On June 26-30 the annual meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping
) took place in Quebec City, Canada. Encouraged by our positive
experience at last year s SfN in San Diego
enthusiasm of our scientific adviser, James V. Haxby
, we hosted another
NeuroDebian booth. The setup was pretty much the same as last year: Some chairs
and tables, lots of people, our tri-fold flyers
, a Debian mirror and some
virtual machine images to show Debian in action. This time we also had an LCD
display attracting visitors with the package swarm
, some demos, and our recent paper
. We had
many curious people have their first exposure to Debian, long-time users
expressing their gratitude to Debian, and our upstream developers getting
together to discuss various topics. Having registered the booth as
NeuroDebian , we had the additional pleasure of explaining visitors the
concept of a project inside
Debian, in contrast to a derived distribution.
But that is nothing new really, so let s talk about the differences from last
year s booth.
First of all, we had more people at the booth. Dominique Belhachemi volunteered
to help us out and that was very much appreciated. Although HBM has only
about a tenth of the attendees that SfN has, we had significantly more traffic.
While last year people were primarily interested in knowing about the project,
this time many of them wanted to give it a try immediately. People came with
their laptops, got the VM images and started playing with Debian. After a day
or so, some came back and asked for recommendations on particular software
after having been exposed to the wealth of the Debian archive.
What also had increased was the number of developers, or rather research labs
developing neuroimaging software that came to the booth to discuss how to get
their software into Debian and how to arrange ongoing maintenance of these
future Debian packages. As we have our plates already quite full, we have been spending some time
on mentoring interested developers to learn the art of Debian packaging and
making them familiar with Debian s procedures and standards (e.g. working on
with Yannick Schwartz, upstream, at the booth).
Two promising new developments need to be mentioned. First, we were approached
by companies that develop hardware for brain-imaging and psychophysics
research. They were curious to learn about Debian as an integrated platform
that offers free software solutions that an increasing amount of their
customers demands (e.g. PsychoPy
). Apparently, the movement towards open
research software has finally made it into the business plans of companies, as
they seem to start perceiving compatibility with free software systems as a
competitive advantage. We explained how software gets into Debian, and how its
release cycle is managed. To foster their motivation we also pointed them to
the existing open-source software that is already available or even present in
Debian. Let s see whether we see more Debian-certified research products in
Lastly, we started talking with folks from the INCF
to explore possibilities of
collaborating on INCF projects using Debian as the integration and development
platform. The INCF is an OECD-funded
organization that develops collaborative
neuroinformatics infrastructure and promotes the sharing of data and computing
resources to the international research community. At least one INCF project is
already relying on the efforts of the NeuroDebian project. We are going to continue
this discussion during a workshop in September. A report will follow...
This booth has been made possible by the generous support of Prof.
James V. Haxby
(Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA).