Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mérida - wrap up

From November 28 till December 2, 2007, I attended a Debian QA and release teams work session in Extremadura, which is an autonomous community of western Spain, that managed to install Debian on 90000 computers in every school (technically a Debian based distribution called gnuLinEx) and Junta de Extremadura also sponsored this meeting.

I took photos of all participants, see my first, second and third posts. When I arrived at the Madrid airport where we first met, I set myself a goal to remember all names and faces, so I used my blog to help me and I think I succeeded in the end. :)

See also our wiki page that we used prior and during the meeting.

So what did we do besides throwing candies?

Lucas Nussbaum will send a summary email soon about the meeting, so I'll just speak for myself:

I worked with Gonéri on svnbuildstat, that is a service for building packages and show statistics about lintian/linda/piuparts checks. It for example contains all packages of the Debian Python Modules Team (that I am a member of) and many others. We discussed and started to work on how to create robust buildbots, that can be installed as a regular Debian package with zero (if possible) configuration, so that many people can just install them without pain, thus providing a huge scalability to the project.

We wrote a preliminary patch to pbuilder for killing the build if it exceeds given memory/disk usage. I had to learn the internals of pbuilder and I lost quite some time squashing some stupid bug I caused while writing the patch.

I spent most of my time with svnbuildstat, mostly learning and discussing things. This will be important for the future, but to also have some real results, I also fixed some packages I comaintain:

Together with Kumar Appaiah we fixed the python-numpy package and I had it uploaded, then I learned how to work with quilt instead of dpatch to handle patches in Debian packages, thanks to Holger's webpage, that contains a nice tutorial. Then I switched from dpatch to quilt in python-scipy and backported a patch from upstream svn to fix a segfault bug and had the package uploaded.

Then I finished the Cython package and had it uploaded. Cython is a marvelous package to speed up Python programs and interface C/C++ programs. I greatly recommend to try. If you don't like it, you can try some of at least 10 other ways to wrap C code in Python. I also used quilt in there to backport a patch from the upstream Mercurial repository to implement parsing @classmethods. Quilt is really a pleasure to work with.

Impressions from the meeting

I've been using Debian since 2001 as my only operating system on all of my computers, so I am not a complete beginner. But it never occured to me I could get involved in Debian more than a user and an occasional bug reporter. What a mistake.

I started packaging new things and fixing packages that I need for my work and that didn't work. This got me involved quite a bit in Debian. But in Mérida it was the first time I could dring a beer (well, especially wine) with Debian Developers and I found out they are really cool people. They are all very skilled. Also something, that I love about Debian, is that the people involved in it share two common features, that are very important for them - respect to democracy and personal freedom. When I think about it, those are probably the first two items on my presonal list of values.

Of course, everytime there is a group of 1000+ people, there are good and bad people, more and less skilled, but important is the overall atmosphere - and that is as I described. I think Debian is truly unique. There is Gentoo, that has maybe 40 (?) active developers. There is Ubuntu, that has maybe 100 (?) developers, but it's basically a comercial distribution and there is not so many interesting work for non employees of Canonical. There is opensuse and fedora, where I am not sure about the numbers. The atmosphere in Debian can change in the future, one never knows, but as of the end of 2007, I think it's very cool to get involved.

Maybe it's not for everyone, but it's the right place for me.
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