My Free Software Activities in August 2014

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 (65.55 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

Distro Tracker

Even though I was officially in vacation during 3 of the 4 weeks of August, I spent many nights working on Distro Tracker. I’m pleased to have managed to bring back Python 3 compatibility over all the (tested) code base. The full test suite now passes with Python 3.4 and Django 1.6 (or 1.7).

From now on, I’ll run “tox” on all code submitted to make sure that we won’t regress on this point. tox also runs flake8 for me so that I can easily detect when the submitted code doesn’t respect the PEP8 coding style. It also catches other interesting mistakes (like unused variable or too complex functions).

Getting the code to pass flake8 was also a major effort, it resulted in a huge commit (89 files changed, 1763 insertions, 1176 deletions).

Thanks to the extensive test suite, all those refactoring only resulted in two regressions that I fixed rather quickly.

Some statistics: 51 commits over the last month, 41 by me, 3 by Andrew Starr-Bochicchio, 3 by Christophe Siraut, 3 by Joseph Herlant and 1 by Simon Kainz. Thanks to all of them! Their contributions ported some features that were already available on the old PTS. The new PTS is now warning of upcoming auto-removals, is displaying problems with uptream URLs, includes a short package description in the page title, and provides a link to screenshots (if they exist on

We still have plenty of bugs to handle, so you can help too: check out I always leave easy bugs for others to handle, so grab one and get started! I’ll review your patch with pleasure. :-)


After my last batch of contributions to Tryton’s French Chart of Accounts (#4108, #4109, #4110, #4111) Cédric Krier granted me commit rights to the account_fr mercurial module.

Debconf 14

I wasn’t able to attend this year but thanks to awesome work of the video team, I watched some videos (and I still have a bunch that I want to see). Some of them were put online the day after they had been recorded. Really amazing work!

Django 1.7

After the initial bug reports, I got some feedback of maintainers who feared that it would be difficult to get their packages working with Django 1.7. I helped them as best as I can by providing some patches (for horizon, for django-restricted-resource, for django-testscenarios).

Since I expected many maintainers to be not very pro-active, I rebuilt all packages with Django 1.7 to detect at least those that would fail to build. I tagged as confirmed all the corresponding bug reports.

Looking at;tag=django17, one can see that some progress has been made with 25 packages fixed. Still there are at least 25 others that are still problematic in sid and 35 that have not been investigated at all (except for the automatic rebuild that passed). Again your help is more than welcome!

It’s easy to install python-django 1.7 from experimental and they try to use/rebuild the packages from the above list.

Dpkg translation

With the freeze approaching, I wanted to ensure that dpkg was fully translated in French. I thus pinged and merged some translations that were done by volunteers. Unfortunately it looks like nobody really stepped up to maintain it in the long run… so I did myself the required update when dpkg 1.17.12 got uploaded.

Is there anyone willing to manage dpkg’s French translation? With the latest changes in 1.17.13, we have again a few untranslated strings:
$ for i in $(find . -name fr.po); do echo $i; msgfmt -c -o /dev/null --statistics $i; done
1083 translated messages, 4 fuzzy translations, 1 untranslated message.
268 translated messages, 3 fuzzy translations.
545 translated messages.
2277 translated messages, 8 fuzzy translations, 3 untranslated messages.

Misc stuff

I made an xsane QA upload (it’s currently orphaned) to drop the (build-)dependency on liblcms1 and avoid getting it removed from Debian testing (see #745524). For the record, how-can-i-help warned me of this after one dist-upgrade.

With the Django 1.7 work and the need to open up an experimental branch, I decided to switch python-django’s packaging to git even though the current team policy is to use subversion. This triggered (once more) the discussion about a possible switch to git and I was pleased to see more enthusiasm this time around. Barry Warsaw tested a few workflows, shared his feeling and pushed toward a live discussion of the switch during Debconf. It looks like it might happen for good this time. I contributed my share in the discussions on the mailing list.


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

My Free Software Activities in July 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 (167.67 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

The Debian Administrator’s Handbook

After the successful crowdfunding campaign, I had a bunch of rewards to ship: I subcontracted most of the job but I had to take care of the books with dedication. I also dealt regularly with books/stickers coming back to the sender (due to invalid address or people not picking up their parcels in the post-office).

After the rewards, we had to take care to actually finalize the liberation of the French translation. I merged the translations we had in Git and Roland updated/translated a few strings that weren’t in the original book in French. Then I have put the book online.

Last but not least, I started to work on updating the English book for Debian 7 (Roland started way before me) and we have put some updated chapters up for review.

Debian France

Elections. After Debian France’s general assembly, the new board of administrators voted the officers: I have been re-elected as President, Sylvestre continues as Treasurer but we have a new Secretary in the person of Alexandre Delanoë. Welcome Alexandre!

I did the administrative work to register the new board/officers in the « Tribunal d’instance » and to give access to the internal git repositories to the new members.

Galette. I also did a bunch of tests on Galette’s new features that Debian France ordered to the upstream author. They should all land in the next upstream release due in the next weeks. \o/

Accounting. I worked on the accounting to bring it up-to-date so that Sylvestre can pick up the work from now on. We’re learning how to best use ledger for our needs.

PTS rewrite

I continued to spend about 12 hours a week to mentor Marko Lalic who is rewriting the Package Tracking System. I’m pretty happy with the results so far so I marked him as “pass” for the mid-term evaluation required by Google. You can have a look at the documentation and the web interface is starting to show some content.

The email interface is fully working and I have configured the real PTS to forward all mails to our test instance ( so that you can use the rewritten PTS for real-life work. Mail your subscription commands to and start using it!

Thanks to the test driven development methodology we’re using, we’re pretty confident that it works reasonably well! :-)

I also packaged python-django-jsonfield (still in NEW) since Marko has been using this python module in his code, and filed bug #717900 on sqlite3 to raise a limit that we have hit with queries made by the PTS.

Kali Linux

I used the Calxeda Highbank node donated to Debian by Offensive Security to test the new -armmp kernel flavor on it. It seemed to work except for a missing network driver (filed in #717269).

Misc Debian work

Issues with social networks. With the move of to, we don’t have any possibility to auto-post status updates based on RSS feeds.’s @debian account was also configured to push updates to the @debian account on (and from there it was grabbed in the Debian page on Facebook). This is also gone… so to limit the damage, I setup so that the twitter/facebook accounts continue to have updates). If you’re looking for a development project, here’s an area that is not well covered by free software! We need code to do what twitterfeed does… and we need that code to also support

Dpkg work. It’s been a long time since I last pushed some code to dpkg’s git repository. I took care of reworking and merging a patch submitted by Steve Langasek to fix #716948 (an issue with dpkg-maintscript-helper rm_conffile messing with conffiles that the package no longer owns).

Git mail notification. When I was still administrator of Alioth, I wrote git-commit-notice (a fork of Git’s post-receive-email) and many packaging projects are using this hook script to send commit notices to mailing lists. This script has not been updated for multiple years and it started spewing warnings recently due to deprecated features in Wheezy’s git. So I looked at updating it and while doing so I discovered a much better replacement with git-multimail. Thus I adapted git-commit-notice to work on top of this new script. The result has now been installed on (this is to be properly announced in the next DeveloperNews).

Misc work. I packaged sql-ledger 3.0.5-1, forwarded #714739 on publican, and I participated in discussions to move the French Debian planets to


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

My Free Software Activities in October 2012

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 (120.46 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.


At the start of the month, I reconfigured dpkg’s git repository to use KGB instead of the discontinued CIA to send out commit notices to IRC (on #debian-dpkg on OFTC, aka

I didn’t do anything else that affects dpkg and I must say that Guillem does not make it easy for others to get involved. He keeps all his work hidden in his private “for 1.17.x” branch and refuses to open an official “jessie” branch as can be seen from the lack of answer to this mail.

On the bright side, he deals with almost all incoming bugs even before I have a chance to take care of them. But it’s a pity that I can never review any of his fixes because they are usually pushed shortly before an upload.

Misc packaging

I helped to get #689336 fixed so that the initrd properly setups the keymap before asking for a passphrase for an encrypted partition. Related to this I filed #689722 so that cryptsetup gains a dependency ensuring that the required tools for keymap setup are available.

I packaged a new upstream version of zim (0.57) and also a security update for python-django that affected both Squeeze and Wheezy. I uploaded an NMU of revelation (0.4.13-1.2) so that it doesn’t get dropped from Wheezy (it was on the release team list of leaf packages that would be removed if unfixed) since my wife is using it to store her passwords.

I sponsored a new upstream version of ledgersmb.

Debian France

We managed to elect new officers for Debian France. I’m taking over the role of president, Sylveste Ledru is the new treasurer and Julien Danjou is the new secretary. Thank you very much to the former officers: Carl Chenet, Aurélien Jarno and Julien Cristau.

We’re in the process of managing this transition which will be completed during the next mini-Debconf in Paris so that we can exchange some papers and the like.

In the first tasks that I have set myself, there’s recruiting two new members for the boards of directors since we’re only 7 and there are 9 seats. I made a call for volunteers and we have two volunteers. If you want to get involved and help Debian France, please candidate by answering that message as soon as possible.

The Debian Handbook

I merged the translations contributed on (which led me to file this wishlist bug on Weblate itself) and I fixed a number of small issues that had been reported. I made an upload to Debian to incorporate all those fixes…

But this is still the book covering Squeeze so I started to plan the work to update it for Wheezy and with Roland we have decided who is going to take care of updating each chapter.


Progress is annoyingly slow on this project. Handling money for others is highly regulated, at least in the EU apparently. I only wanted an escrow account to secure the money of users of the service but opening this account requires either to be certified as a “payment institution” by the Autorité de contrôle prudentiel or to get an exemption from the same authority (covering only some special cases) or to sign a partnership with an established payment institution.

Being certified is out of scope for now since it requires a minimum of 125000 EUR in capital (which I don’t have). My bank can’t sign the kind of partnership that I would need. So I have to investigate whether I can make it fit in the limited cases of exemption or I need to find another “payment institution” that is willing to work with me.

Gittip uses Balanced a payment service specialized in market places but unfortunately it’s US-only if you want to withdraw money from the system. I would love a similar service in Europe…

If I can’t position Librement as a market place for the free software world (and save each contributor the hassle to open a merchant account), then I shall fallback to the solution where Librement only provides the infrastructure but no account, and developers who want to collect donations will have to use either Paypal or any other supported merchant account to collect funds.

That’s why my latest spec updates concerning the donation service and the payment service mentions Paypal and the possibility of choosing your payment service for your donation form.


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

My Debian Activities in September 2012

This is my monthly summary of my Debian related activities. If you’re among the people who made a donation to support my work (1086.48 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.


I am subscribed to Launchpad’s dpkg bug tracker and I was getting annoyed with the amount of noise I got under the form of bug reports that look like “package foo failed to install/upgrade: package foo is already installed and configured”. Those reports are a combination of a bug in APT and of random other failures (often hardware related like corrupted .deb files, or I/O errors, but sometimes also real problems in other packages) but they always end up assigned on dpkg (because dpkg is outputting an error message complaining about APT’s decision to configure something that doesn’t have to be configured).

I simply don’t have the time required to manually process and inspect all those reports, so I decided to filter them at the apport level with a new “Ubuntu bug pattern” that indicates that those reports are a duplicate of LP#541595. Thanks to this, the dpkg bug count quickly went down from 130 to about 80.


I sponsored a new upstream version of ledgersmb. I quickly updated WordPress to version 3.4.2 since it contains security relevant fixes.

I also pushed a small update of nautilus-dropbox fixing #686863 because upstream renamed the binary package that they hand out on their website from nautilus-dropbox to dropbox. Their dropbox package only conflicts with old versions of nautilus-dropbox and not with the version that Debian is shipping and thus I had to add a Conflicts on our side to forbid co-installation of both packages.

Testing wheezy’s installation

I bought a new laptop (Lenovo Thinkpad X230) and used this as an excuse to test Wheezy’s installation process. It worked mostly fine except for two things:

  1. First I noticed that it would not accept my passphrase for my encrypted partition during early boot… this turned out to be already reported as #619711 but was no longer getting any attention from the package maintainer. After some IRC discussion with Julien Cristau, we prodded Michael Prokop who had apparently already offered to take care of this issue. I tested his updated package and the result got quickly uploaded.
  2. I had weird networking problems that turned out to be related to the lack of the loopback network (i.e. on localhost). This was the result of a broken /etc/network/interfaces: it had been incorrectly modified by NetworkManager. I reported this in #688355. This issue affects people with IPv6 enabled networks.

Debian France

There’s a resurgence of activity in Debian France. Sylvestre Ledru is leading the organization of a mini-debconf in Paris on November 24-25th. And Tanguy Ortolo is now taking care of some merchandising (Polo shirts, to change from the usual T-Shirt).

I might give a talk during this mini-debconf, possibly about multi-arch.


It’s been a few months that I noticed a 2 second lag of gnome-shell everytime that smuxi (my IRC client) sent a notification. It’s very annoying, you have the impression that the entire machine freezes.

So I contacted Mirco Bauer on #smuxi and we investigated a bit. It turns out that smuxi is using an old version of the notification protocol where the picture is sent as a bytestream leading to huge dbus messages. This is clearly sub-optimal so smuxi will be fixed to be able to send the path of the picture instead of the picture itself. On the other hand, it’s really a bug of gnome-shell that it freezes during the time it takes to handle the bigger-than-usual dbus message. So I also filed a bug on GNOME Shell (Bugzilla #683829) to get this fixed.

Librement: funding free software work

I started a new project with the goal of helping free software developers to fund their free software work. It’s still mostly vaporware for now but I have a public code repository, a nice logo and lots of ideas.

If the topic is of interest to you, and you’d like to be involved, feel free to get in touch. Otherwise stay tuned.


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

Looking back at 16 years of dpkg history with some figures

With Debian’s 19th anniversary approaching, I thought it would be nice to look back at dpkg’s history. After all, it’s one of the key components of any Debian system.

The figures in this article are all based on dpkg’s git repository (as of today, commit 9a06920). While the git repository doesn’t have all the history, we tried to integrate as much as possible when we created it in 2007. We have data going back to April 1996…

In this period between April 1996 and August 2012:

  • 146 persons contributed to dpkg (result of git log --pretty='%aN'|sort -u|wc -l)
  • 6948 commits have been made (result of git log --oneline | wc -l)
  • 3133612 lines have been written/modified (result of git log --stat|perl -ne 'END { print $c } $c += $1 if /(\d+) insertions/;')

Currently the dpkg source tree contains 28303 lines of C, 14956 lines of Perl and 6984 lines of shell (figures generated by David A. Wheeler’s ‘SLOCCount’) and is translated in 40 languages (but very few languages managed to translate everything, with all the manual pages there are 3997 strings to translate).

The top 5 contributors of all times (in number of commits) is the following (result of git log --pretty='%aN'|sort| uniq -c|sort -k1 -n -r|head -n 5):

  1. Guillem Jover with 2663 commits
  2. Raphaël Hertzog with 993 commits
  3. Wichert Akkerman with 682 commits
  4. Christian Perrier with 368 commits
  5. Adam Heath with 342 commits

I would like to point out that those statistics are not entirely representative as people like Ian Jackson (the original author of dpkg’s C reimplementation) or Scott James Remnant were important contributors in parts of the history that were recreated by importing tarballs. Each tarball counts for a single commit but usually bundles much more than one change. Also each contributor has its own habits in terms of crafting a work in multiple commits.

Last but not least, I have generated this 3 minutes gource visualization of dpkg git’s history (I used Planet’s head pictures for dpkg maintainers where I could find it).

Watching this video made me realize that I have been contributing to dpkg for 5 years already. I’m looking forward to the next 5 years :-)

And what about you? You could be the 147th contributor… see this wiki page to learn more about the team and to start contributing.

My Debian Activities in June 2012

This is my monthly summary of my Debian related activities. If you’re among the people who made a donation to support my work (168.12 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.


This month, I resumed my work on dpkg. I concentrated my efforts on some “polishing” of the “3.0 (quilt)” format. With the latest version (1.16.6 — which was uploaded to unstable shortly before the freeze), dpkg-source restores the source tree in a clean state after a failed patch application (#652970), doesn’t overwrite the patch header from the pre-existing automatic patch, updates automatically debian/source/include-binaries during dpkg-source –commit, and supports a new –no-unapply-patches option for those who dislike the auto-unapplication at the end of the process when the patches were not applied at the start.

I wanted to go further and offer a new feature that could insert the automatic patch at the bottom of the quilt series but I have been short on time to complete this feature. I just managed to factorize all the quilt handling in a dedicated Perl module (Dpkg::Source::Quilt) to have cleaner code in the module handling the source format (Dpkg::Source::Package::V3::quilt).

For those who wonder, this feature is meant primarily for the X Strike Force team which maintains packages in Git and are doings lots of upstream cherry-picks (to fix regressions, etc.). But they also use quilt on top of that tree to keep some lasting Debian specific changes. With the 1.0 format, the “automatic diff” is a bit messy but at least it gets smaller automatically when a new upstream release gets out, there’s nothing to clean out. I’d like them to be able to use “3.0 (quilt)” while keeping their workflow. I’m leaning towards allowing “--auto-commit=first:cherry-picks” that would name the automatic patch “cherry-picks” and put it in the first position in the quilt series. (Opinions welcome on that feature, BTW)


There’s been quite some packaging in this last month before the freeze:

  • I packaged CppUTest (a test framework for C/C++), and I wrote an article about it.
  • I prepared a stable update of Publican to fix a missing dependency. I also updated the unstable version to include a backport of a fix that some user requested me to include.
  • I updated dh-linktree to improve its documentation (following a discussion that happened on debian-devel) and to deal properly with trailing slashes in its input (#673408).
  • I sponsored dblatex 0.3.4-1 and ledgersmb 1.3.18-1.
  • I updated gnome-shell-timer to a new upstream snapshot that was tagged as compatible with GNOME 3.4 (#6776516).
  • I packaged wordpress 3.4 and spent a whole day triaging the old bugs that accumulated. A few days later I developed a new infrastructure to properly manage plugins/themes/language files. The canonical directory where the user is expected to drop his custom plugins/themes is now in /var/lib/wordpress/wp-content/ and the official plugins/themes are “installed” there with symlinks pointing back to /usr/share/wordpress/wp-content/ where they actually reside.
  • I wanted to commit 2 patches for the developers-reference but then I noticed that some translations were complete and were waiting for an upload. So I cleaned the packaging (switch to dh) and I uploaded version 3.4.8 before committing the patches for #678710 and #678712.

While doing all this packaging work, I found 2 possible improvements that I filed as bug reports:

  • #676606: debcommit should be able to identify alone that a new release is prepared (when the distribution field of the changelog changes from UNRELEASED to something else).
  • #679132: lintian outputs false positives for the tag package-uses-local-diversion when neither –local nor –package is given on the dpkg-divert command line.

Debian France Booth at Solutions Linux

From June 19th to June 21th, I manned the Debian France booth at Solutions Linux together with Carl Chenet, Tanguy Ortolo and other members of the association. We answered lots of questions, sold all t-shirts and umbrellas that Carl imported from Germany and Switzerland (we really need to get our own merchandising stuff produced in France!), got people to join the association. We also presented a printed copy of the Debian Administrator’s Handbook and of the corresponding French book.

You can see Carl, me and Tanguy on this picture (click on it to see a bigger picture, thanks to Sébastien Dubois of Evolix for this one!):

I know lots of people are preparing for Debconf but I decided to not attend this year, the price of the air plane ticket was a bit too hefty for me and it was also in partial conflict with our family vacations. I thought about attending the Libre Software Meeting instead but alas I won’t go there either (but Roland Mas will be there!), I have too much work to complete before my own vacation in 2 weeks.


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

My Debian Activities in March 2012

This is my monthly summary of my Debian related activities. If you’re among the people who made a donation to support my work (227.83 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.


Thanks to Guillem, dpkg with multiarch support is now available in Debian sid. The road has been bumpy, and it has again been delayed multiple times even after Guillem announced it on debian-devel-announce. Finally, the upload happened on March 19th.

I did not appreciate his announce because it was not coordinated at all, and had I been involved from the start, we could have drafted it in a way that sounded less scary for people. In the end, I provided a script so that people can verify whether they were affected by one of the potential problems that Guillem pointed out. While real, most of them are rather unlikely for typical multiarch usage.

Bernhard R. Link submitted a patch to add a new –status command to dpkg-buildflags. This command would print all the information required to understand which flags are activated and why. It would typically be called during the build process by debian/rules to keep a trace of the build flags configuration. The goal is to help debugging and also to make it possible to extract that information automatically from build logs. I reviewed his patch and we made several iterations, it’s mostly ready to be merged but there’s one detail where Bernhard and I disagree and I solicited Guillem’s opinion to try to take a decision. Unfortunately neither Guillem nor anyone else chimed in.

On request of Alexander Wirt, I uploaded a new backport of dpkg where I dropped the DEB_HOST_MULTIARCH variable from dpkg-architecture to ensure multi-arch is never accidentally enabled in other backports.

One last thing that I did not mention publicly at all yet, is that I contacted Lennart Poettering to suggest an improvement to the /etc/os-release file that he’s trying to standardize across distributions. It occurred to me that this file could also replace our /etc/dpkg/origins/default file (and not only /etc/debian_version) provided that it could store ancestry information. After some discussions, he documented new official fields for that file (ID_LIKE, HOME_URL, SUPPORT_URL, BUG_REPORT_URL). Next step for me is to improve dpkg-vendor to support this file (as a fallback or as default, I don’t know yet).


I packaged quilt 0.60 (we’re now down to 9 Debian-specific patches, from a whopping 26 in version 0.48!) and zim 0.55.

In prevision of the next upstream version of Publican, I asked the Perl team to package a few Perl modules that Publican now requires. Less than two weeks after, all of them were in Debian Unstable. Congrats and many thanks to the Perl team (and Salvatore Bonaccorso in particular, which I happen to know because we were on the same plane during last Debconf!).

On a side note, being the maintainer of nautilus-dropbox became progressively less fun over the last months, in particular because the upstream authors tried to override some of the (IMO correct) packaging decisions that I made and got in touch with Ubuntu community managers to try to have their way. Last but not least, I keep getting duplicates of a bug that is not in my package but in the official package and that Dropbox did not respond to my query.

Book update

The translation is finished and we’re now reviewing the whole book. It takes a bit more time than expected because we’re trying to harmonize the style and because it’s difficult to coordinate the work of several volunteer reviewers.

The book cover is now almost finalized (click on it to view it in higher definitions):

We also made some progress on the interior design for the paperback. Unfortunately, I have nothing to show you yet. But it will be very nice… and made with just a LaTeX stylesheet tailored for use with dblatex.

The liberation fundraising slowed down with only 41 new supporters this month but it made a nice bump anyway thanks to a generous donation of 1000 EUR by Offensive security, the company behind Backtrack Linux. They will soon communicate on this, hopefully it will boost the operation. It would be really nice if we managed to raise the remaining 3000 EUR in the few weeks left until the official release of the book!

The work on my book dominated the month and explains my relative inactivity on other fronts. I worked much more than usual, and my wife keeps telling me that I look tired and that I should go in bed earlier… but I see the end of the tunnel: if everything goes well, the book should be released in a few weeks and I will be able to switch back to a saner lifestyle.


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

My Debian Activities in February 2012

This is my monthly summary of my Debian related activities. If you’re among the people who made a donation to support my work (384.14 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

Dpkg and multiarch

The month started with a decision of the technical committee which allowed me to proceed with an upload of a multiarch dpkg even if Guillem had not yet finished his review (and related changes). Given this decision, Guillem made the experimental upload himself.

I announced the availability of this test version and invited people to test it. This lead to new discussions on debian-devel.

We learned in those discussions that Guillem changed his mind about the possibility of sharing (identical) files between multiple Multi-Arch: same packages, and that he dropped that feature. But if this point of the multiarch design had been reverted, it would mean that we had to update again all library packages which had already been updated for multi-arch. The discussions mostly stalled at this point with a final note of Guillem explaining that there was a tension between convenience and doing the right things every time that we discuss far-reaching changes.

After a few weeks (and a helpful summary from Russ Allbery), Guillem said that he remained unconvinced but that he put back the feature. He also announced that he’s close to having completed the work and that he would push the remaining parts of the multiarch branch to master this week (with the 1.16.2 upload planned next week).

That’s it for the summary. Obviously I participated in the discussions but I didn’t do much besides this… I have a “mandate” to upload a multiarch dpkg to sid but I did not want to make use of it while those discussions remained pretty unconclusive. Also Guillem made it pretty clear that the multiarch implementation was “buggy”, “not right” and “not finished” and that he had reworked code fixing at least some of the issues… since he never shared that work in progress, I also had no way to help even just by reviewing what he’s doing.

We also got a few multiarch bug reports, but I couldn’t care to get them fixed since Guillem clearly held a lock on the codebase having done many private changes… it’s not quite like this that I expect to collaborate on a free software project but life is full of surprises!

I’ll be relieved once this story is over. In the mean time, I have added one new thing on my TODO list since I made a proposal to handle bin-nmu changelogs and it’s something that could also fix #440094.

Misc dpkg stuff

After a discussion with Guillem, we agreed that copyright notices should only appear in the sources and not in manual pages or --version output, both of which are translated and cause useless work to translators when updated. Guillem already had some code to do it for --version strings, and I took care of the changes for the manual pages.

I merged some minor documentation updates, fixed a bug with a missing manpage. Later I discovered that some recent changes lead to the loss of all the translated manual pages. I suggested an improvement to dh_installman to fix this (and even prepared a patch). In the end, Guillem opted for another way of installing translated manual pages.

Triggered by a discussion on debian-devel, I added a new entry to my TODO list: implementing dpkg-maintscript-helper rm_conffile_if_owner to deal with the case where a conffile is taken over by another package which might (or might not) be installed.

Misc packaging

At the start of the month, I packaged quilt 0.51. The number of Debian specific patches is slowly getting down. With version 0.51, we dropped 5 patches and introduced a new one. Later in the month I submitted 4 supplementary patches upstream which have been accepted for version 0.60.

This new version (just released, I will package it soon) is an important milestone since it’s the first version without any C code (Debian had this for a long time but we were carrying an intrusive patch for this). Upstream developer Jean Delvare worked on this and based his work on our patch, but he went further to make it much more efficient.

Besides quilt, I also uploaded dh-linktree 0.2 (minor doc update), sql-ledger 2.8.36 (new upstream version), logidee-tools 1.2.12 (minor fixes) and publican 2.8-2 (to fix release critical bug #660795).

Debian Consultants

The Debian Project Leader is working on federating Debian Companies. As the owner of Freexian SARL, I was highly interested in it since Freexian “contributes to Debian, offers support for Debian and has a strategic interest in Debian”. There’s only one problem, you need to have at least 2 Debian developers on staff but I have no employees (it’s me only). I tried to argue that I have already worked with multiple Debian developers (as contractors) when projects were too big for me alone (or when I did not have enough time). Alas this argument was not accepted.

Instead, and since our fearless leader is never afraid to propose compromises, he suggested me (and MJ Ray who argued something similar than me) to try to bring life to the Debian Consultants list which (in his mind) would be more appropriate for one-man companies like mine. I accepted to help “animate” the list, and on his side, he’s going to promote both the “Debian Companies” and the “Debian Consultants” lists.

In any case, the list has seen some traffic lately and you’re encouraged to join if you’re a freelancer offering services around Debian. The most promising thing is that James Bromberger offered to implement a real database of consultants instead of the current static page.

Book update

We made quite some progress this month. There’s only one chapter left to translate. I thus decided to start with proofreading. I made a call for volunteers and I submitted one (different) chapter to 5 proofreaders.

The liberation campaign made a nice leap forwards thanks to good coverage on We have reached 80% while we were only at 72% at the start of the month (thanks to the 113 new supporters!). There’s thus less than 5000 EUR to raise before the book gets published under a free license.

Looking at the progression in the past months, this is unlikely to be completed on time for the release of the book in April. It would be nice though… so please share the news around you.

Speaking of the book’s release, I’m slowly preparing it. Translating docbook files is not enough, I must be able to generate HTML, ePub and PDF versions of the book. I’m using Publican for most formats, but for the PDF version Publican is moving away of fop and the replacement (webkit-based) is far from being satisfactory to generate a book ready for print. So I plan to use dblatex and get Publican to support dblatex as a backend.

I have hired Benoît Guillon, the upstream author of dblatex, to fix some annoying bugs and to improve it to suit my needs for the book (some results are already in the upstream CVS repository). I’m also working with a professional book designer to get a nice design.

I have also started to look for a Python Django developer to build the website that I will use to commercialize the book. The website will have a larger goal than just this though (“helping to fund free software developers”) but in free software it’s always good to start with your own case. :-)

Hopefully everything will be ready in April. I’m working hard to meet that deadline (you might have noticed that my blog has been relatively quiet in the last month…).


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

Dpkg with multiarch support available in Debian experimental

As I announced on debian-devel, Guillem Jover uploaded a snapshot of dpkg’s multiarch branch to experimental (version 1.16.2~wipmultiarch). Beware: There will
likely be some small “interface” changes between this version and the version that will be released later in unstable (possibly in the output of dpkg --get-selections, dpkg --list, maybe other commands).

multiarch allows you to install packages from different architectures on the same machine. This can be useful if your computer can run programs from 2 architectures (eg. x86 CPU supporting i386 and amd64), or if you often need to cross-compile software and thus need the libraries of your target architecture.

Test dpkg with multiarch support

If you want to test multiarch support in dpkg, install the package from experimental (apt-get install dpkg/experimental assuming you have experimental in your sources.list).

Then you can add a supplementary architecture to your system by doing sudo dpkg --add-architecture <arch> (e.g. i386 if you are on amd64, and vice-versa). APT will automatically pick up the new architecture and start downloading the Packages file for the new architecture (it uses dpkg --print-foreign-architectures to know about them).

From there on you can install packages from the “foreign” architectures with “apt-get install foo:<arch>“. Many packages will not be installable because some of their dependencies have not yet been updated to work with in a multiarch world (libraries must be installed in a multiarch-compliant path so as to be co-installable, and then marked “Multi-Arch: same“). Other dependencies might need to be marked “Multi-Arch: foreign“. See for more HOWTO-like explanations.

Now is a good time to see if you can install the foreign packages that you could need in such a setup and to help to convert the required libraries.

You can also read Cyril Brulebois’ article which quickly shows how to hunt for the problematic packages which have not been converted to multiarch (in his sample, “ucf” is not ready. Since it’s an “Architecture: all” package which can run on any architecture, it means that it’s lacking a “Multi-Arch: foreign” field).

Report bugs

If you discover any bug in dpkg’s multiarch implementation, please report it to the Bug Tracking System (against “dpkg” with the version “1.16.2~wipmultiarch”).

If you notice important libraries or packages which are not yet multiarch ready, please open wishlist bug reports requesting the conversion and point the maintainers towards the wiki page linked above. Even better, prepare patches and submit those with your bug reports.

Again, you can follow the lead of Cyril Brulebois who filed 6 bugs!

Review the multiarch implementation

If you’re a C programmer and have some good knowledge of dpkg (or are willing to learn more of it), we would certainly benefit from more eyes reviewing the multiarch branch. If you want to discuss some design issues of the multiarch implementation in dpkg (or have questions related to your review), please get in touch via

The latest version of the branch is pu/multiarch/master in Guillem’s personal repository. I have my own version of the branch (pu/multiarch/full) which is usually a snapshot of Guillem’s branch with my own submitted fixes.

$ git clone git://
$ cd dpkg
$ git remote add guillem git://
$ git remote add buxy git://
$ git fetch guillem && git fetch buxy

If you followed the instructions above, the relevant branches are thus guillem/pu/multiarch/master and buxy/pu/multiarch/full. Both branches are regularly rebased on top of master where Guillem merges progressively the commits from the multi-arch branch as his review progresses.

Thank you in advance for your help bringing multiarch in shape for Debian Wheezy,

My Debian Activities in January 2012

This is my monthly summary of my Debian related activities. If you’re among the people who made a donation to support my work (213.68 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.


The “biggest change” I made is a small patch that brings to an end years and years of recurring discussions about the build-arch and build-indep targets of debian/rules (see #229357). Last year the technical committee took this issue in its hands (see #629385) but it failed to take any resolution. Fortunately thanks to this we got some concrete numbers on the colateral damages inflicted on the archive for each possible approach. In the end, Guillem and I managed to agree on the way forward.

The remaining of what I did as dpkg maintainer has not much to do with coding. I reviewed the work of Gianluca Ciccarelli on dpkg-maintscript-helper who is trying to provide helper functions to handle migration between directories and symlinks. I also reviewed a 2000-lines patch from Patrick Schoenfeld who’s trying to provide a perl API to parse dpkg log files and extract meaningful data out of them.

I updated the dpkg-architecture manual page to document the Makefile snippet /usr/share/dpkg/ and to drop information that’s no longer releveant nowadays.

I reviewed a huge patch prepared by Russ Allbery to update the Debian policy and document the usage of symbols files for libraries. As the author of dpkg-gensymbols, I was keen to see it properly documented at the policy level.

I brought up for discussion a detail that was annoying me for quite some time: some copyright notices were embedded in translatable strings and updating them resulted in useless work for translators. In the end we decided to drop those notices and to keep them only at the source level.

I updated my multiarch branch on top of Guillem’s branch several times, all the fixes that were in my branch have been integrated (often in a modified form).

Unfortunately even if the code works quite well, Guillem doesn’t want to release anything to Debian until he has finished to review everything… and many people are annoyed by the unreasonable delay that it imposes. Cyril Brulebois tried to release a snapshot of the current multiarch branch to experimental but Guillem has been prompt to revert this upload.

I’m somewhat at a loss in this situation. I offered my help to Guillem multiple times but he keeps doing his work in private, he doesn’t share many details of his review except some comments in commit logs or when it affects the public interface. I complained once more of this sad situation.

Debian Package Maintenance Hub

That’s the codename I use for a new infrastructure that I would like to develop to replace the Package Tracking System and the DDPO and several other services. I started to draft a Debian Enhancement Proposal (DEP), see DEP-2, and requested some comments within the QA team.

For now, it looks like that nobody had major objections on the driving idea behind this project. Those who commented were rather enthusiastic. I will continue to improve this DEP within the QA team and at some point I will bring the discussion to a larger audience like

Package Tracking System

Even if I started to design its replacement, the PTS will still be used for quite some time so I implemented two new features that I deemed important: displaying a TODO notice when there is (at least) one open bug related to a release goal, displaying a notice when the package is involved in an ongoing or upcoming transition.

Misc packaging tasks

I created and uploaded the dh-linktree package which is a debhelper addon to create symlink trees (useful to replace embedded copies of PHP/JavaScript libraries by symlinks to packaged copies of those files).

I packaged quilt 0.50. I helped the upstream authors to merge a Debian patch that had been forwarded by Martin Quinson (a quilt’s co-maintainer). I packaged a security release of WordPress (3.3.1) and a new upstream release of feed2omb and gnome-shell-timer.

I prepared a new Debian release of python-django with a patch cherry-picked from the upstream SVN repository to fix the RC bug #655666.

Book update

We’re again making decent progress in the translation of the Debian Administrator’s Handbook, about 12 chapters are already translated.

The liberation campaign is also (slowly) going forward. We’re at 72% now (thanks to 63 new supporters!) while we were only at 67% at the start of January.


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