I was wondering why some of my USB devices where not recognized by lsusb and stumbled upon /usr/share/hwdata/usb.ids.

When I read the contents of the file I could see that the hardware database was dated from mid-2015 (roughly two years before the distribution, Debian 9 "Stretch", was released in June 2017).

I ran the following to update the database:


And was surprised to find that it was dated from last March.

How comes that it is not updated automatically?

  • Cool command, did not know it +1 – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 18 at 14:14

Running update-usbids by default isn’t an option because users don’t necessarily want their systems to “phone home” in any way (which update-usbids does, even if the download URL is currently trustworthy), and Debian avoids configuring them to do so.

I imagine the package maintainer didn’t think of uploading a package with an updated list of ids before the Debian 9 freeze in early 2017. The package which was released in Debian 9 was uploaded in 2015, so the age of the database makes sense. You might think that the package could update its own database during the build, which would allow an automated rebuild to update the database for everyone, but package builds aren’t allowed to access remote hosts.

Later releases of usbutils switched to the systemd database. The switch to systemd in general meant reduced support for sysvinit-based systems; supporting those is still a requirement for Debian, so the newer packages were only uploaded to experimental until recently. Debian 10 will feature a newer release, using the systemd database.

If system administrators wants to update the USB identifiers, they can add a monthly cron job...

  • I am not sure what you mean exactly by "phone home" but still: this would be avoided on user-side if hardware update was in sync with the usbutils packaging. – Paradox Apr 18 at 16:08
  • It is in sync, the Debian 9 package was uploaded in 2015. See my update. – Stephen Kitt Apr 18 at 16:18
  • It is way clearer now. Still, I would not say "in sync", even though the Debian packaging process makes sense. – Paradox Apr 18 at 18:32
  • Well, it’s “in sync” with the last time the package was updated ;-). – Stephen Kitt Apr 18 at 19:31

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