Tag Archives: Ubuntu

Creating a personal apt repository using `dpkg-scanpackages`

From time to time I build and backport deb packages. Most of them are for my personal use, but sharing them would be nice. Another advantage for setting up a personal repository over directly installing deb files is that you can install dependencies from that repository automatically. Especially useful if one source package builds multiple binary packages which depend on one another.

There is a list of programs ways how to setup such personal repository in the Debian wiki. However, I found most ways to be too cumbersome for my limited requirements. The way I’m describing below is probably the simplest and easiest way to get up and running.

First thing is installing dpkg-dev which provides dpkg-scanpackages.

sudo apt install dpkg-dev

Next put the deb files you created in some local repository such as /usr/local/debian and cd into it.

# dpkg-scanpackages -m . | gzip -c > Packages.gz

will scan all the *.deb files in the directory and create an appropriate Packages.gz file. You need to repeat this step whenever you add new packages to /usr/local/debian.

Finally to enable the new local repository, add the following line to /etc/apt/sources.list:

deb [trusted=yes] file:///usr/local/debian ./

The [trusted=yes] options instruct apt to treat the packages as authenticated. Alternatively, if you want to share it with others, make sure that your webserver serves the directory and point to it

deb https://www.guyrutenberg.com/debian/jessie ./

(You will need the apt-transport-https in order to use https repositories).

Don’t forget to apt update before trying to install packages from the new repository.

en_IL: English locale for Israel

Update: The new locale was committed to glibc and should be part of glibc-2.24.

Most Israelis are literate in English, and for a large percentage of them, English is also the preferred language when it comes to computers. They prefer English, as it solves right-to-left issues and general inconsistencies (it might be annoying when some programs are translated ands some not). The downside is, that currently, the existing English locales are not suitable for Israel, as there are cultural differences:

  • American English spelling is more common in Israel.
  • The metric system is used, along with the relevant paper sizes (“A4” instead of Letter).
  • Dates are written in dd/mm/YYYY format, unlike in the USA.
  • The first day of week, and also the first workday is Sunday.
  • The currency used is ILS (₪).

So, up until now users had to choose locales such as en_US or en_GB and compromise on some stuff. To solve this issue, and create a truly suitable English locale for Israel, I wrote a localedef file for the en_IL locale.

To install the new locale, copy the en_IL file from the gist below and place under /usr/share/i18n/locales/en_IL (no extension). Next

# echo "en_IL.UTF-8 UTF-8" >> /usr/local/share/i18n/SUPPORTED

Now, complete the installation by running dpkg-reconfigure locales and enable en_IL.UTF-8 from the list, and set it as the default locale.

Creating Menu Entries for Calibre

I recently installed Calibre using their binary installer for linux, and found out that it doesn’t come with .desktop files, so Calibre doesn’t appear in the GNOME menu. To remedy this I installed the following desktop files in ~/.local/share/applications/ (modified from the Debian Sid package):

[Desktop Entry]
Name=E-Book Viewer
Comment=E-Book Viewer
Exec=/home/user/.local/calibre/ebook-viewer %F


[Desktop Entry]
GenericName=E-book library management
GenericName[de]=E-Book Bibliotheksverwaltung
Comment=E-book library management
Comment[es]=aplicación para la gestión de libros electrónicos
Comment[de]=E-Book Bibliotheksverwaltung
Exec=/home/user/.local/calibre/calibre %f

You may need to adjust the paths for TryExec, Exec and Icon to match where you installed Calibre.

Setting Up RAID using mdadm on Existing Drive

After experiencing a hard-disk failure (luckily no important stuff loss, just some backups), I’ve decided to setup a RAID1 array on my existing Ubuntu 12.04 installation. The important thing was to migrate my existing data to the new RAID array while retaining all the data. The easy solution would have been to setup the array on two new drives and then copy my data over. However, I did not have a spare drive (apart from the new one) to copy my data over while creating the RAID array, so I had to take the trickier way.

I mainly followed François Marier’s excellent tutorial. As I went through it I realized I had to adjust a few things either to make it work on Ubuntu 12.04 or because I preferred another way to do stuff.

I’ve check the steps below using Ubuntu 12.04 on both a physical and a virtual machine (albeit in the dumb order – first I risked my data and then decided to prefect the process on a VM :-)). I think the same steps should apply to other Debian derivatives and more recent Ubuntu versions as well.


Before diving into action, I want to outline the whole process. In the first step we will create a degraded RAID1 array, which means a RAID1 array with one of the drives missing, using only the new drive. Next we will config the system to be able to boot from the new degraded RAID1 array and copy the data from the old drive to the RAID1 array on the new drive. Afterwards, we will reboot the system using the degraded array and add the old drive to the array, thus making it no longer degraded. At this point, we will update again some configurations to make things permanent and finally we will test the setup.

Make sure you got backups of your important stuff before proceeding. Most likely you won’t need them, like I didn’t, but just in case.

Partitioning the Drive

For the rest of the tutorial, I’ll assume the old disk, the one with existing data, is /dev/sda and the new one is /dev/sdb/. I’ll also assume /dev/sda1 is the root partition and /dev/sda2 is the swap partition. If you have more partitions or your layout is different, just make sure you adjust the instructions accordingly.

The first step is to create partitions on the new disk that match the size of the partitions we would like to mirror on the old disk. This can be done using fdisk, parted or using GUI tools such as Ubuntu’s Disk utility or gparted.

If both disks are the same size and you want to mirror all the partitions, the easiest way to do so is to copy the partition table using sfdisk:

# sfdisk -d /dev/sda > partition_table
# sfdisk /dev/sdb < partition_table

This will only work if your partition table is MBR (as sfdisk doesn’t understand GPT). Before running the second command take a look at partition_table to make sure everything seems normal. If your using GPT drives with more than 2TB, see Asif’s comment regarding sgdisk.

You don’t need to bother setting the “raid” flag on your partitions like some people suggest. mdadm will scan all of your partitions regardless of that flag. Likewise, the “boot” flag isn’t needed on any of the partitions.

Creating the RAID Array

If you haven’t installed mdadm so far, do it:

# apt-get install mdadm

We create a degraded RAID1 array with the new drive. Usually a degraded RAID array is a result of malfunction, but we do it intentionally. We do so, because it allows us to have an operational RAID array which we can copy our data into and then add the old drive to the array and sync it.

# mdadm --create root --level=1 --raid-devices=2 missing /dev/sdb1  
# mdadm --create swap --level=1 --raid-devices=2 missing /dev/sdb2

These commands instructs mdadm to create a RAID1 array with two drives where one of the drives is missing. A separate array is created for the root and swap partitions. As you can see, I decided to put have my swap on RAID as well. There are different opinions on the matter. The main advantage is that your system will be able to survive one of the disk failing while the system is running. The disadvantage is that it wastes space. Performance wise, RAID isn’t better as might be expected, as Linux supports stripping (like RAID0) if it has swap partitions on two disks. In my case, I have plenty of RAM available and swap space is mainly unused, so I guessed I’m better of using RAID1 for the swap as well.

You may encounter the following warning when creating the arrays:

mdadm: Note: this array has metadata at the start and
    may not be suitable as a boot device.  If you plan to
    store '/boot' on this device please ensure that
    your boot-loader understands md/v1.x metadata, or use
Continue creating array?

Grub 1.99, which is the default bootloader in recent Ubuntu distributions supports booting from partitions with the 1.2 format metadata, so it’s safe to type “y” here.

Next, we need to create a filesystems on the newly created RAID arrays:

# mkfs.ext4 /dev/md/root
# mkswap /dev/md/swap

The following will record your newly created MD arrays in mdadm.conf:

# /usr/share/mdadm/mkconf > /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf

Preparing to Boot the Array

In this step we shall prepare the system to boot the newly created boot array. Of course we won’t actully do that before copying our data into it.

Start by editing /etc/grub.d/40_custom and adding a new entry to boot the raid array. The easiest way is to copy the latest boot stanza from /boot/grub/grub.cfg and modify it. The boot stanza looks something like this:

menuentry 'Ubuntu, with Linux 3.2.0-56-generic' --class ubuntu --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os {
        gfxmode $linux_gfx_mode
        insmod gzio
        insmod part_msdos
        insmod ext2
        set root='(hd0,msdos1)'
        search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root 19939b0e-4272-40e0-846b-8bbe49e4a02c
        linux   /boot/vmlinuz-3.2.0-56-generic root=UUID=19939b0e-4272-40e0-846b-8bbe49e4a02c ro   quiet splash $vt_handoff
        initrd  /boot/initrd.img-3.2.0-56-generic

First we need to add

insmod raid
insmod mdraid1x

just after the rest of the insmod lines. This will load the necessary GRUB modules to detect your raid array during the bootprocess. If you decided to go for 0.9 metadata earlier (despite my recommendation…) you will need to load mdraid09 instead of mdraid1x. Next we need to modify the root partition. This is done my modifying the UUID (those random looking hex-and-hyphens strings) arguments to the lines starting with search and linux. To find out the UUID for your root partition run

# blkid /dev/md/root

Which will give something like

/dev/md/root: UUID="49b6f295-2fe3-48bb-bfb5-27171e015497" TYPE="ext4"

The set root line can be removed as the search line overrides it.

Last but not least add bootdegraded=true to the kernel parameters, which will allow you to boot the degraded array without any hassles. The result should look something like this:

menuentry 'Ubuntu, with Linux 3.2.0-56-generic (Raid)' --class ubuntu --class gnu-linux --class gnu --class os {
        gfxmode $linux_gfx_mode
        insmod gzio
        insmod part_msdos
        insmod ext2
    insmod raid
    insmod mdraid1x
        search --no-floppy --fs-uuid --set=root e9a36848-756c-414c-a20f-2053a17aba0f
        linux   /boot/vmlinuz-3.2.0-56-generic root=UUID=e9a36848-756c-414c-a20f-2053a17aba0f ro   quiet splash bootdegraded=true $vt_handoff
        initrd  /boot/initrd.img-3.2.0-56-generic

Now run update-grub as root so it actually updates the /boot/grub/grub.cfg file. Afterwards, run

# update-initramfs -u -k all

This will make sure that the updated mdadm.conf is put into the initramfs. If you don’t do so the names of your new RAID arrays will be a mess after reboot.

Copying the Data

Before booting the new (degraded) array, we need to copy our data into it. First mount /dev/md/root somewhere, say /mnt/root, and then copy the old data into it.

# rsync -auxHAX --exclude=/proc/* --exclude=/sys/* --exclude=/tmp/* / /mnt/root

Next you need to update /mnt/root/etc/fstab with the UUIDs of the new partition (which you can get using blkid). If you have encrypted swap, you should also update /mnt/root/etc/crypttab.

Last this before the reboot is to re-install the bootloader on both drives:

# grub-install /dev/sda
# grub-install /dev/sdb

Reboot the computer. Hold the “Shift” key while booting to force the Grub menu to appear. Select the new Grub menu-entry you have just added (should be last on the list). After the system finished booting up, verify that you’re indeed running from the RAID device by running mount, which should show a line like this:

/dev/md127 on / type ext4 (rw,errors=remount-ro)

The number after /dev/md doesn’t matter, as long as it’s /dev/md and not /dev/sda or other real disk device.

Completing the RAID Array

If you have made it that far, you have a running system with all your data on a degraded RAID array which consists of your new drive. The next step will be to add the old disk to the RAID array. This will delete any existing data on it. So take a few minutes to make sure that you’re not missing any files (this should be fine as we rsync‘ed the data). Adding the old disk back to the RAID array is done by:

# mdadm /dev/md/root -a /dev/sda1
# mdadm /dev/md/swap -a /dev/sda2

Make sure you are adding the right partitions to the right arrays. These commands instruct mdadm to add the old disk to the new arrays. It might take some time to complete syncing the drives. You can track the progress of building the RAID array using:

$ watch cat /proc/mdstat

When it’s done, it means that your RAID arrays are up and running and are no longer degraded.

Remove the boot stanza we’ve added to /etc/grub.d/40_custom and edit /etc/default/grub to add bootdegraded=true to the GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT configuration variable. This will cause your system to boot up even if the RAID array gets degraded, which prevent the bug outlined in Ubuntu Freezes When Booting with Degraded Raid.

Finally update Grub and re-install it:

# update-grub
# grub-install /dev/sda
# grub-install /dev/sdb

We are done! Your RAID array should be up and running.

Testing the Setup

Just getting the RAID array to work is good but not enough. As you probably wanted the RAID array as contingency plan, you probably want to test it to make sure it works as intended.

We make sure that the system is able to work in case on of the drives fails. Shut down the system and disconnect one of the drives, say sda. The system should boot fine due to the RAID array, but cat /proc/mdstat should show one of the drives missing.

To restore normal operation, shutdown the system and reconnect the drive before booting it back up. Now re-add the drive to the RAID arrays.

mdadm /dev/md/root -a /dev/sda1
mdadm /dev/md/swap -a /dev/sda2

Again this might take some time. You can view the progress using watch cat /proc/mdstat.

Ubuntu Freezes When Booting with Degraded Raid

I tried testing my software raid (mdadm) setup by removing one of the disks. When I tried to boot the degraded system, the system hanged displaying a purple screen. If I try booting the system in recovery mode, I get the following error:

** WARNING: There appears to be one or more degraded RAID devices ** The system my have suffered a hardware fault, such as a disk drive failure. The root device may depend on the RAID devices being online. Do you wish to start the degraded RAID? [y/N]:

** WARNING: There appears to be one or more degraded RAID devices **
The system my have suffered a hardware fault, such as a disk drive failure. The root device may depend on the RAID devices being online.
Do you wish to start the degraded RAID? [y/N]:

Continue reading

Opening mobi and epub Files in Ubuntu

You can do it with Calibre and specifically with the ebook-viewer program that comes with it. However, for some reason the packagers didn’t ship a desktop file to accompany it, so you can’t just double-click on eBooks and have them opened correctly. This can be corrected by placing a ebook-viewer.desktop file in ~/.local/share/applications:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Ebook Viewer
Comment=Display .epub files and other e-books formats
Exec=ebook-viewer %f

Installing Citrix Receiver on Ubuntu 64bit

It’s a hassle.

The first step is to grab the 64bit deb package from Citrix website. Next install it using dpkg:

~$ sudo dpkg --install Downloads/icaclient_12.1.0_amd64.deb

This results in the following error:

dpkg: error processing icaclient (--install):
 subprocess installed post-installation script returned error exit status 2
Errors were encountered while processing:

Which can be fixed by changing line 2648 in /var/lib/dpkg/info/icaclient.postinst:

         echo $Arch|grep "i[0-9]86" &gt;/dev/null


         echo $Arch|grep -E "i[0-9]86|x86_64" &gt;/dev/null

And then execute

~$ sudo dpkg --configure icaclient

Credit for this part goes to Alan Burton-Woods.

Next, when trying to actually use the Citrix Receiver to launch any apps, I’ve encountered the following error:

Contact your help desk with the following information:
You have not chosen to trust "AddTrust External CA Root", the
issuer of the server's security certificate (SSL error 61)

In my case the missing root certificate was Comodo’s AddTrust External CA Root, depending on the certificate used by the server you’re trying to connect to, you may miss some other root certificate. Now you can either download the certificate from Comodo, or use the one in /usr/share/ca-certificates/mozilla/AddTrust_External_Root.crt (they are the same). Either way, you should copy the certificate to the icaclient certificate directory:

$ sudo mv /usr/share/ca-certificates/mozilla/AddTrust_External_Root.crt /opt/Citrix/ICAClient/keystore/cacerts/

These steps got Citrix working for me, but your mileage may vary.

nameref Doesn’t Work Properly with Theorem Environment

I came across not-so-expected behavior in nameref, the package responsible for creating named references, when used in conjunction with theorem environments such as the one provided by amsthm. For example take a look at the following LaTeX document.

\section{My Section}
\begin{theorem}[My Theorem]
This is a named reference: \nameref{theo:My}

You would expect the named reference to refer to the theorem’s name. However in reality it refers to the section’s name.

Continue reading

Sending Desktop Notification from Cron

Usually when one wants to keep track of one’s cron jobs, one tells the cron daemon to email the output of the commands. While this is probably the best solution for servers, on desktop machines is problematic. Many ISPs block outgoing traffic on port 25 (SMTP), and if you want to send the emails via external SMTP server (such as GMail) this requires you to store authentication details in plain text. A better solution for the desktop would be to harness the desktop notifications available in Ubuntu.

There is a useful tool called notify-send which is able to send desktop notifications directly from the command line. However, there are few caveats:

  • notify-send expects its input on the command line, it can’t read from stdin.
  • If you run from cron you must tell it which display to use.

The first issue can be worked around by using cat to pick up the input. The second issue is handled by adding a DISPLAY environment variable to the crontab. So your crontab will look something like this:

10 1 * * sun some_cool_command | notify-send "Backup Documents" "$(cat)"

The first argument to notify-send is the title of the notification. The second is the actual text to appear in it, in our case it’s whatever comes in the stdin. If you want to store the output in a log file as well as displaying it in a desktop notification, you can use tee, which basically saves its input to a given file and also pipes it again to stdout.

10 1 * * sun some_cool_command | tee -a ~/some_log.log | notify-send "Backup Documents" "$(cat)"

Fixing virtualenv after Upgrading Your Distribution/Python

After you upgrade your python/distribution (specifically this happened to me after upgrading from Ubuntu 11.10 to 12.04), your existing virtualenv environments may stop working. This manifests itself by reporting that some modules are missing. For example when I tried to open a Django shell, it complained that urandom was missing from the os module. I guess almost any module will be broken.

Apparently, the solution is dead simple. Just re-create the virtualenv environment:



virtualenv --system-site-packages /PATH/TO/EXISTING/ENVIRONMENT

(depending on how you created it in the same place). All the modules you’ve already installed should keep working as before (at least it was that way for me).