Increasingly I am asked how things are going at work. Unfortunately, I struggle to give a meaningful answer in conversations with "normal" people - I don't know how to begin to explain that this afternoon I set up a pbuilder environment that lets me build Debian packages for our customised etch-with-backports i386 distribution using my amd64 machine running Debian sid. Or that this morning I ran into some interesting problems with dpkg-shlibdeps and symbol versioning in lenny when trying to downgrade some dependencies to 'Suggests'. "Er, yeah, it's going fine."

One recent big project has been a real bonus in this regard, because I can explain it even to the hairdresser - it's "like a mobile phone that you can put in your computer". Fantastic. "And we do the software that runs it." Everyone can understand that. "We make it talk to the internet." No way! You're so cool, Tim, tell me more.

What else do I do? "Well, sometimes I filter people's email and web traffic for spam and viruses. And sometimes I make databases run faster. And sometimes we set up systems that monitor other systems." But phone calls are the best.