My Free Software Activities in August 2013

This is my monthly summary of my free software related activities. If you’re among the people who made a donation to support my work (47.50 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

Package Tracking System

There are only 2-3 weeks left in the summer of code project dedicated to rewrite the package tracking system. We have come a long way during August… check it out yourself in

The rewrite doesn’t have all the features of the old PTS yet, but I opted to keep some of the easy and less interesting features for others to re-implement. Instead I asked Marko to work in the coming weeks on new features that will bring more value, like the possibility to have user accounts with the possibility to easily review and tweak all your subscriptions on the web, and like the possibility to subscribe to groups of packages (i.e. those managed by a team).

Our main problem right now is that exim has a pretty poor default behavior of forking hundreds of processes if you get hundreds of mails (in a batch) to an address that delivers via a pipe (postfix is saner, it serializes the deliveries on pipes). The new PTS is much more modular and its memory footprint is bigger (about 3 times more for the process that delivers mails, 30Mb instead of 10Mb), and in such a situation we managed to run out of memory… for now we worked around the situation with an exim setting that queues mails once the load gets too high but it’s a poor workaround IMO. We could obviously implement our own queue and a daemon but I’d like to avoid this. So who knows how to tell exim to behave? :-)

On the positive side, Marko has gotten some feedback from people who like the new PTS and are using it daily already. And several persons have expressed their interest to work on the new codebase already.

On my side, I created a package so that it’s easy to deploy for derivatives. In this process, I revamped the way we manage the Django settings (for development and for production). The package is not finished yet, but it’s mostly usable already. But I still want to do some cleanup/refactoring in the models before others start deploying it. We must also enable South to make it possible to upgrade easily afterwards.

DebConf 13 in Vaumarcus

From August 10th to 17th, I was attending DebConf 13. It matched the only week of vacation that my wife had this summer so we went there with the whole family (that is with a 3 years old son, and 6 months old one). Thus I could not immerse myself in Debconf and missed all the nice things that happen outside of the talk rooms. I picked 3-4 interesting talks per day and I spent the rest with my family.

On the positive side, I was pleased that my wife could meet (or at least see) some other Debian people. She knows quite a few (of you) by name because I have been telling her Debian stories for years now…

Debian France

Debian France sold quite some merchandise during Debconf but I didn’t take care of that. It was supervised by Sylvestre Ledru but fortunately he got the help of multiple persons, both to bring everything there, to sell it, and to bring back the rest.

The good news of the month is that the upstream author of galette published a new version with all the features that we ordered him a few months ago. We send now automatic reminders to members who must renew their subscription, we have automatic update of our accounting books (in a ledger file in a git repository) when we people donate or pay their subscription via the paypal form on our website.

I was so pleased to finally have this that I took some hours to finalize the packaging of galette, so that it could be uploaded to Debian. It’s now waiting in the NEW queue. I also spent multiple hours to write the python script that is executed by galette and that updates the accounting files.

Misc Debian stuff

Debian Packaging. I did two uploads of logidee-tools to fix bugs #718671 and #718836. I created a package for Dolibarr a PHP-based CRM and ERP software (it doesn’t do accounting however), it’s sitting in the NEW queue for almost a month already. I forwarded #719000 to the upstream Publican developers. I filed #720393 to request a new upstream version of libphp-mailer.

git-multimail. After its deployment on Alioth last month, Niels Thykier reported me a case where it lead to bounces, I filed this as a new upstream ticket and in fact I fixed it myself a few days after. I got the fixed version installed on Alioth.

dpkg. I investigated why the the automatic builds of dpkg were no longer happening and asked Michael Prokop if he could install a newer version of gettext in the build chroot. He told me that he would need a backport for that so I asked Santiago Vila if he was willing to provide it and he kindly accepted. A few days after, the package was in backports and I’m now again running the latest dpkg out of git thanks to the nice service provided by Michael.

Misc discussions. The thread about “user planets” drifted into a discussion of how to avoid “promotional posts” on such planets and in that context someone again brought up the Debian Machine Usage Policy as a way to shut down any kind of (self-)promotional content on planet if there’s money involved. This always irritates me and this time I opted to ask James Troup about the origin of that clause in the DMUP. So who is willing to work with DSA to fix the DMUP so that people stop abusing it in contexts where it doesn’t make sense?

I also participated in some discussions concerning dgit. I like the ideas behind the tool, but I’m saddened by the behavior of Ian Jackson. I helped him to fill his gap of knowledge about new sources formats but he keeps on bashing about the “3.0 (quilt)” source format both in the manual page and in the output of the program. He believes that dgit is no longer an experiment but the truth is that it’s still a poorly commented Perl script doing lots of hackish things.

Kali Linux

Between Debconf and all, I haven’t done much for Kali except a couple of fixes. There’s a nice story of how I tracked a bug in live-installer on the Kali blog. That fix has been committed to Debian. I also improved live-build to include xfsprogs/jfsutils on the ISO image when you include the debian-installer (so that you don’t end up in problems when you pick JFS or XFS as file systems for your installation).


See you next month for a new summary of my activities.

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  1. As usual, I always like to drop a note of thanks to people who contribute a great deal of their time to make Debian works seamlessly for the teeming day-to-day users. God bless you. Thank you for your work over the years.

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