Petter Reinholdtsen

Entries tagged "debian".

From English wiki to translated PDF and epub via Docbook
17th June 2014

The Debian Edu / Skolelinux project provide an instruction manual for teachers, system administrators and other users that contain useful tips for setting up and maintaining a Debian Edu installation. This text is about how the text processing of this manual is handled in the project.

One goal of the project is to provide information in the native language of its users, and for this we need to handle translations. But we also want to make sure each language contain the same information, so for this we need a good way to keep the translations in sync. And we want it to be easy for our users to improve the documentation, avoiding the need to learn special formats or tools to contribute, and the obvious way to do this is to make it possible to edit the documentation using a web browser. We also want it to be easy for translators to keep the translation up to date, and give them help in figuring out what need to be translated. Here is the list of tools and the process we have found trying to reach all these goals.

We maintain the authoritative source of our manual in the Debian wiki, as several wiki pages written in English. It consist of one front page with references to the different chapters, several pages for each chapter, and finally one "collection page" gluing all the chapters together into one large web page (aka the AllInOne page). The AllInOne page is the one used for further processing and translations. Thanks to the fact that the MoinMoin installation on wiki.debian.org support exporting pages in the Docbook format, we can fetch the list of pages to export using the raw version of the AllInOne page, loop over each of them to generate a Docbook XML version of the manual. This process also download images and transform image references to use the locally downloaded images. The generated Docbook XML files are slightly broken, so some post-processing is done using the documentation/scripts/get_manual program, and the result is a nice Docbook XML file (debian-edu-wheezy-manual.xml) and a handfull of images. The XML file can now be used to generate PDF, HTML and epub versions of the English manual. This is the basic step of our process, making PDF (using dblatex), HTML (using xsltproc) and epub (using dbtoepub) version from Docbook XML, and the resulting files are placed in the debian-edu-doc-en binary package.

But English documentation is not enough for us. We want translated documentation too, and we want to make it easy for translators to track the English original. For this we use the poxml package, which allow us to transform the English Docbook XML file into a translation file (a .pot file), usable with the normal gettext based translation tools used by those translating free software. The pot file is used to create and maintain translation files (several .po files), which the translations update with the native language translations of all titles, paragraphs and blocks of text in the original. The next step is combining the original English Docbook XML and the translation file (say debian-edu-wheezy-manual.nb.po), to create a translated Docbook XML file (in this case debian-edu-wheezy-manual.nb.xml). This translated (or partly translated, if the translation is not complete) Docbook XML file can then be used like the original to create a PDF, HTML and epub version of the documentation.

The translators use different tools to edit the .po files. We recommend using lokalize, while some use emacs and vi, others can use web based editors like Poodle or Transifex. All we care about is where the .po file end up, in our git repository. Updated translations can either be committed directly to git, or submitted as bug reports against the debian-edu-doc package.

One challenge is images, which both might need to be translated (if they show translated user applications), and are needed in different formats when creating PDF and HTML versions (epub is a HTML version in this regard). For this we transform the original PNG images to the needed density and format during build, and have a way to provide translated images by storing translated versions in images/$LANGUAGECODE/. I am a bit unsure about the details here. The package maintainers know more.

If you wonder what the result look like, we provide the content of the documentation packages on the web. See for example the Italian PDF version or the German HTML version. We do not yet build the epub version by default, but perhaps it will be done in the future.

To learn more, check out the debian-edu-doc package, the manual on the wiki and the translation instructions in the manual.

Tags: debian, debian edu, docbook, english.
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
 proposed.
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:

#!/bin/sh
#
(
    isenkram-lookup
    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 git.debian.org 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.
FreedomBox milestone - all packages now in Debian Sid
15th April 2014

The Freedombox project is working on providing the software and hardware to make it easy for non-technical people to host their data and communication at home, and being able to communicate with their friends and family encrypted and away from prying eyes. It is still going strong, and today a major mile stone was reached.

Today, the last of the packages currently used by the project to created the system images were accepted into Debian Unstable. It was the freedombox-setup package, which is used to configure the images during build and on the first boot. Now all one need to get going is the build code from the freedom-maker git repository and packages from Debian. And once the freedombox-setup package enter testing, we can build everything directly from Debian. :)

Some key packages used by Freedombox are freedombox-setup, plinth, pagekite, tor, privoxy, owncloud and dnsmasq. There are plans to integrate more packages into the setup. User documentation is maintained on the Debian wiki. Please check out the manual and help us improve it.

To test for yourself and create boot images with the FreedomBox setup, run this on a Debian machine using a user with sudo rights to become root:

sudo apt-get install git vmdebootstrap mercurial python-docutils \
  mktorrent extlinux virtualbox qemu-user-static binfmt-support \
  u-boot-tools
git clone http://anonscm.debian.org/git/freedombox/freedom-maker.git \
  freedom-maker
make -C freedom-maker dreamplug-image raspberry-image virtualbox-image

Root access is needed to run debootstrap and mount loopback devices. See the README in the freedom-maker git repo for more details on the build. If you do not want all three images, trim the make line. Note that the virtualbox-image target is not really virtualbox specific. It create a x86 image usable in kvm, qemu, vmware and any other x86 virtual machine environment. You might need the version of vmdebootstrap in Jessie to get the build working, as it include fixes for a race condition with kpartx.

If you instead want to install using a Debian CD and the preseed method, boot a Debian Wheezy ISO and use this boot argument to load the preseed values:

url=http://www.reinholdtsen.name/freedombox/preseed-jessie.dat

I have not tested it myself the last few weeks, so I do not know if it still work.

If you wonder how to help, one task you could look at is using systemd as the boot system. It will become the default for Linux in Jessie, so we need to make sure it is usable on the Freedombox. I did a simple test a few weeks ago, and noticed dnsmasq failed to start during boot when using systemd. I suspect there are other problems too. :) To detect problems, there is a test suite included, which can be run from the plinth web interface.

Give it a go and let us know how it goes on the mailing list, and help us get the new release published. :) Please join us on IRC (#freedombox on irc.debian.org) and the mailing list if you want to help make this vision come true.

Tags: debian, english, freedombox, sikkerhet, surveillance, web.
S3QL, a locally mounted cloud file system - nice free software
9th April 2014

For a while now, I have been looking for a sensible offsite backup solution for use at home. My requirements are simple, it must be cheap and locally encrypted (in other words, I keep the encryption keys, the storage provider do not have access to my private files). One idea me and my friends had many years ago, before the cloud storage providers showed up, was to use Google mail as storage, writing a Linux block device storing blocks as emails in the mail service provided by Google, and thus get heaps of free space. On top of this one can add encryption, RAID and volume management to have lots of (fairly slow, I admit that) cheap and encrypted storage. But I never found time to implement such system. But the last few weeks I have looked at a system called S3QL, a locally mounted network backed file system with the features I need.

S3QL is a fuse file system with a local cache and cloud storage, handling several different storage providers, any with Amazon S3, Google Drive or OpenStack API. There are heaps of such storage providers. S3QL can also use a local directory as storage, which combined with sshfs allow for file storage on any ssh server. S3QL include support for encryption, compression, de-duplication, snapshots and immutable file systems, allowing me to mount the remote storage as a local mount point, look at and use the files as if they were local, while the content is stored in the cloud as well. This allow me to have a backup that should survive fire. The file system can not be shared between several machines at the same time, as only one can mount it at the time, but any machine with the encryption key and access to the storage service can mount it if it is unmounted.

It is simple to use. I'm using it on Debian Wheezy, where the package is included already. So to get started, run apt-get install s3ql. Next, pick a storage provider. I ended up picking Greenqloud, after reading their nice recipe on how to use S3QL with their Amazon S3 service, because I trust the laws in Iceland more than those in USA when it come to keeping my personal data safe and private, and thus would rather spend money on a company in Iceland. Another nice recipe is available from the article S3QL Filesystem for HPC Storage by Jeff Layton in the HPC section of Admin magazine. When the provider is picked, figure out how to get the API key needed to connect to the storage API. With Greencloud, the key did not show up until I had added payment details to my account.

Armed with the API access details, it is time to create the file system. First, create a new bucket in the cloud. This bucket is the file system storage area. I picked a bucket name reflecting the machine that was going to store data there, but any name will do. I'll refer to it as bucket-name below. In addition, one need the API login and password, and a locally created password. Store it all in ~root/.s3ql/authinfo2 like this:

[s3c]
storage-url: s3c://s.greenqloud.com:443/bucket-name
backend-login: API-login
backend-password: API-password
fs-passphrase: local-password

I create my local passphrase using pwget 50 or similar, but any sensible way to create a fairly random password should do it. Armed with these details, it is now time to run mkfs, entering the API details and password to create it:

# mkdir -m 700 /var/lib/s3ql-cache
# mkfs.s3ql --cachedir /var/lib/s3ql-cache --authfile /root/.s3ql/authinfo2 \
  --ssl s3c://s.greenqloud.com:443/bucket-name
Enter backend login: 
Enter backend password: 
Before using S3QL, make sure to read the user's guide, especially
the 'Important Rules to Avoid Loosing Data' section.
Enter encryption password: 
Confirm encryption password: 
Generating random encryption key...
Creating metadata tables...
Dumping metadata...
..objects..
..blocks..
..inodes..
..inode_blocks..
..symlink_targets..
..names..
..contents..
..ext_attributes..
Compressing and uploading metadata...
Wrote 0.00 MB of compressed metadata.
# 

The next step is mounting the file system to make the storage available.

# mount.s3ql --cachedir /var/lib/s3ql-cache --authfile /root/.s3ql/authinfo2 \
  --ssl --allow-root s3c://s.greenqloud.com:443/bucket-name /s3ql
Using 4 upload threads.
Downloading and decompressing metadata...
Reading metadata...
..objects..
..blocks..
..inodes..
..inode_blocks..
..symlink_targets..
..names..
..contents..
..ext_attributes..
Mounting filesystem...
# df -h /s3ql
Filesystem                              Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
s3c://s.greenqloud.com:443/bucket-name  1.0T     0  1.0T   0% /s3ql
#

The file system is now ready for use. I use rsync to store my backups in it, and as the metadata used by rsync is downloaded at mount time, no network traffic (and storage cost) is triggered by running rsync. To unmount, one should not use the normal umount command, as this will not flush the cache to the cloud storage, but instead running the umount.s3ql command like this:

# umount.s3ql /s3ql
# 

There is a fsck command available to check the file system and correct any problems detected. This can be used if the local server crashes while the file system is mounted, to reset the "already mounted" flag. This is what it look like when processing a working file system:

# fsck.s3ql --force --ssl s3c://s.greenqloud.com:443/bucket-name
Using cached metadata.
File system seems clean, checking anyway.
Checking DB integrity...
Creating temporary extra indices...
Checking lost+found...
Checking cached objects...
Checking names (refcounts)...
Checking contents (names)...
Checking contents (inodes)...
Checking contents (parent inodes)...
Checking objects (reference counts)...
Checking objects (backend)...
..processed 5000 objects so far..
..processed 10000 objects so far..
..processed 15000 objects so far..
Checking objects (sizes)...
Checking blocks (referenced objects)...
Checking blocks (refcounts)...
Checking inode-block mapping (blocks)...
Checking inode-block mapping (inodes)...
Checking inodes (refcounts)...
Checking inodes (sizes)...
Checking extended attributes (names)...
Checking extended attributes (inodes)...
Checking symlinks (inodes)...
Checking directory reachability...
Checking unix conventions...
Checking referential integrity...
Dropping temporary indices...
Backing up old metadata...
Dumping metadata...
..objects..
..blocks..
..inodes..
..inode_blocks..
..symlink_targets..
..names..
..contents..
..ext_attributes..
Compressing and uploading metadata...
Wrote 0.89 MB of compressed metadata.
# 

Thanks to the cache, working on files that fit in the cache is very quick, about the same speed as local file access. Uploading large amount of data is to me limited by the bandwidth out of and into my house. Uploading 685 MiB with a 100 MiB cache gave me 305 kiB/s, which is very close to my upload speed, and downloading the same Debian installation ISO gave me 610 kiB/s, close to my download speed. Both were measured using dd. So for me, the bottleneck is my network, not the file system code. I do not know what a good cache size would be, but suspect that the cache should e larger than your working set.

I mentioned that only one machine can mount the file system at the time. If another machine try, it is told that the file system is busy:

# mount.s3ql --cachedir /var/lib/s3ql-cache --authfile /root/.s3ql/authinfo2 \
  --ssl --allow-root s3c://s.greenqloud.com:443/bucket-name /s3ql
Using 8 upload threads.
Backend reports that fs is still mounted elsewhere, aborting.
#

The file content is uploaded when the cache is full, while the metadata is uploaded once every 24 hour by default. To ensure the file system content is flushed to the cloud, one can either umount the file system, or ask S3QL to flush the cache and metadata using s3qlctrl:

# s3qlctrl upload-meta /s3ql
# s3qlctrl flushcache /s3ql
# 

If you are curious about how much space your data uses in the cloud, and how much compression and deduplication cut down on the storage usage, you can use s3qlstat on the mounted file system to get a report:

# s3qlstat /s3ql
Directory entries:    9141
Inodes:               9143
Data blocks:          8851
Total data size:      22049.38 MB
After de-duplication: 21955.46 MB (99.57% of total)
After compression:    21877.28 MB (99.22% of total, 99.64% of de-duplicated)
Database size:        2.39 MB (uncompressed)
(some values do not take into account not-yet-uploaded dirty blocks in cache)
#

I mentioned earlier that there are several possible suppliers of storage. I did not try to locate them all, but am aware of at least Greenqloud, Google Drive, Amazon S3 web serivces, Rackspace and Crowncloud. The latter even accept payment in Bitcoin. Pick one that suit your need. Some of them provide several GiB of free storage, but the prize models are quite different and you will have to figure out what suits you best.

While researching this blog post, I had a look at research papers and posters discussing the S3QL file system. There are several, which told me that the file system is getting a critical check by the science community and increased my confidence in using it. One nice poster is titled "An Innovative Parallel Cloud Storage System using OpenStack’s SwiftObject Store and Transformative Parallel I/O Approach" by Hsing-Bung Chen, Benjamin McClelland, David Sherrill, Alfred Torrez, Parks Fields and Pamela Smith. Please have a look.

Given my problems with different file systems earlier, I decided to check out the mounted S3QL file system to see if it would be usable as a home directory (in other word, that it provided POSIX semantics when it come to locking and umask handling etc). Running my test code to check file system semantics, I was happy to discover that no error was found. So the file system can be used for home directories, if one chooses to do so.

If you do not want a locally file system, and want something that work without the Linux fuse file system, I would like to mention the Tarsnap service, which also provide locally encrypted backup using a command line client. It have a nicer access control system, where one can split out read and write access, allowing some systems to write to the backup and others to only read from it.

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, personvern, sikkerhet.
Freedombox on Dreamplug, Raspberry Pi and virtual x86 machine
14th March 2014

The Freedombox project is working on providing the software and hardware for making it easy for non-technical people to host their data and communication at home, and being able to communicate with their friends and family encrypted and away from prying eyes. It has been going on for a while, and is slowly progressing towards a new test release (0.2).

And what day could be better than the Pi day to announce that the new version will provide "hard drive" / SD card / USB stick images for Dreamplug, Raspberry Pi and VirtualBox (or any other virtualization system), and can also be installed using a Debian installer preseed file. The Debian based Freedombox is now based on Debian Jessie, where most of the needed packages used are already present. Only one, the freedombox-setup package, is missing. To try to build your own boot image to test the current status, fetch the freedom-maker scripts and build using vmdebootstrap with a user with sudo access to become root:

git clone http://anonscm.debian.org/git/freedombox/freedom-maker.git \
  freedom-maker
sudo apt-get install git vmdebootstrap mercurial python-docutils \
  mktorrent extlinux virtualbox qemu-user-static binfmt-support \
  u-boot-tools
make -C freedom-maker dreamplug-image raspberry-image virtualbox-image

Root access is needed to run debootstrap and mount loopback devices. See the README for more details on the build. If you do not want all three images, trim the make line. But note that thanks to a race condition in vmdebootstrap, the build might fail without the patch to the kpartx call.

If you instead want to install using a Debian CD and the preseed method, boot a Debian Wheezy ISO and use this boot argument to load the preseed values:

url=http://www.reinholdtsen.name/freedombox/preseed-jessie.dat

But note that due to a recently introduced bug in apt in Jessie, the installer will currently hang while setting up APT sources. Killing the 'apt-cdrom ident' process when it hang a few times during the installation will get the installation going. This affect all installations in Jessie, and I expect it will be fixed soon.

Give it a go and let us know how it goes on the mailing list, and help us get the new release published. :) Please join us on IRC (#freedombox on irc.debian.org) and the mailing list if you want to help make this vision come true.

Tags: debian, english, freedombox, sikkerhet, surveillance, web.
New home and release 1.0 for netgroup and innetgr (aka ng-utils)
22nd February 2014

Many years ago, I wrote a GPL licensed version of the netgroup and innetgr tools, because I needed them in Skolelinux. I called the project ng-utils, and it has served me well. I placed the project under the Hungry Programmer umbrella, and it was maintained in our CVS repository. But many years ago, the CVS repository was dropped (lost, not migrated to new hardware, not sure), and the project have lacked a proper home since then.

Last summer, I had a look at the package and made a new release fixing a irritating crash bug, but was unable to store the changes in a proper source control system. I applied for a project on Alioth, but did not have time to follow up on it. Until today. :)

After many hours of cleaning and migration, the ng-utils project now have a new home, and a git repository with the highlight of the history of the project. I published all release tarballs and imported them into the git repository. As the project is really stable and not expected to gain new features any time soon, I decided to make a new release and call it 1.0. Visit the new project home on https://alioth.debian.org/projects/ng-utils/ if you want to check it out. The new version is also uploaded into Debian Unstable.

Tags: debian, english.
Testing sysvinit from experimental in Debian Hurd
3rd February 2014

A few days ago I decided to try to help the Hurd people to get their changes into sysvinit, to allow them to use the normal sysvinit boot system instead of their old one. This follow up on the great Google Summer of Code work done last summer by Justus Winter to get Debian on Hurd working more like Debian on Linux. To get started, I downloaded a prebuilt hard disk image from http://ftp.debian-ports.org/debian-cd/hurd-i386/current/debian-hurd.img.tar.gz, and started it using virt-manager.

The first think I had to do after logging in (root without any password) was to get the network operational. I followed the instructions on the Debian GNU/Hurd ports page and ran these commands as root to get the machine to accept a IP address from the kvm internal DHCP server:

settrans -fgap /dev/netdde /hurd/netdde
kill $(ps -ef|awk '/[p]finet/ { print $2}')
kill $(ps -ef|awk '/[d]evnode/ { print $2}')
dhclient /dev/eth0

After this, the machine had internet connectivity, and I could upgrade it and install the sysvinit packages from experimental and enable it as the default boot system in Hurd.

But before I did that, I set a password on the root user, as ssh is running on the machine it for ssh login to work a password need to be set. Also, note that a bug somewhere in openssh on Hurd block compression from working. Remember to turn that off on the client side.

Run these commands as root to upgrade and test the new sysvinit stuff:

cat > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/experimental.list <<EOF
deb http://http.debian.net/debian/ experimental main
EOF
apt-get update
apt-get dist-upgrade
apt-get install -t experimental initscripts sysv-rc sysvinit \
    sysvinit-core sysvinit-utils
update-alternatives --config runsystem

To reboot after switching boot system, you have to use reboot-hurd instead of just reboot, as there is not yet a sysvinit process able to receive the signals from the normal 'reboot' command. After switching to sysvinit as the boot system, upgrading every package and rebooting, the network come up with DHCP after boot as it should, and the settrans/pkill hack mentioned at the start is no longer needed. But for some strange reason, there are no longer any login prompt in the virtual console, so I logged in using ssh instead.

Note that there are some race conditions in Hurd making the boot fail some times. No idea what the cause is, but hope the Hurd porters figure it out. At least Justus said on IRC (#debian-hurd on irc.debian.org) that they are aware of the problem. A way to reduce the impact is to upgrade to the Hurd packages built by Justus by adding this repository to the machine:

cat > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/hurd-ci.list <<EOF
deb http://darnassus.sceen.net/~teythoon/hurd-ci/ sid main
EOF

At the moment the prebuilt virtual machine get some packages from http://ftp.debian-ports.org/debian, because some of the packages in unstable do not yet include the required patches that are lingering in BTS. This is the completely list of "unofficial" packages installed:

# aptitude search '?narrow(?version(CURRENT),?origin(Debian Ports))'
i   emacs                   - GNU Emacs editor (metapackage)
i   gdb                     - GNU Debugger
i   hurd-recommended        - Miscellaneous translators
i   isc-dhcp-client         - ISC DHCP client
i   isc-dhcp-common         - common files used by all the isc-dhcp* packages
i   libc-bin                - Embedded GNU C Library: Binaries
i   libc-dev-bin            - Embedded GNU C Library: Development binaries
i   libc0.3                 - Embedded GNU C Library: Shared libraries
i A libc0.3-dbg             - Embedded GNU C Library: detached debugging symbols
i   libc0.3-dev             - Embedded GNU C Library: Development Libraries and Hea
i   multiarch-support       - Transitional package to ensure multiarch compatibilit
i A x11-common              - X Window System (X.Org) infrastructure
i   xorg                    - X.Org X Window System
i A xserver-xorg            - X.Org X server
i A xserver-xorg-input-all  - X.Org X server -- input driver metapackage
#

All in all, testing hurd has been an interesting experience. :) X.org did not work out of the box and I never took the time to follow the porters instructions to fix it. This time I was interested in the command line stuff.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, english.
New chrpath release 0.16
14th January 2014

Coverity is a nice tool to find problems in C, C++ and Java code using static source code analysis. It can detect a lot of different problems, and is very useful to find memory and locking bugs in the error handling part of the source. The company behind it provide check of free software projects as a community service, and many hundred free software projects are already checked. A few days ago I decided to have a closer look at the Coverity system, and discovered that the gnash and ipmitool projects I am involved with was already registered. But these are fairly big, and I would also like to have a small and easy project to check, and decided to request checking of the chrpath project. It was added to the checker and discovered seven potential defects. Six of these were real, mostly resource "leak" when the program detected an error. Nothing serious, as the resources would be released a fraction of a second later when the program exited because of the error, but it is nice to do it right in case the source of the program some time in the future end up in a library. Having fixed all defects and added a mailing list for the chrpath developers, I decided it was time to publish a new release. These are the release notes:

New in 0.16 released 2014-01-14:

You can download the new version 0.16 from alioth. Please let us know via the Alioth project if something is wrong with the new release. The test suite did not discover any old errors, so if you find a new one, please also include a test suite check.

Tags: chrpath, debian, english.
New chrpath release 0.15
24th November 2013

After many years break from the package and a vain hope that development would be continued by someone else, I finally pulled my acts together this morning and wrapped up a new release of chrpath, the command line tool to modify the rpath and runpath of already compiled ELF programs. The update was triggered by the persistence of Isha Vishnoi at IBM, which needed a new config.guess file to get support for the ppc64le architecture (powerpc 64-bit Little Endian) he is working on. I checked the Debian, Ubuntu and Fedora packages for interesting patches (failed to find the source from OpenSUSE and Mandriva packages), and found quite a few nice fixes. These are the release notes:

New in 0.15 released 2013-11-24:

You can download the new version 0.15 from alioth. Please let us know via the Alioth project if something is wrong with the new release. The test suite did not discover any old errors, so if you find a new one, please also include a testsuite check.

Tags: chrpath, debian, english.
Debian init.d boot script example for rsyslog
2nd November 2013

If one of the points of switching to a new init system in Debian is to get rid of huge init.d scripts, I doubt we need to switch away from sysvinit and init.d scripts at all. Here is an example init.d script, ie a rewrite of /etc/init.d/rsyslog:

#!/lib/init/init-d-script
### BEGIN INIT INFO
# Provides:          rsyslog
# Required-Start:    $remote_fs $time
# Required-Stop:     umountnfs $time
# X-Stop-After:      sendsigs
# Default-Start:     2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop:      0 1 6
# Short-Description: enhanced syslogd
# Description:       Rsyslog is an enhanced multi-threaded syslogd.
#                    It is quite compatible to stock sysklogd and can be 
#                    used as a drop-in replacement.
### END INIT INFO
DESC="enhanced syslogd"
DAEMON=/usr/sbin/rsyslogd

Pretty minimalistic to me... For the record, the original sysv-rc script was 137 lines, and the above is just 15 lines, most of it meta info/comments.

How to do this, you ask? Well, one create a new script /lib/init/init-d-script looking something like this:

#!/bin/sh

# Define LSB log_* functions.
# Depend on lsb-base (>= 3.2-14) to ensure that this file is present
# and status_of_proc is working.
. /lib/lsb/init-functions

#
# Function that starts the daemon/service

#
do_start()
{
	# Return
	#   0 if daemon has been started
	#   1 if daemon was already running
	#   2 if daemon could not be started
	start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --pidfile $PIDFILE --exec $DAEMON --test > /dev/null \
		|| return 1
	start-stop-daemon --start --quiet --pidfile $PIDFILE --exec $DAEMON -- \
		$DAEMON_ARGS \
		|| return 2
	# Add code here, if necessary, that waits for the process to be ready
	# to handle requests from services started subsequently which depend
	# on this one.  As a last resort, sleep for some time.
}

#
# Function that stops the daemon/service
#
do_stop()
{
	# Return
	#   0 if daemon has been stopped
	#   1 if daemon was already stopped
	#   2 if daemon could not be stopped
	#   other if a failure occurred
	start-stop-daemon --stop --quiet --retry=TERM/30/KILL/5 --pidfile $PIDFILE --name $NAME
	RETVAL="$?"
	[ "$RETVAL" = 2 ] && return 2
	# Wait for children to finish too if this is a daemon that forks
	# and if the daemon is only ever run from this initscript.
	# If the above conditions are not satisfied then add some other code
	# that waits for the process to drop all resources that could be
	# needed by services started subsequently.  A last resort is to
	# sleep for some time.
	start-stop-daemon --stop --quiet --oknodo --retry=0/30/KILL/5 --exec $DAEMON
	[ "$?" = 2 ] && return 2
	# Many daemons don't delete their pidfiles when they exit.
	rm -f $PIDFILE
	return "$RETVAL"
}

#
# Function that sends a SIGHUP to the daemon/service
#
do_reload() {
	#
	# If the daemon can reload its configuration without
	# restarting (for example, when it is sent a SIGHUP),
	# then implement that here.
	#
	start-stop-daemon --stop --signal 1 --quiet --pidfile $PIDFILE --name $NAME
	return 0
}

SCRIPTNAME=$1
scriptbasename="$(basename $1)"
echo "SN: $scriptbasename"
if [ "$scriptbasename" != "init-d-library" ] ; then
    script="$1"
    shift
    . $script
else
    exit 0
fi

NAME=$(basename $DAEMON)
PIDFILE=/var/run/$NAME.pid

# Exit if the package is not installed
#[ -x "$DAEMON" ] || exit 0

# Read configuration variable file if it is present
[ -r /etc/default/$NAME ] && . /etc/default/$NAME

# Load the VERBOSE setting and other rcS variables
. /lib/init/vars.sh

case "$1" in
  start)
	[ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_daemon_msg "Starting $DESC" "$NAME"
	do_start
	case "$?" in
		0|1) [ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_end_msg 0 ;;
		2) [ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_end_msg 1 ;;
	esac
	;;
  stop)
	[ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_daemon_msg "Stopping $DESC" "$NAME"
	do_stop
	case "$?" in
		0|1) [ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_end_msg 0 ;;
		2) [ "$VERBOSE" != no ] && log_end_msg 1 ;;
	esac
	;;
  status)
	status_of_proc "$DAEMON" "$NAME" && exit 0 || exit $?
	;;
  #reload|force-reload)
	#
	# If do_reload() is not implemented then leave this commented out
	# and leave 'force-reload' as an alias for 'restart'.
	#
	#log_daemon_msg "Reloading $DESC" "$NAME"
	#do_reload
	#log_end_msg $?
	#;;
  restart|force-reload)
	#
	# If the "reload" option is implemented then remove the
	# 'force-reload' alias
	#
	log_daemon_msg "Restarting $DESC" "$NAME"
	do_stop
	case "$?" in
	  0|1)
		do_start
		case "$?" in
			0) log_end_msg 0 ;;
			1) log_end_msg 1 ;; # Old process is still running
			*) log_end_msg 1 ;; # Failed to start
		esac
		;;
	  *)
		# Failed to stop
		log_end_msg 1
		;;
	esac
	;;
  *)
	echo "Usage: $SCRIPTNAME {start|stop|status|restart|force-reload}" >&2
	exit 3
	;;
esac

:

It is based on /etc/init.d/skeleton, and could be improved quite a lot. I did not really polish the approach, so it might not always work out of the box, but you get the idea. I did not try very hard to optimize it nor make it more robust either.

A better argument for switching init system in Debian than reducing the size of init scripts (which is a good thing to do anyway), is to get boot system that is able to handle the kernel events sensibly and robustly, and do not depend on the boot to run sequentially. The boot and the kernel have not behaved sequentially in years.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, english.
Browser plugin for SPICE (spice-xpi) uploaded to Debian
1st November 2013

The SPICE protocol for remote display access is the preferred solution with oVirt and RedHat Enterprise Virtualization, and I was sad to discover the other day that the browser plugin needed to use these systems seamlessly was missing in Debian. The request for a package was from 2012-04-10 with no progress since 2013-04-01, so I decided to wrap up a package based on the great work from Cajus Pollmeier and put it in a collab-maint maintained git repository to get a package I could use. I would very much like others to help me maintain the package (or just take over, I do not mind), but as no-one had volunteered so far, I just uploaded it to NEW. I hope it will be available in Debian in a few days.

The source is now available from http://anonscm.debian.org/gitweb/?p=collab-maint/spice-xpi.git;a=summary.

Tags: debian, english.
Teaching vmdebootstrap to create Raspberry Pi SD card images
27th October 2013

The vmdebootstrap program is a a very nice system to create virtual machine images. It create a image file, add a partition table, mount it and run debootstrap in the mounted directory to create a Debian system on a stick. Yesterday, I decided to try to teach it how to make images for Raspberry Pi, as part of a plan to simplify the build system for the FreedomBox project. The FreedomBox project already uses vmdebootstrap for the virtualbox images, but its current build system made multistrap based system for Dreamplug images, and it is lacking support for Raspberry Pi.

Armed with the knowledge on how to build "foreign" (aka non-native architecture) chroots for Raspberry Pi, I dived into the vmdebootstrap code and adjusted it to be able to build armel images on my amd64 Debian laptop. I ended up giving vmdebootstrap five new options, allowing me to replicate the image creation process I use to make Debian Jessie based mesh node images for the Raspberry Pi. First, the --foreign /path/to/binfm_handler option tell vmdebootstrap to call debootstrap with --foreign and to copy the handler into the generated chroot before running the second stage. This allow vmdebootstrap to create armel images on an amd64 host. Next I added two new options --bootsize size and --boottype fstype to teach it to create a separate /boot/ partition with the given file system type, allowing me to create an image with a vfat partition for the /boot/ stuff. I also added a --variant variant option to allow me to create smaller images without the Debian base system packages installed. Finally, I added an option --no-extlinux to tell vmdebootstrap to not install extlinux as a boot loader. It is not needed on the Raspberry Pi and probably most other non-x86 architectures. The changes were accepted by the upstream author of vmdebootstrap yesterday and today, and is now available from the upstream project page.

To use it to build a Raspberry Pi image using Debian Jessie, first create a small script (the customize script) to add the non-free binary blob needed to boot the Raspberry Pi and the APT source list:

#!/bin/sh
set -e # Exit on first error
rootdir="$1"
cd "$rootdir"
cat <<EOF > etc/apt/sources.list
deb http://http.debian.net/debian/ jessie main contrib non-free
EOF
# Install non-free binary blob needed to boot Raspberry Pi.  This
# install a kernel somewhere too.
wget https://raw.github.com/Hexxeh/rpi-update/master/rpi-update \
    -O $rootdir/usr/bin/rpi-update
chmod a+x $rootdir/usr/bin/rpi-update
mkdir -p $rootdir/lib/modules
touch $rootdir/boot/start.elf
chroot $rootdir rpi-update

Next, fetch the latest vmdebootstrap script and call it like this to build the image:

sudo ./vmdebootstrap \
    --variant minbase \
    --arch armel \
    --distribution jessie \
    --mirror http://http.debian.net/debian \
    --image test.img \
    --size 600M \
    --bootsize 64M \
    --boottype vfat \
    --log-level debug \
    --verbose \
    --no-kernel \
    --no-extlinux \
    --root-password raspberry \
    --hostname raspberrypi \
    --foreign /usr/bin/qemu-arm-static \
    --customize `pwd`/customize \
    --package netbase \
    --package git-core \
    --package binutils \
    --package ca-certificates \
    --package wget \
    --package kmod

The list of packages being installed are the ones needed by rpi-update to make the image bootable on the Raspberry Pi, with the exception of netbase, which is needed by debootstrap to find /etc/hosts with the minbase variant. I really wish there was a way to set up an Raspberry Pi using only packages in the Debian archive, but that is not possible as far as I know, because it boots from the GPU using a non-free binary blob.

The build host need debootstrap, kpartx and qemu-user-static and probably a few others installed. I have not checked the complete build dependency list.

The resulting image will not use the hardware floating point unit on the Raspberry PI, because the armel architecture in Debian is not optimized for that use. So the images created will be a bit slower than Raspbian based images.

Tags: debian, english, freedombox, mesh network.
Good causes: Debian Outreach Program for Women, EFF documenting the spying and Open access in Norway
15th October 2013

The last few days I came across a few good causes that should get wider attention. I recommend signing and donating to each one of these. :)

Via Debian Project News for 2013-10-14 I came across the Outreach Program for Women program which is a Google Summer of Code like initiative to get more women involved in free software. One debian sponsor has offered to match any donation done to Debian earmarked for this initiative. I donated a few minutes ago, and hope you will to. :)

And the Electronic Frontier Foundation just announced plans to create video documentaries about the excessive spying on every Internet user that take place these days, and their need to fund the work. I've already donated. Are you next?

For my Norwegian audience, the organisation Studentenes og Akademikernes Internasjonale Hjelpefond is collecting signatures for a statement under the heading Bloggers United for Open Access for those of us asking for more focus on open access in the Norwegian government. So far 499 signatures. I hope you will sign it too.

Tags: debian, english, opphavsrett, surveillance.
Videos about the Freedombox project - for inspiration and learning
27th September 2013

The Freedombox project have been going on for a while, and have presented the vision, ideas and solution several places. Here is a little collection of videos of talks and presentation of the project.

A larger list is available from the Freedombox Wiki.

On other news, I am happy to report that Freedombox based on Debian Jessie is coming along quite well, and soon both Owncloud and using Tor should be available for testers of the Freedombox solution. :) In a few weeks I hope everything needed to test it is included in Debian. The withsqlite package is already in Debian, and the plinth package is pending in NEW. The third and vital part of that puzzle is the metapackage/setup framework, which is still pending an upload. Join us on IRC (#freedombox on irc.debian.org) and the mailing list if you want to help make this vision come true.

Tags: debian, english, freedombox, sikkerhet, surveillance, web.
Recipe to test the Freedombox project on amd64 or Raspberry Pi
10th September 2013

I was introduced to the Freedombox project in 2010, when Eben Moglen presented his vision about serving the need of non-technical people to keep their personal information private and within the legal protection of their own homes. The idea is to give people back the power over their network and machines, and return Internet back to its intended peer-to-peer architecture. Instead of depending on a central service, the Freedombox will give everyone control over their own basic infrastructure.

I've intended to join the effort since then, but other tasks have taken priority. But this summers nasty news about the misuse of trust and privilege exercised by the "western" intelligence gathering communities increased my eagerness to contribute to a point where I actually started working on the project a while back.

The initial Debian initiative based on the vision from Eben Moglen, is to create a simple and cheap Debian based appliance that anyone can hook up in their home and get access to secure and private services and communication. The initial deployment platform have been the Dreamplug, which is a piece of hardware I do not own. So to be able to test what the current Freedombox setup look like, I had to come up with a way to install it on some hardware I do have access to. I have rewritten the freedom-maker image build framework to use .deb packages instead of only copying setup into the boot images, and thanks to this rewrite I am able to set up any machine supported by Debian Wheezy as a Freedombox, using the previously mentioned deb (and a few support debs for packages missing in Debian).

The current Freedombox setup consist of a set of bootstrapping scripts (freedombox-setup), and a administrative web interface (plinth + exmachina + withsqlite), as well as a privacy enhancing proxy based on privoxy (freedombox-privoxy). There is also a web/javascript based XMPP client (jwchat) trying (unsuccessfully so far) to talk to the XMPP server (ejabberd). The web interface is pluggable, and the goal is to use it to enable OpenID services, mesh network connectivity, use of TOR, etc, etc. Not much of this is really working yet, see the project TODO for links to GIT repositories. Most of the code is on github at the moment. The HTTP proxy is operational out of the box, and the admin web interface can be used to add/remove plinth users. I've not been able to do anything else with it so far, but know there are several branches spread around github and other places with lots of half baked features.

Anyway, if you want to have a look at the current state, the following recipes should work to give you a test machine to poke at.

Debian Wheezy amd64

  1. Fetch normal Debian Wheezy installation ISO.
  2. Boot from it, either as CD or USB stick.
  3. Press [tab] on the boot prompt and add this as a boot argument to the Debian installer:

    url=http://www.reinholdtsen.name/freedombox/preseed-wheezy.dat
  4. Answer the few language/region/password questions and pick disk to install on.
  5. When the installation is finished and the machine have rebooted a few times, your Freedombox is ready for testing.

Raspberry Pi Raspbian

  1. Fetch a Raspbian SD card image, create SD card.
  2. Boot from SD card, extend file system to fill the card completely.
  3. Log in and add this to /etc/sources.list:

    deb http://www.reinholdtsen.name/freedombox wheezy main
    
  4. Run this as root:

    wget -O - http://www.reinholdtsen.name/freedombox/BE1A583D.asc | \
       apt-key add -
    apt-get update
    apt-get install freedombox-setup
    /usr/lib/freedombox/setup
    
  5. Reboot into your freshly created Freedombox.

You can test it on other architectures too, but because the freedombox-privoxy package is binary, it will only work as intended on the architectures where I have had time to build the binary and put it in my APT repository. But do not let this stop you. It is only a short "apt-get source -b freedombox-privoxy" away. :)

Note that by default Freedombox is a DHCP server on the 192.168.1.0/24 subnet, so if this is your subnet be careful and turn off the DHCP server by running "update-rc.d isc-dhcp-server disable" as root.

Please let me know if this works for you, or if you have any problems. We gather on the IRC channel #freedombox on irc.debian.org and the project mailing list.

Once you get your freedombox operational, you can visit http://your-host-name:8001/ to see the state of the plint welcome screen (dead end - do not be surprised if you are unable to get past it), and next visit http://your-host-name:8001/help/ to look at the rest of plinth. The default user is 'admin' and the default password is 'secret'.

Tags: debian, english, freedombox, sikkerhet, surveillance, web.
Intel 180 SSD disk with Lenovo firmware can not use Intel firmware
18th August 2013

Earlier, I reported about my problems using an Intel SSD 520 Series 180 GB disk. Friday I was told by IBM that the original disk should be thrown away. And as there no longer was a problem if I bricked the firmware, I decided today to try to install Intel firmware to replace the Lenovo firmware currently on the disk.

I searched the Intel site for firmware, and found issdfut_2.0.4.iso (aka Intel SATA Solid-State Drive Firmware Update Tool) which according to the site should contain the latest firmware for SSD disks. I inserted the broken disk in one of my spare laptops and booted the ISO from a USB stick. The disk was recognized, but the program claimed the newest firmware already were installed and refused to insert any Intel firmware. So no change, and the disk is still unable to handle write load. :( I guess the only way to get them working would be if Lenovo releases new firmware. No idea how likely that is. Anyway, just blogging about this test for completeness. I got a working Samsung disk, and see no point in spending more time on the broken disks.

Tags: debian, english.
How to fix a Thinkpad X230 with a broken 180 GB SSD disk
17th July 2013

Today I switched to my new laptop. I've previously written about the problems I had with my new Thinkpad X230, which was delivered with an 180 GB Intel SSD disk with Lenovo firmware that did not handle sustained writes. My hardware supplier have been very forthcoming in trying to find a solution, and after first trying with another identical 180 GB disks they decided to send me a 256 GB Samsung SSD disk instead to fix it once and for all. The Samsung disk survived the installation of Debian with encrypted disks (filling the disk with random data during installation killed the first two), and I thus decided to trust it with my data. I have installed it as a Debian Edu Wheezy roaming workstation hooked up with my Debian Edu Squeeze main server at home using Kerberos and LDAP, and will use it as my work station from now on.

As this is a solid state disk with no moving parts, I believe the Debian Wheezy default installation need to be tuned a bit to increase performance and increase life time of the disk. The Linux kernel and user space applications do not yet adjust automatically to such environment. To make it easier for my self, I created a draft Debian package ssd-setup to handle this tuning. The source for the ssd-setup package is available from collab-maint, and it is set up to adjust the setup of the machine by just installing the package. If there is any non-SSD disk in the machine, the package will refuse to install, as I did not try to write any logic to sort file systems in SSD and non-SSD file systems.

I consider the package a draft, as I am a bit unsure how to best set up Debian Wheezy with an SSD. It is adjusted to my use case, where I set up the machine with one large encrypted partition (in addition to /boot), put LVM on top of this and set up partitions on top of this again. See the README file in the package source for the references I used to pick the settings. At the moment these parameters are tuned:

During installation, I cancelled the part where the installer fill the disk with random data, as this would kill the SSD performance for little gain. My goal with the encrypted file system is to ensure those stealing my laptop end up with a brick and not a working computer. I have no hope in keeping the really resourceful people from getting the data on the disk (see XKCD #538 for an explanation why). Thus I concluded that adding the discard option to crypttab is the right thing to do.

I considered using the noop I/O scheduler, as several recommended it for SSD, but others recommended deadline and a benchmark I found indicated that deadline might be better for interactive use.

I also considered using the 'discard' file system option for ext3 and ext4, but read that it would give a performance hit ever time a file is removed, and thought it best to that that slowdown once a day instead of during my work.

My package do not set up tmpfs on /var/run, /var/lock and /tmp, as this is already done by Debian Edu.

I have not yet started on the user space tuning. I expect iceweasel need some tuning, and perhaps other applications too, but have not yet had time to investigate those parts.

The package should work on Ubuntu too, but I have not yet tested it there.

As for the answer to the question in the title of this blog post, as far as I know, the only solution I know about is to replace the disk. It might be possible to flash it with Intel firmware instead of the Lenovo firmware. But I have not tried and did not want to do so without approval from Lenovo as I wanted to keep the warranty on the disk until a solution was found and they wanted the broken disks back.

Tags: debian, english.
Intel SSD 520 Series 180 GB with Lenovo firmware still lock up from sustained writes
10th July 2013

A few days ago, I wrote about the problems I experienced with my new X230 and its SSD disk, which was dying during installation because it is unable to cope with sustained write. My supplier is in contact with Lenovo, and they wanted to send a replacement disk to try to fix the problem. They decided to send an identical model, so my hopes for a permanent fix was slim.

Anyway, today I got the replacement disk and tried to install Debian Edu Wheezy with encrypted disk on it. The new disk have the same firmware version as the original. This time my hope raised slightly as the installation progressed, as the original disk used to die after 4-7% of the disk was written to, while this time it kept going past 10%, 20%, 40% and even past 50%. But around 60%, the disk died again and I was back on square one. I still do not have a new laptop with a disk I can trust. I can not live with a disk that might lock up when I download a new Debian Edu / Skolelinux ISO or other large files. I look forward to hearing from my supplier with the next proposal from Lenovo.

The original disk is marked Intel SSD 520 Series 180 GB, 11S0C38722Z1ZNME35X1TR, ISN: CVCV321407HB180EGN, SA: G57560302, FW: LF1i, 29MAY2013, PBA: G39779-300, LBA 351,651,888, LI P/N: 0C38722, Pb-free 2LI, LC P/N: 16-200366, WWN: 55CD2E40002756C4, Model: SSDSC2BW180A3L 2.5" 6Gb/s SATA SSD 180G 5V 1A, ASM P/N 0C38732, FRU P/N 45N8295, P0C38732.

The replacement disk is marked Intel SSD 520 Series 180 GB, 11S0C38722Z1ZNDE34N0L0, ISN: CVCV315306RK180EGN, SA: G57560-302, FW: LF1i, 22APR2013, PBA: G39779-300, LBA 351,651,888, LI P/N: 0C38722, Pb-free 2LI, LC P/N: 16-200366, WWN: 55CD2E40000AB69E, Model: SSDSC2BW180A3L 2.5" 6Gb/s SATA SSD 180G 5V 1A, ASM P/N 0C38732, FRU P/N 45N8295, P0C38732.

The only difference is in the first number (serial number?), ISN, SA, date and WNPP values. Mentioning all the details here in case someone is able to use the information to find a way to identify the failing disk among working ones (if any such working disk actually exist).

Tags: debian, english.
July 13th: Debian/Ubuntu BSP and Skolelinux/Debian Edu developer gathering in Oslo
9th July 2013

The upcoming Saturday, 2013-07-13, we are organising a combined Debian Edu developer gathering and Debian and Ubuntu bug squashing party in Oslo. It is organised by the member assosiation NUUG and the Debian Edu / Skolelinux project together with the hack space Bitraf.

It starts 10:00 and continue until late evening. Everyone is welcome, and there is no fee to participate. There is on the other hand limited space, and only room for 30 people. Please put your name on the event wiki page if you plan to join us.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, nuug.
The Thinkpad is dead, long live the Thinkpad X230?
5th July 2013

Half a year ago, I reported that I had to find a replacement for my trusty old Thinkpad X41. Unfortunately I did not have much time to spend on it, and it took a while to find a model I believe will do the job, but two days ago the replacement finally arrived. I ended up picking a Thinkpad X230 with SSD disk (NZDAJMN). I first test installed Debian Edu Wheezy as a roaming workstation, and it seemed to work flawlessly. But my second installation with encrypted disk was not as successful. More on that below.

I had a hard time trying to track down a good laptop, as my most important requirements (robust and with a good keyboard) are never listed in the feature list. But I did get good help from the search feature at Prisjakt, which allowed me to limit the list of interesting laptops based on my other requirements. A bit surprising that SSD disk are not disks according to that search interface, so I had to drop specifying the number of disks from my search parameters. I also asked around among friends to get their impression on keyboards and robustness.

So the new laptop arrived, and it is quite a lot wider than the X41. I am not quite convinced about the keyboard, as it is significantly wider than my old keyboard, and I have to stretch my hand a lot more to reach the edges. But the key response is fairly good and the individual key shape is fairly easy to handle, so I hope I will get used to it. My old X40 was starting to fail, and I really needed a new laptop now. :)

Turning off the touch pad was simple. All it took was a quick visit to the BIOS during boot it disable it.

But there is a fatal problem with the laptop. The 180 GB SSD disk lock up during load. And this happen when installing Debian Wheezy with encrypted disk, while the disk is being filled with random data. I also tested to install Ubuntu Raring, and it happen there too if I reenable the code to fill the disk with random data (it is disabled by default in Ubuntu). And the bug with is already known. It was reported to Debian as BTS report #691427 2012-10-25 (journal commit I/O error on brand-new Thinkpad T430s ext4 on lvm on SSD). It is also reported to the Linux kernel developers as Kernel bugzilla report #51861 2012-12-20 (Intel SSD 520 stops working under load (SSDSC2BW180A3L in Lenovo ThinkPad T430s)). It is also reported on the Lenovo forums, both for T430 2012-11-10 and for X230 03-20-2013. The problem do not only affect installation. The reports state that the disk lock up during use if many writes are done on the disk, so it is much no use to work around the installation problem and end up with a computer that can lock up at any moment. There is even a small C program available that will lock up the hard drive after running a few minutes by writing to a file.

I've contacted my supplier and asked how to handle this, and after contacting PCHELP Norway (request 01D1FDP) which handle support requests for Lenovo, his first suggestion was to upgrade the disk firmware. Unfortunately there is no newer firmware available from Lenovo, as my disk already have the most recent one (version LF1i). I hope to hear more from him today and hope the problem can be fixed. :)

Tags: debian, english.
The Thinkpad is dead, long live the Thinkpad X230
4th July 2013

Half a year ago, I reported that I had to find a replacement for my trusty old Thinkpad X41. Unfortunately I did not have much time to spend on it, but today the replacement finally arrived. I ended up picking a Thinkpad X230 with SSD disk (NZDAJMN). I first test installed Debian Edu Wheezy as a roaming workstation, and it worked flawlessly. As I write this, it is installing what I hope will be a more final installation, with a encrypted hard drive to ensure any dope head stealing it end up with an expencive door stop.

I had a hard time trying to track down a good laptop, as my most important requirements (robust and with a good keyboard) are never listed in the feature list. But I did get good help from the search feature at Prisjakt, which allowed me to limit the list of interesting laptops based on my other requirements. A bit surprising that SSD disk are not disks, so I had to drop number of disks from my search parameters.

I am not quite convinced about the keyboard, as it is significantly wider than my old keyboard, and I have to stretch my hand a lot more to reach the edges. But the key response is fairly good and the individual key shape is fairly easy to handle, so I hope I will get used to it. My old X40 was starting to fail, and I really needed a new laptop now. :)

I look forward to figuring out how to turn off the touch pad.

Tags: debian, english.
Automatically locate and install required firmware packages on Debian (Isenkram 0.4)
25th June 2013

It annoys me when the computer fail to do automatically what it is perfectly capable of, and I have to do it manually to get things working. One such task is to find out what firmware packages are needed to get the hardware on my computer working. Most often this affect the wifi card, but some times it even affect the RAID controller or the ethernet card. Today I pushed version 0.4 of the Isenkram package including a new script isenkram-autoinstall-firmware handling the process of asking all the loaded kernel modules what firmware files they want, find debian packages providing these files and install the debian packages. Here is a test run on my laptop:

# isenkram-autoinstall-firmware 
info: kernel drivers requested extra firmware: ipw2200-bss.fw ipw2200-ibss.fw ipw2200-sniffer.fw
info: fetching http://http.debian.net/debian/dists/squeeze/Contents-i386.gz
info: locating packages with the requested firmware files
info: Updating APT sources after adding non-free APT source
info: trying to install firmware-ipw2x00
firmware-ipw2x00
firmware-ipw2x00
Preconfiguring packages ...
Selecting previously deselected package firmware-ipw2x00.
(Reading database ... 259727 files and directories currently installed.)
Unpacking firmware-ipw2x00 (from .../firmware-ipw2x00_0.28+squeeze1_all.deb) ...
Setting up firmware-ipw2x00 (0.28+squeeze1) ...
# 

When all the requested firmware is present, a simple message is printed instead:

# isenkram-autoinstall-firmware 
info: did not find any firmware files requested by loaded kernel modules.  exiting
# 

It could use some polish, but it is already working well and saving me some time when setting up new machines. :)

So, how does it work? It look at the set of currently loaded kernel modules, and look up each one of them using modinfo, to find the firmware files listed in the module meta-information. Next, it download the Contents file from a nearby APT mirror, and search for the firmware files in this file to locate the package with the requested firmware file. If the package is in the non-free section, a non-free APT source is added and the package is installed using apt-get install. The end result is a slightly better working machine.

I hope someone find time to implement a more polished version of this script as part of the hw-detect debian-installer module, to finally fix BTS report #655507. There really is no need to insert USB sticks with firmware during a PXE install when the packages already are available from the nearby Debian mirror.

Tags: debian, english, isenkram.
Fixing the Linux black screen of death on machines with Intel HD video
11th June 2013

When installing RedHat, Fedora, Debian and Ubuntu on some machines, the screen just turn black when Linux boot, either during installation or on first boot from the hard disk. I've seen it once in a while the last few years, but only recently understood the cause. I've seen it on HP laptops, and on my latest acquaintance the Packard Bell laptop. The reason seem to be in the wiring of some laptops. The system to control the screen background light is inverted, so when Linux try to turn the brightness fully on, it end up turning it off instead. I do not know which Linux drivers are affected, but this post is about the i915 driver used by the Packard Bell EasyNote LV, Thinkpad X40 and many other laptops.

The problem can be worked around two ways. Either by adding i915.invert_brightness=1 as a kernel option, or by adding a file in /etc/modprobe.d/ to tell modprobe to add the invert_brightness=1 option when it load the i915 kernel module. On Debian and Ubuntu, it can be done by running these commands as root:

echo options i915 invert_brightness=1 | tee /etc/modprobe.d/i915.conf
update-initramfs -u -k all

Since March 2012 there is a mechanism in the Linux kernel to tell the i915 driver which hardware have this problem, and get the driver to invert the brightness setting automatically. To use it, one need to add a row in the intel_quirks array in the driver source drivers/gpu/drm/i915/intel_display.c (look for "static struct intel_quirk intel_quirks"), specifying the PCI device number (vendor number 8086 is assumed) and subdevice vendor and device number.

My Packard Bell EasyNote LV got this output from lspci -vvnn for the video card in question:

00:02.0 VGA compatible controller [0300]: Intel Corporation \
    3rd Gen Core processor Graphics Controller [8086:0156] \
    (rev 09) (prog-if 00 [VGA controller])
 Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device [1025:0688]
 Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- \
    ParErr- Stepping- SE RR- FastB2B- DisINTx+
 Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B+ ParErr- DEVSEL=fast >TAbort- \
    SERR-  [disabled]
 Capabilities: 
 Kernel driver in use: i915

The resulting intel_quirks entry would then look like this:

struct intel_quirk intel_quirks[] = {
       ...
        /* Packard Bell EasyNote LV11HC needs invert brightness quirk */
	{ 0x0156, 0x1025, 0x0688, quirk_invert_brightness },
       ...
}

According to the kernel module instructions (as seen using modinfo i915), information about hardware needing the invert_brightness flag should be sent to the dri-devel (at) lists.freedesktop.org mailing list to reach the kernel developers. But my email about the laptop sent 2013-06-03 have not yet shown up in the web archive for the mailing list, so I suspect they do not accept emails from non-subscribers. Because of this, I sent my patch also to the Debian bug tracking system instead as BTS report #710938, to make sure the patch is not lost.

Unfortunately, it is not enough to fix the kernel to get Laptops with this problem working properly with Linux. If you use Gnome, your worries should be over at this point. But if you use KDE, there is something in KDE ignoring the invert_brightness setting and turning on the screen during login. I've reported it to Debian as BTS report #711237, and have no idea yet how to figure out exactly what subsystem is doing this. Perhaps you can help? Perhaps you know what the Gnome developers did to handle this, and this can give a clue to the KDE developers? Or you know where in KDE the screen brightness is changed during login? If so, please update the BTS report (or get in touch if you do not know how to update BTS).

Update 2013-07-19: The correct fix for this machine seem to be acpi_backlight=vendor, to disable ACPI backlight support completely, as the ACPI information on the machine is trash and it is better to leave it to the intel video driver to control the screen backlight.

Tags: debian, english.
How to install Linux on a Packard Bell Easynote LV preinstalled with Windows 8
27th May 2013

Two days ago, I asked how I could install Linux on a Packard Bell EasyNote LV computer preinstalled with Windows 8. I found a solution, but am horrified with the obstacles put in the way of Linux users on a laptop with UEFI and Windows 8.

I never found out if the cause of my problems were the use of UEFI secure booting or fast boot. I suspect fast boot was the problem, causing the firmware to boot directly from HD without considering any key presses and alternative devices, but do not know UEFI settings enough to tell.

There is no way to install Linux on the machine in question without opening the box and disconnecting the hard drive! This is as far as I can tell, the only way to get access to the firmware setup menu without accepting the Windows 8 license agreement. I am told (and found description on how to) that it is possible to configure the firmware setup once booted into Windows 8. But as I believe the terms of that agreement are completely unacceptable, accepting the license was never an alternative. I do not enter agreements I do not intend to follow.

I feared I had to return the laptops and ask for a refund, and waste many hours on this, but luckily there was a way to get it to work. But I would not recommend it to anyone planning to run Linux on it, and I have become sceptical to Windows 8 certified laptops. Is this the way Linux will be forced out of the market place, by making it close to impossible for "normal" users to install Linux without accepting the Microsoft Windows license terms? Or at least not without risking to loose the warranty?

I've updated the Linux Laptop wiki page for Packard Bell EasyNote LV, to ensure the next person do not have to struggle as much as I did to get Linux into the machine.

Thanks to Bob Rosbag, Florian Weimer, Philipp Kern, Ben Hutching, Michael Tokarev and others for feedback and ideas.

Tags: debian, english.
How can I install Linux on a Packard Bell Easynote LV preinstalled with Windows 8?
25th May 2013

I've run into quite a problem the last few days. I bought three new laptops for my parents and a few others. I bought Packard Bell Easynote LV to run Kubuntu on and use as their home computer. But I am completely unable to figure out how to install Linux on it. The computer is preinstalled with Windows 8, and I suspect it uses UEFI instead of a BIOS to boot.

The problem is that I am unable to get it to PXE boot, and unable to get it to boot the Linux installer from my USB stick. I have yet to try the DVD install, and still hope it will work. when I turn on the computer, there is no information on what buttons to press to get the normal boot menu. I expect to get some boot menu to select PXE or USB stick booting. When booting, it first ask for the language to use, then for some regional settings, and finally if I will accept the Windows 8 terms of use. As these terms are completely unacceptable to me, I have no other choice but to turn off the computer and try again to get it to boot the Linux installer.

I have gathered my findings so far on a Linlap page about the Packard Bell EasyNote LV model. If you have any idea how to get Linux installed on this machine, please get in touch or update that wiki page. If I can't find a way to install Linux, I will have to return the laptop to the seller and find another machine for my parents.

I wonder, is this the way Linux will be forced out of the market using UEFI and "secure boot" by making it impossible to install Linux on new Laptops?

Tags: debian, english.
How to transform a Debian based system to a Debian Edu installation
17th May 2013

Debian Edu / Skolelinux is an operating system based on Debian intended for use in schools. It contain a turn-key solution for the computer network provided to pupils in the primary schools. It provide both the central server, network boot servers and desktop environments with heaps of educational software. The project was founded almost 12 years ago, 2001-07-02. If you want to support the project, which is in need for cash to fund developer gatherings and other project related activity, please donate some money.

A topic that come up again and again on the Debian Edu mailing lists and elsewhere, is the question on how to transform a Debian or Ubuntu installation into a Debian Edu installation. It isn't very hard, and last week I wrote a script to replicate the steps done by the Debian Edu installer.

The script, debian-edu-bless in the debian-edu-config package, will go through these six steps and transform an existing Debian Wheezy or Ubuntu (untested) installation into a Debian Edu Workstation:

  1. Add skolelinux related APT sources.
  2. Create /etc/debian-edu/config with the wanted configuration.
  3. Install debian-edu-install to load preseeding values and pull in our configuration.
  4. Preseed debconf database with profile setup in /etc/debian-edu/config, and run tasksel to install packages according to the profile specified in the config above, overriding some of the Debian automation machinery.
  5. Run debian-edu-cfengine-D installation to configure everything that could not be done using preseeding.
  6. Ask for a reboot to enable all the configuration changes.

There are some steps in the Debian Edu installation that can not be replicated like this. Disk partitioning and LVM setup, for example. So this script just assume there is enough disk space to install all the needed packages.

The script was created to help a Debian Edu student working on setting up Raspberry Pi as a Debian Edu client, and using it he can take the existing Raspbian installation and transform it into a fully functioning Debian Edu Workstation (or Roaming Workstation, or whatever :).

The default setting in the script is to create a KDE Workstation. If a LXDE based Roaming workstation is wanted instead, modify the PROFILE and DESKTOP values at the top to look like this instead:

PROFILE="Roaming-Workstation"
DESKTOP="lxde"

The script could even become useful to set up Debian Edu servers in the cloud, by starting with a virtual Debian installation at some virtual hosting service and setting up all the services on first boot.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english.
Debian, the Linux distribution of choice for LEGO designers?
11th May 2013

In January, I announced a new IRC channel #debian-lego, for those of us in the Debian and Linux community interested in LEGO, the marvellous construction system from Denmark. We also created a wiki page to have a place to take notes and write down our plans and hopes. And several people showed up to help. I was very happy to see the effect of my call. Since the small start, we have a debtags tag hardware::hobby:lego tag for LEGO related packages, and now count 10 packages related to LEGO and Mindstorms:

brickosalternative OS for LEGO Mindstorms RCX. Supports development in C/C++
leocadvirtual brick CAD software
libnxtutility library for talking to the LEGO Mindstorms NX
lnpddaemon for LNP communication with BrickOS
nbccompiler for LEGO Mindstorms NXT bricks
nqcNot Quite C compiler for LEGO Mindstorms RCX
python-nxtpython driver/interface/wrapper for the Lego Mindstorms NXT robot
python-nxt-filersimple GUI to manage files on a LEGO Mindstorms NXT
scratcheasy to use programming environment for ages 8 and up
t2nsimple command-line tool for Lego NXT

Some of these are available in Wheezy, and all but one are currently available in Jessie/testing. leocad is so far only available in experimental.

If you care about LEGO in Debian, please join us on IRC and help adding the rest of the great free software tools available on Linux for LEGO designers.

Tags: debian, english, robot.
Debian Wheezy is out - and Debian Edu / Skolelinux should soon follow! #newinwheezy
5th May 2013

When I woke up this morning, I was very happy to see that the release announcement for Debian Wheezy was waiting in my mail box. This is a great Debian release, and I expect to move my machines at home over to it fairly soon.

The new debian release contain heaps of new stuff, and one program in particular make me very happy to see included. The Scratch program, made famous by the Teach kids code movement, is included for the first time. Alongside similar programs like kturtle and turtleart, it allow for visual programming where syntax errors can not happen, and a friendly programming environment for learning to control the computer. Scratch will also be included in the next release of Debian Edu.

And now that Wheezy is wrapped up, we can wrap up the next Debian Edu/Skolelinux release too. The first alpha release went out last week, and the next should soon follow.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english.
Isenkram 0.2 finally in the Debian archive
3rd April 2013

Today the Isenkram package finally made it into the archive, after lingering in NEW for many months. I uploaded it to the Debian experimental suite 2013-01-27, and today it was accepted into the archive.

Isenkram is a system for suggesting to users what packages to install to work with a pluggable hardware device. The suggestion pop up when the device is plugged in. For example if a Lego Mindstorm NXT is inserted, it will suggest to install the program needed to program the NXT controller. Give it a go, and report bugs and suggestions to BTS. :)

Tags: debian, english, isenkram.
Bitcoin GUI now available from Debian/unstable (and Ubuntu/raring)
2nd February 2013

My last bitcoin related blog post mentioned that the new bitcoin package for Debian was waiting in NEW. It was accepted by the Debian ftp-masters 2013-01-19, and have been available in unstable since then. It was automatically copied to Ubuntu, and is available in their Raring version too.

But there is a strange problem with the build that block this new version from being available on the i386 and kfreebsd-i386 architectures. For some strange reason, the autobuilders in Debian for these architectures fail to run the test suite on these architectures (BTS #672524). We are so far unable to reproduce it when building it manually, and no-one have been able to propose a fix. If you got an idea what is failing, please let us know via the BTS.

One feature that is annoying me with of the bitcoin client, because I often run low on disk space, is the fact that the client will exit if it run short on space (BTS #696715). So make sure you have enough disk space when you run it. :)

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

Tags: bitcoin, debian, english.
Welcome to the world, Isenkram!
22nd January 2013

Yesterday, I asked for testers for my prototype for making Debian better at handling pluggable hardware devices, which I set out to create earlier this month. Several valuable testers showed up, and caused me to really want to to open up the development to more people. But before I did this, I want to come up with a sensible name for this project. Today I finally decided on a new name, and I have renamed the project from hw-support-handler to this new name. In the process, I moved the source to git and made it available as a collab-maint repository in Debian. The new name? It is Isenkram. To fetch and build the latest version of the source, use

git clone http://anonscm.debian.org/git/collab-maint/isenkram.git
cd isenkram && git-buildpackage -us -uc

I have not yet adjusted all files to use the new name yet. If you want to hack on the source or improve the package, please go ahead. But please talk to me first on IRC or via email before you do major changes, to make sure we do not step on each others toes. :)

If you wonder what 'isenkram' is, it is a Norwegian word for iron stuff, typically meaning tools, nails, screws, etc. Typical hardware stuff, in other words. I've been told it is the Norwegian variant of the German word eisenkram, for those that are familiar with that word.

Update 2013-01-26: Added -us -us to build instructions, to avoid confusing people with an error from the signing process.

Update 2013-01-27: Switch to HTTP URL for the git clone argument to avoid the need for authentication.

Tags: debian, english, isenkram.
First prototype ready making hardware easier to use in Debian
21st January 2013

Early this month I set out to try to improve the Debian support for pluggable hardware devices. Now my prototype is working, and it is ready for a larger audience. To test it, fetch the source from the Debian Edu subversion repository, build and install the package. You might have to log out and in again activate the autostart script.

The design is simple:

I still need to come up with a better name for the system. Here are some screen shots showing the prototype in action. First the notification, then the password request, and finally the request to approve all the dependencies. Sorry for the Norwegian Bokmål GUI.





The prototype still need to be improved with longer timeouts, but is already useful. The database of hardware to package mappings also need more work. It is currently compatible with the Ubuntu way of storing such information in the package control file, but could be changed to use other formats instead or in addition to the current method. I've dropped the use of discover for this mapping, as the modalias approach is more flexible and easier to use on Linux as long as the Linux kernel expose its modalias strings directly.

Update 2013-01-21 16:50: Due to popular demand, here is the command required to check out and build the source: Use 'svn checkout svn://svn.debian.org/debian-edu/trunk/src/hw-support-handler/; cd hw-support-handler; debuild'. If you lack debuild, install the devscripts package.

Update 2013-01-23 12:00: The project is now renamed to Isenkram and the source moved from the Debian Edu subversion repository to a Debian collab-maint git repository. See build instructions for details.

Tags: debian, english, isenkram.
Thank you Thinkpad X41, for your long and trustworthy service
19th January 2013

This Christmas my trusty old laptop died. It died quietly and suddenly in bed. With a quiet whimper, it went completely quiet and black. The power button was no longer able to turn it on. It was a IBM Thinkpad X41, and the best laptop I ever had. Better than both Thinkpads X30, X31, X40, X60, X61 and X61S. Far better than the Compaq I had before that. Now I need to find a replacement. To keep going during Christmas, I moved the one year old SSD disk to my old X40 where it fitted (only one I had left that could use it), but it is not a durable solution.

My laptop needs are fairly modest. This is my wishlist from when I got a new one more than 10 years ago. It still holds true.:)

You will notice that there are no RAM and CPU requirements in the list. The reason is simply that the specifications on laptops the last 10-15 years have been sufficient for my needs, and I have to look at other features to choose my laptop. But are there still made as robust laptops as my X41? The Thinkpad X60/X61 proved to be less robust, and Thinkpads seem to be heading in the wrong direction since Lenovo took over. But I've been told that X220 and X1 Carbon might still be useful.

Perhaps I should rethink my needs, and look for a pad with an external keyboard? I'll have to check the Linux Laptops site for well-supported laptops, or perhaps just buy one preinstalled from one of the vendors listed on the Linux Pre-loaded site.

Tags: debian, english.
How to find a browser plugin supporting a given MIME type
18th January 2013

Some times I try to figure out which Iceweasel browser plugin to install to get support for a given MIME type. Thanks to specifications done by Ubuntu and Mozilla, it is possible to do this in Debian. Unfortunately, not very many packages provide the needed meta information, Anyway, here is a small script to look up all browser plugin packages announcing ther MIME support using this specification:

#!/usr/bin/python
import sys
import apt
def pkgs_handling_mimetype(mimetype):
    cache = apt.Cache()
    cache.open(None)
    thepkgs = []
    for pkg in cache:
        version = pkg.candidate
        if version is None:
            version = pkg.installed
        if version is None:
            continue
        record = version.record
        if not record.has_key('Npp-MimeType'):
            continue
        mime_types = record['Npp-MimeType'].split(',')
        for t in mime_types:
            t = t.rstrip().strip()
            if t == mimetype:
                thepkgs.append(pkg.name)
    return thepkgs
mimetype = "audio/ogg"
if 1 < len(sys.argv):
    mimetype = sys.argv[1]
print "Browser plugin packages supporting %s:" % mimetype
for pkg in pkgs_handling_mimetype(mimetype):
    print "  %s" %pkg

It can be used like this to look up a given MIME type:

% ./apt-find-browserplug-for-mimetype 
Browser plugin packages supporting audio/ogg:
  gecko-mediaplayer
% ./apt-find-browserplug-for-mimetype application/x-shockwave-flash
Browser plugin packages supporting application/x-shockwave-flash:
  browser-plugin-gnash
%

In Ubuntu this mechanism is combined with support in the browser itself to query for plugins and propose to install the needed packages. It would be great if Debian supported such feature too. Is anyone working on adding it?

Update 2013-01-18 14:20: The Debian BTS request for icweasel support for this feature is #484010 from 2008 (and #698426 from today). Lack of manpower and wish for a different design is the reason thus feature is not yet in iceweasel from Debian.

Tags: debian, english.
What is the most supported MIME type in Debian?
16th January 2013

The DEP-11 proposal to add AppStream information to the Debian archive, is a proposal to make it possible for a Desktop application to propose to the user some package to install to gain support for a given MIME type, font, library etc. that is currently missing. With such mechanism in place, it would be possible for the desktop to automatically propose and install leocad if some LDraw file is downloaded by the browser.

To get some idea about the current content of the archive, I decided to write a simple program to extract all .desktop files from the Debian archive and look up the claimed MIME support there. The result can be found on the Skolelinux FTP site. Using the collected information, it become possible to answer the question in the title. Here are the 20 most supported MIME types in Debian stable (Squeeze), testing (Wheezy) and unstable (Sid). The complete list is available from the link above.

Debian Stable:

  count MIME type
  ----- -----------------------
     32 text/plain
     30 audio/mpeg
     29 image/png
     28 image/jpeg
     27 application/ogg
     26 audio/x-mp3
     25 image/tiff
     25 image/gif
     22 image/bmp
     22 audio/x-wav
     20 audio/x-flac
     19 audio/x-mpegurl
     18 video/x-ms-asf
     18 audio/x-musepack
     18 audio/x-mpeg
     18 application/x-ogg
     17 video/mpeg
     17 audio/x-scpls
     17 audio/ogg
     16 video/x-ms-wmv

Debian Testing:

  count MIME type
  ----- -----------------------
     33 text/plain
     32 image/png
     32 image/jpeg
     29 audio/mpeg
     27 image/gif
     26 image/tiff
     26 application/ogg
     25 audio/x-mp3
     22 image/bmp
     21 audio/x-wav
     19 audio/x-mpegurl
     19 audio/x-mpeg
     18 video/mpeg
     18 audio/x-scpls
     18 audio/x-flac
     18 application/x-ogg
     17 video/x-ms-asf
     17 text/html
     17 audio/x-musepack
     16 image/x-xbitmap

Debian Unstable:

  count MIME type
  ----- -----------------------
     31 text/plain
     31 image/png
     31 image/jpeg
     29 audio/mpeg
     28 application/ogg
     27 image/gif
     26 image/tiff
     26 audio/x-mp3
     23 audio/x-wav
     22 image/bmp
     21 audio/x-flac
     20 audio/x-mpegurl
     19 audio/x-mpeg
     18 video/x-ms-asf
     18 video/mpeg
     18 audio/x-scpls
     18 application/x-ogg
     17 audio/x-musepack
     16 video/x-ms-wmv
     16 video/x-msvideo

I am told that PackageKit can provide an API to access the kind of information mentioned in DEP-11. I have not yet had time to look at it, but hope the PackageKit people in Debian are on top of these issues.

Update 2013-01-16 13:35: Updated numbers after discovering a typo in my script.

Tags: debian, english.
Using modalias info to find packages handling my hardware
15th January 2013

Yesterday, I wrote about the modalias values provided by the Linux kernel following my hope for better dongle support in Debian. Using this knowledge, I have tested how modalias values attached to package names can be used to map packages to hardware. This allow the system to look up and suggest relevant packages when I plug in some new hardware into my machine, and replace discover and discover-data as the database used to map hardware to packages.

I create a modaliases file with entries like the following, containing package name, kernel module name (if relevant, otherwise the package name) and globs matching the relevant hardware modalias.

Package: package-name
Modaliases: module(modaliasglob, modaliasglob, modaliasglob)

It is fairly trivial to write code to find the relevant packages for a given modalias value using this file.

An entry like this would suggest the video and picture application cheese for many USB web cameras (interface bus class 0E01):

Package: cheese
Modaliases: cheese(usb:v*p*d*dc*dsc*dp*ic0Eisc01ip*)

An entry like this would suggest the pcmciautils package when a CardBus bridge (bus class 0607) PCI device is present:

Package: pcmciautils
Modaliases: pcmciautils(pci:v*d*sv*sd*bc06sc07i*)

An entry like this would suggest the package colorhug-client when plugging in a ColorHug with USB IDs 04D8:F8DA:

Package: colorhug-client
Modaliases: colorhug-client(usb:v04D8pF8DAd*)

I believe the format is compatible with the format of the Packages file in the Debian archive. Ubuntu already uses their Packages file to store their mappings from packages to hardware.

By adding a XB-Modaliases: header in debian/control, any .deb can announce the hardware it support in a way my prototype understand. This allow those publishing packages in an APT source outside the Debian archive as well as those backporting packages to make sure the hardware mapping are included in the package meta information. I've tested such header in the pymissile package, and its modalias mapping is working as it should with my prototype. It even made it to Ubuntu Raring.

To test if it was possible to look up supported hardware using only the shell tools available in the Debian installer, I wrote a shell implementation of the lookup code. The idea is to create files for each modalias and let the shell do the matching. Please check out and try the hw-support-lookup shell script. It run without any extra dependencies and fetch the hardware mappings from the Debian archive and the subversion repository where I currently work on my prototype.

When I use it on a machine with a yubikey inserted, it suggest to install yubikey-personalization:

% ./hw-support-lookup
yubikey-personalization
%

When I run it on my Thinkpad X40 with a PCMCIA/CardBus slot, it propose to install the pcmciautils package:

% ./hw-support-lookup
pcmciautils
%

If you know of any hardware-package mapping that should be added to my database, please tell me about it.

It could be possible to generate several of the mappings between packages and hardware. One source would be to look at packages with kernel modules, ie packages with *.ko files in /lib/modules/, and extract their modalias information. Another would be to look at packages with udev rules, ie packages with files in /lib/udev/rules.d/, and extract their vendor/model information to generate a modalias matching rule. I have not tested any of these to see if it work.

If you want to help implementing a system to let us propose what packages to install when new hardware is plugged into a Debian machine, please send me an email or talk to me on #debian-devel.

Tags: debian, english, isenkram.
Modalias strings - a practical way to map "stuff" to hardware
14th January 2013

While looking into how to look up Debian packages based on hardware information, to find the packages that support a given piece of hardware, I refreshed my memory regarding modalias values, and decided to document the details. Here are my findings so far, also available in the Debian Edu subversion repository:

Modalias decoded

This document try to explain what the different types of modalias values stands for. It is in part based on information from <URL: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Modalias >, <URL: http://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/26132/how-to-assign-usb-driver-to-device >, <URL: http://code.metager.de/source/history/linux/stable/scripts/mod/file2alias.c > and <URL: http://cvs.savannah.gnu.org/viewvc/dmidecode/dmidecode.c?root=dmidecode&view=markup >.

The modalias entries for a given Linux machine can be found using this shell script:

find /sys -name modalias -print0 | xargs -0 cat | sort -u

The supported modalias globs for a given kernel module can be found using modinfo:

% /sbin/modinfo psmouse | grep alias:
alias:          serio:ty05pr*id*ex*
alias:          serio:ty01pr*id*ex*
%

PCI subtype

A typical PCI entry can look like this. This is an Intel Host Bridge memory controller:

pci:v00008086d00002770sv00001028sd000001ADbc06sc00i00

This represent these values:

 v   00008086  (vendor)
 d   00002770  (device)
 sv  00001028  (subvendor)
 sd  000001AD  (subdevice)
 bc  06        (bus class)
 sc  00        (bus subclass)
 i   00        (interface)

The vendor/device values are the same values outputted from 'lspci -n' as 8086:2770. The bus class/subclass is also shown by lspci as 0600. The 0600 class is a host bridge. Other useful bus values are 0300 (VGA compatible card) and 0200 (Ethernet controller).

Not sure how to figure out the interface value, nor what it means.

USB subtype

Some typical USB entries can look like this. This is an internal USB hub in a laptop:

usb:v1D6Bp0001d0206dc09dsc00dp00ic09isc00ip00

Here is the values included in this alias:

 v    1D6B  (device vendor)
 p    0001  (device product)
 d    0206  (bcddevice)
 dc     09  (device class)
 dsc    00  (device subclass)
 dp     00  (device protocol)
 ic     09  (interface class)
 isc    00  (interface subclass)
 ip     00  (interface protocol)

The 0900 device class/subclass means hub. Some times the relevant class is in the interface class section. For a simple USB web camera, these alias entries show up:

usb:v0AC8p3420d5000dcEFdsc02dp01ic01isc01ip00
usb:v0AC8p3420d5000dcEFdsc02dp01ic01isc02ip00
usb:v0AC8p3420d5000dcEFdsc02dp01ic0Eisc01ip00
usb:v0AC8p3420d5000dcEFdsc02dp01ic0Eisc02ip00

Interface class 0E01 is video control, 0E02 is video streaming (aka camera), 0101 is audio control device and 0102 is audio streaming (aka microphone). Thus this is a camera with microphone included.

ACPI subtype

The ACPI type is used for several non-PCI/USB stuff. This is an IR receiver in a Thinkpad X40:

acpi:IBM0071:PNP0511:

The values between the colons are IDs.

DMI subtype

The DMI table contain lots of information about the computer case and model. This is an entry for a IBM Thinkpad X40, fetched from /sys/devices/virtual/dmi/id/modalias:

dmi:bvnIBM:bvr1UETB6WW(1.66):bd06/15/2005:svnIBM:pn2371H4G:pvrThinkPadX40:rvnIBM:rn2371H4G:rvrNotAvailable:cvnIBM:ct10:cvrNotAvailable:

The values present are

 bvn  IBM            (BIOS vendor)
 bvr  1UETB6WW(1.66) (BIOS version)
 bd   06/15/2005     (BIOS date)
 svn  IBM            (system vendor)
 pn   2371H4G        (product name)
 pvr  ThinkPadX40    (product version)
 rvn  IBM            (board vendor)
 rn   2371H4G        (board name)
 rvr  NotAvailable   (board version)
 cvn  IBM            (chassis vendor)
 ct   10             (chassis type)
 cvr  NotAvailable   (chassis version)

The chassis type 10 is Notebook. Other interesting values can be found in the dmidecode source:

  3 Desktop
  4 Low Profile Desktop
  5 Pizza Box
  6 Mini Tower
  7 Tower
  8 Portable
  9 Laptop
 10 Notebook
 11 Hand Held
 12 Docking Station
 13 All In One
 14 Sub Notebook
 15 Space-saving
 16 Lunch Box
 17 Main Server Chassis
 18 Expansion Chassis
 19 Sub Chassis
 20 Bus Expansion Chassis
 21 Peripheral Chassis
 22 RAID Chassis
 23 Rack Mount Chassis
 24 Sealed-case PC
 25 Multi-system
 26 CompactPCI
 27 AdvancedTCA
 28 Blade
 29 Blade Enclosing

The chassis type values are not always accurately set in the DMI table. For example my home server is a tower, but the DMI modalias claim it is a desktop.

SerIO subtype

This type is used for PS/2 mouse plugs. One example is from my test machine:

serio:ty01pr00id00ex00

The values present are

  ty  01  (type)
  pr  00  (prototype)
  id  00  (id)
  ex  00  (extra)

This type is supported by the psmouse driver. I am not sure what the valid values are.

Other subtypes

There are heaps of other modalias subtypes according to file2alias.c. There is the rest of the list from that source: amba, ap, bcma, ccw, css, eisa, hid, i2c, ieee1394, input, ipack, isapnp, mdio, of, parisc, pcmcia, platform, scsi, sdio, spi, ssb, vio, virtio, vmbus, x86cpu and zorro. I did not spend time documenting all of these, as they do not seem relevant for my intended use with mapping hardware to packages when new stuff is inserted during run time.

Looking up kernel modules using modalias values

To check which kernel modules provide support for a given modalias, one can use the following shell script:

  for id in $(find /sys -name modalias -print0 | xargs -0 cat | sort -u); do \
    echo "$id" ; \
    /sbin/modprobe --show-depends "$id"|sed 's/^/  /' ; \
  done

The output can look like this (only the first few entries as the list is very long on my test machine):

  acpi:ACPI0003:
    insmod /lib/modules/2.6.32-5-686/kernel/drivers/acpi/ac.ko 
  acpi:device:
  FATAL: Module acpi:device: not found.
  acpi:IBM0068:
    insmod /lib/modules/2.6.32-5-686/kernel/drivers/char/nvram.ko 
    insmod /lib/modules/2.6.32-5-686/kernel/drivers/leds/led-class.ko 
    insmod /lib/modules/2.6.32-5-686/kernel/net/rfkill/rfkill.ko 
    insmod /lib/modules/2.6.32-5-686/kernel/drivers/platform/x86/thinkpad_acpi.ko 
  acpi:IBM0071:PNP0511:
    insmod /lib/modules/2.6.32-5-686/kernel/lib/crc-ccitt.ko 
    insmod /lib/modules/2.6.32-5-686/kernel/net/irda/irda.ko 
    insmod /lib/modules/2.6.32-5-686/kernel/drivers/net/irda/nsc-ircc.ko 
  [...]

If you want to help implementing a system to let us propose what packages to install when new hardware is plugged into a Debian machine, please send me an email or talk to me on #debian-devel.

Update 2013-01-15: Rewrite "cat $(find ...)" to "find ... -print0 | xargs -0 cat" to make sure it handle directories in /sys/ with space in them.

Tags: debian, english, isenkram.
Moved the pymissile Debian packaging to collab-maint
10th January 2013

As part of my investigation on how to improve the support in Debian for hardware dongles, I dug up my old Mark and Spencer USB Rocket Launcher and updated the Debian package pymissile to make sure udev will fix the device permissions when it is plugged in. I also added a "Modaliases" header to test it in the Debian archive and hopefully make the package be proposed by jockey in Ubuntu when a user plug in his rocket launcher. In the process I moved the source to a git repository under collab-maint, to make it easier for any DD to contribute. Upstream is not very active, but the software still work for me even after five years of relative silence. The new git repository is not listed in the uploaded package yet, because I want to test the other changes a bit more before I upload the new version. If you want to check out the new version with a .desktop file included, visit the gitweb view or use "git clone git://anonscm.debian.org/collab-maint/pymissile.git".

Tags: debian, english, isenkram, robot.
Lets make hardware dongles easier to use in Debian
9th January 2013

One thing that annoys me with Debian and Linux distributions in general, is that there is a great package management system with the ability to automatically install software packages by downloading them from the distribution mirrors, but no way to get it to automatically install the packages I need to use the hardware I plug into my machine. Even if the package to use it is easily available from the Linux distribution. When I plug in a LEGO Mindstorms NXT, it could suggest to automatically install the python-nxt, nbc and t2n packages I need to talk to it. When I plug in a Yubikey, it could propose the yubikey-personalization package. The information required to do this is available, but no-one have pulled all the pieces together.

Some years ago, I proposed to use the discover subsystem to implement this. The idea is fairly simple:

I am not sure what the best way to implement this is, but my initial idea was to use dbus events to discover new hardware, the discover database to find packages and PackageKit to install packages.

Yesterday, I found time to try to implement this idea, and the draft package is now checked into the Debian Edu subversion repository. In the process, I updated the discover-data package to map the USB ids of LEGO Mindstorms and Yubikey devices to the relevant packages in Debian, and uploaded a new version 2.2013.01.09 to unstable. I also discovered that the current discover package in Debian no longer discovered any USB devices, because /proc/bus/usb/devices is no longer present. I ported it to use libusb as a fall back option to get it working. The fixed package version 2.1.2-6 is now in experimental (didn't upload it to unstable because of the freeze).

With this prototype in place, I can insert my Yubikey, and get this desktop notification to show up (only once, the first time it is inserted):

For this prototype to be really useful, some way to automatically install the proposed packages by pressing the "Please install program(s)" button should to be implemented.

If this idea seem useful to you, and you want to help make it happen, please help me update the discover-data database with mappings from hardware to Debian packages. Check if 'discover-pkginstall -l' list the package you would like to have installed when a given hardware device is inserted into your computer, and report bugs using reportbug if it isn't. Or, if you know of a better way to provide such mapping, please let me know.

This prototype need more work, and there are several questions that should be considered before it is ready for production use. Is dbus the correct way to detect new hardware? At the moment I look for HAL dbus events on the system bus, because that is the events I could see on my Debian Squeeze KDE desktop. Are there better events to use? How should the user be notified? Is the desktop notification mechanism the best option, or should the background daemon raise a popup instead? How should packages be installed? When should they not be installed?

If you want to help getting such feature implemented in Debian, please send me an email. :)

Tags: debian, english, isenkram.
New IRC channel for LEGO designers using Debian
2nd January 2013

During Christmas, I have worked a bit on the Debian support for LEGO Mindstorm NXT. My son and I have played a bit with my NXT set, and I discovered I had to build all the tools myself because none were already in Debian Squeeze. If Debian support for LEGO is something you care about, please join me on the IRC channel #debian-lego (server irc.debian.org). There is a lot that could be done to improve the Debian support for LEGO designers. For example both CAD software and Mindstorm compilers are missing. :)

Update 2012-01-03: A project page including links to Lego related packages is now available.

Tags: debian, english, robot.
How to backport bitcoin-qt version 0.7.2-2 to Debian Squeeze
25th December 2012

Let me start by wishing you all marry Christmas and a happy new year! I hope next year will prove to be a good year.

Bitcoin, the digital decentralised "currency" that allow people to transfer bitcoins between each other with minimal overhead, is a very interesting experiment. And as I wrote a few days ago, the bitcoin situation in Debian is about to improve a bit. The new debian source package (version 0.7.2-2) was uploaded yesterday, and is waiting in the NEW queue for one of the ftpmasters to approve the new bitcoin-qt package name.

And thanks to the great work of Jonas and the rest of the bitcoin team in Debian, you can easily test the package in Debian Squeeze using the following steps to get a set of working packages:

git clone git://git.debian.org/git/collab-maint/bitcoin
cd bitcoin
DEB_MAINTAINER_MODE=1 DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS=noupnp fakeroot debian/rules clean
DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS=noupnp git-buildpackage --git-ignore-new

You might have to install some build dependencies as well. The list of commands should give you two packages, bitcoind and bitcoin-qt, ready for use in a Squeeze environment. Note that the client will download the complete set of bitcoin "blocks", which need around 5.6 GiB of data on my machine at the moment. Make sure your ~/.bitcoin/ directory have lots of spare room if you want to download all the blocks. The client will warn if the disk is getting full, so there is not really a problem if you got too little room, but you will not be able to get all the features out of the client.

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

Tags: bitcoin, debian, english.
A word on bitcoin support in Debian
21st December 2012

It has been a while since I wrote about bitcoin, the decentralised peer-to-peer based crypto-currency, and the reason is simply that I have been busy elsewhere. But two days ago, I started looking at the state of bitcoin in Debian again to try to recover my old bitcoin wallet. The package is now maintained by a team of people, and the grunt work had already been done by this team. We owe a huge thank you to all these team members. :) But I was sad to discover that the bitcoin client is missing in Wheezy. It is only available in Sid (and an outdated client from backports). The client had several RC bugs registered in BTS blocking it from entering testing. To try to help the team and improve the situation, I spent some time providing patches and triaging the bug reports. I also had a look at the bitcoin package available from Matt Corallo in a PPA for Ubuntu, and moved the useful pieces from that version into the Debian package.

After checking with the main package maintainer Jonas Smedegaard on IRC, I pushed several patches into the collab-maint git repository to improve the package. It now contains fixes for the RC issues (not from me, but fixed by Scott Howard), build rules for a Qt GUI client package, konqueror support for the bitcoin: URI and bash completion setup. As I work on Debian Squeeze, I also created a patch to backport the latest version. Jonas is going to look at it and try to integrate it into the git repository before uploading a new version to unstable.

I would very much like bitcoin to succeed, to get rid of the centralized control currently exercised in the monetary system. I find it completely unacceptable that the USA government is collecting transaction data for almost all international money transfers (most are done in USD and transaction logs shipped to the spooks), and that the major credit card companies can block legal money transactions to Wikileaks. But for bitcoin to succeed, more people need to use bitcoins, and more people need to accept bitcoins when they sell products and services. Improving the bitcoin support in Debian is a small step in the right direction, but not enough. Unfortunately the user experience when browsing the web and wanting to pay with bitcoin is still not very good. The bitcoin: URI is a step in the right direction, but need to work in most or every browser in use. Also the bitcoin-qt client is too heavy to fire up to do a quick transaction. I believe there are other clients available, but have not tested them.

My experiment with bitcoins showed that at least some of my readers use bitcoin. I received 20.15 BTC so far on the address I provided in my blog two years ago, as can be seen on the blockexplorer service. Thank you everyone for your donation. The blockexplorer service demonstrates quite well that bitcoin is not quite anonymous and untracked. :) I wonder if the number of users have gone up since then. If you use bitcoin and want to show your support of my activity, please send Bitcoin donations to the same address as last time, 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: bitcoin, debian, english.
Git repository for song book for Computer Scientists
7th September 2012

As I mentioned this summer, I have created a Computer Science song book a few years ago, and today I finally found time to create a public Gitorious repository for the project.

If you want to help out, please clone the source and submit patches to the HTML version. To generate the PDF and PostScript version, please use prince XML, or let me know about a useful free software processor capable of creating a good looking PDF from the HTML.

Want to sing? You can still find the song book in HTML, PDF and PostScript formats at Petter's Computer Science Songbook.

Tags: debian, english, multimedia.
Gratulerer med 19-årsdagen, Debian!
16th August 2012

I dag fyller Debian-prosjektet 19 år. Jeg har fulgt det de siste 12 årene, og er veldig glad for å kunne si gratulerer med dagen, Debian!

Tags: debian, norsk.
Song book for Computer Scientists
24th June 2012

Many years ago, while studying Computer Science at the University of Tromsø, I started collecting computer related songs for use at parties. The original version was written in LaTeX, but a few years ago I got help from Håkon W. Lie, one of the inventors of W3C CSS, to convert it to HTML while keeping the ability to create a nice book in PDF format. I have not had time to maintain the book for a while now, and guess I should put it up on some public version control repository where others can help me extend and update the book. If anyone is volunteering to help me with this, send me an email. Also let me know if there are songs missing in my book.

I have not mentioned the book on my blog so far, and it occured to me today that I really should let all my readers share the joys of singing out load about programming, computers and computer networks. Especially now that Debconf 12 is about to start (and I am not going). Want to sing? Check out Petter's Computer Science Songbook.

Tags: debian, english, multimedia.
Automatically upgrading server firmware on Dell PowerEdge
21st November 2011

At work we have heaps of servers. I believe the total count is around 1000 at the moment. To be able to get help from the vendors when something go wrong, we want to keep the firmware on the servers up to date. If the firmware isn't the latest and greatest, the vendors typically refuse to start debugging any problems until the firmware is upgraded. So before every reboot, we want to upgrade the firmware, and we would really like everyone handling servers at the university to do this themselves when they plan to reboot a machine. For that to happen we at the unix server admin group need to provide the tools to do so.

To make firmware upgrading easier, I am working on a script to fetch and install the latest firmware for the servers we got. Most of our hardware are from Dell and HP, so I have focused on these servers so far. This blog post is about the Dell part.

On the Dell FTP site I was lucky enough to find an XML file with firmware information for all 11th generation servers, listing which firmware should be used on a given model and where on the FTP site I can find it. Using a simple perl XML parser I can then download the shell scripts Dell provides to do firmware upgrades from within Linux and reboot when all the firmware is primed and ready to be activated on the first reboot.

This is the Dell related fragment of the perl code I am working on. Are there anyone working on similar tools for firmware upgrading all servers at a site? Please get in touch and lets share resources.

#!/usr/bin/perl
use strict;
use warnings;
use File::Temp qw(tempdir);
BEGIN {
    # Install needed RHEL packages if missing
    my %rhelmodules = (
        'XML::Simple' => 'perl-XML-Simple',
        );
    for my $module (keys %rhelmodules) {
        eval "use $module;";
        if ($@) {
            my $pkg = $rhelmodules{$module};
            system("yum install -y $pkg");
            eval "use $module;";
        }
    }
}
my $errorsto = 'pere@hungry.com';

upgrade_dell();

exit 0;

sub run_firmware_script {
    my ($opts, $script) = @_;
    unless ($script) {
        print STDERR "fail: missing script name\n";
        exit 1
    }
    print STDERR "Running $script\n\n";

    if (0 == system("sh $script $opts")) { # FIXME correct exit code handling
        print STDERR "success: firmware script ran succcessfully\n";
    } else {
        print STDERR "fail: firmware script returned error\n";
    }
}

sub run_firmware_scripts {
    my ($opts, @dirs) = @_;
    # Run firmware packages
    for my $dir (@dirs) {
        print STDERR "info: Running scripts in $dir\n";
        opendir(my $dh, $dir) or die "Unable to open directory $dir: $!";
        while (my $s = readdir $dh) {
            next if $s =~ m/^\.\.?/;
            run_firmware_script($opts, "$dir/$s");
        }
        closedir $dh;
    }
}

sub download {
    my $url = shift;
    print STDERR "info: Downloading $url\n";
    system("wget --quiet \"$url\"");
}

sub upgrade_dell {
    my @dirs;
    my $product = `dmidecode -s system-product-name`;
    chomp $product;

    if ($product =~ m/PowerEdge/) {

        # on RHEL, these pacakges are needed by the firwmare upgrade scripts
        system('yum install -y compat-libstdc++-33.i686 libstdc++.i686 libxml2.i686 procmail');

        my $tmpdir = tempdir(
            CLEANUP => 1
            );
        chdir($tmpdir);
        fetch_dell_fw('catalog/Catalog.xml.gz');
        system('gunzip Catalog.xml.gz');
        my @paths = fetch_dell_fw_list('Catalog.xml');
        # -q is quiet, disabling interactivity and reducing console output
        my $fwopts = "-q";
        if (@paths) {
            for my $url (@paths) {
                fetch_dell_fw($url);
            }
            run_firmware_scripts($fwopts, $tmpdir);
        } else {
            print STDERR "error: Unsupported Dell model '$product'.\n";
            print STDERR "error: Please report to $errorsto.\n";
        }
        chdir('/');
    } else {
        print STDERR "error: Unsupported Dell model '$product'.\n";
        print STDERR "error: Please report to $errorsto.\n";
    }
}

sub fetch_dell_fw {
    my $path = shift;
    my $url = "ftp://ftp.us.dell.com/$path";
    download($url);
}

# Using ftp://ftp.us.dell.com/catalog/Catalog.xml.gz, figure out which
# firmware packages to download from Dell.  Only work for Linux
# machines and 11th generation Dell servers.
sub fetch_dell_fw_list {
    my $filename = shift;

    my $product = `dmidecode -s system-product-name`;
    chomp $product;
    my ($mybrand, $mymodel) = split(/\s+/, $product);

    print STDERR "Finding firmware bundles for $mybrand $mymodel\n";

    my $xml = XMLin($filename);
    my @paths;
    for my $bundle (@{$xml->{SoftwareBundle}}) {
        my $brand = $bundle->{TargetSystems}->{Brand}->{Display}->{content};
        my $model = $bundle->{TargetSystems}->{Brand}->{Model}->{Display}->{content};
        my $oscode;
        if ("ARRAY" eq ref $bundle->{TargetOSes}->{OperatingSystem}) {
            $oscode = $bundle->{TargetOSes}->{OperatingSystem}[0]->{osCode};
        } else {
            $oscode = $bundle->{TargetOSes}->{OperatingSystem}->{osCode};
        }
        if ($mybrand eq $brand && $mymodel eq $model && "LIN" eq $oscode)
        {
            @paths = map { $_->{path} } @{$bundle->{Contents}->{Package}};
        }
    }
    for my $component (@{$xml->{SoftwareComponent}}) {
        my $componenttype = $component->{ComponentType}->{value};

        # Drop application packages, only firmware and BIOS
        next if 'APAC' eq $componenttype;

        my $cpath = $component->{path};
        for my $path (@paths) {
            if ($cpath =~ m%/$path$%) {
                push(@paths, $cpath);
            }
        }
    }
    return @paths;
}

The code is only tested on RedHat Enterprise Linux, but I suspect it could work on other platforms with some tweaking. Anyone know a index like Catalog.xml is available from HP for HP servers? At the moment I maintain a similar list manually and it is quickly getting outdated.

Tags: debian, english.
How is booting into runlevel 1 different from single user boots?
4th August 2011

Wouter Verhelst have some interesting comments and opinions on my blog post on the need to clean up /etc/rcS.d/ in Debian and my blog post about the default KDE desktop in Debian. I only have time to address one small piece of his comment now, and though it best to address the misunderstanding he bring forward:

Currently, a system admin has four options: [...] boot to a single-user system (by adding 'single' to the kernel command line; this runs rcS and rc1 scripts)

This make me believe Wouter believe booting into single user mode and booting into runlevel 1 is the same. I am not surprised he believe this, because it would make sense and is a quite sensible thing to believe. But because the boot in Debian is slightly broken, runlevel 1 do not work properly and it isn't the same as single user mode. I'll try to explain what is actually happing, but it is a bit hard to explain.

Single user mode is defined like this in /etc/inittab: "~~:S:wait:/sbin/sulogin". This means the only thing that is executed in single user mode is sulogin. Single user mode is a boot state "between" the runlevels, and when booting into single user mode, only the scripts in /etc/rcS.d/ are executed before the init process enters the single user state. When switching to runlevel 1, the state is in fact not ending in runlevel 1, but it passes through runlevel 1 and end up in the single user mode (see /etc/rc1.d/S03single, which runs "init -t1 S" to switch to single user mode at the end of runlevel 1. It is confusing that the 'S' (single user) init mode is not the mode enabled by /etc/rcS.d/ (which is more like the initial boot mode).

This summary might make it clearer. When booting for the first time into single user mode, the following commands are executed: "/etc/init.d/rc S; /sbin/sulogin". When booting into runlevel 1, the following commands are executed: "/etc/init.d/rc S; /etc/init.d/rc 1; /sbin/sulogin". A problem show up when trying to continue after visiting single user mode. Not all services are started again as they should, causing the machine to end up in an unpredicatble state. This is why Debian admins recommend rebooting after visiting single user mode.

A similar problem with runlevel 1 is caused by the amount of scripts executed from /etc/rcS.d/. When switching from say runlevel 2 to runlevel 1, the services started from /etc/rcS.d/ are not properly stopped when passing through the scripts in /etc/rc1.d/, and not started again when switching away from runlevel 1 to the runlevels 2-5. I believe the problem is best fixed by moving all the scripts out of /etc/rcS.d/ that are not required to get a functioning single user mode during boot.

I have spent several years investigating the Debian boot system, and discovered this problem a few years ago. I suspect it originates from when sysvinit was introduced into Debian, a long time ago.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, english.
What should start from /etc/rcS.d/ in Debian? - almost nothing
30th July 2011

In the Debian boot system, several packages include scripts that are started from /etc/rcS.d/. In fact, there is a bite more of them than make sense, and this causes a few problems. What kind of problems, you might ask. There are at least two problems. The first is that it is not possible to recover a machine after switching to runlevel 1. One need to actually reboot to get the machine back to the expected state. The other is that single user boot will sometimes run into problems because some of the subsystems are activated before the root login is presented, causing problems when trying to recover a machine from a problem in that subsystem. A minor additional point is that moving more scripts out of rcS.d/ and into the other rc#.d/ directories will increase the amount of scripts that can run in parallel during boot, and thus decrease the boot time.

So, which scripts should start from rcS.d/. In short, only the scripts that _have_ to execute before the root login prompt is presented during a single user boot should go there. Everything else should go into the numeric runlevels. This means things like lm-sensors, fuse and x11-common should not run from rcS.d, but from the numeric runlevels. Today in Debian, there are around 115 init.d scripts that are started from rcS.d/, and most of them should be moved out. Do your package have one of them? Please help us make single user and runlevel 1 better by moving it.

Scripts setting up the screen, keyboard, system partitions etc. should still be started from rcS.d/, but there is for example no need to have the network enabled before the single user login prompt is presented.

As always, things are not so easy to fix as they sound. To keep Debian systems working while scripts migrate and during upgrades, the scripts need to be moved from rcS.d/ to rc2.d/ in reverse dependency order, ie the scripts that nothing in rcS.d/ depend on can be moved, and the next ones can only be moved when their dependencies have been moved first. This migration must be done sequentially while we ensure that the package system upgrade packages in the right order to keep the system state correct. This will require some coordination when it comes to network related packages, but most of the packages with scripts that should migrate do not have anything in rcS.d/ depending on them. Some packages have already been updated, like the sudo package, while others are still left to do. I wish I had time to work on this myself, but real live constrains make it unlikely that I will find time to push this forward.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, english.
What is missing in the Debian desktop, or why my parents use Kubuntu
29th July 2011

While at Debconf11, I have several times during discussions mentioned the issues I believe should be improved in Debian for its desktop to be useful for more people. The use case for this is my parents, which are currently running Kubuntu which solve the issues.

I suspect these four missing features are not very hard to implement. After all, they are present in Ubuntu, so if we wanted to do this in Debian we would have a source.

  1. Simple GUI based upgrade of packages. When there are new packages available for upgrades, a icon in the KDE status bar indicate this, and clicking on it will activate the simple upgrade tool to handle it. I have no problem guiding both of my parents through the process over the phone. If a kernel reboot is required, this too is indicated by the status bars and the upgrade tool. Last time I checked, nothing with the same features was working in KDE in Debian.
  2. Simple handling of missing Firefox browser plugins. When the browser encounter a MIME type it do not currently have a handler for, it will ask the user if the system should search for a package that would add support for this MIME type, and if the user say yes, the APT sources will be searched for packages advertising the MIME type in their control file (visible in the Packages file in the APT archive). If one or more packages are found, it is a simple click of the mouse to add support for the missing mime type. If the package require the user to accept some non-free license, this is explained to the user. The entire process make it more clear to the user why something do not work in the browser, and make the chances higher for the user to blame the web page authors and not the browser for any missing features.
  3. Simple handling of missing multimedia codec/format handlers. When the media players encounter a format or codec it is not supporting, a dialog pop up asking the user if the system should search for a package that would add support for it. This happen with things like MP3, Windows Media or H.264. The selection and installation procedure is very similar to the Firefox browser plugin handling. This is as far as I know implemented using a gstreamer hook. The end result is that the user easily get access to the codecs that are present from the APT archives available, while explaining more on why a given format is unsupported by Ubuntu.
  4. Better browser handling of some MIME types. When displaying a text/plain file in my Debian browser, it will propose to start emacs to show it. If I remember correctly, when doing the same in Kunbutu it show the file as a text file in the browser. At least I know Opera will show text files within the browser. I much prefer the latter behaviour.

There are other nice features as well, like the simplified suite upgrader, but given that I am the one mostly doing the dist-upgrade, it do not matter much.

I really hope we could get these features in place for the next Debian release. It would require the coordinated effort of several maintainers, but would make the end user experience a lot better.

Tags: debian, english, multimedia, web.
Perl modules used by FixMyStreet which are missing in Debian/Squeeze
26th July 2011

The Norwegian FiksGataMi site is build on Debian/Squeeze, and this platform was chosen because I am most familiar with Debian (being a Debian Developer for around 10 years) because it is the latest stable Debian release which should get security support for a few years.

The web service is written in Perl, and depend on some perl modules that are missing in Debian at the moment. It would be great if these modules were added to the Debian archive, allowing anyone to set up their own FixMyStreet clone in their own country using only Debian packages. The list of modules missing in Debian/Squeeze isn't very long, and I hope the perl group will find time to package the 12 modules Catalyst::Plugin::SmartURI, Catalyst::Plugin::Unicode::Encoding, Catalyst::View::TT, Devel::Hide, Sort::Key, Statistics::Distributions, Template::Plugin::Comma, Template::Plugin::DateTime::Format, Term::Size::Any, Term::Size::Perl, URI::SmartURI and Web::Scraper to make the maintenance of FixMyStreet easier in the future.

Thanks to the great tools in Debian, getting the missing modules installed on my server was a simple call to 'cpan2deb Module::Name' and 'dpkg -i' to install the resulting package. But this leave me with the responsibility of tracking security problems, which I really do not have time for.

Tags: debian, english, fiksgatami.
A Norwegian FixMyStreet have kept me busy the last few weeks
3rd April 2011

Here is a small update for my English readers. Most of my blog posts have been in Norwegian the last few weeks, so here is a short update in English.

The kids still keep me too busy to get much free software work done, but I did manage to organise a project to get a Norwegian port of the British service FixMyStreet up and running, and it has been running for a month now. The entire project has been organised by me and two others. Around Christmas we gathered sponsors to fund the development work. In January I drafted a contract with mySociety on what to develop, and in February the development took place. Most of it involved converting the source to use GPS coordinates instead of British easting/northing, and the resulting code should be a lot easier to get running in any country by now. The Norwegian FiksGataMi is using OpenStreetmap as the map source and the source for administrative borders in Norway, and support for this had to be added/fixed.

The Norwegian version went live March 3th, and we spent the weekend polishing the system before we announced it March 7th. The system is running on a KVM instance of Debian/Squeeze, and has seen almost 3000 problem reports in a few weeks. Soon we hope to announce the Android and iPhone versions making it even easier to report problems with the public infrastructure.

Perhaps something to consider for those of you in countries without such service?

Tags: debian, english, fiksgatami, kart.
Using NVD and CPE to track CVEs in locally maintained software
28th January 2011

The last few days I have looked at ways to track open security issues here at my work with the University of Oslo. My idea is that it should be possible to use the information about security issues available on the Internet, and check our locally maintained/distributed software against this information. It should allow us to verify that no known security issues are forgotten. The CVE database listing vulnerabilities seem like a great central point, and by using the package lists from Debian mapped to CVEs provided by the testing security team, I believed it should be possible to figure out which security holes were present in our free software collection.

After reading up on the topic, it became obvious that the first building block is to be able to name software packages in a unique and consistent way across data sources. I considered several ways to do this, for example coming up with my own naming scheme like using URLs to project home pages or URLs to the Freshmeat entries, or using some existing naming scheme. And it seem like I am not the first one to come across this problem, as MITRE already proposed and implemented a solution. Enter the Common Platform Enumeration dictionary, a vocabulary for referring to software, hardware and other platform components. The CPE ids are mapped to CVEs in the National Vulnerability Database, allowing me to look up know security issues for any CPE name. With this in place, all I need to do is to locate the CPE id for the software packages we use at the university. This is fairly trivial (I google for 'cve cpe $package' and check the NVD entry if a CVE for the package exist).

To give you an example. The GNU gzip source package have the CPE name cpe:/a:gnu:gzip. If the old version 1.3.3 was the package to check out, one could look up cpe:/a:gnu:gzip:1.3.3 in NVD and get a list of 6 security holes with public CVE entries. The most recent one is CVE-2010-0001, and at the bottom of the NVD page for this vulnerability the complete list of affected versions is provided.

The NVD database of CVEs is also available as a XML dump, allowing for offline processing of issues. Using this dump, I've written a small script taking a list of CPEs as input and list all CVEs affecting the packages represented by these CPEs. One give it CPEs with version numbers as specified above and get a list of open security issues out.

Of course for this approach to be useful, the quality of the NVD information need to be high. For that to happen, I believe as many as possible need to use and contribute to the NVD database. I notice RHEL is providing a map from CVE to CPE, indicating that they are using the CPE information. I'm not aware of Debian and Ubuntu doing the same.

To get an idea about the quality for free software, I spent some time making it possible to compare the CVE database from Debian with the CVE database in NVD. The result look fairly good, but there are some inconsistencies in NVD (same software package having several CPEs), and some inaccuracies (NVD not mentioning buggy packages that Debian believe are affected by a CVE). Hope to find time to improve the quality of NVD, but that require being able to get in touch with someone maintaining it. So far my three emails with questions and corrections have not seen any reply, but I hope contact can be established soon.

An interesting application for CPEs is cross platform package mapping. It would be useful to know which packages in for example RHEL, OpenSuSe and Mandriva are missing from Debian and Ubuntu, and this would be trivial if all linux distributions provided CPE entries for their packages.

Tags: debian, english, sikkerhet.
Which module is loaded for a given PCI and USB device?
23rd January 2011

In the discover-data package in Debian, there is a script to report useful information about the running hardware for use when people report missing information. One part of this script that I find very useful when debugging hardware problems, is the part mapping loaded kernel module to the PCI device it claims. It allow me to quickly see if the kernel module I expect is driving the hardware I am struggling with. To see the output, make sure discover-data is installed and run /usr/share/bug/discover-data 3>&1. The relevant output on one of my machines like this:

loaded modules:
10de:03eb i2c_nforce2
10de:03f1 ohci_hcd
10de:03f2 ehci_hcd
10de:03f0 snd_hda_intel
10de:03ec pata_amd
10de:03f6 sata_nv
1022:1103 k8temp
109e:036e bttv
109e:0878 snd_bt87x
11ab:4364 sky2

The code in question look like this, slightly modified for readability and to drop the output to file descriptor 3:

if [ -d /sys/bus/pci/devices/ ] ; then
    echo loaded pci modules:
    (
        cd /sys/bus/pci/devices/
        for address in * ; do
            if [ -d "$address/driver/module" ] ; then
                module=`cd $address/driver/module ; pwd -P | xargs basename`
                if grep -q "^$module " /proc/modules ; then
                    address=$(echo $address |sed s/0000://)
                    id=`lspci -n -s $address | tail -n 1 | awk '{print $3}'`
                    echo "$id $module"
                fi
            fi
        done
    )
    echo
fi

Similar code could be used to extract USB device module mappings:

if [ -d /sys/bus/usb/devices/ ] ; then
    echo loaded usb modules:
    (
        cd /sys/bus/usb/devices/
        for address in * ; do
            if [ -d "$address/driver/module" ] ; then
                module=`cd $address/driver/module ; pwd -P | xargs basename`
                if grep -q "^$module " /proc/modules ; then
                    address=$(echo $address |sed s/0000://)
                    id=$(lsusb -s $address | tail -n 1 | awk '{print $6}')
                    if [ "$id" ] ; then
                        echo "$id $module"
                    fi
                fi
            fi
        done
    )
    echo
fi

This might perhaps be something to include in other tools as well.

Tags: debian, english.
How to test if a laptop is working with Linux
22nd December 2010

The last few days I have spent at work here at the University of Oslo testing if the new batch of computers will work with Linux. Every year for the last few years the university have organised shared bid of a few thousand computers, and this year HP won the bid. Two different desktops and five different laptops are on the list this year. We in the UNIX group want to know which one of these computers work well with RHEL and Ubuntu, the two Linux distributions we currently handle at the university.

My test method is simple, and I share it here to get feedback and perhaps inspire others to test hardware as well. To test, I PXE install the OS version of choice, and log in as my normal user and run a few applications and plug in selected pieces of hardware. When something fail, I make a note about this in the test matrix and move on. If I have some spare time I try to report the bug to the OS vendor, but as I only have the machines for a short time, I rarely have the time to do this for all the problems I find.

Anyway, to get to the point of this post. Here is the simple tests I perform on a new model.

By now I suspect you are really curious what the test results are for the HP machines I am testing. I'm not done yet, so I will report the test results later. For now I can report that HP 8100 Elite work fine, and hibernation fail with HP EliteBook 8440p on Ubuntu Lucid, and audio fail on RHEL6. Ubuntu Maverik worked with 8440p. As you can see, I have most machines left to test. One interesting observation is that Ubuntu Lucid has almost twice the frame rate than RHEL6 with glxgears. No idea why.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english.
Some thoughts on BitCoins
11th December 2010

As I continue to explore BitCoin, I've starting to wonder what properties the system have, and how it will be affected by laws and regulations here in Norway. Here are some random notes.

One interesting thing to note is that since the transactions are verified using a peer to peer network, all details about a transaction is known to everyone. This means that if a BitCoin address has been published like I did with mine in my initial post about BitCoin, it is possible for everyone to see how many BitCoins have been transfered to that address. There is even a web service to look at the details for all transactions. There I can see that my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b have received 16.06 Bitcoin, the 1LfdGnGuWkpSJgbQySxxCWhv8MHqvwst3 address of Simon Phipps have received 181.97 BitCoin and the address 1MCwBbhNGp5hRm5rC1Aims2YFRe2SXPYKt of EFF have received 2447.38 BitCoins so far. Thank you to each and every one of you that donated bitcoins to support my activity. The fact that anyone can see how much money was transfered to a given address make it more obvious why the BitCoin community recommend to generate and hand out a new address for each transaction. I'm told there is no way to track which addresses belong to a given person or organisation without the person or organisation revealing it themselves, as Simon, EFF and I have done.

In Norway, and in most other countries, there are laws and regulations limiting how much money one can transfer across the border without declaring it. There are money laundering, tax and accounting laws and regulations I would expect to apply to the use of BitCoin. If the Skolelinux foundation (SLX Debian Labs) were to accept donations in BitCoin in addition to normal bank transfers like EFF is doing, how should this be accounted? Given that it is impossible to know if money can cross the border or not, should everything or nothing be declared? What exchange rate should be used when calculating taxes? Would receivers have to pay income tax if the foundation were to pay Skolelinux contributors in BitCoin? I have no idea, but it would be interesting to know.

For a currency to be useful and successful, it must be trusted and accepted by a lot of users. It must be possible to get easy access to the currency (as a wage or using currency exchanges), and it must be easy to spend it. At the moment BitCoin seem fairly easy to get access to, but there are very few places to spend it. I am not really a regular user of any of the vendor types currently accepting BitCoin, so I wonder when my kind of shop would start accepting BitCoins. I would like to buy electronics, travels and subway tickets, not herbs and books. :) The currency is young, and this will improve over time if it become popular, but I suspect regular banks will start to lobby to get BitCoin declared illegal if it become popular. I'm sure they will claim it is helping fund terrorism and money laundering (which probably would be true, as is any currency in existence), but I believe the problems should be solved elsewhere and not by blaming currencies.

The process of creating new BitCoins is called mining, and it is CPU intensive process that depend on a bit of luck as well (as one is competing against all the other miners currently spending CPU cycles to see which one get the next lump of cash). The "winner" get 50 BitCoin when this happen. Yesterday I came across the obvious way to join forces to increase ones changes of getting at least some coins, by coordinating the work on mining BitCoins across several machines and people, and sharing the result if one is lucky and get the 50 BitCoins. Check out BitCoin Pool if this sounds interesting. I have not had time to try to set up a machine to participate there yet, but have seen that running on ones own for a few days have not yield any BitCoins througth mining yet.

Update 2010-12-15: Found an interesting criticism of bitcoin. Not quite sure how valid it is, but thought it was interesting to read. The arguments presented seem to be equally valid for gold, which was used as a currency for many years.

Tags: bitcoin, debian, english, personvern, sikkerhet.
Now accepting bitcoins - anonymous and distributed p2p crypto-money
10th December 2010

With this weeks lawless governmental attacks on Wikileak and free speech, it has become obvious that PayPal, visa and mastercard can not be trusted to handle money transactions. A blog post from Simon Phipps on bitcoin reminded me about a project that a friend of mine mentioned earlier. I decided to follow Simon's example, and get involved with BitCoin. I got some help from my friend to get it all running, and he even handed me some bitcoins to get started. I even donated a few bitcoins to Simon for helping me remember BitCoin.

So, what is bitcoins, you probably wonder? It is a digital crypto-currency, decentralised and handled using peer-to-peer networks. It allows anonymous transactions and prohibits central control over the transactions, making it impossible for governments and companies alike to block donations and other transactions. The source is free software, and while the key dependency wxWidgets 2.9 for the graphical user interface is missing in Debian, the command line client builds just fine. Hopefully Jonas will get the package into Debian soon.

Bitcoins can be converted to other currencies, like USD and EUR. There are companies accepting bitcoins when selling services and goods, and there are even currency "stock" markets where the exchange rate is decided. There are not many users so far, but the concept seems promising. If you want to get started and lack a friend with any bitcoins to spare, you can even get some for free (0.05 bitcoin at the time of writing). Use BitcoinWatch to keep an eye on the current exchange rates.

As an experiment, I have decided to set up bitcoind on one of my machines. If you want to support my activity, please send Bitcoin donations to the address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b. Thank you!

Tags: bitcoin, debian, english, personvern, sikkerhet.
Why isn't Debian Edu using VLC?
27th November 2010

In the latest issue of Linux Journal, the readers choices were presented, and the winner among the multimedia player were VLC. Personally, I like VLC, and it is my player of choice when I first try to play a video file or stream. Only if VLC fail will I drag out gmplayer to see if it can do better. The reason is mostly the failure model and trust. When VLC fail, it normally pop up a error message reporting the problem. When mplayer fail, it normally segfault or just hangs. The latter failure mode drain my trust in the program.

But even if VLC is my player of choice, we have choosen to use mplayer in Debian Edu/Skolelinux. The reason is simple. We need a good browser plugin to play web videos seamlessly, and the VLC browser plugin is not very good. For example, it lack in-line control buttons, so there is no way for the user to pause the video. Also, when I last tested the browser plugins available in Debian, the VLC plugin failed on several video pages where mplayer based plugins worked. If the browser plugin for VLC was as good as the gecko-mediaplayer package (which uses mplayer), we would switch.

While VLC is a good player, its user interface is slightly annoying. The most annoying feature is its inconsistent use of keyboard shortcuts. When the player is in full screen mode, its shortcuts are different from when it is playing the video in a window. For example, space only work as pause when in full screen mode. I wish it had consisten shortcuts and that space also would work when in window mode. Another nice shortcut in gmplayer is [enter] to restart the current video. It is very nice when playing short videos from the web and want to restart it when new people arrive to have a look at what is going on.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, multimedia, video, web.
Lenny->Squeeze upgrades of the Gnome and KDE desktop, now with apt-get autoremove
22nd November 2010

Michael Biebl suggested to me on IRC, that I changed my automated upgrade testing of the Lenny Gnome and KDE Desktop to do apt-get autoremove when using apt-get. This seem like a very good idea, so I adjusted by test scripts and can now present the updated result from today:

This is for Gnome:

Installed using apt-get, missing with aptitude

apache2.2-bin aptdaemon baobab binfmt-support browser-plugin-gnash cheese-common cli-common cups-pk-helper dmz-cursor-theme empathy empathy-common freedesktop-sound-theme freeglut3 gconf-defaults-service gdm-themes gedit-plugins geoclue geoclue-hostip geoclue-localnet geoclue-manual geoclue-yahoo gnash gnash-common gnome gnome-backgrounds gnome-cards-data gnome-codec-install gnome-core gnome-desktop-environment gnome-disk-utility gnome-screenshot gnome-search-tool gnome-session-canberra gnome-system-log gnome-themes-extras gnome-themes-more gnome-user-share gstreamer0.10-fluendo-mp3 gstreamer0.10-tools gtk2-engines gtk2-engines-pixbuf gtk2-engines-smooth hamster-applet libapache2-mod-dnssd libapr1 libaprutil1 libaprutil1-dbd-sqlite3 libaprutil1-ldap libart2.0-cil libboost-date-time1.42.0 libboost-python1.42.0 libboost-thread1.42.0 libchamplain-0.4-0 libchamplain-gtk-0.4-0 libcheese-gtk18 libclutter-gtk-0.10-0 libcryptui0 libdiscid0 libelf1 libepc-1.0-2 libepc-common libepc-ui-1.0-2 libfreerdp-plugins-standard libfreerdp0 libgconf2.0-cil libgdata-common libgdata7 libgdu-gtk0 libgee2 libgeoclue0 libgexiv2-0 libgif4 libglade2.0-cil libglib2.0-cil libgmime2.4-cil libgnome-vfs2.0-cil libgnome2.24-cil libgnomepanel2.24-cil libgpod-common libgpod4 libgtk2.0-cil libgtkglext1 libgtksourceview2.0-common libmono-addins-gui0.2-cil libmono-addins0.2-cil libmono-cairo2.0-cil libmono-corlib2.0-cil libmono-i18n-west2.0-cil libmono-posix2.0-cil libmono-security2.0-cil libmono-sharpzip2.84-cil libmono-system2.0-cil libmtp8 libmusicbrainz3-6 libndesk-dbus-glib1.0-cil libndesk-dbus1.0-cil libopal3.6.8 libpolkit-gtk-1-0 libpt2.6.7 libpython2.6 librpm1 librpmio1 libsdl1.2debian libsrtp0 libssh-4 libtelepathy-farsight0 libtelepathy-glib0 libtidy-0.99-0 media-player-info mesa-utils mono-2.0-gac mono-gac mono-runtime nautilus-sendto nautilus-sendto-empathy p7zip-full pkg-config python-aptdaemon python-aptdaemon-gtk python-axiom python-beautifulsoup python-bugbuddy python-clientform python-coherence python-configobj python-crypto python-cupshelpers python-elementtree python-epsilon python-evolution python-feedparser python-gdata python-gdbm python-gst0.10 python-gtkglext1 python-gtksourceview2 python-httplib2 python-louie python-mako python-markupsafe python-mechanize python-nevow python-notify python-opengl python-openssl python-pam python-pkg-resources python-pyasn1 python-pysqlite2 python-rdflib python-serial python-tagpy python-twisted-bin python-twisted-conch python-twisted-core python-twisted-web python-utidylib python-webkit python-xdg python-zope.interface remmina remmina-plugin-data remmina-plugin-rdp remmina-plugin-vnc rhythmbox-plugin-cdrecorder rhythmbox-plugins rpm-common rpm2cpio seahorse-plugins shotwell software-center system-config-printer-udev telepathy-gabble telepathy-mission-control-5 telepathy-salut tomboy totem totem-coherence totem-mozilla totem-plugins transmission-common xdg-user-dirs xdg-user-dirs-gtk xserver-xephyr

Installed using apt-get, removed with aptitude

cheese ekiga eog epiphany-extensions evolution-exchange fast-user-switch-applet file-roller gcalctool gconf-editor gdm gedit gedit-common gnome-games gnome-games-data gnome-nettool gnome-system-tools gnome-themes gnuchess gucharmap guile-1.8-libs libavahi-ui0 libdmx1 libgalago3 libgtk-vnc-1.0-0 libgtksourceview2.0-0 liblircclient0 libsdl1.2debian-alsa libspeexdsp1 libsvga1 rhythmbox seahorse sound-juicer system-config-printer totem-common transmission-gtk vinagre vino

Installed using aptitude, missing with apt-get

gstreamer0.10-gnomevfs

Installed using aptitude, removed with apt-get

[nothing]

This is for KDE:

Installed using apt-get, missing with aptitude

ksmserver

Installed using apt-get, removed with aptitude

kwin network-manager-kde

Installed using aptitude, missing with apt-get

arts dolphin freespacenotifier google-gadgets-gst google-gadgets-xul kappfinder kcalc kcharselect kde-core kde-plasma-desktop kde-standard kde-window-manager kdeartwork kdeartwork-emoticons kdeartwork-style kdeartwork-theme-icon kdebase kdebase-apps kdebase-workspace kdebase-workspace-bin kdebase-workspace-data kdeeject kdelibs kdeplasma-addons kdeutils kdewallpapers kdf kfloppy kgpg khelpcenter4 kinfocenter konq-plugins-l10n konqueror-nsplugins kscreensaver kscreensaver-xsavers ktimer kwrite libgle3 libkde4-ruby1.8 libkonq5 libkonq5-templates libnetpbm10 libplasma-ruby libplasma-ruby1.8 libqt4-ruby1.8 marble-data marble-plugins netpbm nuvola-icon-theme plasma-dataengines-workspace plasma-desktop plasma-desktopthemes-artwork plasma-runners-addons plasma-scriptengine-googlegadgets plasma-scriptengine-python plasma-scriptengine-qedje plasma-scriptengine-ruby plasma-scriptengine-webkit plasma-scriptengines plasma-wallpapers-addons plasma-widget-folderview plasma-widget-networkmanagement ruby sweeper update-notifier-kde xscreensaver-data-extra xscreensaver-gl xscreensaver-gl-extra xscreensaver-screensaver-bsod

Installed using aptitude, removed with apt-get

ark google-gadgets-common google-gadgets-qt htdig kate kdebase-bin kdebase-data kdepasswd kfind klipper konq-plugins konqueror ksysguard ksysguardd libarchive1 libcln6 libeet1 libeina-svn-06 libggadget-1.0-0b libggadget-qt-1.0-0b libgps19 libkdecorations4 libkephal4 libkonq4 libkonqsidebarplugin4a libkscreensaver5 libksgrd4 libksignalplotter4 libkunitconversion4 libkwineffects1a libmarblewidget4 libntrack-qt4-1 libntrack0 libplasma-geolocation-interface4 libplasmaclock4a libplasmagenericshell4 libprocesscore4a libprocessui4a libqalculate5 libqedje0a libqtruby4shared2 libqzion0a libruby1.8 libscim8c2a libsmokekdecore4-3 libsmokekdeui4-3 libsmokekfile3 libsmokekhtml3 libsmokekio3 libsmokeknewstuff2-3 libsmokeknewstuff3-3 libsmokekparts3 libsmokektexteditor3 libsmokekutils3 libsmokenepomuk3 libsmokephonon3 libsmokeplasma3 libsmokeqtcore4-3 libsmokeqtdbus4-3 libsmokeqtgui4-3 libsmokeqtnetwork4-3 libsmokeqtopengl4-3 libsmokeqtscript4-3 libsmokeqtsql4-3 libsmokeqtsvg4-3 libsmokeqttest4-3 libsmokeqtuitools4-3 libsmokeqtwebkit4-3 libsmokeqtxml4-3 libsmokesolid3 libsmokesoprano3 libtaskmanager4a libtidy-0.99-0 libweather-ion4a libxklavier16 libxxf86misc1 okteta oxygencursors plasma-dataengines-addons plasma-scriptengine-superkaramba plasma-widget-lancelot plasma-widgets-addons plasma-widgets-workspace polkit-kde-1 ruby1.8 systemsettings update-notifier-common

Running apt-get autoremove made the results using apt-get and aptitude a bit more similar, but there are still quite a lott of differences. I have no idea what packages should be installed after the upgrade, but hope those that do can have a look.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english.
Migrating Xen virtual machines using LVM to KVM using disk images
22nd November 2010

Most of the computers in use by the Debian Edu/Skolelinux project are virtual machines. And they have been Xen machines running on a fairly old IBM eserver xseries 345 machine, and we wanted to migrate them to KVM on a newer Dell PowerEdge 2950 host machine. This was a bit harder that it could have been, because we set up the Xen virtual machines to get the virtual partitions from LVM, which as far as I know is not supported by KVM. So to migrate, we had to convert several LVM logical volumes to partitions on a virtual disk file.

I found a nice recipe to do this, and wrote the following script to do the migration. It uses qemu-img from the qemu package to make the disk image, parted to partition it, losetup and kpartx to present the disk image partions as devices, and dd to copy the data. I NFS mounted the new servers storage area on the old server to do the migration.

#!/bin/sh

# Based on
# http://searchnetworking.techtarget.com.au/articles/35011-Six-steps-for-migrating-Xen-virtual-machines-to-KVM

set -e
set -x

if [ -z "$1" ] ; then
    echo "Usage: $0 <hostname>"
    exit 1
else
    host="$1"
fi

if [ ! -e /dev/vg_data/$host-disk ] ; then
    echo "error: unable to find LVM volume for $host"
    exit 1
fi

# Partitions need to be a bit bigger than the LVM LVs.  not sure why.
disksize=$( lvs --units m | grep $host-disk | awk '{sum = sum + $4} END { print int(sum * 1.05) }')
swapsize=$( lvs --units m | grep $host-swap | awk '{sum = sum + $4} END { print int(sum * 1.05) }')
totalsize=$(( ( $disksize + $swapsize ) ))

img=$host.img
#dd if=/dev/zero of=$img bs=1M count=$(( $disksize + $swapsize ))
qemu-img create $img ${totalsize}MMaking room on the Debian Edu/Sqeeze DVD

parted $img mklabel msdos
parted $img mkpart primary linux-swap 0 $disksize
parted $img mkpart primary ext2 $disksize $totalsize
parted $img set 1 boot on

modprobe dm-mod
losetup /dev/loop0 $img
kpartx -a /dev/loop0

dd if=/dev/vg_data/$host-disk of=/dev/mapper/loop0p1 bs=1M
fsck.ext3 -f /dev/mapper/loop0p1 || true
mkswap /dev/mapper/loop0p2

kpartx -d /dev/loop0
losetup -d /dev/loop0

The script is perhaps so simple that it is not copyrightable, but if it is, it is licenced using GPL v2 or later at your discretion.

After doing this, I booted a Debian CD in rescue mode in KVM with the new disk image attached, installed grub-pc and linux-image-686 and set up grub to boot from the disk image. After this, the KVM machines seem to work just fine.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english.
Lenny->Squeeze upgrades, apt vs aptitude with the Gnome and KDE desktop
20th November 2010

I'm still running upgrade testing of the Lenny Gnome and KDE Desktop, but have not had time to spend on reporting the status. Here is a short update based on a test I ran 20101118.

I still do not know what a correct migration should look like, so I report any differences between apt and aptitude and hope someone else can see if anything should be changed.

This is for Gnome:

Installed using apt-get, missing with aptitude

apache2.2-bin aptdaemon at-spi baobab binfmt-support browser-plugin-gnash cheese-common cli-common cpp-4.3 cups-pk-helper dmz-cursor-theme empathy empathy-common finger freedesktop-sound-theme freeglut3 gconf-defaults-service gdm-themes gedit-plugins geoclue geoclue-hostip geoclue-localnet geoclue-manual geoclue-yahoo gnash gnash-common gnome gnome-backgrounds gnome-cards-data gnome-codec-install gnome-core gnome-desktop-environment gnome-disk-utility gnome-screenshot gnome-search-tool gnome-session-canberra gnome-spell gnome-system-log gnome-themes-extras gnome-themes-more gnome-user-share gs-common gstreamer0.10-fluendo-mp3 gstreamer0.10-tools gtk2-engines gtk2-engines-pixbuf gtk2-engines-smooth hal-info hamster-applet libapache2-mod-dnssd libapr1 libaprutil1 libaprutil1-dbd-sqlite3 libaprutil1-ldap libart2.0-cil libatspi1.0-0 libboost-date-time1.42.0 libboost-python1.42.0 libboost-thread1.42.0 libchamplain-0.4-0 libchamplain-gtk-0.4-0 libcheese-gtk18 libclutter-gtk-0.10-0 libcryptui0 libcupsys2 libdiscid0 libeel2-data libelf1 libepc-1.0-2 libepc-common libepc-ui-1.0-2 libfreerdp-plugins-standard libfreerdp0 libgail-common libgconf2.0-cil libgdata-common libgdata7 libgdl-1-common libgdu-gtk0 libgee2 libgeoclue0 libgexiv2-0 libgif4 libglade2.0-cil libglib2.0-cil libgmime2.4-cil libgnome-vfs2.0-cil libgnome2.24-cil libgnomepanel2.24-cil libgnomeprint2.2-data libgnomeprintui2.2-common libgnomevfs2-bin libgpod-common libgpod4 libgtk2.0-cil libgtkglext1 libgtksourceview-common libgtksourceview2.0-common libmono-addins-gui0.2-cil libmono-addins0.2-cil libmono-cairo2.0-cil libmono-corlib2.0-cil libmono-i18n-west2.0-cil libmono-posix2.0-cil libmono-security2.0-cil libmono-sharpzip2.84-cil libmono-system2.0-cil libmtp8 libmusicbrainz3-6 libndesk-dbus-glib1.0-cil libndesk-dbus1.0-cil libopal3.6.8 libpolkit-gtk-1-0 libpt-1.10.10-plugins-alsa libpt-1.10.10-plugins-v4l libpt2.6.7 libpython2.6 librpm1 librpmio1 libsdl1.2debian libservlet2.4-java libsrtp0 libssh-4 libtelepathy-farsight0 libtelepathy-glib0 libtidy-0.99-0 libxalan2-java libxerces2-java media-player-info mesa-utils mono-2.0-gac mono-gac mono-runtime nautilus-sendto nautilus-sendto-empathy openoffice.org-writer2latex openssl-blacklist p7zip p7zip-full pkg-config python-4suite-xml python-aptdaemon python-aptdaemon-gtk python-axiom python-beautifulsoup python-bugbuddy python-clientform python-coherence python-configobj python-crypto python-cupshelpers python-cupsutils python-eggtrayicon python-elementtree python-epsilon python-evolution python-feedparser python-gdata python-gdbm python-gst0.10 python-gtkglext1 python-gtkmozembed python-gtksourceview2 python-httplib2 python-louie python-mako python-markupsafe python-mechanize python-nevow python-notify python-opengl python-openssl python-pam python-pkg-resources python-pyasn1 python-pysqlite2 python-rdflib python-serial python-tagpy python-twisted-bin python-twisted-conch python-twisted-core python-twisted-web python-utidylib python-webkit python-xdg python-zope.interface remmina remmina-plugin-data remmina-plugin-rdp remmina-plugin-vnc rhythmbox-plugin-cdrecorder rhythmbox-plugins rpm-common rpm2cpio seahorse-plugins shotwell software-center svgalibg1 system-config-printer-udev telepathy-gabble telepathy-mission-control-5 telepathy-salut tomboy totem totem-coherence totem-mozilla totem-plugins transmission-common xdg-user-dirs xdg-user-dirs-gtk xserver-xephyr zip

Installed using apt-get, removed with aptitude

arj bluez-utils cheese dhcdbd djvulibre-desktop ekiga eog epiphany-extensions epiphany-gecko evolution-exchange fast-user-switch-applet file-roller gcalctool gconf-editor gdm gedit gedit-common gnome-app-install gnome-games gnome-games-data gnome-nettool gnome-system-tools gnome-themes gnome-utils gnome-vfs-obexftp gnome-volume-manager gnuchess gucharmap guile-1.8-libs hal libavahi-compat-libdnssd1 libavahi-core5 libavahi-ui0 libbind9-50 libbluetooth2 libcamel1.2-11 libcdio7 libcucul0 libcurl3 libdirectfb-1.0-0 libdmx1 libdvdread3 libedata-cal1.2-6 libedataserver1.2-9 libeel2-2.20 libepc-1.0-1 libepc-ui-1.0-1 libexchange-storage1.2-3 libfaad0 libgadu3 libgalago3 libgd2-noxpm libgda3-3 libgda3-common libggz2 libggzcore9 libggzmod4 libgksu1.2-0 libgksuui1.0-1 libgmyth0 libgnome-desktop-2 libgnome-pilot2 libgnomecups1.0-1 libgnomeprint2.2-0 libgnomeprintui2.2-0 libgpod3 libgraphviz4 libgtk-vnc-1.0-0 libgtkhtml2-0 libgtksourceview1.0-0 libgtksourceview2.0-0 libgucharmap6 libhesiod0 libicu38 libisccc50 libisccfg50 libiw29 libjaxp1.3-java-gcj libkpathsea4 liblircclient0 libltdl3 liblwres50 libmagick++10 libmagick10 libmalaga7 libmozjs1d libmpfr1ldbl libmtp7 libmysqlclient15off libnautilus-burn4 libneon27 libnm-glib0 libnm-util0 libopal-2.2 libosp5 libparted1.8-10 libpisock9 libpisync1 libpoppler-glib3 libpoppler3 libpt-1.10.10 libraw1394-8 libsdl1.2debian-alsa libsensors3 libsexy2 libsmbios2 libsoup2.2-8 libspeexdsp1 libssh2-1 libsuitesparse-3.1.0 libsvga1 libswfdec-0.6-90 libtalloc1 libtotem-plparser10 libtrackerclient0 libvoikko1 libxalan2-java-gcj libxerces2-java-gcj libxklavier12 libxtrap6 libxxf86misc1 libzephyr3 mysql-common rhythmbox seahorse sound-juicer swfdec-gnome system-config-printer totem-common totem-gstreamer transmission-gtk vinagre vino w3c-dtd-xhtml wodim

Installed using aptitude, missing with apt-get

gstreamer0.10-gnomevfs

Installed using aptitude, removed with apt-get

[nothing]

This is for KDE:

Installed using apt-get, missing with aptitude

autopoint bomber bovo cantor cantor-backend-kalgebra cpp-4.3 dcoprss edict espeak espeak-data eyesapplet fifteenapplet finger gettext ghostscript-x git gnome-audio gnugo granatier gs-common gstreamer0.10-pulseaudio indi kaddressbook-plugins kalgebra kalzium-data kanjidic kapman kate-plugins kblocks kbreakout kbstate kde-icons-mono kdeaccessibility kdeaddons-kfile-plugins kdeadmin-kfile-plugins kdeartwork-misc kdeartwork-theme-window kdeedu kdeedu-data kdeedu-kvtml-data kdegames kdegames-card-data kdegames-mahjongg-data kdegraphics-kfile-plugins kdelirc kdemultimedia-kfile-plugins kdenetwork-kfile-plugins kdepim-kfile-plugins kdepim-kio-plugins kdessh kdetoys kdewebdev kdiamond kdnssd kfilereplace kfourinline kgeography-data kigo killbots kiriki klettres-data kmoon kmrml knewsticker-scripts kollision kpf krosspython ksirk ksmserver ksquares kstars-data ksudoku kubrick kweather libasound2-plugins libboost-python1.42.0 libcfitsio3 libconvert-binhex-perl libcrypt-ssleay-perl libdb4.6++ libdjvulibre-text libdotconf1.0 liberror-perl libespeak1 libfinance-quote-perl libgail-common libgsl0ldbl libhtml-parser-perl libhtml-tableextract-perl libhtml-tagset-perl libhtml-tree-perl libio-stringy-perl libkdeedu4 libkdegames5 libkiten4 libkpathsea5 libkrossui4 libmailtools-perl libmime-tools-perl libnews-nntpclient-perl libopenbabel3 libportaudio2 libpulse-browse0 libservlet2.4-java libspeechd2 libtiff-tools libtimedate-perl libunistring0 liburi-perl libwww-perl libxalan2-java libxerces2-java lirc luatex marble networkstatus noatun-plugins openoffice.org-writer2latex palapeli palapeli-data parley parley-data poster psutils pulseaudio pulseaudio-esound-compat pulseaudio-module-x11 pulseaudio-utils quanta-data rocs rsync speech-dispatcher step svgalibg1 texlive-binaries texlive-luatex ttf-sazanami-gothic

Installed using apt-get, removed with aptitude

amor artsbuilder atlantik atlantikdesigner blinken bluez-utils cvs dhcdbd djvulibre-desktop imlib-base imlib11 kalzium kanagram kandy kasteroids katomic kbackgammon kbattleship kblackbox kbounce kbruch kcron kdat kdemultimedia-kappfinder-data kdeprint kdict kdvi kedit keduca kenolaba kfax kfaxview kfouleggs kgeography kghostview kgoldrunner khangman khexedit kiconedit kig kimagemapeditor kitchensync kiten kjumpingcube klatin klettres klickety klines klinkstatus kmag kmahjongg kmailcvt kmenuedit kmid kmilo kmines kmousetool kmouth kmplot knetwalk kodo kolf kommander konquest kooka kpager kpat kpdf kpercentage kpilot kpoker kpovmodeler krec kregexpeditor kreversi ksame ksayit kshisen ksig ksim ksirc ksirtet ksmiletris ksnake ksokoban kspaceduel kstars ksvg ksysv kteatime ktip ktnef ktouch ktron kttsd ktuberling kturtle ktux kuickshow kverbos kview kviewshell kvoctrain kwifimanager kwin kwin4 kwordquiz kworldclock kxsldbg libakode2 libarts1-akode libarts1-audiofile libarts1-mpeglib libarts1-xine libavahi-compat-libdnssd1 libavahi-core5 libavc1394-0 libbind9-50 libbluetooth2 libboost-python1.34.1 libcucul0 libcurl3 libcvsservice0 libdirectfb-1.0-0 libdjvulibre21 libdvdread3 libfaad0 libfreebob0 libgd2-noxpm libgraphviz4 libgsmme1c2a libgtkhtml2-0 libicu38 libiec61883-0 libindex0 libisccc50 libisccfg50 libiw29 libjaxp1.3-java-gcj libk3b3 libkcal2b libkcddb1 libkdeedu3 libkdegames1 libkdepim1a libkgantt0 libkleopatra1 libkmime2 libkpathsea4 libkpimexchange1 libkpimidentities1 libkscan1 libksieve0 libktnef1 liblockdev1 libltdl3 liblwres50 libmagick10 libmimelib1c2a libmodplug0c2 libmozjs1d libmpcdec3 libmpfr1ldbl libneon27 libnm-util0 libopensync0 libpisock9 libpoppler-glib3 libpoppler-qt2 libpoppler3 libraw1394-8 librss1 libsensors3 libsmbios2 libssh2-1 libsuitesparse-3.1.0 libswfdec-0.6-90 libtalloc1 libxalan2-java-gcj libxerces2-java-gcj libxtrap6 lskat mpeglib network-manager-kde noatun pmount tex-common texlive-base texlive-common texlive-doc-base texlive-fonts-recommended tidy ttf-dustin ttf-kochi-gothic ttf-sjfonts

Installed using aptitude, missing with apt-get

dolphin kde-core kde-plasma-desktop kde-standard kde-window-manager kdeartwork kdebase kdebase-apps kdebase-workspace kdebase-workspace-bin kdebase-workspace-data kdeutils kscreensaver kscreensaver-xsavers libgle3 libkonq5 libkonq5-templates libnetpbm10 netpbm plasma-widget-folderview plasma-widget-networkmanagement xscreensaver-data-extra xscreensaver-gl xscreensaver-gl-extra xscreensaver-screensaver-bsod

Installed using aptitude, removed with apt-get

kdebase-bin konq-plugins konqueror

Tags: debian, debian edu, english.
Gnash buildbot slave and Debian kfreebsd
20th November 2010

Answering the call from the Gnash project for buildbot slaves to test the current source, I have set up a virtual KVM machine on the Debian Edu/Skolelinux virtualization host to test the git source on Debian/Squeeze. I hope this can help the developers in getting new releases out more often.

As the developers want less main-stream build platforms tested to, I have considered setting up a Debian/kfreebsd machine as well. I have also considered using the kfreebsd architecture in Debian as a file server in NUUG to get access to the 5 TB zfs volume we currently use to store DV video. Because of this, I finally got around to do a test installation of Debian/Squeeze with kfreebsd. Installation went fairly smooth, thought I noticed some visual glitches in the cdebconf dialogs (black cursor left on the screen at random locations). Have not gotten very far with the testing. Noticed cfdisk did not work, but fdisk did so it was not a fatal problem. Have to spend some more time on it to see if it is useful as a file server for NUUG. Will try to find time to set up a gnash buildbot slave on the Debian Edu/Skolelinux this weekend.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, nuug.
Debian in 3D
9th November 2010

3D printing is just great. I just came across this Debian logo in 3D linked in from the thingiverse blog.

Tags: 3d-printer, debian, english.
Software updates 2010-10-24
24th October 2010

Some updates.

My gnash pledge to raise money for the project is going well. The lower limit of 10 signers was reached in 24 hours, and so far 13 people have signed it. More signers and more funding is most welcome, and I am really curious how far we can get before the time limit of December 24 is reached. :)

On the #gnash IRC channel on irc.freenode.net, I was just tipped about what appear to be a great code coverage tool capable of generating code coverage stats without any changes to the source code. It is called kcov, and can be used using kcov <directory> <binary>. It is missing in Debian, but the git source built just fine in Squeeze after I installed libelf-dev, libdwarf-dev, pkg-config and libglib2.0-dev. Failed to build in Lenny, but suspect that is solvable. I hope kcov make it into Debian soon.

Finally found time to wrap up the release notes for a new alpha release of Debian Edu, and just published the second alpha test release of the Squeeze based Debian Edu / Skolelinux release. Give it a try if you need a complete linux solution for your school, including central infrastructure server, workstations, thin client servers and diskless workstations. A nice touch added yesterday is RDP support on the thin client servers, for windows clients to get a Linux desktop on request.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, multimedia.
Some notes on Flash in Debian and Debian Edu
4th September 2010

In the Debian popularity-contest numbers, the adobe-flashplugin package the second most popular used package that is missing in Debian. The sixth most popular is flashplayer-mozilla. This is a clear indication that working flash is important for Debian users. Around 10 percent of the users submitting data to popcon.debian.org have this package installed.

In the report written by Lars Risan in August 2008 («Skolelinux i bruk – Rapport for Hurum kommune, Universitetet i Agder og stiftelsen SLX Debian Labs»), one of the most important problems schools experienced with Debian Edu/Skolelinux was the lack of working Flash. A lot of educational web sites require Flash to work, and lacking working Flash support in the web browser and the problems with installing it was perceived as a good reason to stay with Windows.

I once saw a funny and sad comment in a web forum, where Linux was said to be the retarded cousin that did not really understand everything you told him but could work fairly well. This was a comment regarding the problems Linux have with proprietary formats and non-standard web pages, and is sad because it exposes a fairly common understanding of whose fault it is if web pages that only work in for example Internet Explorer 6 fail to work on Firefox, and funny because it explain very well how annoying it is for users when Linux distributions do not work with the documents they receive or the web pages they want to visit.

This is part of the reason why I believe it is important for Debian and Debian Edu to have a well working Flash implementation in the distribution, to get at least popular sites as Youtube and Google Video to working out of the box. For Squeeze, Debian have the chance to include the latest version of Gnash that will make this happen, as the new release 0.8.8 was published a few weeks ago and is resting in unstable. The new version work with more sites that version 0.8.7. The Gnash maintainers have asked for a freeze exception, but the release team have not had time to reply to it yet. I hope they agree with me that Flash is important for the Debian desktop users, and thus accept the new package into Squeeze.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, multimedia, video, web.
Circular package dependencies harms apt recovery
27th July 2010

I discovered this while doing automated testing of upgrades from Debian Lenny to Squeeze. A few packages in Debian still got circular dependencies, and it is often claimed that apt and aptitude should be able to handle this just fine, but some times these dependency loops causes apt to fail.

An example is from todays upgrade of KDE using aptitude. In it, a bug in kdebase-workspace-data causes perl-modules to fail to upgrade. The cause is simple. If a package fail to unpack, then only part of packages with the circular dependency might end up being unpacked when unpacking aborts, and the ones already unpacked will fail to configure in the recovery phase because its dependencies are unavailable.

In this log, the problem manifest itself with this error:

dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of perl-modules:
 perl-modules depends on perl (>= 5.10.1-1); however:
  Version of perl on system is 5.10.0-19lenny2.
dpkg: error processing perl-modules (--configure):
 dependency problems - leaving unconfigured

The perl/perl-modules circular dependency is already reported as a bug, and will hopefully be solved as soon as possible, but it is not the only one, and each one of these loops in the dependency tree can cause similar failures. Of course, they only occur when there are bugs in other packages causing the unpacking to fail, but it is rather nasty when the failure of one package causes the problem to become worse because of dependency loops.

Thanks to the tireless effort by Bill Allombert, the number of circular dependencies left in Debian is dropping, and perhaps it will reach zero one day. :)

Todays testing also exposed a bug in update-notifier and different behaviour between apt-get and aptitude, the latter possibly caused by some circular dependency. Reported both to BTS to try to get someone to look at it.

Tags: debian, english, nuug.
What are they searching for - PowerDNS and ISC DHCP in LDAP
17th July 2010

This is a followup on my previous work on merging all the computer related LDAP objects in Debian Edu.

As a step to try to see if it possible to merge the DNS and DHCP LDAP objects, I have had a look at how the packages pdns-backend-ldap and dhcp3-server-ldap in Debian use the LDAP server. The two implementations are quite different in how they use LDAP.

To get this information, I started slapd with debugging enabled and dumped the debug output to a file to get the LDAP searches performed on a Debian Edu main-server. Here is a summary.

powerdns

Clues on how to set up PowerDNS to use a LDAP backend is available on the web.

PowerDNS have two modes of operation using LDAP as its backend. One "strict" mode where the forward and reverse DNS lookups are done using the same LDAP objects, and a "tree" mode where the forward and reverse entries are in two different subtrees in LDAP with a structure based on the DNS names, as in tjener.intern and 2.2.0.10.in-addr.arpa.

In tree mode, the server is set up to use a LDAP subtree as its base, and uses a "base" scoped search for the DNS name by adding "dc=tjener,dc=intern," to the base with a filter for "(associateddomain=tjener.intern)" for the forward entry and "dc=2,dc=2,dc=0,dc=10,dc=in-addr,dc=arpa," with a filter for "(associateddomain=2.2.0.10.in-addr.arpa)" for the reverse entry. For forward entries, it is looking for attributes named dnsttl, arecord, nsrecord, cnamerecord, soarecord, ptrrecord, hinforecord, mxrecord, txtrecord, rprecord, afsdbrecord, keyrecord, aaaarecord, locrecord, srvrecord, naptrrecord, kxrecord, certrecord, dsrecord, sshfprecord, ipseckeyrecord, rrsigrecord, nsecrecord, dnskeyrecord, dhcidrecord, spfrecord and modifytimestamp. For reverse entries it is looking for the attributes dnsttl, arecord, nsrecord, cnamerecord, soarecord, ptrrecord, hinforecord, mxrecord, txtrecord, rprecord, aaaarecord, locrecord, srvrecord, naptrrecord and modifytimestamp. The equivalent ldapsearch commands could look like this:

ldapsearch -h ldap \
  -b dc=tjener,dc=intern,ou=hosts,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no \
  -s base -x '(associateddomain=tjener.intern)' dNSTTL aRecord nSRecord \
  cNAMERecord sOARecord pTRRecord hInfoRecord mXRecord tXTRecord \
  rPRecord aFSDBRecord KeyRecord aAAARecord lOCRecord sRVRecord \
  nAPTRRecord kXRecord certRecord dSRecord sSHFPRecord iPSecKeyRecord \
  rRSIGRecord nSECRecord dNSKeyRecord dHCIDRecord sPFRecord modifyTimestamp

ldapsearch -h ldap \
  -b dc=2,dc=2,dc=0,dc=10,dc=in-addr,dc=arpa,ou=hosts,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no \
  -s base -x '(associateddomain=2.2.0.10.in-addr.arpa)'
  dnsttl, arecord, nsrecord, cnamerecord soarecord ptrrecord \
  hinforecord mxrecord txtrecord rprecord aaaarecord locrecord \
  srvrecord naptrrecord modifytimestamp

In Debian Edu/Lenny, the PowerDNS tree mode is used with ou=hosts,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no as the base, and these are two example LDAP objects used there. In addition to these objects, the parent objects all th way up to ou=hosts,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no also exist.

dn: dc=tjener,dc=intern,ou=hosts,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no
objectclass: top
objectclass: dnsdomain
objectclass: domainrelatedobject
dc: tjener
arecord: 10.0.2.2
associateddomain: tjener.intern

dn: dc=2,dc=2,dc=0,dc=10,dc=in-addr,dc=arpa,ou=hosts,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no
objectclass: top
objectclass: dnsdomain2
objectclass: domainrelatedobject
dc: 2
ptrrecord: tjener.intern
associateddomain: 2.2.0.10.in-addr.arpa

In strict mode, the server behaves differently. When looking for forward DNS entries, it is doing a "subtree" scoped search with the same base as in the tree mode for a object with filter "(associateddomain=tjener.intern)" and requests the attributes dnsttl, arecord, nsrecord, cnamerecord, soarecord, ptrrecord, hinforecord, mxrecord, txtrecord, rprecord, aaaarecord, locrecord, srvrecord, naptrrecord and modifytimestamp. For reverse entires it also do a subtree scoped search but this time the filter is "(arecord=10.0.2.2)" and the requested attributes are associateddomain, dnsttl and modifytimestamp. In short, in strict mode the objects with ptrrecord go away, and the arecord attribute in the forward object is used instead.

The forward and reverse searches can be simulated using ldapsearch like this:

ldapsearch -h ldap -b ou=hosts,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no -s sub -x \
  '(associateddomain=tjener.intern)' dNSTTL aRecord nSRecord \
  cNAMERecord sOARecord pTRRecord hInfoRecord mXRecord tXTRecord \
  rPRecord aFSDBRecord KeyRecord aAAARecord lOCRecord sRVRecord \
  nAPTRRecord kXRecord certRecord dSRecord sSHFPRecord iPSecKeyRecord \
  rRSIGRecord nSECRecord dNSKeyRecord dHCIDRecord sPFRecord modifyTimestamp

ldapsearch -h ldap -b ou=hosts,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no -s sub -x \
  '(arecord=10.0.2.2)' associateddomain dnsttl modifytimestamp

In addition to the forward and reverse searches , there is also a search for SOA records, which behave similar to the forward and reverse lookups.

A thing to note with the PowerDNS behaviour is that it do not specify any objectclass names, and instead look for the attributes it need to generate a DNS reply. This make it able to work with any objectclass that provide the needed attributes.

The attributes are normally provided in the cosine (RFC 1274) and dnsdomain2 schemas. The latter is used for reverse entries like ptrrecord and recent DNS additions like aaaarecord and srvrecord.

In Debian Edu, we have created DNS objects using the object classes dcobject (for dc), dnsdomain or dnsdomain2 (structural, for the DNS attributes) and domainrelatedobject (for associatedDomain). The use of structural object classes make it impossible to combine these classes with the object classes used by DHCP.

There are other schemas that could be used too, for example the dnszone structural object class used by Gosa and bind-sdb for the DNS attributes combined with the domainrelatedobject object class, but in this case some unused attributes would have to be included as well (zonename and relativedomainname).

My proposal for Debian Edu would be to switch PowerDNS to strict mode and not use any of the existing objectclasses (dnsdomain, dnsdomain2 and dnszone) when one want to combine the DNS information with DHCP information, and instead create a auxiliary object class defined something like this (using the attributes defined for dnsdomain and dnsdomain2 or dnszone):

objectclass ( some-oid NAME 'dnsDomainAux'
    SUP top
    AUXILIARY
    MAY ( ARecord $ MDRecord $ MXRecord $ NSRecord $ SOARecord $ CNAMERecord $
          DNSTTL $ DNSClass $ PTRRecord $ HINFORecord $ MINFORecord $
          TXTRecord $ SIGRecord $ KEYRecord $ AAAARecord $ LOCRecord $
          NXTRecord $ SRVRecord $ NAPTRRecord $ KXRecord $ CERTRecord $
          A6Record $ DNAMERecord
    ))

This will allow any object to become a DNS entry when combined with the domainrelatedobject object class, and allow any entity to include all the attributes PowerDNS wants. I've sent an email to the PowerDNS developers asking for their view on this schema and if they are interested in providing such schema with PowerDNS, and I hope my message will be accepted into their mailing list soon.

ISC dhcp

The DHCP server searches for specific objectclass and requests all the object attributes, and then uses the attributes it want. This make it harder to figure out exactly what attributes are used, but thanks to the working example in Debian Edu I can at least get an idea what is needed without having to read the source code.

In the DHCP server configuration, the LDAP base to use and the search filter to use to locate the correct dhcpServer entity is stored. These are the relevant entries from /etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf:

ldap-base-dn "dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no";
ldap-dhcp-server-cn "dhcp";

The DHCP server uses this information to nest all the DHCP configuration it need. The cn "dhcp" is located using the given LDAP base and the filter "(&(objectClass=dhcpServer)(cn=dhcp))". The search result is this entry:

dn: cn=dhcp,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no
cn: dhcp
objectClass: top
objectClass: dhcpServer
dhcpServiceDN: cn=DHCP Config,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no

The content of the dhcpServiceDN attribute is next used to locate the subtree with DHCP configuration. The DHCP configuration subtree base is located using a base scope search with base "cn=DHCP Config,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no" and filter "(&(objectClass=dhcpService)(|(dhcpPrimaryDN=cn=dhcp,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no)(dhcpSecondaryDN=cn=dhcp,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no)))". The search result is this entry:

dn: cn=DHCP Config,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no
cn: DHCP Config
objectClass: top
objectClass: dhcpService
objectClass: dhcpOptions
dhcpPrimaryDN: cn=dhcp, dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no
dhcpStatements: ddns-update-style none
dhcpStatements: authoritative
dhcpOption: smtp-server code 69 = array of ip-address
dhcpOption: www-server code 72 = array of ip-address
dhcpOption: wpad-url code 252 = text

Next, the entire subtree is processed, one level at the time. When all the DHCP configuration is loaded, it is ready to receive requests. The subtree in Debian Edu contain objects with object classes top/dhcpService/dhcpOptions, top/dhcpSharedNetwork/dhcpOptions, top/dhcpSubnet, top/dhcpGroup and top/dhcpHost. These provide options and information about netmasks, dynamic range etc. Leaving out the details here because it is not relevant for the focus of my investigation, which is to see if it is possible to merge dns and dhcp related computer objects.

When a DHCP request come in, LDAP is searched for the MAC address of the client (00:00:00:00:00:00 in this example), using a subtree scoped search with "cn=DHCP Config,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no" as the base and "(&(objectClass=dhcpHost)(dhcpHWAddress=ethernet 00:00:00:00:00:00))" as the filter. This is what a host object look like:

dn: cn=hostname,cn=group1,cn=THINCLIENTS,cn=DHCP Config,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no
cn: hostname
objectClass: top
objectClass: dhcpHost
dhcpHWAddress: ethernet 00:00:00:00:00:00
dhcpStatements: fixed-address hostname

There is less flexiblity in the way LDAP searches are done here. The object classes need to have fixed names, and the configuration need to be stored in a fairly specific LDAP structure. On the positive side, the invidiual dhcpHost entires can be anywhere without the DN pointed to by the dhcpServer entries. The latter should make it possible to group all host entries in a subtree next to the configuration entries, and this subtree can also be shared with the DNS server if the schema proposed above is combined with the dhcpHost structural object class.

Conclusion

The PowerDNS implementation seem to be very flexible when it come to which LDAP schemas to use. While its "tree" mode is rigid when it come to the the LDAP structure, the "strict" mode is very flexible, allowing DNS objects to be stored anywhere under the base cn specified in the configuration.

The DHCP implementation on the other hand is very inflexible, both regarding which LDAP schemas to use and which LDAP structure to use. I guess one could implement ones own schema, as long as the objectclasses and attributes have the names used, but this do not really help when the DHCP subtree need to have a fairly fixed structure.

Based on the observed behaviour, I suspect a LDAP structure like this might work for Debian Edu:

ou=services
  cn=machine-info (dhcpService) - dhcpServiceDN points here
    cn=dhcp (dhcpServer)
    cn=dhcp-internal (dhcpSharedNetwork/dhcpOptions)
      cn=10.0.2.0 (dhcpSubnet)
        cn=group1 (dhcpGroup/dhcpOptions)
    cn=dhcp-thinclients (dhcpSharedNetwork/dhcpOptions)
      cn=192.168.0.0 (dhcpSubnet)
        cn=group1 (dhcpGroup/dhcpOptions)
    ou=machines - PowerDNS base points here
      cn=hostname (dhcpHost/domainrelatedobject/dnsDomainAux)

This is not tested yet. If the DHCP server require the dhcpHost entries to be in the dhcpGroup subtrees, the entries can be stored there instead of a common machines subtree, and the PowerDNS base would have to be moved one level up to the machine-info subtree.

The combined object under the machines subtree would look something like this:

dn: dc=hostname,ou=machines,cn=machine-info,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no
dc: hostname
objectClass: top
objectClass: dhcpHost
objectclass: domainrelatedobject
objectclass: dnsDomainAux
associateddomain: hostname.intern
arecord: 10.11.12.13
dhcpHWAddress: ethernet 00:00:00:00:00:00
dhcpStatements: fixed-address hostname.intern

One could even add the LTSP configuration associated with a given machine, as long as the required attributes are available in a auxiliary object class.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, ldap, nuug.
Combining PowerDNS and ISC DHCP LDAP objects
14th July 2010

For a while now, I have wanted to find a way to change the DNS and DHCP services in Debian Edu to use the same LDAP objects for a given computer, to avoid the possibility of having a inconsistent state for a computer in LDAP (as in DHCP but no DNS entry or the other way around) and make it easier to add computers to LDAP.

I've looked at how powerdns and dhcpd is using LDAP, and using this information finally found a solution that seem to work.

The old setup required three LDAP objects for a given computer. One forward DNS entry, one reverse DNS entry and one DHCP entry. If we switch powerdns to use its strict LDAP method (ldap-method=strict in pdns-debian-edu.conf), the forward and reverse DNS entries are merged into one while making it impossible to transfer the reverse map to a slave DNS server.

If we also replace the object class used to get the DNS related attributes to one allowing these attributes to be combined with the dhcphost object class, we can merge the DNS and DHCP entries into one. I've written such object class in the dnsdomainaux.schema file (need proper OIDs, but that is a minor issue), and tested the setup. It seem to work.

With this test setup in place, we can get away with one LDAP object for both DNS and DHCP, and even the LTSP configuration I suggested in an earlier email. The combined LDAP object will look something like this:

  dn: cn=hostname,cn=group1,cn=THINCLIENTS,cn=DHCP Config,dc=skole,dc=skolelinux,dc=no
  cn: hostname
  objectClass: dhcphost
  objectclass: domainrelatedobject
  objectclass: dnsdomainaux
  associateddomain: hostname.intern
  arecord: 10.11.12.13
  dhcphwaddress: ethernet 00:00:00:00:00:00
  dhcpstatements: fixed-address hostname
  ldapconfigsound: Y

The DNS server uses the associateddomain and arecord entries, while the DHCP server uses the dhcphwaddress and dhcpstatements entries before asking DNS to resolve the fixed-adddress. LTSP will use dhcphwaddress or associateddomain and the ldapconfig* attributes.

I am not yet sure if I can get the DHCP server to look for its dhcphost in a different location, to allow us to put the objects outside the "DHCP Config" subtree, but hope to figure out a way to do that. If I can't figure out a way to do that, we can still get rid of the hosts subtree and move all its content into the DHCP Config tree (which probably should be renamed to be more related to the new content. I suspect cn=dnsdhcp,ou=services or something like that might be a good place to put it.

If you want to help out with implementing this for Debian Edu, please contact us on debian-edu@lists.debian.org.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, ldap, nuug.
Idea for storing LTSP configuration in LDAP
11th July 2010

Vagrant mentioned on IRC today that ltsp_config now support sourcing files from /usr/share/ltsp/ltsp_config.d/ on the thin clients, and that this can be used to fetch configuration from LDAP if Debian Edu choose to store configuration there.

Armed with this information, I got inspired and wrote a test module to get configuration from LDAP. The idea is to look up the MAC address of the client in LDAP, and look for attributes on the form ltspconfigsetting=value, and use this to export SETTING=value to the LTSP clients.

The goal is to be able to store the LTSP configuration attributes in a "computer" LDAP object used by both DNS and DHCP, and thus allowing us to store all information about a computer in one place.

This is a untested draft implementation, and I welcome feedback on this approach. A real LDAP schema for the ltspClientAux objectclass need to be written. Comments, suggestions, etc?

# Store in /opt/ltsp/$arch/usr/share/ltsp/ltsp_config.d/ldap-config
#
# Fetch LTSP client settings from LDAP based on MAC address
#
# Uses ethernet address as stored in the dhcpHost objectclass using
# the dhcpHWAddress attribute or ethernet address stored in the
# ieee802Device objectclass with the macAddress attribute.
#
# This module is written to be schema agnostic, and only depend on the
# existence of attribute names.
#
# The LTSP configuration variables are saved directly using a
# ltspConfig prefix and uppercasing the rest of the attribute name.
# To set the SERVER variable, set the ltspConfigServer attribute.
#
# Some LDAP schema should be created with all the relevant
# configuration settings.  Something like this should work:
# 
# objectclass ( 1.1.2.2 NAME 'ltspClientAux'
#     SUP top
#     AUXILIARY
#     MAY ( ltspConfigServer $ ltsConfigSound $ ... )

LDAPSERVER=$(debian-edu-ldapserver)
if [ "$LDAPSERVER" ] ; then
    LDAPBASE=$(debian-edu-ldapserver -b)
    for MAC in $(LANG=C ifconfig |grep -i hwaddr| awk '{print $5}'|sort -u) ; do
	filter="(|(dhcpHWAddress=ethernet $MAC)(macAddress=$MAC))"
	ldapsearch -h "$LDAPSERVER" -b "$LDAPBASE" -v -x "$filter" | \
	    grep '^ltspConfig' | while read attr value ; do
	    # Remove prefix and convert to upper case
	    attr=$(echo $attr | sed 's/^ltspConfig//i' | tr a-z A-Z)
	    # bass value on to clients
	    eval "$attr=$value; export $attr"
	done
    done
fi

I'm not sure this shell construction will work, because I suspect the while block might end up in a subshell causing the variables set there to not show up in ltsp-config, but if that is the case I am sure the code can be restructured to make sure the variables are passed on. I expect that can be solved with some testing. :)

If you want to help out with implementing this for Debian Edu, please contact us on debian-edu@lists.debian.org.

Update 2010-07-17: I am aware of another effort to store LTSP configuration in LDAP that was created around year 2000 by PC Xperience, Inc., 2000. I found its files on a personal home page over at redhat.com.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, ldap, nuug.
jXplorer, a very nice LDAP GUI
9th July 2010

Since my last post about available LDAP tools in Debian, I was told about a LDAP GUI that is even better than luma. The java application jXplorer is claimed to be capable of moving LDAP objects and subtrees using drag-and-drop, and can authenticate using Kerberos. I have only tested the Kerberos authentication, but do not have a LDAP setup allowing me to rewrite LDAP with my test user yet. It is available in Debian testing and unstable at the moment. The only problem I have with it is how it handle errors. If something go wrong, its non-intuitive behaviour require me to go through some query work list and remove the failing query. Nothing big, but very annoying.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, ldap, nuug.
Lenny->Squeeze upgrades, apt vs aptitude with the Gnome desktop
3rd July 2010

Here is a short update on my my Debian Lenny->Squeeze upgrade testing. Here is a summary of the difference for Gnome when it is upgraded by apt-get and aptitude. I'm not reporting the status for KDE, because the upgrade crashes when aptitude try because of missing conflicts (#584861 and #585716).

At the end of the upgrade test script, dpkg -l is executed to get a complete list of the installed packages. Based on this I see these differences when I did a test run today. As usual, I do not really know what the correct set of packages would be, but thought it best to publish the difference.

Installed using apt-get, missing with aptitude

at-spi cpp-4.3 finger gnome-spell gstreamer0.10-gnomevfs libatspi1.0-0 libcupsys2 libeel2-data libgail-common libgdl-1-common libgnomeprint2.2-data libgnomeprintui2.2-common libgnomevfs2-bin libgtksourceview-common libpt-1.10.10-plugins-alsa libpt-1.10.10-plugins-v4l libservlet2.4-java libxalan2-java libxerces2-java openoffice.org-writer2latex openssl-blacklist p7zip python-4suite-xml python-eggtrayicon python-gtkhtml2 python-gtkmozembed svgalibg1 xserver-xephyr zip

Installed using apt-get, removed with aptitude

bluez-utils dhcdbd djvulibre-desktop epiphany-gecko gnome-app-install gnome-mount gnome-vfs-obexftp gnome-volume-manager libao2 libavahi-compat-libdnssd1 libavahi-core5 libbind9-50 libbluetooth2 libcamel1.2-11 libcdio7 libcucul0 libcurl3 libdirectfb-1.0-0 libdvdread3 libedata-cal1.2-6 libedataserver1.2-9 libeel2-2.20 libepc-1.0-1 libepc-ui-1.0-1 libexchange-storage1.2-3 libfaad0 libgd2-noxpm libgda3-3 libgda3-common libggz2 libggzcore9 libggzmod4 libgksu1.2-0 libgksuui1.0-1 libgmyth0 libgnome-desktop-2 libgnome-pilot2 libgnomecups1.0-1 libgnomeprint2.2-0 libgnomeprintui2.2-0 libgpod3 libgraphviz4 libgtkhtml2-0 libgtksourceview1.0-0 libgucharmap6 libhesiod0 libicu38 libisccc50 libisccfg50 libiw29 libkpathsea4 libltdl3 liblwres50 libmagick++10 libmagick10 libmalaga7 libmtp7 libmysqlclient15off libnautilus-burn4 libneon27 libnm-glib0 libnm-util0 libopal-2.2 libosp5 libparted1.8-10 libpisock9 libpisync1 libpoppler-glib3 libpoppler3 libpt-1.10.10 libraw1394-8 libsensors3 libsmbios2 libsoup2.2-8 libssh2-1 libsuitesparse-3.1.0 libswfdec-0.6-90 libtalloc1 libtotem-plparser10 libtrackerclient0 libvoikko1 libxalan2-java-gcj libxerces2-java-gcj libxklavier12 libxtrap6 libxxf86misc1 libzephyr3 mysql-common swfdec-gnome totem-gstreamer wodim

Installed using aptitude, missing with apt-get

gnome gnome-desktop-environment hamster-applet python-gnomeapplet python-gnomekeyring python-wnck rhythmbox-plugins xorg xserver-xorg-input-all xserver-xorg-input-evdev xserver-xorg-input-kbd xserver-xorg-input-mouse xserver-xorg-input-synaptics xserver-xorg-video-all xserver-xorg-video-apm xserver-xorg-video-ark xserver-xorg-video-ati xserver-xorg-video-chips xserver-xorg-video-cirrus xserver-xorg-video-dummy xserver-xorg-video-fbdev xserver-xorg-video-glint xserver-xorg-video-i128 xserver-xorg-video-i740 xserver-xorg-video-mach64 xserver-xorg-video-mga xserver-xorg-video-neomagic xserver-xorg-video-nouveau xserver-xorg-video-nv xserver-xorg-video-r128 xserver-xorg-video-radeon xserver-xorg-video-radeonhd xserver-xorg-video-rendition xserver-xorg-video-s3 xserver-xorg-video-s3virge xserver-xorg-video-savage xserver-xorg-video-siliconmotion xserver-xorg-video-sis xserver-xorg-video-sisusb xserver-xorg-video-tdfx xserver-xorg-video-tga xserver-xorg-video-trident xserver-xorg-video-tseng xserver-xorg-video-vesa xserver-xorg-video-vmware xserver-xorg-video-voodoo

Installed using aptitude, removed with apt-get

deskbar-applet xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-core xserver-xorg-input-wacom xserver-xorg-video-intel xserver-xorg-video-openchrome

I was told on IRC that the xorg-xserver package was changed in git today to try to get apt-get to not remove xorg completely. No idea when it hits Squeeze, but when it does I hope it will reduce the difference somewhat.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english.
LUMA, a very nice LDAP GUI
28th June 2010

The last few days I have been looking into the status of the LDAP directory in Debian Edu, and in the process I started to miss a GUI tool to browse the LDAP tree. The only one I was able to find in Debian/Squeeze and Lenny is LUMA, which has proved to be a great tool to get a overview of the current LDAP directory populated by default in Skolelinux. Thanks to it, I have been able to find empty and obsolete subtrees, misplaced objects and duplicate objects. It will be installed by default in Debian/Squeeze. If you are working with LDAP, give it a go. :)

I did notice one problem with it I have not had time to report to the BTS yet. There is no .desktop file in the package, so the tool do not show up in the Gnome and KDE menus, but only deep down in in the Debian submenu in KDE. I hope that can be fixed before Squeeze is released.

I have not yet been able to get it to modify the tree yet. I would like to move objects and remove subtrees directly in the GUI, but have not found a way to do that with LUMA yet. So in the mean time, I use ldapvi for that.

If you have tips on other GUI tools for LDAP that might be useful in Debian Edu, please contact us on debian-edu@lists.debian.org.

Update 2010-06-29: Ross Reedstrom tipped us about the gq package as a useful GUI alternative. It seem like a good tool, but is unmaintained in Debian and got a RC bug keeping it out of Squeeze. Unless that changes, it will not be an option for Debian Edu based on Squeeze.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, ldap, nuug.
Idea for a change to LDAP schemas allowing DNS and DHCP info to be combined into one object
24th June 2010

A while back, I complained about the fact that it is not possible with the provided schemas for storing DNS and DHCP information in LDAP to combine the two sets of information into one LDAP object representing a computer.

In the mean time, I discovered that a simple fix would be to make the dhcpHost object class auxiliary, to allow it to be combined with the dNSDomain object class, and thus forming one object for one computer when storing both DHCP and DNS information in LDAP.

If I understand this correctly, it is not safe to do this change without also changing the assigned number for the object class, and I do not know enough about LDAP schema design to do that properly for Debian Edu.

Anyway, for future reference, this is how I believe we could change the DHCP schema to solve at least part of the problem with the LDAP schemas available today from IETF.

--- dhcp.schema    (revision 65192)
+++ dhcp.schema    (working copy)
@@ -376,7 +376,7 @@
 objectclass ( 2.16.840.1.113719.1.203.6.6
        NAME 'dhcpHost'
        DESC 'This represents information about a particular client'
-       SUP top
+       SUP top AUXILIARY
        MUST cn
        MAY  (dhcpLeaseDN $ dhcpHWAddress $ dhcpOptionsDN $ dhcpStatements $ dhcpComments $ dhcpOption)
        X-NDS_CONTAINMENT ('dhcpService' 'dhcpSubnet' 'dhcpGroup') )

I very much welcome clues on how to do this properly for Debian Edu/Squeeze. We provide the DHCP schema in our debian-edu-config package, and should thus be free to rewrite it as we see fit.

If you want to help out with implementing this for Debian Edu, please contact us on debian-edu@lists.debian.org.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, ldap, nuug.
Calling tasksel like the installer, while still getting useful output
16th June 2010

A few times I have had the need to simulate the way tasksel installs packages during the normal debian-installer run. Until now, I have ended up letting tasksel do the work, with the annoying problem of not getting any feedback at all when something fails (like a conffile question from dpkg or a download that fails), using code like this:

export DEBIAN_FRONTEND=noninteractive
tasksel --new-install
This would invoke tasksel, let its automatic task selection pick the tasks to install, and continue to install the requested tasks without any output what so ever. Recently I revisited this problem while working on the automatic package upgrade testing, because tasksel would some times hang without any useful feedback, and I want to see what is going on when it happen. Then it occured to me, I can parse the output from tasksel when asked to run in test mode, and use that aptitude command line printed by tasksel then to simulate the tasksel run. I ended up using code like this:
export DEBIAN_FRONTEND=noninteractive
cmd="$(in_target tasksel -t --new-install | sed 's/debconf-apt-progress -- //')"
$cmd

The content of $cmd is typically something like "aptitude -q --without-recommends -o APT::Install-Recommends=no -y install ~t^desktop$ ~t^gnome-desktop$ ~t^laptop$ ~pstandard ~prequired ~pimportant", which will install the gnome desktop task, the laptop task and all packages with priority standard , required and important, just like tasksel would have done it during installation.

A better approach is probably to extend tasksel to be able to install packages without using debconf-apt-progress, for use cases like this.

Tags: debian, english, nuug.
Lenny->Squeeze upgrades, removals by apt and aptitude
13th June 2010

My testing of Debian upgrades from Lenny to Squeeze continues, and I've finally made the upgrade logs available from http://people.skolelinux.org/pere/debian-upgrade-testing/. I am now testing dist-upgrade of Gnome and KDE in a chroot using both apt and aptitude, and found their differences interesting. This time I will only focus on their removal plans.

After installing a Gnome desktop and the laptop task, apt-get wants to remove 72 packages when dist-upgrading from Lenny to Squeeze. The surprising part is that it want to remove xorg and all xserver-xorg-video* drivers. Clearly not a good choice, but I am not sure why. When asking aptitude to do the same, it want to remove 129 packages, but most of them are library packages I suspect are no longer needed. Both of them want to remove bluetooth packages, which I do not know. Perhaps these bluetooth packages are obsolete?

For KDE, apt-get want to remove 82 packages, among them kdebase which seem like a bad idea and xorg the same way as with Gnome. Asking aptitude for the same, it wants to remove 192 packages, none which are too surprising.

I guess the removal of xorg during upgrades should be investigated and avoided, and perhaps others as well. Here are the complete list of planned removals. The complete logs is available from the URL above. Note if you want to repeat these tests, that the upgrade test for kde+apt-get hung in the tasksel setup because of dpkg asking conffile questions. No idea why. I worked around it by using 'echo >> /proc/pidofdpkg/fd/0' to tell dpkg to continue.

apt-get gnome 72
bluez-gnome cupsddk-drivers deskbar-applet gnome gnome-desktop-environment gnome-network-admin gtkhtml3.14 iceweasel-gnome-support libavcodec51 libdatrie0 libgdl-1-0 libgnomekbd2 libgnomekbdui2 libmetacity0 libslab0 libxcb-xlib0 nautilus-cd-burner python-gnome2-desktop python-gnome2-extras serpentine swfdec-mozilla update-manager xorg xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-core xserver-xorg-input-all xserver-xorg-input-evdev xserver-xorg-input-kbd xserver-xorg-input-mouse xserver-xorg-input-synaptics xserver-xorg-input-wacom xserver-xorg-video-all xserver-xorg-video-apm xserver-xorg-video-ark xserver-xorg-video-ati xserver-xorg-video-chips xserver-xorg-video-cirrus xserver-xorg-video-cyrix xserver-xorg-video-dummy xserver-xorg-video-fbdev xserver-xorg-video-glint xserver-xorg-video-i128 xserver-xorg-video-i740 xserver-xorg-video-imstt xserver-xorg-video-intel xserver-xorg-video-mach64 xserver-xorg-video-mga xserver-xorg-video-neomagic xserver-xorg-video-nsc xserver-xorg-video-nv xserver-xorg-video-openchrome xserver-xorg-video-r128 xserver-xorg-video-radeon xserver-xorg-video-radeonhd xserver-xorg-video-rendition xserver-xorg-video-s3 xserver-xorg-video-s3virge xserver-xorg-video-savage xserver-xorg-video-siliconmotion xserver-xorg-video-sis xserver-xorg-video-sisusb xserver-xorg-video-tdfx xserver-xorg-video-tga xserver-xorg-video-trident xserver-xorg-video-tseng xserver-xorg-video-v4l xserver-xorg-video-vesa xserver-xorg-video-vga xserver-xorg-video-vmware xserver-xorg-video-voodoo xulrunner-1.9 xulrunner-1.9-gnome-support

aptitude gnome 129
bluez-gnome bluez-utils cpp-4.3 cupsddk-drivers dhcdbd djvulibre-desktop finger gnome-app-install gnome-mount gnome-network-admin gnome-spell gnome-vfs-obexftp gnome-volume-manager gstreamer0.10-gnomevfs gtkhtml3.14 libao2 libavahi-compat-libdnssd1 libavahi-core5 libavcodec51 libbluetooth2 libcamel1.2-11 libcdio7 libcucul0 libcupsys2 libcurl3 libdatrie0 libdirectfb-1.0-0 libdvdread3 libedataserver1.2-9 libeel2-2.20 libeel2-data libepc-1.0-1 libepc-ui-1.0-1 libfaad0 libgail-common libgd2-noxpm libgda3-3 libgda3-common libgdl-1-0 libgdl-1-common libggz2 libggzcore9 libggzmod4 libgksu1.2-0 libgksuui1.0-1 libgmyth0 libgnomecups1.0-1 libgnomekbd2 libgnomekbdui2 libgnomeprint2.2-0 libgnomeprint2.2-data libgnomeprintui2.2-0 libgnomeprintui2.2-common libgnomevfs2-bin libgpod3 libgraphviz4 libgtkhtml2-0 libgtksourceview-common libgtksourceview1.0-0 libgucharmap6 libhesiod0 libicu38 libiw29 libkpathsea4 libltdl3 libmagick++10 libmagick10 libmalaga7 libmetacity0 libmtp7 libmysqlclient15off libnautilus-burn4 libneon27 libnm-glib0 libnm-util0 libopal-2.2 libosp5 libparted1.8-10 libpoppler-glib3 libpoppler3 libpt-1.10.10 libpt-1.10.10-plugins-alsa libpt-1.10.10-plugins-v4l libraw1394-8 libsensors3 libslab0 libsmbios2 libsoup2.2-8 libssh2-1 libsuitesparse-3.1.0 libswfdec-0.6-90 libtalloc1 libtotem-plparser10 libtrackerclient0 libxalan2-java libxalan2-java-gcj libxcb-xlib0 libxerces2-java libxerces2-java-gcj libxklavier12 libxtrap6 libxxf86misc1 libzephyr3 mysql-common nautilus-cd-burner openoffice.org-writer2latex openssl-blacklist p7zip python-4suite-xml python-eggtrayicon python-gnome2-desktop python-gnome2-extras python-gtkhtml2 python-gtkmozembed python-numeric python-sexy serpentine svgalibg1 swfdec-gnome swfdec-mozilla totem-gstreamer update-manager wodim xserver-xorg-video-cyrix xserver-xorg-video-imstt xserver-xorg-video-nsc xserver-xorg-video-v4l xserver-xorg-video-vga zip

apt-get kde 82
cupsddk-drivers karm kaudiocreator kcoloredit kcontrol kde kde-core kdeaddons kdeartwork kdebase kdebase-bin kdebase-bin-kde3 kdebase-kio-plugins kdesktop kdeutils khelpcenter kicker kicker-applets knewsticker kolourpaint konq-plugins konqueror korn kpersonalizer kscreensaver ksplash libavcodec51 libdatrie0 libkiten1 libxcb-xlib0 quanta superkaramba texlive-base-bin xorg xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-core xserver-xorg-input-all xserver-xorg-input-evdev xserver-xorg-input-kbd xserver-xorg-input-mouse xserver-xorg-input-synaptics xserver-xorg-input-wacom xserver-xorg-video-all xserver-xorg-video-apm xserver-xorg-video-ark xserver-xorg-video-ati xserver-xorg-video-chips xserver-xorg-video-cirrus xserver-xorg-video-cyrix xserver-xorg-video-dummy xserver-xorg-video-fbdev xserver-xorg-video-glint xserver-xorg-video-i128 xserver-xorg-video-i740 xserver-xorg-video-imstt xserver-xorg-video-intel xserver-xorg-video-mach64 xserver-xorg-video-mga xserver-xorg-video-neomagic xserver-xorg-video-nsc xserver-xorg-video-nv xserver-xorg-video-openchrome xserver-xorg-video-r128 xserver-xorg-video-radeon xserver-xorg-video-radeonhd xserver-xorg-video-rendition xserver-xorg-video-s3 xserver-xorg-video-s3virge xserver-xorg-video-savage xserver-xorg-video-siliconmotion xserver-xorg-video-sis xserver-xorg-video-sisusb xserver-xorg-video-tdfx xserver-xorg-video-tga xserver-xorg-video-trident xserver-xorg-video-tseng xserver-xorg-video-v4l xserver-xorg-video-vesa xserver-xorg-video-vga xserver-xorg-video-vmware xserver-xorg-video-voodoo xulrunner-1.9

aptitude kde 192
bluez-utils cpp-4.3 cupsddk-drivers cvs dcoprss dhcdbd djvulibre-desktop dosfstools eyesapplet fifteenapplet finger gettext ghostscript-x imlib-base imlib11 indi kandy karm kasteroids kaudiocreator kbackgammon kbstate kcoloredit kcontrol kcron kdat kdeadmin-kfile-plugins kdeartwork-misc kdeartwork-theme-window kdebase-bin-kde3 kdebase-kio-plugins kdeedu-data kdegraphics-kfile-plugins kdelirc kdemultimedia-kappfinder-data kdemultimedia-kfile-plugins kdenetwork-kfile-plugins kdepim-kfile-plugins kdepim-kio-plugins kdeprint kdesktop kdessh kdict kdnssd kdvi kedit keduca kenolaba kfax kfaxview kfouleggs kghostview khelpcenter khexedit kiconedit kitchensync klatin klickety kmailcvt kmenuedit kmid kmilo kmoon kmrml kodo kolourpaint kooka korn kpager kpdf kpercentage kpf kpilot kpoker kpovmodeler krec kregexpeditor ksayit ksim ksirc ksirtet ksmiletris ksmserver ksnake ksokoban ksplash ksvg ksysv ktip ktnef kuickshow kverbos kview kviewshell kvoctrain kwifimanager kwin kwin4 kworldclock kxsldbg libakode2 libao2 libarts1-akode libarts1-audiofile libarts1-mpeglib libarts1-xine libavahi-compat-libdnssd1 libavahi-core5 libavc1394-0 libavcodec51 libbluetooth2 libboost-python1.34.1 libcucul0 libcurl3 libcvsservice0 libdatrie0 libdirectfb-1.0-0 libdjvulibre21 libdvdread3 libfaad0 libfreebob0 libgail-common libgd2-noxpm libgraphviz4 libgsmme1c2a libgtkhtml2-0 libicu38 libiec61883-0 libindex0 libiw29 libk3b3 libkcal2b libkcddb1 libkdeedu3 libkdepim1a libkgantt0 libkiten1 libkleopatra1 libkmime2 libkpathsea4 libkpimexchange1 libkpimidentities1 libkscan1 libksieve0 libktnef1 liblockdev1 libltdl3 libmagick10 libmimelib1c2a libmozjs1d libmpcdec3 libneon27 libnm-util0 libopensync0 libpisock9 libpoppler-glib3 libpoppler-qt2 libpoppler3 libraw1394-8 libsmbios2 libssh2-1 libsuitesparse-3.1.0 libtalloc1 libtiff-tools libxalan2-java libxalan2-java-gcj libxcb-xlib0 libxerces2-java libxerces2-java-gcj libxtrap6 mpeglib networkstatus openoffice.org-writer2latex pmount poster psutils quanta quanta-data superkaramba svgalibg1 tex-common texlive-base texlive-base-bin texlive-common texlive-doc-base texlive-fonts-recommended xserver-xorg-video-cyrix xserver-xorg-video-imstt xserver-xorg-video-nsc xserver-xorg-video-v4l xserver-xorg-video-vga xulrunner-1.9

Tags: debian, debian edu, english.
Automatic upgrade testing from Lenny to Squeeze
11th June 2010

The last few days I have done some upgrade testing in Debian, to see if the upgrade from Lenny to Squeeze will go smoothly. A few bugs have been discovered and reported in the process (#585410 in nagios3-cgi, #584879 already fixed in enscript and #584861 in kdebase-workspace-data), and to get a more regular testing going on, I am working on a script to automate the test.

The idea is to create a Lenny chroot and use tasksel to install a Gnome or KDE desktop installation inside the chroot before upgrading it. To ensure no services are started in the chroot, a policy-rc.d script is inserted. To make sure tasksel believe it is to install a desktop on a laptop, the tasksel tests are replaced in the chroot (only acceptable because this is a throw-away chroot).

A naive upgrade from Lenny to Squeeze using aptitude dist-upgrade currently always fail because udev refuses to upgrade with the kernel in Lenny, so to avoid that problem the file /etc/udev/kernel-upgrade is created. The bug report #566000 make me suspect this problem do not trigger in a chroot, but I touch the file anyway to make sure the upgrade go well. Testing on virtual and real hardware have failed me because of udev so far, and creating this file do the trick in such settings anyway. This is a known issue and the current udev behaviour is intended by the udev maintainer because he lack the resources to rewrite udev to keep working with old kernels or something like that. I really wish the udev upstream would keep udev backwards compatible, to avoid such upgrade problem, but given that they fail to do so, I guess documenting the way out of this mess is the best option we got for Debian Squeeze.

Anyway, back to the task at hand, testing upgrades. This test script, which I call upgrade-test for now, is doing the trick:

#!/bin/sh
set -ex

if [ "$1" ] ; then
    desktop=$1
else
    desktop=gnome
fi

from=lenny
to=squeeze

exec < /dev/null
unset LANG
mirror=http://ftp.skolelinux.org/debian
tmpdir=chroot-$from-upgrade-$to-$desktop
fuser -mv .
debootstrap $from $tmpdir $mirror
chroot $tmpdir aptitude update
cat > $tmpdir/usr/sbin/policy-rc.d <<EOF
#!/bin/sh
exit 101
EOF
chmod a+rx $tmpdir/usr/sbin/policy-rc.d
exit_cleanup() {
    umount $tmpdir/proc
}
mount -t proc proc $tmpdir/proc
# Make sure proc is unmounted also on failure
trap exit_cleanup EXIT INT

chroot $tmpdir aptitude -y install debconf-utils

# Make sure tasksel autoselection trigger.  It need the test scripts
# to return the correct answers.
echo tasksel tasksel/desktop multiselect $desktop | \
    chroot $tmpdir debconf-set-selections

# Include the desktop and laptop task
for test in desktop laptop ; do
    echo > $tmpdir/usr/lib/tasksel/tests/$test <<EOF
#!/bin/sh
exit 2
EOF
    chmod a+rx $tmpdir/usr/lib/tasksel/tests/$test
done

DEBIAN_FRONTEND=noninteractive
DEBIAN_PRIORITY=critical
export DEBIAN_FRONTEND DEBIAN_PRIORITY
chroot $tmpdir tasksel --new-install

echo deb $mirror $to main > $tmpdir/etc/apt/sources.list
chroot $tmpdir aptitude update
touch $tmpdir/etc/udev/kernel-upgrade
chroot $tmpdir aptitude -y dist-upgrade
fuser -mv

I suspect it would be useful to test upgrades with both apt-get and with aptitude, but I have not had time to look at how they behave differently so far. I hope to get a cron job running to do the test regularly and post the result on the web. The Gnome upgrade currently work, while the KDE upgrade fail because of the bug in kdebase-workspace-data

I am not quite sure what kind of extract from the huge upgrade logs (KDE 167 KiB, Gnome 516 KiB) it make sense to include in this blog post, so I will refrain from trying. I can report that for Gnome, aptitude report 760 packages upgraded, 448 newly installed, 129 to remove and 1 not upgraded and 1024MB need to be downloaded while for KDE the same numbers are 702 packages upgraded, 507 newly installed, 193 to remove and 0 not upgraded and 1117MB need to be downloaded

I am very happy to notice that the Gnome desktop + laptop upgrade is able to migrate to dependency based boot sequencing and parallel booting without a hitch. Was unsure if there were still bugs with packages failing to clean up their obsolete init.d script during upgrades, and no such problem seem to affect the Gnome desktop+laptop packages.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, debian edu, english.
Upstart or sysvinit - as init.d scripts see it
6th June 2010

If Debian is to migrate to upstart on Linux, I expect some init.d scripts to migrate (some of) their operations to upstart job while keeping the init.d for hurd and kfreebsd. The packages with such needs will need a way to get their init.d scripts to behave differently when used with sysvinit and with upstart. Because of this, I had a look at the environment variables set when a init.d script is running under upstart, and when it is not.

With upstart, I notice these environment variables are set when a script is started from rcS.d/ (ignoring some irrelevant ones like COLUMNS):

DEFAULT_RUNLEVEL=2
previous=N
PREVLEVEL=
RUNLEVEL=
runlevel=S
UPSTART_EVENTS=startup
UPSTART_INSTANCE=
UPSTART_JOB=rc-sysinit

With sysvinit, these environment variables are set for the same script.

INIT_VERSION=sysvinit-2.88
previous=N
PREVLEVEL=N
RUNLEVEL=S
runlevel=S

The RUNLEVEL and PREVLEVEL environment variables passed on from sysvinit are not set by upstart. Not sure if it is intentional or not to not be compatible with sysvinit in this regard.

For scripts needing to behave differently when upstart is used, looking for the UPSTART_JOB environment variable seem to be a good choice.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, english.
A manual for standards wars...
6th June 2010

Via the blog of Rob Weir I came across the very interesting essay named The Art of Standards Wars (PDF 25 pages). I recommend it for everyone following the standards wars of today.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, standard.
Sitesummary tip: Listing computer hardware models used at site
3rd June 2010

When using sitesummary at a site to track machines, it is possible to get a list of the machine types in use thanks to the DMI information extracted from each machine. The script to do so is included in the sitesummary package, and here is example output from the Skolelinux build servers:

maintainer:~# /usr/lib/sitesummary/hardware-model-summary
  vendor                    count
  Dell Computer Corporation     1
    PowerEdge 1750              1
  IBM                           1
    eserver xSeries 345 -[8670M1X]-     1
  Intel                         2
  [no-dmi-info]                 3
maintainer:~#

The quality of the report depend on the quality of the DMI tables provided in each machine. Here there are Intel machines without model information listed with Intel as vendor and no model, and virtual Xen machines listed as [no-dmi-info]. One can add -l as a command line option to list the individual machines.

A larger list is available from the the city of Narvik, which uses Skolelinux on all their shools and also provide the basic sitesummary report publicly. In their report there are ~1400 machines. I know they use both Ubuntu and Skolelinux on their machines, and as sitesummary is available in both distributions, it is trivial to get all of them to report to the same central collector.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, sitesummary.
KDM fail at boot with NVidia cards - and no one try to fix it?
1st June 2010

It is strange to watch how a bug in Debian causing KDM to fail to start at boot when an NVidia video card is used is handled. The problem seem to be that the nvidia X.org driver uses a long time to initialize, and this duration is longer than kdm is configured to wait.

I came across two bugs related to this issue, #583312 initially filed against initscripts and passed on to nvidia-glx when it became obvious that the nvidia drivers were involved, and #524751 initially filed against kdm and passed on to src:nvidia-graphics-drivers for unknown reasons.

To me, it seem that no-one is interested in actually solving the problem nvidia video card owners experience and make sure the Debian distribution work out of the box for these users. The nvidia driver maintainers expect kdm to be set up to wait longer, while kdm expect the nvidia driver maintainers to fix the driver to start faster, and while they wait for each other I guess the users end up switching to a distribution that work for them. I have no idea what the solution is, but I am pretty sure that waiting for each other is not it.

I wonder why we end up handling bugs this way.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, debian edu, english.
Parallellized boot seem to hold up well in Debian/testing
27th May 2010

A few days ago, parallel booting was enabled in Debian/testing. The feature seem to hold up pretty well, but three fairly serious issues are known and should be solved:

All in all not many surprising issues, and all of them seem solvable before Squeeze is released. In addition to these there are some packages with bugs in their dependencies and run level settings, which I expect will be fixed in a reasonable time span.

If you report any problems with dependencies in init.d scripts to the BTS, please usertag the report to get it to show up at the list of usertagged bugs related to this.

Update: Correct bug number to file-rc issue.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, debian edu, english.
More flexible firmware handling in debian-installer
22nd May 2010

After a long break from debian-installer development, I finally found time today to return to the project. Having to spend less time working dependency based boot in debian, as it is almost complete now, definitely helped freeing some time.

A while back, I ran into a problem while working on Debian Edu. We include some firmware packages on the Debian Edu CDs, those needed to get disk and network controllers working. Without having these firmware packages available during installation, it is impossible to install Debian Edu on the given machine, and because our target group are non-technical people, asking them to provide firmware packages on an external medium is a support pain. Initially, I expected it to be enough to include the firmware packages on the CD to get debian-installer to find and use them. This proved to be wrong. Next, I hoped it was enough to symlink the relevant firmware packages to some useful location on the CD (tried /cdrom/ and /cdrom/firmware/). This also proved to not work, and at this point I found time to look at the debian-installer code to figure out what was going to work.

The firmware loading code is in the hw-detect package, and a closer look revealed that it would only look for firmware packages outside the installation media, so the CD was never checked for firmware packages. It would only check USB sticks, floppies and other "external" media devices. Today I changed it to also look in the /cdrom/firmware/ directory on the mounted CD or DVD, which should solve the problem I ran into with Debian edu. I also changed it to look in /firmware/, to make sure the installer also find firmware provided in the initrd when booting the installer via PXE, to allow us to provide the same feature in the PXE setup included in Debian Edu.

To make sure firmware deb packages with a license questions are not activated without asking if the license is accepted, I extended hw-detect to look for preinst scripts in the firmware packages, and run these before activating the firmware during installation. The license question is asked using debconf in the preinst, so this should solve the issue for the firmware packages I have looked at so far.

If you want to discuss the details of these features, please contact us on debian-boot@lists.debian.org.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english.
Parallellized boot is now the default in Debian/unstable
14th May 2010

Since this evening, parallel booting is the default in Debian/unstable for machines using dependency based boot sequencing. Apparently the testing of concurrent booting has been wider than expected, if I am to believe the input on debian-devel@, and I concluded a few days ago to move forward with the feature this weekend, to give us some time to detect any remaining problems before Squeeze is frozen. If serious problems are detected, it is simple to change the default back to sequential boot. The upload of the new sysvinit package also activate a new upstream version.

More information about dependency based boot sequencing is available from the Debian wiki. It is currently possible to disable parallel booting when one run into problems caused by it, by adding this line to /etc/default/rcS:

CONCURRENCY=none

If you report any problems with dependencies in init.d scripts to the BTS, please usertag the report to get it to show up at the list of usertagged bugs related to this.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, debian edu, english.
Sitesummary tip: Listing MAC address of all clients
14th May 2010

In the recent Debian Edu versions, the sitesummary system is used to keep track of the machines in the school network. Each machine will automatically report its status to the central server after boot and once per night. The network setup is also reported, and using this information it is possible to get the MAC address of all network interfaces in the machines. This is useful to update the DHCP configuration.

To give some idea how to use sitesummary, here is a one-liner to ist all MAC addresses of all machines reporting to sitesummary. Run this on the collector host:

perl -MSiteSummary -e 'for_all_hosts(sub { print join(" ", get_macaddresses(shift)), "\n"; });'

This will list all MAC addresses assosiated with all machine, one line per machine and with space between the MAC addresses.

To allow system administrators easier job at adding static DHCP addresses for hosts, it would be possible to extend this to fetch machine information from sitesummary and update the DHCP and DNS tables in LDAP using this information. Such tool is unfortunately not written yet.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, sitesummary.
systemd, an interesting alternative to upstart
13th May 2010

The last few days a new boot system called systemd has been introduced to the free software world. I have not yet had time to play around with it, but it seem to be a very interesting alternative to upstart, and might prove to be a good alternative for Debian when we are able to switch to an event based boot system. Tollef is in the process of getting systemd into Debian, and I look forward to seeing how well it work. I like the fact that systemd handles init.d scripts with dependency information natively, allowing them to run in parallel where upstart at the moment do not.

Unfortunately do systemd have the same problem as upstart regarding platform support. It only work on recent Linux kernels, and also need some new kernel features enabled to function properly. This means kFreeBSD and Hurd ports of Debian will need a port or a different boot system. Not sure how that will be handled if systemd proves to be the way forward.

In the mean time, based on the input on debian-devel@ regarding parallel booting in Debian, I have decided to enable full parallel booting as the default in Debian as soon as possible (probably this weekend or early next week), to see if there are any remaining serious bugs in the init.d dependencies. A new version of the sysvinit package implementing this change is already in experimental. If all go well, Squeeze will be released with parallel booting enabled by default.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, english, nuug.
Parallellizing the boot in Debian Squeeze - ready for wider testing
6th May 2010

These days, the init.d script dependencies in Squeeze are quite complete, so complete that it is actually possible to run all the init.d scripts in parallell based on these dependencies. If you want to test your Squeeze system, make sure dependency based boot sequencing is enabled, and add this line to /etc/default/rcS:

CONCURRENCY=makefile

That is it. It will cause sysv-rc to use the startpar tool to run scripts in parallel using the dependency information stored in /etc/init.d/.depend.boot, /etc/init.d/.depend.start and /etc/init.d/.depend.stop to order the scripts. Startpar is configured to try to start the kdm and gdm scripts as early as possible, and will start the facilities required by kdm or gdm as early as possible to make this happen.

Give it a try, and see if you like the result. If some services fail to start properly, it is most likely because they have incomplete init.d script dependencies in their startup script (or some of their dependent scripts have incomplete dependencies). Report bugs and get the package maintainers to fix it. :)

Running scripts in parallel could be the default in Debian when we manage to get the init.d script dependencies complete and correct. I expect we will get there in Squeeze+1, if we get manage to test and fix the remaining issues.

If you report any problems with dependencies in init.d scripts to the BTS, please usertag the report to get it to show up at the list of usertagged bugs related to this.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, english.
Debian has switched to dependency based boot sequencing
27th July 2009

Since this evening, with the upload of sysvinit version 2.87dsf-2, and the upload of insserv version 1.12.0-10 yesterday, Debian unstable have been migrated to using dependency based boot sequencing. This conclude work me and others have been doing for the last three days. It feels great to see this finally part of the default Debian installation. Now we just need to weed out the last few problems that are bound to show up, to get everything ready for Squeeze.

The next step is migrating /sbin/init from sysvinit to upstart, and fixing the more fundamental problem of handing the event based non-predictable kernel in the early boot.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, english, nuug.
Taking over sysvinit development
22nd July 2009

After several years of frustration with the lack of activity from the existing sysvinit upstream developer, I decided a few weeks ago to take over the package and become the new upstream. The number of patches to track for the Debian package was becoming a burden, and the lack of synchronization between the distribution made it hard to keep the package up to date.

On the new sysvinit team is the SuSe maintainer Dr. Werner Fink, and my Debian co-maintainer Kel Modderman. About 10 days ago, I made a new upstream tarball with version number 2.87dsf (for Debian, SuSe and Fedora), based on the patches currently in use in these distributions. We Debian maintainers plan to move to this tarball as the new upstream as soon as we find time to do the merge. Since the new tarball was created, we agreed with Werner at SuSe to make a new upstream project at Savannah, and continue development there. The project is registered and currently waiting for approval by the Savannah administrators, and as soon as it is approved, we will import the old versions from svn and continue working on the future release.

It is a bit ironic that this is done now, when some of the involved distributions are moving to upstart as a syvinit replacement.

Tags: bootsystem, debian, english, nuug.
Debian boots quicker and quicker
24th June 2009

I spent Monday and tuesday this week in London with a lot of the people involved in the boot system on Debian and Ubuntu, to see if we could find more ways to speed up the boot system. This was an Ubuntu funded developer gathering. It was quite productive. We also discussed the future of boot systems, and ways to handle the increasing number of boot issues introduced by the Linux kernel becoming more and more asynchronous and event base. The Ubuntu approach using udev and upstart might be a good way forward. Time will show.

Anyway, there are a few ways at the moment to speed up the boot process in Debian. All of these should be applied to get a quick boot:

These points are based on the Google summer of code work done by Carlos Villegas.

Support for makefile-style concurrency during boot was uploaded to unstable yesterday. When we tested it, we were able to cut 6 seconds from the boot sequence. It depend on very correct dependency declaration in all init.d scripts, so I expect us to find edge cases where the dependences in some scripts are slightly wrong when we start using this.

On our IRC channel for this effort, #pkg-sysvinit, a new idea was introduced by Raphael Geissert today, one that could affect the startup speed as well. Instead of starting some scripts concurrently from rcS.d/ and another set of scripts from rc2.d/, it would be possible to run a of them in the same process. A quick way to test this would be to enable insserv and run 'mv /etc/rc2.d/S* /etc/rcS.d/; insserv'. Will need to test if that work. :)

Tags: bootsystem, debian, english.
BSAs påstander om piratkopiering møter motstand
17th May 2009

Hvert år de siste årene har BSA, lobbyfronten til de store programvareselskapene som Microsoft og Apple, publisert en rapport der de gjetter på hvor mye piratkopiering påfører i tapte inntekter i ulike land rundt om i verden. Resultatene er tendensiøse. For noen dager siden kom siste rapport, og det er flere kritiske kommentarer publisert de siste dagene. Et spesielt interessant kommentar fra Sverige, BSA höftade Sverigesiffror, oppsummeres slik:

I sin senaste rapport slår BSA fast att 25 procent av all mjukvara i Sverige är piratkopierad. Det utan att ha pratat med ett enda svenskt företag. "Man bör nog kanske inte se de här siffrorna som helt exakta", säger BSAs Sverigechef John Hugosson.

Mon tro om de er like metodiske når de gjetter på andelen piratkopiering i Norge? To andre kommentarer er BSA piracy figures need a shot of reality og Does The WIPO Copyright Treaty Work?

Fant lenkene via oppslag på Slashdot.

Tags: bsa, debian, fildeling, norsk, nuug, opphavsrett, personvern.
IDG mener linux i servermarkedet vil vokse med 21% i 2009
7th May 2009

Kom over interessante tall fra IDG om utviklingen av linuxservermarkedet. Fikk meg til å tenke på antall tjenermaskiner ved Universitetet i Oslo der jeg jobber til daglig. En rask opptelling forteller meg at vi har 490 (61%) fysiske unix-tjener (mest linux men også noen solaris) og 196 (25%) windowstjenere, samt 112 (14%) virtuelle unix-tjenere. Med den bakgrunnskunnskapen kan jeg godt tro at IDG er inne på noe.

Tags: debian, norsk, nuug.
Kryptert harddisk - naturligvis
2nd May 2009

Dagens IT melder at Intel hevder at det er dyrt å miste en datamaskin, når en tar tap av arbeidstid, fortrolige dokumenter, personopplysninger og alt annet det innebærer. Det er ingen tvil om at det er en kostbar affære å miste sin datamaskin, og det er årsaken til at jeg har kryptert harddisken på både kontormaskinen og min bærbare. Begge inneholder personopplysninger jeg ikke ønsker skal komme på avveie, den første informasjon relatert til jobben min ved Universitetet i Oslo, og den andre relatert til blant annet foreningsarbeide. Kryptering av diskene gjør at det er lite sannsynlig at dophoder som kan finne på å rappe maskinene får noe ut av dem. Maskinene låses automatisk etter noen minutter uten bruk, og en reboot vil gjøre at de ber om passord før de vil starte opp. Jeg bruker Debian på begge maskinene, og installasjonssystemet der gjør det trivielt å sette opp krypterte disker. Jeg har LVM på toppen av krypterte partisjoner, slik at alt av datapartisjoner er kryptert. Jeg anbefaler alle å kryptere diskene på sine bærbare. Kostnaden når det er gjort slik jeg gjør det er minimale, og gevinstene er betydelige. En bør dog passe på passordet. Hvis det går tapt, må maskinen reinstalleres og alt er tapt.

Krypteringen vil ikke stoppe kompetente angripere som f.eks. kjøler ned minnebrikkene før maskinen rebootes med programvare for å hente ut krypteringsnøklene. Kostnaden med å forsvare seg mot slike angripere er for min del høyere enn gevinsten. Jeg tror oddsene for at f.eks. etteretningsorganisasjoner har glede av å titte på mine maskiner er minimale, og ulempene jeg ville oppnå ved å forsøke å gjøre det vanskeligere for angripere med kompetanse og ressurser er betydelige.

Tags: debian, norsk, nuug, sikkerhet.
Two projects that have improved the quality of free software a lot
2nd May 2009

There are two software projects that have had huge influence on the quality of free software, and I wanted to mention both in case someone do not yet know them.

The first one is valgrind, a tool to detect and expose errors in the memory handling of programs. It is easy to use, all one need to do is to run 'valgrind program', and it will report any problems on stdout. It is even better if the program include debug information. With debug information, it is able to report the source file name and line number where the problem occurs. It can report things like 'reading past memory block in file X line N, the memory block was allocated in file Y, line M', and 'using uninitialised value in control logic'. This tool has made it trivial to investigate reproducible crash bugs in programs, and have reduced the number of this kind of bugs in free software a lot.

The second one is Coverity which is a source code checker. It is able to process the source of a program and find problems in the logic without running the program. It started out as the Stanford Checker and became well known when it was used to find bugs in the Linux kernel. It is now a commercial tool and the company behind it is running a community service for the free software community, where a lot of free software projects get their source checked for free. Several thousand defects have been found and fixed so far. It can find errors like 'lock L taken in file X line N is never released if exiting in line M', or 'the code in file Y lines O to P can never be executed'. The projects included in the community service project have managed to get rid of a lot of reliability problems thanks to Coverity.

I believe tools like this, that are able to automatically find errors in the source, are vital to improve the quality of software and make sure we can get rid of the crashing and failing software we are surrounded by today.

Tags: debian, english.
No patch is not better than a useless patch
28th April 2009

Julien Blache claim that no patch is better than a useless patch. I completely disagree, as a patch allow one to discuss a concrete and proposed solution, and also prove that the issue at hand is important enough for someone to spent time on fixing it. No patch do not provide any of these positive properties.

Tags: debian, english, nuug.
Standardize on protocols and formats, not vendors and applications
30th March 2009

Where I work at the University of Oslo, one decision stand out as a very good one to form a long lived computer infrastructure. It is the simple one, lost by many in todays computer industry: Standardize on open network protocols and open exchange/storage formats, not applications. Applications come and go, while protocols and files tend to stay, and thus one want to make it easy to change application and vendor, while avoiding conversion costs and locking users to a specific platform or application.

This approach make it possible to replace the client applications independently of the server applications. One can even allow users to use several different applications as long as they handle the selected protocol and format. In the normal case, only one client application is recommended and users only get help if they choose to use this application, but those that want to deviate from the easy path are not blocked from doing so.

It also allow us to replace the server side without forcing the users to replace their applications, and thus allow us to select the best server implementation at any moment, when scale and resouce requirements change.

I strongly recommend standardizing - on open network protocols and open formats, but I would never recommend standardizing on a single application that do not use open network protocol or open formats.

Tags: debian, english, nuug, standard.
Returning from Skolelinux developer gathering
29th March 2009

I'm sitting on the train going home from this weekends Debian Edu/Skolelinux development gathering. I got a bit done tuning the desktop, and looked into the dynamic service location protocol implementation avahi. It look like it could be useful for us. Almost 30 people participated, and I believe it was a great environment to get to know the Skolelinux system. Walter Bender, involved in the development of the Sugar educational platform, presented his stuff and also helped me improve my OLPC installation. He also showed me that his Turtle Art application can be used in standalone mode, and we agreed that I would help getting it packaged for Debian. As a standalone application it would be great for Debian Edu. We also tried to get the video conferencing working with two OLPCs, but that proved to be too hard for us. The application seem to need more work before it is ready for me. I look forward to getting home and relax now. :)

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, nuug.
Time for new LDAP schemas replacing RFC 2307?
29th March 2009

The state of standardized LDAP schemas on Linux is far from optimal. There is RFC 2307 documenting one way to store NIS maps in LDAP, and a modified version of this normally called RFC 2307bis, with some modifications to be compatible with Active Directory. The RFC specification handle the content of a lot of system databases, but do not handle DNS zones and DHCP configuration.

In Debian Edu/Skolelinux, we would like to store information about users, SMB clients/hosts, filegroups, netgroups (users and hosts), DHCP and DNS configuration, and LTSP configuration in LDAP. These objects have a lot in common, but with the current LDAP schemas it is not possible to have one object per entity. For example, one need to have at least three LDAP objects for a given computer, one with the SMB related stuff, one with DNS information and another with DHCP information. The schemas provided for DNS and DHCP are impossible to combine into one LDAP object. In addition, it is impossible to implement quick queries for netgroup membership, because of the way NIS triples are implemented. It just do not scale. I believe it is time for a few RFC specifications to cleam up this mess.

I would like to have one LDAP object representing each computer in the network, and this object can then keep the SMB (ie host key), DHCP (mac address/name) and DNS (name/IP address) settings in one place. It need to be efficently stored to make sure it scale well.

I would also like to have a quick way to map from a user or computer and to the net group this user or computer is a member.

Active Directory have done a better job than unix heads like myself in this regard, and the unix side need to catch up. Time to start a new IETF work group?

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, ldap, nuug.
Endelig er Debian Lenny gitt ut
15th February 2009

Endelig er Debian Lenny gitt ut. Et langt steg videre for Debian-prosjektet, og en rekke nye programpakker blir nå tilgjengelig for de av oss som bruker den stabile utgaven av Debian. Neste steg er nå å få Skolelinux / Debian Edu ferdig oppdatert for den nye utgaven, slik at en oppdatert versjon kan slippes løs på skolene. Takk til alle debian-utviklerne som har gjort dette mulig. Endelig er f.eks. fungerende avhengighetsstyrt bootsekvens tilgjengelig i stabil utgave, vha pakken insserv.

Tags: debian, debian edu, norsk.
Devcamp brought us closer to the Lenny based Debian Edu release
7th December 2008

This weekend we had a small developer gathering for Debian Edu in Oslo. Most of Saturday was used for the general assemly for the member organization, but the rest of the weekend I used to tune the LTSP installation. LTSP now work out of the box on the 10-network. Acer Aspire One proved to be a very nice thin client, with both screen, mouse and keybard in a small box. Was working on getting the diskless workstation setup configured out of the box, but did not finish it before the weekend was up.

Did not find time to look at the 4 VGA cards in one box we got from the Brazilian group, so that will have to wait for the next development gathering. Would love to have the Debian Edu installer automatically detect and configure a multiseat setup when it find one of these cards.

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, ltsp.
The sorry state of multimedia browser plugins in Debian
25th November 2008

Recently I have spent some time evaluating the multimedia browser plugins available in Debian Lenny, to see which one we should use by default in Debian Edu. We need an embedded video playing plugin with control buttons to pause or stop the video, and capable of streaming all the multimedia content available on the web. The test results and notes are available on the Debian wiki. I was surprised how few of the plugins are able to fill this need. My personal video player favorite, VLC, has a really bad plugin which fail on a lot of the test pages. A lot of the MIME types I would expect to work with any free software player (like video/ogg), just do not work. And simple formats like the audio/x-mplegurl format (m3u playlists), just isn't supported by the totem and vlc plugins. I hope the situation will improve soon. No wonder sites use the proprietary Adobe flash to play video.

For Lenny, we seem to end up with the mplayer plugin. It seem to be the only one fitting our needs. :/

Tags: debian, debian edu, english, multimedia, web.

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