Debian Publicity Team meeting today!

Today at 18:00 UTC (this evening for me) there will be a Debian Publicity Team IRC meeting (open meeting, everybody invited), and I’m very happy because it will be the first meeting that I know of, since I joined the team (years!).

Being part of the Publicity team

There are many tasks handled by Publicity, and when I joined, I supposed that I was going to be part of a team with many members and well structured. And it was true… but not as I imagined. Publicity is a great team, in the sense that it accepts contributions from many people, and the few core members do an amazing work: on one side, get things done; on the other side, integrate all those occasional contributions from the wider community. But there are fewer core contributors than what one would expect by the output of the team. I would say we are maximum 10 people (out of 353 voters, 1033 Debian Developers, and 1197 contributors in the Debian Community in 2015). And as far as I know, everybody is member of some other teams too (I’m a translator, others in website team, sysadmins, packaging teams… and now we have a member sharing Publicity membership with DPL-ship!).

Organisation around the tasks

Publicity regular tasks (announcements, the newsletter “Debian Project News”, posting in social networks and in bits.debian.org, and other…) are all well defined and documented, in order to allow anybody jump in and help, and this is great, because it ensures a way for contributions to “arrive” the wide audience from the very first day: you pick something, you follow the instructions, and you’re done. I love this approach, because I tend to prefer to follow instructions than to “create” something, and my Debian time is made of small chunks at random days/times. But sometimes I feel that we all work “alone”, in something like a cold, robotic do-ocracy, and I also wonder how many people don’t contribute or become regular contributors just because they don’t understand the procedures, or they don’t like them, or other reasons…

IRC meeting

IRC is something that I use only for contributing to free software, not in other parts of my life.  I like IRC, it’s productive and fun, but I’m not always there, and I don’t save logs when I am idle, and I usually prefer email for communication. However, I try to be more present in the Debian IRC channels of the teams where I contribute, because I’ve learned that it plays a big role in “feeling at home in Debian”. Currently you can find me in #debconf-team #debconf15-germany #debian-i18n #debian-l10n-spanish #debian-publicity #debian-women and #debian-www .

I’ve attended some meetings in IRC (MediaGoblin monthly meetings, and DebConf15 meetings) and I’ve learned about MeetBot and more or less how to chair an IRC meeting. Today it will be my first time chairing, it’s hard to emulate so great chairs as Marga or Chris Webber, bu I hope I do it decently, and we all have a nice time knowing each other and sharing  ideas for the Publicity team.

Want to attend? All the details (when, where, agenda…) in the wiki page of the meeting. See you in a few hours!

Posted in My experiences and opinion | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Six months selfhosting: my userop experiences

Note: In this post I mention some problems and ask questions (to myself, like “thinking aloud”). The goal is not to get answers to those questions (I suppose that I will find them soon or later in the internet, manuals and so), but to show the kind of problems and questions that arise in my selfhosting adventures, which I suppose are common to other people trying to administer a home server with some web services.

Am I an userop? Well I’m something in the middle of (GNU/Linux) user and sysadmin: I have studied computer technical engineering but most of my experience has been in helpdesk, providing support for Windows users. I’m running Debian in some LAMP boxes at work (without GUI) since 2008 or so, and in my desktops (with GUI) since 2010. I don’t code nor package, but I don’t mind trying to read code and understand it (or not). I know a bit of C, a bit of Python, of PHP, and enough Perl to open a Perl file and close it after two minutes,  understanding that it’s great, but too much for me :) I translate software, so I’m not scared to clone a repository, edit files, commit or submit a patch. I’m not scared of compiling a program (except if it’s an Android app: I try to avoid setting up the development environment just to try some translation that I made… but I built my Puma before it was the binary available for download or in F-Droid).

In conclusion, I feel more like a “GNU/Linux power user” than a “sysadmin”. Sometimes just a “user” or even a “newbie” (for example, I don’t know very well the Unix/Linux folder tree… where are the wallpapers stored? Does it depend on the desktop that I use?).

Anyway. I won’t stop my free software + free networks digital life because I don’t know many things. I bought a small server for home last September, and I wanted to try to selfhost some services, for me and for my family. I want to be a “home sysadmin” or something like that, so I joined the “userops” mailing list :)

Here you have my experiences on selfhosting/being an userop until now.

Mail

I even didn’t try to setup my mail server, because many people say it’s a pain (although nice articles were published about how to do it, for example this series in ArsTechnica) and I need a static IP which is 14€/month more to my ISP, and Gandi, the place where I rented my domain name, provides mail, and they use Debian and Roundcube, and sponsor Debian too, so I decided to trust on them.

So this is my strategy now, to try to keep mail under my control:

  • Trust my domain provider.
  • Backup my mail and keep local copies, removing sensible stuff from the server.
  • Use and spread the word about GPG encryption.
  • Try not to send photos or videos by mail, just send the link to my MediaGoblin instance (see below).

MediaGoblin

I’ve setup two MediaGoblin instances (yes, two!). I managed to do it in Debian 7 stable (I think NodeJS’ npm was not needed then), but soon later I upgraded to Jessie so now it’s even better.

I installed Nginx and PostgreSQL via apt, to use them for both instances (and probably some more software later).

One instance is public, and I use a Debian user, a PostgreSQL database, and it’s running in http://media.larjona.net
I have requested an SSL cert to Gandi but I still didn’t deployed it (lazy LArjona!!).

The other instance is private, for family photos. I didn’t know very well how much of my existing setup could reuse and how to keep both instances in case of downtimes or attack… I know more or less the concept or “chroot” but I don’t know how to deploy it in my machine. So I decided to use another Debian user, another PostgreSQL database, deploy MediaGoblin in a different folder, and create another virtual server in my Nginx to serve it. I managed to setup that virtual server to http-authenticate and to serve content via a different port, and use a self-signed SSL certificate (it’s only for family, so it does not matter). I created another (unprivileged) Debian user with a password for the nginx authentication, and gave my family the URL in the form https://mediaprivate.larjona.net:PortNumber and the user and password (mediaprivate is a string, and PortNumber is a number). I think they don’t use the instance too much, but at least I upload photos there from time to time and email the link instead of emailing the photos themselves (they don’t use GPG either…).

Upgrades

I upgraded MediaGoblin from 0.7.1 to 0.8.0 successfully, I sent a report about how I did it to the mailing list. First I upgraded the public instance, when I figure out the process, I upgraded the second instance to test my instructions, and then, I sent the report with the instructions to the mailing list.

Static site and LimeSurvey: the power of free software (with instructions)

I wanted to act as a mirror of floss2013.libresoft.es and surveys.libresoft.es since they suffer a downtime and I participated in that project (not in the sysadmin part, but in the research and content creation).

The static site floss2013.libresoft.es offered a zip with the whole website tree (since the website was licensed as AGPL), and I had access to the git repo holding the development copy of the website. So I just cloned the repository and setup another nginx virtual server in my machine, and tuned my DNS zone in Gandi website to serve floss2013.larjona.net from home. 10 minutes setup YAY! #inGitWeTrust #FreeSoftwareFTW :)

For surveys.larjona.net I had to install a LimeSurvey instance. I knew how to do it because we use LimeSurvey at work, but at home I had Nginx instead of Apache, and PostgreSQL instead of MySQL. And no PHP… I searched about how to install PHP in Nginx (I can use apt-get, nice!) and how to install LimeSurvey with Nginx and PostgreSQL (I had documentation about that, so I followed, and it worked).

For making available the data (one survey and its results, so people can login as visitor to query and get statistics), I downloaded the LimeSurvey export dataset that we were providing in the static website, followed the replication instructions (hey, I wrote them!), and they worked #oleole! (And here, dear researchers, gets demonstrated that free software and free culture really empower your research and help spreading your results).

Etherpad: not so easy, it seems!

I’m trying to install Etherpad-Lite, but I’m suffering a bit. I think I did everything ok according to some guides but I get “Bad Gateway” and these kind of errors when trying to browse with Lynx in the host:

[error] 3615#0: *24 upstream timed out (110: Connection timed out) 
while reading response header from upstream, 
client: 127.0.0.1, 
server: pad.larjona.net, 
request: "GET / HTTP/1.0", 
upstream: "http://127.0.0.1:9001/", 
host: "pad.larjona.net"

2015/04/17 20:52:56 [error] 3615#0: *24 connect() failed 
(111: Connection refused) while connecting to upstream, 
client: 127.0.0.1, 
server: pad.larjona.net, 
request: "GET / HTTP/1.0", 
upstream: "http://[::1]:9001/", 
host: "pad.larjona.net"

I’m not sure if I need to open some port in iptables, my router, or change my nginx configuration because the guides assume you’re only serving one website in the port 80 (and I have several of them, now…), or what… I’ve spent three chunks of time (maybe ~2h each?) on this, in different days, and couldn’t figure it out, so I decided to round-robin in my TODO list.

Userops thoughts

Debian brings peace of mind (for me)

On one side, maintaining a Debian box it’s quite easy, and the more software that it’s packaged, the less time that I spend installing or upgrading. I like being in stable, I’m in Jessie now (I migrated when it was frozen), but I’ll stay in stable as much as I can.

I like that I can use the software that I installed via apt-get for several services (nginx, PostgreSQL…). About the software that is not packaged (MediaGoblin, LimeSurvey, EtherPad, maybe others later), I wonder how dependencies and updates are handled. And maybe (probably) I have installed some components several times, one for each service (this sounds like a Windows box #grr).

For example MediaGoblin uses PyPump. PyPump 0.5 is packaged in Debian Jessie. MediaGoblin uses PyPump 0.7+. What if PyPump 0.7+ gets, let’s say, into Jessie-backports? Can I benefit from that?

I know that MediaGoblin upgrade instructions includes upgrading the dependencies, but what about some security patch in one dependency? Should I upgrade the pip modules periodically? How to know if some upgrade is recommended because patches a vulnerability, or it’s just new features (and maybe breaking my setup)?

This kind of things are the “peace of mind” that Debian packaging brings to me: when some piece of software is packaged, I know maybe I need to care about proper setup and configuration, but later, it’s kind-of-easy to maintain (since the Debian maintainers care about the rest). I don’t mind about cloning a repo and compiling, I mind about later, or coexistance with other program/services. I trust in the MediaGoblin community and I’m an active member (I’m not developer, but hang on IRC, follow the mailing list, etc) but for example I don’t know anything about the EtherPad project. And I don’t feel like joining the community (I’m already an active member in Debian, MediaGoblin, F-Droid, Pump.io, translator of LimeSurvey and many other small apps that I use, and in the future will use more services, like OwnCloud, XMPP…), joining the community of each software that I use is becoming not sustainable :s

Free software is more than software

I follow the userop mailing list, and it’s becoming very technical. I mostly understand the problems (which are similar to the problems that I face: how to isolate different services, how to easily-configure them, how to make them installable by average user…) But I don’t understand most of the solutions proposed, and I think that probably we need technical solutions, but in the meanwhile, some issues can be addressed not with software, but with other means: good documentation, community support, translations, beta-testers…

This is my conclusion until now. When a project is well documented, I think I can find my way to selfhost no matter if the software is packaged (or “contained”) or not. MediaGoblin, and LimeSurvey, are well documented, and the user support channels are very responsive.

I find lots of instructions that assume that you will use a whole machine for their service (and not for other things). And lots of documentation for the LAMP stack, but not for Nginx + PostgreSQL and Node instead of PHP… So, for each “particularity” of my setup, I search the internet and try to pick good sources to help me do what I wanted to do.

I’m kind of privileged

Some elements, not software related, to take into account as “pre-requisites for succeed” selfhosting services:

  • I knew what to search.
  • I knew which sites to visit from the results (arch wiki, debian wiki, stack overflow, etc: some of them were not the Top1 in the results).
  • I had time to read several sources and make my mind about what to do and how.
  • I can read, understand, and write in English.
  • I have no fear about my broken English.
  • I have no impostor syndrome.
  • I felt welcome in the FLOSS communities where I hanged out.

These aspects are not present in a lot of people. If I look around to the “computer users” that I know (mostly Windows+Android, some GNU/Linux users, some Mac OSX users, some iOS users), I find that they search things like “X does not work” or they cannot write a proper search query in English. Or they trust some random person writing a recipe in their blog, without trying first to understand what the recipe does. Other people just say “I’m not a professional sysadmin, I’ll just do what «everybody» does (aka use Google services or whatever). What if I try and I don’t succeed?”. Things like that.

We may need some technical solutions (and hackers are thinking about that, and working on that). But I feel that we need (more) a huge group of beta-testers, dogfooding people, aventurers that try the half-cooked solutions and provide successful and unsuccessful experiences, to guide the research and make software technologies advance. I’m not sure if I am an userop, but I feel part of that “vanguard force”, I want to be part of the future of free software and free networks.

Comments?

You can comment about this post on this pump.io thread.

Posted in My experiences and opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Upgrading my home server (HP Microserver N54L G7) to Debian Jessie

Note: this is a long overdue post. I upgraded some months ago… but I promised myself to blog about my selfhosting adventures, so here you are.

You may know the story… TL;DR

  • I wanted to self host my web services.
  • I bought a Microserver (N54L).
  • I installed Debian stable there, RAID1 (BIOS) + cryptsetup + LVM (/ and swap, /boot in another disk, unencrypted).
  • I installed GNU MediaGoblin, and it works!
  • When rebooting, the password to unencrypt the disk (and then, find the LVM volumes and mount the partitions), was not accepted. But it was accepted after I shutdown, unplug the electricity, replug, and turn on the machine.

After searching a bit for information about my problem and not finding anything helpful, I began to think that maybe upgrading to Jessie could fix it (recent versions of kernel and cryptsetup…). And the Jessie freeze was almost there, and I also thought that trying to make my MediaGoblin work in Jessie now that I still didn’t upload lots of content, would be a nice idea… And, I wanted to feel the adventure!

Whatever. I decided to upgrade to Jessie. This is the glory of “free software at home”: you only waste your time (and probably not, because you can learn something, at least, what not to do).

Upgrading my system to Jessie, and making it boot!

I changed sources.list, updated, did a safe-upgrade, and then upgrade. Then reboot… and the system didn’t boot.

What happened? I’m not sure, everything looked “ok” during the upgrade… But now, my system even was not asking for the passphrase to unlock the encrypted disk. It was trying to access the physical volume group as if it was in an unencrypted disk, and so, failing. The boot process left me in a “initramfs” console in which I didn’t know what to do.

I asked help from @luisgf, the system administrator of mipump.es (a Pump.io public server) and mijabber.es (an XMPP public server). We met via XMPP and with my “thinking aloud” and his patient listening and advice, we solved the problem, as you will see:

I tried to boot my rescue system (a complete system installed in different partitions in a different disk) and it booted. I tried then to manually unencrypt the encrypted disk (cryptsetup luksopen /dev/xxx), and it worked, and I could list the volume group and the volumes, and activate them, and mount the partitions. Yay! my (few) data was safe.

I rebooted and in the initramfs console I tried to do the same, but cryptsetup was not present in my initramfs.

Then I tried to boot in the old Wheezy kernel: it didn’t asked for the passphrase to unencrypt the disk, but in that initramfs console, cryptsetup was working well. So after manually unencrypt the system, activate the volumes and mount the partitions, I could exit the console and the system was booting #oleole!

So, how to tell the boot process to ask for the encryption password?

Maybe reinstalling the kernel was enough… I tried to reinstall the 3.16 kernel package. It (re)generated /boot/initrd.img-3.16.0-4-amd64 and then I restarted the system, and the problem was solved. It seems that the first time, the kernel didn’t generate the initrd image correctly, and I didn’t notice about that.

Well, problem solved. My system was booting again! No other boot problems and Jessie seemed to run perfectly. Thanks @luisgf for your help!

In addition to that, since then, my password has been accepted in every reboot, so it seems that the original problem is also gone.

A note on systemd

After all the noise of last months, I was a bit afraid that any of the different services that run on my system would not start with the migration to systemd.
I had no special tweaks, just two ‘handmade’ init scripts (for MediaGoblin, and for NoIP), but I didn’t write them myself (I just searched about systemd init scripts for the corresponding services), so if it was any problem there I was not sure that I could solve it. However, everything worked fine after the migration. Thanks Debian hackers to make this transition as smooth as possible!

Reinstalling MediaGoblin

My MediaGoblin was not working, and I was not sure why. Maybe it was just that I need to tune nginx or whatever, after the upgrade… But I was not going to spend time trying to know what part of the stack was the culprit, and my MediaGoblin sites were almost empty… So I decided to follow again the documentation and reinstall (maybe update would be enough, who knows). I reused the Debian user(s), the PostgreSQL users and databases, and the .ini files and nginx configuration files. So it was quick, and it worked.

Updating Jessie

I have updated my Jessie system several times since then (kernel updates, OpenSSL, PostgreSQL, and other security updates and RC bugs fixes, with the corresponding reboots or service restarts) and I didn’t experience the cryptsetup problem again. The system is working perfectly. I’m very happy.

Using dropbear to remotely provide the cryptsetup password

The last thing I made in my home server was setting up dropbear so I can remotely provide the encryption password, and then, remotely reboot my system. I followed this guide and it worked like a charm.

Some small annoyances and TODO list

  • I have some warnings at boot. I think they are not important, but anyway, I post them here, and will try to figure out what do they mean:
[    0.203617] [Firmware Bug]: ACPI: BIOS _OSI(Linux) query ignored
[    0.214828] ACPI: Dynamic OEM Table Load:
[    0.214841] ACPI: OEMN 0xFFFF880074642000 000624 (v01 AMD    NAHP     00000001 INTL 20051117)
[    0.226879] \_SB_:_OSC evaluation returned wrong type
[    0.226883] _OSC request data:1 1f 
[    0.227055] ACPI: Interpreter enabled
[    0.227062] ACPI Exception: AE_NOT_FOUND, While evaluating Sleep State [\_S1_] (20140424/hwxface-580)
[    0.227067] ACPI Exception: AE_NOT_FOUND, While evaluating Sleep State [\_S2_] (20140424/hwxface-580)
[    0.227070] ACPI Exception: AE_NOT_FOUND, While evaluating Sleep State [\_S3_] (20140424/hwxface-580)
[    0.227083] ACPI: (supports S0 S4 S5)
[    0.227085] ACPI: Using IOAPIC for interrupt routing
[    0.227298] HEST: Table parsing has been initialized.
[    0.227301] PCI: Using host bridge windows from ACPI; if necessary, use "pci=nocrs" and report a bug

And this one

[    1.635130] ERST: Failed to get Error Log Address Range.
[    1.645802] [Firmware Warn]: GHES: Poll interval is 0 for generic hardware error source: 1, disabled.
[    1.645894] GHES: APEI firmware first mode is enabled by WHEA _OSC.

And this one, about the 250GB disk (it came with the server, it’s not in the RAID):

[    3.320913] ata6: SATA link up 3.0 Gbps (SStatus 123 SControl 300)
[    3.321551] ata6.00: failed to enable AA (error_mask=0x1)
[    3.321593] ata6.00: ATA-8: VB0250EAVER, HPG9, max UDMA/100
[    3.321595] ata6.00: 488397168 sectors, multi 0: LBA48 NCQ (depth 31/32)
[    3.322453] ata6.00: failed to enable AA (error_mask=0x1)
[    3.322502] ata6.00: configured for UDMA/100
  • It would be nice to learn a bit about benchmarching tools and test my system with the nonfree VGA Radeon driver and without it.
  • I need to setup an automated backup system…

A note about RAID

Some people commented about the benefits of the software RAID (mainly, not to depend on a particular, proprietary firmware, what happens if my motherboard dies and I cannot find a compatible replacement?).

Currenty I have a RAID 1  (mirror) using the capabilities of the motherboard.

The problem is that, frankly, I am not sure about how to migrate the current setup (BIOS RAID + cryptsetup + LVM + partitions) to the new setup (software RAID + cryptsetup + LVM + partitions, or better other order?).

  • Would it be enough to make a Clonezilla backup of each partition, wipe my current setup, boot with the Debian installer, create the new setup (software RAID, cryptsetup, LVM and partitions), and after that, stop the installation, boot with Clonezilla and restore the partition images?
  • Or even better, can I (safely) remove the RAID in the BIOS, boot in my system (let’s say, from the first disk), and create the software RAID with that 2nd disk that appeared after removing the BIOS RAID (this sounds a bit like science fiction, but who knows!).
  • Is it important “when” or in which “layer” do I setup the software RAID?

As you see, lots of things to read/think/try… I hope I can find time for my home server more often!

Comments?

You can comment on this pump.io thread.

Posted in My experiences and opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

How contributors.debian.org helped in my email address migration

Some months ago I changed my preferred email address. I updated my profile in different sites to point to the new address, and changed my subscriptions in mailing lists.

I forgot about subscriptions to Debian bugs.

I like that you don’t need a “user” to participate in Debian BTS (you just need an email address) but I learned that there’s no way to get a list of the bugs you’re subscribed to (for mailing lists it’s possible: send mail to majordomo at lists.debian.org with which your.email.address in the body).

Then, I remembered that I’m listed in contributors.debian.org as BTS contributor, and that there is an “extra info” link, so I went there and got redirected to:

https://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/pkgreport.cgi?correspondent=MYOLDADDRESS

which lists all the bugs for which I sent an email (not only the bugs that I submitted). So now, I have a list of bug numbers to send -unsubscribe mails from my old address and then -subscribe mails from the new address.

I’m probably subscribed to some more bugs in which I didn’t participate (just lurking or interested in how people deal with them) but I suppose they are not many.

(I could have retrieved the list of bugs from the BTS interface, but contributors.debian.org came first to my mind, and it’s nice to have that link handy there, isn’t it?)

Posted in Tools | Tagged , , , ,

Going selfhosting: Installing Debian Wheezy in my home server

It was in my mind to open a new series of articles with topic “selfhosting”, because I really believe in free software based network services and since long time I want to plug a machine 24×7 at home to host my blog, microblog, MediaGoblin, XMPP server, mail, and, in conclusion, all the services that now I trust to very kind third parties that run them with free software, but I know I could run myself (and offer them to my family and friends).

Last September I bought the domain larjona.net (curious, they say “buy” but it’s a rent, for 1,2,3 years… never yours.  Pending another post about my adventures with the domain name, dynamic DNS, and SSL certs!) and I bought an HP Microserver G7 N54L, with 2 GB RAM. It had a 250GB SATA harddisk and I bought 2 more SATA harddisks, 1 TB each, to setup a RAID 1 (mirror). Total cost (with keyboard and mouse), 300€. A friend gave me a TFT monitor that was too old for him (1024×768) but it serves me well, (it’s a server, no graphical interface, and I will connect remotely most of the times).

Installing Debian stable (wheezy)

I decided to install Debian stable. Jessie was not frozen yet, and since it was my first non-LAMP server install, I wanted to make sure that errors and problems would be my errors, not issues of the non-released-yet distro.

I thought to install YunoHost or some other distro “prepared” for selfhosting, but I’ve never tried them, and I have not much free time, so I decided to stick on Debian, my beloved distro, because it’s the one that I know best and I’m part of its awesome community. And maybe I could contribute back some bug reports or documentation.

I wanted to try a crypto setup (just for fun, just for learn, for its benefits, and to be one more freecrypto-tester in the world) so after reading a bit:

https://wiki.debian.org/DebianInstaller/SataRaid
https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/disk_encryption
http://madduck.net/docs/cryptdisk/
http://linuxgazette.net/140/kapil.html
http://smcv.pseudorandom.co.uk/2008/09/cryptroot/
http://www.linuxquestions.org/questions/linux-security-4/lvm-before-and-after-encryption-871379/

and some other pages, and try some different things, this is the setup that I managed to configure:

  • A “rescue” system with /boot and / partitions, both in the 250 GB disk.
  • A RAID 1 system of the two 1TB disks, setup in the BIOS of the machine (so the motherboard handles the RAID and the OS is focused in other things).
  • Inside the Debian installer, I went to manual partition, then I put my /boot in the 250GB disk (yes, a 2nd /boot there), and then selected the 1TB disk (since the RAID was already made, it appeared a single 1TB disk) as physical device to be encrypted.
  • After that, still in the Debian installer, I setup LVM there: configured a volume group, then, two volumes, one for / and the other one for swap.
  • Then I saved the changes and go on installing my system.

Everything went well. Yay!

Some doubts and one problem

Everything went quite well except some doubts:

  • I’m still not sure if this BIOS RAID (“Fake RAID”) is better than a software RAID or not. I suppose it’s better since I delegate in the motherboard to do it, and leave the OS to care about other things (transcode my videos yeah!). But I don’t know how to measure ‘performance’ and which metrics and results should I expect. The disks (cheap disks) are a bit noisy (just a bit! or maybe it’s the fan that it’s very quiet! poor Laura, never saw/had a ‘luxury’ machine like this one :)
  • I had to install firmware-linux-nonfree in order to properly use the graphics card (Mobility Radeon HD 4225/4250). I have no graphical environment there, only a console, so I was not sure if installing the firmware or not (without the firmware, the letters of the console were bigger, but I just don’t mind since I most of the time I log in remotely from my laptop). Then, two questions arised to my ignorant mind:
    1. Do I need the driver for better performance (aka is the graphics card used for rendering/transcoding/showing images and videos in my MediaGoblin site or just when it’s needed to display them in local (and subsequently, never)?
    2. If I leave the system like that, and forget about the firmware warning at boot time, can the hardware be damaged by the default (free) driver? (for example, due to fan controlling malfunction or something like that).

After talking about this issues with friends (and in debian-women IRC channel), I decided to install the non-free driver, just in case, with the same reasoning as with the RAID: let the card do the job, so the CPU can care about other things. Again, I notice that learning a bit about benchmarking (and having some time to do some tests) would be nice…

And now, the problem:

  • I noticed something strange in my setup. Sometimes, after a system reboot, cryptsetup was not accepting the password to unlock the encrypted disk. And believe me, I was typing it carefully. But when I completely shutdown the computer, unplug the cable, replug the cable, and start again, the password was accepted. The keyboard is USB and this machine does not accept other connection for the keyboard. The keyboard configuration, language and so, was all correct. No Non-ASCII symbols in my password. My password would need to press the same keys in a Spanish and an English keyboard.
  • I thought that maybe something in my RAID was failing. I tried to disconnect one of the disks, and see if (1) the bug was solved (no) and (2) the RAID was working (yes). I made the same with the other disk. I was happy that I could reconstruct my RAID when plugging the disk again. But still I had the problem of the password.

I left this problem apart and go on installing the software. I would think later what to do.

Installing MediaGoblin

The most urgent selfhosting service, for me, was GNU MediaGoblin, because I wanted to show my server to my family in Christmas, and upload the pictures of the babies and kids of the family. And it’s a project where I contribute translations and I am a big fan, so I would be very proud of hosting my own instance.

I followed the documentation to setup 2 instances of GNU MediaGoblin 0.7 (the stable release in the moment), with their corresponding PostgreSQL databases. Why two instances? Well, I want an instance to host and show my videos, images, and replicate videos that I like, and a private one for sharing photos and videos with my family. MediaGoblin has no privacy settings yet, so I installed separate instances, and the private one I put it in a different port, with a self-signed SSL cert, and enabled http-authorization in Nginx, so only authorized Linux users of my machine can accesss the website.

Installing MediaGoblin was easier than what I thought. I only had some small doubts about the documentation, and they were solved in the IRC channel. You can access, for example, my user profile in my public instance, and see some different files that I already uploaded. I’m very happy!!

Face to face with the bug, again

I had to solve the problem of the password not accepted in reboots. I began to think that it could be a bug in cryptsetup. Should I upgrade the package to the version in wheezy-backports? Jessie was almost frozen, maybe it was time to upgrade the whole system, to see if the problem was solved (and to see how my MediaGoblin was working or not in Jessie. It should work, it’s almost packaged! But who knows). And if it didn’t work, maybe it was time to file a bug…

So I upgraded my system to Debian Jessie. And after upgrade, the system didn’t boot. But that’s the story of another blog post (that I still need to finish to write… don’t worry, it has happy end, as you could see accessing my Mediagoblin site!).

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Upgrading my computers to Debian Jessie: Husband’s laptop (Acer Aspire 5250)

This is an old laptop, with AMD E-300 processor, 6 GB RAM, Radeon HD 6310 VGA and Atheros AR9485 wireless network adapter.

It was running Windows 7 (preinstalled). The hard disk failed, and I put the hard disk of another laptop (a broken Acer Aspire One D255) on it. Surprisingly, the Windows 7 on it booted (after some self-configuration that took quite long), but it was a Windows 7 Home 32bits, so it was only recognizing 4 GB RAM. That was the perfect excuse to convince my husband to install Debian in the laptop and begin his transition to a free OS. Yay!

I installed Debian Jessie from scratch last summer. Everything went well (the installer went fine, 8 months before than its RC1 release, congrats Debian-boot team!).

I needed the non-free radeon driver for the graphical display :/

Jessie is running GNOME3 desktop, and I’ve been seeing all these months the transition to 3.14 version, and later, the integration of the “Lines” theme (by Juliette Belin), which I like very much.

I have problems to watch high quality videos, in every player that I tried (VLC, Totem, mplayer) the audio and video are not synced, and video sometimes freezes. I’m almost sure that the problem is what mplayer says: “Your system is too SLOW to play this!”.

I tried to install the ATI non-free driver for better performance, but after successfully install it and reboot, GNOME was not starting (I got a black screen, no gdm greeting me). I could log in tty2, though. I don’t know if I did something wrong, how to solve the problem, and I don’t wanted to waste time, so I uninstalled it and returned to the non-free firmware that goes to the Linux kernel. For now, when I need to watch a video that gives those problems, I upload the file to my GNU MediaGoblin site, or use WinFF to reduce size/quality.

Overall impression

Fine! Both my husband and me are very happy.

The installation went really well.

I’m not a GNOME expert user but I find it easy, intuitive, and he found it easy too.

My husband uses the computer to surf the web, watch some videos and online series (we had to install non-free flash plugin from Adobe #grr), read mail from the browser, write something in LibreOffice and print it (hey! we just plug the printer/scanner and it works, no need to install drivers!), scan some image and send it by email… I set Debian as default in GRUB, and the switch from Windows has been very natural for him (he was already using Firefox and LibreOffice in Windows. He still says “I’m a Windows user” although he is just using Debian for months!).

He bought an IPhone 4S (#grr!) and I tried to connect it as shown in the corresponding Debian wiki page, but it didn’t work (I got “segmentation fault” when connecting the phone). However, it is recognized by Shotwell and we can copy all the photos and videos to the computer, which is what we wanted to do. So no problem on that side, either.

In conclussion, one more computer at home running Debian (“future stable”), and we don’t run Windows at home anymore :)

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Upgrading my computers to Debian Jessie

Until now, I usually run Debian stable at work (in my desktop PC) and stable or testing at home in my laptop. I was upgrading to testing during the freeze, and then, stay in testing (future stable) or stable (when it’s published) until the next freeze.

I have changed this ‘conservative’ pattern. I’ve been running Jessie for many months now, and here I’ll document the different experiences in the computers that I use.

Upgrade or clean install?

I decided to upgrade my computers instead of making a clean install (except in the ones  that were not running Debian).

Although the upgrade process have been fine, I’m still not sure which is the best for my needs. Installing from the beginning forces me to re-read the feature list of the different pieces of software and choose the one that fits best (not the one that I was using some years ago). And maybe I just don’t need that non-free driver anymore because there’s free replacement already, the installer is wise. OTOH, upgrading is easier and quicker, and I got all my software and configurations (and my rubbish) there, nothing is lost.

The computers

Here I will link the blog posts of each computer that I upgrade, when I finish writing the corresponding articles:

  • Husband’s laptop (Acer 5250): Clean install – Done, and OK!
  • My laptop (Compaq Mini 110c): Upgrade – Done and OK!
  • Home server (HP Microserver N54L G7): Upgrade – Done and OK!
  • PC at work (motherboard Asus P5KPL-AM-SE): Upgrade – Done, some issues.
  • Mini-laptop Airis Kira N7000 (ARM board, 128MB RAM) – Clean install – Pending

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Debian meeting in Madrid, GPG keysigning

Yesterday some Debian people in Madrid we met to have a drink together and GPG keysigning.I have received 2 signs already #oleole! :)Some minutes ago, I signed all the keys and sent the corresponding emails. Since I have to dedicate some minutes to verify fingerprints and emails, I have dedicated some time to remember each person too: his face, the topics that we talked about, etc.  (we were 8 people!).
It’s been nice to meet Debian people in person, in Madrid (it was the first time I attended). I like to speak Spanish in a Debian context (and different than the translators mailing list), it’s kind of funny, relaxing. It has been also an opportunity to meet new people that can be very different from me, and so, open my mind to new thoughts.

I hope we meet more often so we strengthen not only the web of trust but also the face-to-face social network :)

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Translating (reviewing) Debian package descriptions

Some days I feel super lazy but I still would like to go on contributing translations to Debian.
Then, I leave the web translations a bit, and change to translate or review Debian package descriptions.

It’s something that anybody can do without any knowledge of translation tools, since it is a very simple web interface, as you will see.

First you need to create a login account, then, login into the system.

And then, go to the page of your mother language (in my case, Spanish, “es”). You will see some introductory text, and the list of pending translations:
ddtss_es1
At the end of the page, there is the list of translations pending to review:
ddtss_es2

We should begin with this, so the work that other people already made arrives quickly its destination. And it’s the easiest part, as you will see. Let’s pick one of them (libvformat1-dev):

review1
You see the short description in the original English, and the current translation (if there were changes from a former version, they are coloured too).

I didn’t know what the package libvformat1-dev does, but here’s a nice opportunity to learn aobut it a bit :)

The short description looks ok for me. Let’s go on to the long description:

review2

It also looks correct for me. So I leave the text box as is, and go on until the bottom of the page:
review3
and click “Accept as is”. That’s all!!

The system brings you back to the page with pending translations and reviews. Let’s pick another one: totem
review4
I found a typo and corrected some other words, so I updated the text in the translation box, left a message to the other translators in the comment box, and clicked “Accept with changes”.

And… iterate.

When 3 translators agree in a translation, it becomes official, and its propagated to apt-cache, aptitude, synaptic, etc., and the website (packages.debian.org). This is the most difficult part (to get 3 reviews for each package description):  many language teams are small, and their workforce is spread in many fronts: translations for the website, news and announcements, debconf templates (the messages that are shown to the user when a package is installed), the Debian installer, the documentation, the package descriptions… So your help (even when you only review some translations from time to time) will be appreciated, for sure.

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I’ve applied to be a (non uploading) Debian Developer

I’ve just applied to be a (non uploading) Debian Developer. I’ve just filled in the form, and decrypted the message that I received to confirm my application (I had read the important documents long time ago, and again, some weeks ago, and again, some days ago).

I was expecting today to gather some GPG signs, but the event was cancelled (postponed). So beginning next week, I’ll try to gather GPG signs one by one, by myself.

Outdated translations of the website are finished (no more yellow stickers in the Spanish http://www.debian.org!), and I already began with the translation of new files.

I’ve sent mails to say thank you to some of the people that helped me during this phase of Debian Contributor.

I think I’ve done everything that I can do for now. So let’s wait.

I don’t know how will I sleep tonight.

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