– arpinux, I had the pleasure to meet with you when I was helping a bit your team translating the “Beginner’s handbook” from French to English. Now I would like to get to known you better, if you agree…
Good morning Yves, you are too modest: you did translate almost entirely The beginner’s handbook, and that was not really a “team” since we were only three translators: DYP, you and me!
– How long have you been interested in computers in general, and GNU/Linux in particular?
I discovered the digital world and GNU/Linux at the same time: I didn’t have my own computer because I saw all my friends struggling with their machines, so I didn’t plan to buy this kind of equipment… I was more of a pen and pencil guy.
In December 2002, I exhibited some of my drawings and I had to make fliers. DYP (an active Ubuntu contributor at the time) told me about Linux and helped me to make a poster and some fliers using ‘The Gimp’ application: that’s how I discovered the Libre-Software world. In June 2006, DYP gave me my first computer, equipped with an Ubuntu Dapper Drake that I gave up in December 2007 for a CrunchBangLinux. I was fascinated by the discovery of a world in which “the instruction manual does work”. You must admit that in real life, instruction manuals are generally useless… something always ends up happening that screws up all your plans!
DYP introduced me to the free software in a simple way: take whatever you need, use it, learn about it and share it. And that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do ever since.
– Do you want to tell us a little bit about how you make a living, next to free software?
I don’t “make a living”, I do live! I am a happy stay-at-home father of 5 children between the ages of 4 and 15 with whom I have been practicing family education for 8 years now. My wife and I live in our small (but not too remote) village and since a long time, we gave up the idea of earning anything except time with our children and a simple family life.
– What is the genesis of the Debian-Facile¹ association and what is your personal path to become its president?
First of all, Debian-Facile was a community of users working for mutual help on Free Software, then they organized themselves into an association in 2013, in order to be able to participate in events, and to start acting in their own way to promote the Free Software principles. For more information about what went on behind the scenes of Debian-Facile, you’ll have to ask the founding fathers…
On my side, I was tinkering with ‘live-build’, the Debian Live build tool, until I launched livarp in 2011, a Debian-based distribution that aims at introducing alternative window managers (OpenBox, PeKwm, FluxBox, Awesome, Spectrwm…). I then launched HandyLinux under the impulse of the crunchbanglinux-fr forum in 2013. This adventure was, let’s say… chaotic, but very rewarding.
I joined the Debian-Facile association in 2016 by initiating the merger of the HandyLinux and Debian-Facile communities. I worked with them on the “facilitating ISO” project [a Debian ISO for beginners], in the same vein as HandyLinux, but closer to Debian, and also on the next version of “the beginner’s handbook” (my favorite “personal” project). At the same time, we founded the 3hg with Thuban and Starsheep (two big contributors to HandyLinux and Free Software) for the reasons explained on the home page, and translated below …
The link between us
Once upon the time were three graduated from the police academy in Los Angeles, California. Despite proving their capability during training, all three have subsequently been assigned to be a meter maid, office worker, and crossing guard, respectively. Dissatisfied with these jobs, they are recruited to work for the Charles Townsend Agency as private investigators.
Like in the Charlie’s Angels TV series, we’ll never know who Charlie is…
The 3hg collective was born out of a desire to contribute to the free software movement without being dependent on a community or a collegiality, within a small trusted group, with no one to lead the group or its members.
Our mission, if we accept it, is to dig into ideas to realize them instead of talking about them.
A bit tired of the digital world and with a complicated life at the end of 2017, I took a two-year break almost without a computer, then, my fingers itched… so I took back the keyboard in hand and in 2019, I came back to Debian-Facile to restart working on “The beginner’s handbook” and DFiso.
But I had other desires, and when the question of renewing the association’s board came up at the beginning of the summer, I dared to propose my candidacy for the board as president. I presented my projects and the community accepted them.
So it was to the great surprise of all my friends that I became “president” of an association… rather ironic when you know that I am an optimistic anarchist at heart.
– Can you already tell us here what new impulses you would like to give to this nice association?
Everything has already been revealed… I have no hidden agenda (except the conquest of the World, but that’s something else…). What I wish for Debian-Facile? That the association gets even more involved in the real world, and one can’t say that the current situation helps me a lot to organize IRL [In Real Life] meetings …
I want users to be able to find what they are looking for and to be invited when they want to be invited… this requires a friendly welcome, mutual aid (I learned this at my expense) and also a clear and accessible documentation.
I wish for a rapprochement of communities in a world where they have gotten into the habit of splitting up.
I wish a multiplication of the diffusion vectors of the Free Software.
I wish that each member of the association can find his place and a way to contribute corresponding to himself: let it be documentation, videos, mutual aid on the forum, actions in the field, translations, tests and feedback, or the contemplative lazing around…
– One thing that really struck me at the time was the great distance you wanted to put between the documentation for “The beginner’s handbook” and Ubuntu. Would you now like to tell me a bit more about this (if you wish)?
Ubuntu opened the doors of the Free Software to me, and I won’t forget it, but since the beginning, I find that Ubuntu being a Debian derivative, doesn’t respect the first of its obligations: not all ‘ubuntu’ packages are backwards compatible with Debian. This results in differences in commands and procedures, which hamper the readability for beginners who often believes that Ubuntu=Debian… I didn’t invent this separation, it already exists, and I simply take note of it. And of course, when I write a tutorial, I do it from the Debian viewpoint and without thinking about Ubuntu (the derivative).
– When did you first come into contact with the Emmabuntüs collective and its “lider maximo”?
I have no idea of the precise date because, in my eyes, the Emmabuntüs collective looked like THE most useful project in the Free Software world. I was already talking about it on the crunchbang-fr forum as a distribution that was finally useful for something! Reconditioning machines for the most disadvantaged people, sending them around the world to help people in dire straits, what more to say… a wonderful project and an example for the “forkers” of all kinds!
The real “contact” happened when Emmabuntüs was switched to the Debian base (Emmabuntüs was historically based on Ubuntu). I had written a tutorial about ‘live-build’ and Patrick used it. We then got in touch officially, he came home, and from now on, I hope to count him among my friends.
I always had a little jealousy about his project and his energy… the thing that makes you say … “I wish I’d thought about it…”.
– The Debian-Facile association, the Emmabuntüs collective, the sites BlablaLinux.be, Tugalères.com and Linux-Live-CD.org are starting together a reuse campaign. Do you want to explain us how this idea germinated in your always bubbling minds?
This refurbishing campaign is a common idea that became obvious to us throughout the summer. Each one of us followed his own path and they led us to the same crossroads:
Patrick was using his refurbishing technique for the Emmabuntüs collective,
Amaury Libert (BlablaLinux.be), who was already talking about it on his blog, started donating refurbished machines and wanted to launch a similar campaign in Belgium,
Angedestenebres² (Tugaleres.com) came to give a hand (and skills) on the git development space of the Emmabuntüs collective,
I was following and testing Emmabuntüs with Patrick…
When I presented my candidacy for the presidency of Debian-Facile, I informed Patrick about my project and my desires. I sent him my “program” and told him about my great desire to collaborate with the collective and also with other associations, if possible. He answered yes, even before I asked and we quickly launched the idea of a refurbishing campaign for the most disadvantaged. That was only a month ago… a lot has happened since then!
This campaign woke up all these people who started working hard to improve Patrick’s scripts, the repackaging method and the tools delivered to the volunteers in the frame of this campaign. We even have a dedicated space on the Debian-Facile forum as well as a peertube channel dedicated to this project (thanks to Tedonum) in order to gather everything the volunteers might need.
Angedestenebres widely communicated and tested on the subject, Amaury produced many videos of demonstration and realization of the USB reuse key, François Fabre (the developer of MultiSystem) helped to configure the GRUB launcher and the compatibility of MultiSystem with the reuse method. As for me, I posted on the forum trying to organize the action within the Debian-Facile community.
I think the idea was around us since a long time, it just needed the right circumstances and the right people to materialize, and I’m very proud to be part of it.
arp, in puzzle mode.
– What other actions within Debian-Facile were set up this summer, after the arrival of the new board?
Beside to the refurbishment campaign, the production of mini video tutorials for beginners and classic users was relaunched. The goal is to offer additional and complementary support to the Wiki and the forum. We have therefore launched a Debian-Facile peertube channel in order to post “DF-mini-tutorials” every week. The tutorial topics range from software management to forum registration, via the desktop configuration and the look and feel. We try to produce simple and clear tutorials, certainly less lively than the videos of our friend Amaury aka Blabla Linux, but it is rather an animated documentation, a step by step to follow and execute at the same time. We are hosted by Tedomum.net (thanks to them). We will also launch a translation campaign to make Debian and its documentation as frenchie as possible. Debian is already widely translated into French but there is still work to be done. This is an opportunity for “non-technical” contributors to participate in the accessibility of Debian by using their knowledge.
– And finally, what are the perspectives you see for the further actions of the Debian-Facile association?
As far as I am concerned, the perspectives are simple and translate into a message that I have been trying to convey since quite some time now:
learn deeper, understand better, share more!
The Debian-Facile association has two mission statements written in its statutes: provide help to users (especially the most fragile) and promote of Free Software through Debian. So it seems obvious to me to continue to answer , the best we can, to the users’ expectations and questions on the forum, but also to propose the necessary tools for these users empowerment.
The principle of digital autonomy is noble, but if it is not accompanied by some empowerment, the user quickly finds himself trapped by the librarians as he has been by the proprietary operating systems. The goal is therefore not to “migrate” the users to the Free world, but rather to free the user.
In order to provide the necessary tools for emancipation, the documentation and the distribution itself must be worked on. DFiso is there for that and provides a clear and stable environment for users who want to discover Debian. This is also the goal of “The beginner’s handbook”, so these two projects will continue to be developed, hoping to see projects identical to the handbook for the other “mother” distributions.
Another point I want to develop is the collaboration and the decrease of the number of entry points for end users.
There are 3 forums for Debian in France, for example… While I understand the principle of fork and freedom, I must also admit that I find the situation ridiculous: I have a hard time to understand why human beings, Debian users, can’t get around a table to bring their help in a united way to the end users. So one of my completely utopian projects, and I know this is very difficult to achieve, is to bring together the French-speaking Debian communities to implement a Debian-Fr portal allowing users to discover all the diversity of our community, but from a single entry point.
So of course, centralization is not desirable, but convergence is a principle that would allow all these human beings to find their place: some are more comfortable on a forum, others on IRC [Internet Relay Chat], others on modern social networks, others still like to write documentation (we still have 3 French-speaking “Debian” wikis, which proves the presence of many editors), others feel like teachers, others finally, do not support beginners and prefer to talk about technique and hard code.
Well, I think it’s this very diversity that makes us strong, and that on a single portal, everyone could find a place that suits him or her, but without fighting against the others, by collaborating, and even discovering aspects of our community that they hadn’t thought of before.
In short … another beautiful dream @arpi, but this one requires a stream of patience and understanding … it is a long shot, but it is possible.
The collaboration with Emmabuntüs is a proof of this potentiality: we have several forum members who already use Emmabuntüs but also other OSes and that’s great (diversity is always better). But I regretted a lack of real actions between these users: each one got its own forum, its own doc, its own communication… The fact that the Emmabuntüs collective and the Debian-Facile association are working together on the same project demonstrates that this librarian exchange, this librarian sharing should not be used any longer to divide our community (yes, I dare to say “our”).
It’s been too long since everyone agrees that the “free community” doesn’t exist and that they are just disparate blocks. I wish Debian-Facile and its work would start to be emulated by others and that, in the same way that HandyLinux merged with Debian-Facile, in the same way that Emmabuntüs and Debian-Facile joined to work together, other communities, which are so close to each other, would collaborate and stop these stupid rivalries about which is the “best distribution“, “which system is the most secure”, “what is the best init system”…
I would like to focus on the essential, namely the fabulous economic, social and political potential of Free movement, its values and ethics.
But this is far beyond the scope of the Debian-Facile association.
– As we were about to release this article, we discovered that arpinux had just published a mini-report about his first month as president of his association and here it is.
Thanks a lot to our arpinux friend for accepting this interview, and taking the time to answer our questions at length and very honestly. And we wish good luck to the whole Debian-Facile team for all their upcoming actions.
Note-1: Debian-Facile, which could be translated in English by “Debian-made-easy”, is a French association aiming at an easy accessibility and usage of the Debian distribution. This is done through a lot of documentation written in simple terms, a forum where the end users can ask questions and exchange with the members, and a pre-configured Debian ISO is proposed as well.
Note-2: the pseudo “Angedestenebres” could be translated by “Angel-of-darkness”.