Very quick note

I have no idea how Debconf7 organizers will top this dinner. It was extremely wonderfully exciting and everyone had a great blast! More about it tomorrow when my nerves calm down from the experience.

Debconf6 day 3: BOOT!

May 16th.

In the morning I was kind of lazy and watched the talks via the webcast which worked very nice. I was even able to give some comments via IRC feedback. Very nice experience. One good idea popped up in the IRC there - it would also be useful to have an audio only webcast to conserve bandwidth.

The "early" morning discussion about etch release and kernel to use in it was quite interesting to watch while I did not necessary got all the things that were said there.

Then in the tower there was a great BOF session about speeding up the boot. It was a very nice session because there was a lot of discussion, lot of questions and comments from the audience.

A GPL license talk followed the boot BOF and again I watched it via the webcast from the hacklab. Convenient. But then my network went down somehow I found it faster to walk to the tower then to get it back up. Several good questions were asked about the problems with current GPLv3 draft. Some ideas formed about how to fix the Affero clause using "public performance" phrasing. An insightful insight into the brain of debian-legal.

Mao is deep ingrained into the brains of Debian Developers

marga: it has been observed that debian members respect each other.
Myon: are you explaining the rules?
marga: Myon, actually, I wasn't, but I wouldn't mind explaining them
dondelelcaro: Myon, is that against the rules?
Myon: I would have to take a penalty card if I said 'yes'
dondelelcaro: talking.

Enrico did the social guidelines dance outlining the recommendations for peaceful coexistence without resorting to telletubbie or inquisition practices. It sounded very reasonable as recommendations, but those must never be promoted to any kind of policy. Enrico also mentioned that.

Penny Peach, we miss you.

After dinner a bunch of small mexican-looking females bunched first around the Japanese guys and then around the group where I was in. They were all smiling and very exited. They spoke very fast Spanish while rubbing their clothes and making horizontal back-and-forth motions with their hands. Nobody of us spoke Spanish. And they kept speaking and rubbing. My mind raced to present one unlikely reasoning after another, but nothing really fitted the situation. After a few minutes of total confusion we found a Spanish speaker who found out that they wanted ... an iron. An iron to iron their clothes. Doh! I was so confused that I only got 1 blurry photo from the ... incident.

Random note: the fan control system here is quite ... buttony.

Then we had a BOF about packaging of web applications and other applications that need database access. Maintainers and users of such things will be happy to hear that the situation is being resolved and there will most probably be a policy for etch+1 for that. Large ISPs and hosting providers will be happy to hear that their need are also heard (or will be heard if you join the process) and most probably it will be possible to activate/deactivate a web application for a certain user at a certain path of a certain virtual host with a single command that can also be scripted. In any case if you are interested in this development, please participate now, so that your need can be heard too.

After the BOFs the, now official and scheduled, wine and cheese party started. It was briefly interrupted by rain, but the tables were moved under the roof in seconds and the party continued. There were around 40 different cheeses. Most of them were French and almost all of them were very tasty (some were .. an acquired taste :)). I can't say anything about the wine (I do not like the taste of alcohol), but other tasters were expressing very positive remarks. The party went on for a long time with more and more cheeses and vines brought up with time.

There was some more hair coloring going on.

Then there was the demonstration of use of duck tape on an almost professional HD 1080i video camera.

And then there was the public demonstration of present Debian swirl tattoos. Impressive.

When I was just going to go to the bed, I was lured into another game of Mao. I must say that playing Mao right after the wine and cheese part is ... interesting. Some girls got ... lucky ... seven.

And there was still quite a lot of hacking going on around two in the night when I went to sleep. Tomorrow is the daytrip.

Debconf6 day 2: Java is non-free, at last!

The first session in the morning that I attended was the BOF about Python. After an introduction to the current state by the Python maintainer (Matthias Klose) and a few other people we run overtime and the BOF was extended into another time slot. Also the session was plagued by the room switch hanging which affected both the network and the recording. It really looks that that strange situation with a bunch of python-foo, python2.3-foo and python2.4-foo packages will be fixed.

Later in the day guys from Intel gave a talk about some kind of data mining stuff they were doing with hardware database from Ubuntu. The tool was called Toppler (from Dilbert) and basically was a hardware database. They pondered about possibilities of getting some useful information from the huge pool of data, but the examples that they showed were just lame. For example they showed how you can get a list of 1234 reports relating to this wireless card, but that is not what I want to know - I want to know if it works and if it does not work, what can I do to fix it. The showed an example of an OEM entering his computers hardware configuration to see what distro works on that hardware - that is completely useless: as an OEM I at that point would already have chosen a distro and what I really would like to know is what will and what will not work from my hardware configuration in that distro, why it will not work and how to fix that. That would be approaching useful status - so far they only have a SQL DB with a simplistic web fronted. At the same time to give out that kind of information you would need much more datapoints to make a correlation - datapoints most of which can not be tested automatically and require user interaction on submitting. On the other hand the more user interaction they need, the less users will want to submit that data. They already have at least 10 times too many questions (there were 30 + options) if they really want this to be something that users will want to contribute to. Also there is no real direct motivation for users to contribute to that database - maybe OEM's have that kind of motivation, but they must decide to use Linux first. In short I only saw mountains of social and technical problems with this project and really little in terms of benefit. That's what you get when you have too much money to burn.

After that there was a "yearly" Ubuntu report from Mark Shuttleworth. Most of what Mark said was already widely known if you followed Ubuntu's development a bit. Dapper will release on 1st of June and will be supported for 3 years on the desktop and 5 years on the servers. Edgy Eft will be a developer driven highly experimental release that will be done in 4 months and its planning will be done in Ubuntu conference in Paris (18th-23rd June). In Dapper KDE is given equal weight to Gnome and in Edgy the same will be done to XFCE. There is a graphical installer - Ubiquity and a graphical upgrader that works around strange things that APT has not been designed to handle. Mark can only guess what will be in Edgy as developers will decide this one, but most probably Xen and XGL will be integrated, startup will be reworked by adding paralel init scripts with dependencies and maybe even APT will be replaced by some kind of SMART tool. I have not heard anything about it before and Mark also gave no further detail. but in any case Edgy promises to be "the Ubuntu equivalent of a release of Debian experimental". Way to go not to stick into the enterprise stability. I am really looking forward to that.

Another announcement came from Sun - thanks to hard work of many people the license of Sun Java was changed to allow it to be included in Debian non-free repository. FHS and Debian Policy compilant packages have been produced and are uploaded to Debian sid non-free. Congrats to all involved! Now we only to move it to main somehow.

Unfortunately I missed two BOF that I wanted to see due to scheduling changes that I did not follow at the time: i18n BOF and Debian representation BOF. I have been doing quite a bit of both during last years, so I wanted to be there, but missed it. Doh.

In the afternoon I was twice recruited by the organizers to do the group photo. Last year there was a huge collection of dSLR's around Debconf5, but this year either the dSLR owners did not come or did not want to lug their cameras across half the globe, so I with my Canon 350D and a few (cheap) lenses have become the de-fact photographer of the Debconf6. It was only natural that the group photo also had to be taken by the best camera around. I, naturally, am very honored by the opportunity even if that would mean that I myself am not on the group photo. I could just gimp myself into the corner of it after the fact :)

In any case the place to take the picture had to be found. The amphitheater where the Debconf5 group photo was taken was a perfect place, but lacking that a trick all the way back from Debconf3 could be employed - standing at a high place and take the picture at a sharp angle down. The best place for this that I found around here is the 10m diving tower - there is a platform aprx. 8 meters from the ground where one can clearly see to the back area of the tower where a large grass area is located. I still need to confirm whether I can take the group photo from there with my best lens (Canon 50mm f/1.8 II) and what amount of light will we have on time point when we have the ability to actually take the picture (18:00). There will still be a bit of a chance with the weather, so an alternate group photo time should also be planned. There will be an announcement mail that will probably go public before this email will. Oh and later in the evening I found a guy (sorry, names escape me is seconds) who has a Canon 17-40mm f/4 L lens which I will borrow from him for the group photo. That will make the photo a lot sharper and make us much more flexible to the group size which is very helpful.

Just before the dinner I want to see the saunas that i was told long ago. Basically it was a headed room 3x1 meter with a temperature control outside that was set to 0. Nobody uses the sauna here and that is no wonder - the whole place is like a large sauna. In the same club (just above the restaurant where we have all the meals now) there was a ping-pong table, two pool tables and a gym. In the gym I found a Mexican Gentoo spy who's mom was born in Riga, Latvia. The world is truly small.

After the dinner I sent out the group photo announcement email and then took a look at the Joey Hess's BOF about debian-installer. I snook into the talk to take a few photos and watched the rest via the webcast. Unfortunately all the people spoke very quietly there, so it was hard to distinguish their voices from the background noise. Please, do not do that! Speak up, people!

The tango practice took place between hacklabs tonight. Looked fun, but I would rather take a lot of pictures of it :)

On a final note I witnessed a Mao game in Spanish. That was only a bit more disturbing then the same game in English. Even while I do not speak any Spanish.

P.S. If you really like what I do with photos in this blog, it would be very nice if you would sponsor me a Pro account at Flickr. Otherwise my monthly traffic limit there (20 Mb) is nearly up with only select photos of two days of Debconf uploaded. I have now almost 2 Gb of photos stored on my laptop and the conference is only starting.

Debconf6 day 1: Intro

The day was started by a welcome speech from the organizers saying thanks to all (most) the helpers and sponsors. The tower room was almost full, I wonder how will it look like when the real talks start. The next talk is only planed after an hour and a half as no BOF claimed this time slot. Well - a bit more time for hacking, socializing and sunbathing. :)

After an hour of working on a good tan I went to "Debian vs. Open Solaris" discussion. After a bit of time the discussion about CDDL broke out. Debian basically objects to choice of venue clause and there are also GPL-incompatibility problems that might go away with GPLv3. The core of the discussion was more of the explanation of why those clauses were placed there in the first place. The sense that I got for the discussion is that Sun would modify CDDL in a way that will most probably make it DFSG-free and compatible with at least GPLv3. Also it was told that in fact usually choice of venue only applies to court suites between multi-regional corporations with overlapping regions. The legal discussions went over my head more then once especially when GPLv2, GPLv3 and CDDL license interaction on one system and distribution of such where discussed. On the OpenSolaris front there is a move from indoor source control system to Subversion. So far there are only around 100 non-Sun commits to OpenSolaris, but a big jump is expected after the transition to SVN is complete.

Joey Hess had a wiki talk in paralel, which I did not see.

Off to lunch! At the lunch I got to sit at the one table with Paul Allen from Intel and Ted Walther. It was discovered that Ted is actually just coming out of fasting so he does not eat anything, but only drinks juices. Well, that's one way to avoid foreign food problems.

On the way back from lunch I got a lead on my first mark. I will now start a separate article about the Assassins game that I will publish when the game is over.

The second talk was from Enrico about waisting time. He waisted a lot of our time with that :). I loved vigor - a paper clip assistant for vi :D. xlaby - a labyrinth for your mouse pointer. Read the man page!

On the later part of the day I was busy mourning my death, preparing and trying to print papers fr the travel reimbursement stuff, so I missed all BOFs between Enrico and dinner, but had a bit of time for some local tetrinet fun. While I was doing that Ted was at the marketplace and got me a few bags of fried grasshoppers - a great souvenirs, thanks! :)

Some evening hacking in the hacklab after the dinner and I already wanted to go to bed when I saw in the IRC an announcement about Speaker training BOF.

The event was very interesting - Meike Reichle showed and made us do us several nice things that will definitely improve our public speaking.

After that I just could not go buy a group of people playing Mao and I immediately joined the game. Luckily they were not playing long so I got the rules in seconds. The game nearly imploded after one of the players was very inconsistent with his rules (he had to rethink them all the time), but then another winner just reset the game and it went on with a lot of fun from that point. The game had three newbies, so it was a lot of fun, but also a bit of waiting for people to catch up and pay attention.

Well, off to bed now - tomorrow will be busy.

Deaths in Debconf

Debconf6 this year was also the venue of an Assasination game. The idea is that there are people playing the game who are ordered in a circle. Each of them only know the name of the person in front of them - the one they have to assassinate. The killing takes place by touching the marks upper body with a (clean) sock. The assassin must hold the sock in the moment of contact and nobody who is playing can see the event. If a player sees the assassination, it is void and must be repeated, but no sooner then on the next day. Before the death a killed assassin must utter the name of his mark, which then becomes the mark of the killer.

My first mark was a guy that I did not know. I had to wait a day for him to arrive. I also had no idea how he looked because there is no available photo of him online. That made my job a bit harder. I tried to find him among people going from the lunch to the Enrico's speech, but missed him.

And on the way back I was assassinated myself. Bugger. I think I can publish it now, because this information will not affect the game except maybe make people be a bit more careful when walking to the tower and back - it is a nice assassination spot. :P

I guess being recognizable because of this blog is a big disadvantage in this game.

Debconf6 day 0: Debian Day

While most DD's continued hacking in the hacklab, some of the Spanish speaking Debian people joined in with approximately 50-70 Mexican people for a set of Spanish language presentations about something. I have no idea what they were about as I do not speak Spanish (except manyana).

The Debian Day was also the first thing that was webcasted live. The video team tested the software, tested the equipment and judging from the IRC responses at in the #debconf channel everything worked just fine. The video team also had a BOF session in the evening talking about how to improve the experience even better both for people watching the webcast and for people watching (and making) the recordings.

I especially loved the exhibition from the pixelchica - wonderful pictures.

A lot more people arrived today - many new faces, lots of social interaction happening even when the Internet is here. In the evening several crates of beer were acquired by the shadow beer team and the celebrations continued well into the night.

Debconf6 days -2 and -1: Internet or Inter-Net?

There have been not too many exiting events in the real life here in Oaxtepec, Mexico. The main reason for that is the return of the drug of choice around here - the Internet. In order not to overwhelm people that were withdrawn from the cruel drug for several days, the first day the service was a bit shaky - we only got Internet from noon until 16:00 and then some more later in the evening.

In the evening there was a bit of a storm around here and after that I noticed that could not get wireless in the hotel anymore and also noticed that the AP on the roof of the hotel has moved, so I figured that it must have been blown by the wind into the wall and does not work because of that which I promptly reported to Ganneff.

So we went to check that out by walking the roofs of the resorts walkways. The view is really much nicer from up there and the amount of cables that the organizers had to put up to get some connectivity around here is astonishing - more then 1.7 kilometers of CAT5 cable has been used so far and a lot of wireless hotspots were installed in waterproof containers on roofs.

On the day -1 the bags were ready and started to be distributed. It was really useful, for example I found out that I should have changed my room two days ago and that I am changing it again today. One hour with Marga at the registry fixed that problem. In other news we had: stable Internet, romantic hacking, impossibly small notebooks and taped switches.

A really crazy game of Mao ensued late in the evening - there were more then 20 discard piles at the same time! We also had several newcomers to the game and it was fun even if they were a bit unobservant (in the beginning).

Major part of people started arriving this evening, including a person from Intel and Ted The Krooger. Fun should start tomorrow with the Debian Day.

Debconf6 day -3: Lower you MTU and your expectations

Nothing much happened today, except:

  • Internet working _barely_ if you lower your MTU to 500 or something like that. The speed is around 250 bytes per second and the delay is over 3 seconds. Luckily we have a separate IP-over-a-man-with-a-USB-key for uploads to incoming;
  • The restaurant for the food has been changed to one closer to the hacklab and to the pool. They scared us a bit by having two starters before the actual main dish, which sparked exchanges like: "Do you want another main dish?" - "No, I want _a_ main dish!";
  • I got a bunch of blurry photos of a collibri eating a mango. It was just too jumpy. There are several wild mango trees in the area and they are a strong magnets for local birds;
  • There was a heroic guy climbing a huge mast without any safety to put an antenna there hoping to improve the Internet situation. It looked scary as the antenna mast itself is on top of a building which is on top of a hill, but it did not help;
  • Last minute dash of DD's to the pool just before it was closing at 18:00;
  • Lots of cutting, folding, laminating and sorting of all the conference stuff;
  • Some more Mao and a bit of watching of "The IT crowd".

Note: the Internet is up and looks stable as of noon of May 11th. Yay!

Debconf6 day -4: The Pyramids

Yesterday it became clear that the daytrip during the conference will not go to the Teotihuacan Aztec pyramids as it is too far, which is a shame. For that reason a small group of people organized a separate trip to Teotihuacan ("the Pyramids" from now on). 11 people boarded 3 taxis which we hired for the whole day for a price of 1500 pesos per taxi per day (~150 USD) which averaged to 410 pesos per person.

Before we left I managed to climb a stadium wall and take a couple of nice shots of a local vulcano and sneaky picture of Gunar running laps on the stadium at 7 in the morning with his wife. No wonder he looks so much better this year. (Comparison pictures will be put here)

I also managed to notice that we do not have Internet again. Manyana.

We ordered the taxis to arrive at 8:30, so when we gathered at the place at 8:40 we were expecting to have to wait a bit, but to our surprise the taxis were already there and waiting for us.

The drive took three hours. On a taxi. No wonder it was too far for a daytrip.

There is a lot of cars and a lot of roads in Mexico. People here are not too worried about fuel consumption here and it is not too surprising to me - the gas here costs between 6 and 8 pesos per liter. That might also be the reason why cars here are so incredibly loud - when a truck goes by on the road that is a couple kilometers away from the parliament tower in the hotel it sounds like a small plane is flying by nearby. Also the number of road is so huge and the structure is so chaotic that even taxi drivers did not know the route - they had to stop and ask for directions multiple times. Even when going back. Trying to stay on the same route. We got lost more then twice.

Along the way to the Pyramids we stopped for breakfast in small roadside place somewhere. It was a family owned place where you have cactus tortillas with different fillings heated up on a big metal plate that is heated up by burning wood. there also was coffee in large cups and soft drinks. Tortillas and soft drinks were 8 pesos each, coffee was 5 pesos and the beer that the girls went to get for us from other cafes along the road were 10 pesos each. Wonderful food for incredibly cheap prices. After we all ate we threw money in the pile according to how much each of us wanted to pay and gave it to the owner. She looked at them money and started protesting that is is much too much, but we insisted. Very heartwarming place.

We bought large bottles of water and moved on.

It is quite hard to take good photos of the Mexican landscape because of two reasons: first there is huge number of large power lines going in all directions all across the land. And the other thing is the smog - you just can not take clear pictures of distant objects, the smoke or fog or something is covering the whole place. I suspect that it is related to the number of cars here, but I can not be entirely sure about that. I do not to intend to trash Mexico, but the fact is that Mexicans do. Along the roads near the Mexico City all roadsides are littered with all kinds of thrash - bottles, plastic bags, metal pieces, tires, ...

On the other hand I have noticed that Mexicans do like IT - in every small town I noticed a computer shop with Internet. Some shops even promptly have Tux painted on their walls. It is quite strange to see that every wall is used for some kind of announcement or advertisement. Even a barely standing wall in the middle of the field between towns was used as an advertisement platform for a hotel in one of the towns.

After long wondering around we finally arrived at the Pyramids. There was additional tickets to buy there - a 150 peso ticket for the car and a 45 peso ticket for each person. Each of three entrances to the Pyramid area has a range of souvenir shops and also there is a huge lot of private sellers walking all around the place and trying to sell you the same stuff for double or triple the price. The standing advice is to go to shops and negotiate prices there.

We went in the entrance number 1 (which is how I would recommend anyone to do) which is at the south end of the Alley of the Dead. We started the excursion by climbing the small pyramid of the temple of the serpent god. The excavation was still going on there and it was interesting to watch. And it also was a warm-up for the other climbs.

After that we moved on along the Alley of the Dead. After crossing the "river" (it was like 5 cm wide at this time of year) we were distracted by a sign pointing sideways that said "Museo (800m)". It sounded like a nice idea, so we went along. Unfortunately the road curves to the north and in the end the museum itself is almost next to the sun pyramid. So if you happen to go there I would advice you to go along the Alley of the Dead to the Pyramid of Sun and go to the museum from there. There is also a toilet and an ice cream shop next to the museum.

After visiting the museum I went back to the "river" so that I could walk along the alley. There are several overwalks across the alley, so you either have to walk up and down the stairs a lot or walk up on the wall there.

Then we came to the Pyramids. They are huge. Huge. Several millions of tons of rocks. Hundreds of meters of steep stairs going up. And a rubble on the top covering the temple site. The view is phenomenal. There will be a lot of photos from there including one of the traditional tourist type where I am sitting on the top of the sun pyramid with the moon pyramid in the background. Some of us did not make it the top of the first pyramid. It was quite hard. Coming down feels even more scary as the stairs are very steep.

In front of the main Moon Pyramid there is the main square of the ancient city. In the center of it is the sacrificial altar. If you stand in the center of it, you can almost feel the sea of blood that was spilled onto these stones during the golden age of the Aztec civilization. It is a powerful feeling that could have gotten a bit scary if there were not so many people around.

The climb to the Moon Pyramid was much harder then to the Sun Pyramid, it could have been because it was the second one or because it is more steep and with a higher pile of rubble on top (where there are no stairs). After a few stops most of us did climb to the top and took even more wonderful photos of the view around us. I must say that this was well worth all the effort, time and expense.

After coming down from the pyramids, we went out via the exit number 3 which has the largest number of souvenir shops and did some shopping there. It was 15:30 by then and the souvenir shops were starting to close down.

We were recommended a restaurant near the pyramids for our lunch, so we went there. The restaurant is located in the south direction from the pyramids and is almost on the continuation of the Alley of the Dead. The pyramids are still well visible from the windows.

Just as our meals in the hotel, this meal was very nice and very Mexican - mashed beans in every dish, meat and the hot green stuff which is actually called "the green sauce".

The way back after that was longer, but uneventful - we did get lost a bit more then usual, but it was the drivers problem.

Altogether the trip took 12 hours. We really were exhausted after that.