[nSLUG] Incubating a project of my own: Debian You

Ben Armstrong synrg at sanctuary.nslug.ns.ca
Mon Dec 3 21:45:31 AST 2012

I briefly shared with the people at our last meeting a project idea I've
been kicking around for months which has the working title "Debian You".
The idea is to, within the Debian project, focus on software for
"personal improvement" of various kinds, be that in the area of personal
health, nutrition, sports training, or at the other end of the spectrum,
simply tracking things about your life for the purpose of gaining a
better understanding of yourself and possibly gain insight and improve
yourself as a result.*** What you're getting in this post is a tiny
preview of that idea in progress, as I have not officially announced it
yet, nor do I intend to until the new year.

Where I started was with our family doctor's suggestion to buy a
pedometer. This led me to the purchase of two Omron 720IT pedometers,
one for myself, and one for Ariannah. This was partly due to my
discovery of a rudimentary driver available at http://www.openyou.org/
called libomron. I thought it would be great if this software were
finished and made truly usable by end users, then packaged and placed in
Debian. Indeed, any of the other software produced by this project would
make good candidates as well.

But I wasn't satisfied with just this idea. This led me to think about
the state of drivers for health monitoring devices in general, and
beyond that, end-user software not only to support one's own health
regime, but also to support personal improvement projects of various
kinds. In short: "how do I make Debian work for me to help me fulfill
personal goals of all kinds, health and otherwise?" Thus, the idea of
"Debian You" was born.

The more I discussed the idea on irc with Kyle Machulis of the OpenYou
project, the more I realized that it's not just the lack of drivers that
holds people back. Equally important is the fact that a lot of software
out comes in the form of social sites where you track things and/or
share them with others. With web sites tidily filling this niche, why
bother making software for the desktop?

Why indeed? Well, I happen to be of the opinion that where your personal
data is concerned, you can never be too paranoid. Even when such sites
are built on open source software, and even when they have privacy
features allowing you to share as much or even none of the information
you collect about yourself with other users, that is still not good
enough. The only way to be 100% sure your personal data isn't used by
others is to ensure it never leaves your system.

This post is getting a bit too long, so I hope to share more in a
followup to this later. For now, I'd just like to spill the beans to the
rest of the group in advance of the official project announcement and
say I'm working on this idea, and may even have a tiny demo slapped
together using Debian Live to sample the personal improvement software
already in Debian (and Debian derivatives) within the next couple of
weeks. Out of this humble first artefact of the project, I hope will
come some early discussion to give the project a bit more substance for
the eventual release announcement next year. I would like for my LUG to
be able to be a part of that.


*** Those who know the lingo will recognize this as a kind of "Debian
Pure Blend" http://wiki.debian.org/DebianPureBlends

Also, you may recognize some of the ideas of "quantified selfers" woven
into my plans here. While I don't consider myself a part of that
community, I certainly hope what we produce will be appealing to them.
See http://quantifiedself.com/

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