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Bits from the DPL (summary of conferences)

In my last posting, I mentioned that I'm going to attend some
conferences.  This was mainly to inform you what I'm up to and in
order to arrange face-to-face meetings.  I've now returned from my
travels and would like to provide a summary.

Over the last two weeks, I attended three conferences: Open Source
World Conference (OSWC) in Spain, FOSDEM in Belgium, and a conference
in Italy organized by Firenze Tecnologia.

Open Source World Conference.  Malaga, Spain (18-20 February, 2004)

OSWC was a conference organized by the government of Andalucia and
attracted many high profile speakers, including the Prince of Spain
and the President of Andalucia who gave the opening speeches.  The
conference was larger than I had expected and was very professionally
organized.  Entrance was free for students and 5 EUR for other people,
and there were apparently free buses to the event from various
universities.  The event had a conference session with various talks
(translated simultaneously in English and Spanish), and there was also
an exhibition floor with booths.

As part of the conference, a meeting on Debian based distributions was
held [1].  Representatives from Guadalinex, Linex and SkoleLinux, and
some Debian developers were invited by the government of Andalucia to
attend this meeting.  Common problems Debian based distributions were
discussed and we talked about ways to work together more closely.  A
summary of this meeting is being worked on by some peoplo who
attended, and I hope it will be posted soon.

Since Wichert Akkerman had been invited to this meeting, I suggested
to use the opportunity to discuss the status of dpkg as well as
multi-arch support.  Unfortunately, on the day of the conference it
turned out that Wichert could not come because of work; he kindly
summarized his thoughts about dpkg by e-mail and we used this as a
basis for discussions.  Wichert's message is available at [2] and
Scott James Remnant, who attended the meeting, together with Tollef
Fog Heen and Colin Watson, will post a summary of their discussions as
a follow-up message soon.  People interested in helping with the
development and bug triaging of dpkg can use these messages as a
starting point to see how they can help.

On Friday morning, there was a panel about "The future of Open Source
- vision from the gurus" in which Bdale Garbee (HP), Danese Cooper
(Sun), Miguel de Icaza (Ximian) and myself participated.  Everyone
spoke for about 10 minutes and then we answered questions from the

During the conference, I also talked to the Chief Technology
Evangelist of Sun.  We talked about making their Java implementation
truly free software, and discussed how Sun and Debian can work
together more closely.  I promised to send him a list of things we
would like to see from Sun.  Ben Collins informed me about some
hardware which would be useful for our SPARC port, I'd like to be put
in contact with an engineer who can test debian-installer on a wide
range of Sun hardware (SPARC, Intel and Opteron).  I also asked our
OpenOffice.org maintainers if they need anything.

In summary, the conference was a great success.  It was lots of fun to
meet some of the Spanish Debian crowd, and I think the meetings were
quite productive.

FOSDEM.  Brussels, Belgium (21-22 February, 2004)

FOSDEM is the Free and Open Source Software Developers Meeting.  It is
one of the largest developer's gatherings in Europe, and I really
enjoyed it last year.  This year FOSDEM was even bigger; like last
year, Debian had a booth, but this time we also shared a conference
room with some Free Java developers.  We arranged some meetings to
discuss how our Java packages in contrib can be moved to main.  I
could not attend these meetings because I was busy talking to other
people, but I heard that the meetings were quite productive.  Arnaud
Vandyck, Grzegorz Prokopski, Stefan Gybas and others represented
Debian, and they promised to post a summarize to -project and -java

I used FOSDEM to talk to various people.  I approached Keith Packard
to discuss the status and future of X.  Keith is leading the
Freedesktop.org effort, and he told me that he is currently working on
splitting X into separate components.  This work is done upstream, but
should also make it easier to package it for Debian and other
distributions.  He is also working on adding autoconf support, and I
put him in contact with Scott James Remnant (our maintainer of
libtool, who is also part of upstream) in case he needs any help.
Scott and Keith exchanged some mail since then.  I asked Keith to get
in contact with our XFree86 maintainer to see how Keith's work can be
integrated into Debian, and to discuss the future of X in Debian.
Keith is also in the NM queue and interested in helping with

I also talked to some KDE people who are involved in the debian-kde
project.  A growing number of KDE developers are interested in better
integration of KDE and Debian and cooperation between the two
projects.  There will be a KDE development conference in Germany from
21st to 29th of August, and it would be good if some of our KDE
maintainers could attend.  (On a related note, GNOME's development
conference GUADEC 2004 is going to take place in Norway from June
28-30.  If anyone intends to attend this or the KDE conference, please
let me know so we can arrange a Debian meeting.)

I also briefly talked to Jonathan Corbet of Linux Weekly News (LWN),
thanked him for the excellent work they are doing and offered
assistance for Debian related coverage.  He said that he follows
-devel-announce and -devel already, but that he'd get in contact if he
needs anything.  By the way, free LWN subscriptions for Debian
developers (kindly sponsored by HP) are still available (see [3]).

Alasdair G Kergon, who organizes UKUUG's conferences, helped out at
FOSDEM and he mentioned that the CFP for their next conference will
soon be out.  We talked about possible topics, and Alasdair seemed
interested in me submitting a talk about quality issues in free
software and Debian.

I have also been told that various people approached Tim O'Reilly to
urge him to get their Debian book [4] updated.  Tim seemed in favour
of this, and I'll contact him soon to see if Debian can do anything to
help make this possible.

FOSDEM was quite different to OSWC since it's more developer's
oriented.  It was a great opportunity to start discussions with
various people both from Debian and from other projects.

Firenze Tecnologia.  Florence, Italy (February 24-27, 2004)

The Media Innovation Unit of Firenze Tecnologia are the people
carrying out work on DeMuDi (a multimedia distribution based on
Debian).  They invited me to Florence for some meetings about the
future of DeMuDi, and asked me to give a talk about Debian at a
workshop they organized.  DeMuDi is a project which has been funded by
the European Commission (EC) for the last two years.  The EC funding
will run out soon, but Firenze Tecnologia will continue to pay at
least one person to work on it for the next year.  We discussed the
future of DeMuDi, and agreed that there is only a future if the work
can be fully integrated into Debian.  We discussed how this should be
done, and I offered my help if they have any problems.  They are
interested in getting involved in our Debian Multimedia project, and I
think that they'll do the right thing and contribute to Debian.

On Thursday, there was a workshop for small and medium businesses and
the public administration.  I talked about Debian, and quite a few
people were interested in the project and our distribution, asking me
various questions after the talk.

I found the meetings very productive.  They are trying to do the right
thing and they have good people working on the project, such as Andrea
Glorioso, who is a Debian developer.


On my way back to Cambridge, I passed through London and used this
opportunity to meet some people.  Someone recently contacted me
because they are interested in starting a Debian based project, and
they want to work closely with Debian.  I spent a couple of hours
together with him to give advice and discuss how this should be done.
It looks very promising, but I'm unfortunately not in a position to
say much more at the moment.

Later, I went to the company James Bromberger is working for because
they're switching to Debian; they are interested in having a 64 bit
port of Debian to PowerPC and are willing to invest resources in this.
James and I talked about this in detail, and I promised to follow-up
with my IBM contacts again to see whether they are still interested in
donating a 64 bit machine to us.  It's good to see interest in this
port, and James might be able to spend some of his work time on
getting it started.

[1] http://www.ddeb.org/ddeb
[2] http://lists.debian.org/debian-dpkg/2004/debian-dpkg-200403/msg00002.html
[3] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2003/debian-devel-announce-200308/msg00019.html
[4] http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/debian/index.html
Martin Michlmayr

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