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Mini Deb Conf Paris 2k10: I've been there!

A summarized report about what happened during this exciting weekend in Paris, France.

Hi there ! It’s been such an interesting and amazing weekend here. Firstly, I’ve attended the first Mini Debian Conference in Paris, during this weekend – October the 30th and 31st -. Apart from being my first Debian Conference I attend to, I could say – in addition – this was at the same time the most incredible of all my previous experiences abroad, not only because of being in Paris is, let’s put it this way, something almost mystic, but also due to the fact the attendants were clever, quite enthusiastic about the conference and, moreover, extremely sympathetic.

Despite the fact I cannot speak – not to mention understand – French, I could survive thanks to my not huge knowledge of the English language, and most importantly, because all the talks but two have taken place purely in English – that includes, obviously, all the questions and their respective answers after  finishing each one -.

Okay, now let’s discuss what kind of talks I’ve enjoyed the most, whether because I was quite interested in them or they were, well, quite interesting by themselves even not knowing absolutely anything about them before.

The first one was called “High level package search interfaces”, and it was conducted by Enrico Zini. It was about how to search, quickly and cleverly, for a concrete package inside the Debian package system, replacing the “apt-cache” tool completely. The main idea , what you can find just behind “the screen”, was an optimized and well- constructed cache-index, achieving the impressive results when looking for some unknown package – so to speak – I saw during the talk. Its index is meant to occupy, so so, about 50 mega, which is quite impressive thinking about what we get and the total amount of available space we’ve got nowadays on every modern laptop or desktop computer. You can have the big picture on this website: http://www.enricozini.org/sw/apt-xapian-index/. A really impressive and useful tool, no doubt.

The second one, and probably the most important because of my job at the University, was in charge of Joseelin Mouette, and it concerned how to use Debian in a scientist-oriented world, more specifically at the EDF. He told us about the importance of  building clusters one hundred per cent taking advantage of open source initiatives, like Debian, and how to build an “in-house” solution to cope with all their scientific problems, like high computing algorithms, advanced data analysis and, more importantly, graphic data analysis with which they called “Graphic Clusters”. It seems, by now, they are truly intended to share their development with the Debian Community, and they’ve got even a name for their “in-house” creature: CALIBRE!

Joseelin told us that, as one can figure out, the only way they found to use so many different compilers and Fortran libraries at the same time on the same computing nodes, was through the Makefiles and their rules. That was as a response to the question spat out by Enrico Zini about this very matter. I was positive the answer to that question was going to be this way, because it’s been a long time since I tried to solve the same issue, eventually coming to that same realization.

Finally, I have to admit the talk called “Ubuntu and Debian”, conducted by Lucas Nussbaum, was so interesting despite the fact it was imparted in French. But I could work out the words, thus I did understand what it was all about. Basically, there were some common points illustrating what Ubuntu means from a DD’s point of view, and what is going to be (or what we could consider is going to be) , the Debian’s future. Does it has future? Well, according to Lucas, Ubuntu is meant for people who don’t understand computers very well, or who don’t understand computers at all, and for a lot of people now Linux means, well, Ubuntu. That’s bad for Debian, because it is getting totally behind the scene, and there have to be some kind of political decisions to keep it on top, again. But Lucas told us it is pointless to fight against Ubuntu – that is not only totally out of the question but against the Free Software idea as well -, so instead we have to share developers, package maintainers, and try to find how Debian could stay and, somehow, survive while having Ubuntu and the Ubuntu community users on the loose.

Talking to Carl Chenet, the man in charge of the Conference, he didn’t know – but he did expect -, this Mini Debian Conference to be annual. Let’s pray!!!!!! Unluckily, I could not stay till the last talk took place, so I missed the last group picture, goddamnit!. But I am in some of them, like these two (David: I worn the T-Shirt I bought when I went to pay you a visit some weeks ago during that village feast! ;-)):

I finished writing this down whilst waiting in the Charles De Gaulle airport. It is a pitty to come back home, but you know what they say: There’s no place like home. Mark these words ;-).