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.

The Debian Administrator’s Handbook, now in French and Spanish!

Cahier de l'Admin Debian WheezyBarely one and half month after the release of the Wheezy version of the Debian Administrator’s Handbook, I’m proud to announce that two translations have been completed: French and Spanish.

And, as promised in the last liberation campaign, the French translation has been published as a paperback by Eyrolles (see the cover above).

Check out the article on debian-handbook.info for more information.

My Free Software Activities in December 2013

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 (147.56 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

The Debian Administrator’s Handbook

Cover of the Debian Administrator's Handbook (Wheezy edition)I spent a good chunk of December on the book. First finalizing the English version and getting it out (BTW, just for the launch, there’s a 10% discount on the paperback that lasts only until January 9th!). Then working on updating the French translation. Eyrolles will publish a new edition of the French book based on this translation. Expect some further news about this during January!

Debian France

I contributed to many discussions within Debian France.

Starting with a complaint that most events are organized in Paris, I proposed to map the location of Debian France members. We added new fields in the membership management page so that members can add their GPS coordinates and Frédéric Decou made some experiments with Openstreetmap. Someone else (Kiriarat) volunteered to write the required glue code. A manual map is currently maintained on the website.

Sample logo receivedIn the discussions about the setup of the Debian France shop, I suggested to update our logo with a nicer looking one. We got a few suggestions and after further discussions with Alexandre Delanoë and Sylvestre Ledru, we organized a small contest to entice designers to submit a logo proposal to us (the winner earns a set of Debian goodies). We got 46 proposals (see my favorite on the right)! The board is currently pre-selecting the logos and setting up the final vote for our members. The winner shall be announced at the end of the upcoming mini-debconf in Paris.

I also continued the work to finalize new bylaws and new internal rules. They shall be adopted during the next general assembly which will happen during the mini-debconf.

Misc Debian Work

WordPress maintenance. I mentored Pablo Vasquez to do his first small contribution to the WordPress packaging. I really appreciate this but he’s not yet ready to assume maintenance of a big package like WordPress on his own. I got multiple other offers of help and pinged them all while filing #733726 to coordinate the work on the new upstream version. But I got no reply :-( Handing over packages to new maintainers is hard…

Init system discussion. The technical committee has the hard task of picking the default init system that will replace the traditional System V init (see #727708). I followed this huge discussion closely and contributed a bit where I add something meaningful to say. Final decision is expected sometimes in January. FWIW, I share entirely Russ Allbery’s point of view in those discussions. I have been running systemd on some of my computers for a few months already.

Fixing lxc in stable. The lxc package in stable has a non-working “debian” template. I really dislike documenting that things are broken so instead of doing that in the Debian Administrator’s Handbook, I opted to do something about it. I prepared a non maintainer upload for stable (see #680469 for the problem and #732358 for the stable update request).

Misc stuff. I sponsored a tcpdf upload. I filed an enhancement request on Publican to have it keep processing instructions present in translations. I uploaded new versions of publican-librement and debian-handbook. I filed #732678 against git-buildpackage because it failed to properly call lintian when given the -A dpkg-buildpackage argument.

Thanks

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

The Debian Wheezy Handbook is now available

After multiple months of hard work, I’m pleased to announce that Roland and I finished updating the Debian Administrator’s Handbook for Debian Wheezy.

Grab it now!

By the way, as part of the launch of this updated edition, you can benefit from a 10% discount on any paperback copy ordered before January 9th 2014. Just click here and place your order.

Cover of the Debian Administrator's Handbook (Wheezy edition)

We have put lots of hard work on this edition, doing quite some janitorial work. We didn’t cover as many new topics as I would have liked, but I’m still proud of the end result.

The book has a nice preface co-signed by the current and former Debian Project Leaders. Let me quote a short extract:

The book you have in your hands is different. It’s a free as in freedom book, a book which is up to Debian freedom standards for every aspects of your digital life. […] You can apt-get install this book, you can redistribute it, you can fork this book or, better, submit bug reports and patches for it, so that other in the future can benefit from your contributions. The “maintainers” of this book — who are also its authors — are longstanding members of the Debian Project, who grok the freedom ethos that permeates every aspect of Debian.

Enjoy it and share your comments! Even better if you write up a review that we can link from the website.

My Free Software Activities in November 2013

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 (44.52 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

The Debian Administrator’s Handbook

Wheezy update completed. Roland and I completed the update of the Debian Administrator’s Handbook for Debian 7 Wheezy. We still have some proofreading work to do but you can already enjoy the result here: http://debian-handbook.info/browse/wheezy/

Feel free to report back any problem that you discover. You can also submit us patches ready to apply if you want to go one step further.

Publican contributions. The book is generated with publican and I maintain its Debian package. This month I got a release critical bug because it stopped working… it turns out that the problem lied in libxml-treebuilder-perl and I thus reassigned #728885 while providing a tentative patch to the upstream author. After a few days without action from the pkg-perl team, and after having received a FTBFS bug on debian-handbook (of course publican was broken in unstable!), I prepared a fixed package myself and I uploaded it (I’m still part of the pkg-perl team although I’m inactive).

Since I used publican heavily this month, I filed two tickets in its bugzilla. I requested a new feature in #1034836 (the possibility to keep around the former string for fuzzy strings to update), and I reported a problem with the handling of “\n” in PO files in #1036150.

Debian France

Galette update. I updated the galette package and its paypal plugin, and I deployed those on france.debian.net. It had some fixes for the reminder mails sent to members.

Bylaws update. I also resumed my work on preparing new bylaws for Debian France. Sylvestre Ledru came up with a draft (with the help of a lawyer) a few months ago and I’m reviewing/improving them now. The main goal is to clarify that Debian France is meant to be a Trusted Organization for the Debian project.

Debian France Shop. We had the idea since a few months already but Sylvestre did the leg work to open a Debian France shop with the help of EnVenteLibre. I asked our members to prepare some CSS that better match the Debian colors and this should be fixed in a few days. The first goodies will also start to appear shortly, just in time for Christmas!

Misc Debian work

Distro Tracker. In the continuation of the Google Summer of Code, I asked the DSA team to setup a new virtual machine to host tracker.debian.org, an instance of Distro Tracker, the rewritten Package Tracking System. They have done their part of the job (except the mail setup), it’s now waiting on me to find some time to complete some cleanups and deploy the thing.

WordPress. I packaged wordpress 3.7.1 and sent a call for help on debian-mentors. I got 3 replies, I gave them some initial direction but I haven’t heard back anything since. WordPress 3.8 is expected in a few days, hopefully one of the new volunteers will take care of preparing the next update.

Dpkg regressions. I haven’t done anything for multiple months but at least I keep running the git version of dpkg and I detected two regressions. Good to have them squashed before the upcoming 1.17.2 upload to unstable.

PTS fix. I fixed some warnings that the PTS code started generating since the upgrade of its host to wheezy. They were generating some annoying backscatter mails to users of the pts@qa.debian.org bot.

Ruby security update. I helped the ruby team to prepare the required security updates of ruby1.8 and ruby1.9.1 (see #730178 and #730189). This work was sponsored by Kali/Offensive Security.

Smartcard setup. I bought 2 OpenPGP smartcards with a reader and I moved all my private keys on those devices (one card with the master key for signature/certification to be kept at home, one card for daily/mobile usage with the subkeys for encryption/signature/authentication). My laptop’s harddrive doesn’t contain any private key anymore. I have kept the required offline backup in a safe place, but in the end, my private keys are much harder to steal. I should write down my findings in another article…

Thanks

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

Will Debian’s technical committee coopt Keith Packard or Philipp Kern?

The process has been ongoing for more than a year but the Debian technical committee is about to select a candidate to recommend for its vacant seat. The Debian Project Leader will then (likely) appoint him (looks like it won’t be a women).

According to recent discussions on debian-ctte@lists.debian.org, it seems that either Keith Packard or Philipp Kern will join the committee.

If you look at the current membership of the committee, you will see:

  • Bdale Garbee: USA
  • Russ Allbery: USA
  • Don Armstrong: USA
  • Andreas Barth: Germany
  • Ian Jackson: United Kingdom
  • Steve Langasek: USA
  • Colin Watson: United Kingdom

That’s very Anglo-Saxon centric (6 out of 7 members). While I trust the current members and while I know that they are open-minded people, it still bothers me to see this important body with so few diversity.

Coming back to the choice at hand, Keith Packard is American and Philipp Kern is German. No new country in the mix. I can only hope that Philipp will be picked to bring some more balance in the body.

My Free Software Activities in September 2013

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 (86.18 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

Package Tracking System^U Distro Tracker

Marko Lalic implemented quite a few interesting features in the last weeks of the Google Summer of Code (support of teams most notably). Unfortunately he didn’t deploy (yet) the latest changes on pts.debian.net.

Given the good work he made over the summer, I marked him as successful in his GSOC. Hopefully he will stick around and continue to contribute, he promised to try to handle some mass renaming that we agreed upon. Effectively, after much bike-shedding, I decided that the software would be called “Distro Tracker”.

Once those last-minute cleanups are done, I plan to request “tracker.debian.org” to Debian System Administrators. This means that it will be deployed in parallel to the current PTS at least until we’re at feature parity in the new codebase.

The new codebase should be much more easy to get started with, so I should do some promotion and invite people to contribute to it… possibly by writing some short “how to get started” documentation.

I started by creating a dedicated wiki page: http://wiki.debian.org/qa.debian.org/distro-tracker

Misc packaging

I got two REJECTs from ftpmasters this month (one for galette, one for dolibarr). I took care of fixing the various issues in galette and the package has been promptly accepted afterwards. For dolibarr, I mentored the upstream maintainer about the various problems and got him to fix it. It took a bit more time and the package is thus still in NEW.

I packaged wordpress 3.6, and then wordpress 3.6.1 (security update). python-django also had multiple security updates this month, I took care of one or two uploads but Luke Faraone dealt with most of them (including backports to Squeeze!).

I packaged Publican 3.6.1 and uploaded dh-linktree 0.4 to fix a FTBFS issue introduced with Perl 5.18.

Of anecdotal importance, but I also filed bug #721849 after seeing how much energy was spent to ensure debian/rules didn’t contain an improper copyright statement.

Thanks

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

My Free Software Activities in August 2013

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 (47.50 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

Package Tracking System

There are only 2-3 weeks left in the summer of code project dedicated to rewrite the package tracking system. We have come a long way during August… check it out yourself in pts.debian.net.

The rewrite doesn’t have all the features of the old PTS yet, but I opted to keep some of the easy and less interesting features for others to re-implement. Instead I asked Marko to work in the coming weeks on new features that will bring more value, like the possibility to have user accounts with the possibility to easily review and tweak all your subscriptions on the web, and like the possibility to subscribe to groups of packages (i.e. those managed by a team).

Our main problem right now is that exim has a pretty poor default behavior of forking hundreds of processes if you get hundreds of mails (in a batch) to an address that delivers via a pipe (postfix is saner, it serializes the deliveries on pipes). The new PTS is much more modular and its memory footprint is bigger (about 3 times more for the process that delivers mails, 30Mb instead of 10Mb), and in such a situation we managed to run out of memory… for now we worked around the situation with an exim setting that queues mails once the load gets too high but it’s a poor workaround IMO. We could obviously implement our own queue and a daemon but I’d like to avoid this. So who knows how to tell exim to behave? :-)

On the positive side, Marko has gotten some feedback from people who like the new PTS and are using it daily already. And several persons have expressed their interest to work on the new codebase already.

On my side, I created a package so that it’s easy to deploy for derivatives. In this process, I revamped the way we manage the Django settings (for development and for production). The package is not finished yet, but it’s mostly usable already. But I still want to do some cleanup/refactoring in the models before others start deploying it. We must also enable South to make it possible to upgrade easily afterwards.

DebConf 13 in Vaumarcus

From August 10th to 17th, I was attending DebConf 13. It matched the only week of vacation that my wife had this summer so we went there with the whole family (that is with a 3 years old son, and 6 months old one). Thus I could not immerse myself in Debconf and missed all the nice things that happen outside of the talk rooms. I picked 3-4 interesting talks per day and I spent the rest with my family.

On the positive side, I was pleased that my wife could meet (or at least see) some other Debian people. She knows quite a few (of you) by name because I have been telling her Debian stories for years now…

Debian France

Debian France sold quite some merchandise during Debconf but I didn’t take care of that. It was supervised by Sylvestre Ledru but fortunately he got the help of multiple persons, both to bring everything there, to sell it, and to bring back the rest.

The good news of the month is that the upstream author of galette published a new version with all the features that we ordered him a few months ago. We send now automatic reminders to members who must renew their subscription, we have automatic update of our accounting books (in a ledger file in a git repository) when we people donate or pay their subscription via the paypal form on our website.

I was so pleased to finally have this that I took some hours to finalize the packaging of galette, so that it could be uploaded to Debian. It’s now waiting in the NEW queue. I also spent multiple hours to write the python script that is executed by galette and that updates the accounting files.

Misc Debian stuff

Debian Packaging. I did two uploads of logidee-tools to fix bugs #718671 and #718836. I created a package for Dolibarr a PHP-based CRM and ERP software (it doesn’t do accounting however), it’s sitting in the NEW queue for almost a month already. I forwarded #719000 to the upstream Publican developers. I filed #720393 to request a new upstream version of libphp-mailer.

git-multimail. After its deployment on Alioth last month, Niels Thykier reported me a case where it lead to bounces, I filed this as a new upstream ticket and in fact I fixed it myself a few days after. I got the fixed version installed on Alioth.

dpkg. I investigated why the the automatic builds of dpkg were no longer happening and asked Michael Prokop if he could install a newer version of gettext in the build chroot. He told me that he would need a backport for that so I asked Santiago Vila if he was willing to provide it and he kindly accepted. A few days after, the package was in backports and I’m now again running the latest dpkg out of git thanks to the nice service provided by Michael.

Misc discussions. The thread about “user planets” drifted into a discussion of how to avoid “promotional posts” on such planets and in that context someone again brought up the Debian Machine Usage Policy as a way to shut down any kind of (self-)promotional content on planet if there’s money involved. This always irritates me and this time I opted to ask James Troup about the origin of that clause in the DMUP. So who is willing to work with DSA to fix the DMUP so that people stop abusing it in contexts where it doesn’t make sense?

I also participated in some discussions concerning dgit. I like the ideas behind the tool, but I’m saddened by the behavior of Ian Jackson. I helped him to fill his gap of knowledge about new sources formats but he keeps on bashing about the “3.0 (quilt)” source format both in the manual page and in the output of the program. He believes that dgit is no longer an experiment but the truth is that it’s still a poorly commented Perl script doing lots of hackish things.

Kali Linux

Between Debconf and all, I haven’t done much for Kali except a couple of fixes. There’s a nice story of how I tracked a bug in live-installer on the Kali blog. That fix has been committed to Debian. I also improved live-build to include xfsprogs/jfsutils on the ISO image when you include the debian-installer (so that you don’t end up in problems when you pick JFS or XFS as file systems for your installation).

Thanks

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