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Searching in Screen’s copy mode //at 23:43 //by abe

from the It-would-be-neat-if-that-would-work.-Oh,-it-does-work! dept.

I’m using GNU Screen daily for definitely more than a decade and I became maintainer of Debian’s screen package nearly exactly two years ago. Nevertheless it still happens occassionally that I discover features yet unknown to me. Recently I had one of these moments again:

I looked for a specific line in the long output of a command which has run inside a Screen session. For that I entered Screen’s copy mode with Ctrl-A [ and scrolled around with arrow keys and page-up and -down keys.

But didn’t find it. I thought, it would be cool if I can search for the string I’m looking for. Intuïtively I typed /, the search string and pressed enter. And it worked! It jumped to the next occurrence of that string.

Of course I immediately had to check if tmux has such a feature, too. And it indeed has, but it seems to be a less sophisticated implementation:

Feature Key-binding in GNU Screen Key-binding in Tmux
Switch into copy/scroll mode
(needed for the remainder)
Ctrl-A [ Ctrl-B [
Search for string once, forward / + string + Enter Ctrl-S + string + Enter
Search for string once, backward ? + string + Enter Ctrl-R + string + Enter
Search for string again, forward / Enter Ctrl-S Enter
Search for string again, backward ? Enter Ctrl-R Enter
Incremental search for string, forward Ctrl-S + string -
Incremental search for string, backward Ctrl-R + string -
(Incremental) search for next occurrence, forward Ctrl-S again -
(Incremental) search for next occurrence, backward Ctrl-R again -

Being able to do incremental search like with GNU Emacs gave me yet another reason for continuing to use Screen and not to switch Tmux. ;-)


How to make wget honour Content-Disposition headers //at 16:12 //by abe

from the DWIM dept.

Download links often point to CGI scripts which actually generate (or just fetch, i.e. proxy) the actual file to be downloaded, e.g. URLs like

Most of such CGI scripts send the real file name in the Content-Disposition header as specified in the MIME Specification.

All browsers I know (well, at least those I use regularily :-) handle that perfectly and propose the file name sent in the Content-Disposition header as file name for saving the downloaded name which is usually exactly what I want.

All browsers do that, …, just not my favourite commandline download tool GNU Wget … Downloading the above URL with wget would look like this with default settings:

$ wget ''
--2013-10-02 16:04:16--
Resolving (, 2606:2800:220:6d:26bf:1447:1097:aa7
Connecting to (|2606:2800:220:6d:26bf:1447:1097:aa7|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 2020 (2.0K) [text/plain]
Saving to: `download.cgi?file=foobar.txt'

100%[============================================>] 2,020       --.-K/s   in 0s

2013-10-02 16:04:24 (12.5 MB/s) - `download.cgi?file=foobar.txt' saved [2020/2020]


But luckily Wget can do that, it’s just not enabled by default — because it’s an experimental and possibly buggy feature, at least according to the man page. Well, works for me! :-)

You can easily enabled it by default for either your user or the whole system by placing the following line in your ~/.wgetrc or /etc/wgetrc:

content-disposition = on

Given the CGI script sends an appropriate Content-Disposition header, the above output now looks like this:

$ wget ''
--2013-10-02 16:04:16--
Resolving (, 2606:2800:220:6d:26bf:1447:1097:aa7
Connecting to (|2606:2800:220:6d:26bf:1447:1097:aa7|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 2020 (2.0K) [text/plain]
Saving to: `foobar.txt'

100%[============================================>] 2,020       --.-K/s   in 0s

2013-10-02 16:04:24 (12.5 MB/s) - `foobar.txt' saved [2020/2020]

Now Wget does what I mean!

You can also set this as flag on the commandline, but typing wget --content-disposition … everytime is surely not what I want. ;-)


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… ;-)


Rendering Markdown, Asciidoc and Friends automatically while Editing //at 15:41 //by abe

from the also-small-tools-can-make-people-happy dept.

Partially because of Markdown being Github’s markup format of choice, I enjoy writing documents in simple markup formats more and more.

There’s though one common annoyance with these formats compared to writing plain HTML

The Annoyance

They need to be rendered (i.e. more or less compiled) before you can view your outpourings rendered, e.g. in the web browser. So the workflow usually is:

  1. Saving the current file in your favourite editor
  2. Switch to terminal with commandline
  3. Cursor up, Enter
  4. Switch to your favourite web browser
  5. Hit the reload button

Using a Specialized Editor with Live Preview

One choice would be to use a specific editor with live rendering. The one I know in Debian (from Wheezy on) is ReText (Debian package retext). It supports Markdown and reStructuredText.

But as with most simple GUI editors, I miss there many of the advanced editing commands possible with Emacs.

Using Emacs’ Markdown Mode

Then there is the Markdown Mode for Emacs (part of Debian’s emacs-goodies-el package), where you can get a “preview” by pressing C-c C-c p. But for some reason this takes several seconds, opens a new buffer and window with the rendered HTML code and then starts (hardcoded) Firefox (which is not my preferred web browser). And if you do that a second time without closing Firefox first, it won’t just reload the file but will open a new tab. You might think that just hitting reload should suffice. But no, the new tab has a different file name, so reload doesn’t help. Additionally it may not use my preferred Markdown implementation. Meh.

Well, I probably could fix all those issues with Markdown Mode, it’s only Emacs Lisp. Heck, the called command is even configurable. But fixing at least four issues to fix one workflow annoyance? Maybe some other time, but not as long there are other nice choices…

Using inotifywait to Render on Write

So everytime you save the currently edited file, you immediately want to rerender the same HTML file from it. This can be easily automated by using Linux’ inotify kernel subsystem which notices changes to the filesystem, and reports those to applications which ask for it.

One such tool is inotifywait which can either output all or just specific events, or just exit if the first requested event occurs. With the latter it’s easy to write a while loop on the commandline which regenerates a file after every write access. I use either Pandoc or Asciidoc for that since both generate full HTML pages including header and footer, but you can use that also with Markdown to render just the HTML body. Most browsers render it correctly anyway:

while inotifywait -q -e modify; do pandoc -s -f markdown -t html -o index.html; done
while inotifywait -q -e modify index.txt; do asciidoc index.txt; done
while inotifywait -q -e modify; do markdown > index.html; done

This solution is even editor- and build-system-agnostic (But not operating-system-agnostic.)

inotifywait is part of inotify-tools, a useful set of commandline tools to interface with inotify. They’re packaged in Debian as inotify-tools, too.

Using mdpress for Markdown plus Impress.js based Slides

The ruby-written mdpress is a special case of the previous case. It’s a commandline tool to convert Markdown into Impress.js based slide shows and it has an option named --automatic which causes it to keep running and automatically update the presentation as soon as changes are made to the Markdown file.

mdpress is not yet in Debian, but there’s an ITP for it and Impress.js itself recently entered Debian as libjs-impress. Nevertheless, two dependencies (highlight.js, ITP‘ed, ruby-launchy, ITP‘ed) are still missing in Debian.

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.


Suggestions for the GNOME Team //at 23:01 //by abe

from the trying-to-stay-constructive dept.

Thanks to Erich Schubert’s blog posting on Planet Debian I became aware of the 2012 GNOME User Survey at Phoronix.

Like back in 2006 I still use some GNOME applications, so I do consider myself as “GNOME user” in the widest sense and hence I filled out that survey. Additionally I have to live with GNOME 3 as a system administrator of workstations, and that’s some kind of usage, too. ;-)

The last question in the survey was Do you have any comments or suggestions for the GNOME team? — Sure I have. And since I tried to give constructive feedback instead of only ranting, here’s my answer to that question as I submitted it in the survey, too, just spiced up with some hyperlinks and highlighting:

Don’t try to change the users. Give the users more possibilities to change GNOME if they don’t agree with your own preferences and decisions. (The trend to castrate the user was already starting with GNOME 2 and GNOME 3 made that worse IMHO.)

If you really think that you need less configurability because some non-power-users are confused or challenged by too many choices, then please give the other users at least the chance to enable more configuration options. A very good example in that hindsight was Kazehakase (RIP) who offered several user interfaces (novice, intermediate and power user or such). The popular text-mode web browser Lynx does the same, too, btw.

GNOME lost me mostly with the change to GNOME 2. The switch from Galeon 1.2 to 1.3/2.0 was horrible and the later switch to Epiphany made things even worse on the browser side. My short trip to GNOME as desktop environment ended with moving back to FVWM (configurable without tons of clicking, especially after moving to some other computer) and for the browser I moved on to Kazehakase back then. Nowadays I’m living very well with Awesome and Ratpoison as window managers, Conkeror as web browser (which are all very configurable) and a few selected GNOME applications like Liferea (luckily still quite configurable despite I miss Gecko’s about:config since the switch to WebKit), GUCharmap and Gnumeric.

For people switching from Windows I nowadays recommend XFCE or maybe LXDE on low-end computers. I likely would recommend GNOME 2, too, if it still would exist. With regards to MATE I’m skeptical about its persistance and future, but I’m glad it exists as it solves a lot of problems and brings in just a few new ones. Cinnamon as well as SolusOS are based on the current GNOME libraries and are very likely the more persistent projects, but also very likely have the very same multi-head issues we’re all barfing about at work with Ubuntu Precise. (Heck, am I glad that I use Awesome at work, too, and all four screens work perfectly as they did with FVWM before.)

Thanks to Dirk Deimeke for his (German written) pointer to Marcus Moeller’s interview with Ikey Doherty (in German, too) about his Debian-/GNOME-based distribution SolusOS.

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This is the blog or weblog of Axel Stefan Beckert (aka abe or XTaran) who thought, he would never start blogging... (He also once thought, that there is no reason to switch to this new ugly Netscape thing because Mosaïc works fine. That was about 1996.) Well, times change...

He was born 1975 at Villingen-Schwenningen, made his Abitur at Schwäbisch Hall, studied Computer Science with minor Biology at University of Saarland at Saarbrücken (Germany) and now lives in Zürich (Switzerland), working at the IT Support Group (ISG) of the Departement of Physics at ETH Zurich.

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