Petter Reinholdtsen

The new "best" multimedia player in Debian?
6th June 2016

When I set out a few weeks ago to figure out which multimedia player in Debian claimed to support most file formats / MIME types, I was a bit surprised how varied the sets of MIME types the various players claimed support for. The range was from 55 to 130 MIME types. I suspect most media formats are supported by all players, but this is not really reflected in the MimeTypes values in their desktop files. There are probably also some bogus MIME types listed, but it is hard to identify which one this is.

Anyway, in the mean time I got in touch with upstream for some of the players suggesting to add more MIME types to their desktop files, and decided to spend some time myself improving the situation for my favorite media player VLC. The fixes for VLC entered Debian unstable yesterday. The complete list of MIME types can be seen on the Multimedia player MIME type support status Debian wiki page.

The new "best" multimedia player in Debian? It is VLC, followed by totem, parole, kplayer, gnome-mpv, mpv, smplayer, mplayer-gui and kmplayer. I am sure some of the other players desktop files support several of the formats currently listed as working only with vlc, toten and parole.

A sad observation is that only 14 MIME types are listed as supported by all the tested multimedia players in Debian in their desktop files: audio/mpeg, audio/vnd.rn-realaudio, audio/x-mpegurl, audio/x-ms-wma, audio/x-scpls, audio/x-wav, video/mp4, video/mpeg, video/quicktime, video/vnd.rn-realvideo, video/x-matroska, video/x-ms-asf, video/x-ms-wmv and video/x-msvideo. Personally I find it sad that video/ogg and video/webm is not supported by all the media players in Debian. As far as I can tell, all of them can handle both formats.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, multimedia, video.
A program should be able to open its own files on Linux
5th June 2016

Many years ago, when koffice was fresh and with few users, I decided to test its presentation tool when making the slides for a talk I was giving for NUUG on Japhar, a free Java virtual machine. I wrote the first draft of the slides, saved the result and went to bed the day before I would give the talk. The next day I took a plane to the location where the meeting should take place, and on the plane I started up koffice again to polish the talk a bit, only to discover that kpresenter refused to load its own data file. I cursed a bit and started making the slides again from memory, to have something to present when I arrived. I tested that the saved files could be loaded, and the day seemed to be rescued. I continued to polish the slides until I suddenly discovered that the saved file could no longer be loaded into kpresenter. In the end I had to rewrite the slides three times, condensing the content until the talk became shorter and shorter. After the talk I was able to pinpoint the problem – kpresenter wrote inline images in a way itself could not understand. Eventually that bug was fixed and kpresenter ended up being a great program to make slides. The point I'm trying to make is that we expect a program to be able to load its own data files, and it is embarrassing to its developers if it can't.

Did you ever experience a program failing to load its own data files from the desktop file browser? It is not a uncommon problem. A while back I discovered that the screencast recorder gtk-recordmydesktop would save an Ogg Theora video file the KDE file browser would refuse to open. No video player claimed to understand such file. I tracked down the cause being file --mime-type returning the application/ogg MIME type, which no video player I had installed listed as a MIME type they would understand. I asked for file to change its behavour and use the MIME type video/ogg instead. I also asked several video players to add video/ogg to their desktop files, to give the file browser an idea what to do about Ogg Theora files. After a while, the desktop file browsers in Debian started to handle the output from gtk-recordmydesktop properly.

But history repeats itself. A few days ago I tested the music system Rosegarden again, and I discovered that the KDE and xfce file browsers did not know what to do with the Rosegarden project files (*.rg). I've reported the rosegarden problem to BTS and a fix is commited to git and will be included in the next upload. To increase the chance of me remembering how to fix the problem next time some program fail to load its files from the file browser, here are some notes on how to fix it.

The file browsers in Debian in general operates on MIME types. There are two sources for the MIME type of a given file. The output from file --mime-type mentioned above, and the content of the shared MIME type registry (under /usr/share/mime/). The file MIME type is mapped to programs supporting the MIME type, and this information is collected from the desktop files available in /usr/share/applications/. If there is one desktop file claiming support for the MIME type of the file, it is activated when asking to open a given file. If there are more, one can normally select which one to use by right-clicking on the file and selecting the wanted one using 'Open with' or similar. In general this work well. But it depend on each program picking a good MIME type (preferably a MIME type registered with IANA), file and/or the shared MIME registry recognizing the file and the desktop file to list the MIME type in its list of supported MIME types.

The /usr/share/mime/packages/rosegarden.xml entry for the Shared MIME database look like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<mime-info xmlns="">
  <mime-type type="audio/x-rosegarden">
    <sub-class-of type="application/x-gzip"/>
    <comment>Rosegarden project file</comment>
    <glob pattern="*.rg"/>

This states that audio/x-rosegarden is a kind of application/x-gzip (it is a gzipped XML file). Note, it is much better to use an official MIME type registered with IANA than it is to make up ones own unofficial ones like the x-rosegarden type used by rosegarden.

The desktop file of the rosegarden program failed to list audio/x-rosegarden in its list of supported MIME types, causing the file browsers to have no idea what to do with *.rg files:

% grep Mime /usr/share/applications/rosegarden.desktop

The fix was to add "audio/x-rosegarden;" at the end of the MimeType= line.

If you run into a file which fail to open the correct program when selected from the file browser, please check out the output from file --mime-type for the file, ensure the file ending and MIME type is registered somewhere under /usr/share/mime/ and check that some desktop file under /usr/share/applications/ is claiming support for this MIME type. If not, please report a bug to have it fixed. :)

Tags: debian, english.
Tor - from its creators mouth 11 years ago
28th May 2016

A little more than 11 years ago, one of the creators of Tor, and the current President of the Tor project, Roger Dingledine, gave a talk for the members of the Norwegian Unix User group (NUUG). A video of the talk was recorded, and today, thanks to the great help from David Noble, I finally was able to publish the video of the talk on Frikanalen, the Norwegian open channel TV station where NUUG currently publishes its talks. You can watch the live stream using a web browser with WebM support, or check out the recording on the video on demand page for the talk "Tor: Anonymous communication for the US Department of Defence...and you.".

Here is the video included for those of you using browsers with HTML video and Ogg Theora support:

I guess the gist of the talk can be summarised quite simply: If you want to help the military in USA (and everyone else), use Tor. :)

Tags: english, frikanalen, nuug, video.
Isenkram with PackageKit support - new version 0.23 available in Debian unstable
25th May 2016

The isenkram system is a user-focused solution in Debian for handling hardware related packages. The idea is to have a database of mappings between hardware and packages, and pop up a dialog suggesting for the user to install the packages to use a given hardware dongle. Some use cases are when you insert a Yubikey, it proposes to install the software needed to control it; when you insert a braille reader list it proposes to install the packages needed to send text to the reader; and when you insert a ColorHug screen calibrator it suggests to install the driver for it. The system work well, and even have a few command line tools to install firmware packages and packages for the hardware already in the machine (as opposed to hotpluggable hardware).

The system was initially written using aptdaemon, because I found good documentation and example code on how to use it. But aptdaemon is going away and is generally being replaced by PackageKit, so Isenkram needed a rewrite. And today, thanks to the great patch from my college Sunil Mohan Adapa in the FreedomBox project, the rewrite finally took place. I've just uploaded a new version of Isenkram into Debian Unstable with the patch included, and the default for the background daemon is now to use PackageKit. To check it out, install the isenkram package and insert some hardware dongle and see if it is recognised.

If you want to know what kind of packages isenkram would propose for the machine it is running on, you can check out the isenkram-lookup program. This is what it look like on a Thinkpad X230:

% isenkram-lookup 

The hardware mappings come from several places. The preferred way is for packages to announce their hardware support using the cross distribution appstream system. See previous blog posts about isenkram to learn how to do that.

Tags: debian, english, isenkram.
Discharge rate estimate in new battery statistics collector for Debian
23rd May 2016

Yesterday I updated the battery-stats package in Debian with a few patches sent to me by skilled and enterprising users. There were some nice user and visible changes. First of all, both desktop menu entries now work. A design flaw in one of the script made the history graph fail to show up (its PNG was dumped in ~/.xsession-errors) if no controlling TTY was available. The script worked when called from the command line, but not when called from the desktop menu. I changed this to look for a DISPLAY variable or a TTY before deciding where to draw the graph, and now the graph window pop up as expected.

The next new feature is a discharge rate estimator in one of the graphs (the one showing the last few hours). New is also the user of colours showing charging in blue and discharge in red. The percentages of this graph is relative to last full charge, not battery design capacity.

The other graph show the entire history of the collected battery statistics, comparing it to the design capacity of the battery to visualise how the battery life time get shorter over time. The red line in this graph is what the previous graph considers 100 percent:

In this graph you can see that I only charge the battery to 80 percent of last full capacity, and how the capacity of the battery is shrinking. :(

The last new feature is in the collector, which now will handle more hardware models. On some hardware, Linux power supply information is stored in /sys/class/power_supply/ACAD/, while the collector previously only looked in /sys/class/power_supply/AC/. Now both are checked to figure if there is power connected to the machine.

If you are interested in how your laptop battery is doing, please check out the battery-stats in Debian unstable, or rebuild it on Jessie to get it working on Debian stable. :) The upstream source is available from github. Patches are very welcome.

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: debian, english.
French edition of Lawrence Lessigs book Cultura Libre on Amazon and Barnes & Noble
21st May 2016

A few weeks ago the French paperback edition of Lawrence Lessigs 2004 book Cultura Libre was published. Today I noticed that the book is now available from book stores. You can now buy it from Amazon ($19.99), Barnes & Noble ($?) and as always from ($19.99). The revenue is donated to the Creative Commons project. If you buy from, they currently get $10.59, while if you buy from one of the book stores most of the revenue go to the book store and the Creative Commons project get much (not sure how much less).

I was a bit surprised to discover that there is a kindle edition sold by Amazon Digital Services LLC on Amazon. Not quite sure how that edition was created, but if you want to download a electronic edition (PDF, EPUB, Mobi) generated from the same files used to create the paperback edition, they are available from github.

Tags: docbook, english, freeculture.
I want the courts to be involved before the police can hijack a news site DNS domain (#domstolkontroll)
19th May 2016

I just donated to the NUUG defence "fond" to fund the effort in Norway to get the seizure of the news site tested in court. I hope everyone that agree with me will do the same.

Would you be worried if you knew the police in your country could hijack DNS domains of news sites covering free software system without talking to a judge first? I am. What if the free software system combined search engine lookups, bittorrent downloads and video playout and was called Popcorn Time? Would that affect your view? It still make me worried.

In March 2016, the Norwegian police seized (as in forced NORID to change the IP address pointed to by it to one controlled by the police) the DNS domain, without any supervision from the courts. I did not know about the web site back then, and assumed the courts had been involved, and was very surprised when I discovered that the police had hijacked the DNS domain without asking a judge for permission first. I was even more surprised when I had a look at the web site content on the Internet Archive, and only found news coverage about Popcorn Time, not any material published without the right holders permissions.

The seizure was widely covered in the Norwegian press (see for example Hegnar Online and ITavisen and NRK), at first due to the press release sent out by ├śkokrim, but then based on protests from the law professor Olav Torvund and lawyer Jon Wessel-Aas. It even got some coverage on TorrentFreak.

I wrote about the case a month ago, when the Norwegian Unix User Group (NUUG), where I am an active member, decided to ask the courts to test this seizure. The request was denied, but NUUG and its co-requestor EFN have not given up, and now they are rallying for support to get the seizure legally challenged. They accept both bank and Bitcoin transfer for those that want to support the request.

If you as me believe news sites about free software should not be censored, even if the free software have both legal and illegal applications, and that DNS hijacking should be tested by the courts, I suggest you show your support by donating to NUUG.

Tags: english, nuug, offentlig innsyn, opphavsrett.
Debian now with ZFS on Linux included
12th May 2016

Today, after many years of hard work from many people, ZFS for Linux finally entered Debian. The package status can be seen on the package tracker for zfs-linux. and the team status page. If you want to help out, please join us. The source code is available via git on Alioth. It would also be great if you could help out with the dkms package, as it is an important piece of the puzzle to get ZFS working.

Tags: debian, english.
What is the best multimedia player in Debian?
8th May 2016

Where I set out to figure out which multimedia player in Debian claim support for most file formats.

A few years ago, I had a look at the media support for Browser plugins in Debian, to get an idea which plugins to include in Debian Edu. I created a script to extract the set of supported MIME types for each plugin, and used this to find out which multimedia browser plugin supported most file formats / media types. The result can still be seen on the Debian wiki, even though it have not been updated for a while. But browser plugins are less relevant these days, so I thought it was time to look at standalone players.

A few days ago I was tired of VLC not being listed as a viable player when I wanted to play videos from the Norwegian National Broadcasting Company, and decided to investigate why. The cause is a missing MIME type in the VLC desktop file. In the process I wrote a script to compare the set of MIME types announced in the desktop file and the browser plugin, only to discover that there is quite a large difference between the two for VLC. This discovery made me dig up the script I used to compare browser plugins, and adjust it to compare desktop files instead, to try to figure out which multimedia player in Debian support most file formats.

The result can be seen on the Debian Wiki, as a table listing all MIME types supported by one of the packages included in the table, with the package supporting most MIME types being listed first in the table.

The best multimedia player in Debian? It is totem, followed by parole, kplayer, mpv, vlc, smplayer mplayer-gui gnome-mpv and kmplayer. Time for the other players to update their announced MIME support?

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, multimedia, video.
The Pyra - handheld computer with Debian preinstalled
4th May 2016
A friend of mine made me aware of The Pyra, a handheld computer which will be delivered with Debian preinstalled. I would love to get one of those for my birthday. :)

The machine is a complete ARM-based PC with micro HDMI, SATA, USB plugs and many others connectors, and include a full keyboard and a 5" LCD touch screen. The 6000mAh battery is claimed to provide a whole day of battery life time, but I have not seen any independent tests confirming this. The vendor is still collecting preorders, and the last I heard last night was that 22 more orders were needed before production started.

As far as I know, this is the first handheld preinstalled with Debian. Please let me know if you know of any others. Is it the first computer being sold with Debian preinstalled?

Tags: debian, english.

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