Jordi is currently certified at Master level.

Name: Jordi Mallach
Member since: 2000-09-19 16:54:48
Last Login: 2008-06-25 21:41:04

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Dunno what to say about me :) I got involved with Free Software more or less in 1996, when I got my first distribution installed (Debian GNU/Linux 1.3.1, right?). If it wasn't for Free Software, I guess computers wouldn't interest me a lot more than kitchen ovens or fridges, but hey, it's there, so I use much of my free time doing things, mainly for Debian.
When I'm not in my University classes or burning my eyes, I'm probably running on the countryside or in the town's swimmingpool. Or in a rock concert (I need to put my Ogg collection somewhere on my website), or just being lazy in bed :)
I tend to hang around on the OFTC and Open Projects IRC networks, hidden under the nick `Oskuro'.


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A pile of reasons why GNOME should be Debian jessie’s default desktop environment

GNOME has, for some reason or another, always been the default desktop environment in Debian since the installer is able to install a full desktop environment by default. Release after release, Debian has been shipping different versions of GNOME, first based on the venerable 1.2/1.4 series, then moving to the time-based GNOME 2.x series, and finally to the newly designed 3.4 series for the last stable release, Debian 7 ‘wheezy’.

During the final stages of wheezy’s development, it was pointed out that the first install CD image would not longer hold all of the required packages to install a full GNOME desktop environment. There was lots of discussion surrounding this bug or fact, and there were two major reactions to it. The Debian GNOME team rebuilt some key packages so they would be compressed using xz instead of gzip, saving the few megabytes that were needed to squeeze everything in the first CD. In parallel, the tasksel maintainer decided switching to Xfce as default desktop was another obvious fix. This change, unannounced and two days before the freeze, was very contested and spurred the usual massive debian-devel threads. In the end, and after a few default desktop flip flops, it was agreed that GNOME would remain as the default for the already frozen wheezy release, and this issue would be revisited later on during jessie’s development.

And indeed, some months ago, Xfce was again reinstated as Debian’s default desktop for jessie as announced:

Change default desktop to xfce.

This will be re-evaluated before jessie is frozen. The evaluation will
start around the point of DebConf (August 2014). If at that point gnome
looks like a better choice, it’ll go back as the default.

Some criteria for that choice will include:

* Popcon numbers for gnome on jessie. If gnome installations continue to
  rise fast enough despite xfce being the default (compared with, say
  kde installations), then we’ll know that users prefer gnome.
  Currently we have no data about how many users would choose gnome when
  it’s not the default. Part of the reason for switching to xfce now
  is to get such data.

* The state of accessability support, particularly for the blind.

* How well the UI works for both new and existing users. Gnome 3
  seems to be adding back many gnome 2 features that existing users
  expect, as well as making some available via addons. If it feels
  comfortable to gnome 2 (and xfce) users, that would go a long way
  toward switching back to it as the default. Meanwhile, Gnome 3 is also
  breaking new ground in its interface; if the interface seems more
  welcoming to new users, or works better on mobile devices, etc, that
  would again point toward switching back.

* Whatever size constraints exist for CD or other images at the time.


Hello to all the tech journalists out there. This is pretty boring.
Why don’t you write a story about monads instead?

― Joey Hess in dfca406eb694e0ac00ea04b12fc912237e01c9b5.

Suffice to say that the Debian GNOME team participants have never been thrilled about how the whole issue is being handled, and we’ve been wondering if we should be doing anything about it, or just move along and enjoy the smaller amount of bug reports against GNOME packages that this change would bring us, if it finally made it through to the final release. During our real life meet-ups in FOSDEM and the systemd+GNOME sprint in Antwerp, most members of the team did feel Debian would not be delivering a graphical environment with the polish we think our users deserve, and decided we at least should try to convince the rest of the Debian project and our users that Debian will be best suited by shipping GNOME 3.12 by default. Power users, of course, can and know how to get around this default and install KDE, Xfce, Cinnamon, MATE or whatever other choice they have. For the average user, though, we think we should be shipping GNOME by default, and tasksel should revert the above commit again. Some of our reasons are:

  • Accessibility: GNOME continues to be the only free desktop environment that provides full accessibility coverage, right from login screen. While it’s true GNOME 3.0 was lacking in many areas, and GNOME 3.4 (which we shipped in wheezy) was just barely acceptable thanks to some last minute GDM fixes, GNOME 3.12 should have ironed out all of the issues and our non-expert understanding is that a11y support is now on par with what GNOME 2.30 from squeeze offered.
  • Downstream health: The number of active members in the team taking care of GNOME in Debian is around 5-10 persons, while it is 1-2 in the case of Xfce. Being the default desktop draws a lot of attention (and bug reports) that only a bigger team might have the resources to handle.
  • Upstream health: While GNOME is still committed to its time-based release schedule and ships new versions every 6 months, Xfce upstream is, unfortunately, struggling a bit more to keep up with new plumbing technology. Only very recently it has regained support to suspend/hibernate via logind, or support for Bluez 5.x, for example.
  • Community: GNOME is one of the biggest free software projects, and is lucky to have created an ecosystem of developers, documenters, translators and users that interact regularly in a live social community. Users and developers gather in hackfests and big, annual conferences like GUADEC, the Boston Summit, or GNOME.Asia. Only KDE has a comparable community, the rest of the free desktop projects don’t have the userbase or manpower to sustain communities like this.
  • Localization: Localization is more extensive and complete in GNOME. Xfce has 18 languages above 95% of coverage, and 2 at 100% (excluding English). GNOME has 28 languages above 95%, 9 of them being complete (excluding English).
  • Documentation: Documentation coverage is extensive in GNOME, with most of the core applications providing localized, up to date and complete manuals, available in an accessible format via the Help reader.
  • Integration: The level of integration between components is very high in GNOME. For example, instant messaging, agenda and accessibility components are an integral part of the desktop. GNOME is closely integrated to NetworkManager, PulseAudio, udisks and upower so that the user has access to all the plumbing in a single place. GNOME also integrates easily with online accounts and services (ownCloud, Google, MS Exchange…).
  • Hardware: GNOME 3.12 will be one of the few desktop environments to support HiDPI displays, now very common on some laptop models. Lack of support for HiDPI means non-technical users will get an unreadable desktop by default, and no hints on how to fix that.
  • Security: GNOME is more secure. There are no processes launched with root permissions on the user’s session. All everyday operations (package management, disk partitioning and formatting, date/time configuration…) are accomplished through PolicyKit wrappers.
  • Privacy: One of the latest focuses of GNOME development is improving privacy, and work is being done to make it easy to run GNOME applications in isolated containers, integrate Tor seamlessly in the desktop experience, better disk encryption support and other features that should make GNOME a more secure desktop environment for end users.
  • Popularity: One of the metrics discussed by the tasksel change proponents mentioned popcon numbers. 8 months after the desktop change, Xfce does not seem to have made a dent on install numbers. The Debian GNOME team doesn’t feel popcon’s data is any better than a random online poll though, as it’s an opt-in service which the vast majority of users don’t enable.
  • systemd embracing: One of the reasons to switch to Xfce was that it didn’t depend on systemd. But now that systemd is the default, that shouldn’t be a problem. Also given ConsoleKit is deprecated and dead upstream, KDE and Xfce are switching or are planning to switch to systemd/logind.
  • Adaptation: Debian forced a big desktop change with the wheezy release (switching from the traditional GNOME 2.x to the new GNOME Shell environment. Switching again would mean more adaptation for uses when they’ve had two years to experience GNOME 3.4. Furthermore, GNOME 3.12 means two years of improvements and polishing to GNOME 3.4, which should help with some of the rough edges found in the GNOME release shipped with wheezy.
  • Administration: GNOME is easy to administrate. All the default settings can be defined by administrators, and mandatory settings can be forced to users, which is required in some companies and administrations; Xfce cannot do that. The close integration with freedesktop components (systemd, NM, PulseAudio…) also gives access to specific and useful administration tools.

In short, we think defaulting to GNOME is the best option for the Debian release, and in contrast, shipping Xfce as the default desktop could mean delivering a desktop experience that has some incomplete or rough edges, and not on par with Debian quality standards for a stable release. We believe tasksel should again revert the change and be uploaded as soon as possible, in order to get people testing images with GNOME the sooner the better, with the freeze only two months away.

We would also like that in the future, changes of this nature will not be announced in a git commit log, but widely discussed in debian-project and the other usual development/decision channels, like the change of init system happened recently. We will, whichever the final decision is, continue to package GNOME with great care to ensure our users get the best possible desktop experience Debian can offer.

Syndicated 2014-08-07 23:58:00 from I still don't have a title


I've been in A Coruña for this year's GUADEC since Tuesday night, and it rocked. I did a late registration after my first week at Collabora, which is sponsoring my stay here.

I came one day early to participate, as Debian's representative, at the yearly GNOME Advisory Board meeting, for the first time. It was a positive experience, which helped me get a grasp of the “big picture” of what the GNOME Foundation does. I also had the pleasure of visiting Igalia's awesome offices in the city, and puting faces to many names during the meeting.

I presented an overview of Debian's relation to GNOME, how our packaging team works and what are our goals and biggest problems as a GNOME downstream. We stirred some good debate as some other Advisory Board members share part of our problems. I should be posting a summary of what happened there for debian-project@ldo as soon as I have the time to scribble it.

I've met with GNOME Hispano people I hadn't seen since 2004 or 2006 in the best case, and catched up with many of them. I've also met many GPUL members I had know for over a decade via IRC, but never had met in person, and it was about time. And of course, I've got to known a good number of my new workmates at Collabora, and had fun with them around the conference, the beach and the numerous post-conference events.

Last, but not least, I ended up participating in the GNOME Olympics, substituting Rodrigo in Team B “Core Dumped”, along with Stefano, John, Bastien, Chema and Adam. WE WON, not thanks to me, but the statistics shine: I've won all FreeFA World Cups I've played :P so here's a PROtip: if you want to win next year, be sure to be my team mate, and more importantly, be sure Adam is not your rival. :)

Unfortunately, I'm only attending the core days so tonight I'll be flying back to Madrid on my way home in València. See you next year! A Coruña is a city that has impressed me quite a bit, and I'm looking forward to coming back for some more standard vacation at some point. :)

Syndicated 2012-07-29 16:31:00 from I still don't have a title

Season of change

It feels like I'm sitting in a roller-coaster wagon. There's probably too much change going on for me to assimilate naturally. In particular:

I just wrapped up (well, mostly) one of the toughest Uni semestres. I had to deal with lots of very time consuming assignments, and then the usual round of final exams. Even if this semester I got the best marks in my journey (or shall we say Via Crucis) through University, I still managed to fail one exam, for the Advanced Networks subject, which is quite annoying, given I got high marks (even the highest in one case) in other subjects I really don't master at all. In any case, this is the end of the pain. The only thing that's left is just one exam and a project based on GNU/Linux technologies which will basically mean formatting for prettyness the sysadmin docs we've been collecting at the office during the last few years. This effort will be nothing to what I've been doing during the past 18 months, so I'm really relieved to have it past me already.

Getting rid of studies comes just two weeks before a big change in my professional career. Friday was my last day at the Institut Tecnològic d'Informàtica, after five and a half fantastic years working with awesome people in a very friendly atmosphere. I've learned a great deal, and taking this decision wasn't easy at all. I leave lots of good friends behind, people I really love, and tomorrow will be difficult to not have them around me. I wish my ITI ex-workmates the best of luck in these difficult times for everyone in Spain and specially in the Valencian Country with the massive cuts going on. I feel the timing for this jump couldn't be better.

Tomorrow, when I get ready to go for work, I won't be leaving home at all, instead I will just sit where I am right now, at home, and log into some corporate IRC server. Tomorrow I'll be joining Collabora, and I'm a mix of excited, curious and happy about this incredible opportunity. Thanks to Sjoerd for nags, I might not be writing this if it wasn't for you!


When I was first approached about this, I thought Collabora was a small company. But as I looked more into it, I discovered that's not longer the case, there's many more people than I imagined working there (here!), and was delighted to see I knew many of them, and many other are well known members of the major Free Sofware communities. I'll be joining the sysadmin team to work closely with Jo Shields. See you tomorrow, folks. :)

This opportunity to work from home is godsend, given the third bit of change that'll be happening soon: sometime in late September, Maria and I should join the ranks of first-time parents, following the baby boom wave surrounding us. While you can imagine we're really happy about this, we're also freaking out because this is going to happen in just two months and a half, and weeks go by really fast lately. So yeah, being able to be at home with this really small baby will be a big bonus for the incredible experience we're about to enjoy. We've been both busy with other stuff, but during the summer we should be focusing on preparing the baby's arrival. There's a whole lot to do!

Expect my Debian and other Free Software activities to get a hit, of course. :) If I am normally sleep-deprived, this is going to be the next level.

Syndicated 2012-07-15 22:45:00 from I still don't have a title

GNOME 3.4 in wheezy

Users of Debian sid will have noticed: the final (and interesting) bits of GNOME 3.4 have landed and if all looks as good as it does now, they should migrate to wheezy in about a week.

3.2 → 3.4 hasn't been as complicated as the previous horrible transition, but still had some complications due to Cogl/Clutter incompatibilities. Other than that, our major problem has been manpower, but this isn't new for many other Debian teams. We've also seen new incarnations of “Linux-only technology is now mandatory” which makes our lives a bit more miserable due to kfreebsd-* and hurd-i386, but for now we've still been able to dodge it. It seems wheezy+1 will be fun in that regard though, and we might need to take drastic approaches.

If all goes well and the current lot (GNOME Shell, Control Center, Settings daemon, Mutter...) transitions without additional problems, we should be wrapping up our transitions for wheezy with Evolution and friends (currently sitting in experimental), and hopefully GDM 3.4.

As we get many questions regarding the status of GDM in Debian, let's add a short note on this. Packaging GDM, at least in its current upstream form, is not a matter of unpacking a new tarball and editing debian/changelog. When Joss works on a new major version, the amount of tweaking to break away from stuff that works on other distros but is not so simple in Debian is outstanding (see, for example, the current unfinished work for GDM 3.2 in our SVN repo). In our case, to handle our GDM defaults, we even need changes to the underlying configuration system, dconf. This evidently takes some effort to do, and unfortunately our GDM expert has had little time for Debian lately, but we're confident we'll end up with a GDM in wheezy that is on par with Debian standards.

We are, as always, reachable at #debian-gnome in the OFTC IRC network. Have fun!

Syndicated 2012-06-03 09:47:00 from I still don't have a title


The GNOME project released today GNOME 3.4, the second major update to the GNOME 3 platform. Congrats!

I know there's lots of polish and improvements to some of the major rough edges in GNOME 3.2, but I think that of all changes in this release, Epiphany really stands out, as you can see in blog posts by Xan and Diego.

Work to bring GNOME 3.4 to Debian wheezy users has been underway for a few weeks already, and some bits and pieces have been hitting unstable since the tarballs were released a pair of days ago. We still need more base work to be done before some exciting components like GNOME Shell can hit our archive, and we want to fix as many FTBFS with GLib 2.32 bugs as possible before pushing it to unstable, but all in all, hopefully this time, shepherding a major GNOME release to Debian testing won't be as painful as it was not so long ago. However, we have already identified some fun bits involving clutter, cogl and mutter in our initial analysis, but nothing that hopefully can't be dealt with in a civilised way.

As always, if you think you can help us, we're reachable at #debian-gnome at OFTC!

Syndicated 2012-03-29 23:50:00 from I still don't have a title

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