Older blog entries for pabs3 (starting at number 59)

What happens when a Debian derivative shuts down?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report from the recent Debian bug squashing party in Perth

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

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

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

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

Debian/Ubuntu games screenshot party results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Debian/Ubuntu games screenshot party!

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

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

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

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

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

Debian bug squashing party in Perth

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

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

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

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

apt-get purge defoma

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

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

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

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

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

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

Debian/Ubuntu games team meeting #6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(This text provided by Martin Erik Werner)

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

Migrating from Galeon to Iceweasel/Firefox

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

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

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

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

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

A screenshot of hacky galeon smart bookmarks in Iceweasel

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

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

Wish me luck!

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

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

Convenient login to Debian porterboxen

Whenever I want to login to a Debian porterbox to figure out some architecture-specific issue I typically do not care which particular host I am going to login to, just what architecture the host is.

After discovering that it is not yet easy for the Debian sysadmins (DSA) to add aliases to DNS for this purpose, I whipped up a quick script to grab the relevant data about Debian machines from the Debian LDAP server and work around this in my OpenSSH config.

To use the script you should run the script and place the magic comment lines suggested by the script into your ~/.ssh/config file and then run the script again, which will contact the Debian LDAP server using python-ldap, download the relevant information and replace the relevant part of your ~/.ssh/config file with some OpenSSH configuration directives to map Debian architecture names to hostnames. Within just a few seconds you will be able to login to armel, powerpc.port or kfreebsd-amd64.port.debian.org instead of needing to manually look up which servers to login for a particular architecture.

Syndicated 2011-11-02 05:19:16 from Advogato

Revisiting personal software freedom

Since it was Software Freedom Day again, I figured I should revisit my personal software freedom and see what has changed since my post two years ago. There hasn't been a vrms meme again this year so I don't have anyone else to compare with. A small survey on IRC indicates folks still need non-free nVidia drivers, embedded software, GNU documentation, Java and more.

Since then I have switched my laptop from the Dell Inspiron 6400 to the Thinkpad X201 Tablet. Nothing really changed with my laptop, GNU documentation is still non-free and the new Intel WiFi chip on my new laptop still uses non-free embedded software. To remind myself of the non-free bits embedded in the hardware (CPU microcode, BIOS, EC etc), I have installed intel-microcode and microcode.ctl.

Since then I didn't get any new phone, still the same OpenMoko FreeRunner. I'm now using QtMoko on a 4GB microSD card and Debian and SHR on other cards for testing. QtMoko is based on Debian and is the latest incarnation of Qtopia. It is probably free but I haven't done any audit of it. One interesting thing that changed with the FreeRunner in the past two years is that Harald Welte and friends started OsmocomBB, a project to create free software for the GSM modem built into the FreeRunner and many old feature-phones. I haven't tried it yet due to lack of time. While at the Chaos Communication Camp 2011 I learnt about the blackbox that SIM cards are (video), which hopefully OsmocomBB has a chance to protect against. AFAIK nothing else has changed to improve software freedom on the FreeRunner, the WiFi, GPS and other parts still contain non-free software with no chance of a replacement in sight.

Since then I am still using the same wireless router and ADSL modem and I wasn't brave enough to try replacing their software. I still use gmail out of intertia, but I at least have started using offlineimap to prepare for the day when I will move away from it. I still use Google Maps, mainly for searching for public transport routes. With my recent travels in Europe I encountered many places where OpenStreetMap has much better coverage than Google. One nice thing about Google Maps adding public transport information is that public transport organisations have been publishing public data feeds for Google to consume. Apparently there is also a realtime variant. I also found one website using a JSON API for Google street view. The combination of these gives me hope for better support for spatial data in free software. The data (aerial and streets) will obviously remain a much longer term freeness issue though.

For flash video on the web get-flash-videos appeared and made it even easier to ignore flash, especially since I got a few patches added to it. In addition Swfdec died but Gnash improved enough to replace it. Lightspark was also created but has so far been pretty buggy and unstable. Free RAR v3 format support appeared in the form of TheUnarchiver. The Voxware audio codec and DigiTrakker MDL files are still not supported by Rhythmbox. Unicode has been updated and so now Debian doesn't support every script fully. I still manage to avoid Skype. The nouveau drivers have matured enough to provide 3D support, multi-monitor support and general stability for the one nVidia card I used in the past two years.

Overall, I'm reasonably happy with my level of software freedom. My main strategy for preventing regressions in my software freedom remains to just avoid doing things that require non-free software. The most problematic FLOSS issues for me are embedded software, spatial data support and Flash support. Please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions.

Happy Software Freedom Day everyone!

Syndicated 2011-09-18 03:59:59 from Advogato

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