Some people have short fuses. I just got gagged on IRC for suggesting that when you take a package from Version A of a distro and rebuild it on Version B, it would be sensible and polite not to give the package the exact same name. The hell?

Ash, Brazil?

Well, the concert last night was fantastic. Ash were co-headlining with The Bravery, who played first. They played to a Vancouver crowd, which nods its head and claps politely. Ash played their first three songs or so to a Vancouver crowd, then they played Girl From Mars and it turned into an Ash crowd, which bounces up and down, screams and sings along even when the guitar amp breaks. They played a fairly short and obvious main set, but came out for an amazing extended encore, including Jack Names The Planets, Goldfinger, Cantina Band and The Boys Are Back In Town. Great stuff. I got Tim's setlist and guitar pick - yay swag!

In MDK news, Warly announced our new development system this morning. As soon as my boss confirms I can bring a herd of alpacas, I'll be joining the first group at the new facility!

Beck, and music

One of my favourite TV shows is ending next week. I watch quite a few Japanese animated (anime) shows, which are recorded, translated, subtitled and distributed by enthusiasts over networks like BitTorrent, often within hours or days of being shown on Japanese TV. The distribution is a fascinating process in itself, actually - the most popular show I know of, Naruto, has an international viewing population in the hundreds of thousands purely by word-of-mouth advertising, fan translations and BitTorrent distribution, and that ought to give some TV networks nightmares. That aside, one of the shows I've been watching recently is Beck, which is a series about music.

It's probably the best television show about music I've ever seen. It's a fairly simple story (boy meets band, boy joins band, band does good, band breaks up). The writing is serviceable but not great, the pace is fairly slow, and the art is nothing special (if you want to see some really nice art, try Air). However, what it does have is a love of music in spades. The whole series hits home instantly to anyone who really loves music - if you own more than a hundred CDs, play guitar, go to concerts, you will get it immediately. The sheer excitement of discovering real music for the first time, the exact ambience of the whole live music experience, the milieu (bands, characters, even t-shirts) - everything is carried off perfectly. The music of the show is great, and the details of everything are perfect; even the animation of people playing instruments is done accurately. If you're at all into the whole indie / rock music scene, it's a show you ought to watch.

One of the things that started my love of the whole scene was my first live show, about nine years ago now - Ash playing the Manchester Academy, which is a concrete box with a stage at one end and a couple of thousand people holding plastic pint pots at the other. It's a great if unforgiving space for live music - if you play right, the sound is fantastic and everything is focussed on the stage. If you play bad, it turns into a miserable experience for everyone (as I'd find out at later shows there...thanks, Space). Luckily for the younger me, though, Ash were fantastic - they were touring 1977 to a crowd of fans who knew every song, the entire place was bouncing up and down, and it sounded like nothing I'd heard before.

Since then I've seen Ash again a couple of times, memorably in 2001 at Leeds, where they headlined the second stage against Travis on the main stage and blew them away, packing their stage to way over capacity. They're playing at an inexplicably small venue (Richard's on Richards) here in Vancouver on Thursday, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing them again. Should be a blast.

Frederic Lepied chat with Mandrakeclub members - log

Fred Lepied had a chat about our new roadmap with Club members a few days ago. I have edited up a list of questions and answers from the log, and it's included here. EDIT 2013The original log was previously linked here but has been lost. Where I have something to add or clarify, I've inserted editor's notes. Some of the questions were actually answered by Warly, as you can see from the original log. The questions are pretty much verbatim, I just fixed the spelling on a few, but the answers are paraphrased from what Fred actually wrote, in better English (it was a very rushed chat).

Q1. Will the "Limited Edition 2005" distro be split into several flavors, like Discovery and PowerPack? A download Edition (3CD available on public mirrors) will be released?

A1. There will be only one version available through the Mandrakestore. Club members will have access to several different versions, and there will be a Download edition as before.

Q2. Will the Club Members get the ISO in advance?

A2. Yes, as usual.

Q3. Will there be a "Community" and "Official" version of LE 2005?

A3. No, there will only be one release of Limited Edition 2005.

Q4. In sept/oct 2005, will both the x86-32 and x86-64 flavors be released for Club Members at the same date?

A4. If the development planning makes it possible, yes.

Q5. One year is a good time frame for people who want a stable distro. But for those who want a cutting-edge distro, does Mdk plan to release some Preview releases' (a cutting-edge distro with KDE4.0beta/RC for instance in Q1 2006) for Club Members?

A5. Yes, we plan to have interim releases for Club members. The details of this scheme have not yet been finalised.

Q6. Will it support dual-core dual processor?

A6. Limited Edition 2005 already supports dual-core Opterons, including support for two dual-core processors on one motherboard.

Q7. Will 64 bits become the default arch or not?

A7. Not yet.

Q8. What are the so-famous Conectiva technologies which will be included in Mandrakelinux? 2006 edition should include 'connectiva technology'... What does it means exactly? Isn't everything GPLed and avalaible since a long time? Now MDK is acquiring Conetiva, is there any plan to merge urpmi and apt-rpm? Are you keeping urpmi?

A8. We are evaluating several Conectiva technologies with the Conectiva developers, especially the smart package manager and some of Conectiva's kernel technology. We are studying how to combine urpmi and smart. (ed. note: smart's dependency resolving techniques are generally superior to urpmi's, while urpmi's supplementary features are more developed than smart's, so we need to find some way of combining the strengths of the two.)

Q9. Is Mdk going to maintain its focus on being a desktop OS .. or is it aiming more for the server crowd?

A9. We're going to try and continue to be both!

Q10. If i have understand, for the same MandrakeClub price we have no more Two distribution in one year, but only one in one year?

A10. We will provide extra material for the Club to compensate for the longer release cycle. We will try and find the best things we can to satisfy Club members.

Q11. What will be the names of the different flavors and how many CD's will be?

A11. There will be no special names. The download edition will be 3 CDs, the Club standard edition 4 CDs including proprietary plugins and drivers, and the edition for Club silver and above members will be 6 CDs or 1 DVD.

Q12. Will you still support many languages?

A12. Yes, nothing has changed in that respect.

Q13. Are you guys working on better integration between the MDKclub, MDKonline and MDK expert?

A13. We are working to improve the Club right now.

Q14. Where can we provide input and see what is coming up on the club improvements?

A14. A robust method for communication between Mandrakesoft and Club members is being developed. (ed. note: for now, you can email

Q15. What is the usa market penetration of connectiva, now? Near future with mandiva? Is business is really winner?

A15. Conectiva's business is mainly in South America. (ed. note: AFAIK, Conectiva have no sales or support presence outside South America. However, the U.S.A. is certainly a big target market for growth at the moment for the combined company.)

Q16. What is the priority target for MandrekLinux : the entreprise user or the house user?

A16. The enterprise in France, and retail / home users everywhere else.

Q17. So 64 bits will continue to be only manage by GB? no contibutors?

A17. We are going to have a 64bit system for the compilation cluster, so it will be better soon. However, you can already contribute to the x86-64 edition. (ed. note: GB is Gwenole Beauchesne, who oversees the x86-64 port of Mandrakelinux. Currently, building of that edition is done separately from the 32 bit edition, and the packages are synced manually between the two, so this is why having a 64-bit system in the main compilation cluster will aid development.)

Q18. Is hardware support going to be same or better (webcam, raid, etc)?

A18. That's one of our major goals.

Q19. Will mandrake 10.2 official be available for members soon?

A19. It's a matter of weeks now. (ed. note: Limited Edition 2005 is currently targeted for release to Club members and FTP mirrors on April 6th).

Q20. Will you support iPod?

A20. I think we already support USB part but not software. (ed. note: iPods interface as regular USB storage devices, but have a special database of music files which needs to be built for music to be played. There are several Linux applications to do this, and some of them are available for Mandrakelinux already, for example gtkpod).

Q21. Is any work being done to smoothen the upgrade process from release to release?

A21. We always try to put emphasis on upgrades but it's a hard test job.

Q22. Do you feel that linux interest really more Hardware-constructors than some years ago?

A22. Some yes, others no.

Q23. With the European software patent directive, are you afraid for MDK and free software's future?

A23. Yes, it's a big threat against free software.

Q24. Only one release a year instead of two. Will the price of the boxes be twice more expensive?

A24. No!

Q25. I hope all the i18n packages be packed in the first 3 CDs. Will you?

A25. We can't include them all, especially OpenOffice-org-help and aspell. But we try our best to have the most possible. (ed. note: i18n means 'internationalization' - i18n packages provide translations for non-English speaking users).

Q26. Is the limited edition 2005 a stable release? Will it be availiable on DVD for members?

A26. Yes and yes.

Q27. I see there are new free Japanese / Chinese fonts in open source. Will these be incorporated in a future MDK release?

A27. I think we have already some, Pablo is following this closely. (ed. note: yes, with the help of our Chinese and Japanese-speaking users, support for Asian languages and script has improved considerably in recent versions. LE 2005 includes several new Chinese and Japanese fonts, refinements to the font rendering in these languages, and updated input methods.)

Q28. On official servers, there is no version changes for software. For the community, new versions of software appears sometimes. Official is more reliable, community more cutting edge, isn't it? Will it be something equivalent with 2005 LE?

A28. Yes, same principle.

Q29. Will you plan to make a kind of cooker snapshot between 2 mdk releases?

A29. Yes, that's probably what the interim releases will be.

Q30. Mandrakelinux's new desktop theme is ugly comparing to SuSE and LinSpire, your competitors. Will you make a change?

A30. (ed. note: this refers to the new background and boot image in Limited Edition 2005. Warly's answer follows.) I love this wallpaper! The others were so boring.

Q31. How many not official versions will there be between each version for user of mandrakelinux as members or not members? For exemple between mandrakelinux 2006 and mandrakelinux 2007.

A31. The planning isn't complete yet, so we can't give a definitive answer.

Q32. Will you make more effort for kde integration? espacially fonts... like suse do

A32. We always try our best for KDE integration.

Q33. How about a theme contest for every release?

A33. That sounds like a good idea.

Q34. What about the Mandrakelinux Control Center? more options from conectiva tech, near future? some examples?

A34. We'll use the experience of Conectiva to improve our tools.

Q35. What is the status of SATA/RAID support now? I have experienced issues with this in the past.

A35. It's improving. We've tried to improve it in RC2, especially in stage1 of the installer. (ed. note: the stock kernel is getting better with each 2.6 series release, which helps. Limited Edition 2005 should work with almost all SATA controllers, and can install from SATA optical devices).

Q36. Will new nvidia package will package instantly for current kernel?

A36. With dkms? (ed. note: we actually have DKMS nvidia packages in Club for 10.1 already).

Q37. I think there must be a robot which compiles those drivers automatically.

A37. yes that's definitively something we need to do. (ed. note: this is referring to kernel modules outside the main kernel)

Q38. Not members of mandrakeclub will be able to connect on the mandrakeForum one day, in order to meet there more users than at the moment?

A38. I think there is already open forums. (ed. note: yes, there are a couple of forums open to all).

Q39. Any collaboration between mdk and hardware manufactures? We need more certified hardware and (binary) drivers, even if they are not open source.

A39. Yes we are working hard in this area.

Q40. Hardware manufactures are not enjoy to develop certified mandrake hardware?

A40. Yes we do certifications.

competition runs in my veins...

I went go-karting last night, for only the second time ever. It was great fun, except for the second race when I was running at the front with the best lap times, then got stuck behind some Sunday drivers at the back and had to pootle around ten seconds off my previous pace for the rest of the run. They were supposed to put out blue flags for faster drivers to overtake, but never did. I got rather too worked up about this. I'm a child of the 1990s school system, I should believe that taking part is what counts!

Everyone who sees it is blown away by the PSP. It gets the same reaction as my tiny Sony laptop does when I use it in a cafe - people can't resist wanting to take a look. Sony do that well, when they put their minds to it.

gadget porn

So I realised what this blog was missing...gadget porn!

gadget porn

Yes, this is my desktop. Look upon it, ye mighty, and despair. One Shuttle ST62K (Zen), connected to an LG 17" CRT and a vintage genuine IBM clicky keyboard. Logitech MX510 mouse on Allsop mat to the right of keyboard. To the left of the keyboard, one Neuros I 30GB music player, one Nintendo DS, and one Sony PSP. Behind those three, just visible, one Twinstarr Black headphone amplifier. On top of the PC, one pair of Sony 'Eggo' MDR-D66 headphones and one pair of Grado SR-80 headphones. Behind them, my webcam. To the right of the whole shebang, my partner's PC, which runs Windows and must never be spoken of again.

Tremble in fear at my gadget powers!

I went to Electronics Boutique to pick up the PSP. Spoke to the same sales droid as I had on the phone, and she gave me the non-hockey-gamified PSP without a fight. Score one for consumer power! I've been playing Ridge Racer on it ever since I got home, and giggling at how ridiculously good it is. No matter how many pictures you see, even on the box, when you first take it out, your first impression is inevitably "holy crap, this screen is huge". It's everything the reviews say it is. I love it.


So I changed to a really nice theme called TicTac Wuhan, which is an implementation of a Blogger theme called TicTac. It's simple, pretty, doesn't force style elements and isn't full of useless images. Nice! Also added a bunch of links, mainly to university friends; if you feel you ought to be linked over there, tell me. Or kill me. Whichever.

frantically running round, putting out fires

So, I spent quite a lot of today running round various forums (OSNews, Linux Today, MandrakeClub, mandrakeusers) trying to make sure some of the more apocalyptic interpretations of yesterday's PR didn't take hold. Quite where people got the idea that it meant we were abandoning the free download edition and so forth I don't know, but it's certainly not what was intended. Still, seems like everything calmed down in the end and there have been some useful discussions on release strategies as a result.

Other than that, had a bit of a scare at my other job where I had no schedule in the company's scheduling system for next week. Anyone who's worked as a temp will know that Sudden Lack Of Job Syndrome is something of an occupational hazard. Checked with my supervisor, who assures me I'm still needed and should turn up next Tuesday as normal, which is mostly reassuring. Still, I won't be entirely convinced until Tuesday comes...

Was called by Electronics Boutique last night, who tried to tell me that when I pre-ordered a Playstation Portable from them last month, what I really wanted was a Playstation Portable and a crappy ice hockey game. Explained slightly impatiently that I am English, could not care about ice hockey if it hit me over the head and stole my wallet, that I have a receipt which clearly says "PSP Value Pack" and just as clearly does not say "PSP Value Pack With Craptacular Ice Hockey Game", and that I will be coming on Thursday to pick up a PSP Value Pack sans craptacular ice hockey game and they'd bloody well better have one to give me. Slightly shocked sales droid said "fine, we'll do it that way, then", which I am for now taking to be a sign of worthy victory. Update on Thursday, no doubt. Bloody Sony.

Have been getting back into credibility-enhancingly obscure indie music lately, here in the musical wastelands where there is no NME. I picked up Her Majesty The Decemberists on Matt's recommendation, and it pleases me mightily. Sea shanties and florid denunciations of Los Angeles? More! Also got Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' "Shake The Sheets", on the recommendation of a random free magazine found in a restaurant on Davie, and it's also great. Energetic power pop with witty lyrics.

Back to the email mountain that IS the Cooker mailing list...

New MDK release schedule

Note: I always refer to Mandrakelinux as MDK because we can't legally call it "Mandrake" and Mandrakelinux is a pain to type. So MDK it is.

So we announced the new release schedule for MDK today. 10.2 to be renamed 2005 and made an interim release before the integration of some Conectiva stuff and the start of a new annual release cycle near the end of this year, with the release of a version named 2006. Overall, I think it's a good move, though we'll lose some things by sacrificing the six month release cycle.

Six months is good for innovation and fast development, and it's good for PR. With a six month release cycle we're hardly out of the news for a month; you get a CE release, an OE release a month later, a Cooker snapshot a month or so after that and then we're into the beta cycle for the next CE release. As for development, six month cycles more or less force the developers to work fast; if you want something in MDK you'd better write it fast and get it into Cooker or it's going to be tough to get it working. However, the six month cycle has several big drawbacks.

Number one is reliability. We really don't do this well enough at the moment. We have some releases that turn out to be excellent; 10.0 worked very well on just about any machine when it came out, 9.1 and 8.2 were other great releases like this. But there are also big mess-ups. 9.0 and 9.2 (with the LG CD-ROM drive issue, yes, even though it wasn't our fault) are examples of releases which had significant problems. Then there's the releases in the middle, like 10.1; they're overall excellent products, but with just enough little bugs and flaws to make things irritating (and cause unfortunate situations like the couple of hundred of MB of KDE updates to 10.1 which were available even before lots of people had the shipping product). This really is a product of the release cycle more than anything.

A six month release cycle is ludicrously compressed. When an MDK release is done, the tree freezes for a couple of weeks for planning and also for a lot of the developers to go on holiday. Things don't really get going again for a month or so. Then there's a huge amount of big new stuff to merge in - for 10.1 we had new releases of KDE, GNOME, perl and several other huge MDK components to package and get working. By the time that's done, it's already less than five months until the next release. The beta cycle lasts at least a month - so there's less than four months to stabilise the new stuff, write updates to the MDK tools, make sure new hardware support is complete and all the other things that need to be done between releases.

Then there's the beta cycle itself. On a six month release schedule it's really hard to make this last more than a month in earnest. This means the releases are ludicrously tight - we basically work on the basis of a beta or RC every week. One week Beta 1, next week Beta 2, next week RC1, next week RC2, next week stick a fork in CE, it's done. In addition, since there's an inevitable overlap between when the beta images are built and when they actually get out to users, each beta only actually gets about five days of real use before the next beta's images are frozen. And finally, a lot of people skip the betas and only start testing when RCs arrive. This whole schedule does not allow a lot of time, considering it's only really after Beta 1 comes out that the product gets widespread exposure beyond Cooker users and MDK's internal QA, and you really need this exposure to test things on a wide variety of hardware if you don't have the resources of Microsoft or Novell.

Between each release, a lot of stuff is changed. For instance, take the kernel. From 10.1 to 10.2 we've gone through three kernel versions, from 2.6.8 to 2.6.11. Now we love the Linux kernel dearly but it is not the most stable (in the sense of 'unchanging') of beasts. Going through three revisions, something is going to change, and for some people, that means something is going to break. This means when we hit a beta cycle, we're going to get a miniature flood of hardware behaviour changes, regressions, or even improvements which need infrastructure (for instance, a new piece of hardware gets kernel support, which means we need to make the installer and the drak* tools detect and configure it properly). This means that there is an inevitable need to do a certain amount of moderately major surgery on very fundamental bits of the system - in a single month prior to release. This is not an optimal situation.

So overall, the whole six month release cycle leads to some very...odd situations. For instance, we sent out 10.2RC1 for testing last week. This contains a rather silly kernel problem which means systems with some extremely popular soundcards - Creative Audigy and Soundblaster Live! models - hit a kernel oops during the startup process' ALSA initialization and freeze. This is really not something that ought to happen in a Release Candidate, properly named. However, the short release cycle, short beta cycle, moderate QA resources and the fact that most people aren't willing to run anything short of a Release Candidate all conspire against us here.

Other things - if you follow MDK development closely, you'll know there's a fairly scary amount of heavy development work late in the beta process. For instance, during 10.2's beta process, the video configuration section of the installer and the control center has been heavily modified to allow much more flexibility in dealing with monitor resolutions; we can now handle non-4:3 resolutions cleanly and gracefully. This has actually been a remarkable success - all the code appears to work properly and has not broken anything that used to work (except for a few days during which it was not obvious how to select 1280x1024, as this resolution is not technically 4:3 so it was shunted onto the 'odd resolutions' list, even though it's a very popular resolution. It's now special-cased into the 'normal resolutions' list.) But it's still really a piece of engineering that should be done outside of the beta cycle. There are lots of things like this, in MDK development. I definitely want to emphasise it's almost certainly not unique to MDK; I don't follow the development of the other major six-month-cycle distros, Fedora and Ubuntu, but I'd be amazed if they didn't have similar issues. The reported problems with the various Fedora releases (very similar to MDK problems - small, technically speaking, bugs that still really annoy users) in particular support this view.

All in all, I've always been amazed at how well MDK's development eventually works. I've been following Cooker since long before MDK started writing me pay cheques a few months ago, and one frequently got the impression a couple of weeks before a release that it was going to be an out-and-out train wreck, which generally speaking didn't happen. Things get pulled together, an amazing amount of bugs are squished, and in the end we've always shipped a very good product which the majority of users are happy with and happy to pay good money for. However, there's definitely room for improvement.

The other problem with the six month schedule is it just doesn't give much time to make major changes. If, for instance, we decided to completely rework the interface for the MDK tools, or change the package manager (both completely hypothetical examples, there's no current intention to do either) it would be very challenging to do on a six month schedule. There are potential fundamental changes and improvements to a Linux distro that a six month release cycle simply does not allow.

In view of all this, then, I think a yearly release cycle is definitely a good idea. We will have a lot more time to do the fundamental work of updating software and revising distro tools. We will be able to introduce (hopefully, this is speculation on my part at this point) a longer, less hectic beta cycle with more time between releases and the potential to make our RCs really RC-grade. Overall, we'll be a lot more sure that what we're shipping is going to work the way we hope and intend it to. I'll kinda miss having something new to test and something new going out to people every day...but then, there's always Cooker. :)

(please note - this is entirely my own personal impression. I wasn't party to the internal discussion on changing the release schedule, which is sensible as I'm not a hacker. I write stuff, language stuff. In most ways I'm as much an 'outsider' as most users. I did know about this a couple of weeks ago - I was busy proofreading the PR on Saturday! - but that's all. So don't take the reasons I gave for changing the cycle or the results that will come from it as official, it's just what I make of the whole thing.)


Hi. I'm Adam. I live in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with my partner Sammy. I work as a technical support rep for the local cable company, Shaw Cablesystems, and as newsletter editor and proofreader-at-large for Mandrakesoft, purveyors of high quality Linux operating systems to the great unwashed. I'm writing this blog because it has so many more geek points than Diaryland, and also because once I'd set WordPress up to prove to myself that a complete webserving luddite could do it in about fifteen minutes, I felt like I ought to fill it up. In my spare time, I like to post on numerous web forums, watch moderately obscure anime, and twiddle with hideously expensive geek toys. This explains why I need two jobs and am still broke.

I hail originally from Hale, near Manchester in England. I acquired a BA in History at Pembroke College, Cambridge, with an illustrious (or possibly notorious) bunch of rogues, many of whom may be found on the links page. My future plans are uncertain, although my English teacher once suggested I ought to become the editor of Viz. Watch this space.