Which netbook?

Sep 10, 2008 / 0 comments

I think I want a netbook. Although I'm still happy with my R200 (especially since I replaced the battery) something smaller would be handy for the train and general carting about. With the R200 being 12" I'm more drawn to the 8.9" variants; 10" isn't a lot smaller and at the cheaper end doesn't appear to result in any higher a resolution than 8.9"

Really I'd like something with built in 3G/HSDPA, but only the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 seems to have this, and the Linux model isn't even on sale yet in the UK, let alone the 3G version.

If I can't get 3G then I'm drawn to the EEE 901. It seems to have the best battery life, has bluetooth and isn't too expensive (though at the higher end of what I'd want to pay for a 2nd machine). Plus it has the appeal that I should be able to walk into a shop and pick one up. Main drawback is that I've read the Ralink RT2860 wifi ain't great (and the driver isn't in mainline yet, though there is one kicking around). Any truth in this? Any other gotchas?

Thoughts, people? I've seen an MSI Wind in the flesh and it was a bit big. The Acer Aspire One looks nice enough, but not great battery life and no bluetooth. Any others I should be looking at instead of the 901? Must be easily available in the UK. I will, of course, be running Debian on it.

No so clever now, eh?

Sep 2, 2008 / 0 comments

I've been quite pleased with my evil Perl script that logs into my OpenID account and then uses the credentials to pull authorised LiveJournal feeds to local files, ready for Liferea to read. Except I keep breaking my OpenID stuff (because I haven't got round to putting the openid.server/delegate headers in the Movable Type index template) and not noticing. And the OpenID login works fine, but then LJ just doesn't auth me rather than erroring, so I see some posts but not friends locked stuff. Tonight I noticed. And discovered posts all the way back to before June.

So if I've missed some major event in your life in the past 3 months, sorry. And if you get comments from me on old posts in the next few days, this is why.

Neither really means neither

Aug 28, 2008 / 0 comments

Our Belfast office has finally got large enough to have to partake in the NI Equality Commission monitoring. This covers religion and gender. The options for religion are:

  • I consider myself a member of the Catholic community
  • I consider myself a member of the Protestant community
  • I consider myself a member of neither community

Which all seems fine, except for the bit below that says "If you do not complete this questionaire, we are encouraged to use the "residuary" method, which means that we can make a determination on the basis of personal infomation on file/application form". It turns out that also applies to the neither option. So I clarified with the poor guy who's having to deal with this what he'd do if I ticked neither. And he rang the Equality Commission for some advice. And it turns out that although the wording in the step-by-step guide for employers is "we strongly advise" essentially if you end up with more than a certain number of neithers then you put yourself at risk of an investigation.

FFS. How the hell is this country supposed to get any better if even the Equality Commission is forcing us all to be one side or the other?

(I ticked the neither box and told the guy handling it that if he had to apply the residual method then I'd provide him some suitable information to support whichever side was most convenient. It's not his fault some silly buggers want to make me a Protestant or Catholic atheist, or imply I only hang round with one side or the other.)

I'll have what she's having

Aug 26, 2008 / 0 comments

pleia2 wants a new smartphone. Me too.The current options seem to be a Nokia E90 or an HTC Touch Pro. Both have disadvantages, but nothing else appears to offer a keyboard and decent screen. I'd quite like to have a play with a Touch Pro to see what it's like and if the interface is fast enough to not be annoying for normal phone use. I've also seen various snippets about the forthcoming HTC Dream Google Android based device suggesting it might be out in October. I'd been expecting it not to happen until next year, but October is tantalisingly close...

DebConf8 writeup

Aug 24, 2008 / 0 comments

I took a note of the various talks I attended at DebConf, with the aim of writing a few notes about each so that I could try to explain to my work mates exactly what I get out of going. However I think a lot of the benefit is about general face to face contact with fellow DDs and random conversations that happen. Having worked from home for over 3 years I'm finding it quite nice to be back in an office with people working on the same things as me; there are conversations that you will have over a quick cup of coffee or in the corridor that you wouldn't bother typing on IRC or email or picking up the phone for. Debian is a lot like a large organisation full of telecommuters and DebConf provides a vital opportunity for us to have those "minor" conversations that prove quite useful and to remind each other what we're actually like in person.

I didn't end up writing a lot of notes during the talks so these are just snippets after the fact. If I'd been more organised I'd have done a write up on a daily basis rather than leaving it all until the week after. A lot of the below is fragmented thoughts, but the longer I leave it the less relevant it gets and the more chance I forget something. It'd have been up faster if I hadn't been fighting Movable Type to try and get some sort of headings.


Introduction, Marga

The "Welcome to DebConf" bit. Marga got up and talked about how at DebConf4 (Brazil) she hadn't been a DD and now she was and how it had been a life changing event. She'd thought she was to blame for DebConf8 in Argentina, but trawling mail archives had shown it was originally Martín's idea. She hadn't realised at the start quite how much work it would be.

Steve's DPL talk, Steve McIntyre

The DPL welcomes us to DebConf and talks about Debian's achievements, some of the results of his team survey (the teams largely say they need more manpower. Not really a huge surprise.).

NM/User Survey BOF, Paul Wise

Paul emailed debian-user, debian-newmaint and various other places (I think) asking about people's experiences as a Debian user or applicant to New Maint. His final results aren't yet published and I got the impression a disappointing number of our users had replied. The NM problems these days seem to be largely down to a lack of AMs, at least according to the stats on nm.debian.org.

Meet SPI board - bdale, maulkin, jimmy, michael, others

A chance to meet those of the SPI board who were present. The usual "If you're involved with Debian you should seriously consider joining SPI". Some discussion about the fact that although SPI was originally mostly Debian these days other projects are making more and more use of it - OFTC, PostgreSQL and Madwifi for example.

Not a huge amount of new information for me. I've been an SPI member for some time and I think they perform a vital role for Debian. They've had issues in the past but it's really good to see them overcome and more projects on board.


http://hp.com/go/debian, bdale

Bdale talks about the history of Debian and HP. And makes the point that HP aren't doing any of this to be "nice"; their primary responsibility is to their shareholders. Not surprising, but it's good that even with that criteria at the fore front Debian ends up a good idea for a large multinational.

Managing 666 packages, Martín Ferrari

Mostly centered around the pkg-perl experience and the tools/workflow they have to help manage things. Impressive web tool (DEHS) to help track packages with new upstreams, issues or pending uploads.

Quality Assurance in Lenny + 1

I can't remember a lot of this, which is a bit bad. I remember a discussion about whether we should release with orphaned packages, or if they should be removed. The argument for not removing them seemed to revolve around a theory that if they weren't buggy then what was the harm, the argument for was that if they were unmaintained and not really used than how did we actually know they weren't buggy, and was it reasonable that they potentially held up library transitions etc?

Bugs in large packages

Don Armstrong and ways in which the BTS can help people with lots of bugs. This (thankfully) doesn't affect me, but it was interesting to hear Don talk about his work on the BTS and his various ideas. I was sorry I'd missed his talk on SOAP access to it; I shall have to find time to watch the video.


Debian and Ubuntu, Mark Shuttleworth

The usual interaction with Debian stuff, including how we interact with our upstreams. If a bug is raised with an Ubuntu package then it might well be appropriate to raise it with Debian and upstream as well, but each set of people should be able to use their own bug reporting systems rather than having to go to a foreign system. I don't think it was actually said, but I guess the idea is that launchpad is the thing that will do this gluing together. He also talked about Ubuntu as an "experiment" rather than a fork of Debian; something that has potentially different ideas about how to do things but that these ideas may lead to things that should be fed back into Debian. The point was made that even if you consider Ubuntu a fork they've forked 9 times now; it hasn't been a case of forking once and diverging wildly since thast point.

I have a few thoughts on all the whole Debian/Ubuntu stuff which I should really try to form into something coherant and post. I think it's important to take Mark's talk in the context of bdale's "Shareholders come first" point.

Derivatives round table

Didn't stay for most of this. Ubuntu, Debian-EDU (which I hadn't realised was a derivative rather than a team within Debian, but apparently there are various things it was much easier for them just to patch now and try to work towards a generic solution later), someone from Extramadura and someone from the Munich government Linux stuff. I'm sure I've missed someone off.


This was a useful BOF. It helped that we said no to the usual video team requirement that if you want to speak you had to wait for the microphone. This works fine for a normal talk, but really impedes the flow of conversation in something like a BOF.

tdebs are something that have partly come from a need of Emdebian to reduce installed package size and partly from the desire of the i18n team to be able to update package translations without having to do a full binary NMU of a package.

We had some of the FTP team, the release team, the i18n team and Emdebian there and I think some progress has been made. There'd been various conversations had before this meeting which I think helped people think about the issues and objections so that we had answers by the time we all sat down together - an excellent example of the use of DebConf.

DebConf9 Cáceres

Various bits of discussion about next year's DebConf in Extramadura. Temperature is likely to be an issue for me as they reckon it could easily get up to 40C! I'll melt! Venue sounds good; some queries regarding late night hacklabs and net connections to same, but I'm sure the networking team will sort it all out as usual. ;)

DebConf10 bids

Venezela and New York were both pitching. Lots of people don't want to travel to the US or think they'll have problems doing so (I hadn't realised there was such an issue for people from South America). I suspect various people will have issues with Venezela as well; I heard expressions of doubt over their political stability expressed. However I'd be happy to go to either (and preferably both! DebConf10 + 12 perhaps?) Speaking of which, what ever happened to the Sarajevo bid? If they're reading, have you considered DebConf11?


A day trip to an Argentinian ranch and lunch was an asido. Fantastic food and a pleasant afternoon spent sitting in the sun chatting to people. That evening was the formal, but thanks to having stayed up until after 4 on Tuesday I had to wimp out and go to bed fairly early. Not until I'd seen the DPL dance though. :)


Internationalization in Debian

I forget most of this other than pretty graphs from Christian regarding what's translated and what other languages we might have; e.g. you can consider South America to be covered largely by Spanish and Portuguese, or you can consider it to not be covered very much at all by the local indigenous languages.

dh-make-webapp: yeah right!

Mainly what I took away from this was "It'll never happen thanks to the fact that every web app author uses a different system" and that more work needs to be done on the web apps best practices document. I don't really do web apps, but having them easily installable on my systems is a good thing so I hope some standardisation within Debian comes from this.

Best practises in team-maintaining packages

Various team members got up to talk about work flow in their teams. Not unsurprisingly different things seem to work for different people.

Predictable PRNG in the Vulnerable Debian OpenSSL Package

Lucian giving his Black Hat talk about the OpenSSL issues we faced earlier this year. Some queries about automated testing and that it should have found this, which originally I agreed with until I thought about it - you'd have to have run > 65536 tests and compared all the data to find this; something like the FIPS tests against a single run wouldn't have shown any issues. Lucian wanted feedback on ensuring he was presenting the Debian side of things acceptably as well.


Run by Don Armstrong. Nothing to really remark except I think key signing attendance is dropping off after things like the Helsinki experience. Also I've now managed to get my new RSA key signed by keys other than my own (and I'll try to get sorted out to sign keys myself soon).



Intel's drive towards reducing power usage. Odd to hear such things from someone who wasn't Matthew Garrett and I think I'd heard most of it before.

Debian technical policy update

Sorry Manoj, I should have been paying more attention. Debian Policy is something I think is important, but I'm not enough of a nitpicker to really feel I can contribute a whole lot.

Virtualisation in Debian - Present and future

This was depressing. What I took away was "We had 2 forms of virtualisation in etch (Xen + vserver) and we're supporting neither for Lenny". As someone running a Xen machine this is problematic. The host does have the hardware support that would allow kvm, but I'm worried about smooth migration (it's a colo box). There was some mention of Xenner, which isn't packaged for Debian. I took a look at doing so but there are some worrying items in the TODO list (like, oh, locking to enable reliable SMP) and I've spectacularly failed to get it compiling so far. I should have another go.

Emdebian update

Neil Williams about where Emdebian is and waved his Balloon3 about. Some interest from the Openmoko guys and discussion about why it might be better than OpenEmbedded. And equally what it couldn't do that OpenEmbedded can manage (mainly very small installs; a minimal Emdebian install is 24MB+ and with X that goes up to 75MB+ I believe).


I'd never actually seen Martin talk about netconf before. Am impressive flow of control diagram. It all sounds quite complex for little benefit at present, but if he pulls it off then I can see it being a much more flexible replacement for the likes of Network Manager.


Lenny - The Road To Release

Neil played with putting the heads of the release team on random images. And tried to tell us all how to behave during the release process in terms of what should and shouldn't be uploaded etc. Most of it is just common sense, but apparently everything he talked about he'd experienced. Also pointed out we were supposed to release in 3 weeks and didn't even have the appropriate kernel in testing yet so it's probably not going to happen. Colour me surprised.

Sustainable Computing

Low power consumption/affordable computing. Interesting points about the OLPC being used in the middle of nowhere with no chance of an Internet connection being close by compared to neighbours in large cities where people can't necessarily afford top of the line computers or individual connections - in this sort of scenario mesh networking is really viable in terms of getting people connected up.

Multi winner voting

Manoj needs pretty diagrams, probably drawn by Martin Krafft. ;) Semi-interesting discussion about multi-winner voting (e.g. SPI board elections) and how the current Debian voting system is completely tied to Debian's infrastructure eg the LDAP setup. Manoj would like to make it more generic so it could be used by other groups as well as for different sorts of votes in Debian.

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