Author Archives: Ferdinand Thommes

Call for community

Last night we had one of our fortnightly Core-Team meetings. Topics and log are, as usual, online. Basicaly, the topics were noX, new webserver and state of new web portal.

NoX seems to be good to go as a developement release, given that tests this coming week run smooth. We will try to add some graphics to the tty, but I doubt this will happen for the upcoming release.

Our new webserver is about good to go, most everything is migrated (thanks to agaida for that). Nginx is serving instead of Apache2. Work on new website has been picked up again, using SMF and TinyPortal. We are getting along good so far, multi-language capability has been implemented already, which is always a bit of a tedious job.

Our wiki had a hard time in the past on the host it was on, because effective spam-fighting was hard to do. Now we are setup and good to go on the new server and spammers will have a hard time. Now the database needs to be cleaned out from more than 2000 spammers, then checked for depricated content. This is a community job and everyone can participate and give back. So please, anyone interested in a helpful and uptodate wiki, come and help. As soon as the german version is cleaned out, we would like to translate the content to english. Good job for long winter nights.

Facing 3-4 release dates until the end of the year, we are moving to weekly Core-Team meetings again from now on. For anyone interested, they take place every sunday night at 21:00 UTC -2.

And on a complete different subject, this news item from Kenya made my day. M$ starts bullying Africa by spreading the usual FUD. This guy takes it so far as to allege that open source software is not copyrighted.  🙂

New server, old website

In our Core-Meeting last night we mainly had 3 topics.

The first one was about the releases we plan until the end of 2012. I had made suggestions on a rough timeline for this and it was approved, with the chance of small changes as we go. Here is what is planned:

  • ~ 2012-10-15  noX Developement Release
  • ~ 2012-11-01  normal Release (KDE,XFCE,LXDE,Razor-qt)
  • ~ 2012-11-20  Gnome Developement Release
  • ~ 2012-12-26   X-Mas Special (needs to be defined still)

As Wheezy will not be releasaed in 2012 [RC bug count: 529 as of today], we do not expect any problems from that direction. With noX and Gnome there will be two new members in our flavour-family. My guess is that they will complete our flavour-list for now.

The 2nd topic was discussed quite controversial, as to be expected. We have, since we started siduction, been working on a new website, based on Joomla, with a new forum included. The main reason for that was, to have something fresh and to get away from Zikula, the software powering now. Unfortunately it turned out that noone really had the time to stem this job. We had in that respect clearly bitten off more than we could chew

To bring that endevour to a good end, I suggested we pay someone ~ €300 to finish the project and technicaly support it for a year. After a heated discussion a vote on this denied that suggestion. The alternative that was being held against it is, to start afresh with SMF instead of Joomla. So lets see how that goes.

The 3rd topic was about getting our hands on a 2nd server. We have a powerful buildserver that is used for building testing and release images and our kernels. The rest of our stuff (forum, chili dev-plattform, git) was on productive private servers that were not easily exessible to the team. We need to put these tasks on a server that we control. So we decided to vote,  if we should spend ~ €500 p.a. for such a machine. Before the vote was finished, a Core-Team member sponsored  such a root-server for us. Well, many thanks for that, it is highly appreciated!

Because it was getting late we moved the remaining topics on the list to the next meeting on Oct. 7.

ownCloud as an alternative to Dropbox and friends

Dropbox, GDrive and all the rest of the cloud-hosters have a nice business model and it seems to work for them. On the other hand, Dropbox has had more than it’s fair share of security issues and they did not seem to be on top of things at all times.  Besides that, by using those services, you load private and sensitive data to servers (mostly) in the US. That leaves some of us with an uneasy feeling.

So, as usual, there is an alternative for linux: ownCloud has been started in 2010 by KDE developer Frank Karlitschek and is at stable version 4.0.7 right now, which is to be found in the Debian unstable repository. ownCloud is written in PHP and JavaScript and makes use of  a {sqlite,mysql,postgresql}-database. There is a webcilent, which makes it usable on all pattforms, including  Android and iPhone. There is also integration into the desktop (at least for KDE with Dolphin) with the owncloud-client. The developement of ownCloud was at times a bit hasty for my taste, the release of ownCloud 4 being a bit premature for sure So, with 4.04 in wheezy and 4.07 in sid, i thought, i’d give the latter a fair beating on the weekend. There is also 4.5.x as git version for the very brave. As I wanted to check if i could use ownCloud productively for myself at this point, I settled for the 4.0.7.

The V-Server I am using for this adventure runs wheezy. So I needed to expand the sources to sid and installed owncloud and owncloud-sqlite from there. Opening the web-interface and doing some configuring was a matter of minutes. The only thing that needed to be manualy done was some changes to /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini. Php has an upload limit of 2 MByte as default. So that needs to be changed and is documented well, like the rest of the ownCloud features. Just don’t forget to restart apache afterwards.

On my workstation at home i had to add 2 sources as well to be able to install owncloud-client. One was a line for squeeze in a sid environment, which is normaly not a sane idea. But as it is only needed for libssl0.9.8, which works fine with libc6 from sid and has no other dependencies to take care of, this is fine for this case. Other than that: kids, don’t do this at home ;). The other line added to my sources was one from Suse, because Debian does not ship owncloud-client yet. The needed line is:

deb /

After installing libssl0.9.8 explicitely from stable, you can then install csync and owncloud-client. With owncloud-client you can set up syncing within your file-manager (only tested with dolphin so far).

After everything (upload, download,syncing, sharing) worked like a charme, I started to integrate my local and google calendars and my adressbooks from kontact using akonadi and Webdav. Five minutes later I was setting up ampache on my Droid, so ownCloud can stream music to the smartphone. Amarok can also be talked into streaming music from your cloud.  All this worked in a matter of minutes without much hassle.There is other features I have not tested yet, like LDAP integration.

As you probably sensed by now, I had a lot of fun and really like ownCloud a lot and will use it productively instead of Dropbox. Of course there is room for improvement in such a young project. The developers integrated too much too fast and now the bugtracker is flowing over. Issues I ran into are a slow webclient that freezes at times (only tested with Chromium so far) and owncloud-client showing false errors and so blocking sync. These things are easy to workaround, but nonetheless annoying and will hopefuly be fixed for 0.5.

My conclusion is: taking your cloud needs into your own hands is well spent time. ownCloud will go a long way and is here to stay. If this got you interested, please have a look at the features and the documentation.

Preparing for 2012.2

As you might have guessed already if you frequently visit our forums, a new release is in the making. What we already have is a name. 🙂 Even though sid is kind of tame because of the freeze, we call it ‘Riders on the Storm’ , borrowed from the Doors’ last Album ‘LA Woman’. Thanks for taking part in the vote on our forum. 2012 will see 2 more releases and 2 more desktop environments. Well, not entirely true, as one is not a desktop environment, but a release lacking exactly that. It’ll be called No-X , and that pretty well describes it. The other one will be [hear hear] Gnome, probably in Version  3.6.x. We all know, Gnome is having a hell of a good time trying to make itself obsolete these days, with the latest and greatest being Mr. Miguel de Icaza waking all the bestest  flame monsters.

But nontheless, there is users wanting to have a siduction Gnome flavour, and they will get it.. Convbsd  has joined teams to make this possible. We are still looking for a second maintainer for Gnome to help convbsd in maintaining this flavour in the long run.

On sunday nights’ Core Team Meeting we could not quite agree yet on when to release what. All we know for certain is that both new flavours will have a developement release before entering our release cycle permanently. As a rough date for the release of 2012.2 we picked the days around the beginning of November. The holiday season between the years will see a surprise release of some kind. The 2 new flavours will see a developement release each until the end of the year. The next Core Team Meeting in 2 weeks will be more elaborate on the actual dates.

I personaly am quite exited to see Razor-Qt 0.5 to be released in the next weeks. Qupzilla 1.3.5 is also just around the corner with new features. If all is dandy, Razor-Qt will enter the siduction family of desktop environments with one of the 2 upcoming releases in 2012.

What else is new? A user asked for 3 pet-tools of his to be packaged and put in the repo. This was a good chance to make it clear that we cannot package every wish a user might have. That is the reason why we have a (until now unused) user repository. We might give a hand if a user has a problem packaging something, but we will not do it for him. we just don’t have the time. If there is greater demand for a package in the user repository to be lifted to official repos, we might look at the package and make it ready for prime time.

So please fill the user repository with life and talk about it on the forum, so we can make this fly. We are open for questions and hints.

Inftrastructural Changes revisited

Our fortnightly Core-Team Meeting last night was again dedicated solely to the planned structural changes to improve our workflow and make it easier for our users to participate.

As mentioned in my last blogpost, we wanted to simplify the package lists in our buildsystem pyfll. It took a few weeks of discussion to settle on a compromise. People interested in this or the ones who use our buildsystem privately might follow the changes ahead in the log starting at [21:08:57]. The 2nd topic last night was on repository structure and new repository names. This is interesting for all users, because it’s in regard of their sources.list.d/siduction.list. First of all: don’t panic. We made some changes already to test if old and new denotations work at the same time. They do, so now we can set up links from old to new. You as user need not do any changes now, things will just work. But of course you can if you want to be safe for the future. New installs will of course use the new notation.

Here is the revised structure:

  • base was formerly called siduction. It holds all official siduction packages.
  • community iis gone, it was never used (please remove it from your list if you have it in there)
  • extra is new and holds all packages not in base or users. (packages we build for enhancement of siduction, packages which are not in debian (yet) and aren’t essential part of siduction)
  • user is for packages from experienced users / team members who want to distribute their packages (like towo’s inkscape and gimp packages)
  • fixes temporarily holds packages that are broken in Debian, if we have a quick fix for them. The future goal is to send those patches upstream.
  • razorqt will dissolve into base as soon as we add Razor-Qt to our official release cycle
  • experimental is quite self explanatory
  • experimental-snapshots is just a proxy for team needs. (users should not have this in their list)

The repository website has the right lines for you to add or change.

The next topic was also about repositories, trying to define where to keep the package sources in a most meaningfull way. For the base and extra repositories this is clearly our own infrastructure (chili/git). The sources from the user repository should be separated from our infrastructure. The reasoning behind that is that anyone should be able to fork these in a simple fashion, package and distribute them in other projects. Github seems to be the way to go here. It’s layed out to be forked, Any changes to forked packages are just a merge away from being backported to the original source.

The last topic for last night was Jenkins. It needs more time and testing. We all agree it is not urgent and has to be the last in line of our improvements. If we have it set up in a useful way and fully understand how it works, it can save us a lot of time by automating a lot of the processes we do manualy now.

On a different topic, time has come to think about a name for our next release, because the art-team needs time to develop a release-art for it. The process we have in place for choosing a name (users submitting their favourites, team choosing the winner by vote) is not really flawless or satisfactory as far as I am concerned.. If anyone has a better idea for this reoccuring routine, we’d be happy to hear it. Other than that, if nothing great comes up, we will use the old method once more. So be prepared for a wiki page to be announced soon on behalf of this.

Inftrastructural Changes

As after the release is before the release, we grab the opportunity to break some things in our infrastructure and put them back together again in a refined way. Last nights Core-Meeting was all about the shortcomings we found in our infrastructure and how to fix them.

The first change discussed was how our release process works. Up to now, when we release, we wait until a debian mirror sync is finished and start building our snapshots. This leaves us 6 hours between 2 syncs. As long as all is smooth, that is fine. Problems could delay a release easily though. Also, as we have more flavours than before, and will maybe add more in the future, the timeframe will one day become an issue. So we will add a proxy-cache or mirror here to be on the safe side of things. Should problems arise during the build-process, we can release a working snapshot from 6 hours or a day before without much extra work. This needs more discussion still as to what method and/or tool to use.

The 2nd change is upon the pyfll package lists themselves. We find what we forked from aptosid not really suitable anymore. This is maybe due to us having more flavours than our predecessor.We all experienced situations where we were not really sure where to add a new package or that we did not agree on a certain list to do so. This needs to be obvious and logical. Where a package belongs needs to be straight forward and doubtfree. So reorganizing of these lists is needed. Until the next meeting we will think about the modells discussed last night. We got a lot closer to a compromise than we were a month ago, when a boxing fight looked like a fast way to settle the differences 🙂

Last, but not least we discussed our repository structure. What packages belong in what repos? Do we have too many or not enough repos and are they named accordingly to what packages they house. We agreed, we have one or two to many and that some renaming is needed. Users will not stumble over this, because we will provide links that keep the sources.list intact and working.

Before i forget: Whoever read the log of our last meeting 2 weeks ago, will have seen that we replaced 2 coreteam members. Vibora and edhunter do not have the time to work in our core teamat the moment. They were replaced by hendrikl and Goingeasy9. The vote on that can be seen in the log. Thanks to vibora and edhunter for their good work in the past few years. Your code lives on in siduction.

Samsung Printer Journey

I bought a nice and small Samsung ML 1675 Laserprinter not long ago. It is supposed to work with the Samsung Unified Linux Driver. So I googled and went to the Samsung Website and downloaded the driver and installed it. That did not bring the printer to life. The cups interface did not even see the printer anymore. I left things as they were, as it was late. The next morning my dist-upgrade was blocked by strange errors that proved to be from the Samsung mfp-driver. Removing the lot fixed the problems. So, do not install the drivers from the Samsung website, they do not work.

So I dug a bit deeper in Google and found The Samsung Unified Linux Driver Repository.

Here are the steps to get any printer / multidevice, that needs to use this driver, working in no time at all:

open a shell and become root:

su [ENTER]

root@siductionbox: cd /etc/apt/sources.list.d [ENTER]

root@siductionbox:/etc/apt/sources.list.d# touch Samsung_Printer.list && echo deb debian extra > Samsung_Printer.list && wget -O – | apt-key add – ; apt-get update [ENTER]

This will set up the needed repository and install the gpg-key for it. Now you want to install the drivers:

apt-get install samsungmfp-data samsungmfp-configurator-qt4 samsungmfp-configurator-data samsungmfp-driver samsungmfp-driver-4.00.39 printer-driver-splix

That will install the needed drivers for just the printer. If that is all you need, turn on your printer and enjoy.
If the printer was not previously installed, you can do this now under http://localhost:631. Choose the driver for Samsung ML 1670, when prompted.
If you have a multi-device that can also scan, you need some more software. As with siduction, the user is already a member of group ‘lp’. there is no need for action here. Should you use a different distribution, check this by issuing, as user:

devil@siductionbox:~$ groups [ENTER]

devil lp dialout cdrom floppy audio dip video plugdev users fuse scanner netdev

If lp is present, you just need to install some extra packages on top of the above:

apt-get install samsungmfp-scanner samsungmfp-scanner-sane-fix samsungmfp-scanner-sane-fix-multiarch

NOTE: before installing the latter 2 packages, read the output of apt-cache show <packaganame> to see if they apply to you.

New Debian Mirror Redirector

If you look into the sources.list of our latest release, you will find a new scheme in your debian list. It looks like unstable main. This is the scheme of a new  Debian Mirror Redirector that has quite a few advantages and works fine so far. It does not only try to choose the fastest mirror for you, it also helps with load balancing and allows parallel downloads. Besides that it is ready for the upcoming IPv6.

If you have an older release installed, do not hesitate to switch your debian.list to the new scheme. If you watch apt-get update after the change for a few runs,, you should see different mirrors being used.

2012.1.1 Desperado Reloaded released

Late last night  we released Desperado Reloaded, just a week ahead of the freeze for Debian 7. The Release Note has all the details. Downloads are available from our mirrors or as Torrent.

As for the near future: We will use the time to break some toys to rebuild them.

  • The way the art packages are built and integrated needs a complete overhaul. It’s too complicated and error-prone.
  • Instead of building releases from the Debian mirrors directly, we will establish a repository mirror to give us some more resilience at release time.
  • Besides that we will look into Jenkins for automated package/iso-building and regression testing to further streamline our infrastructure.