Search Results: "Ian Main"

29 July 2022

Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (May and June 2022)

The following contributors got their Debian Developer accounts in the last two months: The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months: Congratulations!

13 May 2022

Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (March and April 2022)

The following contributors got their Debian Developer accounts in the last two months: The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months: Congratulations!

19 April 2022

Steve McIntyre: Firmware - what are we going to do about it?

TL;DR: firmware support in Debian sucks, and we need to change this. See the "My preference, and rationale" Section below. In my opinion, the way we deal with (non-free) firmware in Debian is a mess, and this is hurting many of our users daily. For a long time we've been pretending that supporting and including (non-free) firmware on Debian systems is not necessary. We don't want to have to provide (non-free) firmware to our users, and in an ideal world we wouldn't need to. However, it's very clearly no longer a sensible path when trying to support lots of common current hardware. Background - why has (non-free) firmware become an issue? Firmware is the low-level software that's designed to make hardware devices work. Firmware is tightly coupled to the hardware, exposing its features, providing higher-level functionality and interfaces for other software to use. For a variety of reasons, it's typically not Free Software. For Debian's purposes, we typically separate firmware from software by considering where the code executes (does it run on a separate processor? Is it visible to the host OS?) but it can be difficult to define a single reliable dividing line here. Consider the Intel/AMD CPU microcode packages, or the U-Boot firmware packages as examples. In times past, all necessary firmware would normally be included directly in devices / expansion cards by their vendors. Over time, however, it has become more and more attractive (and therefore more common) for device manufacturers to not include complete firmware on all devices. Instead, some devices just embed a very simple set of firmware that allows for upload of a more complete firmware "blob" into memory. Device drivers are then expected to provide that blob during device initialisation. There are a couple of key drivers for this change: Due to these reasons, more and more devices in a typical computer now need firmware to be uploaded at runtime for them to function correctly. This has grown: At the beginning of this timeline, a typical Debian user would be able to use almost all of their computer's hardware without needing any firmware blobs. It might have been inconvenient to not be able to use the WiFi, but most laptops had wired ethernet anyway. The WiFi could always be enabled and configured after installation. Today, a user with a new laptop from most vendors will struggle to use it at all with our firmware-free Debian installation media. Modern laptops normally don't come with wired ethernet now. There won't be any usable graphics on the laptop's screen. A visually-impaired user won't get any audio prompts. These experiences are not acceptable, by any measure. There are new computers still available for purchase today which don't need firmware to be uploaded, but they are growing less and less common. Current state of firmware in Debian For clarity: obviously not all devices need extra firmware uploading like this. There are many devices that depend on firmware for operation, but we never have to think about them in normal circumstances. The code is not likely to be Free Software, but it's not something that we in Debian must spend our time on as we're not distributing that code ourselves. Our problems come when our user needs extra firmware to make their computer work, and they need/expect us to provide it. We have a small set of Free firmware binaries included in Debian main, and these are included on our installation and live media. This is great - we all love Free Software and this works. However, there are many more firmware binaries that are not Free. If we are legally able to redistribute those binaries, we package them up and include them in the non-free section of the archive. As Free Software developers, we don't like providing or supporting non-free software for our users, but we acknowledge that it's sometimes a necessary thing for them. This tension is acknowledged in the Debian Free Software Guidelines. This tension extends to our installation and live media. As non-free is officially not considered part of Debian, our official media cannot include anything from non-free. This has been a deliberate policy for many years. Instead, we have for some time been building a limited parallel set of "unofficial non-free" images which include non-free firmware. These non-free images are produced by the same software that we use for the official images, and by the same team. There are a number of issues here that make developers and users unhappy:
  1. Building, testing and publishing two sets of images takes more effort.
  2. We don't really want to be providing non-free images at all, from a philosophy point of view. So we mainly promote and advertise the preferred official free images. That can be a cause of confusion for users. We do link to the non-free images in various places, but they're not so easy to find.
  3. Using non-free installation media will cause more installations to use non-free software by default. That's not a great story for us, and we may end up with more of our users using non-free software and believing that it's all part of Debian.
  4. A number of users and developers complain that we're wasting their time by publishing official images that are just not useful for a lot (a majority?) of users.
We should do better than this. Options The status quo is a mess, and I believe we can and should do things differently. I see several possible options that the images team can choose from here. However, several of these options could undermine the principles of Debian. We don't want to make fundamental changes like that without the clear backing of the wider project. That's why I'm writing this...
  1. Keep the existing setup. It's horrible, but maybe it's the best we can do? (I hope not!)
  2. We could just stop providing the non-free unofficial images altogether. That's not really a promising route to follow - we'd be making it even harder for users to install our software. While ideologically pure, it's not going to advance the cause of Free Software.
  3. We could stop pretending that the non-free images are unofficial, and maybe move them alongside the normal free images so they're published together. This would make them easier to find for people that need them, but is likely to cause users to question why we still make any images without firmware if they're otherwise identical.
  4. The images team technically could simply include non-free into the official images, and add firmware packages to the input lists for those images. However, that would still leave us with problem 3 from above (non-free generally enabled on most installations).
  5. We could split out the non-free firmware packages into a new non-free-firmware component in the archive, and allow a specific exception only to allow inclusion of those packages on our official media. We would then generate only one set of official media, including those non-free firmware packages. (We've already seen various suggestions in recent years to split up the non-free component of the archive like this, for example into non-free-firmware, non-free-doc, non-free-drivers, etc. Disagreement (bike-shedding?) about the split caused us to not make any progress on this. I believe this project should be picked up and completed. We don't have to make a perfect solution here immediately, just something that works well enough for our needs today. We can always tweak and improve the setup incrementally if that's needed.)
These are the most likely possible options, in my opinion. If you have a better suggestion, please let us know! I'd like to take this set of options to a GR, and do it soon. I want to get a clear decision from the wider Debian project as to how to organise firmware and installation images. If we do end up changing how we do things, I want a clear mandate from the project to do that. My preference, and rationale Mainly, I want to see how the project as a whole feels here - this is a big issue that we're overdue solving. What would I choose to do? My personal preference would be to go with option 5: split the non-free firmware into a special new component and include that on official media. Does that make me a sellout? I don't think so. I've been passionately supporting and developing Free Software for more than half my life. My philosophy here has not changed. However, this is a complex and nuanced situation. I firmly believe that sharing software freedom with our users comes with a responsibility to also make our software useful. If users can't easily install and use Debian, that helps nobody. By splitting things out here, we would enable users to install and use Debian on their hardware, without promoting/pushing higher-level non-free software in general. I think that's a reasonable compromise. This is simply a change to recognise that hardware requirements have moved on over the years. Further work If we do go with the changes in option 5, there are other things we could do here for better control of and information about non-free firmware:
  1. Along with adding non-free firmware onto media, when the installer (or live image) runs, we should make it clear exactly which firmware packages have been used/installed to support detected hardware. We could link to docs about each, and maybe also to projects working on Free re-implementations.
  2. Add an option at boot to explicitly disable the use of the non-free firmware packages, so that users can choose to avoid them.
Acknowledgements Thanks to people who reviewed earlier versions of this document and/or made suggestions for improvement, in particular:

21 March 2022

Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (January and February 2022)

The following contributor got his Debian Developer account in the last two months: The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months: Congratulations!

5 March 2022

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds in February 2022

Welcome to the February 2022 report from the Reproducible Builds project. In these reports, we try to round-up the important things we and others have been up to over the past month. As ever, if you are interested in contributing to the project, please visit our Contribute page on our website.
Jiawen Xiong, Yong Shi, Boyuan Chen, Filipe R. Cogo and Zhen Ming Jiang have published a new paper titled Towards Build Verifiability for Java-based Systems (PDF). The abstract of the paper contains the following:
Various efforts towards build verifiability have been made to C/C++-based systems, yet the techniques for Java-based systems are not systematic and are often specific to a particular build tool (eg. Maven). In this study, we present a systematic approach towards build verifiability on Java-based systems.

GitBOM is a flexible scheme to track the source code used to generate build artifacts via Git-like unique identifiers. Although the project has been active for a while, the community around GitBOM has now started running weekly community meetings.
The paper Chris Lamb and Stefano Zacchiroli is now available in the March/April 2022 issue of IEEE Software. Titled Reproducible Builds: Increasing the Integrity of Software Supply Chains (PDF), the abstract of the paper contains the following:
We first define the problem, and then provide insight into the challenges of making real-world software build in a reproducible manner-this is, when every build generates bit-for-bit identical results. Through the experience of the Reproducible Builds project making the Debian Linux distribution reproducible, we also describe the affinity between reproducibility and quality assurance (QA).

In openSUSE, Bernhard M. Wiedemann posted his monthly reproducible builds status report.
On our mailing list this month, Thomas Schmitt started a thread around the SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH specification related to formats that cannot help embedding potentially timezone-specific timestamp. (Full thread index.)
The Yocto Project is pleased to report that it s core metadata (OpenEmbedded-Core) is now reproducible for all recipes (100% coverage) after issues with newer languages such as Golang were resolved. This was announced in their recent Year in Review publication. It is of particular interest for security updates so that systems can have specific components updated but reducing the risk of other unintended changes and making the sections of the system changing very clear for audit. The project is now also making heavy use of equivalence of build output to determine whether further items in builds need to be rebuilt or whether cached previously built items can be used. As mentioned in the article above, there are now public servers sharing this equivalence information. Reproducibility is key in making this possible and effective to reduce build times/costs/resource usage.

diffoscope diffoscope is our in-depth and content-aware diff utility. Not only can it locate and diagnose reproducibility issues, it can provide human-readable diffs from many kinds of binary formats. This month, Chris Lamb prepared and uploaded versions 203, 204, 205 and 206 to Debian unstable, as well as made the following changes to the code itself:
  • Bug fixes:
    • Fix a file(1)-related regression where Debian .changes files that contained non-ASCII text were not identified as such, therefore resulting in seemingly arbitrary packages not actually comparing the nested files themselves. The non-ASCII parts were typically in the Maintainer or in the changelog text. [ ][ ]
    • Fix a regression when comparing directories against non-directories. [ ][ ]
    • If we fail to scan using binwalk, return False from BinwalkFile.recognizes. [ ]
    • If we fail to import binwalk, don t report that we are missing the Python rpm module! [ ]
  • Testsuite improvements:
    • Add a test for recent file(1) issue regarding .changes files. [ ]
    • Use our assert_diff utility where we can within the test_directory.py set of tests. [ ]
    • Don t run our binwalk-related tests as root or fakeroot. The latest version of binwalk has some new security protection against this. [ ]
  • Codebase improvements:
    • Drop the _PATH suffix from module-level globals that are not paths. [ ]
    • Tidy some control flow in Difference._reverse_self. [ ]
    • Don t print a warning to the console regarding NT_GNU_BUILD_ID changes. [ ]
In addition, Mattia Rizzolo updated the Debian packaging to ensure that diffoscope and diffoscope-minimal packages have the same version. [ ]

Website updates There were quite a few changes to the Reproducible Builds website and documentation this month as well, including:
  • Chris Lamb:
    • Considerably rework the Who is involved? page. [ ][ ]
    • Move the contributors.sh Bash/shell script into a Python script. [ ][ ][ ]
  • Daniel Shahaf:
    • Try a different Markdown footnote content syntax to work around a rendering issue. [ ][ ][ ]
  • Holger Levsen:
    • Make a huge number of changes to the Who is involved? page, including pre-populating a large number of contributors who cannot be identified from the metadata of the website itself. [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]
    • Improve linking to sponsors in sidebar navigation. [ ]
    • drop sponsors paragraph as the navigation is clearer now. [ ]
    • Add Mullvad VPN as a bronze-level sponsor . [ ][ ]
  • Vagrant Cascadian:

Upstream patches The Reproducible Builds project attempts to fix as many currently-unreproducible packages as possible. February s patches included the following:

Testing framework The Reproducible Builds project runs a significant testing framework at tests.reproducible-builds.org, to check packages and other artifacts for reproducibility. This month, the following changes were made:
  • Daniel Golle:
    • Update the OpenWrt configuration to not depend on the host LLVM, adding lines to the .config seed to build LLVM for eBPF from source. [ ]
    • Preserve more OpenWrt-related build artifacts. [ ]
  • Holger Levsen:
  • Temporary use a different Git tree when building OpenWrt as our tests had been broken since September 2020. This was reverted after the patch in question was accepted by Paul Spooren into the canonical openwrt.git repository the next day.
    • Various improvements to debugging OpenWrt reproducibility. [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]
    • Ignore useradd warnings when building packages. [ ]
    • Update the script to powercycle armhf architecture nodes to add a hint to where nodes named virt-*. [ ]
    • Update the node health check to also fix failed logrotate and man-db services. [ ]
  • Mattia Rizzolo:
    • Update the website job after contributors.sh script was rewritten in Python. [ ]
    • Make sure to set the DIFFOSCOPE environment variable when available. [ ]
  • Vagrant Cascadian:
    • Various updates to the diffoscope timeouts. [ ][ ][ ]
Node maintenance was also performed by Holger Levsen [ ] and Vagrant Cascadian [ ].

Finally If you are interested in contributing to the Reproducible Builds project, please visit our Contribute page on our website. However, you can get in touch with us via:

2 March 2022

Antoine Beaupr : procmail considered harmful

TL;DR: procmail is a security liability and has been abandoned upstream for the last two decades. If you are still using it, you should probably drop everything and at least remove its SUID flag. There are plenty of alternatives to chose from, and conversion is a one-time, acceptable trade-off.

Procmail is unmaintained procmail is unmaintained. The "Final release", according to Wikipedia, dates back to September 10, 2001 (3.22). That release was shipped in Debian since then, all the way back from Debian 3.0 "woody", twenty years ago. Debian also ships 25 uploads on top of this, with 3.22-21 shipping the "3.23pre" release that has been rumored since at least the November 2001, according to debian/changelog at least:
procmail (3.22-1) unstable; urgency=low
  * New upstream release, which uses the  standard' format for Maildir
    filenames and retries on name collision. It also contains some
    bug fixes from the 3.23pre snapshot dated 2001-09-13.
  * Removed  sendmail' from the Recommends field, since we already
    have  exim' (the default Debian MTA) and  mail-transport-agent'.
  * Removed suidmanager support. Conflicts: suidmanager (<< 0.50).
  * Added support for DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS in the source package.
  * README.Maildir: Do not use locking on the example recipe,
    since it's wrong to do so in this case.
 -- Santiago Vila <sanvila@debian.org>  Wed, 21 Nov 2001 09:40:20 +0100
All Debian suites from buster onwards ship the 3.22-26 release, although the maintainer just pushed a 3.22-27 release to fix a seven year old null pointer dereference, after this article was drafted. Procmail is also shipped in all major distributions: Fedora and its derivatives, Debian derivatives, Gentoo, Arch, FreeBSD, OpenBSD. We all seem to be ignoring this problem. The upstream website (http://procmail.org/) has been down since about 2015, according to Debian bug #805864, with no change since. In effect, every distribution is currently maintaining its fork of this dead program. Note that, after filing a bug to keep Debian from shipping procmail in a stable release again, I was told that the Debian maintainer is apparently in contact with the upstream. And, surprise! they still plan to release that fabled 3.23 release, which has been now in "pre-release" for all those twenty years. In fact, it turns out that 3.23 is considered released already, and that the procmail author actually pushed a 3.24 release, codenamed "Two decades of fixes". That amounts to 25 commits since 3.23pre some of which address serious security issues, but none of which address fundamental issues with the code base.

Procmail is insecure By default, procmail is installed SUID root:mail in Debian. There's no debconf or pre-seed setting that can change this. There has been two bug reports against the Debian to make this configurable (298058, 264011), but both were closed to say that, basically, you should use dpkg-statoverride to change the permissions on the binary. So if anything, you should immediately run this command on any host that you have procmail installed on:
dpkg-statoverride --update --add root root 0755 /usr/bin/procmail
Note that this might break email delivery. It might also not work at all, thanks to usrmerge. Not sure. Yes, everything is on fire. This is fine. In my opinion, even assuming we keep procmail in Debian, that default should be reversed. It should be up to people installing procmail to assign it those dangerous permissions, after careful consideration of the risk involved. The last maintainer of procmail explicitly advised us (in that null pointer dereference bug) and other projects (e.g. OpenBSD, in [2]) to stop shipping it, back in 2014. Quote:
Executive summary: delete the procmail port; the code is not safe and should not be used as a basis for any further work.
I just read some of the code again this morning, after the original author claimed that procmail was active again. It's still littered with bizarre macros like:
#define bit_set(name,which,value) \
  (value?(name[bit_index(which)] =bit_mask(which)):\
  (name[bit_index(which)]&=~bit_mask(which)))
... from regexp.c, line 66 (yes, that's a custom regex engine). Or this one:
#define jj  (aleps.au.sopc)
It uses insecure functions like strcpy extensively. malloc() is thrown around gotos like it's 1984 all over again. (To be fair, it has been feeling like 1984 a lot lately, but that's another matter entirely.) That null pointer deref bug? It's fixed upstream now, in this commit merged a few hours ago, which I presume might be in response to my request to remove procmail from Debian. So while that's nice, this is the just tip of the iceberg. I speculate that one could easily find an exploitable crash in procmail if only by running it through a fuzzer. But I don't need to speculate: procmail had, for years, serious security issues that could possibly lead to root privilege escalation, remotely exploitable if procmail is (as it's designed to do) exposed to the network. Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe the procmail author will go through the code base and do a proper rewrite. But I don't think that's what is in the cards right now. What I expect will happen next is that people will start fuzzing procmail, throw an uncountable number of bug reports at it which will get fixed in a trickle while never fixing the underlying, serious design flaws behind procmail.

Procmail has better alternatives The reason this is so frustrating is that there are plenty of modern alternatives to procmail which do not suffer from those problems. Alternatives to procmail(1) itself are typically part of mail servers. For example, Dovecot has its own LDA which implements the standard Sieve language (RFC 5228). (Interestingly, Sieve was published as RFC 3028 in 2001, before procmail was formally abandoned.) Courier also has "maildrop" which has its own filtering mechanism, and there is fdm (2007) which is a fetchmail and procmail replacement. Update: there's also mailprocessing, which is not an LDA, but processing an existing folder. It was, however, specifically designed to replace complex Procmail rules. But procmail, of course, doesn't just ship procmail; that would just be too easy. It ships mailstat(1) which we could probably ignore because it only parses procmail log files. But more importantly, it also ships:
  • lockfile(1) - conditional semaphore-file creator
  • formail(1) - mail (re)formatter
lockfile(1) already has a somewhat acceptable replacement in the form of flock(1), part of util-linux (which is Essential, so installed on any normal Debian system). It might not be a direct drop-in replacement, but it should be close enough. formail(1) is similar: the courier maildrop package ships reformail(1) which is, presumably, a rewrite of formail. It's unclear if it's a drop-in replacement, but it should probably possible to port uses of formail to it easily.
Update: the maildrop package ships a SUID root binary (two, even). So if you want only reformail(1), you might want to disable that with:
dpkg-statoverride --update --add root root 0755 /usr/bin/lockmail.maildrop 
dpkg-statoverride --update --add root root 0755 /usr/bin/maildrop
It would be perhaps better to have reformail(1) as a separate package, see bug 1006903 for that discussion.
The real challenge is, of course, migrating those old .procmailrc recipes to Sieve (basically). I added a few examples in the appendix below. You might notice the Sieve examples are easier to read, which is a nice added bonus.

Conclusion There is really, absolutely, no reason to keep procmail in Debian, nor should it be used anywhere at this point. It's a great part of our computing history. May it be kept forever in our museums and historical archives, but not in Debian, and certainly not in actual release. It's just a bomb waiting to go off. It is irresponsible for distributions to keep shipping obsolete and insecure software like this for unsuspecting users. Note that I am grateful to the author, I really am: I used procmail for decades and it served me well. But now, it's time to move, not bring it back from the dead.

Appendix

Previous work It's really weird to have to write this blog post. Back in 2016, I rebuilt my mail setup at home and, to my horror, discovered that procmail had been abandoned for 15 years at that point, thanks to that LWN article from 2010. I would have thought that I was the only weirdo still running procmail after all those years and felt kind of embarrassed to only "now" switch to the more modern (and, honestly, awesome) Sieve language. But no. Since then, Debian shipped three major releases (stretch, buster, and bullseye), all with the same vulnerable procmail release. Then, in early 2022, I found that, at work, we actually had procmail installed everywhere, possibly because userdir-ldap was using it for lockfile until 2019. I sent a patch to fix that and scrambled to remove get rid of procmail everywhere. That took about a day. But many other sites are now in that situation, possibly not imagining they have this glaring security hole in their infrastructure.

Procmail to Sieve recipes I'll collect a few Sieve equivalents to procmail recipes here. If you have any additions, do contact me. All Sieve examples below assume you drop the file in ~/.dovecot.sieve.

deliver mail to "plus" extension folder Say you want to deliver user+foo@example.com to the folder foo. You might write something like this in procmail:
MAILDIR=$HOME/Maildir/
DEFAULT=$MAILDIR
LOGFILE=$HOME/.procmail.log
VERBOSE=off
EXTENSION=$1            # Need to rename it - ?? does not like $1 nor 1
:0
* EXTENSION ?? [a-zA-Z0-9]+
        .$EXTENSION/
That, in sieve language, would be:
require ["variables", "envelope", "fileinto", "subaddress"];
########################################################################
# wildcard +extension
# https://doc.dovecot.org/configuration_manual/sieve/examples/#plus-addressed-mail-filtering
if envelope :matches :detail "to" "*"  
  # Save name in $ name  in all lowercase
  set :lower "name" "$ 1 ";
  fileinto "$ name ";
  stop;
 

Subject into folder This would file all mails with a Subject: line having FreshPorts in it into the freshports folder, and mails from alternc.org mailing lists into the alternc folder:
:0
## mailing list freshports
* ^Subject.*FreshPorts.*
.freshports/
:0
## mailing list alternc
* ^List-Post.*mailto:.*@alternc.org.*
.alternc/
Equivalent Sieve:
if header :contains "subject" "FreshPorts"  
    fileinto "freshports";
  elsif header :contains "List-Id" "alternc.org"  
    fileinto "alternc";
 

Mail sent to root to a reports folder This double rule:
:0
* ^Subject: Cron
* ^From: .*root@
.rapports/
Would look something like this in Sieve:
if header :comparator "i;octet" :contains "Subject" "Cron"  
  if header :regex :comparator "i;octet"  "From" ".*root@"  
        fileinto "rapports";
   
 
Note that this is what the automated converted does (below). It's not very readable, but it works.

Bulk email I didn't have an equivalent of this in procmail, but that's something I did in Sieve:
if header :contains "Precedence" "bulk"  
    fileinto "bulk";
 

Any mailing list This is another rule I didn't have in procmail but I found handy and easy to do in Sieve:
if exists "List-Id"  
    fileinto "lists";
 

This or that I wouldn't remember how to do this in procmail either, but that's an easy one in Sieve:
if anyof (header :contains "from" "example.com",
           header :contains ["to", "cc"] "anarcat@example.com")  
    fileinto "example";
 
You can even pile up a bunch of options together to have one big rule with multiple patterns:
if anyof (exists "X-Cron-Env",
          header :contains ["subject"] ["security run output",
                                        "monthly run output",
                                        "daily run output",
                                        "weekly run output",
                                        "Debian Package Updates",
                                        "Debian package update",
                                        "daily mail stats",
                                        "Anacron job",
                                        "nagios",
                                        "changes report",
                                        "run output",
                                        "[Systraq]",
                                        "Undelivered mail",
                                        "Postfix SMTP server: errors from",
                                        "backupninja",
                                        "DenyHosts report",
                                        "Debian security status",
                                        "apt-listchanges"
                                        ],
           header :contains "Auto-Submitted" "auto-generated",
           envelope :contains "from" ["nagios@",
                                      "logcheck@",
                                      "root@"])
     
    fileinto "rapports";
 

Automated script There is a procmail2sieve.pl script floating around, and mentioned in the dovecot documentation. It didn't work very well for me: I could use it for small things, but I mostly wrote the sieve file from scratch.

Progressive migration Enrico Zini has progressively migrated his procmail setup to Sieve using a clever way: he hooked procmail inside sieve so that he could deliver to the Dovecot LDA and progressively migrate rules one by one, without having a "flag day". See this explanatory blog post for the details, which also shows how to configure Dovecot as an LMTP server with Postfix.

Other examples The Dovecot sieve examples are numerous and also quite useful. At the time of writing, they include virus scanning and spam filtering, vacation auto-replies, includes, archival, and flags.

Harmful considered harmful I am aware that the "considered harmful" title has a long and controversial history, being considered harmful in itself (by some people who are obviously not afraid of contradictions). I have nevertheless deliberately chosen that title, partly to make sure this article gets maximum visibility, but more specifically because I do not have doubts at this moment that procmail is, clearly, a bad idea at this moment in history.

Developing story I must also add that, incredibly, this story has changed while writing it. This article is derived from this bug I filed in Debian to, quite frankly, kick procmail out of Debian. But filing the bug had the interesting effect of pushing the upstream into action: as mentioned above, they have apparently made a new release and merged a bunch of patches in a new git repository. This doesn't change much of the above, at this moment. If anything significant comes out of this effort, I will try to update this article to reflect the situation. I am actually happy to retract the claims in this article if it turns out that procmail is a stellar example of defensive programming and survives fuzzing attacks. But at this moment, I'm pretty confident that will not happen, at least not in scope of the next Debian release cycle.

13 January 2022

Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (November and December 2021)

The following contributors got their Debian Developer accounts in the last two months: The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months: Congratulations!

8 January 2022

Ayoyimika Ajibade: Nodejs 16 and Webpack 5 transition in Debian

What is Debian ? Debian is also known as Debian GNU/Linux is a free open-source operating system (OS) based currently on the Linux kernel or the FreeBSD kernel, developed by the community-supported Debian Project; although efforts are in place to provide Debian for other kernels, primarily for the Hurd.

Fun fact about Debian
  • Debian was the first Linux distribution to include a package management system for easy installation and removal of software. It was also the first Linux distribution that could be upgraded without requiring reinstallation.
  • To protect your system against Trojan horses and other malevolent software, Debian's servers verify that uploaded packages come from their registered Debian maintainers.
  • Debian comes with over 59000 packages; as of this writing (precompiled software that is bundled up in a nice format for easy installation on your machine), a package manager (APT), and other utilities that make it possible to manage thousands of packages on thousands of computers as easily as installing a single application. All of it is FREE!
  • Debian is also the basis for many other distributions, most notably Ubuntu

What is Webpack ? Webpack is a static module bundler for modern JavaScript applications. When webpack processes your application, it internally builds a dependency graph from one or more entry points and then combines every module your project needs into one or more bundles, which are static assets to serve your content from

What is nodejs ? Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform built on Chrome's JavaScript runtime for easily building fast and scalable network applications and also developing server-side applications, Here javascript code is no longer limited to the traditional method of running on the web browser

What does Transitioning mean in Debian? Transitioning is a concept in Debian about maintaining only one version of a library like webpack, nodejs. There is a bottleneck as other libraries and applications may not support the version we have in Debian. So we have to port that software which For example, node-mini-css-extract-plugin, node-mermaid and so many packages uses webpack. In buster we had webpack4 and in bullseye, we want to update it to webpack5. node-mini-css-extract-plugin already supports webpack5, but others like node-mermaid don't support it yet. So either we wait or we help those projects to update their webpack version. Check out this chat between my mentor and a community member on transitioning of rails6

Getting Started with Creating or Updating packages in Debian To be able to create or maintain packages suitable for uploading to Debian you must be in a sid/unstable environment or distribution. See recommended instructions on how to setup Debian Sid via this link See link on how to debianize a new package See link for brief steps on how to update a package to its new upstream version. For more detailed content on the whys and hows of updating a package to its new upstream version visit here Note In updating to the new upstream version we have to watch out for breaking changes caused by both minor updates or major updates. As per https://semver.org major updates(e.g If the current version is 2.3.4, then 3.0 is a major update) of libraries with versions greater than 1.0 and minor updates(e.g If the current version is 0.10 then 0.11 is a minor update) of libraries with versions less than 1.0 can have breaking changes

The overall flow of webpack5 and nodejs16 transitioning in Debian After grasping the fundamental process and flow on how to update a package, you are well on your way to transitioning . Transitioning in webpack or nodejs involves building and testing of dependencies or packages that depend on webpack or nodejs respectively called reverse-dependencies, these reverse dependencies are tested and built with the new updated version usually uploaded to the experimental distribution if reverse dependencies are built and tested successfully both reverse dependencies and dependency in this case nodejs or webpack are then uploaded to the unstable/sid distribution for further processing

The major guidelines to follow while transitioning are
  • Find a list of reverse dependencies to fix
  • See if new upstream versions of reverse dependencies are available that supports the transitioning version
  • See if new upstream of reverse dependencies are available that supports the transitioning version works
  • Report bugs found while rebuilding and testing reverse dependencies in Debian
  • Forward bugs found while rebuilding and testing reverse dependencies upstream
  • Fix or update packages and forward patches upstream
After a successful transitioning phase users of the Debian OS have access to the latest and also oldest installation of these packages via apt based on their preferences, which implies having the benefit of more features, bug fixes, updated security patches from those packages, all these are possible due to the community of amazing people

7 January 2022

Ayoyimika Ajibade: Everyone Struggles

Starting anything new always has in it an element of uncertainty, doubt, fears, and struggle to forge ahead, this has been my current situation as an outreachy intern working on the transition of nodejs16 and webpack5 which is about updating all packages that depend on nodejs14 and webpack4 to work well with the updated version of nodejs16 and webpack5 in the Debian operations system. Juicy right! As a software developer struggling to grasp both basic and advanced knowledge of a concept can seem daunting, much like learning anything new, you can be overwhelmed when you are surrounded and know there is a whole lot of other new concept, tools, process, languages you have to learn that are linked to what you are currently learning, as you are struggling to grasp the fundamental idea of what you are currently learning. imbued in any struggle to get a solution to the problem is where innovation and inventions lie in, and our learning becomes improved as we dive into fact-finding, getting your hypothesis after a series of tests and ultimately proffering a solution Some of my struggles as I intern with Debian has been lack of skill of the shell scripting language as that is one of the core languages to understand so as to navigate your way around maintaining packages for Debian, also funny enough having just an intermediate knowledge of the javascript programming language as arguably having a basic knowledge of javascript is necessary to building and testing javascript packages in Debian as I know only the basic of javascript since my core language is Python, that I struggle with. The good thing is that the more I keep at it the faster the chance of the struggles reducing Now to the fun part! having a community of developers who have been through the struggling phase is divine, as they make your learning experience much easier, my mentors and other community member have made learning to package modules for Debian much easier as all hands are on deck to always help out with our challenges. I remember it felt so wonderful when my first contribution got merged and I became more encouraged to update more packages. These helped me a lot in the contribution stage for Debian as I better familiar with how the system worked. I m super grateful to my mentors and co-intern as they are always there to assist me.

How I Navigate my way through my struggles I guess the first thing about any challenge is to be aware of it and admit your limitations of particular knowledge, then you move on to creatively seek solutions by asking for help from those who know the way. Voila! Now comes the part where you have to take up their solutions, ideas, opinions and make it work for your particular case scenario that is a skill set that all Software developers must-have. Going through documentation has immensely helped solve my problems much faster and build new knowledge, as I get the fundamental idea of why and how things work. I also try to break each concept down into steps, achieve my goals for each step, then build all solutions in each step together, surfing the internet to find solutions also has a huge benefit.

Vocabulary terms Used in Debian
  1. uscan => a tool to identify and download upstream source code from the repository, also compressing it into the required format.
  2. apt => a package manager to manage packages in Debian, similar to pip in python, npm in javascript.
  3. stretch/buster/bullseye/bookworm/sid => old old stable Debian9 - The codename for the release before the previous stable release (stretch). old stable Debian10 - The previous stable release (Buster). stable Debian11 - The current stable release (Bullseye). testing Debian12 - The next-generation stable release (Bookworm). unstable - The unstable development release (Sid) where new or updated packages are introduced. To understand more on debian release cycle
  4. reverse-rebuild => is building all modules that depend on a package in Debian while building the main package.
  5. lintian => A helper tool used to check for inconsistencies and errors in a Debian Package based on Debian standards.
  6. pkg-js-tools => A collection of tools to aid packaging Node modules in Debian.
  7. dpkg-buildpackage => A command to build upstream code in an unclean chroot or environment.
  8. quilt => A patch creation and management automation script. quilt helps manage a series of patches that a Debian package maintainer needs to be applied to upstream source when building the package.
  9. autopkgtest => a script used to test an installed binary package using the source package's tests
  10. RFS => (Request For Sponsorship) Working in the Debian ecosystem includes two roles either as a Debian Maintainer with restricted rights and privileges like uploading to the Debian archive or as a Debian Developer with all rights and privileges such as uploading to the Debian archive, as a new contributor or a Debian maintainer (with few rights and privileges) in Debian you can RFS so that your pull request (PR) can be merged to the Debian archive by a Debian Developer, much like your contribution has been accepted
There are so many terms and tools you have to get accustomed to, but they are easy to understand and use, as enough and frequently updated wiki documentation are available to guide you through, plus a whole lot of community members you can ask questions from. strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle. Napoleon Hill

19 November 2021

Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (September and October 2021)

The following contributors got their Debian Developer accounts in the last two months: The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months: Congratulations!

15 September 2021

Ian Jackson: Get source to Debian packages only via dgit; "official" git links are beartraps

tl;dr dgit clone sourcepackage gets you the source code, as a git tree, in ./sourcepackage. cd into it and dpkg-buildpackage -uc -b. Do not use: "VCS" links on official Debian web pages like tracker.debian.org; "debcheckout"; searching Debian's gitlab (salsa.debian.org). These are good for Debian experts only. If you use Debian's "official" source git repo links you can easily build a package without Debian's patches applied.[1] This can even mean missing security patches. Or maybe it can't even be built in a normal way (or at all). OMG WTF BBQ, why? It's complicated. There is History. Debian's "most-official" centralised source repository is still the Debian Archive, which is a system based on tarballs and patches. I invented the Debian source package format in 1992/3 and it has been souped up since, but it's still tarballs and patches. This system is, of course, obsolete, now that we have modern version control systems, especially git. Maintainers of Debian packages have invented ways of using git anyway, of course. But this is not standardised. There is a bewildering array of approaches. The most common approach is to maintain git tree containing a pile of *.patch files, which are then often maintained using quilt. Yes, really, many Debian people are still using quilt, despite having git! There is machinery for converting this git tree containing a series of patches, to an "official" source package. If you don't use that machinery, and just build from git, nothing applies the patches. [1] This post was prompted by a conversation with a friend who had wanted to build a Debian package, and didn't know to use dgit. They had got the source from salsa via a link on tracker.d.o, and built .debs without Debian's patches. This not a theoretical unsoundness, but a very real practical risk. Future is not very bright In 2013 at the Debconf in Vaumarcus, Joey Hess, myself, and others, came up with a plan to try to improve this which we thought would be deployable. (Previous attempts had failed.) Crucially, this transition plan does not force change onto any of Debian's many packaging teams, nor onto people doing cross-package maintenance work. I worked on this for quite a while, and at a technical level it is a resounding success. Unfortunately there is a big limitation. At the current stage of the transition, to work at its best, this replacement scheme hopes that maintainers who update a package will use a new upload tool. The new tool fits into their existing Debian git packaging workflow and has some benefits, but it does make things more complicated rather than less (like any transition plan must, during the transitional phase). When maintainers don't use this new tool, the standardised git branch seen by users is a compatibility stub generated from the tarballs-and-patches. So it has the right contents, but useless history. The next step is to allow a maintainer to update a package without dealing with tarballs-and-patches at all. This would be massively more convenient for the maintainer, so an easy sell. And of course it links the tarballs-and-patches to the git history in a proper machine-readable way. We held a "git packaging requirements-gathering session" at the Curitiba Debconf in 2019. I think the DPL's intent was to try to get input into the git workflow design problem. The session was a great success: my existing design was able to meet nearly everyone's needs and wants. The room was obviously keen to see progress. The next stage was to deploy tag2upload. I spoke to various key people at the Debconf and afterwards in 2019 and the code has been basically ready since then. Unfortunately, deployment of tag2upload is mired in politics. It was blocked by a key team because of unfounded security concerns; positive opinions from independent security experts within Debian were disregarded. Of course it is always hard to get a team to agree to something when it's part of a transition plan which treats their systems as an obsolete setup retained for compatibility. Current status If you don't know about Debian's git packaging practices (eg, you have no idea what "patches-unapplied packaging branch without .pc directory" means), and don't want want to learn about them, you must use dgit to obtain the source of Debian packages. There is a lot more information and detailed instructions in dgit-user(7). Hopefully either the maintainer did the best thing, or, if they didn't, you won't need to inspect the history. If you are a Debian maintainer, you should use dgit push-source to do your uploads. This will make sure that users of dgit will see a reasonable git history.
edited 2021-09-15 14:48 Z to fix a typo


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13 September 2021

Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (July and August 2021)

The following contributors got their Debian Developer accounts in the last two months: The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months: Congratulations!

12 September 2021

Russ Allbery: DocKnot 5.00

This release is the culmination of a project that I've been wanting to do for two years, but nearly all the work was done in the past week. That experience made me rethink some of my skepticism, but I'll get to that part of the story later. In March of 1999, I got tired of writing HTML by hand and wrote a small program called spin that implemented a macro language that translated into HTML. This makes it one of the oldest programs for which I have a continuous development history, predating podlators by three months. I think only News::Gateway (now very dormant) and Term::ANSIColor (still under active development but very stable) are older, as long as I'm not counting orphaned packages like newsyslog. I've used spin continuously ever since. It's grown features and an ecosystem of somewhat hackish scripts to do web publishing things I've wanted over the years: journal entries like this one, book reviews, a simple gallery (with some now-unfortunate decisions about maximum image size), RSS feeds, and translation of lots of different input files into HTML. But the core program itself, in all those years, has been one single Perl script written mostly in my Perl coding style from the early 2000s before I read Perl Best Practices. My web site is long overdue for an overhaul. Just to name a couple of obvious problems, it looks like trash on mobile browsers, and I'm using URL syntax from the early days of the web that, while it prompts some nostalgia for tildes, means all the URLs are annoyingly long and embed useless information such as the fact each page is written in HTML. Its internals also use a lot of ad hoc microformats (a bit of RFC 2822 here, a text-based format with significant indentation there, a weird space-separated database) and are supported by programs that extract meaning from human-written pages and perform automated updates to them rather than having a clear separation between structure and data. This will be a very large project, but it's the sort of quixotic personal project that I enjoy. Maintaining my own idiosyncratic static site generator is almost certainly not an efficient use of my time compared to, say, converting everything to Hugo. But I have 3,428 pages (currently) written in the thread macro language, plus numerous customizations that cater to my personal taste and interests, and, most importantly, I like having a highly customized system that I know exactly how to automate. The blocker has been that I didn't want to work on spin as it existed. It badly needed a structural overhaul and modernization, and even more badly needed a test suite since every release involved tedious manual testing by pouring over diffs between generations of the web site. And that was enough work to be intimidating, so I kept putting it off. I've separately been vaguely aware that I have been spending too much time reading Twitter (specifically) and the news (in general). It would be one thing if I were taking in that information to do something productive about it, but I haven't been. It's just doomscrolling. I've been thinking about taking a break for a while but it kept not sticking, so I decided to make a concerted effort this week. It took about four days to stop wanting to check Twitter and forcing myself to go do something else productive or at least play a game instead. Then I managed to get started on my giant refactoring project, and holy shit, Twitter has been bad for my attention span! I haven't been able to sustain this level of concentration for hours at a time in years. Twitter's not the only thing to blame (there are a few other stressers that I've fixed in the past couple of years), but it's obviously a huge part. Anyway, this long personal ramble is prelude to the first release of DocKnot that includes my static site generator. This is not yet the full tooling from my old web tools page; specifically, it's missing faq2html, cl2xhtml, and cvs2xhtml. (faq2html will get similar modernization treatment, cvs2xhtml will probably be rewritten in Perl since I have some old, obsolete scripts that may live in CVS forever, and I may retire cl2xhtml since I've stopped using the GNU ChangeLog format entirely.) But DocKnot now contains the core of my site generation system, including the thread macro language, POD conversion (by way of Pod::Thread), and RSS feeds. Will anyone else ever use this? I have no idea; realistically, probably not. If you were starting from scratch, I'm sure you'd be better off with one of the larger and more mature static site generators that's not the idiosyncratic personal project of one individual. It is packaged for Debian because it's part of the tool chain for generating files (specifically README.md) that are included in every package I maintain, and thus is part of the transitive closure of Debian main, but I'm not sure anyone will install it from there for any other purpose. But for once making something for someone else isn't the point. This is my quirky, individual way to maintain web sites that originated in an older era of the web and that I plan to keep up-to-date (I'm long overdue to figure out what they did to HTML after abandoning the XHTML approach) because it brings me joy to do things this way. In addition to adding the static site generator, this release also has the regular sorts of bug fixes and minor improvements: better formatting of software pages for software that's packaged for Debian, not assuming every package has a TODO file, and ignoring Autoconf 2.71 backup files when generating distribution tarballs. You can get the latest version of DocKnot from CPAN as App-DocKnot, or from its distribution page. I know I haven't yet updated my web tools page to reflect this move, or changed the URL in the footer of all of my pages. This transition will be a process over the next few months and will probably prompt several more minor releases.

23 August 2021

Leandro Doctors: Clojure CLI Tools in Debian - GSoC 2021 Final Report

NOTE: this blog post is based on my "Clojure CLI Tools in Debian" GSoC 2021 project Final Report.

IntroMy name is Leandro Doctors ( allentiak on IRC), and I ve been the GSoC intern working with the Debian Clojure Team during 2021. This is my final report. You can also check my original proposal and my first report.

SummaryWhereas the raw data may not sound by itself very positive, my personal conclusion is. This is, whereas I didn t fully finish the required deliverables envisioned in my original proposal, I do feel I am much closer to, eventually, becoming a Debian Developer. So, by all means, I consider this project has had a positive outcome.

ProjectThe goal of the Clojure Build Tools in Debian project was to provide Clojure Debian users with some of the latest advanced build tools and libraries the upstream Clojure developers have been lately working on. These include tools.deps.alpha, a library for dependency graph resolution and classpath building, and the CLI tool clj, for REPL interaction. If time permitted, I was also to improve the quality of both new and existing Clojure packages, and the overall Debian Clojure packaging process. My mentor was Louis-Louis-Philippe V ronneau, and my co-mentor was Utkarsh Gupta.

MotivationWhy this project? On the one side, if you re a Clojure lover like me, you may have noticed that the Clojure experience in Debian is, as of mid 2021, well... still quiet limited. Additionally, this project aligned with my own background in Free Software community building and my research interest in Peer Production.When I mention how limited today s Clojure experience in Debian is, I can see two reasons for this, deeply intertwined. The first one is that there currently aren t many Clojure-specific packaging tools in Debian (such as a clojure-debian-helper). The second reason for which we only currently have a suboptimal Clojure experience in Debian, and probably the root of the previous one, is that many core build tools and libraries for the language have not simply been packaged yet. My project aimed to attack that seemingly root cause.As I said, another reason for me choosing this project is my own experience as the Co-founder and Leader of, probably, the first Free Software Community experience in my hometown of San Juan, Argentina. That interest in Free Software evolved in a first PhD attempt in what is now known as the field of Peer Production. A subject that has lived within me as a research interest during my day job at a University.Being a Clojure fan, it felt only logical combining all those interests somehow. And this project seemed like the ideal combination.

The Debian Clojure TeamI ve been working with a small, yet very warm team. The current incarnation of the Debian Clojure Team exists thanks to the hard work of three people.Elana Hashman (aka the Clojure necromancer ), revived the team around three years ago. Later on, the team gained the invaluable presence of Louis-Philippe V ronneau and Utkarsh Gupta (my mentor and co-mentor, respectively).Together, these Three Musketeers have maintained the team alive, allowing us, Debian users, to enjoy Clojure.

StatusDuring the first part of my project, I mainly worked on learning the basics of Debian packaging, and got my first package uploaded. I have to thank Louis-Philippe, Utkarsh, and Elana for their immense patience and support during that part, as it took me quite some effort grasping the basics of Debian packaging.During the second part of my project, I worked on my last packages, and almost completed the originally required scope of the project. I only have to finish working on the transition from the currently provided set of packages (based on a Debian-specific clojure runner) to the newly provided upstream clojure and clj runners.Unfortunately, I didn t have much time left to start working on the opportunities for improvement already identified by the Debian Clojure Team originally outlined in my proposal. Whereas I did update one older Clojure package not built using leiningen (tools-data-xml-clojure), I didn t write any Lintian tags to make Clojure packaging in Debian more robust, nor worked towards the automation of Clojure unit tests in autopkgtests via autodep8.

Deliverables: Data vs. ConclusionsIf we are to talk about deliverables, we should start with the data. According to my original proposal, I was required to provide both new and updated Clojure packages accepted into Debian unstable , and updated Clojure packaging documentation. Additionally, if time permitted, I was to also provide new Clojure Lintian tags merged by the Lintian maintainers, and new Clojure autodep8 scripts merged by the autodep8 maintainers. Whereas I partially accomplished both required tasks, I didn t manage to start working on any of the optional deliverables.When looked in isolation, those numbers may look somewhat disappointing for some people. However, I can draw a much more positive conclusion. Why?Firstly, GSoC is supposed to be a learning experience. Moreover, as I said in my original proposal, I approach[ed] this project as a great opportunity to, finally, start my journey towards becoming a Debian Developer . In that sense, I consider the time invested into this project fruitful. In this way, I have learned the basics of packaging, how to interact with the Debian Clojure Team, and and already got my first packages accepted. Plus, I m looking forward to continuing to work with the Debian Clojure Team so I can attain the original scope of the project. Therefore, all things considered, I can consider this experience as a moderate success.

Lessons LearnedTechnically speaking, if I have learned one thing during these weeks, is that packaging, although easy to be underestimated, is by no means a trivial process. As any Debian Developer surely knows, the onboarding process can take some time. Plus, what is easy for some people, can be difficult for others. In my case, this was quite evident. Whereas I can speak several languages and learning new ones takes me little effort, grasping the basics of packaging took me (literally!) blood, sweat and tears. Indeed, the packaging learning curve was quite steep for me.That being said, I did learn a thing or two about packaging. So, if I managed to get here, I m sure many others can. It may take them more or less time than what it took me, but learning (at least the basics) of packaging is an achievable goal.Technical skill learning aside, I value very highly the non-technical skills I have so far improved during this project.For instance, I also learned that it can take some time to adapt to real-time online communication. Before this project, remote working meant either exchanging emails or getting into video or audio calls, with a low emphasis on chat-based interaction. Early on, I realized that the Debian Clojure Team interacts almost exclusively via, well... chat! And those two approaches are very different indeed. It has taken me some time to adjust, but I ve improved greatly in this aspect as well.Finally, improving my time management skills has been also a key part of this process. Whereas I had already been working remotely for over a year and a half already, my day job is not so interaction-dependent as this project (specially in the beginning). So it took me some time to adapt to this way of working, and to plan my workload so I could use those waiting moments to advance in other parts of the project. Still a lot to improve here, but improving nevertheless.

AcknowledgmentsI first have to thank upstream. More specifically, one of the upstream developers of the clojure-tools, Alex Miller. Everytime I needed specific information on what do specific parts of the Clojure CLI tools s codebase do, tools.deps.alpha do, he popped up a reply in a matter of hours. He has shown genuine interest in the success of is project during by carefully replying to my emails with detailed explanations of code intent and form, both in private and in public conversations. Thank you for all that, Alex!Let s move on to the Debian Clojure Team.First, Elana. I thank Elana for her initial openness when I first contacted her about this idea. It was *her* who initially contacted Louis-Philippe so he would become my mentor. I wouldn t have started to work on this project if it wasn t for her. Plus, she provided quite a piece of advise in more that one ocassion. So, thank you very much for all that, Elana!I also thank Utkarsh, my co-mentor, for his overall technical advise. And a special mention to his initial help to setup my Matrix client for OFTC chat. At that moment, it was *him* who took the time to help me in real time so I could solve that problem. So, thank you very much for all that, Utkarsh!I finally have to thank Louis-Philippe, my mentor, for his patient guidance during the whole process. His dedication and hard work has been *instrumental* for my progress. And a special mention for his tolerance with respect to some unforeseen personal circumstances I had to endure during the first weeks. When one is playing the newbie, times abound when one depends on other people s feedback. And Debian is made of volunteers, who have a life outside it. Every time I asked, Louis-Philippe was there. I wouldn t have gotten here if it wasn t for him. So, thank you *so* much for all that, Louis-Philippe!

Final WordsI would like to close this report with a reflection.I have been using Debian for many, many years now, and I had been looking for a way to contribute back to the project for some time already. I even did some work on a non-packaging Debian project. That being said, I never managed to deliver much, really.So, the very existence of outreach programs as this one is, in my humble opinion, crucial. In my case, the funding I got through the GSoC program was instrumental in being able to allocate time for this endeavor, and to finally get started contributing to Debian. Plus, it has had a very positive impact on me; in many ways, some of which I am only starting to discover now that the project is ending.When I put things into perspective, this project is very important for me. Actually, it is nothing but the first step within a long-term journey: becoming a Debian member. Hopefully, I would like to be able to apply for Debian membership by the end of this year.

Questions?Thank you very much for your time reading this! I look forward to hearing (or reading) your feedback. Please come and meet with the Debian Clojure Team Moreover, I will be in the Clojure BoF on DebConf2021. Moreover, do not hesitate to send me an email.

Data

Task Status
  • Required Tasks:
    • T1: Setting up a full Debian packaging development environment and learning the basics of Debian packaging.
      • Successfully completed the first part during the Application period.
      • Successfully completed the second part during the Coding periods.
    • T2: Identifying and packaging the missing dependencies to package clojure-cli.
      • Successfully completed as of the end of Coding II.
    • T3: Packaging clojure-cli.
      • 90% done as of the end of Coding II.
    • T4: Updating clojure to use clojure-cli.
      • To be completed after GSoC.
    • T5: Updating the Clojure Packaging Guide with information on how to use the new clojure-cli scripts.
      • Improved existing documentation. To be completed after GSoC.
  • Optional Tasks:
    • T6: Writing Lintian tags to make Clojure packaging in Debian more robust.
      • To be completed after GSoC.
    • T7: Working to automate Clojure unit testing in autopkgtests using autodep8.
      • To be completed after GSoC.
    • T8: Updating older Clojure packages not built using leiningen or clojure-cli.
      • To be completed after GSoC.

Packages
  1. Updated packages:
  2. New packages:
    • tools-gitlibs-clojure -- Clojure API for programatically accessing git libraries. ITP: #905543 in NEW.
    • ITP: tools-deps-alpha-clojure -- functional API for dependency management and classpath creation https://bugs.debian.org/891136 Needs to be uploaded by Louis-Philippe.
  3. In-Progress packages:
    • ITP: clojure-cli -- upstream CLI entrypoints for Clojure https://bugs.debian.org/891141 90% done - Package completed. I only need to finish implementing the transition from existing clojure scripts. To be completed after GSoC.
  4. Opened ITPs:
  5. Reported bugs

Other
  1. Interactions with upstream in the Debian-Clojure mailing list:
    • Many productive interactions with one of the upstream developers, Alex Miller (June, August).
  2. Wiki page:
    1. https://wiki.debian.org/Clojure/Goals/ClojureCLIToolsInDebian

23 July 2021

Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (May and June 2021)

The following contributors got their Debian Developer accounts in the last two months: The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months: Congratulations!

14 May 2021

Jelmer Vernooij: Ognibuild

The Debian Janitor is an automated system that commits fixes for (minor) issues in Debian packages that can be fixed by software. It gradually started proposing merges in early December. The first set of changes sent out ran lintian-brush on sid packages maintained in Git. This post is part of a series about the progress of the Janitor. The FOSS world uses a wide variety of different build tools; given a git repository or tarball, it can be hard to figure out how to build and install a piece of software. Humans will generally know what build tool a project is using when they check out a project from git, or they can read the README. And even then, the answer may not always be straightforward to everybody. For automation, there is no obvious place to figure out how to build or install a project.

Debian For Debian packages, Debian maintainers generally will have determined that the appropriate tools to invoke are, and added appropriate invocations to debian/rules. This is really nice when rebuilding all of Debian - one can just invoke debian/rules - a consistent interface - and it will in turn invoke the right tools to build the package, meeting a long list of requirements. With newer versions of debhelper and most common build systems, debhelper can figure a lot of this out automatically - the maintainer just has to add the appropriate build and run time dependencies. However, debhelper needs to be consistent in its behaviour per compat level - otherwise builds might start failing with different versions of debhelper, when the autodetection logic is changed. debhelper can also only do the right thing if all the necessary dependencies are present. debhelper also only functions in the context of a Debian package.
Ognibuild Ognibuild is a new tool that figures out the build system in use by an upstream project, as well as the other dependencies it needs. This information can then be used to invoke said build system, or to e.g. add missing build dependencies to a Debian package. Ognibuild uses a variety of techniques to work out what the dependencies for an upstream package are:
  • Extracting dependencies and other requirements declared in build system metadata (e.g. setup.py)
  • Attempting builds and parsing build logs for missing dependencies (repeating until the build succeeds), calling out to buildlog-consultant
Once it is determined which dependencies are missing, they can be resolved in a variety of ways. Apt can be invoked to install missing dependencies on Debian systems (optionally in a chroot) or ecosystem-specific tools can be used to do so (e.g. pypi or cpan). Instead of installing packages, the tool can also simply inform the user about the missing packages and commands to install them, or update a Debian package appropriately (this is what deb-fix-build does). The target audience of ognibuild are people who need to (possibly from automation) build a variety of projects from different ecosystems or users who are looking to just install a project from source. Developers who are just hacking on e.g. a Python project are better off directly invoking the ecosystem-native tools rather than a wrapper like ognibuild.
Supported ecosystems (Partially) supported ecosystems currently include:
  • Combinations of make and autoconf, automake or CMake
  • Python, including fetching packages from pypi
  • Perl, including fetching packages from cpan
  • Haskell, including fetching from hackage
  • Ninja/Meson
  • Maven
  • Rust, including fetching packages from crates.io
  • PHP Pear
  • R, including fetching packages from CRAN and Bioconductor
For a full list, see the README.
Usage Ognibuild provides a couple of top-level subcommands that will seem familiar to anybody who has used a couple of other build systems:
  • ogni clean - remove build artifacts
  • ogni dist - create a dist tarball
  • ogni build - build the project in the current directory
  • ogni test - run the test suite
  • ogni install - install the project somewhere
  • ogni info - display project information including discovered build system and dependencies
  • ogni exec - run an arbitrary command but attempt to resolve issues like missing dependencies
These tools all take a couple of common options:
resolve=apt auto native Specifies how to resolve any missing dependencies:
  • apt: install the appropriate dependency using apt
  • native: install dependencies using native tools like pip or cpan
  • auto: invoke either apt or native package install, depending on whether the current user is allowed to invoke apt
schroot=name Run inside of a schroot.
explain do not make any changes but tell the user which native on apt packages they could install. There are also subcommand-specific options, e.g. to install to a specific directory on restrict which tests are run.
Examples
Creating a dist tarball
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% git clone https://github.com/dulwich/dulwich
% cd dulwich
% ogni --schroot=unstable-amd64-sbuild dist
 
Writing dulwich-0.20.21/setup.cfg
creating dist
Creating tar archive
removing 'dulwich-0.20.21' (and everything under it)
Found new tarball dulwich-0.20.21.tar.gz in /var/run/schroot/mount/unstable-amd64-sbuild-974d32d7-6f10-4e77-8622-b6a091857e85/build/tmpucazj7j7/package/dist.
Installing ldb from source, resolving dependencies using apt
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% wget https://download.samba.org/pub/ldb/ldb-2.3.0.tar.gz
% tar xvfz ldb-2.3.0.tar.gz
% cd ldb-2.3.0
% ogni install --prefix=/tmp/ldb
 
+ install /tmp/ldb/include/ldb.h (from include/ldb.h)
 
Waf: Leaving directory  /tmp/ldb-2.3.0/bin/default'
'install' finished successfully (11.395s)
Running all tests from XML::LibXML::LazyBuilder
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% wget  https://cpan.metacpan.org/authors/id/T/TO/TORU/XML-LibXML-LazyBuilder-0.08.tar.gz _ <https://cpan.metacpan.org/authors/id/T/TO/TORU/XML-LibXML-LazyBuilder-0.08.tar.gz> _
% tar xvfz XML-LibXML-LazyBuilder-0.08.tar.gz
Cd XML-LibXML-LazyBuilder-0.08
% ogni test
 
Current Status ognibuild is still in its early stages, but works well enough that it can detect and invoke the build system for most of the upstream projects packaged in Debian. If there are buildsystems that it currently lacks support for or other issues, then I d welcome any bug reports.

13 May 2021

Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (March and April 2021)

The following contributors got their Debian Developer accounts in the last two months: The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months: Congratulations!

29 March 2021

Benjamin Mako Hill: Identifying Underproduced Software

I wrote this blog post with Kaylea Champion and a version of this post was originally posted on the Community Data Science Collective blog. Critical software we all rely on can silently crumble away beneath us. Unfortunately, we often don t find out software infrastructure is in poor condition until it is too late. Over the last year or so, I have been supporting Kaylea Champion on a project my group announced earlier to measure software underproduction a term we use to describe software that is low in quality but high in importance. Underproduction reflects an important type of risk in widely used free/libre open source software (FLOSS) because participants often choose their own projects and tasks. Because FLOSS contributors work as volunteers and choose what they work on, important projects aren t always the ones to which FLOSS developers devote the most attention. Even when developers want to work on important projects, relative neglect among important projects is often difficult for FLOSS contributors to see. Given all this, what can we do to detect problems in FLOSS infrastructure before major failures occur? Kaylea Champion and I recently published a paper laying out our new method for measuring underproduction at the IEEE International Conference on Software Analysis, Evolution and Reengineering (SANER) 2021 that we believe provides one important answer to this question.

A conceptual diagram of underproduction. The x-axis shows relative importance, the y-axis relative quality. The top left area of the graph described by these axes is 'overproduction' -- high quality, low importance. The diagonal is Alignment: quality and importance are approximately the same. The lower right depicts underproduction -- high importance, low quality -- the area of potential risk.Conceptual diagram showing how our conception of underproduction relates to quality and importance of software.
In the paper, we describe a general approach for detecting underproduced software infrastructure that consists of five steps: (1) identifying a body of digital infrastructure (like a code repository); (2) identifying a measure of quality (like the time to takes to fix bugs); (3) identifying a measure of importance (like install base); (4) specifying a hypothesized relationship linking quality and importance if quality and importance are in perfect alignment; and (5) quantifying deviation from this theoretical baseline to find relative underproduction. To show how our method works in practice, we applied the technique to an important collection of FLOSS infrastructure: 21,902 packages in the Debian GNU/Linux distribution. Although there are many ways to measure quality, we used a measure of how quickly Debian maintainers have historically dealt with 461,656 bugs that have been filed over the last three decades. To measure importance, we used data from Debian s Popularity Contest opt-in survey. After some statistical machinations that are documented in our paper, the result was an estimate of relative underproduction for the 21,902 packages in Debian we looked at. One of our key findings is that underproduction is very common in Debian. By our estimates, at least 4,327 packages in Debian are underproduced. As you can see in the list of the most underproduced packages again, as estimated using just one more measure many of the most at risk packages are associated with the desktop and windowing environments where there are many users but also many extremely tricky integration-related bugs.
This table shows the 30 packages with the most severe underproduction problem in Debian, shown as a series of boxplots.These 30 packages have the highest level of underproduction in Debian according to our analysis.
We hope these results are useful to folks at Debian and the Debian QA team. We also hope that the basic method we ve laid out is something that others will build off in other contexts and apply to other software repositories.
In addition to the paper itself and the video of the conference presentation on Youtube by Kaylea, we ve put a repository with all our code and data in an archival repository Harvard Dataverse and we d love to work with others interested in applying our approach in other software ecosytems.

For more details, check out the full paper which is available as a freely accessible preprint.

This project was supported by the Ford/Sloan Digital Infrastructure Initiative. Wm Salt Hale of the Community Data Science Collective and Debian Developers Paul Wise and Don Armstrong provided valuable assistance in accessing and interpreting Debian bug data. Ren Just generously provided insight and feedback on the manuscript.

Paper Citation: Kaylea Champion and Benjamin Mako Hill. 2021. Underproduction: An Approach for Measuring Risk in Open Source Software. In Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Software Analysis, Evolution and Reengineering (SANER 2021). IEEE.

Contact Kaylea Champion (kaylea@uw.edu) with any questions or if you are interested in following up.

23 March 2021

Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (January and February 2021)

The following contributors got their Debian Developer accounts in the last two months: The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months: Congratulations!

22 January 2021

Bits from Debian: New Debian Maintainers (November and December 2020)

The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months: Congratulations!

Next.