Older blog entries for jaldhar (starting at number 9)

Linuxworld 2004
Here's my report on this years Linuxworld Conference and Expo where Debian once again had a booth in the .org pavilion.

Some of you may already know my theory on how the location of the .org pavilion indicates the health of the Linux business world. For those who don't, here's an explanation. In the glory days of yore when Red Hat and VA Linux had mega-IPOs, Mozilla was open sourced, and the penguin hordes were about to reduce Redmond to a charred and smoking ruin, the .org pavilion was relegated to the very back of the show floor. As times became more dire, it started creeping up until the fell winter of 2003 when it was actually in the front where ordinary people could see it. This year it was in the middle and to the left side so I predict a good year for the Linux industry. The booth was your basic 10' x 10' at the end of a row with a table, two chairs and a waste paper basket. We had one ethernet feed so had to bring in a hub. There was supposed to be WiFi access but hardly anyone ever got it working.

Debian developers manning the booth this year for one or more days were Clint Adams, Phil Blundell, Adam DiCarlo, Jimmy Kaplowitz, Joe Nahmias, Matt Taggart, and myself. We were also visited by Andres Saloman, Laurence Lane, and Bruce Perens who wanted to get his key signed so he can get back into Debian development with his User Linux initiative.

We decided we were going to do some proper PR this year but had some mixed results some of which were due to totally underestimating the response we thought we would get. I was going to produce posters and flyers. The first printer I approached to make the posters botched the job so at the last minute I had to have one made at Kinkos. They charged a hideous amount of money so I only had one made. The flyers were good but I didn't make enough and they were gone by Thursday morning. Kinkos struck again with the banner Jimmy was going to have made. It never showed up. Luckily we didn't pay for it either because once again they charged way too much. Matt and Adams' efforts were more fruitful. Matt brought swirl t-shirts, this year in powder blue with "debian/rules" on the back. (We also had a box of beige shirts with Tux on the front courtesy of TinyApps.org.) and Debian stickers and case badges. They were a huge hit as always. Adam did a phenomenal job in procuring CD donations. They also flew out of our hands in breathtaking quantities. One slight miscalculation was I asked him to get lots of Sarge netinst CDs with beta 2 of the new installer. My reasoning was that the perennial complaint is that "Debian is too hard to install." so people would be really interested in trying our new installer. But it turned out it was 7-cd sets of Woody which people were really interested in which surprised us all. All these efforts netted us as a total of over $2,000 for the project, a substantial increase over last year.

Once again Sun lent us a computer and once again we had trouble getting Debian installed on it. (Though for a different reason than last time.) We gave up and showed Debian on our laptops. Phil had an IPaq too which looked really cool. Over in the KDE booth they were demoing KDE on Debian machines and our favorite distro was to be found scattered throughout other booths too.

Last year the big event which drew people to us from other distros was Mandrakes' bankruptcy. This year it was Red Hats' refocus of their distribution. Now I understand their reasons (and I'm not just saying that because of the gift of a cardigan I got for attending a presentation for RHCEs) but it has a lot of their customers and supporters worried and Debian is looking like a tempting option for such people. Over all, I was impressed by the more sophisticated knowledge of the various distributions people were showing. Well I did get one person asking me "what is a Linux distribution?" but that was only one. Debian seems to have much better name recognition these days. Even novices want to use Debian. I felt I had to caution them, "Are you sure? Debian is not the most newbie-friendly distribution." but no they wanted Debian. A lot of this publicity is due to commercial distributions like LibraNet, Lindows, and Xandros as wells as Live CDs like Knoppix and Morphix which are based on Debian.

On Friday, I was interviewed by SYS-CON radio and may also do an article about Debian for Linuxworld magazine which they publish. The interview went pretty well. I didn't mumble or ramble on too much. I forgot most of the DFSG and social contract which is a little embarrassing but did manage to mention the more salient bits.

Next year the show is leaving New York for Boston so this may be my last as an Exhibitor but I had a good time and met many interesting people. Getting thankyous from satisfied Debian users really makes all the work worthwhile.

I would like to personally thank all the developers and volunteers who manned the booth, About Debian, BSide Internet Media, The Computer Depot, the crepe lady, DebianVendor.org, Innovation Software Group linux-cd.com, Linux Central, the Pakistani taxi driver with who I had an interesting chat about the similarities between Islam and Hinduism even though we missed the Javits center in the process, Red Hat (haha), The Sphere, Sun, SYS-CON Media, tinyapps.org, and any other helpful person or company who I may have inadvertently failed to mention due my lousy memory.

I Jump On Bandwagons Jackie Chan style
In a typical pattern for me I got so enthusiastic about blogging I went got myself 4. All of which now are in total desuetude. My solution? write myself software for a master blog from which I shall update all the others. Yeah that's the ticket.

So what have I been up to lately? Last Tuesday I gave a talk at the Long Island Linux Users Group (LILUG.) It was originally going to be about IMAP but we ended up discussing Debian instead. Get involved in your local LUG it's good fun.

Indian language support in Qt
Version 3.2.0b1 of Trolltechs' Qt toolkit now has more complete support for Unicode encoded Indian languages. The Debian maintainer is saying it's going to be a while before there are official packages so I made my own and voila! all KDE apps are now able to display Hindi, Sanskrit, Gujarati etc. It's not perfect. Jodaksharas do not seem to be supported so for instance vya in my surname is shown as v-virama-ya but at least it's readable. Now to figure out how to do input.

pgp4pine Debian Package
I did an NMU as the package was totally broken. I fixed all extant bugs including a release-critical one and updated it to the latest version.

This isn't quite free software but the source is available. It's software for playing and adjudicating games of Diplomacy via email. We recently released version 1.4.0 which fixes many bugs and adds some new variants and other features. I did the autotools stuff and will also make .rpms and .debs

28 Apr 2003 (updated 28 Apr 2003 at 00:44 UTC) »

perl 6
My first perl 6 program. Check it out.

MichaelCrawford, Ankh
As a devout Hindu, and someone who belongs to a very traditional part of Indian society, I must warn you that the idea that mental health is better in India because of "meditation and insight" is bullshit.

For most of the rural poor mental healthcare amounts to little more than being locked away somewhere to rot. It just so happens that asylums are often located near places of pilgrimage but this is more so the inmates can find support through begging than any religious imperative.

Also there can be mental issues but taking different forms. Take for example the condition of women. You cannot make a blanket statement about the whole country but it is true that in many cases women are in a subordinate position socially. But you have the phenomon of possession by a Goddess. I've seen this in Temples in America too. During a festival, with the premises packed, and after several hours of intense chanting and praying, a women, typically middle-aged and married, will suddenly start moving violently and speaking in a strange voice. People will say (in Gujarati) "Mataji avya chhe." (Mother has come.) Through the woman the Goddess will deliver some oracle. One way to look at this might be as some kind of disorder but why not look at it as a culturally sanctioned way of establishing womens worth? Men may be able to dismiss a silly girl but they cannot argue with the Mother of the Universe!

Having said all that actually I do agree that mental health is overall better in India and religion is the cause. But the reason is not that individualistic meditation is taught. (That has tradionally been the domain of solitary monks. If it has changed in resent times it is more due to California than the Himalayas.) Rather the central value is Dharma which is primarily about ritual acts and social obligations. One defines oneself by ones network of social relationships ranging from in the family to in the cosmos. Thus people feel secure knowing where they are in the grand scheme of things. Of course it is not a panacea (in particular it sucks if you are at the bottom of the social heap) but I think the lack of community, real community not rhetoric, makes Westerners more vulnerable to mental stress.

16 Apr 2003 (updated 16 Apr 2003 at 04:25 UTC) »

dovecot .debs
As there are no better ideas, today I'm going to split up the dovecot package into 4 pieces. Here is the background. Dovecot is an IMAP server that like all IMAP servers listens on port 143 (or 993 for IMAP over SSL.) This means in Debian package dependency terms that dovecot must 'Provide:' the virtual package imap-server. It also needs to 'Conflict:' with imap-server because only one daemon can have the port. Now it has gained a POP3 server component. So it also has to provide and conflict with pop3-server for the same reason. The thing is it is possible that a user may want the IMAP server but turn off the POP3 server and use, say, qpopper instead. But he can't install qpopper because it also provides pop3-server which conflicts with dovecot. The only solution is to split it into dovecot-imap and dovecot-pop3 with dovecot-common for the shared bits. The fourth package called dovecot is simply a dummy which installs dovecot-imap to allow smooth upgrades. This is one area where Gentoo has us beat at the moment. I don't know if there is an ebuild for dovecot but theoretically hey can specify "give me just the IMAP piece not the POP3" in some configuration somewhere. It will be interesting to see if Debian can come up with some solution to this. Having lots of little packages around is icky. The dummy package could be avoided by having dpkg use a field called 'Replacement-for:' or similiar (not 'Replaces:' which is something else.) IIRC, this idea was suggested before but no one ever implemented it.

Deadbeat Maintainers
Wow it looks like asuffield went through with his list of maintainers with excessive old release-critical bugs. Although there may be some false positives this is an important first step in getting rid of some of the cruft (human and package) in Debian which we desperately need to do if we ever hope to release sarge anytime soon.

Taxes (or Dear Prudence)
Another gorgeous day. Too bad I had to spend most of it running around doing my taxes. Last year was our worst ever financially thanks to the rotten economy but we still kept up our quality of life thanks to prudent budgeting and investments. Some of our friends who went nuts during the dot-com bubble are really hurting though.

Happy birthday Chloe! dyork do keep us informed of her progress. My little girl is 17 months old and amazes me every day with the new things she learns. Here's a tip for when Chloe starts walking and touching things in earnest: Velcro anything valuable to the ceiling. Preferably a ceiling in another house.

Screen scraping is so '90s! All the cool kids are using XML-RPC.

There's one kind of politics which is on-topic for the hacker community and that is the openness of information. My threat was absurd but in response to another absurdity. My understanding is that the trust metric is related not to your personality (else I would be a superfunkygrandmaster instead of a journeyer) but your contributions to free software. For instance I don't much care for some of rms's ideas or the way they are expressed but it doesn't stop me from thinking he is a frickin' genius or using ls, grep, etc. By all means people should shun mglazer if his PHP code is crap but not because they don't like his views. And if one is going to ban politics, do it fairly. All the anti-war comments have to go too. (Though I like the life-related comments in general as it helps put a human face on the people who provide our software.)

On the contrary I would like to think I would defend the anti-glazer in the same way. Working in New York I'm constantly harangued by people whose politics are diametrically opposite to mine. Plus I'm regularly exposed to things that offend me as a Hindu such as advertising for Big Macs. But we have to tolerate them because...there is no other way to live together. Really how hard is it to just ignore the diaries of people one isn't interested in? I'm seeing some extreme reactions to an extremely small deal.

I'm flattered but please decertify me. You don't know me so that would be an abuse of the principles that govern this site.

Spring is here!
After a long and gloomy winter, good weather is here at last. Yesterday we took Shailaja to the Temple for the evening arati and tonight we shall go to the park and play on the swings.

Project idea
This concept was prompted by a gushy New York Times article about some Microsoft IM presence-type app, the Sgt. Peppers' album cover and "The Picture of Dorian Grey." Anyway here's the idea. You have a picture of some type. It could be the Sgt. Peppers album cover, the Last Supper, a Dali painting or whatever. Each figure in the picture represents one person in your buddy list, IRC channel, web site etc. and as they login and logout or the moral equivalent, the figure appears or disappears from the picture. Freaky eh? I have no graphics skills but if you do, run with it.

Unofficial Pine Packages For Debian
I've updated my unofficial packages to link against the latest libc-client which might fix some problems people were having. Get them here.

If Advogato was a Marx brothers film, you'd be the old fat lady with the pearls who gets a pie thrown in her face.

I have a good mind to certify mglazer as master just to piss you off. But that would be an abuse of the trust metric just as your advocacy of punishing him for his expression is an abuse of the trust metric.

The anti-war (or should I say pro-dictator) crowd are maniacs who need to be confronted with every means at our disposal. Rock on!

WebService::Advogato 1.00 Released
you can get it from CPAN. I followed the published API very closely. Are there any extra convenience methods I could add? Give me feedback.

10 Apr 2003 (updated 10 Apr 2003 at 14:46 UTC) »

This post sent via XML-RPC
I asked for help on Perl Monks and was given some good advice. I decided to abandon Frontier::Client and use RPC::XML instead. To my surprise it was also quite easy to use. So now my WebService::Advogato module is complete and only needs some tests and documentation before it is shipped off to CPAN.

1 Apr 2003 (updated 1 Apr 2003 at 06:06 UTC) »

Thanks to gary I have my passphrase back. I never would have guessed it in a million years. I don't know what I was thinking when I came up with it.

Hacking time was limited today and instead of working on my Debian packages, I got sidetracked by Advogatos' XML-RPC interface. I started work on a perl client for it. I'm using the Frontier::RPC2 module and apparently not understanding how to get back array responses. All the methods that return single value responses are working fine though so I will just sleep on it and things will i'm sure magically clear up in the morning.

Hooray! I managed to get back into my account. Actually I found a backup of the cookie, I still don't remember what the passphrase is. I must remember to ask raph if it can be retrieved/reset.

So in the meantime what have I been up to? Well I've given away some of my minor Debian packages. I'm not dropping out of Debian altogether, I just want to concentrate on some more original work rather than just packaging other peoples stuff. Unfortunately it looks like webmin/usermin will have to go too but I want to do the decent thing and fix it up before dropping them. The woody package still hasn't been updated despite the number of bugs fixed in -9. The sid packages have some open bugs including one critical one. When that's done I'll put them up for adoption.

Debian has a new sourceforge type site. I've moved the CVS for my "Introducing Debian GNU/Linux" flyer (some propoganda suitable for tradeshows etc.) there. documentation is one of the areas I want to concentrate on now.

As usual, my candidate for Debian Project Leader didn't win. Usually I vote for Branden but this time I split my first choice vote between him and bdale. So of course Martin Michelmayr won. Still he is a good guy and hopefully will give Debian the shakeup it needs.

Thanks to those people who certified me. rkrishnan and walters I recognize from debian but forgive me lypanov and dtucker how do I know you? I'd like to certify you back but I understand it would mess up the trust metric to give certs to people you don't know (or more likely can't remember because you have a memory like a sieve.)

27 Feb 2003 (updated 27 Feb 2003 at 04:27 UTC) »

So I finally got around to creating an Advogato account yesterday. I don't know what took me so long, I've been lurking here for years. Of course I promptly forgot my pass phrase. Is there any way to reset it?

Oh and please certify me. I desperately crave your validation. :)

Debian is going through one of its periodic bouts of hand-wringing. I've made some proposals. Let's see if they stir up any discussion.

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

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