FSF, APRIL, FSF France and GNU working together

loic at gnu.org loic at gnu.org
Tue May 29 18:07:01 UTC 2001


This is the report I wrote on the plane back to France. It is 
primarily targeted to friends and volunteers of the chapter france
but you may want to read it anyway.



              FSF, APRIL, FSF France and GNU working together
     On May 21, 2001 [13]FSF France shipped me ([14]Loïc Dachary) to
     Boston. I was to install a new set of hardware for the [15]Savannah
     development tool. In the plane back to Paris I realized that this
     week was so intense that you'd probably like to share some bits of
     it with me.
     The FSF distribution office (DO) is located in Boston downtown,
     near the park. I went there straight from the airport to check my
     mail and meet with [16]Bradley M. Kuhn, [17]Lisa Goldstein and
     [18]Brian Youmans who are working there to further Free Software
     day after day. When I entered the 50 square meter room with my
     knapsack, I also had the surprise to discover that [19]Janet Casey
     was working here. For some reason I thought she was maintaining the
     Free Software Directory from somewhere else. After a cheerful
     greeting, I was able to connect and everybody went back to work.
     Around 7pm [20]Richard M. Stallman came to pick me up with [21]Tom
     Turner's car. We spent an entertaining 30 minutes to go to china
     town and park. You have to realize that china town is 5 minutes
     walk from the DO and you'll understand why it's customary for
     people living in Boston to avoid using their car. That was about
     the only time I was in a car, the subway was far more convenient.
     After diner we drove back to the MIT AI Lab (tech square) and I was
     able to connect and work some more. The MIT AI Lab is located in
     the Laboratory of Computer Science, 545 Tech Square. For some
     reason someone decided to renumber it to 200 Tech Square. When I
     asked, Bradley told me that they will destroy the building and
     relocate everyone in another one, currently in construction across
     the street. One morning, coming from tech square I paused in front
     of the sign advertising the new building. On the top left it reads,
     yellow on blue : William H. Gates. I did not even ask for more
     information, it just gave me the creeps and I headed for the DO,
     two subway stations away.
     While configuring the new machine at the DO, I was immersed in the
     day to day activities of the FSF. Brian tirelessly ships and
     receive books, mugs and t-shirts, using more space than anyone.
     There were intense discussions about the new t-shirt based on the
     [22]Nevrax Design Team drawing called the [23]floating gnu. Lisa
     worked for the FSF in the early days (86), she came back a few
     weeks ago after 8 years of vacations (;-) to be the Account
     Manager. I was most impressed by her ability to write and speak
     Chinese fluently. Beside the fact that it's a major advantage when
     going out in china town, that will help setting up FSF China. Janet
     quietly works on the Free Software Directory and I'm ashamed to say
     that I did not spare an hour to talk with her about it. I guess
     I'll have to come back next year then ;-) Bradley does the usual
     thing a Vice President and a kernel do : switching context.
     Although I did not count them, a wild guess would be that he
     handles from 30 to 100 contexts a day. Well, except the day he
     spent talking to journalists about RMS's talk to counter the Craig
     Mundie statement.
     On Friday evening Lisa used her skills to organize a diner in china
     town to celebrate the existence of the FSF Europe. This tribute to
     the FSF Europe from the FSF was materialized by a Chinese cake
     reading Thanks FSF Europe in red letters. I was more moved that I'd
     be willing to admit but I got over it by drinking half of the Veuve
     Cliquot bottle. On behalf of the FSF Europe members and friends, I
     extend my gratitude to all FSF members and friends. Let's unite and
     make Free Software available to all. Hips.
     Sunday night my work was over and I started to relax. I asked
     [24]Roland McGrath for diner but he moved to California some time
     (years ?) ago. Oh well. Then, at 3am, while exchanging email with
     [25]Leonard H. Tower Jr. I realized that he was probably a few
     blocs away. It was indeed the case and we met for lunch near tech
     square. He shared some of his souvenirs of the early days when he
     co-founded the Free Software Foundation with RMS.
     Before leaving tech square to the airport Bradley introduced me to
     Gary Sussman. Gary scared the shit out of me by explaining that the
     copyright law is controlled by Disney, world wide. Since he is a
     member of the FSF board I should better check this to find out if
     he was kidding or not :-)
     I was not here to investigate legal matters, though. I diverted
     most of the subjects that popped in the conversations by sending
     email or adding tasks to Savannah. I had to focus on the real work:
     installing the new machine in the collocation space and migrate the
     content of the old machine to the new. That may seem boring at
     first but this is counting without [26]Joel N. Weber II and
     [27]Mark H. Weaver.
     Replacing the machine used by the GNU project for [28]CVS and the
     [29]Savannah development tool became necessary when RMS agreed that
     it should welcome all Free Software projects that needed it, not
     just the GNU packages. The PII300 with 128Mb of RAM and 5Gb of disk
     had to be replaced. FSF France and APRIL called for donations and
     found 40 000 FF for this purpose in two weeks time. While gathering
     money I virtually shopped for hardware under the direction of Joel
     who already had a precise idea of what was needed. The new machine
     is a brand new dual PIII 800 with 1GB of ECC RAM and 90Gb of disk.
     As always, it was not as simple as one would expect. Joel has an
     excellent contact with Barton Bruce, Vice President of Global Naps,
     a major provider of the Boston area. Global Naps is already
     providing the T1 to the DO and extended this offer to host machines
     of the GNU project in their main collocation building. The new
     Savannah machine was the opportunity to take advantage of this
     offer but it required a switch, a UPS and a terminal controller in
     addition to the machine.
     We ended up finding all those for a total of 37 000 FF which is a
     really good deal knowing that all hardware is new and has all the
     features a system administrator need to manage hardware in a
     collocation space. Part of this low price must be credited to Larry
     Augustin who gave us a special price break of 20% on the VA 2230 we
     chose to buy. Another part comes from Joel who provided an old
     desktop to act as the terminal controller.
     You see, Joel has this interesting theory that an old machine that
     does mostly nothing is perfectly fit for the job of controlling
     serial ports. Someone has still to prove him wrong on that subject.
     In addition a machine with a full fledged Free Software operating
     system has encryption and this is something no specialized terminal
     controller hardware cares to provides. That is surprising
     considering that the terminal controller allows you to watch the
     machines consoles and remotely power cycle them. In most cases you
     can even interact with the bios at boot time.
     Before this week I was not really convinced that a terminal control
     was mandatory when installing a machine at a collocation space.
     After spending a few days rebooting and crashing the machine
     installed a few miles away, I could not turn back. This is not only
     something you need for emergency situations, it's something you
     need to install or upgrade the machine. It saves a lot of stress.
     Also Bradley spared half an hour to install grub and teach me the
     basics. I'm converted. Mark was my co-worker to plan the actual
     migration once the hardware was setup. We agreed that we should
     keep it as simple as possible. Mark designed a migration plan based
     on rsync. The idea was simple: copy all the file systems, replace
     the kernel, reboot and switch the DNS names. The actual migration
     plan takes about one page and turned out to be that simple. We did
     a hardware upgrade and kept the software installation untouched.
     On Thursday Joel drove his truck to the DO where Mark and I waited
     a good half an hour on the pavement with the equipment. It took us
     another hour to drive the four miles to Quincy where Global Naps
     have their collocation space. Barton Bruce was expecting us and we
     went right to the fourth floor with all the packets. At this point
     the game was to mount the hardware in racks that look like aluminum
     ladders instead of the usual file cabinets. Barton, Joel and Mark
     had fun trying to guess the center of mass of each equipment. After
     a short stop to the fridge, Barton granted us a tour of the
     building. Global Naps is an open collocation space where each
     client is invited not to mess with other people hardware unless he
     has the desire to see his own drop of the roof. Barton told us that
     this is literally written down on the contracts and actually
     happened once in the past six years.
     At the end of the day the machine was online and I had two more
     days to prepare for the actual switch-over. After Joel fixed a
     minor problem with the kernel of the terminal controller taking a
     good half of the 8MB of available RAM, I happily rebooted and
     tested the new machine from tech square. I had to recompile the
     kernel to increase the maximum number of groups per process. When
     booting this new kernel on the exact rsync'd copy of the file
     systems of the old machine, I merely had to change a few
     configuration files to get it working properly.
     During a good 8 hours on Saturday I exercised the migration many
     times, running rsync to keep up to date with the old machine,
     rebooting, testing all the services. At the same time Joel
     decreased the TTL of the gnu.org zone to minimize the propagation
     delay. The day before, I sent a warning to the 700 users of the
     machine, advertising the switch-over for Sunday morning. And indeed
     I was able to switch-over as planned. Being extra careful and
     double checking every bit, the down-time was around 40 minutes.
     Half an hour later everything was routed to the new machine.
     This was the conclusion of a successful, 100% cooperative project
     involving FSF, APRIL, FSF France and GNU. It went more smoothly
     than most similar projects I experienced. It also involved a lot of
     knowledgeable people than no company could afford to get to work
     together. As a conclusion I would just like to thank all of them:
     Barton Bruce, Joel N. Weber II, Mark H. Weaver, Bradley M. Kuhn,
     Richard M. Stallman, Brian Youmans, Philippe Gerum, Juliette
     Bertho, Larry Augustin, Didier Guyomarch, Rodolphe Quiedeville,
     Cyril Bouthors.

   1. http://www.fsfeurope.org/
   2. http://www.fsf.org/
   3. http://www.gnu.org/
   4. http://es.gnu.org/
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   6. http://www.ofset.org/
   7. http://www.lsfn.org/
   8. http://france.fsfeurope.org/index.en.html
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  12. http://www.fsf.org/home.html
  13. http://france.fsfeurope.org/
  14. http://france.fsfeurope.org/news/loic@gnu.org
  15. http://savannah.gnu.org/
  16. http://france.fsfeurope.org/news/bkuhn@gnu.org
  17. http://france.fsfeurope.org/news/lisa@gnu.org
  18. http://france.fsfeurope.org/news/3diff@gnu.org
  19. http://france.fsfeurope.org/news/jcasey@gnu.org
  20. http://france.fsfeurope.org/news/rms@gnu.org
  21. http://france.fsfeurope.org/news/tom@gnu.org
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  26. http://france.fsfeurope.org/news/devnull@gnu.org
  27. http://france.fsfeurope.org/news/mhw@gnu.org
  28. http://subversions.gnu.org/
  29. http://savannah.gnu.org/
  30. mailto:LoicDachary at fsfeurope.org
  31. http://france.fsfeurope.org/gpl/gpl.en.html
  32. http://france.fsfeurope.org/libre.en.html
  33. http://france.fsfeurope.org/philosophy/philosophy.en.html
  34. http://agenda.lolix.org/
  35. http://france.fsfeurope.org/news/news.en.html
  36. http://france.fsfeurope.org/events/events.en.html
  37. http://savannah.gnu.org/pm/task.php?group_project_id=37&group_id=53&func=browse
  38. http://www.gnu.org/jobs/jobsFR.fr.html
  39. http://france.fsfeurope.org/press/press.fr.html
  40. http://mail.gnu.org/mailman/listinfo/fsfe-france
  41. http://france.fsfeurope.org/donations/donations.en.html
  42. http://france.fsfeurope.org/about/about.en.html
  43. http://france.fsfeurope.org/contact.en.html
  44. http://france.fsfeurope.org/thanks.fr.html
  45. http://france.fsfeurope.org/stats/stats.fr.html
  46. http://france.fsfeurope.org/server/server.en.html
  47. http://savannah.gnu.org/projects/fsffr/
  48. http://france.fsfeurope.org/birth/birth.en.html
  49. http://france.fsfeurope.org/server/server.en.html#Web
  50. http://www.gnu.org/server/standards/
  51. http://france.fsfeurope.org/boilerplate.fr.html
  52. http://mailman.fsfeurope.org/mailman/listinfo/web
  53. http://france.fsfeurope.org/news/article2001-05-28-01.en.xhtml
  54. http://france.fsfeurope.org/fsfe-fr.xsl
  55. http://savannah.gnu.org/cgi-bin/viewcvs/fsfe/fr/news/article2001-05-28-01.en.xhtml?cvsroot=www.gnu.org
  56. mailto:webmaster at fsfeurope.org

Loic   Dachary         http://www.dachary.org/  loic at dachary.org
24 av Secretan         http://www.senga.org/      loic at senga.org
75019    Paris         Tel: 33 1 42 45 09 16        loic at gnu.org
        GPG Public Key: http://www.dachary.org/loic/gpg.txt

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