I don't do much Debian stuff these days (too busy) but I have adopted some packages over the last year. This has happened if a package that I rely on is lacking person-power and was at risk of being removed from Debian. I thought I should write about some of them. First up, smartmontools.

smartmontools let you query the "Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology" (S.M.A.R.T.) information in your computer's storage devices (hard discs and solid-state equivalents), as well as issue S.M.A.R.T. commands to them, such as instructing them to execute self-tests.

I rescued smartmontools for the Debian release in 2015, but I thought that was a one-off. Since I've just done it again I'm now considering it something I (co-)maintain1.

S.M.A.R.T. can, in theory, give you advance warning about a disc that is "not well" and could stop working. In practice, it isn't very good at predicting disc failures2 — which might explain why the package hasn't received more attention — but it can still be useful: last year it helped me to detect an issue with excessive drive-head parking I was experiencing on one of my drives.

  1. Personally I think the notion of single-maintainers for packages is old and destructive, and I think it should be the exception rather than the norm. Unfortunately it's still baked into a lot of our processes, policies and tools. ↩

  2. E. Pinheiro, W.-D. Weber, and L. A. Barroso. Failure trends in a large disk drive population (PDF). In Proceedings of 5th USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies (FAST 2007), San Jose, CA, February 2007. ↩


comment 1

If I read the paper correctly the problem with SMART is that it gives false negatives -- it fails to predict about 50% of failures, but its not as bad in false positives -- a drive with bad smart numbers will probably fail.

My feeling is that it's not perfect, but it's better than nothing. I use SMART as part of my acceptance testing for 2nd hand drives (in test machines) and as a criterion for proactive removal from production systems.

Thanks very much for keeping smartmontools in Debian.

Comment by John HUGHES,