DebConf15 Report


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We love Debian.  A lot.  In fact we make it our recommended distro.  We do that since it makes it easy to deploy, and maintain most recent packages resulting in fewer sysadmin headaches for us and our customers.

This year we decided to send a delegation of one (Juan Rossi) to attend DebConf 15.  Juan had a great time at the conference and here is a precis of what was seen...
It is not just a conference about Debian.  But also technologies where Debian is key component (think cloud solutions and containers).

Some highlights

Reproducible builds: One will think that grabbing a package source and building will produce a bit by bit exact copy of a binary repository package, something that would foster build audits. But no. For example some software builds end up including build timestamps in the built packages, so every build of the same code results in a different binary.  There is an amazing team of guys fixing this, and making it work for all architectures, and now it is a huge project on itself where maintainers can query to check if they is something wrong with the package.

Systemd: After the init wars (a flame that I do not recommend to read) jessie shipped with systemd, a lot of people is using and they felt nothing when upgrading, like nothing changed, this is no coincidence, the team did a great job with this. Well even though it is a scary, at the same time it is such a powerful thing, has a journal, boot time debugging capabilities, stdout and stderr capture for launched services. There is a blog post coming about how to use and debug it in more detail soon.

Apparmor: Seems Debian decided to opt for this instead of selinux.  There were great sessions about how to create profiles and use this in order to harden a system. We all know that it is not a perfect, but again it is for sure it can help mitigating exploits and keep the bad boys away.

Dracut is being considered to be used as a replacement of initramfs-tools, as these lack maintenance, so if you want to help and you are using initrds in your server (e.g. our dedicated server customers and customers running pv-grub) and you can use your system for testing definitely install the package, test and report issues, they are desperate for this.

Bdale Garbee gave a nice talk about how was the evolution of Debian, HP joining Debian as a member, not a driver, his recent rejoin to HP along with Keith Packard and little bit about "The Machine", HP's next attempt to change the world, that will probably run hlinux, a Debian derivative.

There was some stir about Debian trade mark usage, and what should be called "Debian", even for derivatives, that perhaps causes some people not to funnel into Debian.

There is a lot I could write here, and probably I am forgetting heaps but now on the less tecky side of things:

This conference was the biggest so far, something like more than 600 people manage to be on site this time, and stats were quite incredible.

If it is something it really represents the "Universal Operating System" is the diversity of people found at the conference, people from all walks of life can be found here, like no other event I have ever seen, they are welcome, no one feels out of place. Perhaps the only thing missing are more women, but that it is a industry trend, nothing that needs to be addressed for this particular case (there are groups always working on this anyways :).

One fact that it is really cool: it is first conference I have been that includes child care. Small children roam around, enjoy some nice time with parents, meet people, with complete freedom and they do not feel out of place at all. In fact it is a nice warming feeling that you can see that Debian for some it is not only about a distribution, now it is about family. Also there was a Tech Kids program running in the conference.

The Debian birthday, where some "hacked" cake was served, the cheese and wine night, the day trip, the "locally themed" conference dinner, the late night table or card games add up to the experience. You can expect from a cold brew to sharing some food at a random table acting as the best social lubricator.

Helderberg is it a very beautiful city, and the towns visited with the day trip showed for sure it's medieval vibe.

Quality of the conference, the organization, facilities, the day trip, were in general awesome. Perhaps the only things to mention that were not that great were the food some days ( acceptable but I am picky, German food is a little bit monotonous ), and the network connectivity from my room, even tough there were AP all around the building. But this hostel was amazing, a hostel with ample conference rooms, and many of them.

Kudos to the organizing team and anyone that works and supports Debian, such an amazing project with no big company behind pushing decisions, just people with a common objective that continues amaze.

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