Retiring as a Debian developer

This is a repost and update of my retirement letter sent privately to Debian last month, July 10, 2016. At that time I received many notes of appreciation and good wishes which I treasure. Now, I’d like to say goodbye to the broader Debian community and, as well, indicate which of the cleanup items have since been addressed in strikethrough style and with annotations. Also, I’d like to stay in touch with many of you, so I have added some comments oriented towards those of you who are interested in doing that after the letter.

When in 1995, on a tip from a friend, I installed Debian on my 386 at work and was enthralled with the results, I could not have foreseen that two years later, friends I had made on channel #debian would nudge me to become a Debian developer. Nor when that happened did I have any idea that twenty years later, I’d consider Debian to be like family, the greatest free software community in the world, and would still be promoting it and helping people with it whenever I could. Debian quietly, unexpectedly became a part of what defines me.

My priorities in life have changed over that time, though. I have shifted my attention to things that are more important to me in life, such as my family, my health and well-being physically and spiritually, and bringing all I can to bear on the task of preserving our local wilderness areas and trails. In the latter area, I’m now bringing all of what Debian has helped shaped me to be to the table, launching some ambitious projects I hope will bear fruit in the coming years, and make a measurable contribution to help us hang onto our precious natural preserves where I live.

Unfortunately, as I’ve poured more time and energy into these things, I’ve increasingly not been giving my packages the care they need. Nor do I have any roles or goals now for any of the Debian projects I was previously involved in. So, after much careful deliberation, and as much as it pains me to say it, it’s time to retire as a Debian developer. It has been a great privilege to work with you, and to meet many of you in New York at Debconf 10. I plan to be around online, and will continue to take an interest in Debian, lending a hand when I can. Thanks for all of the fun times, for all that I’ve learned, and for the privilege to make awesome things with you. I’ll treasure this forever.

So much for the soppy bits. 🙂 Now, business. These things remain to clean up upon my departure, and I’d appreciate help from QA, and anyone else who can lend a hand. My packages are effectively orphaned, but I haven’t the time to do any of the cleanup myself, so please speak up if you can help.

  1. Debian Jr.
    • O: junior-doc. The junior-doc package has been awaiting an overhaul by whoever revives the project since I gave it up years ago. I’m still listed as maintainer and that should be changed to Debian Junior Maintainers <debianjr-maintainers@lists.alioth.debian.org> if they want it. Otherwise, it is orphaned.
    • I should also be dropped from Uploaders from debian-junior, the metapackages source. Fixed in git.
  2. Tux Paint. This is a very special package that deserves to go to someone who will love it and care for it well. There are three source packages in all:
    • O: tuxpaint
    • O: tuxpaint-config
    • O: tuxpaint-stamps
  3. O: xletters. This is a cute little typing practice game and needs a new maintainer.
  4. XPilot is co-maintained by Phil Brooke <pjb@debian.org>, so he should replace me as Maintainer. Phil said he’ll pick up xpilot-ng and will also look at xpilot-extra.
    • xpilot-ng
    • O: xpilot-extra (recently removed from testing due to my neglect, and not co-maintained by Phil; it’s unclear if anyone really uses this anymore)
  5. GTypist is co-maintained by Daniel Leidert <dleidert@debian.org> and should replace me as Maintainer.
  6. My ruby packages. A group of packages that I brought into Debian as dependencies of taskwarrior-web, which I never completed. Maybe they’ll be useful in and of themselves, and maybe not. In any case, they are maintained by pkg-ruby-extras-maintainers, but I’m the sole developer in Uploaders and should be removed: Fixed in git.
    • ruby-blockenspiel
    • ruby-parseconfig
    • ruby-rack-flash3
    • ruby-simple-navigation
    • ruby-sinatra-simple-navigation
    • ruby-term-ansicolor
    • ruby-versionomy
  7. Debian Live stuff: I am listed in Uploaders for live-manual (fixed in git) and debian-installer-launcher (fixed in git) and need to be removed.
  8. O: eeepc-acpi-scripts. The defunct Debian EeePC project has just this one package. Recently, the mailing list was asked about its status, and it was recently NMU’d. To my knowledge, nobody from the original team remains to take care of it, so it needs a new maintainer. I should be removed from Uploaders, and since the Debian Eee PC Team no longer exists, it should be removed as maintainer. It is effectively orphaned unless someone speaks up.

There are also some Alioth projects / lists that are defunct that I’ll need to talk to the Alioth admins about cleaning up in the coming days. One of these is <debian-eeepc-devel@lists.alioth.debian.org> and since it is still listed as the maintainer of eeepc-acpi-scripts, that needs to be sorted out before the list can be closed.

Thanks again, and see you around!
Ben

Stay in touch

For those of you who would like to stay in touch, here are some ways to do that:

  • Follow my blog: http://syn.theti.ca
    If you already do that, great! If not, welcome to my blog! For the past couple of years you may have noticed a decrease in technical content and increase in local trails and conservation oriented posts. You can expect more of the latter.
  • Say hi to me on irc: SynrG (also SynrGy) on irc.oftc.net (irc.debian.org) or irc.freenode.net.
    I still intend to hang out and offer support when I can, just no longer as a developer. Channel #debian-offtopic on either network is a good place to catch up with me socially.
  • Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SynrG
    For better or worse, a lot of the trails and conservation folks hang out here, and many of you in the Debian community are already my Facebook friends.
  • Look for my Bluff Trail posts on their site: https://wrweo.ca
    Providing tech support to this organization is where much of my time and energy is going these days. I post here once in a while, but do most of my work behind the scenes as a volunteer and, newly this year, as a board member.
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Xautomation: visually grepping for gui elements

In my first article about testing tuxpaint with xautomation, I mentioned that I wasn’t happy with hardwiring button positions. But before I could proceed, I discovered a bug in xautomation that prevented me from using visgrep to search for the “Yes” button in tuxpaint screenshots. Fortunately, the fix was straightforward enough after reading the libpng man page.

At the same time, I also decided to borrow an idea from the example scripts in the xmacro package. Running the test script on the tester’s own display may be fine for developing the script, but it is nice to be able to run it on a virtual display after the kinks are worked out. For one thing, the test doesn’t get in the way of other things when you’re waiting for it to finish. For another, it is much easier to control the test environment. Xvfb is perfect for this.

The resulting script requires tuxpaint, Xvfb, xautomation with the above patch applied, xbase-clients and Imagemagick.

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Tuxpaint GUI testing with xautomation

Tuxpaint could be a poster child for l10n. It has translations now for 68 different locales. The large number of locales poses somewhat of a problem for testing1.

Tuxpaint 0.9.16 just released. During the release preparation, the manual testing of all of these locales drove me nearly insane. So to help out next time, I created the following bash script using xautomation2, imagemagick and xprop (from xbase-clients):


#!/bin/bash
testname="tuxpaint"
root_geometry=`xprop -root _NET_DESKTOP_GEOMETRY |cut -d= -f2`
root_x=`echo $root_geometry |cut -d, -f1`
root_y=`echo $root_geometry |cut -d, -f2`
xc=$((root_x/2-1))
yc=$((root_y/2-1))

capture_tuxpaint () {
   tuxpaint --startblank --nolockfile --lang $1 --640x480 --windowed --nosound &
   sleep 1
   xte "mousemove $xc $yc"
   xte "mouseclick 1"
   sleep 1
   xte "key Escape"
   sleep 2
   import -silent -window "Tux Paint" $testname-$1.png
   xte "mousermove -120 -40"
   xte "mouseclick 1"
}

for lang in `tuxpaint --lang help |awk '$1~/^[[:lower:]]/ {print $1}'`; do
   capture_tuxpaint $lang
done

I’m not entirely happy with it, but it’s at least a starting point. Ideally, I’d make .pat files to use with visgrep to find coordinates for the button images instead of hardwiring the approximate button positions. Also, the script needs a companion script to configure the system for testing (i.e. perform the locales configuration and install all fonts).

Here are the resulting screenshots which show up a few problems with the translations. It looks like the quit dialog strings have been updated since they were first translated, so now we need retranslation for several languages. Also, there are some languages, like Swahili and Klingon, for which there are no locales in glibc in Debian. I’ll have to talk to the glibc maintainers about that. And for that matter, I don’t even know if a DFSG-free Klingon font exists.

In any event, I’m delighted with the results, and look forward to using xautomation more for GUI testing.

1 For one thing, several languages require special fonts. For another, there is no way to get tuxpaint to tell you what locales it supports. Granted, there is --lang help, but this is a crude approximation, as the mapping between language and locale is arbitrarily hardwired (which hmh on #debian-devel irc pointed out to me is just plain wrong). It doesn’t help me at all in the arduous task of configuring glibc locales so I can test them. For that, I need to look at i18n.c.

2 I tried using xmacro at first, but xmacrorec just made my pointer jiggle back and forth. It seemed like it was updating the position for a short distance, and then X was resetting it back to the former position of the pointer. Some strange interaction with my window manager, perhaps? But ultimately I am happier with the xautomation approach anyway.

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