State of software for Suspend to RAM/Disk ?

Dear readers,

I am the mostly happy owner of a Dell Latitude D610 (the one with the ATI video card), running Debian Etch. I installed the hibernate package to try to get Suspend to RAM and to Disk to work, and Suspend to Disk worked out of the box. But Suspend to RAM didn’t work (garbled screen at resume).

I never bothered to investigate this until today, when I discovered that acpi-support provides the same functionality, and works both for Suspend to RAM and to Disk ! I’m happier now, but I would like to understand, and the world of ACPI and Suspend to RAM/Disk is very difficult to grasp for newcomers.

What is the story behind hibernate and acpi-support ? Why was this duplication of effort needed ? Also, it seems that gnome-power-manager and kpowersave provide the same functionality. Why can’t they just call the relevant acpi-support or hibernate scripts ? How do those different implementations compare (what are their main differences ?) ? Looking at the packages content, it seems that hibernate tries to be generic, while acpi-support gave up, and handles each and every laptop model differently. Correct ? Also, hibernate seems to be handling a few things better, like getting my network interface back up after hibernation.

Finally, the last question: how do one debug Suspend issues, when it fails to work ? Is there a document somewhere explaining that ?

Debian Package of the Day is now alive again, and needs your help!

For those who have missed the previous blog entries: Debian Package of the Day (aka Deb-a-day) is now alive again ! There has already been several entries (published 2 times a week, on wednesdays and sundays, until we make sure that we can sustain an higher rate):

Deb-a-day is not syndicated on Planet Debian (because of the “only personal blogs” rule), but it’s syndicated on Planet Ubuntu, and it might be syndicated on Debian Times (negociations are still ongoing :-). Don’t forget to subscribe to the feed !

We (the nice team of editors) have 2 entries ready in the queue, but that’s not enough. If you discovered an interesting package through Deb-a-day, and didn’t submit an entry yet, you should really feel guilty now ! (we are especially looking for cool graphical apps, so Deb-a-day becomes less nerdy, but apps for nerds are welcomed as well, of course.)

Of Debian Etch’s quality and release schedule

The delay of Debian Etch caught some bad press this week. Some articles compare Debian to Ubuntu (which tries hard to have fixed-time releases), and some bloggers are amused by the fact that the next Debian release was delayed “again”. There are some important points though:

  • Etch wasn’t really scheduled to be released on Dec 4th. This target date was mainly used to determine other dates in the release process, like the freeze dates.
  • Ubuntu Dapper was delayed as well, for 6 weeks. Ubuntu Edgy wasn’t delayed, but I don’t think anybody can seriously compare Ubuntu Edgy’s quality with the upcoming Debian etch’s quality: edgy was more like a technology preview.

Now, the question is: how good is Debian Etch compared to Ubuntu Dapper ? It’s difficult to compare distributions: there aren’t a lot of good metrics for this. Of course, one could compare the number of packages that fail to build from source (it’s a good indicator of something seriously wrong in a package). But a lot of work has been done on etch about this, so it wouldn’t really be fair for Ubuntu. A good alternative is debcheck.

debcheck checks that packages can be installed (i.e that their dependancies can be satisfied). It does so by analyzing the content of the Packages files. I compared the results of debcheck on etch as of today (I re-processed it, but the same results are available from qa.d.o), and of debcheck on Dapper (not including dapper-updates – I wanted to compare quality at release date). Included sections were main for etch, and main, restricted and universe for dapper (I didn’t want to consider non-free packages, since their quality tend to be lower).


4 packages have unsatisfiable Depends on etch, on i386. 49 have unsatisfiable Recommends.

In the main section of Dapper, still on i386, only one package has a problem with its Depends (it was psycopg, because its binary package python2.3-psycopg has a dependancy on python2.3-egenix-mxdatetime). 46 packages in main had unsatisfiable Recommends. This is better than Etch, of course, but Ubuntu/main is much smaller than Debian/main.

When restricted and universe are included, the results are much worse. 80 packages have unsatisfiable Depends, and 150 packages have unsatisfiable Recommends. It is worth noting that those numbers are worse than those of Debian unstable as of today (67 packages have unsat Depends, 34 have unsat Recommends).

Conclusions (sort of):

  • Using the debcheck metric (which is actually quite important, since it translates in uninstallable packages for the users), Debian etch is already of better quality than Ubuntu Dapper when it was released (again, I haven’t checked with dapper-updates included).
  • It would be great to integrate such tests into the Ubuntu release process. Fixing bug is good, but such tools help to improve the distribution quality as a whole. I’ll try to work on this for Feisty after the Etch release.

Features vs. Freedom

Jono Bacon wrote a long blog entry on Planet Ubuntu about his vision of freedom, and how it applies to the proprietary drivers. This is a good opportunity to write sthing I wanted to write for a long time.

Ubuntu’s bug #1 is “Microsoft has a majority market share“. Well, I think that this should be of severity minor or wishlist, not critical. A better bug #1 would be “our priority is our users” (does it ring a bell ?). I find it far more important to improve the satisfaction of people already using a Linux distribution, than to try to convince others to use it.

Most users of Windows have very good reasons for using Windows, like proprietary applications that have no equivalent in the Free Software world. I don’t think that “Linux doesn’t have a 3D desktop” is the major blocker for people not using Linux. Windows doesn’t have a 3D desktop. Many Mac OS X users don’t use the 3D features. I haven’t felt the slightest need to try a 3D desktop, and I’m using GNOME/metacity, so the jump wouldn’t so hard to make to compiz.

I’m not saying that a 3D desktop is not a good idea. Of course, it would be nice to have LiveCDs that just work and start a 3D desktop, so we could show off at conferences. But I haven’t even bothered to google for such LiveCDs.

Sometimes, proprietary drivers are more needed on Linux, for example for people who bought a Wifi card without checking first if it was supported. But I don’t think that 3D graphic drivers are that important. I still hope that Ubuntu will not ship proprietary software by default, and that Ubuntu will try to help the free drivers instead.

Update: I forgot to close the comments when publishing this entry. They are closed now, but trackbacks are open if you want to write your own blog about this (I don’t think it’s necessary, all arguments have been reharsed many times already. Ah, and for the records, the free ati driver works perfectly fine and fast (using MergedFB) in my dual-screen setup (2560*1024), with xv on both monitors.

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.

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 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.

Of bounties, donations and summers of code influence on volunteer participation

Stuff like the Google Summer of Code, the GNOME Women’s Summer Outreach Program 2006, the Sourceforge donations system, or Dunc-Tank (an experiment to see how targeted fund raising can improve Debian) are generally considered a good ideas. However, experiments have shown that sometimes, paying volunteers decreases the overall participation. Luis Villa wrote about this a few months ago, and summarized like this:

When people do things for their own intrinsic goodness (i.e., for reasons other than payment), introducing payment can reduce the amount of invovement.

I urge you to read Luis Villa’s blog entry about this, and specifically the Motivation Crowding Theory: A Survey of Empirical Evidence paper.

Update (22/09) :

The point of this blog entry was “You should read this, it could help you make your own opinion about this stuff.”, not “Dunc-Tank bashing.”.

About Dunc-Tank specifically, I don’t think that it desserves all the criticisms it has gone through recently, because :

  • It is an experiment. Its results will be discussed (I hope), and will help to better understand the consequences of such projects. Also, I like the fact that this experiment is taking place with Debian, because Debian hasn’t been the most innovative project lately.
  • It has limited scope: it’s only about paying two Release Managers for one month each, so it is unlikely to break totally the social dynamics of Debian. it’s not as if it was paying 400 people from 40 organizations without thinking too much about the social issues involved.
  • The team running Dunc-Tank is probably one of the best possible teams for this. Breaking Debian is probably very low on their priority list ;)

However, I would be more comfortable with Dunc-Tank if it’s goal was “Experiment the effects of fund raising on Debian”, and not “Pay developers to release etch in time” ( doesn’t say this, but some articles in the press do .)

One remaining issue is: is paying the RMs the best way to experiment fund raising ? I have no opinion about that, mostly because I don’t know how the Release Team works internally.

Disclaimer: I am not a DD, so I haven’t read the debian-private@ thread about that.

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 ?

DADVSI : le pire du pire ?

Le conseil constitutionnel a rendu sa décision concernant la loi DADVSI, et on ne peut pas en être content. Pour plus d’infos, voir ce billet d’Eolas.

Mais le pire du pire, ce sont les commentaires qu’on va avoir un peu partout dans les blogs, sur la dictature mise en place par le conseil constitutionnel, sur le fait qu’ils sont payés par les lobbyistes, sur les “petits vieux du ConCon qui étaient à l’abri dans leur bureau climatisé”, etc, etc, etc.

Cet autre billet d’Eolas, sur le CPE, permet de mieux comprendre le fonctionnement du conseil constitutionnel et d’éviter ces conclusions puériles …