FOSDEM 2013 & etc-update



I started writing this post after FOSDEM, but never actually managed to finish it. But as I plan to blog about something again “soon”, I wanted to get this one out first. So let’s start with FOSDEM – it is awesome event and every open source hacker is there unless he has some really huge reasons why not to come (like being dead, in prison or locked down in psychiatric care). I was there together with bunch of openSUSE/SUSE folks. It was a lot of fun and we even managed to get some work done during the event. So how was it?


We had a lot of fun on the way already. You know, every year, we rent a bus just for us and we go from Nuremberg to Brussels and back all together by bus. And we talk and drink and talk and drink some more…. So although it sounds crazy – 8 hours drive – it’s not as bad as it sounds.


What the hack is etc-update and what does it have to do with me, openSUSE or FOSDEM? Isn’t it Gentoo tool? Yes, it is. It is Gentoo tool (actually part of portage, Gentoo package manager) that is used in Gentoo to merge updates to the configuration files. When you install package, portage is not going to overwrite your configuration files that you have spend days and nights tuning. It will create a new file with new upstream configuration and it is up to you to merge them. But you know, rpm does the same thing. In almost all cases rpm is not going to overwrite your configuration file, but will install the new one as config_file.rpmnew. And it is up to you to merge the changes. But it’s not fun. Searching for all files, compare them manually and choose what to merge and how. And here comes etc-update o the rescue ;-)

How does it work? Simple. You need to install it (will speak about that later) and run it. It’s command line tool and it doesn’t need any special parameters. All you need to do is to run etc-update as root (to be actually able to do something with these files). And the result?

# etc-update 
Scanning Configuration files...
The following is the list of files which need updating, each
configuration file is followed by a list of possible replacement files.
1) /etc/camsource.conf (1)
2) /etc/ntp.conf (1)
Please select a file to edit by entering the corresponding number.
              (don't use -3, -5, -7 or -9 if you're unsure what to do)
              (-1 to exit) (-3 to auto merge all files)
                           (-5 to auto-merge AND not use 'mv -i')
                           (-7 to discard all updates)
                           (-9 to discard all updates AND not use 'rm -i'):

What I usually do is that I select configuration files I do care about, review changes and merge them somehow and later just use -5 for everything else. It looks really simple, doesn’t it? And in fact it is!

Somebody asked a question on how to merge updates of configuration files while visiting our openSUSE booth at FOSDEM. When I learned that from Richard, we talked a little bit about how easy it is to do something like that and later during one of the less interesting talks, I took this Gentoo tool, patched it to work on rpm distributions, packaged it and now it is in Factory and it will be part of openSUSE 13.1 ;-) If you want to try it, you can get it either from my home project – home:-miska-:arm (even for x86 ;-) ) or from utilities repository.

Hope you will like it and that it will make many sysadmins happy ;-)


  1. Leho Kraav (@lkraav) says:

    dispath-conf is so much better than etc-update. Not sure if you knew about dispatch-conf?

    1. Michal Hrušecký says:

      I know it exists and that it should be better, but never actually tried it as everyhting I needed was handled nicelly by etc-update already…

  2. Bjoern Michaelsen says:

    Hah! It only took ten years for SUSE to fetch up. Should have been etc-proposals of course, though!

    (As the original author of that early piece, I reserve the right to nag, invoking the shameless plug rule ;) )

  3. Bill says:

    could you fix fhis:

    The server failed the authenticity check (michal.hrusecky.net).

    The certificate is not signed by any trusted certificate authority

    1. Michal Hrušecký says:

      If you are speaking about https, I’m using CAcert (http://www.cacert.org), you can verify my key against their CA or add them among trusted if you don’t trust them yet ;-)

      Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I cannot fix your browser :-D

  4. David E. Narváez says:

    “So let’s start with FOSDEM – it is awesome event and every open source hacker is there unless he has some really huge reasons why not to come (like being dead, in prison or locked down in psychiatric care)”

    Another common reason not to be there is being an OpenSource hacker living in America, Asia, Africa or Oceania. The planet has gotten quite large since Europeans discovered the rest of the world about 6 centuries ago, you know.

    1. Michal Hrušecký says:

      Still, FOSDEM is #1 open source event. But I admit that price of flight for non-Europeans might be quite high… But anyway, it wasn’t meant dead serious ;-)

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