Free Software Activities for 2020-01

I spent some time migrating from a Mediadrop instance to a PeerTube instance. Overall, I think it provides a much better user experience and it has some great new features.

PeerTube allows federation with other instances (read more about the fediverse on Wikipedia), my instance follows a few other instances that hosts free software and electronics content (like and During tis process I also discovered and enabled HLS (HTTP Live Streaming). If you’ve noticed how NetFlix switches between resolutions without any pauses or stuttering when a connection goes bad/saturated, then that’s exactly what HLS enables. It fragments mp4 files into a a whole lot of smaller files in different resolutions, allowing to quickly switch between resolutions. The only big downside is that content consumes quite a bit more disk space (about 50% more), but I think it’s worth it.

I haven’t created much content in 2019 but I hope to do a whole bunch of Debian Package of the Day vidoes this year and also some interviews with interesting people.

Debian Social

This month, we finally got some server space for the Debian Social project (thanks to for handling the admin on that). The purpose of the Debian Social team is to set up, maintain, administer and moderate sites that are built on software stacks that aren’t really ready to be maintained by the Debian System Administrators yet (or perhaps not even ever). Despite what some might infer from the name, the goal isn’t to build any kind of ‘social network’ for Debian per sé, but there are many projects built on the fediverse that can be very beneficial for Debian and we want to implement those for our communities as a safe space to share, create content and learn.

For now, we’re planning to set up 3 services. More might follow in the future:

  • PeerTube: Federated video sharing. PeerTube has a UI very similar to YouTube. We plan to encourage Debian contributors to upload howtos and other types of Debian content to this platform. For a long time, we’ve also been shopping for a nice video hosting platform for the DebConf video archive and PeerTube ticks a lot of our boxes, so we’ll soon be uploading all the DebConf videos to our PeerTube instance as well. This instance will federate (and provide some cache for) instances run by Debian and free software content creators. It’s in very early stages and we have a lot of work to do before it’s widely ready, we’ll make some larger announcements as things progress.
  • Plemora: Federated microblogging. Plemora is compatible with GNU Social and Mastodon, what sets it apart is that it has better moderation tools.
  • Pixelfed: Federated image sharing. Pixelfed is an image sharing platform similar to Instagram, but fully free software. Currently, when Debian has events like DebConf, sprints, etc, images are shared in all kinds of places like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal groups where they basically go lost and forgotten. For DebConf we also have a gallery instance, but it has become aged in many ways and people have lost interest in using it to the point where no photos were added last year. The idea is that we can share images on a platform that is free and easy and will help us grow together as a community.

MiniDebCamp FOSDEM

Hackerspace entrance in Brussels.

The last 3 days of the month I was at MiniDebCamp FOSDEM, a get together of Debian contributors preceding the FOSDEM conference. We were hosted by HSBXL, an interesting hacker space in Brussels. Turnout was quite good, with more than 50 people showing up, working on all kinds of things and with impromptu lightning talks at the end.

The first two days of the minidebcamp I worked on a Python script for parsing DebConf archive metadata and automatically uploading videos to our peertube instance. Initially I used the PeerTube CLI tools, which has a huge dependency chain and a somewhat intrusive setup. I made good progress with this, but started hitting some limitations and seeked out a proper Python module instead. I found peertube-uploader, a Python CLI script, but it’s a bit too basic for our use case. After talking about it with Stefano over dinner, we ended up concluding that it’s going to be best to use the PeerTube API (which is well documented with examples) with some inspiration from peertube-uploader. I should find some quiet time over February to finish that up.

On the last day I worked a bit on the Calamares framebuffer session, which is part of my Calamares roadmap for buster. Soon you’ll be able to pass a kernel command line parameter like “calamaresfb” and then the Calamares will start up without loading an entire desktop environment or a Xorg/Wayland session, which can be beneficial for low memory/resource systems. It still looks a bit ugly but upstream has mentioned some potential solutions that I’ll try out at some later stage.

Other people who also blogged about MiniDebCanp FOSDEM:

Debian packaging

2020-01-06: Upload package gnome-shell-extension-pixelsaver (1.20-1) to Debian unstable.

2020-01-06: Upload package gamemode (1.5~git20190812-107d469-5~bpo10+1) to Debian buster (backport).

2020-01-07: Upload package bcachefs-tools (0.1+git20190829.aa2a42b-1) to Debian experimental.

2020-01-07: Upload package gnome-shell-extension-pixelsaver (1.20-1~bpo10+1) to Debian buster (backport).

2020-01-09: Upload package xabacus (8.2.4-1) to Debian unstable.

2020-01-10: Upload package bundlewrap (3.8.0-1) to Debian unstable.

2020-01-13: Merge MR#5 for gamemode (MR#5).

2020-01-29: Upload package toot (0.25.02) to Debian unstable.

2020-01-29: Upload package s-tui (1.0.0-1) to Debian unstable.

Debian mentoring

2020-01-06: Sponsor package python-yenc (0.4.0) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

2020:01-06: Sponsor package py-postgresql (1.2.1+git20180803.ef7b9a9-2) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

2020-01-06: Sponsor package pydispatcher (2.0.5-2) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

2020-01-08: Sponsor package python-gmusicapi (12.1.1-2) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

2020-01-08: Sponsor package python-httplib2 (0.14.0-1) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

2020-01-08: Sponsor package python-django-split-settings (0.3.0-2) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

2020-01-08: Sponsor package pymssql (2.1.4+dfsg-3) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

2020-01-09: Advocate debian maintainer application (NM#710).

2020-01-21: Review package python-marshmallow-polyfield (Needs some more work) (Python team request).

AIMS Desktop

In 2018 we switched the AIMS Desktop website to static pages generated by Hugo. Hugo works ok but it ended up just slightly too much effort for general news, and somehow just not quite as well suited for documentation as read-the-docs (which also generates static sites). So this month I worked on splitting the website into a WordPress instance and RTD pages for documentation. The documentation is still really thin, but it’s live at, I’m hoping to get some AIMS students involved in adding content and have a bunch of pages I plan to add myself. The WordPress instance is nearly ready but just needs a little bit more work before it can go live, hopefully that can happen by early next month.

AIMS PPA Uploads:

2020-01-06: Upload package gnome-shell-extension-pixelsaver (1.20-1~aimsppa1~bp1) to AIMS Desktop 2020.1 PPA.

2020-01-06: Upload package gamemode (1.5~git20190812-107d469-5~aimsppa1~bp1) to AIMS Desktop 2020.1 PPA.

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1 Response

  1. 2 February 2020

    […] "I spent some time migrating from a #Mediadrop instance to a #PeerTube instance. Overall, I think it provides a much better user experience and it has some great new features." […]

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