For the last few months, it seems that my posts haven't been reaching the Planet Debian aggregator correctly. I timed the last two posts and they both arrived roughly 10 days late in the feed.

  1. Long delays posting Debian Planet Venus
  2. SNI issues
  3. Expiry issues
  4. Planet Venus maintenance
  5. Mike check!

SNI issues

At first, I suspected I was a victim of the SNI bug in Planet Venus: since it is still running in Python 2.7 and uses httplib2 (as opposed to, say, Requests), it has trouble with sites running under SNI. In January, there were 9 blogs with that problem on Planet. When this was discussed elsewhere in February, there were now 18, and then 21 reported in March. With everyone enabling (like me) Let's Encrypt on their website, this number is bound to grow.

I was able to reproduce the Debian Planet setup locally to do further tests and ended up sending two (unrelated) patches to the Debian bug tracker against Planet Venus, the software running Debian planet. In my local tests, I found 22 hosts with SNI problems. I also posted some pointers on how the code could be ported over to the more modern Requests and Cachecontrol modules.

Expiry issues

However, some of those feeds were working fine on philp, the host I found was running as the Planet Master. Even more strange, my own website was working fine!

INFO:planet.runner:Feed https://anarc.at/tag/debian-planet/index.rss unchanged

Now that was strange: why was my feed fetched, but noted as unchanged? For that, I found that there was a FAQ question buried down in the PlanetDebian wikipage which explicitly said that Planet obeys Expires headers diligently and will not get new content again if the headers say they did. Skeptical, I looked my own headers and, ta-da! they were way off:

$ curl -v https://anarc.at/tag/debian-planet/index.rss 2>&1 | egrep  '< (Expires|Date)'
< Date: Sat, 14 May 2016 19:59:28 GMT
< Expires: Sat, 28 May 2016 19:59:28 GMT

So I lowered the expires timeout on my RSS feeds to 3 hours:

root@marcos:/etc/apache2# git diff
diff --git a/apache2/conf-available/expires.conf b/apache2/conf-available/expires.conf
index 214f3dd..a983738 100644
--- a/apache2/conf-available/expires.conf
+++ b/apache2/conf-available/expires.conf
@@ -3,8 +3,18 @@
   # Enable expirations.
   ExpiresActive On

-  # Cache all files for 2 weeks after access (A).
-  ExpiresDefault A1209600
+  # Cache all files 12 hours after access
+  ExpiresDefault "access plus 12 hours"
+
+  # RSS feeds should refresh more often
+  <FilesMatch \.(rss)$>
+    ExpiresDefault "modification plus 4 hours"
+  </FilesMatch> 
+
+  # images are *less* likely to change
+  <FilesMatch "\.(gif|jpg|png|js|css)$">
+    ExpiresDefault "access plus 1 month"
+  </FilesMatch>

   <FilesMatch \.(php|cgi)$>
     # Do not allow scripts to be cached unless they explicitly send cache

I also lowered the general cache expiry, except for images, Javascript and CSS.

Planet Venus maintenance

A small last word about all this: I'm surprised to see that Planet Debian is running a 6 year old software that hasn't seen a single official release yet, with local patches on top. It seems that Venus is well designed, I must give them that, but it's a little worrisome to see great software just rotting around like this.

A good "planet" site seems like a resource a lot of FLOSS communities would need: is there another "Planet-like" aggregator out there that is well maintained and more reliable? In Python, preferably.

PlanetPlanet, which Venus was forked from, is out of the question: it is even less maintained than the new fork, which itself seems to have died in 2011.

There is a discussion about the state of Venus on Github which reflects some of the concerns expressed here, as well as on the mailing list. The general consensus seems to be that everyone should switch over to Planet Pluto, which is written in Ruby.

I am not sure which planet Debian sits on - Pluto? Venus? Besides, Pluto is not even a planet anymore...

Mike check!

So this is also a test to see if my posts reach Debian Planet correctly. I suspect no one will ever see this on the top of their feeds, since the posts do get there, but with a 10 days delay and with the original date, so they are "sunk" down. The above expiration fixes won't take effect until the 10 days delay is over... But if you did see this as noise, retroactive apologies in advance for the trouble.

If you are reading this from somewhere else and wish to say hi, don't hesitate, it's always nice to hear from my readers.

Created . Edited .