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Bits from the DPL

Hi people,

#include <std_apology.h>

I've been too quiet about what's been going on lately, and it's time I
fixed that. We've all been busy, and I should update you on DPL-type

In memoriam: Thiemo Seufer
Unfortunately, I start this missive with some sad news. On December
26th, our good friend and fellow developer Thiemo Seufer was
tragically killed in a car accident in Germany. Many of us were
privileged to work with him in his various roles in the Free Software
community, and he will be sorely missed [1]. He took responsibility
for much of the work needed to support the mips ports in Debian,
showing long-term commitment to that cause. He had also just
volunteered to be the primary admin for their buildds in the new team
setup, as mentioned below. On top of all his technical work, Thiemo
was also a really great guy to work with, and I was always happy to
see him at Debian meetings.

Thiemo's passing was a great shock to us all, and I pass along our
deepest condolences to his family.

Some more press contacts from the last few weeks:

 * I spoke with the Linux Outlaws folks on a variety of topics[2].
   They're big Debian fans, and it was good fun to talk with them.
 * Quite a number of people have been asking me "When will Lenny
   release?"; Sam Varghese [3] was one of the first. At the time in
   October I highlighted the RC bugs and I hoped for a release very
   soon. Maybe, maybe not...

There's another stack of people asking for information about Lenny and
hoping for more quotes and interviews as we release. I'll highlight
them as they're published.

As you may have noticed already, there are a *lot* of updates to
mention here. I've been working with several of our core teams to help
bring in new blood and ease the burden that some developers have been
carrying alone for far too long. Here's a quick summary of recent
changes; follow the links for more details.

The FTP team keeps on growing. Frank Lichtenheld joined in December
[4], and since then a couple more assistants have started work too and
I expect they'll be making their efforts known quite soon. :-)

The big task of build daemon care and feeding has been spread out
[5]. After a long time with Ryan Murray and James Troup taking the
vast majority of this important work, they have helped transition
things to a larger team. The new team are working on improving the
buildd software itself, with help from Roger Leigh who has been
maintaining and improving the associated packages inside the Debian

DSA have been busy too: James Troup has stepped down, handing over to
new people who have already been involved for a while: Luca Filipozzi
and Stephen Gran are on the team as of today.

The NM Front Desk has seen rotation of staff: Bernd Zeimetz has joined
the team, taking over from Marc Brockschmidt. [6]

Anthony Towns has decided to leave the Technical Committee after 3
years [7]. Several developers offered their services as new TC
members, and two have been invited to join and have accepted positions
within the group: Don Armstrong and Russ Allbery [8].

Finally, Manoj Srivastava resigned his post as Project Secretary
[9]. As specified in the constitution, the chair of the TC (Bdale
Garbee) is standing in until we appoint a new Secretary. I asked for
volunteers [10] and have had several people contact me to talk about
taking the job. The deadline has just(!) passed for the call for
volunteers, and Bdale and I will be reviewing the candidates very

That's quite a list of changes! I want to offer our gratitude to all
of the people involved: both to the people stepping down and handing
over for all of the work they have done in their roles in the past,
and of course to the new vic^H^H^Hvolunteers for the work they'll do
for us in the future. Thanks!

There are still more teams I'd like to work with on finding new people
and improving work-flow yet, but I'm trying to not be too disruptive
at this point shortly before the Lenny release...

DPL on the road
I had a busy finish to last year, travelling about a lot. I went to
the Google Summer of Code Mentors Summit in California in October,
meeting up with a lot of the great Free Software people from the
projects who were mentoring students last summer. I may be imagining
things, but it seems to me that Debian is infiltrating more and more
of the other projects. *grin* We officially only had two Debian
mentors present, but looking around at the other people there, it felt
more like twenty. We shared reviews of how the programme worked for us
last year, and also some ideas on how the various FLOSS projects can
work together in general. I met up with some of the other prominent
distro folks and we had a good conversation about how we should work
together better. More details on that soon when I can find my
notes. :-) As an aside, the latest news on the GSoC front is that it
has just been approved again for 2009; we should start thinking about
ideas for students again for this summer.

Next, I went to Valencia to present a talk about Debian at their Open
Source Software Congress [11]. It's clear that Valencia, like many of
the Spanish regions, are very responsive to the ideas of Free Software
right now. It was inspiring to see so many educators involved too, and
I hope they'll be passing their enthusiasm on to the children they're
working with.

Back to California for a work-related trip next, where I was expecting
to be stuck on my own without friends for a week while providing
on-site support to one of our largest customers. I was pleasantly
surprised to find out that the customer, a large telco/ISP, use Debian
a huge amount in their data centres and are making their own packages
locally to help with installations and support. I met up with several
of the engineers there, and swapped key signatures and stories with
them. Hopefully there'll be some more people in the new queue
soon. :-)

Finally, on to the Netherlands, where I was invited to speak at HP
Dutchworld to a group of HP's customers and salespeople. The talk
itself went down quite well, and I was happy to speak to a number of
the audience members afterwards and give them more details about
Debian and what we do. And it was great to meet up with more of the
Dutch Debian folks for dinner and drinks in the two evenings I was

Recent votes
We have had votes on a couple of contentious issues recently.

The first was related to a proposal [12] from Joerg Jaspert (as part
of DAM) to reform how we recognise the various contributions that
people make to Debian, and what rights and powers should be given to
these people. This proposal started a large debate: there is a large
range of views on this topic and it's clearly something that we'll
need to come back to. The eventual result of the associated vote [13]
was to ask the DAM and other people to delay making the suggested
changes until after some further discussion and refinement could
happen. Discussions at the time suggested that waiting until after the
Lenny release would help.

The second vote was the latest edition of a recurring issue: deciding
on the fate of remaining items in the main archive that we don't
consider to meet our requirements for Free Software. In the lead-up to
the releases of both Sarge and Etch we had similar discussions and
votes that led to releasing with acknowledged places where we did not
quite meet our goal of 100% freedom as laid out in our Social
Contract. This time, we had a very long debate about what to do
followed by a vote. Unfortunately, the vote itself [14] was felt to be
confusing by a number of developers and hence the results of the GR
were nowhere near as clear as could be hoped. What *can* be deduced is
that the majority of developers want to release Lenny without
necessarily fixing *all* the issues that had been identified. Lenny
will be closer to our ideal than Etch, just as Etch was better than
Sarge, and gradual improvement over time looks to be a more popular
choice than delaying releases indefinitely.

Both of these issues will come back for further discussion, but we
seem to have consensus that this discussion should happen after
Lenny's release.

More discussions for after Lenny
The topics of the two recent votes are not the only things that people
want to raise again once we're clear of our next release. There are
several others that have already been similarly proposed, and a page
has been created in the Debian wiki [15] to help track them. Thanks to
Miriam for starting the page; it makes sense to create this page so we
don't forget things while people work on the important task of
releasing Lenny. Please add more things there if you think they should
be tracked too.

Declassification of debian-private archives
Back in December 2005, we agreed in a GR [16] that we should start
declassifying (at least some of) the contents of the debian-private
mailing list once three years had passed. Well, that's now... If we're
going to follow through on that resolution, we will need volunteers to
start working on this. If you're interested in joining a team to do
that, please let me know. There's probably a lot of boring work to be
done here, but I'm hoping we can find some way to automate much of
it. :-)

And finally: LENNY!
By my count, I've mentioned releasing Lenny eight times so far in this
mail. Damn, I think that makes nine... :-)

We're clearly very close to release; we've had the now-traditional
argument about the state of non-free and people are pestering
developers on a daily basis to find out when it will be ready. Well,
the exact date is up to the Release Team but here's hoping for
something very soon. There is still work that you can do to help: RC
bugs that can be fixed yet, translations to be completed and
installation tests to be performed when the second release candidate
for the Debian Installer lands. Lenny will be our biggest release
ever; let's help finish off the last few tasks and make it our best

Phew, that got much longer than I expected. That's it for now, and I
hope to see many of you at FOSDEM next month. If we can manage a Lenny
release by then, I'll be buying beer. :-)

[1]  http://lwn.net/Articles/313092/
[2]  http://linuxoutlaws.com/podcast/57
[3]  http://www.itwire.com/content/view/21034/1090/
[4]  http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2008/12/msg00003.html
[5]  http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2008/11/msg00006.html
[6]  http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2008/12/msg00010.html
[7]  http://lists.debian.org/debian-ctte/2009/01/msg00006.html
[8]  http://lists.debian.org/debian-ctte/2009/01/msg00053.html
[9]  http://lists.debian.org/debian-vote/2008/12/msg00275.html
[10] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2008/12/msg00011.html
[11] http://blog.einval.com/2008/11/09#Valencia2008
[12] http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2008/10/msg00005.html
[13] http://www.debian.org/vote/2008/vote_002
[14] http://www.debian.org/vote/2008/vote_003
[15] http://wiki.debian.org/DiscussionsAfterLenny
[16] http://www.debian.org/vote/2005/vote_002

Steve McIntyre, Debian Project Leader <leader@debian.org>

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