La Salle Debain

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About La Salle Debain

This is a weblog I'm keeping about my work on Debian and any other useful Debian related info I come across. It is not meant to compete with other news sources like Debian Weekly News or Debian Planet. Mostly it is just a way for me to classify and remember all the random bits of information that I have floating around me. I thought maybe by using a blog it could be of some use to others too. Btw. "I" refers to Jaldhar H. Vyas, Debian developer for over 5 years. If you want to know more about me, my home page is here.

The name? Debain is a very common misspelling of Debian and la salle de bains means bathroom in French.

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Fri, 02 Apr 2004


Debian has had a couple of votes recently. The first concerned whether to drop non-free software or to reaffirm our support for it. I voted for reaffirmation which won by a comfortable margin. I don't think this means Debian is going soft or anything like that. I certainly try to mention free software principles whenever I tell anyone about Debian. But the old adage about catching more flies with honey is true. Freedom is not a boolean value but a range. Originally non-free was proposed as a pragmatic compromise so we could allow the users to have things like netscape or acrobat without which the OS would be rather impractical to use. Not impossible, you could use lynx, or run your .PDFs through strings, but just really annoying. The situation is exactly the same today. We have free browsers and PDF viewers but many of our users need non-free drivers, documentation etc. By allowing them to ease into free software, we have 'converted' a lot more people than stridency ever could have. Including myself. I recently did the political compass test and while I predictably scored way to the right on economic issues being a fervant capitalist, I was surprised to find I rated considerably less socially authoritarian than I thought I would be (Although it's probably still more conservative than the Debian mean.) I attribute this to my involvement with free software. All this talk of Freedom does rub off eventually. Friendly persuasion is more effective than coercion.

This is why in the other vote for Debian Project Leader, which is still going on, I am voting for Branden Robinson. Don't get me wrong Martin has been a great DPL and I wouldn't be the least bit upset if he were to win. But he follows the tradition of DPLs being low-key, behind the scenes type of people. The time has come for Debian to emerge from the shadows. The pronouncements of the Debian Project Leader should rock the world. And not just the Linux world, Presidents, football games, and Britanny Spears should be pre-empted whenever the DPL weighs forth. Ok, maybe not but why should the media go to, say, Eric Raymond to pronounce on open source issues? Branden, is persuasive, logical, and dare I say? charismatic. He's going to spread the Debian name and philosophy to areas hitherto unreached. And that's what we need right now.

A couple of weeks ago I caused a big stink when a woman suggested on debian-project that Debian might be a hostile environment for her gender and I suggested that it might be more due to her mental state than anything actually going on. This was considered by several to be exactly the kind of hostile behavior that drives women away. Well, what I said was uncomplimentary I can't deny but it was not a gratuitous insult. I meant what I said. I don't believe at all that Debian is hostile to women. I don't believe most women involved with Debian believe Debian is hostile to women. I do think Debian is hostile to certain personality types found amongst both men and women. Most of all I believe Debian isn't going to do a damn thing about it. Most people seeking to enter Debian know exactly what they're getting into but those with illusions about how its social interactions work needs to be swiftly disabused of such notions ASAP. why? Why can't we imagine all the people building packages hand in hand. Debian will always be a fractious place not because it's male-dominated but because it is a weak community. Most of us have never met each other. We come from wildly different political, religious, ethnic, and social backgrounds. The only thing that unites us is the desire to create a free, technically excellent operating system. And even there, the non-free vote shows we have different visions. Ask a sociologist, politeness is correlated with social homogeneity. As the standard way of enforcing homogeneity, imposing hierarchy and set rules for interaction is not palatable to Debian society, by what other means could we become more polite? Encouraging face-to-face meetings as much as possible would be one idea. It's easy to flame pixels on a screen not so easy when it's someone you've had a drink with.

speaking of people with a delusional grasp of reality, readers of Debian Planet were recently treated to the spectacle of Sheik Yassin -- a man only one fluffy pussycat away from being a Bond villain -- being described as a "moderate." Furthermore Jordi Mallach opines that his long-overdue assassination by Israeli forces is "state terrorism." Allow me to explain something, Radical Islam, is not about national liberation or anti-globalism or even about Islam. It is a celebration of death, the death of others and the death of the followers themselves. What sets apart the Israeli action from "terrorism" is that it was specific. The idea was not kill Muslim clerics of which there are plenty to be found in Israel but to kill one particular person who was directly responsible for the murder of hundreds. Contrast this to the death of George Khoury (a Palestinian rights advocate!) who Fatah killed for "looking Jewish." No doubt Israeli tactics do impact Palestinian life adversely but not nearly as much as the damage inflicted by their own corrupt and deranged leadership. Instead of shedding crocodile tears for the poor depressed and unemployed children, ask yourself how South Africans were able to free themselves from oppression without homicide bombings? It's the difference between a Mandela and a Yassin or Arafat.

posted at: 09:31 | #