Martin Michlmayr
Martin Michlmayr

I'm a member of Debian, and I work for HP as an Open Source Community Expert. The opinions expressed here are mine.

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debian-installer rc2 for NSLU2 available

Frans Pop uploaded debian-installer a few days ago in preparation for RC2. RC2 will be released in a few days after some more testing and the creation of CD images. Since the NSLU2 doesn't need CD images and I've tested the installer already, I've made NSLU2 images of RC2 available.

Special thanks go to Gordon Farquharson who has done tremendous amounts of testing in the last few weeks and months. Since RC1, the following changes have been implemented:

Installation instructions are available.

Mon, 12 Mar 2007; 09:53 — debianpermanent link

Lemote's Fulong Miniature Computer

Lemote's Fulong Yesterday I received a Fulong Miniature Computer from China. This device is produced by Lemote and is based on the Loongson chip, a MIPS-like CPU developed in China and previously known as the Godson. The Fulong mini-PC has a Loongson 2E CPU running at 666 Mhz, 256 MB RAM and a 2.5" 40 GB hard drive. There are the usual I/O ports, such as USB, PS/2, Ethernet, audio, VGA and TV out. The Fulong mini-PC ships with a customized version of Debian.

I'm really excited about the Loongson because it promises to make MIPS available on the desktop. In fact, the folks at Lemote already have a laptop based on the same motherboard used in the Fulong mini-PC. Lemote is also trying to establish a community around the Loongson. They have given 400 devices to partners and 600 to Loongson fans and developers in China. It seems that the community is quite active, but it's hard to tell because I don't read Chinese.

For now, I have taken some pictures of the Fulong, but in the coming months I look forward to integrating Loongson support into Debian.

Thu, 08 Mar 2007; 12:13 — debianpermanent link

Upcoming conferences

I have a number of upcoming talks at conferences in the next few weeks and months that I thought I'd mention in case people want to attend or meet up:

I will update my talks page as more details become available. I hope to see some of you at these conferences.

Tue, 30 Jan 2007; 22:09 — travelpermanent link

Debian QA meeting in Extremadura

The last few days I attended a Debian QA meeting in Badajoz in the Spanish region of Extremadura. I worked on a number of QA tasks, like cleaning out bug reports for removed packages and tidying up some WNPP bugs. I also started another compilation run of the archive using GCC 4.2. In general, I worked on a number of TODO items I had, such as updating my Debian on Cobalt pages for etch, and responded to some email. My inbox is actually empty right now and there are few specific things I need to do, even though there's a lot in general, just like always.

Tomorrow I'll head back to Madrid to meet up with some friends. Apparently we'll go bowling. On Monday I'll briefly visit the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos where I stayed for three months earlier this year before catching a flight to Austria where I'll spend New Year.

Sat, 16 Dec 2006; 19:32 — debianpermanent link

debian-installer rc1 for NSLU2 available

RC1 of debian-installer has support for the Linksys NSLU2 again. This version almost fully supports the NSLU2: there is RTC and beeper support and a kernel will automatically be written to flash during the installation (and after each kernel upgrade).

NSLU2 specific changes since the last officially supported version (beta 2):

Plans for the future:

In summary:

Mon, 13 Nov 2006; 22:22 — debianpermanent link

Testing GCC 4.2 on ARM

On Friday, a branch for GCC 4.2 finally got created, which means that we will hopefully see a release in a few months. The branch should have been created ages ago but the number of regressions just wouldn't go under 100 until recently. During that time, basically since I completed my tests with GCC 4.1, I've been busy testing snapshots of 4.2. I've mainly been testing on em64t (amd64), powerpc and ia64, but I also did some runs on alpha, mips, mipsel, s390 and sparc. Recently, I started testing it on ARM.

Being an embedded architecture, ARM isn't terribly fast compared to some other architectures. However, Intel's IOP line is quite interesting and is used in a number of NAS devices. They typically include SATA and often have expandable memory. The device some ARM people are currently working with is the Thecus N2100. A port of debian-installer is underway but more on that later.

Since my N2100 is not permanently connected to the Internet, Riku Voipio kindly gave me access to his to do some GCC tests. I started several weeks ago using gcc-snapshot 20060922-1 and it has been compiling happily since. I sort packages by their age, starting with old packages, so while there has been quite a bit of progress since I started, lately it has been going quite slowly.

With about 2000 packages compiled in 3.5 weeks, I reckon that GCC 4.2 will be released before I've compiled the full archive. I've therefore been thinking of using distcc to speed the process up. The idea is to run the build process natively on the ARM box but use distcc to perform the actual compilation on another box, namely on a fast machine that has an ARM cross compiler. Unfortunately, I don't have access to such a setup right now. However, I strongly believe that this is a good alternative to test GCC on slower systems and in fact Bill Allombert is currently testing whether it could be used for the m68k port. Finally, Intel's new IOP 34x CPUs are also interesting for this kind of work given that they feature a cache and go up to 1.2 GHz with two cores.

P.S. If someone is interested in fixing bugs, I have tagged package bugs related to GCC 4.2.

Sun, 22 Oct 2006; 22:57 — debianpermanent link

Status update of Debian on Linksys NSLU2

Beta 3 of debian-installer has been released recently and some people are wondering about the status of Debian on Linksys NSLU2. This ARM based device includes an Ethernet chip for which Intel provides a driver (based on some code which only recently became free software and which still requires some microcode which is only distributable together with a click-through license).

During the beta 3 development process, I tested the installation on NSLU2 with my USB Ethernet gadget to make sure it works. When beta 3 came out, I wanted to integrate Intel's module and make unofficial images available. Marcus Better did some great work in the last few weeks putting the sources into a Debian packages from which the modules can easily be created. Unfortunately, they don't seem to work. My kernel oopses immediately when I insert them. I spent more than a day compiling the modules myself, trying various things, but to no avail. I have now given up and sent a call for help.

What this means is that the unofficial images with the Ethernet driver are unsupported right now, even though Debian on NSLU2 works fine if you have a USB Ethernet adapter. In the long run, I hope to be able to support Ethernet using a driver which is currently being developed. The author has made good progress already and is aiming for mainline inclusion. I hope it will be usable on the NSLU2 in the next few weeks but it's hard to tell.

There has also been some development that users may not directly see but which is important maintenance work. The firmware of the NSLU2 has a 1 MB limit for the kernel. So far, we have provided a special kernel for the NSLU2 but it would be better if we could use one generic kernel for all IXP4xx based devices. Together with Marc Singer, the author of APEX, we're now integrating his boot loader as a 2nd stage loader to work around this limit.

In summary, NSLU2 development work is still being done, even though the in-built Ethernet is currently not supported. This problem will be addressed in the long run with a proper, mainline driver which will hopfully be usable in the next few weeks. Help with NSLU2 support is welcome because even though I'm still working on it, I now have a number of more interesting devices I'm currently working on (more on this later).

Sun, 20 Aug 2006; 17:07 — debianpermanent link


Well, I've been conferencing again. I'm currently sitting in a train with Andreas Barth, returning from the Libre Software Meeting in Nancy, France. We attended the conference to take part in a workshop organized by EDOS, an EU-sponsored project which focuses on challenges the makers of Linux distributions are facing. Andreas, Enrico Zini and I gave overviews of various issues in Debian and the EDOS folks (which includes a number of people working on Mandriva) presented their work. Some of it seems pretty interesting and can potentially be integrated into Debian but time will tell. Andreas posted a summary to get a discussion going.

Last week I attended FrOSCon near Bonn to present the keynote speech. I really liked the conference because it was a true community event, with lots of effort put in by the local organizers, and the event was pretty relaxing (at least for me, probably not for the organizers who did a great job hiding all the work that is required behind the scenes). Just before attending FrOSCon, I met up with a friend from high school and spent a few days in Amsterdam.

A few weeks ago I attended FLOSSWorld in Brussels to talk about skill development in FLOSS communities. FLOSSWorld is a project to study free software communities all around the world as an extension of the work done a few years which focused on Europe. One of the nice things about FLOSSWorld was that my hotel was a few minutes on one side of the cathedral in Brussels and the conference venue a few minutes on the other side. So I finally managed to visit the cathedral, something I never managed to do in all the years I attended FOSDEM in Brussels.

Sat, 08 Jul 2006; 17:45 — travelpermanent link

Madrid: hasta luego

My stay in Madrid has come to an end and I'm currently sitting at Ralf Treinen's place in Paris. I had a pretty good time in Madrid. Basically, I just did the usual stuff (i.e., too much Debian, too little work for my research) but there are a number of nice guys in the group I was working in and we had lots of fun.

Earlier this week, we went to Teo's place who has this massive swimming pool. He recently organized a BBQ, which was good as well, with lots of Sangria... A few weeks ago, Diego (at whose place I stayed), Alvaro and his cute girlfried Yaiza went bowling. It was really good fun and it turned out that Diego is a real master, scoring several strikes after each other!

Now that summer is coming, a number of people are leaving for other places. Israel went to Canada for three months a few weeks ago, Gregorio left for the UK a few days ago and my stay is over too. Overall I had a pretty good time, even though I'm not particularly happen that I didn't manage to go to the beach once even though I was in Spain for three months...

The last time I was here at Ralf's place in Paris was just before DebConf1 in Bordeaux in 2001, which feels like eons ago. Anyway, I'm heading out to take a look at Notre Dame.

Wed, 05 Jul 2006; 13:13 — lifepermanent link


I'm in Madrid now. On Friday afternoon, I returned to Cambridge from Vienna. Unfortunately, I couldn't start packing straight away because I had to work on a paper which was due Friday night. At about midnight my co-author noticed that the deadline had been extended until Wednesday so I went to sleep. The next day I finished packing and then started moving everything into my office at the university. Unfortunately, that took much longer than expected and I missed my bus to the airport. Turbo boost (aka taxi) to rescue and I was at the airport in time.

I'm really slowly getting fed up with moving and need to settle down. It's just so much work, and that even though I don't own terribly much. I wonder how other people cope... in the last five years, I've lived in London, Innsbruck, Vienna, Melbourne, Cambridge and now Madrid. Hmm.

Anyway, Madrid is fun. I'm sure I'm going to enjoy my time here. The people in the group I work with at the university are incredibly smart and friendly. Last night, Gregorio (my main contact at the university), Diego (the guy I'm staying with) and I went out for dinner... nice food and Sangria! What more do you want? The place I'm staying at is nice... Diego is friendly, we have wireless, a fairly big apartment and there's a balcony where I can see myself sitting with my laptop working on stuff and sipping Sangria... I don't know yet how I'll cope with the commute given that I've always lived very close to work (5 minutes per foot in Cambridge was about all I needed for everything) but I'm sure I'll find something to do. It will also be a really interesting experience to life in a country where you don't speak the language.

Sun, 02 Apr 2006; 16:28 — lifepermanent link


I spent Monday to Friday in Vienna, visiting some friends from school. Quite a few people I know moved to Vienna after finishing high school (or later), so I thought I'd go there for a few days to meet up with some of them.

On Monday evening, I gave a talk at Debienna, the Debian group in Vienna. I started with one of my presentations about quality issues in free software, but given that we were a small and informal group we often interrupted the presentation for discussions. During these discussions the generic issues I mentioned were applied to Debian and we discussed a number of problems in Debian and what we could do about them. I think it was quite interesting, although it stretched the talk quite a bit and some people were getting restless towards the end. This was also the first talk I gave in German. I originally planned to give it in English but then thought I'd try to do it in German. It went pretty well, although I couldn't think of a number of words on the spot and just used English words instead. (Not counting technical terms, obviously, which I didn't even try to translate.)

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I mostly stayed in bed working on my laptop. This was, after all, only a pseudo-holiday and I had plenty of work to do. On Wednesday evening, Veronika (the friend I was staying with), maks (Maximilian Attems) and I went to B72 to see a concert by Das Bo. There was also a DJ from Waxos who was great. Das Bo was pretty good too, although he talked too much crap between songs.

On Thursday, Veronika and I went shopping and I bought lots of new clothes. Friday morning, just before leaving, I met with Stefan Holek to do an interview about release management in Plone for my research. He raised a number of really interesting issues.

Sun, 02 Apr 2006; 15:20 — travelpermanent link

Compiling the whole Debian archive on MIPS with GCC 4.1

Over the last 2.5 weeks I have built the complete Debian archive on a quad-core MIPS machine donated by Broadcom using the recently released version 4.1 of GCC. In parallel, I have done the same on an EM64T box donated to Debian by Intel. The purpose of this exercise was three-fold:

Executive summary

GCC 4.1 itself appears to be very stable, both on MIPS and AMD64. There are, however, a large number of packages using code (especially C++) which GCC 4.1 treats as errors. Fortunately, most of them are trivial to fix. By compiling about 6200 packages, over 500 new bugs have been discovered and submitted, 280 of which are specific to the increased strictness of GCC 4.1. Patches for 2/3 of those GCC 4.1 specific bugs have been submitted.

Based on my findings, Ben Hutchings has prepared a summary of the most common C++ syntax errors (that weren't treated as errors before G++ 4.1).

Most common programming errors

Basically, it all boils down to broken C++ code. There were a few bugs in C code, but the majority was in C++. The most common errors I found are:

I've posted a detailed report to debian-devel.

Acknowledgements (abridged)

Sat, 25 Mar 2006; 22:51 — debianpermanent link

Oz, Cambridge, Vienna, Madrid

So I watched this Australian movie (Somersault) the other day and the cute accent reminded me again how much I miss the country. It has almost been 2.5 years since I left and I'd really like to visit again. Maybe I should try to make it to LCA next year. In a related note, I'm looking for Rob Weir who has mysteriously disappeared from the Internet. Does anyone know what's up with him?

As much as I like Cambridge, staying at the same place for 2.5 years obviously doesn't work. ;) Next week I'll therefore go to Vienna for some "holidays" – the first thing I did was to sign myself up for a talk... if anyone wants to hear me babbling about quality in free software on Monday, check out the Debienna site. Right after my return from Vienna I'll go to Spain where I'll spend three months working in the Libre Software Engineering research group around Jesus Barahona (a Debian developer) and Gregorio Robles. I'll actually work on my PhD for a change during that time and do cool quantitative work to support the qualitative studies I've done so far.

Obviously, instead of packing, I spent the last few days and weeks hacking on Debian stuff, in particular making sure it works on the MIPS and ARM devices I support and which I cannot take with me to Madrid. So we finally have 2.6 kernels for MIPS in the archive now and debian-installer will move to it tomorrow. I've also compiled the whole archive on MIPS with GCC 4.1 but a more detailed report on that is forthcoming.

P.S. In terms of Spanish movies, I can highly recommend The Lovers of the Arctic Circle and Talk to Her.

Fri, 24 Mar 2006; 05:55 — lifepermanent link

debian-installer beta2 supports the Linksys NSLU2 (ARM)

While ARM is a very important platform, support for it in Debian has faced a number of problems recently: there was no developer accessible machine for a long time (they're two now), buildds sometimes have a hard time keeping up, etc. Most importantly, there are not enough people actively involved in the ARM port. We need more people doing debian-installer and kernel work, and track other ARM related issues.

One reason why few people are working on ARM is probably the lack of a cheap platform that can be used for development. Fortunately, this problem has now been addressed. Over the last few months, I worked (in collaboration of the NSLU2-Linux project) on debian-installer support for the Linksys NSLU2, a sub $100 device with 32 MB RAM, Ethernet (which unfortunately needs a non-free driver) and two USB ports. You can attach a USB disk and run a full Debian system on this device.

While there have been some instructions on the web about how to get Debian going on the NSLU2, basic support for the device is now included in debian-installer. In other words, you can do a user-friendly installation and it will just work. Here are instructions.

Future work

In the future, the NSLU2-Linux people and I will add more support for other ARM based consumer devices, such as Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices (basically a hard drive with a CPU/RAM and Ethernet, sometimes also including wireless; in other words, a perfect platform for Debian).

On a related note, I'm also working on getting debian-installer going on a number of MIPS based consumer devices, such as the Netgear WGT634U wireless router. However, this work has not reached the maturity of NSLU2 support yet. There is a status overview and TODO list.


Thu, 16 Mar 2006; 01:20 — debianpermanent link

The role of the DPL... and of you

Since Joey Hess posted a short conversation we had on IRC today about the role of the DPL, I thought it's a good time to express some of my thoughts. Basically, I think that most people have a bad understanding of which tasks are really involved in being DPL (e.g. much more purely administrative crap that nobody else wants to do) and that they're quite naive about what the DPL can achieve, at least in the current climate.

Let's just look at the current discussions on the -vote list. It's this time of the year when everyone pretends that its Christmas, expresses their feelings of what's wrong with Debian and where Santa Claus^W^Wthe candidates reassure them that everything will be fine. "Will you fix NM? Fix or replace ftp-master? etc." "Oh, sure I will, all of that (and more)." Honestly, would you elect someone if they told you they won't or can't? The strange thing is that the same questions get asked every year, and yet people don't get the hint and look for other solutions.

I'm not overly happy with any of the candidates this year, and I was seriously considering running again, not next year but possibly later. However, this Christmas wankfest reminded me again why that may not be such a good idea after all. I remember how much time I spent answering questions on -vote myself, and while I'm all for transparency, many of the questions were just a waste of time. This year, the questions were relatively sane in the beginning but now it's just a waste of time — most questions are posed in a way that it's clear what kind of answer people want to hear. I spent hours and hours answering questions, but at some point I thought "cannot we just stop talking for hours about what I'd do if elected and actually start doing all that stuff?". That would have been so much more productive.

Instead of asking the DPL what they'll do to solve All The Problems In Debian, why don't you ask yourself what you can do to improve the situation? There's a bottleneck with the DAM, you say. Right, the chances that you'll be added as DAM are relatively small. But have you ever considered helping the DAM and to make their life easier? How about signing up as an Application Manager and producing such good reports that it'll be a piece of cake for the DAM to approve people based on your reports? Right, it won't fix the bottleneck, but it will make the situation so much better. Instead of bitching about the security team, why don't you prepare a package, write the text for the DSA and get everything ready in a way that a DSA member can simply take your work, recompile the package and issue the advisory?

Now I'm sure some people will say that they've tried that and failed. Yes, not every upload for DSA will be accepted as it is, but how hard have you tried? And people always complain about the cabal and how hard it is to join teams. And while I agree that this is partly true, there are so many counter examples too. Look at me as an example. In 2.5 years, I became the most productive Application Manager, joined (and took over) the NM Front Desk, became a "senior" Quality Assurance member, and got elected as project leader. Am I special? No, in no way — I just put in a lot of effort. Look at Jeroen van Wolffelaar, who joined at the end of 2004, and who is involved in QA (especially MIA) and lintian, is the co-author of the new packages.d.o code and an ftp assistant. Andi Barth (who got an account in January 2004) has done important QA work (bts2ldap), is a maintainer of the developers reference and a release manager. So it's not possible to join a team, you say? Maybe you're just not trying hard enough (and the right way!). (Hint: "make me a DAM/ftp-master/whatever" doesn't work as well as "how can I make your job easier?").

What I'm trying to say is that people should stop believing that the DPL will fix everything and that they should actually help out themselves. If we all work together and put effort into the areas that need work we might actually achieve something. People have been asking for a strong leader and this urge got stronger over the last few years. But, face it, we currently don't have a culture which accepts a strong leader. Joey Hess mentioned that he wants to see a DPL who pushes technical changes. I did that too, to some degree (mostly in private since that works much better than on a mailing list where a big flamewar is guaranteed). For example, I kindly asked Joey to lower the priority of the non-free question so it would not get asked in a default installation. And he did — because Joey is a reasonable guy. (He also told me that me making this request made it easier for him to justify.) However, unfortunately, not everyone is like Joey. And what are you going to do if a maintainer refuses to listen, as many do? I mean, seriously, what can you do?

Some are increasingly talking about the good old times of Bruce Perens who would tell people what to do and make decisions. The urge for a strong leader increased over the last years. I think that's partly a reason why Branden got elected last year — people expected him to completely shake things up. I haven't talked to him and I wasn't part of the leadership team, so I don't really know what happened, but from what (little) I've heard, it seems that he tried, quickly realized just how rigid some of the structures are and gave up.

You have to see things in a historical perspective (and I can only recommend that people who have access to the debian-private archives take the time to read through them). There's a reason we have had "weak" leaders since Bruce. While now a large number of people think that Bruce was the best thing since sliced bread, lots of people were really pissed off back then with him commanding people around. And what was the result? A constitution that would ensure that no leader would ever have such power again. And that's what we're currently stuck with.

I think that one of the biggest problems Debian is currently facing is the inability to make decisions. There are so many endless, completely futile (and repetitive) discussions going on. We need someone who comes in, tells people to shut up and makes a decision on behalf of the project. A decision people will follow, even if they personally disagree with it. But seriously, do you think our culture would currently accept such a leader? I can tell you from experience that even people who have been asking for a "strong" leader won't actually follow a leader who tells them to take a certain course of action.

We really need to fix this problem, and the problem is in our culture. And since our culture is defined by who we are, you should start with yourself first. Start by asking yourself a few questions. Do you think before posting something to our lists, and ask yourself twice whether it really adds value to the discussion? If there's an area that is problematic, will you try to help out? If asked to do something you're not particularly interested in but which is good for the project will you do it? And most importantly, will you contribute to make our culture something that is fun?

The project leader is important, but don't wait for them to fix all of our problems. If there's a problem, try to figure out a way how you can solve it!

Thu, 09 Mar 2006; 04:46 — debianpermanent link

MIPS fun, Broadcom quad-core 1480 board

As I mentioned on debian-project recently, Broadcom has been very supportive of our MIPS port. They donated several fast MIPS development boards (dual-core 800 MHz) to a number of Debian developers as well as machines for our mips and mipsel buildd network. Without those boards, we'd have a hell of a time keeping up and certainly wouldn't meet the Vancouver requirements. Broadcom recently released a new chip, the 1480, which is a quad-core CPU, and I managed to get hold of a development board based on this chip. I had some trouble with FedEx because they weren't sure how to handle a shipment worth several grant to an individual who is a volunteer working on a project which legally doesn't exist in the UK. However, the FedEx lady was really nice and said she'd sort it out... and the next day the board turned up.

Unfortunately, SMP support in the MIPS kernel was broken so I was only able to run the board in non-SMP mode: it really sucks having a quad-core CPU and then you can only use one core! There were also DMA errors when using an IDE PCI card. Fortunately, the SMP problems got solved in the meantime, and using the generic IDE driver works. Now that I have the board running, I compiled GCC 4.1 and my next step will be to build the Debian archive to see how well GCC 4.1 works on MIPS.

Thu, 02 Mar 2006; 02:46 — debianpermanent link


FOSDEM is one of the events I really enjoy. Unfortunately, I couldn't attend last year because I was at a conference in China. However, this year I was back, and the event was bigger than ever. There's so much going on that it's really hard to keep up. There are a number of people I'd really like to have talked to more but there just wasn't time in those two days which were fully packed. It was nice to meet a number of people again, though, in particular the usual suspects, including Michi Banck (aka Hurd illusionist, "it supports two wireless cards now"), Guillem Jover (Spanish mafia boss living in exile), and Jordi Mallach ("World Domination for Catalan^WValencian"). I also hung around the Spanish free software research people with whom I'm going to spend a few months soon. Crazy Spaniards... I've no idea how I'm going to survive there. Oh, and Neal Walfield, who still stinks, and who thinks I have a British accent now (which he thinks is a bad thing while I took it as a compliment).

Regarding new people, I had the great pleasure to meet and talk to Lennert Buytenhek. I talked to him on IRC a bit recently because he's involved in the big-endian ARM port and I've been hacking on the ARM based NSLU2 device. Lennert is quite frustrated because joining Debian is so hard. As it turns out, there's currently a six month wait to be assigned an Application Manager. I haven't really followed NM recently, but when I acted as Front Desk I tried to keep it less than approximately six weeks. Unfortunately, a great number of AMs resigned in the last few months and years, and it has been quite hard to find good new people as AMs. Lennert is the kind of person we really want to have in Debian since he's extremely kind, smart and productive. Given that the current situation seems really bad I decided to act as Application Manager again, but I only intend to do that temporarily.

I'm sure I forgot lots of other things. But the summary is that it was a great weekend, with way too much stuff going on at the same time. And while I wish I could have devoted more time to my research, I gained some important insights and did one interview which was really informative.

Tue, 28 Feb 2006; 22:22 — travelpermanent link

NSLU2 Debian porting work, NSLU2 core

The Linksys NSLU2 is a sub-$100 ARM based gadget that allows you to connect storage (in the form of a USB disk) to the network. The NSLU2-Linux project is working on technical development (including 2.6 support), and provides technical information and alternative firmware images. There has been some interest in get Debian properly working and the project kindly donated a NSLU2 to me so I can help out with debian-installer porting and other Debian related work that needs to be done. While my work hasn't been fully completed yet I have made good progress in the last few weeks since I got the NSLU2 and yesterday I found myself invited to the NSLU2-Linux core team.

Sat, 21 Jan 2006; 03:52 — debianpermanent link


Yesterday I went to Austria to visit friends and family for a few days. I started going through some of my old stuff, throwing away some of it and scanning material that's still of interest. While doing so, I came across the invoice for the first computer I bought myself, just a little bit more than 10 years ago. It was a Pentium 90 with 32 MB RAM and a 1 GB hard drive. It had all kind of expensive components because I wanted to run NEXTSTEP (which only supported high-end hardware) and so the machine cost a fortune. In fact, for the price of the 17" screen alone you could get a powerful system these days. Coincidentally, I was just playing with my wifi AP/router the other day, a device with 32 MB RAM, 8 MB flash and a 200 MHz MIPS CPU that I got for under 50 bucks... However, this is not a rant about the speed of change in the computer industry. This is all well and good, and I definitely enjoy having a laptop with a gig of RAM.

Instead, it's more about observations of time. I still remember when 2001 was years away and we were all looking forward to it (you know, we'd finally have flying cars, thinking machines and all that stuff); I also remember celebrating the millennium. Now, when I see stuff from 2001, 2002 or even 2003, it feels old. But what really freaks me out is when I have to write down a date starting with 19... I actually have to check it twice to see whether I really got it right and I feel so retro adding stuff that old... time's a strange thing.

Sun, 20 Nov 2005; 06:56 — lifepermanent link

Kyoto, Osaka, Japan Debian Mini-Conf (JDMC)

On Wednesday I got up way too early in order to go to Heathrow in time for my flight to Osaka. The flight went via Frankfurt and wasn't terribly spectacular. I was a bit disappointed in the flight entertainment system (only shared monitors in the middle of the plane, mostly showing movies I've seen before) but I had Hodges' biography of Alan Turing with me and slept for a while, so it wasn't a bit issue. Arriving Thursday morning, Yabuki-san, who had originally invited me to the Japan Debian Mini-Conf (JDMC), picked me up from the airport. Shortly afterwards I met up with Imai-san, who was so kind to go sightseeing with me in Kyoto. I wanted to go there because I heard that it's quite different to Tokyo, where I stayed for about 10 days for a conference three years ago (incidentally, that trip was in October too, so it was three years ago almost to the day).

Kyoto was surprisingly close to Osaka — it was faster to get there than to go from Kansai airport to the city center of Osaka. We first went to Nijo Castle, followed by some temples, including Kiyomizu-dera, one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. We had sushi and noodles for lunch, and in the afternoon we returned to Osaka so I could rest for a few hours before meeting up with the interpreter of the conference. This we did at a restaurant specialized in tofu. The food was surprisingly good given that I'm normally not a big fan of tofu at all.

The following morning, I had my keynote speech, talking about release management. I covered various insights learned from my research and then tried to apply some of them to Debian, asking the question whether something like time-based releases would make sense for the project. A big issue is obviously planning, and I think the new release team does a much better job at this than we did in the past, even if many improvements are still possible, such as better coordinated NMUs when major transitions take too long. All of the other talks where in Japanese, so I was either working on my laptop or walking around the city. The first day, Hatta-san and I went to Osaka Castle; Roland Mas, who briefly turned up for the JDMC, joined us as well. The second day I did some shopping before going to the conference where I participated in the key signing session.

On Sunday morning I had to leave again... it was a nice trip, even though much too short and influenced by jet lag. I think there could have been more people at the JDMC but on the other hand it's nice to see some efforts to attract new developers in Japan and this conference was certainly a good first step in that direction.

Sun, 30 Oct 2005; 22:22 — debianpermanent link
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