Petter Reinholdtsen

Entries tagged "isenkram".

Isenkram with PackageKit support - new version 0.23 available in Debian unstable
25th May 2016

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

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

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

% isenkram-lookup 
bluez
cheese
fprintd
fprintd-demo
gkrellm-thinkbat
hdapsd
libpam-fprintd
pidgin-blinklight
thinkfan
tleds
tp-smapi-dkms
tp-smapi-source
tpb
%p

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

Tags: debian, english, isenkram.
Using appstream with isenkram to install hardware related packages in Debian
20th December 2015

Around three years ago, I created the isenkram system to get a more practical solution in Debian for handing hardware related packages. A GUI system in the isenkram package will present a pop-up dialog when some hardware dongle supported by relevant packages in Debian is inserted into the machine. The same lookup mechanism to detect packages is available as command line tools in the isenkram-cli package. In addition to mapping hardware, it will also map kernel firmware files to packages and make it easy to install needed firmware packages automatically. The key for this system to work is a good way to map hardware to packages, in other words, allow packages to announce what hardware they will work with.

I started by providing data files in the isenkram source, and adding code to download the latest version of these data files at run time, to ensure every user had the most up to date mapping available. I also added support for storing the mapping in the Packages file in the apt repositories, but did not push this approach because while I was trying to figure out how to best store hardware/package mappings, the appstream system was announced. I got in touch and suggested to add the hardware mapping into that data set to be able to use appstream as a data source, and this was accepted at least for the Debian version of appstream.

A few days ago using appstream in Debian for this became possible, and today I uploaded a new version 0.20 of isenkram adding support for appstream as a data source for mapping hardware to packages. The only package so far using appstream to announce its hardware support is my pymissile package. I got help from Matthias Klumpp with figuring out how do add the required metadata in pymissile. I added a file debian/pymissile.metainfo.xml with this content:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<component>
  <id>pymissile</id>
  <metadata_license>MIT</metadata_license>
  <name>pymissile</name>
  <summary>Control original Striker USB Missile Launcher</summary>
  <description>
    <p>
      Pymissile provides a curses interface to control an original
      Marks and Spencer / Striker USB Missile Launcher, as well as a
      motion control script to allow a webcamera to control the
      launcher.
    </p>
  </description>
  <provides>
    <modalias>usb:v1130p0202d*</modalias>
  </provides>
</component>

The key for isenkram is the component/provides/modalias value, which is a glob style match rule for hardware specific strings (modalias strings) provided by the Linux kernel. In this case, it will map to all USB devices with vendor code 1130 and product code 0202.

Note, it is important that the license of all the metadata files are compatible to have permissions to aggregate them into archive wide appstream files. Matthias suggested to use MIT or BSD licenses for these files. A challenge is figuring out a good id for the data, as it is supposed to be globally unique and shared across distributions (in other words, best to coordinate with upstream what to use). But it can be changed later or, so we went with the package name as upstream for this project is dormant.

To get the metadata file installed in the correct location for the mirror update scripts to pick it up and include its content the appstream data source, the file must be installed in the binary package under /usr/share/appdata/. I did this by adding the following line to debian/pymissile.install:

debian/pymissile.metainfo.xml usr/share/appdata

With that in place, the command line tool isenkram-lookup will list all packages useful on the current computer automatically, and the GUI pop-up handler will propose to install the package not already installed if a hardware dongle is inserted into the machine in question.

Details of the modalias field in appstream is available from the DEP-11 proposal.

To locate the modalias values of all hardware present in a machine, try running this command on the command line:

cat $(find /sys/devices/|grep modalias)

To learn more about the isenkram system, please check out my blog posts tagged isenkram.

Tags: debian, english, isenkram.
Debian Jessie, PXE and automatic firmware installation
17th October 2014

When PXE installing laptops with Debian, I often run into the problem that the WiFi card require some firmware to work properly. And it has been a pain to fix this using preseeding in Debian. Normally something more is needed. But thanks to my isenkram package and its recent tasksel extension, it has now become easy to do this using simple preseeding.

The isenkram-cli package provide tasksel tasks which will install firmware for the hardware found in the machine (actually, requested by the kernel modules for the hardware). (It can also install user space programs supporting the hardware detected, but that is not the focus of this story.)

To get this working in the default installation, two preeseding values are needed. First, the isenkram-cli package must be installed into the target chroot (aka the hard drive) before tasksel is executed in the pkgsel step of the debian-installer system. This is done by preseeding the base-installer/includes debconf value to include the isenkram-cli package. The package name is next passed to debootstrap for installation. With the isenkram-cli package in place, tasksel will automatically use the isenkram tasks to detect hardware specific packages for the machine being installed and install them, because isenkram-cli contain tasksel tasks.

Second, one need to enable the non-free APT repository, because most firmware unfortunately is non-free. This is done by preseeding the apt-mirror-setup step. This is unfortunate, but for a lot of hardware it is the only option in Debian.

The end result is two lines needed in your preseeding file to get firmware installed automatically by the installer:

base-installer base-installer/includes string isenkram-cli
apt-mirror-setup apt-setup/non-free boolean true

The current version of isenkram-cli in testing/jessie will install both firmware and user space packages when using this method. It also do not work well, so use version 0.15 or later. Installing both firmware and user space packages might give you a bit more than you want, so I decided to split the tasksel task in two, one for firmware and one for user space programs. The firmware task is enabled by default, while the one for user space programs is not. This split is implemented in the package currently in unstable.

If you decide to give this a go, please let me know (via email) how this recipe work for you. :)

So, I bet you are wondering, how can this work. First and foremost, it work because tasksel is modular, and driven by whatever files it find in /usr/lib/tasksel/ and /usr/share/tasksel/. So the isenkram-cli package place two files for tasksel to find. First there is the task description file (/usr/share/tasksel/descs/isenkram.desc):

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

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

The key parts are Test-new-install which indicate how the task should be handled and the Packages line referencing to a script in /usr/lib/tasksel/packages/. The scripts use other scripts to get a list of packages to install. The for-current-hardware-firmware script look like this to list relevant firmware for the machine:

#!/bin/sh
#
PATH=/usr/sbin:$PATH
export PATH
isenkram-autoinstall-firmware -l

With those two pieces in place, the firmware is installed by tasksel during the normal d-i run. :)

If you want to test what tasksel will install when isenkram-cli is installed, run DEBIAN_PRIORITY=critical tasksel --test --new-install to get the list of packages that tasksel would install.

Debian Edu will be pilots in testing this feature, as isenkram is used there now to install firmware, replacing the earlier scripts.

Tags: debian, english, isenkram, sysadmin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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