DebConf maintenance
on 30.09.2007, 21:31
in debconf-news
Debaday needs your help (yeah, seriously)
on 27.09.2007, 08:25
in packages-news
GPRename: GTK2-Perl Batch Renamer
on 19.09.2007, 05:00
in packages-news
newsbeuter: RSS feed reader for the text console
on 16.09.2007, 05:00
in packages-news
Listadmin: command line mailman moderator queue manipulation
on 12.09.2007, 05:00
in packages-news
Conky: highly configurable system monitor for X
on 02.09.2007, 05:00
in packages-news

DebConf maintenance

published on Sun Sep 30 21:31:00 2007 in debconf-news

In the last few days we (as in DebConf admins Steve Gran, Mark Hymers and myself) have been doing some DebConf maintenance work.

Some time ago one of DebConf’s permanent sponsors, ByteMark sponsored a new machine, krabappel, which we use as a replacement for the older machine we have from them, cmburns. It was neccessary, as good old cmburns had a lot of stuff running and so was always pretty loaded. Imagine it running most of our websites, main mail and dns server and then also having 4 vserver instances on it. Those vserver itself where also running things that do use some resources, like our wiki and the main DebConf7 site, the PentaBarf test-host and our LedgerSMB instance.

While it was long decided to move stuff our - we just had to find time to do it. This weekend seems to be it, everything is migrated except cmburns itself, as that needs a fix in the reverse dns entries for the new /28 we got.

We are using xen-tools to make installation of new images easy. For that I wrote a script that is used as a role script, automating all that various setup tasks that one can automate easily. Which means that it takes about 5 minutes to get a complete new XEN domain up and running. (Add some minutes to add it to nagios2, munin, our mail setup and to sync the userdatabase.)

Mark and Steve also did another migration: gallery.debconf.org is now using gallery2. Still needs a nice layout designed looking similar to our normal DebConf website, but that shouldn’t be too hard to get. While they have been on it they also integrated gallery.debian.net, so that it is back up again. Feel free to use both of them!

gallery.debconf.org offers space for all DebConf related pictures, be it the main yearly DebConf (and related) or regional DebConfs, like the one planned for Panama soon.

gallery.debian.net is a place where pictures from all Debian related events/parties/whatever can be put. Basically - whenever people working on Debian meet (like a BSP, a work meeting, etc) - feel free to put pictures up there. Just put them into a folder matching the year it happened in… Basic goal is to get a huge set of pictures from people involved in Debian.

Debaday needs your help (yeah, seriously)

published on Thu Sep 27 08:25:30 2007 in packages-news

Debaday didn’t publish anything last Sunday and Wednesday. It was simply because we have nothing to publish. :(

Due to the vacations of two editors (out of three), we were slower than usually to reply to submissions. But it’s not like we have received a lot of submissions recently.

We really need *your* help! Send us an quality article. See Contribute page for details. If you always wanted send us an article, but you did not know what to write about, here you have a small list of application people have requested or we think could be interesting to feature:

  • screenkast
  • approx
  • email-reminder
  • deborphan / debfoster
  • gaupol
  • psi
  • kid3
  • wget (yeah, surely there is people who does not know this!)
  • httptunnel
  • dctrl-tools
  • strigi
  • any game you like

If you are a user of any of this program and think it deserves be featured in debaday, send us an entry! :)

Also, we really need a fourth editor. The task includes replying to submissions, suggesting improvements, doing some minor editing and HTML formatting. You don’t need to be a native english speaker (the 3 editors are non-natives currently). And you get to read all entries before they are published, so you can show off with cool apps that nobody knows! If you can dedicate a little time on a regular basis to this (about 1 hour per week would be awesome), and think you won’t become crazy after working with ana, lucas and Tincho, just contact us!

GPRename: GTK2-Perl Batch Renamer

published on Wed Sep 19 05:00:59 2007 in packages-news

Article submitted by Johan Spee. We are running out of articles ! Please help DPOTD and submit good articles about software you like !

GPRename is a complete batch renamer for files and directories coded in GTK2 and Perl.

GPRename has been around since 2001, is quite stable and still very much alive today. At the start of 2007, it was ported from the deprecated GTK-Perl to the new GTK2-Perl and in mid 2007 the new 2.4 release is now GPL-3. The package was recently added to the Debian repositories (currently available in ‘testing’ and ‘unstable’) and can be used in many languages.

The program is lightweight and easy to use, yet supports a very complete set of features. In this respect it is comparable to renamers of more fame such as Konqueror’s KRename (KDE) or Thunar’s Bulk Rename (XFCE). GNOME does not have an official renamer but GPRename can easily fill that void. With a simple ‘action’ it can be integrated into Nautilus, the GNOME’s file manager (the prefab action is available). With the action installed any directory in Nautilus can directly be opened in GPRename through the right-click context menu.

gpr-ops.jpg

Even relatively inexperienced Linux users will have little trouble with the graphical interface, which in many ways resembles that of Nautilus and other file managers. The left panel shows a directory-tree for the usual point-and-shoot navigation. In the panel next to it files or directories (separate tabs) that are to be renamed can be selected. A preview of the modified names is also shown here, either after clicking the ‘preview’ button or automatically. Other useful automated options include:

  • Convert double spaces to single spaces.
  • Trim leading and/or trailing spaces.
  • Add leading zeros to numbers.

The bottom panel has four tabs, one for every basic rename function. The screenshots are quite self-explanatory:

Case change (UPPER, First Letter, lower)

gpr-cas.jpg

Insert or delete text at a given position

gpr-ins.jpg

Replace text (options: ‘case sensitive’ and ‘regular expressions’)

gpr-rep.jpg

Rename using incremental numbers (pic-01.jpg, pic-02.jpg etc.)

gpr-num.jpg

Don’t hesitate to give it a try, since there’s always the very reassuring ‘undo’ button. You never know.

GPRename is available in Debian testing and unstable, and will also be available in Ubuntu Gutsy.

newsbeuter: RSS feed reader for the text console

published on Sun Sep 16 05:00:11 2007 in packages-news

Article submitted by Andreas Krennmair. We are running out of articles ! Please help DPOTD and submit good articles about software you like !

RSS is a set of XML-based formats to describe articles (including title, link to the original article, description, etc.) which are usually transported via the HTTP protocol. These days, the majority of blogs and news websites provide RSS feeds. In order to read these feeds in a useful way, special programs, called RSS feed readers or RSS aggregators, can be used.

Newsbeuter is an RSS feedreader for the text console. It comes with a user interface in the style of such popular text tools such as mutt and slrn, and aims to be the text-mode RSS feedreader with the most features, providing the greatest flexibility for its users.

Starting with newsbeuter

After installing newsbeuter with a simple aptitude install newsbeuter (currently in Debian unstable, only), you can run newsbeuter for the first time, and is presented with the following message:

Error: no URLs configured. Please fill the file /home/ak/.newsbeuter/urls with RSS feed URLs or import an OPML file.

newsbeuter 0.6
usage: ./newsbeuter [-i <file>|-e] [-u <urlfile>] [-c <cachefile>] [-h]
        -r              refresh feeds on start
        -e              export OPML feed to stdout
        -i <file>       import OPML file
        -u <urlfile>    read RSS feed URLs from <urlfile>
        -c <cachefile>  use <cachefile> as cache file
        -C <configfile> read configuration from <configfile>
        -v              clean up cache thoroughly
        -h              this help

This means that newsbeuter needs to be configured with the RSS feed URLs that you want to read. This can either by achieved by manually filling
~/.newsbeuter/urls with RSS feed URLs (one by line), or by importing an OPML file by running newsbeuter -i blogroll.opml. OPML is a XML-based format for describing outlines, and is in wide use to import and export lists of RSS subscriptons between RSS feedreaders.

Newsbeuter can be configured via its configuration file ~/.newsbeuter/config. A wide range of properties and behaviour can be configured, so it’s wise to have a look into the provided documentation.

A reasonable configuration to start with is the following setup. The manpage lists all available configuration options, so there’s a lot to experiment with.

# This is an example configuration file for newsbeuter
# save this as ~/.newsbeuter/config

auto-reload yes       # automatically start a "reload all" thread at a defined interval
reload-time 30        # reload all feeds every 30 minutes
confirm-exit yes      # always ask the user whether he really wants to quit

Advanced Features

What makes newsbeuter so interesting are the advanced features it comes with. For previous users of SnowNews (another console-based RSS feedreader), newsbeuter supports snownews extensions, which are easy to develop and of which a huge collection is readily available.

Newsbeuter also comes with support for podcasts. Newsbeuter contains functionality to help collect podcast download URLs (either automatically or manually), which can then be downloaded with a separate tool called “podbeuter”.

Another very interesting feature is the internal filter language. It’s a generic expression language that makes it easy to define complex search criterias, which cannot only be used both for searching for feeds and articles, but also for defining rules for ignoring certain articles (think of killfiles for RSS feeds), or configuring “meta feeds”, feeds that contain only articles from other feeds which match a filter expression. The documentation comes with plenty of examples for these use cases.

Other features supported by newsbeuter are a flexible categorization functionality based on tags (every RSS feed can be tagged with keywords, and the displaying of RSS feeds can be filtered by tags), notifications about new articles via external programs or directly to a GNU screen session, free configurability of key bindings and colors, and an internal command line.

Screenshots

The typical feedlist of newsbeuter, giving the user an overview over configured feeds and the number of downloaded and unread articles per feed:
newsbeuter-feedlist.png

Newsbeuter renders the HTML that is contained in article descriptions, and lists all links that are contained in the article (these links can even be opened with a simple keypress in a freely configurable web browser):
newsbeuter-article.png

Colors can be freely configured, as demonstrated by this screenshot:
newsbeuter-colors.png

Internationalization (I18N) and localization (L10N) are important in the newsbeuter project. Newsbeuter can perfectly handle Unicode characters, and its user interface is currently available in English (default), German, Italian, French and Russian. The screenshot shows a Russian newsbeuter, displaying a Japanese RSS feed:
newsbeuter-i18n.png

Comparison with other RSS Feedreaders

A few other text-mode RSS feedreaders beside newsbeuter exist. The most prominent ones are Snownews and raggle. Both Snownews and raggle have in common that they are no longer under active development. Snownews itself is hard to maintain and extend, and raggle is relatively slow (even on new, fast computers), because it is purely implemented in the Ruby scripting language. Especially Snownews lacks a lot of features compared to newsbeuter, such as support for the Atom XML format and HTTPS support.

One goal of newsbeuter development was to build a feed reader that does not only fix the deficiencies of the existing tools and integrate all the useful features, but that is also easily extensible. This goal has been achieved, and now development is aiming at more advanced features: future releases will contain a flexible and extensible bookmarking support, improved support for notification frameworks such as Growl, and synchronization with web RSS feed readers such as Bloglines.

More Information

Since newsbeuter is relatively new (development started in November 2006, the first Debian package entered unstable in February 2007), it is only available in unstable and testing (in a completely outdated version). It will be available in Ubuntu Gutsy, but the version is outdated already as well.

Dzongkha Debian Linux updated for the Bhutanese people

contributed by andremachado, published on Fri Sep 14 13:19:24 2007 in news

At August 28th 2007, the Research Division of Department of Information and Technology (DIT) of the Bhutanese Ministry of Information and Communications updated its Dzongkha Debian Linux from the previous Dzongkha Linux 1.0 launched in June 2006. The installer is based on Debian Linux 4.0 Etch while the LiveCD is based on Morphix Linux.

According to Pema Geyleg, head developer of the Dzongkha Debian Linux, the launch of the Dzongkha Debian Linux marks Bhutan’s move towards free and open source software. Linux is a free operating system and we customised the Debian Linux according to the need of our Dzongkha users, he said. Since Debian Linux is recognised worldwide, we encourage people to use it.

The updated version will fully support Dzongkha computing on standard programs or applications like word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, web browsing and chatting.

Developed over a period of 13 months and at about US$ 80,000, the upgraded version has also dual booting system. It's a bilingual software, meaning that it supports both English and Dzongkha language, said Pema Geyleg.

DIT is aiming to develop software like text to speech, speech recognition system, and optical character recognition system on Dzongkha Debian Linux in the second phase. Text to speech program will read out text from the screen in Dzongkha. This will be of big use to people, who cannot read or write, he said. The Speech Recognition system will make the computer type any dictation. We have the capacity and are confident of doing it, said Pema Geyleg.

DIT has also released a 222-paged book on dzongkha computer terms. Officials said that they will also conduct a training for interested people. Meanwhile, the software will be posted on Druknet soon and will be downloaded for free also at the project site. Live CDs are available at DIT.

About Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked South Asian nation situated between India and Tibet, People's Republic of China, and is often described as the last surviving traditional Himalayan Buddhist culture. The official language is Dzongkha, a language from the Sino-Tibetan family. Bhutan is very committed to preserve its local culture and traditions.

About Debian

Debian GNU/Linux is a free operating system, developed by more than a thousand volunteers from all over the world who collaborate via the Internet.

Debian's dedication to Free Software, its non-profit nature, and its open development model make it unique among GNU/Linux distributions.

The Debian project's key strengths are its volunteer base, its dedication to the Debian Social Contract, and its commitment to provide the best operating system possible.

Italian Debian Community Conference 2007, 15th 16th September, San Dona di Piave (VE, Italy)

contributed by andremachado, published on Fri Sep 14 13:18:51 2007 in event-announce

We are glad to announce the 3rd edition of the Italian Debian Community Conference (DCC-IT 2007).

This year the event is going to take place on 15th and 16th September in San Donà di Piave (Venice - Italy), once again as part of the End Summer Camp.

The conference is meant to give a common place for the Italian community to discuss ideas and share knowledge, where users, translators and developers can meet and directly interact. This is also going to be a good occasion for a GPG keysigning party.

There are already some talks (in Italian, of course) planned, but new speakers are always welcome.

Although this is mainly a nation-wide event, the italian Debian crowd would be happy to meet Debian people from abroad.

More information is available in English in a wiki. For any kind of questions, feel free to mail the italiandebconf mailing list

Listadmin: command line mailman moderator queue manipulation

published on Wed Sep 12 05:00:27 2007 in packages-news

Article submitted by Kaerast. We are running out of articles ! Please help DPOTD and submit good articles about software you like !

You’ve ended up moderating many Mailman lists across multiple servers, you’re losing track of what you’re moderating, the emails asking you to moderate posts are either filling up your inbox or getting ignored. Luckily there’s a command line tool which will make your life much easier.

Listadmin is a command line tool to manipulate the queues of messages held for moderator approval by mailman. It is designed to keep user interaction to a minimum, in theory you could run it from cron to prune the queue. It can use the score from a header added by SpamAssassin to filter, or it can match specific senders, subjects, or reasons.

It can handle multiple list servers, using multiple passwords, and in more recent versions can cope with SSL too. To get started you need to edit the .listadmin.ini file in your home directory. Mine looks something like this:

username kaerast@example.org
spamlevel 8
default skip

# example.org server
adminurl http://{domain}/cgi-bin/mailman/admindb/{list}
password "mypassword"
users@lists.example.org
process@lists.example.org
admin@lists.example.org

# example.com server
adminurl https://{domain}/mailman/admindb/{list}

password "myotherpassword"
supporters@lists.example.com

password "mythirdpassword"
staff@lists.example.com

This config files allows us to moderate queues on multiple lists using multiple passwords. With this configured, we can now run listadmin:

kaerast@bennet:~$ listadmin
fetching data for users@lists.example.org ... nothing in queue
fetching data for process@lists.example.org ... nothing in queue
fetching data for admin@lists.example.org ... nothing in queue
fetching data for supporters@lists.example.com ... nothing in queue
fetching data for staff@lists.example.com ...

[1/1] ============== staff@lists.example.com =======================
From:     kaerast@dodgit.com
Subject:  test
Reason:   Post by non-member to a members-only list            Spam? 0
Approve/Reject/Discard/Skip/view Body/Full/jump #/Undo/Help/Quit [S] ? r
Why do you reject? test messages aren't allowed
Submit changes? [yes]

Newer versions, ie. those in Lenny and Sid can also add and remove members from a list:

kaerast@hiro:~$ listadmin --add-member kaerast@example.com
process@lists.example.com
Ok

Listadmin is available in Ubuntu Feisty (universe) and all Debian versions. Only Debian Lenny and Sid have the add/remove subscribers functionality added.

duplicity: Encrypted bandwidth-efficient backup using the rsync algorithm

published on Sun Sep 9 05:00:27 2007 in packages-news

Entry submitted by Vincent Fourmond. DPOTD needs your help, please contribute!

I’ve recently grown paranoid about my data, and I keep using rsync to keep backup of various files a bit everywhere. It works great for most of the things I use, but it lacks fundamental things you would want from a real backup system, such as the possibility to come back to an earlier state.

So I went looking for something else, and I found that duplicity shows somehow the same syntax and ease of use than rsync: there is no need to write a configuration file, and it uses a very similar way to specify sources and targets. It features among others:

  • incremental backup
  • uses librsync to backup only what is necessary
  • distant scp-like access
  • no need to install duplicity on remote machine, just a scp server should do
  • GPG encryption and signature to protect data saved on a not-so-trusted host

To use it, just run something like:

duplicity data scp://vincent@server/saves

Or, for local file backup:

duplicity data file:///var/backup/data

The target directory must exist: duplicity does not create it for you. If you don’t plan to use GPG encryption, be sure to add –no-encryption to the command-line. Here is duplicity in full action:

11:58 vincent@server ~ duplicity --no-encryption Data file:///home/vincent/saves
No signatures found, switching to full backup.
--------------[ Backup Statistics ]--------------
StartTime 1187949557.65 (Fri Aug 24 11:59:17 2007)
EndTime 1187949577.54 (Fri Aug 24 11:59:37 2007)
ElapsedTime 19.88 (19.88 seconds)
SourceFiles 3869
SourceFileSize 107865956 (103 MB)
NewFiles 3869
NewFileSize 107865956 (103 MB)
DeletedFiles 0
ChangedFiles 0
ChangedFileSize 0 (0 bytes)
ChangedDeltaSize 0 (0 bytes)
DeltaEntries 3869
RawDeltaSize 106836592 (102 MB)
TotalDestinationSizeChange 26514785 (25.3 MB)
Errors 0
-------------------------------------------------

duplicity was already part of Debian Sarge and Ubuntu Dapper. Development seems still alive, even though there are some bugs still at large.

Katapult : faster and easier access to your applications, bookmarks and files

published on Wed Sep 5 05:00:13 2007 in packages-news

Entry submitted by Ingo Wagener . DPOTD needs your help, please contribute!

Everybody must know the feeling – you installed this great program the other day and now you want to run it. You remember the name, but where in the world it is in the menu? Under System? Under Utilities or even Settings to name but a few options? And so the annoying search starts.

Granted, there are ways of getting round this such as the familiar ALT+F2 and then typing the entire name of the program. Some of us would go to (or already are on) the command line – again followed by typing the program name, perhaps aided by hitting a tab or two.

Those who are well organised – and at times I count myself amongst them – incorporate it into the quick starter on the taskbar so as to get accustomed to its icon and see how usage progresses.

But what do you do when you are not at your peak in terms of organisation (i.e. most of the time) or worse, you don’t even remember the full name of the program?

Help is at hand in the form of Katapult. This is a nifty little helper which, once installed, is called into action by hitting ALT+space and greets you with this:

Say I want to take a screenshot. Running KDE I want to call up the program ksnapshot. What is the quickest way of getting to it? 5 keystrokes as far as I am concerned – this is without having a special keyboard shortcut set up, which obviously could reduce this number. How? Here goes, ALT+space and you get the above, then I type a K, as the program I am after starts with a K followed by an S and finally the N and I get the following:

All I have to do is hit enter and my desired programme comes up. So how exactly does it work? Why do I have to type KSN to get the shortcut for Ksnapshot? Here is a breakdown of what happens in between after I have typed both the K and the KS:


You can see the typed letters highlighted in blue and cycles through all the possibilities until it hits on the one you want – and you press enter.

But Katapult will not only work on programs but also functions as a calculator, it even indexes files! Thus, if I wanted to quickly find out what the result of 56324/18*17 is I’d type ALT+space followed by the what I want to calculate. Katapult will answer to this query as follows:

Alternatively, if I wanted to listen to a specific song like “The battle of Epping Forest” I’d type any part of the song’s name, in this case “epping” and Katapult greets me with the following result:

But that is not all, it also indexes your bookmarks. To give you an idea of its manifold capabilities here is a screenshot of its configuration window:

All I can say is that is has increased my productivity, and prolonged the life of my mouse’s batteries in equal measure.

Conky: highly configurable system monitor for X

published on Sun Sep 2 05:00:23 2007 in packages-news

Entry submitted by Casey Stamper. DPOTD needs your help, please contribute!

Conky is one of my favorite applications for all of my Linux distros. It is a light-weight system monitor (according to the project page) that can monitor many different aspects of your computer. You choose what to monitor and you choose where the monitor is displayed on your desktop through use of a configuration file - .conkyrc. I like to have my display on the top right of the screen and I have the background transparent so it looks like it floats on the desktop.

Here is a screenshot: (click on the image for full size)

I especially like the CPU temperature monitor because I like to keep track of how hot the CPU gets when I’m doing CPU-intensive operation. The application is very light on resources (especially important for my Inspiron 5160) but allows you to keep track of a lot of system parameters without the bloat of a GUI front end.

Among other things, I monitor disk space, memory usage, system load, network download and upload speed, internet connections by protocol, RAM usage, swap usage and running processes. Although it takes up a bit more memory to do so, I also monitor the /var/log/messages file (the same as having a window open running tail -f /var/log/messages just to see if anything is happening behind the scenes that I should be aware of.

With this utility running all the time, if something should suddenly crash or if I have any slowdowns or anything else unusual, a quick glance at these various readouts will usually allow me to narrow the problem down to something specific.

If you use GKrellM or another built-in monitoring package, try this one out - I think you will like it.

Links

Bdale Garbee interview: Debian stays true to its roots

contributed by andremachado, published on Sat Sep 1 14:41:36 2007 in news

Bdale Garbee, former Debian Project Leader, now chief technologist at HP Open Source & Linux Organization, talked about Debian Project.

He highlighted the history, his and other developers motivations and some of the key advantageous characteristics of Debian Project, like its Constitution, Social Contract, elected Debian Project Leader, Secretary, Technical Commitee, and Debian Policy for developers.

He talked about Debian Project being a social phenomenon.

Since Debian isn't a company, developers don't have to worry about being bought or sold, going through a hostile take-over, answering to shareholders or going bankrupt, Garbe said. A motivated developer with an aligned profile to the project culture could become a New Maintainer.

Other people beyond coders and developers can help, for example, translating, creating art, giving legal advice, accounting, maintaining infrastructure, documentation and much more.

Debian runs on more kinds of computer hardware than any other Linux distribution, and includes more packaged and tested software than any other distribution I know of. It's used in everything from wrist watches to mainframes, including desktops, notebooks, handheld devices and mobile phones. Without the constraints of a financial enterprise, people are free to work on the things that really matter to them. The Debian Project is a collaborative community that enables tremendous innovation and endless possibilities, which is why you may hear Debian referred to as the universal operating system. Debian continues to thrive after 14 years.

As I roll the clock forward, I realize that derivatives will come and go, but -- unless the Debian Project loses its way in the next five to 10 years -- it will still be around, still be an industry enigma. There will always be people who don't understand how it works or why we volunteers do what we do, but Debian will continue to fuel technical innovation and evolve its social processes. People will still have fun working together and making an extraordinarily significant contribution to computer users around the world, Garbe said.