Read the latest posts from writefreely.debian.social.

from paddatrapper

With the COVID-19 outbreak, may conferences have moved to be fully virtual. This has been achieved by streaming talks and using IRC or other channels for audience participation. Libreplanet used Jitsi to connect the moderators and presenters and IRC to facilitate discussion between attendees. The talks were streamed to their website, where people could watch them.

DebConf 19 also experimented with remote participation for two talks: What's new in the Linux kernel and Anti-Harassment Bof. These used RTMP and Jitsi respectively.

In both cases, I have observed several limitations that prevent the experience from feeling fully engaging and from flowing smoothly. Jitsi provided real-time communication, but this does not scale to include the audience. It lacks the moderation features required for a presenter to give a talk and take questions without allowing people, even accidentally, to take over the stream and the output video. RTMP provided this flexibility, but requires specific configuration to prevent the delay between presenter and attendee to be large enough that real-time Q&A is impossible. Further, as seen at Libreplanet and DC19, the Jitsi solutions ended up running through an RTMP CDN before reaching attendees anyway. This incurs additional delays.


While these existing solutions can be shoe-horned into working, I would like to take the opportunity to develop a better solution, one that ideally integrates the strengths highlighted above, while mitigating some of the weaknesses. From my point of view, I see the following list of requirements:

  1. Configurable rooms – conference organisers need to be able to set up different rooms, similar to how a physical conference does. A room can have talks, BoFs or could be a 'hallway track' (where attendees can have discussions between themselves).
  2. A talk can have 1 or more presenters and some moderators. The presenter is responsible for displaying their own slides (OBS, screen sharing, etc), while the moderator is responsible for managing the room. This includes time remaining, questions and introducing the presenter.
  3. Attendees can join and watch anonymously, but are required to identify themselves in order to ask questions or participate in discussion. This reduces abuse and allows moderators to ensure that the conference Code of Conduct is adhered to.
  4. Discussion can occur in an embedded IRC client in the software. Thus existing IRC workflows are maintained and low-bandwidth remote participation is possible.
  5. Q&A can be handled through the web-interface. Attendees can signal that they have a question, and a moderator or the presenter can allow them to ask. This audio question is relayed to everyone in the room and once the question is asked, the audio is switched back to the presenter/moderator.
  6. Attendees can mute their audio and/or video without issue.

There are several opportunities for bad actors to abuse this system. Questions will need to be able to be cut short by moderators if necessary. In presentation talks, attendee audio needs to be muted unless explicit permission is given for the attendee to talk. Attendee registration for inclusion in the discussion is important, as this allows moderators to ban bad actors more easily.

In BoF sessions, the audio policy needs to be slightly different from presentation talks. In a BoF, many people give input and the discussion is more of a round-robin style. Here, people should be able to indicate that they intend to be part of the discussion, thus having their audio and video unmuted. The discussion then takes the style adopted by most chat clients, such as Jitsi, where the active speaker's video is shown. This should be able to be overridden by a constant video source such as slides or some other relevant information.

I envision this system would use RTMP on the backend, allowing people to connect to end-points mapped to rooms. This would allow people to use OBS or other streaming software to integrate slides, transitions and other media into their presentations. I would like to leverage existing software such as Jitsi and IRC if possible, as this would make implementation easier (hopefully). Development is on GitLab. If you are interesting in getting involved, or have comments: @paddatrapper@pleroma.debian.social

More concrete planning is happening here


from paddatrapper

Discourse is a community discussion platform that is touted to replace email for project discussions. I am active on two instances for software projects I am involved with. I mainly interact with the web-interface, but I have been meaning to try the email interface for a while. The recent discussion in Debian about the future of mailing lists has finally pushed me to actually give it a try.

Discourse has categories and topics. A category can be thought of as a mailing list with topics as the individual threads.

I like the email support Discourse has, but I have found it lacking in two major respects:

  1. I am unable to create topics in a category via email. This is apparently possible, but I was unable to find a way of doing it in either of the two instances. Perhaps it requires additional configuration from the instance administrators for it to work.
  2. I am unable to reply to a topic via email if I have not been emailed about it by the system. The mailing list archive has the option to reply to an email by clicking on a link on the page. This composes an email with the Subject and To fields populated with the correct values. This is impossible in discourse, but it does allow you to reply through the web-interface. Future replies are then sent to me as emails, which I can reply to as normal.

Both of these issues have work-arounds, but they make email a second-class citizen on the discourse platform for now.

EDIT 12 March 2020: When configured correctly, new threads can be created by emailing the topic-name@instance.url (for example site-feedback@example.com)


from highvoltage

The role of the Debian Project Leader doesn't really come with a lot of direct power and control over the project. A DPL has the power to delegate responsibility to others on behalf of the project, approve expenses, and some other administrative minutia. Because of the limited powers of the DPL, some have said that the DPL doesn't yield much influence of the project.

The reality is that the role of a DPL provides a commodity that is both very rare and very valuable these days: attention. When the Debian project leader speaks, it's not only the Debian community at large that listens, but everyone. Everyone from news sources, other distributions, business people and government decision makers pays attention to what Debian does and what it's leader says.

I can understand the desire for a project leader to say “I'm only speaking for myself here as an individual DD...”, but I believe that if you're willing to serve as DPL for a term, you should be able to put your own feelings on the side a bit and just represent the project fully as best as you can.


from highvoltage

I'll admit it, I still like it when people say “You were right”, but I'm much more thankful for every time that I learned I was wrong, and every time I learned that I wasn't nearly as clever as I thought I was. Every one of these occurrences lead me to dig deeper and learn and grow, and without that I wouldn't be in a position to prove those wrong who told me “You'll never make it” and “You have too high hopes”, “The worlds is going to crush you”, etc.

When I was young, old people used to think that I had some very odd ideas and told me “You'll change your mind about this as you get older”. I'm glad that as I did get older, many of my thoughts that might have been considered rebellious or liberal have not only evolved and grown over time, but has increasingly been validated by the big thinkers of the world who care for and want to improve humanity.

Today was tough, but tomorrow will be better.


from paddatrapper

Before I found KDE and fell in love with the flexibility it provides, I enjoyed tiling window managers for their simplicity and the fact that I could do much of my work without needing to mess around with a mouse or trackpad. I am familiar with i3, and decided to try get it running as the WM for my KDE Plasma desktop.

KDE actually provides a tutorial for doing just that. However, I run into a few stumbling blocks along the way.

Stumbling Block 1

I did not read the full tutorial properly. Replacing the WM is only supported on XOrg, using Xsessions. Wayland users are unable to replace KWin. When I first tried this, I decided to give sway a go, but this is a Wayland-only WM. This short-coming is noted in the tutorial I was following, but I did not read it until after I pulled half my hair out.

Stumbling Block 2

Xsessions with a = in the TryExec line will be silently hidden from the SDDM session selector list. In order to add a new Xsession, you copy one of the existing Xsessions under /usr/share/xsessions/ and change the Exec that it does. Changing the WM requires using env KDEWM=/usr/bin/i3 /usr/bin/startplasma-x11. The environment variable is what tells Plasma which WM to use. At first, I tried to change both the Exec and TryExec lines and then got very confused when the new session would not be available. After removing the TryExec line, everything worked like a dream.


I value the simplicity and speed of a tiling WM, but I have also enjoyed being able to select my wifi network from a popup menu and unmount drives with a click of a button. Replacing KWin with i3 has allowed me to get the best of both worlds – my windows sit nicely next to one another, I have independent workspaces on different monitors and I can change my wifi network without needing to mess around in nmcli.