Pensavo fosse pail,
invece ora è feltro.
Christmas songs should only ever be played on Christmas day.
Unless I happen to be there.
A vision wanted
Today Richard Stallman mailed all Italian LUGs asking that tomorrow's LinuxDay be called "GNU/Linux Day" instead.
I wonder how that is ever going to help a community so balkanised, that the only way Italian LUGs manage to do something together, is to say "let's not care what we all do, let's just do it on the same day and call it a national event". Of course a few LUGs still make a point of not doing anything on that day, because you know, Judean People's Front. Cawk.
Today a friend asked me if I could help her support people in installing Citrix Whatsit to set up a video conference to network meetings that will take place in a month in different cities. Those meetings are something I look forwad to. It wasn't much of a problem to say "no, I can't do that"; it was a problem to be unable to come up with some viable, Free alternatives.
I sometimes have to use Skype to talk with friends who also are Debian Developers, because I still haven't managed to make VoIP work unless I go through a commercial proxy.
There was the happy news that our regional administration is switching from MS Word to OpenOffice. It soon became a flamewar, because some people loudly complained that they should have used LibreOffice instead.
At DebConf, after spending an hour getting frustrated with the default formatting of bullet points in WhateverOffice Impress, I did my Debian Contributors talk using a text file in vim. And it was a success! Thanks Francois Marier for maintaining cowsay.
I can't sync contact lists and appointments between my N900, which runs a Debian derivative, and my laptop, because I don't want to have a Google account, and nothing else would work out of the box.
I don't even know how to keep a shared calendar with other DDs, without using a 3rd party cloud service that I don't want to trust with my life's personal schedule.
I need to do a code review of every vim plugin I need to use, because you can only get them by cloning GitHub repositories over plain http, and they don't even provide signed tags. That code is run with my own privileges every time I start a text editor, which is, like, all the time. I'm frightened at the idea of how many people blissfully don't think about what that means. Vim users. Programmers. Cool chaps.
Yet the most important thing in Debian today seems to be yet another crusade between upstart and systemd.
But we haven't had a lengthy discussion on why, although the excellent OpenStreetMap exists and many of us contribute to it, it seems to still be more immediate to hit Google Maps to get a route computed. How can we change that?
We haven't had a lengthy discussion on what can we offer to allow anyone to set up some social platform that won't get swamped with spam the first day and cracked open the second; that would allow people to share some photos with their friends only, and some with the rest of the world; that won't required a full-time paid person to maintain. That won't be obsolete and require a migration to a new platform in a year. That isn't Facebook or Google Plus.
I stopped taking photos because it's too much work to show them to people. Other people use Instagram. Whatever the hipster trend is for photo sharing today, October 25, 2013, I'm pretty sure it's not a Free platform.
But we can do something. We technology leaders. We are those who drive technological change!
For example, today I invested two hours of hard effort trying to figure out why libbuffy's test suite fails on kfreebsd. All while wondering why I was doing that, since I know all buffy's users personally, and none of them uses kfreebsd.
And I will take a day off work to study the library symbols file specification, so that next time I'll know right away if the new version of a C++ compiler decides that a template-generated symbol isn't worth adding to a library anymore.
What is this effort really about? It sometimes feel like micromanaging to me.
It's good to have excellent quality standards. But not without a vision.
Not until "reliable network printing with all PDF viewers and print servers we ship" is among our release goals.
Not until we commit to making sure that "sharing files between Debian users" will work out of the box, without the need of going through a 3rd party website, or email.
I'm not interested in spending energy discussing init systems. I'm interested in spending energy sharing stories of what cool stuff we can do in Debian today, out of the box. And what cool stuff we'll be able to do tomorrow.
Let's spend time on IRC, on mailing lists, and at the next Debian events, talking about why we are really into this. Talking about a vision!
Note: Please don't spend time telling me how to fix the problems I mentioned above. I'm not interested in help fixing some problems for me today. I'm interested in asking help fixing problems for everybody, right in the next stable release.
Remember, remember, the 5th of November, 2014.
Explanation of umarell
Umarell /uma'rɛl/ (oo-mah-rell), n; pl. Umarells. People in a community who offer all sorts of comments to those who are trying to get some work done, but who are not doing any work themselves.
Etymology and further details
Umarell is a word that entered Italian slang in Bologna and is spreading to nearby towns, occasionally even across Italy. It comes from the Bolognese for "cute/odd little man".
"Umarells" are those people, usually retired men, who spend time watching construction works, often holding their hands behind their back, occasionally commenting on what is going on, sometimes trying to tell the workers what to do.
With some Italian Debian friends, we realised that umarell is the perfect word to describe those people in a community, who offer all sorts of comments to those who are trying to get some work done, but who are not doing any work themselves.
I think that it is a word that fits perfectly, and since I'm likely going to use it blissfully anywhere, here is a page that temporarily explains what it means until the Oxford English Dictionary picks it up.
A moving commit
A moving commit: an entire class of people who previously did not have a name, now have a name.
I feel that this simple patch, although it is just a little first step, is a significant moment in the history of Debian.
Random notes from that other lightning talk session
If you can, have dinner with your upstreams at least once a year.