Freexian’s first report about Debian Long Term Support

When we setup Freexian’s offer to bring together funding from multiple companies in order to sponsor the work of multiple developers on Debian LTS, one of the rules that I imposed is that all paid contributors must provide a public monthly report of their paid work.

While the LTS project officially started in June, the first month where contributors were actually paid has been July. Freexian sponsored Thorsten Alteholz and Holger Levsen for 10.5 hours each in July and for 16.5 hours each in August. Here are their reports:

It’s worth noting that Freexian sponsored Holger’s work to fix the security tracker to support squeeze-lts. It’s my belief that using the money of our sponsors to make it easier for everybody to contribute to Debian LTS is money well spent.

As evidenced by the progress bar on Freexian’s offer page, we have not yet reached our minimal goal of funding the equivalent of a half-time position. And it shows in the results, the dla-needed.txt still shows around 30 open issues. This is slightly better than the state two months ago but we can improve a lot on the average time to push out a security update…

To have an idea of the relative importance of the contributions of the paid developers, I counted the number of uploads made by Thorsten and Holger since July: of 40 updates, they took care of 19 of them, so about the half.

I also looked at the other contributors: Raphaël Geissert stands out with 9 updates (I believe that he is contracted by Électricité de France for doing this) and most of the other contributors look like regular Debian maintainers taking care of their own packages (Paul Gevers with cacti, Christoph Berg with postgresql, Peter Palfrader with tor, Didier Raboud with cups, Kurt Roeckx with openssl, Balint Reczey with wireshark) except Matt Palmer and Luciano Bello who (likely) are benevolent members of the LTS team.

There are multiple things to learn here:

  1. Paid contributors already handle almost 70% of the updates. Counting only on volunteers would not have worked.
  2. Quite a few companies that promised help (and got mentioned in the press release) have not delivered the promised help yet (neither through Freexian nor directly).

Last but not least, this project wouldn’t exist without the support of multiple companies and organizations. Many thanks to them:

Hopefully this list will expand over time! Any help to reach out to new companies and organizations is more than welcome.

The problem of distributing applications

A few days ago I watched a Q/A session with Linus Torvalds at Debconf 14. One of the main complaint of Linus towards Linux distribution was the way that distribution ends up using different versions of libraries than what has been used during application development. And the fact that it’s next to impossible to support properly all Linux distributions at the same time due to this kind of differences.

Warning, some internals ahead
And now I just discovered a new proposal of the systemd team that basically tries to address this: Revisiting how we put together Linux Systems.

They suggest to make extensive use of btrfs subvolumes to host multiple variants of the /usr tree (that is supposed to contain all the invariant system code/data) that you could combine with multiple runtime/framework subvolumes thanks to filesytem namespaces and make available to individual applications.

This way of grouping libraries in “runtime subvolumes” reminds me a bit of the concepts of baserock (they are using git instead of btrfs) and while I was a bit dubious of all this (because it goes against quite a few of the principles of distribution integration) I’m beginning to believe that there’s room for both models to work together.

It would be nice if Debian could become the reference distribution that upstream developers are using to develop against Linux. This would in turn mean that when upstream distribution their application under this new form, they will provide (or reference) Debian-based subvolumes ready for use by users (even those who are not using Debian as their main OS). And those subvolumes would be managed by the Debian project (probably automatically built from our collection of .deb).

We’re still quite far from this goal but it will interesting to see this idea mature and become reality. There are plenty of challenges facing us.

My Free Software Activities in August 2014

This is my monthly summary of my free software related activities. If you’re among the people who made a donation to support my work (65.55 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

Distro Tracker

Even though I was officially in vacation during 3 of the 4 weeks of August, I spent many nights working on Distro Tracker. I’m pleased to have managed to bring back Python 3 compatibility over all the (tested) code base. The full test suite now passes with Python 3.4 and Django 1.6 (or 1.7).

From now on, I’ll run “tox” on all code submitted to make sure that we won’t regress on this point. tox also runs flake8 for me so that I can easily detect when the submitted code doesn’t respect the PEP8 coding style. It also catches other interesting mistakes (like unused variable or too complex functions).

Getting the code to pass flake8 was also a major effort, it resulted in a huge commit (89 files changed, 1763 insertions, 1176 deletions).

Thanks to the extensive test suite, all those refactoring only resulted in two regressions that I fixed rather quickly.

Some statistics: 51 commits over the last month, 41 by me, 3 by Andrew Starr-Bochicchio, 3 by Christophe Siraut, 3 by Joseph Herlant and 1 by Simon Kainz. Thanks to all of them! Their contributions ported some features that were already available on the old PTS. The new PTS is now warning of upcoming auto-removals, is displaying problems with uptream URLs, includes a short package description in the page title, and provides a link to screenshots (if they exist on screenshots.debian.net).

We still have plenty of bugs to handle, so you can help too: check out https://tracker.debian.org/docs/contributing.html. I always leave easy bugs for others to handle, so grab one and get started! I’ll review your patch with pleasure. :-)

Tryton

After my last batch of contributions to Tryton’s French Chart of Accounts (#4108, #4109, #4110, #4111) Cédric Krier granted me commit rights to the account_fr mercurial module.

Debconf 14

I wasn’t able to attend this year but thanks to awesome work of the video team, I watched some videos (and I still have a bunch that I want to see). Some of them were put online the day after they had been recorded. Really amazing work!

Django 1.7

After the initial bug reports, I got some feedback of maintainers who feared that it would be difficult to get their packages working with Django 1.7. I helped them as best as I can by providing some patches (for horizon, for django-restricted-resource, for django-testscenarios).

Since I expected many maintainers to be not very pro-active, I rebuilt all packages with Django 1.7 to detect at least those that would fail to build. I tagged as confirmed all the corresponding bug reports.

Looking at https://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/pkgreport.cgi?users=python-django@packages.debian.org;tag=django17, one can see that some progress has been made with 25 packages fixed. Still there are at least 25 others that are still problematic in sid and 35 that have not been investigated at all (except for the automatic rebuild that passed). Again your help is more than welcome!

It’s easy to install python-django 1.7 from experimental and they try to use/rebuild the packages from the above list.

Dpkg translation

With the freeze approaching, I wanted to ensure that dpkg was fully translated in French. I thus pinged debian-l10n-french@lists.debian.org and merged some translations that were done by volunteers. Unfortunately it looks like nobody really stepped up to maintain it in the long run… so I did myself the required update when dpkg 1.17.12 got uploaded.

Is there anyone willing to manage dpkg’s French translation? With the latest changes in 1.17.13, we have again a few untranslated strings:
$ for i in $(find . -name fr.po); do echo $i; msgfmt -c -o /dev/null --statistics $i; done
./po/fr.po
1083 translated messages, 4 fuzzy translations, 1 untranslated message.
./dselect/po/fr.po
268 translated messages, 3 fuzzy translations.
./scripts/po/fr.po
545 translated messages.
./man/po/fr.po
2277 translated messages, 8 fuzzy translations, 3 untranslated messages.

Misc stuff

I made an xsane QA upload (it’s currently orphaned) to drop the (build-)dependency on liblcms1 and avoid getting it removed from Debian testing (see #745524). For the record, how-can-i-help warned me of this after one dist-upgrade.

With the Django 1.7 work and the need to open up an experimental branch, I decided to switch python-django’s packaging to git even though the current team policy is to use subversion. This triggered (once more) the discussion about a possible switch to git and I was pleased to see more enthusiasm this time around. Barry Warsaw tested a few workflows, shared his feeling and pushed toward a live discussion of the switch during Debconf. It looks like it might happen for good this time. I contributed my share in the discussions on the mailing list.

Thanks

See you next month for a new summary of my activities.

My Free Software Activities in July 2014

This is my monthly summary of my free software related activities. If you’re among the people who made a donation to support my work (548.59 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

Distro Tracker

Now that tracker.debian.org is live, people reported bugs (on the new tracker.debian.org pseudo-package that I requested) faster than I could fix them. Still I spent many, many hours on this project, reviewing submitted patches (thanks to Christophe Siraut, Joseph Herlant, Dimitri John Ledkov, Vincent Bernat, James McCoy, Andrew Starr-Bochicchio who all submitted some patches!), fixing bugs, making sure the code works with Django 1.7, and started the same with Python 3.

I added a tox.ini so that I can easily run the test suite in all 4 supported environments (created by tox as virtualenv with the combinations of Django 1.6/1.7 and Python 2.7/3.4).

Over the month, the git repository has seen 73 commits, we fixed 16 bugs and other issues that were only reported over IRC in #debian-qa. With the help of Enrico Zini and Martin Zobel, we enabled the possibility to login via sso.debian.org (Debian’s official SSO) so that Debian developers don’t even have to explicitly create their account.

As usual more help is needed and I’ll gladly answer your questions and review your patches.

Misc packaging work

Publican. I pushed a new upstream release of publican and dropped a useless build-dependency that was plagued by a difficult to fix RC bug (#749357 for the curious, I tried to investigate but it needs major work for make 4.x compatibility).

GNOME 3.12. With gnome-shell 3.12 hitting unstable, I had to update gnome-shell-timer (and filed an upstream ticket at the same time), a GNOME Shell extension to start some run-down counters.

Django 1.7. I packaged python-django 1.7 release candidate 1 in experimental (found a small bug, submitted a ticket with a patch that got quickly merged) and filed 85 bugs against all the reverse dependencies to ask their maintainers to test their package with Django 1.7 (that we want to upload before the freeze obviously). We identified a pain point in upgrade for packages using South and tried to discuss it with upstream, but after closer investigation, none of the packages are really affected. But the problem can hit administrators of non-packaged Django applications.

Misc stuff. I filed a few bugs (#754282 against git-import-orig –uscan, #756319 against wnpp to see if someone would be willing to package loomio), reviewed an updated package for django-ratelimit in #755611, made a non-maintainer upload of mairix (without prior notice) to update the package to a new upstream release and bring it to modern packaging norms (Mako failed to make an upload in 4 years so I just went ahead and did what I would have done if it were mine).

Kali work resulting in Debian contributions

Kali wants to switch from being based on stable to being based on testing so I did try to setup britney to manage a new kali-rolling repository and encountered some problems that I reported to debian-release. Niels Thykier has been very helpful and even managed to improve britney thanks to the very specific problem that the kali setup triggered.

Since we use reprepro, I did write some Python wrapper to transform the HeidiResult file in a set of reprepro commands but at the same time I filed #756399 to request proper support of heidi files in reprepro. While analyzing britney’s excuses file, I also noticed that the Kali mirrors contains many source packages that are useless because they only concern architectures that we don’t host (and I filed #756523 against reprepro). While trying to build a live image of kali-rolling, I noticed that libdb5.1 and db5.1-util were still marked as priority standard when in fact Debian already switched to db5.3 and thus should only be optional (I filed #756623 against ftp.debian.org).

When doing some upgrade tests from kali (wheezy based) to kali-rolling (jessie based) I noticed some problems that were also affecting Debian Jessie. I filed #756629 against libfile-fcntllock-perl (with a patch), and also #756618 against texlive-base (missing Replaces header). I also pinged Colin Watson on #734946 because I got a spurious base-passwd prompt during upgrade (that was triggered because schroot copied my unstable’s /etc/passwd file in the kali chroot and the package noticed a difference on the shell of all system users).

Thanks

See you next month for a new summary of my activities.

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!

My Free Software Activity in June 2014

This is my monthly summary of my free software related activities. If you’re among the people who made a donation to support my work (168.17 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

Debian LTS

After having put in place the infrastructure to allow companies to contribute financially to Debian LTS, I spent quite some time to draft the announce of the launch of Debian LTS (on a suggestion of Moritz Mühlenhoff who pointed out to me that there was no such announce yet).

I’m pretty happy about the result because we managed to mention a commercial offer without generating any pushback from the community. The offer is (in my necessarily biased opinion) clearly in the interest of Debian but still the money doesn’t go to Debian so we took extra precautions. When I got in touch with the press officers, I included the Debian leader in the discussion and his feedback has been very helpful to improve the announce. He also officially “acked” the press release to give some confidence to the press officers that they were doing the right thing.

Lucas also pushed me to seek public review of the draft press release, which I did. The discussion was constructive and the draft got further improved.

The news got widely relayed, but on the flip side, the part with the call for help got almost no attention from the press. Even Linux Weekly News skipped it!

On the Freexian side, we just crossed 10% of a full-time position (funded by 6 companies) and we are in contact with a few other companies in discussion. But we’re far from our goal yet so we will have to actively reach out to more companies. Do you know companies who are still running Debian 6 servers ? If yes, please send me the details (name + url + contact info if possible) to deblts@freexian.com so that I can get in touch and invite them to contribute to the project.

Distro Tracker

In the continuation of the Debian France game, I continued to work together with Joseph Herlant and Christophe Siraut on multiple improvements to distro tracker in order to prepare for its deployment on tracker.debian.org (which I just announced \o/).

Debian France

Since the Debian France game was over, I shipped the rewards. 5 books have been shipped to:

Misc Debian work

I orphaned sql-ledger and made a last upload to change the maintainer to Debian QA (with a new upstream version).

After having been annoyed a few times by dch breaking my name in the changelog, I filed #750855 which got quickly fixed.

I disabled a broken patch in quilt to fix RC bug #751109.

I filed #751771 when I discovered an incorrect dependency on ruby-uglifier (while doing packaging work for Kali Linux).

I tested newer versions of ruby-libv8 on armel/armhf on request of the upstream author. I had reported him those build failures (github ticket here).

Thanks

See you next month for a new summary of my activities.

Tracker.debian.org is live

Maybe do you remember, last year I mentored a Google Summer of code whose aim was to replace our well known Package Tracking System with something more modern, usable by derivatives and more easily hackable. The result of this project is a new Django-based software called Distro Tracker.

Warning, some internals aheadWith the help of the Debian System Administrators, it’s now setup on tracker.debian.org!

This service is also managed by the Debian QA team, it’s deployed in /srv/tracker.debian.org/ (on ticharich.debian.org, a VM) if you want to verify something on the live installation. It runs under the “qa” user (so members of the “qa-core” group can administer it).

That said you can reproduce the setup on your workstation quite easily, just by checking out the git repository and applying this change:

--- a/distro_tracker/project/settings/local.py
+++ b/distro_tracker/project/settings/local.py
@@ -10,6 +10,7 @@ overrides on top of those type-of-installation-specific settings.
 
 from .defaults import INSTALLED_APPS
 from .selected import *
+from .debian import *
 
 ## Add your custom settings here

Speaking of contributing, the documentation includes a “Contributing” section to get you up and running, ready to do your first contribution!

Now go use this new service and report any issue against the new tracker.debian.org pseudo-package (BTW tracker.debian.org knows about pseudo-packages, example here).

There are many small things that need to be fixed/improved, if you know Python/Django and would like to start contributing to Debian, here’s your chance! :-)

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!

My Free Software Activities since January 2014

If you follow my blog closely, you noticed that I skipped all my usual monthly summaries in 2014. It’s not that I stopped doing free software work, instead I was just too busy to be able to report about what I did. As an excuse, let me tell you that we just moved into a new house which was in construction since may last year.

The lack of visible activity on my blog resulted in a steady decrease of the amount of donations received (January: 70.72 €, February: 71.75 €, March: 51.25 €, April: 39.9 €, May: 40.33 €). Special thanks to all the people who kept supporting my work even though I stopped reporting about it.

So let’s fix this. This report will be a bit less detailed since it covers the whole period since the start of the year.

Debian France

Preparations related to general assemblies. The year started with lots of work related to Debian France. First I took care of setting up limesurvey with Alexandre Delanoë to handle the vote to pick our new logo:
The new logo of Debian France

I also helped Sylvestre Ledru to finalize and close the accounting books for 2013 in preparation for the general assembly that was due later in the month. I wrote the moral report of the president to be presented to the assembly. And last step, I collected vote mandates to ensure that we were going to meet the quorum for the extraordinary assembly that was planned just after the usual yearly assembly.

The assemblies took place during a two days mini-debconf in Paris (January 17-18) where I was obviously present even though I gave no talk besides announcing the logo contest winner and thanking people for their participation.

Assemblée générale 2014 de Debian France

The Debian France members during the general assembly

It’s worth noting that the extraordinary assembly was meant primarily to enshrine in our bylaws the possibility to act as a trusted organization for Debian. This status should be officialized by the Debian project leader (Lucas Nussbaum) in the upcoming weeks since we answered satisfactorily to all questions. Our paypal donation form and the accounting tools behind it are ready.

Galette packaging and members map. I managed to hand over the package maintenance of galette to François-Régis Vuillemin. I sponsored all his uploads and we packaged a new plugin that allows to create a map with all the members who accept to share their location. The idea was to let people meet each other when they don’t live far away… with the long term goal to have Debian France organized activities not only in Paris but everywhere in France.

New contributor game. Last but not least, I organized a game to encourage people to do their first contribution to Debian by offering them a copy of my book if they managed to complete a small Debian project. We got many interesting projects but the result so far seem to be very mixed. Many people did not complete their project (yet)… that said for the few that did substantial work, it was rather good and they seem to be interested to continue to contribute.

Debian France booth at Solutions Linux in Paris. Like each year, I spent two days in Paris to help man the Debian France booth at Solutions Linux. We had lots of goodies on sale and we made more than 2000 EUR in earnings during the two days. I also used this opportunity to try to convince companies to support the new Debian LTS effort.

Debian France booth at Solutions Linux

Tanguy Ortolo and Fernando Lagrange behind the Debian France booth

The Debian Administrator’s Handbook

In the last days of 2013, we released the wheezy update of the book. Then I quickly organized everything needed so that the various translation teams can now focus their efforts on the latest release of the book.

Later (in February) I announced the availability of the French and Spanish translations.

Debian Squeeze LTS

When the security team called for help to try to put in place long term support for Squeeze, I replied positively because I’m convinced that it’s very important if Debian wants to stay an acceptable choice in big deployments and because I knew that some of my customers would be interested…

Thus I followed all the discussions (on a semi-private list first and then on debian-lts@lists.debian.org) and contributed my own experience. I have also taken up the responsibility to coordinate with the Debian contributors who can be hired to work on Squeeze LTS so that we have a clear common offer for all the companies who have offered financial support towards Squeeze LTS. Expect further news on this front in the upcoming days/weeks.

Tryton

I have been a long time user of SQL-Ledger to manage the accounting of my company Freexian. But while the license is free software, the project is not. It’s the work of a single developer who doesn’t really accept help. I have thus been considering to move to something else for a long time but never did anything.

This year, after some rough evaluation, I decided to switch to Tryton for my company. It’s probably not a wise choice from a business perspective because that migration took me many hours of unpaid labor but from a free software perspective it’s definitely better than everything else I saw.

I contributed a lot of bug reports and a few patches already (#3596, #3631, #3633, #3665, #3667, #3694, #3695, #3696, #3697) mainly about problems found in the French chart of accounts but also about missing features for my use case.

I also accepted to sponsor Matthias Berhle, who is maintaining the official Debian packages of Tryton. He’s already a Debian maintainer so it’s mainly a matter of reviewing new source packages and granting him the required rights.

Misc Debian work

  • Updated publican to version 4 and then 4.1.2. Required a new perl module that I requested to the Perl team in
    #736816.
  • Updated to python-django-debug-toolbar and python-django-jsonfield for Django 1.6 compatibility.
  • Filed bugs on packages depending against linux-image that got dropped (on request of Ben Hutchings)
  • Filed #734866 and #734869 against bash/dash to request that they properly drop privileges in setuid context.
  • Updated gnome-shell-timer.
  • Created “Services” pages on the wiki for the PTS and its replacement.
  • Worked on distro-tracker together with the participants of the new contributor game.
  • Orphaned feed2omb with #742601.
  • Tried in vain to fight against silliness of Debian specific changes in syslinux (see #742836).
  • Preliminary EFI support in live-build (see #731709).
  • Updated python-django to 1.6.5 in unstable, 1.4.5+deb7u7 in wheezy-security and 1.6.5-1~bpo70+1 to wheezy-backports.
  • Sponsored dolibarr, python-suds, a zim backport, a ckeditor NMU to fix an RC bug, libapache2-mod-form, ledgersmb.
  • Filed bugs on the fly: #749332 (new upstream release of libjs-jquery-cookie), #749498 (problem with Files-Excluded and https URL for copyright-format 1.0), #747354 (bug in clamav-milter init script), #747101 (git-import-orig should offer a –download option).
  • Filed tickets on mirrorbrain to make it work better with Debian mirrors: update to #26 (avoid error 404 on files still available on some mirrors) and #150 (auto-disable outdated mirrors).

Thanks

See you next month for a new summary of my activities.

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.