Je me suis déjà énervé sur la mauvaise habitude des posteurs de Planet Ubuntu-FR consistant à donner à “recopier” des lignes de commandes obscures là où une phrase permettrait d’être bien plus didactique. Je ne vais pas remettre ça, surtout qu’à chaque fois, ça tourne au troll.

Mais parfois, au détour d’un billet, on tombe sur une perle :

sudo -s && apt-get install 915resolution && cd /etc/default/ && mv 915resolution 915resolution.bak && echo -e “MODE=auto\nXRESO=1280\nYRESO=800\nBIT=” > 915resolution

Y a rien qui vous choque ?

Indice : sudo -s && id

Update : Visiblement j’ai pas été assez clair. “sudo -s” execute un sous-shell. Du coup, le reste de la commande ne s’exécute pas en tant que root. Regarde cet exemple:

***lucas@beothuk:~$ sudo -s && id
***root@beothuk:~# # <-- sous shell executé par sudo -s ***root@beothuk:~# exit exit uid=1000(lucas) gid=1000(lucas) groups=4(adm),20(dialout),[....] ***lucas@beothuk:~$

YeKcim, au lieu de monter sur tes grands chevaux, tu ferais mieux de comprendre ce que tu demandes aux autres de taper.

Update 2 : J’ai viré tous les commentaires (comme ça pas de jaloux). Vous pouvez me mailer si vous souhaitez réagir.

Update 3 : Pour être encore plus clair : l’objet de ce post n’est pas la longueur de la commande que yeKcim demande à ses lecteurs de recopier, mais le fait que la commande ne fasse pas ce qu’elle est supposée faire.

When Ubuntu users discover that unofficial repositories can be harmful

Unofficial APT repositories are a PITA in the Ubuntu community. Most users use stable release (see previous post about that) since Ubuntu development releases tend to be much more bleeding edge than Debian unstable. But users still want the newest software, so they use unofficial repositories. There are lots of posts about private repositories on Planet.ubuntu-fr.org, and it seems to be the same on other local planets.

Recently, somebody posted a sources.list file with a huge list of unofficial repositories. The maintainer of one of these repositories, Jοhan Kiviniemi, was surprised to be in this list without even being contacted first. He chose a good answer: he uploaded a package with cool new default wallpapers. He also wrote a detailed explanation, with which I couldn’t agree more.

But this story raises a question: why do all these people work on their unofficial repositories, instead of filing and fixing bugs, improving the official packages, and getting their packages into Ubuntu ? It’s a shame that so much manpower is lost on such stuff.

PS: Johan Kiviniemi seems to have a lot of good opinions. :-)

List operators on files in shell ? (updated)

I often need to do list-like operations on files in shell, for example:

  • substract lines in one file from the lines in another file
  • add lines from two lines, suppressing duplicates
  • keep only lines which are not in both files
  • keep only lines which are in both files
  • etc

Such operations are easy to do with a combination of sort, uniq, cut, diff, etc. But they are so basic operations that it is a bit annoying to write the small shell script each time I need to do one of them.

Isn’t there a tool out there already providing all of them ?

Also, it would be great if such operations could be achieved considering only the first n characters or words (a bit like uniq -w, or the removed uniq -W option). It would be an easy way to do :

i1 c1
i2 c2
i3 c3
i4 c4



Comments are opened.

Update: many people pointed me to moreutils‘ combine. It looks good, bug not exactly what I need, so I filed wishlist bugs #398187 (combine: provide aliases for set theory operators) and #398193 (combine: allow to compare only on a subset of the lines). I won’t have time to provide patches, so if somebody want to work on them …. :-)

Feature request: confirmation for non-member posts in mailman

There are basically two kinds of setups for mailing lists managed using Mailman, regarding posts from non-members :

  • Accept posts from non-members. This lead to quite a lot of spam on the list, but also to no work for the moderators.
  • Put posts from non-members in a moderation queue. This result in a spam-free mailing list, but also in a lot of work for moderators, and in posts delayed for days.

It would be great if Mailman could ask the sender for confirmation (either email-based or web-based) before accepting the mail or putting it in the moderation queue. This would greatly reduce the amount of spam on the list or in the moderation queue.

This is also known as Mailman feature request #673265. A similar feature has apparently been in Sympa for nearly 4 years.

Wiki-like editing of tables/spreadsheets to share QA meta-information about packages ?

I’ve been working on archive rebuilds lately (rebuilding all etch packages inside etch). It generates a lot of data to analyze (failed build logs), and the work could easily be split between several developers.

For each package which fails to build, I add a line in a Gnumeric spreadsheet with the package name, the version I tried to build, the output of a script which tries to guess the reason for the failure using regexps, and the “resolution” (was a bug filed ? a new package not yet in testing ?) (example here)

Instead of doing this locally in Gnumeric, I’d like to do that online, using wiki-like editing, so other people could investigate different failures concurrently.

My ideal piece of software would:

  • be efficient to use (something AJAX based would be great)
  • allow for line-based locking, so people can just lock the line they are working on
  • allow for CSV-export/import, so I could fetch the whole data, add new failures using a script, and import it back

Does this exist ? :-)

Mozilla, Debian and Iceweasel: the Mozillian point of view

During the Journées du Logiciel Libre 2006 (an excellent event, thanks to the organizers), I had long chats with people from Mozilla Europe (in a more constructive way than what others did). This is mostly second-hand information, since the well-informed guys from Mozilla Europe I talked with got their info from other Mozilla developers, so it might be slightly inaccurate, but still help to understand the issue. More details welcomed in comments.

The Mozilla Foundation goal is to prevent the web from becoming a proprietary web, by ensuring that Firefox, their product, has a big-enough market-share. I find it a bit disturbing to hear free software people speak about product and market-share, but well, OK. Of course, it’s quite difficult to achieve >20% market-share only with GNU/Linux users. :-)

They put a very high emphasis on the User experience. They want Firefox to look exactly the same on all platforms, even if some features (automatic plugin installation, automatic upgrades) do not fit well on a GNU/Linux system (such features don’t work with the Debian build).

They want to enforce their trademark to prevent attempts to ruin their reputation to succeed. After a question asked by Dave Neary (GNOME) to Tristan Nitot (president of Mozilla Europe), Tristan gave the example of this hacker who said he found critical security bugs in Firefox before admitting it was a joke. He also gave the example of Microsoft indirectly founding SCO. Dave Neary remarked that some people could probably be trusted (like distro maintainers). But, if I remember correctly, Tristan said that it was difficult to allow some people to use the trademark without allowing everybody to do so. Also, allowing Debian to use the trademark without allowing derivatives to do so is not possible (DFSG#8).

Iceweasel is considered a good thing inside Mozilla Europe (“It’s what we have asked them to do for a long time!“). However, some people are bitter about the fact that Debian seems to have chosen to use a gnu.org-hosted fork instead of just renaming the package to iceweasel.

During Tristan Nitot’s conference, I asked a question about length of security support (only 18 months for the 1.0 branch). The answer was that distros were supposed to upgrade to newer Firefox releases even on their stable releases (!) or to come and help with security support for stable releases. Also, the fact that Debian chooses to package Firefox following the FHS is considered a source of problems. Somebody claimed that Debian was the only distribution to package Firefox this way (seems strange, but I did not checked this claim). I’m not sure how this fits with other Mozilla-based browsers such as epiphany.

On a more technical side, they also claimed that Debian wasn’t properly collaborating with Mozilla, sending unusable 100000-lines patches for validation just before releases (haven’t checked this claim). It’s interesting to note that the same problem exists on the other side, with Mozilla releasing “security and stability” releases instead of just providing patches for the security bugs.

My personal conclusion is that Iceweasel is really a good thing, and is quite unavoidable, even if it seems that the Debian/Mozilla collaboration could maybe have been better. Let’s advertise the use of Iceweasel, Epiphany, and other Web browsers! :-)

Note : comments open for people willing to fix inaccuracies or provide references, not for a stupid childish flame-war like the one in the comment of this post. Please write your own blog entry and use a trackback if you want to provide a detailed answer!


  • I forgot to mention that the Mozilla people talked about Debian-specific changes that changed frozen APIs, breaking extensions, and causing bug reports on b.m.o or misleading forum posts. (again, not verified)
  • Interesting blog post about the trademark issue here
  • Mike Hommey addressed most of the points I reported in this blog entry.

Unintrusive Instant Messaging

Most IM clients have a big problem: they seem to think they are the most important application on the desktop, or that their users always consider IM as top priority. Problem is, some users don’t! It would be great if IM clients where dealing better with two use cases :

  • Joe is working intensively on something, and doesn’t really want to be disturbed, except, of course, if the chat he would have is of extremely high importance (knowing who just sent him a message would probably help in determining how important the chat is going to be). He can’t rely on setting himself “Busy” on jabber, because people then write to him saying “ok, you are busy, answer me later, but here is my question: ….”.
  • Joe is working with Jack (a colleague) in front of his workstation. Since he has a mix of both professional and personal contacts, he needs to check if the message he just received is from his boss or from his girlfriend. (Opening a message from his girlfriend while Jack is watching might not be a good idea).

Typical stuff clients do:

  • Display incoming messages using notification-daemon (see picture below), but do not provide a way to disable this behaviour (I don’t think many clients fail this test).
  • The tooltip of the notification area icon (“system tray”) provides a fast way to be informed of important information. However, some clients (e.g Gajim) only give the number of unread messages, but don’t say who they are from (see picture below). The tooltip would be a perfect place to say “3 unread messages, 1 is from Boss, 2 are from ” in a Jack-safe way. When working intensively, it also allows you to make a quick decision about whether you want to read the messages and maybe start a chat now, or reply to them later.
  • Some clients (e.g Gajim) do not provide a way to easily read a specific unread message (and not all of them) (see picture below). Adding something event-specific in addition to “Show All Pending Events” would allow to read the message from Boss without reading the message from Girlfriend in front of Jack.

So, how does your client behave in regard to this ? I don’t really like the way Gajim behaves because it doesn’t provide much info in the tooltip, and doesn’t allow you to read a specific event (you have to open the roster and select the contact). Is your client doing better ?

Random chat using XMPP/Jabber, anyone ?

A Random Chat applet hit digg recently. It allows you to chat with a random stranger visiting the website at the same time as you.

It’s a good idea, but it would really be much better to have something similar based on Jabber (and maybe it could become a Jabber killer app’ ?)

Some thoughts:

  • It should be easy to get in the system, but slightly more difficult to get out of it : the main problem with the current website-based system is that it doesn’t work very well outside of flash-crowd periods. For example, you could be considered available for Random Chat as soon as you are “Available” or “Free for chat” on Jabber.
  • The system should provide strong anonymity (no direct messages between participating users to hide their JID) and allow for blacklisting to avoid the usual harassment problems.
  • The system should work with a classic Jabber client: no specific software or support for unimplemented JEPs should be required.
  • The system could include a tag-based system to be able to chat with people with similar interests or speaking the same language(s)

So, is somebody interested in working on this ? It would be quite easy to do with XMPP4R or another Ruby library. (This was from my list of things that I would really like to see implemented, but I won’t have time to work on it myself)

Related links:

Automatically watching for updates on web pages ?

Once in a while, I come upon a web page that :

  1. Doesn’t offer an RSS/Atom feed.
  2. Doesn’t change very often.
  3. I would like to be warned when it’s updated.

I would like to be automatically warned when such pages change. websec does this :

Description: Web Secretary – Web page monitoring software
A visual Web page monitoring software. However, it goes
beyond the normal functionalities offered by such software. Not only
does it detect changes based on content analysis (instead of date/time
stamp or simple textual comparison), it will email the changed page to
you with the new content highlighted.

But :

  1. It sends emails. Generating an RSS feed would be much better.
  2. It sends HTML emails. OK, you can use AsciiMarker to view the changes with a text MUA, but still…

Anybody knows of another piece of software I could use ?

Good questions to ask yourself when working inside teams

Many people agree that teams are good : doing team maintenance of packages is often seen as A Good Thing inside Debian, and Ubuntu enforces it by switching to the everything is team-maintained philosophy. However, teams are subject to complex group dynamics, and raise interesting issues that you don’t encounter when working alone. It is important to ask yourself those few questions

Dilution of knowledge: Team members tend to individually know less about specific packages. Does the sum of all team members really know more than an individual developer would know about a specific package ?

Responsibility: Are there some clear responsibilities in your team ? Are people feeling responsible for packages ? Not having clear responsibilities is dangerous, because a package could become sort-of-orphaned inside the team, because nobody would consider “his duty” to work on it.

Hierarchy inside teams: Is there a clear hierarchy inside your team ? If there isn’t (which could be OK), are you sure there isn’t an unofficial hierarchy that built up with time, causing people to wait for an unofficial leader’s decision, while this leader might not even be aware that he is that leader ?

Scalability: How much can a team scale ? How does *your* team scale ? How many team members are really active ?

External interface: When dealing with the outside world (read: upstream), it’s easier to have a single point of communication. How does your team’s external interface look like ? Remember that teams’ external interfaces can easily become much more complex for upstream developers to deal with.

There are no magic way to build a team that work, but it’s important to look at your team with a critical eye and try to improve its inner workings.