Spotify migrate 5000 servers from Debian to Ubuntu

Or yet another reason why it’s really important that we succeed with Debian LTS. Last year we heard of Dreamhost switching to Ubuntu because they can maintain a stable Ubuntu release for longer than a Debian stable release (and this despite the fact that Ubuntu only supports software in its main section, which misses a lot of popular software).

Spotify Logo

A few days ago, we just learned that Spotify took a similar decision:

A while back we decided to move onto Ubuntu for our backend server deployment. The main reasons for this was a predictable release cycle and long term support by upstream (this decision was made before the announcement that the Debian project commits to long term support as well.) With the release of the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS we are now in the process of migrating our ~5000 servers to that distribution.

This is just a supplementary proof that we have to provide long term support for Debian releases if we want to stay relevant in big deployments.

But the task is daunting and it’s difficult to find volunteers to do the job. That’s why I believe that our best answer is to get companies to contribute financially to Debian LTS.

We managed to convince a handful of companies already and July is the first month where paid contributors have joined the effort for a modest participation of 21 work hours (watch out for Thorsten Alteholz and Holger Levsen on debian-lts and debian-lts-announce). But we need to multiply this figure by 5 or 6 at least to make a correct work of maintaining Debian 6.

So grab the subscription form and have a chat with your management. It’s time to convince your company to join the initiative. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have questions or if you prefer that I contact a representative of your company. Thank you!

Convince your company to contribute to Debian Long Term Support

The press picked up the recent press release about Debian LTS but mainly to mention the fact that it’s up and running. The call for help is almost never mentioned.

It’s a pity because while it’s up, it’s not really running satisfactorily yet. As of today (2014-06-19), 36 packages in squeeze need a security update, yet squeeze-lts has only seen 7 updates.

debian-lts-periodsAs usual what we lack is contributors doing the required work, but in this specific case, there’s a simple solution: pay people to do the required work. This extended support is mainly for the benefit of corporate users and if they see value in Debian LTS, it should not be too difficult to convince companies to support the project.

With some other Debian developers, we have gone out of our way to make it super easy for companies to support the Debian LTS project. We have created a service offer for Debian-using companies.

Freexian (my company) collects money from all contributing companies (by way of invoices) and then uses the money collected to pay Debian contributors who will prepare security updates. On top of this we added some concrete benefits for contributing companies such as the possibility to indicate which packages should have priority, or even the possibility to provide functional tests to ensure that a security update doesn’t introduce a regression in their production setup.

To make a good job of maintaining Debian Squeeze, our goal is to fund the equivalent of a full-time position. We’re currently far from there with only 13 hours per month funded by 4 companies. That makes a current average of 3.25 hours/month funded by each contributing company, for a price of 276 EUR/month or 3315 EUR/year.

This is not much if you compare it with the price those companies would have to pay to upgrade all their Debian 6 machines now instead of keeping them for two supplementary years.

Assuming the average contribution level will stay the same, we only need the support of 50 other companies in the world. That’s really not much compared to the thousands of companies using Debian. Can you convince your own company? Grab the subscription form and have a chat with your company management.

Help us reach that goal, share this article and the link to Freexian’s Debian LTS offer. Long Term Support is important if we want Debian to be a good choice for servers and big deployments. We need to make Squeeze LTS a success!

Thank you!

Kickstart the Arabic Translation of the Debian Handbook

Cover of the Debian Administrator's Handbook (Wheezy edition)I just wanted to highlight that Muhammad Saied, a volunteer translator of the Debian Administrator’s Handbook, is currently running a crowdfunding campaign with Mohamed Amine so that they can complete the Arabic translation that they started.

There’s only 6 days left to collect the last $2500… click here to help spread Debian to the Arabic world.

Finding a new name for the Package Tracking System

The Google Summer of Code rewriting the Package Tracking System is approaching its end and I’m starting to think about deploying it on debian.org. Its scope has expanded over the years and the rewritten PTS will continue this trend by bringing some new features for teams (like the possibility to subscribe to all packages of a team).

I believe that its current hostname (and name) doesn’t reflect properly the role of the PTS. Add to this the fact that there’s still some work left to be done to reach feature-parity with the current PTS, I’m considering deploying it in parallel to the current PTS under a new name.

“Package Tracking System” is also a bit too long for a name, and sounds more like a description than a name…

But if I get rid of “packages.qa.debian.org” and “Package Tracking System”, how should we call the new PTS? :-)

The PTS is a sort of central place that brings together information from many parts of Debian. It’s currently mainly a consumer/dispatcher of information but I expect to integrate some of the external services that are useful for all Debian derivatives, and it will thus become more and more a producer of first-hand information as well.

To replace packages.qa.debian.org, Stefano Zacchiroli suggested me hub.debian.org and I must say I like it, it’s short and relatively close to what the PTS actually is (and reminds me of DEP-2 — the new PTS will be an asset to make it a reality). My other ideas were devel.debian.org, inside.debian.org, watch.debian.org, track.debian.org, … do you have better suggestions? what’s your preference?

Finding a better name is harder, but there’s room to build on the hub concept and similar images. I would like a full name that’s not too long and an associated abbreviation/short name for the top-level Python package (currently we use “pts” for that Python package). Can you come up with something original and satisfactory?

My latest thoughts end up with “DistroHub” as full name and “dhub” as Python package name. Still boring…

So, dear lazy web, I heard that we’re good at bikeshedding in Debian, so can you come up with something better? Share your suggestions in the comments!

What about creating The Ubuntu Administrator’s Handbook?

I am currently running a crowdfunding campaign whose ultimate goal is to liberate the English translation of a French book that I have written. This book will be named The Debian Administrator’s Handbook because it has primarily been written for Debian.

Creating a new Ubuntu book based on The Debian Administrator’s Handbook

But since Ubuntu is based on Debian, a large part of its content applies equally well to Ubuntu. While discussing with Mark Shuttleworth, he suggested me to reuse those parts and to create a new book dedicated to Ubuntu. It would also cover the latest cloud technologies that Ubuntu has been delivering (since this is a topic that the current book does not cover).

This is something that I have been envisioning for a while and something that I would be ready to try if we manage to complete the liberation of the current book. This project would then bring a truly free book to the Ubuntu ecosystem.

Why? The official Ubuntu books are not really free

There’s a policy in place that ensures that official Ubuntu books use a free software/culture license and they are effectively available under the terms of a Creative Commons Share Alike license. But try to create a derivative book… you won’t find the “sources” (LaTeX or DocBook usually with most big books). You can only find a few PDF copies if you google for it. But this is really not the preferred form of modification for such a book.

Those books are also not packaged. Ubuntu much like Debian deserves to have a good book embodying the values of free software that can be shipped together with its product.

When I speak of liberation of the book, I really mean it in the way that free software hackers are used to: a public Git repository containing the DocBook sources, the pictures and the .dia files for the various schemas.

Help Ubuntu by spreading the word

I understand that at this point this proposed Ubuntu book is really hypothetical (“vaporware” one could say) but we need to go step by step to make it a reality. And the first step is to ensure that we manage to liberate the Debian Administrator’s Handbook.

For this I am seeking the support of the Ubuntu community to promote the current fundraising campaign. If the perspective of the Ubuntu book is not enough to convince you, you’ll be glad to learn that I also commit to give back to Ubuntu 15% of the money raised via the link below (once VAT has been subtracted).

Click here to go to the crowdfunding campaign page and pledge a few euros. Then share this article (or the link http://debian-handbook.info/go/ulule-ubuntu/) and convince others to participate.

At this point, the liberation target is entirely reachable with your help and the help of the community: the remaining 18 K€ needed in the liberation fund represent 720 persons giving 25 EUR each or 1800 persons giving 10 EUR each.

Thank you very much for your support and your help in this project!

Contribute to Debian while promoting the Debian Administrator’s Handbook

We just announced the launch of the fundraising campaign for the Debian Administrator’s Handbook.

We wanted to use this opportunity to let people contribute money both to our project but also to Debian itself. That’s why we have setup a special link that you can use to participate. 15% of any donation made through this link (after VAT has been subtracted) will be given back to the Debian Project.

Here’s the link: http://debian-handbook.info/go/ulule-debian/

Feel free to use this link when promoting the project to your friends, so that even more money goes back to Debian.

You can also embed a special widget on your website where any visitor that ends up becoming a supporter will also contribute 15% to the Debian project.

Help us spread the word about the project, and help raise money for Debian!

Do You Want a Free Debian Book? Read This.

A bit more than a year elapsed since we announced our plans to translate our Debian book into English and to try to get it published under a license compatible with the Debian Free Software Guidelines. But we’re now ready to go to the next step.

Completing the translation of 450 pages book is a huge work, we estimate it’s going to take roughly 3 full time months for both Roland and me. Since we’re freelancers, we can take the required time provided that we have a minimum income during that period. That’s where you come into play: we have setup a crowdfunding campaign on Ulule.com and we need your support to raise €15000 (this is the absolute minimum for us to be able to commit the required time).

Even if a good and up-to-date book on Debian is a great perspective, we want to go further than that by adding the perspective of getting a DFSG-free Debian book. That’s why we have transformed the crowfunding campaign in a liberation campaign. When you support the project, you can pledge money towards a liberation fund… and if this fund reaches €25000 then the book will be published under the GPL-2+ and CC-BY-SA 3.0 licenses.

On top of this, when you support this project you can select a reward that goes from a copy of the ebook to a dinner with the authors (only 10 places for the latter)! Among the other rewards, there’s obviously a paperback version of the book, but also an individual one-hour mentoring session with me… a nice way to get you hooked as a new Debian contributor (limited to 40 persons, don’t miss the opportunity!).

Wait no longer, click here and pledge some money to bring this reference book to Debian and the rest of the world.

We also need your help to spread the news and get as many supporters as possible. Share the link with your friends, write an article on your blog, put a widget on your website, etc. Thank you very much!

Click here to go to the fundraising page and to learn more about this project.

Discover my Debian DVD shop

After a private launch (with discounted prices) for my newsletter subscribers, it’s now time to open my Debian DVD shop to the public.

I did not want to become yet another DVD reseller, so my DVDs are different and better. Here’s why you want to get one (or more):

  1. it’s easier to install Debian with my DVDs since they provide all the (non-free) firmwares that have been stripped and that you’re supposed to provide on a USB key;
  2. the installed system features the former theme (MoreBlue Orbit) and not SpaceFun (although you can reactivate SpaceFun easily if you prefer it);
  3. 100% of the benefits are reinvested into Debian (90% to fund my Debian work, 10% given back to Debian to fund work meetings)
  4. they are provided in a beautiful DVD case and despite this they are not expensive (between $3.49 and $5.49)

Click here to learn more about my DVD offer.

PS: Click here and join my newsletter to not miss other opportunities.

What’s annoying with Flattr buttons on Planet Debian?

Dear Planet Debian readers, a significant number of people have expressed concerns over the presence of Flattr buttons on Planet Debian. The concerns were expressed in a thread on the debian-project mailing list and they were quite diverse.

While the discussion brought some of the issues into light, it’s not really possible to find out whether a specific concern is widely shared or not. That’s why I set up a poll on selectricity.org.

Please take a few minutes and rank the various options: put the most important concern first in the list, and sort the others by decreasing importance. If there are concerns that you do not agree with, put them below the entry named “Special: I don’t share the concerns quoted below”. And to prove that you have read through all the options before voting, put the other special entry last (it’s named “Special: I know how condorcet voting works and thus I put this item last”).

Click here to go to the poll. You need only one minute to vote and no login is required.

PS: The discussion on debian-project is the reason why I changed the footer in my RSS feed to contain only plain text (in a smaller font). I also improved the wording to be more neutral.

Wiki page to share Debian presentations and associated templates

After having created my Debian presentation template, I wanted to share it so that future speakers can reuse my work. Surely there should be a place for this. I quickly found Ubuntu’s dedicated wiki page, and for Debian the relevant place was on the website.

However looking at that page, it’s obvious that the website is not the proper place: the page has not been updated with new talks since 2005. It’s just to much burden for any speaker. A wiki page is much more convenient in that regard. Switching to the wiki means we loose translations but that’s still better than an outdated translated page on the website.

So I went ahead, I created http://wiki.debian.org/Presentations and I filed a bug against www.debian.org to suggest to move the content to the wiki (see #601337) and to leave a link pointing to the new wiki page.

So the content of the website needs to be injected into the wiki. This is an easy task for someone that wishes to start contributing to Debian. Thus it’s your task.

Once completed send a mail to 601337@bugs.debian.org to inform the webmasters that the wiki part of the work has been completed. They just have to drop the old pages and replace them with links to the wiki.

PS: If you have given a Debian talk recently, please put your slides online and link to them on the new wiki page.