A Few Questions For David Nusinow
on 24.05.2009, 13:11
in interviews
A Few Questions For Jaldhar H. Vyas
on 07.05.2009, 05:28
in interviews
dmidecode: get hardware information from the bios
on 03.05.2009, 05:00
in packages-news
dmidecode: get hardware information from the bios
on 03.05.2009, 05:00
in packages-news

A Few Questions For David Nusinow

published on Sun May 24 13:11:45 2009 in interviews

A Few Questions For David Nusinow

How did you end up using Debian and becoming a DD?

I was raised as a hardcore Mac person starting with System 7. There was a very long dark period of time when the Mac looked very much doomed and I was tired of waiting for what would eventually be called OSX. I switched over to Windows for a little while and found that it was workable but not nearly as interesting or fun as the Mac. So I tried out Linux and found that it was a lot of fun, if totally different from anything I'd ever imagined. After about a month on Mandrake I got sick of feeling contrained by it and installed Slink and quickly updated to the brand new Potato a few days later. Debian was the hot distro at the time, and it was said to be a great one to learn on so I basically followed the crowd in my ignorance.

Debian was also rather intimidating, being full of smart people and difficult documentation. But one thing that set my own course was an interview of Wichert Akkerman, who was DPL at the time, in which he described how it was a natural progression going from user to developer in Debian because one naturally would get involved and start scratching some itch. The itch that I found was that X was painful to configure, and I wanted it to “Just Work” the way that my old Macs always had. So after several years as a user I decided that I'd become a DD to help out with this task, and I'm still working on it today half a decade later.

How are you currently involved in the Debian project?

I'm currently a member of the X Strike Force (XSF), which helps to maintain the software from X.org and other closely related packages for Debian. I recently took close to a year off from Debian in order to finish my PhD and find a job, and now that both of those tasks are done I've tried to return to the XSF and pick up the work that I'd left off. My most recent project was to document the new Input Hotplug system for Debian users. It's clear that we have much more to document given all the massive changes going on in the X world these days, so this will likely consume a lot of my time. I also am attempting to improve the autoconfiguration of the X server, as well as participate in steering the XSF in general, and maintain a few small packages when I can find the time. I don't spend nearly as much time on Debian as I used to, and while the number is growing again it currently amounts to around 20 hours a month. Needless to say, I have to lean very heavily on my fellow XSF team members with a number that small, and we're always looking for people with the fortitude to work on something as important and challenging as X.

How do you currently use Debian?

I use it on all of my personal machines, doing nothing particularly fancy except working on Debian itself. I've used unstable continuously on my main desktop for nearly a decade, and I've been trying out testing for the past several months on my laptop. I also use Ubuntu at work, although I'll very likely switch that machine to testing as well because I'm more vastly more comfortable and knowledgeable about Debian than Ubuntu.

What do you do when you're not working on Debian?

I'm currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Brigham And Women's Hospital in Boston. I'm a Biologist by training, and I'm focused on generating and analyzing proteomic datasets as part of the SysCODE project which is dedicated to engineering whole organs to replace diseased ones in patients. Mostly this amounts to writing a lot of perl and R as part of a project that's currently science fiction that we want to make reality, which I think is very cool. I also love spending time with the other DD's and associated Free Software folk around Boston, and spending time with my girlfriend Nicole.

Announcing BrDesktop for the Brazilian home desktop user

contributed by andremachado, published on Tue May 12 20:01:15 2009 in news

Announcing BrDesktop for the Brazilian home desktop user

What is BrDesktop?

It is a selection of official Debian GNU/Linux packages. A Pure Blend, pre-configured and targeted for Brazilian Debian GNU/Linux home desktop users.

ALL of its packages are installable from the official Debian GNU/Linux repositories. The BrDesktop difference is in the selection, default language, programs and security preconfigurations for home desktop users, a streamlined installation aided by preconfigurations, a Live-CD option, a unique desktop theme, and the participation of the Brazilian Debian community.

The BrDesktop Lenny iso image uses the Debian GNU/Linux 5.0.1 Lenny packages up-to-date as of 11-April-2009.

Some of the default BrDesktop packages are:

  • GNOME desktop environment
  • Iceweasel web browser and Icedove email client
  • Gimp, Inkscape and Gthumb for visualization and image editing
  • BrOffice.org office suite
  • Listen for playing and organizing music
  • Totem for videos
  • Amule and Deluge-torrent for peer-to-peer sharing
  • Cheese for taking photos and videos with a web cam
  • and more....

Where to download BrDesktop?

You can download 32 and 64 bit versions from the Downloads section of the BrDesktop site.

Join BrDesktop

The BrDesktop is developed and maintained by Brazilian users and developers. The development process is coordinated on the discussion list and IRC, which is available to all interested persons to participate. All improvements will become part of the Debian Project official repository, and as such must follow the Debian Policy for quality. Visit the Development section of BrDesktop site.

End user support is done at the Portuguese Debian User mailing list as it is a Debian GNU/Linux Pure Blend.

About the Debian Project

Debian GNU/Linux is one of the free libre operating systems, with a broad list of officially maintained packages on 11 hardware platforms, from cell phones to mainframes, developed by more than two thousand volunteers from all over the world who collaborate on the Debian Project.

The Debian Project's key strengths are its volunteer base, its dedication to Free Libre Open Source Software, to the Debian Social Contract and the non-profit nature of the Debian Constitution, its open and meritocratic development model, its organization and social governance and its commitment to provide the best operating systems attainable, following a strict quality policy, working with an established QA Team and helpful users reporting bugs, suggestions, exchanging ideas, solutions, and registering experiences during its history.

One can help the Debian Project by joining it even though not a programmer, or being a development and/or service partner company or institution at the Debian Partner Program, or simply by making various donations to the Debian Project.

Debian Project news, press releases and press coverage can be found on the official Debian wiki page. PR contact at the debian-publicity list.

A Few Questions For Jaldhar H. Vyas

published on Thu May 7 05:28:13 2009 in interviews

A Few Questions For Jaldhar H. Vyas

Who is Jaldhar H. Vyas?

I'm a 38 year old Gujarati-American male who lives in Jersey City, New Jersey (A suburb of New York) with my wife Jyoti and my children Shailaja (7) and Nilagriva (4).

My Debian blog is at http://www.braincells.com/debian/ but I should warn you in advance it is mostly devoid of meaningful content :-)

How did you end up using Debian and becoming a DD?

Because I don't actually like computers. Growing up in the '70s we were told computers were great. if you had any problem you could just say “let's ask the computer!” and Sentinel One or whoever would appear as a hologram and instantly tell you the answer. Or maybe they were lovable wisecracking robots. But we were lied to. Real computers turned out to be neither lovable nor cute and they maddeningly refused to do what they were told for incomprehensible reasons. From the very beginning I had the urge to take the lid off and try to understand what was going on in these mysterious boxes in the hopes of somehow beating them into submission.

Way back in college in the early '90s I managed to stumble across the Internet (just in time for the dot-com boom.) Naturally I wanted to learn more about it and how it worked and that meant learning Unix. Even if you used Windows, you used ports of Unix software so there was no way around it. The trouble is Unix was expensive and ran on exotic hardware far beyond the purchasing power of a destitute student. Thus when I heard that there was a free clone of Unix that could run on a 386 pc, I was very interested. When I learned it came with full source code that you could tinker with as much as you wished it was like a dream come true. So I cleared up some space on my massive 40MB hard drive for a version of Slackware which was the only decent distribution at the time.

I played around with that for a while until the time came when Linux swtiched from the a.out to the ELF binary format. This process had to be done manually and I somehow managed to botch it completely. Since I had to reinstall my system anyway, I decided to take a look at some of the new distributions which were out there. I must confess my reasons for choosing Debian were utterly superficial. Red Hat is boring; Suse is a girls name; Debian on the other hand sounded science-fictionish to me.

After using Debian for a while I was whining about some trivial thing or another on the Debian users mailing list and Bruce Perens who was the project leader challenged me to stop complaining and fix the problem myself. I decided to do so and the rest, as they say, is history. By the way, there was no complicated process to become a Debian Developer in those days. You just told Bruce you wanted to work on the project and what you wanted as your login name and a little while later you would get an account on master.debian.org and you could upload packages.

How are you currently involved in the Debian project?

At the moment I am not spending as much time on Debian as I would like to but it still atleast a few minutes every day. In the past I have been employed to work on Debian full time.

Apart from packaging, I have written documentation, represented Debian at trade shows, conferences, and user groups and mentored prospective new maintainers. One initiative I started which I am particularly proud of is Debian-IN. This is a group of people interested in promoting Debian and Free Software in India. Activities include maintaining packages of cultural interest to Indians, advocaing the use of Debian and increasing the number of Indian Debian developers. An operating system that is free, flexible and doesn't drain money in crippling license fees is a good fit for an emerging nation like India. Plus we have lots of IT talent so we can give something back to the rest of the world too.

How do you currently use Debian?

I work as a consultant webmaster/sysadmin/Perl developer and I try to use Debian or atleast Ubuntu whenever possible. I maintain several websites and mailing lists related to aspects of the Hindu religion and they all run on Debian. My personal laptop runs Ubuntu and Debian (naq bapr va n oyhr zbba Jvaqbjf Ivfgn ohg qba'g gryy nalbar!)

What do you do when you're not working on Debian?

I come from a Hindu priestly family and I am a scholar of Sanskrit, preacher and very occasionally priest for weddings etc. This and being a father take up nearly all my spare time but when I can squeeze in a few minutes I am an avid reader of fantasy/sci-fi. I prefer authors like Frank Herbert, Phillip K. Dick, Michael Moorcock, or Neal Stephenson. I.e. the kind that create whole civilizations and tackle philosophical issues rather than those that focus on technology or laser fights with aliens.

dmidecode: get hardware information from the bios

published on Sun May 3 05:00:36 2009 in packages-news

Article submitted by Ryan Forsith. Guess what? We still need you to submit good articles about software you like!

dmidecode is a useful tool designed to extract system hardware information directly from the BIOS. This information typically includes system manufacturer, model name, serial number, BIOS version, asset tag as well as a lot of other details of varying level of interest and reliability depending on the manufacturer. The information provided could potentially help in problem solving, like in the case of the screenshot provided; there’s no documentation to be found in regards to the setting of the CPU toggles, but the dmidecode output displays exactly which sequence can be used for each clock speed.

dmidecode screenshot

This information can be invaluable to administrators looking for tweaks, especially in legacy hardware. DMI data may not always be reliable, as the software is intended to report only what the BIOS tells it to.

Three additional tools are packaged with dmidecode which further enhances it’s usefulness:

  • biosdecode prints all BIOS related information it can find.
  • ownership retrieves the “ownership tag” that can be set on Compaq computers.
  • vpddecode prints the “vital product data” information that can be found in almost all IBM computers.

biosdecode screenshot   vpddecode screenshot

dmidecode is available in Debian since Etch and in Ubuntu (universe) since Hardy.

dmidecode: get hardware information from the bios

published on Sun May 3 05:00:36 2009 in packages-news

Article submitted by Ryan Forsith. Guess what? We still need you to submit good articles about software you like!

dmidecode is a useful tool designed to extract system hardware information directly from the BIOS. This information typically includes system manufacturer, model name, serial number, BIOS version, asset tag as well as a lot of other details of varying level of interest and reliability depending on the manufacturer. The information provided could potentially help in problem solving, like in the case of the screenshot provided; there’s no documentation to be found in regards to the setting of the CPU toggles, but the dmidecode output displays exactly which sequence can be used for each clock speed.

dmidecode screenshot

This information can be invaluable to administrators looking for tweaks, especially in legacy hardware. DMI data may not always be reliable, as the software is intended to report only what the BIOS tells it to.

Three additional tools are packaged with dmidecode which further enhances it’s usefulness:

  • biosdecode prints all BIOS related information it can find.
  • ownership retrieves the “ownership tag” that can be set on Compaq computers.
  • vpddecode prints the “vital product data” information that can be found in almost all IBM computers.

biosdecode screenshot   vpddecode screenshot

dmidecode is available in Debian since Etch and in Ubuntu (universe) since Hardy.