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xen-tools back in Debian Unstable //at 13:54 //by abe

from the RM-ITP-NEW dept.

After xen-tools had been removed from Debian Unstable by the upstream developer last December due to no more upstream development, I took over upstream development as well as Debian package maintainership in January.

Since then a lot happened:

  • Development moved from Mercurial to a set of git repositories at
  • Dmitry Nedospasov joined my effort to revive xen-tools.
  • Via gitorious’ clone tracking we noticed that there were useful patches in clones of xen-tools and incorporated most of them back into our master branch.
  • We created a second mailing list xen-tools-dev which is mainly thought for communication between the xen-tools developers.
  • The website and the xen-tools mailing lists moved from Steve’s to my server. The website has been slightly overhauled and the mailing lists now use Mailman.
  • Support for all recent Debian and Ubuntu releases including Squeeze and Lucid.
  • Full support for pygrub and DomU distribution kernels installed in the DomU. Now you easily can install DomUs whose udev doesn’t fit to your Dom0 kernel.
  • Full support for cdebootstrap in addition to debootstrap.
  • Tons of bugs fixed
  • I’m on the quest to find the holy grail of bug tracking systems. ;-) More on this in another blog posting.

But despite all the things which were to fix after Steve discontinued the xen-tools developement, Steve Kemp did a great job to bring xen-tools so far initially. I’m really happy that this software exists and that’s the reason why I won’t let it die so fast. :-)

xen-tools 4.2 beta 1 released

Last weekend I released xen-tools 4.2 beta 1 which I also uploaded to Debian Unstable. And thanks to the active ftp-master team, xen-tools went through the NEW queue in less than 12 hours and is now available again in Debian Unstable.

4.2 beta 1 still has some known bugs, the worst ones are in xen-delete-image. But no fear, it doesn’t delete more than wanted, just not enough or things which don’t exist anyway. :-) There are also some smaller issues to fix for a final 4.2 release.

We may also create an PPA for Ubuntu Lucid in the future to work around the lack of xen-tools in Ubuntu Lucid.

What about Fedora/RedHat/CentOS support?

Since rinse is out of date with regards to current Fedora releases, rpmstrap seems to be out of date for even longer (it has been removed from Debian before the Lenny release) and febootstrap neither seems to work out of the box nor seems to support bootstrapping to mount points (because it wants to delete them first and fails), bootstrapping Fedora ist currently not supported. The “copy” installation method should work though.

rinse still is able to bootstrap CentOS 4 and 5, but the installation seems incomplete. We’ll try to work around these issues for the final 4.2 release.

We haven’t looked at mach and mock so far, but according to Lucas, both are out of date, too.

Sure, implementing Lucas’ howto in form of a script would be a possible way, but we think it would just create yet another not so well supported clone of rinse, rpmstrap, mach, mock or febootstrap.

Because of that, Dmitry works on support for the installation of Xen DomUs via kickstart.

Fate of xen-shell?

Xen-shell has also been removed from Debian Unstable last December because Steve stopped its developement, too.

But in comparison to xen-tools itself, we didn’t resurrect xen-shell since none of us currently has use for it.

So if you are currently using xen-shell and intend to continue to do so, you should hurry up if you want to see it in Debian Squeeze. We can also help you, but we surely can’t and won’t do it alone nor will we take the majority of the necessary workload.

Monday·01·February·2010 //at 02:02 //by abe

from the finally dept.

On Wednesday I got DAM approval and since Saturday late evening I’m officially a Debian Developer. Yay! :-)

My thanks go to

  • Christoph Berg (Myon) whom I know for more than a decade since we studied together, and who’s career in Debian was way faster than mine, but who on the other hand probably knows me better than nobody else in Debian — which made him the perfect advocate;
  • Bernd Zeimetz (bzed) whom I know from my times at DaLUG and who was the friendliest Application Manager I could imagine — he’s probably also one of the fastest (8 days from application to AM report :-);
  • Luca Capello (gismo), who was the most demanding but also most inspiring sponsor I ever had and who became a very good friend after we found each other over my package conkeror.
  • Arne Wichmann (Y_Plentyn) for being my first drop-in center for Debian questions (like “can I directly dist-upgrade from 2.0 to 3.0?” :-);
  • Martin Zobel-Helas (zobel) who was always encouraging me to continue exploring new sides of Debian;
  • Gerfried Fuchs (Rhonda) just for being there (and for being a package maintainer with good relations to upstream ;-);
  • my coworkers at the IT Services Group of the Department of Physics at ETH Zurich, who always found new challenges in Debian for me to solve;
  • … and all those others who offered to also advocate me (e.g. Otavio Salvador) or sponsored my packages so far (or at least offered to do so), e.g. Alexander Wirt (formorer), Martin F. Krafft (madduck), Robert Jördens (jordens), …

As Bernd cited in his AM report, my earliest activity within the Debian community I can remember was organising the Debian booth at 2003, where I installed Debian 3.0 Woody on my Hamilton Hamstation “hy” (a Sun SparcStation 4 clone).

I wrote my first bugreport in November 2004 (#283365), probably during the Sarge BSP in Frankfurt. And my first Debian package was wikipedia2text, starting to package it August 2005 (ITP #325417).

My only earlier documented interest in the Debian community is subscribing to the lists debian-apache@l.d.o and debian-emacsen@l.d.o in June 2002.

I though remember that I started playing around with Debian 2.0 Hamm, skipping 2.1 (for whatever reasons, I can’t remember), using 2.2 quite regularily and started to dive into with Woody which also ran on my first ThinkPad “bijou”. I installed it over WLAN with just a boot floppy at the Chemnitzer Linux-Tage. :-)

Anyway, this has led to what it had to lead — to a new Debian Developer. :-)

The first package I uploaded with my newly granted rights was a new conkeror snapshot. This version should work out of the box on Ubuntu again, so that conkeror in Ubuntu should not lag that much behind Debian Sid anymore.

In other News

Since Wednesday I own a Nokia N900 and use it as my primary mobile phone now. Although it’s not as free as the OpenMoko (see two other recent posts by Lucas Nussbaum and by Tollef Fog Heen on Planet Debian) it’s definitely what I hoped the OpenMoko will once become. And even if I can’t run Debian natively on the N900 (yet), it at least has a Debian chroot on it. :-)

I'm going to FOSDEM, the Free and Open Source Software Developers' European Meeting A few weeks ago, I took over the organisation of this year’s Debian booth at FOSDEM from Wouter Verhelst who’s busy enough with FOSDEM organisation itself.

Last Monday the organiser of the BSD DevRoom at FOSDEM asked on #mirbsd for talk suggestions and they somehow talked me into giving a talk about Debian GNU/kFreeBSD. The slides should show up during the next days on my Debian GNU/kFreeBSD talks page. I hope, I’ll survive that talk despite giving more or less a talk saying “Jehova!”. ;-)

What a week.


/var/cache/apt/ on tmpfs //at 16:44 //by abe

from the fine-tuning dept.

My ASUS EeePC 701 (4G) “nemo” running Debian Sid has a 4 GB SSD as main disk, which is on the one hand quite full (mostly with software I use, but also local working copies of software I work on) and on the other hand an SSD, so I always try to reduce the amount of write to disk without losing convenience. Similar issues have systems which run off a CF or SD card or maybe even an USB stick.

Since I ordered a 2 GB RAM bar together with the EeePC, I not bound to the 512 MB which it had originally. But on the other hand I seldom needed more than 1 GB of RAM. Usually I needed between 400 MB and 1 GB of RAM. So it’s quite obvious to use tmpfs on as many places as possible.

Making /tmp, /var/run and /var/lock tmpfs were the most obvious directories to mount as tmpfs. Especially /var/run on tmpfs brought up a few bugs a while ago (mostly init.d scripts relying on /var/run/$PACKAGENAME/’s existence), but it’s no hassles to use nowadays. Even in Debian Stable such bugs got fixed.

Next target to explore for was /var/cache. According to the FHS, /var/cache is intended for cached data from applications. […] The application must be able to regenerate or restore the data. So it should be safe to put anything under /var/cache on tmpfs.

One directory in there which gets written quite often and with a lot of data on Debian Unstable is /var/cache/apt and its subdirectories, especially /var/cache/apt/archives. If you update your Sid installation daily, all new or updated .debs will be downloaded to /var/cache/apt first.

So I put /var/cache/apt on tmpfs by putting the following line into /etc/fstab:

tmpfs /var/cache/apt tmpfs defaults,noexec,nosuid,nodev,mode=0755 0 0

But despite FHS stating that anything under /var/cache must be reproducible by the application, apt is puking and refusing to work:

!447 Z31 ?0 L1 root@nemo:pts/0 (-zsh) 16:13:10 [~] # apt-get update
E: Archive directory /var/cache/apt/archives/partial is missing.
!448 Z32 ?100 L1 root@nemo:pts/0 (-zsh) 16:13:17 [~] # 

If you create /var/cache/apt/archives/partial, it will also argue about /var/cache/apt/partial.

Of course the workaround is simple: Just put mkdir -p /var/cache/apt/partial /var/cache/apt/archives/partial in /etc/rc.local.

But nevertheless, this is a bug in apt – which already has been reported by madduck earlier this year (#523920). Unfortunately the APT maintainers have not yet even commented on this FHS violation and therefore also a Debian Policy (Section 9.1.1) violation.

One more thought about /var/cache/apt vs only /var/cache/apt/archives: apt-file also caches its data under /var/cache/apt. So if you want to use apt-file after a reboot and have /var/cache/apt mounted as tmpfs, you have to run apt-file update first and it will download all Contents files (can be dozens of megabytes) and not only the differences to previously downloaded Contents files.

So if you use apt-file a lot, you probably go better with making only /var/cache/apt/archives tmpfs and not whole /var/cache/apt.


Useless Statistics, the 2nd //at 19:35 //by abe

from the surprises dept.

Myon recently posted a nice statistic about popular single letter package name prefixes. Just out of curiosity I started wondering about popular single letter package name suffixes:

On a machine with Debian oldstable, stable, testing, unstable and experimental in its sources.list, I ran the following command:

$ apt-cache search -n . | \
    awk '{print $1}' | \
    sed -e 's/.$//' | \
    sort | \
    uniq -c | \
    sort -n

And to my surprise there is a non-obvious winner:

$ apt-cache search -n '^gp.$'
gpa - GNU Privacy Assistant
gpc - The GNU Pascal compiler
gpe - The G Palmtop Environment (GPE) metapackage
gpm - General Purpose Mouse interface
gpp - a general-purpose preprocessor with customizable syntax
gpr - GUI for lpr: print files and configure printer-specific options
gps - Graphical Process Statistics using GTK+
gpt - G-Portugol is a portuguese structured programming language
gpw - Trigraph Password Generator

But since I searched through the binary packages many other hits are more obvious, like the seven packages hbf-cns40-1 to hbf-cns40-7:

      4 ar
      4 aspell-f
      4 automake1.
      4 cpp-4.
      4 e
      4 g++-4.
      4 gappletviewer-4.
      4 gcc-4.
      4 gcj-4.
      4 gcompris-sound-e
      4 gfortran-4.
      4 gij-4.
      4 go
      4 gobjc-4.
      4 gobjc++-4.
      4 h
      4 iceweasel-l10n-e
      4 iceweasel-l10n-k
      4 kde-i18n-f
      4 kde-i18n-h
      4 kde-l10n-e
      4 kde-l10n-s
      4 kile-i18n-e
      4 koffice-i18n-e
      4 koffice-i18n-s
      4 koffice-l10n-e
      4 koffice-l10n-f
      4 libqbanking
      4 myspell-f
      4 myspell-h
      4 sd
      4 tcl8.
      4 tk8.
      5 aspell-e
      5 aspell-h
      5 iceweasel-l10n-s
      5 kde-i18n-b
      5 kde-i18n-e
      5 kde-i18n-t
      5 kde-l10n-k
      5 pa
      5 tc
      6 gc
      6 kde-i18n-s
      6 libdb4.
      6 m
      6 s
      7 hbf-cns40-
      9 gp

But there are also some other interesting observations to make:

  • seems to have by far the biggest number of localisations, with KDE being 2nd.
  • There are 6 version of the Berkeley DB in Debian: libdb4.2 to libdb4.7 (including oldstable as mentioned above)

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to find the full names of the other package names starting with s, m, gc, pa or tc and having just one additional character. ;-)


Tablet Amora runs on the OpenMoko FreeRunner (updated) //at 00:13 //by abe

from the PoC-packaging-for-PoC-software dept.

Amora (“A MObile Remote Assistant”) is a client/server suite which allows you to remote control an X desktop using a bluetooth enabled mobile phone. Initially there was only a Symbian client (running e.g. on nearly all Nokia E and N series phones), but J2ME clients are under developement, too.

Then there is Tablet Amora (aka Tamora), an Amora “proof of concept” client for the Maemo platform which runs on internet tablets like e.g. the linux based Nokia N770, N800, and N810. Since Maemo isn’t that far away from what runs on the OpenMoko, getting Tamora working on the OpenMoko, too, suggested itself.

Maemo seems to use the deb package format, too, just slightly extended (e.g. by package icons), so it wasn’t even that hard work to adapt the existing Maemo packaging to build, install and run on Debian, too.

So that’s how Tamora looks on the OpenMoko:

The packaging is still far away from Debian standards (throws tons of lintian warnings and the source package generation is b0rked), so yet there are no prebuilt debs available, but you can checkout amora-client from the Subversion repository and build the package from there:

 $ svn checkout amora-client
 $ cd amora-client
 $ debuild -uc -us
 $ cd ..
 # dpkg -i amora-client_0.1-2maemo+openmoko_all.deb

For running and installing tamora you need packages from the pkg-fso APT repository on alioth. And to build it, you need the libedje-bin which is available from the pkg-fso repository for at least the armel architecture, or else from Debian experimental. You can add these repositories to your sources.list as follows:

 # PKG FSO repository
 deb unstable main
 deb-src unstable main

 # Debian Experimental
 deb experimental main
 deb-src experimental main

Since Tamora is yet only a “proof of concept” client, currently only the following remote functions are available:

  • pressing arrow key right/left
  • pressing F5 (fullscreen for the Presenter)

This should though at least suffice for a presentation with the Presenter.

To use Tamora to remote control your Debian laptop, you need a bluetooth dongle (or builtin bluetooth support) and amora-server installed as with the Symbian S60 (3rd Edition) Amora client, too.

Update, 23:51

libedje-bin seem not available in the pkg-fso repository for every architecture. You’ll also find it in Debian experimental. Updated the sources.list section above appropriately. Thanks to Sebastian Montini for pointing out this problem.


The days of my last running Woody are numbered… //at 21:29 //by abe

from the times-are-changing dept.

As many of the Planet Debian readers know, I bemoan Galeon 1.2 and therefore Woody. For a long time I haven’t found an appropriate browser replacement for Galeon 1.2 in Sarge, so I never switched my home workstation called “gsa” (Pentium II, 400 MHz, 572 MB RAM) to Sarge, since Woody was rockstable and just worked.

Though, after a few Galeon 1.3/2.0 rants, someone pointed me to Kazehakase, which indeed is a fine Galeon 1.2 replacement. But I noticed that Kazehakase in Sarge was in an early stage and the Kazehakase from testing (now Etch) were already much more matured.

So in comparison to Sarge with Etch I won’t have the problem of not having a mature and sage web browser in main. And due to security support for Woody ceased a few months ago and Etch is now declared stable, it’s time to reinstall my last Woody box with Etch.

For that, a repartioning of it’s two hard disks (8 GB and 40 GB) sounds like a good idea and so I had look, what’s on all those partitions where I once had a shot on quite a few Linux distributions and other unix-like operating systems. (Although I was already a big fan of Debian at that time, I wanted to look over my own nose and ordered a few CDs of free operating system at

So here’s what I found, never really used and will throw away quite soon:

That should give enough space for an Etch installation without touching the Woody installation first. Thanks to Venty, I’ve got a DVD drive for that box, so I can install from DVD.

And for toying around with all those other neat and free operating systems nowadays, I’ve got my MicroClient Jr. named “c2”.


Axel’s Cruftiness Theorem //at 19:37 //by abe

from the my-systems-are-all-uncrufty dept.

Theorem: If aptitude is used, set to automatically remove unneeded packages and every not willingly installed package is marked auto, the system’s cruftiness is always 0.

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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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