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Patrick Schoenfeld: Resources about writing puppet types and providers

41 min 25 sec ago

When doing a lot of devops stuff with Puppet, you might get to a point, where the existing types are not enough. That point is usually reached, when a task at hand becomes extraordinary complex when trying to achieve it with the Puppet DSL. One example of such a case could be if you need to interact with a system binary a lot. In this case, writing your own puppet type might be handy.

Now where to start, if you want to write your own type?

Overview: modeling and providing types

First thing that you should know about puppet types (if you do not already): a puppet resource type consists of a type and one or more providers.

The type is a model of the resource and describes which properties (e.g. the uid of a user resource) and parameters (like the managehome parameter) a resource has. It's a good idea to start with a rough idea of what properties you'll be manage with your resource and what values they will accept, since the type also does the job of validation.

What actually needs to be done on the target system is what the provider is up to. There can be different providers for different implementations (e.g. a native ruby implementation or an implementation using a certain utility), different operating systems and other conditions.

A combination of a type and a matching provider is what forms a (custom) resource type.


Next I'll show you some resources about puppet provider development, that I found useful:

Official documentation:

Actually types and resources is quiet well documented in the official documentation, although it might not get to much in the details:

Blog posts:
A hands-on tutorial in multiple parts with good explanations are the blog posts by Gary Larizza:

The probably most complete information, including explanations of the puppet resource model and it's resource abstraction layer (RAL), can be found in the book Puppet Types and providers by Dan Bode and Nan Liu.

The puppet source:
Last but not least, it's always worth a peek at how others did it. The puppet source contains all providers of the official puppet release, as well as the base libraries for puppet types and providers with their api documentation:

Categories: Elsewhere

Wouter Verhelst: Youn Sun Nah 5tet: Light For The People

3 hours 7 min ago

About a decade ago, I played in the (now defunct) "Jozef Pauly ensemble", a flute choir connected to the musical academy where I was taught to play the flute. At the time, this ensemble had the habit of goin on summer trips every year; sometimes these trips were large international concert tours (like our 2001 trip to Australia), but that wasn't always the case; there have also been smaller trips, like the 2002 one to the French Ardennes.

While there, we went on a day trip to the city of Reims. As a city close to the front in the first world war, it has a museum dedicated to that subject that I remembered going to. But the fondest memory of that day was going to a park where a podium was set up, with a few stacks of fold-up chairs standing nearby. I took one and listened to the music.

That was the day when I realized that I kindof like jazz. I had come into contact with Jazz before, but it had always been something to be used as a kind of musical wallpaper; something you put on, but don't consciously listen to. Watching this woman sing, however, was a different kind of experience altogether. I'm still very fond of her rendition of "Besame Mucho".

After having listened to the concert for about two hours, they called it quits, but did tell us that there was a record which you could buy. Of course, after having enjoyed the afternoon so much, I couldn't imagine not buying it, so that happened.

Fast forward several years, in the move from my apartment above my then-office to my current apartment (just around the corner), the record got put into the wrong box, and when I unpacked things again it got lost; permanently, I thought. Since I also hadn't digitized it yet at the time, I haven't listened to it anymore in quite a while.

But that time came to an end today. The record which I thought I'd lost wasn't, it was just in a weird place, and while cleaning yesterday, I found it sitting among a bunch of old stuff that I was going to throw out. Putting on the record today made me realize again how good it really is, and I thought that I might want to see if she was still active, and if she might perhaps have made another album.

It was great to find out that not only had she made six more albums since the one I bought, she'd also become a lot more known in the Jazz world (which I must admit I don't really follow all that well), and won a number of awards.

At the time, Youn Sun Nah was just a (fairly) recent graduate from a particular Jazz school in Paris. Today, she appears to be so much more...

Categories: Elsewhere

Laura Arjona: Six months selfhosting: my userop experiences

12 hours 26 min ago

Note: In this post I mention some problems and ask questions (to myself, like “thinking aloud”). The goal is not to get answers to those questions (I suppose that I will find them soon or later in the internet, manuals and so), but to show the kind of problems and questions that arise in my selfhosting adventures, which I suppose are common to other people trying to administer a home server with some web services.

Am I an userop? Well I’m something in the middle of (GNU/Linux) user and sysadmin: I have studied computer technical engineering but most of my experience has been in helpdesk, providing support for Windows users. I’m running Debian in some LAMP boxes at work (without GUI) since 2008 or so, and in my desktops (with GUI) since 2010. I don’t code nor package, but I don’t mind trying to read code and understand it (or not). I know a bit of C, a bit of Python, of PHP, and enough Perl to open a Perl file and close it after two minutes,  understanding that it’s great, but too much for me :) I translate software, so I’m not scared to clone a repository, edit files, commit or submit a patch. I’m not scared of compiling a program (except if it’s an Android app: I try to avoid setting up the development environment just to try some translation that I made… but I built my Puma before it was the binary available for download or in F-Droid).

In conclusion, I feel more like a “GNU/Linux power user” than a “sysadmin”. Sometimes just a “user” or even a “newbie” (for example, I don’t know very well the Unix/Linux folder tree… where are the wallpapers stored? Does it depend on the desktop that I use?).

Anyway. I won’t stop my free software + free networks digital life because I don’t know many things. I bought a small server for home last September, and I wanted to try to selfhost some services, for me and for my family. I want to be a “home sysadmin” or something like that, so I joined the “userops” mailing list :)

Here you have my experiences on selfhosting/being an userop until now.


I even didn’t try to setup my mail server, because many people say it’s a pain (although nice articles were published about how to do it, for example this series in ArsTechnica) and I need a static IP which is 14€/month more to my ISP, and Gandi, the place where I rented my domain name, provides mail, and they use Debian and Roundcube, and sponsor Debian too, so I decided to trust on them.

So this is my strategy now, to try to keep mail under my control:

  • Trust my domain provider.
  • Backup my mail and keep local copies, removing sensible stuff from the server.
  • Use and spread the word about GPG encryption.
  • Try not to send photos or videos by mail, just send the link to my MediaGoblin instance (see below).

I’ve setup two MediaGoblin instances (yes, two!). I managed to do it in Debian 7 stable (I think NodeJS’ npm was not needed then), but soon later I upgraded to Jessie so now it’s even better.

I installed Nginx and PostgreSQL via apt, to use them for both instances (and probably some more software later).

One instance is public, and I use a Debian user, a PostgreSQL database, and it’s running in
I have requested an SSL cert to Gandi but I still didn’t deployed it (lazy LArjona!!).

The other instance is private, for family photos. I didn’t know very well how much of my existing setup could reuse and how to keep both instances in case of downtimes or attack… I know more or less the concept or “chroot” but I don’t know how to deploy it in my machine. So I decided to use another Debian user, another PostgreSQL database, deploy MediaGoblin in a different folder, and create another virtual server in my Nginx to serve it. I managed to setup that virtual server to http-authenticate and to serve content via a different port, and use a self-signed SSL certificate (it’s only for family, so it does not matter). I created another (unprivileged) Debian user with a password for the nginx authentication, and gave my family the URL in the form and the user and password (mediaprivate is a string, and PortNumber is a number). I think they don’t use the instance too much, but at least I upload photos there from time to time and email the link instead of emailing the photos themselves (they don’t use GPG either…).


I upgraded MediaGoblin from 0.7.1 to 0.8.0 successfully, I sent a report about how I did it to the mailing list. First I upgraded the public instance, when I figure out the process, I upgraded the second instance to test my instructions, and then, I sent the report with the instructions to the mailing list.

Static site and LimeSurvey: the power of free software (with instructions)

I wanted to act as a mirror of and since they suffer a downtime and I participated in that project (not in the sysadmin part, but in the research and content creation).

The static site offered a zip with the whole website tree (since the website was licensed as AGPL), and I had access to the git repo holding the development copy of the website. So I just cloned the repository and setup another nginx virtual server in my machine, and tuned my DNS zone in Gandi website to serve from home. 10 minutes setup YAY! #inGitWeTrust #FreeSoftwareFTW :)

For I had to install a LimeSurvey instance. I knew how to do it because we use LimeSurvey at work, but at home I had Nginx instead of Apache, and PostgreSQL instead of MySQL. And no PHP… I searched about how to install PHP in Nginx (I can use apt-get, nice!) and how to install LimeSurvey with Nginx and PostgreSQL (I had documentation about that, so I followed, and it worked).

For making available the data (one survey and its results, so people can login as visitor to query and get statistics), I downloaded the LimeSurvey export dataset that we were providing in the static website, followed the replication instructions (hey, I wrote them!), and they worked #oleole! (And here, dear researchers, gets demonstrated that free software and free culture really empower your research and help spreading your results).

Etherpad: not so easy, it seems!

I’m trying to install Etherpad-Lite, but I’m suffering a bit. I think I did everything ok according to some guides but I get “Bad Gateway” and these kind of errors when trying to browse with Lynx in the host:

[error] 3615#0: *24 upstream timed out (110: Connection timed out) while reading response header from upstream, client:, server:, request: "GET / HTTP/1.0", upstream: "", host: "" 2015/04/17 20:52:56 [error] 3615#0: *24 connect() failed (111: Connection refused) while connecting to upstream, client:, server:, request: "GET / HTTP/1.0", upstream: "http://[::1]:9001/", host: ""

I’m not sure if I need to open some port in iptables, my router, or change my nginx configuration because the guides assume you’re only serving one website in the port 80 (and I have several of them, now…), or what… I’ve spent three chunks of time (maybe ~2h each?) on this, in different days, and couldn’t figure it out, so I decided to round-robin in my TODO list.

Userops thoughts Debian brings peace of mind (for me)

On one side, maintaining a Debian box it’s quite easy, and the more software that it’s packaged, the less time that I spend installing or upgrading. I like being in stable, I’m in Jessie now (I migrated when it was frozen), but I’ll stay in stable as much as I can.

I like that I can use the software that I installed via apt-get for several services (nginx, PostgreSQL…). About the software that is not packaged (MediaGoblin, LimeSurvey, EtherPad, maybe others later), I wonder how dependencies and updates are handled. And maybe (probably) I have installed some components several times, one for each service (this sounds like a Windows box #grr).

For example MediaGoblin uses PyPump. PyPump 0.5 is packaged in Debian Jessie. MediaGoblin uses PyPump 0.7+. What if PyPump 0.7+ gets, let’s say, into Jessie-backports? Can I benefit from that?

I know that MediaGoblin upgrade instructions includes upgrading the dependencies, but what about some security patch in one dependency? Should I upgrade the pip modules periodically? How to know if some upgrade is recommended because patches a vulnerability, or it’s just new features (and maybe breaking my setup)?

This kind of things are the “peace of mind” that Debian packaging brings to me: when some piece of software is packaged, I know maybe I need to care about proper setup and configuration, but later, it’s kind-of-easy to maintain (since the Debian maintainers care about the rest). I don’t mind about cloning a repo and compiling, I mind about later, or coexistance with other program/services. I trust in the MediaGoblin community and I’m an active member (I’m not developer, but hang on IRC, follow the mailing list, etc) but for example I don’t know anything about the EtherPad project. And I don’t feel like joining the community (I’m already an active member in Debian, MediaGoblin, F-Droid,, translator of LimeSurvey and many other small apps that I use, and in the future will use more services, like OwnCloud, XMPP…), joining the community of each software that I use is becoming not sustainable :s

Free software is more than software

I follow the userop mailing list, and it’s becoming very technical. I mostly understand the problems (which are similar to the problems that I face: how to isolate different services, how to easily-configure them, how to make them installable by average user…) But I don’t understand most of the solutions proposed, and I think that probably we need technical solutions, but in the meanwhile, some issues can be addressed not with software, but with other means: good documentation, community support, translations, beta-testers…

This is my conclusion until now. When a project is well documented, I think I can find my way to selfhost no matter if the software is packaged (or “contained”) or not. MediaGoblin, and LimeSurvey, are well documented, and the user support channels are very responsive.

I find lots of instructions that assume that you will use a whole machine for their service (and not for other things). And lots of documentation for the LAMP stack, but not for Nginx + PostgreSQL and Node instead of PHP… So, for each “particularity” of my setup, I search the internet and try to pick good sources to help me do what I wanted to do.

I’m kind of privileged

Some elements, not software related, to take into account as “pre-requisites for succeed” selfhosting services:

  • I knew what to search.
  • I knew which sites to visit from the results (arch wiki, debian wiki, stack overflow, etc: some of them were not the Top1 in the results).
  • I had time to read several sources and make my mind about what to do and how.
  • I can read, understand, and write in English.
  • I have no fear about my broken English.
  • I have no impostor syndrome.
  • I felt welcome in the FLOSS communities where I hanged out.

These aspects are not present in a lot of people. If I look around to the “computer users” that I know (mostly Windows+Android, some GNU/Linux users, some Mac OSX users, some iOS users), I find that they search things like “X does not work” or they cannot write a proper search query in English. Or they trust some random person writing a recipe in their blog, without trying first to understand what the recipe does. Other people just say “I’m not a professional sysadmin, I’ll just do what «everybody» does (aka use Google services or whatever). What if I try and I don’t succeed?”. Things like that.

We may need some technical solutions (and hackers are thinking about that, and working on that). But I feel that we need (more) a huge group of beta-testers, dogfooding people, aventurers that try the half-cooked solutions and provide successful and unsuccessful experiences, to guide the research and make software technologies advance. I’m not sure if I am an userop, but I feel part of that “vanguard force”, I want to be part of the future of free software and free networks.

Filed under: My experiences and opinion Tagged: Communities, Contributing to libre software, Debian, Developer motivations, English, free networks, Free Software, Freedom, innovation, MediaGoblin, Moving into free software, Project Management, selfhosting, sysadmin
Categories: Elsewhere

Gregor Herrmann: RC bugs 2015/11-16

13 hours 41 min ago

only one week left until the jessie release. yay!

in the last weeks I didn't find many RC bugs that I could fix; still, here's the short list; nice feature: I mostly help others or could build an work done by others.

  • #669735 – dpkg-www: "dpkg-www: transition towards Apache 2.4"
    sponsor QA upload from Jean-Michel Nirgal Vourgère
  • #669777 – yocto-reader: "yocto-reader: transition towards Apache 2.4"
    sponsor NMU from Jean-Michel Nirgal Vourgère, upload to DELAYED/2
  • #669796 – w3c-linkchecker: "w3c-linkchecker: transition towards Apache 2.4"
    cherry-pick periapt's commit from 2012 (pkg-perl)
  • #764284 – testdisk: "[testdisk] after ntfs-3g upgrade, testdisk cannot be installed (Depends: error)"
    tag + sid to get it out of jessie RC bugs
  • #780629 – libibverbs1: "libibverbs1: please add Breaks: libopenmpi1.3"
    upload NMU prepared by Andreas Beckmann, adding a Breaks, upload to DELAYED/2
  • #780729 – pbuilder: "pbuilder must define PATH as in debian-policy (and as used on buildds)"
  • #782160 – src:chrony: "chrony: Multiple issues: CVE-2015-1821 CVE-2015-1822 CVE-2015-1853"
    sponsor maintainer upload by Joachim Wiedorn
Categories: Elsewhere

Neil McGovern: Taking office

Sat, 18/04/2015 - 15:36

Yesterday, my first term started as the Debian Project Leader. There’s been a large number of emails congratulating me, and thanks to everyone who sent those. I’d also like to thank Mehdi Dogguy and Gergely Nagy for running, and of course Lucas Nussbaum for his service over the past two years.

Lucas also did a great handover, and so (I hope!) I’m aware of most of the issues that are ongoing. As started previously, I’ll keep my daily log of activities in /srv/leader/news/  on

Categories: Elsewhere

Russ Allbery: Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Sat, 18/04/2015 - 08:24

Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

Publisher: CreateSpace Copyright: 2014 ISBN: 1-5004-5330-7 Format: Kindle Pages: 503

The Wayfarer is a tunneling ship: one of the small, unremarked construction ships that help build the wormhole network used for interstellar transport. It's a working ship with a crew of eight (although most people would count seven and not count the AI). They don't all like each other — particularly not the algaeist, who is remarkably unlikeable — but they're used to each other. It's not a bad life, although a more professional attention to paperwork and procedure might help them land higher-paying jobs.

That's where Rosemary Harper comes in. At the start of the book, she's joining the ship as their clerk: nervous, hopeful, uncertain, and not very experienced. But this is a way to get entirely away from her old life and, unbeknownst to the ship she's joining, her real name, identity, and anyone who would know her.

Given that introduction, I was expecting this book to be primarily about Rosemary. What is she fleeing? Why did she change her identity? How will that past come to haunt her and the crew that she joined? But that's just the first place that Chambers surprised me. This isn't that book at all. It's something much quieter, more human, more expansive, and more joyful.

For one, Chambers doesn't stick with Rosemary as a viewpoint character, either narratively or with the focus of the plot. The book may open with Rosemary and the captain, Ashby, as focal points, but that focus expands to include every member of the crew of the Wayfarer. We see each through others' eyes first, and then usually through their own, either in dialogue or directly. This is a true ensemble cast. Normally, for me, that's a drawback: large viewpoint casts tend to be either jarring or too sprawling, mixing people I want to read about with people I don't particularly care about. But Chambers avoids that almost entirely. I was occasionally a touch disappointed when the narrative focus shifted, but then I found myself engrossed in the backstory, hopes, and dreams of the next crew member, and the complex ways they interweave. Rosemary isn't the center of this story, but only because there's no single center.

It's very hard to capture in a review what makes this book so special. The closest that I can come is that I like these people. They're individual, quirky, human (even the aliens; this is from more the Star Trek tradition of alien worldbuilding), complicated, and interesting, and it's very easy to care about them. Even characters I never expected to like.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet does have a plot, but it's not a fast-moving or completely coherent one. The ship tends to wander, even when the mission that gives rise to the title turns up. And there are a lot of coincidences here, which may bother you if you're reading for plot. At multiple points, the ship ends up in exactly the right place to trigger some revelation about the backstory of one of the crew members, even if the coincidence strains credulity. Similar to the algae-driven fuel system, some things one just has to shrug about and move past.

On other fronts, though, I found The Long Way to be refreshingly willing to take a hard look at SF assumptions. This is not the typical space opera: humans are a relatively minor species in this galaxy, one that made rather a mess of their planet and are now refugees. They are treated with sympathy or pity; they're not somehow more flexible, adaptable, or interesting than the rest of the galaxy. More fascinatingly to me, humans are mostly pacifists, a cultural reaction to the dire path through history that brought them to their current exile. This is set against a backdrop of a vibrant variety of alien species, several of whom are present onboard the Wayfinder. The history and background of the other species are not, sadly, as well fleshed out as the humans, but each with at least a few twists that add interest to the story.

But the true magic of this book, the thing that it has in overwhelming abundance, is heart. Not everyone in this book is a good person, but most of them are trying. I've rarely read a book full of so much empathy and willingness to reach out to others with open hands. And, even better, they're all nice in different ways. They bring their own unique personalities and approaches to their relationships, particularly the complex web of relationships that connects the crew. When bad things happen, and, despite the overall light tone, a few very bad things happen, the crew rallies like friends, or like chosen family. I have to say it again: I like these people. Usually, that's not a good sign for a book, since wholly likeable people don't generate enough drama. But this is one of the better-executed "protagonist versus nature" plots I've read. It successfully casts the difficulties of making a living at a hard and lonely and political job as the "nature" that provides the conflict.

This is a rather unusual book. It's probably best classified as space opera, but it doesn't fit the normal pattern of space opera and it doesn't have enough drama. It's not a book about changing the universe; at the end of the book, the universe is in pretty much the same shape as we found it. It's not even about the character introduced in the first pages, or really that much about her dilemma. And it's certainly not a book about winning a cunning victory against your enemies.

What it is, rather, is a book about friendships, about chosen families and how they form, about being on someone else's side, about banding together while still being yourself. It's about people making a living in a hard universe, together. It's full of heart, and I loved it.

I'm unsurprised that The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet had to be self-published via a Kickstarter campaign to find its audience. I'm also unsurprised that, once it got out there, it proved very popular and has now been picked up by a regular publisher. It's that sort of book. I believe it's currently out of print, at least in the US, as its new publisher spins up that process, but it should be back in print by late 2015. When that happens, I recommend it to your attention. It was the most emotionally satisfying book I've read so far this year.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Categories: Elsewhere

Steve Kemp: skx-www upgraded to jessie

Sat, 18/04/2015 - 02:00

Today I upgraded my main web-host to the Jessie release of Debian GNU/Linux.

I performed the upgraded by changing wheezy to jessie in the sources.list file, then ran:

apt-get update apt-get dist-upgrade

For some reason this didn't upgrade my kernel, which remained the 3.2.x version. That failed to boot, due to some udev/systemd issues (lots of "waiting for job: udev /dev/vda", etc, etc). To fix this I logged into my KVM-host, chrooted into the disk image (which I mounted via the use of kpartx), and installed the 3.16.x kernel, before rebooting into that.

All my websites seemed to be OK, but I made some changes regardless. (This was mostly for "neatness", using Debian packages instead of gems, and installing the attic package rather than keeping the source-install I'd made to /opt/attic.)

The only surprise was the significant upgrade of the Net::DNS perl-module. Nothing that a few minutes work didn't fix.

Now that I've upgraded the SSL-issue I had with redirections is no longer present. So it was a worthwhile thing to do.

Categories: Elsewhere

EvolvisForge blog: Tricks for using Googlemail at work

Fri, 17/04/2015 - 15:54

For these who similarily suffer from having to use Googlemail at work. If anyone else has more of these, please do share.

Deactivate the spamfilter

The site admins can do that. Otherwise, you will have work-relevant eMails, for example from your own OTRS system, end up in Spam (where you don’t see it, as their IMAP sucks) and deleted without asking 30 days later. (AIUI, the only way to get eMails actually deleted from Google…)

Do not use their SMTP service

Use your own outgoing MTA. This brings back the, well, not feature but should-have-been-granted-but-Google-doesn’t-do-it-anyway that, when you write to a mailing list, you also get your own messages into your own INBOX.


I have no solutions for this. I stopped using the Googlemail calendars because they didn’t think it a problem that, when I accept an invitation in Kontact (KDEPIM as packaged in Debian sid), the organiser of the calendar item in the sender’s calendar (for which I do not have write permissions) changes to me (so the actual meeting organiser cannot change anything afterwards) and/or calendar items get doubled. I now run a local uw-imapd (forward-ported to sid by means of a binNMU) for sent-mail folders etc. and a local iCalendar directory for calendars.

Categories: Elsewhere

Daniel Pocock: Debian Jessie release, 100 year ANZAC anniversary

Thu, 16/04/2015 - 19:48

The date scheduled for the jessie release, 25 April 2015, is also ANZAC day and the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. ANZAC day is a public holiday in Australia, New Zealand and a few other places, with ceremonies remembering the sacrifices made by the armed services in all the wars.

Gallipoli itself was a great tragedy. Australian forces were not victorious. Nonetheless, it is probably the most well remembered battle from all the wars. There is even a movie, Gallipoli, starring Mel Gibson.

It is also the 97th anniversary of the liberation of Villers-Bretonneux in France. The previous day had seen the world's first tank vs tank battle between three British tanks and three German tanks. The Germans won and captured the town. At that stage, Britain didn't have the advantage of nuclear weapons, so they sent in Australians, and the town was recovered for the French. The town has a rue de Melbourne and rue Victoria and is also the site of the Australian National Memorial for the Western Front.

Its great to see that projects like Debian are able to span political and geographic boundaries and allow everybody to collaborate for the greater good. ANZAC day might be an interesting opportunity to reflect on the fact that the world hasn't always enjoyed such community.

Categories: Elsewhere

Andrew Shadura: Power button and logind

Thu, 16/04/2015 - 14:05

If you have configured your laptop’s power button to act as sleep button using acpid, then installed systemd or systemd-shim and pressed the button only to find your laptop to shut down after it wakes up from sleep, set these options in /etc/systemd/logind.conf:

[Login] HandlePowerKey=ignore HandleSuspendKey=ignore HandleHibernateKey=ignore HandleLidSwitch=ignore
Categories: Elsewhere

Joachim Breitner: Talk and Article on Monads for Reverse Engineering

Wed, 15/04/2015 - 23:45

In a recent project of mine, a tool to analyze and create files for the Ravensburger Tiptoi pen, I used two interesting Monads with good results:

  • A parser monad that, while parsing, remembers what part of the file were used for what and provides, for example, an annotated hex dump.
  • A binary writer monad that allows you to reference and write out offsets to positions in the file that are only determined “later” in the monad, using MonadFix.

As that’s quite neat, I write a blog post for the German blog about it, and also held a talk at the Karlsruhe functional programmers group. If you know some German, enjoy; if not, wait until I have a reason to hold the talk in English. (As a matter of fact, I did hold the talk in English, but only spontaneously, so the text is in German only so far.)

Categories: Elsewhere

Rhonda D'Vine: HollySiz

Wed, 15/04/2015 - 12:57

Sometimes one stumbles upon stuff that touches one deeply. Granted, the topic of the first video from the artist I want to present you now did touch me naturally. But it made me take a closer look. This is about HollySiz. Yes, yet another French singer, but fortunately (for me) she sings mostly in English. :)

So here are the songs:

  • The Light: At first I wasn't even aware it's a music video. And the story is strong. I'm uncertain on the story of Nils Pickert did inspire the video, but it's lovely to see people getting it right. The parents job is to support their kid in finding their own identity instead of defining it for them.
  • Better Than Yesterday: In the light of The Light everything else looks antique. So what's better as a video that actually does look antique. ;)
  • Tricky Game (feat. Sianna): I somehow like this version of the song better because it contains rap. But that might be just me. A catchy beat anyway.

Like always, enjoy! And take good care of your kids if you happen to have some.

/music | permanent link | Comments: 0 | Flattr this

Categories: Elsewhere

Michal Čihař: Packaging python-gammu

Wed, 15/04/2015 - 12:00

After Monday release of separate Gammu and python-gammu, the obvious task was to get the new package to distributions.

First I've started with Debian packages, what was quite easy as from quite complex CMake + Python package it is now purely CMake and it was mostly about removing stuff. Soon the updated Gammu package was uploaded to experimental. Once having that ready, I've also update the backports for Ubuntu and these are available in Gammu PPA. Creating new python-gammu package was a bit harder as this is the first Python 3 compatible package I've created, but it's now ready and sitting in the NEW queue.

While working on python-gammu package, I've realized that some of the data used in testsuite are missing in the tarball. While not being critical, this is definitely not nice, so I've decided to release python-gammu 2.1 today. It also includes fixes for some corner cases found by coverity.

For openSUSE the packaging was quite easy as well, stripping out unneeded parts of Gammu package went smoothly and it's now in hardware project, SR to Factory is pending. With python-gammu it turned out to be much harder as the testsuite had failed there with some strange error coming out of libdbi. After looking deeper into it, the problem is in new return type available in Git snapshot openSUSE is shipping. Fortunately producing fix was quite easy, so next Gammu upstream will handle that properly and package in hardware project is already patched. You can now use python-python-gammu from devel:languages:python and SR to Factory is pending as well.

Filed under: Debian English Gammu python-gammu SUSE Wammu | 0 comments

Categories: Elsewhere

Raphaël Hertzog: Looking back at the Debian Long Term Support project

Wed, 15/04/2015 - 10:46

On Sunday I gave a talk about Debian LTS during the Mini-DebConf in Lyon. Obviously I presented the project and the way it’s organized, but I also took the opportunity to compute some statistics.

You can watch the presentation (thanks to the video team!) or have a look at the slides to learn more.

Here are some extracts of the statistics I collected:

The number of the uploads per “affiliation” (known affiliations are recorded in the LTS/Team wiki page) is displayed on the graph below. “None” corresponds to packages maintainers taking care of their own packages, “Debian Security” corresponds to members of the security team who also contributed to LTS, “Debian LTS” corresponds to individual members of the LTS team without any explicit affiliation. “Freexian” represents in fact 29 financial sponsors (see detail here).

Top 12 contributors (in number of uploads):

  • Thorsten Alteholz: 66
  • Holger Levsen: 27
  • Raphaël Hertzog: 14
  • Raphaël Geissert: 13
  • Thijs Kinkhorst: 8
  • Kurt Roeck: 7
  • Christoph Biedl: 7
  • Nguyen Cong: 6
  • Ben Hutchings: 6
  • Michael Vogt: 5
  • Moritz Mühlenhoff: 4
  • Matt Palmer: 4

The talk also contains explanations about the current funding setup. Hopefully this clears things up for people who were still wondering how the LTS project is working.

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Categories: Elsewhere

Petter Reinholdtsen: Debian Edu interview: Shirish Agarwal

Wed, 15/04/2015 - 09:20

It was a surprise to me to learn that project to create a complete computer system for schools I've involved in, Debian Edu / Skolelinux, was being used in India. But apparently it is, and I managed to get an interview with one of the friends of the project there, Shirish Agarwal.

Who are you, and how do you spend your days?

My name is Shirish Agarwal. Based out of the educational and historical city of Pune, from the western state of Maharashtra, India. My bread comes from giving training, giving policy tips, installations on free software to mom and pop shops in different fields from Desktop publishing to retail shops as well as work with few software start-ups as well.

How did you get in contact with the Skolelinux / Debian Edu project?

It started innocently enough. I have been using Debian for a few years and in one local minidebconf / debutsav I was asked if there was anything for schools or education. I had worked / played with free educational softwares such as Gcompris and Stellarium for my many nieces and nephews so researched and found Debian Edu or Skolelinux as it was known then. Since then I have started using the various education meta-packages provided by the project.

What do you see as the advantages of Skolelinux / Debian Edu?

It's closest I have seen where a package full of educational software are packed, which are free and open (both literally and figuratively). Even if I take the simplest software which is gcompris, the number of activities therein are amazing. Another one of the softwares that I have liked for a long time is stellarium. Even pysycache is cool except for couple of issues I encountered #781841 and #781842.

I prefer software installed on the system over web based solutions, as a web site can disappear any time but the software on disk has the possibility of a larger life span. Of course with both it's more a question if it has enough users who make it fun or sustainable or both for the developer per-se.

What do you see as the disadvantages of Skolelinux / Debian Edu?

I do see that the Debian Edu team seems to be short-handed and I think more efforts should be made to make it popular and ask and take help from people and the larger community wherever possible.

I don't see any disadvantage to use Skolelinux apart from the fact that most apps. are generic which is good or bad how you see it. However, saying that I do acknowledge the fact that the canvas is pretty big and there are lot of interesting ideas that could be done but for reasons not known not done or if done I don't know about them. Let me share some of the ideas (these are more upstream based but still) I have had for a long time :

1. Classical maths question of two trains in opposing directions each running @x kmph/mph at y distance, when they will meet and how far would each travel and similar questions like these.

The computer is a fantastic system where questions like these can be drawn, animated and the methodology and answers teased out in interactive manner. While sites such as the Ask Dr. Math FAQ on The Two Trains problem (as an example or point of inspiration) can be used there is lot more that can be done. I dunno if there is a free software which does something like this. The idea being a blend of objects + animation + interaction which does this. The whole interaction could be gamified with points or sounds or colourful celebration whenever the user gets even part of the question or/and methodology right. That would help reinforce good behaviour. This understanding could be used to share/showcase everything from how the first wheel came to be, to evolution to how astronomy started, psychics and everything in-between.

One specific idea in the train part was having the Linux mascot on one train and the BSD or GNU mascot on the other train and they meeting somewhere in-between. Characters from blender movies could also be used.

2. Loads of crossword-puzzles with reference to subjects: We have enormous data sets in Wikipedia and Wikitionary. I don't think it should be a big job to design crossword puzzles. Using categories and sub-categories it should be doable to have Q&A single word answers from the existing data-sets. What would make it easy or hard could be the length of the word + existence of many or few vowels depending on the user's input.

3. Jigsaw puzzles - We already have a great software called palapeli with number of slicers making it pretty interesting. What needs to be done is to download large number of public domain and copyleft images, tease and use IPTC tags to categorise them into nature, history etc. and let it loose. This could turn to be really huge collection of images. One source could be taken from, others could be huge collection of royalty-free stock photos. Potential is immense.

Apart from this, free software suffers in two directions, we lag both in development (of using new features per-se) and maintenance a lot. This is more so in educational software as these applications need to be timely and the opportunity cost of missing deadlines is immense. If we are able to solve issues of funding for development and maintenance of such software I don't see any big difficulties. I know of few start-ups in and around India who would love to develop and maintain such software if funding issues could be solved.

Which free software do you use daily?

That would be huge list. Some of the softwares are obviously apt, aptitude, debdelta, leafpad, the shell of course (zsh nowadays), quassel for IRC. In games I use shisen-sho while card-games are evenly between kpat and Aiselriot. In desktops it's a tie between gnome-flashback and mate.

Which strategy do you believe is the right one to use to get schools to use free software?

I think it should first start with using specific FOSS apps. in whatever environment they are. If it's MS-Windows or Mac so be it. Once they are habitual with the apps. and there is buy-in from the school management then it could be installed anywhere. Most of the people now understand the concept of a repository because of the various online stores so it isn't hard to convince on that front.

What is harder is having enough people with technical skills and passion to service them. If you get buy-in from one or two teachers then ideas like above could also be asked to be done as a project as well.

I think where we fall short more than anything is in marketing. For instance, Debian has this whole range of fonts in its archive but there isn't even a page where all those different fonts in the La Ipsum format could be tried out for newcomers.

One of the issues faced constantly in installations is with updates and upgrades. People have this myth that each update and upgrade means the user interface will / has to change. I have seen this innumerable times. That perhaps is one of the reasons which browsers like Iceweasel / Firefox change user interfaces so much, not because it might be needed or be functional but because people believe that changed user interfaces are better. This, can easily be pointed with the user interfaces changed with almost every MS-Windows and Mac OS releases.

The problems with Debian Edu for deployment are many. The biggest is the huge gap between what is taught in schools and what Debian Edu is aimed at.

Me and my friends did teach on week-ends in a government school for around 2 years, and gathered some experience there. Some of the things we learnt/discovered there was :

  1. Most of the teachers are very territorial about their subjects and they do not want you to teach anything out of the portion/syllabus given.
  2. They want any activity on the system in accordance to whatever is in the syllabus.
  3. There are huge barriers both with the English language and at times with objects or whatever. An example, let's say in gcompris you have objects falling down and you have to name them and let's say the falling object is a hat or a fedora hat, this would not be as recognizable as say a Puneri Pagdi so there is need to inject local objects, words wherever possible. Especially for word-games there are so many hindi words which have become part of english vocabulary (for instance in parley), those could be made into a hinglish collection or something but that is something for upstream to do.
Categories: Elsewhere

Mike Hommey: Announcing git-cinnabar 0.2.1

Wed, 15/04/2015 - 04:20

Git-cinnabar is a git remote helper to interact with mercurial repositories. It allows to clone, pull and push from/to mercurial remote repositories, using git.

Get it on github.

What’s new since 0.2.0?

Not much, but this felt important enough to warrant a release, even though the issue has been there since before 0.1.0:

Mercurial can be slower when cloning or pulling a list of “heads” that contain non-topological heads. On repositories like the mercurial repository, it’s not so much of a big deal, taking 7s instead of 4s. But on big repositories like mozilla-central, it’s taking 23 minutes instead of 2 minutes and 20s (on my machine). And that’s with 100% CPU use on the server side.

The problem is that mozilla-central recently merged some old closed heads, such that it now has branch heads that aren’t topological heads. Git-cinnabar, until this release, would request those branch heads, leading the server to use the slow path mentioned above. This release works around the issue.

It also fixes an issue pushing to a remote empty mercurial repository.

Categories: Elsewhere

Steinar H. Gunderson: DVswitch is dead

Wed, 15/04/2015 - 01:00

I'm seemingly late to the party, but DVswitch was declared dead last month. I'm not surprised at all; it was effectively dead a long time ago, with basically nobody except DVswitch users using DV, the standard being long since abandoned by manufacturers.

I'm a bit curious what the replacements look like; gst-switch doesn't look all that compelling to me (high complexity for a very limited feature set), and then there's Snowmix (which I haven't tried) and Open Broadcaster Software which at least is somehow mature, although maybe for a somewhat different use case.

And no, I'm not making one myself, for two simple reasons:

  1. I don't really need it; it's more of a side interest.
  2. I am deeply skeptical at any such software that isn't made by someone who had extensive experience with sitting behind the controls of a real hardware video mixer, and I wouldn't qualify for that demand.

I am fairly certain that if I did something like this, though, one of the first areas I would think deeply about would be sound processing (mixing, compression, possibly noise suppression) and monitoring. After all, “video is 90% about audio”—who cares about the picture from a talk if you can't hear what the speaker says?

My recommendation for software mixing would probably be getting a Windows machine or a Mac and then run Wirecast. Sorry. :-)

Categories: Elsewhere

Santiago García Mantiñán: Hello Debian Planet and Jessie's question

Wed, 15/04/2015 - 00:15

This was just meant to say hello to the Debian Planet readers, but I'll end it with a Jessie related question, so...


For those who don't know me, I was born in Betanzos, A Coruña, Galicia, in the North-West of Spain and I currently live on A Coruña. I've been a Debian developer since year 2000 when I was quite more involved than currently (live changes), but I'm always expecting to be able to dedicate more time to the project, I hope this will happen when my two children grow up a little bit.

I had been wanting to send my blog's Debian related posts to the planet but always failed to do so, yesterday I found the planet wiki page and I said... it's so easy that I don't have any excuse not to do it, so here I am.

Oh, BTW... if I ever comment on Debian's anniversary (16th of August) that at Betanzos we are launching a really huge paper balloon, it is not to commemorate Debian's date but in honour of San Roque, even though maybe we should talk to the Pita family to have Debian's logo on it for our 25th anniversary :-)

Jessie's question

In Jessie we no longer have update-notifier-common which had the /etc/kernel/postinst.d/update-notifier script that allowed us to automatically reboot on a kernel update, I have apt-file searched for something similar but I haven't found it, so... who is now responsible of echoing to /var/run/reboot-required.pkgs on a kernel upgrade so that the system reboots itself if we have configured unattended-upgrades to do so?

I really miss this stuff, I don't know if it should be on the kernel, on unattended-upgrades or where, but now that we have whatmaps... we need this feature to round it all.


Well, to finish I just want to say that I'm very happy to be a part of the Debian community and that I enjoy reading you guys on the planet. Thanks a lot to all the Debian folks for making Debian not only a great OS, but also a great community.

Categories: Elsewhere

Mark Brown: Flashing an AT91SAM9G20-EK from bare metal

Tue, 14/04/2015 - 20:04

Since I just had cause to do this and it was harder than it needed to be due to bitrot in the public documentation I could find I thought I’d write up how to get a modern bootloader onto older Atmel boards. These instructions are written for the AT91SAM9G20-EK though they should also apply to other Atmel boards of a similar generation.

These instructions are for booting from NAND since it’s the default thing for the board, for this J34 should be fitted to enable the chip select and J33 disconnected to disable the dataflash. If there is something broken programmed into flash then booting while holding down BP4 should cause the second stage bootloader to trash itself and ensure the ROM bootloader puts itself into recovery mode, or just removing both J33 and J34 during power on will also ensure no second stage bootloader is found.

There is a ROM bootloader but it just loads a small region from the boot media and jumps into it which isn’t enough for u-boot so there is a second stage bootloader called AT91Bootstrap. Download sources for current versions from github. If it (or a more sensibly written equivalent) is not yet merged upstream you’ll need to apply this patch to get it to build with a modern compiler, or you could use an old toolchain (which you’ll need in the next step anyway):

diff --git a/board/at91sam9g20ek/ b/board/at91sam9g20ek/ index 45f59b1822a6..b8251ca2fbad 100644 --- a/board/at91sam9g20ek/ +++ b/board/at91sam9g20ek/ @@ -1,7 +1,7 @@ CPPFLAGS += \ -DCONFIG_AT91SAM9G20EK \ - -mcpu=arm926ej-s + -mcpu=arm926ej-s -mfloat-abi=soft ASFLAGS += \ -DCONFIG_AT91SAM9G20EK \ - -mcpu=arm926ej-s + -mcpu=arm926ej-s -mfloat-abi=soft

Once that’s done you can build with:

make at91sam9g20eknf_uboot_defconfig make CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf-

producing binaries/at91sam9g20ek-nandflashboot-uboot-${VERSION}.bin. This configuration will look for u-boot at 0x40000 in the flash so we need a u-boot binary. Unfortunately modern compilers seem to produce binaries that fail with no output. This is normally a sign that they need the ABI specifying more clearly as above but I got fed up trying to spot what was missing so I used an old CodeSourcery 2013.05 release instead, hopefully future versions of u-boot will be able to build for this target with older toolchains. Grab a recent release (I used 2015.01) and build with:

cd ${UBOOT} make at91sam9g20ek_nandflash_defconfig make CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf-

to get u-boot.bin.

These can then be flashed using the Atmel flashing tool SAM-BA. Start it and connect to the target (there is a Linux version, though it appears to rely on old versions of TCL/TK so if you get trouble starting it the easiest thing is to use the sacrificial Windows laptop you’ve obtained in order to run the “entertaining” flashing tools companies sometimes provide without risking a real system, or in my case your shiny new laptop that you’ve not yet installed Linux on). Start it then:

  1. Connect SAM-BA to the device following the dialog on start.
  2. Make sure you’ve selected “NandFlash” in the memory type tabs in the center of the window.
  3. Run the “Enable NandFlash” script.
  4. Run the “Erase All” script.
  5. Run the “Send Boot File” script and provide the at91bootstrap binary.
  6. Set “Send File Name” to be the u-boot binary you built earlier and “Address” to be 0x40000.
  7. Click “Send File”
  8. Press the reset button

which should result in at91bootstrap output followed by u-boot output on the serial console. A similar process works for the AT91SAM9263, there the jumper you need is J19 (sadly u-boot does not flash pictures of cute animals or forested shorelines on the screen as the default “Basic LCD Project 1.4″ firmware does, I’m not sure this “full operating system” thing is really delivering improved functionality).

Categories: Elsewhere

Neil Williams: Extending an existing ARMMP initramfs

Tue, 14/04/2015 - 14:27

The actual use of this extension is still in development and the log files are not currently publicly visible, but it may still be useful for people to know the what and why …

The Debian ARMMP kernel can be used for multiple devices, just changing the DTB. I’ve already done tests with this for Cubietruck and Beaglebone-Black, iMX.53 was one of the original test devices too. Whilst these tests can deploy a full image (there are examples of building such images in the vmdebootstrap package), it is a lot quicker to do simple tests of a kernel using a ramdisk. The default Debian initramfs has a focused objective but still forms a useful base for extension. In particular, I want to be able to test one initramfs on multiple boards (so multiple dtbs) with the same kernel image. I then want to be able, on selected boards, to mount a SATA drive or write an image to eMMC or a USB stick or whatever. LAVA (via the ongoing refactoring, not necessarily in the current dispatcher code) can automate such tests, e.g. to allow me to boot a Cubietruck into a standard Debian ARMMP armhf install on the SATA drive but using a modified (or updated) ARMMP kernel over TFTP without needing to install it on the device itself. That same kernel image can then be tested on multiple boards to see if the changes have benefitted one board at the expense of another. Automating all of that could be of a lot of benefit to the ARM kernel developers in Debian and outside Debian.

So, the start point. Install Debian onto a Cubietruck – in my case, with a SATA drive attached. All well and good so far, standard Debian Jessie ARMMP. (Cubietruck uses the LPAE kernel flavour but that won’t matter for the initramfs.)

Rather than building the initramfs manually, this provides a shortcut – at some point I may investigate how to do this in QEMU but for now, it’s just as quick to SSH onto the Cubietruck and update.

I’ve already written a little script to download the relevant linux-image package for ARMMP, unpack it and pull out the vmlinuz, the dtbs and a selected list of modules. The list is selective because TFTP has a 32Mb download limit and there are more modules than that. So I borrowed a snippet from the Xen folks (already shown previously here). The script is in a support repository for LAVA but can be used anywhere. (You’ll need to edit the package name in the script to choose between ARMMP and ARMMP LPAE.

  1. Get a working initramfs from an installed device running Debian ARMMP and copy some files for use later. Note: use the name of the symlink in the copy so that the file in /tmp/ is the actual file, using the name of the symlink as the filename. This is important later as it saves a step of having to make the (unnecessary) symlink inside the initramfs. Also, mkinitramfs, which built this initrd.img file in the first place, uses the same shared libraries as the main system, so copying these into the initramfs still works. (This is really useful when you get your ramdisk to support the attached secondary storage, allowing you to simply mount the original Debian install and fixup the initramfs by copying files off the main Debian install.) The relevant files are to support DNS lookup inside the initramfs which then allows a test to download a new image to put onto the attached media before rebooting into it. cp /boot/initrd.img-3.16.0-4-armmp-lpae /tmp/ cp /lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/ /tmp/ cp /mnt/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/ /tmp/

    Copy these off the device for local adjustment:

    scp IP_ADDR:/tmp/FILE .
  2. Decompress the initrd.img: cp initrd.img-3.16.0-4-armmp-lpae initrd.img-3.16.0-4-armmp-lpae.gzip gunzip initrd.img-3.16.0-4-armmp-lpae.gzip
  3. Make a new empty directory mkdir initramfs cd initramfs
  4. Unpack: sudo cpio -id < initrd.img-3.16.0-4-armmp-lpae
  5. Remove the old modules (LAVA can add these later, allowing tests to use an updated build with updated modules): sudo rm -rf ./lib/modules/*
  6. Start to customise - need a script for udhcpc and two of the libraries from the installed system to allow the initramfs to do DNS lookups successfully. cp ../ ./lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/ cp ../ ./lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/
  7. Copy the udhcpc default script into place: mkdir ./etc/udhcpc/ sudo cp ../udhcpc.d ./etc/udhcpc/default.script sudo chmod 0755 ./etc/udhcpc/default.script
  8. Rebuild the cpio archive: find . | cpio -H newc -o > ../initrd.img-armmp.cpio
  9. Recompress: cd .. gzip initrd.img-armmp.cpio
  10. If using u-boot, add the UBoot header: mkimage -A arm -T ramdisk -C none -d initrd.img-armmp.cpio.gz initrd.img-armmp.cpio.gz.u-boot
  11. Checksum the final file so that you can check that against the LAVA logs. md5sum initrd.img-armmp.cpio.gz.u-boot

Each type of device will need a set of modules modprobed before tests can start. With the refactoring code, I can use an inline YAML and use dmesg -n 5 to reduce the kernel message noise. The actual module names here are just those for the Cubietruck but by having these only in the job submission, it makes it easier to test particular combinations and requirements.

- dmesg -n 5 - lava-test-case udevadm --shell udevadm hwdb --update - lava-test-case depmod --shell depmod -a - lava-test-case sata-mod --shell modprobe -a stmmac ahci_sunxi sd_mod sg ext4 - lava-test-case ifconfig --shell ifconfig eth0 up - lava-test-case udhcpc --shell udhcpc - dmesg -n 7

In due course, this will be added to the main LAVA documentation to allow others to keep the initramfs up to date and to support further test development.

Categories: Elsewhere