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Debian -- the best

Dear Debian developers,

for some reason I am subscribed to debian-devel and even try to read
most of the posts. I guess I do that to stay in touch with the most recent
developments, but it is also I fairly good indicator of the projects
climate ... which seems to be getting colder ...

But I cannot understand _why_ this is happening. Posts in the thread
started by the resignation of our secretary (but, in fact, also
countless times before) have speculated that it might be due to an
unfortunate (self-)selection of people generating most traffic on the
major mailing lists, preferably about supposed-to-be-negative aspects of
this project. What can be done?

Let me express my appreciation and gratitude for Debian.

I believe that the Debian project (not just the OS it produces) is an
outstanding and unique example of what can be jointly achieved by people
from a huge range of cultural backgrounds, access to monetary ressources
and types (or sources) of motivation. Given the reality on this planet,
the sheer existance of the project after so many years is so unlikely
that Hollywood should think about a movie. I am really proud to be able
to contribute my bits to Debian.

Debian is about freedom and Debian is setting the standards. The project
is percieved as the mothership of free-software. Software that is not in
Debian is hardly distributed somewhere else. If you want to have
something in Debian, you have to do it _right_. Not just on the
software-enginering side, but also wrt the legal situation.  A lot of
people only start thinking about what a license really is about when
forced to obey it by some Debian packager. IMHO this is very important
as it propagates the idea in an effective and productive way -- much
more than a disfunctional wireless device due to a missing firmware.

Sorry, for the long intro -- here is my 'success story'.

I work in the neurosciences. Fortunately, over the last few years the
idea of open-source (sadly not necessarily of free _and_ open source)
got established in this science community. More and more great pieces of
software become available.

But even better: more and more software also becomes part of Debian (see
http://debian-med.alioth.debian.org/tasks/imaging.html for the ones
relevant for my research).

Debian can be considered the optimal environment for brain imaging
research (compared to all other possible operating systems). It allows
neuroscientists to setup a functional analysis environment within a few
hours ... and keep it that way for years with minimal effort.

This is only possible due to the _joint_ effort of the whole Debian
project. I can only fail to list and thank all the subprojects and
developers who contribute to that success, therefore I will only pick a
few examples:

You cannot make people try the universal OS if it doesn't run on their
hardware. Thanks to the amazing Debian installer it runs on almost
anything. In a number of neuroscience labs I know it is often the case
that people are forced to work in some predefined environment, set up to
fulfil the needs of the sysadmin, not the researcher. Quickly installing
Debian in a VM is actually helping a lot of people to be more
productive. But for sure it serves as a proper desktop, the powerful
workstation and the computing cluster equally well. Thanks for that.

I am also part of the upstream developer team of a machine-learning
framework geared towards neurocientific datasets (http://www.pymvpa.org and
of course http://packages.debian.org/unstable/python/python-mvpa).
This framework is intended to glue together lots of generic packages and
make them available for neuroscience research through a uniform
interface. Again, Debian is the optimal environment to do that, as it
provides almost any software package that is useful for our purpose.

I went through the process of providing binary packages for this tool
and its major dependencies on other operating systems. For some it is
almost impossible (win), for some painful (mac). The OpenSuse build
service is a great tool to compile stuff for a wide range of RPM-based
distros, but still you have to do it yourself, as there is not a strong
neuroscience-related community. In Debian however, you have a great
Python team and the Debian-med blend, that make it a nice and pleasant
job. Thanks for that as well.

But the best is that people get used to things being to easy and just
work that they start to demand more. With a (admittedly still low), but
increasing frequency you hear people: 'I have this Debian setup, will
your new tool work in it?' ... setting standards.

I hope Debian will continue to provide this rich environment (even for
the very-special-interest software) and propagate the idea of freedom.
I could go on for a while listing examples of what makes me happy about
Debian, but I guess this message is already long enough.

I'd love if the feeling while reading -devel would become a bit more
similar to the one I get when using the OS.


GPG key:  1024D/3144BE0F Michael Hanke
ICQ: 48230050

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