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Segmentation faulty tree //at 21:29 //by abe

from the made-my-day dept.

aptitude on Etch just gave me a funny error message:

1/0/0 root@c2:pts/2 21:14:24 [~] # aptitude upgrade 
Reading package lists... Done
Segmentation faulty tree... 87%
2/139/0 root@c2:pts/2 21:14:43 [~] # 

Ctrl-Ms can be nice sometimes…


Goodbye Woody, Welcome Etch //at 10:54 //by abe

from the old-hardware-never-dies-it-just-gets-new-software dept.

It finally happened. I installed Debian Etch on my last Woody box, a 400 MHz Pentium II with 576 MB RAM named gsa which is my home desktop since I bought it at LinuxTag 2003 in Karlsruhe.

And no I didn’t do a dist-upgrade, neither direct no via Sarge. As already planned I removed some no more necessary operating systems from that box and installed Etch on the freed disk space. Woody is still installed on that box in parallel and was recognized perfectly by Etch’s installer.

I took a few hours but also was big fun to go through Etch package list and to decide what to install. Overall the installation of 5 GB of software took about half a day.

In general everything went fine, the only thing I’m yet missing is sound. Etch didn’t seem to recognize my soundcard at all although it’s a well-known brand and defacto standard for many other soundcards: a Creative Labs Soundblaster. Well, the 16-Bit ISA version, needing the full length of the slot. Worked fine under Woody. Well, I hope I’ll get it working again manually.

What on the other hand is really nice with udev hell —eh— hal and all those new automatic bells and whistles: The desktop (well, at least GNOME Nautilus as well as XFCE, but probably also KDE) recognises when I insert a 3.5” floppy into the drive and shows me a nice floppy icon on the desktop. You think, that’s impossible? Floppy drives don’t inform the rest of the system when a floppy has been inserted without you polling the drive every few seconds? Well, USB floppy drives can. And they do. :-)

I still need time to migrate all the old settings from Woody to Etch. I’ll probably stick with FVWM, but perhaps will use the GNOME enabled version. What’s already done is the migration from tcsh to zsh. On all new or dist-upgraded systems after Etch I’ve chosen zsh so with my last Woody installation retiring I’ve also fully migrated to zsh.

So I’ve got now most of my active private boxes running Etch. Only the web and mail server “sym” (an amd64 box) as well as my 133 MHz ThinkPad “bijou” are still running Sarge, both with 2.6 kernels.

So with switching to Etch on gsa, I also got no more Debian box running a 2.4 kernel. The only 2.4 kernel I run is on my FreeWRT WLAN router named pluriel, which runs But I expect that 2.6.18 will be as stable and long lasting as the famous and rock-solid 2.4.18 from Woody. 18 seems to be Debian’s favourite kernel minor version recently. ;-)


The Software Museum inside the Software Museum //at 13:40 //by abe

from the made-my-day dept.

Most Linuxers know that Debian and most of its users prefer stable software over up-to-date software. So do I, but sometimes this goes a little bit too far, e.g. when I find software which has been compiled years before the first line of Linux kernel code has been written:

C:\>ls +version
GNU ls, Version (compiled Sep 19 1990 12:43:10 for MS-DOS)

C:\>ls -alF gnu\
total 521
drwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou     4096 Mar 26 23:16 ./
drwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou     4096 Mar 26 23:17 ../
-rwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou    17868 Sep 19  1990 cat.exe*
-rwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou    20028 Sep 19  1990 cmp.exe*
-rwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou    26780 Sep 19  1990 cp.exe*
-rwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou    17948 Sep 19  1990 cut.exe*
-rwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou    27138 Sep 24  1990 grep.exe*
-rwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou    16572 Sep 19  1990 head.exe*
-rwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou    27756 Sep 19  1990 ls.exe*
-rwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou    23100 Sep 19  1990 mv.exe*
-rwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou    19820 Sep 23  1990 rm.exe*
-rwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou    37644 Sep 19  1990 tac.exe*
-rwxrwxrwx   1 anonymou anonymou    20188 Sep 19  1990 tail.exe*


And yes, this looks like DOS. This is FreeDOS (1:0.0.b9r5a-3) inside of dosemu, packaged for Debian 4.0 Etch and installed from the original Debian archives.

BTW, the date looks quite authentic: According to the ChangeLog, Version 1.4 of the GNU Fileutils have been released on the 9th of September 1990. The oldest version of the GNU Fileutils (nowadays coreutils) available on the GNU FTP server is version 3.13 from July 1996, though.

I really wonder how many buffer overflows this version has. And I wonder if there’s really a scenario in which this combination (Debian → dosemu → FreeDOS → GNU fileutils) could be exploited.


Gaia resurrection //at 20:35 //by abe

from the popular-request-for-addiction dept.

On Thursday, 24th of November 2006 evening (about one and a half week ago) we got an anonymous Symlink submission about gaia 0.1.0, a simple, but free (GPL‘ed) client for Google Earth, solely based on reverse engineering. Liked the idea of a really free client for such a popular service, so I posted it as Symlink article (German) quite shortly after noticing the submisson.

Since it’s under GPL and uses only libraries already being in Debian (OpenGL, SCons, cURL, SDL, libjpeg, libpng, libgps and Doxygen), I really would like to see it in Debian. But since I have never programmed with most of them, I did not try to compile gaia but instead took the easy way for myself and filed an RFP bug for it in Debian.

The next day in office, Gürkan, a coworker of mine and currently in NM, told me that he tries to package gaia for Debian and that it doesn’t compile on Sarge. So I gave him access to my Sid chroot and asked him if he has read about the RFP at debian-devel or debian-wnpp. To my surprise he answered that he didn’t read about it on Debian lists at all but on Symlink and therefore didn’t knew about the RFP at all.

So I pointed him to the RFP just to notice, that it wasn’t an RFP anymore but already an ITP. Strangely I didn’t get any mail notice about this change although the retitling happend only shortly after the initial RFP… Of couse, Gürkan wasn’t very happy about this, since he planned to maintain gaia himself, but at least he provided his working proof of concept package for Sid to Jordà Polo who intends to maintain an official Debian package of gaia. We then also met Jordà on the #debian-games channel in OFTC. He told us, that he’ll check some more licensing issues before uploading a package of gaia.

Well, since I had a working gaia package installed in my Sid chroot, you can probably imagine what I did half the evening? Right: Surfing around the earth with gaia and visiting my favourite places on earth. While virtually visiting places here and there, I listened to Venty’s first podcasts and seem to have downloaded 444 MB of Google Earth images (at least according to du -sh ~/.gaia). Goddamned addiction! ;-)

During the night from Friday to Saturday, I got a mail that the RFP/ITP has been closed and that Jordà was right with his suspiciousness: Google has sent a cease and desist letter to the gaia developers and they removed the downloads from their site. (So how was that Google motto? “Don’t be evil”? Well, good joke! Yet again the monopolist clearly shows that it doesn’t really mean what it says.) Since the gaia developers were allowed to post the mail from Google on their website, you can read parts of it there. I really wonder what was written in the left out parts of the mails. Job offers? ;-)

But it’s interesting to see that until one week ago gaia 0.1.0 already made it into the FreeBSD ports as well as into the ArchLinux User Repository. Both noticed, too, that gaia version 0.1.0 has been withdrawn by the authors.

Today in the morning Gürkan noticed that there’s a new version (0.1.1) of gaia at SourceForge using free NASA WorldWind / OnEarth imagery. Although the imagery is far away from the detailedness of the Google Earth imagery, this has one big advantage: There wasn’t really a X port for the windows-only client from NASA until now. (No real wonder, since they use proprietary and operating specific libraries such as .NET and DirectX…) And now we have gaia, a free client for free imagery on free operating systems. That made my day!

I hope that this will revive the packaging of gaia, at least Gürkan has already built a new proof of concept package of 0.1.1 for Sid. (Today in the afternoon, they released 0.1.2.) And if everything goes fine and Dunc-Bank manages to delay Etch until gaia has been 10 days in Unstable without bugs, we’ll have it even in Etch. ;-)


wApua now in Debian Unstable //at 00:38 //by abe

from the debut dept.

Hey, the actual version 0.06 of my Perl written WAP browser wApua now is in Debian Sid!

It’s the first software written by me which has entered the Debian repository as its own package (since pum is included in the package pisg which is in testing now for a while) as well as the first software debianized by me which reached Debian Unstable.

Things are always exciting when they happen the first time. ;-)

Thanks to Myon for sponsoring the package.


Goodbye Woody, Welcome Sarge (Penultimate Part) //at 16:17 //by abe

from the It's-time-to-say-goodbye dept.

Since security support for Woody ceased recently, and with Kazehakase I’ve found a reasonable successor in Sarge for Galeon 1.2.x, I’ve dist-upgraded my 10 years old Pentium I ThinkPad bijou to Sarge this weekend. Even the XFree86 4, which made so much hassles in Woody by not regcognising nor configuring the graphics card correctly, worked fine from scratch. Well, at least after installing xfonts-base and xfonts-75dpi — the -transcoded versions somehow gave only the error message “default font ‘fixed’ not found”.

So goodbye Galeon, goodbye GNU Emacs 20, goodbye XFree86 3.3. I hope, I won’t miss you. Only my desktop gsa at home still runs Woody, but will be dist-upgraded soon, too.

What though still stayed on my laptop from Woody is Siag Office, since there is no adequate replacement for such a nice office suite with such a low resource footprint.

But it has also an impact on the talks I hold. I held all talks with a patched version of lynx (e.g. with LSS support) as presentation tool on that laptop because initially I didn’t get X running on that box. What started as a makeshift became my hallmark…

But I didn’t manage to get Sarge’s lynx patched so that it gives me the same output as my old version did. So either I would have to reoptimise the layout of my talks for a new lynx version or just start with something new.

Madduck recently showed me python-docutils, which he uses for presentations. Maybe I’ll use that although I have a severe aversion against Python. So it may also be that I’ll stick with WML, but get some new ideas from python-docutils how to use HTML for presentations.

Update: Found out that the interesting part of his presentation technic wasn’t python-docutils but S5: A Simple Standards-Based Slide Show System which in entirely written in XHTML, CSS and JavaScript. S5 is really cool stuff, one of the first cases of useful use of JavaScript, and will surely be used for my next presentation — with Debian Sarge and Kazehakase on a Pentium I ThinkPad. ;-)


New talk proposal, new Linux distribution found //at 01:47 //by abe

from the ray-of-hope dept.

After talking with some LinuxTag guys about which kind of talks are still missing for the upcoming LinuxTag, I submitted another proposal for a still only roughly sketched talk: KISS – Keep it simple and stupid, also on the web.

KISS – “Keep it simple and stupid” is an old and successful principle in the Unix world: Small and simple programs, doing only one thing, but they’re doing perfect, fast and reliable. This principle can also work on the web and make webservers or surf terminals out of already discharged computers.

I planned to show “simple” (or at least “simple to use”) tools like Blosxom or the Website Meta Language, a more slim webserver than Apache (e.g. fefe’s fnord or one of the ACME webservers thttpd, mini_httpd or micro_httpd), slim web-browsers (e.g. like Dillo, Opera, glinks, ViewML or Minimo) and one or more Linux distributions optimized for low end PCs. While thinking about low end PCs, usually the following distributions come to my mind: DeLi Linux, fli4l and Debian Woody.

But none of them seems to fit for my talk as perfectly as I would like:

  • DeLi Linux is no bad distribution, since it’s designed especially for 386 to Pentium I, but I have some strong disagreements with the maintainer of DeLi Linux, since he sees a very small package list as necessary requirement for a distribution for old PCs. He states that distributions for old PCs “don’t have that many harddisk space” (beyond other, more realistic arguments — but it seemed to be his main argument) while I see a rich package diversity as an quality criteria. (One of the reasons, why I like Debian and dislike Ubuntu.) So I’m not sure if I should present a very raped DeLi Linux to the audience, just to make it fit my needs, although I’m quite curious about his upcoming 0.7 release with the low end, KHTML based ViewML webbrowser. (Apart from me seeing PHP5 and KDE as a big nono on old PCs…)
  • Although I still like Debian Woody very much (you know that old story… ;-), it is just too old for making a talk about how to turn old PCs into being usable again. Sarge would be fine, but it was suggested to showcase an easy and fast way to get something ready to run, and I can’t give the auditors a list of all the Debian packages with low resource consumption and therefore usable on low end PCs.
  • I haven’t used it yet, but fli4l seems to be very good distribution to turn an old PC into a ISDN or DSL router, even without harddisk. The last time I had a look at fli4l, it used an Apache as (optional) webserver, which wouldn’t fit into my scheme, since I would like to show an alternative to Apache. But as I found out today the recently released version 3.0 of fli4l uses the already mentioned ACME mini_httpd. Cool! They’re on the right way! ;-) Unfortunately it only seems to be used for serving information pages about the fli4l status and not as common webserver. (Please correct me, if this is wrong! I would appreciate it, if I’m wrong at this point. :-)

Since I first read about viewml on the DeLi Linux page, I looked for Debian packages of viewml today. apt-cache search hasn’t found anything on Woody or Sarge and is still down, so I used Google. I found out,  that there at least was a viewml package in Debian since at least 2001, so I expect, it just didn’t make it to stable.

But I also found this interesting page on a webserver called Ubuntu Lite? That sounds very interesting, since I see Ubuntu not as the baddest idea (expect for it’s horribly resource hunger and only offering one package per application by default ;-), but having an Ubuntu derivative prepackaged for low end PCs and with several webbrowsers instead of only Epiphany (and probably Firefox, don’t they?) would be perfect for my purpose.

So I’m currently downloading an Ubuntu Lite ISO and will give it a try on one of my Pentium MMX boxes. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to support Pentium I or AMD K5 since Ubuntu itself only supports i686 and upwards. :-/

But this also means, that it’s no occasion for my Pentium I Compaq LTE 5100 (which I probably will name pony), but currently, after Bartosz’ recent post on Planet Debian, it looks like Debian GNU/kFreeBSD could also be an interesting OS, since it fits all requirements perfectly: Free, Modern, Exotic and all conveniences of Debian. ;-)

Now Playing: Jefferson Starship — We Built This City

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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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  • Bastian Sick: Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod (Teile 1-3)
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