Platform for Bdale Garbee

Introduction / Biography

My name is Bdale Garbee, and I ask you to re-elect me as your Debian Project Leader.

For those of you who are new to the project, my platform posting from two years ago is full of biographical information about me, and my platform from last year contains many ideas that are still relevant.

After Hewlett-Packard completed the merger with Compaq, the organization I work for was restructured and changed names. We are now known as the Linux and Open Source Lab (LOSL). I thank my managers at HP for their strong support in the last year, which included allowing me to spend part of my work time on Debian, and supporting my travel to the many conferences where I gave Debian talks in the last year.

I maintain the Debian ia64 autobuilder, and while I gave away several of my more complicated packages in the last year to have more time for my duties as Leader, I still maintain quite a few.

Thoughts on the Past Year

The biggest and best news of 2002 was the release of Debian 3.0 (woody)!

Overall, we had a very good year. Making a major release always brings attention to the project... it excites users, broadens the deployment of real improvements in our software, and motivates the press and others to take a fresh look at us. As a volunteer organization, all of these activities provide us with feedback and encouragement that motivate us to greater accomplishments.

The world is recognizing that Debian is more than "just another Linux distribution." Our reputation is growing, and our relationships with other organizations continue to improve. A consequence of this is that we are now often asked to participate in working groups, standards bodies, and similar activities... instead of fighting to avoid being overlooked!

I indicated last year that I believe the primary role of a leader is facilitation. I approached this by spending a lot of my "Leader time" listening and reading, looking for contributors I could send words of encouragement to, making connections between contributions by introducing people to each other, and generally working to guide our collective actions towards our vision.

I also invested time traveling to speak on behalf of Debian at various events around the world. I publish the presentation materials used for my talks, and welcome feedback or questions about them. A positive side-effect of my travel was the opportunity to meet many of you in person, share your enthusiasm and listen to your concerns, and foster the growth of Debian as a community.

Areas of Focus for the Next Year

Last year, I articulated a vision of Debian as a Universal Operating System. It pleases me greatly that so many of you support this vision. References to it appeared in presentations, interviews, and documents of various kinds throughout the year. I continue to believe that this should be our core vision for Debian.

The first release of Debian was made in 1993, and a goal that I share with our release manager Anthony Towns is to celebrate our first decade as a project with the release of a new stable version of Debian in 2003.

Many of the challenges I outlined last year still exist. While we made progress in many areas, there are still numerous improvements we can make. To advance our vision, and focus our attention in the coming year, I would like to highlight three areas of activity I feel are particularly important.


For several years, I have spoken about the idea of "flavors of Debian" as a logical next step in our evolution. A flavor could exist for each sub-project of Debian that targets the needs of a specific user group. Each flavor would consist of a proper subset of all Debian packages, perhaps bundled with meta information that allows for quick and easy installation of a default configuration.

All packages used in all flavors would continue to be developed, maintained, and promoted through our release processes in the usual ways. The set of flavors might appear as a set of additional Packages files that are subsets of the complete version, and/or alternate installation media that contain the packages and meta information required to install a particular flavor.

Implemented well, flavors would give our users the flexibility to focus on just the packages relevant to their area of interest, while making the full power of the Debian universe available to them whenever they want or need it.


We can and should deliver a better initial experience for users who are not native speakers of English.

The native language support added to the Debian 3.0 installer was a big step in the right direction, but after watching an installation demonstration in Mexico last December, I realized just how frustrating it still must be for a new user who does not speak English. The installer itself worked well, but once package configuration began, many of the debconf questions appeared in English. It asks a lot of a new user to learn and understand new concepts well enough to make good choices during an installation session that flips back and forth between English and their native language.

While improving our installation experience generally may lead to fewer questions that need to be answered, any questions we do ask during an initial installation must be presentable in at least a core set of languages other than English.

I believe that a reasonable and desirable goal for our next stable release is to ensure that new users can successfully install at least one flavor of Debian entirely in their native language, for some set of languages to be determined.


The Debian community reaches beyond our database of registered developers. I have observed that the places in the world where Debian is used the most and has the strongest support are the areas where there is strong involvement with local user groups. Helping users feel involved and appreciated is important for the health of our community.

One of the biggest challenges facing communities in general is communication, and Debian is no exception. Debian Weekly News plays an important role by making it possible to track important discussions on our mailing lists without needing to read everything. However, it can only report on what it knows about! I encourage delegates and representatives from our various sub-projects to generate summaries or updates about progress in their areas for publication in DWN, or on our lists in the spirit of my "Bits from the DPL" messages.

Our sense of community is based on our shared values, and the activities we engage in to foster those values despite our many differences. No single change or action will solve all of our communication concerns, but if we all make an effort to better communicate our actions and progress to others, the cumulative effect will make a difference!


I'm proud of what Debian has accomplished, and what we represent. I worked hard in the last year to establish good working relationships inside and outside our community, to foster activities within the project that further our vision, and to represent Debian well in public.

Working on Debian continues to be my way of expressing my most strongly held beliefs about freedom, choice, quality, and utility.

I ask you for the opportunity to continue serving as Debian Project Leader.

Thank you for your time, and your vote!


I appreciate the confidence in my ability to represent Debian shown by both Martin and Branden in their platforms.

The platforms that Moshe and Branden present represent nearly opposite approaches. I believe the Debian community expects and deserves more involvement from the project leader than Moshe offers, while Branden proposes a much more active role for the DPL based on greater process formalism.

Martin talks in his platform about the things he has worked on in Debian and the projects he would like to pursue. I am aware of, appreciate, and support these activities... but as he points out himself, most of them have little to do with leading the project. Many of the things he says about how he would act in the role of DPL describe the way I have tried to operate, in particular I think we have very similar ideas about how to build the sense of community within Debian.

Effectively leading a volunteer project like Debian requires patience, and balanced application of many forms of motivation and encouragement. I placed a strong emphasis in my platform on communication within our community, because many concerns brought to my attention as DPL in the past year have been or could be addressed by improving communication on some level.

None of the other candidates articulates a vision for Debian's future, which I believe is an essential component of leadership. I continue to believe I am the candidate best able to advance our vision as Debian Project Leader.

I have quietly but consistently made good things happen for Debian since 1995. I continue to bring people and other resources to the project. I'd like the opportunity to continue putting the relationships I've established on behalf of Debian in the last year to work, and hope you will join me in continuing to make our vision of Debian as a Universal Operating System a reality.

Thank you again for your time, and your vote!