Gentoo: A Modular Approach

Right, so there was a a bit of furor over my last post about overlays.

Let me point out two things:

  1. Gentoo is not moving in this direction, these are simply my thoughts.
  2. I just want to get people thinking and discussing (maybe someday some of this will become a series of action items for someone somwhere).

Now, there is a bit of misunderstanding here. The idea that I propose is exactly to remove Gentoo’s “distro” status and restore its “metadistro” status. That does mean that Gentoo becomes a platform for other people to create distros out of. I want to address some of the comments here.

First of all, yes, there would be overlays: mostly they would be unoffical. But a few of them who pass some sort of series of evaluation tests would be considered “official.” When an overlay becomes official, it would be listed in make.conf as something sync’able. By default, all official overlays could become sync’able, and the user would have to opt out of the ones that they don’t want. That’s a detail and it’s unimportant. The important thing is that the package manager (be it portage, paludis, or pkgcore or some other), should be able to handle official overlays transparently.

Additionally, the environment is ripe for tools builders to build tools that can query packages in the official tree, offical overlays and unofficial overlays.

There is a definite challenge in that there might be interdependencies between the overlays. This is an issue that can be resolved, I should think. In fact, a requirement for being an official overlay might be to work those interdependencies out.

Finally, nothing stops someone from coming along and creating their own “unoffical-to-gentoo-but-official-to-themselves” overlay and packaging their own distro. Gentoo’s security team would handle its own security bugs (and those in official overlays). Derivative distros would have to have their own security teams.

And even more finally, I want to reinforce the idea that overlays can be official (and therefore part of the SYNC string, potentially) and unoffical (two guys building an Xgl overlay, for example). So users wouldn’t have to run around trying to find them. In fact, could serve as a central registry of all possible overlays.

Flame again: Kulleen, out.

Edit: Linked to xgl-coffee and changed the link for pkgcore to the official site

Idjits say “what?”

So I’m #gentoo-dev and this person asks for voice. I generally give people the benefit of the doubt, so I give it to him:

15:24 <@seemant> my uncle Charlie wants to say something
15:25 <+UncleC> actually no
15:25 <+UncleC> im holding it to sometime later on
15:25 <+UncleC> do you guys have some coding contests?
15:25 * deathwing00 scratches
15:26 <+UncleC> id like to school you all sometime if thats possible
15:26 <phreak“> baaaah
15:26 * phreak“ pokes onto his fingers 😛
15:26 <deathwing00> UncleC: I’m sure I’ll learn something off that 🙂
15:26 <seemant> UncleC: what are you on about, anyway?

After he didn’t respond for a few minutes, I devoiced him and he gave me this in private:

15:31 <UncleC> ur in the presence of an elite coder. i joined
cos one of ur friends said this channel has brains in it. i
can see that isnt the case. bye.

Let’s all take a moment to collectively bow in the presence of his awesomeness.

Please note that the symbols ‘<‘ and ‘>’ were harmed during the posting of this entry because b2evolution’s parser hated them — thought they were tags.

The Boob Tube

Yep, I’m guilty of it. I hate television, and yet I watch so damned much of it. John Stewart, I blame you partly — because you bring what is so rare: high quality programming. And I’ll confess to being a citizen of the Colbert Nation too, dammit.

Now that’s not so bad, it’s an hour on the weekdays (8pm, if you please: the regular time slot is way too late for me). But then, Comedy Central decided to air the old episodes of Scrubs. Now, Rach had mentioned Scrubs to me a few years ago, while I was still in LA (during the pre-Aimee era of my life, actually), and I never really watched it regularly. The few episodes I did catch were hilarious and I loved them. So now, I’m watching an hour of Scrubs every weeknight too. That’s two effing hours of tv! Ridiculous.

And finally, Aimee is hooked on this Gilmore Girls show, and of course by now I’ve seen most of the episodes too (she netflixed the prior seasons last year, so I’ve been caught up and up to date for damned near a year now). So I’m hooked to that one too, because its new season started last night. (BTW, I can’t believe she slept with Christopher, and I really hope that the previews for next week are misleading — I don’t think I can handle a Lorelei/Christopher relationship. While we’re on the subject, am I the only one not thrilled with Rory’s beau? I actually side with Paris on this one, which feels weird). [Editor’s note: OMG, I can’t believe I actually said that parenthesised stuff].

And of course Sunday night is my night for The Simpsons, and the Stewie show (no link, because I don’t actually know its name), and the show with Michael Rappaport in it (again, no link, can’t remember the name, though it might be The War At Home).

I’m addicted to television, and this makes me sad.

The Dark Clouds over Gentoo

So, apparently, the recent Gentoo/Seeds flare up and my own thoughts about it have sparked a little bit of speculation out there.

There’s been an inevitable (retrospectively) culture shift happening in Gentoo over the last few years. Gentoo has been steadily moving towards Debianisation. I know there are people out there who will read that and go “yeah? so what, Debian’s great.” And to you I say, “yes, Debian is great, but it’s not Gentoo. Debian is great because it was able to spawn things like Knoppix and Ubuntu.” Debian is also great because you can pick a CD (stable please) and throw it onto a server (not too new please) and be relatively sure that things will work as expected when you install it. Becoming a Debian developer is not great (from the anectdotes I’ve heard). There’s simply too much bureaucracy, too much of a waiting period, and too much of a niche you have to fill to become one.

Similarly, the dark clouds over gentoo really boil down to how fun it is(n’t) to be a Gentoo developer these days.

Even before Daniel left Gentoo, the culture shift had started. There was a small (and vocal) minority — they always tend to be hugely vocal — that was pushing the line that Daniel had “too much power.” Three years later, nobody seems to have enough power. The buck doesn’t stop, it just keeps getting passed. The council vows this year to make some changes, but honestly, the closest thing to a buck-stop we’ve had in the last few years is SpanKY. He happily lays the smack down and issues finalities. And I’ll tell you this: we need that in developer-land.

Part of the reason for the Seeds throw up (and prior to that, the overlays massacre) is that there is no focus for the project as a whole. We’re a multiheaded snake (where each head thinks the others a nuisance) trying to go in as many different directions. There’s no focal point where projects as a whole can point toward; there are no goals to which we can aim.

Now that the board of trustees is beginning to slim down (from an unhealthy and obese 13 people, to a slimmer 5), I hope that sees more of a change. I hope that the council will be a lot more proactive.

Probably the healthiest thing would be for Gentoo to die and then re-emerge (natch!) from its ashes. By this I mean that the project should get rid of all of its cruft. Start with people: get rid of the people who do not add any value to the project, people who have half-baked ideas with no follow-through and a list of unresolved bugs a mile long. Then, get rid of packages. Everything that has a bug to maintainer-wanted should just go. Then find everything else that isn’t maintained and get it out. Let the overlays handle them.

The ideal model would be to slim gentoo down to just a handful of developers working on the core system (base system, compilers, userlands, some editors, livecds, installers, etc). Get everything else into an overlay. There can be official overlays and unofficial overlays with a defined set of standards that determine what becomes deemed “an official overlay.” Those ones get mentioned in make.conf.example as a source of packages. Then you’d have an X overlay, a gnome overlay, a kde overlay, a java overlay, a clustering overlay, a science overlay, a graphics overlay, etc ad nauseum.

This would be a painful process, and it would create very bad blood between a lot of folks. It would also cleanse Gentoo.

There’s a lot more I could say on the subject, but I’ll let you, dear readers, say some stuff first. Feel free to flame me, insult me, whatever, just please put one constructive thing in your responses, that’s all I ask. I don’t ever censor comments (except for the spam-get-this-rolex type ones), so do what you do.

Kulleen, out.

Car-less commute: Back in the Car

OK, so I went home and consulted my accountant. It turns out that the car-less commute cost me:

  1. $2.50 in subway tokens
  2. $0.90 in bus fare
  3. $8.00 in shuttle fares

for a grand total of $11.40 for the day. If aimee hadn’t come to pick me up in the evening at the subway station, it would have been $12.30 instead. So for the week, that’s over $60! Gas costs about a third of that right now (I only fill the tank every week and a half or so, and I only use it on the weekdays).

So, economically, this car-less commute thing would be a pain in the butt. However, I did some maths: I can get a monthly subway pass for $44 and a monthly bus pass for $31 (or a monthly combo pass for the same total). Thus, I would save $11 bucks off the daily fares per month. Now, if my employer ever joins the business council, my shuttle fare would be $2 each way instead of $4, which would save me $20 a week. It would be slightly costlier than my car but not prohibitively so. Not that I’m pressuring anyone to do anything, I’m just saying, is all.

The thing I did find out, however, is that I get a tax deduction for those passes if they are > $150 for the year. That’s actually fairly cool, then.

Car-less commute: Day 1

Well, I did it. I left my car at home today! I hopped on a bus around the corner from our apartment, for a two minute ride where I crossed the street to catch a second bus (free transfer) to the T for a subway ride to the next stop where I caught the business council shuttle right to work! The shuttle was the longest part of the ride, clocking in at 30 minutes. I caught the first bus at 7:41 this morning. I was at work by 8:45. I grant you, it takes longer. However, had I caught the shuttle before that (catching the first bus at 7:20 or so instead), I would have had a shuttle ride right to the door of the building where I work. Today involved a ten minute walk. If I can time that alternative one correctly, then it should take about as long as it did when I drove through all the traffic in Somerville and Cambridge, but with a much reduced environmental cost.

Digging it so far. Tomorrow, I’ll try and remember to bring my book.

Thanks to everyone for your advice in my previous post about winter walking.

Morning Commute Questions

So now that we live closer to the urban Boston area, the T is about a mile and a half from home. And if I take that to the end of the line, I can hop onto a shuttle that’ll take me right to the building where I work. It’s a 2 dollar ride on the shuttle and a buck and a quarter on the T — overall, less than I pay for g)asoline (because my car apparently requires the highest octane).

Aimee and I walked it today to go meet up with Nichols for dinner. It took about a half hour to do it. However, when I arrived back home, I was pretty ripe. So that gets me thinking: I would absolutely love to do the more environmentally friendly commute to and from work. However, in the winter I would have all those layers on, and so I’d be sweating like a pig, really.

I have several questions for both of you readers of my blog: do you walk during your commute, and how long of a walk is it? What do you do about the sweat factor? If you shower at work, how icky is that experience? Where do you store your clothes? How do you carry your work clothes? Where do you store the soap? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s these details that freak me out about this.

Flame away.

New Trustee Elections

Well, I’ll eat crow here and now. Ciaran was right about reopening the trustee elections. I thought there would be less interest in a second election, but what do you know, gentoo-core has been a lot more active than I would’ve thought. As a result, we now have seven nominees for the five-member board. Ciaran, this is my official apology for doubting you.

I may even step myself out of the nominees list with all this interest.

This time, though, the nomination period is only 2 weeks long, and the election period is also two weeks long. So, all you ex-devs out there who are still interested in Gentoo — if you were a dev for more than a year, you’re still a member of the foundation, and you can vote in this election.

See you at the polls.

Touche Mike Cummings

Mike, I have to say that your post was the best and most thought-out point of view on thie entire issue. That’s a method I can get behind, and a mindset I can embrace. And I think it would do Gentoo some good. It may even succeed in bringing some flames down.

Wait, this is Gentoo: the flames will stay — someone will have something negative to say about it (not a bad thing) and they will say it in an insulting manner, someone’s toes will get stepped on (a bad thing). I would foresee the problem to be then: “Why didn’t you tell anybody?? I’ve been doing the same thing and now we’ve duplicated work, well, not duplicated because obviously mine is better than yours, yada yada yada.”

In this particular case, you’ve won me over to your point of view, though, so no disagreement here :p

StreamBase: Week 2

Well, this is the end of my second week at StreamBase. I’ve learned a bunch this week, as it has comprised of my ramping up my knowledge of the way things are. I’ve been catching up on my reading of the logs over at the CEP interest group on yahoo (b2evo won’t allow me to link). And also, I’ve been reading Marco’s blog at rulecore. I discovered an open source CEP/ESP engine.

That’s most of the technical stuff. On the marketing side, I’ve been looking at the StreamBase website with a critical eye to making it more developer-friendly. The area of the site that I’ll be most concerned with is the Developer Zone. Currently there is not too much content on there, and I aim to change that. There’s so much that this platform is capable of that it’s a shame not to show off some of it. So, if you’re one of the 2 people who read my blog and you’re marginally interested, I’ll be making some changes to the DevZone, so please stay tuned. I would welcome any and all ideas for the DevZone.