Search Results: "agi"

14 June 2024

Matthew Palmer: Information Security: "We Can Do It, We Just Choose Not To"

Whenever a large corporation disgorges the personal information of millions of people onto the Internet, there is a standard playbook that is followed. Security is our top priority . Passwords were hashed . No credit card numbers were disclosed . record scratch Let s talk about that last one a bit.

A Case Study This post could have been written any time in the past well, decade or so, really. But the trigger for my sitting down and writing this post is the recent breach of wallet-finding and criminal-harassment-enablement platform Tile. As reported by Engadget, a statement attributed to Life360 CEO Chris Hulls says
The potentially impacted data consists of information such as names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, and Tile device identification numbers.
But don t worry though; even though your home address is now public information
It does not include more sensitive information, such as credit card numbers
Aaaaaand here is where I get salty.

Why Credit Card Numbers Don t Matter Describing credit card numbers as more sensitive information is somewhere between disingenuous and a flat-out lie. It was probably included in the statement because it s part of the standard playbook. Why is it part of the playbook, though? Not being a disaster comms specialist, I can t say for sure, but my hunch is that the post-breach playbook includes this line because (a) credit cards are less commonly breached these days (more on that later), and (b) it s a way to insinuate that all your financial data is safe, no need to worry without having to say that (because that statement would absolutely be a lie). The thing that not nearly enough people realise about credit card numbers is:
  1. The credit card holder is not usually liable for most fraud done via credit card numbers; and
  2. In terms of actual, long-term damage to individuals, credit card fraud barely rates a mention. Identity fraud, Business Email Compromise, extortion, and all manner of other unpleasantness is far more damaging to individuals.

Why Credit Card Numbers Do Matter Losing credit card numbers in a data breach is a huge deal but not for the users of the breached platform. Instead, it s a problem for the company that got breached. See, going back some years now, there was a wave of huge credit card data breaches. If you ve been around a while, names like Target and Heartland will bring back some memories. Because these breaches cost issuing banks and card brands a lot of money, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI-SSC) and the rest of the ecosystem went full goblin mode. Now, if you lose credit card numbers in bulk, it will cost you big. Massive fines for breaches (typically levied by the card brands via the acquiring bank), increased transaction fees, and even the Credit Card Death Penalty (being banned from charging credit cards), are all very big sticks.

Now Comes the Finding Out In news that should not be surprising, when there are actual consequences for failing to do something, companies take the problem seriously. Which is why no credit card numbers were disclosed is such an interesting statement. Consider why no credit card numbers were disclosed. It s not that credit card numbers aren t valuable to criminals because they are. Instead, it s because the company took steps to properly secure the credit card data. Next, you ll start to consider why, if the credit card numbers were secured, why wasn t the personal information that did get disclosed similarly secured? Information that is far more damaging to the individuals to whom that information relates than credit card numbers. The only logical answer is that it wasn t deemed financially beneficial to the company to secure that data. The consequences of disclosure for that information isn t felt by the company which was breached. Instead, it s felt by the individuals who have to spend weeks of their life cleaning up from identity fraud committed against them. It s felt by the victim of intimate partner violence whose new address is found in a data dump, letting their ex find them again. Until there are real, actual consequences for the companies which hemorrhage our personal data (preferably ones that have percentage of global revenue at the end), data breaches will continue to happen. Not because they re inevitable because as credit card numbers show, data can be secured but because there s no incentive for companies to prevent our personal data from being handed over to whoever comes along.

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13 June 2024

Russ Allbery: Security review of tag2upload

For some time now, Debian has been discussing a possible enhancement to the way that Debian packages are uploaded to the archive. The basic idea is to allow a package upload to be triggered by pushing a signed tag, with some structured metadata, to Salsa, the instance of GitLab that Debian provides for packaging repositories. This would allow Debian package maintainers to use a more typical Git-first workflow, where releases are triggered by Git tags and the release artifacts are built in a clean CI environment, while still enforcing the existing Debian rules about who is allowed to upload packages. As part of that effort, I recently completed a detailed security review of the tag2upload design. I sent it to debian-vote as part of the ongoing discussion, but have also posted it at the link above to give it a more permanent home. This security review may be revised based on the discussion if people point out things that I missed.

7 June 2024

Freexian Collaborators: Debian Contributions: DebConf Bursaries, /usr-move, sbuild, and more! (by Stefano Rivera)

Contributing to Debian is part of Freexian s mission. This article covers the latest achievements of Freexian and their collaborators. All of this is made possible by organizations subscribing to our Long Term Support contracts and consulting services.

DebConf Bursary updates, by Utkarsh Gupta Utkarsh is the bursaries team lead for DebConf 24. Bursary requests are dispatched to a team of volunteers to review. The results are collated, adjusted and merged to produce priority lists of requests to fund. Utkarsh raised the team, coordinated the review, and issued bursaries to attendees.

/usr-move, by Helmut Grohne More and more, the /usr-move transition is being carried out by multiple contributors and many performed around a hundred of the requested uploads. Of these, Helmut contributed five patches and two uploads. As a result, there are less than 350 packages left to be converted, and all of the non-trivial cases have patches. We started with three times that number. Thanks to everyone involved for supporting this effort. For people interested in background information of this transition, Helmut gave a presentation at MiniDebConf Berlin 2024 (slides).

sbuild, by Helmut Grohne While unshare mode of sbuild has existed for quite a while, it is now getting significant use in Debian, and new problems are popping up. Helmut looked into an apparmor-related failure and provided a diagnosis. While relevant code would detect the chroot nature of a schroot backend and skip apparmor tests, the unshare environment would be just good enough to run and fail the test. As sbuild exposes fewer special kernel filesystems, the tests will be skipped again. Another problem popped up when gobject-introspection added a dependency on the host architecture Python interpreter in a cross build environment. sbuild would prefer installing (and failing) a host architecture Python to installing the qemu alternative. Attempts to fix this would result in systemd killing sbuild. ischroot as used by libc6.postinst would not classify the unshare environment as a chroot. Therefore libc6.postinst would run telinit which would kill the build process. This is a complex interaction problem that shall eventually be solved by providing triggers from libc6 to be implemented by affected init systems.

Salsa CI updates, by Santiago Ruano Rinc n Several issues arose about Salsa CI last month, and it is probably worth mentioning part of the challenges of defining its framework in YAML. With the upcoming end-of-support of Debian 10 buster as LTS, armel was removed from deb.debian.org, making the jobs that build images for buster/armel to fail. While the removal of buster/armel from the repositories is a natural change, it put some light on the flaws in the Salsa CI design regarding the support of the different Debian releases. Currently, the images are defined like these (from .images-debian.yml):
.all-supported-releases: &all-supported-releases
  - stretch
  - stretch-backports
  - buster
  - bullseye
  - bullseye-backports
  - bookworm
  - bookworm-backports
  - trixie
  - sid
  - experimental
And from them, different images are built according to the different jobs and how they are supported, for example:
images-prod-arm:
  stage: build
  extends: .build_template
  tags:
    - $SALSA_CI_ARM_RUNNER_TAG
  parallel:
    matrix:
      # Base image, all releases, all arches
      - IMAGE_NAME: base
        ARCH:
          - arm32v5
          - arm32v7
          - arm64v8
        RELEASE: *all-supported-releases
The removal of buster/armel could be easily reflected as:
images-prod-arm:
  stage: build
  extends: .build_template
  tags:
    - $SALSA_CI_ARM_RUNNER_TAG
  parallel:
    matrix:
      # Base image, fully supported releases, all arches
      - IMAGE_NAME: base
        ARCH:
          - arm32v5
          - arm32v7
          - arm64v8
        RELEASE:
          - stretch
          - buster
          - bullseye
          - bullseye-backports
          - bookworm
          - bookworm-backports
          - trixie
          - sid
          - experimental
      # buster only supports armhf and arm64
      - IMAGE_NAME: base
        ARCH:
          - arm32v7
          - arm64v8
        RELEASE: buster
Evidently, this increases duplication of the release support data, which is of course not optimal and it is error prone when changing the data about supported releases. A better approach would be to have two different YAML lists, such as:
# releases that have partial support. E.g.: buster is transitioning to
# Debian LTS, and buster armel is no longer found in deb.debian.org
.old-releases: &old-releases
  - stretch
  - buster

.currently-supported-releases: &currently-supported-releases
  - bullseye
  - bullseye-backports
  - bookworm
  - bookworm-backports
  - trixie
  - sid
  - experimental
and then a unified list:
.all-supported-releases: &all-supported-releases
  - *old-releases
  - *currently-supported-releases
that could be used in the matrix of the jobs that build all the images available in the pipeline container registry. However, due to limitations in GitLab, it is not possible to expand the variables or mapping values in a parallel:matrix context. At least not in an elegant fashion. This is the kind of issue that recently arose and that Santiago is currently working to solve, in the simplest possible way. Astute readers would notice that stretch is listed in the fully supported releases. And there is no problem with stretch, because it is built from archive.debian.org. Otto actually has tried to fix the broken image build job doing the same, but it is still incorrect, because the security repository is not (yet) available in archive.debian.org. Additionally, Santiago has also worked on other merge requests, such as:
  1. support branch/tags as target head in the test projects,
  2. build autopkgtest image on top of stable
  3. Add .yamllint and make it happy in the autopkgtest-lxc project
  4. enable FF_SCRIPT_SECTIONS to log multiline commands, among others.

Archiving DebConf Websites, by Stefano Rivera DebConf, the annual Debian conference, has its own new website every year. These are typically complex dynamic web applications (featuring registration, call for papers, scheduling, etc.) Once the conference is over, there is no need to keep maintaining these applications, so we archive the sites off as static HTML, and serve them from Debian s static CDN. Stefano archived the websites for the last two DebConfs. The schedule system behind DebConf 14 and 15 s websites was a derivative of Canonical s summit system. This was only used for a couple of years before migrating to wafer, the current system. Archiving summit content has been on the nice to have list for years, but nobody has ever tackled it. The machine that served the sites went away a couple of years ago. After much digging, a backup of the database was found, and Stefano got this code running on an ancient Python 2.7. Recently Stefano put this all together and hooked in an archive export to finally get this content preserved.

Python 3.x and pypy3 security bug triage, by Stefano Rivera Stefano Rivera triaged all the open security bugs against the Python 3.x and PyPy3 packages for Debian s stable and LTS releases. Several had been fixed but this wasn t recorded in the security tracker.

Linux livepatching support for Debian, by Santiago Ruano Rinc n In collaboration with Emmanuel Arias, Santiago filed ITP bug #1070494. As stated in the bug, more than an Intent to Package, it is an Intent to Design and Implement live patching support for the Linux kernel in Debian. For now, Emmanuel and Santiago have done exploratory work and they are working to understand the different possibilities to implement livepatching. One possible direction is to rely on kpatch, and the other is to package the modules using regular packaging tools. Also, it is needed to evaluate if it is possible to rely on distributing the modules via packages, or instead as a service, as it is done by some commercial distributions.

Miscellaneous contributions
  • Thorsten Alteholz uploaded cups-bjnp to improve packaging.
  • Colin Watson tracked down a baffling CI issue in openssh to unblock several merge requests, removed the user_readenv=1 option from its PAM configuration, and started on the first stage of his plan to split out GSS-API key exchange support to separate packages.
  • Colin did his usual routine work on the Python team, upgrading 26 packages to new upstream versions, and cherry-picking an upstream PR to fix a pytest 8 incompatibility in ipywidgets.
  • Colin NMUed a couple of packages to reduce the need for explicit overrides in Packages-arch-specific, and removed some other obsolete entries from there.
  • Emilio managed various library transitions, and helped finish a few of the remaining t64 transitions.
  • Helmut sent a patch for enabling piuparts to work as a regular user building on earlier work.
  • Helmut sent patches for 7 cross build failures, 6 other debian bugs and fixed an infrastructure problem in crossqa.debian.net.
  • Nicholas worked on a sponsored package upload, and discovered the blhc tool for diagnosing build hardening.
  • Stefano Rivera started and completed the re2 transition. The release team suggested moving to a virtual package scheme that includes the absl ABI (as re2 now depends on it). Adopted this.
  • Stefano continued to work on DebConf 24 planning.
  • Santiago continued to work on DebConf24 Content tasks as well as Debconf25 organisation.

6 June 2024

Debian Brasil: MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024 - a brief report

From April 27th to 30th, 2024, MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024 was held at the Pampulha Campus of UFMG - Federal University of Minas Gerais, in Belo Horizonte city. MiniDebConf BH 2024 banners This was the fifth time that a MiniDebConf (as an exclusive in-person event about Debian) took place in Brazil. Previous editions were in Curitiba (2016, 2017, and 2018), and in Bras lia 2023. We had other MiniDebConfs editions held within Free Software events such as FISL and Latinoware, and other online events. See our event history. Parallel to MiniDebConf, on 27th (Saturday) FLISOL - Latin American Free Software Installation Festival took place. It's the largest event in Latin America to promote Free Software, and It has been held since 2005 simultaneously in several cities. MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024 was a success (as were previous editions) thanks to the participation of everyone, regardless of their level of knowledge about Debian. We value the presence of both beginner users who are familiarizing themselves with the system and the official project developers. The spirit of welcome and collaboration was present during all the event. MiniDebConf BH 2024 flisol 2024 edition numbers During the four days of the event, several activities took place for all levels of users and collaborators of the Debian project. The official schedule was composed of: MiniDebConf BH 2024 palestra The final numbers for MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024 show that we had a record number of participants. Of the 224 participants, 15 were official Brazilian contributors, 10 being DDs (Debian Developers) and 05 (Debian Maintainers), in addition to several unofficial contributors. The organization was carried out by 14 people who started working at the end of 2023, including Prof. Lo c Cerf from the Computing Department who made the event possible at UFMG, and 37 volunteers who helped during the event. As MiniDebConf was held at UFMG facilities, we had the help of more than 10 University employees. See the list with the names of people who helped in some way in organizing MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024. The difference between the number of people registered and the number of attendees in the event is probably explained by the fact that there is no registration fee, so if the person decides not to go to the event, they will not suffer financial losses. The 2024 edition of MiniDebconf Belo Horizonte was truly grand and shows the result of the constant efforts made over the last few years to attract more contributors to the Debian community in Brazil. With each edition the numbers only increase, with more attendees, more activities, more rooms, and more sponsors/supporters. MiniDebConf BH 2024 grupo

MiniDebConf BH 2024 grupo Activities The MiniDebConf schedule was intense and diverse. On the 27th, 29th and 30th (Saturday, Monday and Tuesday) we had talks, discussions, workshops and many practical activities. MiniDebConf BH 2024 palestra On the 28th (Sunday), the Day Trip took place, a day dedicated to sightseeing around the city. In the morning we left the hotel and went, on a chartered bus, to the Belo Horizonte Central Market. People took the opportunity to buy various things such as cheeses, sweets, cacha as and souvenirs, as well as tasting some local foods. MiniDebConf BH 2024 mercado After a 2-hour tour of the Market, we got back on the bus and hit the road for lunch at a typical Minas Gerais food restaurant. MiniDebConf BH 2024 palestra With everyone well fed, we returned to Belo Horizonte to visit the city's main tourist attraction: Lagoa da Pampulha and Capela S o Francisco de Assis, better known as Igrejinha da Pampulha. MiniDebConf BH 2024 palestra We went back to the hotel and the day ended in the hacker space that we set up in the events room for people to chat, packaging, and eat pizzas. MiniDebConf BH 2024 palestra Crowdfunding For the third time we ran a crowdfunding campaign and it was incredible how people contributed! The initial goal was to raise the amount equivalent to a gold tier of R$ 3,000.00. When we reached this goal, we defined a new one, equivalent to one gold tier + one silver tier (R$ 5,000.00). And again we achieved this goal. So we proposed as a final goal the value of a gold + silver + bronze tiers, which would be equivalent to R$ 6,000.00. The result was that we raised R$7,239.65 (~ USD 1,400) with the help of more than 100 people! Thank you very much to the people who contributed any amount. As a thank you, we list the names of the people who donated. MiniDebConf BH 2024 doadores Food, accommodation and/or travel grants for participants Each edition of MiniDebConf brought some innovation, or some different benefit for the attendees. In this year's edition in Belo Horizonte, as with DebConfs, we offered bursaries for food, accommodation and/or travel to help those people who would like to come to the event but who would need some kind of help. In the registration form, we included the option for the person to request a food, accommodation and/or travel bursary, but to do so, they would have to identify themselves as a contributor (official or unofficial) to Debian and write a justification for the request. Number of people benefited: The food bursary provided lunch and dinner every day. The lunches included attendees who live in Belo Horizonte and the region. Dinners were paid for attendees who also received accommodation and/or travel. The accommodation was held at the BH Jaragu Hotel. And the travels included airplane or bus tickets, or fuel (for those who came by car or motorbike). Much of the money to fund the bursaries came from the Debian Project, mainly for travels. We sent a budget request to the former Debian leader Jonathan Carter, and He promptly approved our request. In addition to this event budget, the leader also approved individual requests sent by some DDs who preferred to request directly from him. The experience of offering the bursaries was really good because it allowed several people to come from other cities. MiniDebConf BH 2024 grupo Photos and videos You can watch recordings of the talks at the links below: And see the photos taken by several collaborators in the links below: Thanks We would like to thank all the attendees, organizers, volunteers, sponsors and supporters who contributed to the success of MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024. MiniDebConf BH 2024 grupo Sponsors Gold: Silver: Bronze: Supporters Organizers

Paul Wise: FLOSS Activities May 2024

Focus This month I didn't have any particular focus. I just worked on issues in my info bubble.

Changes

Issues

Review
  • Debian BTS usertags: changes for the month

Administration
  • Debian wiki: approve accounts

Communication
  • Respond to queries from Debian users and contributors on the mailing lists and IRC

Sponsors All work was done on a volunteer basis.

5 June 2024

Scarlett Gately Moore: Kubuntu, KDE, Debian: I am still here, in loving memory of my brother.

I am still here, busy as ever, I just haven t found the inspiration to blog. So soon after the loss of my son, I have lost my only brother a couple weeks ago. It has been a tough year for our family. Thank you everyone for you love and support during this difficult time. I will do my best in re-capping my work, there has been quite a bit as I am keeping busy with work so I don t dwell to much on the sadness. KDE Snaps: Trying to debug the unable to save files breakage in the latest Krita builds without luck. KisOpenGLCanvas
Renderer::reportFailedShaderCompilation\[0m: Shad
er Compilation Failure: "Failed to add vertex sh
ader source from file: matrix_transform.vert - Ca
use: "
I have implemented everything from https://snapcraft.io/docs/gpu-support , it has worked for years and now suddenly it just stopped. I have had to put it on hold for now, it is unpaid work and I simply don t have time. With the help of my GSOC student we are improving the Qt6 snap MR: https://invent.kde.org/neon/snap-packaging/kde-qt6-core-sdk/-/merge_requests/3 and many improvements on top of that. This exposed many issues with the kf6 snap and the linking to static libs. Those are being worked on now. Updated qt to 6.7.1 Qt6 apps in the works: okular, ark, gwenview, kwrited, elisa Kubuntu: So many SRu s for the Noble release, I will probably miss a few. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/ark/+bug/2068491 Ark cannot open 7-zip files. Sadly the patches were for qt6, waiting for a qt5 port upstream. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/noble/+source/merkuro/+bug/2065063 Crash due to missing qml. Fix is in git, no upload rights. Requested sponsor. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/tellico/+bug/2065915 Several applications no longer work on architectures that are not amd64 due to hard coded paths. All fixed in git. Several uploaded to oracular, several sponsorship has been requested. Noble updates rejected despite SRU, going to retry. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/sddm/+bug/2066275 The dreaded black screen on second boot bug is fixed in git and oracular. Noble was rejected despite the SRU. Will retry. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/kubuntu-meta/+bug/2066028 Broken systray submenus. Fixed in git and oracular. Noble rejected despite SRU. Will retry. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/plasma-workspace/+bug/2067747 Long standing bug with plasma not loading with lightdm. Fixed in git and oracular. Noble rejected will retry. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/plasma-workspace/+bug/2067742 CVE-2024-36041Fixed in git and oracular, noble rejected, will retry. And many more I am applying for MOTU in hopes it will reduce all of my uploading issues. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/scarlettmoore/MOTUApplication Debian: kf6-knotifications and kapidox. Will jump into Plasma 6 next week ! Misc: Went to LinuxFest Northwest with Valorie! We had a great time and it was a huge success, we had many people stop by our booth.
As usual, if you like my work and want to see Plasma 6 in Kubuntu it all depends on you! Kubuntu will be out of funds soon and needs donations! Thank you for your consideration. https://kubuntu.org/donate/ Personal: Support for my grandson: https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-loving-memory-of-william-billy-dean-scalf

2 June 2024

Colin Watson: Free software activity in May 2024

My Debian contributions this month were all sponsored by Freexian. The bulk of my Debian time this month went towards trying to haul more Python packages up to current versions, but I got a few other bits and pieces done as well. You can support my work directly via Liberapay.

1 June 2024

Russ Allbery: Review: I Shall Wear Midnight

Review: I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld #38
Publisher: Harper
Copyright: 2010
Printing: 2011
ISBN: 0-06-143306-3
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 355
I Shall Wear Midnight is the 38th Discworld novel and the 4th Tiffany Aching novel. This is not a good place to start reading. Tiffany has finished her training and has returned to her home on the Chalk, taking up her duties as the local witch. There are a lot of those, because there's a lot that needs doing. In some cases, such as taking away the pain of the old Duke, they involve things that require magic and that only Tiffany can do. In many other cases, other people could pick up some of the work, but they lack Tiffany's sense of duty and willingness to pay attention. The people of the Chalk have always been a bit suspicious of witches, in part because the job was done for so long by Tiffany's grandmother and no one thought she was a witch. (She was a witch.) Of late, however, that suspicion seems to be getting worse. It comes to a head when Tiffany is accused of theft and worse by the old Duke's maid, a woman with very fixed ideas about the evils of witches. Tiffany has to sort out what's going on and clear herself, all while navigating her now-awkward relationship with the Duke's son Roland, his unimpressive fiancee, and his spectacularly annoying aunt. Ah, this is the stuff. This is exactly the Tiffany Aching novel that I have been hoping Pratchett would write. It's pure, snarky competence porn from start to finish.
"I'm a witch. It's what we do. When it's nobody else's business, it's my business."
One of the things that I adore about this series is how well Pratchett shows the different ways in which one can be a witch. Granny Weatherwax out-thinks everyone and nudges (or shoves) people in the right direction, but her natural tendency is to be icy and a bit frightening. Nanny Ogg is that person you can't help but talk to, who may seem happy-go-lucky and hedonistic but who can effortlessly change the mood of a room. And Tiffany is stubborn duty and blunt practicality, which fits the daughter of shepherds. In previous books, we've watched Tiffany as a student, learning the practicalities of being a witch. This is the book where she realizes how much she knows and how much easier the world is to navigate when she's in her own territory. There is a wonderful scene, late in this book, where Pratchett shows Nanny Ogg at her best, doing the kinds of things that only Nanny Ogg can do. Both Tiffany and the reader are in awe.
I should have learned this, she thought. I wanted to learn fire, and pain, but I should have learned people.
And it's true that Nanny Ogg can do things that Tiffany can't. But what makes this book so great is that it shows how Tiffany's personality and her training come together with her knowledge of the Chalk. She may not know people, in general, but she knows her neighbors and how they think. She doesn't manage them the way that Nanny Ogg would; she's better at solving different kinds of problems, in different ways. But they're the right ways, and the right problems, for her home. This is another Discworld novel with a forgettable villain that's more of a malevolent force of nature than a character in its own right. It's also another Discworld novel where Pratchett externalizes a human tendency into a malevolent force that can possess people. I have mixed feelings about this narrative approach. That externalization of evil into (in essence) demons has been repeatedly used to squirm out of responsibility and excuse atrocities, and it neatly avoids having to wrestle with the hard questions of prejudice and injustice and why apparently good people do awful things. I think some of those weaknesses persist even in Pratchett's hands, but I think what he was attempting with that approach in this book is to show how almost no one is immune to nastier ideas that spread through society. Rather than using the externalization of evil as an excuse, he's using it as a warning. With enough exposure to those ideas, they start sounding tempting and partly credible even to people who would never have embraced them earlier. Pratchett also does a good job capturing the way prejudice can start from thoughtless actions that have more to do with the specific circumstances of someone's life than any coherent strategy. Still, the one major complaint I have about this book is that the externalization of evil is an inaccurate portrayal of the world, and this catches up with Pratchett at the ending. Postulating an external malevolent force reduces evil to something that can be puzzled out and decisively defeated, thus resolving the problem. Sadly, this is not how humans actually work. I'll forgive that structural flaw, though, because the rest of this book is so good. It's rare that a plot twist in a Discworld novel surprises me twisty plots are not Pratchett's strength but this one did. I will not spoil the surprise, but one of the characters is not quite who they seem to be, and Tiffany's reactions once she figures that out are one of my favorite parts of this book. Pratchett is making a point about assumptions, observation, and the importance of being willing to change one's mind about someone when you know more, and I thought it was very well done. But, most of all, I enjoyed reading about Tiffany being calm, competent, determined, and capable. There's also a bit of an unexpected romance plot that's one of my favorite types: the person who notices that you're doing a lot of work and quietly steps in and starts helping while paying attention to what's needed and not taking over. And it's full of the sort of pithy moral wisdom that makes Discworld such a delight to read.
"There have been times, lately, when I dearly wished that I could change the past. Well, I can't, but I can change the present, so that when it becomes the past it will turn out to be a past worth having."
This was just what I wanted. Highly recommended. Followed by Snuff in publication order. The next (and last, sadly) Tiffany Aching book is The Shepherd's Crown. Rating: 9 out of 10

27 May 2024

Thomas Koch: Rebuild search with trust

Posted on January 20, 2024
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? 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.

Thomas Koch: Using nix package manager in Debian

Posted on January 16, 2024
The nix package manager is available in Debian since May 2020. Why would one use it in Debian? 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.

Sahil Dhiman: A Late, Late Debconf23 Post

After much procrastination, I have gotten around to complete my DebConf23 (DC23), Kochi blog post. I lost the original etherpad which was started before DebConf23, for jotting down things. Now, I have started afresh with whatever I can remember, months after the actual conference ended. So things might be as accurate as my memory. DebConf23, the 24th annual Debian Conference, happened in Infopark, Kochi, India from 10th September to 17th September 2023. It was preceded by DebCamp from 3rd September to 9th September 2023. First formal bid to host DebConf in India was made during DebConf18 in Hsinchu, Taiwan by Raju Dev, which didn t came our way. In next DebConf, DebConf19 in Curitiba, Brazil, another bid was made by him with help and support from Sruthi, Utkarsh and the whole team.This time, India got the opportunity to host DebConf22, which eventually became DebConf23 for the reasons you all know. I initially met the local team on the sidelines of DebConf20, which was also my first DebConf. Having recently switched to Debian, DC20 introduced me to how things work in Debian. Video team s call for volunteers email pulled me in. Things stuck, and I kept hanging out and helping the local Indian DC team with various stuff. We did manage to organize multiple events leading to DebConf23 including MiniDebConf India 2021 Online, MiniDebConf Palakkad 2022, MiniDebConf Tamil Nadu 2023 and DebUtsav Kochi 2023, which gave us quite a bit of experience and workout. Many local organizers from these conferences later joined various DebConf teams during the conference to help out. For DebConf23, originally I was part of publicity team because that was my usual thing. After a team redistribution exercise, Sruthi and Praveen moved me to sponsorship team, as anyhow we didn t had to do much publicity and sponsorship was one of those things I could get involved remotely. Sponsorship team had to take care of raising funds by reaching out to sponsors, managing invoices and fulfillment. Praveen joined as well in sponsorship team. We also had international sponsorship team, Anisa, Daniel and various Debian Trusted Organizations (TO)s which took care of reaching out to international organizations, and we took care of reaching out to Indian organizations for sponsorship. It was really proud moment when my present employer, Unmukti (makers of hopbox) came aboard as Bronze sponsor. Though fundraising seem to be hit hard from tech industry slowdown and layoffs. Many of our yesteryear sponsors couldn t sponsor. We had biweekly local team meetings, which were turned to weekly as we neared the event. This was done in addition to biweekly global team meeting. Pathu
Pathu, DebConf23 mascot
To describe the conference venue, it happened in InfoPark, Kochi with the main conference hall being Athulya Hall and food, accommodation and two smaller halls in Four Point Hotel, right outside Infopark. We got Athulya Hall as part of venue sponsorship from Infopark. The distance between both of them was around 300 meters. Halls were named Anamudi, Kuthiran and Ponmudi based on hills and mountain areas in host state of Kerala. Other than Annamudi hall which was the main hall, I couldn t remember the names of the hall, I still can t. Four Points was big and expensive, and we had, as expected, cost overruns. Due to how DebConf function, an Indian university wasn t suitable to host a conference of this scale. Infinity Pool at Night
Four Point's Infinity Pool at Night
I landed in Kochi on the first day of DebCamp on 3rd September. As usual, met Abraham first, and the better part of the next hour was spent on meet and greet. It was my first IRL DebConf so met many old friends and new folks. I got a room to myself. Abraham lived nearby and hadn t taken the accommodation, so I asked him to join. He finally joined from second day onwards. All through the conference, room 928 became in-famous for various reasons, and I had various roommates for company. In DebCamp days, we would get up to have breakfast and go back to sleep and get active only past lunch for hacking and helping in the hack lab for the day, followed by fun late night discussions and parties. Nilesh, Chirag and Apple at DC23
Nilesh, Chirag and Apple at DC23
The team even managed to get a press conference arranged as well, and we got an opportunity to go to Press Club, Ernakulam. Sruthi and Jonathan gave the speech and answered questions from journalists. The event was covered by media as well due to this. Ernakulam Press Club
Ernakulam Press Club
During the conference, every night the team use to have 9 PM meetings for retrospection and planning for next day, which was always dotted with new problems. Every day, we used to hijack Silent Hacklab for the meeting and gently ask the only people there at the time to give us space. DebConf, it itself is a well oiled machine. Network was brought up from scratch. Video team built the recording, audio mixing, live-streaming, editing and transcoding infrastructure on site. A gaming rig served as router and gateway. We got internet uplinks, a 1 Gbps sponsored leased line from Kerala Vision and a paid backup 100 Mbps connection from a different provider. IPv6 was added through HE s Tunnelbroker. Overall the network worked fine as additionally we had hotel Wi-Fi, so the conference network wasn t stretched much. I must highlight, DebConf is my only conference where almost everything and every piece of software in developed in-house, for the conference and modified according to need on the fly. Even event recording cameras, audio check, direction, recording and editing is all done on in-house software by volunteer-attendees (in some cases remote ones as well), all trained on the sideline of the conference. The core recording and mixing equipment is owned by Debian and travels to each venue. The rest is sourced locally. Gaming Rig which served as DC23 gateway router
Gaming Rig which served as DC23 gateway router
It was fun seeing how almost all the things were coordinated over text on Internet Relay Chat (IRC). If a talk/event was missing a talkmeister or a director or a camera person, a quick text on #debconf channel would be enough for someone to volunteer. Video team had a dedicated support channel for each conference venue for any issues and were quick to respond and fix stuff. Network information. Screengrab from closing ceremony
Network information. Screengrab from closing ceremony
It rained for the initial days, which gave us a cool weather. Swag team had decided to hand out umbrellas in swag kit which turned out to be quite useful. The swag kit was praised for quality and selection - many thanks to Anupa, Sruthi and others. It was fun wearing different color T-shirts, all designed by Abraham. Red for volunteers, light green for Video team, green for core-team i.e. staff and yellow for conference attendees. With highvoltage
With highvoltage
We were already acclimatized by the time DebConf really started as we had been talking, hacking and hanging out since last 7 days. Rush really started with the start of DebConf. More people joined on the first and second day of the conference. As has been the tradition, an opening talk was prepared by the Sruthi and local team (which I highly recommend watching to get more insights of the process). DebConf day 1 also saw job fair, where Canonical and FOSSEE, IIT Bombay had stalls for community interactions, which judging by the crowd itself turned out to be quite a hit. For me, association with DebConf (and Debian) started due to volunteering with video team, so anyhow I was going to continue doing that this conference as well. I usually volunteer for talks/events which anyhow I m interested in. Handling the camera, talkmeister-ing and direction are fun activities, though I didn t do sound this time around. Sound seemed difficult, and I didn t want to spoil someone s stream and recording. Talk attendance varied a lot, like in Bits from DPL talk, the hall was full but for some there were barely enough people to handle the volunteering tasks, but that s what usually happens. DebConf is more of a place to come together and collaborate, so talk attendance is an afterthought sometimes. Audience in highvoltage's Bits from DPL talk
Audience in highvoltage's Bits from DPL talk
I didn t submit any talk proposals this time around, as just being in the orga team was too much work already, and I knew, the talk preparation would get delayed to the last moment and I would have to rush through it. Enrico's talk
Enrico's talk
From Day 2 onward, more sponsor stalls were introduced in the hallway area. Hopbox by Unmukti , MostlyHarmless and Deeproot (joint stall) and FOSEE. MostlyHarmless stall had nice mechanical keyboards and other fun gadgets. Whenever I got the time, I would go and start typing racing to enjoy the nice, clicky keyboards. As the DebConf tradition dictates, we had a Cheese and Wine party. Everyone brought in cheese and other delicacies from their region. Then there was yummy Sadya. Sadya is a traditional vegetarian Malayalis lunch served over banana leaves. There were loads of different dishes served, the names of most I couldn t pronounce or recollect properly, but everything was super delicious. Day 4 was day trip and I chose to go to Athirappilly Waterfalls and Jungle safari. Pictures would describe the beauty better than words. The journey was bit long though. Athirappilly Falls
Athirappilly Falls

Pathu Pathu Tea Gardens
Tea Gardens
Late that day, we heard the news of Abraham gone missing. We lost Abraham. He had worked really hard all through the years for Debian and making this conference possible. Talks were cancelled for the next day and Jonathan addressed everyone. We went to Abraham s home the next day to meet his family. Team had arranged buses to Abraham s place. It was an unfortunate moment that I only got an opportunity to visit his place after he was gone. Days went by slowly after that. The last day was marked by a small conference dinner. Some of the people had already left. All through the day and next, we kept saying goodbye to friends, with whom we spent almost a fortnight together. Athirappilly Falls
Group photo with all DebConf T-shirts chronologically
This was 2nd trip to Kochi. Vistara Airway s UK886 has become the default flight now. I have almost learned how to travel in and around Kochi by Metro, Water Metro, Airport Shuttle and auto. Things are quite accessible in Kochi but metro is a bit expensive compared to Delhi. I left Kochi on 19th. My flight was due to leave around 8 PM, so I had the whole day to myself. A direct option would have taken less than 1 hour, but as I had time and chose to take the long way to the airport. First took an auto rickshaw to Kakkanad Water Metro station. Then sailed in the water metro to Vyttila Water Metro station. Vyttila serves as intermobility hub which connects water metro, metro, bus at once place. I switched to Metro here at Vyttila Metro station till Aluva Metro station. Here, I had lunch and then boarded the Airport feeder bus to reach Kochi Airport. All in all, I did auto rickshaw > water metro > metro > feeder bus to reach Airport. I was fun and scenic. I must say, public transport and intermodal integration is quite good and once can transition seamlessly from one mode to next. Kochi Water Metro
Kochi Water Metro

Scenes from Kochi Water Metro Scenes from Kochi Water Metro
Scenes from Kochi Water Metro
DebConf23 served its purpose of getting existing Debian people together, as well as getting new people interested and contributing to Debian. People who came are still contributing to Debian, and that s amazing. Streaming video stats
Streaming video stats. Screengrab from closing ceremony
The conference wasn t without its fair share of troubles. There were multiple money transfer woes, and being in India didn t help. Many thanks to multiple organizations who were proactive in helping out. On top of this, there was conference visa uncertainty and other issues which troubled visa team a lot. Kudos to everyone who made this possible. Surely, I m going to miss the name, so thank you for it, you know how much you have done to make this event possible. Now, DebConf24 is scheduled for Busan, South Korea, and work is already in full swing. As usual, I m helping with the fundraising part and plan to attend too. Let s see if I can make it or not. DebConf23 Group Photo
DebConf23 Group Photo. Click to enlarge.
Credit - Aigars Mahinovs
In the end, we kept on saying, no DebConf at this scale would come back to India for the next 10 or 20 years. It s too much trouble to be frank. It was probably the peak that we might not reach again. I would be happy to be proven wrong though :)

20 May 2024

Russell Coker: Respect and Children

I attended the school Yarra Valley Grammer (then Yarra Valley Anglican School which I will refer to as YV ) and completed year 12 in 1990. The school is currently in the news for a spreadsheet some boys made rating girls where unrapeable was one of the ratings. The school s PR team are now making claims like Respect for each other is in the DNA of this school . I d like to know when this DNA change allegedly occurred because respect definitely wasn t in the school DNA in 1990! Before I go any further I have to note that if the school threatens legal action against me for this post it will be clear evidence that they don t believe in respect. The actions of that school have wronged me, several of my friends, many people who aren t friends but who I wish they hadn t had to suffer and I hadn t had to witness it, and presumably countless others that I didn t witness. If they have any decency they would not consider legal action but I have learned that as an institution they have no decency so I have to note that they should read the Wikipedia page about the Streisand Effect [1] and keep it in mind before deciding on a course of action. I think it is possible to create a school where most kids enjoy being there and enjoy learning, where hardly any students find it a negative experience and almost no-one finds it traumatic. But it is not possible to do that with the way schools tend to be run. When I was at high school there was a general culture that minor sex crimes committed by boys against boys weren t a problem, this probably applied to all high schools. Things like ripping a boy s pants off (known as dakking ) were considered a big joke. If you accept that ripping the pants off an unwilling boy is a good thing (as was the case when I was at school) then that leads to thinking that describing girls as unrapeable is acceptable. The Wikipedia page for Pantsing [2] has a reference for this issue being raised as a serious problem by the British Secretary of State for Education and Skills Alan Johnson in 2007. So this has continued to be a widespread problem around the world. Has YV become better than other schools in dealing with it or is Dakking and Wedgies as well accepted now as it was when I attended? There is talk about schools preparing kids for the workforce, but grabbing someone s underpants without consent will result in instant dismissal from almost all employment. There should be more tolerance for making mistakes at school than at work, but they shouldn t tolerate what would be serious crimes in other contexts. For work environments there have been significant changes to what is accepted, so it doesn t seem unreasonable to expect that schools can have a similar change in culture. One would hope that spending 6 years wondering who s going to grab your underpants next would teach boys the importance of consent and some sympathy for victims of other forms of sexual assault. But that doesn t seem to happen, apparently it s often the opposite. When I was young Autism wasn t diagnosed for anyone who was capable of having a normal life. Teachers noticed that I wasn t like other kids, some were nice, but some encouraged other boys to attack me as a form of corporal punishment by proxy not a punishment for doing anything wrong (detentions were adequate for that) but for being different. The lesson kids will take from that sort of thing is that if you are in a position of power you can mistreat other people and get away with it. There was a girl in my year level at YV who would probably be diagnosed as Autistic by today s standards, the way I witnessed her being treated was considerably worse than what was described in the recent news reports but it is quite likely that worse things have been done recently which haven t made the news yet. If this issue is declared to be over after 4 boys were expelled then I ll count that as evidence of a cover-up. These things don t happen in a vacuum, there s a culture that permits and encourages it. The word respect has different meanings, it can mean treat a superior as the master or treat someone as a human being . The phrase if you treat me with respect I ll treat you with respect usually means if you treat me as the boss then I ll treat you as a human being . The distinction is very important when discussing respect in schools. If teachers are considered the ultimate bosses whose behaviour can never be questioned then many boys won t need much help from Andrew Tate in developing the belief that they should be the boss of girls in the same way. Do any schools have a process for having students review teachers? Does YV have an ombudsman to take reports of misbehaving teachers in the way that corporations typically have an ombudsman to take reports about bad managers? Any time you have people whose behaviour is beyond scrutiny or oversight you will inevitably have bad people apply for jobs, then bad things will happen and it will create a culture of bad behaviour. If teachers can treat kids badly then kids will treat other kids badly, and this generally ends with girls being treated badly by boys. My experience at YV was that kids barely had the status of people. It seemed that the school operated more as a caretaker of the property of parents than as an organisation that cares for people. The current YV website has a Whistleblower policy [3] that has only one occurrence of the word student and that is about issues that endanger the health or safety of students. Students are the people most vulnerable to reprisal for complaining and not being listed as an eligible whistleblower shows their status. The web site also has a flowchart for complaints and grievances [4] which doesn t describe any policy for a complaint to be initiated by a student. One would hope that parents would advocate for their children but that often isn t the case. When discussing the possibility of boys being bullied at school with parents I ve had them say things like my son wouldn t be so weak that he would be bullied , no boy will tell his parents about being bullied if that s their attitude! I imagine that there are similar but different issues of parents victim-blaming when their daughter is bullied (presumably substituting immoral for weak) but don t have direct knowledge of the topic. The experience of many kids is being disrespected by their parents, the school system, and often siblings too. A school can t solve all the world s problems but can ideally be a refuge for kids who have problems at home. When I was at school the culture in the country and the school was homophobic. One teacher when discussing issues such as how students could tell him if they had psychological problems and no-one else to talk to said some things like the Village People make really good music which was the only time any teacher said anything like It s OK to be gay (the Village People were the gayest pop group at the time). A lot of the bullying at school had a sexual component to it. In addition to the wedgies and dakking (which while not happening often was something you had to constantly be aware of) I routinely avoided PE classes where a shower was necessary because of a thug who hung around by the showers and looked hungrily at my penis, I don t know if he had a particular liking to mine or if he stared at everyone that way. Flashing and perving was quite common in change rooms. Presumably as such boy-boy sexual misbehaviour was so accepted that led to boys mistreating girls. I currently work for a company that is active in telling it s employees about the possibility of free psychological assistance. Any employee can phone a psychologist to discuss problems (whether or not they are work related) free of charge and without their manager or colleagues knowing. The company is billed and is only given a breakdown of the number of people who used the service and roughly what the issue was (work stress, family, friends, grief, etc). When something noteworthy happens employees are given reminders about this such as if you need help after seeing a homeless man try to steal a laptop from the office then feel free to call the assistance program . Do schools offer something similar? With the school fees paid to a school like YV they should be able to afford plenty of psychologist time. Every day I was at YV I saw something considerably worse than laptop theft, most days something was done to me. The problems with schools are part of larger problems with society. About half of the adults in Australia still support the Liberal party in spite of their support of Christian Porter, Cardinal Pell, and Bruce Lehrmann. It s not logical to expect such parents to discourage their sons from mistreating girls or to encourage their daughters to complain when they are mistreated. The Anglican church has recently changed it s policy to suggesting that victims of sexual abuse can contact the police instead of or in addition to the church, previously they had encouraged victims to only contact the church which facilitated cover-ups. One would hope that schools associated with the Anglican church have also changed their practices towards such things. I approve of the respect is in our DNA concept, it s like Google s former slogan of Don t be evil which is something that they can be bound to. Here s a list of questions that could be asked of schools (not just YV but all schools) by journalists when reporting on such things:
  1. Do you have a policy of not trying to silence past students who have been treated badly?
  2. Do you take all sexual assaults seriously including wedgies and dakking?
  3. Do you take all violence at school seriously? Even if there s no blood? Even if the victim says they don t want to make an issue of it?
  4. What are your procedures to deal with misbehaviour from teachers? Do the students all know how to file complaints? Do they know that they can file a complaint if they aren t the victim?
  5. Does the school have policies against homophobia and transphobia and are they enforced?
  6. Does the school offer free psychological assistance to students and staff who need it? NB This only applies to private schools like YV that have huge amounts of money, public schools can t afford that.
  7. Are serious incidents investigated by people who are independent of the school and who don t have a vested interest in keeping things quiet?
  8. Do you encourage students to seek external help from organisations like the ones on the resources list of the Grace Tame Foundation [5]? Having your own list of recommended external organisations would be good too.
Counter Arguments I ve had practice debating such things, here s some responses to common counter arguments. Conclusion I don t think that YV is necessarily worse than other schools, although I m sure that representatives of other private schools are now working to assure parents of students and prospective students that they are. I don t think that all the people who were employed as teachers there when I attended were bad people, some of them were nice people who were competent teachers. But a few good people can t turn around a bad system. I will note that when I attended all the sports teachers were decent people, it was the only department I could say such things about. But sports involves situations that can lead to a bad result, issues started at other times and places can lead to violence or harassment in PE classes regardless of how good the teachers are. Teachers who know that there are problems need to be able to raise issues with the administration. When a teacher quits teaching to join the clergy and another teacher describes it as a loss for the clergy but a gain for YV it raises the question of why the bad teacher in question couldn t have been encouraged to leave earlier. A significant portion of the population will do whatever is permitted. If you say no teacher would ever bully a student so we don t need to look out for that then some teacher will do exactly that. I hope that this will lead to changes both in YV and in other schools. But if they declare this issue as resolved after expelling 4 students then something similar or worse will happen again. At least now students know that when this sort of thing happens they can send evidence to journalists to get some action.

16 May 2024

John Goerzen: Review of Reputable, Functional, and Secure Email Service

I last reviewed email services in 2019. That review focused a lot of attention on privacy. At the time, I selected mailbox.org as my provider, and have been using them for these 5 years since. However, both their service and their support have gone significantly downhill since, so it is time for me to look at other options. Here I am focusing strongly on email. Some of the providers mentioned here provide other services (IM, video calls, groupware, etc.), and to the extent they do, I am ignoring them.

What Matters in 2024
I want to start off by acknowledging that what you need in email probably depends on your circumstances and the country in which you live. For me, I begin by naming that the largest threat most of us face isn t from state actors but from criminals: hackers, ransomware gangs, etc. It is important to take as many steps as possible to secure one s account against that. Privacy and security are both part of the mix. I still value privacy but I am acknowledging, as Migadu does, that Email as we know it and encryption are incompatible. Although some of these services strongly protect parts of the conversation, the reality is that most people will be emailing people using plain old email services which don t. For stronger security, something like Signal would be needed. (I wrote about Signal in 2021 also.) Interestingly, OpenPGP support seems to be something of a standard feature in the providers I reviewed by this point. All or almost all of them provide integration with browser-based encryption as well as server-side encryption if you prefer that. Although mailbox.org can automatically PGP-encrypt every message that arrives in plaintext, for general use, this is unwieldy; there isn t good tooling for searching mailboxes where every message is encrypted, etc. So I never enabled that feature at Mailbox. I still value security and privacy, but a pragmatic approach addresses the most pressing threats first.

My criteria
The basic requirements for an email service include:
  1. Ability to use my own domains
  2. Strong privacy policy
  3. Ability for me to use my own IMAP and SMTP clients on both desktop and mobile
  4. It must be extremely reliable
  5. It must not be free
  6. It must have excellent support for those rare occasions when it is needed
  7. Support for basic aliases
Why do I say it must not be free? Because if someone is providing a service with the quality I m talking about here, and not charging for it, it implies something is fishy: either they are unscrupulous, are financially unstable, or the product is something else like ads. I am not aware of any provider that matches the other criteria with a free account anyhow. These providers range from about $30 to $90 per year, so cheaper than a Netflix subscription. Immediately, this rules out several options:
  • Proton doesn t let me use my own clients on mobile (their bridge is desktop-only)
  • Tuta also doesn t let me use my own clients
  • Posteo doesn t let me use my own domain
  • mxroute.com lacks a strong privacy policy, and its policy has numerous causes for concern (for instance, If you repeatedly send email to invalid/unroutable recipients, they may be published on our GitHub )
I will have a bit more to say about a couple of these providers below. There are some additional criteria that are strongly desired but not absolutely required:
  1. Ability to set individual access passwords for every device/app
  2. Support for two-factor authentication (2FA/TFA/TOTP) for web-based access
  3. Support for basics in filtering: ability to filter on envelope recipient (so if I get BCC d, I can still filter), and ability to execute more than one action on filter match (eg, deliver to two folders, or deliver to a folder and forward to someone else)
IMAP and SMTP don t really support 2FA, so by setting individual passwords for every device, you can at least limit the blast radius and cut off a specific device if something is (or might be) compromised.

The candidates
I considered these providers: Startmail, Mailfence, Runbox, Fastmail, Kolab, Mailbox.org, and Migadu. I ll review each, and highlight the pricing of the plan I would most likely use. Each provider offers multiple plans; some may be more expensive and some may be cheaper than the one I reviewed. I included a link to each provider s full pricing information so you can compare for your needs. I set up trials with each of these (except Mailbox.org, with which I already had a paid account). It so happend that I had actual questions for support for each one, which gave me an opportunity to see how support responded. I did not fabricate questions, and would not have contacted support if I didn t have real ones. (This means that I asked different questions of each provider, because they were the REAL questions I had.) I ll jump to the spoiler right now: I eventually chose Migadu, with Fastmail and Mailfence as close seconds. I looked for providers myself, and also solicited recommendations in a Mastodon thread.

Mailbox.org
I begin with Mailbox, as it was my top choice in 2019 and the incumbent. Until this year, I had been quite happy with it. I had cause to reach their support less than once a year on average, and each time they replied the same day or next day. Now, however, they are failing on reliability and on support. Their spam filter has become overly aggressive. It has blocked quite a bit of legitimate mail. When contacting their support about a prior issue earlier this year, they initially took 4 days to reply, and then 6 days to reply after that. Ouch. They had me disable some spam settings. It didn t really help. I continue to lose mail. I don t know how much, because they block a lot of it before it even hits the spam folder. One of my friends texted to say mail was dropping. I raised a new ticket with mailbox, which took them 5 days to reply to. Their reply was unhelpful. As the Internet is not a static system, unforeseen events can always occur. Well yes, that s true, and I get it, false positives exist with email. But this was from an ISP s mail system with an address that had been established for years, and it was part of a larger pattern of rejecting quite a bit of legit mail. And every interaction with them recently hasn t resulted in them actually doing anything to resolve anything. It s just a paragraph or two of reply that does nothing and helps nothing. When I complained that it took 5 days to reply, they said We have not been able to reply sooner as we are currently experiencing a high volume of customer enquiries. Even though their SLA for my account is a not-great 48 business hour turnaround, they still missed it and their reason is we re busy. I finally asked what RBL had caught the blocked email, since when I checked, the sender wasn t on any RBL. Mailbox s reply: they only keep their logs for 7 days, so next time I should contact them within 7 days. Which, of course, I DID; it was them that kept delaying. Ugh! It s like they ve become a cable company. Even worse is how they have been blocking mail from GrapheneOS s discussion form. See their thread about it. In short, Graphene s mail server has a clean reputation and Mailbox has no problem with it. But because one of Graphene s IPv6 webservers has an IPv6 allocation of a size Mailbox doesn t like, they drop mail. It s ridiculous, and Mailbox was dismissive of this well-known and well-regarded Open Source project. So if the likes of GrapheneOS can t get good faith effort to deliver their mail, what chance does an individual like me have? I m sorry, but I m literally paying you to deliver email for me and provide good support. If you can t do either of those, you don t get to push that problem down onto me. Hire appropriate staff. On the technical side, they support aliases, my own clients, and have a reasonable privacy policy. Their 2FA support exists for the web interface (though weirdly not the support site), though it is somewhat weird. They do not support app passwords. A somewhat unique feature is the @secure.mailbox.org domain. If you try to receive mail at that address, mailbox.org will block it unless it uses TLS. Same for sending. This isn t E2EE, but it does at least require things not be in plaintext for the last hop to Mailbox. Verdict: not recommended due to poor reliability and support. Mailbox.Org summary:
  • Website: https://mailbox.org/en/
  • Reliability: iffy due to over-aggressive spam filtering
  • Support: Poor; takes 4-6 days for a reply and replies are unhelpful
  • Individual access passwords: No
  • 2FA: Yes, but with a PIN instead of a password as the other factor
  • Filtering: Full SIEVE feature set and GUI editor
  • Spam settings: greylisting on/off, reject some/all spam, etc. But they re insufficient to address Mailbox s overzealousness, which support says I cannot workaround within the interface.
  • Server storage location: Germany
  • Plan as reviewed: standard [pricing link]
    • Cost per year: EUR 30 (about $33)
    • Mail storage included: 10GB
    • Limits on send/receive volume: none
    • Aliases: 50 on your domain name, 25 on mailbox.org
    • Additional mailboxes: Available; each one at the same fee as the primary mailbox

Startmail
I really wanted to like Startmail. Its vault is an interesting idea and should contribute to the security and privacy of an account. They clearly care about privacy. It falls down in filtering. They have no way to filter on envelope recipient (BCC or similar). Their support confirmed this to me and that s a showstopper. Startmail support was also as slow as Mailbox, taking 5 days to respond to me. Two showstoppers right there. Verdict: Not recommended due to slow support responsiveness and weak filtering. Startmail summary:
  • Website: https://www.startmail.com/
  • Reliability: Seems to be fine
  • Support: Mediocre; Took 5 days for a reply, but the reply was helpful
  • Individual app access passwords: Yes
  • 2FA: Yes
  • Filtering: Poor; cannot filter on envelope recipient, and can t build filters with multiple actions
  • Spam settings: None
  • Server storage location: The Netherlands
  • Plan as reviewed: Custom domain (trial was Personal), [pricing link]
    • Cost per year: $70
    • Mail storage included: 20GB
    • Limits on send/receive volume: none
    • Aliases: unlimited, with lots of features: can set expiration, etc.
    • Additional mailboxes: not available

Kolab
Kolab Now is mainly positioned as a full groupware service, but they do have a email-only option which I investigated. There isn t much documentation about it compared to other providers, and also not much in the way of settings. You can turn greylisting on or off. And . that s it. It has a full suite of filtering options. They set an X-Envelope-To header which you can use with the arbitrary header match to do the right thing even for BCC situations. Filters can have multiple conditions and multiple actions. It is SIEVE-based and you can download your SIEVE definitions. If you enable 2FA, you disable IMAP and SMTP; not great. Verdict: Not an impressive enough email featureset to justify going with it. Kolab Now summary:
  • Website: https://kolabnow.com/
  • Reliability: Seems to be fine
  • Support: Fine responsiveness (next day)
  • Invidiaul app passwords: no
  • 2FA: Yes, but if you enable it, they disable IMAP and SMTP
  • Filtering: Excellent
  • Spam settings: Only greylisting on/off
  • Server storage location: Switzerland; they have lots of details on their setup
  • Plan as reviewed: Just email [pricing link]
    • Cost per year: CHF 60, about $66
    • Mail storage included: 5GB
    • Limitations on send/receive volume: None
    • Aliases: Yes. Not sure if there are limits.
    • Additional mailboxes: Yes if you set up a group account. Flexible pricing based on user count is not documented anywhere I could find.

Mailfence
Mailfence is another option, somewhat similar to Startmail but without the unique vault. I had some questions about filters, and support was quite responsive, responding in a couple of hours. Some of their copy on their website is a bit misleading, but support clarified when I asked them. They do not offer encryption at rest (like most of the entries here). Mailfence s filtering system is the kind I d like to see. It allows multiple conditions and multiple actions for each rule, and has some unique actions as well (notify by SMS or XMPP). Support says that Recipients matches envelope recipients. However, one ommission is that I can t match on arbitrary headers; only the canned list of headers they provide. They have only two spam settings:
  • spam filter on/off
  • whitelist
Given some recent complaints about their spam filter being overly aggressive, I find this lack of control somewhat concerning. (However, I discount complaints about people begging for more features in free accounts; free won t provide the kind of service I m looking for with any provider.) There are generally just very few settings for email as well. Verdict: Response and helpful support, filtering has the right structure but lacks arbitrary header match. Could be a good option. Mailfence summary:
  • Website: https://mailfence.com/
  • Reliability: Seems to be fine
  • Support: Excellent responsiveness and helpful replies (after some initial confusion about my question of greylisting)
  • Individual app access passwords: No. You can set a per-service password (eg, an IMAP password), but those will be shared with all devices speaking that protocol.
  • 2FA: Yes
  • Filtering: Good; only misses the ability to filter on arbitrary headers
  • Spam settings: Very few
  • Server storage location: Belgium
  • Plan as reviewed: Entry [pricing link]
    • Cost per year: $42
    • Mail storage included: 10GB, with a maximum of 50,000 messages
    • Limits on send/receive volume: none
    • Aliases: 50. Aliases can t be deleted once created (there may be an exeption to this for aliases on your own domain rather than mailfence.com)
    • Additional mailboxes: Their page on this is a bit confusing, and the pricing page lacks the information promised. It looks like you can pay the same $42/year for additional mailboxes, with a limit of up to 2 additional paid mailboxes and 2 additional free mailboxes tied to the account.

Runbox
This one came recommended in a Mastodon thread. I had some questions about it, and support response was fantastic I heard from two people that were co-founders of the company! Even within hours, on a weekend. Incredible! This kind of response was only surpassed by Migadu. I initially wrote to Runbox with questions about the incoming and outgoing message limits, which I hadn t seen elsewhere, as well as the bandwidth limit. They said the bandwidth limit is no longer enforced on paid accounts. The incoming and outgoing limits are enforced, and all email (even spam) counts towards the limit. Notably the outgoing limit is per recipient, so if you send 10 messages to your 50-recipient family group, that s the limit. However, they also indicated a willingness to reset the limit if something happens. Unfortunately, hitting the limit results in a hard bounce (SMTP 5xx) rather than a temporary failure (SMTP 4xx) so it can result in lost mail. This means I d be worried about some attack or other weirdness causing me to lose mail. Their filter is a pain point. Here are the challenges:
  • You can t directly match on a BCC recipient. Support advised to use a headers match, which will search for something anywhere in the headers. This works and is probably good enough since this data is in the Received: headers, but it is a little more imprecise.
  • They only have a contains , not an equals operator. So, for instance, a pattern searching for test@example.com would also match newtest@example.com . Support advised to put the email address in angle brackets to avoid this. That will work mostly. Angle brackets aren t always required in headers.
  • There is no way to have multiple actions on the filter (there is just no way to file an incoming message into two folders). This was the ultimate showstopper for me.
Support advised they are planning to upgrade the filter system in the future, but these are the limitations today. Verdict: A good option if you don t need much from the filtering system. Lots of privacy emphasis. Runbox summary:
  • Website: https://runbox.com/
  • Reliability: Seems to be fine, except returning 5xx codes if per-day limits are exceeded
  • Support: Excellent responsiveness and replies from founders
  • Individual app passwords: Yes
  • 2FA: Yes
  • Filtering: Poor
  • Spam settings: Very few
  • Server storage location: Norway
  • Plan as reviewed: Mini [pricing link]
    • Cost per year: $35
    • Mail storage included: 10GB
    • Limited on send/receive volume: Receive 5000 messages/day, Send 500 recipients/day
    • Aliases: 100 on runbox.com; unlimited on your own domain
    • Additional mailboxes: $15/yr each, also with 10GB non-shared storage per mailbox

Fastmail
Fastmail came recommended to me by a friend I ve known for decades. Here s the thing about Fastmail, compared to all the services listed above: It all just works. Everything. Filtering, spam prevention, it is all there, all feature-complete, and all just does the right thing as you d hope. Their filtering system has a canned dropdown for To/Cc/Bcc , it supports multiple conditions and multiple actions, and just does the right thing. (Delivering to multiple folders is a little cumbersome but possible.) It has a particularly strong feature set around administering multiple accounts, including things like whether users can prevent admins from reading their mail. The not-so-great part of the picture is around privacy. Fastmail is based in Australia, where the government has extensive power around spying on data, even to the point of forcing companies to add wiretap capabilities. Fastmail s privacy policy states user data may be held in Australia, USA, India, and Netherlands. By default, they share data with unidentified spam companies , though you can disable this in settings. On the other hand, they do make a good effort towards privacy. I contacted support with some questions and got back a helpful response in three hours. However, one of the questions was about in which countries my particular data would be stored, and the support response said they would have to get back to me on that. It s been several days and no word back. Verdict: A featureful option that just works , with a lot of features for managing family accounts and the like, but lacking in the privacy area. Fastmail summary:
  • Website: https://www.fastmail.com/
  • Reliability: Seems to be fine
  • Support: Good response time on most questions; dropped the ball on one tha trequired research
  • Individual app access passwords: Yes
  • 2FA: Yes
  • Filtering: Excellent
  • Spam settings: Can set filter aggressiveness, decide whether to share spam data with spam-fighting companies , configure how to handle backscatter spam, and evaluate the personal learning filter.
  • Server storage locations: Australia, USA, India, and The Netherlands. Legal jurisdiction is Australia.
  • Plan as reviewed: Individual [pricing link]
    • Cost per year: $60
    • Mail storage included: 50GB
    • Limits on send/receive volume: 300/hour
    • Aliases: Unlimited from what I can see
    • Additional mailboxes: No; requires a different plan for that

Migadu
Migadu was a service I d never heard of, but came recommended to me on Mastodon. I listed Migadu last because it is a class of its own compared to all the other options. Every other service is basically a webmail interface with a few extra settings tacked on. Migadu has a full-featured email admin console in addition. By that I mean you can:
  • View usage graphs (incoming, outgoing, storage) over time
  • Manage DNS (if you want Migadu to run your nameservers)
  • Manage multiple domains, and cross-domain relationships with mailboxes
  • View a limited set of logs
  • Configure accounts, reset their passwords if needed/authorized, etc.
  • Configure email address rewrite rules with wildcards and so forth
Basically, if you were the sort of person that ran your own mail servers back in the day, here is Migadu giving you most of that functionality. Effectively you have a web interface to do all the useful stuff, and they handle the boring and annoying bits. This is a really attractive model. Migadu support has been fantastic. They are quick to respond, and went above and beyond. I pointed out that their X-Envelope-To header, which is needed for filtering by BCC, wasn t being added on emails I sent myself. They replied 5 hours later indicating they had added the feature to add X-Envelope-To even for internal mails! Wow! I am impressed. With Migadu, you buy a pool of resources: storage space and incoming/outgoing traffic. What you do within that pool is up to you. You can set up users ( mailboxes ), aliases, domains, whatever you like. It all just shares the pool. You can restrict users further so that an individual user has access to only a subset of the pool resources. I was initially concerned about Migadu s daily send/receive message count limits, but in visiting with support and reading the documentation, what really comes out is that Migadu is a service with a personal touch. Hitting the incoming traffic limit will cause a SMTP temporary fail (4xx) response so you won t lose legit mail and support will work with you if it s a problem for legit uses. In other words, restrictions are soft and they are interpreted reasonably. One interesting thing about Migadu is that they do not offer accounts under their domain. That is, you MUST bring your own domain. That s pretty easy and cheap, of course. It also puts you in a position of power, because it is easy to migrate email from one provider to another if you own the domain. Filtering is done via SIEVE. There is a GUI editor which lets you accomplish most things, though it has an odd blind spot where you can t file a message into multiple folders. However, you can edit a SIEVE ruleset directly and you get the full SIEVE featureset, which is extensive (and does support filing a message into multiple folders). I note that the SIEVE :envelope match doesn t work, but Migadu adds an X-Envelope-To header which is just as good. I particularly love a company that tells you all the reasons you might not want to use them. Migadu s pro/con list is an honest drawbacks list (of course, their homepage highlights all the features!). Verdict: Fantastically powerful, excellent support, and good privacy. I chose this one. Migadu summary:
  • Website: https://migadu.com/
  • Reliability: Excellent
  • Support: Fantastic. Good response times and they added a feature (or fixed a bug?) a few hours after I requested it.
  • Individual access passwords: Yes. Create identities to support them.
  • 2FA: Yes, on both the admin interface and the webmail interface
  • Filtering: Excellent, based on SIEVE. GUI editor doesn t support multiple actions when filing into a folder, but full SIEVE functionality is exposed.
  • Spam settings:
    • On the domain level, filter aggressiveness, Greylisting on/off, black and white lists
    • On the mailbox level, filter aggressiveness, black and whitelists, action to take with spam; compatible with filters.
  • Server storage location: France; legal jurisdiction Switzerland
  • Plan as reviewed: mini [pricing link]
    • Cost per year: $90
    • Mail storage included: 30GB ( soft quota)
    • Limits on send/receive volume: 1000 messgaes in/day, 100 messages out/day ( soft quotas)
    • Aliases: Unlimited on an unlimited number of domains
    • Additional mailboxes: Unlimited and free; uses pooled quotas, but individual quotas can be set

Others
Here are a few others that I didn t think worthy of getting a trial:
  • mxroute was recommended by several. Lots of concerning things in their policy, such as:
    • if you repeatedly send mail to unroutable recipients, they may publish the addresses on Github
    • they will terminate your account if they think you are rude or want to contest a charge
    • they reserve the right to cancel your service at any time for any (or no) reason.
  • Proton keeps coming up, and I will not consider it so long as I am locked into their client on mobile.
  • Skiff comes up sometimes, but they were acquired by Notion.
  • Disroot comes up; this discussion highlights a number of reasons why I avoid them. Their Terms of Service (ToS) is inconsistent with a general-purpose email account (I guess for targeting nonprofits and activists, that could make sense). Particularly laughable is that they claim to be friends of Open Source, but then would take down your account if you upload copyrighted material. News flash: in order for an Open Source license to be meaningful, the underlying work is copyrighted. It is perfectly legal to upload copyrighted material when you wrote it or have the license to do so!

Conclusions
There are a lot of good options for email hosting today, and in particular I appreciate the excellent personal support from companies like Migadu and Runbox. Support small businesses!

14 May 2024

Evgeni Golov: Using Packit to build RPMs for projects that depend on or vendor your code

I am a huge fan of Packit as it allows us to provide RPMs to our users and testers directly from a pull-request, thus massively tightening the feedback loop and involving people who otherwise might not be able to apply the changes (for whatever reason) and "quickly test" something out. It's also a great way to validate that a change actually builds in a production environment, where no unnecessary development and test dependencies are installed. You can also run tests of the built packages on Testing Farm and automate pushing releases into Fedora/CentOS Stream, but this is neither a (plain) Packit advertisement post, nor is that functionality that I can talk about with a certain level of experience. Adam recently asked why we don't have Packit builds for our our Puppet modules and my first answer was: "well, puppet-* doesn't produce a thing we ship directly, so nobody dared to do it". My second answer was that I had blogged how to test a Puppet module PR with Packit, but I totally agree that the process was a tad cumbersome and could be improved. Now some madman did it and we all get to hear his story! ;-) What is the problem anyway? The Foreman Installer is a bit of Ruby code1 that provides a CLI to puppet apply based on a set of Puppet modules. As the Puppet modules can also be used outside the installer and have their own lifecycle, they live in separate git repositories and their releases get uploaded to the Puppet Forge. Users however do not want to (and should not have to) install the modules themselves. So we have to ship the modules inside the foreman-installer package. Packaging 25 modules for two packaging systems (we support Enterprise Linux and Debian/Ubuntu) seems like a lot of work. Especially if you consider that the main foreman-installer package would need to be rebuilt after each module change as it contains generated files based on the modules which are too expensive to generate at runtime. So we can ship the modules inside the foreman-installer source release, thus vendoring those modules into the installer release. To do so we use librarian-puppet with a Puppetfile and either a Puppetfile.lock for stable releases or by letting librarian-puppet fetch latest for nightly snapshots. This works beautifully for changes that land in the development and release branches of our repositories - regardless if it's foreman-installer.git or any of the puppet-*.git ones. It also works nicely for pull-requests against foreman-installer.git. But because the puppet-* repositories do not map to packages, we assumed it wouldn't work well for pull-requests against those. How can we solve this? Well, the "obvious" solution is to build the foreman-installer package via Packit also for pull-requests against the puppet-* repositories. However, as usual, the devil is in the details. Packit by default clones the repository of the pull-request and tries to create a source tarball from that using git archive. As this might be too simple for many projects, one can define a custom create-archive action that runs after the pull-request has been cloned and produces the tarball instead. We already use that in the Packit configuration for foreman-installer to run the pkg:generate_source rake target which executes librarian-puppet for us. But now the pull-request is against one of the Puppet modules, so Packit will clone that, not the installer. We gotta clone foreman-installer on our own. And then point librarian-puppet at the pull-request. Fun. Cloning is relatively simple, call git clone -- sorry Packit/Copr infrastructure. But the Puppet module pull-request? One can use :git => 'https://git.example.com/repo.git' in the Puppetfile to fetch a git repository. In fact, that's what we already do for our nightly snapshots. It also supports :ref => 'some_branch_or_tag_name', if the remote HEAD is not what you want. My brain first went "I know this! GitHub has this magic refs/pull/1/head and refs/pull/1/merge refs you can checkout to get the contents of the pull-request without bothering to add a remote for the source of the pull-request". Well, this requires to know the ID of the pull-request and Packit does not expose that in the environment variables available during create-archive. Wait, but we already have a checkout. Can we just say :git => '../.git'? Cloning a .git folder is totally possible after all.
[Librarian]     --> fatal: repository '../.git' does not exist
Could not checkout ../.git: fatal: repository '../.git' does not exist
Seems librarian disagrees. Damn. (Yes, I checked, the path exists.) does it maybe just not like relative paths?! Yepp, using an absolute path absolutely works! For some reason it ends up checking out the default HEAD of the "real" (GitHub) remote, not of ../. Luckily this can be fixed by explicitly passing :ref => 'origin/HEAD', which resolves to the branch Packit created for the pull-request. Now we just need to put all of that together and remember to execute all commands from inside the foreman-installer checkout as that is where all our vendoring recipes etc live. Putting it all together Let's look at the diff between the packit.yaml for foreman-installer and the one I've proposed for puppet-pulpcore:
--- a/foreman-installer/.packit.yaml    2024-05-14 21:45:26.545260798 +0200
+++ b/puppet-pulpcore/.packit.yaml  2024-05-14 21:44:47.834162418 +0200
@@ -18,13 +18,15 @@
 actions:
   post-upstream-clone:
     - "wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/theforeman/foreman-packaging/rpm/develop/packages/foreman/foreman-installer/foreman-installer.spec -O foreman-installer.spec"
+    - "git clone https://github.com/theforeman/foreman-installer"
+    - "sed -i '/theforeman.pulpcore/ s@:git.*@:git => \"# __dir__ /../.git\", :ref => \"origin/HEAD\"@' foreman-installer/Puppetfile"
   get-current-version:
-    - "sed 's/-develop//' VERSION"
+    - "sed 's/-develop//' foreman-installer/VERSION"
   create-archive:
-    - bundle config set --local path vendor/bundle
-    - bundle config set --local without development:test
-    - bundle install
-    - bundle exec rake pkg:generate_source
+    - bash -c "cd foreman-installer && bundle config set --local path vendor/bundle"
+    - bash -c "cd foreman-installer && bundle config set --local without development:test"
+    - bash -c "cd foreman-installer && bundle install"
+    - bash -c "cd foreman-installer && bundle exec rake pkg:generate_source"
  1. It clones foreman-installer (in post-upstream-clone, as that felt more natural after some thinking)
  2. It adjusts the Puppetfile to use # __dir__ /../.git as the Git repository, abusing the fact that a Puppetfile is really just a Ruby script (sorry Ben!) and knows the __dir__ it lives in
  3. It fetches the version from the foreman-installer checkout, so it's sort-of reasonable
  4. It performs all building inside the foreman-installer checkout
Can this be used in other scenarios? I hope so! Vendoring is not unheard of. And testing your "consumers" (dependents? naming is hard) is good style anyway!

  1. three Ruby modules in a trench coat, so to say

12 May 2024

Elana Hashman: I am very sick

I have not been able to walk since February 18, 2023. When people ask me how I'm doing, this is the first thing that comes to mind. "Well, you know, the usual, but also I still can't walk," I think to myself. If I dream at night, I often see myself walking or running. In conversation, if I talk about going somewhere, I'll imagine walking there. Even though it's been over a year, I remember walking to the bus, riding to see my friends, going out for brunch, cooking community dinners. But these days, I can't manage going anywhere except by car, and I can't do the driving, and I can't dis/assemble and load my chair. When I'm resting in bed and follow a guided meditation, I might be asked to imagine walking up a staircase, step by step. Sometimes, I do. Other times, I imagine taking a little elevator in my chair, or wheeling up ramps. I feel like there is little I can say that can express the extent of what this illness has taken from me, but it's worth trying. To an able-bodied person, seeing me in a power wheelchair is usually "enough." One of my acquaintances cried when they last saw me in person. But frankly, I love my wheelchair. I am not "wheelchair-bound" I am bed-bound, and the wheelchair gets me out of bed. My chair hasn't taken anything from me. *** In October of 2022, I was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis. Scientists and doctors don't really know what myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is. Diseases like it have been described for over 200 years.1 It primarily affects women between the ages of 10-39, and the primary symptom is "post-exertional malaise" or PEM: debilitating, disproportionate fatigue following activity, often delayed by 24-72 hours and not relieved by sleep. That fatigue has earned the illness the misleading name of "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" or CFS, as though we're all just very tired all the time. But tired people respond to exercise positively. People with ME/CFS do not.2 Given the dearth of research and complete lack of on-label treatments, you may think this illness is at least rare, but it is actually quite common: in the United States, an estimated 836k-2.5m people3 have ME/CFS. It is frequently misdiagnosed, and it is estimated that as many as 90% of cases are missed,4 due to mild or moderate symptoms that mimic other diseases. Furthermore, over half of Long COVID cases likely meet the diagnostic criteria for ME,5 so these numbers have increased greatly in recent years. That is, ME is at least as common as rheumatoid arthritis,6 another delightful illness I have. But while any doctor knows what rheumatoid arthritis is, not enough7 have heard of "myalgic encephalomylitis." Despite a high frequency and disease burden, post-viral associated conditions (PASCs) such as ME have been neglected for medical funding for decades.8 Indeed, many people, including medical care workers, find it hard to believe that after the acute phase of illness, severe symptoms can persist. PASCs such as ME and Long COVID defy the typical narrative around common illnesses. I was always told that if I got sick, I should expect to rest for a bit, maybe take some medications, and a week or two later, I'd get better, right? But I never got better. These are complex, multi-system diseases that do not neatly fit into the Western medical system's specializations. I have seen nearly every specialty because ME/CFS affects nearly every system of the body: cardiology, nephrology, pulmonology, neurology, opthalmology, and, many, many more. You'd think they'd hand out frequent flyer cards, or a medical passport with fun stamps, but nope. Just hundreds of pages of medical records. And when I don't fit neatly into one particular specialist's box, then I'm sent back to my primary care doctor to regroup while we try to troubleshoot my latest concerning symptoms. "Sorry, can't help you. Not my department." With little available medical expertise, a lot of my disease management has been self-directed in partnership with primary care. I've read hundreds of articles, papers, publications, CME material normally reserved for doctors. It's truly out of necessity, and I'm certain I would be much worse off if I lacked the skills and connections to do this; there are so few ME/CFS experts in the US that there isn't one in my state or any adjacent state.9 So I've done a lot of my own work, much of it while barely being able to read. (A text-to-speech service is a real lifesaver.) To facilitate managing my illness, I've built a mental model of how my particular flavour of ME/CFS works based on the available research I've been able to read and how I respond to treatments. Here is my best attempt to explain it: The best way I have learned to manage this is to prevent myself from doing activities where I will exceed that aerobic threshold by wearing a heartrate monitor,12 but the amount of activity that permits in my current state of health is laughably restrictive. Most days I'm unable to spend more than one to two hours out of bed. Over time, this has meant worsening from a persistent feeling of tiredness all the time and difficulty commuting into an office or sitting at a desk, to being unable to sit at a desk for an entire workday even while working from home and avoiding physically intense chores or exercise without really understanding why, to being unable to leave my apartment for days at a time, and finally, being unable to stand for more than a minute or two or walk. But it's not merely that I can't walk. Many folks in wheelchairs are able to live excellent lives with adaptive technology. The problem is that I am so fatigued, any activity can destroy my remaining quality of life. In my worst moments, I've been unable to read, move my arms or legs, or speak aloud. Every single one of my limbs burned, as though I had caught fire. Food sat in my stomach for hours, undigested, while my stomach seemingly lacked the energy to do its job. I currently rely on family and friends for full-time caretaking, plus a paid home health aide, as I am unable to prep meals, shower, or leave the house independently. This assistance has helped me slowly improve from my poorest levels of function. While I am doing better than I was at my worst, I've had to give up essentially all of my hobbies with physical components. These include singing, cooking, baking, taking care of my houseplants, cross-stitching, painting, and so on. Doing any of these result in post-exertional malaise so I've had to stop; this reduction of activity to prevent worsening the illness is referred to as "pacing." I've also had to cut back essentially all of my volunteering and work in open source; I am only cleared by my doctor to work 15h/wk (from bed) as of writing. *** CW: severe illness, death, and suicide (skip this section) The difficulty of living with a chronic illness is that there's no light at the end of the tunnel. Some diseases have a clear treatment path: you take the medications, you complete the procedures, you hit all the milestones, and then you're done, perhaps with some long-term maintenance work. But with ME, there isn't really an end in sight. The median duration of illness reported in one 1997 study was over 6 years, with some patients reporting 20 years of symptoms.13 While a small number of patients spontaneously recover, and many improve, the vast majority of patients are unable to regain their baseline function.14 My greatest fear since losing the ability to walk is getting worse still. Because, while I already require assistance with nearly every activity of daily living, there is still room for decline. The prognosis for extremely ill patients is dismal, and many require feeding tubes and daily nursing care. This may lead to life-threatening malnutrition;15 a number of these extremely severe patients have died, either due to medical neglect or suicide.16 Extremely severe patients cannot tolerate light, sound, touch, or cognitive exertion,17 and often spend most of their time lying flat in a darkened room with ear muffs or an eye mask.18 This is all to say, my prognosis is not great. But while I recognize that the odds aren't exactly in my favour, I am also damn stubborn. (A friend once cheerfully described me as "stubbornly optimistic!") I only get one shot at life, and I do not want to spend the entirety of it barely able to perceive what's going on around me. So while my prognosis is uncertain, there's lots of evidence that I can improve somewhat,19 and there's also lots of evidence that I can live 20+ years with this disease. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but it also means I might have the gift of time something that not all my friends with severe complex illnesses have had. I feel like I owe it to myself to do the best I can to improve; to try to help others in a similar situation; and to enjoy the time that I have. I already feel like my life has been moving in slow motion for the past 4 years there's no need to add more suffering. Finding joy, as much as I can, every day, is essential to keep up my strength for this marathon. Even if it takes 20 years to find a cure, I am convinced that the standard of care is going to improve. All the research and advocacy that's been happening over the past decade is plenty to feel hopeful about.20 Hope is a discipline,21 and I try to remind myself of this on the hardest days. *** I'm not entirely sure why I decided to write this. Certainly, today is International ME/CFS Awareness Day, and I'm hoping this post will raise awareness in spaces that aren't often thinking about chronic illnesses. But I think there is also a part of me that wants to share, reach out in some way to the people I've lost contact with while I've been treading water, managing the day to day of my illness. I experience this profound sense of loss, especially when I think back to the life I had before. Everyone hits limitations in what they can do and accomplish, but there is so little I can do with the time and energy that I have. And yet, I understand even this precious little could still be less. So I pace myself. Perhaps I can inspire you to take action on behalf of those of us too fatigued to do the advocacy we need and deserve. Should you donate to a charity or advocacy organization supporting ME/CFS research? In the US, there are many excellent organizations, such as ME Action, the Open Medicine Foundation, SolveME, the Bateman Horne Center, and the Workwell Foundation. I am also happy to match any donations through the end of May 2024 if you send me your receipts. But charitable giving only goes so far, and I think this problem deserves the backing of more powerful organizations. Proportionate government funding and support is desperately needed. It's critical for us to push governments22 to provide the funding required for research that will make an impact on patients' lives now. Many organizers are running campaigns around the world, advocating for this investment. There is a natural partnership between ME advocacy and Long COVID advocacy, for example, and we have an opportunity to make a great difference to many people by pushing for research and resources inclusive of all PASCs. Some examples I'm aware of include: But outside of collective organizing, there are a lot of sick individuals out there that need help, too. Please, don't forget about us. We need you to visit us, care for us, be our confidantes, show up as friends. There are a lot of people who are very sick out here and need your care. I'm one of them.

Daniel Lange: htop and PCP have a new home at Hack Club

After the unfortunate and somewhat surprising shutdown of the Open Collective Foundation (OCF), htop and Performance Co-Pilot (PCP) have migrated to Hack Club. Initially founded to improve STEM education, support high school computer science clubs and firmly founded in the hacker culture, Hack Club have created a US IRS approved 501(c)(3) charity that provides what Open Collective did/does1 and more at a flat 7% fee of the project income. Nathan Scott organized these moves with Paul Spitler. Many thanks! We considered other options for the projects, e.g. Gentoo has moved to Software in the Public Interest (SPI) and I know SPI quite well as they were created initially to host Debian. But PCP moved from SPI to OCF in 2021. Open Collective has a European branch that seems independent of the dissolved US foundation. But all-in-all Hack Club seemed the best fit. You can find the new fiscal sponsorship and donation landing pages at:
htophttps://hcb.hackclub.com/htop/https://hcb.hackclub.com/donations/start/htop
PCPhttps://hcb.hackclub.com/pcp/https://hcb.hackclub.com/donations/start/pcp

  1. Open Collective as in the fancy "manage your project donations and reimbursements" website still continues to run but the foundation of the same name that provided the actual fiscal sponsorship (i.e. managing the funds) got dissolved. It's ... complicated.

Freexian Collaborators: Debian Contributions: Salsa CI updates, OpenSSH option review, and more! (by Utkarsh Gupta)

Contributing to Debian is part of Freexian s mission. This article covers the latest achievements of Freexian and their collaborators. All of this is made possible by organizations subscribing to our Long Term Support contracts and consulting services. P.S. We ve completed over a year of writing these blogs. If you have any suggestions on how to make them better or what you d like us to cover, or any other opinions/reviews you might have, et al, please let us know by dropping an email to us. We d be happy to hear your thoughts. :)

Salsa CI updates & GSoC candidacy, by Santiago Ruano Rincon In the context of Google Summer of Code (GSoC), Santiago continued the mentoring work, following the applications of three of the candidates. This work started in March, but Aquila Macedo, Ahmed Siam and Piyush Raj continued in April to propose and review MRs. For example, Update CI pipeline to utilize specific blhc image per release and Remove references to buster-backports by Aquila, or the reviews the candidates made to Document the structure of the different components of the pipeline (see below). Unfortunately, the Salsa CI project didn t get any slot from the GSoC program in the end. Along with the Salsa CI related work, Santiago improved the documentation of Salsa CI, to make it easier for newcomers (as the GSoC candidates) or people willing to fork the project to understand its internals. Documentation is an aspect where a lot of improvements can be made.

OpenSSH option review, by Colin Watson In light of last month s xz-utils backdoor, Colin did an extensive review of some of the choices in Debian s OpenSSH packaging. Some work on this has already been done (removing uses of libsystemd and reducing tcp-wrappers linkage); the next step is likely to be to start work on the plan to split out GSS-API key exchange again.

Miscellaneous contributions
  • Utkarsh Gupta started to put together and kickstart the bursary team ahead of DebConf 24, to be held in Busan, South Korea.
  • Utkarsh Gupta reviewed some MRs and docs for the bursary team for the DC24 website.
  • Helmut Grohne sent patches for 19 cross build failures and submitted a gcc patch removing LIMITS_H_TEST upstream.
  • Helmut sent 8 bug reports with 3 patches related to the /usr-move.
  • Helmut diagnosed why /dev/stdout is not accessible in sbuild --mode=unshare.
  • Helmut diagnosed the time64-induced glibc FTBFS.
  • Helmut sent patches for fixing initramfs triggers on firmware removal.
  • Thorsten Alteholz uploaded foo2zjs and fixed two bugs, one related to /usr-merge. Likewise the upload of cups-filters (from the 1.x branch) fixed three bugs. In order to fix an RC bug in cpdb-backends-cups, which was updated to the 2.x branch, the new package libcupsfilters has been introduced. Last but not least an upload of hplip fixed one RC bug and an upload of gutenprint fixed two of them. All of these RC bugs were more or less related to the time_t transition.
  • Santiago continued to work in the DebConf organization tasks, including some for the DebConf 24 Content Team, and looking to build a local community for DebConf 25.
  • Stefano Rivera made a couple of uploads of dh-python to Debian, and a few other general package update uploads.
  • Stefano did some winding up of DebConf 23 finances, including closing bursary claims and recording the amounts spent on travel bursaries.
  • Stefano opened DebConf 24 registration, which always requires some last-minute work on the website.
  • Colin released man-db 2.12.1.
  • Colin fixed a regression in groff s PDF output.
  • In the Python team, Colin fixed build/autopkgtest failures in seven packages, and updated ten packages to new upstream versions.

10 May 2024

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds in April 2024

Welcome to the April 2024 report from the Reproducible Builds project! In our reports, we attempt to outline what we have been up to over the past month, as well as mentioning some of the important things happening more generally in software supply-chain security. As ever, if you are interested in contributing to the project, please visit our Contribute page on our website. Table of contents:
  1. New backseat-signed tool to validate distributions source inputs
  2. NixOS is not reproducible
  3. Certificate vulnerabilities in F-Droid s fdroidserver
  4. Website updates
  5. Reproducible Builds and Insights from an Independent Verifier for Arch Linux
  6. libntlm now releasing minimal source-only tarballs
  7. Distribution work
  8. Mailing list news
  9. diffoscope
  10. Upstream patches
  11. reprotest
  12. Reproducibility testing framework

New backseat-signed tool to validate distributions source inputs kpcyrd announced a new tool called backseat-signed, after:
I figured out a somewhat straight-forward way to check if a given git archive output is cryptographically claimed to be the source input of a given binary package in either Arch Linux or Debian (or both).
Elaborating more in their announcement post, kpcyrd writes:
I believe this to be the reproducible source tarball thing some people have been asking about. As explained in the README, I believe reproducing autotools-generated tarballs isn t worth everybody s time and instead a distribution that claims to build from source should operate on VCS snapshots instead of tarballs with 25k lines of pre-generated shell-script.
Indeed, many distributions packages already build from VCS snapshots, and this trend is likely to accelerate in response to the xz incident. The announcement led to a lengthy discussion on our mailing list, as well as shorter followup thread from kpcyrd about bootstrapping Autotools projects.

NixOS is not reproducible Morten Linderud posted an post on his blog this month, provocatively titled, NixOS is not reproducible . Although quickly admitting that his title is indeed clickbait , Morten goes on to clarify the precise guarantees and promises that NixOS provides its users. Later in the most, Morten mentions that he was motivated to write the post because:
I have heavily invested my free-time on this topic since 2017, and met some of the accomplishments we have had with Doesn t NixOS solve this? for just as long and I thought it would be of peoples interest to clarify[.]

Certificate vulnerabilities in F-Droid s fdroidserver In early April, Fay Stegerman announced a certificate pinning bypass vulnerability and Proof of Concept (PoC) in the F-Droid fdroidserver tools for managing builds, indexes, updates, and deployments for F-Droid repositories to the oss-security mailing list.
We observed that embedding a v1 (JAR) signature file in an APK with minSdk >= 24 will be ignored by Android/apksigner, which only checks v2/v3 in that case. However, since fdroidserver checks v1 first, regardless of minSdk, and does not verify the signature, it will accept a fake certificate and see an incorrect certificate fingerprint. [ ] We also realised that the above mentioned discrepancy between apksigner and androguard (which fdroidserver uses to extract the v2/v3 certificates) can be abused here as well. [ ]
Later on in the month, Fay followed up with a second post detailing a third vulnerability and a script that could be used to scan for potentially affected .apk files and mentioned that, whilst upstream had acknowledged the vulnerability, they had not yet applied any ameliorating fixes.

Website updates There were a number of improvements made to our website this month, including Chris Lamb updating the archive page to recommend -X and unzipping with TZ=UTC [ ] and adding Maven, Gradle, JDK and Groovy examples to the SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH page [ ]. In addition Jan Zerebecki added a new /contribute/opensuse/ page [ ] and Sertonix fixed the automatic RSS feed detection [ ][ ].

Reproducible Builds and Insights from an Independent Verifier for Arch Linux Joshua Drexel, Esther H nggi and Iy n M ndez Veiga of the School of Computer Science and Information Technology, Hochschule Luzern (HSLU) in Switzerland published a paper this month entitled Reproducible Builds and Insights from an Independent Verifier for Arch Linux. The paper establishes the context as follows:
Supply chain attacks have emerged as a prominent cybersecurity threat in recent years. Reproducible and bootstrappable builds have the potential to reduce such attacks significantly. In combination with independent, exhaustive and periodic source code audits, these measures can effectively eradicate compromises in the building process. In this paper we introduce both concepts, we analyze the achievements over the last ten years and explain the remaining challenges.
What is more, the paper aims to:
contribute to the reproducible builds effort by setting up a rebuilder and verifier instance to test the reproducibility of Arch Linux packages. Using the results from this instance, we uncover an unnoticed and security-relevant packaging issue affecting 16 packages related to Certbot [ ].
A PDF of the paper is available.

libntlm now releasing minimal source-only tarballs Simon Josefsson wrote on his blog this month that, going forward, the libntlm project will now be releasing what they call minimal source-only tarballs :
The XZUtils incident illustrate that tarballs with files that are not included in the git archive offer an opportunity to disguise malicious backdoors. [The] risk of hiding malware is not the only motivation to publish signed minimal source-only tarballs. With pre-generated content in tarballs, there is a risk that GNU/Linux distributions [ship] generated files coming from the tarball into the binary *.deb or *.rpm package file. Typically the person packaging the upstream project never realized that some installed artifacts was not re-built[.]
Simon s post goes into further details how this was achieved, and describes some potential caveats and counters some expected responses as well. A shorter version can be found in the announcement for the 1.8 release of libntlm.

Distribution work In Debian this month, Helmut Grohne filed a bug suggesting the removal of dh-buildinfo, a tool to generate and distribute .buildinfo-like files within binary packages. Note that this is distinct from the .buildinfo generation performed by dpkg-genbuildinfo. By contrast, the entirely optional dh-buildinfo generated a debian/buildinfo file that would be shipped within binary packages as /usr/share/doc/package/buildinfo_$arch.gz. Adrian Bunk recently asked about including source hashes in Debian s .buildinfo files, which prompted Guillem Jover to refresh some old patches to dpkg to make this possible, which revealed some quirks Vagrant Cascadian discovered when testing. In addition, 21 reviews of Debian packages were added, 22 were updated and 16 were removed this month adding to our knowledge about identified issues. A number issue types have been added, such as new random_temporary_filenames_embedded_by_mesonpy and timestamps_added_by_librime toolchain issues. In openSUSE, it was announced that their Factory distribution enabled bit-by-bit reproducible builds for almost all parts of the package. Previously, more parts needed to be ignored when comparing package files, but now only the signature needs to be deleted. In addition, Bernhard M. Wiedemann published theunreproduciblepackage as a proper .rpm package which it allows to better test tools intended to debug reproducibility. Furthermore, it was announced that Bernhard s work on a 100% reproducible openSUSE-based distribution will be funded by NLnet. He also posted another monthly report for his reproducibility work in openSUSE. In GNU Guix, Janneke Nieuwenhuizen submitted a patch set for creating a reproducible source tarball for Guix. That is to say, ensuring that make dist is reproducible when run from Git. [ ] Lastly, in Fedora, a new wiki page was created to propose a change to the distribution. Titled Changes/ReproduciblePackageBuilds , the page summarises itself as a proposal whereby A post-build cleanup is integrated into the RPM build process so that common causes of build irreproducibility in packages are removed, making most of Fedora packages reproducible.

Mailing list news On our mailing list this month:
  • Continuing a thread started in March 2024 about the Arch Linux minimal container now being 100% reproducible, John Gilmore followed up with a post about the practical and philosophical distinctions of local vs. remote storage of the various artifacts needed to build packages.
  • Chris Lamb asked the list which conferences readers are attending these days: After peak Covid and other industry-wide changes, conferences are no longer the must attend events they previously were especially in the area of software supply-chain security. In rough, practical terms, it seems harder to justify conference travel today than it did in mid-2019. The thread generated a number of responses which would be of interest to anyone planning travel in Q3 and Q4 of 2024.
  • James Addison wrote to the list about a quirk in Git related to its core.autocrlf functionality, thus helpfully passing on a slightly off-topic and perhaps not of direct relevance to anyone on the list today note that might still be the kind of issue that is useful to be aware of if-and-when puzzling over unexpected git content / checksum issues (situations that I do expect people on this list encounter from time-to-time) .

diffoscope diffoscope is our in-depth and content-aware diff utility that can locate and diagnose reproducibility issues. This month, Chris Lamb made a number of changes such as uploading versions 263, 264 and 265 to Debian and made the following additional changes:
  • Don t crash on invalid .zip files, even if we encounter their badness halfway through the file and not at the time of their initial opening. [ ]
  • Prevent odt2txt tests from always being skipped due to an (impossibly) new version requirement. [ ]
  • Avoid parens-in-parens in test skipping messages. [ ]
  • Ensure that tests with >=-style version constraints actually print the tool name. [ ]
In addition, Fay Stegerman fixed a crash when there are (invalid) duplicate entries in .zip which was originally reported in Debian bug #1068705). [ ] Fay also added a user-visible note to a diff when there are duplicate entries in ZIP files [ ]. Lastly, Vagrant Cascadian added an external tool pointer for the zipdetails tool under GNU Guix [ ] and proposed updates to diffoscope in Guix as well [ ] which were merged as [264] [265], fixed a regression in test coverage and increased verbosity of the test suite[ ].

Upstream patches The Reproducible Builds project detects, dissects and attempts to fix as many currently-unreproducible packages as possible. We endeavour to send all of our patches upstream where appropriate. This month, we wrote a large number of such patches, including:

reprotest reprotest is our tool for building the same source code twice in different environments and then checking the binaries produced by each build for any differences. This month, reprotest version 0.7.27 was uploaded to Debian unstable) by Vagrant Cascadian who made the following additional changes:
  • Enable specific number of CPUs using --vary=num_cpus.cpus=X. [ ]
  • Consistently use 398 days for time variation, rather than choosing randomly each time. [ ]
  • Disable builds of arch:any packages. [ ]
  • Update the description for the build_path.path option in README.rst. [ ]
  • Update escape sequences for compatibility with Python 3.12. (#1068853). [ ]
  • Remove the generic upstream signing-key [ ] and update the packages signing key with the currently active team members [ ].
  • Update the packaging Standards-Version to 4.7.0. [ ]
In addition, Holger Levsen fixed some spelling errors detected by the spellintian tool [ ] and Vagrant Cascadian updated reprotest in GNU Guix to 0.7.27.

Reproducibility testing framework The Reproducible Builds project operates a comprehensive testing framework running primarily at tests.reproducible-builds.org in order to check packages and other artifacts for reproducibility. In April, an enormous number of changes were made by Holger Levsen:
  • Debian-related changes:
    • Adjust for changed internal IP addresses at Codethink. [ ]
    • Automatically cleanup failed diffoscope user services if there are too many failures. [ ][ ]
    • Configure two new nodes at infomanik.cloud. [ ][ ]
    • Schedule Debian experimental even less. [ ][ ]
  • Breakage detection:
    • Exclude currently building packages from breakage detection. [ ]
    • Be more noisy if diffoscope crashes. [ ]
    • Health check: provide clickable URLs in jenkins job log for failed pkg builds due to diffoscope crashes. [ ]
    • Limit graph to about the last 100 days of breakages only. [ ]
    • Fix all found files with bad permissions. [ ]
    • Prepare dealing with diffoscope timeouts. [ ]
    • Detect more cases of failure to debootstrap base system. [ ]
    • Include timestamps of failed job runs. [ ]
  • Documentation updates:
    • Document how to access arm64 nodes at Codethink. [ ]
    • Document how to use infomaniak.cloud. [ ]
    • Drop notes about long stalled LeMaker HiKey960 boards sponsored by HPE and hosted at ETH. [ ]
    • Mention osuosl4 and osuosl5 and explain their usage. [ ]
    • Mention that some packages are built differently. [ ][ ]
    • Improve language in a comment. [ ]
    • Add more notes how to query resource usage from infomaniak.cloud. [ ]
  • Node maintenance:
    • Add ionos4 and ionos14 to THANKS. [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]
    • Deprecate Squid on ionos1 and ionos10. [ ]
    • Drop obsolete script to powercycle arm64 architecture nodes. [ ]
    • Update system_health_check for new proxy nodes. [ ]
  • Misc changes:
    • Make the update_jdn.sh script more robust. [ ][ ]
    • Update my SSH public key. [ ]
In addition, Mattia Rizzolo added some new host details. [ ]

If you are interested in contributing to the Reproducible Builds project, please visit our Contribute page on our website. However, you can get in touch with us via:

9 May 2024

Gunnar Wolf: Hacks, leaks, and revelations The art of analyzing hacked and leaked data

This post is a review for Computing Reviews for Hacks, leaks and revelations The art of analyzing hacked and leaked data , a book published in No Starch Press
Imagine you ve come across a trove of files documenting a serious deed and you feel the need to blow the whistle. Or maybe you are an investigative journalist and this whistleblower trusts you and wants to give you said data. Or maybe you are a technical person, trusted by said journalist to help them do things right not only to help them avoid being exposed while leaking the information, but also to assist them in analyzing the contents of the dataset. This book will be a great aid for all of the above tasks. The author, Micah Lee, is both a journalist and a computer security engineer. The book is written entirely from his experience handling important datasets, and is organized in a very logical and sound way. Lee organized the 14 chapters in five parts. The first part the most vital to transmitting the book s message, in my opinion begins by talking about the care that must be taken when handling a sensitive dataset: how to store it, how to communicate it to others, sometimes even what to redact (exclude) so the information retains its strength but does not endanger others (or yourself). The first two chapters introduce several tools for encrypting information and keeping communication anonymous, not getting too deep into details and keeping it aimed at a mostly nontechnical audience. Something that really sets this book apart from others like it is that Lee s aim is not only to tell stories about the hacks and leaks he has worked with, or to present the technical details on how he analyzed them, but to teach readers how to do the work. From Part 2 onward the book adopts a tutorial style, teaching the reader numerous tools for obtaining and digging information out of huge and very timely datasets. Lee guides the reader through various data breaches, all of them leaked within the last five years: BlueLeaks, Oath Keepers email dumps, Heritage Foundation, Parler, Epik, and Cadence Health. He guides us through a tutorial on using the command line (mostly targeted at Linux, but considering MacOS and Windows as well), running Docker containers, learning the basics of Python, parsing and filtering structured data, writing small web applications for getting at the right bits of data, and working with structured query language (SQL) databases. The book does an excellent job of fulfilling its very ambitious aims, and this is even more impressive given the wide range of professional profiles it is written for; that being said, I do have a couple critiques. First, the book is ideologically loaded: the datasets all exhibit the alt-right movement that has gained strength in the last decade. Lee takes the reader through many instances of COVID deniers, rioters for Donald Trump during the January 2021 attempted coup, attacks against Black Lives Matter activists, and other extremism research; thus this book could alienate right-wing researchers, who might also be involved in handling important whistleblowing cases. Second, given the breadth of the topic and my 30-plus years of programming experience, I was very interested in the first part of each chapter but less so in the tutorial part. I suppose a journalist reading through the same text might find the sections about the importance of data handling and source protection to be similarly introductory. This is unavoidable, of course, given the nature of this work. However, while Micah Lee is an excellent example of a journalist with the appropriate technical know-how to process the types of material he presents as examples, expecting any one person to become a professional in both fields is asking too much. All in all, this book is excellent. The writing style is informal and easy to read, the examples are engaging, and the analysis is very good. It will certainly teach you something, no matter your background, and it might very well complement your professional skills.

4 May 2024

Sven Hoexter: vym - view your mind

Had a need for a mindmapping application and found view your mind in the archive. Works but the version is a bit rusty. Sadly my Debian packaging skills are a bit rusty as well, especially when it comes to bigger GUI applications. Thus I spent a good chunk of yesterday afternoon to rip out cdbs and package the last source release on github which is right now 2.9.22 (the release branch already has 2.9.27, still sorting that out). Git repository and a amd64 build of the current state. It still deserves some additional love, e.g. creating a -common package for arch indep content. Proposed a few changes upstream: Also pinged pollux@ who uploaded vym up to 2019 if he'd be fine if I pick it up. If someone else is interested, I'm also fine to put it up on salsa in the general "Debian" group for shared maintenance. I guess I will use it in the future, but time is still a scarce resource for all of us.

Next.