UNB/ CS/ David Bremner/ tags/ debian

This feed contains pages with tag "debian".


Debian is currently collecting buildinfo but they are not very conveniently searchable. Eventually Chris Lamb's buildinfo.debian.net may solve this problem, but in the mean time, I decided to see how practical indexing the full set of buildinfo files is with sqlite.


  1. First you need a copy of the buildinfo files. This is currently about 2.6G, and unfortunately you need to be a debian developer to fetch it.

     $ rsync -avz mirror.ftp-master.debian.org:/srv/ftp-master.debian.org/buildinfo .
  2. Indexing takes about 15 minutes on my 5 year old machine (with an SSD). If you index all dependencies, you get a database of about 4G, probably because of my natural genius for database design. Restricting to debhelper and dh-elpa, it's about 17M.

     $ python3 index.py

    You need at least python3-debian installed

  3. Now you can do queries like

     $ sqlite3 depends.sqlite "select * from depends where depend='dh-elpa' and depend_version<='0106'"

    where 0106 is some adhoc normalization of 1.6


The version number hackery is pretty fragile, but good enough for my current purposes. A more serious limitation is that I don't currently have a nice (and you see how generous my definition of nice is) way of limiting to builds currently available e.g. in Debian unstable.

Posted Sat 02 Sep 2017 05:41:00 PM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

After a mildly ridiculous amount of effort I made a bootable-usb key.

I then layered a bash script on top of a perl script on top of gpg. What could possibly go wrong?



 keys=$(gpg --with-colons  $infile | sed -n 's/^pub//p' | cut -f5 -d: )

 gpg --homedir $HOME/.caff/gnupghome --import $infile

 caff -R -m no "${keys[*]}"

 today=$(date +"%Y-%m-%d")
 for key in ${keys[*]}; do
     (cd $HOME/.caff/keys/;   tar rvf "$output" $today/$key.mail*)

The idea is that keys are exported to files on a networked host, the files are processed on an offline host, and the resulting tarball of mail messages sneakernetted back to the connected host.

Posted Wed 23 Dec 2015 09:20:00 AM AST Tags: /tags/debian

Umm. Somehow I thought this would be easier than learning about live-build. Probably I was wrong. There are probably many better tutorials on the web.

Two useful observations: zeroing the key can eliminate mysterious grub errors, and systemd-nspawn is pretty handy. One thing that should have been obvious, but wasn't to me is that it's easier to install grub onto a device outside of any container.

Find device

 $ dmesg

Count sectors

 # fdisk -l /dev/sdx

Assume that every command after here is dangerous.

Zero it out. This is overkill for a fresh key, but fixed a problem with reusing a stick that had a previous live distro installed on it.

 # dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdx bs=1048576 count=$count

Where $count is calculated by dividing the sector count by 2048.

Make file system. There are lots of options. I eventually used parted

 # parted

 (parted) mklabel msdos
 (parted) mkpart primary ext2 1 -1
 (parted) set 1 boot on
 (parted) quit

Make a file system

 # mkfs.ext2 /dev/sdx1
 # mount /dev/sdx1 /mnt

Install the base system

 # debootstrap --variant=minbase jessie /mnt http://httpredir.debian.org/debian/

Install grub (no chroot needed)

 # grub-install --boot-directory /mnt/boot /dev/sdx1

Set a root password

 # chroot /mnt
 # passwd root
 # exit

create up fstab

# blkid -p /dev/sdc1 | cut -f2 -d' ' > /mnt/etc/fstab

Now edit to fix syntax, tell ext2, etc...

Now switch to system-nspawn, to avoid boring bind mounting, etc..

# systemd-nspawn -b -D /mnt

login to the container, install linux-base, linux-image-amd64, grub-pc

EDIT: fixed block size of dd, based on suggestion of tg. EDIT2: fixed count to match block size

Posted Mon 21 Dec 2015 08:43:00 AM AST Tags: /tags/debian

(Debian) packaging and Git.

The big picture is as follows. In my view, the most natural way to work on a packaging project in version control [1] is to have an upstream branch which either tracks upstream Git/Hg/Svn, or imports of tarballs (or some combination thereof, and a Debian branch where both modifications to upstream source and commits to stuff in ./debian are added [2]. Deviations from this are mainly motivated by a desire to export source packages, a version control neutral interchange format that still preserves the distinction between upstream source and distro modifications. Of course, if you're happy with the distro modifications as one big diff, then you can stop reading now gitpkg $debian_branch $upstream_branch and you're done. The other easy case is if your changes don't touch upstream; then 3.0 (quilt) packages work nicely with ./debian in a separate tarball.

So the tension is between my preferred integration style, and making source packages with changes to upstream source organized in some nice way, preferably in logical patches like, uh, commits in a version control system. At some point we may be able use some form of version control repo as a source package, but the issues with that are for another blog post. At the moment then we are stuck with trying bridge the gap between a git repository and a 3.0 (quilt) source package. If you don't know the details of Debian packaging, just imagine a patch series like you would generate with git format-patch or apply with (surprise) quilt.

From Git to Quilt.

The most obvious (and the most common) way to bridge the gap between git and quilt is to export patches manually (or using a helper like gbp-pq) and commit them to the packaging repository. This has the advantage of not forcing anyone to use git or specialized helpers to collaborate on the package. On the other hand it's quite far from the vision of using git (or your favourite VCS) to do the integration that I started with.

The next level of sophistication is to maintain a branch of upstream-modifying commits. Roughly speaking, this is the approach taken by git-dpm, by gitpkg, and with some additional friction from manually importing and exporting the patches, by gbp-pq. There are some issues with rebasing a branch of patches, mainly it seems to rely on one person at a time working on the patch branch, and it forces the use of specialized tools or workflows. Nonetheless, both git-dpm and gitpkg support this mode of working reasonably well [3].

Lately I've been working on exporting patches from (an immutable) git history. My initial experiments with marking commits with git notes more or less worked [4]. I put this on the back-burner for two reasons, first sharing git notes is still not very well supported by git itself [5], and second Gitpkg maintainer Ron Lee convinced me to automagically pick out what patches to export. Ron's motivation (as I understand it) is to have tools which work on any git repository without extra metadata in the form of notes.

Linearizing History on the fly.

After a few iterations, I arrived at the following specification.

  • The user supplies two refs upstream and head. upstream should be suitable for export as a .orig.tar.gz file [6], and it should be an ancestor of head.

  • At source package build time, we want to construct a series of patches that

    1. Is guaranteed to apply to upstream
    2. Produces the same work tree as head, outside ./debian
    3. Does not touch ./debian
    4. As much as possible, matches the git history from upstream to head.

Condition (4) suggests we want something roughly like git format-patch upstream..head, removing those patches which are only about Debian packaging. Because of (3), we have to be a bit careful about commits that touch upstream and ./debian. We also want to avoid outputting patches that have been applied (or worse partially applied) upstream. git patch-id can help identify cherry-picked patches, but not partial application.

Eventually I arrived at the following strategy.

  1. Use git-filter-branch to construct a copy of the history upstream..head with ./debian (and for technical reasons .pc) excised.

  2. Filter these commits to remove e.g. those that are present exactly upstream, or those that introduces no changes, or changes unrepresentable in a patch.

  3. Try to revert the remaining commits, in reverse order. The idea here is twofold. First, a patch that occurs twice in history because of merging will only revert the most recent one, allowing earlier copies to be skipped. Second, the state of the temporary branch after all successful reverts represents the difference from upstream not accounted for by any patch.

  4. Generate a "fixup patch" accounting for any remaining differences, to be applied before any if the "nice" patches.

  5. Cherry-pick each "nice" patch on top of the fixup patch, to ensure we have a linear history that can be exported to quilt. If any of these cherry-picks fail, abort the export.

Yep, it seems over-complicated to me too.

TL;DR: Show me the code.

You can clone my current version from


This provides a script "git-debcherry" which does the history linearization discussed above. In order to test out how/if this works in your repository, you could run

git-debcherry --stat $UPSTREAM

For actual use, you probably want to use something like

git-debcherry -o debian/patches

There is a hook in hooks/debcherry-deb-export-hook that does this at source package export time.

I'm aware this is not that fast; it does several expensive operations. On the other hand, you know what Don Knuth says about premature optimization, so I'm more interested in reports of when it does and doesn't work. In addition to crashing, generating multi-megabyte "fixup patch" probably counts as failure.


  1. This first part doesn't seem too Debian or git specific to me, but I don't know much concrete about other packaging workflows or other version control systems.

  2. Another variation is to have a patched upstream branch and merge that into the Debian packaging branch. The trade-off here that you can simplify the patch export process a bit, but the repo needs to have taken this disciplined approach from the beginning.

  3. git-dpm merges the patched upstream into the Debian branch. This makes the history a bit messier, but seems to be more robust. I've been thinking about trying this out (semi-manually) for gitpkg.

  4. See e.g. exporting. Although I did not then know the many surprising and horrible things people do in packaging histories, so it probably didn't work as well as I thought it did.

  5. It's doable, but one ends up spending about a bunch lines of code on duplicating basic git functionality; e.g. there is no real support for tags of notes.

  6. Since as far as I know quilt has no way of deleting files except to list the content, this means in particular exporting upstream should yield a DFSG Free source tree.

Posted Thu 25 Apr 2013 01:58:00 PM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

I've been experimenting with a new packaging tool/workflow based on marking certain commits on my integration branch for export as quilt patches. In this post I'll walk though converting the package nauty to this workflow.

  1. Add a control file for the gitpkg export hook, and enable the hook: (the package is already 3.0 (quilt))

    % echo ':debpatch: upstream..master' > debian/source/git-patches
    % git add debian/source/git-patches && git commit -m'add control file for gitpkg quilt export'
    % git config gitpkg.deb-export-hook /usr/share/gitpkg/hooks/quilt-patches-deb-export-hook

    This says that all commits reachable from master but not from upstream should be checked for possible export as quilt patches.

  2. This package was previously maintained in the "recommend topgit style" with the patches checked in on a seperate branch, so grab a copy.

     % git archive --prefix=nauty/ build | (cd /tmp ; tar xvf -)

    More conventional git-buildpackage style packaging would not need this step.

  3. Import the patches. If everything is perfect, you can use qit quiltimport, but I have several patches not listed in "series", and quiltimport ignores series, so I have to do things by hand.

    % git am  /tmp/nauty/debian/patches/feature/shlib.diff
  4. Mark my imported patch for export.

    % git debpatch +export HEAD
  5. git debpatch list outputs the following

    afb2c20 feature/shlib
    Export: true
    makefile.in |  241 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++--------------------------
    1 files changed, 136 insertions(+), 105 deletions(-)

    The first line is the subject line of the patch, followed by any notes from debpatch (in this case, just 'Export: true'), followed by a diffstat. If more patches were marked, this would be repeated for each one.

    In this case I notice subject line is kindof cryptic and decide to amend.

     git commit --amend
  6. git debpatch list still shows the same thing, which highlights a fundemental aspect of git notes: they attach to commits. And I just made a new commit, so

    git debpatch -export afb2c20
    git debpatch +export HEAD
  7. Now git debpatch list looks ok, so we try git debpatch export as a dry run. In debian/patches we have

    0001-makefile.in-Support-building-a-shared-library-and-st.patch series

    That looks good. Now we are not going to commit this, since one of our overall goal is to avoid commiting patches. To clean up the export, rm -rf debian/patches

  8. gitpkg master exports a source package, and because I enabled the appropriate hook, I have the following

     % tar tvf ../deb-packages/nauty/nauty_2.4r2-1.debian.tar.gz | grep debian/patches
     drwxr-xr-x 0/0               0 2012-03-13 23:08 debian/patches/
     -rw-r--r-- 0/0             143 2012-03-13 23:08 debian/patches/series
     -rw-r--r-- 0/0           14399 2012-03-13 23:08 debian/patches/0001-makefile.in-Support-building-a-shared-library-and-st.patch

    Note that these patches are exported straight from git.

  9. I'm done for now so

    git push 
    git debpatch push

the second command is needed to push the debpatch notes metadata to the origin. There is a corresponding fetch, merge, and pull commands.

More info

Posted Tue 13 Mar 2012 08:04:00 AM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

As of version 0.17, gitpkg ships with a hook called quilt-patches-deb-export-hook. This can be used to export patches from git at the time of creating the source package.

This is controlled by a file debian/source/git-patches. Each line contains a range suitable for passing to git-format-patch(1). The variables UPSTREAM_VERSION and DEB_VERSION are replaced with values taken from debian/changelog. Note that $UPSTREAM_VERSION is the first part of $DEB_VERSION

An example is


This tells gitpkg to export the given two ranges of commits to debian/patches while generating the source package. Each commit becomes a patch in debian/patches, with names generated from the commit messages. In this example, we get 5 patches from the two ranges.


Thanks to the wonders of 3.0 (quilt) packages, these are applied when the source package is unpacked.


  • Current lintian complains bitterly about debian/source/git-patches. This should be fixed with the next upload.

  • It's a bit dangerous if you checkout such package from git, don't read any of the documentation, and build with debuild or something similar, since you won't get the patches applied. There is a proposed check that catches most of such booboos. You could also cause the build to fail if the same error is detected; this a matter of personal taste I guess.

Posted Sun 30 Jan 2011 04:41:00 PM AST Tags: /tags/debian

I recently decided to try maintaining a Debian package (bibutils) without committing any patches to Git. One of the disadvantages of this approach is that the patches for upstream are not nicely sorted out in ./debian/patches. I decided to write a little tool to sort out which commits should be sent to upstream. I'm not too happy about the length of it, or the name "git-classify", but I'm posting in case someone has some suggestions. Or maybe somebody finds this useful.


use strict;

my $upstreamonly=0;

if ($ARGV[0] eq "-u"){
  shift (@ARGV);

open(GIT,"git log -z --format=\"%n%x00%H\" --name-only  @ARGV|");

# throw away blank line at the beginning.

my $sha="";
LINE: while(<GIT>){


  next LINE if (m/^\s*$/);

  if (m/^\x0([0-9a-fA-F]+)/){
  } else {
    my $debian=0;
    my $upstream=0;

    foreach my $word  ( split("\x00",$_) ) {
      if  ($word=~m@^debian/@) {
      } elsif (length($word)>0)  {

    if (!$upstreamonly){
      print "$sha\t";
      print "MIXED" if ($upstream>0  && $debian>0);
      print "upstream" if ($upstream>0  && $debian==0);
      print "debian" if ($upstream==0  && $debian>0);
      print "\n";
    } else {
      print "$sha\n" if ($upstream>0  && $debian==0);



=head1 Name
git-classify  - Classify commits as upstream, debian, or MIXED

=head1 Synopsis


=item B<git classify> [I<-u>] [I<arguments for git-log>]


=head1 Description

Classify a range of commits (specified as for git-log) as I<upstream>
(touching only files outside ./debian), I<debian> (touching files only
inside ./debian) or I<MIXED>. Presumably these last kind are to be

=head2 Options


=item B<-u> output only the SHA1 hashes of upstream commits (as
      defined above).


=head1 Examples

Generate all likely patches to send upstream
     git classify -u $SHA..HEAD | xargs -L1 git format-patch -1
Posted Sat 11 Dec 2010 03:00:00 PM AST Tags: /tags/debian

What is it?

I was a bit daunted by the number of mails from people signing my gpg keys at debconf, so I wrote a script to mass process them. The workflow, for those of you using notmuch is as follows:

$ notmuch show --format=mbox tag:keysign > sigs.mbox
$ ffac sigs.mbox

where previously I have tagged keysigning emails as "keysign" if I want to import them. You also need to run gpg-agent, since I was too lazy/scared to deal with passphrases.

This will import them into a keyring in ~/.ffac; uploading is still manual using something like

$ gpg --homedir=$HOME/.ffac --send-keys $keyid 

UPDATE Before you upload all of those shiny signatures, you might want to use the included script fetch-sig-keys to add the corresponding keys to the temporary keyring in ~/.ffac. After

$ fetch-sig-keys $keyid


$ gpg --homedir ~/.ffac --list-sigs $keyid  

should have a UID associated with each signature.

How do I use it

At the moment this is has been tested once or twice by one person. More testing would be great, but be warned this is pre-release software until you can install it with apt-get.

  • Get the script from

    $ git clone git://pivot.cs.unb.ca/git/ffac.git

  • Get a patched version of Mail::GnuPG that supports gpg-agent; hopefully this will make it upstream, but for now,

    $ git clone git://pivot.cs.unb.ca/git/mail-gnupg.git

I have a patched version of the debian package that I could make available if there was interest.

  • Install the other dependencies.

    # apt-get install libmime-parser-perl libemail-folder-perl


2011/07/29 libmail-gnupg-perl in Debian supports gpg-agent for some time now.

Posted Thu 12 Aug 2010 09:54:00 AM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

racket (previously known as plt-scheme) is an interpreter/JIT-compiler/development environment with about 6 years of subversion history in a converted git repo. Debian packaging has been done in subversion, with only the contents of ./debian in version control. I wanted to merge these into a single git repository.

The first step is to create a repo and fetch the relevant history.

export TMPDIR
ME=`readlink -f $0`
AUTHORS=`dirname $ME`/authors

mkdir racket && cd racket && git init
git remote add racket git://git.racket-lang.org/plt
git fetch --tags racket
git config  merge.renameLimit 10000
git svn init  --stdlayout svn://svn.debian.org/svn/pkg-plt-scheme/plt-scheme/ 
git svn fetch -A$AUTHORS
git branch debian

A couple points to note:

  • At some point there were huge numbers of renames when then the project renamed itself, hense the setting for merge.renameLimit

  • Note the use of an authors file to make sure the author names and emails are reasonable in the imported history.

  • git svn creates a branch master, which we will eventually forcibly overwrite; we stash that branch as debian for later use.

Now a couple complications arose about upstream's git repo.

  1. Upstream releases seperate source tarballs for unix, mac, and windows. Each of these is constructed by deleting a large number of files from version control, and occasionally some last minute fiddling with README files and so on.

  2. The history of the release tags is not completely linear. For example,

rocinante:~/projects/racket  (git-svn)-[master]-% git diff --shortstat v4.2.4 `git merge-base v4.2.4 v5.0`
 48 files changed, 242 insertions(+), 393 deletions(-)

rocinante:~/projects/racket  (git-svn)-[master]-% git diff --shortstat v4.2.1 `git merge-base v4.2.1 v4.2.4`
 76 files changed, 642 insertions(+), 1485 deletions(-)

The combination made my straight forward attempt at constructing a history synched with release tarballs generate many conflicts. I ended up importing each tarball on a temporary branch, and the merges went smoother. Note also the use of "git merge -s recursive -X theirs" to resolve conflicts in favour of the new upstream version.

The repetitive bits of the merge are collected as shell functions.

import_tgz() { 
    if [ -f $1 ]; then 
        git clean -fxd; 
        git ls-files -z | xargs -0 rm -f; 
        tar --strip-components=1 -zxvf $1 ; 
        git add -A; 
        git commit -m'Importing '`basename $1`;
        echo "missing tarball $1"; 

do_merge() {
    git checkout -b v$version-tarball v$version
    import_tgz ../plt-scheme_$version.orig.tar.gz
    git checkout upstream 
    git merge -s recursive -X theirs v$version-tarball

post_merge() {
    git tag -f upstream/$version
    pristine-tar commit ../plt-scheme_$version.orig.tar.gz
    git branch -d v$version-tarball

The entire merge script is here. A typical step looks like

do_merge 5.0
git rm collects/tests/stepper/automatic-tests.ss
git add `git status -s | egrep ^UA | cut -f2 -d' '`
git checkout v5.0-tarball doc/release-notes/teachpack/HISTORY.txt
git rm readme.txt
git add  collects/tests/web-server/info.rkt
git commit -m'Resolve conflicts from new upstream version 5.0'
post_merge 5.0

Finally, we have the comparatively easy task of merging the upstream and Debian branches. In one or two places git was confused by all of the copying and renaming of files and I had to manually fix things up with git rm.

cd racket || /bin/true
set -e

git checkout debian
git tag -f packaging/4.0.1-2 `git svn find-rev r98`
git tag -f packaging/4.2.1-1 `git svn find-rev r113`
git tag -f packaging/4.2.4-2 `git svn find-rev r126`

git branch -f  master upstream/4.0.1
git checkout master
git merge packaging/4.0.1-2
git tag -f debian/4.0.1-2

git merge upstream/4.2.1
git merge packaging/4.2.1-1
git tag -f debian/4.2.1-1

git merge upstream/4.2.4
git merge packaging/4.2.4-2
git rm collects/tests/stxclass/more-tests.ss && git commit -m'fix false rename detection'
git tag -f debian/4.2.4-2

git merge -s recursive -X theirs upstream/5.0
git rm collects/tests/web-server/info.rkt
git commit -m 'Merge upstream 5.0'
Posted Thu 24 Jun 2010 08:26:00 AM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

So this is in some sense a nadir for shell scripting. 2 lines that do something out of 111. Mostly cargo-culted from cowpoke by ron, but much less fancy. rsbuild foo.dsc should do the trick.

# Start a remote sbuild process via ssh. Based on cowpoke from devscripts.
# Copyright (c) 2007-9 Ron  <ron@debian.org> 
# Copyright (c) David Bremner 2009 <david@tethera.net> 
# Distributed according to Version 2 or later of the GNU GPL.

BUILDD_DIR=var/sbuild   #relative to home directory

BUILDD_ARCH="$(dpkg-architecture -qDEB_BUILD_ARCH 2>/dev/null)"

    cat 1>&2 <<EOF

rsbuild [options] package.dsc

  Uploads a Debian source package to a remote host and builds it using sbuild.
  The following options are supported:

   --arch="arch"         Specify the Debian architecture(s) to build for.
   --dist="dist"         Specify the Debian distribution(s) to build for.
   --buildd="host"       Specify the remote host to build on.
   --buildd-user="name"  Specify the remote user to build as.

  The current default configuration is:


  The expected remote paths are:

  sbuild must be configured on the build host.  You must have ssh
  access to the build host as BUILDD_USER if that is set, else as the
  user executing cowpoke or a user specified in your ssh config for
  '$BUILDD_HOST'.  That user must be able to execute sbuild.


    exit $1

PROGNAME="$(basename $0)"
version ()
    echo \
"This is $PROGNAME, version 0.0.0
This code is copyright 2007-9 by Ron <ron@debian.org>, all rights reserved.
Copyright 2009 by David Bremner <david@tethera.net>, all rights reserved.

This program comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.
You are free to redistribute this code under the terms of the
GNU General Public License, version 2 or later"
    exit 0

for arg; do
    case "$arg" in






            usage 0


            echo "ERROR: unrecognised option '$arg'"
            usage 1

dcmd rsync --verbose --checksum $DSC $BUILDD_USER$BUILDD_HOST:$BUILDD_DIR

Posted Sun 29 Nov 2009 01:02:00 PM AST Tags: /tags/debian

I am currently making a shared library out of some existing C code, for eventual inclusion in Debian. Because the author wasn't thinking about things like ABIs and APIs, the code is not too careful about what symbols it exports, and I decided clean up some of the more obviously private symbols exported.

I wrote the following simple script because I got tired of running grep by hand. If you run it with

 grep-symbols symbolfile  *.c

It will print the symbols sorted by how many times they occur in the other arguments.

use strict;
use File::Slurp;

my $symfile=shift(@ARGV);

open SYMBOLS, "<$symfile" || die "$!";
# "parse" the symbols file
my %count=();
# skip first line;

# check the rest of the command line arguments for matches against symbols. Omega(n^2), sigh.
foreach my $file (@ARGV){
  my $string=read_file($file);
  foreach my $sym (keys %count){
    if ($string =~ m/\b$sym\b/){

print "Symbol\t Count\n";
foreach my $sym (sort {$count{$a} <=> $count{$b}} (keys %count)){
  print "$sym\t$count{$sym}\n";
  • Updated Thanks to Peter Pöschl for pointing out the file slurp should not be in the inner loop.
Posted Sun 18 Oct 2009 09:00:00 AM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

So, a few weeks ago I wanted to play play some music. Amarok2 was only playing one track at time. Hmm, rather than fight with it, maybe it is time to investigate alternatives. So here is my story. Mac using friends will probably find this amusing.

  • minirok segfaults as soon I try to do something #544230

  • bluemingo seems to only understand mp3's

  • exaile didn't play m4a (these are ripped with faac, so no DRM) files out of the box. A small amount of googling didn't explain it.

  • mpd looks cool, but I didn't really want to bother with that amount of setup right now.

  • Quod Libet also seems to have some configuration issues preventing it from playing m4a's

  • I hate the interface of Audacious

  • mocp looks cool, like mpd but easier to set up, but crashes trying to play an m4a file. This looks a lot like #530373

  • qmmp + xmonad = user interface fail.

  • juk also seems not to play (or catalog) my m4a's

In the end I went back and had a second look at mpd, and I'm pretty happy with it, just using the command line client mpc right now. I intend to investigate the mingus emacs client for mpd at some point.

An emerging theme is that m4a on Linux is pain.

UPDATED It turns out that one problem was I needed gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad and gstreamer0.10-plugins-really-bad. The latter comes from debian-multimedia.org, and had a file conflict with the former in Debian unstable (bug #544667 apparently just fixed). Grabbing the version from testing made it work. This fixed at least rhythmbox, exhaile and quodlibet. Thanks to Tim-Philipp Müller for the solution.

I guess the point I missed at first was that so many of the players use gstreamer as a back end, so what looked like many bugs/configuration-problems was really one. Presumably I'd have to go through a similar process to get phonon working for juk.

Posted Sat 29 Aug 2009 12:32:00 PM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

So I had this brainstorm that I could get sticky labels approximately the right size and paste current gpg key info to the back of business cards. I played with glabels for a bit, but we didn't get along. I decided to hack something up based on the gpg-key2ps script in the signing-party package. I'm not proud of the current state; it is hard-coded for one particular kind of labels I have on my desk, but it should be easy to polish if anyone thinks this is and idea worth pursuing. The output looks like this. Note that the boxes are just for debugging.

Posted Sat 08 Aug 2009 10:39:00 PM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

There have been several posts on Planet Debian planet lately about Netbooks. Biella Coleman pondered the wisdom of buying a Lenovo IdeaPad S10, and Russell talked about the higher level question of what kind of netbook one should buy.

I'm currently thinking of buying a netbook for my wife to use in her continuing impersonation of a student. So, to please Russell, what do I care about?

  • Comfortably running
    • emacs
    • latex
    • openoffice
    • iceweasel
    • vlc
  • Debian support
  • a keyboard my wife can more or less touch type on.
  • a matte screen
  • build quality

I think a 10" model is required to get a decentish keyboard, and a hard-drive would be just easier when she discovers that another 300M of diskspaced is needed for some must-have application. I realize in Tokyo and Seoul they probably call these "desktop replacements", but around here these are aparently "netbooks" :)

Some options I'm considering (prices are in Canadian dollars, before taxes). Unless I missed something, these are all Intel Atom N270/N280, 160G HD, 1G RAM. [[!format Error: unsupported page format org]]

  1. Currently needs non-free driver broadcom-sta. On the other hand, the broadcom-sta maintainer has one. Also, bt43 is supposed to support them pretty soonish.

  2. There are web pages describing how, but it looks like it probably voids your warranty, since you have to crack the case open.

  3. I don't know if the driver situation is so much better (since asus switches chipsets within the same model), but there is an active group of people using Debian on these machines.

  4. Very new as in currently needs patches to the Linux kernel.

  5. These seem to be end-of-lifed; stock is very limited. Price is for a six cell battery for better comparison; 9-cell is about $50 more.

Posted Sat 08 Aug 2009 12:03:00 PM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

So I have been getting used to madduck's workflow for topgit and debian packaging, and one thing that bugged me a bit was all the steps required to to build. I tend to build quite a lot when debugging, so I wrote up a quick and dirty script to

  • export a copy of the master branch somewhere
  • export the patches from topgit
  • invoke debuild

I don't claim this is anywhere ready production quality, but maybe it helps someone.

Assumptions (that I remember)

  • you use the workflow above
  • you use pristine tar for your original tarballs
  • you invoke the script (I call it tg-debuild) from somewhere in your work tree

Here is the actual script:


    set -x

    if [ x$1 = x-k ]; then

    WORKDIR=`mktemp -d $WORKROOT/tg-debuild-XXXX`
    # yes, this could be nicer
    SOURCEPKG=`dpkg-parsechangelog | grep ^Source: | sed 's/^Source:\s*//'`
    UPSTREAM=`dpkg-parsechangelog | grep ^Version: | sed -e 's/^Version:\s*//' -e s/-[^-]*//`

    pristine-tar checkout $ORIG


    CDUP=`git rev-parse --show-cdup`


    git archive --prefix=$WORKTREE/ --format=tar master | tar xfP -
    GIT_DIR=$GDPATH make -C $WORKTREE -f debian/rules tg-export
    cd $WORKTREE && GIT_DIR=$GDPATH debuild 
    if [ $?==0 -a -d $DEST ]; then
        cp $WORKDIR/*.deb $WORKDIR/*.dsc $WORKDIR/*.diff.gz $WORKDIR/*.changes $DEST

    if [ $keep = 0 ]; then
        rm -fr $WORKDIR

Posted Fri 26 Dec 2008 02:51:00 PM AST Tags: /tags/debian


You are maintaining a debian package with topgit. You have a topgit patch against version k and it is has been merged into upstream version m. You want to "disable" the topgit branch, so that patches are not auto-generated, but you are not brave enough to just

   tg delete feature/foo

You are brave enough to follow the instructions of a random blog post.

Checking your patch has really been merged upstream

This assumes that you tags upstream/j for version j.

git checkout feature/foo
git diff upstream/k

For each file foo.c modified in the output about, have a look at

git diff upstream/m foo.c

This kindof has to be a manual process, because upstream could easily have modified your patch (e.g. formatting).

The semi-destructive way

Suppose you really never want to see that topgit branch again.

git update-ref -d refs/topbases/feature/foo
git checkout master
git branch -M feature/foo merged/foo

The non-destructive way.

After I worked out the above, I realized that all I had to do was make an explicit list of topgit branches that I wanted exported. One minor trick is that the setting seems to have to go before the include, like this

TG_BRANCHES=debian/bin-makefile debian/libtoolize-lib debian/test-makefile
-include /usr/share/topgit/tg2quilt.mk


I'm not really sure which approach is best yet. I'm going to start with the non-destructive one and see how that goes.

Updated Madduck points to a third, more sophisticated approach in Debian BTS.

Posted Wed 24 Dec 2008 11:28:00 AM AST Tags: /tags/debian

I wanted to report a success story with topgit which is a rather new patch queue managment extension for git. If that sounds like gibberish to you, this is probably not the blog entry you are looking for.

Some time ago I decided to migrate the debian packaging of bibutils to topgit. This is not a very complicated package, with 7 quilt patches applied to upstream source. Since I don't have any experience to go on, I decided to follow Martin 'madduck' Krafft's suggestion for workflow.

It all looks a bit complicated (madduck will be the first to agree), but it forced me to think about which patches were intended to go upstream and which were not. At the end of the conversion I had 4 patches that were cleanly based on upstream, and (perhaps most importantly for lazy people like me), I could send them upstream with tg mail. I did that, and a few days later, Chris Putnam sent me a new upstream release incorporating all of those patches. Of course, now I have to package this new upstream release :-).

The astute reader might complain that this is more about me developing half-decent workflow, and Chris being a great guy, than about any specific tool. That may be true, but one thing I have discovered since I started using git is that tools that encourage good workflow are very nice. Actually, before I started using git, I didn't even use the word workflow. So I just wanted to give a public thank you to pasky for writing topgit and to madduck for pushing it into debian, and thinking about debian packaging with topgit.

Posted Mon 22 Dec 2008 09:25:00 AM AST Tags: /tags/debian

I have been thinking about ways to speed multiple remote git on the same hosts. My starting point is mr, which does the job, but is a bit slow. I am thinking about giving up some generality for some speed. In particular it seems like it ought to be possible to optimize for the two following use cases:

  • many repos are on the same host
  • mostly nothing needs updating.

For my needs, mr is almost fast enough, but I can see it getting annoying as I add repos (I currently have 11, and mr update takes about 5 seconds; I am already running ssh multiplexing). I am also thinking about the needs of the Debian Perl Modules Team, which would have over 900 git repos if the current setup was converted to one git repo per module.

My first attempt, using perl module Net::SSH::Expect to keep an ssh channel open can be scientifically classified as "utter fail", since Net::SSH::Expect takes about 1 second to round trip "/bin/true".

Initial experiments using IPC::PerlSSH are more promising. The following script grabs the head commit in 11 repos in about 0.5 seconds. Of course, it still doesn't do anything useful, but I thought I would toss this out there in case there already exists a solution to this problem I don't know about.


use IPC::PerlSSH;
use Getopt::Std;
use File::Slurp;

my %config; 

eval( "\%config=(".read_file(shift(@ARGV)).")");
die "reading configuration failed: $@" if $@;

my $ips= IPC::PerlSSH->new(Host=>$config{host});

$ips->eval("use Git");

$ips->store( "ls_remote", q{my $repo=shift;
                       return Git::command_oneline('ls-remote',$repo,'HEAD');
                          } );

foreach $repo (@{$config{repos}}){
    print $ips->call("ls_remote",$repo);

P.S. If you google for "mr joey hess", you will find a Kiss tribute band called Mr. Speed, started by Joe Hess"

P.P.S. Hello planet debian!

Posted Sun 21 Sep 2008 12:00:00 AM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

So I spent a couple hours editing Haskell. So of course I had to spend at least that long customizing emacs. My particular interest is in so called literate haskell code that intersperses LaTeX and Haskell.

The first step is to install haskell-mode and mmm-mode.

apt-get install haskell-mode mmm-mode

Next, add something like the following to your .emacs

(load-library "haskell-site-file")
;; Literate Haskell [requires MMM]
(require 'mmm-auto)
(require 'mmm-haskell)
(setq mmm-global-mode 'maybe)
(add-to-list 'mmm-mode-ext-classes-alist
   '(latex-mode "\\.lhs$" haskell))

Now I want to think about these files as LaTeX with bits of Haskell in them, so I tell auctex that .lhs files belong to it (also in .emacs)

(add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\.lhs\\'" . latex-mode))
(eval-after-load "tex"
    (add-to-list 'LaTeX-command-style '("lhs" "lhslatex"))
    (add-to-list 'TeX-file-extensions "lhs")))

In order that the


environment is typeset nicely, I want any latex file that uses the style lhs to be processed with the script lhslatex (hence the messing with LaTeX-command-style). At the moment I just have an empty lhs.sty, but in principle it could contain useful definitions, e.g. the output from lhs2TeX on a file containing only

%include polycode.fmt

The current version of lhslatex is a bit crude. In particular it assumes you want to run pdflatex.

The upshot is that you can use AUCTeX mode in the LaTeX part of the buffer (i.e. TeX your buffer) and haskell mode in the \begin{code}\end{code} blocks (i.e. evaluate the same buffer as Haskell).

Posted Sat 05 Jul 2008 12:00:00 AM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

To convert an svn repository containing only "/debian" to something compatible with git-buildpackage, you need to some work. Luckily zack already figured out how.


mkdir $package
cd $package
git-svn init --stdlayout --no-metadata svn://svn.debian.org/debian-science/$package
git-svn fetch
# drop upstream branch from svn
git-branch -d -r upstream

# create a new upstream branch based on recipe from  zack
git-symbolic-ref HEAD refs/heads/upstream
git rm --cached -r .
git commit --allow-empty -m 'initial upstream branch'
git checkout -f master
git merge upstream
git-import-orig --pristine-tar --no-dch ../tarballs/${package}_${version}.orig.tar.gz

If you forget to use --authors-file=file then you can fix up your mistakes later with something like the following. Note that after some has cloned your repo, this makes life difficult for them.


name="David Bremner"

git clone alioth.debian.org:/git/debian-science/packages/$project $project.new
cd $project.new
git branch upstream origin/upstream
git branch pristine-tar origin/pristine-tar
git-filter-branch --env-filter "export GIT_AUTHOR_EMAIL='bremner@unb.ca' GIT_AUTHOR_NAME='David Bremner'" master upstream pristine-tar
Posted Fri 23 May 2008 12:00:00 AM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

I am in the process of migrating (to git) some debian packages from a subversion repository created with svn-inject -l 2, namely


Here is a script I wrote that seems to do the trick


set -x
# my debian packages live under $SVNROOT/debian, with layout 2
mkdir $stage
cd $stage
git-svn init --no-metadata \
    --trunk $SVNROOT/debian/trunk/$package \
    --branches $SVNROOT/debian/branches/upstream/$package \
    --tags $SVNROOT/debian/tags/$package 
git-svn fetch 
git branch -r upstream current
 cd ..
# git clone --bare loses some gunk from git-svn. Anyway we need a bare repo
git clone --bare $stage $1.git

rm -rf $stage

Your mileage may vary of course.

UPDATED Apparently 'git branch -r upstream current' no longer works, if it ever did. If anyone can psychically figure out what I wanted to do there, I'm happy to translate that into git.

Posted Sat 01 Mar 2008 12:00:00 AM AST Tags: /tags/debian

So you have a pdf form, and you want to fill it in on linux. You hate acrobat reader. Ok, so all six of you read on.

First install pdftk. If you are using debian,

apt-get install pdftk

If you are not using debian, first install debian :-).

Now you need a pdf file with form data. We suppose for the sake of argument that your file is foo.pdf. Try

pdftk foo.pdf dump_data_fields

Yes, the order of arguments is goofy. You should get some output that looks like

FieldType: Text
FieldName: M3
FieldFlags: 4194304
FieldJustification: Left
FieldType: Text
FieldName: D3
FieldFlags: 4194304
FieldJustification: Left

M3 and D3 are your field names. Now get my script which can convert this output into something useful. At this point you may want to reconsider how much you hate acrobat. Or investigate okular. Assuming you are still here, run

pdftk foo.pdf dump_data_fields | perl fields2pl.pl > foo.pl

This will give you a template that you can fill in. If you have to fill out the same form many times (e.g. an expense form), save this template somewhere. Now to fill in your form, you need a FDF file. One way to make one is to edit the template I made you create above, and then convert it to FDF. First install the FDF converter.

apt-get install libpdf-fdf-simple-perl

Now use something like genfdf.pl to make an fdf file.

perl genfdf.pl foo.pl > foo.fdf

You are almost there. To actually fill in the form, you use the command

pdftk foo.pdf fill_form foo.fdf output filled.pdf

If you do this all many times, consider making a Makefile. Here is a fragment

.SUFFIXES: .pdf .fdf .csv .gnumeric .pl

    pdftk Expenses.pdf fill_form $< output $@ 

    genfdf.pl $< > $@

example.pdf: example.fdf
example.fdf: example.pl
Posted Sun 06 Jan 2008 04:09:00 PM AST Tags: /tags/debian

I wanted to try out raw image processing with my Canon EOS 350D (Rebel XT). I have been using digikam for about a year now to edit and sort my photos, so I wanted to see if its (new) raw handling was usable.

The first thing I noticed was that handling of raw images in the viewer/editor was a little rough around the edges in the current release 0.9.2. A comment in the kde bug tracker suggested that some of these bugs were fixed in svn, so off I went.

Compiling from SVN went relatively smoothly. To avoid the hassles of having KDE pieces in /usr/local, I used the nifty (when it works) checkinstall to build debian packages. Because I have one debian package for all of the libs and one for digikam, this conflicts with several existing debian packages. Not to fear, just keep removing things and try dpkg -i again.

The next gotcha is that graphicsmagick on debian does not currently grok 16-bit (per channel) PNG images (Debian Bug). A workaround is to install imagemagick instead.

In our next exciting episode, I discuss workflow.

Posted Sun 23 Sep 2007 07:06:00 PM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

Another sad software story, with a happy ending.

  • pushmi provides a read/write mirror of an svn repository.

  • My repository is svn+ssh://, which normally works fine with ssh-agent.

  • Unfortunately pushmi relies on svn hooks to update the master repository, and svn in its wisdom does not preserve any environment variables, thus making ssh-agent not work very well.

  • A solution is to install the package keychain, which writes the ssh-agent environment variables out to disk (this sounds trivial, but it also finds the running ssh-agent without any configuration).
  • to both $REPOSITORY/hooks/pre-commit and $REPOSITORY/hooks/post-commit, add the following snippet to the beginning of the script

      if [ -f $KEYCHAINFILE ]; then
  • You might need to adjust the path if you are not me.

  • UPDATED You need the option --inherit local or --inherit all to keychain to get it to overwrite the previous version of its files.

Posted Mon 10 Sep 2007 06:39:00 PM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

I used the script by Franklin Piat to build a debian package from unreleased alsa sources. Works great once I remember the hardware volume control buttons. Doh!. A big shout-out to Franklin for what seems like a very clean solution.


As of version 1.0.15-2 I am using the default alsa-modules source package, compiled via module-assistant

Posted Thu 30 Aug 2007 01:09:00 PM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

Suspend to disk works ok out of the box, if you type (as root)

  echo -n disk > /sys/power/state

I like the command line and all, but somehow this is a bit tedious. To get Fn-F12 working, one has to first load the thinkpad-acpi module

modprobe thinkpad-acpi

Next, one has to enable the hotkey subdriver

echo enable > /proc/acpi/ibm/hotkey

These two steps can be automated by creating /etc/acpi/start.d/40-thinkpad-acpi.sh Finally, workaround a problem with the default /etc/acpi/hibernatebtn.sh. For some reason, acpi_fakekey is not doing its magic thing, so I replaced it with a call to hibernate.sh. There are already some bug reports about this in debian. Now that we enabled thinkpad-acpi hotkeys, we have to the same hack to /etc/acpi/sleepbtn.sh

Be warned, this will may not play nicely with the kde/gnome gui suspend/resume tools

Posted Wed 29 Aug 2007 04:14:00 AM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

First install the firmware:

 apt-get install firmware-iwlwifi

Next, rebuild the kernel and reboot (this is not strictly necessary, but it is what I did; other people can tell you other ways), so that you have the source for the kernel you are currently running available.

Download the latest kernel module source from intellwireless.org

Unpack, make (probably twice) su, make install


To avoid recompiling your kernel, you can follow the steps from Stuart Prescott

Posted Tue 28 Aug 2007 07:47:00 PM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

Out of the box, it will go to sleep (suspend to ram) when you hit Fn-F4, but on wakeup the backlight.
Based on a Ubuntu bug report (which I've now lost track of) that mentioned switching virtual terminals turned the backlight back on, I created /etc/apci/resume.d/99-switchvt.sh to automate that Not the most beautiful solution in the world, but it works. I have submitted a [[http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=439914][debian bug]]

  • UPDATED Another workaround is to add the kernel parameter : acpi_sleep=s3_bios
Posted Tue 28 Aug 2007 05:24:00 PM ADT Tags: /tags/debian

(lenny/sid) on a thinkpad x61. Initially I was running the stock 2.6.22-1-686 kernel; to get wifi going I decided to rebuild the kernel. I have installed the acpi-support package, which then requires some hacking. The various issues are tagged x61

Posted Tue 28 Aug 2007 03:43:00 PM ADT Tags: /tags/debian