FOSDEM: Pride and Success in 2009

Feb 09, 2009

Over the weekend the Free and Open Source Software Developers' European Meeting (FOSDEM) took place in Brussels. In his keynote, Mozilla's Mark Surman hoped for Open Source's success and Debian key contributor Bdale Garbee supported its social contract. As an aside, Debian Lenny's target release date was reconfirmed.

In his welcoming keynote, "Free. Open. Future?", Mozilla Foundation executive director Mark Surman highlighted how 2008 had brought a flood of new netbooks that provided opportunities for Linux users as never before. Four and half million new users could study, copy, modify and redistribute code. His Open Source chant of "Study, Copy, Modify, Share" was for him a lead-in to likely success for the open platform in 2009 ("How can open win?"). He especially saw opportunities in open mobility. As a starting point he named hardware such as the Openmoko platform, then, naturally, software and the Web, calling out to the audience, "Take one of the blind spots on the map and fill it."

Bdale Garbee, HP's chief Linux technologist, lauded the project in his keynote.

Former Debian project lead Bdale Garbee, who is now Linux chief technologist at HP, pulled in Debian by association in his own keynote. At first he kept everyone in suspense over developments at Debian. But his main point was the concept of freedom and he invited everyone to reread the Debian Social Contract with the Free Software Community, thereby defending the project's decision to use free software only. "Debian has the weight to carry such a decision," he asserted, based on the recent referendum on Debian Lenny.

One of the success factors Garbee attributes to the Debian project is that so many packages from individual maintainers are integrated into the distro. Calling out to the audience at FOSDEM for Debian maintainers, a few dozen of the roughly thousand attendees raised their hands. Garbee also hailed the simple structure of the bug tracking system that Debian has maintained since 1994 as a key success factor: users record bugs by e-mail and follow their resolution status over the Web. Garbee ended with recognizing from his work at HP how many projects include Debian, especially through his membership on the HP Open Source Review Board. He said that he often runs into Debian in places where it might not have been obvious at first glance.

Bdale Garbee has been at Debian since 1994, is its former project lead and currently chair of its technical committee.

As for Lenny, Garbee assured users not to worry, that things would not change much. However, he deferred any questions about its actual release to Debian project lead Steve McIntyre and his release team. Linux Magazine Online later pulled McIntyre aside at FOSDEM and he avowed that the release would fall on Valentine's Day. Along with the release will be the official announcement of the project's new project secretary, a position to be filled after Manoj Srivastava's departure the end of last December.

The opening keynotes at FOSDEM showed capacity audiences, with attendees later in the day spilling out into developer rooms, cafeteria and project booths.

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