I very, very nearly didn’t make it to DebConf this year, I had a bad cold/flu for a few days before I left, and after a negative covid-19 test just minutes before my flight, I decided to take the plunge and travel.
This is just everything in chronological order, more or less, it’s the only way I could write it.
I planned to spend DebCamp working on various issues. Very few of them actually got done, I spent the first few days in bed further recovering, took a covid-19 test when I arrived and after I felt better, and both were negative, so not sure what exactly was wrong with me, but between that and catching up with other Debian duties, I couldn’t make any progress on catching up on the packaging work I wanted to do. I’ll still post what I intended here, I’ll try to take a few days to focus on these some time next month:
Calamares / Debian Live stuff:
- #980209 – installation fails at the “install boot loader” phase
- #1021156 – calamares-settings-debian: Confusing/generic program names
- #1037299 – “Install Debian” -> “Untrusted application launcher”
- #1037123 – “Minimal HD space required’ too small for some live images”
- #971003– Console auto-login doesn’t work with sysvinit
At least Calamares has been trixiefied in testing, so there’s that!
- #1038660 – please set a placeholder theme during development, different from any release
- #1021816 – breeze: Background image not shown any more
- #956102 – desktop-base: unwanted metadata within images
- #605915 – please mtheake it a non-native package
- #681025 – Put old themes in a new package named desktop-base-extra
- #941642 – desktop-base: split theme data files and desktop integrations in separate packages
The “Egg” theme that I want to develop for testing/unstable is based on Juliette Taka’s Homeworld theme that was used for Bullseye. Egg, as in, something that hasn’t quite hatched yet. Get it? (for #1038660)
- Set up Lemmy instance
- I started setting up a Lemmy instance before DebCamp, and meant to finish it.
- Migrate PeerTube to new server
- We got a new physical server for our PeerTube instance, we should have more space for growth and it would help us fix the streaming feature on our platform.
I intended to get the loop for DebConf in good shape before I left, so that we can spend some time during DebCamp making some really nice content, unfortunately this went very tumbly, but at least we ended up with a loopy that kind of worked and wasn’t too horrible. There’s always another DebConf to try again, right?
So DebCamp as a usual DebCamp was pretty much a wash (fitting with all the rain we had?) for me, at least it gave me enough time to recover a bit for DebConf proper, and I had enough time left to catch up on some critical DPL duties and put together a few slides for the Bits from the DPL talk.
Bits From the DPL
I had very, very little available time to prepare something for Bits fro the DPL, but I managed to put some slides together (available on my wiki page).
I mostly covered:
- A very quick introduction of myself (I’ve done this so many times, it feels redundant giving my history every time), and some introduction on what it is that the DPL does. I declared my intent not to run for DPL again, and the reasoning behind it, and a few bits of information for people who may intend to stand for DPL next year.
- The sentiment out there for the Debian 12 release (which has been very positive). How we include firmware by default now, and that we’re saying goodbye to architectures both GNU/KFreeBSD and mipsel.
- Debian Day and the 30th birthday party celebrations from local groups all over the world (and a reminder about the Local Groups BoF later in the week).
- I looked forward to Debian 13 (trixie!), and how we’re gaining riscv64 as a release architecture, as well as loongarch64, and that plans seem to be forming to fix 2k38 in Debian, and hopefully largely by the time the Trixie release comes by.
- I made some comments about “Enterprise Linux” as people refer to the RHEL eco-system these days, how really bizarre some aspects of it is (like the kernel maintenance), and that some big vendors are choosing to support systems outside of that eco-system now (like CPanel now supporting Ubuntu too). I closed with the quote below from Ian Murdock, and assured the audience that if they want to go out and make money with Debian, they are more than welcome too.
I walked through the hallway where the Job Fair was hosted, and enjoyed all the buzz. It’s not always easy to get this right, but this year it was very active and energetic, I hope lots of people made some connections!
Cheese & Wine
Due to state laws and alcohol licenses, we couldn’t consume alcohol from outside the state of Kerala in the common areas of the hotel (only in private rooms), so this wasn’t quite as big or as fun as our usual C&W parties since we couldn’t share as much from our individual countries and cultures, but we always knew that this was going to be the case for this DebConf, and it still ended up being alright.
I opted for the forest / waterfalls daytrip. It was really, really long with lots of time in the bus. I think our trip’s organiser underestimated how long it would take between the points on the route (all in all it wasn’t that far, but on a bus on a winding mountain road, it takes long). We left at 8:00 and only found our way back to the hotel around 23:30. Even though we arrived tired and hungry, we saw some beautiful scenery, animals and also met indigenous river people who talked about their struggles against being driven out of their place of living multiple times as government invests in new developments like dams and hydro power.
Photos available in the DebConf23 public git repository.
Losing a beloved Debian Developer during DebConf
To our collective devastation, not everyone made it back from their day trips. Abraham Raji was out to the kayak day trip, and while swimming, got caught by a whirlpool from a drainage system.
Even though all of us were properly exhausted and shocked in disbelief at this point, we had to stay up and make some tough decisions. Some initially felt that we had to cancel the rest of DebConf. We also had to figure out how to announce what happened asap both to the larger project and at DebConf in an official manner, while ensuring that due diligence took place and that the family is informed by the police first before making anything public.
We ended up cancelling all the talks for the following day, with an address from the DPL in the morning to explain what had happened. Of all the things I’ve ever had to do as DPL, this was by far the hardest. The day after that, talks were also cancelled for the morning so that we could attend his funeral. Dozens of DebConf attendees headed out by bus to go pay their final respects, many wearing the t-shirts that Abraham had designed for DebConf.
A book of condolences was set up so that everyone who wished to could write a message on how they remembered him. The book will be kept by his family.
Today marks a week since his funeral, and I still feel very raw about it. And even though there was uncertainty whether DebConf should even continue after his death, in hindsight I’m glad that everyone pushed forward. While we were all heart broken, it was also heart warming to see people care for each other in all of this. If anything, I think I needed more time at DebConf just to be in that warm aura of emotional support for just a bit longer. There are many people who I wanted to talk to who I barely even had a chance to see.
Abraham, or Abru as he was called by some people (which I like because “bru” in Afrikaans” is like “bro” in English, not sure if that’s what it implied locally too) enjoyed artistic pursuits, but he was also passionate about knowledge transfer. He ran classes at DebConf both last year and this year (and I think at other local events too) where he taught people packaging via a quick course that he put together. His enthusiasm for Debian was contagious, a few of the people who he was mentoring came up to me and told me that they were going to see it through and become a DD in honor of him. I can’t even remember how I reacted to that, my brain was already so worn out and stitching that together with the tragedy of what happened while at DebConf was just too much for me.
I first met him in person last year in Kosovo, I already knew who he was, so I think we interacted during the online events the year before. He was just one of those people who showed so much promise, and I was curious to see what he’d achieve in the future. Unfortunately, we was taken away from us too soon.
Later in the week we had the poetry evening. This was the first time I had the courage to recite something. I read Ithaka by C.P. Cavafy (translated by Edmund Keely). The first time I heard about this poem was in an interview with Julian Assange’s wife, where she mentioned that he really loves this poem, and it caught my attention because I really like the Weezer song “Return to Ithaka” and always wondered what it was about, so needless to say, that was another rabbit hole at some point.
Our DebConf photographer organised another group photo for this event, links to high-res versions available on Aigar’s website.
I didn’t attend nearly as many talks this DebConf as I would’ve liked (fortunately I can catch up on video, should be released soon), but I did make it to a few BoFs.
In the Local Groups BoF, representatives from various local teams were present who introduced themselves and explained what they were doing. From memory (sorry if I left someone out), we had people from Belgium, Brazil, Taiwan and South Africa. We talked about types of events a local group could do (BSPs, Mini DC, sprints, Debian Day, etc. How to help local groups get started, booth kits for conferences, and setting up some form of calendar that lists important Debian events in a way that makes it easier for people to plan and co-ordinate. There’s a mailing list for co-ordination of local groups, and the irc channel is #debian-localgroups on oftc.
In the Debian.net BoF, we discussed the Debian.net hosting service, where Debian pays for VMs hosted for projects by individual DDs on Debian.net. The idea is that we start some form of census that monitors the services, whether they’re still in use, whether the system is up to date, whether someone still cares for it, etc. We had some discussion about where the lines of responsibility are drawn, and we can probably make things a little bit more clear in the documentation. We also want to offer more in terms of backups and monitoring (currently DDs do get 500GB from rsync.net that could be used for backups of their services though). The intention is also to deploy some form of configuration management for some essentials across the hosts. We should also look at getting some sponsored hosting for this.
In the Debian Social BoF, we discussed some services that need work / expansion. In particular, Matrix keeps growing at an increased rate as more users use it and more channels are bridged, so it will likely move to its own host with big disks soon. We might replace Pleroma with a fork called Akkoma, this will need some more home work and checking whether it’s even feasible. Some services haven’t really been used (like Writefreely and Plume), and it might be time to retire them. We might just have to help one or two users migrate some of their posts away if we do retire them. Mjolner seems to do a fine job at spam blocking, we haven’t had any notable incidents yet. WordPress now has improved fediverse support, it’s unclear whether it works on a multi-site instance yet, I’ll test it at some point soon and report back. For upcoming services, we are implementing Lemmy and probably also Mobilizon. A request was made that we also look into Loomio.
More Information Overload
There’s so much that happens at DebConf, it’s tough to take it all in, and also, to find time to write about all of it, but I’ll mention a few more things that are certainly worth of note.
During DebConf, we had some people from the Kite Linux team over. KITE supplies the ICT needs for the primary and secondary schools in the province of Kerala, where they all use Linux. They decided to switch all of these to Debian. There was an ad-hoc BoF where locals were listening and fielding questions that the Kite Linux team had. It was great seeing all the energy and enthusiasm behind this effort, I hope someone will properly blog about this!
I learned about the VGLUG Foundation, who are doing a tremendous job at promoting GNU/Linux in the country. They are also training up 50 people a year to be able to provide tech support for Debian.
I came across the booth for Mostly Harmless, they liberate old hardware by installing free firmware on there. It was nice seeing all the devices out there that could be liberated, and how it can breathe new life into old harware.
Overall, the community and their activities in India are very impressive, and I wish I had more time to get to know everyone better.
Oh yes, one more thing. The food was great. I tasted more different kinds of curry than I ever did in my whole life up to this point. The lunch on banana leaves was interesting, and also learning how to eat this food properly by hand (thanks to the locals who insisted on teaching me!), it was a… fruitful experience? This might catch on at home too… less dishes to take care of!
Special thanks to the DebConf23 Team
I think this may have been one of the toughest DebConfs to organise yet, and I don’t think many people outside of the DebConf team knows about all the challenges and adversity this team has faced in organising it. Even just getting to the previous DebConf in Kosovo was a long and tedious and somewhat risky process. Through it all, they were absolute pro’s. Not once did I see them get angry or yell at each other, whenever a problem came up, they just dealt with it. They did a really stellar job and I did make a point of telling them on the last day that everyone appreciated all the work that they did.
Back to my nest
I bought Dax a ball back from India, he seems to have forgiven me for not taking him along.
I’ll probably take a few days soon to focus a bit on my bugs and catch up on my original DebCamp goals. If you made it this far, thanks for reading! And thanks to everyone for being such fantastic people.