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Doha and the past year in APT

A week has gone by and another small sharing about Doha and one package that quite a few of us use everyday but don’t think much of them.

Let’s start with Doha with these two pictures which tells/shares a bit about what the Doha of today is like –

qatar-1

qatar-2

While I have more than a dozen snapshots of Doha, all of them show same thing, all are huge skyscrapers and overall Doha seems to be aping Dubai and is in a frenzy as World Cup 2022 is around the corner. We did see a few of the older places but these seemed to be more done for ‘tourists’ rather than the real thing. We saw stuff like –

wooden_ship

This was a picture taken by Ritesh Raj Saraff, a friend and a DD whom I met while I was going to Debconf. The place where this picture has been taken is known as a ‘Souk’ or what we know as market-place. This was a place where you could get spices. Quite a few of the spices that we get and use in India were bought from Middle-East in the olden times. In fact, it has been argued that the whole ‘Mughlai’ food that is part of Indian culture was imported from Middle-East when we were trading them before India or ‘Akhand Bharat’ was invaded. What was interesting to both of us is that we could perceive that most of the buildings had a sort of fakeness to it, they tried to show that it had a lot of detailed work on the buildings but we could see it was all done recently so not that old as being led to believe.

One of the other interesting bits that we came to know throughout our stay in Qatar that almost 80-90% of the staff we met inside Qatar airport as well as in the ‘Souk’ were people from Asian sub-continent and more specifically from South India.

I had few interesting conversations with some of the people who were managing the shops were that almost of them were just employees while the owners were ‘Qataris’ . I could understand this as the distance and flight between Qatar and India is hardly 3 hours. It seemed very similar to how Mexicans look for work in United States. The most expensive thing there was ‘water’ as it’s desert other than housing and most workers seemed to have shared accommodation from anywhere between 5-15 people in one room. It’s only the relative strength of the Qatari Rial which probably compels them to be there. The temperature was around 45 degrees with a bit of humidity as it’s next to the Ocean. For all the money in the world, I wouldn’t work there. It is true that you know your city’s worth only when you go outside🙂

I do have some more stories about Qatar but that would have to wait for another day now. Also, I really don’t want to talk much about this part as it’s part depressing but probably would explore it a bit in a further blog-post.

One of the more interesting topics that I attended was the ‘apt’ talk . There are 3-4 tools in the Debian world i.e. apt, aptitude, apt-get, dpkg and dselect. More often than not people know aptitude and apt-get whereas the rest of the packages are not thought so much about. What I somewhat suspected about the history of apt was revealed to be true today, courtesy David K.

julias-andreas-klose-year-in-apt

You can see the talk/video about apt at http://meetings-archive.debian.net/pub/debian-meetings/2016/debconf16/The_past_year_in_APT.webm.

I had been curious about apt,libapt,dpkg and the entire tool-chain which goes into updating packages and like. I had a couple of conversations here in India before on mail, in person and IRC as well as couple of conversations in South Africa as well before the APT talk where it was told that packages are not signed or it’s not easy to figure out the integrity. Being a Debian fan-boy I could not believe this to be true. Hence I asked and to my dismay found it to be true😦 . I also then asked the same with a bit more background on the mailing list as well and got to know that this has been a concern since 2005. As I do not have the requisite skills and the person would require probably knowledge of dpkg internals as well as have probably good social skills to have at least 1-2 DD’s help her/im to work on it and have probably some server space where even some partial archive is re-built using debian packages which use dpkg-sig . I also had some concerns that even if somebody did do the work, it might come in the way of the reproducible builds concept where Neils shared ways in which it could be overcome. Having said the above, it is totally doable if somebody has the will, skills and the patience to do it.

Just look at the amazing work done by the team which re-built almost all the archive using clang. See clang.debian.net for the amazing work that they have done.

Now, one of the issues in India which comes in popularizing Debian or in fact any free software distribution in India is the bandwidth issue or rather the lack of it or how expensive it is. The situation for better lack of term is ‘pathetic’. While nothing can be done till the time the Govt. gives limited term oligopoly licenses to telecom operators and they have a cabal (cabal – closed team where decisions and policies are made without any knowledge of and to other stakeholders.) we need to find ways to make the best of the situation. Anyways, while there are some ideas to tackle that but that’s a long-term goal and I will share some aspects of it in probably another blog post. In the interim somethings can definitely be made better. Now one of the issues that is there for most people is getting the package updates. Before updating the packages, the package index needs to be updated. Now, both in home and work environments most people are cautious to update the package index. But many times, either due to bandwidth issues or some other issue which is outside your control,  your package index is corrupted. I have put both the possible reasons of why and how the package index corruption takes place and a probable work-around of in the deity mail post. I do hope to put in a more coherent state by probably making smaller bug issues so they could be tackled or answered one by one. Any improvements would be better for stability of debian infrastructure only. If anybody does do the required work and need a guinea pig for testing, count me in. Just holler and share you will be working on this aspect and at least one of my workstations would definitely take part in seeing if its better or not. Even if you are able to just provide a way to make a copy of /var/lib/apt/lists after every successful update and do the comparison with time-stamp on next run and only change the copy when a successful update occurs, that will be a huge help in itself.

Look forward to hearing form one and all.

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