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PowerDNS (pdns) 3.3-1~exp1 in Debian experimental

I have just uploaded PowerDNS 3.3-1~exp1 to Debian experimental. This new upstream version has introduced its own include directive, so Debian was able to drop its patch. Hence, our conffiles had to grow a .conf extension, which most of them didn't have in previous version.

If anybody wants to test updates from PowerDNS 3.1 to the new 3.3-1~exp1 in Debian unstable, please go ahead and report bugs in the Debian BTS. The package is known to not offer seamless DNSSEC, I'll work on that before I upload to unstable.

While we're at it: I would appreciate help with the PostgreSQL backend. Myself, I use mainly MySQL and am not too proficient in PostgreSQL. I'll accept both patches and more formal co-maintenance.

How to amd64 an i386 Debian installation with multiarch

Migrating a Debian installation between architectures has always been difficult. The recommended way to "crossgrade" an i386 Debian to amd64 Debian is to reinstall the system, move over data and configuration. For the more brave, in-place crossgrades usually involved chroots, rescue CDs, a lot of ar p | tar xf - data.tar.gz and luck.

I have never been brave when it comes to system administration, have done a lot of architecture migrations with reinstallation, and have always taken the opportunity to clear out the contamination that accumulates itself when a system is running for a long time. I would even recommend doing this to most people even now. However, I have a few very ugly systems in place that are still on i386 because I didn't dare going the reinstallation path.

Doing in-place crossgrades has become a lot easier since wheezy's release, since once now can have both i386 and amd64 libraries installed in parallel, which allows to replace foo:i386 with foo:amd64 without influencing the other parts of the system. The process is still full of pitfalls:

  • In wheezy, many library packages are multiarch capable. This means that you can have those library packages installed for more than one architecture. This is a technical must for this way of crossgrade, so never use that for an older-than-wheezy system. It won't work, it needs at least Debian wheezy. Unfortunately, not all libraries in wheezy are multiarch capable. This makes the process harder and a lot less predictable, since a crosscrade including such packages is going to spew incomprehensible and misleading apt error messages. In my experience, for example the libaprutil-1-dbd-* packages and libonig2 are of this kind.
  • apt removes a package before it reinstalls its new counterpart. This results in apt calling dpkg to remove dpkg, and then calling dpkg again to install dpkg. Guess which operation fails and the state of the system after this failure. Same applies to coreutils, which leaves the system without rm, which in turn dpkg of either architecture doesn't like. Using apt-get --download-only install to resolve dependencies and downloading the debs, followed by a traditional dpkg --install solves this issue since multiarch dpkg will replace a package with another one without deinstalling the first one first.
  • At least for the process, you need a kernel that can run both 32bit and 64bit binaries for the i386 architecture. AFAIR, setting CONFIG_64BIT, CONFIG_X86_64 and CONFIG_IA32_EMULATION in the kernel configuration takes care of this.
  • During the process, apt will temporary go into a badly broken state where it will refuse most operations. Be aware that you might need to manually download packages from the Internet. Be sure to have wget, curl, or a browser (maybe a text based one like elinks) available. dget is not going to help you here since it will only downloda packages for the native arch.
  • During the process, apt wants to remove the better part of your system. It is important to not let it do this, as it wants to deinstall essential packages as well.
  • Watch what your system does. During some steps, it might remove packages you might need. Keep track of the packages that were removed during the process and re-install them manually after finishing the crossgrade. Be sure not to purge packages that you might still need.
  • It looks like the process is not always exactly reproducible. During the first tries, I found myself without an initrd at all, with an initrd that lacked the ext[234].ko kernel modules, without working e2fstools and in a number of other undesireable states of the system.

I have only tried this yet with a freshly installed minimal wheezy server system. Trying the process with "real life" systems has shown to be full of more surprises. I will document other pitfalls I have fallen into here at a later time. My minimal wheezy system was running in a KVM VM with its virtual disk as a LVM LV in the host system. I took a snapshot before beginning and used lvconvert --merge numerous time to return my LV to the original state. Be aware that lvconvert --merge removes the snapshot after merging it, so you'll need to re-create the snapshot before trying again.

The process is absolutely not for the faint of the heart, and intimate knowlegde of Debian mechanisms is required at many points in the process. Please seriously consider a reinstall+migrate approach instead of using this process, and be sure to practice it on a working copy of your system before touching the live system. And always have a backup.

During the process, I discussed things with Paul Tagliamonte, who has done this before, but on a live system and with a slightly more invasive approach. He has blogged about this. Thank you very much, your hints were very helpful.

Continue reading "How to amd64 an i386 Debian installation with multiarch"

Heute mal wieder Debian

In den letzten 24 Stunden habe ich endlich mal wieder was für Debian gemacht: dnstop und sipcalc vom bisherigen Maintainer übernommen, auf Vordermann gebracht und uploaded, und immerhin einen Alibi-Upload von pdns-recursor, damit auch der recursor mit der neuen Maintainer-Mailingliste im Maintainerfeld und dem korrekten Alioth-Vcs-Link im debian/control nach Wheezy kommt.

Next PowerDNS version for Debian ready for testing

I have published PowerDNS version 3.1-1.0 on

This is a preliminary package and a release candidate to be 3.1-2 in Debian. If you're interested in PowerDNS on Debian, please test this package.

I plan to upload next week. This package will vanish from the web server once the package is visible in Debian.

How much added complexity in packages to cater for apt's shortcomings?

It is well known that apt has an issue when it comes to resolving circular dependencies. Therefore, Debian bug reporters have set out to eradicate circular dependencies from the archive. This does, however, add significant bloat to the actual packages, and I am questioning why this is really necessary.

Continue reading "How much added complexity in packages to cater for apt's shortcomings?"

How to have socat open a listening socket in the file system?

Dear Lazyweb, can anybody with some advanced socat-foo tell me the command line needed to have socat create a socket in the local file system and to listen on it, so that I can have Virtualbox connect a virtual serial console to it?

The material available on socat on the web is sparse, and virtualbox-related docs usually contain "tick the create pipe option", which is not helpful here since I would like to see the first output the virtual machine prints to its serial port. It would be vastly more useful to have the socket already created with socat listening so that I can immediately see what is being printed to the socket.

Unified Kernel for etch, lenny and sid

Traditionally, the Linux kernel is software that I compile myself from pristine upstream sources for various reasons. I have three major kernel flavours that get built (server, desktop and notebook), and I am pretty current in running a bleeding edge kernel. This is not really necessary any more nowadays, but it's a tradition that works pretty well.

My kernels get built on sid and are packaged up with kernel-package, and equivs builds a dependency helper package which pulls in the kernel's dependencies such as initramfs-tools and takes care of cross-version updates like going from 2.6.29 to 2.6.30. Up to now, I was always able to run a kernel built this way on all my systems which can range from oldstable to unstable.

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Bye bye KDE?

I have been using current KDE since most of my Linux time (having converted over from WindowMaker to KDE 2 back in 2002). But currently, I am seriously pondering to ditch KDE since KDE upstream seems to be wildly decided to kill KDE.

I have accidentally upgraded my desktop box to KDE4 because I missed putting KDE on hold before doing a major sid update after a couple of months. KDE4's first regression immediately showed itself - the right display doesn't get any attention from KDE. It just shows up in a grey checkerboard background, it doesn't have a panel, it doesn't have a menu, right click doesn't work. It looks like the only thing one can do with it is dragging windows onto it.

With help of #debian-kde, I quickly found out about this bug in Upstream Bugzilla, which is referred from #529487 and which was marked as Duplicate of this bug in upstream bugzilla, which is one and a half years old and was marked as "severity wishlist".

Despite the splendid job that the Debian KDE team has done to sort out the KDE4 mess, it looks like KDE upstream has managed to break Dual Head Setups for one and a half years and doesn't seem to be too interested in providing KDE4 in a way that it can be compared with past versions. This is very sad and will have me shopping for a new desktop environment soon, I am afraid.

Maybe it was not a so good idea to take away KDE 3 so soon and it might have been better to keep KDE 3 in Debian. Maybe it's time to re-introduce KDE 3 as co-installable packages? I would be willing to participate in this effort as a team member.

Which other Desktop Environments and/or Window Managers should I be shopping for? I'd like to have:

  • Dual-Head support (preferably with the possibility to switch desktops only on one display, but that's something that even KDE 3 cannot do yet)
  • Shortcuts like "gg:search words" or "wp:search words" to immediately open google, wikipedia, the BTS or the PTS
  • Overlapping windows that are not automatically resized
  • A terminal like konsole which allows me to have different session in tabs and to send my input to all tabs
  • A clipboard handler that will automatically pop up a window asking me whether I want to open the URL that I just marked in a browser
  • Integration with the Debian menu system
  • I will try adding to this list over the next days when I notice a feature that I have accustomed to so badly that I don't even notice any more when I'm using it.

synaptics and unstable?

Dear Lazyweb, I have just found out that ksynaptics has stopped working against the X in unstable, and that ksynaptics is not even in lenny, let alone in current testing and/or unstable. This currently leaves me with an unconfigured touchpad, which is a major nuisance since I have gotten accustomed to tap-dragging and touchpad border scrolling.

xserver-xorg-input-synaptics' README.Debian dates back to 2004, so I suspect that the information given there in does not any more apply to today's configfile-less X.

So, dear lazyweb, how do I get my touchpad back into the more intelligent mode? Clickable configuration preferred.

help needed for ATM support in ifupdown-scripts-zg2

I haven't been using ATM on Linux for some six years now. I neither have access to an ATM network any more nor do I have ATM hardware any more. Therefore, I plan to remove ATM support from ifupdown-scripts-zg2 in the next release which will be done in the next few weeks.

If anybody does still use ATM on Linux in conjunction with my scripts, you might want to offer help with the package if you want to have continued ATM support in ifdown-scripts-zg2. I cannot test the code any more and therefore cannot maintain it in the future.

LV naming, UUIDs, file systems labels

In the last few weeks, I spent quite some time wondering about how to arrange the hard disk layout of my productive systems in the future. This article outlines my thoughts and would like to ask the lazyweb for comments.

I try to keep my Debian servers as identically as possible, making it possible to talk non-linux persons remotely through the system without having to worry about this particular box' configuration.

Continue reading "LV naming, UUIDs, file systems labels"

nVidia and current Kernels II

A few months, I blogged about the pains I had with my nVidia FX 5200 graphics card, Debian and current kernels.

I have solved the issue in the mean time and would like to document what I did. This has been updated to reflect driver 173.14.20 from July 2009.

Continue reading "nVidia and current Kernels II"

How to pin lenny?

Dear lazyweb, how do I pin lenny now and have that pin hold after lenny's release?

  • Codename lenny doesn't work, apt cannot do this (#433624, 18 months old, without any reaction yet)
  • Version 5.0 doesn't work, lenny's Release file doesn't have a Version field yet
  • Suite testing will match lenny now and then track squeeze once squeeze is testing
Is there any method that will get me testing lenny now and stable lenny later and not testing squeeze?

kbd seems to be the way to go

This is just a small reminder (for me and others) that Debian is currently migrating from console-tools to kbd (back again, yes, those who have been around for a few years remember).

This information is obviously a closely-guarded secret. Console-tools is still Priority: important, and kbd is still Priority: extra. However, kbd seems to be much better maintained (current uploads happening, while console-log has seen its last maintainer upload two years ago), and unfortunately, neither package description suggests which package is the way to go. And Debian-installer still installs console-tools by default.

However, a few bugs were filed a year ago by the console-tools maintainer to drop console-tools from depends as console-tools is going away. So I guess that he knows what he's doing...

Before I get around to adding console-tools back to console-log's depends (as I almost did accidentally), I'll better blog this to remind people of console-log going away. Maybe we'll get the Priorities changed just in time for lenny.