Lars Wirzenius: Debian, 2007


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Debian: In the interest of full disclosure

<liw> Guest1482, iirc fakeroot doesn't work on all architectures, and there may be situations where it doesn't work on any, but it should certainly be used when possible

<Clint> liw: it should always work the same on all the linux ones

<liw> Clint, I have a vague recollection of libc making life difficult for fakeroot on... sh? hppa? but I may be utterly wrong here, and I hope I am

<Clint> liw: there was a crackheaded struct change on alpha, but vorlon and i fixed that

<Clint> "fixed"

<liw> Clint, ok, so I'm utterly wrong, and the world is a better place for it

<Clint> that's right, so stop spreading fakeroot fud

<Clint> OR ELSE

I take it back, I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused fakeroot, or its family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Debian: Debian 14 years

To celebrate Debian's 14th birthday, in Helsinki, Finland, on August 16, from 18:00 onwards, let's gather in AWK or Annankadun William K (the southern end of Annankatu) for a beer or two.

For those without calendars, that's tomorrow.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Ten years ago today Debian ratified its Social Contract. It is one of three foundational documents that have shaped the project and enabled its phenomenal growth. The SC is a formulation of what Debian is all about: in five short paragraphs it gives the project purpose, scope, and direction. Because of this, it keeps the project coherent: people join and leave, but the project continues in the same direction. Without the shared vision codified by the SC, the project would falter, waver, and splinter.

The other two documents, the Constitution and the Policy Manual are of more practical influence in the day-to-day operation of the project. One lets us manage hundreds of people working together, the other lets us integrate tens of thousands of programs into a working system. The SC is more fundamentally import, though.

Happy birthday, SC.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Debian: Social Contract 10 years distributed pancake party

Finns are going to be celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Debian Social Contract on Thursday, July 5, with a distributed pancake party. The co-ordination wiki page is SocialContractTenYears and everyone else is welcome to join in on the fun as well.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Debian: Package school date fix

Argh! I got the date wrong for the packaging tutorial. The correct date is May 9 (that's nine), not May 5 (five). Mea culpa.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Debian: Packaging school, third time

I'll be giving the third installment of my Debian packaging tutorial on Wednesday, May 5, 17-21, at Arcada in Helsinki. There's a few places left, e-mail Simon Rönnqvist at if you're interested. He's taking care of the arrangements. There's no participation fee. If you can bring your own laptop, with Debian (or compatible system) and the package build-essential installed, things will be simpler.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Debian: Etch release party in Helsinki

To celebrate the etch release in Helsinki, come have a few beers in bar Teerenpeli in Kamppi after 17 on Friday, the 13th. Everyone is welcome, this is not just a developer event.

See the etch release party wiki page for updates.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Debian: It's full of chars!

The etch release is imminent, so I thought I'd run sloccount on an unpacked Debian source tree. I wrote a little script that downloads and unpacks all Debian source packages. It does dpkg-source -x only, no debian/rules unpack or such, since that isn't standardized. The result is a source tree that is 46 gigabytes.

Unfortunately, there is something in that tree that makes sloccount fail. It reports a mere 45 million lines of code, which is about 1022 lines per kilobyte. (Later, I'll narrow it down and report an actual bug. For now, the best I have is "something in Debian breaks sloccount".)

Sloccount would give fairly good results, and it would exclude, say, JPEGs, of which there are 455. However, in this situation the best I can easily come up with is a sum of running a plain wc -l on each file, and that sum is 1005505921. That's just over one billion lines of code, in 2868448 files, or 350.54 lines per file, on average.

Disclaimer: that sum includes many non-source files, such as the JPEGs, and a number of packages don't actually unpack properly with dpkg-source, you have to run some variant of debian/rules unpack. However, I'd be willing to bet the number is in the correct ball park. We can get better results once sloccount gets fixed.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Debian: Automatic testing wishlist

Joey Hess writes about automated system testing in his anti-platform. That's one of the things that I'd like to work on, some day, when I have some free time again.

There's two things I would like to do next in this area. First are improvements to piuparts so divide the tests it does into smaller bits, and to add a plugin framework so that it becomes easy to write new tests. The current piuparts code isn't really well suited for this, but the whole program is only a few hundred lines of code, so even if it had to be rewritten completely from scratch, it shouldn't take more than a couple of weeks of full time work (piuparts development is often slow because you need to run tests on large parts of the archive).

The other thing would be to test upgrades not of individual packages, which piuparts does now, but of entire systems, preferably in emulated machines instead of chroots. This would probably need a new tool.

The third of these two things would be to start adding automatic tests to packages so that we can test whether they work when they're installed. Ian Jackson did some work on a tool for this, but we need to use the tool.

Ideally, we would have a setup where packages get tested automatically, continuously (daily, if possible) and results are reported instantly. At the moment, piuparts results need to be filtered manually, and that's a pain. Adding a "package health indicator" the PTS based on these automatic tests would be cool.

We could even have a "Debian big board" web page, with a small square for each package, colored green if it's bug free and passes automatic tests; colored cyan if there's only bugs of severity normal or below, or a problem with some of the automatic tests; colored pink if there's a bug of severity important, or all automatic tests fail; and colored red if there's bugs of severity higher than important. This would give an overview to the health of Debian with a glance.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Debian: Project Ummikko: Final report

Last July, I started an experiment, called Project Ummikko, with a friend of mine to see how well Linux is suited for a new user who has used Windows for many years, but is not a techie. I installed Debian, with GNOME, for her, and she went cold turkey: she started using Linux only, unless there was something she had to do, but could not achieve under Linux.

It has been half a year, and it's time to report on the results. Translating and abbreviating her own words:

The good part of using Linux is that I don't need to worry about viruses or defragmenting the hard disk and so on. I would be happy to remain a Linux users for things like that. In basic everyday use I'm happy.

The things that make me want to return to Windows are gaming, flash and other multimedia, and a feeling of helplessness. I want to play Alpha Centauri and adventure games I can borrow from friends. Flash doesn't work, and installing software from Debian via Synaptic is difficult, I'm not comfortable with it.

With Windows, I'm used to being able to go online to find a program to solve some problem I have, or some plugin I'm missing, or some toy program I want, and after a few mouse clicks, I have it installed.

There's many things that just don't work with Linux, like Second Life, or when my ISP would give two free movie downloads this month and next, but it only works on Windows and Mac. I have a feeling of being left out.

I could manage with Linux, with the assumption that I have someone like Lasu to do installation and tweaking.

The best thing about this experience? It was interesting to be able to make the experiement, the meta level has been the best thing. The best thing about Linux is the kind of maintenance things like no viruses or defragging, Linux doesn't rot like Windows does.

After we had the above interview, I upgraded her Debian, and this fixed at least most of the problems related to flash. Synaptic remains uncomfortable, and there's not much that can be done about Windows-only software.

I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I had expected much worse problems, but I'm happy to report now that Linux really does seem ready for the average Windows user.

The uncomfortability of Synaptic may be partly due to the fact that it is a different model from Windows: you get all your programs from one place, instead of anywhere on the Internet, partly due to just not using Synaptic much at all, and partly due to Synaptic not being perhaps as easy to understand as possible. I personally find Synaptic to be very nice, and use it regularly, but I am biased by having used Debian package managers for over a decade.

Even if she had learned to use Synaptic, it would, of course, not have been enough: there's lots of Linux software that hasn't been included in Debian. My friend therefore feels that it would be nicer, more liberating, to be able to just download any old Linux software from a web page and install it easily.

My conclusions: package management for Debian based systems could do with some work targetted towards neophytes. I am sure there are things that could be done to make package installation easier, less daunting, without dumbing down the system.