Free Software Activities for 2020-03

DPL Campaign 2020

On the 12th of March, I posted my self-nomination for the Debian Project Leader election. This is the second time I’m running for DPL, and you can read my platform here. The campaign period covered the second half of the month, where I answered a bunch of questions on the debian-vote list. The voting period is currently open and ends on 18 April.

Debian Social

This month we finally announced the Debian Social project. A project that hosts a few websites with the goal to improve communication and collaboration within the Debian project, improve visibility on the work that people do and make it easier for general users to interact with the community and feel part of the project.

Some History

This has been a long time in the making. From my side I’ve been looking at better ways to share/play our huge DebConf video archives for the last 3 years or so. Initially I was considering either some sort of script or small server side app that combined the archives and the metadata into a player, or using something like MediaDrop (which I was using on my website for a while). I ran into a lot of MediaDrop’s limitations early on. It was fine for a very small site but I don’t think it would ever be the right solution for a Debian-wide video hosting platform, and it didn’t seem all that actively maintained either. Wouter went ahead and implemented a web player option for the video archives. His solution is good because it doesn’t rely on any server side software, so it’s easy to mirror and someone who lives on an island could download it and view it offline in that player. It still didn’t solve all our problems though. Popular videos (by either views or likes) weren’t easily discoverable, and the site itself isn’t that easy to discover.

Then PeerTube came along. PeerTube provides a similar type of interface such as MediaDrop or YouTube that gives you likes, viewcount and comments. But what really set it apart from previous things that we looked at was that it’s a federated service. Not only does it federate with other PeerTube instances, but the protocols it uses means that it can connect to all kinds of other services that makes up an interconnected platform called the Fediverse. This was especially great since independent video sites tend to become these lonely islands on the web that become isolated and forgotten. With PeerTube, video sites can subscribe to similar sites on the Fediverse, which makes videos and other video sites significantly more discoverable and attracts more eyeballs.

At DebConf19 I wanted to ramp up the efforts to make a Debian PeerTube instance a reality. I spoke to many people about this and discovered that some Debianites are already making all kinds of Debian videos in many different languages. Some were even distributing them locally on DVD and have never uploaded them. I thought that the Debian PeerTube instance could not only be a good platform for DebConf videos, but it could be a good home for many free software content creators, especially if they create Debian specific content. I spoke to Rhonda about it, who’s generally interested in the Fediverse and wanted to host a instances of Pleroma (microblogging service) and PixelFed (free image hosting service that resembles the Instagram site), but needed a place to host them. We decided to combine efforts, and since a very large amount of fediverse services end with .social in their domain names, we ended up calling this project Debian Social. We’re also hosting some non-fediverse services like a WordPress multisite and a Jitsi instance for video chatting.

Current Status

Currently, we have a few services in a beta/testing state. I think we have most of the kinks sorted out to get them to a phase where they’re ready for wider use. Authentication is a bit of a pain point right now. We don’t really have a single sign-on service in Debian, that guest users can use, or that all these services integrate with. So for now, if you’re a Debian Developer who wants an account on one of these services, you can request a new account by creating a ticket on and selecting the “New account” template. Not all services support having dashes (or even any punctuation in the username whatsoever), so to keep it consistent we’re currently appending just “guest” to salsa usernames for guest users, and “team” at the end of any Debian team accounts or official accounts using these services

Stefano finished uploading all the Debconf videos to the PeerTube instance. Even though it’s largely automated, it ended up being quite a big job fixing up some old videos, their metadata and adding support for PeerTube to the DebConf video scripts. This also includes some videos from sprints and MiniDebConfs that had video coverage, currently totaling 1359 videos.

Future plans

This is still a very early phase for the project. Here are just some ideas that might develop over time on the Debian Social sites:

  • Team accounts. Some Debian teams already have accounts on a myriad of other platforms. For example, the Debian Med team has a blog on blogspot and the Debian Publicity team has an account on I’d really like to make our Debian Social platforms (like our WordPress multisite instance and Pleroma) a place where Debian teams can trust to host their updates on. It would also be nice to have more teams use these that don’t have a particularly big online presence right now, like Debian women or a DPL team account.
  • Developer demos. I enjoy the videos that the GNOME project makes that demos the new features in every release, as they’ve done for the 3.36 release. I think it would be great if people in Debian could make some small videos to demo the things that they’ve been working on. It doesn’t have to be as flashy or elaborate as the GNOME video I’ve linked to, but sometimes just a minute long demo can be really useful to convey a new idea or feature or to show progress that has been made.
  • User participation. YouTube is full of videos that review Debian or demo how to customise it. It would be great if we could get users to post such videos to PeerTube. For Pixelfed, I’d like to try out projects like users posting pictures of their computers with freshly installed Debian systems with a hashtag like #WeInstallDebian, then at the end of the year we could build a nice big mosaic that contains these images. Might make a cool poster for events too.
  • DebConf and other Debian events. We used to use a Gallery instance to host DebConf photos, but it’s always been a bit cumbersome managing photos there and Gallery hasn’t updated it’s UI much over the years causing it to fall a bit out of favour with attendees at these events. As a result, photos end up getting lost in WhatsApp/Telegram/Signal groups, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I hope that we could get enough users signed up on the Pixelfed instance that it could become the de facto standard for posting Debian event photos to. Having a known central place to post these make them easier to find as well.

If you’d like to join this initiative and help out, please join -social on oftc. We’re also looking for people who can help moderate posts on these sites.

Debian packaging

I had the sense that there were fewer upstream releases this month. I suspect that everyone was busy figuring out how to cope during Covid-19 lockdowns taking place all over the world.

2020-03-02: Upload package calamares (3.2.10-1) to Debian unstable.

2020-03-10: Upload package gnome-shell-extension-dash-to-panel (29-1) to Debian unstable.

2020-03-10: Upload package gnome-shell-extension-draw-on-your-screen (5.1-1) to Debian unstable.

2020-03-28: Upload package gnome-shell-extension-dash-to-panel (31-1) to Debian unstable.

2020-03-28: Upload package gnome-shell-extension-draw-on-your-screen (6-1) to Debian unstable.

2020-03-28: Update package python3-flask-autoindexing packaging, not releasing due to licensing change that needs further clarification. (GitHub issue #55).

2020-03-28: Upload package gamemode (1.5.1-1) to Debian unstable.

2020-03-28: Upload package calamares (3.2.21-1) to Debian unstable.

Debian mentoring

2020-03-03: Sponsor package python-jaraco.functools (3.0.0-1) (Python team request).

2020-03-03: Review python-ftputil (3.4-1) (Needs some more work) (Python team request).

2020-03-04: Sponsor package pythonmagick (0.9.19-6) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

2020-03-23: Sponsor package bitwise (0.41-1) for Debian unstable (Email request).

2020-03-23: Sponsor package gpxpy (1.4.0-1) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

2020-03-28: Sponsor package gpxpy (1.4.0-2) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

2020-03-28: Sponsor package celery (4.4.2-1) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

2020-03-28: Sponsor package buildbot (2.7.0-1) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

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1 Response

  1. Terrance says:

    Congratulations on being the new Project Lead! Really surprised and impressed to see a fellow Capetonian get it. I’ll be keenly scouring upcoming releases of Debian for the word ‘lekker’ ;)

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