DebConf 2003 -- Report

Thursday, 17th of July: Arrival

At LinuxTag, the week before DebConf, Jörg Wendland and I discovered, that we both booked the same RyanAir flight. Both of us had other appointments in this week, so we couldn't take the "Debian-Flight" to DebCamp right after LinuxTag.

Since Jörg lives in Ulm and I live in Frankfurt, which is about on the way to Frankfurt-Hahn, the Airport used by RyanAir (which isn't really near to Frankfurt at all), we decided to travel together. Since we needed to be there very early, he decided to drive to Frankfurt the evening before. Some traffic jams later, a few hours sleep and no breakfast we were on our way to Frankfurt-Hahn.

Finding the way to so called Frankfurt-Hahn wasn't a problem at all, while finding a parking place was one. We almost spent more time searching for a parking place and getting back to the terminal than actually flying to Norway.

But we got there in time (we even had time for coffee and croissants), and although we brought much of those not very well selling "Morons! I'm surrounded by morons!" T-Shirts, we luckily missed the weight limit but one kilogram.

All in all we had quite luck with our flight. Jörg got a window seat, so could take some photos, and on my other side sat just a little girl, so I had comfortable space for my legs. We arrived 25 minutes earlier than expected - nearly one quarter of the planned time.

After the landing we took another coffee, looking amused at all those tourists, who tried to get into one small bus. Since we arrived earlier than planned, the place in this bus barely fitted. Again we had luck, since we took the bus half an hour later (which was the bus we ought to take anyway), it was quite empty, and we had much space for our legs.

The trip with the bus took nearly two hours - Oslo-Torp is as Oslo as Frankfurt-Hahn is Frankfurt. But that didn't surprise or annoyed us. Jörg took the opportunity to sleep a little bit, while I took a look at this foreign country (of which Jörg told me every time he woke up, it isn't very foreign, because it looks like Allgäu).

When we arrived at Oslo's bus-terminal, we were picked up by Jörgs sister and her friend, who were traveling through Scandinavia for two months already. They explained me the way to my hotel, and took Jörg with them to their camping place. We were going to meet later that day, for the BBQ of the NUUG.

Finding the hotel was easy, and I kept wondering, how polite and helpful people are in Norway. I booked a bed in a four bedded room, but the other three beds were empty. Funny thing: I thought about booking a single room. So I stayed in this four bed room, which is even divided into four parts bigger than my apartment at home.

As easy as finding the hotel was as difficult it was to find the university. On my hotels web page a map showed, that Oslo's university was quite near. Perhaps 15 Minutes per feet. What I didn't know was, that this was only the Old university building, while the Department of Informatics resides at the new university campus. But I was in good company, since the first five people I asked didn't know that as well.

However, finally I found someone, who explained me the way using the local subway, so eventually arrived at Blindern-Station, and found some nice signs with arrows and swirls. Sadly I misinterpreted some of them (an arrow pointing down the page doesn't mean you have to go back), but at the end I came to the university's Department of Informatics (I always thought informaticians call themself "computer scientists" in English).

Jörg hasn't arrived yet, but I met some of the guys I already knew, and instantly rued to missed DebCamp as I saw the gathered manpower working on Debian.

When Martin 'tbm' Michlmayr saw me, he asked me if I would write for magazines or knew someone who does. He was looking for someone who would write a small article about Debian's tenth birthday in August for the German Heise Verlag (publishing the major IT-magazines c't and ix). I had written small articles for my university's paper, but this was a much bigger thing. So I told him, that I wouldn't do it, but I read (technical) articles by Martin 'Joey' Schulze and Michael Meskes. Since I left my notebook at the hotel and since I had nothing to do, I tried to create an article prototype, which could be patched by the others, or completely rewritten.

Soon the BBQ organized by the Norwegian Unix User Group was started among others I met Jörg, his sister and her friend again. For example that Swedish guy, who couldn't pronounce my name, which didn't matter, since I could not pronounce his name either. The barbecue was excellent, although it started to rain later that evening.

Since I was quite tired I left the party early and Andreas Tille took me a good part of my way back to the hotel with his rented car.

When I arrived back at my hotel I had a small talk with the doorman in English since he thought I was an Englishman, until we ironed this out, and continued in German, since no one of us had a faultless English, but his German was better than my Norwegian ;-)

Friday, 18th of July: First day

When I arrived at DebConf (this time I found it in the first attempt) - this time with notebook - I finished the birthday article and sent it to Joey and tbm for corrections, and started the usual work - reading mails, chatting, reading and translating documentation and starting to create my first Debian package.

At 3pm Tollef 'Mithrandir' Fog Heen opened the conference and gave a small introduction, while tbm and some other guys told us some more, followed by a "getting to know each other", which meant for most guys "back to the notebook".

At 6pm I had to decide between an SPI workshop by Benjamin 'Mako' Hill and a Fully Automatic Installation (FAI) workshop by Holger Levsen. I decided on the FAI workshop, since I thought it might be useful for my work at my university (where most computers work under Red Hat... well, I should say "run Red Hat", it doesn't work very well). Too bad, the room was too small, too hot and not everything worked as expected. However, I heard, that the SPI workshop was very funny.

At 8pm a keysigning party took place. Since we were more than a hundred people Peter 'weasel' Palfrader decided to use a camera and a projector to show the ID of one person to every other one the same time. Many people (especially those in the rear row) weren't satisfied by this, me being among them. Hence, the day after this, many people showed their ID again to other people in order to get them sign their keys. We should have left the building at 9pm, but didn't make it.

Some might call it paranoia, but hey: it is the Web of trust. It is not only for my own sake, but for other people's as well, who trust me to sign keys correct. Hence, I decided to sign only those with the statement "done very careful checking", whose ID I had in my hands, while signing those, who I didn't saw last week at LinuxTag and only saw their ID via the cam only at "done casual checking".

Saturday, 19th of July: Second day, woody's birthday

This day is woody's first birthday.

I arrived a little bit too late for the first talk at that day: Legal aspects of Free Software by Jonas öberg (I believe he came from the FSF Europe). Hence, I could only attend the final discussion, which was quite interesting, though. I also missed the next talk, CDBS - Common Debian build system by Jeff Bailey, since I had to finish some important mails and private stuff.

Next came a talk by Andreas Schuldei entitled "Why tetrinet is good for Debian". I arrived late, so I still don't know, what tetrinet is, but he talked about the social structure of Debian, and what is so special about it. Quite interesting and also funny presented.

We had lunch, several hundred mails and ran out of coke. After lunch Martin 'tbm' Michlmayr told us something about the tracking of inactive maintainers. Interesting, but a little bit boring, since this covers project internal, in which I'm not (yet) very interested in (I'm not (yet) a maintainer, but mainly a user and translator).

More interesting (and funnier as well) were the talks about FTP master's work (with nice background images on the slides) and "Security in Debian" by Javier Fernández-Sanguino 'JFS' Peña. He started with some slides, but soon a discussion started, which made this talk really interesting. Unfortunately we didn't had the time to draw bigger conclusions about that, since it took to long.

At 7pm the "formal" dinner took place. Of course, a formal dinner organized by and for geeks isn't very formal. It was thankfully sponsored by HP, so not only Tollef and tbm gave small talks, but also Bdale. While tbm accentuated the importance of the DebCamp, that it should be organized again, and of course thanked all those people who where involved in planing this conference, Bdale (of course) told us, how and why HP is going to help Debian.

The food was quite good and the drinks were for free (according to the Norwegian price for a bear, this might mean, that HP invested much more money in drinks, than in food) and so people stayed quite long there. When we needed to leave the university, some of us went out for another beer, and later I finally went to my hotel.

Sunday, 20th of July: The 'I don't want to leave' day

Of course, I overslept - the beer was for free! In Norway! But even if I would have woken up in time, I would have missed the first talk, since Oslo's public transport system experienced some problems this morning. I guess, it's something with the power. So they canceled many subway and trams, and hence I arrived very late.

When I finally came there, I heard the news, that they needed to change the schedule. Too bad, because so I missed nearly all of Enrico Zini's talk about Usability in Debian, which I really wanted to hear. However, I could attend JFS' talk about i18n / l10n in Debian, which was of course an important topic for a translator like me.

After that, Petter Reinholdtsen talked about and showed how to use the new debian-installer in Skolelinux. Quite interesting and impressive: He answered two questions, and got an running Skolelinux System (which is nearly Debian).

We took lunch (something with sausages and rice), and then Andreas Tille talked about customized Debian distributions (formerly known as internal sub-projects). Those customized Debian distributions are special tasks, configurations and other stuff for a particular user group. You may already have heard of Debian Jr or Debian Med.

Last not least Branden Robinson talked about subversion, and how he is using this CVS-replacing software to manage his packages. This was quite interesting as well. I could consider using this for my translations. However, I'm not sure, if it is worth the effort, since only two of my reviewers know how to create a proper patch-file. I fear, that I will have to do all the work with this.

Finally DebConf was over. Many people left soon after the last talk, but some still stayed and used the Internet connection for a couple of hours. The rest of us went to the gym, taking a coffee at a cafe nearby. Finally some guys (including me) went "fjording". That is, if some geeks travel nearly one hour with public transport (in Oslo this includes ferries), to get to a small beach on an island, get a little bit wet in the water, and finally cut their feet on the shells, when trying to get back on dry land. However, it was funny, and we saw a beautiful sunset.

I went back to the gym with the others, with a detour to my hotel, which is near the harbor were the ferry stops, in order to pick up my backpack. It was filled with "Moron" T-Shirts that Andreas Tille should carry back to Germany, both Jörg and me were flying, while Andreas rented a car.

When I left the gym to go back to my hotel, looking back and seeing those geeks from all over the world unified working, I came to the conclusion, that if I travel to the next DebConf, I will stay with the others in the gym (or any other common accommodation) and attend DebCamp as well.

Monday, 21st of July: Tourist day

I stayed in Oslo for another day, looking around a bit and playing tourist (don't know why all the others traveled back as soon as possible). It was a good idea, since Oslo is a very nice city (especially if you come from Frankfurt which mainly consist of glass, concrete and the Goethe-Museum).

Funny thing about that: I stayed in the university for four days, while the sun was shining and the temperature was only increasing. On my tourist-day I had to learn that weather can change very fast in Norway. I got soaked to the skin.

However, most of the day the sun was shining. I visited the Nobel institute (it is surprisingly unbusted for someone who invented dynamite), the sculpture park and much more. I should have stayed longer, I didn't see everything I was interested in.

The last evening I spent looking for a fish restaurant with a nice view. Well, I thought that would be easy. I don't know why, but you can find McDonald's, Burger King, 7-Eleven and restaurants selling pizza and pasta everywhere in Oslo. However, it took me quite a while to find a restaurant I was looking for, and when I found one, it had a seaside view, but to the wrong direction. Hence, I couldn't see the sunset. So I left the restaurant, and went to the other side of the bay, back to askerus castle. Where I saw a very beautiful sunset.

Alexander Schmehl