Game On!

For the last couple weeks I have been concentrating on things related to my studies and on some events related to it. I posted pictures from these events on my Flickr photostream: a colleague from the institute finished his PhD and we had a goodbye dinner, my supervisor invited me to his son's first birthday party. Also my friends Bunja and lastguru came to UK. With one I took photos of a night playground and squirrels and with other one some photos of the Eye and Babbage's brain.

However the main theme of this post is the Game On! exhibition in the London's Science Museum. They have the best games playable there starting with the classic Pong, Lara Croft, Bomberman, Mortal Combat and up to Halo 2 on XBox 360. Even my non-gamer friend lastguru found a thing to drool upon - his childhood obsession: Elite.


Update: Almost forgot to mention - the exhibition is great: it shows the evolution of gaming and allows to experience the most important games again and it also brings a huge amount of joy to anyone who has ever played these games before - the return to childhood is imminent. I never expected that something as simple as the original Pong can be so exciting in a good company. Very recommended!

Did I miss anything?

Catching up on blogs, emails and Debian mailing lists I see that nothing really important has happened while I was off-line: the dunc-tank caboodle escalated and died down when the majority voted that it was not worth the commotion, some people got upset at some other people and decided stop working on Debian because of that, Mozilla went even more bonkers about its trademarks.

The dunk-tank scandal ended just like I thought it would. As one could imply from my eternal unstable concept, I do not see making releases as a the main thing that Debian contributes to the society - it is more about the integration and cross-empowerment of all the packages that Debian has. In that context, making a release is a not the most important job in Debian, but it need to be done from time to time. Release management combines technical and social challenges - there is not much of novelty in it (I imagine). So, from this perspective, there is nothing bad in money being paid to do this mundane and hard work, if we really, really need to release in a specific time frame (IMHO the only reason to release Debian in 2006, as opposed to 2008, is the Lars tattoo bet). If we return to "release when its ready" paradigm and aim for about one release every 2-3 years (and I see nothing really wrong with that) then paying release manager will not be needed. Money is about getting things done on a schedule. It does not make things good (or bad). It does not make thing important (or not). It make things go by the schedule (unless you pay by the hour). It is the obvious solution to releasing Debian in December. Now two questions need to be answered - will it work? and do we really want to release in December?

The second thing - in any group of 1000 people anyone can easily find a lot of people that he would not love/not respect/disagree with/disregard/hate and be unable to work with. It is no reason to stop working on Debian, unless one does it only to be universally loved. It is inevitable that we will need to learn to do what we like to do without paying attention to the irritations.

And about the trademarks - in Debconf 5 in Helsinki I was giving a talk at the Debian Day, just after I helped to win the first big fight against software patents in EU, and Branden (who was GPL at the time) asked me what do I think Debian should do about its trademarks. Both then and now I strongly think that trademarks and any other litigation inducing concepts (except enforcement of GPL) have no place whatsoever in free software. I think Debian should lead the way and give up the "Debian" trademark. And Mozilla should follow the lead. So what if there is a pron site "Debian chicks"? You will not solve that with litigation anyway (at least not in a year or two) and why should we really care? So what if some one make a distro and calls it SuperDebian? If someone will really think that it is related to Debian but better (especially despite warnings to the contrary), then that someone will really deserve to get the trojan planted in that distro. And again, against a well prepared criminal, litigation will not help much.

So, did I miss anything?

Finally back

All the time since the Debian I18N conference in Extremadura I was moving around, staying in temporary places having temporary accesses to restricted Internet connections. Finally yesterday I got everything back - a permanent place to stay and a good permanent and unrestricted Internet connection there. Now I just need to compensate for the productivity loss that it is causing me :)

P.S. There have been two bugfix releases of SBackup since my last blog post about it - bugs such as "having no regexes skips all files" and "always do incremental upgrades because we can not count" are fixed. Priority of SBackup process is reduced and configuration files are managed explicitly.

Howard worldwide

I am hooked. I love to listen to Howard Stern. Up to now I have been doing it quietly by downloading it from P2P ever since I heard about him from a 60 minutes appearance just before moving to satellite radio on 1st January of 2006.

Finally Sirius started transmitting their radio stations to the Internet (for a fee). 13$ a month is not cheap for Internet radio (that is common to be gratis), but Howard Stern makes up for every penny of that with 5 hours of great talk show 4 days a week. And the dozens of other channels are just bonus.

If I were in the coverage zone of the Sirius satellite, I would get a receiver and look forward to the Stiletto, but as I am in UK, I have to make do with the Bittorrents shared by a highschool janitor and now with live streams from for 13$ per month. Luckily, the streaming works perfectly in Linux.

(I did have to supply a USA address when registering, so I gave them the address of Google headquarters :))

One more case where a gratis P2P downloads create a devoted fan and generate a sale.

Now I am just relaxing and enjoying channels 100 - Howard, 9 - The Pulse, 12 - Super Shuffle and 33 - Area 33.

Debian Extremadura I18N meeting 2006 photos

The I18N meeting in Extremadura is almost over - tomorrow everyone is leaving to the airport at different times. So, enjoy the group photo of the meeting. And if you click the photo, that will bring you to a Frickr photoset that contains all the other good photos that I took at this meeting. Enjoy!

Extremadura and nuclear ban

The i18n work session in Extremadura is in the last day now and photos and impressions are accumulating.

In the mean time I am translating some packages to Latvian and I discovered that the only place I can find a comprehensive list of officially translated country name to Latvian is a translation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty of 2001.

Another type of bounty

It would be very good to have a bounty that would pay 100$ to anyone who would find and implement a way to reduce memory use of a fully running Debian Linux + Gnome system (optionally, with all Gnome apps loaded) by one megabyte (as indicated by RAM used in a swapless system - (cache+buffers)) in a way that does not reduce functionality or heavily compromise runtime speed and would be accepted into upstream Gnome.

We need sponsors! That would be one great long term investment in Desktop Linux.

Wrong partition ordering

If you have a hard drive with two or more logical partitions in one extended partition and then proceed to erase the first of those logical partitions (in GParted), then you will soon discover that the number of the second logical partition changed (from sda6 to sda5 in my case). If you then try to create a partition in the free space and launch cfdisk, you will notice that there is no free space where it should have been. If you then manage to get to GParted and create a partition there, then do not relax, as your perils are not yet over. Upon reboot you will find that the logical partition that is in the beginning of the logical partition got a new number (sda7 in my case) and the your valuable second logical partition is still numbered wrongly (it was sda5 instead of expected sda6). Even more so, if you try to fix it with cfdisk, it bails out with a fatal error of overlapping extended partitions.

The fix is to start fdisk, press "x" for advanced operations and press "f" to reorder the partitions according to the order on disk (do not forget to enter "w" to write the changes). That fixed the problem. But I have no idea who to bug for this wonderful Mongolian Clusterf*ck of Partition Numbering.

And that is only a tiny preview of the immense fun I am having right now by trying out installations of Debian etch and Ubuntu edgy on my Dell M1710. If you want a stable desktop on this computer right now - use Ubuntu Dapper (with nvidia binary drivers). You will have much unneeded fun with IPW3945 wifi and the NVidia video card drivers otherwise.

Edit: fixed fstab -> fdisk. How silly of me :)

Eternal unstable?

More and more early adopters choose to use Ubuntu instead of Debian. Ubuntu has newer versions of the software that matters (XOrg, FF, OOO, Gnome,...) than the stable Debian or, sometimes than even the unstable Debian. Early adopters are the users that are most eager to try new shiny things, do not scream too much if those things break and seem to make good bug reporters. They are the key second level - just below the developers and above most users in the pyramid of software development and use. They are also the people that have a tendency to become developers. That is why I have this feeling that capturing early adopters is essential to development of a thriving free software community. How can that be done? I do not know, but I have an idea that might just work.

What I envision is a merger of development processes of Debian, Ubuntu, Knoppix, Skolelinux and all other Debian derrived distributions. The base for this merger would be an eternal unstable line where all developers would be encouraged to put the newest and greatest software - THE place to be if you want to be on the bleeding edge. I see this unstable line being much newer then Debian unstable, but retaining similar level of quality (how? it is a good question). Then there would be a set of tools available to splice packages from this unstable line into a stabilisation and stable branches for each distribution. The tools would be the same for all distributions and the packages would be the same for all distributions, the difference between distributions would be achieved by the way that the packages and their specific versions are chosen, patches applied for a particular distribution and in some ways by the assembly of the final release media. The proper Debian releases in this context would be no different then Ubuntu releases but will be created using different criteria and at different times. The tools must be powerful enough so that release preparations of any distribution (including Debian proper) would not need to slow down the progress of the flow of new features into the eternal unstable line.

The infrastructure needed to operate such complex system would be immense. It would need to have some similarities to the systems Debian uses for distribution, release and bug management, it would need to have some similarities to Ubuntu's Launchpad (just free, understandable, usable and well documented), and I think that it would also need to have some similarities to Gentoo's Portage system (distros do want to recompile packages with different options and with their own library versions). It would also help if this unstable line could still hold few parallel versions of one package - like the latest release and the cvs version. (However I am pressed to even imagine all the complexities this would bring into apt and bug reporting/debugging.)

I think that such structure will not only concentrate the scarce resource that are the early adopters in a place that will benefit all distributions, but will also provide extra dimensionality for social and technical growth for The Debian Project. The Debian Project will turn from a single great distribution to a swarm of wonderful distributions with a strong central spine - the eternal unstable line.

An additional benefit to this will be that it will be possible to fork Debian if social pressures require that (like it happened with gcc vs. eggc) for the benefit of all free software users. Like, for example, the David's steering commitee whould not disturb the Debian main line until it has been proven to work - it could be formed, it could set goals for a branch and feel in total control of their release goals and methods. After the steering commitee makes a successful release, it would be only a matter of a political decision of whether to call that release Debian proper or not.

Note: As always this is just an uniformed rant of a relatively passive DD who is blissfully ignorant of pretty much everything, so please tell me if and why it can or can not be done.

P.S. While I am in such writelly mood, I should probably write that free software advocacy article for a new journal that I promised them a month ago.

P.P.S. If the system is written with it in mind, then each user's computer could theoretically be a separate distribution which keeps a splice of Debian unstable line (or any subline) with local modifications and possible local compilation options. If done right, this could also provide a ground for merging up with Gentoo.

P.P.P.S. After reading trough logs of several bugs on the Launchpad, I have a feeling that Ubuntu is being flooded by much more bugreports then Cannonical is designed to handle (especially for free). I am not pointing fingers here, I am just suggesting that it is another facet of the same problem and that this idea of mine could reduce this load and let Ubuntu developers concentrate on what they really want to do.