Thursday, May 24 2012

Using external solvers with apt-get in Wheezy

Thanks to the effort of many wonderful people (see at the end of this post), it is now possible to call an external solver from apt-get, if you use at least version 0.9.5, which will be the case in Wheezy.

It's pretty simple, just install apt-cudf :

apt-get install apt-cudf

but please check that you get version 2.9.16~rc1-1 or later of it!

dpkg -l apt-cudf
ii  apt-cudf  2.9.16~rc1-1   CUDF solver integration for APT

This package will also install one of the available solvers that support CUDF, for example aspcud.

Then you can simply use the --solver option of apt-get to have the dependency solving delegated to aspcud:

apt-get -s --solver aspcud install totem

On my machine, this gives a solution with these characteristics:

49 upgraded, 47 newly installed, 1 downgraded, 9 to remove and 2551 not upgraded.

Which might be more interesting than what the standard internal solver of apt finds, as it changes and removes quite a few more packages

79 upgraded, 98 newly installed, 15 to remove and 2520 not upgraded.

Continue reading...

Wednesday, March 21 2012

Mail changes...

The historic domain name, corresponding to the physical place named "Place Jussieu" in Paris, served two universities, Paris Diderot and Pierre et Marie Curie.

In a few months, it will be gone. If one does not want to see too much e-mail lost, it is necessary to take preventive measures. Here is my pick.

Continue reading...

Saturday, December 31 2011

Combo-economics at work in Argentina, or how to get a cheap Big Mac thanks to The Economist

Traveling in Argentina, I happened to stop by a MacDonalds. That might seem a silly thing to do in a country where you can have a fantastic piece of prime grilled beef for the price of a typical, lousy Mac combo, but I was just looking for a quick coffee on the route. It turned out that the highly overpriced cup of coffee was lousy too, but the day was not completely lost: I just found out another mind boggling example of the creativity of the people in this country. Bear with me for this short journey from a MacDonalds to finance mangling...

Continue reading...

Saturday, November 26 2011

Tales from the Mancoosi frontline: experimenting with apt-get from experimental :-)

I wanted to install libreoffice today. To do so, I first tried using apt-get (Version:, and it proposes me a solution with the following characteristics:

338 upgraded, 181 newly installed, 81 to remove and 1880 not upgraded.

You can find the full solution, as well as the data to reproduce this upgrade scenario online at the Mancoosi Debian DUDF repository.

I was not satisfied, because I just wanted to upgrade libreoffice, not the whole system!

Continue reading...

Thursday, November 3 2011


You can combine mutt and (x)emacs quite conveniently, in case you happen to use this combination of tools to send your mail.


First, let's make sure UTF-8 is used by both (to avoir horrible accent mis-rendering) by putting something like this in your .emacs/.xemacs init files

(setq locale-coding-system 'utf-8)
(prefer-coding-system 'utf-8)

It may even help to add this

(when (not (string= (getenv "LC_CHARMAP") "UTF-8"))
  (setenv "LC_CTYPE" "en_US.UTF-8")
  (setenv "LC_CHARMAP" "UTF-8"))
mutt mode

Then, download mutt.el as available for example from and change the pattern for mutt buffers to read

(defcustom mutt-file-pattern "mutt-a-z+-0-9a-f+-0-9a-f+-0-9a-f+"
  "*Regular expression which matches Mutt's temporary files."
  :type 'string
  :group 'mutt)

Put the modified mutt.el it in your emacs/xemacs load path, and make sure your load it by puttin

(require 'mutt)

in your init files.


To avoid relaunching (x)emacs each time you write a message, it is better to turn your emacs into a server process; for this, add these two lines in your init files

(require 'gnuserv)

Now, tell mutt to use (x)emacs as a mail client by adding this line in your .muttrc:

set editor="gnuclient"

And that's it.... every time you send a message, you will be in a mutt-mode that has nice commands like

C-c tab		mutt-goto-signature 
C-c C-a		mutt-attach-file
C-c C-b		mutt-goto-body
C-c C-i		mutt-goto-signature
C-c C-d C-c	mutt-delete-old-citations
C-c C-d C-s	mutt-delete-quoted-signatures

Just remember to exit the (x)emacs buffer using C-c #

Thursday, September 29 2011

Separer le logiciel et le matériel sans gêner le consommateur? C'est facile!

Cela fait désormais 12 ans qu'on a lancé en France des initiatives qui visent à nous débarrasser de la vente liée, et il y a désormais une communauté organisée et efficace qui porte ce combat.

Le sujet semble revenir sur le devant de la scène politique, avec des propositions d'amendements que l'on peut qualifier au mieux d'insuffisamment réfléchies, et qui représentent un véritable retour en arrière pour les utilisateurs. Je ne suis pas sûr que les députés ayant déposé ces propositions soient forcément de mauvaise foi (même si on peut se poser des questions sur l'amateurisme de ceux qui les conseillent): écrire une loi n'est pas chose facile, et il faut bien savoir ce que l'on cherche à obtenir.

Le billet d'aujourd'hui se propose de donner à nos députés une idée précise de ce que l'on veut, et de comment l'obtenir:

  • on veut pouvoir choisir le logiciel qu'on installe sur notre ordinateur, et payer seulement ce que nous avons choisi, pas ce que le constructeur, ou le distributeur, ou l'éditeur de logiciel a décidé pour nous
  • on veut aussi pouvoir utiliser les logiciels qu'on a choisis, sur notre ordinateur, dès l'achat, sans complications inutiles d'installation

Cela n'a rien de sorcier: regardez un peu cette affiche publicitaire qui tapisse les murs des métros parisiens en ce moment

Clé activation Office

Vous voyez la clé d'activation à 99 euros? Cela veut dire que la suite Office de Microsoft est déjà presque prête sur l'ordinateur que vous achetez (rien à installer ou configurer), et que si vous payez le logiciel, vous obtenez un code qui la débloque immédiatement.

Cela veut dire que, techniquement, il n'y a aucune difficulté à fournir un ordinateur prêt à l'emploi qui permet à l'utilisateur d'activer (en payant un prix clairement affiché) le logiciel qu'il veut.

Eh bien, nous voulons simplement que ce choix soit élargi à l'ensemble des logiciels fournis sur l'ordinateur, et en particulier au système d'exploitation (Windows, Ubuntu, Mandriva, Debian, Mac Os, ...)

On veut voir dans les prochains mois dans le métro des affiches comme celle-ci:

Clé activation tous logiciels

Et on veut aussi rester libres d'acheter le matériel sans le logiciel, et libres de changer le logiciel si nous le souhaitons, donc, si nos députés souhaitent vraiment mettre main à la plume pour rédiger un texte de loi, il serait mieux d'en écrire un qui nous protège du danger d'UEFI.

Monday, September 5 2011

Visualising (the kernel of) free software repositories

Imagine that you want to find out which packages cannot be installed together in your latest and preferred free software distribution... how would you go about it?

One could try and install together all possible combination of packages, but a free software repository contains several tens of thousands packages, and more than one hundred thousand dependencies and conflicts, so this approach might be interesting only if you really dont know how to best use your account on a Google farm, and you don't care about wasting energy.

One could be a bit smarter, have a look at what has been done in the EDOS and Mancoosi european projects, and program a SAT solver to test these combinations of packages without actually installing them.

Or you could take a completely different approach, and come up with a revolutionary new way of looking at free software repositories.

In a few hours, I am taking a plain to Szeged, to attend the 8th ESEC/FSE conferece, where Jerôme Vouillon is going to show how to extract from free software distributions a co-installability kernel which is much more compact, can be visualised easily, and allows by simple visual inspection to answer this kind of questions in a few seconds.

To give you an example, from the main section of the Ubuntu 10.10 alpha 2 distribution, that contains 7277 packages, one can extract a very simple graph, that easily fits in an A4 page, and which shows all co-installability issues.

Looking at the graph, it is easy to spot immediately a problem with the distribution: you can only install ubuntu-desktop with the pulseaudio audio library, and not with the many other options which are available (like alsa): you can check by yourslef in the picture below


If you know Jerôme, you know that there is also some fantastic piece of software around, and you will be eager to try it... don't wait any longer, you can learn more about COINST by just clicking here.

And by the way, Jerôme's COINST tool got the Distinguished Artifact Award, which will presented at the conference.

It happens that the award is sponsored by Microsoft Research, which posted a nice announcement about it, and we can be happy to see Microsoft Research recognising the importance of the research challenges emerging from Free Software.

Friday, July 29 2011

Humble Indie Bundle #3 on Debian amd64

I just got my copy of the HIB games from, and while they do come for my preferred software platform (GNU/Linux), you need to do some tweaking to make them run properly on a 64 bit machine. This short blog post details the steps you need to make to have them run on your system. In particular, I loved CrayonPhysicsDeLuxe, which was a real pleasure to play with my young son.

Continue reading...

Monday, June 27 2011

L'Industrie du Logiciel en France : une analyse et des propositions pour l'enseignement et la recherche

Il y a environ un an, je sortais d'une réunion au ministère de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche avec la charge d'animer, en collaboration avec Gérard Ladier, un groupe de travail qui devait s'atteler à réfléchir aux enjeux de l'Industrie du Logiciel en France.

On nous demandait en particulier de formuler des propositions concrètes et, si possible, originelles, pour accompagner le développement de ce secteur stratégique, dans lequel la France a des atouts importants, et pour lequel la France ne doit pas se réduire à un réseau de distribution de technologie venant d'ailleurs.

Le fruit de ce travail, qui résume les analyses et les propositions de personnes venant d'horizons assez différents, est aujourd'hui disponible sous la forme d'un rapport, qu'on peut télécharger ici.

Rapport sur l'Industrie du Logiciel

Les propositions formulées dans ce document sont de différentes natures: il est question par exemple de généraliser l'enseignement de l'Informatique, de mieux valoriser et accompagner le développement logiciel de qualité, de mettre en place une infrastructure mutualisée pour le développement collaboratif, de former les décideurs aux spécificités du logiciel (pour lequel les mécanismes traditionnels du brevet sont inopérants ou néfastes), d'adapter les instruments fiscaux afin de favoriser l'innovation, et non pas l'optimisation fiscale.

Évidemment, ce rapport présente une vision qui est le résultat du travail d'un groupe, et ne reflète pas forcément sur tous les sujets le point de vue de chacun de ses intégrants.

Ce document a été remis au ministére de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche et fait désormais partie des documents sur lesquels peut s'appuyer la reflexion de nos institutions.

Tuesday, March 22 2011

Linux on Dell E6510

I just moved away from my old, and stable Dell D820, to a new, slick Dell E6510. Linux is now quite stable on most machines I own, but there are still some annoying quirks here and there. Here is how to get around some of them.

Continue reading...

Saturday, March 19 2011

Tales from the Mancoosi frontline: moving forward with MPM (the Mancoosi package manager prototype)

I wanted to install libreoffice today, on a freshly installed Squeeze/amd64 ... but it turned out to be more interesting than expected.

Continue reading...

Thursday, January 27 2011

Manifesto pour une Création Artistique Libre dans un Internet Libre : donner aux artistes, favoriser la création, protéger Internet et se défaire d'Hadopi

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Le MIDEM (Marché International du Disque et de l'Édition Musicale) vient de fermer ses portes... les producteurs continuent de crier à la crise, et demandent à l'HADOPI de faire couler du sang sur nos connexions Internet, déjà soumises à un contrôle sans précédent. Après les procès contre les collectionneurs de vidéos, la loi DADVSI avec ses DRM qui empoisonnent nos lecteurs MP3, on va maintenant nous couper le réseau si un logiciel automatique édité par des sociétés privées payées par des sociétés d'auteurs décide que notre accès Internet a servi à télécharger illégalement.

Nous savons tous quelle galère nous attend avec nos fournisseurs d'accès Internet dès qu'il y a la moindre panne (j'ai passé 2 semaines sans réseau en septembre, pour une mésentente entre Free et France Télécom, et ce n'est pas drôle).

Imaginez un instant ce que cela peut devenir si on permet a des imbéciles de fabriquer des pannes par milliers...

Comme nous savons, il suffit d'un café par mois pour donner à la création bien plus de ce qu'elle a aujourd'hui, et arrêter toutes ces idioties.

Le moment est venu de siffler la fin de la récréation: ne vous laissez plus culpabiliser par le discours ambiant qui veut vous faire porter des habits de pirates, alors que vous êtes le public sans qui les artistes ne seraient rien; lisez ce qui suit, téléchargez le Manifesto, emparez-vous de ses idées, partagez-les avec vos amis, vos députés, vos artistes préférés; parlez-en avec vos associations, vos employés, vos employeurs; demandez que la Licence Globale soit remise à l'ordre du jour, et que l'industrie culturelle arrête une fois pour toutes de s'attaquer à nos libertés de citoyens de l'ère numérique.

Manifesto pour une Creation Artistique Libre dans un Internet Libre

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Si vous pensez que c'est plus efficace de véhiculer ces idées sous forme papier, faites-vous imprimer des copies à la demande en allant sur, si vous n'arrivez pas à vous faire livrer par In Libro Veritas.

Continue reading...

Saturday, November 20 2010

Mutualisation et Logiciels Libres dans l'administration publique

J'ai eu l'occasion de participer à une table ronde ce matin au conseil général de la Seine-Saint Denis sur les enjeux de la mutualisation et des Logiciels Libres dans l'administration publique. C'était une excellente occasion pour refaire un point sur ce dossier important, et je note ici quelques idées essentielles.

Continue reading...

Sunday, October 10 2010

Getting mplayer from with apt-mancoosi

I wanted to try the mplayer=2:1.0~rc3++svn20100804-0.1 from the (unofficial) Again, I first tried using apt-get (Version:, and it proposes me a solution with the following characteristics:

17 upgraded, 21 newly installed, 6 to remove and 648 not upgraded.

You can find the full solution, as well as the data to reproduce this upgrade scenario online at the Mancoosi Debian DUDF repository.

I was not satisfied, because it wanted to remove 6 packages, so I tried aptitude (Version:, which proposes a solution with these characteristics:

1 packages upgraded, 6 newly installed, 171 to remove and 635 not upgraded.

Here too, you can find the full solution, as well as the data to reproduce this upgrade scenario online at the Mancoosi Debian DUDF repository.

Finally, I resorted to apt-mancoosi (see the Mancoosi software page) which gave me the following solution, which I finally used.

Continue reading...

Using apt-mancoosi to install Mew

I wanted to install mew today. To do so, I first tried using apt-get (Version:, and it proposes me a solution with the following characteristics:

1 upgraded, 11 newly installed, 4 to remove and 368 not upgraded.

You can find the full solution, as well as the data to reproduce this upgrade scenario online at the Mancoosi Debian DUDF repository.

I was not satisfied, because mew is just a set of emacs files, so I do not see why I should change a lot of other packages just to get them.

Continue reading...

Thursday, September 9 2010

IRILL: une initiative de recherche et innovation sur le logiciel libre

Dans les prochaines semaines, vous allez entendre parler de l'IRILL à plusieurs reprises:

  • le 1 et 2 octobre il y aura d'autres moments importants pour le Logiciel Libre, toujours liés à l'Irill (un peu de suspense ne faisant pas de mal, vous en saurez plus dans quelques jours).

Qu'est-ce que l'IRILL, et quels sont ses objectifs?

On part d'un constat simple: le logiciel est dévenu pervasif, et presque tous les aspets de notre vie en dépendent directement ou indirectement. Dans ce contexte, le Logiciel Libre est un phenomène disruptif, qui change la façon de concevoir, développer, diffuser, modifier, maintenir, commercialiser et utiliser le logiciel.

Je crois fermement, avec les autres personnes qui ont mis beaucoup d'énergie dans la création de l'Irill, qu'il est nécéssaire de savoir correctement concevoir, développer, diffuser, modifier, maintenir, commercialiser et utiliser du Logiciel Libre; je crois que faire cela n'est pas simple du tout, et qu'il faut s'attaquer aux problèmes fondamentaux dès maintenant.

Pour y arriver, on doit mettre ensemble des chercheurs en Informatique prêts à se pencher sur les problèmes rééls venant du dévéloppement des Logiciels Libres; des dévéloppeurs et ingénieurs issus des communautés prêts à écouter les suggestions d'améliorations; des entreprises capables d'industrialiser les outils avancés et les bonnes pratiques; des enseignants prêts à faire l'effort de changer la façon d'enseigner l'Informatique, pour que cela corresponde plus au dévéloppement collaboratif qui est le socle du Logiciel Libre.

L'Irill (initiative de recherche et d'innovation sur le logiciel libre) veut contribuer à cet effort, en fournissant un lieu et des ressources pour reunir des personnes qui correspondent à ce profil, et dévélopper les collaborations autour de projets concrets.

Au démarrage, l'Irill accueille des projets comme Coccinelle et Mancoosi, qui ont montré qu'il est possible, et très fructueux pour tous, de faire le lien entre recherche de haut niveau et dévéloppement de logiciels libres phare (comme le noyau Linux ou les distributions GNU/Linux).

C'est un objectif ayant une haute portée sociétale, même si l'Irill démarre petit, et c'est pour cela que l'Inria avec l'Université Pierre et Marie Curie (P6) et l'Université Paris Diderot (P7) ont décidé de lancer l'Irill, sans plus tarder.

Pour en savoir plus, et suivre l'évolution de l'Irill, rendez-vous sur

Thursday, June 17 2010

The role of Computer Science, and Free and Open Source Software, in Education.

Computers and software are becoming pervasive, and are having directly or indirectly a significant impact on almost all aspects of our modern life: it comes as no surprise that computer and software have an impact on education too.

When discussing computers and software in Education, It is important to make a distinction among computer and software used as tools for educating students in all disciplines, and computer and software as subject matter in a specific scientific discipline.

When we focus on this latter aspect, we face the issues related to teaching this scientific discipline, that may be called Computer Science, or Informatics.

Here, academia has an important role to play at several levels:

  • we need to educate the teachers that will teach Informatics to high-school students; in the near future, all high school students will need to know the basics of this science, as they have now become essential components of the cultural baggage of any citizen, no less then mathematics, history, physics, literature and biology
  • we need to teach all university students about how to properly use Free and Open Source Software: no matter if they are specialising in medecine, liberal arts, physics or Computer Science, they all need to learn how to report errors and feature requests effectively, how to participate to the communities that work on the roadmap of collaborative projets, how to find, or even write properly documentation
  • we need to teach IT students how to work in an environment that is becoming dominated by Free and Open Source software, helping them to understand how to design, code, organise, deploy, modify, maintain, and distribute software that is developed collaboratively

According to the level we consider, the relevant activities are use, participate, understand, modify, and design: we are now quite a few academics to firmly believe that Free and Open Source software is instrumental in each of these activities.

In the Education track of Fossa 2010, we will try to advance the debate on all these levels, by bringing together people that have first hand experience gained during early experiments in the past years, as well as people working to improve on what is currently done.

Thursday, May 13 2010

Tales from the Mancoosi frontline: installing akonadi-kde-resource-googledata

As we have seen in the first post on these issues, upgrading a GNU/Linux machine is not an easy task: this is why Mancoosi is working hard at improving the situation. Here comes another report from the frontline, detailing the epic battle on my machine resulting from the need to install a single new package, akonadi-kde-resource-googledata, to be able to sync my korganizer data with a Google agenda.

Continue reading...

Monday, April 19 2010

How to manage your software upgrades: tales from the Mancoosi frontline

Upgrading software components has become an ubiquitous need: if Mac OS X and Windows users have seen nice, flashy popups proposing "software updates" for years, iPhone users upgrade their full OS every few months and get proposed updates from the AppStore daily.

In the Free Software world, we have been living with sophisticated tools to manage installation, removal and upgrade of software components for more than ten years, and we are used to be more picky and sophisticated in our desiderata than the average user on a proprietary platform: we do no just casually click on the 'OK' button in a popup, even if this kind of GUI gadgets is making its way into GNU/Linux distributions that are more end-user oriented.

According to our goals, we might have in mind precise upgrade policies, like "only get updates of system packages from the stable release finalised last year", or "install this new package, but please, please try not to touch anything else on my machine".

This is why we ended up with a whole wealth of different package managers, that try to offer appealing features for a user base that might range from the casual computer user for the advanced system administrator.

In recent years the growth of the available package base has been so impressive (in the picture above, you can see the evolution of the number of packages in the different Debian releases), that traditional package managers have started to show some serious limitations: algorithms and methodologies that were reasonable for small-scale collections of packages are hitting severe limitations now that the number of available components in a GNU/Linux distribution has passed the 25.000 unit mark.

The Mancoosi project, that I am happy to lead, started in 2008 to address some of these limitations, and the preliminary results coming out after less than two years of work show enough promise to justify a series of posts on the difficulties that we are all facing when managing our GNU/Linux distributions with traditional tools, and on the solutions that Mancoosi may have in store for us.

We start here with some concrete examples of issues faced when trying to install or upgrade a software component on a recent Debian distribution.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, March 30 2010

Constitutional Court in Italy rules out anti-free-software lobbyist arguments...

While walking around in some corridors in Brussels, Paris and other capitals to explain why the state, which is different from a private company, must focus on Free Software, I had on many occasions the opportunity to cross officials encumbered by sincere fear. They explained to me that some major players in the proprietary software industry (and it was not just Microsoft!) threatened to file suite against the for breach of competition law as soon as they showed some interest in Free Software.

The lobbyists argument went more or less like this:

"If you make a tender, or worse, if you write a law or directive requiring the use of Free Software, it prevents us from participating in these tenders with our proprietary software, so you violate the right of free competition because you exclude some of the software industry from your markets. We'll sue, and you will see what you will see! "

On each occasion, I tried to explain to this particular civil servant that this argument was completely hollow: there is violation of the competition when we exclude from a procurement a potential competitor on criteria other than technical needs real, not when a provider excludes itself by refusing to provide what is asked in the tender.

For example, we might attack for violations of rules on competition the innumerable public tenders poorly written that, instead of requesting an "integrated solution for email and calendar compliant with RFC822 and following standards, and able to exchange calendars in the published ICAL format" just mentions " 300 licenses for Microsoft Outlook "; misteriously, the lobbyists who roam the corridors have really nothing to say against these flagrant violations.

On the other side, if a government opened a tender for the construction of a building complying with (public) standards of high environmental quality, it is quite natural that manufacturers not knowing or not wanting to meet these standards are excluded: this is not an infringement of competition law.

Now, a government that takes seriously its obligation to ensure the sustainability of access to public data and confidentiality of personal data of its citizens, it must ask in its bidding that the software solutions provided are based on open standards and are made with free software: it is simply demanding software with the features necessary to accomplish its public service mission. If a software vendor can not or will not provide software with these characteristics, he is free to do so, but he can not pretend that there is a violation of competition law.

But this was, of course, just the opinion of an academic against that of heavy lobbyists.

A recent development of case law in Italy, that I just learned of thanks to Assoli, should finally help our dear frightened officials to fight back. Here are the key points.

  • The Piedmont Regional Council had approved a law containing this language: "... The Region, in its choice of software, supports free software and software whose source code is verifiable by end users. » (article 6, alinéa 2) "(Article 6, paragraph 2)
  • The Presidency of the Council of Ministers objected to this, asking the Constitutional Court to cancel a number of provisions.
  • On March 23, 2010, the judgement is out, and among the rest, we note that the Court debunks the arguments by the Council of Ministers (argument which is, unmistakably, a copy of 'the argument propagated by the lobbyists).

"The concepts of free software and open source software are not concepts relating to a specific technology, brand or product, but express a legal feature ... (and) the choice (of this feature) belongs to the ... buyer of the software. It follows that ... there is no breach of competition (when giving advantage to Free Software in a regional guideline). "

I would like to thank deeply, in order, the Piedmont Region in Italy for having shown to be aware of the fundamental duties of a public administration in the era of digital technologies, the Italian Council of Ministers for having, by challenging this regional law, tested the validity of the specious arguments peddled by lobbyists of proprietary software, and the Italian Constitutional Court to have decided the issue clearly, in a language understandable even for the general public.

Now, let us forward this information to all the civil servants in our countries.

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