Tim Retout's www presence

Tue, 25 Apr 2017

Packet.net arm64 servers

Packet.net offer an ARMv8 server with 96 cores for $0.50/hour. I signed up and tried building Libreoffice to see what would happen. Debian isn't officially supported there yet, but they offer Ubuntu, which suffices for testing the hardware.

Screenshot of htop showing one core in use and 95 idle.

Final build time: around 12 hours, compared to 2hr 55m on the official arm64 buildd.

Most of the Libreoffice build appeared to consist of "touch /some/file" repeated endlessly - I have a suspicion that the I/O performance might be low on this server (although I have no further evidence to offer for this). I think the next thing to try is building on a tmpfs, because the server has 128GB RAM available, and it's a shame not to use it.

Posted: 25 Apr 2017 12:38 | Tags:

Thu, 28 Aug 2014

Pump.io update 1

[The story so far: I'm packaging pump.io for Debian.]

4 packages uploaded to NEW:

  • node-webfinger
  • validator.js
  • websocket-driver
  • node-openid

2 packages eliminated as not needed:

  • set-immediate - deprecated
  • crypto-cacerts - not needed on Debian

1 package in progress:

  • node-databank

Got my eye on:

  • oauth-evanp - this is a fork with two patches, so I need to investigate the status of those.
  • node-iconv-lite - needs files downloaded from the internet, so I'm considering how to add them to the source package
  • dateformat/moment - there's an open discussion about combining Node.js modules, and I'm wondering if these are affected.


Currently I'm averaging around one package upload a day, I think? Which would mean ~1 month to go? But there may be challenges around getting packages through the NEW queue in time to build-depend on them.

Someone has asked my temporary Twitter account whether I have a pump.io account. Technically, yes, I do - but I don't post anything on it, because I want to run my own server in the long term. As part of running my own server, I always find that easier if I'm installing software from Debian packages. Hence this work. Sledgehammer, meet nut.

Posted: 28 Aug 2014 13:59 | Tags: ,

Sat, 23 Aug 2014

Packaging pump.io for Debian

I intend to intend to package pump.io for Debian. It's going to take a long time, but I don't know whether that's weeks or years yet. The world needs decentralized social networking.

I discovered the tools that let me create this wiki summary of the progress in pump.io packaging. There are at least 35 dependencies that need uploading, so this would go a lot faster if it weren't a solo effort - if anyone else has some time, please let me know! But meanwhile I'm hoping to build some momentum.

I think it's important to keep the quality of the packaging as high as possible, even while working through so many. It would cost a lot of time later if I had to go back and fix bugs in everything. I really want to be running the test suites in these builds, but it's not always easy.

One of the milestones along the way might be packaging nodeunit. Nodeunit is a Nodejs unit testing framework (duh), used by node-bcrypt (and, unrelatedly, statsd, which would be pretty cool to have in Debian too). Last night I filed eight pull requests to try and fix up copyright/licensing issues in dependencies of nodeunit.

Missing copyright statements are one of the few things I can't fix by myself as a packager. All I can do is wait, and package other dependencies in the meantime. Fortunately there are plenty of those.

And I have not seen so many issues in direct dependencies of pump.io itself - or at least they've been fixed in git.

Posted: 23 Aug 2014 09:24 | Tags: , , ,

Sat, 15 Feb 2014

Backporting some Perl modules

I've started backporting some Perl modules to wheezy-backports - for starters, libbread-board-perl, which is now waiting in BACKPORTS-NEW.

At work I've recently been trying to automate the deployment of our platform, and was originally trying to use Carton to manage the CPAN dependencies for us. It seems like it ought to be possible to make this work using CPAN-only tools. However, in practice, I've seen two strong negatives with this approach:

  • it's a lot of work for developers to manage the entire dependency chain, and
  • it takes forever to get the environment running.

Consider, when you spin up a fresh VM, you need to build Perl from source, and then compile every CPAN module you depend on. This includes all the modules needed to run all the test suites. That's not going to be fast. All that, and you still need a solution that works with the distro's package management, because you still need to install all the build dependencies.

So, I'm trying a new approach - if someone else benefits from the packages I backport, even better.

Posted: 15 Feb 2014 22:20 | Tags: ,

Wed, 06 Jun 2012

NMUs on the go

Today, as an experiment, I attempted to fix a Debian bug while on the train to work.

I use a 3G card from Three.co.uk in my Lenovo Thinkpad x121e, and my commute is from Southampton Central to Fleet (changing at Winchester) - just under an hour. 3G coverage is not 100%, but tends to be better around the major stops.

  • First, I found a bug. I used udd.debian.org to browse for a relatively simple RC bug, and found bug #674992 in actionaz. The fix was outlined in the report already, so there was very little thinking required.
  • Next, I confirmed the FTBFS using cowbuilder. Unfortunately, this required downloading roughly 120MB of dependencies - I have 1GB of data per month, but I couldn't afford to do this every day. I was lucky in that I was near Basingstoke at the time, so had a good HSDPA signal to get the bulk of this. The build had failed before I reached Fleet.
  • In the background, I updated debian/control and debian/changelog with the fix. I was able to set off the build, but had to suspend the laptop until lunchtime before it could finish. Cowbuilder needed to download only a few extra build-deps, as the vast majority were cached from the initial run.
  • On the train home, I checked over the result, signed it and uploaded. In this instance, the built package was small enough to upload, but I could see this being a problem with others.
  • Finally, I sent the nmudiff, although that was delayed briefly by a drop in connectivity before Southampton Airport.

Thoughts: firstly, part of me is amazed that this is possible. Secondly, there could be a case for a local Debian mirror on my laptop. Otherwise, an interesting experimental extension to UDD would be "Required bandwidth" - the sum of the recursive build-dependencies plus the upload size of the diff/binaries.

Posted: 06 Jun 2012 19:19 | Tags: ,

Sat, 10 Dec 2011

SFTP default umask

So I was about to configure an FTP server to let a friend upload content for a website... and then I came to my senses and remembered sftp exists. It's supported by the same graphical clients, and avoids me having to figure out SSL certificates and so on.

Next problem: we want to both edit the site. Okay, so I create a group, make it the default group for both users... and now I need to set the umask to 002 so that all group members can edit all files. There's no option in the client...

Skimming Debian bug #496843 (closed Apr 2010, thanks Colin Watson!) we can set this in sshd_config these days - no need to mess about with wrapper scripts. Very easy:

Subsystem sftp /usr/lib/openssh/sftp-server -u 002

Now all content created through the sftp client is group-writable, and owned by the default group of each user! See 'man (8) sftp-server'.

Posted: 10 Dec 2011 20:47 | Tags: , ,

Wed, 31 Aug 2011

Apache Request-Range headers

Note to self: when disabling Range headers in Apache to fix CVE-2011-3192, be sure to read the updated advisory and also disable Request-Range headers. (Presumably not "Range-Request" as in the summary of that link?)

Or just apply the handy Debian update, of course.

Posted: 31 Aug 2011 18:23 | Tags: ,

Sat, 30 Jul 2011


Some things I have learnt this week at DebConf:

  • The cost of living in the UK is much higher than in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • I feel much better about life when I am being a fun and exciting person, compared to boring and cynical.
  • My laptop is not well-suited to travelling - poor battery life, and poor wifi. However, I have mastered the art of taking only hand luggage.

I have quietly resolved to spend more time doing things that I enjoy, that maximise the use of my skills, and which help other people; and spend less time on the opposite.

So far, I have tidied up various outstanding commitments that were weighing on my mind, and offered mdbtools for adoption. I started doing some RC bug NMUs again, because on a good day they hit all three of my criteria. Some ideas are already forming in my mind of other things to do, so I shall never be short of tasks.

Posted: 30 Jul 2011 14:14 | Tags:

Thu, 28 Jul 2011

DebConf 11

It feels good to be at DebConf again, this time in Banja Luka. This is my fifth consecutive DebConf.

Getting here was fairly painful; a flight from Split was delayed, so I had to get a later bus than planned from Zagreb. Still, I met a bunch of DebConf attendees getting the same bus, so at least there was conversation.

Packaging-wise, I have been working on adding KiokuDB (and associated backends) into Debian. I wrote a patch for libossp-uuid-perl yesterday to fix a bug with its Data::UUID compatibility; this probably means I'll drop the Data::UUID ITP. Having looked at the code, I don't see how it can be easily fixed for multi-user systems.

The Perl team's forthcoming move to git has come as a pleasant surprise; I've been trying out the new workflow.

Earlier in the week I went running with bubulle et. al. - I must have missed the bit in the email where the very steep hill was mentioned. And the rain. So I had to slow down and turn around, and probably didn't quite do 15km in the end. :)

Beer is half the price of Coca-Cola here. Awesome.

So generally, I've been decompressing, and introspecting. The cafes are good for philosophical discussions; preferably when it's not raining. More later.

Posted: 28 Jul 2011 18:21 | Tags:

Sat, 12 Feb 2011

Gnash and cookies

A new release of Gnash, version 0.8.9, is due in the near future. Plenty of bugs have been fixed, but some users are still going to have problems playing YouTube videos. Here's a short explanation.

At some point last year, YouTube started setting HTTP cookies in your web browser, to keep track of which of their video servers is nearest to your machine. This lets them provide a better experience for you (I guess). Here's a diagram of what goes on in your browser:

Diagram showing browser fetching HTML and SWF files, and Gnash core fetching FLV video independently.

As of Gnash 0.8.8, a workaround was added, calling an NPAPI function NPN_GetValueForURL to ask the web browser for the relevant cookies. New diagram:

Diagram showing Gnash core asking browser for cookies, and still fetching FLV video independently.

The downside is that this function was only added in NPAPI version 1.9. This means:

  • Only the NPAPI plugin has this workaround, not any of the other gnash plugins (e.g. the native kparts one for Konqueror).
  • While most browsers do implement NPAPI, not all of them have been updated to include this newer function yet. So the versions of Epiphany and Chromium shipped in Debian at the time of writing do not work with gnash/YouTube as far as I am aware (but Webkit has fixed this upstream).

What does Adobe's plugin do? I imagine it's something like the following:

Diagram showing browser making all HTTP requests, and Gnash core requesting data through the Gnash plugin

So, the good news is, this problem should almost certainly get fixed over the coming Debian release cycle, if only because all the browsers will get updated. In the meantime, disabling cookies (and removing stale ones from YouTube) is a workaround.

Posted: 12 Feb 2011 23:45 | Tags: ,

Sat, 05 Feb 2011


My employer moved offices to Park Gate about a year ago - there's a coffee/sandwich place just down the road, which I generally walk past to get my lunch. And it's got a sign outside:

Cafe Crema served here

I can't believe I didn't notice that swirl sooner. It will join my picture of the FreeBSD naughty toys machine from DebConf7.

In other news, Debian squeeze is being released as I write this. It's been a fun two years. :)

Also currently happening is FOSDEM - this is the second year I've missed it, so I reckon I'll make an effort for next year. Instead, today I was at a choral workshop with the Soton Phil, which was really good fun - especially when we danced (yes) through the Osanna from Mozart's Mass in C Minor.

Posted: 05 Feb 2011 22:57 | Tags:

Sun, 24 Oct 2010

RC bugs for w/c 2010-10-17

My humble RC bug squashing efforts for this week. I've saved them all up, because I don't want to spam Planet Debian too much... or alternatively, because I've been feeling ill Thursday/Friday and didn't do anything at all.

Note that quite a few of these were "cheating" by just closing bugs that someone else had written a patch/comment for, and the mgltools-* ones are in non-free software, so they won't have the same impact on the RC bug stats. Also, I've mentioned the gnucash and sawfish ones before, but they'll definitely be counted in the stats now..

Posted: 24 Oct 2010 02:13 | Tags:

Sun, 17 Oct 2010

Erm... more bugs.

I went shopping today, and inadvertently stole a very nice cardigan-like thing from a multinational clothing retailer.

Enough anecdotes. Yesterday:

  • NMU'd nut to fix bug #583371. I hear a co-maintainer is sought, so if you're into UPS devices...
  • Downgraded bug #599909 in emacs23. Tempted to upgrade it again now it's reassigned to gtk-qt-engine, though.
  • Asked for a binNMU to fix rep-gtk on kfreebsd-amd64.


  • Filed a binNMU request for sawfish, which should eventually resolve bug #599959 on the back of the librep work I did earlier in the week.
  • NMU'd python-sipe to fix bug #582998, where a non-DD had followed the NMU instructions rather literally; nice try. ;) If any non-DDs need a sponsor for RC bug fixes, do ask me by email.
  • Downgraded bug #599463 in gstreamer0.10-alsa (formerly of mp3splt-gtk). It's now closed.
  • Went ahead and NMU'd aptitude to fix bug #557580 and bug #594505. It'll be fine, honest; if you don't believe me, test the packages.

Looking at the weekly summary reports, we squashed a net total of 31 RC bugs last week. Of course, it's possible they'll get more difficult as we go along... but I'm hoping to see all the easy ones closed before the BSP two weeks from now.

Posted: 17 Oct 2010 00:04 | Tags:

Fri, 15 Oct 2010


Summary of yesterday:

I'm getting to the point where RC bugs actually keep me up at night. Very bad...

Posted: 15 Oct 2010 08:21 | Tags:

Tue, 12 Oct 2010


I took most of the weekend off, although took a look at an upgrade bug on e16. Turns out Tolimar's got it handled, right? :)

Tonight I put together a tentative patch for bug #557580 on aptitude to make it respect configuration under /etc/apt/preferences.d/ - aptitude is written in C++, and I have had some recent exposure to that language at work. Unfortunately, it means aptitude takes most of an hour to build on my desktop.

Since aptitude is an important package, I'm not yet entirely confident about my patch, and it's already half eleven, I think the NMU can wait a few evenings.

Posted: 12 Oct 2010 23:30 | Tags:

Fri, 08 Oct 2010


This evening's RC bug fixes were in magyarispell:

  • Bug #591365 - the myspell-hu dictionary was completely broken.
  • Bug #585132 - turns out everyone was just very confused, and blaming it on the myspell-hu dictionary being completely broken.

I'm tempted to go to Paris for the mini-debconf at the end of the month. I've never visited France, despite my French roots - and it turns out it's quite easy for me to get there.

Posted: 08 Oct 2010 22:51 | Tags:

Thu, 07 Oct 2010

More bug fixing

I've been mostly working on GnuCash the past few evenings. I added more info and a test case to Bug #593856, so that should fall into place soon.

I turned my attention to ettercap this evening, and Bug #521857 - another easy one, just applying the updated patch. Except when I ran "lintian -F", I got:

lintian -F /var/cache/pbuilder/result/ettercap_0.7.3-2.1_amd64.changes 
E: ettercap: binary-or-shlib-defines-rpath ./usr/sbin/ettercap /usr/lib
E: ettercap-gtk: binary-or-shlib-defines-rpath ./usr/sbin/ettercap /usr/lib

This led me to a Jan 2008 email from Raphael Geissert about packages defining RPATH on amd64. For now, I've rebuilt in an i386 chroot - I'd need some help making a full lintian run on amd64 if I were going to propose a mass bug-filing.

Posted: 07 Oct 2010 21:30 | Tags:

Mon, 04 Oct 2010

Warn your distributor

My gnucash fix from last night poses an interesting problem - there will be no new gnucash 2.2.x release. So we can fix this potential data loss bug in Debian (probably even in lenny), but what about other distributions? I'm not aware of a formal way to co-ordinate non-security patches like this across distros. (Sure, we can leave it for the vultures on the patch tracker...)

Someone should whip up a whizzy web-app, or whatever.

Posted: 04 Oct 2010 18:17 | Tags: ,

Problem solving

I have developed an affection for crime drama - on Sunday nights, the TV channel Five USA shows something like four hours of CSI, back to back. There's obviously something fascinating about the problem-solving process... and there's always the too-good-to-be-true computer interfaces to laugh at. (I also watch The Mentalist, NCIS and Law & Order, for variety.) And also, on CSI:NY and Law & Order, I get to spot the places in New York I visited at DebConf.

So yes, problem solving. Sometimes the real thing can be even more compelling. And who wants to slump in front of the TV for four hours, anyway? Much better to sit up in front of the computer for... erm... a lot longer.

  • Bug #525549 - gnucash sometimes removes the account data file

This was a more challenging bug - I had to break out gdb and everything. Turns out string manipulation with C is still error-prone. First reported upstream in October 2008 - quite a mystery.

NMU to follow later in the week, since there are two other serious bugs open for gnucash.

Posted: 04 Oct 2010 01:15 | Tags:

Sun, 03 Oct 2010


It's been raining this weekend in Southampton. This afternoon's not been too bad - I went for a walk around the city walls. Just a few hundred years ago, the River Test would have come right up to them, and my flat would have been in a defensive moat full of sea water, I think.

I re-read zack's rcbw page, and noticed the section on 'blog posts' - there is also a propaganda element to the idea, in improving Debian's internal culture w.r.t. NMUs.

So with my grey Sunday afternoon, I have uploaded a couple of NMUs for RC bugs:

  • Bug #585614 - a small missing dependency from mp3splt-gtk.
  • Bug #591547 - pkg-config compatibility with autoconf >= 2.66

I am surprised that there are still such easy pickings from the RC bug list at this point in the release cycle. This Debian Developer lark is a piece of cake, innit?

Posted: 03 Oct 2010 18:39 | Tags:

Sat, 11 Sep 2010

Debian Perl talk

Today I went to HantsLUG at IBM Hursley.

I delivered a talk on the Debian Perl team aimed at end users, which was well received - I got a head start by getting people in #debian-perl to review the slides beforehand, which was very helpful. I'm told there will be a video uploaded in a month or so.

I also plugged SmoothWall Express on Debian to some new people, and there was interest. My most recent discovery is that I probably need to extend netcfg in the debian installer to allow configuring more than one network interface.

Posted: 11 Sep 2010 19:07 | Tags: , , , ,

Mon, 30 Aug 2010


Here in the UK we've had a bank holiday weekend. Usually I would have gone to Cambridge for the Debian BBQ, but this year I joined forces with Thomas Adam for some SmoothWall Express on Debian hacking.

There are several challenges involved in moving the SWE3 code from its native distribution to Debian; this weekend we worked around some of the permissions problems.

On SWE3, the web server and most of the service daemons run as the user 'nobody'. This means that the web server can write out configuration files as the same user as everything else; it can also read the system log files. When the web interface needs to run a privileged action (like setting firewall rules), it sends a command to 'smoothd', which is a daemon running as root. (Admin ssh access is always directly as the root user.)

However, web servers in Debian tend to run as user 'www-data', which does not have permission to read log files. Similarly, writing out configuration files as that user would mean that any cgi script (not just ones in the swe3 package) could modify them. I would prefer to run the swe3 cgi scripts as a separate user, and grant this user permission to view logs etc. This debian-webapps thread makes it sound very easy, but if you want to do that with cgi scripts rather than fastcgi, I think you have to run a separate web server for each user.

On Sunday afternoon, in a dramatic display of corner-cutting, I gave up on that approach and added www-data to the 'adm' and 'proxy' groups in the postinst. Thomas heroically patched all the cgis to call the "config writers" via smoothd, although I'm wondering whether some careful use of the chgrp command in the postinst might be better than running that code as root.

Another hack: in order to actually start a firewall, we needed to know which network card is the "RED" interface, in SWE3 terms; i.e. which one is meant to be the public-facing network device. It's also nice to know which one is "GREEN". So two debconf questions and some hardcoded magic numbers later, we have a basic firewall init script. Lovely.

Oh, and at some point I removed the htaccess file, so any user on your network can mess with your firewall. Should probably fix that.

Today I started some awful scripts which use Simple-CDD to build an iso containing all the packages we want. We are going to need to extend the networking configuration in the installer to set up multiple network cards. Then we need to figure out a nicer way of assigning IP addresses to devices; unlike on the proprietary version of the product, there seems to be no web configuration of network settings in Express. I've not figured all of this out yet.

So, in summary: we are deliberately trading some technical debt in order to quickly produce an initial release that might interest people. (But please note the disclaimer of warranty in the README file in that directory.) And in other news, I've been working at Smoothwall Ltd. for just over one year. Hmm. So this is what they call 'experience'.

Posted: 30 Aug 2010 21:38 | Tags: , ,

Mon, 16 Aug 2010

SmoothWall Express on Debian

SmoothWall Express is a GNU/Linux distribution geared towards firewalling, with an installer, a web interface, and some common software like squid that can be useful when running a small business router. It is theoretically the basis for the corporate products of SmoothWall Ltd., who happen to employ me; but all opinions here are my own, and I'm not speaking for them.

Unfortunately, the SmoothWall Express kernel is somewhat "stable", which leads to problems installing the distro on modern hardware. There is a new version of Express in the works, but I'm afraid SmoothWall Ltd. currently has a bit of a "code dump" mentality with respect to delivering updates to their community, because they don't recall seeing any significant contributions from outsiders.

At DebConf I created proof-of-concept Debian packages of two components of Express 3.0: the swe3 web interface, and the smoothd daemon which executes privileged commands. Currently these can show a basic web interface; some of the less complicated bits will even run, and I can shut down my laptop using the "shutdown" button via smoothd. (Note that I still need to add boring stuff like debian/copyright files, but I plan to release these as soon as I can.)

In the near future, hopefully I can implement some of the more important features (like, er, firewalling), and add some other components like the traffic shaping and IM filtering daemon. I'm working towards a demonstration Debian Pure Blend that can show off some of the advantages of working with a third-party distribution as a base.

If anyone would like to help me... send me patches. :) I expect I'll be blogging my progress occasionally.

Posted: 16 Aug 2010 00:16 | Tags: , ,

Tue, 10 Aug 2010

Sunny Southampton

On my last night in New York, I didn't sleep much. At 6am, I said farewell to Central Park by running round the reservoir, which I hadn't yet done. There was a very nice red sunrise to be seen from the west side.

Unfortunately I didn't sleep much on the flight home either. The British accents sounded quite unusual when we landed in Heathrow, and it was quite confusing not being able to find a Starbucks.

Once I was back home, I crashed, and woke up at 10pm. I spent last night clearing the pkg-perl review queue - gregoa is taking a short break after DebConf.

Then I went running at sunrise again. This is quite a different experience to Central Park - first, you have to run 2.5km just to get to Southampton Common, and secondly it is raining quite heavily. I dug out some winter gear that had turned out to be completely inappropriate for New York.

Posted: 10 Aug 2010 08:06 | Tags: , ,

Tue, 03 Aug 2010


I was up early this morning for the 17km run with bubulle over the George Washington Bridge and back. We had an interesting diversion near the start, as we tried to go cross-country through a woodland path that slowly disappeared. I was quite happy to have finished at the same time as the "real" runners... and grabbed a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast.

During the day I attended a few talks from the Java track. I had afternoon tea with Safir, and then chatted to a few people before the Cheese & Wine party this evening. My kettle and teapot were commandeered to provide Taiwanese tea.

The US supplies electricity at about half the voltage of the UK. So my US kettle has a power rating of a mere 1500W (compared to 3kW for my UK one) and takes twice as long to boil water. Also, if I took it home, it would probably blow a fuse, I guess. This is probably why everyone uses stove-top kettles here.

While walking back from the hacklab to Carman, there were some fireflies glowing yellow on the corner near where the Columbia flag flies. They didn't seem to be there on the way back from the party - maybe they only shine at dusk.

Posted: 03 Aug 2010 04:47 | Tags: , ,

Sat, 31 Jul 2010


I'm going insane in this country - the accents, the jaywalking, the food, the money, the poverty in the heart of Manhatten... suddenly I appreciate the UK much more.

So I have purchased an electric kettle, and set it up in the Carman basement, for the moment. I have also splashed out on a teapot, and one mug. (So far I haven't found any other mugs in the place, so bear that in mind if you wish to join me - $2.49 from the homeware store across the street.) I have brought two boxes of Twinings tea from the UK, and in the unlikely event that it runs out there are some brand names I recognise in the Westfield Market.

In the spirit of US philanthropy, I intend to donate this equipment for the betterment of Columbia University when I leave.

Posted: 31 Jul 2010 20:16 | Tags: , ,

Thu, 29 Jul 2010

Reverse build-depends

I've started to build up to actually doing some development-related activities. Maybe. But first, we've got QR Codes dotted around the hacklab and on our namebadges if we're taking part in the keysigning - I persuaded zbarcam (from the zbar-tools package) to reveal their mysterious secrets.

I'm looking into packaging some Java libraries that use maven. Fun. I think I'll be attending some of the talks in the Java track, although I feel like I'm three years late to the party.

While trying to find a good example, I wanted to list all packages which reverse-build-depended on maven-debian-helper. This must be a common task? With some stuff stolen from lamby, I hacked together a shell alias:

rbuilddep() {
    grep-dctrl -sPackage -i -r -F Build-Depends,Build-Depends-Indep "\b$1\b" \
            /var/lib/apt/lists/*_Sources \
        | awk '{ print $2 }' \
        | sort \
        | uniq

But this surely can't be the last word on this. For one thing, it might also be useful to recursively find these reverse dependencies. I hope I've missed some obvious way of doing this.

[EDIT (2012-04-13): That would be build-rdeps(1) from the devscripts package.]

I reckon my attention span has got really poor over the last couple of years. More running tomorrow morning. But first, ice cream, I think.

Posted: 29 Jul 2010 03:19 | Tags: , ,

Tue, 27 Jul 2010

Running around

So apparently the route I took round Central Park is 9.7km, which explains a lot. This morning I checked out Morningside Park, but it's really too small for running - there's a loop of about 400m at one end, and you can go down the long bit to 123rd St, but it gets boring very quickly. Most of the park is taken up with a big hill and stairs. I'll try Riverside Park on Thursday, or find a shorter loop at this end of Central Park.

This morning I had breakfast at Nussbaum & Wu, because it seemed like a good name. Then I went to Duane Reade down the road (a pharmacy open 24 hours a day, which is quite impressive), and picked up some hand soap for a couple of dollars - none is provided in the bathrooms (and I didn't read the checklist about what to bring). And if anyone forgets/loses their wherever-to-US power socket adaptor, the Best Buy in Union Square has four left.

So far I've missed about three sponsored meals. In related news, if you ask for all the salad at Subway in the US, you seem to end up with something much hotter than in the UK.

Posted: 27 Jul 2010 21:01 | Tags: , ,

Mon, 26 Jul 2010

Arriving at DebCamp

Yesterday my brother and I checked out of the youth hostel - it was a nice place, but I think it would have been better if we'd had the time to focus on the youth hostelling experience. As it was, I felt like we were just interlopers peeking into a world where we didn't belong.

We headed across Central Park and visited the Met, which is huge - and noted with some satisfaction all the things that came from England. When we left, it was raining, and we walked down Fifth Avenue in the downpour. After so much heat, it was a great relief - but it'll probably be straight sunshine for a few days now.

After a visit to a Barnes & Noble (which was a novelty, since I don't think they have a UK presence - I bought a book on JQuery), we went up the Empire State Building on a whim. Quite a view, and a cheesy but informative audio guide. Then after fetching our luggage back from the youth hostel, we went our separate ways to our respective accommodation.

For me, this meant finding Columbia University. I don't have a great track record with the whole "taking a note of where I'm meant to turn up" thing, and this time saw me wandering around the campus asking directions of people who couldn't understand me. For anyone else with the same habits: you want to find the corner of Broadway and 114th St. (you might get off the #1 subway at Broadway and 116th and walk south), and then proceed down 114th and through the first set of gates on the left. There's a green sign on the gates saying something about "Tech Campus". The Carman building is the first entrance immediately on the left after that. Alternatively you could go through the main campus entrance on Broadway opposite 115th St, and follow the path round the large building on your right until you get to just before the gates.

So then stumbling into all the DebConf people, we went for dinner at a local restaurant; and later out to a bar. Now I need to haul my ass outta bed (it's almost 12pm local time) and find the hacklab, or maybe breakfast.

Posted: 26 Jul 2010 17:06 | Tags: , ,

Sun, 25 Jul 2010

New York

Well, I made it to New York, along with my brother. Yesterday we walked down most of Manhatten Island - we've been staying in the youth hostel on 103rd street, and made our way on foot as far as Battery Park. Along the way, we visited McDonalds (twice) and Starbucks (was that two or three times?), both featuring free wifi and air conditioning. We went up the Rockefeller Tower as well, and got a few photos out of that.

It's really quite warm here. It's shorts and sandals weather (just like last year in Spain), and I'm tired of walking in sandals.

Interesting differences from the UK: the New York Times crossword is quite different from what we call crosswords. I think Monday's one is meant to be easiest, so perhaps starting with Saturday's was not a good plan. There are water fountains dotted around the city, which is awesome.

This morning I went running around Central Park. Except it's tougher than it looks - I'm not sure whether it was the humidity, or the inclines, or not eating anything before setting out... I ended up walking most of the second half, and it took half an hour more than I thought it would. I ran counter(anti-)clockwise - I think it would be better to go clockwise, because there's a hill in the corner with a steep side that I'd prefer to run down rather than up.

Posted: 25 Jul 2010 15:46 | Tags: , ,

Fri, 16 Jul 2010

Starting the Emacs daemon

The daemon feature of Emacs is great. But when should the daemon be started?

At one time I used an '@reboot' line in my crontab. But when you want to use things like Tramp mode (for editing files on remote servers transparently), you very quickly wish that emacs could talk to your ssh-agent.

So if you accept that you will be running a desktop environment (not always true), you can add the daemon to your equivalent of "System >> Preferences >> Startup Programs".

But then you find that Flymake (when used with cperl-mode) is not picking up any of your uninstalled, work-in-progress Perl modules. Wouldn't it be great if you could set $PERL5LIB to fix this? And doesn't M-x copyright require you to set "$ORGANIZATION"?

Ever since Debian bug #411639 was fixed at the end of 2007, we have the option of "~/.xsessionrc" for setting environment variables that will cover everything in your desktop session, including things launched from panels and startup scripts.

So now that's what I do. But I've yet to figure out a good equivalent for console-only systems. Maybe I don't need one?

Posted: 16 Jul 2010 23:48 | Tags: , , ,

Mon, 22 Feb 2010

Plugging the Debian GNOME bug weekend

This weekend I've been messing about with gstreamer pipelines so that I can spam the world with YouTube videos. Go me! Let's see if it shows up on Planet Debian.

Next weekend I'll be teaching my brother how to triage Debian GNOME bugs. :)

Posted: 22 Feb 2010 01:19 | Tags: , , , , ,

Fri, 11 Dec 2009


I'm now a Debian Developer. :) My thanks go to Ben Hutchings, gregor herrmann, Chris Lamb, Christoph Berg, Steve McIntyre, Brad Smith, Jonny Lamb, Chris Boyle, everyone at credativ, and everyone else who helped me with Debian over the last... almost six years?

Actually, I've been a DD since the weekend, but have been too absorbed to write about it.

In other news, I'm moving house today... I'm more or less packed now. My internet access may be intermittent at home for the next few weeks. (Home is now Southampton, UK.)

Posted: 11 Dec 2009 03:47 | Tags: , ,

Tue, 01 Dec 2009


My (very) humble efforts this week:

  • 2009-11-25: #527710 in 'ming' - closed as no longer occurred.
  • Prodded some bugs, especially #555036 in 'bash-completion-lib'; don't remember actually fixing any. :(
  • 2009-11-29: #552680 in 'libtest-valgrind-perl' - investigated and closed. Was actually a previously-closed bug in valgrind.
  • Then bringing up #551926 in pip and python-pip on debian-devel.

Less of the instant gratification of NMUs for me lately.

But; the Perl packaging team is down to a much lower number of RC bugs now. I'm one step closer to being a DD, apparently. And today I found somewhere to live for the next year; this is actually going to threaten my internet access in the near future, which is a little annoying. But once it's done, I'll actually be working on a desktop machine again, rather than a netbook.

Posted: 01 Dec 2009 23:57 | Tags: , ,

Thu, 26 Nov 2009

My favourite Ubuntu patch

I thought I should share my current favourite Ubuntu patch.

While hunting for easy RC bug fixes yesterday, I stumbled across mit-scheme_7.7.90+20090107-1ubuntu1.patch [roughly 9MB]. It contains a Debian .deb to bootstrap the Ubuntu mit-scheme package (bug filed). Nice.

Now, to be fair, Debian has a bootstrapping problem for mit-scheme as well - it requires itself to build, but is currently uninstallable in unstable (although zack's on the case). Having looked at the problem, I think the best thing to do in the long term would be to package mit-scheme-c (which appears to be a superset of the upstream tarball for mit-scheme?) and then use that to build the other package. This would also provide a version of mit-scheme for arches other than i386. If maintainer-built binary packages are going to get thrown away at upload time, that would have been the only way to solve the bug, I think.

(I don't mean to fuel the Debian vs. Ubuntu flames; it would have been nice if the MOTUs could have fixed this in less of a hacky, license-violating way, but they did at least get the package to build, which is more than Debian can do at the moment. I intend to keep a closer eye on Ubuntu bugs and patches for the various packages I work on, because keeping divergence to a minimum should benefit both distributions.)

Posted: 26 Nov 2009 21:31 | Tags: , , ,

Tue, 24 Nov 2009

Delayed gratification

I've been slacking on the RC bugs front. :) Let's see, my last blog post was on Monday 16th, so I'm late...

  • 2009-11-17: #527838 in 'smart' - investigated, closed as fixed. (Blatant cheating.)
  • 2009-11-18: #516338 in 'pornview' - debugged a segmentation fault on amd64
  • 2009-11-19: #551251 in 'libjavascript-perl' - patch written, but need to finish off and release.
  • On Friday I looked at postgresql-pllua and postgresql-plproxy, but they need a bit more work than I originally thought, so I joined the pkg-postgresql team. I'm amazed I wasn't a member before, in fact. :) Now just need to actually update the packages.
  • Then I took the weekend off! Went out, had fun...
  • Yesterday I followed up on bug #516338 above with a delayed NMU, but I believe we're close to a maintainer upload now.
  • 2009-11-24: #553230 in 'libapache2-mod-macro' - NMU diff written. I think it's borderline removal material, since there's only been one maintainer upload ever, but it does have a few popcon votes.

The DELAYED queue is a wonderful mechanism for reducing the amount of busy waiting that needs to happen for NMUs; you don't have to remember to come back and upload several days later. For non-DDs, it takes a bit more co-ordination between you and your sponsor, unfortunately - do you send the NMUdiff to the bug before you get sponsorship, and risk having to change it? And then revisit the bug to give notice again once it does get sponsored? Or leave it until after upload, which might reduce the amount of notice you're actually giving the maintainer (if, say, your mentor is in a different timezone)?

I've been opting for the first approach, but it doesn't have the same fire-and-forget quality of the real thing.

Posted: 24 Nov 2009 22:08 | Tags: , ,

Mon, 16 Nov 2009

On mentors and museums

This evening I investigated #555941 in libxml-filter-xslt-perl, and was able to downgrade it to "important". I'm working on a proper fix, but it's not RC any more. (Gunnar, I don't mean to make you feel bad! I've been inactive for a while myself - I'm just making up for lost time.)

And now for conversation via blog!

Clint, I'm inclined to agree about ego, fiefdoms and so on. But I'm unconvinced that personal relationships themselves are harmful. Actually, I was thinking more about "professional relationships" - I don't care much whether mentors take their mentees to an art gallery, provided they work with them over a period of time, and therefore get to know the quality of their packaging. (I was a bit careless in my phrasing last night.)

Having said that, let's do that as well! Indeed, building relationships so that we don't flame each other to a crisp the rest of the year is the very reason we hold DebConf, right? (Apart from the beer. And the holiday.)

I reckon the mentoring system would be more effective if we started thinking along these lines, and this in turn would help address the wider problem of resources within various parts of Debian. Maybe not directly, but it could free up other people to work on the complicated stuff. We could probably turn debian-mentors into a sort of "team" in its own right. (Apologies if someone's suddenly made debian-mentors active again behind my back.)

And if I ever get approved by DAM (ahem), I intend to propose a deal to the debian-mentors list that each upload of an updated package will cost them one RC bug NMUdiff, and uploads of new packages will cost two. ;)

Posted: 16 Nov 2009 21:24 | Tags: ,

More RC bugs

Heh, thanks zack for your welcome. :) I'm afraid I don't make bug fixing look as easy or as organised as you do.

Some cheating to finish off the weekend: #548860 was reopened accidentally, #555898 was already fixed in another package, and #555939... actually, that did need a fix, but I just munged the test suite to expect some new error output.

Then I spent this morning writing half a testsuite for svn-buildpackage, and this evening just zoning out.

Sometimes I wonder whether fixing RC bugs is actually improving the quality of the release, or just letting us make a buggy release sooner. Non-RC bugs get pushed to the back of the queue. Hmm. But the pkg-perl team has around 170 packages with bugs in, and not that many people fixing bugs. I have to agree with corsac on the general point that just about everywhere in Debian could use more people.

There's a huge role for non-DDs to play in getting fixes into Debian, but as far as I remember, the emphasis of the mentors documentation is on packaging rather than bug fixing. I was barely aware that I was even allowed to prepare an NMU. And from what I know of the NM process now, a huge list of RC bug fixes would go a long way to establishing credibility as a potential DD - longer than a huge list of poorly-maintained packages.

It seems to me that the mentor relationship works better when DDs get to know particular people, and regularly sponsor uploads for them. This way they are in a better position to advise and sponsor any NMUs that might come along, and eventually to advocate them as an NM candidate. But it also seems to me that debian-mentors is not geared up for this at the moment.

To conclude, it's 1am, and I shouldn't be posting controversial thoughts on my blog. :)

Posted: 16 Nov 2009 01:09 | Tags: ,

Sat, 14 Nov 2009

RC bug roundup

On Wednesday, I fixed #551228 in libgstreamer-perl - from the bug log, it looked like it would be an intriguing parallel-build problem, but I reckon it was just a faulty test.

Next I applied a patch from the upstream bug tracker for #544894 in libtk-filedialog-perl, which was fine; but then we noticed that there was no explicit copyright notice in the source, so it hasn't been uploaded yet. The code is from 1996, so we would request removal from Debian if it weren't for 'horae' depending on it. Hmm...

Then yesterday I found the time to test #520406 in libdbd-mysql-perl, which I remember being open as long ago as DebConf. It turns out it's dead easy - there's already a test case and a patch upstream, which was applied a while ago, so the bug is already fixed in squeeze. Today I prepared an updated package to fix this in lenny.

So, I'm still falling short of one RC bug a day, and pkg-perl has more RC bugs open than at the start of the week. :( The weekend's not over yet, though.

Posted: 14 Nov 2009 15:42 | Tags: , ,

Mon, 09 Nov 2009


Hello, Planet! (Thanks to lamby for adding me to Planet Debian.) If you don't know me... I'm not surprised. I do some occasional pkg-perl work, but I've really been slacking (and changing jobs, and moving halfway across the UK).

Last week I fixed one RC bug, in libgnupg-interface-perl. Better than none, I suppose. It turned out to be quite interesting; the tests failed when the package was built on the buildds, but not locally. Other people had done the hard work, and figured out that this was happening when there was no tty; I just had to debug why the particular perl variable was getting unset.

I'm somewhere near the end of the NM process; one of these days, I'll be able to upload my own packages, and those of other people. I'm still working out where best to apply myself within Debian - I do want to share some of the pkg-perl upload burden (because gregoa is an absolute hero, and deserves to be able to take holidays).

The status of Debian mentoring in general intrigues me; there seem to be so many places where more minds are needed, and perhaps this makes encouraging and training new developers especially important. More on this later.

Posted: 09 Nov 2009 23:42 | Tags: ,

Wed, 29 Jul 2009


Well, I'm nearly at the end of DebConf - I'm missing the last day of talks, so travelling home tomorrow. It's been a really good experience - I mean, DebConf is always fun, but this time I feel like I'm getting more involved myself, and a bit closer to the heart of the community than I did before.

In practical terms, the two-week holiday has helped me feel more laid-back - I even got complimented on how I always look relaxed, which was amusing. I'm starting to get to know even more people, and that's helped me be more confident with contributing back. And it's given me some time to finish a few outstanding tasks, although my todo list remains perpetually long.

The time has also helped in less tangible ways - I've been able to brainstorm a few general ideas about what big problems I am trying to solve, and I've been able to look at my workflow and identify problem areas. I hope that I can take some solutions back to the rest of my life.

Posted: 29 Jul 2009 12:38 | Tags: , , , ,

Wed, 22 Jul 2009


This week, I've more or less finished my NM questions; I looked again at a problem in dak which turns out mainly to be caused by some edge cases in debconf (the package), so filed a bug there. Then looked at conglomerate, and came up with patches for a couple of bugs there as well. I'm quite looking forward to just being able to NMU these kind of things.

With all this hacking, I've stayed up until around 4:30 for the past few nights - I really didn't mean to, it just happened. I'm trying to fix that now (so that I can make it to breakfast).

Debian now has its own wine - there are 1800 bottles in total. Last night we tried some...

Also, there's a small cat here which seems quite friendly.

Posted: 22 Jul 2009 15:56 | Tags: , , , ,

Sun, 19 Jul 2009

DebConf9 continues

Yesterday I almost updated mdbtools. Then I went to a debian perl team meeting, and promptly spent 24 hours trying to improve the speed of working with 1300+ git repositories. It's a bit tricky.

This afternoon, I looked at some pkg-perl RC bugs... but they're tricky as well. I then updated the postgresql-autodoc man page, and sent it back upstream. Hopefully, next release the Debian package will not need any patches.

The vegetarians seem to have been having a rough time - apparently in Spanish-speaking countries, ham is not considered meat. Things picked up today for them, though, with some mushrooms at lunch and a nice-looking salad this evening.

Posted: 19 Jul 2009 21:40 | Tags: , , , ,

Sat, 18 Jul 2009


DebConf is in Spain this year, in Cáceres. Getting here involved a plane to Madrid, navigating the metro system, a 3.5 hour train journey and then a walk to the accommodation at 2am. This year I had actually looked at a map before arriving in the city, although hadn't bothered to bring one with me. Or note the exact address I was heading for...

At night, it is still pleasantly warm here. The streets were quiet except for the "pfft, pfft, pfft" of the sprinklers. Any directions I'd read which involved street names were useless - but I remembered enough of the map to get to where the buildings were, and then wandered around until I found the entrance.

I was greeted at the front desk by the security guard, who didn't speak much English... but I understood enough, and got shown where the room was. The student residences are not luxurious! It's quite a contrast to Mar del Plata (or even the hostels at Edinburgh), but not a lot of time is spent in the rooms anyway. The shower is worryingly powerful - think 'firehose'. Tomorrow I hope to find a way not to flood the whole room while using it.

The building seems designed to stay cool, fortunately. Meals are later in the day to avoid the worst of the heat, but I've still been feeling tired. People seem to buy large (1.5l) bottles of water. The weather's supposedly going to get even hotter - I did go out at 6pm to buy an ice cream, but I'm wondering whether my sunblock is going to last two weeks. I'm already in shorts and sandals - I might need to find more T-shirts.

Today has been fairly productive, actually - I updated postgresql-autodoc, fixed my blog, and updated my laptop. Since dinner I've been looking at the other packaging work I need to do; I'm hoping to get another few uploads out of the way first, and then work on NM questions and fixing bugs.

Posted: 18 Jul 2009 00:26 | Tags: , , , ,

Thu, 02 Apr 2009

Kernel Mode Setting on Debian

The new kernel mode setting feature in Linux 2.6.29 is relatively easy to enable, although at this point there does not seem to be much in the way of documentation.


You will need:

  • linux-image-2.6.29-1-686 or similar (or later)
  • The xserver-xorg and related packages from Debian experimental, unless you're reading this in the distant future, at which point X.org 7.4 will be in unstable.
  • An intel graphics card which uses the i915 driver. I used an Asus eeepc 1000.
  • A willingness to break your system in the name of seeing something cool.


First, install the new kernel and the experimental x.org packages. Add 'i915 modeset=1' to /etc/modules. Ignore instructions elsewhere on the web about adding stuff to kernel boot lines - I reckon these have no effect, unless they were/are necessary for Fedora. You can either reboot, or stop X and reload i915 with the right option.

Now enjoy the fast VT switching and nice framebuffer console for five minutes before you notice that the experimental X.org packages broke your keyboard layout!

Posted: 02 Apr 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , , ,

Wed, 01 Apr 2009

Three egg omelette

I haven't taken much time on cooking for the past couple of nights. Last night I just used a sweet-and-sour sauce from a jar, and had chicken with quick-cook rice. I don't think that counts as cooking - more like a ready meal by stealth. As a concession, I bought whole chicken breast fillets and diced them myself. It seems to help if you use a sharp knife.

This evening I cooked an omelette (with three eggs - there's a standing joke in the family concerning my brother once having cooked a one-egg omelette) and frozen veg, so I must have been done in under five minutes. I'll write something if I find a variation that's more eggciting...

Also this evening, I looked at Debian's status in relation to the Linux Standard Base. No one seems to certify Debian stable releases, and no one is running nightly LSB tests on Debian. I wonder if I can get that changed.

Posted: 01 Apr 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , , , ,

Sat, 21 Mar 2009

Flymake and XML on Debian

Flymake is an emacs minor mode that runs a syntax check tool over source files as you write them, on the fly. Essentially it calls the compiler for the relevant language and then parses the warnings.

Because this is so obviously useful, I have it turned on by default in .emacs:

; Highlight syntax errors
(require 'flymake)
(add-hook 'find-file-hook 'flymake-find-file-hook)

Recall also that I use emacs to view page source in Epiphany. Unfortunately, this produced a nasty dialog box warning about not being able to find an 'xml' command.

The solution comes in two parts:

  • Install the 'xmlstarlet' package.
  • If you are using the emacs-snapshot package rather than emacs22, the fix to Bug #447378 is not yet applied. (I've mailed the maintainer.) Until then, it is simple to redefine flymake-xml-init in .emacs:
    ;;;; xml-specific init-cleanup routines
    (defun flymake-xml-init ()
      (list "xmlstarlet" (list "val" (flymake-init-create-temp-buffer-copy 'flymake-create-temp-inplace))))

I suppose both emacs packages should really Suggest xmlstarlet - I wonder how many other external programs might fall into that category.

Posted: 21 Mar 2009 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Wed, 22 Oct 2008


I tried to look at an RC bug this evening: bug #502657 on netmaze. It looked so easy - a segmentation fault, a backtrace... no. The package doesn't even build on sid, doesn't support the 'nostrip' option, and hasn't had an upload for two years. When you get past those stumbling blocks, it's a 64-bit compatibility problem that would probably need quite a large patch.

So, in the end, I've increased the RC bug count by one this evening, in suggesting to the maintainer that netmaze should not be released with lenny.

I tried.

Posted: 22 Oct 2008 00:00 | Tags: , ,

Tue, 21 Oct 2008

RC != Roman Catholic

I got a concerned phone call from my mother following my previous blog post, asking whether I owe Debian money. Fortunately, I believe I am fully paid up for all the T-shirts and BBQs that Steve McIntyre has given me.

I have decided that the interest payment on my outstanding debt to Debian must be made in the form of RC bug fixes. I suck at RC bug fixes. They are generally boring, but of great value to the community. It is because of all the lame people like me not fixing RC bugs that Debian doesn't release on time, ever. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Posted: 21 Oct 2008 00:00 | Tags: , ,

Mon, 20 Oct 2008

WNPP bugs are like debt

Credit cards can be very useful, provided you pay off your outstanding balance at the end of each month. If you do not, the debt can pile up, and will be sticking with you for a very long time. Credit is a tool - it lubricates the economy. Without it, production would grind to a halt. However, it is very important that creditors lend only as much as debtors can afford to repay.

If we think of Debian as a gift economy, it is the community doing the lending, and ITPs and ITAs are a temporary extension of kudos to the potential maintainer.

Anyway, the point of this analogy is to note that while my financial overdraft is currently nonexistent, my debt to Debian needs to be repaid with interest.

Posted: 20 Oct 2008 00:00 | Tags: , ,

Sun, 13 Jul 2008

OpenJDK in Debian main

After much anticipation, the free-as-in-freedom version of Sun's Java JDK has arrived in Debian's `main' section. There are still a few bugs in the packaging, but these will be ironed out before the lenny release. Various other useful packages still need to adapt to its presence, but many will be able to move from the `contrib' section into `main' as well.

Going forward, this makes Sun's Java platform quite attractive for developing future free software applications. There is a reasonably performant implementation now available in most distributions, that will receive security updates, has a good team of developers behind it, and already has a large community of people with skills in the language. If static versus dynamic typing becomes an issue, Jython might offer a nice competing implementation of Python. We might one day get to see what this `Groovy' thing is all about. In terms of GUI applications, Andrew Cowie's new java-gnome 4.x bindings will allow truly native integration with the rest of GNOME - or stick with plain Swing for cross-platform portability.

This also brings the Java/.NET competition to free software. Mono has been playing catch-up with both Microsoft's implementation of .NET and with Java - it has enjoyed some success with Gtk#, which has provided much more compelling rapid development than the old java-gnome bindings and gcj. MonoDevelop is trying to compete with Eclipse and NetBeans, and probably has a better-integrated GNOME UI editor. Still, if the potential for rapid application development is as great as is claimed, it can't be very long before the various successful Gtk# applications (banshee, f-spot, tomboy) have Java counterparts (unless people are happy with the C equivalents). The most difficult part of the process is finishing off any required library bindings (such as to gstreamer and libgphoto2).

It will be interesting to see whether Java free software developers bring with them the same bad habits that have been seen with many Windows-based C# free software developers. When you want to use a library, bundling a binary-only copy of an unstable version is not really the right thing to do. At least many Java .jar archives also contain source code, and there are quite a few home-grown Java hackers who might understand about how to play nicely with distributions using proper dependency-management systems.

One thing that strikes me is that, while Mono has been around for quite a few years now, I can't think of any big non-graphical applications that are built on it. (Beagle is perhaps the exception - it does make use of a Gtk# GUI, but the main program is the indexer.) Java might benefit from a network effect, as projects such as Apache Tomcat are also widely used. (Let's not mention Choob at this point.) There are a few non-GNOME graphical apps waiting in the wings (like freecol and robocode). The scaremongering over possible patent infringement in Mono (or the Windows.Forms libraries), while probably unfounded, cannot help its cause.

But of course, ruling out something catastrophic like a patent infringement suit, free software projects very rarely die - they just fade away into obscurity. Both platforms are likely to be around for some time yet.

Posted: 13 Jul 2008 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Fri, 04 Jul 2008

gnu-standards in Debian

An update to Debian's gnu-standards package is now in incoming. This package contains the GNU Coding Standards and the Information for GNU Maintainers document. It is now in the `main' section rather than `non-free', so is officially part of the Debian system.

This has taken several months; at the end of December I asked whether the maintainers' document could be relicensed. RMS evidently approved, because the licence was changed in January.

Then there was the small matter of updating the Debian package; I prepared an update, but wasn't quite clear on whether I was preparing an NMU or a normal upload, so stalled for a while. Last month the package became orphaned, so I quickly grabbed an ITA, and started working again. KiBi was very helpful with pointing out all the remaining cruft in the package, and he generously sponsored the final result. Then we just had to wait for it to get through the NEW queue.

Hopefully it will migrate to testing before the freeze.

Posted: 04 Jul 2008 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Mon, 30 Jun 2008

The things I do for Debian

It weighs 13kg, apparently, and my arms still ache. Thanks to Anton and Dan for letting me stay at their place on Saturday night, and use their fast net connection to download Debian packages.

Posted: 30 Jun 2008 00:00 | Tags: , , , ,

Tue, 06 May 2008

Bank Holiday and stuff

The bank holiday formed a welcome break after a hard week at work writing and fixing a Linux kernel module. On Friday afternoon version of f-spot was uploaded to Debian, and then yesterday a new version of postgresql-autodoc. We've found a release-critical bug in f-spot already, of course.

Most of the rest of my time was spent hacking on Angel, a project which we haven't formally announced yet. :) It still needs some refactoring before a public release is possible - there are a few bugs left to fix. Still, I'm hoping that we'll get there fairly soon.

The fire alarms have regularly been going off at 2am in this house - when I came home today they had been disabled by the landlord. I've also had a sore throat, and at work Chris and Gabi have had another child, so I'm on my own for two weeks. I'm also forced to remember my German all day... and most of the code I write is woefully inelegant. And it's too sunny. Why can't it rain like last weekend?

Still, apart from that, life's good.

Posted: 06 May 2008 00:00 | Tags: , , , ,

Sun, 06 Apr 2008

Debian BSP

I spent my weekend in Cambridge at the Debian bug squashing party. It was good seeing people again. I even squashed a bug, but then spent Saturday forwarding non-RC bugs upstream, and kernel hacking today. :)

Walked back to Cambridge station - about 40 minutes, along the river for part of the way, and it was a nice evening. Living where I do, I don't walk as much as I used to... perhaps I should do more at weekends.

It didn't snow very much in Cambridge. Back in Rugby there was an inch or so on the cars, and it was threatening to start again as I walked home. Hopefully it will all have cleared by tomorrow.

Posted: 06 Apr 2008 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Thu, 03 Apr 2008

I'll be at DebConf8

Lamby reckoned I wouldn't be able to resist using the DebConf8 blog sticker thing. And he was right.

I'm going to DebConf8, edition 2008 of the annual Debian 
     developers meeting

My horrendously expensive plane tickets arrived last week.

Posted: 03 Apr 2008 00:00 | Tags: , , , ,

Fri, 21 Mar 2008

F-Spot 0.4.2-1 done

Yesterday evening, I finally found the patch for a bug in mono-addins that had been affecting f-spot extensions for a while - rebuilding the f-spot Debian package with no changes and reinstalling would cause the built-in extensions to disappear. In the end, the patch was just two lines long, and had been applied in mono-addins SVN (and in the copy of mono-addins that f-spot bundles). One less RC bug for lenny.

With this out of the way, we uploaded f-spot 0.4.2-1 to unstable. This fixed another RC bug (two merged ones) and a handful of other problems. It's taken a few weeks since the upstream 0.4.2 release to get this pushed out, mainly because I knew upstream were expecting all the extensions bugs to be fixed in this release. Still, we got there in the end; there are still far too many known bugs in f-spot, but I think we will get a fair chunk sorted out before the release. In a couple of weeks, f-spot 0.4.3 should be upon us, and we have to decide whether it's stable enough to be uploaded to unstable. I need to forward some bugs and patches upstream before then. There's a known crash to fix in the next upload (but not too serious, relatively speaking) - but I rather want to let 0.4.2-1 migrate to testing, so perhaps we shall leave f-spot alone for a while.

So, over Easter, I have some time for some other projects.

Posted: 21 Mar 2008 00:00 | Tags: , , ,

Sun, 02 Dec 2007

Enscript git repositories

Today I created a git repository for enscript's Debian packaging. The upstream repository is in git as well, of course.

Next I need to work on pulling any distro fixes I can find into upstream, and getting a new bugfix version released. This should hopefully obsolete most of the Debian patches.

Posted: 02 Dec 2007 00:00 | Tags: , , , , , ,

Sat, 17 Nov 2007

GNU Enscript Maintainership

Some news that's overdue to be blogged: a few weeks ago, I picked up the Debian package 'enscript', and fixed some of the easier bugs in it. This has been uploaded to unstable, thanks to Myon, who rocks.

Having looked at the package, I realised that further work on it was unfeasible without a new upstream release. GNU Enscript had been unmaintained for a while, so I wrote to the GNU project and asked whether I could set up a Savannah project for it. A few days later, rms dubbed me the official maintainer.

This week, I sent in my copyright assignment form. This is one of the things I wasn't expecting - from the copyright headers, it didn't look as if Enscript required copyright assignment to the FSF. Still, it makes sense in the long run. I have to examine the existing code, and work out whether there are any other contributors from whom to ask for assignments or disclaimers. One of these days I'll actually get around to writing some code for it, perhaps.

On the plus side, I now have an account on fencepost.gnu.org, which means I have a nice gnu.org email address to go with it. Also, the FSF sent some nice stickers for my laptop with the copyright form.

Posted: 17 Nov 2007 00:00 | Tags: , , , , ,


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