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Updated: 21 hours 22 min ago

Jonathan Dowland: Biosphere

Thu, 2024-04-25 11:15

I've been enjoying Biosphere as the soundtrack to my recent "concentrated work" spells.

Knives by Biosphere

I remember seeing their name on playlists of yester-year: axioms, bluemars1, and (still a going concern)'s drone zone.

  1. Bluemars lives on, at echoes of bluemars
Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Lukas Märdian: Creating a Netplan enabled system through Debian-Installer

Thu, 2024-04-25 06:19

With the work that has been done in the debian-installer/netcfg merge-proposal !9 it is possible to install a standard Debian system, using the normal Debian-Installer (d-i) mini.iso images, that will come pre-installed with Netplan and all network configuration structured in /etc/netplan/.

In this write-up I’d like to run you through a list of commands for experiencing the Netplan enabled installation process first-hand. For now, we’ll be using a custom ISO image, while waiting for the above-mentioned merge-proposal to be landed. Furthermore, as the Debian archive is going through major transitions builds of the “unstable” branch of d-i don’t currently work. So I implemented a small backport, producing updated netcfg and netcfg-static for Bookworm, which can be used as localudebs/ during the d-i build.

Let’s start with preparing a working directory and installing the software dependencies for our virtualized Debian system:

$ mkdir d-i_bookworm && cd d-i_bookworm $ apt install ovmf qemu-utils qemu-system-x86

Now let’s download the custom mini.iso, linux kernel image and initrd.gz containing the Netplan enablement changes, as mentioned above.

TODO: localudebs/

$ wget $ wget $ wget

Next we’ll prepare a VM, by copying the EFI firmware files, preparing some persistent EFIVARs file, to boot from FS0:\EFI\debian\grubx64.efi, and create a virtual disk for our machine:

$ cp /usr/share/OVMF/OVMF_CODE_4M.fd . $ cp /usr/share/OVMF/OVMF_VARS_4M.fd . $ qemu-img create -f qcow2 ./data.qcow2 5G

Finally, let’s launch the installer using a custom preseed.cfg file, that will automatically install Netplan for us in the target system. A minimal preseed file could look like this:

# Install minimal Netplan generator binary
d-i preseed/late_command string in-target apt-get -y install netplan-generator

For this demo, we’re installing the full package (incl. Python CLI), as the netplan-generator package was not yet split out as an independent binary in the Bookworm cycle. You can choose the preseed file from a set of different variants to test the different configurations:

We’re using the custom linux kernel and initrd.gz here to be able to pass the PRESEED_URL as a parameter to the kernel’s cmdline directly. Launching this VM should bring up the normal debian-installer in its netboot/gtk form:

$ export U= $ qemu-system-x86_64 \ -M q35 -enable-kvm -cpu host -smp 4 -m 2G \ -drive if=pflash,format=raw,unit=0,file=OVMF_CODE_4M.fd,readonly=on \ -drive if=pflash,format=raw,unit=1,file=OVMF_VARS_4M.fd,readonly=off \ -device qemu-xhci -device usb-kbd -device usb-mouse \ -vga none -device virtio-gpu-pci \ -net nic,model=virtio -net user \ -kernel ./linux -initrd ./initrd.gz -append "url=$U" \ -hda ./data.qcow2 -cdrom ./mini.iso;

Now you can click through the normal Debian-Installer process, using mostly default settings. Optionally, you could play around with the networking settings, to see how those get translated to /etc/netplan/ in the target system.

After you confirmed your partitioning changes, the base system gets installed. I suggest not to select any additional components, like desktop environments, to speed up the process.

During the final step of the installation (finish-install.d/55netcfg-copy-config) d-i will detect that Netplan was installed in the target system (due to the preseed file provided) and opt to write its network configuration to /etc/netplan/ instead of /etc/network/interfaces or /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/.

Done! After the installation finished you can reboot into your virgin Debian Bookworm system.

To do that, quit the current Qemu process, by pressing Ctrl+C and make sure to copy over the EFIVARS.fd file that was written by grub during the installation, so Qemu can find the new system. Then reboot into the new system, not using the mini.iso image any more:

$ cp ./OVMF_VARS_4M.fd ./EFIVARS.fd $ qemu-system-x86_64 \ -M q35 -enable-kvm -cpu host -smp 4 -m 2G \ -drive if=pflash,format=raw,unit=0,file=OVMF_CODE_4M.fd,readonly=on \ -drive if=pflash,format=raw,unit=1,file=EFIVARS.fd,readonly=off \ -device qemu-xhci -device usb-kbd -device usb-mouse \ -vga none -device virtio-gpu-pci \ -net nic,model=virtio -net user \ -drive file=./data.qcow2,if=none,format=qcow2,id=disk0 \ -device virtio-blk-pci,drive=disk0,bootindex=1 -serial mon:stdio

Finally, you can play around with your Netplan enabled Debian system! As you will find, /etc/network/interfaces exists but is empty, it could still be used (optionally/additionally). Netplan was configured in /etc/netplan/ according to the settings given during the d-i installation process.

In our case we also installed the Netplan CLI, so we can play around with some of its features, like netplan status:

Thank you for following along the Netplan enabled Debian installation process and happy hacking! If you want to learn more join the discussion at Salsa:installer-team/netcfg and find us at GitHub:netplan.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Russ Allbery: Review: Nation

Thu, 2024-04-25 00:18

Review: Nation, by Terry Pratchett

Publisher: Harper Copyright: 2008 Printing: 2009 ISBN: 0-06-143303-9 Format: Trade paperback Pages: 369

Nation is a stand-alone young adult fantasy novel. It was published in the gap between Discworld novels Making Money and Unseen Academicals.

Nation starts with a plague. The Russian influenza has ravaged Britain, including the royal family. The next in line to the throne is off on a remote island and must be retrieved and crowned as soon as possible, or an obscure provision in Magna Carta will cause no end of trouble. The Cutty Wren is sent on this mission, carrying the Gentlemen of Last Resort.

Then comes the tsunami.

In the midst of fire raining from the sky and a wave like no one has ever seen, Captain Roberts tied himself to the wheel of the Sweet Judy and steered it as best he could, straight into an island. The sole survivor of the shipwreck: one Ermintrude Fanshaw, daughter of the governor of some British island possessions. Oh, and a parrot.

Mau was on the Boys' Island when the tsunami came, going through his rite of passage into manhood. He was to return to the Nation the next morning and receive his tattoos and his adult soul. He survived in a canoe. No one else in the Nation did.

Terry Pratchett considered Nation to be his best book. It is not his best book, at least in my opinion; it's firmly below the top tier of Discworld novels, let alone Night Watch. It is, however, an interesting and enjoyable book that tackles gods and religion with a sledgehammer rather than a knife.

It's also very, very dark and utterly depressing at the start, despite a few glimmers of Pratchett's humor. Mau is the main protagonist at first, and the book opens with everyone he cares about dying. This is the place where I thought Pratchett diverged the most from his Discworld style: in Discworld, I think most of that would have been off-screen, but here we follow Mau through the realization, the devastation, the disassociation, the burials at sea, the thoughts of suicide, and the complete upheaval of everything he thought he was or was about to become. I found the start of this book difficult to get through. The immediate transition into potentially tragic misunderstandings between Mau and Daphne (as Ermintrude names herself once there is no one to tell her not to) didn't help.

As I got farther into the book, though, I warmed to it. The best parts early on are Daphne's baffled but scientific attempts to understand Mau's culture and her place in it. More survivors arrive, and they start to assemble a community, anchored in large part by Mau's stubborn determination to do what's right even though he's lost all of his moorings. That community eventually re-establishes contact with the rest of the world and the opening plot about the British monarchy, but not before Daphne has been changed profoundly by being part of it.

I think Pratchett worked hard at keeping Mau's culture at the center of the story. It's notable that the community that reforms over the course of the book essentially follows the patterns of Mau's lost Nation and incorporates Daphne into it, rather than (as is so often the case) the other way around. The plot itself is fiercely anti-colonial in a way that mostly worked. Still, though, it's a quasi-Pacific-island culture written by a white British man, and I had some qualms.

Pratchett quite rightfully makes it clear in the afterward that this is an alternate world and Mau's culture is not a real Pacific island culture. However, that also means that its starkly gender-essentialist nature was a free choice, rather than one based on some specific culture, and I found that choice somewhat off-putting. The religious rituals are all gendered, the dwelling places are gendered, and one's entire life course in Mau's world seems based on binary classification as a man or a woman. Based on Pratchett's other books, I assume this was more an unfortunate default than a deliberate choice, but it's still a choice he could have avoided.

The end of this book wrestles directly with the relative worth of Mau's culture versus that of the British. I liked most of this, but the twists that Pratchett adds to avoid the colonialist results we saw in our world stumble partly into the trap of making Mau's culture valuable by British standards. (I'm being a bit vague here to avoid spoilers.) I think it is very hard to base this book on a different set of priorities and still bring the largely UK, US, and western European audience along, so I don't blame Pratchett for failing to do it, but I'm a bit sad that the world still revolved around a British axis.

This felt quite similar to Discworld to me in its overall sensibilities, but with the roles of moral philosophy and humor reversed. Discworld novels usually start with some larger-than-life characters and an absurd plot, and then the moral philosophy sneaks up behind you when you're not looking and hits you over the head. Nation starts with the moral philosophy: Mau wrestles with his gods and the problem of evil in a way that reminded me of Job, except with a far different pantheon and rather less tolerance for divine excuses on the part of the protagonist. It's the humor, instead, that sneaks up on you and makes you laugh when the plot is a bit too much. But the mix arrives at much the same place: the absurd hand-in-hand with the profound, and all seen from an angle that makes it a bit easier to understand.

I'm not sure I would recommend Nation as a good place to start with Pratchett. I felt like I benefited from having read a lot of Discworld to build up my willingness to trust where Pratchett was going. But it has the quality of writing of late Discworld without the (arguable) need to read 25 books to understand all of the backstory. Regardless, recommended, and you'll never hear Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in quite the same way again.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Russell Coker: Source Code With Emoji

Wed, 2024-04-24 04:03

The XKCD comic Code Quality [1] inspired me to test out emoji in source. I really should have done this years ago when that XKCD was first published.

The following code compiles in gcc and runs in the way that anyone who wants to write such code would want it to run. The hover text in the XKCD comic is correct. You could have a style guide for such programming, store error messages in the doctor and nurse emoji for example.

#include <stdio.h> int main() {   int 😇 = 1, 😈 = 2;   printf("😇=%d, 😈=%d\n", 😇, 😈);   return 0; }

To get this to display correctly in Debian you need to install the fonts-noto-color-emoji package (used by the KDE emoji picker that runs when you press Windows-. among other things) and restart programs that use emoji. The Konsole terminal emulator will probably need it’s profile settings changed to work with this if you ran Konsole before installing fonts-noto-color-emoji. The Kitty terminal emulator works if you restart it after installing fonts-noto-color-emoji.

This web page gives a list of HTML codes for emoji [2]. If I start writing real code with emoji variable names then I’ll have to update my source to HTML conversion script (which handles <>" and repeated spaces) to convert emoji.

I spent a couple of hours on this and I think it’s worth it. I have filed several Debian bug reports about improvements needed to issues related to emoji.

Related posts:

  1. Fat Finger Shell I’ve been trying out the Fat Finger Shell which is...
  2. source dump blog Inspired by Julien Goodwin‘s post I created a new blog...
  3. Tithing for Open Source It’s common to hear a complaint of the form “I...
Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Russell Coker: Ubuntu 24.04 and Bubblewrap

Wed, 2024-04-24 03:46

When using Bubblewrap (the bwrap command) to create a container in Ubuntu 24.04 you can expect to get one of the following error messages:

bwrap: loopback: Failed RTM_NEWADDR: Operation not permitted bwrap: setting up uid map: Permission denied

This is due to Ubuntu developers deciding to use Apparmor to restrict the creation of user namespaces. Here is a Ubuntu blog post about it [1].

To resolve that you could upgrade to SE Linux, but the other option is to create a file named /etc/apparmor.d/bwrap with the following contents:

abi <abi/4.0>, include <tunables/global> profile bwrap /usr/bin/bwrap flags=(unconfined) { userns, # Site-specific additions and overrides. See local/README for details. include if exists <local/bwrap> }

Then run “systemctl reload apparmor“.

Related posts:

  1. Sandboxing Phone Apps As a follow up to Wayland [1]: A difficult problem...
  2. Kernel issues with Debian Xen and CentOS Kernels Last time I tried using a Debian 64bit Xen kernel...
  3. systemd-nspawn and Private Networking Currently there’s two things I want to do with my...
Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Bits from Debian: Debian Project Leader Election 2024, Andreas Tille elected.

Mon, 2024-04-22 08:00

The voting period for the Debian Project Leader election has ended. Please join us in congratulating Andreas Tille as the new Debian Project Leader.

The new term for the project leader started on 2024-04-21.

369 of 1,010 Debian Developers voted using the Condorcet method.

More information about the results of the voting are available on the Debian Project Leader Elections 2024 page.

Many thanks all of our Developers for voting.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Vincent Fourmond: QSoas version 3.3 is out

Mon, 2024-04-22 06:50
Version 3.3 brings in new features, including reverse Laplace transforms and fits, pH fits, commands for picking points from a dataset, averaging points with the same X value, or perform singular value decomposition.

In addition to these new features, many previous commands were improved, like the addition of a bandcut filter in FFT filtering, better handling of the loading of files produced by QSoas itself, and a button to interrupt the processing of scripts.

There are a lot of other new features, improvements and so on, look for the full list there. About QSoas
QSoas is a powerful open source data analysis program that focuses on flexibility and powerful fitting capacities. It is released under the GNU General Public License. It is described in Fourmond, Anal. Chem., 2016, 88 (10), pp 5050–5052. Current version is 3.3. You can download for free its source code or precompiled versions for MacOS and Windows there. Alternatively, you can clone from the GitHub repository.
Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Russ Allbery: Review: The Stars, Like Dust

Sun, 2024-04-21 22:22

Review: The Stars, Like Dust, by Isaac Asimov

Series: Galactic Empire #2 Publisher: Fawcett Crest Copyright: 1950, 1951 Printing: June 1972 Format: Mass market Pages: 192

The Stars, Like Dust is usually listed as the first book in Asimov's lesser-known Galactic Empire Trilogy since it takes place before Pebble in the Sky. Pebble in the Sky was published first, though, so I count it as the second book. It is very early science fiction with a few mystery overtones.

Buying books produces about 5% of the pleasure of reading them while taking much less than 5% of the time. There was a time in my life when I thoroughly enjoyed methodically working through a used book store, list in hand, tracking down cheap copies to fill in holes in series. This means that I own a lot of books that I thought at some point that I would want to read but never got around to, often because, at the time, I was feeling completionist about some series or piece of world-building. From time to time, I get the urge to try to read some of them.

Sometimes this is a poor use of my time.

The Galactic Empire series is from Asimov's first science fiction period, after the Foundation series but contemporaneous with their collection into novels. They're set long, long before Foundation, but after humans have inhabited numerous star systems and Earth has become something of a backwater. That process is just starting in The Stars, Like Dust: Earth is still somewhere where an upper-class son might be sent for an education, but it has been devastated by nuclear wars and is well on its way to becoming an inward-looking relic on the edge of galactic society.

Biron Farrill is the son of the Lord Rancher of Widemos, a wealthy noble whose world is one of those conquered by the Tyranni. In many other SF novels, the Tyranni would be an alien race; here, it's a hierarchical and authoritarian human civilization. The book opens with Biron discovering a radiation bomb planted in his dorm room. Shortly after, he learns that his father had been arrested. One of his fellow students claims to be in Biron's side against the Tyranni and gives him false papers to travel to Rhodia, a wealthy world run by a Tyranni sycophant.

Like most books of this era, The Stars, Like Dust is a short novel full of plot twists. Unlike some of its contemporaries, it's not devoid of characterization, but I might have liked it better if it were. Biron behaves like an obnoxious teenager when he's not being an arrogant ass. There is a female character who does a few plot-relevant things and at no point is sexually assaulted, so I'll give Asimov that much, but the gender stereotypes are ironclad and there is an entire subplot focused on what I can only describe as seduction via petty jealousy.

The writing... well, let me quote a typical passage:

There was no way of telling when the threshold would be reached. Perhaps not for hours, and perhaps the next moment. Biron remained standing helplessly, flashlight held loosely in his damp hands. Half an hour before, the visiphone had awakened him, and he had been at peace then. Now he knew he was going to die.

Biron didn't want to die, but he was penned in hopelessly, and there was no place to hide.

Needless to say, Biron doesn't die. Even if your tolerance for pulp melodrama is high, 192 small-print pages of this sort of thing is wearying.

Like a lot of Asimov plots, The Stars, Like Dust has some of the shape of a mystery novel. Biron, with the aid of some newfound companions on Rhodia, learns of a secret rebellion against the Tyranni and attempts to track down its base to join them. There are false leads, disguised identities, clues that are difficult to interpret, and similar classic mystery trappings, all covered with a patina of early 1950s imaginary science. To me, it felt constructed and artificial in ways that made the strings Asimov was pulling obvious. I don't know if someone who likes mystery construction would feel differently about it.

The worst part of the plot thankfully doesn't come up much. We learn early in the story that Biron was on Earth to search for a long-lost document believed to be vital to defeating the Tyranni. The nature of that document is revealed on the final page, so I won't spoil it, but if you try to think of the stupidest possible document someone could have built this plot around, I suspect you will only need one guess. (In Asimov's defense, he blamed Galaxy editor H.L. Gold for persuading him to include this plot, and disavowed it a few years later.)

The Stars, Like Dust is one of the worst books I have ever read. The characters are overwrought, the politics are slapdash and build on broad stereotypes, the romantic subplot is dire and plays out mainly via the Biron egregiously manipulating his petulant love interest, and the writing is annoying. Sometimes pulp fiction makes up for those common flaws through larger-than-life feats of daring, sweeping visions of future societies, and ever-escalating stakes. There is little to none of that here. Asimov instead provides tedious political maneuvering among a class of elitist bankers and land owners who consider themselves natural leaders. The only places where the power structures of this future government make sense are where Asimov blatantly steals them from either the Roman Empire or the Doge of Venice.

The one thing this book has going for it — the thing, apart from bloody-minded completionism, that kept me reading — is that the technology is hilariously weird in that way that only 1940s and 1950s science fiction can be. The characters have access to communication via some sort of interstellar telepathy (messages coded to a specific person's "brain waves") and can travel between stars through hyperspace jumps, but each jump is manually calculated by referring to the pilot's (paper!) volumes of the Standard Galactic Ephemeris. Communication between ships (via "etheric radio") requires manually aiming a radio beam at the area in space where one thinks the other ship is. It's an unintentionally entertaining combination of technology that now looks absurdly primitive and science that is so advanced and hand-waved that it's obviously made up.

I also have to give Asimov some points for using spherical coordinates. It's a small thing, but the coordinate systems in most SF novels and TV shows are obviously not fit for purpose.

I spent about a month and a half of this year barely reading, and while some of that is because I finally tackled a few projects I'd been putting off for years, a lot of it was because of this book. It was only 192 pages, and I'm still curious about the glue between Asimov's Foundation and Robot series, both of which I devoured as a teenager. But every time I picked it up to finally finish it and start another book, I made it about ten pages and then couldn't take any more. Learn from my error: don't try this at home, or at least give up if the same thing starts happening to you.

Followed by The Currents of Space.

Rating: 2 out of 10

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Bastian Venthur: Help needed: creating a WSDL file to interact with debbugs

Sat, 2024-04-20 07:45

I am upstream and Debian package maintainer of python-debianbts, which is a Python library that allows for querying Debian’s Bug Tracking System (BTS). python-debianbts is used by reportbug, the standard tool to report bugs in Debian, and therefore the glue between the reportbug and the BTS.

debbugs, the software that powers Debian’s BTS, provides a SOAP interface for querying the BTS. Unfortunately, SOAP is not a very popular protocol anymore, and I’m facing the second migration to another underlying SOAP library as they continue to become unmaintained over time. Zeep, the library I’m currently considering, requires a WSDL file in order to work with a SOAP service, however, debbugs does not provide one. Since I’m not familiar with WSDL, I need help from someone who can create a WSDL file for debbugs, so I can migrate python-debianbts away from pysimplesoap to zeep.

How did we get here?

Back in the olden days, reportbug was querying the BTS by parsing its HTML output. While this worked, it tightly coupled the user-facing presentation of the BTS with critical functionality of the bug reporting tool. The setup was fragile, prone to breakage, and did not allow changing anything in the BTS frontend for fear of breaking reportbug itself.

In 2007, I started to work on reportbug-ng, a user-friendly alternative to reportbug, targeted at users not comfortable using the command line. Early on, I decided to use the BTS’ SOAP interface instead of parsing HTML like reportbug did. 2008, I extracted the code that dealt with the BTS into a separate Python library, and after some collaboration with the reportbug maintainers, reportbug adopted python-debianbts in 2011 and has used it ever since.

2015, I was working on porting python-debianbts to Python 3. During that process, it turned out that its major dependency, SoapPy was pretty much unmaintained for years and blocking the Python3 transition. Thanks to the help of Gaetano Guerriero, who ported python-debianbts to pysimplesoap, the migration was unblocked and could proceed.

In 2024, almost ten years later, pysimplesoap seems to be unmaintained as well, and I have to look again for alternatives. The most promising one right now seems to be zeep. Unfortunately, zeep requires a WSDL file for working with a SOAP service, which debbugs does not provide.

How can you help?

reportbug (and thus python-debianbts) is used by thousands of users and I have a certain responsibility to keep things working properly. Since I simply don’t know enough about WSDL to create such a file for debbugs myself, I’m looking for someone who can help me with this task.

If you’re familiar with SOAP, WSDL and optionally debbugs, please get in touch with me. I don’t speak Pearl, so I’m not really able to read debbugs code, but I do know some things about the SOAP requests and replies due to my work on python-debianbts, so I’m sure we can work something out.

There is a WSDL file for a debbugs version used by GNU, but I don’t think it’s official and it currently does not work with zeep. It may be a good starting point, though.

The future of debbugs’ API

While we can probably continue to support debbugs’ SOAP interface for a while, I don’t think it’s very sustainable in the long run. A simpler, well documented REST API that returns JSON seems more appropriate nowadays. The queries and replies that debbugs currently supports are simple enough to design a REST API with JSON around it. The benefit would be less complex libraries on the client side and probably easier maintainability on the server side as well. debbugs’ maintainer seemed to be in agreement with this idea back in 2018. I created an attempt to define a new API (HTML render), but somehow we got stuck and no progress has been made since then. I’m still happy to help shaping such an API for debbugs, but I can’t really implement anything in debbugs itself, as it is written in Perl, which I’m not familiar with.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Louis-Philippe Véronneau: Montreal's Debian & Stuff - March 2024

Fri, 2024-04-19 17:45

Time really flies when you are really busy you have fun! Our Montréal Debian User Group met on Sunday March 31st and I only just found the time to write our report :)

This time around, 9 of us we met at EfficiOS's offices1 to chat, hang out and work on Debian and other stuff!

Here is what we did:


  • did some clerical work for the DebConf videoteam
  • tried to book a plane ticket for DC24
  • triaged #1067620 (dependency problem with whipper)
  • closed #1067121 (flaky test in supysonic)
  • closed #1065514 (qpdfview crossbuilding)



  • planned & brainstormed for the upcoming Debian usability tests
  • mentored a student/new contributor (justin)
  • babysat a future contributor!
  • closed #1067649
  • learnt about & (thanks, pollo!)


  • uploaded puppet-strings 4.1.2-1 to unstable
  • updated various services in personal infra
  • cleaned vagrant-hostmanager and worked on packaging the new upstream release (1.8.10)
  • extended GPG key expiry
  • looked at options for a new backup machine


  • updated puppetdb to 8.4.1


  • opened #1068152 after a misfortune with #1068151
  • created new contributor accounts (salsa & wiki)

Here are pictures of the event. Well, one picture (thanks Tassia!) of the event itself and another one of the crisp Italian lager I drank at the bar after the event :)

  1. Maintainers, amongst other things, of the great LTTng

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Reproducible Builds (diffoscope): diffoscope 265 released

Thu, 2024-04-18 20:00

The diffoscope maintainers are pleased to announce the release of diffoscope version 265. This version includes the following changes:

[ Chris Lamb ] * Ensure that tests with ">=" version constraints actually print the corresponding tool name. (Closes: reproducible-builds/diffoscope#370) * Prevent odt2txt tests from always being skipped due to an impossibly new version requirement. (Closes: reproducible-builds/diffoscope#369) * Avoid nested parens-in-parens when printing "skipping…" messages in the testsuite.

You find out more by visiting the project homepage.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Jonathan McDowell: Sorting out backup internet #2: 5G modem

Thu, 2024-04-18 13:21

Having setup recursive DNS it was time to actually sort out a backup internet connection. I live in a Virgin Media area, but I still haven’t forgiven them for my terrible Virgin experiences when moving here. Plus it involves a bigger contractual commitment. There are no altnets locally (though I’m watching youfibre who have already rolled out in a few Belfast exchanges), so I decided to go for a 5G modem. That gives some flexibility, and is a bit easier to get up and running.

I started by purchasing a ZTE MC7010. This had the advantage of being reasonably cheap off eBay, not having any wifi functionality I would just have to disable (it’s going to plug it into the same router the FTTP connection terminates on), being outdoor mountable should I decide to go that way, and, finally, being powered via PoE.

For now this device sits on the window sill in my study, which is at the top of the house. I printed a table stand for it which mostly does the job (though not as well with a normal, rather than flat, network cable). The router lives downstairs, so I’ve extended a dedicated VLAN through the study switch, down to the core switch and out to the router. The PoE study switch can only do GigE, not 2.5Gb/s, but at present that’s far from the limiting factor on the speed of the connection.

The device is 3 branded, and, as it happens, I’ve ended up with a 3 SIM in it. Up until recently my personal phone was with them, but they’ve kicked me off Go Roam, so I’ve moved. Going with 3 for the backup connection provides some slight extra measure of resiliency; we now have devices on all 4 major UK networks in the house. The SIM is a preloaded data only SIM good for a year; I don’t expect to use all of the data allowance, but I didn’t want to have to worry about unexpected excess charges.

Performance turns out to be disappointing; I end up locking the device to 4G as the 5G signal is marginal - leaving it enabled results in constantly switching between 4G + 5G and a significant extra latency. The smokeping graph below shows a brief period where I removed the 4G lock and allowed 5G:

(There’s a handy zte.js script to allow doing this from the device web interface.)

I get about 10Mb/s sustained downloads out of it. EE/Vodafone did not lead to significantly better results, so for now I’m accepting it is what it is. I tried relocating the device to another part of the house (a little tricky while still providing switch-based PoE, but I have an injector), without much improvement. Equally pinning the 4G to certain bands provided a short term improvement (I got up to 40-50Mb/s sustained), but not reliably so.

This is disappointing, but if it turns out to be a problem I can look at mounting it externally. I also assume as 5G is gradually rolled out further things will naturally improve, but that might be wishful thinking on my part.

Rather than wait until my main link had a problem I decided to try a day working over the 5G connection. I spend a lot of my time either in browser based apps or accessing remote systems via SSH, so I’m reasonably sensitive to a jittery or otherwise flaky connection. I picked a day that I did not have any meetings planned, but as it happened I ended up with an adhoc video call arranged. I’m pleased to say that it all worked just fine; definitely noticeable as slower than the FTTP connection (to be expected), but all workable and even the video call was fine (at least from my end). Looking at the traffic graph shows the expected ~ 10Mb/s peak (actually a little higher, and looking at the FTTP stats for previous days not out of keeping with what we see there), and you can just about see the ~ 3Mb/s symmetric use by the video call at 2pm:

The test run also helped iron out the fact that the content filter was still enabled on the SIM, but that was easily resolved.

Up next, vaguely automatic failover.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Thomas Koch: Rebuild search with trust

Thu, 2024-04-18 11:27
Posted on January 20, 2024 Tags: debian, free software, life, search, decentralization

Finally there is a thing people can agree on:

Apparently, Google Search is not good anymore. And I’m not the only one thinking about decentralization to fix it:

Honey I federated the search engine - finding stuff online post-big tech - a lightning talk at the recent chaos communication congress

The speaker however did not mention, that there have already been many attempts at building distributed search engines. So why do I think that such an attempt could finally succeed?

  • More people are searching for alternatives to Google.
  • Mainstream hard discs are incredibly big.
  • Mainstream internet connection is incredibly fast.
  • Google is bleeding talent.
  • Most of the building blocks are available as free software.
  • “Success” depends on your definition…

My definition of success is:

A mildly technical computer user (able to install software) has access to a search engine that provides them with superior search results compared to Google for at least a few predefined areas of interest.

The exact algorithm used by Google Search to rank websites is a secret even to most Googlers. Still it is clear, that it relies heavily on big data: billions of queries, a comprehensive web index and user behaviour data. - All this is not available to us.

A distributed search engine however can instead rely on user input. Every admin of one node seeds the node ranking with their personal selection of trusted sites. They connect their node with nodes of people they trust. This results in a web of (transitive) trust much like pgp.

For comparison, imagine you are searching for something in a world without computers: You ask the people around you. They probably forward your question to their peers.

I already had a look at YaCy. It is active, somewhat usable and has a friendly maintainer. Unfortunately I consider the codebase to show its age. It takes a lot of time for a newcomer to find their way around and it contains a lot of cruft. Nevertheless, YaCy is a good example that a decentralized search software can be done even by a small team or just one person.

I myself started working on a software in Haskell and keep my notes here: Populus:DezInV. Since I’m learning Haskell along the way, there is nothing there to see yet. Additionally I took a yak shaving break to learn nix.

By the way: DuckDuckGo is not the alternative. And while I would encourage you to also try Yandex for a second opinion, I don’t consider this a solution.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Thomas Koch: Using nix package manager in Debian

Thu, 2024-04-18 11:27
Posted on January 16, 2024 Tags: debian, free software, nix, life

The nix package manager is available in Debian since May 2020. Why would one use it in Debian?

  • learn about nix
  • install software that might not be available in Debian
  • install software without root access
  • declare software necessary for a user’s environment inside $HOME/.config

Especially the last point nagged me every time I set up a new Debian installation. My emacs configuration and my Desktop setup expects certain software to be installed.

Please be aware that I’m a beginner with nix and that my config might not follow best practice. Additionally many nix users are already using the new flakes feature of nix that I’m still learning about.

So I’ve got this file at .config/nixpkgs/config.nix1:

with (import <nixpkgs> {}); { packageOverrides = pkgs: with pkgs; { thk-emacsWithPackages = (pkgs.emacsPackagesFor emacs-gtk).emacsWithPackages ( epkgs: (with epkgs.elpaPackages; [ ace-window company org use-package ]) ++ (with epkgs.melpaPackages; [ editorconfig flycheck haskell-mode magit nix-mode paredit rainbow-delimiters treemacs visual-fill-column yasnippet-snippets ]) ++ [ # From main packages set ] ); userPackages = buildEnv { extraOutputsToInstall = [ "doc" "info" "man" ]; name = "user-packages"; paths = [ ghc git (pkgs.haskell-language-server.override { supportedGhcVersions = [ "94" ]; }) nix stack thk-emacsWithPackages tmux vcsh virtiofsd ]; }; }; }

Every time I change the file or want to receive updates, I do:

nix-env --install --attr nixpkgs.userPackages --remove-all

You can see that I install nix with nix. This gives me a newer version than the one available in Debian stable. However, the nix-daemon still runs as the older binary from Debian. My dirty hack is to put this override in /etc/systemd/system/nix-daemon.service.d/override.conf:

[Service] ExecStart= ExecStart=@/home/thk/.local/state/nix/profile/bin/nix-daemon nix-daemon --daemon

I’m not too interested in a cleaner way since I hope to fully migrate to Nix anyways.

  1. Note the nixpkgs in the path. This is not a config file for nix the package manager but for the nix package collection. See the nixpkgs manual.↩︎

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Thomas Koch: Chromium gtk-filechooser preview size

Thu, 2024-04-18 11:27
Posted on January 9, 2024 Tags: debian, free software, life

I wanted to report this issue in chromiums issue tracker, but it gave me:

“Something went wrong, please try again later.”

Ok, then at least let me reply to this askubuntu question. But my attempt to signup with my launchpad account gave me:

“Launchpad Login Failed. Please try logging in again.”

I refrain from commenting on this to not violate some code of conduct.

So this is what I wanted to write:

GTK file chooser image preview size should be configurable

The file chooser that appears when uploading a file (e.g. an image to Google Fotos) learned to show a preview in issue 15500.

The preview image size is hard coded to 256x512 in kPreviewWidth and kPreviewHeight in ui/gtk/

Please make the size configurable.

On high DPI screens the images are too small to be of much use.

Yes, I should not use chromium anymore.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Thomas Koch: Good things come ... state folder

Thu, 2024-04-18 11:27
Posted on January 2, 2024 Tags: debian, free software, life

Just a little while ago (10 years) I proposed the addition of a state folder to the XDG basedir specification and expanded the article XDGBaseDirectorySpecification in the Debian wiki. Recently I learned, that version 0.8 (from May 2021) of the spec finally includes a state folder.

Granted, I wasn’t the first to have this idea (2009), nor the one who actually made it happen.

Now, please go ahead and use it! Thank you.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Russ Allbery: Review: Unseen Academicals

Wed, 2024-04-17 22:37

Review: Unseen Academicals, by Terry Pratchett

Series: Discworld #37 Publisher: Harper Copyright: October 2009 Printing: November 2014 ISBN: 0-06-233500-6 Format: Mass market Pages: 517

Unseen Academicals is the 37th Discworld novel and includes many of the long-standing Ankh-Morpork cast, but mostly as supporting characters. The main characters are a new (and delightful) bunch with their own concerns. You arguably could start reading here if you really wanted to, although you would risk spoiling several previous books (most notably Thud!) and will miss some references that depend on familiarity with the cast.

The Unseen University is, like most institutions of its sort, funded by an endowment that allows the wizards to focus on the pure life of the mind (or the stomach). Much to their dismay, they have just discovered that an endowment that amounts to most of their food budget requires that they field a football team.

Glenda runs the night kitchen at the Unseen University. Given the deep and abiding love that wizards have for food, there is both a main kitchen and a night kitchen. The main kitchen is more prestigious, but the night kitchen is responsible for making pies, something that Glenda is quietly but exceptionally good at.

Juliet is Glenda's new employee. She is exceptionally beautiful, not very bright, and a working class girl of the Ankh-Morpork streets down to her bones. Trevor Likely is a candle dribbler, responsible for assisting the Candle Knave in refreshing the endless university candles and ensuring that their wax is properly dribbled, although he pushes most of that work off onto the infallibly polite and oddly intelligent Mr. Nutt.

Glenda, Trev, and Juliet are the sort of people who populate the great city of Ankh-Morpork. While the people everyone has heard of have political crises, adventures, and book plots, they keep institutions like the Unseen University running. They read romance novels, go to the football games, and nurse long-standing rivalries. They do not expect the high mucky-mucks to enter their world, let alone mess with their game.

I approached Unseen Academicals with trepidation because I normally don't get along as well with the Discworld wizard books. I need not have worried; Pratchett realized that the wizards would work better as supporting characters and instead turns the main plot (or at least most of it; more on that later) over to the servants. This was a brilliant decision. The setup of this book is some of the best of Discworld up to this point.

Trev is a streetwise rogue with an uncanny knack for kicking around a can that he developed after being forbidden to play football by his dear old mum. He falls for Juliet even though their families support different football teams, so you may think that a Romeo and Juliet spoof is coming. There are a few gestures of one, but Pratchett deftly avoids the pitfalls and predictability and instead makes Juliet one of the best characters in the book by playing directly against type. She is one of the characters that Pratchett is so astonishingly good at, the ones that are so thoroughly themselves that they transcend the stories they're put into.

The heart of this book, though, is Glenda.

Glenda enjoyed her job. She didn't have a career; they were for people who could not hold down jobs.

She is the kind of person who knows where she fits in the world and likes what she does and is happy to stay there until she decides something isn't right, and then she changes the world through the power of common sense morality, righteous indignation, and sheer stubborn persistence. Discworld is full of complex and subtle characters fencing with each other, but there are few things I have enjoyed more than Glenda being a determinedly good person. Vetinari of course recognizes and respects (and uses) that inner core immediately.

Unfortunately, as great as the setup and characters are, Unseen Academicals falls apart a bit at the end. I was eagerly reading the story, wondering what Pratchett was going to weave out of the stories of these individuals, and then it partly turned into yet another wizard book. Pratchett pulled another of his deus ex machina tricks for the climax in a way that I found unsatisfying and contrary to the tone of the rest of the story, and while the characters do get reasonable endings, it lacked the oomph I was hoping for. Rincewind is as determinedly one-note as ever, the wizards do all the standard wizard things, and the plot just isn't that interesting.

I liked Mr. Nutt a great deal in the first part of the book, and I wish he could have kept that edge of enigmatic competence and unflappableness. Pratchett wanted to tell a different story that involved more angst and self-doubt, and while I appreciate that story, I found it less engaging and a bit more melodramatic than I was hoping for. Mr. Nutt's reactions in the last half of the book were believable and fit his background, but that was part of the problem: he slotted back into an archetype that I thought Pratchett was going to twist and upend.

Mr. Nutt does, at least, get a fantastic closing line, and as usual there are a lot of great asides and quotes along the way, including possibly the sharpest and most biting Vetinari speech of the entire series.

The Patrician took a sip of his beer. "I have told this to few people, gentlemen, and I suspect never will again, but one day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I'm sure you will agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature's wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining on mother and children. And that's when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior."

My dissatisfaction with the ending prevents Unseen Academicals from rising to the level of Night Watch, and it's a bit more uneven than the best books of the series. Still, though, this is great stuff; recommended to anyone who is reading the series.

Followed in publication order by I Shall Wear Midnight.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Samuel Henrique: Hello World

Wed, 2024-04-17 20:00

This is my very first post, just to make sure everything is working as expected.

Made with Zola and the Abridge theme.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Petter Reinholdtsen: RAID status from LSI Megaraid controllers in Debian

Wed, 2024-04-17 11:00

I am happy to report that the megactl package, useful to fetch RAID status when using the LSI Megaraid controller, now is available in Debian. It passed NEW a few days ago, and is now available in unstable, and probably showing up in testing in a weeks time. The new version should provide Appstream hardware mapping and should integrate nicely with isenkram.

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Dirk Eddelbuettel: RcppArmadillo on CRAN: Micro Fix

Tue, 2024-04-16 22:00

Armadillo is a powerful and expressive C++ template library for linear algebra and scientific computing. It aims towards a good balance between speed and ease of use, has a syntax deliberately close to Matlab, and is useful for algorithm development directly in C++, or quick conversion of research code into production environments. RcppArmadillo integrates this library with the R environment and language–and is widely used by (currently) 1135 other packages on CRAN, downloaded 33.7 million times (per the partial logs from the cloud mirrors of CRAN), and the CSDA paper (preprint / vignette) by Conrad and myself has been cited 579 times according to Google Scholar.

Yesterday’s release accommodates reticulate by suspending a single test that now ‘croaks’ creating a reverse-dependency issue for that package. No other changes were made.

The set of changes since the last CRAN release follows.

Changes in RcppArmadillo version (2024-04-15)
  • One-char bug fix release commenting out one test that upsets reticulate when accessing a scipy sparse matrix

Courtesy of my CRANberries, there is a diffstat report relative to previous release. More detailed information is on the RcppArmadillo page. Questions, comments etc should go to the rcpp-devel mailing list off the Rcpp R-Forge page.

If you like this or other open-source work I do, you can sponsor me at GitHub.

This post by Dirk Eddelbuettel originated on his Thinking inside the box blog. Please report excessive re-aggregation in third-party for-profit settings.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets