How to get smart card support

I, more and more, receive direct emails asking for help about a general question about smart cards.

Free support

It is OK to send me an email or create a github, salsa, etc. ticket if you find a bug in a software I maintain. But it is, in general, not OK to contact me directly because you have a problem with your smart card project.

I do provide Free Software (as in free speech), not free support (as in free beer). If you really want support from me then contact me, we can agree on something.

pcsclite-muscle mailing list

For community support you should use the pcsclite-muscle mailing list. You can register to the list at and access to the archives at

On the mailing list you will find many smart card experts. Some of them know much more about some smart card details than me. Most of the time I will answer your question. But some other people may have a better/different answer.

One major benefit of using a public mailing list is that you can find answers about already known problems in the mailing list archives. So the more users use the mailing list the richer the archives will be.

Mailing list success

Since 2009 I publish the mailing list statistics for the previous year. For example read "MUSCLE mailing list statistics for 2019".

The number of messages on the list is declining. In part because people use other ways to get answers: direct email to me, github issues, etc.


Email is an old technology. Mailing list is an old technology. You have to fight against spam, etc.

But I think it is a nice way to get free support.

Unhappy user

 I just received this email:

Subject: I have a question with your library

Your library is garbage.  

It's too unstable, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
 Why do you publicize your library, as if it really works?

I've just wasted time configuring, fixing bugs, reading your old recommendations.

This is horrible. The version of pcsc lite has failed, I have sometimes failed to read nfc or newly released readers. Even your makefile for C fails. It is impossible to maintain your library. Sometimes it has worked, but I restart the pc and it no longer works. It's terrible.

 I just wasted my time with your library trash.  

First I thought it was just a spam. But then it talks about pcsc-lite so it must really be for me.

I don't find any question in the text. I also do not find any specific issue or problem to fix.

It is strange to take the time to write such an email. I think that is the first time I receive this kind of email.

I do not include the author name or email address. But if you (the author of the email) read this I propose you to join the pcsclite-muscle mailing list and report your problems there. I am sure someone can help you.

sysmoOCTSIM: 8 slots reader

Sysmocom designed and sells a smart card reader with 8 slots for SIM sized cards (2FF form factor). It is the sysmoOCTSIM



I received such a reader a few days ago (thanks Harald W.). In my case the reader has a nice aluminium casing to protect the electronic.

I added the reader in my list at: sysmocom_sysmoOCTSIM.


8 slots

The reader has 8 slots. From the CCID USB descriptor:

  bMaxSlotIndex: 0x07

The index starts at 0 so a maximum of 7 indicates 8 slots.


And it declares that it can support 8 slots busy at the same time.

  bMaxCCIDBusySlots: 8

So it is possible to use the 8 slots at the same time.

This device is the only one to have 8 slots in my list:

You can also display the reader list sorted by bMaxSlotIndex field to easily see the other readers that have more than 1 slot.


Free Software Firmware

The reader firmware is free software (or open source if you prefer this denomination). The license is GNU GPL 2 or a later version.

The git repository is
The bug tracker is

The only other free software CCID firmware I know of is Tian Tian Xiang Shang used in the GnuK project (An Implementation of USB Cryptographic Token for GnuPG).

CCID driver limitation

My CCID driver does support multi-slots readers since version 0.9.2 released in 2004.

But the driver is limited because it does not support using the slots at the same time, even if the reader declares it supports it.

pcsc-lite has support for simultaneous multi-slot. But the driver tells pcsc-lite that simultaneous multi-slot is not supported. See this code:

Of course I tried to modify the code of the CCID driver to tell pcsc-lite that simultaneous multi-slot can be used. But then the driver is confused by mixed USB frames. I then remembered why this support was disabled.



Adding support of simultaneous multi-slots is possible. That will require some work on the CCID driver.

If you want or plan to use such a reader with pcsc-lite on GNU/Linux or another Unix system then contact me so we can discuss what you can do.


I sometimes receive requests about configurations with a lot of smart card readers. Using an 8 slots reader can be part of the solution. This reader requires the use of only one USB port and has its own power supply unit.

The reader firmware is Free Software and I like that. It can only be a good point in the selection of a smart card reader.

GitHub Sponsors: US$ 20 per month

Since January 2020 I participate in the GitHub Sponsors. See my post "GitHub Sponsors".

I received the first payment in May 2020. See "GitHub Sponsors: first payment".

You can see my public GitHub sponsor page at "Become a sponsor to LudovicRousseau".

New sponsor

I now have a new sponsor at $10 per month. That will double my Sponsors revenue. Yeah!
Thanks a lot to the existing 6 sponsors. You are wonderful.

I added a new tier at $20/month in case someone want to be even more generous.


It is also possible to send me bitcoins. See "How to help my projects? Send me bitcoins!".

Someone sent me some BTC cents (or micro cents) just a few days ago. Thanks to you anonymous.


I plan to make a status in next January for the 1st anniversary of my participation to the GitHub Sponsors program.

PySCard 2.0.0 released

 I just released a new version 2.0.0 of pyscard. PySCard is a python module adding smart cards support (PC/SC) to Python.

The version is 2.0.0 because after 1.9.9 I had not so many choices. This version does not bring any new feature. It is a bug fix release.

The PySCard project is available at:


2.0.0 (September 2020)

  • SCardStatus(): Fix a crash in case of PC/SC error
  • toASCIIString(): replace non-ASCII characters by '.'
  • remove i386 (32-bits) support on macOS

Smart card and blockchain?

I received my first ATR description containing the word "blockchain". It is for ATR 3B 89 80 01 66 49 46 58 42 53 32 47 6F 32.

The card description is "Blockchain Security 2Go (JavaCard)" and refer to "Infineon's Blockchain Security 2Go Starter Kit".

The license of the github project is MIT License but the project does not contain any source code. So I am not sure what this github project is about.

Note: I do not have such a smart card. So I can't write much more about this card and project.

Smart card Usage in Debian: applications

The last layer above the smart card reader driver, the PC/SC resource manager and the middleware are user applications.

I updated the list when writing this blog article. New Debian packages have been added, and others have been removed.

ausweisapp2: Official authentication app for German ID cards and residence permits

cardpeek: Tool to read the contents of ISO7816 smartcards

connman-gtk: fully-featured GUI for ConnMan with systray support

entropybroker: infrastructure for distributing random numbers (entropy data)

gnokii-cli: Datasuite for mobile phone management (console interface)

gnokii-smsd: SMS Daemon for mobile phones

gnome-boxes: Simple GNOME app to access remote or virtual systems

gnome-phone-manager: control aspects of your mobile phone from your GNOME 2 desktop

gnupg: GNU privacy guard - a free PGP replacement

golang-pault-go-ykpiv-dev: high level cgo wrapper around

network-manager-openconnect: network management framework (OpenConnect plugin core)

network-manager-openconnect-gnome: network management framework (OpenConnect plugin GNOME GUI)

nitrokey-app: Application to manage the Nitrokey

openconnect: open client for Cisco AnyConnect, Pulse, GlobalProtect VPN

opensc: Smart card utilities with support for PKCS#15 compatible cards

pcsc-tools: Some tools to use with smart cards and PC/SC

plasma-nm: Plasma5 networkmanager library.

python3-yubikey-manager: Python 3 library for configuring a YubiKey

qemu-system-arm: QEMU full system emulation binaries (arm)

qemu-system-mips: QEMU full system emulation binaries (mips)

qemu-system-misc: QEMU full system emulation binaries (miscellaneous)

qemu-system-ppc: QEMU full system emulation binaries (ppc)

qemu-system-sparc: QEMU full system emulation binaries (sparc)

qemu-system-x86: QEMU full system emulation binaries (x86)

rdesktop: RDP client for Windows NT/2000 Terminal Server and Windows Servers

spice-client-gtk: Simple clients for interacting with SPICE servers

srsue: User Equipment implementation for LTE

virt-viewer: Displaying the graphical console of a virtual machine

vinagre: remote desktop client for the GNOME Desktop

wpasupplicant: client support for WPA and WPA2 (IEEE 802.11i)

x2gothinclient-chroot: Install X2Go Thin Client chroot (metapackage)

xgnokii: Datasuite for mobile phone management (X interface)

ykcs11: PKCS#11 module for the YubiKey PIV applet

yubico-piv-tool: Command line tool for the YubiKey PIV applet

yubikey-manager: Python library and command line tool for configuring a YubiKey

yubioath-desktop: Graphical interface for displaying OATH codes with a Yubikey


Package # of installation % of Debian systems
gnupg 189853 96,29 %
wpasupplicant 100666 51,06 %
vinagre 49424 25,07 %
opensc 24336 12,34 %
qemu-system-x86 18292 9,28 %
plasma-nm 17497 8,87 %
rdesktop 10575 5,36 %
virt-viewer 9638 4,89 %
qemu-system-arm 4708 2,39 %
qemu-system-ppc 4099 2,08 %
qemu-system-mips 4096 2,08 %
qemu-system-misc 4070 2,06 %
qemu-system-sparc 4007 2,03 %
openconnect 3679 1,87 %
network-manager-openconnect 2457 1,25 %
network-manager-openconnect-gnome 1832 0,93 %
pcsc-tools 1743 0,88 %
gnome-boxes 1446 0,73 %
spice-client-gtk 791 0,40 %
python3-yubikey-manager 338 0,17 %
xgnokii 319 0,16 %
yubikey-manager 298 0,15 %
gnokii-cli 288 0,15 %
cardpeek 176 0,09 %
yubico-piv-tool 165 0,08 %
gnome-phone-manager 155 0,08 %
yubioath-desktop 115 0,06 %
nitrokey-app 103 0,05 %
connman-gtk 73 0,04 %
ausweisapp2 69 0,03 %
gnokii-smsd 47 0,02 %
ykcs11 36 0,02 %
entropybroker 19 0,01 %
srsue 2 0,00 %
golang-pault-go-ykpiv-dev 1 0,00 %
x2gothinclient-chroot 0 0,00 %


The first real smart card application with the most installations is OpenSC with 12% of Debian systems. Hello and well done to my OpenSC developers collegues.

The use of smart card is not developed. Maybe it is more deployed in enterprises since "many" business laptops have an integrated smart card reader. So there must be market and customer demand for these configurations. But maybe also these enterprises systems do not have the popularity-contest package installed so are not visible in the statistics here.

Smart card Usage in Debian: middleware

See "Smart card Usage in Debian: pcscd and drivers" for the previous article.

The next layer above the smart card reader driver and PC/SC resource manager are middleware. These software are between PC/SC and the user application.

I updated the list when writing this blog article. New Debian packages have been added, and others have been removed.

cackey: CAC and PIV Smartcard PKCS #11 cryptographic module

coolkey: Smart Card PKCS #11 cryptographic module

libckyapplet1: Smart Card Coolkey applet

libckyapplet1 is a dependency of coolkey. So they are both installed at the same time.

libckyapplet1-dev: Smart Card Coolkey applet development files

libcacard0: Virtual Common Access Card (CAC) Emulator (runtime library)

libcacard0 is a dependency of all the qemu-system-* packages. That can explain why this package is installed in so much systems.

libcacard-dev: Virtual Common Access Card (CAC) Emulator (development files)

libchipcard6: library for accessing smartcards

libchipcard-data: configuration files for libchipcard

libchipcard-dev: API for smartcard readers

libchipcard-tools: tools for accessing chipcards

libengine-pkcs11-openssl: OpenSSL engine for PKCS#11 modules

libgnokii7: Gnokii mobile phone interface library

libopenconnect5: open client for Cisco AnyConnect, Pulse, GlobalProtect VPN - shared library

libopenconnect5 is a dependency of plasma-nm (Plasma5 networkmanager library). Plasma is the KDE graphical workspaces environment.

libosmosim0: Osmo SIM library

Part of libosmocore: Open Source MObile COMmunications CORE library (metapackage)

libpam-p11: PAM module for using PKCS#11 smart cards

Part of pam-p11: PAM module for using PKCS#11 smart cards

libpam-pkcs11: Fully featured PAM module for using PKCS#11 smart cards

libpam-poldi: PAM module allowing authentication using a OpenPGP smartcard

libpcscada0.7.5: Ada bindings to PC/SC middleware

libspice-client-glib-2.0-8: GObject for communicating with Spice servers (runtime library)

libspice-client-glib-2.0-8 is a dependency of vinagre: remote desktop client for the GNOME Desktop

libspice-client-gtk-3.0-5: GTK3 widget for SPICE clients (runtime library)

libspice-client-gtk-3.0-5 is also a dependency of vinagre: remote desktop client for the GNOME Desktop

libykpiv1: Library for communication with the YubiKey PIV smartcard

openjdk-8-jre-headless: OpenJDK Java runtime, using Hotspot JIT (headless)

openjdk-11-jre-headless: OpenJDK Java runtime, using Hotspot JIT (headless)

We can see that openjdk-8-jre-headless has been replaced by openjdk-11-jre-headless.

openjdk-13-jre-headless: OpenJDK Java runtime, using Hotspot JIT (headless)

openjdk-13-jre-headless is not yet in Debian stable. So the number of installation is low. This version is also replaced by openjdk-14-jre-headless since 2020.

openjdk-14-jre-headless: OpenJDK Java runtime, using Hotspot JIT (headless)

openjdk-15-jre-headless: OpenJDK Java runtime, using Hotspot JIT (headless)

openjdk-15-jre-headless is very new. It is in Debian unstable but has not yet migrated to Debian testing. So the number of installation is very low.

opensc-pkcs11: Smart card utilities with support for PKCS#15 compatible cards

python3-pykcs11: PKCS#11 wrapper for Python

python3-pyscard: Python3 wrapper above PC/SC API

python3-pyscard is a dependency of python3-yubikey-manager. Users are installing this package not because they love this software (I am the upstream maintainer) but because they use a yubikey.


Package # of installation % of Debian systems
libcacard0 54878 27,83 %
libspice-client-glib-2.0-8 53935 27,35 %
openjdk-11-jre-headless 51455 26,10 %
libspice-client-gtk-3.0-5 49029 24,87 %
openjdk-8-jre-headless 42921 21,77 %
opensc-pkcs11 24375 12,36 %
libopenconnect5 19034 9,65 %
python3-pyscard 369 0,19 %
openjdk-14-jre-headless 340 0,17 %
libengine-pkcs11-openssl 312 0,16 %
openjdk-13-jre-headless 300 0,15 %
libchipcard-data 199 0,10 %
libckyapplet1 193 0,10 %
coolkey 190 0,10 %
libchipcard6 182 0,09 %
libykpiv1 178 0,09 %
libcacard-dev 135 0,07 %
libchipcard-tools 131 0,07 %
libpam-pkcs11 90 0,05 %
openjdk-15-jre-headless 78 0,04 %
libpam-poldi 39 0,02 %
libpam-p11 33 0,02 %
libosmosim0 29 0,01 %
python3-pykcs11 19 0,01 %
libchipcard-dev 18 0,01 %
cackey 12 0,01 %
libckyapplet1-dev 3 0,00 %
libpcscada0.7.5 3 0,00 %
libgnokii7 2 0,00 %


Many (all?) smartcard middleware packages with an important installation base are not installed for themselves but because they are a dependency of another package.

So users are installing packages with smart card features or services but without any need or use of the smart card features.
It is not a problem. It is how dependencies works.