Petter Reinholdtsen

Install hardware dependent packages using tasksel (Isenkram 0.7)
23rd April 2014

It would be nice if it was easier in Debian to get all the hardware related packages relevant for the computer installed automatically. So I implemented one, using my Isenkram package. To use it, install the tasksel and isenkram packages and run tasksel as user root. You should be presented with a new option, "Hardware specific packages (autodetected by isenkram)". When you select it, tasksel will install the packages isenkram claim is fit for the current hardware, hot pluggable or not.

The implementation is in two files, one is the tasksel menu entry description, and the other is the script used to extract the list of packages to install. The first part is in /usr/share/tasksel/descs/isenkram.desc and look like this:

Task: isenkram
Section: hardware
Description: Hardware specific packages (autodetected by isenkram)
 Based on the detected hardware various hardware specific packages are
Test-new-install: mark show
Relevance: 8
Packages: for-current-hardware

The second part is in /usr/lib/tasksel/packages/for-current-hardware and look like this:

    isenkram-autoinstall-firmware -l
) | sort -u

All in all, a very short and simple implementation making it trivial to install the hardware dependent package we all may want to have installed on our machines. I've not been able to find a way to get tasksel to tell you exactly which packages it plan to install before doing the installation. So if you are curious or careful, check the output from the isenkram-* command line tools first.

The information about which packages are handling which hardware is fetched either from the isenkram package itself in /usr/share/isenkram/, from or from the APT package database (using the Modaliases header). The APT package database parsing have caused a nasty resource leak in the isenkram daemon (bugs #719837 and #730704). The cause is in the python-apt code (bug #745487), but using a workaround I was able to get rid of the file descriptor leak and reduce the memory leak from ~30 MiB per hardware detection down to around 2 MiB per hardware detection. It should make the desktop daemon a lot more useful. The fix is in version 0.7 uploaded to unstable today.

I believe the current way of mapping hardware to packages in Isenkram is is a good draft, but in the future I expect isenkram to use the AppStream data source for this. A proposal for getting proper AppStream support into Debian is floating around as DEP-11, and GSoC project will take place this summer to improve the situation. I look forward to seeing the result, and welcome patches for isenkram to start using the information when it is ready.

If you want your package to map to some specific hardware, either add a "Xb-Modaliases" header to your control file like I did in the pymissile package or submit a bug report with the details to the isenkram package. See also all my blog posts tagged isenkram for details on the notation. I expect the information will be migrated to AppStream eventually, but for the moment I got no better place to store it.

Tags: debian, english, isenkram.

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