Monday, August 01, 2005


I just submitted my ballot for the inaugural Gentoo council. Of course, I have
the option to change my ballot until the end of the month, but I probably
won't, so I'm essentially done with it.

Thanks once again to Aron Griffis for our nicely functional voting software.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

First Gentoo council election

As the polls are about to open for the election of the first Gentoo council, I
thought I'd take the opportunity to share my thoughts about the council. Since
I'm one of the election officials, I need to remain impartial, but at the same
time I'm the person who created the blasted thing, so I feel like I should also
state my opinions about what I think the council should be.

My hope is that the soon-to-be-elected council will represent the best of
Gentoo. These people should be wise in the ways of Gentoo, first and foremost.
It is the council who will set gentoo-wide policy, and thus hard-earned
knowledge of what works, what doesn't, and why things do or don't work seems

The new council members should be trusted and respected by a large swath of the
community. The council sets policy, but policy is useless if devs refuse to
follow it, which is likely if the council members are not trusted by the devs
to know what they're doing. A trusted and respected council, on the other hand,
will have the "moral authority" of having been elected by their peers to enact
sane and essential policies. Presumably such trust and respect comes from
having a track record of significant accomplishments within Gentoo.

Besides being accomplished, the new council members also need to be dedicated.
Although I don't expect serving on the council to be an immense amount of work,
it does require that the council members hold at least one open meeting per
month, and all council members are expected to attend (or provide a proxy).
That's really the minimum requirement, though. The real measure of a council is
going to be the council's ability to keep Gentoo moving on track. Right now a
number of projects are stalled because they require cross-project decisions to
be made, and that desperately needs to end.

The new council members need to have vision. As members of the first Gentoo
council, these members will set the tone for councils to come. To a significant
extent, the success or failure of this new metastrucure depends on the
accomplishments (or lack thereof) of this new council.

Best of luck to all of the nominees.

Running a condorcet election

Here's a quick write-up on what needs to be done (from a technical standpoint)
to run one of the Gentoo Condorcet elections. Since these elections are ones
that only involve Gentoo devs, we handle authentication by the simple process
of running the election on, collecting and counting the ballots
that eligible devs create and store in their home directories on that machine.

We use agriffis's code to handle ballot distribution and vote collection and
counting, and that code lives in ~agriffis on d.g.o. The necessary code is
~agriffis/votify (which uses ~agriffis/elections/ and
~agriffis/countify. An election needs three files to run: ballot-$name
(where $name is the name of the election--"council2005" in the most recent
case), a randomized version of which will be distributed to voters,
officials-$name which lists the voting officials (specifically the Gentoo
usernames of the officials, one per line), and voters-$name which lists
eligible voters (again listing the usernames of the voters, one per line). This
last list is generally obtained from devrel, although for a gentoo-wide vote
getent passwd | cut -d: -f1 > voters-$name suffices. One also needs to
touch the files start-$name and stop-$name with the start and stop
dates (and times) for the election. Currently all of these files must reside
in ~agriffis/elections, but that will hopefully change when somebody has a
bit of time to put into doing some recoding. All of this is done before the
polls open, and infra copies or links /usr/local/bin/votify from
~agriffis/votify (if the link doesn't already exist), but nothing needs to
be done to officially "open" or "close" the polls, since that's what the
start-$name and stop-$name files are for.

After the polls close, somebody from infra runs (as root on d.g.o) perl
~agriffis/countify --collect $name
to collect all of the ballots. Then each
official runs perl ~agriffis/countify --rank $name to count the ballots.
Not only are the results reported (of course), but the master ballot (which
resides in the officials' results-$name directory as master-$name) is
mailed out. Also, voting confirmation e-mails are mailed out, which agriffis
has done using the following one-liner from the results-$name directory:

while read num user; do grep -q "confirmation $num" master-$name
|| continue; (echo "To: $"; sed
"s/^INSERT.*/Your confirmation number is $num./" email; )
| /usr/lib/sendmail -oi $; done < confs-$name

So far I've spent about five minutes getting this upcoming election ready to
go. Thanks, agriffis!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Taking a break

Well, we have signed copyright and trademark transfer agreements now, but
I don't know if we've managed to resolve the issue about the copyright
assignment forms that some devs signed. Time will tell, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, in my roles as trustee and ombudsman it seems that I'm doing
a pretty good job of irritating all sides of a number of disputes while
actually accomplishing essentially zip. so I think it's time for a break.

Back in a week or so.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Foundation stuff

Every now and then I remember that I'm a Gentoo Foundation trustee, and I do
some actual work to that effect. We now have an actual bank account with
money in it, and I even have a debit card from the bank. Unfortunately, it
seems that our bank and PayPal don't play well together. Worse, our bank
requires a US social security number for anybody who can access the account,
which is not exactly helpful for our non-US trustees. So, if anybody has a
favorite bank that can easily be accessed online, allows read-only (or other
limited) access, and works well across national borders, please do let us

I've also been pushing to get some sort of membership policy for the
Foundation. We need to hold elections for a new board of trustees within a
month after the Foundation's date of incorporation, and that means by
mid-June. To elect a new board we really need to have members. So that begs
the question, who should be a member? There's a straw poll being taken now,
and we'll see what it has to say.

In my spare time, I've been working on getting a copyright transfer agreement
put together so that Gentoo Technologies, Inc can transfer copyrights (and
also some trademarks, some equipment, and a smattering of domain names for
good measure) to the Gentoo Foundation, Inc (the non-profit). It looks like
we're reaching a consensus there between the trustees and Gentoo Technologies.
I don't suggest holding one's breath, but I think we're almost there.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

1 April 2005

Yes, it's 1 April. No, whatever you're reading probably isn't true.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Differences between Sourcemage and Gentoo

Thanks to ferringb's blog post
I just finished reading the page on the Sourcemage wiki that describes the
between Sourcemage and Gentoo. It certainly makes for interesting
reading. I opened a bug
("") almost exactly
three years ago suggesting that we should implement some of the better ideas
from Sorcerer Linux, some of which are still lacking in portage. It's quite
clear that Sorcerer and its decendants have some quite good ideas.
It seems a shame that the Sourcemage Gentoo diffs page seems to be a bit
biased, since I would be very interested in an objective comparison of the

Thursday, March 10, 2005

GLEP overreaction

Yes, I definitely overreacted
to obz's
post. Mike, I apologize profusely.

We're due to have a real discussion about GLEPs. I'll get it started on the
-dev mailing list shortly.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

GLEP thoughts

In a recent post
it was stated that GLEPs are "an arduous task, a pain to write, and
relied heavily on the submitter to push the enhancement through". I've been
hearing many similar complaints recently. I'm not quite sure I understand
why they seem to evoke such vitriol, though. I'll admit that it does take a
bit of time to figure out how links work in restructured text, but otherwise
restructured text is pretty similar to how one generally does markup in a text
document, so I'm not sure what makes them so hard to write. I'd be willing to
accept generic text files, though, if restructured text is too complicated.
Is it the structure of the document, breaking the GLEP into specific sections,
that provokes ire?

The rationale behind the GLEP concept was that writing a GLEP should be an
effort. It shouldn't be hard, but it should require thought. The idea was
that the process of writing the GLEP would force the author making the proposal
to assemble a well-reasoned argument for what should be changed and how it can
happen. A well-reasoned GLEP is much easier for people to pick apart, find
the holes in it, and improve it, than is a general thought thrown out on a
mailing list.

Once written, the process is straightforward. The GLEP is submitted to the
GLEP editors, who generally accept it and post it on the web site in
reasonably short order. The author is then responsible for soliciting
feedback, modifying it, and deciding when it should be sent up for approval.
Once sent up for approval, either the related project manager makes a
decision on whether to approve it, or, if it crosses projects, it is voted
upon by all of the managers at a managers' meeting. That part, in my
opinion, is the most arduous, but it's rare that a GLEP is ever rejected
outright. Unsurprisingly, it may happen that people "agree with the idea,
but not with the specifics". Hopefully a reasonable compromise has been
reached before requesting it be approved, but sometimes the compromise has to
come afterwards. My suspicion, though, is that in general the compromises
made lead to improved proposals.

After a GLEP is approved, it is then up to the GLEP author to implement it.
It's not uncommon for GLEPs to linger here, since implementation is often
hard. My personal opinion is that a good idea without an implementation is
still a useful thing, since at least there's a record of the idea, and
somebody else might come along later to implement it.

Is it a bad thing that the GLEP editors do not nag GLEP authors about their
GLEPs, to keep the process moving forward? I pushed to have a deadline for
GLEPs to become inactive (and I'm about due to run through the list again),
but my feeling is that if the GLEP author, somebody who was motivated enough
to write the GLEP in the first place, cannot remain motivated, then nagging
is unlikely to change much. The odds are good that if the GLEP is stalled,
there is a reason. Either we lack the infrastructure to implement it, or not
enough people are interested enough to invest their time and effort. That's
not a "backlog" of GLEPs, it's just a list of GLEPs whose ideas aren't quite
good enough, or at least not needed enough right now.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Upcoming managers' meeting

We're overdue for a managers' meeting, so I've scheduled one for this coming
Monday at 1800 UTC. A managers' meeting is barely newsworthy, but this time
around I'm stirring the pot a fair amount, and making the focus of the
meeting the current Gentoo management structure. In my opinion the current
structure suffers from three significant problems: (1) managers were
appointed to indefinite terms, so Gentoo appears to be run by a "cabal" that
has no accountability, (2) the current top-level projects (and associated
managers) don't really "span" Gentoo very efficiently, and hence large
numbers of Gentoo devs cannot easily locate the most relevant manager to him
or her, and (3) the top-level project managers are supposed to collectively
handle cross-project issues and provide a strategic vision for Gentoo, but
it's not clear that the latter is occurring. Don't get me wrong, I actually
do prefer the current system to the benevolent dictator model that we had
previously, but we did lose something when drobbins stopped providing a
single, strongly-held vision for the distribution.

So far my e-mail to -core announcing this meeting and its topic has produced
few fireworks, or even much interest at all on the -core mailing list. On
the other hand, I've had several folks drop by on irc and mention that my
e-mail was "interesting". Most of these folks have been younger devs, so I
wonder if the older, more jaded folks are just ignoring it. We'll find out,
I suppose, on Monday. It should be interesting!

[Note: It seems that similar issues arose at FOSDEM, which I hadn't known
about when I originally sent out my e-mail. I'm rather looking forward to
seeing their new proposal.]

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Whither Managers?

Well, it's been a good number of weeks since the last Managers' meeting, and
nobody seems to have noticed their absence. The latest GLEP will require a
vote by the mangers before it can be approved, but it's not clear to me at
the moment what else requires a gathering of managers. So, what's next?
Ditch the managers' meetings altogether? Convert the meetings to general
Developer meetings? What about the managers themselves? Do we actually need
a representative meritocracy? Do we have one now?

Saturday, February 05, 2005

GWN independence

Last night I posted a bit of a missive to -dev asserting that the GWN should
be as independent as possible, despite the fact that the GWN is hosted on
Gentoo servers, has a Gentoo copyright, and is mentioned on the front page of
www.g.o. Early responses seem to suggest that my views on this issue are
almost right: There is almost universal support that the GWN should
be free from any sort of censorship, but it should still be "official" as a
part of PR. Shrug Shows what I know!

Proposed bylaws

The nascent Gentoo Foundation, Inc needs a set of bylaws. I put together
a very tentative set that I borrowed from the Python folks:

The initial post to -dev that provided the link and asked for feedback about
who should actually be a member of the foundation has produced some feedback,
but not very much. Let's face it, bylaws are exceptionally boring!

New weblog

Okay, I'm joining the blog party. Now if I just had something to say....

Label Cloud