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Re: Unsupported Debian [was: Re: [New maintainer] Working for De

Steve Willer <willer@interlog.com> writes:

> Where on the Debian site is it advertised where you can get gnome packages
> for slink? Where on there is it made clear that you can get security
> updates on slink boxes by adding a line to your sources.list? Where is an
> obvious pointer to the list of what you need to upgrade in slink to use a
> 2.2 kernel? How about a sources.list entry that gives you upgrades for
> those packages?

The pointer to Slink updates is in the release notes for Debian 2.1,
as is the pointer to gnome packages for slink.  The pointer to
packages which may cause problems when upgrading to 2.2.X series
kernels is also in the release notes for Slink.  Security fixes are
listed on the Debian Security Information page, and are put into
stable/updates.  An example sources.list file would indeed be

So the answer to all of the questions you ask above is, in the release
notes.  I suggest you start making it a practice of reading the
release notes for anything you install, particularly operating
systems.  Unlike some commercial products, the release notes for Slink
are informative, and too the point.  There are links to these release
notes on the home page of the Debian website (2 links to be exact).

> Let's face it, Debian has been very bad at making information like this
> available. I had to find out these things by paying careful attention to
> the mailing lists and the noticing the odd nugget of useful fact in the
> weekly news. I shouldn't have to do this, as much as I would anyway.

I've been running Debian for a very long time now, and I still make
sure to check out release notes.  Since they are the first thing one
sees when clicking on the "Installation Instructions" link on the
Debian home page, I think they are effectively presented to new users.
If this is not a suitable location, could you make a constructive

> This whole thing, the seemingly impenetrable bureaucracy that's formed
> here, is so frustrating for me because I would like to help, but I have no
> power. I haven't been "blessed" by the Debian royalty.

There is no royalty, there is a set of new-maintainer volounteers who
attempt to verify the identity of new-maintainers and properly
introduce them into the project.  They happen to be quite swamped at

> this project is being started by the Debian Project Leader). I understand
> that this is a volunteer effort, and packages and projects can languish,
> but I have seen no interest in proactive leadership and policies, and
> requiring people who take on projects to do the job they agreed to do or
> get the hell out.

This purging which you call "proactive leadership" really won't work.
For one, it means we need to draft policy detailing what
responsibilities a Developer has and how failure to provide for those
can result in dismissal from the project.  We then need a structure to
administrate this, and ways to make sure that this power to dismiss
developers is not abused.  The result is even more bureaucracy, no
real increase in Debian's quality, and alot more time spent
politiking.  This is in addition to the various political
ramifications of suggesting that developers can be kicked out, or
refused entry into the project on any ground outside of agreement with
the Debian Social Contract.

> Now, there's a new policy to not allow new blood in. Much of the old blood
> is very old indeed, and many of the developers have lost interest.

I am not aware of any policy of the sort.  There was discussion of
putting such a policy in place, but obviously discussion does not
imply acceptance.  Could you give me a reference to this policy?  I
have just looked at all the policy requests at:
http://www.debian.org/Bugs/db/pa/ldebian-policy.html and did not find
anything about this at all.

For concrete information on policy, please see:

It is open to the public.

> This is bureaucracy, plain and simple. The core utilities don't seem to be
> going anywhere, there's little quality introductory or administration
> documentation available on the web site, and you're coming out here and
> *sanctioning* an *official* unwillingness to present information to the
> user??? Jeez. Tell the user about the packages, tell them they're not
> official, and they use them at their own risk. The users are not idiots.

Hmm, I'm wondering if we are operating with different understandings
of the term bureaucracy, since none of the things you cite above imply
my understanding of it.  They do detail some present shortcomings of
the project, but could you please explain how you get "bureaurocracy"
out of poor introductory documentation available on the website, and
bitrot in some utilities?  How is attempting to maintain the identity
and integrity of the project thru control of what packages are deemed
"official" overly bureaucratic?  This is something that many projects

On a personal level, a gut level, I understand your frustration, and
have felt it many times myself.  I do not think that most of the
complaints you have about the project are indications that it is
becoming a gigantic bureaucracy.  That does not mean that your
frustration is unfounded.  I think they are more like growing pains,
were certain tasks are stretching thin our volounteer labor capacities
at present.

Noone has done something like this before, technical coordination of
several hundred volounteer developers to produce such a tightly
integrated system of software from hundreds of sources.  Resources
become scarce at times and things get bitrotted, people are left
hanging, releases are postponed.  

You can have several approaches to these eventualities.  You can
assume that the entire project is a loss and can't be salvaged because
it's become corrupted at some fundamental level, or it does not fit
your idea of what the organization should look like.  Or, You can just
take what you can get and work on other things, or you can see what
needs to be done and try and cooperate with others.  You could also,
go try a few other places and wait for someone else to start up
something you could contribute to, hoping they meet your acceptance
criteria.  Lastly, you could start your own distribution.

I used to have the first reaction. I thought all distributions sucked,
and all languages that weren't Lisp sucked.  I was languishing under
the illusion that thought, brilliance, intelligence, genius, by itself
was enough to accomplish anything.  Then as I saw what went into
Debian and poplog and other large systems, I realized that genius was
just a miniscule part of the equation, and that work made up most of
the rest.  This led me to understand that sometimes it's better to
work with existing systems, which may not conform to my intellectual
understanding of perfection, than to shun them and do nothing at all
and wait for someone else to do the work which happens to be
ideologically and theoretically well-founded acccording to my limited,
and inexperienced understanding.

That was a really harsh thing for me to accept, because my sense of
myself was erroneously tied to concepts like genius and intelligence.
I thought they would get me thru anything, and let me accomplish what
I wanted.  Faced with their relative unimportance in the grand scheme
of things, I was quite humbled.

Well, I'm off topic now, way off-topic.  I guess I was just trying to
work thru why I felt some of the same frustration that you and others
have been experiencing, and how I've tried to deal with it.  I hope it
helps you at least a bit.

Craig Brozefsky                         <craig@red-bean.com>
Free Scheme/Lisp Software     http://www.red-bean.com/~craig
I say woe unto those who are wise in their own eyes, and yet
imprudent in 'dem outside                            -Sizzla

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