My Free Software Activities in January 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 (84.25 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

Debian Packaging

In one of my customer projects, I had to use libwebsockets and since it was not packaged for Debian, I filed a “Request For Package” (RFP #697671). I discovered a fork of this library on github and decided to mail the original author and the author of the fork to learn a bit more about the reason of the fork. It turns out that they miscommunicated and that the original author was interested by most of the improvements. The fork still exists but the important fixes and most of the improvements have been merged (and he released a version 1.0 after that!). Furthermore the original author setup a bug tracker to better organize the project and so that the author of the fork can submit patches and be sure that they won’t be forgotten (as it happened in the past). I spend quite some time discussing with both parties but at the end I’m pleased to see that good progress has been made (although nobody stepped up to maintain this package in Debian).

I packaged zim 0.59 (an important bugfix release) and wordpress 3.5.1 (with several security fixes). I updated the dpkg-dev squeeze backports to version 1.16.9~bpo60+1 on request of Daniel Schepler. This backport led me to file #698133 on kgb-client because the bot literally spammed the #debian-dpkg IRC channel for multiple hours by resending old commit notices that got merged in the squeeze-backports branch. BTW, they need help to get this issue fixed.

I updated python-django-registration to fix a compatibility issue with python3-sphinx (see #697721 for details).

Misc Debian Stuff

Serious bug with salt. I filed a grave bug on salt (#697747—) and prepared the upload to fix the issue on request of the maintainer. In the mean time, the maintainer orphaned the package. Franklin G. Mendoza already announced its willingness to take over but this package deserves multiple maintainers since this is a good piece of software that is getting more and more popular.

net-retriever and alternate keyrings. I filed a wishlist bug (#698618) on net-retriever to request a way for derivatives to use another keyring package (i.e. not debian-archive-keyring-udeb) without having to fork net-retriever.

Linux 3.7 on armel/armhf. I helped the kernel maintainers to fix the 3.7 kernel on armel/armhf by reporting on IRC the results of successive failing kernel rebuilds on those architectures (this kernel version is only in experimental).

Carl9170 firmware. I also pinged the kernels maintainers about a missing firmware for the carl9170 driver (already reported in #635840) and Ben Hutchings took care of re-activating its inclusion in upstream’s linux-firmware.git and then uploaded firmware-free 3.2 to Debian. Thanks Ben!

New QA team member. And to finish with the miscellaneous stuff, I helped Holger Levsen to be added to the “qa” group so that he could integrate his awesome work on automated QA checks with Jenkins.

Debian France

Preparation for Solutions Linux. The people organizing the “village of associations” in the Solutions Linux conference have asked all organizations to apply for a booth if they wanted one. Last year Carl Chenet took care of organizing this and this time we had to find someone else. I made multiple call for volunteers (on the mailing list, on my blog) without much success but I finally managed to convince Tanguy Ortolo to take care of this. Thank you Tanguy!

Get in touch with treasurer who disappeared. During the transition with the former Debian France officers, it has been said that Aurélien Gérôme — another former treasurer of Debian France — had entirely disappeared together with some papers that he never gave to his successor. I didn’t want to give up on this without at least trying to get in touch by myself… so after multiple tries (over IRC, phone, and snail mail), and some weeks without answers, he got back to me, explaining that he’s currently in a foreign country and that he will take care of that next time that he comes in France. \o/

New website in preparation. Replacing the single-page website webpage with a more comprehensive website is an important goal. Alexandre Delanoë provided a basic ikiwiki setup inspired by dsa.debian.org. I cleaned it and integrated it in a git repository on our machine. There’s thus a new test website on http://france.debian.net/test/. Tanguy Ortolo and Fernando Lagrange immeditaly made some small improvements but since then nobody stepped up to further complete the website. I’ll try to do this in February and put the new website in production.

Paypal and handling of members. We installed a paypal plugin in galette so that members can renew their membership online. I asked Christian Bayle to try it out and we found some issues that I reported upstream and that got fixed. But this is only the first step, we want to go much further and automate all the membership handling, from membership renewal mail reminders up to integration in the accounting system. To this end, I filed some new tickets in the Galette tracker and completed some that were already opened: #490, #368 and #394. We requested a quote for those tickets and Debian France is going to fund the work on those tickets so that we have a 100% free software solution for our needs.

Thanks

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

My Free Software Activities in December 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 (836.78 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

Debian Packaging

I uploaded Zim 0.58, WordPress 3.5 (and I had to file a ticket about the availability of sources of minified javascript files — again) and another security update for python-django (696535).

Speaking of python-django, I forwarded one bug report of Anders Kaseorg concerning Django’s bash completion (#695811).

I also sponsored the upload of ledgersmb 1.3.25-1.

Other Debian work

I contributed some patches to improve debian-installer support in live-build. I also added a work-around for bug #652946 in live-installer and committed a fix for this same bug in a jessie branch of partman-target.

I also prepared a bugfix for a counter-productive behavior of choose-mirror (#695261, it was not possible to override the codename of the release to install via preseed if you install from a CD with a full base system).

I discovered an oddity in the Packages.diff/Index file for the architectures armhf and s390x, I reported it to ftpmasters in #696792.

(All those issues were discovered while working for a customer)

Debian France

I spent quite some time on Debian France this month again. I started by setting up an internal gitolite to manage our accounting/administrative documents.

Then I updated galette, the web application that we are using to manage our database of members. In the process, I filed two bugs that we discovered. I immediately tested Galette by registering 4 members that joined during the former mini-Debconf in Paris.

We have plans to automate the membership renewal process so we have opened a Paypal account. This month we also cleared the last steps so that I and Sylvestre Ledru have full control on the Debian France bank account.

I also registered the new officers at the “Tribunal d’instance de Sarreguemines”.

Salt bug reports

During the last mini-debconf, I discovered Salt (thanks to Julien Cristau!) and since I had to switch some servers of mine, I took this opportunity to upgrade to wheezy and try out salt at the same time.

It took much more time than expected but the result is pleasant. The configuration of all my servers is now well documented/specified in a central Git repository, and moving services is much easier than before.

In the process, I filed quite some bugs (#2865, #2851, #2866 and #2875), most of them have been fixed in the 0.11.1 release that just happened.

Thanks

I wish you a happy new year and all the best for 2013!

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.

Dpkg

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 irc.debian.org).

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 debian.weblate.org (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.

Librement

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.

Thanks

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.

Dpkg

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.

Packaging

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.

Misc

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.

Thanks

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

My Debian Activities in August 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 (88.41 €, 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 has again been a short one since I have mostly been in vacation during the last 2 weeks.

Dpkg

Things are relatively quiet during the freeze. I only took care of fixing 3 bugs: a regression of “3.0 (quilt)” (#683547), a segfault of “dpkg-query -W -f ”” (commit) and a bad auto-completion for French users (#685863).

Testing the upgrade to wheezy

We got several reports of wheezy upgrade that failed because dpkg ran the trigger while the dependencies of the package with pending triggers are not satisfied. Unfortunately fixing this in dpkg is not without problems (see #671711 for details)… so Guillem decided to defer this fix for Jessie. My suggestion of an intermediary solution has fallen in limbo. Instead we now have to find solutions for each case where this can fail (example of failure: 680626).

Another way to avoid those errors is to ensure that triggers are run as late as possible. We can improve this in multiple ways.

The first way is to modify most triggers so that they use the “interest-noawait” directive. In that case, the packages activating the trigger will be immediately marked as configured (instead of “triggers-awaited”) and the trigger will thus not need to be run as part of further dependency solving logic. But as of today, there’s no package using this new feature yet despite a nudge on debian-devel-announce. :-(

The second way is to modify APT to use dpkg –no-triggers, and to let the trigger processing for the end (with a last “dpkg –configure -a” call). I requested this early in the wheezy timeframe but for various reasons, the APT maintainers did not act on it. I pinged them again in #626599 but it’s now too late for wheezy. I find this a bit sad because I have been using those options for the entire wheezy cycle and it worked fine for me (and I used them for a dist-upgrade on my wife’s laptop too).

It would have been good to have all this in place for wheezy so that we don’t have to suffer from the same problems during the jessie upgrade, but unless someone steps up to steer those changes, it seems unlikely to happen.

Instead, we’re back to finding klumsy work-arounds in individual packages.

Packaging

I prepared security updates for python-django (1.4.1 for unstable,
1.2.3-3+squeeze3 for stable). I packaged a new upstream version for cpputest (3.2-1). I reviewed ledgersmb 1.3.21-1 prepared by Robert James Clay and asked him to prepare another version with further fixes.

I released nautilus-dropbox 1.4.0-2 with supplementary changes of my own to support https_proxy and to display better diagnostic information when the download fails.

With the help of Paul van der Vlis and Michael Ziegler, we did what was required to be able to migrate python-django-registration 0.8 to Wheezy even though it’s a new upstream version with backwards incompatible changes. Thanks to Adam D. Barratt who unblocked the package, we now have the right version in Wheezy despite the fact that I missed the freeze deadline.

Debian France

Julien Cristau reminded the board of Debian France that we have to elect officers (President, Secretary, Treasurer) as the current officers have withdrawn. I was somewhat afraid that nobody would take over so I pinged each member to try to get new volunteers. We now have volunteers (me, Julien Danjou and Sylvestre Ledru) and we’re waiting until Julien finds some time to run the election.

Misc

With the help of DSA, I setup antispam rules for the owner@packages.qa.debian.org alias because I was getting tired by the amount of spam. In the process, they asked me to write a wiki page for dsa.debian.org to document everything so that they can refer to it for future queries. I did it but it looks like that they did not apply my patch yet.

I also tested an upstream patch for gnome-keyring (see bugzilla #681081) that reintroduces the support of forgetting GPG passphrases after a specified amount of time.

Thanks

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

Happy Birthday Debian! And memories of an old-timer…

For Debian’s birthday, Francesca Ciceri of the Debian Publicity team suggested that developers “blog about their first experiences with Debian”. I found this a good idea so I’m going to share my own early experience. It’s quite different from what happens nowadays…

Before speaking of my early Debian experience, I have to set some context. In my youth, I have always been a Windows user and a fan of Bill Gates. That is until I got Internet at home… at that point, I got involved in Usenet and made some friends there. One of those made me discover Perl and it has been somewhat of a revelation for me who had only been programming in Visual Basic, Delphi or ObjectPal. Later the same friend explained me that Perl was working much better on Linux and that Debian Linux installs it by default so I should try this one.

I had no idea of what Linux was, but given how I loved Perl, I was eager to try his advice. So I got myself a Tri-Linux CD with Debian/RedHat/Slackware on it and started the installation process (which involved preparing boot floppies). But I did not manage to get the graphical interface working despite lots of fiddling with Xfree86′s configuration file. So I ended up installing RedHat and used it for a few months. But since many of the smart guys in my Usenet community were Debian users, I persisted and finally managed to get it to work!

After a few months of usage, I was amazed at everything that was available for free and I wanted to give back. I filed my first bug report in July 1998, I created my first Debian packages in August 1998 and I got accepted as an official Debian developer in September 1998 (after a quick chat over the phone with Martin Schulze or James Troup — I never understood the name of my interlocutor on the phone and I was so embarassed to have to use my rusty English over the phone that I never asked). That’s right, it took me less than 3 months to become a Debian developer (I was 19 years old back then).

I learned a lot during those months by reading and interacting with other Debian developers. Many of those went away from Debian in the mean time but some of them are still involved (Joey Hess, Manoj Srivastava, Ian Jackson, Martin Schulze, Steve McIntyre, Bdale Garbee, Adam Heath, John Goerzen, Marco D’Itri, Phil Hands, Lars Wirzenius, Santiago Vila, Matthias Klose, Dan Jacobowitz, Michael Meskes, …).

My initial Debian work was centered around Perl: I adopted dpkg-ftp (the FTP method for dselect) because it was written in Perl and had lots of outstanding bug reports. But I also got involved in more generic Quality Assurance work and tried to organize the nascent QA team. It was all really a lot of fun, I could take initiatives and it was clear to me that my work was appreciated.

I don’t know if you find this story interesting but I had some fun time digging through archives to find out the precise dates… if you want to learn more about what I did over the following years, I maintain a webpage for this purpose.

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 July 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 (72.65 €, 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 has been a short one since I have been away for 2 weeks of vacation.

Dpkg

My dpkg work encompasses a bunch of small tasks:

  • I uploaded dpkg 1.16.7 with an important bugfix for a regression.
  • I initiated a new round of discussions about how we were going to solve the problem that source packages with “Multi-Arch: same” binary packages can’t be individually bin-nmued.
  • Following that discussion, I opened a bunch of bugs to plan/discuss the transition of changelog/copyright files within the package metadata (#681289 on debian-policy, #681293 on apt-listchanges, #681295 on www.debian.org for packages.debian.org).
  • I also filed #681292 on sbuild to get it to use dpkg’s new syntax for bin-nmus. It will allow us to do binary-only rebuilds with arbitrary versions (instead of only “+b1″ suffixes). Ubuntu could use this for their +rebuild1, we could use this to build backports which do not require source changes (and share the common source package instead of duplicating it). It can also be useful if we ever get to the situation where transitions are prepared in external repositories and where we want bin-nmus in those repositories to have unique versions (even though the same package might be bin-nmued in multiple repositories in case of concurrent transitions).
  • I filed an unblock request for dpkg once it was almost 10 days old.
  • I did reconsider the bug #316521 where dpkg looses track of some shared directories with manually created files and proposed an updated patch. No words from Guillem on the patch yet. Fixing this would help to fix a bunch of piuparts issues.
  • And just before my vacation, I filed many bugs against dpkg itself, effectively moving some of the items that accumulated in my TODO in a public place where others can help (I’ll be happy to mentor anyone who wants to tackle one of these):
    • #681443: dpkg-source –commit should be able to merge changes in an existing patch
    • #681470: dpkg-shlibdeps: should also scan Build-Depends-Arch for minimal versions
    • #681474: Dpkg::Vendor: should support /etc/os-release and /etc/os-release.d/*
    • #681477: dpkg-vendor: implement –select-closest command
    • #681480: base-files: Provide HOME_URL, SUPPORT_URL and BUG_REPORT_URL in /etc/os-release
    • #681489: base-files: Add /etc/os-release.d/debian and make it easy to provide supplementary /etc/os-release.d/* files
  • In #595112 we discussed the specifics of a new dpkg-mainstscript-helper feature to move a conffile from one package to another.

Packaging

I updated nautilus-dropbox to version 1.4.0 and python-django-registration to version 0.8. Both have been uploaded to unstable and I initially wanted to request an unblock for the latter, but it turns out it has gained reverse dependencies and version 0.8 introduces API changes so it’s not an option at this point of the freeze.

QA work

I investigated and fixed #678356 where it had been reported that the PTS static news were no longer working as expected.

At the start of the month, I also unblocked the mostly-unknown but important “mole” service… it was out of date of several weeks and several people were annoyed that the information about new upstream versions was no longer up-to-date.

Vacation

Almost no Debian work during my vacation but the lack of Wifi nearby made me look for solutions to connect my computer through my Nokia N900 3G/GPRS connection. I discovered the “Mobile Hotspot” application (homepage) and it worked like a charm (although it required Maemo’s non-default devel repository to be able to install the alternative kernel “for power users”).

The Debian Handbook

Michal Čihař proposed us to host a Weblate instance to help translate the book with a web interface. He kindly agreed to implement some improvements to better suit my requirements. Those have been completed and the weblate instance is now live at debian.weblate.org.

There’s no requirement to use Weblate for translations teams but for those that do, it sure makes it easier to recruit volunteers who have no prior knowledge of Git and PO files. If you want to help, please checkout this page first though, you should not start using Weblate without getting in touch with the respective translations teams.

Apart from translations, I also had the pleasure to merge some patches from Philipp Kern who improved the section covering IPv6 and a few other parts. We can make the book even better if more people share their expertise in the part of the book where they know better than me and Roland. :-)

Thanks

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

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.

Dpkg

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)

Packaging

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.

Thanks

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

My Debian Activities in May 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 (338.26 €, thanks everybody!), then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it’s just an interesting status update on my various projects.

Dpkg

Like last month, I did almost nothing concerning dpkg. This will probably change in June now that the book is out…

The only thing worth noting is that I have helped Carey Underwood who was trying to diagnose why btrfs was performing so badly when unpacking Debian packages (compared to ext4). Apparently this already resulted in some btrfs improvements.

But not as much as what could be hoped. The sync_file_range() calls that dpkg are doing only force the writeback of the underlying data and not of the meta-data. So the numerous fsync() that follow still create many journal transactions that would be better handled as one big transaction. As a proof of this, replacing the fsync() with a sync() brings the performance on par with ext4.

(Beware this is my own recollection of the discussion, while it should be close to the truth, it’s probably not 100% accurate when speaking of the brtfs behaviour)

Packaging

I uploaded new versions of smarty-gettext and smarty-validate because they were uninstallable after the removal of smarty. The whole history of smarty in Debian/Ubuntu has been a big FAIL since the start.

Once upon a time, there was a smarty package and some plugins. Everything was great except that the files were installed in a way that differs from the upstream recommendations. So Ubuntu changed the path in their version of the package and did not check whether it broke anything else (and it did break all the plugins). Despite the brokenness of the plugins, this divergence survived for years. So several packages that were using Smarty were modified to use dpkg-vendor to use the correct path depending on whether it was built on Debian or Ubuntu.

In 2010, Smarty 3.0 has been released and instead of upgrading the smarty package to this version, one of the smarty co-maintainers introduced a smarty3 package that used yet another path (despite the fact that smarty 3 had a mode to be compatible with smarty 2).
At some point, I informed him that he had to handle the migration of users of smarty to smarty3… he acknowledged and then lost interest in smarty (“I’m no longer using it”) and did nothing.

After some more bitrot, smarty has been forcefully orphaned in August 2011 by a member of the security team. And in March this year, it has been removed from unstable despite the fact that it still had reverse dependencies (usually removals only happen when they impact no other packages, I don’t know why this wasn’t the case here).

At least the brokenness attracted some attention to the situation and Mike Gabriel contacted me about it. I offered him to take over the various packages since they all needed a real maintainer and he accepted. I sponsored his uploads of all smarty related packages (bringing in the latest upstream versions at the same time).

In the end, the situation is looking better now, except that there’s no migration path from users who rely on smarty in Squeeze. They will discover that they need smarty3 in Wheezy and that the various paths have to be adjusted. It’s probably acceptable since the new upstream versions are no longer backwards compatible with smarty 2…

The Debian Administrator’s Handbook

At the start of the month, I was busy preparing the release of the book. I introduced the publican-debian package to unstable, it’s a Publican brand (aka a set of CSS and XSL stylesheets to tailor the output of Publican) using the Debian colors and using the Debian logo. This brand is used by the book.

I also created the debian-handbook package and setup the public Git repository on alioth.debian.org.

I was ready or so I thought. A few hours after the announce, the website became unusable because the numerous visitors were exhausting the maximum number of client connections. And I could not increase the limit due to Apache’s memory usage (with PHP and WordPress). We quickly off-loaded most of the static files traffic to another machine and we setup bittorrent. The problem was solved for the short term. Thousands of persons downloaded the ebook and to this date, 135 copies of the paperback have been sold.

Then I took a one-week vacation. Even though I had no Internet at the place I was, I wandered in the street to find a “Freewifi” wifi network (customers of the Free ISP can use those freely) to stay on top of incoming email. We quickly received some bug reports and I dealt with the easy ones (typos and the like) on the fly.

When I came back at home, I manually placed 54 lulu orders for the people who opted for the paperback as reward during the fundraising campaign. A bit tedious but it had to be done (if only Lulu supported a way to batch many orders at once…).

I also wanted a long term solution to avoid the use of an external host to serve static files (should a new traffic spike arrive…). So I installed nginx as a front-end. It serves static files directly, as well as WordPress pages which have been cached by wp-super-cache. Apache is still here listening on a local port and responding to the remaining queries forwarded by nginx. Once I’ll migrate to wheezy, I might completely ditch apache in favor of php5-fpm to handle the PHP pages.

Last but not least, I wanted to bootstrap the various translations that people offered to contribute. I wrote some documentation for interested translators and blogged about it. It’s shaping up nicely… check it out if you’re interested to help!

Thanks

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