Wed, 25 Apr 2007

natura upgraded to etch

Last week I started the final round of Debian upgrades for the servers I maintain here and there, which is mostly complete today. I haven't been so lucky with upgrades this time, for a long list of different reasons. In the end, the smoothest upgrades were those boxes I upgraded when etch froze or so. is the box serving these pages. It's an old, extremely noisy Pentium 150 which I've been intending to replace for a while now. I started the upgrade early on Thursday, knowing it'd take a while (natura takes its time only to read the Dpkg database), and it had apparently finished when I was ready to leave the office.

Three issues:

The very same night of last Thursday, I decided to dist-upgrade the box which serves the Spanish Debian website mirror. That's the only purpose on the box, so you can imagine the upgrade should have been pretty straight-forward. And so it seemed, until, in the middle of unpacking, dpkg died with a horrible I/O error, and I dropped into an unusable remote terminal with no working commands. Fortunately, apache2 was still up and running, and the web service has been working without interruption since the hard drive crash, albeit with no syncs from www-master.

Today, Sergio visited the campus and had a look. It was a XFS crash, which got cleanly repaired using an install CD. We have an empty partition in the box, and will probably move the system to it temporarily, and back to the RAID, but on ext3. When the box was back online, I just had to resume the upgrade process, make mdadm happy and update lilo.conf before rebooting into the new kernel.

This box uses LILO for some obscure reason I can't remember too clearly anymore. The box has just one partition on a md array, on two SCSI disks on a aic7xxx-based controller. Can anyone hint me why GRUB would have failed on us back in sarge, and if any fixes in the etch version would work any better? Using LILO here is error prone, and basically feels like a step back. Anyway, is now back up and running with updated content. had its bi-annual upgrading party last monday, but unfortunately I wasn't able to help much as when I tried to log into the server, I must have caught the system in the middle of some key lib upgrade or something, and again I was locked in a unusable shell which would only segfault. Given my previous experience, I assumed that something had gone wrong and the box would need to be fixed at the console, and after 20 minutes I gave up helping on that front. Until I noticed, quite a long while later that I was still getting mail from the server. I managed to log in to discover the upgrade was done, with just a few bits remaining to be done. The major issues were encountered with our pam and ldap setup, plus nscd kept dying causing quite a lot of mayhem all over the place. Great work from Seajob, Syvic, nogates, apardo and the rest of the people who handled it! With etch, we can finally move back to an official Debian kernel, something we've been longing to do for a long time. The only pending upgrade issue is that we need to move from our old jabber server to either the traditional jabberd 1.x or ejabberd; our current implementation is no longer supported in Debian.

The last of the etch upgrades stories involves Sofcatalà's servers. The box was running on a CentOS 4.4, which was moved away into a subdir just after booting Debian-Installer, and then lobotomised so it would run as a Linux-VServer under a new Debian etch install. I'll probably write more details about it soon though, as it could be a maybe less scary alternative to Guillem's debtakeover.

Yay for etch!

Wed, 18 Apr 2007

Debian's GNOME 2.18: are we there yet?

The short answer is no, but as our status page easily reflects, there has been lots of work going on during the last two weeks, once etch's release unblocked the way to upload new versions to unstable. This post intends to resume the trend of updating on the status of GNOME in Debian, after we ended up deciding we'd ship etch with 2.14 for a number of reasons, most notably some complications with the GTK 2.10 transition at that time. You'll be able to find other related news items in Debian GNOME team's website.

What has the Debian GNOME team up to during the last 6 months? Our first priority was to focus on unstable's GNOME 2.14 packages again, in an attempt to fix any outstanding remaining bugs from our packaging, and get them in the best shape possible to deliver a polished GNOME desktop for etch. I think the result is really good, and Debian's default GNOME desktop is both very usable and attractive. In parallel, the preparations for a complete set of GNOME 2.16 packages continued in our Subversion repository and kept appearing, little by little, in experimental. The most visible consequence of our 2.16 efforts translated into nobse's backport of 2.16 for etch, which can be found in the corresponding repository.

And then, with etch deep frozen and nearly ready to be released, GNOME 2.18 was released, and of course the GNOME team didn't wait too much to start working on it.

Our current status is looking good: the Developer Platform is already available in unstable, although buildd's are fighting the builds on various architectures. When the dust settles (GTK 2.10's landing has generated quite a big cloud; we have a list of packages that still haven't completed the GTK+ 2.10 transition), we'll be able to prepare and upload the more complex Desktop components like the panel, nautilus, evolution or control-center. Unstable users should probably be seeing daily progress on this front, so keep an eye on your package managers!

Although Debian 4.0 released with an old version of GNOME, vast amounts of time and work have been invested to release it with the necessary backported fixes and enhancements. The newer GNOME versions have been available in Debian official ftp archives in very reasonable timeframes; this has only been possible thanks to the restless efforts of the (fortunately) growing Debian GNOME team members: giskard, feedback, HE, lool, np237, slomo, shaka, sjoerd, xaiki and not forgetting our incredible bug triager, svena. Thanks!

On the behind the scenes department, it's a pleasure to report that Loïc Minier and Jordi Mallach very recently joined the GNOME Foundation's board of advisors in representation of the Debian Project, replacing Matthew Garrett, who has been representing us for the last few years until he left the project. Thanks, Matthew!

Wed, 11 Apr 2007

The big Debian news I missed last weekend

I've been a bit offline during the last two weeks due to being in the middle of a ISP switch at home, which took me offline for a longer time than expected. Additionally, when I finally got the connection up, it was Easter time, and I ended up going to Vall, after cancelling a cycling trip with some friends down the Via Verda Ojos Negros (but this time, not during the night and spending a few days to complete the route) in the last minute, due to the horrid weather forecast. It apparently was a good idea: the river that goes along Vall overflowed, and for some reason the mobile phone service went down for more than 3 days.

On Monday night I came back to València, and I figured that the DPL election results would be out by the time. When I opened Debian's webpage, I found out some other big news: Debian 4.0 was released the day before! Soon after, I looked for the vote results, to find Sam, my candidate of choice, was the winner, very closely followed by uncle Steve. Congrats Sam, no nos falles! And congratulations to the rest of the Debian project for yet another successful, well done release. Reading comments on news sites gives a fuzzy warm feeling. Even though we were slightly delayed, people show how etch is going to make their lives easier, or how trustable Debian is at work and at home. That's the kind of stuff that keeps me and many Debian people going.

I'm pondering improvising some Etch Release Party (as the release managers deprived me of a IRC party by secretly releasing while I wasn't looking) this weekend in Barcelona, where I will be visiting, after giving up on being able to be in A Coruña for DudesConf. Anyone up for it?