Gentoo at FOSDEM 2016

Gentoo Linux was present at this year's Free and Open Source Developer European Meeting (FOSDEM). For those not familiar with FOSDEM it is a conference that consists of more than 5,000 developers and more than 600 presentations over a two-day span at the premises of the Université libre de Bruxelles. The presentations are both streamed directly and recorded making it available to browse the archive once published.

Hanno Böck, a name mostly heard in relation to the fuzzing project, was the only Gentoo Developer presenting a talk this year on the very important subject of security and how Gentoo can be used as a framework for running Address Sanitizer to detect security bugs: "Can we run C code and be safe?: A Linux system protected with Address Sanitizer".

For the first time in many years Gentoo had a stand this year where we handed out buttons and stickers in addition to a LiveDVD.

Gentoo Boot

The Gentoo Ten team created a hybrid amd64/x86 "FOSDEM 2016 Special Edition" release for our user's benefit (thanks likewhoa!), and 200 DVDs were printed of which 155 were already distributed to potential users by the end of day one. A posters on the stand succinctly listed all the packages included on the LiveDVD with some highlights of packages more familiar to some users, something that also highlights one of the benefits of rolling release distributions in that the versions are up to date with upstream releases.

Gentoo DVD package list

If the LiveDVD is used on USB instead of the handed out DVDs it also offers the option of using persistence to store changes on the USB. It uses aufs to layer a read-write file system on top of a read-only squashfs compressed file system. This is great, because it allows you to make changes to the livedvd and have those changes appear on future reboots.

As mentioned in a blog post by dilfridge the stand also attracted attention due to a comment involving Gentoo Linux by Lennart Poettering in his keynote speech as a distribution that doesn't use systemd by default. This fit nicely with one of our banners at the stand; "Gentoo Linux | Works even without systemd | choice included".


There was a lot of positive feedback from various users and the stand functioned very nicely as a meeting place for the various people and the atmosphere was good throughout the conference.

10 fosdem-booth

As has become a tradition there was also a Gentoo dinner again this year amongst developers and users (thanks xaviermiller), a nice way to meet up and discuss everything in a relaxing setting.

Getting HBO and Netflix to work on GNU/Linux

Edit: 2014-08: This guide is now outdated as pipelight is included in the main gentoo tree and does not require a crossdev environment to be set up to work any longer.

After my Mac Mini running OS X had a failed HDD I finally got an excuse to buy a nice Asus Vivo PC (Intel Core i5-3210M, 8GB RAM,128GB SSD, Intel HD 4000) and install my favorite OS; GNU/Linux, specifically running the Gentoo distribution.

Now, for all the good things there is about GNU/Linux (I'm not gonna spend time on mentioning them here), there is one obvious drawback, and that is that mainstream providers such as Netflix and HBO have no native support (Why aren't they just using HTML5?). However, thankfully there is a good alternative to enable these services, and that is Pipelight:

Pipelight is a special browser plugin which allows one to use windows only plugins inside Linux browsers. We are currently focusing on Silverlight, Flash, Shockwave and the Unity Webplayer. The project needs a patched version of Wine to execute the Silverlight DLL.

In addition Pipelight supports the Widevine used by HBO (and as only the DRM plugin is running in wine, with a rather low performance hit at that).

So how to go ahead installing Pipelight on a GNU/Linux machine running Gentoo? Well, first of all we'll make sure to have layman and crossdev installed.

emerge layman crossdev

As Pipelight require a patched version of wine we'll find both pipelight and the patched version in the overlay at:

layman -o -f -a pipelight

And in order to make sure that the overlay can be used we make sure layman is sourced

echo "source /var/lib/layman/make.conf" >> /etc/portage/make.conf

Rather than following the straight README for the overlay we want to set it up using crossdev. First we make sure that package.env, package.mask, package.use and package.keywords are directories rather than simple files, and if not convert it:

if [[ -f /etc/portage/package.env ]]; then mv /etc/portage/package.env /etc/portage/package.env.old && mkdir /etc/portage/package.env && mv /etc/portage/package.env.old /etc/portage/package.env/generic; fi
if [[ -f /etc/portage/package.keywords ]]; then mv /etc/portage/package.keywords /etc/portage/package.keywords.old && mkdir /etc/portage/package.keywords && mv /etc/portage/package.keywords.old /etc/portage/package.keywords/generic; fi
if [[ -f /etc/portage/package.mask ]]; then mv /etc/portage/package.mask /etc/portage/package.mask.old && mkdir /etc/portage/package.mask && mv /etc/portage/package.mask.old /etc/portage/package.mask/generic; fi
if [[ -f /etc/portage/package.use ]]; then mv /etc/portage/package.use /etc/portage/package.use.old && mkdir /etc/portage/package.use && mv /etc/portage/package.use.old /etc/portage/package.use/generic; fi

Then we delete the cross-compiler part already found in the overlay using

rm -rf /var/lib/layman/pipelight/cross-i686-w64-mingw32

and setup the crossdev toolchain using

echo "=cross-i686-w64-mingw32/mingw64-runtime-3.1.0 **" >> /etc/portage/package.keywords/generic

crossdev -S -t i686-w64-mingw32

Now to install pipelight itself, we do this using

echo "=www-plugins/pipelight-9999 **" >> /etc/portage/package.keywords/pipelight
echo "app-emulation/wine-compholio ~amd64" >> /etc/portage/package.keywords/pipelight
echo "app-emulation/wine-compholio abi_x86_32" >> /etc/portage/package.use/pipelight

emerge pipelight

With that we should have a working base. Before we proceed though we want to install  media-fonts/corefonts and app-arch/cabextract. The former is in particular necessary to get a working Netflix setup (without it, expect a player 1001 error).

emerge app-arch/cabextract media-fonts/corefonts

Now time to configure the actual plugin. As I intend on using this with Firefox, the last command to run as root privileges before switching back to the normal user is:

pipelight-plugin --create-mozilla-plugins

Now time to enable the actual plugins (as regular user):

pipelight-plugin --enable-plugin silverlight5.1
touch $HOME/.config/wine-wininet-installer.accept-license
pipelight-plugin --enable-plugin flash
pipelight-plugin --enable-plugin widevine

The actual installation happens upon a restart of firefox, and can be seen by visiting about:plugins.
As Netflix use a rather primitive user agent string check, we also need to switch the user agent string before attempting to play. I'm using user-agent-overrider and set it to Windows/firefox before attempting to visit netflix or HBO.

Now, at this point, depending on your video card you should be able to stream both Netflix and HBO, however, for my nouveau driver I got " Direct rendering is disabled, most likely your 32-bit OpenGL drivers haven't been installed correctly (using GL renderer "Gallium 0.4 on NVC3", version "1.4 (3.0 Mesa 9.1.6)")" when attempting to play Netflix (HBO works). Turns out I hadn't given the user in question access to /dev/dri/card0 (video group). Adding the user and netflix as well worked.

As a final note; Netflix might require xattr to be enabled on the filesystem. To test if this is enabled you can run:

touch ~/.xattr_test && setfattr -n 'user.testAttr' -v 'attribute value' ~/.xattr_test &> /dev/null; getfattr ~/.xattr_test 2>&1 | grep -q user.testAttr && echo 'It works!' || echo 'No workie!'; rm ~/.xattr_test &> /dev/null

And voilla, a working Netflix and HBO on GNU/Linux (Gentoo)!