Search Results: "agi"

6 August 2020

Christian Kastner: My new favorite utility: autojump

Like any developer, I have amassed an impressive collection of directory trees both broad and deep. Navigating these trees became increasingly cumbersome, and setting CDPATH, using auto-completion, and working with the readline history search alleviated this only somewhat. Enter autojump, from the package of the same name. Whatever magic it uses is unbelievably effective. I estimate that in at least 95% of my cases, typing j <name-fragment> changes to the directory I was actually thinking of. Say I'm working on package scikit-learn. My clone of the Salsa repo is in ~/code/pkg-scikit-learn/scikit-learn. Changing to that directory is trivial, I only need to specify a name fragment:
$ j sci
But what if I want to work on scikit-learn upstream, to prepare a patch, for example? That repo has been cloned to ~/code/github/scikit-learn. No problem at all, just add another name fragment:
$ j gi sci
The magic, however, is most evident with directory trees I rarely enter. As in: I have a good idea of the directory name I wish to change to, but I don't really recall its exact name, nor where (in the tree) it is located. I used to rely on autocomplete to somehow get there which can involve hitting the [TAB] key far too many times, and falling back to find in the worst case, but now, autojump always seems gets me there on first try. I can't believe that this has been available in Debian for 10 years and I only discovered it now.

3 August 2020

Holger Levsen: 20200803-debconf5

DebConf5 This tshirt is 15 years old and from DebConf5. It still looks quite nice! :) DebConf5 was my 3rd DebConf and took place in Helsinki, or rather Espoo, in Finland. This was one of my most favorite DebConfs (though I basically loved them all) and I'm not really sure why, I guess it's because of the kind of community at the event. We stayed in some future dorms of the universtity, which were to be first used by some European athletics chamopionship and which we could use even before that, guests zero. Being in Finland there were of course saunas in the dorms, which we frequently used and greatly enjoyed. Still, one day we had to go on a trip to another sauna in the forest, because of course you cannot visit Finland and only see one sauna. Or at least, you should not. Another aspect which increased community bonding was that we had to authenticate using 802.10 (IIRC, please correct me) which was an authentication standard mostly used for wireless but which also works for wired ethernet, except that not many had used it on Linux before. Thus quite some related bugs were fixed in the first days of DebCamp... Then my powerpc ibook also decided to go bad, so I had to remove 30 screws to get the harddrive out and 30 screws back in, to not have 30 screws laying around for a week. Then I put the harddrive into a spare (x86) laptop and only used my /home partition and was very happy this worked nicely. And then, for travelling back, I had to unscrew and screw 30 times again. (I think my first attempt took 1.5h and the fourth only 45min or so ;) Back home then I bought a laptop where one could remove the harddrive using one screw. Oh, and then I was foolish during the DebConf5 preparations and said, that I could imagine setting up a team and doing video recordings, as previous DebConfs mostly didn't have recordings and the one that had, didn't have releases of them... And so we did videos. And as we were mostly inexperienced we did them the hard way: during the day we recorded on tape and then when the talks were done, we used a postprocessing tool called 'cinelerra' and edited them. And because Eric Evans was on the team and because Eric worked every night almost all night, all nights, we managed to actually release them all when DebConf5 was over. I very well remember many many (23 or 42) Debian people cleaning the dorms thoroughly (as they were brand new..) and Eric just sitting somewhere, exhausted and watching the cleaners. And everybody was happy Eric was idling there, cause we knew why. In the aftermath of DebConf5 Ben Hutchings then wrote videolink (removed from sid in 2013) which we used to create video DVDs of our recordings based on a simple html file with links to the actual videos. There were many more memorable events. The boat ride was great. A pirate flag appeared. One night people played guitar until very late (or rather early) close to the dorms, so at about 3 AM someone complained about it, not in person, but on the debian-devel mailinglist. And those drunk people playing guitar, replied immediatly on the mailinglist. And then someone from the guitar group gave a talk, at 9 AM, and the video is online... ;) (It's a very slowwwwwww talk.) If you haven't been to or close to the polar circles it's almost impossible to anticipate how life is in summer there. It get's a bit darker after midnight or rather after 1 AM and then at 3 AM it get's light again, so it's reaaaaaaally easy to miss the night once and it's absolutly not hard to miss the night for several nights in a row. And then I shared a room with 3 people who all snore quite loud... There was more. I was lucky to witness the first (or second?) cheese and whine party which at that time took place in a dorm room with, dunno 10 people and maybe 15 kinds of cheese. And, of course, I met many wonderful people there, to mention a few I'll say Jesus, I mean mooch or data, Amaya and p2. And thanks to some bad luck which turned well, I also had my first time ever Sushi in Helsinki. And and and. DebConfs are soooooooo good! :-) I'll stop here as I originally planned to only write a paragraph or two about each and there are quite some to be written! Oh, and as we all learned, there are probably no mosquitos in Helsinki, just in Espoo. And you can swim naked through a lake and catch a taxi on the other site, with no clothes and no money, no big deal. (And you might not believe it, but that wasn't me. I cannot swim that well.)

2 August 2020

Andrew Cater: Debian 10.5 media testing - 202001082250 - last few debian-live images being tested for amd64 - Calamares issue - Post 5 of several.

Last few debian-live images being tested for amd64. We have found a bug with the debian-live Gnome flavour. This specifically affects installs after booting from the live media and then installing to the machine using the Calamares installer found on the desktop. The bug was introduced as a fix for one issue that has produced further buggy behaviour as a result.

Fixes are known - we've had highvoltage come and debug them with us - but will not be put out with this release but will wait for the 10.6 release which will allow for a longer time for debugging overall.

You can still run from the live-media, you can still install with the standard Debian installers found in the menu of the live-media disk - this is _only_ a limited time issue with the Calamares installer. At this point in the release cycle, it's been judged better to release the images as they are - with known and documented issues - than to try and debug them in a hurry and risk damaging or delaying a stable point release.

Enrico Zini: Gender, inclusive communities, and dragonflies

Sex ratios The sex ratio of male to female dragonflies varies both temporally and spatially. Adult dragonflies have a high male-biased ratio at breeding habitats. The male-bias ratio has contributed partially to the females using different habitats to avoid male harassment. As seen in Hine's emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana), male populations use wetland habitats, while females use dry meadows and marginal breeding habitats, only migrating to the wetlands to lay their eggs or to find mating partners. Unwanted mating is energetically costly for females because it affects the amount of time that they are able to spend foraging.

1 August 2020

Utkarsh Gupta: FOSS Activites in July 2020

Here s my (tenth) monthly update about the activities I ve done in the F/L/OSS world.

This was my 17th month of contributing to Debian. I became a DM in late March last year and a DD last Christmas! \o/ Well, this month I didn t do a lot of Debian stuff, like I usually do, however, I did a lot of things related to Debian (indirectly via GSoC)! Anyway, here are the following things I did this month:

Uploads and bug fixes:

Other $things:
  • Mentoring for newcomers.
  • FTP Trainee reviewing.
  • Moderation of -project mailing list.
  • Sponsored php-twig for William, ruby-growl, ruby-xmpp4r, and uby-uniform-notifier for Cocoa, sup-mail for Iain, and node-markdown-it for Sakshi.

GSoC Phase 2, Part 2! In May, I got selected as a Google Summer of Code student for Debian again! \o/
I am working on the Upstream-Downstream Cooperation in Ruby project. The first three blogs can be found here: Also, I log daily updates at Whilst the daily updates are available at the above site^, I ll breakdown the important parts of the later half of the second month here:
  • Marc Andre, very kindly, helped in fixing the specs that were failing earlier this month. Well, the problem was with the specs, but I am still confused how so. Anyway..
  • Finished documentation of the second cop and marked the PR as ready to be reviewed.
  • David reviewed and suggested some really good changes and I fixed/tweaked that PR as per his suggestion to finally finish the last bits of the second cop, RelativeRequireToLib.
  • Merged the PR upon two approvals and released it as v0.2.0!
  • We had our next weekly meeting where we discussed the next steps and the things that are supposed to be done for the next set of cops.
  • Introduced rubocop-packaging to the outer world and requested other upstream projects to use it! It is being used by 13 other projects already!
  • Started to work on packaging-style-guide but I didn t push anything to the public repository yet.
  • Worked on refactoring the cops_documentation Rake task which was broken by the new auto-corrector API. Opened PR #7 for it. It ll be merged after the next RuboCop release as it uses CopsDocumentationGenerator class from the master branch.
  • Whilst working on autoprefixer-rails, I found something unusual. The second cop shouldn t really report offenses if the require_relative calls are from lib to lib itself. This is a false-positive. Opened issue #8 for the same.

Debian (E)LTS
Debian Long Term Support (LTS) is a project to extend the lifetime of all Debian stable releases to (at least) 5 years. Debian LTS is not handled by the Debian security team, but by a separate group of volunteers and companies interested in making it a success. And Debian Extended LTS (ELTS) is its sister project, extending support to the Jessie release (+2 years after LTS support). This was my tenth month as a Debian LTS and my first as a Debian ELTS paid contributor.
I was assigned 25.25 hours for LTS and 13.25 hours for ELTS and worked on the following things:

LTS CVE Fixes and Announcements:

ELTS CVE Fixes and Announcements:

Other (E)LTS Work:
  • Did my LTS frontdesk duty from 29th June to 5th July.
  • Triaged qemu, firefox-esr, wordpress, libmediainfo, squirrelmail, xen, openjpeg2, samba, and ldb.
  • Mark CVE-2020-15395/libmediainfo as no-dsa for Jessie.
  • Mark CVE-2020-13754/qemu as no-dsa/intrusive for Stretch and Jessie.
  • Mark CVE-2020-12829/qemu as no-dsa for Jessie.
  • Mark CVE-2020-10756/qemu as not-affected for Jessie.
  • Mark CVE-2020-13253/qemu as postponed for Jessie.
  • Drop squirrelmail and xen for Stretch LTS.
  • Add notes for tomcat8, shiro, and cacti to take care of the Stretch issues.
  • Emailed team@security.d.o and debian-lts@l.d.o regarding possible clashes.
  • Maintenance of LTS Survey on the self-hosted LimeSurvey instance. Received 1765 (just wow!) responses.
  • Attended the fourth LTS meeting. MOM here.
  • General discussion on LTS private and public mailing list.

Sometimes it gets hard to categorize work/things into a particular category.
That s why I am writing all of those things inside this category.
This includes two sub-categories and they are as follows.

Personal: This month I did the following things:
  • Released v0.2.0 of rubocop-packaging on RubyGems!
    It s open-sourced and the repository is here.
    Bug reports and pull requests are welcomed!
  • Released v0.1.0 of get_root on RubyGems!
    It s open-sourced and the repository is here.
  • Wrote max-word-frequency, my Rails C1M2 programming assignment.
    And made it pretty neater & cleaner!
  • Refactored my lts-dla and elts-ela scripts entirely and wrote them in Ruby so that there are no issues and no false-positives!
    Check lts-dla here and elts-ela here.
  • And finally, built my first Rails (mini) web-application!
    The repository is here. This was also a programming assignment (C1M3).
    And furthermore, hosted it at Heroku.

Open Source: Again, this contains all the things that I couldn t categorize earlier.
Opened several issues and PRs:
  • Issue #8273 against rubocop, reporting a false-positive auto-correct for Style/WhileUntilModifier.
  • Issue #615 against http reporting a weird behavior of a flaky test.
  • PR #3791 for rubygems/bundler to remove redundant bundler/setup require call from spec_helper generated by bundle gem.
  • Issue #3831 against rubygems, reporting a traceback of undefined method, rubyforge_project=.
  • Issue #238 against nheko asking for enhancement in showing the font name in the very font itself.
  • PR #2307 for puma to constrain rake-compiler to v0.9.4.
  • And finally, I joined the Cucumber organization! \o/

Thank you for sticking along for so long :) Until next time.
:wq for today.

31 July 2020

Chris Lamb: Free software activities in July 2020

Here is my monthly update covering what I have been doing in the free and open source software world during July 2020 (previous month): For Lintian, the static analysis tool for Debian packages:

Reproducible Builds One of the original promises of open source software is that distributed peer review and transparency of process results in enhanced end-user security. However, whilst anyone may inspect the source code of free and open source software for malicious flaws, almost all software today is distributed as pre-compiled binaries. This allows nefarious third-parties to compromise systems by injecting malicious code into ostensibly secure software during the various compilation and distribution processes. The motivation behind the Reproducible Builds effort is to ensure no flaws have been introduced during this compilation process by promising identical results are always generated from a given source, thus allowing multiple third-parties to come to a consensus on whether a build was compromised. The project is proud to be a member project of the Software Freedom Conservancy. Conservancy acts as a corporate umbrella allowing projects to operate as non-profit initiatives without managing their own corporate structure. If you like the work of the Conservancy or the Reproducible Builds project, please consider becoming an official supporter. This month, I:

diffoscope Elsewhere in our tooling, I made the following changes to diffoscope, including preparing and uploading versions 150, 151, 152, 153 & 154 to Debian:

Debian In Debian, I made the following uploads this month:

Debian LTS This month I have worked 18 hours on Debian Long Term Support (LTS) and 12 for the Extended LTS project. This included: You can find out more about the project via the following video:

29 July 2020

Enrico Zini: Building and packaging a sysroot

This is part of a series of posts on compiling a custom version of Qt5 in order to develop for both amd64 and a Raspberry Pi. After having had some success with a sysroot in having a Qt5 cross-build environment that includes QtWebEngine, the next step is packaging the sysroot so it can be available both to build the cross-build environment, and to do cross-development with it. The result is this Debian source package which takes a Raspberry Pi OS disk image, provisions it in-place, extracts its contents, and packages them. Yes. You may want to reread the last paragraph. It works directly in the disk image to avoid a nasty filesystem issue on emulated 32bit Linux over a 64bit mounted filesystem. This feels like the most surreal Debian package I've ever created, and this saga looks like one of the hairiest yaks I've ever shaved. Integrating this monster codebase, full of bundled code and hacks, into a streamlined production and deployment system has been for me a full stack nightmare, and I have a renewed and growing respect for the people in the Qt/KDE team in Debian, who manage to stay on top of this mess, so that it all just works when we need it.

28 July 2020

Russ Allbery: Review: The City in the Middle of the Night

Review: The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: February 2019
Printing: February 2020
ISBN: 1-4668-7113-X
Format: Kindle
Pages: 366
January is a tidally-locked planet divided between permanent night and permanent day, an unfortunate destination for a colony starship. Now, humans cling to a precarious existence along the terminator, huddling in two wildly different cities and a handful of smaller settlements, connected by a road through the treacherous cold. The novel opens with Sophie, a shy university student from the dark side of the city of Xiosphant. She has an overwhelming crush on Bianca, her high-class, self-confident roommate and one of the few people in her life to have ever treated her with compassion and attention. That crush, and her almost non-existent self-esteem, lead her to take the blame for Bianca's petty theft, resulting in what should have been a death sentence. Sophie survives only because she makes first contact with a native intelligent species of January, one that the humans have been hunting for food and sport. Sadly, I think this is enough Anders for me. I've now bounced off two of her novels, both for structural reasons that I think go deeper than execution and indicate a fundamental mismatch between what Anders wants to do as an author and what I'm looking for as a reader. I'll talk more about what this book is doing in a moment, but I have to start with Bianca and Sophie. It's difficult for me to express how much I loathed this relationship and how little I wanted to read about it. It took me about five pages to peg Bianca as a malignant narcissist and Sophie's all-consuming crush as dangerous codependency. It took the entire book for Sophie to figure out how awful Bianca is to her, during which Bianca goes through the entire abusive partner playbook of gaslighting, trivializing, contingent affection, jealous rage, and controlling behavior. And meanwhile Sophie goes back to her again, and again, and again, and again. If I hadn't been reading this book on a Kindle, I think it would have physically hit a wall after their conversation in the junkyard. This is truly a matter of personal taste and preference. This is not an unrealistic relationship; this dynamic happens in life all too often. I'm sure there is someone for whom reading about Sophie's spectacularly poor choices is affirming or cathartic. I've not personally experienced this sort of relationship, which doubtless matters. But having empathy for someone who is making awful and self-destructive life decisions and trusting someone they should not be trusting and who is awful to them in every way is difficult work. Sophie is the victim of Bianca's abuse, but she does so many stupid and ill-conceived things in support of this twisted relationship that I found it very difficult to not get angry at her. Meanwhile, Anders writes Sophie as so clearly fragile and uncertain and devoid of a support network that getting angry at her is like kicking a puppy. The result for me was spending nearly an entire book in a deeply unpleasant state of emotional dissonance. I may be willing to go through that for a close friend, but in a work of fiction it's draining and awful and entirely not fun. The other viewpoint character had the opposite problem for me. Mouth starts the book as a traveling smuggler, the sole survivor of a group of religious travelers called the Citizens. She's practical, tough, and guarded. Beneath that, I think the intent was to show her as struggling to come to terms with the loss of her family and faith community. Her first goal in the book is to recover a recording of Citizen sacred scripture to preserve it and to reconnect with her past. This sounds interesting on the surface, but none of it gelled. Mouth never felt to me like someone from a faith community. She doesn't act on Citizen beliefs to any meaningful extent, she rarely talks about them, and when she does, her attitude is nostalgia without spirituality. When Mouth isn't pursuing goals that turn out to be meaningless, she aimlessly meandered through the story. Sophie at least has agency and makes some important and meaningful decisions. Mouth is just there, even when Anders does shattering things to her understanding of her past. Between Sophie and Bianca putting my shoulders up around my ears within the first few pages of the first chapter and failing to muster any enthusiasm for Mouth, I said the eight deadly words ("I don't care what happens to these people") about a hundred pages in and the book never recovered. There are parts of the world-building I did enjoy. The alien species that Sophie bonds with is not stunningly original, but it's a good (and detailed) take on one of the alternate cognitive and social models that science fiction has dreamed up. I was comparing the strangeness and dislocation unfavorably to China Mi ville's Embassytown while I was reading it, but in retrospect Anders's treatment is more decolonialized. Xiosphant's turn to Circadianism as their manifestation of order is a nicely understated touch, a believable political overreaction to the lack of a day/night cycle. That touch is significantly enhanced by Sophie's time working in a salon whose business model is to help Xiosphant residents temporarily forget about time. And what glimmers we got of politics on the colony ship and their echoing influence on social and political structures were intriguing. Even with the world-building, though, I want the author to be interested in and willing to expand the same bits of world-building that I'm engaged with. Anders didn't seem to be. The reader gets two contrasting cities along a road, one authoritarian and one libertine, which makes concrete a metaphor for single-axis political classification. But then Anders does almost nothing with that setup; it's just the backdrop of petty warlord politics, and none of the political activism of Bianca's student group seems to have relevance or theoretical depth. It's a similar shallowness as the religion of Mouth's Citizens: We get a few fragments of culture and religion, but without narrative exploration and without engagement from any of the characters. The way the crew of the Mothership was assembled seems to have led to a factional and racial caste system based on city of origin and technical expertise, but I couldn't tell you more than that because few of the characters seem to care. And so on. In short, the world-building that I wanted to add up to a coherent universe that was meaningful to the characters and to the plot seemed to be little more than window-dressing. Anders tosses in neat ideas, but they don't add up to anything. They're just background scenery for Bianca and Sophie's drama. The one thing that The City in the Middle of the Night does well is Sophie's nervous but excited embrace of the unknown. It was delightful to see the places where a typical protagonist would have to overcome a horror reaction or talk themselves through tradeoffs and where Sophie's reaction was instead "yes, of course, let's try." It provided an emotional strength to an extended first-contact exploration scene that made it liberating and heart-warming without losing the alienness. During that part of the book (in which, not coincidentally, Bianca does not appear), I was able to let my guard down and like Sophie for the first time, and I suspect that was intentional on Anders's part. But, overall, I think the conflict between Anders's story-telling approach and my preferences as a reader are mostly irreconcilable. She likes to write about people who make bad decisions and compound their own problems. In one of the chapters of her non-fiction book about writing that's being serialized on she says "when we watch someone do something unforgivable, we're primed to root for them as they search desperately for an impossible forgiveness." This is absolutely not true for me; when I watch a character do something unforgivable, I want to see repudiation from the protagonists and ideally some clear consequences. When that doesn't happen, I want to stop reading about them and find something more enjoyable to do with my time. I certainly don't want to watch a viewpoint character insist that the person who is doing unforgivable things is the center of her life. If your preferences on character and story arc are closer to Anders's than mine, you may like this book. Certainly lots of people did; it was nominated for multiple awards and won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. But despite the things it did well, I had a truly miserable time reading it and am not anxious to repeat the experience. Rating: 4 out of 10

27 July 2020

Russ Allbery: Review: Rise of the Warrior Cop

Review: Rise of the Warrior Cop, by Radley Balko
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Copyright: 2013
ISBN: 1-61039-212-4
Format: Kindle
Pages: 336
As the United States tries, in fits and starts, to have a meaningful discussion about long-standing police racism, brutality, overreach, corruption, and murder, I've realized that my theoretical understanding of the history of and alternative frameworks for law enforcement is woefully lacking. Starting with a book by a conservative white guy is not the most ideal of approaches, but it's what I already had on hand, and it won't be the last book I read and review on this topic. (Most of my research so far has been in podcast form. I don't review those here, but I can recommend Ezra Klein's interviews with Ta-Nehisi Coates, Paul Butler, and, most strongly, sujatha baliga.) Rise of the Warrior Cop is from 2013 and has had several moments of fame, no doubt helped by Balko's connections to the conservative and libertarian right. One of the frustrating facts of US politics is that critiques of the justice system from the right (and from white men) get more media attention than critiques from the left. That said, it's a generally well-respected book on the factual history of the topic, and police brutality and civil rights are among the points on which I have stopped-clock agreements with US libertarians. This book is very, very libertarian. In my callow youth, I was an ardent libertarian, so I've read a lot of US libertarian literature. It's a genre with its own conventions that become obvious when you read enough of it, and Rise of the Warrior Cop goes through them like a checklist. Use the Roman Republic (never the Roman Empire) as the starting point for any political discussion, check. Analyze the topic in the context of pre-revolutionary America, check. Spend considerable effort on discerning the opinions of the US founders on the topic since their opinions are always relevant to the modern world, check. Locate some point in the past (preferably before 1960) where the political issue was as good as it has ever been, check. Frame all changes since then as an erosion of rights through government overreach, check. Present your solution as a return to a previous era of respect for civil rights, check. Once you start recognizing the genre conventions, their prevalence in libertarian writing is almost comical. The framing chapters therefore leave a bit to be desired, but the meat of the book is a useful resource. Starting with the 1970s and its use as a campaigning tool by Nixon, Balko traces a useful history of the war on drugs. And starting with the 1980s, the number of cites to primary sources and the evidence of Balko's own research increases considerably. If you want to know how US police turned into military cosplayers with body armor, heavy weapons, and armored vehicles, this book provides a lot of context and history. One of the reasons why I view libertarians as allies of convenience on this specific issue is that drug legalization and disgust with the war on drugs have been libertarian issues for decades. Ideologically honest libertarians (and Balko appears to be one) are inherently skeptical of the police, so when the police overreach in an area of libertarian interest, they notice. Balko makes a solid argument, backed up with statistics, specific programs, legislation, and court cases, that the drug war and its accompanying lies about heavily-armed drug dealers and their supposed threat to police officers was the fuel for the growth of SWAT teams, no-knock search warrants, erosion of legal protections for criminal defendants, and de facto license for the police to ignore the scope and sometimes even the existence of warrants. This book is useful support for the argument that fears for the safety of officers underlying the militarization of police forces are imaginary. One telling point that Balko makes repeatedly and backs with statistical and anecdotal evidence is that the police generally do not use raid tactics on dangerous criminals. On the contrary, aggressive raids are more likely to be used on the least dangerous criminals because they're faster, they're fun for the police (they provide an adrenaline high and let them play with toys), and they're essentially risk-free. If the police believe someone is truly dangerous, they're more likely to use careful surveillance and to conduct a quiet arrest at an unexpected moment. The middle-of-the-night armed break-ins with battering rams, tear gas, and flash-bangs are, tellingly, used against the less dangerous suspects. This is part of Balko's overall argument that police equipment and tactics have become untethered from any realistic threat and have become cultural. He traces an acceleration of that trend to 9/11 and the resulting obsession with terrorism, which further opened the spigot of military hardware and "special forces" training. This became a point of competition between police departments, with small town forces that had never seen a terrorist and had almost no chance of a terrorist incident demanding their own armored vehicles. I've encountered this bizarre terrorism justification personally; one of the reasons my local police department gave in a public hearing for not having a policy against shooting at moving vehicles was "but what if terrorism?" I don't believe there has ever been a local terrorist attack. SWAT in such places didn't involve the special training or dedicated personnel of large city forces; instead, it was a part-time duty for normal police officers, and frequently they were encouraged to practice SWAT tactics by using them at random for some otherwise normal arrest or search. Balko argues that those raids were more exciting than normal police work, leading to a flood of volunteers for that duty and a tendency to use them as much as possible. That in turn normalizes disconnecting police tactics from the underlying crime or situational risk. So far, so good. But despite the information I was able to extract from it, I have mixed feelings about Rise of the Warrior Cop as a whole. At the least, it has substantial limitations. First, I don't trust the historical survey of policing in this book. Libertarian writing makes for bad history. The constraints of the genre require overusing only a few points of reference, treating every opinion of the US founders as holy writ, and tying forward progress to a return to a previous era, all of which interfere with good analysis. Balko also didn't do the research for the historical survey, as is clear from the footnotes. The citations are all to other people's histories, not to primary sources. He's summarizing other people's histories, and you'll almost certainly get better history by finding well-respected historians who cover the same ground. (That said, if you're not familiar with Peel's policing principles, this is a good introduction.) Second, and this too is unfortunately predictable in a libertarian treatment, race rarely appears in this book. If Balko published the same book today, I'm sure he would say more about race, but even in 2013 its absence is strange. I was struck while reading by how many examples of excessive police force were raids on west coast pot farms; yes, I'm sure that was traumatic, but it's not the demographic I would name as the most vulnerable to or affected by police brutality. West coast pot growers are, however, mostly white. I have no idea why Balko made that choice. Perhaps he thought his target audience would be more persuaded by his argument if he focused on white victims. Perhaps he thought it was an easier and less complicated story to tell. Perhaps, like a lot of libertarians, he doesn't believe racism has a significant impact on society because it would be a market failure. Perhaps those were the people who more readily came to mind. But to talk about police militarization, denial of civil rights, and police brutality in the United States without putting race at the center of both the history and the societal effects leaves a gaping hole in the analysis. Given that lack of engagement, I also am dubious of Balko's policy prescriptions. His reform suggestions aren't unreasonable, but they stay firmly in the centrist and incrementalist camp and would benefit white people more than black people. Transparency, accountability, and cultural changes are all fine and good, but the cultural change Balko is focused on is less aggressive arrest tactics, more use of mediation, and better physical fitness. I would not object to those things (well, maybe the last, which seemed odd), but we need to have a discussion about police white supremacist organizations, the prevalence of spousal abuse, and the police tendency to see themselves not as public servants but as embattled warriors who are misunderstood by the naive sheep they are defending. And, of course, you won't find in Rise of the Warrior Cop any thoughtful wrestling with whether there are alternative approaches to community safety, whether punitive rather than restorative justice is effective, or whether crime is a symptom of deeper societal problems we could address but refuse to. The most radical suggestion Balko has is to legalize drugs, which is both the predictable libertarian position and, as we have seen from recent events in the United States, far from the only problem of overcriminalization. I understand why this book is so frequently mentioned on-line, and its author's political views may make it more palatable to some people than a more race-centered or radical perspective. But I don't think this is the best or most useful book on police violence that one could read today. I hope to find a better one in upcoming reviews. Rating: 6 out of 10

26 July 2020

Russ Allbery: Review: Paladin's Grace

Review: Paladin's Grace, by T. Kingfisher
Publisher: Red Wombat Studio
Copyright: 2020
Format: Kindle
Pages: 399
Stephen was a paladin. Then his god died. He was a berserker, an unstoppable warrior in the service of his god. Now, well, he's still a berserker, but going berserk when you don't have a god to control the results is not a good idea. He and his brothers were taken in by the Temple of the Rat, where they serve as guards, watch out for each other, and try to get through each day with an emptiness in their souls where a god should be. Stephen had just finished escorting a healer through some of the poorer parts of town when a woman runs up to him and asks him to hide her. Their awkward simulated tryst is sufficient to fool the two Motherhood priests who were after her for picking flowers from the graveyard. Stephen then walks her home and that would have been the end of it, except that neither could get the other out of their mind. Despite first appearances, and despite being set in the same world and sharing a supporting character, this is not the promised sequel to Swordheart (which is apparently still coming). It's an entirely different paladin story. T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon's nom de plume when writing for adults) has a lot of things to say about paladins! And, apparently, paladin-involved romances. On the romance front, Kingfisher clearly has a type. The general shape of the story will be familiar from Swordheart and The Wonder Engine: An independent and occasionally self-confident woman with various quirks, a hunky paladin who is often maddeningly dense, and a lot of worrying on both sides about whether the other person is truly interested in them and if their personal liabilities make a relationship a horrible idea. This is not my preferred romance formula (it provokes the occasional muttered "for the love of god just talk to each other"), but I liked this iteration of it better than the previous two, mostly because of Grace. Grace is a perfumer, a trade she went into by being picked out of a lineup of orphans by a master perfumer for her sense of smell. One of Kingfisher's strengths as a writer is showing someone get lost in their routine day-to-day competence. When mixed with an inherently fascinating profession, this creates a great reading experience. Grace is also an abuse survivor, which made the communication difficulties with Stephen more interesting and subtle. Grace has created space and a life for herself, and her unwillingness to take risks on changes is a deep part of her sense of self and personal safety. As her past is slowly revealed, Kingfisher puts the reader in a position to share Stephen's anger and protectiveness, but then consistently puts Grace's own choices, coping mechanisms, and irritated refusal to be protected back into the center of the story. She has to accept some help as she gets entangled in the investigation of a highly political staged assassination attempt, but both that help and the relationship come on her own terms. It's very well-done. The plot was enjoyable enough, although it involved a bit too much of constantly rising stakes and turns for the worst for my taste, and the ending had a touch of deus ex machina. Like Kingfisher's other books, though, the delight is in the unexpected details. Stephen knitting socks. Grace's frustrated obsession with why he smells like gingerbread. The beautifully practical and respectful relationship between the Temple of the Rat and Stephen's band of former paladins. (After only two books in which they play a major role, the Temple of the Rat is already one of my favorite fantasy religions.) Everything about Bishop Beartongue. Grace's friend Marguerite. And a truly satisfying ending. The best part of this book, though, is the way Grace is shown as a complete character in a way that even most books with well-rounded characterization don't manage. Some things she does make the reader's heart ache because of the hints they provide about her past, but they're also wise and effective safety mechanisms for her. Kingfisher gives her space to be competent and prickly and absent-minded. She has a complete life: friends, work, goals, habits, and little rituals. Grace meets someone and falls in love, but one can readily imagine her not falling in love and going on with her life and that result wouldn't be tragic. In short, she feels like a grown adult who has made her own peace with where she came from and what she is doing. The book provides her an opportunity for more happiness and more closure without undermining her independence. I rarely see this in a novel, and even more rarely done this well. If you haven't read any of Kingfisher's books and are in the mood for faux-medieval city romance involving a perfumer and a bit of political skulduggery, this is a great place to start. If you liked Swordheart, you'll probably like Paladin's Grace; like me, you may even like it a bit more. Recommended, particularly if you want something light and heart-warming. Rating: 8 out of 10

25 July 2020

Niels Thykier: Support for Debian packaging files in IDEA (IntelliJ/PyCharm)

I have been using the community editions of IntelliJ and PyCharm for a while now for Python or Perl projects. But it started to annoy me that for Debian packaging bits it would revert into a fancy version of notepad. Being fed up with it, I set down and spent the last week studying how to write a plugin to fix this.

After a few prototypes, I have now released IDEA-debpkg v0.0.3 (Link to JetBrain s official plugin listing with screenshots). It provides a set of basic features for debian/control like syntax highlighting, various degree of content validation, folding of long fields, code completion and CTRL + hover documentation. For debian/changelog, it is mostly just syntax highlighting with a bit of fancy linking for now. I have not done anything for debian/rules as I noted there is a Makefile plugin, which will have to do for now.

The code is available from github and licensed under Apache-2.0. Contributors, issues/feature requests and pull requests are very welcome. Among things I could help with are:

I hope you will take it for spin if you have been looking for a bit of Debian packaging support to your PyCharm or other IDEA IDE.  Please do file bugs/issues if you run into issues, rough edges or unhelpful documentation, etc.

24 July 2020

Mike Gabriel: Ayatana Indicators / IDO - Menu Rendering Fixed with vanilla GTK-3+

At DebConf 17 in Montreal, I gave a talk about Ayatana Indicators [1] and the project's goal to continue the by then already dropped out of maintenance Ubuntu Indicators in a separate upstream project, detached from Ubuntu and its Ubuntu'isms. Stalling The whole Ayatana Indicators project received a bit of a show stopper by the fact that the IDO (Indicator Display Object) rendering was not working in vanilla GTK-3 without a certain patch [2] that only Ubuntu has in their GTK-3 package. Addressing GTK developers upstream some years back (after GTK 3.22 had already gone into long term maintenance mode) and asking for a late patch acceptance did not work out (as already assumed). Ayatana Indicators stalled at a level of 90% actually working fine, but those nice and shiny special widgets, like the calendar widget, the audio volume slider widgets, switch widgets, etc. could not be rendered appropriately in GTK based desktop environments (e.g. via MATE Indicator Applet) on other distros than Ubuntu. I never really had the guts to sit down without a defined ending and find a patch / solution to this nasty problem. Ayatana Indicators stalled as a whole. I kept it alive and defended its code base against various GLib and what-not deprecations and kept it in Debian, but the software was actually partially broken / dysfunctional. Taking the Dog for a Walk and then It Became all Light+Love Several days back, I received a mail from Robert Tari [3]. I was outside on a hike with our dog and thought, ah well, let's check emails... I couldn't believe what I read then, 15 seconds later. I could in fact, hardly breathe... I have known Robert from earlier email exchanges. Robert maintains various "little" upstream projects, like e.g. Caja Rename, Odio, Unity Mail, etc. that I have looked into earlier regarding Debian packaging. Robert is also a Manjaro contributor and he has been working on bringing Ayatana Indicators to Manjaro MATE. In the early days, without knowing Robert, I even forked one of his projects (indicator-notification) and turned it into an Ayatana Indicator. Robert and I also exchanged some emails about Ayatana Indicators already a couple of weeks ago. I got the sense of him maybe being up to something already then. Oh, yeah!!! It turned out that Robert and I share the same "love" for the Ubuntu Indicators concept [4]. From his email, it became clear that Robert had spent the last 1-2 weeks drowned in the Ayatana IDO and libayatana-indicator code and worked him self through the bowels of it in order to understand the code concept of Indicators to its very depth. When emerging back from his journey, he presented me (or rather: the world) a patch [5] against libayatana-indicator that makes it possible to render IDO objects even if a vanilla GTK-3 is installed on the system. This patch is a game changer for Indicator lovers. When Robert sent me his mail pointing me to this patch, I think, over the past five years, I have never felt more excited (except from the exact moment of getting married to my wife two-to-three years ago) than during that moment when my brain tried to process his email. "Like a kid on Christmas Eve...", Robert wrote in one of his later mails to me. Indeed, like a "kid on Christmas Eve", Robert. Try It Out As a proof of all this to the Debian people, I have just done the first release of ayatana-indicator-datetime and uploaded it to Debian's NEW queue. Robert is doing the same for Manjaro. The Ayatana Indicator Sound will follow after my vacation. For fancy widget rendering in Ayatana Indicator's system indicators, make sure you have libayatana-indicator 0.7.0 or newer installed on your system. Credits One of the biggest thanks ever I send herewith to Robert Tari! Robert is now co-maintainer of Ayatana Indicators. Welcome! Now, there is finally a team of active contributors. This is so delightful!!! References P.S. Expect more Ayatana Indicators to appear in your favourite distro soon...

23 July 2020

Sean Whitton: keyboardingupdates

Marks and mark rings in GNU Emacs I recently attempted to answer the question of whether experienced Emacs users should consider partially or fully disabling Transient Mark mode, which is (and should be) the default in modern GNU Emacs. That blog post was meant to be as information-dense as I could make it, but now I d like to describe the experience I have been having after switching to my custom pseudo-Transient Mark mode, which is labelled mitigation #2 in my older post. In summary: I feel like I ve uncovered a whole editing paradigm lying just beneath the surface of the editor I ve already been using for years. That is cool and enjoyable in itself, but I think it s also helped me understand other design decisions about the basics of the Emacs UI better than before in particular, the ideas behind how Emacs chooses where to display buffers, which were very frustrating to me in the past. I am now regularly using relatively obscure commands like C-x 4 C-o. I see it! It all makes sense now! I would encourage everyone who has never used Emacs without Transient Mark mode to try turning it off for a while, either fully or partially, just to see what you can learn. It s fascinating how it can come to seem more convenient and natural to pop the mark just to go back to the end of the current line after fixing up something earlier in the line, even though doing so requires pressing two modified keys instead of just C-e. Eshell I was amused to learn some years ago that someone was trying to make Emacs work as an X11 window manager. I was amazed and impressed to learn, more recently, that the project is still going and a fair number of people are using it. Kudos! I suspect that the basic motivation for such projects is that Emacs is a virtual Lisp machine, and it has a certain way of managing visible windows, and people would like to be able to bring both of those to their X11 window management. However, I am beginning to suspect that the intrinsic properties of Emacs buffers are tightly connected to the ways in which Emacs manages visible windows, and the intrinsic properties of Emacs buffers are at least as fundamental as its status as a virtual Lisp machine. Thus I am not convinced by the idea of trying to use Emacs ways of handling visible windows to handle windows which do not contain Emacs buffers. (but it s certainly nice to learn it s working out for others) The more general point is this. Emacs buffers are as fundamental to Emacs as anything else is, so it seems unlikely to be particularly fruitful to move something typically done outside of Emacs into Emacs, unless that activity fits naturally into an Emacs buffer or buffers. Being suited to run on a virtual Lisp machine is not enough. What could be more suited to an Emacs buffer, however, than a typical Unix command shell session? By this I mean things like running commands which produce text output, and piping this output between commands and into and out of files. Typically the commands one enters are sort of like tiny programs in themselves, even if there are no pipes involved, because you have to spend time determining just what options to pass to achieve what you want. It is great to have all your input and output available as ordinary buffer text, navigable just like all your other Emacs buffers. Full screen text user interfaces, like top(1), are not the sort of thing I have in mind here. These are suited to terminal emulators, and an Emacs buffer makes a poor terminal emulator what you end up with is a sort of terminal emulator emulator. Emacs buffers and terminal emulators are just different things. These sorts of thoughts lead one to Eshell, the Emacs Shell. Quoting from its documentation:
The shell s role is to make [system] functionality accessible to the user in an unformed state. Very roughly, it associates kernel functionality with textual commands, allowing the user to interact with the operating system via linguistic constructs. Process invocation is perhaps the most significant form this takes, using the kernel s fork' andexec functions. Emacs is a user application, but it does make the functionality of the kernel accessible through an interpreted language namely, Lisp. For that reason, there is little preventing Emacs from serving the same role as a modern shell. It too can manipulate the kernel in an unpredetermined way to cause system changes. All it s missing is the shell-ish linguistic model.
Eshell has been working very well for me for the past month or so, for, at least, Debian packaging work, which is very command shell-oriented (think tools like dch(1)). The other respects in which Eshell is tightly integrated with the rest of Emacs are icing on the cake. In particular, Eshell can transparently operate on remote hosts, using TRAMP. So when I need to execute commands on Debian s ftp-master server to process package removal requests, I just cd /ssh:fasolo: in Eshell. Emacs takes care of disconnecting and connecting to the server when needed there is no need to maintain a fragile SSH connection and a shell process (or anything else) running on the remote end. Or I can cd /ssh:athena\ sudo:root@athena: to run commands as root on the webserver hosting this blog, and, again, the text of the session survives on my laptop, and may be continued at my leisure, no matter whether athena reboots, or I shut my laptop and open it up again the next morning. And of course you can easily edit files on the remote host.

Enrico Zini: Build Qt5 cross-builder with raspbian sysroot: compiling with the sysroot (continued)

Lite extra ball, from This is part of a series of posts on compiling a custom version of Qt5 in order to develop for both amd64 and a Raspberry Pi. The previous rounds of attempts ended in one issue too many to investigate in the allocated hourly budget. Andreas Gruber wrote:
Long story short, a fast solution for the issue with EGLSetBlobFuncANDROID is to remove libraspberrypi-dev from your sysroot and do a full rebuild. There will be some changes to the configure results, so please review them - if they are relevant for you - before proceeding with your work.
That got me unstuck! dpkg --purge libraspberrypi-dev in the sysroot, and we're back in the game. While Qt5's build has proven extremely fragile, I was surprised that some customization from Raspberry Pi hadn't yet broken something. In the end, they didn't disappoint. More i386 issues The run now stops with a new 32bit issue related to v8 snapshots:
qt-everywhere-src-5.15.0/qtwebengine/src/core/release$ /usr/bin/g++ -pie -Wl,--fatal-warnings -Wl,--build-id=sha1 -fPIC -Wl,-z,noexecstack -Wl,-z,relro -Wl,-z,now -Wl,-z,defs -Wl,--as-needed -m32 -pie -Wl,--disable-new-dtags -Wl,-O2 -Wl,--gc-sections -o "v8_snapshot/mksnapshot" -Wl,--start-group @"v8_snapshot/mksnapshot.rsp"  -Wl,--end-group  -ldl -lpthread -lrt -lz
/usr/bin/ld: skipping incompatible //usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ when searching for -lz
/usr/bin/ld: skipping incompatible //usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libz.a when searching for -lz
/usr/bin/ld: cannot find -lz
collect2: error: ld returned 1 exit status
Attempted solution: apt install zlib1g-dev:i386. Alternative solution (untried): configure Qt5 with -no-webengine-v8-snapshot. It builds! Installation paths Now it tries to install files into debian/tmp/home/build/sysroot/opt/qt5custom-armhf/. I realise that I now need to package the sysroot itself, both as a build-dependency of the Qt5 cross-compiler, and as a runtime dependency of the built cross-builder. Conclusion The current work in progress, patches, and all, is at It blows my mind how ridiculously broken is the Qt5 cross-compiler build, for a use case that, looking at how many people are trying, seems to be one of the main ones for the cross-builder.

15 July 2020

Evgeni Golov: Scanning with a Brother MFC-L2720DW on Linux without any binary blobs

Back in 2015, I've got a Brother MFC-L2720DW for the casual "I need to print those two pages" and "I need to scan these receipts" at home (and home-office ;)). It's a rather cheap (I paid less than 200 in 2015) monochrome laser printer, scanner and fax with a (well, two, wired and wireless) network interface. In those five years I've never used the fax or WiFi functions, but printed a scanned a few pages. Brother offers Linux drivers, but those are binary blobs which I never really liked to run. The printer part works just fine with a "Generic PCL 6/PCL XL" driver in CUPS or even "driverless" via AirPrint on Linux. You can also feed it plain PostScript, but I found it rather slow compared to PCL. On recent Androids it works using the built in printer service or Mopria Printer Service for older ones - I used to joke "why would you need a printer on your phone?!", but found it quite useful after a few tries. However, for the scanner part I had to use Brother's brscan4 driver on Linux and their iPrint&Scan app on Android - Mopria Scan wouldn't support it. Until, last Friday, I've seen a NEW package being uploaded to Debian: sane-airscan. And yes, monitoring the Debian NEW queue via Twitter is totally legit! sane-airscan is an implementation of Apple's AirScan (eSCL) and Microsoft's WSD/WS-Scan protocols for SANE. I've never heard of those before - only about AirPrint, but thankfully this does not mean nobody has reverse-engineered them and created something that works beautifully on Linux. As of today there are no packages in the official Fedora repositories and the Debian ones are still in NEW, however the upstream documentation refers to an openSUSE OBS repository that works like a charm in the meantime (on Fedora 32). The only drawback I've seen so far: the scanner only works in "Color" mode and there is no way to scan in "Grayscale", making scanning a tad slower. This has been reported upstream and might or might not be fixable, as it seems the device does not announce any mode besides "Color". Interestingly, SANE has an eSCL backend on its own since 1.0.29, but it's disabled in Fedora in favor of sane-airscan even though the later isn't available in Fedora yet. However, it might not even need separate packaging, as SANE upstream is planning to integrate it into sane-backends directly.

Utkarsh Gupta: GSoC Phase 2

Hello, In early May, I got selected as a Google Summer of Code student for Debian to work on a project which is to write a linter (an extension to RuboCop).
This tool is mostly to help the Debian Ruby team. And that is the best part, I love working in/for/with the Ruby team!
(I ve been an active part of the team for 19 months now :)) More details about the project can be found here, on the wiki.
And also, I have got the best mentors I could ve possibly asked for: Antonio Terceiro and David Rodr guez So, the program began on 1st June and I ve been working since then. I log my daily updates at
The blog for the first part of phase 1 can be found here and that of second part of phase 1 can be found here. Whilst the daily updates are available at the above site^, I ll breakdown the important parts here: Well, the best part yet?
rubocop-packaging is being used by batalert, arbre, rspec-stubbed_env, rspec-pending_for, ISO8601, get_root ( ), gir_ffi, linter, and cucumber-rails. Whilst it has been a lot of fun so far, my plate has started to almost overflow. It seems that I ve got a lot of things to work on (and already things that are due!).
From my major project, college *stuff to my GSoC project, Debian (E)LTS, and a lot *more. Thanks to Antonio for helping me out with *other things (which maps back to his sayings in Paris \o/).
Until next time.
:wq for today.

14 July 2020

Markus Koschany: My Free Software Activities in June 2020

Welcome to Here is my monthly report (+ the first week in July) that covers what I have been doing for Debian. If you re interested in Java, Games and LTS topics, this might be interesting for you. Debian Games Short news
Debian Java Misc Debian LTS This was my 52. month as a paid contributor and I have been paid to work 60 hours on Debian LTS, a project started by Rapha l Hertzog. In that time I did the following: Thanks for reading and see you next time.

7 July 2020

Noah Meyerhans: Setting environment variables for gnome-session

Am I missing something obvious? When did this get so hard? In the old days, you configured your desktop session on a Linux system by editing the .xsession file in your home directory. The display manager (login screen) would invoke the system-wide xsession script, which would either defer to your personal .xsession script or set up a standard desktop environment. You could put whatever you want in the .xsession script, and it would be executed. If you wanted a specific window manager, you d run it from .xsession. Start emacs or a browser or an xterm or two? .xsession. It was pretty easy, and super flexible. For the past 25 years or so, I ve used X with an environment started via .xsession. Early on it was fvwm with some programs, then I replaced fvwm with Window Maker (before that was even its name!), then switched to KDE. More recently (OK, like 10 years ago) I gradually replaced KDE with awesome and various custom widgets. Pretty much everything was based on a .xsession script, and that was fine. One particularly nice thing about it was that I could keep .xsession and any related helper programs in a git repository and manage changes over time. More recently I decided to give Wayland and GNOME an honest look. This has mostly been fine, but everything I ve been doing in .xsession is suddenly useless. OK, fine, progress is good. I ll just use whatever new mechanisms exist. How hard can it be? OK, so here we go. I am running GNOME. This isn t so bad. Alt+F2 brings up the Run Command dialog. It s a different keystroke than what I m used to, but I can adapt. (Obviously I can reconfigure the key binding, and maybe someday I will, but that s not the point here.) I have some executables in ~/bin. Oops, the run command dialog can t find them. No problem, I just need to update the PATH variable that it sees. Hmmm So how does one do that, anyway? GNOME has a help system, but searching that doesn t doesn t reveal anything. But that s fine, maybe it s inherited from the parent process. But there s no xsession script equivalent, since this isn t X anymore at all. The familiar stuff in /etc/X11/Xsession is no longer used. What s the equivalent in Wayland? Turns out, there isn t a shell script at all anymore, at least not in how Wayland and GNOME interact in Debian s configuration, which seems fairly similar to how anybody else would set this up. The GNOME session runs from a systemd-managed user session. Digging in to some web search results suggests that systemd provides a mechanism for setting some environment variables for services started by the user instance of the system. OK, so let s create some files in ~/.config/environment.d and we should be good. Except no, this isn t working. I can set some variables, but something is overriding PATH. I can create this file:
$ cat ~/.config/environment.d/01_path.conf
PATH=$ HOME /bin:$ HOME /go/bin:/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin
After logging in, the Run a command dialog still doesn t see my PATH. So I use Alt+F2 and sh -c "env > /tmp/env" to capture the environment, and this is what I see:
So, my environment.d file is there, and it s getting looked at, but something else is clobbering my PATH later in the startup process. But what? Where? Why? The systemd docs don t indicate that there s anything special about PATH, and nothing in /lib/systemd/user-environment-generators/ seems to treat it specially. The string PATH doesn t appear in /lib/systemd/user/ either. Looking for the specific value that s getting assigned to PATH in /etc shows the only occurrence of it being in /etc/zsh/zshenv, so maybe that s where it s coming from? But that should only get set there if it s otherwise unset or otherwise very minimally set. So I still have no idea where it s coming from. OK, so ignoring where my custom value is getting overridden, maybe what s configured in /lib/systemd/user will point me in the right direction. systemd --user status suggests that the interesting part of my session is coming from gnome-shell-wayland.service. Can we use a standard systemd drop-in as documented in systemd.unit(5)? It turns out that we can. This file sets things up the way I want:
$ cat .config/systemd/user/gnome-shell-wayland.service.d/path.conf
Is that right? It really doesn t feel ideal to me. Systemd s Environment directive can t reference existing environment variables, and I can t use conditionals to do things like add a directory to the PATH only if it exists, so it s still a functional regression from what we had before. But at least it s a text file, edited by hand, trackable in git, so that s not too bad. There are some people out there who hate systemd, and will cite this as an illustration of why. However, I m not one of those people, and I very much like systemd as an init system. I d be happy to throw away sysvinit scripts forever, but I m not quite so happy with the state of .xsession s replacements. Despite the similarities, I don t think .xsession is entirely the same as SysV-style init scripts. The services running on a system are vastly more important than my personal .xsession, and systemd is far better at managing them than the pile of shell scripts used to set things up under sysvinit. Further, systemd the init system maintains compatibility with init scripts, so if you really want to keep using them, you can. As far as I can tell, though, systemd the user session manager does not seem to maintain compatibility with .xsession scripts, and that s unfortunate. I still haven t figured out what was overriding the ~/.config/environment.d/ setting. Any ideas?

6 July 2020

Jonathan Dowland: Review: Roku Express

I don't generally write consumer reviews, here or elsewhere; but I have been so impressed by this one I wanted to mention it. For Holly's birthday this year, taking place under Lockdown, we decided to buy a year's subscription to "Disney+". Our current TV receiver (A Humax Freesat box) doesn't support it so I needed to find some other way to get it onto the TV. After a short bit of research, I bought the "Roku Express" streaming media player. This is the most basic streamer that Roku make, bottom of their range. For a little bit more money you can get a model which supports 4K (although my TV obviously doesn't: it, and the basic Roku, top out at 1080p) and a bit more gets you a "stick" form-factor and a Bluetooth remote (rather than line-of-sight IR). I paid 20 for the most basic model and it Just Works. The receiver is very small but sits comfortably next to my satellite receiver-box. I don't have any issues with line-of-sight for the IR remote (and I rely on a regular IR remote for the TV itself of course). It supports Disney+, but also all the other big name services, some of which we already use (Netflix, YouTube BBC iPlayer) and some of which we didn't, since it was too awkward to access them (Google Play, Amazon Prime Video). It has now largely displaced the FreeSat box for accessing streaming content because it works so well and everything is in one place. There's a phone App that remote-controls the box and works even better than the physical remote: it can offer a full phone-keyboard at times when you need to input text, and can mute the TV audio and put it out through headphones attached to the phone if you want. My aging Plasma TV suffers from burn-in from static pictures. If left paused for a duration the Roku goes to a screensaver that keeps the whole frame moving. The FreeSat doesn't do this. My Blu Ray player does, but (I think) it retains some static elements.

5 July 2020

Enrico Zini: COVID-19 and Capitalism

If the Reopen America protests seem a little off to you, that's because they are. In this video we're going to talk about astroturfing and how insidious it i...
Techdirt has just written about the extraordinary legal action taken against a company producing Covid-19 tests. Sadly, it's not the only example of some individuals putting profits before people. Here's a story from Italy, which is...
Berlin is trying to stop Washington from persuading a German company seeking a coronavirus vaccine to move its research to the United States.
Amazon cracked down on coronavirus price gouging. Now, while the rest of the world searches, some sellers are holding stockpiles of sanitizer and masks.
And 3D-printed valve for breathing machine sparks legal threat
Ischgl, an Austrian ski resort, has achieved tragic international fame: hundreds of tourists are believed to have contracted the coronavirus there and taken it home with them. The Tyrolean state government is now facing serious criticism. EURACTIV Germany reports.
We are seeing how the monopolistic repair and lobbying practices of medical device companies are making our response to the coronavirus pandemic harder.
Las Vegas, Nevada has come under criticism after reportedly setting up a temporary homeless shelter in a parking lot complete with social distancing barriers.