news sites, and I am glad to have had a small part in it. I really think this was (and still is) an important project, especially after several others backpedalled and Munich remained the last high-profile public sector migration in the german speaking countries.

Besides that, the LiMux project members are really nice people I get along with well both on working hours and during the Munich Debconf11 bid and organizing various BSPs at their office. It is a bit of a shame that not more of their work and customizations are available in Debian, but hopefully this well happen one day. At least our changes to GOsa are up on github.

4 July 2012

Michael Banck: 4 Jul 2012

Update on computational chemistry packages in Debian

For many years, me and the Debichem team maintained two computational chemistry packages, first MPQC and later PSI3. In recent years however, two respected quantum chemistry codes have been open sourced and are now available in Debian: ACESIII and NWChem. Make no mistake, those are not recently started codes or some Ph.D.'s pet-project but state-of-the-art projects targeted at massively parallel supercomputers and developed at the University of Florida's Quantum Chemistry Project (QTP) in the case of ACESIII and at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) for NWChem.

While ACESIII has a somewhat narrow focus on Coupled-Cluster (unfortunately, the current version does not yet implement analytic gradients for the "golden standard" CCSD(T) method) and Multi-Body Perturbation Theory methods, NWChem is a very versatile package supporting a variety of molecular quantum chemistry methods (including Density Functional Theory (DFT)), as well as periodic plane-wave electronic structure and (ab-initio and classical) molecular dynamics. At this point, NWChem probably covers 90% of all use cases for routine computational chemistry compared to the popular non-free codes Gaussian and GAMESS, while likely exhibiting superior parallel scaling at least compared to Gaussian.

Over the last year, I have packaged and integrated NWChem and ACESIII for Debian, and they are now both in testing. Furthermore, I have recently overhauled the packaging of MPQC and enabled parallel execution via MPI. Further, both MPQC and PSI will see updated versions (MPQC3 and PSI4) in the near future with significant increased functionality, including some unique (at least among open source codes) features like Symmetry-Adapted Perturbation Theory (SAPT) for PSI4 and general explicitly correlated corrections ([2]f12) for MPQC3. Unfortunately, they both did not get released in time for the wheezy freeze.

On the periodic/plane-wave front, I have also packaged and uploaded Quantum ESPRESSO (formerly PwSCF), a set of plane-wave programs, and I have been working with lafur Jens Sigur sson to get the latest Abinit release packaged. The nanoscale-physics team is also targeting further periodic ab-initio packages like BigDFT and Octopus, but those as well did not land in time for the freeze.

Finally, I also packaged and uploaded CP2K, a well-engineered and versatile periodic plane-wave/pseudo-potential code which focuses on state-of-the-art ab-initio Molecular Dynamics (AIMD) using Density Functional Theory. Some of the authors have recently published a paper reporting linear scaling benchmark calculations on a system with a million atoms using almost 50,000 CPU cores.

All of the above mentioned packages are included either in the molecular ab-initio or the periodic ab-initio Debichem tasks.

19 April 2012

Rapha&#235;l Hertzog: People behind Debian: Samuel Thibault, working on accessibility and the Hurd

Samuel Thibault is a French guy like me, but it took years until we met. He tends to keep a low profile, even though he s doing lots of good work that deserves to be mentioned. He focuses on improving Debian s accessibility and contributes to the Hurd. Who said he s a dreamer? :-) Checkout his interview to have some news of Wheezy s status on those topics. Raphael: Who are you? Samuel: I am 30 years old, and live in Bordeaux, France. During the workday, I teach Computer Science (Architecture, Networking, Operating Systems, and Parallel Programming, roughly) at the University of Bordeaux, and conduct researches in heterogeneous parallel computing. During the evening, I play the drums and the trombone in various orchestra (harmonic/symphonic/banda/brass). During the night, I hack on whatever fun things I can find, mainly accessibility and the Hurd at the moment, but also miscellaneous bits such as the Linux console support. I am also involved in the development of Aquilenet, an associative ISP around Bordeaux, and getting involved in the development of the network infrastructure in Bordeaux. I am not practicing Judo any more, but I roller-skate to work, and I like hiking in the mountains. I also read quite a few mangas. Saturday mornings do not exist in my schedule (Sunday mornings do, it s Brass Band rehearsal :) ). Raphael: How did you start contributing to Debian? Samuel: Bit by bit. I have been hacking around GNU/Linux since around 1998. I installed my first Debian system around 2000, as a replacement for my old Mandrake installation (which after all my tinkering was actually no longer looking like a Mandrake system any more!). That was Potato at the time, which somebody offered me through a set of CDs (downloading packages over the Internet was unthinkable at the time with the old modems). I have been happily reading and hacking around documentation, source code, etc. provided on them. Contribution things really started to take off when I went to the ENS Lyon high school in 2001: broadband Internet access in one s own student room! Since sending a mail was then really free, I started submitting bugs against various packages I was using. Right after that I started submitting patches along them, and then patches to other bugs. I did that for a long time actually. I had very little knowledge of all packaging details at the time, I was just a happy hacker submitting reports and patches against the upstream source code. At ENS Lyon, I met a blind colleague with very similar hacking tastes (of course we got friends) and he proposed me, for our student project, to work on a brlnet project (now called brlapi), a client/server protocol that lets applications render text on braille devices themselves. Along the way, I got to learn in details how a blind person can use a Unix system and the principles that should be followed when developing Accessibility. That is how I got involved in it. We presented our project at JDLL, and the Hurd booth happened to be next to our table, so I discussed with the Hurd people there about how the Hurd console could be used through braille. That is how I got into the Hurd too. From then on, I progressively contributed more and more to the upstream parts of both accessibility software and the Hurd. And then to the packaging part of them. Through patches in bug reports first, as usual, as well as through discussions on the mailing lists. But quickly enough people gave me commit access so I could just throw the code in. I was also given control over the Hurd buildds to keep them running. It was all good at that stage: I could contribute in all the parts I was caring about. People however started telling me that I should just apply for being a Debian Developer; both from accessibility and Hurd sides. I had also seen a bunch of my friends going through the process. I was however a bit scared (or probably it was just an excuse) by having to manage a gpg key, it seemed like a quite dangerous tool to me (even if I already had commit access to glibc at the time anyway ). I eventually applied for DM in 2008 so as to at least be able to upload some packages to help the little manpower of the Accessibility and Hurd teams. Henceforth I had already a gpg key, thus no excuse any more. And having it in the DM keyring was not enough for e.g. signing the hurd-i386 buildd packages. So I ended up going through NM in 2009, which went very fast, since I had already been contributing to Debian and learning all the needed stuff for almost 10 years! I now have around 50 packages in my QA page, and being a DD is actually useful for my work, to easily push our software to the masses :) So to sum it up, the Debian project is very easy to contribute to and open to new people. It was used during discussions at the GNU Hackers Meeting 2011 as an example of a very open community with public mailing lists and discussions. The mere fact that anybody can take the initiative of manipulating the BTS (if not scared by the commands) without having to ask anybody is an excellent thing to welcome contributions; it is notable tha the GNU project migrated to the Debbugs BTS. More generally, I don t really see the DD status as a must, especially now that we have the DM status (which is still a very good way to drag people into becoming DDs). For instance, I gave a talk at FOSDEM 2008 about the state of accessibility in Debian. People did not care whom I was, they cared that there was important stuff going on and somebody talking about it. More generally, decisions that are made through a vote are actually very rare. Most of the time, things just happen on the mailing lists or IRC channels where anybody can join the discussion. So I would recommend beginners to first use the software, then start reporting bugs, then start digging in the software to try fix the bugs by oneself, eventually propose patches, get them reviewed. At some point the submitted patches will be correct already most of the time. That s when the maintainers will start getting bored of just applying the patches, and simply provide with commit access, and voil , one has become a main contributor. Raphael: You re one of the main contributors to the Debian GNU/Hurd port. What motivates you in this project? Samuel: As I mentioned above, I first got real contact with the Hurd from the accessibility point of view. That initially brought me into the Hurd console, which uses a flexible design and nice interfaces to interact with it. The Hurd driver for console accessibility is actually very straightforward, way simpler than the Windows or Linux drivers. That is what caught me initially. I have continued working on it for several reasons. First, the design is really interesting for users. There are many things that are natural in the Hurd while Linux is still struggling to achieve them, such as UID isolation, recently mentioned in LWN. What I really like in the Hurd is that it excels at providing users with the same features as the administrator s. For instance, I find it annoying that I still can not mount an ISO image that I build on e.g. Linux now has FUSE which is supposed to permit that, but I have never seen it enabled on an ssh-accessible machine, only on desktop machines, and usually just because the administrator happens to be the user of the machine (who could as well just have used sudo ) For me, it is actually Freedom #0 of Free Software: let the user run programs for any purpose, that is, combining things together all the possible ways, and not being prevented from doing some things just because the design does not permit to achieve them securely. I had the chance to give a Hurd talk to explain that at GHM 2011, whose main topic was extensibility , I called it GNU/Hurd AKA Extensibility from the Ground, because the design of the Hurd is basically meant for extensibility, and does not care whether it is done by root or a mere user. All the tools that root uses to build a GNU/Hurd system can be used by the user to build its own GNU/Hurd environment. That is guaranteed by the design itself: the libc asks for things not to the kernel, but to servers (called translators), which can be provided by root, or by the user. It is interesting to see that it is actually also tried with varying success in GNU/Linux, through gvfs or Plash. An example of things I love being able to do is: $ zgrep foo ~/*.gz On my Hurd box, the ~/ftp: directory is indeed actually served by an ftpfs translator, run under my user uid, which is thus completely harmless to the system. Secondly and not the least, the Hurd provides me with interesting yet not too hard challenges. LWN confirmed several times that the Linux kernel has become very difficult to significantly contribute to, so it is no real hacking fun any more. I have notably implemented TLS support in the Hurd and the Xen and 64bit support in the GNU Mach kernel used by the Hurd. All three were very interesting to do, but were already done for Linux (at least for all the architectures which I actually know a bit and own). It happens that both TLS and Xen hacking experience became actually useful later on: I implemented TLS in the threading library of our research team, and the Xen port was a quite interesting line on my CV for getting a postdoc position at XenSource :) Lastly, I would say that I am used to lost causes :) My work on accessibility is sometimes a real struggle, so the Hurd is almost a kind of relief. It is famous for his vapourware reputation anyway, and so it is fun to just try to contribute to it nevertheless. An interesting thing is that the opinion of people on the Hurd is often quite extreme, and only rarely neutral. Some will say it is pure vapourware, while others will say that it is the hope of humanity (yes we do see those coming to #hurd, and they are not always just trolls!). When I published a 0.401 version on 2011 April 1st, the comments of people were very diverse, and some even went as far as saying that it was horrible of us to make a joke about the promised software :) Raphael: The FTPmasters want to demote the Hurd port to the archive if it doesn t manage a stable release with wheezy. We re now at 2 months of the freeze. How far are you from being releasable ? Samuel: Of course, I can not speak for the Debian Release team. The current progress is however encouraging. During Debconf11, Michael Banck and I discussed with a few Debian Release team members about the kind of goals that should be achieved, and we are near completion of that part. The Debian GNU/Hurd port can almost completely be installed from the official mirrors, using the standard Debian Installer. Some patches need some polishing, but others are just waiting for being uploaded Debian GNU/Hurd can start a graphical desktop and run office tools such as gnumeric, as well as the iceweasel graphical web browser, KDE applications thanks to Pino Toscano s care, and GNOME application thanks to Emilio Pozuelo Monfort s care. Of course, general textmode hacking with gcc/make/gdb/etc. just works smoothly. Thanks to recent work on ghc and ada by Svante Signell, the archive coverage has passed 76%. There was a concern about network board driver support: until recently, the GNU Mach kernel was indeed still using a glue layer to embed the Linux 2.2 or even 2.0 drivers (!). Finding a network board supported by such drivers had of course become a real challenge. Thanks to the GSoC work of Zheng Da, the DDE layer can now be used to embed Linux 2.6.32 drivers in userland translators, which was recently ACCEPTed into the archive, and thus brings way larger support for network boards. It also pushes yet more toward the Hurd design: network drivers as userland process rather than kernel modules. That said, the freeze itself is not the final deadline. Actually, freeze periods are rests for porters, because maintainers stop bringing newer upstream versions which of course break on peculiar architectures. That will probably be helpful to continue improving the archive coverage. Raphael: The kfreebsd port brought into light all the packages which were not portable between different kernels. Did that help the Hurd port or are the problems too different to expect any mutual benefit? Samuel: The two ports have clearly helped each other in many aspects. The hurd-i386 port is the only non-Linux one that has been kept working (at least basically) for the past decade. That helped to make sure that all tools (dpkg, apt, toolchain, etc.) were able to cope with non-Linux ports, and keep that odd-but-why-not goal around, and evidently-enough achievable. In return, the kFreeBSD port managed to show that it was actually releasable, at least as a technological preview, thus making an example. In the daily work, we have sometimes worked hand in hand. The recent porting efforts of the Debian Installer happened roughly at the same time. When fixing some piece of code for one, the switch-case would be left for the other. When some code could be reused by the other, a mail would be sent to advise doing so, etc. In the packaging effort, it also made a lot of difference that a non-Linux port is exposed as released architecture: people attempted by themselves to fix code that is Linuxish for no real reason. The presence of the kFreeBSD is however also sometimes a difficulty for the Hurd: in the discussions, it sometimes tends to become a target to be reached, even if the systems are not really comparable. I do not need to detail the long history of the FreeBSD kernel and the amount of people hacking on it, some of them full-time, while the Hurd has only a small handful of free-time hackers. The FreeBSD kernel stability has already seen long-term polishing, and a fair amount of the Debian software was actually already ported to the FreeBSD kernel, thanks to the big existing pure-FreeBSD hackerbase. These do not hold for the GNU/Hurd port, so the expectations should go along. Raphael: You re also very much involved in the Debian Accessibility team. What are the responsibilities of this team and what are you doing there? Samuel: As you would expect it, the Debian Accessibility team works on packaging accessibility-related packages, and helping users with them; I thus do both. But the goal is way beyond just that. Actual accessibility requires integration. Ideally enough, a blind user should be able to just come to a Debian desktop system, plug his braille device, or press a shortcut to enable speech synthesis, and just use the damn computer, without having to ask the administrator to install some oddly-named package and whatnot. Just like any sighted user would do. He should be able to diagnose why his system does not boot, and at worse be able to reinstall his computer all by himself (typically at 2am ). And that is hard to achieve, because it means discussing about integration by default of accessibility features. For instance, the Debian CD images now beep during at the boot menu. That is a precious feature that has been discussed between debian-boot and debian-accessibility for a few weeks before agreeing on how to do it without too much disturbance. Similarly, my proposition of installing the desktop accessibility engines has been discussed for some time before being commited. What was however surprisingly great is that when somebody brought the topic back for discussion, non-debian-accessibility people answered themselves. This is reassuring, because it means things can be done durably in Debian. On the installation side, our current status is that the stable Debian installer has a high contrast color theme, and several years ago, I have pushed toward making standard CD images automatically detect braille devices, which permits standalone installation. I have added to the Wheezy installer some software speech synthesis (which again brought discussion about size increase vs versatility etc.) for blind people who do not have a braille device. I find it interesting to work on such topic in Debian rather than another distribution, because Debian is an upstream for a lot of distributions. Hopefully they just inherit our accessibility work. It at least worked for the text installer of Ubuntu. Of course, the Accessibility team is looking for help, to maintain our current packages, but also introduce new packages from the TODO list or create some backports. One does not need to be an expert in accessibility: tools can usually be tested, at least basically, by anybody, without particular hardware (I do not own any, I contributed virtual ones to qemu). For new developments and ideas, it is strongly recommended to come and discuss on debian-accessibility, because it is easy to get on a wrong track that does not bring actual accessibility. We still have several goals to achieve: the closest one is to just fix the transition to gnome3, which has been quite bad for accessibility so far :/ On the longer run, we should ideally reach the scenario I have detailed above: desktop accessibility available and ready to be enabled easily by default. Raphael: What s the biggest problem of Debian? Samuel: Debian is famous for its heated debian-devel discussions. And some people eventually say this no fun any more . That is exemplified in a less extreme way in the debian-boot/accessibility discussions that I have mentioned above. Sometimes, one needs to have a real stubborn thick head to continue the discussion until finding a compromise that will be accepted for commit. That is a problem because people do not necessarily have so much patience, and will thus prefer to contribute to a project with easier acceptance. But it is also a quality: as I explained above, once it is there, it is apparently for good. The Ubuntu support of accessibility in its installer has been very diverse, in part due to quite changing codebase. The Debian Installer codebase is more in a convergence process. Its base will have almost not changed between squeeze and wheezy. That allowed the Debian Accessibility team to continue improving its accessibility support, and not have to re-do it. A wiki page explains how to test its accessibility features, and some non-debian-accessibility people do go through it. A problem I am much more frightened by is the manpower in some core teams. The Debian Installer, grub, glibc, Xorg, gcc, mozilla derivatives, When reading the changelogs of these, we essentially keep seeing the same very few names over and over. And when one core developer leaves, it is very often still the same names which appear again to do the work. It is hard to believe that there are a thousand DDs working on Debian. I fear that Debian does not manage to get people to work on core things. I often hear people saying that they do not even dare thinking about putting their hands inside Xorg, for instance. Xorg is complex, but it seems to me that it tends to be overrated, and a lot of people could actually help there, as well as all the teams mentioned above. And if nobody does it, who will? Raphael: Do you have wishes for Debian Wheezy? Samuel: That is an easy one :) Of course I wish that we manage to release the hurd-i386 port. I also wish that accessibility of gnome3 gets fixed enough to become usable again. The current state is worrying: so much has changed that the transition will be difficult for users already, the current bugs will clearly not help. I also hope to find the time to fix the qt-at-spi bridge, which should (at last!) bring complete KDE accessibility. Raphael: Is there someone in Debian that you admire for their contributions? Samuel: Given the concerns I expressed above, I admire all the people who do spend time on core packages, even when that is really not fun everyday. Just to alphabetically name a few people I have seen so often here and there in the areas I have touched in the last few years: Aur lien Jarno, Bastian Blank, Christian Perrier, Colin Watson, Cyril Brulebois, Frans Pop, J rg Jaspert, Joey Hess, Josselin Mouette, Julien Cristau, Matthias Klose, Mike Hommey, Otavio Salvador, Petr Salinger, Robert Millan, Steve Langasek. Man, so many things that each of them works on! Of course this list is biased towards the parts that I touched, but people working in others core areas also deserve the same admiration.
Thank you to Samuel for the time spent answering my questions. I hope you enjoyed reading his answers as I did. Note that older interviews are indexed on

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24 November 2011

Michael Banck: 24 Nov 2011

Tomorrow (25th November) evening, I will be giving a short talk about PostgreSQL at the monthly Munich Open-Source-Treffen event.

The meetings start around 6PM and are always in Cafe Netzwerk in Luisenstr. 11, a nice and cosy hangout and hackerspace for young Munich students near Hauptbahnhof.

6 November 2011

Michael Banck: 6 Nov 2011

I am currently sitting in the train to Goslar, where the German Conference on Cheminformatics will take place. As part of the Free Software Session, I will give a session on DebiChem. This is the first I attend this conference and I am looking forward to meet Noel O'Boyle and hopefully others from the community.

In light of this, I have packaged and uploaded RDKit and Cinfony over the last weeks and also updated the Debichem task pages, introducing a Cheminformatics Task at the same time. I feel we still need at least tasks for Chemical Education (to expose e.g. Kalzium more prominently), and possibly Protein Docking and Crystallography. So if you have experience/opinions in these fields (or want to propose other fields), drop me a mail or contact us at

4 October 2011

Michael Banck: 4 Oct 2011

Woodchuck and FrOSCon

At the end of August, I attended FrOSCon in Bonn again, after skipping it last year. The evening before FrOSCon however, I visited Neal Walfield, his wife Isabel and their little son Noam in D sseldorf. Besides having a great time and a lovely dinner, I was most impressed by their collection of Maemo devices (they had at least two N770s, an N900 and, to my jealousy, an N950) which Neal is doing research on these days. He works on woodchuck, which is a project investigating how to improve data availability on mobile devices and our conversation prompted him to implement ATP Woodchuck, which makes smarter decisions when to run APT upgrade on your Maemo device then the standard updater. As part of the research, they also run a user behaviour study which I joined, where one installs a client which records various data off your N900 and sends them anonymized (he seems to be doing a good job at that) to figure out how people use their mobile devices and hopefully enhance the experience. So if you have a N900, you should consider joining the study so they get better data.
The next day, I picked up Martin Michlmayr nearby and we headed for FrOSCon. I was quite impressed by the Makerbot at the Tarent booth, but I still don't know what they are really doing and why they had it on display... In the afternoon, I attended a couple of talks in the PostgreSQL developer room and a talk about a big OpenVPN deployment, before ending the day with the excellent as always social event barbeque. On Sunday, I went to quite a few talks, but I thought that two of them were particularly interesting:
Michael "Monty" Widenius of MySQL gave a talk titled "Why going open source will improve your product" about starting businesses on an open source project, or how business can/should open-source their product. Besides a detailed discussion about the various forms of Open Source licenses and the Open-Core model, he proposed the idea of "Business Source" (see slide 20 of his presentation), where a startup would distribute the source code under a non-commercial (but otherwise open-source) license with the explicit guarantee that the license would be changed to a true FLOSS license at some defined point in the future, giving the company a head start to develop and nurture their project. I asked whether this has been already implemented in practise and how the community could be sure that e.g. lawyers after a hostile takeover would not just remove that part of the copyright notice, as long as a true distribution under a FLOSS license has not happened yet. Monty wasn't aware of any real-word cases, and he did not seem to be concerned about this and said the original intent would be clear in a possible court case. This was the first time I heard about this approach, I wonder how other people think about it, whether it would work in practise and be a useful thing to have?
Second, I attended a talk by Gregor Geiermann, a Ph.D. student in linguistics on "Perceptions of rudeness in Free Software communities". He conducted an online survey about the perceived rudeness of several forum thread posts on Ubuntu Forums. Survey participants were first asked a couple of generic questions about their gender, nationality etc. and were then presented with a series of posts. For each post, they were asked to rate how rude they thought it was on a scale of 1 to 5 and they also had the possibility to highlight the parts of the post they considered rude as well as add comments. He presented a neat web application for analyzing the results, which makes it possible to select different groups (he did male vs. female and Americans vs. Germans in the talk) and have their overall rudeness ratings as well as the highlighted texts visualized as different shades of blue. Comments can be easily accessed. There were quite a few interesting differences e.g. in how Germans perceived rudeness compared to Americans (RTFM comments were considered less rude by Germans for example, IIRC). In response to my question, he said he intended to release the web application as open source and this might be an interesting tool for FLOSS projects to analyze how their public communication channels are perceived by various groups. Unfortunately, I cannot find any other resources about this on the web as of today, so I should try to contact him about it at some point.

31 January 2011

Michael Banck: 31 Jan 2011

Debian Med Bioinformatics Sprint Last weekend, I was at the Debian Med Meeting in Travem nde near L beck, thanks to an invitation by Steffen M ller and Andreas Tille. It was a great opportunity to finally meet Steffen and some of the other bioinformatics people in Debian like Manuel Prinz face-to-face for the first time. Also, lots of upstream and related bioinformatics packagers from e.g. Biolinux were present as well, many of them from the UK. I discussed with and helped some people about Debian packaging. There is a big push to get Debian packages done and integrated in Debian and Ubuntu, but often enough people are not exactly sure what the requirements are and what needs to be done. Hopefully, the sprint was successful to clear things up and move forward. I also managed to finalize the initial Jmol packaging and uploaded it to Debian towards the end of the sprint. I plan to update the other bioinformatics related packages in debichem like pymol and openbabel as soon as squeeze is released. Overall, it was a great weekend, many thanks to NERC and Debian for making it possible, and to Steffen M ller for organizing it!

11 December 2010

Michael Banck: 11 Dec 2010

On Cancun's Success and Wikileaks The success of the international climate conference in Cancun appears to be a great (and desperately needed) leap forward in the struggle to preserve our climate. At least news sources in Germany marvel at the very much unexpected and bigger-than-hoped outcome of the final declaration. However, I keep wondering whether this could also be the first big success of Wikileak's power: what if Cablegate's timely leakage of the US and China's double-game at the Kopenhagen summit has scared their delegations so much they did not dare to repeat the backstabbing of the climate conference a second (or thrice?) time - in fear of their actions being defaced another time next year? If this was the case, one could either call this Diplomacy by Fear or Diplomacy by Transparency - I choose to pick the latter. And if it indeed turns out Wikileaks had been the prime source behind a success for our planet, nominating the organization for the Nobel Peace prize does not look so absurd to me as it did last week.

8 August 2010

Michael Banck: 8 Aug 2010

So, DebConf is over and it was a blast. I wanted to blog about my talks for a couple of days, but the conference was so great that I did not get around to it until now. The unique thing about this year's conference were the outstanding contributions by non-Debian FLOSS people from the east coast. I am really glad the organizers decided to reach out to the communi ty and take this opportunity when a lot of great minds were just a couple of hours away. Also, discussing and hanging out with the local team people was so much fun and interesting that it was wor th the visit alone. The venue was just perfect, the dorms were on campus, the cafeteria had an all-you-can-eat buffet, everything was in short walking distance and the Columbia campus is beautiful. I would have liked to go to a couple more places in the evenings, but hanging out in the Carman basement lounge with awesome people was just as good. A big thanks to Richard Darst, Biella, Micah and the rest of the crew. The Debian GNU/Hurd talk went quite well, I was pleasantly surprised so many people made it to the Davis auditorium. I wanted to do the presentation on Debian GNU/Hurd (and I had it working before the talk), but as my notebook has a different resolution than the projector, I decided to play it safe and just show a d-i run in qemu. Nevertheless, Jeremie's wo rk on debian-installer is impressive, I got it installed on my ThinkPad without a problem (using qemu) and it automatically installed and setup grub2. Unfortunately, grub2 seems to be having issues when booting my notebook natively, but I got it to work with grub-legacy, including X and evince. There were quite a few comments and I had interesting conversations afterwards with a couple of people. It is a shame Emilio Pozuelo Monfort (pochu) could not make it to DebConf to give the talk himself, he did lots of great work on porting packages and fixing the Hurd and glibc for various testsuites over the last couple of months. My other talk about GOsa and FAI was a bit rougher, I scrambled to get FAI integration in GOsa to work based on Mark Pavlichuk'sinstallation scripts which I fixed up over the last couple of weeks to the point where one can install a client using the FAI simple demo classes (which I ported to GOsa's FAI LDAP). There were some problems with the demonstration during the talk and I guess it was a tough audience for a web-based admin tool but I hopefully got my point across that we should salvage this work done for the city of Munich. Indeed, I had great discussions with Andreas Mundt from debian-edu afterwards who posted a summary and call for discussion to the debian-edu mailing list.

4 August 2010

Michael Banck: 4 Aug 2010

Science and Math Track at DebConf10 This year's DebConf10 (which is great, by the way) at Columbia University, New York will feature Tracks for the first time. We had a Community Outreach track on Debian Day (to be continued by more awesome talks over the rest of the week), a Java track on Monday and an Enterprise track yesterday. Tomorrow, Thursday afternoon, the S cience and Math track (which I am organizing) will take place in the Interschool lab on level 7 of Schapiro Center. The Track will start at 14:00 with a short welcome from me, followed by presentations of debian-science by Sylvestre Ledru and debian-math by David Bremner. At 15:00, Michael Hanke and Yaroslav Halchenko will present their talk on "Debian as the ultimate platform for neuroimaging research". This will be followed at 16:00 by three mini-talks on "New developments in Science Packaging". Adam C. Powell, IV will talk about MPI, Sylvestre Ledru will present linear algebra implementations in Debian and finally Michael Hanke and Yaroslav Halchenko will discuss the citation/reference infrastructure. At the end of track, the annual debian-science round-table will happen at 17:00, where David Bremner (mathematics), Michael Hanke (neuro-debian), Sylvestre Ledru (debian- science/pkg-scicomp), Adam C. Powell, IV (debian- science/pkg-scicomp) and myself (debichem) will discuss matters about cross-field debian-science and math related topics. If afterwards there are still outstanding matters to be discussed, we can schedule ad-hoc sessions for science or math matters on Friday or Saturday. See you at the science track tomorrow!

2 August 2010

Michael Banck: 2 Aug 2010

DebConf's Law If you hang out with local team people at some place, they must not have to buy beer themselves.