Debian to Adopt Time-based Release Cycle

Free Software 2 Comments »

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UPDATE: Debian’s freeze periods will be time-based, not the release cycles, read Matt Zimmerman’s explanation.

Debian is adopting a time-based release cycle:

Freezes will from now on happen in the December of every odd year, which means that releases will from now on happen sometime in the first half of every even year. To that effect the next freeze will happen in December 2009, with a release expected in spring 2010.”

Which means that Debian’s release cycle will now more or less match that of Ubuntu LTS. There’s been a few comments about it on Planet Debian, some a bit more negative and some more positive. Some people feel that releasing when it’s good and ready is better than the predictability that time-based releases bring (and the amount of RC bugs they usually are released with). In my opinion, I think it’s the best thing that Debian could do right now.

One of my biggest selling points with Ubuntu is its release cycles. It’s great knowing when the next release is due, especially for large deployments, and perhaps more importantly, knowing exactly how long the current release is supported. It makes planning easier, and makes more unknown things known.

Lucas Nussbaum asks why people would choose Debian over Ubuntu if Debian has older versions of the same software with the same release cycle. I think there are many users that will prefer Debian because it’s not a commercial distribution. Now and again I get slightly aggetated by Ubuntu’s commercial nature. If you’re using Karmic already, you’ll notice that every new Firefox tab will contain an Ubuntu branded custom Google search page, with no aparrent way to disable it. It also comes installed with Ubuntu One, which relies on a non-free server ran as a service by Canonical. Ubuntu also reminds you that you can manage your system using Landscape, which has an open source client but again, a non-free server that you can buy licenses from Canonical. It doesn’t put off a lot of people, but I can see how it can make Debian so much more attractive. Having things like the Landscape and Ubuntu One clients installed by default reminds me of those Windows 95 default desktops that was filled with things like “Sign Up for AOL!”. Ubuntu isn’t anywhere close to that at least, and I don’t think it will ever be, but it’s good to know that Debian is there and that it doesn’t have any adware properties to it.

I hope that the time-based releases work out really well for Debian, and that developers find ways to make it as beneficial as possible for both Debian and Ubuntu.

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Screens of Death

Free Software, Humour 4 Comments »

I initially wanted to write “Death” in the title in full-caps, but that’s a bit melodramatic, even for me.


Error messages are often scary and frightning. Sometimes, they’re even amusing. I use a screensaver called BSOD (named after the Windows Blue Screen of Death) that displays error messages from various systems. Even though I know it’s just a screensaver, I’ve gotten a fright a few times too, since it uses my actual hostname and computer details in the screensaver. The screensaver also has a very nice feature that might not be intended, and that’s when people see it on my computer, they don’t touch it, since they think that it’s already broken. Awesome.

Here’s a list of “supported” systems:


The BSOD screensaver is available for XScreensaver and you can install it on Debian or Ubuntu by installing the xscreensaver-data-extra package.

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SA Elections 2009

Free Software, Jonathan, Politics 3 Comments »

The Contenders

Today is the national and provincial elections in South Africa. I just made my vote, and it’s the first time I ever voted. It was supposed to be the second time I voted. I didn’t vote last time, not because of apathy so much as that I knew it wouldn’t have made so much of a difference who I voted for.

This year it’s quite different, the ruling ANC party has a break-away faction called COPE, and it’s quite possible that the ANC might not get a majority (2/3rds) vote. The DA has also gained lots of momentum since the last elections, and it’s quite possible that they may win the provincial elections in the Western Cape province. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m not a fan of the ANC. While they have done a lot for our country that I will always be grateful for, I am also disgusted at what it has become and how it is run. Their leader, who will most probably be our president, is immoral and corrupt, and I won’t support him or his party. The question I’ve been wondering about the last 6 months or so is who will I vote for? Our parties are mostly lame and petty. The reasons they give in their campaigns to vote for them are things like “Vote for us so that we can win!” and “Vote for us so that the other parties won’t win!” or “A brighter future for all!”. All vague and boring, they mostly haven’t really provided any good reasons to vote for them.

My Choice

I considered voting COPE for a while, being fresh and new and being low baggage. The problem is that I couldn’t really find enough supporting reasons to vote for them, so I looked at the ID. ID actually looks ok, and I like Patricia de Lille (even though she can be a bit of a freedom hater at times). I like her passion and she seems to really care for the poor people in our country. The problem is that it more or less ends there, the ID’s mission seems mostly to give free shit like medicine and schooling to poor people. Not bad at all, but we need a bigger plan than that for our country. I ended up not voting for them, but if they do some more work and planning into what they’ll do for our country (whether elected or not), I might end up voting for them in the future. I came across the NOPE website which isn’t really a political party, but if they were I’d probably vote for them. I didn’t want to vote for the DA because there’s this general stigma that if you’re black you vote ANC and if you’re white you vote DA. I also can’t relate to Helen Zille much at all, I think she needs to do more to reach out to the youth. I’m also apposed to all the religious parties, religion and politics shouldn’t be mixed.

I did end up voting DA for the following reasons:

  • They promise not to form a coalition with the ANC or other ANC coalitions, so when you vote DA, you know your vote stays there
  • Hellen Zille (the leader of the D.A) have been running Cape Town very well, and I think the DA will do a much better job of running the Western Cape province if they win the provincial elections.
  • The DA is pretty much the only party that has a chance of beating the ANC in the Western Cape, I absolutely HATE the notion of voting for someone just because they have the best chance of winning, but in this case I do think that it makes sense to do so

CLUG Discussions

On the CLUG IRC channel and last night at the commitee meeting we’ve been talking about what the different parties run as web servers, content management systems, etc. I thought I’d post a summary, according to what Netcraft says.

Most parties also require you to add a www. to their subdomain, someone should point them to no-www.


  • Web Server: Apache/2.2.9 (Ubuntu) PHP/5.2.6-2ubuntu4.1 with Suhosin-Patch mod_ssl/2.2.9 OpenSSL/0.9.8g.
  • CMS: Custom/static PHP.
  • Requires WWW: Yes.


  • Web Server: Microsoft-IIS/6.0
  • CMS: Custom/static ASP.
  • Requries WWW: Yes.


  • Web Server: Apache/1.3.34 (Debian) mod_auth_pam/1.1.1 mod_gzip/ PHP/4.4.4-8+etch6 mod_ssl/2.8.25 OpenSSL/0.9.8c mod_perl/1.29 mod_jk/1.2.18 AuthMySQL/4.3.9-2 FrontPage/
  • CMS: Custom/static HTML.
  • Requries WWW:No, but it redirects you to the www. subdomain.


  • Web Server: Zope/(Zope 2.9.7-final, python 2.4.4, linux2) ZServer/1.1
  • CMS: Plone
  • Requries WWW:No.

Stefano pointed out last night that most of the parties are outsourcing their web work. I still think it’s interesting to see what they are running. If it counted for anything then the ID would probably win.

Leaving the Country?

Some people have said that they’re leaving the country if Zuma becomes president and if the ANC wins in the Western Cape and if the ANC gains majority rule. I think South Africa is a great country, and I don’t have plans to leave any time soon. You do have to ask yourself at some point though “How bad to things need to get before I should leave?”. I’ve been spending lots of time in Gauteng over the last year. If things get as bad in the Western Cape as it is in Gauteng at the moment, then I will consider leaving. Not a clue where too though, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather want to live.

Starting a political party?

I’ve been thinking of starting a political party for years now (since I was 17 or so). Back then I thought of going into politics when I’m 50 years old or older. When the last elections came and gone, I started thinking of starting my own political party a bit earlier, maybe closer to 30. I’ll be doing some research and if I actually do decide to start something for the next elections, I’ll start doing something about it in the first 6 months of next year. I was talking to an old friend at the voting stations this morning and he was asking me how I’d pay for the start-up and compaign fees. Previous years I thought that I’d save up the money and pay for as much of it as I can, but now I think that if I can’t even gather enough people to raise some funds for running the campaign, then I probably shouldn’t go into politics in the first place.

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Updates from the world of Jonathan

Free Software, Jonathan 3 Comments »

I just haven’t had enough time to blog recently, so here’s a bunch of (seemingly) random stuff all in one post.

Cool Christmas Gift

Johannes gave me a really cool Christmas gift. In an episode of the IT Crowd, the guys thought it would be really funny if they played a prank on their manager by giving her “The Internet” in a box that they borrowed from the Internet elders. We’ve been making lots of jokes about this (YouTube video here, but you should watch the full episode), and for Christmas I got a replica of The Internet in IT Crowd. Awesome! It looks very similar to the one in the story:



I attended the “Lucky Litchi” Geekdinner last month. I enjoyed catching up with people again and the food was good (although some of us felt that it was a bit too little). Mike Stopforth gave a talk about Jack’s and Aces which I quite enjoyed. Basically, Aces are typical geeks. They focus intensely and specialise and usually get the job done. Jacks are people who start lots of things but don’t necessarily finish them. They are don’t specialise so much and are more jack-of-all-trades kind of people. He also explained how both kind of people are important to make our world work. I think I used to think of myself as an Ace more before that talk, but afterwards I think I’m more of a Jack, and I feel better about it too. Jonathan Endersby did a kareoke talk (a talk on a subject and slides that he’s never seen before) on “The Joys of Scrapbooking” that was brilliantly prepared by Kerry-Anne.


Ikamva Youth Does It Again

Ikamva Youth did a great job again in 2008 with their Matric students. They maintained a high pass rate and 68% of them will be able to study further at university. They also recently started working in Gauteng in Midrand.

KDE4 Release Party

AJ Venter arranged the KDE4 release party in Cape Town. It was quite small, but it was interesting hearing people talk more about KDE for a change. I also got a free copy of AJ’s poetry book “Batteries not included“. I’ll give KDE a proper try again when Jaunty is released.

Unix & Car Epochs

Yesterday we hit 1234567890 in Unix time (seconds since 1970). I guess we should start planning 2038 parties like it’s 9999999999. The day before yesterday, my car reached 155555 km’s on the clock. I took a picture of it on my phone. It feels like just yesterday when it hit 123456, but I couldn’t take a picture of it since there was too much traffic and I couldn’t slow down in time before it ticked over to 123457 :(


Debian Lenny Released

Debian 5.0 (Lenny) is released. I bet R50 against Morgan that Lenny would be released before the end of 2008. Unfortunately I lost that one. I’m glad that it’s finally released though.


Bill Gates Coolness

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the reports of Bill Gates releasing the mosquitos during a TED talk. I didn’t know he had it in him. I wonder if he came up with the idea himself, or if it was just his PR department being clever. Either way, I think it was a brilliant awareness stunt for his new maliria campaign.

Unisa Information Overload

I received study material for 2 of my subjects. It’s a lot to work through. The documentation that I glanced over so far says that I’ll need 8 hours a week per subject *gasp*. I hope to make more time available for that later, although I still need to check when my first assignments is due and make sure that I’ll be able to cope with that. I’ll give a proper update on this once I’m more or less on track on this!

Zanix Doing Well

Last year in November I went to work full-time for Zanix Software Systems, a company that I have founded. I was a bit uncertain about doing it at the time, since the world economic status wasn’t looking quite good (not that it’s looking that much better now), but I’m very happy to report that it’s doing quite ok. I haven’t achieved everything I wanted to at this point yet, but Rome also wasn’t built in a day. I’ve been getting more help in to assist on our projects. 2008 wasn’t a wonderful year for me personally financially speaking, but I’ve already recovered my losses for 2008 so far in the first month and a half of 2009. I’m very grateful that I’m able to do what I’m doing and if things continue this way then 2009 will be my best financial year yet. I hope that it spreads into other parts of my life too :)

Me++ (My Birthday)

Exactly a week ago I turned 27. We had a nice little party at home. Thanks to everyone who bought me nice gifts. I received lots of gifts from people who I didn’t expect anything from, which makes me feel slightly guilty for not getting them anything for their birthdays, but at least I have the rest of the year to make up for it again. I usually like the even-numbered years more, but I have a really good feeling about 27.

There’s more stuff (like getting a collective 3rd place in a very fun trivia evening, my experience with registering as a voter or a strange talk that I attended on “Development is broken and mobiles broke it!” at UCT), but this entry has gotten too long already. I guess I should do more microblogging to keep things from heaping up.

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“More Linux Distributions” Isn’t Necessarily the Answer

Free Software 9 Comments »

AJ Venter writes that we need more, not less Linux distributions. We’ve discussed it to a degree on the #clug IRC channel, where AJ Venter also sometimes hangs out as silentcoder. I wanted to discuss it with him, but he said that he doesn’t want to discuss it over IRC and also blogged that he doesn’t want to. He says that he really wants to discuss it over comments on the post instead.  Since he has disabled comments on the blog post in question, I decided to write this blog-reply.

I’m not convinced that we need more distributions. More distributions would result in huge duplication of work:

  • Additional bug trackers
  • More packaging work
  • Relationships between maintainers and upstream projects
  • Documentation
  • Additional installer work
  • … and there’s probably a lot more

There’s also very little benefit from doing a whole new distribution from scratch. Doing a custom installation from an existing distribution has plenty of benefits:

  • Existing installers
  • Lots of existing packages
  • Most common issues are known and can be tracked in the distribution’s bug tracker

Distributions such as Debian and Ubuntu are super-easy to adapt, and there are very few use-cases that could warrant doing a distribution from scratch as apposed to doing a custom install disc of those two systems. Ubuntu’s parent company, Canonical, even goes a step further by offering free hosting for free software packages via the Launchpad PPA service.

I don’t think AJ’s “diversity” “arguement” is solid or even makes a proper case for the need for more distributions. You can have diversity and satisfy a wide array of unique use cases by leveraging the work of  the existing distributions, without being wasteful and duplicating effort unnecesarily.

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Linux Popularity Contest: Facebook Has Spoken

Free Software 13 Comments »

Ubuntu has been quite popular on DistroWatch for a long time now. Currently it is at the number 1 position for hits per day on the site over the last six months, 675 higher than it’s closest competition (OpenSUSE), and that doesn’t even count in the 1563 hits from Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Mythbuntu, Fluxbuntu, Ubuntu Studio and Ubuntu CE.

There’s a nice little Facebook app that’s called “Linux” that proudly displays which distribution you use on your profile page:

It also builds stats of which distributions and desktop environments people use, and which podcasts they listen to:

Once again, Ubuntu outranks them all. What’s even nicer is that Debian is second here. makes my theory feel stronger that all RPM based distros will probably become Debian-based within the next 5 years or so (or die out, unless something superior emerges (no pun intended)). I might be completely wrong… who knows, but, when you look at the trends (got this link from Mark Shuttleworth’s website), and if they continue the way they do, then things certainly don’t look good for the future popularity of RPM based systems:

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OpenSSL and SSH ports

Free Software 3 Comments »

I’ve just updated all my SSH keys, as everyone who is running a Debian-based system should. I’ve also changed the ports that SSH listens on on a bunch of systems, just to be safe, and to be a less obvious target to script-kiddies. Debian itself has also taken caution by disabling key-based logins to some developer services for now. If the changes I made caused any breakage for anyone, please let me know, and I’ll get it sorted out.

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