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Report from this years CeBIT


The following report was originally intended to be sent to our
debian-events-eu mailing list, but than I thought, that many parts might
also be interesting for the rest of the -project, so it ended up here.
Some parts (what worked as a demonstration, what didn't work) might not
be interesting for all; feel free to skip them.

Again Debian was invited to be present at CeBIT.  Like last year we
decided to join the booth of Univention (a company basing their product
on Debian, feeding at least one Debian Developer).  Also the Organisers,
Deutsche Messe AG, waived some of the Sub-Exhibitor fees, they usually
take for us.  Again the organisation of and service during CeBIT by
Univention was great!  They made us feel very welcome, taking our
"specialities" into consideration (e.g. we where the only Sub-Exhibitor
at their booth being allowed to not war suite or man their booth the
entire time).  So many thanks again for that!

CeBIT is quite large, and so the people coming by are quite diverse.
Ranging from various journalists, representatives of larger companies or
the public sector (hopefully some will consider to be added to our user
list [7]), and of course "ordinary" users.

To make a long story short:  Quite a lot people came by simply to thank
us.  I tried to count them, but somehow lost overview on the third day,
when we reached 198.

Yep, that's right, in less than three days, nearly two hundred people
showed up at our CeBIT booth to say "Thank you".  I guess, other stands
at CeBIT might haven't got that many leads over the entire CeBIT, so we
can be quite proud of what Debian has archived recently.

Beside the release of Squeeze, the new website layout and the new
spacefun theme was well received by CeBIT visitors.  While there where
sysadmins who didn't care about the new spacefun theme, no one showed
up, complaining about it either, while many loved it!  Similar for the
new website layout:  About 48 visitors told me to thank the web team.

Of course some visitors also stopped for a longer chat, some also asking
how to help and join.  We did our best to point the people in the right
direction (Bubulle will be pleased to hear, that we might have managed,
to get him a new translator for an so far unsupported language).

Beside the release I had the impression that the "hottest" topics are
LibreOffice and project governance (in a wider sense).  Many visitors
where asking about Debians stanza on LibreOffice and where quite
pleased, when I showed them, that LibreOffice packages are already
available in Debian's unstable branch, and will be made available via
backports to Squeeze users, too.

The other hot topic can be summarised with project governance, and
especially how the Debian Project works, and can't or won't do some
things.  Many users of Debian derivatives showed up, who where
displeased with policy changes and similar things of their current
derivative, and wanted to take a look at the original.  I'm pleased to
say, that many of them came with some kind of prejudice about Debian,
and went away relieved (and with an install image on their USB stick).
Also some journalists approached us, as they get similar questions ("I'm
using X, but don't wanna any more.  What should I use now?")

Speaking about that, we didn't had any CDs or DVDs to give away, but all
important iso images available to burn or but on USB stick.  While
apparently nearly no one read our announcement and brought his stick or
blanc CDs to us, many had one with them anyway, and accepted a copy
gracefully :)

I also noted down, that there where requests for official Debian
packages for scratch (a programming environment for kids; might be
interesting for DebianJr or DebianEdu), beldi (a distro burn application
developed by the Linux User Group Berlin), mendeley (some sort of citing
application, if I remember correctly), Eduversum (I forgot what that was
about) and Zarafa and zpush (quite big groupware suite).  We showed them
how to report wnpp bugs, but I also promised to look at them myself, as
some upstream developers already provide Debian packages on their own.

We mostly showed Babelbox [1] and a OpenOffice.org presentation [2] with
some stats in an semi-endless loop, to catch visitors attention.  We
also had some virtual machines ready with different installations, when
visitors showed up with special questions on KDE, LXDE or Xfce. On
Saturday we also run xpengins [3], which worked very well, too, but we
found out, that the number of penguins on your desktop seems to have a
direct correlation to the speed you can copy Debian CD images on usb
sticks. So I recommend using the applet [5] and not xpenguins directly ;)

We also had a Debian GNU/kFreeBSD box prepared, where we also showed ZFS
on a couple of USB sticks.  Having a small shell open with the output of
"uname -a" and "zpool status" on our screen between the OOo presentation
and the babelbox also caught some visitors eye and interest by them,
especially on what they can expect from a "technological preview".
Visitors found it quite cool and interesting, and one bigger institution
will give try it out as storage engine on for their cluster environment.

Several visitors where also displeased with KDE4, and wished to have
their KDE3 back.  So I showed them trinity [4], who seems to continue
development of KDE3.  Of course I pointed out, that it has nothing to do
with official KDE development nor with Debian and I had no personal
experience with these packages, but it seemed to me the best advice for
users, who which to continue using KDE3.  I think, that if someone would
like to package trinity officially for Debian, his packages would be
very welcome for some users.

Finally CeBIT is also a nice change to do some networking.  For example
I briefly visited Klaus Knopper at his Knoppix booth, who kindly
informed me, that he had quite some inquiries, if he intends to follow
Debian regarding non-free firmware files in the kernel.  He informed me,
that he doesn't plan to do so, but pointed out, that Debian still offers
these firmware files via non-free and unofficial installation media [6].

I'd also got in contact with my former University, who a) just created a
nice library for machine learning and would like to package it and b)
wonders, if Debian would be interested in a kind of "recomender system"
for Debian packages.  I pointed out, that such a system obviously would
need to be free software, and it would need to be clarified on how to
use popcon data for that, but in general that would be a nice idea.
However, they would offer it as a master thesis for students, and it
might take some time for a student to become interested in it (if at all).

We also where asked by several users, how to help Debian (without
technical knowledge).  We usually pointed them to translation lists, and
showed them the Description Translation Project [8] as well as the
screenshot service [9].  Especially the later one was well received,
when I showed them, that screenshots turn up in packaging tools like
synaptic or packages.debian.org.  I hope that this will boosts the
number of available screenshots a bit :)

So... I think that's about it.  Again I'd like to thank our sponsors
Univention [10] and Deutsche Messe AG; as well as the Debian folks who
did booth duty -- most of them on a kind of "forced volunteer" basis ;)

  1: http://wiki.debian.org/DebianInstaller/BabelBox
  2: http://people.debian.org/~tolimar/tmp/cebit-messe.odp
  3: http://packages.debian.org/xpenguins
  4: http://trinity.pearsoncomputing.net/
  5: http://packages.debian.org/xpenguins-applet
  6: http://wiki.debian.org/Firmware
  7: http://www.debian.org/users
  8: http://ddtp.debian.net/
  9: http://screenshots.debian.net/
 10: http://www.univention.de/

Best regards,

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