blog entries created by Julien Cristau
  • Report from DebConf14

    2014/09/05 by Julien Cristau

    Last week I attended DebConf14 in Portland, Oregon. As usual the conference was a blur, with lots of talks, lots of new people, and lots of old friends. The organizers tried to do something different this year, with a longer conference (9 days instead of a week) and some dedicated hack time, instead of a pre-DebConf "DebCamp" week. That worked quite well for me, as it meant the schedule was not quite so full with talks, and even though I didn't really get any hacking done, it felt a bit more relaxed and allowed some more hallway track discussions.

    On the talks side, the keynotes from Zack and Biella provided some interesting thoughts. Some nice progress was made on making package builds reproducible.

    I gave two talks: an introduction to salt (odp),

    and a report on the Debian jessie release progress (pdf).

    And as usual all talks were streamed live and recorded, and many are already available thanks to the awesome DebConf video team. Also for a change, and because I'm a sucker for punishment, I came back with more stuff to do.

  • DebConf13 report

    2013/09/25 by Julien Cristau

    As announced before, I spent a week last month in Vaumarcus, Switzerland, attending the 14th Debian conference (DebConf13).

    It was great to be at DebConf again, with lots of people I hadn't seen since New York City three years ago, and lots of new faces. Kudos to the organizers for pulling this off. These events are always a great boost for motivation, even if the amount of free time after coming back home is not quite as copious as I might like.

    One thing that struck me this year was the number of upstream people, not directly involved in Debian, who showed up. From systemd's Lennart and Kay, to MariaDB's Monty, and people from upstart, dracut, phpmyadmin or munin. That was a rather pleasant surprise for me.

    Here's a report on the talks and BoF sessions I attended. It's a bit long, but hey, the conference lasted a week. In addition to those I had quite a few chats with various people, including fellow members of the Debian release team.

    Day 1 (Aug 11)

    Linux kernel : Ben Hutchings made a summary of the features added between 3.2 in wheezy and the current 3.10, and their status in Debian (some still need userspace work).

    SPI status : Bdale Garbee and Jimmy Kaplowitz explained what steps SPI is making to deal with its growth, including getting help from a bookkeeper recently to relieve the pressure on the (volunteer) treasurer.

    Hardware support in Debian stable : If you buy new hardware today, it's almost certainly not supported by the Debian stable release. Ideas to improve this :

    • backport whole subsystems: probably not feasible, risk of regressions would be too high
    • ship compat-drivers, and have the installer automatically install newer drivers based on PCI ids, seems possible.
    • mesa: have the GL loader pick a different driver based on the hardware, and ship newer DRI drivers for the new hardware, without touching the old ones. Issue: need to update libGL and libglapi too when adding new drivers.
    • X drivers, drm: ? (it's complicated)

    Meeting between release team and DPL to figure out next steps for jessie. Decided to schedule a BoF later in the week.

    Day 2 (Aug 12)

    Munin project lead on new features in 2.0 (shipped in wheezy) and roadmap for 2.2. Improvements on the scalability front (both in terms of number of nodes and number of plugins on a node). Future work includes improving the UI to make it less 1990 and moving some metadata to sql.

    jeb on AWS and Debian : Amazon Web Services (AWS) includes compute (ec2), storage (s3), network (virtual private cloud, load balancing, ..) and other services. Used by Debian for package rebuilds. is a CDN frontend for archive mirrors. Official Debian images are on ec2, including on the AWS marketplace front page. build-debian-cloud tool from Anders Ingeman et al. was presented.

    openstack in Debian : Packaging work is focused on making things easy for newcomers, basic config with debconf. Advanced users are going to use puppet or similar anyway. Essex is in wheezy, but end-of-life upstream. Grizzly available in sid and in a separate archive for wheezy. This work is sponsored by enovance.

    Patents :, looks like the USPTO has used comments made there when rejecting patent applications based on prior art. Patent applications are public, and it's a lot easier to get a patent application rejected than invalidate a patent later on. Should we use that site? Help build momentum around it? Would other patent offices use that kind of research? Issues: looking at patent applications (and publicly commenting) might mean you're liable for treble damages if the patent is eventually granted? Can you comment anonymously?

    Why systemd? : Lennart and Kay. Pop corn, upstart trolling, nothing really new.

    Day 3 (Aug 13)

    dracut : dracut presented by Harald Hoyer, its main developer. Seems worth investigating replacing initramfs-tools and sharing the maintenance load. Different hooks though, so we'll need to coordinate this with various packages.

    upstart : More Debian-focused than the systemd talk. Not helped by Canonical's CLA...

    dh_busfactor : debhelper is essentially a one-man show from the beginning. Though various packages/people maintain different dh_* tools either in the debhelper package itself or elsewhere. Joey is thinking about creating a debhelper team including those people. Concerns over increased breakage while people get up to speed (joeyh has 10 years of experience and still occasionally breaks stuff).

    dri3000 : Keith is trying to fix dri2 issues. While dri2 fixed a number of things that were wrong with dri1, it still has some problems. One of the goals is to improve presentation: we need a way to sync between app and compositor (to avoid displaying incompletely drawn frames), avoid tearing, and let the app choose immediate page flip instead of waiting for next vblank if it missed its target (stutter in games is painful). He described this work on his blog.

    security team BoF : explain the workflow, try to improve documentation of the process and what people can do to help.

    Day 4 (Aug 14)

    day trip, and conference dinner on a boat from Neuchatel to Vaumarcus

    Day 5 (Aug 15)

    git-dpm : Spent half an hour explaining git, then was rushed to show git-dpm itself. Still, needs looking at. Lets you work with git and export changes as quilt series to build a source package.

    Ubuntu daily QA : The goal was to make it possible for canonical devs (not necessarily people working on the distro) to use ubuntu+1 (dev release). They tried syncing from testing for a while, but noticed bug fixes being delayed: not good. In the previous workflow the dev release was unusable/uninstallable for the first few months. Multiarch made things even more problematic because it requires amd64/i386 being in sync.

    • 12.04: a bunch of manpower thrown at ubuntu+1 to keep backlog of technical debt under control.
    • 12.10: prepare infrastructure (mostly launchpad), add APIs, to make non-canonical people able to do stuff that previously required shell access on central machines.
    • 13.04: proposed migration. britney is used to migrate packages from devel-proposed to devel. A few teething problems at first, but good reaction.
    • 13.10 and beyond: autopkgtest runs triggered after upload/build, also for rdeps. Phased updates for stable releases (rolled out to a subset of users and then gradually generalized). Hook into to match new crashes with package uploads. Generally more continuous integration. Better dashboard. (Some of that is still to be done.)

    Lessons learned from debian:

    • unstable's backlog can get bad → proposed is only used for builds and automated tests, no delay
    • transitions can take weeks at best
    • to avoid dividing human attention, devs are focused on devel, not devel-proposed

    Lessons debian could learn:

    • keeping testing current is a collective duty/win
    • splitting users between testing and unstable has important costs
    • hooking automated testing into britney really powerful; there's a small but growing number of automated tests


    • cut migration delay in half
    • encourage writing autopkgtests
    • end goal: make sid to testing migration entirely based on automated tests

    Debian tests using Jenkins

    • Only running amd64 right now.
    • Uses jenkins plugins: git, svn, log parser, html publisher, ...
    • Has existing jobs for installer, chroot installs, others
    • Tries to make it easy to reproduce jobs, to allow debugging
    • {c,sh}ould add autopkgtests

    Day 6 (Aug 16)

    X Strike Force BoF : Too many bugs we can't do anything about: {mass,auto}-close them, asking people to report upstream. Reduce distraction by moving the non-X stuff to separate teams (compiz removed instead, wayland to discuss...). We should keep drivers as close to upstream as possible. A couple of people in the room volunteered to handle the intel, ati and input drivers.

    reclass BoF

    I had missed the talk about reclass, and Martin kindly offered to give a followup BoF to show what reclass can do.

    Reclass provides adaptors for puppet(?), salt, ansible. A yaml file describes each host:

    • can declare applications and parameters
    • host is leaf in a dag/tree of classes

    Lets you put the data in reclass instead of the config management tool, keeping generic templates in ansible/salt.

    I'm definitely going to try this and see if it makes it easier to organize data we're currently putting directly in salt states.

    release BoF : Notes are on Basic summary: "Releasing in general is hard. Releasing something as big/diverse/distributed as Debian is even harder." Who knew?

    freedombox : status update from Bdale

    Keith Packard showed off the free software he uses in his and Bdale's rockets adventures.

    This was followed by a birthday party in the evening, as Debian turned 20 years old.

    Day 7 (Aug 17)

    x2go : Notes are on To be solved: issues with nx libs (gpl fork of old x). Seems like a good thing to try as alternative to LTSP which we use at Logilab.

    lightning talks

    • coquelicot (lunar) - one-click secure(ish) file upload web app
    • notmuch (bremner) - need to try that again now that I have slightly more disk space
    • fedmsg (laarmen) - GSoC, message passing inside the debian infrastructure

    Debconf15 bids :

    • Mechelen/Belgium - Wouter
    • Germany (no city yet) - Marga

    Debconf14 presentation : Will be in Portland (Portland State University) next August. Presentation by vorlon, harmoney, keithp. Looking forward to it!

    • Closing ceremony

    The videos of most of the talks can be downloaded, thanks to the awesome work of the video team. And if you want to check what I didn't see or talk about, check the complete schedule.

  • Going to DebConf13

    2013/08/01 by Julien Cristau

    The 14th Debian developers conference (DebConf13) will take place between August 11th and August 18th in Vaumarcus, Switzerland.

    Logilab is a DebConf13 sponsor, and I'll attend the conference. There are quite a lot of cloud-related events on the schedule this year, plus the usual impromptu discussions and hallway track. Looking forward to meeting the usual suspects there!

  • Mini-DebConf Paris 2012

    2012/11/29 by Julien Cristau

    Last week-end, I attended the mini-DebConf organized at EPITA (near Paris) by the French Debian association and sponsored by Logilab.

    The event was a great success, with a rather large number of attendees, including people coming from abroad such as Debian kernel maintainers Ben Hutchings and Maximilian Attems, who talked about their work with Linux.

    Among the other speakers were Loïc Dachary about OpenStack and its packaging in Debian, and Josselin Mouette about his work deploying Debian/GNOME desktops in a large enterprise environment at EDF R&D.

    On my part I gave a talk on Saturday about Debian's release team, and the current state of the wheezy (to-be Debian 7.0) release.

    On Sunday I presented together with Vladimir Daric the work we did to migrate a computation cluster from Red Hat to Debian. Attendees had quite a few questions about our use of ZFS on Linux for storage, and salt for configuration management and deployment.

    Slides for the talks are available on the mini-DebConf web page (wheezy state, migration to debian cluster also viewable on slideshare), and videos will soon be on

    Now looking forward to next summer's DebConf13 in Switzerland, and hopefully next year's edition of the Paris event.

  • Debian science sprint and workshop at ESRF

    2012/06/22 by Julien Cristau


    From June 24th to June 26th, the European Synchrotron organises a workshop centered around Debian. On Monday, a number of talks about the use of Debian in scientific facilities will be featured. On Sunday and Tuesday, members of the Debian Science group will meet for a sprint focusing on the upcoming Debian 7.0 release.

    Among the speakers will be Stefano Zacchiroli, the current Debian project leader. Logilab will be present with Nicolas Chauvat at Monday's conference, and Julien Cristau at both the sprint and the conference.

    At the sprint we'll be discussing packaging of scientific libraries such as blas or MPI implementations, and working on polishing other scientific packages, such as python-related ones (including Salome on which we are currently working).

  • Debian bug squashing party in Paris

    2012/02/16 by Julien Cristau

    Logilab will be present at the upcoming Debian BSP in Paris this week-end. This event will focus on fixing as many "release critical" bugs as possible, to help with the preparation of the upcoming Debian 7.0 "wheezy" release. It will also provide an opportunity to introduce newcomers to the processes of Debian development and bug fixing, as well as provide an opportunity for contributors in various areas of the project to interact "in real life".

    The current stable release, Debian 6.0 "squeeze", came out in February 2011. The development of "wheezy" is scheduled to freeze in June 2012, for an eventual release later this year.

    Among the things we hope to work on during this BSP, the latest HDF5 release (1.8.8) includes API and packaging changes that require some changes in dependent packages. With the number of scientific packages relying on HDF5, this is a pretty big change, as tracked in this Debian bug.