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Next Debian Meetup in Zurich //at 20:16 //by abe

from the beat-the-drum dept.

The first Debian meetup in Zurich last month was quite a success and I look forward to further Debian meetups in Zurich — every first Tuesday of the month.

The next meetup will be

on Tuesday, 2013-Dec-03 starting at 18:30 CET
at St. Gallerhof, Konradstrasse 2, 8005 Zurich

Please note that this is a different location than last month.

Everybody who is interested in Debian is welcome to join us. Registering is not necessary.

There was also some interest in Debian meetups in other Swiss cities, namely Bern and somewhere around Lac Leman. In case you want a Debian meetup elsewhere in Switzerland, too, or if you’re interested in any Debian meetup in Switzerland, feel free to join the Swiss Debian Community Mailing List and help organising other Swiss Debian meetups.


New web browsers in Wheezy //at 16:14 //by abe

Since there is so much nice new stuff in Debian Wheezy, I have to split up my contributions to Mika’s #newinwheezy game on Planet Debian.

Here’s the next bunch, this time web browsers:

Dillo Screenshot
The FLTK-based lightweight GUI web browser Dillo comes with its own rendering engine (no JavaScript, incomplete CSS support) was already in Debian before, but was removed before the release of Debian Squeeze, because Dillo 2 relied on FLTK 2.x which had an unclear license situation back then and never made it into Debian. In the meanwhile Dillo 3 relies on FLTK 1.3 as FLTK upstream abandoned the 2.0 branch and continued development on the 1.3 branch. So I brought Dillo back into Debian with its 3.0.x release.

Netsurf Screenshot
The RiscOS-originating lightweight GUI web browser Netsurf was already in Debian, too, but didn’t make it into Debian Squeeze as it needed the Lemon parser generator (part of the SQLite source) to build back then and a change in Lemon caused Netsurf to no more build properly in the wrong moment. Netsurf supports CSS 2.1, but has no JavaScript support either. I’d consider its rendering engine more complete than Dillo’s.

XXXTerm Screenshot
surf and xxxterm
Surf and XXXTerm are both simple and minimalistic webkit-based browsers. Surf is easy to embed in other applications and XXXTerm features vi-like keybindings for heavy keyboard users.

To be continued… ;-)

New SSH-related stuff in Wheezy //at 15:28 //by abe

Mika had the nice idea of doing a #newinwheezy game on Planet Debian, so let’s join:

There are (at least) two new SSH related tools new in Debian Wheezy:

is the “mobile shell”, an UDP based remote shell terminal which works better than SSH in case of lag, packet loss or other forms of bad connection. I wrote about mosh in more detail about a year ago. mosh is also available for Debian Squeeze via squeeze-backports.
is somewhere between port-forwarding and VPN. It allows forward arbitrary TCP connections over an SSH connection without the need to configure individual port forwardings. It does not need root access on the server-side either. I wrote about sshuttle in more detail about a year ago.

To be continued… ;-)


Up to date Aptitude Documentation Online //at 12:51 //by abe

from the Preliminiary-Edition dept.

Aptitude ships documentation in 7 languages as HTML files. However the latest version available online was from 2008 and hosted on the server by the previous, now unfortunately inactive Aptitude maintainer, and only covered 5 languages.

This lack of up to date online documentation even caused others to put more up to date versions online. Nevertheless they age, too, and the one I’m aware is not up to date for Wheezy.

So the idea was born to keep an up to date version online on Aptitude’s Alioth webspace (which currently redirects to a subdirectory of the previous maintainer’s personal website). But unfortunately we, the current Aptitude Team, are still lacking administrative rights on Aptitude’s Alioth project, which would be necessary to assign new team members who could work on that.

As an intermediate step, there’s now a (currently ;-) up to date Aptitude User’s Manual online in all 7 languages at

and English at

As this location could also suffer from the same MIA issues as any other “personal” copy, the plan is to move this to somewhere under as soon as we have full access to Aptitude’s Alioth project.

Our plans for then are:

P.S.: Anyone interested in doing a German translation of the Aptitude User’s Manual? Sources are in DocBook, i.e. XML, and available via Git.


zutils: zcat and friends on Steroids //at 01:18 //by abe

from the DWIM-again dept.

I recently wrote about tools to handle archives conveniently. If you just have to handle compressed text files, there are some widely known shortcut commands to mimic common commands on files compressed with a specific compression format.

  gzip bzip2 lzma xz
cat zcat bzcat lzcat xzcat
cmp zcmp bzcmp lzcmp xzcmp
diff zdiff bzdiff lzdiff xzdiff
grep zgrep bzgrep lzgrep xzgrep
egrep zegrep bzegrep lzegrep xzegrep
fgrep zfgrep bzfgrep lzfgrep xzfgrep
more zmore bzmore lzmore xzmore
less zless bzless lzless xzless

In Debian and derivatives, those tools are part of the according package for that compression utility, i.e. the zcat command is part of the gzip package and the xzfgrep command is part of the xz-utils package.

But despite this matrix is quite easy to remember, the situation has a few drawbacks:

  • Those tools can only handle the format they’re written for (which btw. means that all xz-tools can also handle lzma-compressed files as lzma is xz’s predecessor)
  • zcat and the other cat variants can’t even recognize non-compressed files and throw an error instead of just showing their contents.
  • I always tend to think that lzcat and friends are for lzip-based compression as xzcat can handle lzma-compressed files anyway.

This is where the zutils project comes in: zutils provides the functionality of most of these utilities, too, but with one big difference: You don’t have to remember, think about or type which compression method has been used for your data, just use zcat, zcmp, zdiff, zgrep, zegrep, or zfgrep and it works — independently of what compression method has been used — if any — or if there are different compression types mixed in the parameters to the same command:

$ zfgrep foobar bla.txt fnord.gz hurz.xz quux.lz bar.lzma

Especially if you use logrotate and let logrotate compress old logs, it’s very comfortable that one command suffices to concatenate all the available logfiles, including the current uncompressed one:

$ zcat /var/log/syslog* | …

Additionally, zutils’ versions of these tools also support lzip-compressed files.

The zutils package is available in Debian starting with Wheezy and in Ubuntu since Oneiric. When being installed, it replaces the original z* utilities from the gzip package by diverting them away.

The only drawback so far is that there neither a zless nor a zmore utility from the zutils project, so zless bla.txt fnord.gz hurz.xz quux.lz bar.lzma will not work as expected even after installing zutils as it is still the one from the gzip package and hence it will show you just the first two files in plain text, but not the remaining ones.


deepgrep: grep nested archives with one command //at 02:00 //by abe

from the grep-revisited dept.

Several months ago, I wrote about grep everything and listed grep-like tools which can grep through compressed files or specific data formats. The blog posting sparked several magazine articles and talks by Frank Hofmann and me.

Frank recently noticed that we though missed one more or less mighty tool so far. We missed it, because it’s mostly unknown, undocumented and hidden behind a package name which doesn’t suggest a real recursive “grep everything”:


deepgrep is part of the Debian package strigi-utils, a package which contains utilities related to the KDE desktop search Strigi.

deepgrep especially eases the searching through tar balls, even nested ones, but can also search through zip files and documents (which are actually zip files).

deepgrep seems to support at least the following archive and compression formats:

  • tar
  • ar, and hence deb
  • rpm (but not cpio)
  • gzip/gz
  • bzip2/bz2
  • zip, and hence jar/war and documents
  • MIME messages (i.e. files attached to e-mails)

A search in an archive which is deeply nested looks like this:

$ deepgrep bar

deepgrep though neither seems to support any LZMA based compression (lzma, xz, lzip, 7z), nor does it support lzop, rzip, compress (.Z suffix), cab, cpio, xar, or rar.

Further current drawbacks of deepgrep:

  • Nearly no commandline options, especially none of the common grep options
  • No man-page or other documentation
  • Exit code not related to search results, you have to check the output to see if something has been found


If you just need the file names of the files in nested archives, the package also contains the tool deepfind which does nothing else than to list all files and directories in a given set of archives or directories:

$ deepfind

As with deepgrep, deepfind does not implement any common options of it’s normal sister tool find.

[The following part has been added on 17-Nov-2012]

As with deepgrep, it also doesn’t seem to support any of the more modern or more exotic compression formats, i.e. it fails on modern debian binary packages which use xz compression on the data part:

deepfind xulrunner-18.0_18.0\~a2+20121109042012-1_amd64.deb

[End of part added at 17-Nov-2012]


The package strigi-utils doesn’t pull in the complete Strigi framework (i.e. no daemon), just a few libraries (libstreams, libstreamanalyzer, and libclucene). On Wheezy it also pulls in some audio/video decoding libraries which may make some server administrators less happy.


Both tools are quite limited to some basic use cases, but can be worth a fortune if you have to work with nested archives. Nevertheless the claim in the Debian package description of strigi-utils that they’re “enhanced” versions of their well known counterparts is IMHO disproportionate.

Most of the missing features and documentation can be explained by the primary purpose of these tools: Being backend for desktop searches. I guess, there wasn’t much need for proper commandline usage yet. Until now. ;-)

And yes, I was curious enough to let deepfind have a look at (the one from SecurityFocus, unzip seems not able to unpack from due a missing version compatibility) and since it just traverses the archive sequentially, it has no problem with that, needing just about 5 MB of RAM and a lot of time:

deepfind  11644.12s user 303.89s system 97% cpu 3:24:02.46 total

I though won’t try deepgrep on ;-)


Useful but Unknown Unix Tools: dwdiff better than wdiff + colordiff //at 01:18 //by abe

from the colordiff-revisited dept.

A year ago I wrote in Useful but Unknown Unix Tools: How wdiff and colordiff help to choose the right Swiss Army Knife about using wdiff and colordiff together. Colordiff’ed wdiff output looks like this:

$ wdiff foobar.txt barfoo.txt | colordiff
[-foo-]bar fnord
gnarz hurz quux
bla {+foo+} fasel

But if you have colour, why still having these hard to read wdiff markers still in the text?

There exists a tool named dwdiff which can do word diffs in colour without textual markers and with even less to type (and without being git diff --color-words ;-). Actually it looks like git diff --color-words, just without the git:

$ dwdiff -c foobar.txt barfoo.txt
foo bar fnord
gnarz hurz quux
bla foo fasel

Another cool thing about dwdiff (and its name giving feature) is that you can defined what you consider whitespace, i.e. which character(s) delimit the words. So lets do the example above again, but this time declare that “f” is considered the only whitespace character:

$ dwdiff -W f -c foobar.txt barfoo.txt
foo bar bar fnord
gnarz hurz quux
bla foo fasel

dwdiff can also show line numbers:

$ dwdiff -c -L foobar.txt barfoo.txt
   1:1    foo bar fnord
   2:2    gnarz hurz quux
   3:3    bla foo fasel
$ dwdiff -c -L foobar.txt quux.txt
   1:1    foo bar fnord
   1:2    foobar floedeldoe
   2:3    gnarz hurz quux
   3:4    bla foo fasel

(coloured shell screenshots by aha)

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Hackergotchi of Axel Beckert


Debian GNU/Linux is my favourite Linux distribution, being stable, flexible, consistent and having a great community. Although I'm not the biggest bug report writer, I try to contribute by staffing the Debian booth at events, carrying the necessary hardware there or even organising the whole booth.

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