VLC bittorrent plugin in Bullseye, saved by the bell?
1st May 2021
Yesterday morning I got a warning call from the Debian quality control system that the VLC bittorrent plugin was due to be removed because of a release critical bug in one of its dependencies. As you might remember, this plugin make VLC able to stream videos directly from a bittorrent source using both torrent files and magnet links, similar to using a HTTP source. I believe such protocol support is a vital feature in VLC, allowing efficient streaming from sources such at the almost 7 million movies in the Internet Archive.
The dependency was the unmaintained libtorrent-rasterbar package, and the bug in question blocked its python library from working properly. As I did not want Bullseye to release without bittorrent support in VLC, I set out to check out the status, and track down a fix for the problem. Luckily the issue had already been identified and fixed upstream, providing everything needed. All I needed to do was to fetch the Debian git repository, extract and trim the patch from upstream and apply it to the Debian package for upload.
The fixed library was uploaded yesterday evening. But that is not enough to get it into Bullseye, as Debian is currently in package freeze to prepare for a new next stable release. Only non-critical packages with autopkgtest setup included, in other words able to validate automatically that the package is working, are allowed to migrate automatically into the next release at this stage. And the unmaintained libtorrent-rasterbar lack such testing, and thus needed a manual override. I am happy to report that such manual override was approved a few minutes ago, thus increasing significantly the chance of VLC bittorrent streaming being available out of the box also for Debian/Buster users. A bit too close shave for my liking, as the Bullseye release is most likely just a few days away, and this did feel like the package was saved by the bell. I am so glad the warning email showed up in time for me to handle the issue, and a big thanks go to the Debian Release team for the quick feedback on #debian-release and their swift unblocking.
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