Older blog entries for pabs3 (starting at number 61)

Some thoughts on using Debian

I'm currently running Debian's rolling release (aka "testing") on my main machine and have added some stuff to make that nicer.

First thing I have is configuration and package management. Since I have relatively few machines, I am using a metapackage per machine that installs some configuration files with changes that I want. The metapackages depend on packages that I need installed so that I can mark all other packages as being automatically installed. The metapackages are also useful for documenting why I have things installed. It depends on things like task-laptop from tasksel, hardware support packages, the GUI I use, games I play often and so on. My laptop does not have a CD/DVD drive so I have some metapackages to fool apt into ignoring dependencies on CD/DVD related packages I don't need. I'm building the metapackages using equivs-build and a small Makefile. I use the File: header supported by equivs-build for installing config files. I have popcon installed and enabled but I don't want it to leak the names of the metapackages so I have added a prefix to my metapackages and modified the popcon cron job to remove anything containing that prefix. I also don't want apt to ever remove the metapackages so I mark them as Important: yes and configure apt to never autoremove them.

  --- /etc/cron.daily/popularity-contest~
+++ /etc/cron.daily/popularity-contest
@@ -71,8 +71,8 @@
 # try to post the report through http POST
 if [ "$SUBMITURLS" ] && [ "yes" = "$USEHTTP" ]; then
     for URL in $SUBMITURLS ; do
-   if grep -v myprefix- $POPCON | setsid /usr/share/popularity-contest/popcon-upload \
-       -u $URL 2>/dev/null ; then
+   if setsid /usr/share/popularity-contest/popcon-upload \
+       -u $URL -f $POPCON 2>/dev/null ; then
        logger -t popularity-contest "unable to submit report to $URL."
@@ -94,7 +94,7 @@
        echo "MIME-Version: 1.0"
        echo "Content-Type: text/plain"
-       grep -v myprefix- $POPCON
+       cat $POPCON
    ) | do_sendmail


  APT::NeverAutoRemove { "^myprefix-.*";} ;

I am using Raphael Geissert's mirror redirector in order to automatically use up-to-date and hopefully non-broken mirrors. Unfortunately this often causes apt to complain about hash sum mismatches and then proceed to forget about all packages. I work around this by always running apt-get update in a loop until it succeeds.

  while ! apt-get update ; do sleep 1m; done

A lot of the time I need to install packages from outside of testing. So my sources.list contains lines for testing, unstable and experimental. I have some apt pinning so that by default I only have packages from testing but if I manually upgrade some packages to unstable or experimental, then I will get upgrades within that suite until those packages migrate down to unstable or testing. The apt pinning needs priorities between 1000 and 500 for this to work nicely. I also pin some things like lintian, debian-policy and devref to unstable/experimental since having old versions of those is not useful.


  # testing
deb http://security.debian.org/ testing/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src http://security.debian.org/ testing/updates main contrib non-free
deb http://http.debian.net/debian/ testing main contrib non-free
deb-src http://http.debian.net/debian/ testing main contrib non-free
# unstable
deb http://http.debian.net/debian/ unstable main contrib non-free
deb-src http://http.debian.net/debian/ unstable main contrib non-free
# experimental
deb http://http.debian.net/debian/ experimental main contrib non-free
deb-src http://http.debian.net/debian/ experimental main contrib non-free


  Package: *
Pin: release a=testing
Pin-Priority: 800

Package: *
Pin: release a=unstable
Pin-Priority: 700

Package: *
Pin: release a=experimental
Pin-Priority: 600


  Package: lintian
Pin: release a=unstable
Pin-Priority: 900

Package: lintian
Pin: release a=experimental
Pin-Priority: 910

Package: debian-policy
Pin: release a=unstable
Pin-Priority: 999

Package: developers-reference
Pin: release a=unstable
Pin-Priority: 999

I have a few configuration files and a cron job to make all programs dump core files when they crash so that I can file bugs, even for random crashes that are not easy to reproduce. I enabled some kernel settings with sysctl, lifted some security limits to enable core dumps, and added a cron job to delete old core dumps and notify me of new core dumps. In my shell configuration I also turn on two glibc options to cause programs to crash when they have improper memory management. I also have a second machine I use for bug discovery where I have lots of stuff installed and everything apt pinned in the opposite way; experimental > unstable > testing. When I have time I use this machine to do testing of packages I use, classes of packages that I care about (such as games) and sometimes packages I do not use.


  fs.suid_dumpable = 1
kernel.core_uses_pid = 1
kernel.core_pattern = /var/cache/corefiles/core-%p-%u-%g-%s-%t-%h-%e


  *              soft    core            unlimited
*              hard    core            unlimited


mkdir -p /var/cache/corefiles
chmod 2777 /var/cache/corefiles
if [ $(find /var/cache/corefiles -mtime +100 -a ! -type d | wc -l) -gt 0 ]; then
    echo deleting:
    find /var/cache/corefiles -mtime +100 -a ! -type d
    find /var/cache/corefiles -mtime +100 -a ! -type d -print0 | xargs -0 rm -f
if [ $(find /var/cache/corefiles ! -type d | wc -l) -gt 0 ] ; then
    echo still present:
    find /var/cache/corefiles ! -type d


  export MALLOC_CHECK_=2
export MALLOC_PERTURB_=$(($RANDOM % 255 + 1))

I unfortunately need some packages from contrib/non-free, so I have a cron job to let me know when I accidentally install new packages from contrib/non-free.

  @daily diffcmdoutput ~/.cache/non-free-contrib aptitude search ~i~snon-free\|~i~scontrib

I backup my dpkg package selections and debconf databases.

  @daily diffcmdoutput ~/backup/packages dpkg --get-selections
@daily diffcmdoutput ~/backup/config debconf-get-selections 2> /dev/null

I notify myself of changes to the list of new packages so that I can review them, install any useful/interesting ones and tell aptitude to forget them all.

  @daily diffcmdoutput ~/.cache/new aptitude search ~N

I notify myself of changes to the list of packages I have installed that are not up-to-date packages from testing. This helps me catch packages removed from testing/unstable/etc that I use.

  @daily diffcmdoutput ~/.cache/apt-show-versions sh -c "apt-show-versions | grep -v '/testing uptodate'"

I notify myself of packages that I maintain that are having issues migrating to testing. I considered doing the same for teams I am involved in but they aren't particularly functional teams so there would be a lot of noise.

  @daily grep-excuses 'Paul Wise'

I notify myself of RC bugs that apply to testing and are installed. The list is so long that it just makes me depressed instead of motivated to help fix RC bugs so I only notify myself of changes. Even then I rarely do anything other than delete the notifications. If you are looking for ways to help Debian, fixing RC bugs is a great choice.

  @daily diffcmdoutput ~/.cache/rcbugs rc-alert -d T --exclude-tags IP+MR

I notify myself of packages that are orphaned or need a new maintainer. There are usually so many packages in this list that it is not useful, so I only notify myself of changes to the list. I rarely adopt packages because I feel overloaded already. If you are looking for ways to help Debian, adopting packages is a good choice.

  @daily wnpp-alert --diff

One of my packages is for interacting with servers on the Internet, so I need to run tests periodically to ensure the package works. I do that with a simple Makefile but maybe I need to move to autopkgtest, need to find out if it saves data between runs first.

  @monthly cd ~/devel/debian/tests ; make

I install debsecan so that I get notified of security updates in unstable and new security issues that are not fixed yet. The way debsecan works is that it notifies about changes in security issues and updates and also includes a full list of all known unfixed issues. I generally install security updates from unstable when I see them. The list of unchanged issues is so long that it makes me wonder how many times I've been cracked already. The oldest issue goes back to 2002 but most of them are 2010 or later. The various parts of WebKit are by far the worst security offenders. I don't bother with the white-listing functionality due to the quantity of security issues and because it isn't possible to add a comment about each white-list item. If you want to get involved with the security team, reporting issues with the data in the security tracker is a good idea.

I subscribe to the ftpmaster RSS feeds for new and removed packages to keep up to date with changes in the archive.

A lot of the above applies to running systems based on Debian stable too. If you have any other thoughts about running Debian systems, please blog about them. The diffcmdoutput command used above is a simple shell script:

temp="$(mktemp "$cache"XXXXXXXXXXXXXX)"
"$@" > "$temp"
diff --unified "$cache" "$temp"
mv --force "$temp" "$cache"

Syndicated 2012-10-29 04:56:35 from Advogato

Ponds as time travel devices

I firmly believe that this pond is a time travel device:

Space invader pond

The proof is in this recording I made1. At minimum, clearly there is some sort of quantum entanglement with computer games from the 70s going on.

1. Folks may want to use this recording in free software. To the extent possible under law, I have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work. The frogs have too. An email or a link to this page would be appreciated though.

Syndicated 2012-08-30 05:37:32 from Advogato

What happens when a Debian derivative shuts down?

Over the past months we have seen the end of two Debian derivatives. In January the news came that Junta de Extremadura (Spain) were abandoning the development of LinEx and switching to Debian itself. Early in March the Debian derivatives census scripts noted that the Vanillux apt repository was down. Fabrice Quenneville then confirmed that he had to put a hold on the Vanillux project due to the cost of bandwidth and servers. In addition the future of StormOS is in doubt after Illumian was created. StormOS is a port of Debian to the OpenSolaris kernel and Illumian is similar but uses only apt/dpkg and repackages everything else.

The LinEx page in the Debian derivatives census did not reveal much information about the project that would have been useful to Debian, in particular it does not list any apt repositories. As a result it is quite hard to say what has potentially been lost. Two mails from people close to or involved in the project indicate that much of the LinEx distribution was already merged into Debian. It is probably safe to say that everything of value has been merged into Debian, including at least one of the developers involved in LinEx.

Vanillux was a small distribution with few developers according to the Google caches of their website. If we look at the patches created by the derivatives census scripts, we can see that the 5 source packages that were possibly derived from Debian source packages were simply imported from Christian Marillat's repository of non-free, patented, legally restricted and multimedia-related packages. The patches indicate that 3 source packages were forked from Debian and that 2 source packages were done from scratch. The forked packages seem to be mainly about enabling support for proprietary and patented codecs in several programs. This is a surprisingly small number of altered/differing packages, so what else could Vanillux folks have been working on? It appears that there were 12 new source packages that were not derived from Debian source packages. These appear to be mainly multimedia-related packages, one font imported from an Ubuntu PPA, some syslinux themes and a metapackage. The multimedia packages are all from Christian Marillat's repository. The Debian multimedia team is working hard on bringing multimedia related software to Debian and welcomes help with that. The font (Cantarell) is now in Debian under a different source package name. The metapackage appears to be very similar to from the ubuntu-meta source package from Ubuntu that uses germinate. So at first glance, the contribution of Vanillux to the world of Linux distributions appears to be in the area of artwork and package selection. The artwork produced is basically Vanillux branding and is thus not usable by Debian, although we would like more artists involved in Debian. The meta-package is not easily useful to Debian since we use a different mechanism for our task packages and our task packages have already been updated for the GNOME 3 transition. Still, the amount of difference between to source packages is relatively small. So, what else? Perusing the diff between the list of source packages exposed by the Packages and Sources files, I noted that a number of binary packages in the Packages files reference source packages not listed in the Sources files. When I saw picasa in that list, it occurred to me that Vanillux might have directly imported some binary packages without their corresponding source packages. Perusing their apt metadata confirms that they have imported some binary packages of non-free software directly from vendors. These include Google Desktop, Opera, Picasa and VirtualBox 3.2. The rest of the packages in the diff appear to be caused by some sort of issue with the import process from Debian and other apt repos. Most of the above could be achieved by adding some external commerical repositories to a normal Debian system or by merging some of those repositories (such as the Opera one) into Debian.

The interesting thing about the Debian derivatives census is that it allows us to perform analyses like these and figure out what patches and packages we might like to integrate into Debian. In this way we can salvage some of the value of our derivatives if they abandon ship.

If you have any ideas or code for improving the census or are running a Debian derivative, please join us at the Debian derivatives frontdesk.

Syndicated 2012-04-26 04:29:48 from Advogato

Report from the recent Debian bug squashing party in Perth

We recently held a Debian bug squashing party (BSP) in Perth, Western Australia. Over the weekend we had about 10 or so people show up to participate, learn about fixing bugs in Debian and try to fix some. The BSP co-incided with a weekend heat wave with temperatures reaching 38°C and the venue lacked air conditioning. Most of the attendees were new to Debian development but were Debian users. Our focus was on release critical bugs highlighted by rc-alert and the UDD bugs list, but we also discussed IPv6 bugs in CUPS and some bugs that were affecting UCC infrastructure. The UCC president also worked on fixing their door-locking system, replacing the broken system based on an ancient modem with an Arduino board. We managed to fix, work on or investigate 12 or more bugs. I was hoping we would get through more, but the weather and the average experience level conspired against us. After we were done on Sunday a few of us went down to the local pub to have a meal, a beer and some geeky conversation. All in all we had a good time and got some bugs fixed.

The UCC president seemed to be keen on doing another BSP, hopefully we can do another one before the freeze happens. There were a few people who missed the BSP so it would be good to give them a chance to work on some bugs.

Thanks go to the UCC folks for the venue and to PLUG folks for helping with organisation and promotion of the event.

Syndicated 2012-03-16 05:20:14 from Advogato

Debian/Ubuntu games screenshot party results

The Debian/Ubuntu games team recently organised a half-day screenshots party for creating screenshots for all the games that are available in Debian/Ubuntu.

Unfortunately, only 5 people participated in the screenshots party, I had hoped that we would get more folks turn up. Only one of those was not already involved in the games team and that one person found out via our spam on the #debian-mentors IRC channel. This means that most of our promotion of the event was ineffective. Hopefully for future games parties we can improve this, please let us know if you have any ideas about that.

We also had 7 other people on the channel during the party lurking, discussing and or working on other things, in particular Ben Armstrong was working on a games live CD.

Over the 7 hours of the party, we uploaded 100 screenshots for 40 different packages. Of the packages, 2 are available only in Debian (auralquiz, cutechess), one is available only in Ubuntu (plasma-widget-tictactoe) and the rest are available in both. I think we got quite a bit done for such a small group.

Some of us could not resist filing some bugs on packages that had issues preventing or delaying us from taking screenshots. I also suggested to one maintainer that his package (acm4) be removed from Debian, since it is obsoleted by acm and unusable.

If you want to play some games, check out goplay, which is a tool for browsing available games using debtags that displays screenshots from the games-thumbnails package, which has just been updated with the screenshots created during the party. goplay needs some more development, if you would like to help out with that, you would be most welcome.

If you are interested to see our screenshots, they are all on the screenshots.debian.net website and the packages are auralquiz, cardstories, londonlaw, cube2font, ardentryst, cutechess, pianobooster, emacs-chess, xye, flare, tmw, garden-of-coloured-lights, flight-of-the-amazon-queen, geekcode, glpeces, fofix, unknown-horizons, klickety, polygen, tictactoe, xscreensaver-screensaver-dizzy, goban-original-games, xjokes, mudlet, xabacus, xtux-client, connectagram, crystalspace, pescetti, purity-ng, qstat, slashem, sudoku, minetest, xscavenger, plasma-widget-tictactoe, xbomb, xfrisk, xpilot-ng and xsok.

Syndicated 2012-02-28 02:54:26 from Advogato

Debian/Ubuntu games screenshot party!

Have you ever wondered how to start getting involved in Debian/Ubuntu? Do you enjoy discovering new games and playing them? You might want to come to the games screenshot party! We hope that the party will be a fun, easy, low-commitment way to get involved.

The Debian/Ubuntu games team is organising a half-day screenshots party on the weekend of 25th-26th February for creating screenshots for all the games that are available in Debian/Ubuntu.

If you are interested in attending, please add your availability to the poll linked from the announcement so that we can get some idea of attendance and when is a good time for the people who are interested.

Look forward to lots of game playing, screenshots and a merry time, hope to see you all there!

Syndicated 2012-02-03 04:28:06 from Advogato

Debian bug squashing party in Perth

There is a Debian bug squashing party (BSP) in Perth, Western Australia being organised for the weekend of 9-11th of March. It will be held at the University of Western Australia in loft of the University Computer Club (UCC) in the student guild building. Sadly it is a bit far to travel for the majority of Debian contributors (and they probably wouldn't enjoy being upside down) but hopefully we can attract some locals and get them addicted to fixing bugs and contributing to Debian and the FLOSS community in general.

Come one, come all, lets squish some bugs and get Debian into better shape for the coming freeze in June for the release of Debian 7 (wheezy).

Thanks go to the UCC folks for the venue and to PLUG folks for helping with organisation and promotion of the event.

Syndicated 2012-02-02 08:16:52 from Advogato

apt-get purge defoma

Debian is finally transitioning from the unmaintained and Debian-specific font manager called defoma. The replacement is called fontconfig and it is maintained upstream and in Debian (by upstream) and is cross-distribution with wide support from our upstreams and other distributions. With the upload of libwmf (thanks Loïc!) the last package in Debian sid declaring a strict dependency on defoma has removed this dependency. There is still more to do, some more bugs to file and some lenny->squeeze->wheezy upgrade testing to do. Thanks go to Christian PERRIER for slogging through and providing encouragement, bug reports and NMUs. The transition is unfortunately not without loss of functionality;

  • Xorg does not yet support fontconfig so for now programs relying on server-side fonts will only be able to use the xfonts- packages shipping their fonts in the directories known by the X server. According to Keith Packard it isn't easy to add fontconfig support to Xorg, there are some ways to paper over this though. We could use the Xorg server's font catalogue system to link to a fontconfig provided symlink farm (similar to what is done with defoma & Xorg). We could adjust the Xorg fonts utils to recurse into subdirectories. As far as I can tell, other distributions have completely ignored this issue and not all fonts are available to the Xorg server there.
  • There are some issues with Ghostscript and CJK that I do not fully understand, I am hoping these can be resolved before the release of wheezy. We need people to restart work on this issue.

TeX uses a different directory for fonts to the rest of the system. Fonts used by TeX cannot be used by the rest of the system and vice versa. This issue has always existed in Debian and other distributions and is unrelated to the removal of defoma.

If your software doesn't use one of the text renderers (such as Pango, Qt or QuesoGLC) that find fonts on their own and fall back on other fonts where needed (due to missing fonts or glyphs), please switch text rendering systems. If you are unable to switch, please use fontconfig to search for font filenames rather than hard-coding them at build time.

This message brought to you by the Debian Fonts Task Force. We welcome people who want to help us maintain font packages or improve support and quality assurance for fonts and font related software.

Syndicated 2012-01-07 04:30:08 from Advogato

Debian/Ubuntu games team meeting #6

The Debian/Ubuntu games team is organizing another meeting, if you're into developing and/or packaging of games, or just generally curious about games in Debian/Ubuntu, you should join!

It will be held next Saturday, on the 26th of November, in the #debian-games channel on irc.debian.org (also know as irc.oftc.net). More information is available on the meeting wiki page.

The agenda starts off with the usual round of introductions, so if you're new to the team, say hi! Then we'll be going through the action items from the last meeting, including work on the Debian Games LiveCD, and what's up with the /usr/games/ path anyways?

Next we'll be moving onto how the games team is faring in terms of members: are new recruits finding it comfortable, should we advertise more?

Next up it's the squeeky penguin: Wheezy is somewhere in the not-completely-distant future, how does that affect the games team, should we be scuffling to get specific tasks done?

Then onto the recurring question of sponsoring, and how to improve it, should we be utilising DebExpo more? What about our favourite PET?

Lastly, PlayDeb is doing some really neat stuff, would it make sense for our team to push some changes to PlayDeb? Would it make sense for PlayDeb to push changes to Debian Games?

Hopes are for a good discussion, and a merry time, hope to see you all there!

(This text provided by Martin Erik Werner)

Syndicated 2011-11-21 02:43:50 from Advogato

Migrating from Galeon to Iceweasel/Firefox

I have been a long-time user of the Galeon web browser, which, while powerful for its time, is getting a bit long in the teeth and has been abandoned for a long time. As a result I need to find something new.

As Galeon uses the Mozilla engine I figure switching to Iceweasel/Firefox will be the least amount of pain since they share similar formats for lots of the user configuration and data (with the exception of history). Switching to Firefox also gives me access to a lot of configurability and a vast sea of extensions all written in RDF, JavaScript and zoooool (ahem, XUL). Another plus was that I was already using Firebug for the occasional web development project.

Looking at the Mozilla addons site is like entering someone's shed. There will be the few beautiful unfinished projects still being worked on, one polished finished scuplture gathering dust but still admirable, things with power plugs from a bygone era, some things that have a coin slot on them, some cryptic machines with no visible screws or manuals, some spiders and their cobwebs and a few rats and mice chewing through things. A place where you can find some excellent, well documented, useful and Free Software extensions alongside lots of crud. Luckily for me the good stuff that I wanted to use was already in Debian or the friendly Debian Mozilla extension maintainers team was willing to package them for me.

In my quest for freedom from Galeon I first noticed that there is no up button in Iceweasel. Bummer, I use that a lot so I went searching for extensions. I soon found one extension, but it hadn't kept up with the ever-changing Mozilla APIs so it fell by the wayside. Thanks to the leavers of breadcrumbs I picked up the trail to a new shiny and working extension. Lo-and-behold I found Uppity, which was all about going up and as it turns out, much better at that than Galeon. Thanks to MozExt team, thats solved, next!

The next glaring problem was the lack of Galeon-style smart bookmarks. Before you ask, yes, Firefox smart keyword bookmarks are not the same thing. This was rediculously hard to search for due to the wording used by both projects being same same but different. Some folks switched to Epiphany to get the extra search boxes on their toolbars. Like this guy I was not interested in that, mainly due to the addons I would be missing out on. I tried a few different tacks, even searching for a way to have multiple search boxes in the Firefox toolbars. I soon gave up on finding an extension that would do this like Galeon does so I figured its time to roll up the sleeves and learn some zzzoooool. I already know a little bit about JavaScript and CSS so... First slap a dash of a tutorial about adding toolbar buttons, add a slither of adding extensions without installing them, stare down some Mozilla reference manuals, thrown in a pinch of favicons, give up on a wild goose chase or two, add a big fat blob of zoooool and sautee in fugly hacks. Soon enough you will have something hardcoded that works like Galeon smart bookmarks but looks even better.

A screenshot of hacky galeon smart bookmarks in Iceweasel

I may eventually turn this into a proper and functionally equivalent extension for Galeon-stlye smart bookmarks but for now it will remain a useful hack. If you want to get your hands dirty with zzzoooooool and try this out after modifying it to use your personal search URLs, please feel free to contact me.

For now the only remaining issue I can see is that the forward/back buttons in Iceweasel don't have the explict menu buttons. This is a minor issue for me so now it is time for me to figure out how to migrate my data and config1 before permanently switching away from Galeon.

Wish me luck!

1. Of course the data and config are fugly, but that is a something for another, much broader and more complicated hack

Syndicated 2011-11-04 03:29:09 from Advogato

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