Search Results: "anoe"

22 April 2020

Jonathan Dowland: SUPERHOT

Continuing a series of blog posts about casual Nintendo Switch games, next in the series is SUPERHOT. Normally 19.99, I picked it up for 13.99 in a sale. That's a little bit more than I would usually pay for a casual game. SUPERHOT first came on my radar because someone I know from a baby group worked on their VR port in some capacity.
Slow-motion buckshot Slow-motion buckshot
A first-person shooter, SUPERHOT's USP is that time only progresses when you move well, nearly. Time is slowed to a complete crawl when you are not moving. The game's visual style is very distinctive: Almost everything is a washed out grey or white colour and porcelean-like texture, except weapons and objects you can interact with, which are a matt black, and enemies, which are a bright red. It reminds me a lot of the 1992 Amiga game Robocop 3.
Robocop 3 Robocop 3
The play-style is very reminiscent of the "Bullet Time" sequences in The Matrix seemingly impossibly overwhelming odds deftly manoeuvred through thanks to superhuman reaction times. The game has a relatively short campaign of little vignettes, linked together by a cyberpunk narrative. The game is sometimes criticised for the short campaign, but for me that's ideal. And the vignettes being short and quite standalone suits my play requirements very well.
Amiga easter-egg Amiga easter-egg
The narrative interspersed between the play scenarios is a little bit over-long, and you can spend an unreasonable amount of time bashing buttons to get through it. Despite that it's a moderately interesting story. Once you've beaten the campaign, you can go back and play any of the scenarios again, or try the newly unlocked endless mode. I haven't tried that yet. The original prototype for the game is a free-to-play in-browser demo, available here. On Windows PC, there's a sequel-of-sorts in the works called MIND CONTROL DELETE with a lot of new features to add replay value.

2 March 2020

Jonathan Carter: Free Software activities for 2020-02

Belgians This month started off in Belgium for FOSDEM on 1-2 February. I attended FOSDEM in Brussels and wrote a separate blog entry for that. The month ended with Belgians at Tammy and Wouter s wedding. On Thursday we had Wouter s bachelors and then over the weekend I stayed over at their wedding venue. I thought that other Debianites might be interested so I m sharing some photos here with permission from Wouter. It was the only wedding I ve been at where nearly everyone had questions about Debian! I first met Wouter on the bus during the daytrip on DebConf12 in Nicaragua, back then I ve eagerly followed the Debianites on Planet Debian for a while so it was like meeting someone famous. Little did I know that 8 years later, I d be at his wedding back in my part of the world. If you went to DebConf16 in South Africa, you might remember Tammy, who have done a lot of work for DC16 including most of the artwork, bunch of website work, design on the badges, bags, etc and also did a lot of organisation for the day trips. Tammy and Wouter met while Tammy was reviewing the artwork in the video loops for the DebConf videos, and then things developed from there. Wouter s Bachelors Wouter was blindfolded and kidnapped and taken to the city center where we prepared to go on a bike tour of Cape Town, stopping for beer at a few places along the way. Wouter was given a list of tasks that he had to complete, or the wedding wouldn t be allowed to continue

Wouter s tasks
Wouter s props, needed to complete his tasks
Bike tour leg at Cape Town Stadium.
Seeking out 29 year olds.
Wouter finishing his lemon and actually seemingly enjoying it.
Reciting South African national anthem notes and lyrics.
The national anthem, as performed by Wouter (I was actually impressed by how good his pitch was).
The Wedding Friday afternoon we arrived at the lodge for the weekend. I had some work to finish but at least this was nicer than where I was going to work if it wasn t for the wedding.
Accommodation at the lodge
When the wedding co-ordinators started setting up, I noticed that there were all these swirls that almost looked like Debian logos. I asked Wouter if that was on purpose or just a happy accident. He said Hmm! I haven t even noticed that yet! , didn t get a chance to ask Tammy yet, so it could still be her touch.
Debian swirls everywhere
I took a canoe ride on the river and look what I found, a paddatrapper!
Kyle and I weren t the only ones out on the river that day. When the wedding ceremony started, Tammy made a dramatic entrance coming in on a boat, standing at the front with the breeze blowing her dress like a valkyrie.
A bit of digital zoomage of previous image.
Time to say the vows.
Just married. Thanks to Sue Fuller-Good for the photo.
Except for one character being out of place, this was a perfect fairy tale wedding, but I pointed Wouter to https://jonathancarter.org/how-to-spell-jonathan/ for future reference so it s all good.
Congratulations again to both Tammy and Wouter. It was a great experience meeting both their families and friends and all the love that was swirling around all weekend.

Debian Package Uploads 2020-02-07: Upload package calamares (3.2.18-1) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-07: Upload package python-flask-restful (0.3.8-1) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-10: Upload package kpmcore (4.1.0-1) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-16: Upload package fracplanet (0.5.1-5.1) to Debian unstable (Closes: #946028). 2020-02-20: Upload package kpmcore (4.1.0-2) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-20: Upload package bluefish (2.2.11) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-20: Upload package gdisk (1.0.5-1) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-20: Accept MR#6 for gamemode. 2020-02-23: Upload package tanglet (1.5.5-1) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-23: Upload package gamemode (1.5-1) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-24: Upload package calamares (3.2.19-1) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-24: Upload package partitionmanager (4.1.0-1) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-24: Accept MR#7 for gamemode. 2020-02-24: Merge MR#1 for calcoo. 2020-02-24: Upload package calcoo (1.3.18-8) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-24: Merge MR#1 for flask-api. 2020-02-25: Upload package calamares (3.2.19.1-1) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-25: Upload package gnome-shell-extension-impatience (0.4.5-4) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-25: Upload package gnome-shell-extension-harddisk-led (19-2) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-25: Upload package gnome-shell-extension-no-annoyance (0+20170928-f21d09a-2) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-25: Upload package gnome-shell-extension-system-monitor (38-2) to Debian unstable. 2020-02-25: Upload package tuxpaint (0.9.24~git20190922-f7d30d-1~exp3) to Debian experimental.

Debian Mentoring 2020-02-10: Sponsor package python-marshmallow-polyfield (5.8-1) for Debian unstable (Python team request). 2020-02-10: Sponsor package geoalchemy2 (0.6.3-2) for Debian unstable (Python team request). 2020-02-13: Sponsor package python-tempura (2.2.1-1) for Debian unstable (Python team request). 2020-02-13: Sponsor package python-babel (2.8.0+dfsg.1-1) for Debian unstable (Python team request). 2020-02-13: Sponsor package python-pynvim (0.4.1-1) for Debian unstable (Python team request). 2020-02-13: Review package ledmon (0.94-1) (Needs some more work) (mentors.debian.net request). 2020-02-14: Sponsor package citeproc-py (0.3.0-6) for Debian unstable (Python team request). 2020-02-24: Review package python-suntime (1.2.5-1) (Needs some more work) (Python team request). 2020-02-24: Sponsor package python-babel (2.8.0+dfsg.1-2) for Debian unstable (Python team request). 2020-02-24: Sponsor package 2048 (0.0.0-1~exp1) for Debian experimental (mentors.debian.net request). 2020-02-24: Review package notcurses (1.1.8-1) (Needs some more work) (mentors.debian.net request). 2020-02-25: Sponsor package cloudpickle (1.3.0-1) for Debian unstable (Python team request).

Debian Misc 2020-02-12: Apply Planet Debian request and close MR#21. 2020-02-23: Accept MR#6 for ToeTally (DebConf Video team upstream). 2020-02-23: Accept MR#7 for ToeTally (DebConf Video team upstream).

1 August 2017

Russ Allbery: Review: The Fifth Season

Review: The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin
Series: The Broken Earth #1
Publisher: Orbit
Copyright: 2015
ISBN: 0-316-22930-X
Format: Kindle
Pages: 497
The world of The Fifth Season is one of near-constant seismic activity. Volcanoes, massive earthquakes, and all the catastrophes that follow them are a constant threat. Civilization barely survives the turmoil, and only because of two things: strict cultural rules about how to handle a "fifth season" of heavy seismic activity and its aftermath (called stonelore), and the orogenes. Orogenes are humans (well, there is some debate about that) who have an organ that others don't, a biological ability to manipulate the seismic activity and the earth itself. They can protect others by damping down activity, smoothing faults, and redirecting seismic shock waves, but they can also destroy: pull earth out of shape, set off quakes, and create paths for magma to surface. And, to gather the power to manipulate the earth, they draw energy from everything around them, including from other people, often fatally. Orogenes are feared and hated by the typical person. The Stillness, the ironically-named continent on which this book is set, is very old and has had numerous civilizations destroyed by some seismic catastrophe. The landscape is scattered with useless or dangerous remnants of previous forgotten civilizations; the history, likewise, with only the stonelore and some muddled mythology available to most people. The current rulers have kept their empire for a surprising length of time, however, due mostly to the stable ground beneath their centrally-located capital. That stability comes from Fulcrum-trained orogenes, who are taken from their family as children and trained harshly to serve their society by suppressing or fixing dangerous seismic events. Fulcrum orogenes don't have an awful life (well, most of them; for some, it is pure torture), but they're effectively slaves, kept under the watchful eye of Guardians who have mysterious powers of their own. Against this background, The Fifth Season tells three interwoven stories. Essun lives in a small village (comm) at the start of the book, leading a quiet life, until one of her children is beaten to death by her husband following a seismic event that he thinks the child stopped. He's taken their other child and left. Essun, severely traumatized, heads after him to attempt a rescue, or at least revenge. Damaya is a child from another comm who is sold to the Guardians by her parents when she demonstrates orogenic ability, and who goes through Fulcrum training. And Syenite is a Fulcrum orogene, assigned to a field mission with a difficult but very senior orogene named Alabaster. All of these stories eventually interweave, and eventually reveal where they fit in the somewhat unobvious chronology of the story, but it takes some time to get there. It also takes some time for the primary characters to have much in the way of agency. Essun starts with the most, once she recovers her senses enough to start her hunt for revenge. Syenite is ambitious but junior, and Damaya is a child, trying to navigate an unknown world of student politics and strict rules. And all three of the main characters are orogenes, rogga when one is being insulting, and this world does not like orogenes. At all. The Fifth Season starts with an unusual narrative style: a conversational narrator who begins with some of the world background and some mysterious scenes that didn't make sense until much later in the book (late enough that I didn't remember them or make sense of them until I re-read them for this review). The book then focuses on Essun, whose scenes are written in second person present. Normally I think second person feels weirdly intrusive and off-putting, but once I got used to it here, I think it works as well as I've seen it work anywhere. I also see why Jemisin did it: Essun starts the story so traumatized that she's partly disassociating. First person wouldn't have worked, and the second-person voice gives that trauma some immediacy and emotional heft that would have been hard to achieve in third person. The story starts slowly, and builds slowly, as the world is introduced and Jemisin lays down the texture and history of the world. The world-building is ambitious in tracing down the ramifications of the seismic chaos and the implications of orogene ability (although it's best to think of it as pure magic, despite the minor science fiction trappings). But through that world-building, what this story is building is a deep, powerful, frustrated rage. The Fifth Season is an angry book. It's a book about outcasts, about slaves. About people who, even if they're succeeding within the parameters they're given, are channeled and stymied and controlled. It's a story about smiling, kind paternalism hiding lies, control, and abuse, about how hard it is to find enough space from the smothering destructiveness of a totalitarian culture to let yourself relax. It's a story about the horrible things people are willing to do to those they don't consider fully human, and all the ways in which safety, expediency, tradition, culture, and established social roles conspire to keep people within the box where they belong. And it's a story about how being constantly on edge, constantly dreading the next abuse, breaking under it, and being left wanting to burn the whole world to the ground. I struggled at the start of this book, but it grew on me, and by about halfway through it had me hooked completely. At first, Syenite's part of the story (the most traditionally told) was my favorite, but the coming-of-age stories of her and Damaya were overtaken by Essun's far more complex, cautious, and battle-weary tale. And I loved Jemisin's world-building. There's a lot of depth here, a lot of things going on that are unexplained but clearly important, and a restraint and maturity in how the world is revealed that makes it feel older and more layered than Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. The major drawback of this book is that it is very much the first book of a series, and it doesn't so much have an ending as a hard stop. It's not quite a cliff-hanger, but it's nearly as unsatisfying as one. Most of the major questions of the book who the stone eaters are and what they want, and the fate of Essun's husband and child, just to name two are still unresolved at the end of the story. There is a bit of emotional closure, but not a true moment of catharsis for all of the rage. Hopefully that will be coming in a future book. This is a very unusual story, mixing fantasy and a sort of magic (orogeny) with some science fiction elements and a deep history. It's gritty, textured, emotional, and furious, and very much worth reading. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series. Followed by The Obelisk Gate. Rating: 8 out of 10

29 April 2017

Russ Allbery: Review: Neverness

Review: Neverness, by David Zindell
Publisher: Bantam Spectra
Copyright: May 1988
Printing: July 1989
ISBN: 0-553-27903-3
Format: Mass market
Pages: 552
Mallory Ringess is a Pilot, one of the people who can guide a lightship through interstellar space from inside the dark cocoon and biotech interface that allows visualization of the mathematics of interstellar travel. At the start of the book, he's young, arrogant, impulsive, and has a deeply unhealthy relationship with Leopold Soli, the Lord Pilot and supposedly his uncle by marriage (although they share a remarkable physical resemblance). An encounter with his uncle in a bar provokes a rash promise, and Ringess finds himself promising to attempt to map the Solid State Entity in search of the Elder Eddas, a secret of life from the mythical Ieldra that might lead to mankind's immortality. The opening of Neverness is Ringess's initial voyage and brash search, in which he proves to be a capable mathematician who can navigate a region of space twisted and deformed by becoming part of a transcendent machine intelligence. The knowledge he comes away with, though, is scarcely more coherent than the hints Soli relates at the start of the story: the secret of mankind is somehow hidden in its deepest past. That, in turn, provokes a deeply bizarre trip into the ice surrounding his home city of Neverness to attempt to steal biological material from people who have recreated themselves as Neanderthals. Beyond that point, I would say that things get even weirder, but weird still implies some emotional connection with the story. I think a more accurate description is that the book gets more incoherently mystical, more hopelessly pretentious, and more depressingly enthralled by childish drama. It's the sort of thing that one writes if one is convinced that the Oedipal complex is the height of subtle characterization. I loathed this book. I started loathing this book partway through Ringess's trip through the Solid State Entity, when Zindell's prose reached for transcendent complexity, tripped over its own shoelaces, and fell headlong into overwrought babbling. I continued reading every page because there's a perverse pleasure in hate-reading a book one dislikes this intensely, and because I wanted to write a review on the firm foundation of having endured the entire experience. The paperback edition I have has a pull quote from Orson Scott Card on the cover, which includes the phrase "excellent hard science fiction." I'm not sure what book Card read, because if this is hard science fiction, Lord of the Rings is paranormal romance. Even putting aside the idea that one travels through interstellar space by proving mathematical theorems in artificially dilated time (I don't think Zindell really understands what a proof is or why you write one), there's the whole business with stopping time with one's mind, reading other people's minds, and remembering one's own DNA. The technology, such as it is, makes considerably less sense than Star Wars. The hard SF requirement to keep technology consistent with extrapolated science is nowhere to be found here. The back-cover quote from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is a bit more on-target: "Reminiscent of Gene Wolfe's New Sun novels... really comes to life among the intrigues of Neverness." This is indeed reminiscent of Gene Wolfe, in that it wouldn't surprise me at all if Zindell fell in love with the sense of antiquity, strangeness, and hints of understood technology that Wolfe successfully creates and attempted to emulate Wolfe in his first novel. Sadly, Zindell isn't Wolfe. Almost no one is, which is why attempting to emulate the extremely difficult feat Wolfe pulls off in the Book of the New Sun in your first novel is not a good idea. The results aren't pretty. There is something to be said for resplendent descriptions, rich with detail and ornamental prose. That something is "please use sparingly and with an eye to the emotional swings of the novel." Wolfe does not try to write most of a novel that way, which is what makes those moments of description so effective. Wolfe is also much better at making his mysteries and allusions subtle and unobtrusive, rather than having the first-person protagonist beat the reader over the head with them for pages at a time. This is a case where showing is probably better than telling. Let me quote a bit of description from the start of the book:
She shimmers, my city, she shimmers. She is said to be the most beautiful of all the cities of the Civilized Worlds, more beautiful even than Parpallaix or the cathedral cities of Vesper. To the west, pushing into the green sea like a huge, jewel-studded sleeve of city, the fragile obsidian cloisters and hospices of the Farsider's Quarter gleamed like black glass mirrors. Straight ahead as we skated, I saw the frothy churn of the Sound and their whitecaps of breakers crashing against the cliffs of North Beach and above the entire city, veined with purple and glazed with snow and ice, Waaskel and Attakel rose up like vast pyramids against the sky. Beneath the half-ring of extinct volcanoes (Urkel, I should mention, is the southernmost peak, and though less magnificent than the others, it has a conical symmetry that some find pleasing) the towers and spires of the Academy scattered the dazzling false winter light so that the whole of the Old City sparkled.
That's less than half of that paragraph, and the entire book is written like that, even in the middle of conversations. Endless, constant words piled on words about absolutely everything, whether important or not, whether emotionally significant or not. And much of it isn't even description, but philosophical ponderings that are desperately trying to seem profound. Here's another bit:
Although I knew I had never seen her before, I felt as if I had known her all my life. I was instantly in love with her, not, of course, as one loves another human being, but as a wanderer might love a new ocean or a gorgeous snowy peak he has glimpsed for the first time. I was practically struck dumb by her calmness and her beauty, so I said the first stupid thing which came to mind. "Welcome to Neverness," I told her.
Now, I should be fair: some people like this kind of description, or at least have more tolerance for it than I do. But that brings me to the second problem: there isn't a single truly likable character in this entire novel. Ringess, the person telling us this whole story, is a spoiled man-child, the sort of deeply immature and insecure person who attempts to compensate through bluster, impetuousness, and refusing to ever admit that he made a mistake or needed to learn something. He spends a good portion of the book, particularly the deeply bizarre and off-putting sections with the fake Neanderthals, attempting to act out some sort of stereotyped toxic masculinity and wallowing in negative emotions. Soli is an arrogant, abusive asshole from start to finish. Katherine, Ringess's love interest, is a seer who has had her eyes removed to see the future (I cannot express how disturbing I found Zindell's descriptions of this), has bizarre and weirdly sexualized reactions to the future she never explains, and leaves off the ends of all of her sentences, which might be be the most pointlessly irritating dialogue quirk I've seen in a novel. And Ringess's mother is a man-hating feminist from a separatist culture who turns into a master manipulator (I'm starting to see why Card liked this book). I at least really wanted to like Bardo, Ringess's closest friend, who has a sort of crude loyalty and unwillingness to get pulled too deep into the philosophical quicksand lurking underneath everything in this novel. Alas, Zindell insists on constantly describing Bardo's odious eating, belching, and sexual habits every time he's on the page, thus reducing him to the disgusting buffoon who gets drunk a lot and has irritating verbal ticks. About the only person I could stand by the end of the book was Justine, who at least seems vaguely sensible (and who leaves the person who abuses her), but she's too much of a non-entity to carry sustained interest. (There is potential here for a deeply scathing and vicious retelling of this story from Justine's point of view, focusing on the ways she was belittled, abused, and ignored, but I think Zindell was entirely unaware of why that would be so effective.) Oh, and there's lots of gore and horrific injury and lovingly-described torture, because of course there is. And that brings me back to the second half of that St. Louis Post-Dispatch review quote: "... really comes to life among the intrigues of Neverness." I would love to know what was hiding behind the ellipses in this pull quote, because this half-sentence is not wrong. Insofar as Neverness has any real appeal, it's in the intrigues of the city of Neverness and in the political structure that rules it. What this quote omits is that these intrigues start around page 317, more than halfway through the novel. That's about the point where faux-Wolfe starts mixing with late-career Frank Herbert and we get poet-assassins, some revelations about the leader of the Pilot culture, and some more concrete explanations of what this mess of a book is about. Unfortunately, you have to read through the huge and essentially meaningless Neanderthal scenes to get there, scenes that have essentially nothing to do with the interesting content of this book. (Everything that motivates them turns out to be completely irrelevant to the plot and useless for the characters.) The last 40% of the book is almost passable, and characters I cared about might have even made it enjoyable. Still, a couple of remaining problems detract heavily, chief among them the lack of connection of the great revelation of the story to, well, anything in the story. We learn at the very start of the novel that the stars of the Vild are mysteriously exploding, and much of the novel is driven by uncovering an explanation and solution. The characters do find an explanation, but not through any investigation. Ringess is simply told what is happening, in a wad of exposition, as a reward for something else entirely. It's weirdly disconnected from and irrelevant to everything else in the story. (There are some faint connections to the odd technological rules that the Pilot society lives under, but Zindell doesn't even draw attention to those.) The political intrigue in Neverness is similar: it appears out of nowhere more than halfway through the book, with no dramatic foundation for the motives of the person who has been keeping most of the secrets. And the final climax of the political machinations involves a bunch of mystical nonsense masquerading as science, and more of the Neanderthal bullshit that ruins the first half of the book. This is a thoroughly bad book: poorly plotted, poorly written, clotted and pretentious in style, and full of sociopaths and emotionally stunted children. I read the whole thing because I'm immensely stubborn and make poor life choices, but I was saying the eight deadly words ("I don't care what happens to these people") by a hundred pages in. Don't emulate my bad decisions. (Somehow, this novel was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award in 1990. What on earth could they possibly have been thinking?) Neverness is a stand-alone novel, but the ending sets up a subsequent trilogy that I have no intention of reading. Followed by The Broken God. Rating: 2 out of 10

20 March 2017

Shirish Agarwal: Tale of two countries, India and Canada

Apologies the first blog post got sent out by mistake. Weather comparisons between the two countries Last year, I had come to know that this year s debconf is happening in Canada, a cold country. Hence, few weeks/month back, I started trying to find information online when I stumbled across few discussion boards where people were discussing about Innerwear and Outerwear and I couldn t understand what that was all about. Then somehow stumbled across this Video, which is of a game called the Long Dark and just seeing couple of episodes it became pretty clear to me why the people there were obsessing with getting the right clothes and everything about it. Couple of Debconf people were talking about the weather in Montreal, and surprise, surprise it was snowing there, in fact supposed to be near the storm of the century. Was amazed to see that they have a website to track how much snow has been lifted. If we compare that to Pune, India weather-wise we are polar opposites. There used to be a time, when I was very young, maybe 5 yrs. old that once the weather went above 30 degree celsius, rains would fall, but now its gonna touch 40 degrees soon. And April and May, the two hottest months are yet to come. China Gate Before I venture further, I was gifted the book China Gate written by an author named William Arnold. When I read the cover and the back cover, it seemed the story was set between China and Taiwan, later when I started reading it, it shares history of Taiwan going back 200 or so odd years. This became relevant as next year s Debconf, Debconf 2018 will be in Taiwan, yes in Asia very much near to India. I am ashamed to say that except for the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the Chinese High-Speed Rail there wasn t much that I knew. According to the book, and I m paraphrasing here the gist I got was that for a long time, the Americans promised Taiwan it will be an Independent country forever, but due to budgetary and other political constraints, the United States took the same stand as China from 1979. Interestingly, now it seems Mr. Trump wants to again recognize Taiwan as a separate entity from China itself but as is with Mr. Trump you can t be sure of why he does, what he does. Is it just a manoeuvrer designed to out-smart the chinese and have a trade war or something else, only time will tell. One thing which hasn t been shared in the book but came to know via web is that Taiwan calls itself Republic of China . If Taiwan wants to be independent then why the name Republic of China ? Doesn t that strengthen China s claim that Taiwan is an integral part of China. I don t understand it. The book does seduce you into thinking that the events are happening in real-time, as in happening now. That s enough OT for now. null Population Density As well in the game and whatever I could find on the web, Canada seems to be on the lower side as far as population is concerned. IIRC, few years back, Canadians invited Indian farmers and gave them large land-holdings for over 100 years on some small pittance. While the link I have shared is from 2006, I read it online and in newspapers even as late as in 2013/2014. The point being there seems to be lot of open spaces in Canada, whereas in India we fight for even one inch literally, due to overpopulation. This sharing reminded me of Mark of Gideon . While I was young, I didn t understand the political meaning of it and still struggle to understand about whom the show was talking about. Was it India, Africa or some other continent they were talking about ? This also becomes obvious when you figure out the surface area of the two countries. When I had started to learn about Canada, I had no idea, nor a clue that Canada is three times the size of India. And this is when I know India is a large country. but seeing that Canada is thrice larger just boggled my mind. As a typical urbanite, would probably become mad if in a rural area in Canada. Montreal, however seems to be something like Gwalior or Bangalore before IT stormed in, seems to be a place where people can work, play and have quite a few gardens as well. Rail This is one thing that is similar in both the great countries. India has Indian Railways and while the Canadians have their own mountain railway called viarail. India chugs on its 68k kilometre network, Canada is at fourth position with 52k network. With thrice the land size, it should have been somewhere where Russia is or even better than them. It would be interesting if a Canadian/s comment about their railway network and why it is so bad in terms of reach. As far as food is concerned, somebody shared this Also, have no idea if Canadian trains are as entertaining as Indian ones, in terms of diverse group of people as well as variety of food to eat as also shared a bit in the video. I am not aware whether Via Rail is the only network operator and there are other network operators unlike Indian Railways which has monopoly on most of the operations. Countries which have first past the post system - Wikipedia Business houses, Political Families This is again something that is similar in both the countries, it seems (from afar) that its only few business houses and more importantly political families which have governed for years. From what little I could understand, both India and Canada have first past the post system which as shared by its critics is unfair to new and small parties. It would be interesting to see if Canada does a re-think. For India, it would need a massive public education outreach policy and implementation. We just had elections in 5 states of India with U.P. (with respect to area-size and population density) and from the last several years, the EVM s (Electronic Voting Machines) tries to make sure that nobody could know which area which party got the most votes. This is to make sure the winning party is not able to take revenge on people or areas which did not vote for them. Instead you have general region counting of votes with probably even the Election Commission not knowing which EVM went to what area and what results are there in sort of double-blind methodology. As far as Business houses are concerned, I am guessing it s the same world-over, only certain people hold the wealth while majority of us are in hard-working, non-wealthy status. Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis Apart from all the social activities that Montreal is famous for, somebody told/shared with me that it is possible to see the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis can be seen in Canada. I dunno how true or not it is, while probably in Montreal it isn t possible to see due to light pollution, but maybe around 40-50 kms. from the city ? Can people see it from Canada ? IF yes, how far would you have to go ? Are there any companies or people who take people to see the Northern Lights. While I still have to apply for bursary, and if that gets ok, then try getting the visa, but if that goes through, apart from debconf and social activities happening in and around Montreal, Museums, Music etc. , this would be something I would like to experience if it s possible. While I certainly would have to be prepared for the cold that would be, if it s possible, no offence to debconf or anybody else but it probably would be the highlight of the entire trip if its possible. This should be called/labelled as the greatest show on earth TM.
Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: # Population Density, #Area size, #Aurora Borealis, #Canada, #Trains, DebConf, India, politics

12 February 2017

Shirish Agarwal: Density and accessibility

Around 2 decades back and a bit more I was introduced to computers. The top-line was 386DX which was mainly used as fat servers and some lucky institutions had the 386SX where IF we were lucky we could be able to play some games on it. I was pretty bad at Prince of Persia or most of the games of the era as most of the games depended on lightning reflexes which I didn t possess. Then 1997 happened and I was introduced to GNU/Linux but my love of/for games still continued even though I was bad at most of them. The only saving grace was turn-based RPG s (role-playing games) which didn t have permadeath, so you could plan your next move. Sometimes a wrong decision would lead to getting a place from where it was impossible to move further. As the decision was taken far far break which lead to the tangent, the only recourse was to replay the game which eventually lead to giving most of those kind of games. Then in/around 2000 Maxis came out with Sims. This was the time where I bought my first Pentium. I had never played a game which had you building stuff, designing stuff, no violence and the whole idea used to be about balancing priorities of trying to get new stuff, go to work, maintain relationships and still make sure you are eating, sleeping, have a good time. While I might have spent probably something close to 500 odd hours in the game or even more so, I spent the least amount of time in building the house. It used to be 4 4 when starting (you don t have much of in-game money and other stuff you wanted to buy as well) to 8 8 or at the very grand 12 12. It was only the first time I spent time trying to figure out where the bathroom should be, where the kitchen should, where the bedroom should be and after that I could do that blind-folded. The idea behind my house-design used to be simplicity, efficient (for my character). I used to see other people s grand creations of their houses and couldn t understand why they made such big houses. Now few days back, I saw few episodes of a game called Stranded Deep . The story, plot is simple. You, the player are going in a chartered plane and suddenly lightning strikes ( game trope as today s aircrafts are much better able to deal with lightning strikes) and our hero or heroine washes up on a beach with raft with the barest of possessions. Now the whole game is based upon him/her trying to survive, once you get the hang of the basic mechanics and you know what is to be done, you can do it. The only thing the game doesn t have is farming but as the game has unlimited procedural world, you just paddle or with boat motor go island hopping and take all that what you need. What was interesting to me was seeing a gamer putting so much time and passion in making a house. When I was looking at that video, I realized that maybe because I live in a dense environment, even the designs we make either of houses or anything else is more to try to get more and more people rather than making sure that people are happy which leads to my next sharing. Couple of days back, I read Virali Modi s account of how she was molested three times when trying to use Indian Railways. She made a petition on change.org While I do condemn the molestation as it s an affront against individual rights, freedom, liberty, free movement, dignity. Few of the root causes as pointed out by her, for instance the inability or non-preference to give differently-abled people the right to board first as well as awaiting to see that everybody s boarded properly before starting the train are the most minimum steps that Indian Railways could take without spending even a paise. The same could be told/shared about sensitizing people, although I have an idea of why does Indian Railway not employ women porters or women attendants for precisely this job. I accompanied a blind gentleman friend few times on Indian Railways and let me tell you, it was one of the most unpleasant experiences. The bogies which is given to them is similar or even less than what you see in unreserved compartments. The toilets were/are smelly, the gap between the station and the train was/is considerable for everybody from blind people, differently-abled people, elderly people as well. This is one of the causes of accidents which happen almost every day on Indian Railways. I also learnt that especially for blind people they are looking for a sort of low-frequency whistle/noise which tells them the disabled coupe/bogie/coach will come at a specific spot in the Station. In a platform which could have anything between 1500-2000 people navigating it wouldn t be easy. I don t know about other places but Indian Railway Stations need to learn a lot to make it a space for differently abled to navigate by themselves. Pune Station operates (originating or passing through) around 200 odd trains, with exceptions of all the specials and weekly trains that ply through, adding those would probably another 5-10 trains to the mix. Each train carries anywhere between 750-1000 odd people so roughly anywhere between 15-20 million pass through Pune Railway Station daily. Even if we take conservative estimates of around 5% of the public commuting from Pune, it would mean around 750,000 people travelling daily. Pune Railway Station has 6 stations and if I spread them equally it would come to around 100,000 people on one platform in 24 hours. Divide that equally by 24 hours and it comes to 4,160 people per hour. Now you take those figures and you see the Pune platforms are under severe pressure. I have normalized many figures. For instance, just like airports, even in railways, there are specific timings where more trains come and go. From morning 0500 hrs to late night 2300 hrs. there would be lot many trains, whereas the graveyard shifts would have windows where maintenance of tracks and personnel takes place. I dunno if people can comprehend 4000 odd people on the platform. Add to that you usually arrive at least an hour or two before a train departs even if you are a healthy person as Indian Railways has a habit of changing platforms of trains at the last minute. So if you a differently abled person with some luggage for a long-distance train, the problems just multiply. See drag accidents because of gap between railway bogies and platforms. The width of the entrance to the bogie is probably between 30-40 inches but the design is such that 5-10 inches are taken on each side. I remembered the last year, our current Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi had launched Accessible Campaign with great fanfare and we didn t hear anything much after that. Unfortunately, the site itself has latency and accessibility issues, besides not giving any real advice even if a person wants to know what building norms should one follow if one wants to make an area accessible. This was easily seen by last year s audit in Delhi as well as other places. A couple of web-searches later, I landed up at a Canadian site to have some idea about the width of the wheelchair itself as well as additional room to manoeuvre. Unfortunately, the best or the most modern coaches/bogies that Indian Railways has to offer are the LHB Bogies/Coaches. Now while the Coaches/Bogies by themselves are a big improvement from the ICF Coaches which we still have and use, if you read the advice and directions shared on the Canadian site, the coaches are far from satisfactory for people who are wheel-chair bound. According to Government s own census records, 0.6% of the population have movement issues. Getting all the differently-abled people together, it comes between 2, 2.5% of the population which is quite a bit. If 2-3 people out of every 100 people are differently-abled then we need to figure out something for them.While I don t have any ideas as to how we could improve the surroundings, it is clear that we need the change. While I was thinking,dreaming,understanding some of the nuances inadvertently, my attention/memories shifted to my toilet experiences at both Mumbai and the Doha Airport. As had shared then, had been pleasantly surprised to see that both in Mumbai Airport as well as the Doha Airport, the toilets were pretty wide, a part of me was happy and a part of me was seeing the added space as wastefulness. With the understanding of needs of differently-abled people it started to make whole lot of sense. I don t remember if I had shared then or not. Although am left wondering where they go for loo in the aircraft. The regular toilets are a tight fit for obese people, I am guessing aircrafts have toilets for differently-abled people as well. Looking back at last year s conference, we had 2-3 differently-abled people. I am just guessing that it wouldn t have been a pleasant experience for them. For instance, where we were staying, at UCT it had stairs, no lifts so by default they probably were on ground-floor. Then where we were staying and where most of the talks were about a few hundred metres away and the shortest distance were by stairs, the round-about way was by road but had vehicles around so probably not safe that way as well. I am guessing they had to be dependant on other people to figure out things. There were so many places where there were stairs and no ramps and even if there were ramps they were probably a bit more than the 1:12 which is the advice given. I have heard that this year s venue is also a bit challenging in terms of accessibility for differently-abled people. I am clueless as to did differently-able find debconf16 in terms of accessibility or not ? A related query to that one, if a Debconf s final report mentions issues with accessibility, do the venues make any changes so that at some future date, differently-abled people would have a better time. I know of Indian institutions reluctance to change, to do expenditure, dunno how western countries do it. Any ideas, comments are welcome.
Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: #386, #accessibility, #air-travel, #Computers, #differently-abled, #Railways, gaming

13 March 2016

Antoine Beaupr : State of Mapping on the Debian Desktop

TL;DR: Mapbox Studio classic is not as good as Tilemill, Mapbox studio is very promising, but you still need to signup for access, and kosmtik seems to be working right now. Use kosmtik and help getting it in Debian.

The requirement I have been following the development of fascinating tools from the Development seed people, now seemingly all focused on the Mapbox brand. They created what seemed to me a revolutionary desktop tool called Tilemill. Tilemill allowed you to create custom map stylesheets on your desktop to outline specific areas or patterns or "things". My interest was to create outdoor maps - OSM has pretty good biking maps, but no generic outdoor tiles out there (I need stuff for skiing, canoeing, biking)... Mapbox has Mapbox outdoors but that's a paid plan as well. Oh and there's a place to download Garmin data files especially made for outdoors as well, and that could be loaded in Qmapshack, but they don't have coverage in Canada at all. Besides, I would like to print maps, I know, crazy... So I have been looking forward to seeing Tilemill packaged in Debian given how annoying it is to maintain Node apps (period). Unfortunately, by the time Debian people figured out all the Node dependencies, the Tilemill project stopped and has been stalled since 2012. It seems the Mapbox people have now been working on other products, and in the meantime, the community, scratching their heads, just switched to other projects.

Overview of alternatives I wrote this long post to the Debian bugtrackers to try to untangle all of this, but figured this would be interesting to a wider community than the narrow group of people working on Javascript packages, so I figured I would send this on Debian planet. So Here's a summary of what happened so far, after Tilemill development stopped. Hang on to your tiles boys and girls, there's a lot going on!

Mapbox Studio classic Mapbox people have released a new product in September 2014 named Mapbox studio classic. The code is still freely available and seems to be a fork of tilemill. Mapbox classic still has releases on github, last one is from November 2015. It looks like Mapbox studio classic has some sort of Mapbox.com lock-in, and there are certainly new copyright issues, if only with the bundled fonts, but it could probably be packaged after addressing those issues. There is an ITP for Mapbox Studio classic as well.

Mapbox Studio Then there's Mapbox Studio, which is a full rewrite of Mapbox Studio classic. You need to "signup" somehow to get access, even though parts of the code are free, namely the Mapbox GL studio project. It is an interesting project because it aims to make all this stuff happen in a web browser, which means it "should" work everywhere. Unfortunately for us, it means it doesn't work anywhere without a signup form, so that's out for me at least. There is an [ITP for Mapbox-studio][] yet it is unclear to me what that one means because the source code to Mapbox-studio doesn't seem to be available, as far as i can tell (and the ITP doesn't say either). That is actually the ITP for Mapbox studio classic.

Kosmtik The Openstreetmap-carto developers have mostly switched to kosmtik instead of Mapbox. Kosmtik is another Node desktop app that seems fairly lightweight and mostly based on plugins. Ross has an ITP for kosmtik. The package is waiting on other node dependencies to be uploaded (yes, again).

The future of Tilemill And there's still this RFP for tilemill, which should probably be closed now because the project seems dead and plenty of alternatives exist. I wonder if node some dependencies that were packaged for Tilemill actually now need to be removed from Debian, because they have become useless leaf packages... I am leaving the Tilemill RFP open for someone to clean that up.

CartoCSS Oh, and finally one could mention another Mapbox project, Carto, a command line CSS tools that implements some sort of standard CSS language that all those tools end up using to talk to Mapnik, more or less. There are no RFPs for that.

8 December 2015

Vincent Sanders: I said it was wired like a Christmas tree

I have recently acquired a 27U high 19 inch rack in which I hope to consolidate all the computing systems in my home that do not interact well with humans.

My main issue is that modern systems are just plain noisy, often with multiple small fans whining away. I have worked to reduce this noise by using quieter components as replacements but in the end it is simply better to be able to put these systems in a box out of the way.

The rack was generously given to me by Andy Simpkins and aside from being a little dirty having been stored for some time was in excellent condition. While the proverbs "never look a gift horse in the mouth" and "beggars cannot be choosers" are very firmly at the front of my mind there were a few minor obstacles to overcome to make it fit in its new role with a very small budget.

The new home for the rack was to be a space under the stairs where, after careful measurement, I determined it would just fit. After an hour or two attempting to manoeuvre a very heavy chunk of steel into place I determined it was simply not possible while it was assembled. So I ended up disassembling and rebuilding the whole rack in a confined space.

The rack is 800mm wide IMRAK 1400 rather than the more common 600mm width which means it employs "cable reducing channels" to allow the mounting of standard width rack units. Most racks these days come with four posts in the corners to allow for longer kit to be supported front and back. This particular rack was not fitted with the rear posts and a brief call to the supplier indicated that any spares from them would be eyewateringly expensive (almost twice the cost of purchasing a new rack from a different supplier) so I had to get creative.

Shelves that did not require the rear rails were relatively straightforward and I bought two 500mm deep cantilever type from Orion (I have no affiliation with them beyond being a satisfied customer).

I took a trip to the local hardware store and purchased some angle brackets and 16mm steel square tube. From this I made support rails which means the racked kit has support to its rear rather than relying solely on being supported by its rack ears.

The next problem was the huge hole in the bottom of the rack where I was hoping to put the UPS and power switching. This hole is intended for use with raised flooring where cables enter from below, when not required it is filled in with a "bottom gland plate". Once again the correct spares for the unit were not within my budget.

Around a year ago I built several systems for open source projects from parts generously donated by Mythic Beasts (yes I did recycle servers used to build a fort). I still had some leftover casework from one of those servers so ten minutes with an angle grinder and a drill and I made myself a suitable plate.

The final problem I faced is that it is pretty dark under the stairs and while putting kit in the rack I could not see what I was doing. After some brief Googling I decided that all real rack lighting solutions were pretty expensive and not terribly effective.

At this point I was interrupted by my youngest son trying to assemble the Christmas tree and the traditional "none of the lights work" so we went off to the local supermarket to buy some bulbs. Instead we bought a 240 LED string for 10 (15usd) in the vague hope that next year they will not be broken.

I immediately had a light bulb moment and thought how a large number of efficient LED bulbs at a low price would be ideal for lighting a rack. So my rack is indeed both wired like and as a Christmas tree!

Now I just have to finish putting all the systems in there and I will be able to call the project a success.

10 July 2015

Chris Lamb: Where's the principled opposition to the "WhatsApp ban"?

The Independent reports that David Cameron wishes to ban the instant messaging application WhatsApp due its use of end-to-end encryption. That we might merely be pawns in manoeuvring for some future political compromise (or merely susceptible to cheap clickbait) should be cause for some concern, but what should worry us more is that if it takes scare stories about WhatsApp for our culture to awaken on the issues of privacy and civil liberties, then the central argument against surveillance was lost a long time ago. However, the situation worsens once you analyse the disapproval in more detail. One is immediately struck by a predominant narrative of technical considerations; a ban would be "unworkable" or "impractical". A robust defence of personal liberty or a warning about the insidious nature of chilling effects? Perhaps a prescient John Locke quote to underscore the case? No. An encryption ban would "cause security problems." The argument proceeds in a tediously predictable fashion: it was already difficult to keep track whether one should ipso facto be in favour of measures that benefit the economy, but we are suddenly co-opted as technocrats to consider the "damage" it could to do the recovery or the impact on a now-victimised financial sector. The coup-de-gr ce finally appeals to our already inflated self-regard and narcissism: someone could "steal your identity." Perhaps even more disappointing is the reaction from more technically-minded circles who, frankly, should know better. Here, they give the outward impression of metaphorically stockpiling copies of the GnuPG source code in their bunkers, perhaps believing the shallow techno-utopianist worldview that all social and cultural problems can probably be solved with Twitter and a JavaScript intepreter. The tragedy here is that I suspect that this isn't what the vast majority of people really believe. Given a hypothetical ban that could, somehow, bypass all of the stated concerns, I'm pretty upbeat and confident that most people would remain uncomfortable with it on some level. So what, exactly, does it take for us to oppose this kind of intervention on enduring principled grounds instead of transient and circumventable practical ones? Is the problem just a lack of vocabulary to discuss these issues on a social scale? A lack of courage? Whilst it's certainly easier to dissect illiberal measures on technical merit than to make an impassioned case for abstract freedoms, every time we gleefully cackle "it won't work" we are, in essence, conceding the central argument to the authoritarian and the censorious. If one is right but for the wrong reasons, were we even right to begin with?

4 March 2015

Zlatan Todori : Interviews with FLOSS developers: Paul Wise

After starting with Joey Hess, we continue with Paul Wise. What makes his star to shine are many things such as being a DSA (Debian System Administrator), a helpful hand on mailings list, encouraging people to join Debian teams but most of all - he has encyclopedia knowledge on Debian as a whole which he gladly shares with anyone who asks (very fast response on IRC channels). It is almost impossible for any single person to count all Debian teams, work and places - to know most of those things, you can image the vast knowledge which Paul has. The legend says that his brain has better and faster search engine algorithm on Debian related queries than all other engines combined. So lets see what he has to share with world. me: Who are you? pabs: Paul Wise (pabs) and I have to say that I'm no-where near as knowledgeable as your intro suggests. me: How did you start programming? pabs: Messing around with fractals and graphics things in MS BASIC. me: How would you now advise others to start programming? pabs: Pick an issue in a tool you use, investigate how the tool works and how you can change it, fix that and contribute the change back to the project that created that tool. In the process you will learn skills, interact with the community and contribute to the project. me: Setup of your development machine? pabs: Lenovo Thinkpad with external monitor, Debian testing and some tweaks me What is your preferable language (for hacking)? Why? How do you compare it to other languages? pabs: I currently prefer Python for its readability. It still has some rough edges though the documentation covers them fairly well. I generally pick up new languages when working on projects written in them. Haskell is next on the horizon due to Nikki and the Robots. me: Describe your current most memorable situation as software developer/hacker? pabs: I had a great time creating fractals in BASIC, learning about the Mandelbrot set, L-systems and more. My days and nights of hacking on frhed (a GPLed hex editor for Windows) to help me cheat at Civilisation were pretty memorable. frhed led to my work on reverse engineering the CHM file format (a documentation format for Windows programs). A stand-out moment during my time with Debian was hacking on the derivates census patch generation code during the Debian UK BBQ weekend, surrounded by geeks playing Portal, cooking things, hacking on Debian and generally having a good time (thanks Steve!). me: Some memorable moments from Debian conferences? pabs: There are so many; meeting Debian folks, playing Mao once and then never again, late night games of werewolf, both delectably delicious and hideously disgusting cheeses, fried insects, day trips to beautiful landscapes, inspiring keynotes, exciting BoFs, secret IRC channels for planning surprise birthday parties, blue hair, wet air, blocks of fried cheese, a vast quantity of icecream, pants, geeks in the surf, volcanoes, hiking, a wonderful view, a uni-cycling stormtrooper & more. me: How do you see future of Debian development? pabs: I hope we will continue to exist and uphold our principles for the foreseeable future. I don't have any crystal balls though. me: You recently became member of Debian DSA - what is that like, what roles do you have and what tasks are in front of DSA? pabs: We wrote a bit of text about that for DPN recently. me: You have large knowledge on Debian and you share it with anyone who wants to know more. What motivates you to do so? pabs: I want the operating system I personally rely on to exist into the future, helping folks work on and join Debian can help with that. me: Why should developers and users join Debian community? What makes Debian a great and happy place? pabs: Every Debian contributor has different reasons for joining the community. Personally the Social Contract, the DFSG and the spirit and culture behind them are the main reason to be involved. I also like our many efforts towards technical excellence and correctness. Of course I've made a number of good friends over the years, especially as a result of attending DebConf every year since 2007. me: You are member of Debian publicity team which writes Debian news - do you need more people to join that team and how can they start? pabs: Since there is an infinite amount of work to do, pretty much every part of Debian always needs help, that includes the publicity team. We published a post about ways to help here. me: If someone wants to contribute to Debian in terms of packaging, can they do it anonymously (for example over Tor network, does Debian have .onion address)? pabs: Due to Debian's penchant for transparency it is harder but there are definitely package maintainers who have built up a reputation for good work under a pseudonym over the years and become Debian contributors as a result. I'm not aware of completely anonymous package maintainers but there are definitely people who file bugs using one-off pseudonyms, which is almost the same thing as anonymously. There are definitely Debian contributors and members who use Tor while contributing to Debian. In fact, as Debian is very highly dependent on OpenPGP and the best practices for OpenPGP include refreshing your keyring slowly over Tor, so probably quite a number of Debian contributors use Tor. As far as I know Debian itself does not run any Tor relays or onion services. me: What are places that non-packaging developers and people could join and help spread Debian even more? pabs: There are many ways to help Debian, including non-technical ones. Unfortunately our web page about helping Debian isn't quite up-to-date with all of them but a few more are to volunteer at DebConf, helo with artwork requests, speak about Debian at events or even come up with ideas for projects. Whatever skills you have, Debian can probably make use of them. If you aren't sure where to start, jump on the debian-mentors mailing list or IRC channel and we can probably guide you to the right place within Debian. Don't worry about not being skilled enough, everyone starts somewhere. me: How do you see Debian will manage webapps? pabs: Personally I prefer locally installed software, standard data formats and standard data transfer protocols to the wild webapps world but I understand they are becoming very popular to produce and use due to the ubiquity of the web browser platform. Antonio Terceiro is mentoring a project for this year's newcomer mentorship programs (outreachy/gsoc) that aims to improve support for installing web apps on Debian installations. I hope it succeeds as it could help make Debian more popular on servers and home servers in particular. me: How would you advise Debian (and other FLOSS users) to setup their machine in terms of security and anonymity? pabs: All technology has upsides and downsides. I would advise anyone to analyse their situation and protect themselves accordingly. For example if you have a bad memory, full disk encryption, which is based on pass-phrases might lead to data loss and physical security might be a better choice for protecting your data. The right choices around technology are very much a personal thing. me: Is it better to setup xmonad (because it is Haskell based WM) with small dependency chain or GNOME (because it is getting sandboxed apps) in term of security and privacy implications? pabs: Again, the right choices around technology are very much a personal thing. Due to the design of X11, both of these are approximately equivalent from a window-manager security properties point of view, that is to say, pretty bad. Wayland is one of the possible X11 successors and offers much better security properties. GNOME folks are working on switching to Wayland. Ultimately though it comes down to how each person uses their window manager and which software they run under it. me: Should Debian join Tor project as distro that installs Tor relays by default - should it offer that as option in installer in Debian 9? pabs: Running a Tor relay requires a reasonably fast and reliable Internet connection and should be a conscious decision on behalf of the sysadmin for a computer so Debian probably shouldn't install them by default. If tasksel gets support for installing tasks from Debian Pure Blends, then we could add a Tor relay task to the Debian Sanctuary Pure Blend. me: Have you ever considered joining initiatives such as FreedomBox? pabs: I was quite moved by Eben Moglen's talk at DebConf10 in New York and the resulting BoF. It seemed like a very ambitious project but I didn't really have the knowledge, skills or time to contribute yet. me: Are you a gamer? Valve Steam games are offered for free to Debian Developers - do you use steam and play Valve games? Your thoughts on Steam and non-free Linux gaming? pabs: I play computer games occasionally, all from Debian main or ones that I'm packaging. 0ad is my current go-to for a bit of gaming. I don't have any experience with Steam or non-free games on Linux. me: Is there something you would change in FLOSS ecosystem? pabs: Various folks have highlighted new and ongoing challenges for the FLOSS ecosystem in various places in recent years. Something that I would like to highlight that does not get talked about enough is the choices we make around our digital artefacts. This is the discussion around "preferred form for modification" or "source". The "source" for a particular digital artefact is a deliberate choice on behalf of the authors. Often generated files are distributed alongside the "source" without any instructions for reproducing the generated files from the "source". It sometimes happens that FLOSS contributors forget to distriute what they have chosen as "source", instead just distributing the generated files. This is a fairly well known issue but still happens. What isn't thought about quite as much is that the choice of "source" has consequences for future development possibilities of that "source". Some forms of "source" are more expressive than others, can be modified in a wider variety of ways and are better choices in general. Sometimes the consequences of choosing less expressive forms are mild and other times they are quite important. I hope more people will start to think about these choices. Some examples where, in my opinion, various people could have made better choices are listed in the mail I sent to the games team list last year. Another thing I would like to highlight is the work that organisations like Software Freedom Conservancy and Software in the Public Interest do to protect, defend, promote and support FLOSS projects. It is very important work that needs our interest and support. me: Can FLOSS world create great alternatives to Viber, Dropbox, WhatsUp, Facebook, Skype and other non-free services? pabs: I think that the FLOSS world has already created alternatives to all of those. The success of non-free services doesn't take these alternatives away but it does mean some of them are less useful because some of them are the kind of tools that become more useful with a larger amount of people using them. I don't know what it would take for the FLOSS alternatives to achieve similar success as network effects are hard to overcome. Hopefully mako is right and the network effects are overrated. me: Your thoughts and compare Cloud, IaaS, PaaS, SaaSS? To what should the FLOSS world pay more attention and energy? pabs: Initially I dismissed these as buzzwords and a threat to Free Software. These days I view them as potential opportunities for Free Software. Cloud-related technologies such as OpenStack and virtual machines can make private compute farm hardware more flexible and useful to their owners. IaaS providers can be used to run Debian more simply and cheaply and therefore bring Debian to more people than possible with hardware. PaaS providers can be used to run Free Software services. SaaSS can be based entirely on Free Software and respect users. Of course, just like running Free Software on hardware (proprietary or libre), cloud technology, IaaS, PaaS and SaaSS all come with downsides. The FLOSS world should aim to inform users of our software of these downsides. For example, the Debian installer could note that it is running on Intel CPUs with a proprietary BIOS and various proprietary software running, that it is running on a mobile phone with a locked bootloader, that it is running in a Xen VM on machines owned by Amazon. Free Software services could note they are running on Google App Engine etc. Free Software web browsers, chat clients etc could note when they are connecting to proprietary network services. All these notes could inform users about the downsides present in the particular situation encountered. There is also much work to be done making it easier to run Free Software on top of or use Free Software to connect to all manner of platforms from lowRISC to UEFI to VMware to Google App Engine to GitHub to Facebook. The more places Free Software can reach, the more people will be exposed to the philosophy behind it and the more potential there is for folks to join the community. While co-option of the FLOSS world is a dangerous certainty, co-option of proprietary platforms might be able to expand the reach of the philosophy behind Free Software. me: Your thoughts on Purism (the open hardware laptop initiative that got recently funded on CrowdSupply)? pabs: I don't know enough about that to comment but personally I am more interested in a laptop based on a libre CPU architecture. The RISC-V ISA and the lowRISC project seems to be one of the more promising possibilities at this point in time. me: Did you watch Citizenfour - comments on it? pabs: I've seen the trailer and look forward to watching it at some point, I read there might be a screening at DebConf15.

5 December 2014

Iustin Pop: Jump!

Jump!!! What Why At the end of November, we had a team offsite planned, with lots of fun and exciting activities in a somewhat exotic location. I was quite looking forward to it, when - less than two weeks before the event - a colleague asked if anyone is interested in going skydiving as an extra activity. Without thinking too much, I said "yes" immediately, because: a) I've never done it before, and b) it sounded really cool! Other people said yes as well, so we were set up to have a really good time! Of course, as the time counted down and we were approaching the offsite, I was thinking: OK, this sounds cool, but: will I be fine? do I have altitude sickness? All kinds of such, rather logistical, questions. In order to not think too much, I did exactly zero research on the topic (all mentions of Wikipedia above are from post-fact reading). So, we went on the offsite - which was itself cool - and then, on the last day, right before going back, the skydive event! How it went The weather on the day of the jump was nice, the sky not perfectly clear, just a bit of small clouds and some haze. We waited for our turn, got the instruction for what to do (and not to do!), got hooked into the harness, prepared everything, and then boarded the plane; it needed only a very short run before taking off the ground. It took around ten minutes or so to get to the jump altitude, which I spent partially looking forward to it, partially trying to calm the various emotions I had - a very interesting mix. It was actually annoying just having to wait and wait the ten long minutes, I wished that we actually get to the jumping altitude faster. The altimeter on the instructor's hand was showing 4'000, then 4'100, 4'150, then he reminded me again what I need to do (or rather, not to do), and then - people were already jumping from the plane! I was third from our team to jump, and I had the opportunity to see how people were not simply "exiting" the plane, but rather - exiting and then immediately disappearing from view! Finally we were on the edge of the door, a push and then - I'm looking down, more than two and a half miles of nothing between me and the ground. Just air and the thought - "Why did I do this"? - as I start falling. For the first around ten seconds, it's actually a free fall, gaining speed almost at standard acceleration, and the result - Weightlessness - it's the weirdest feeling ever: all your organs floating in your body, no compression or torsion forces. Much more weird a roller-coaster that never ends; then most I had on roller-coasters was around one second of such acceleration, and you still are in contact with the chair or the restraints, whereas this long fall was very confusing for my brain - it felt somewhat like when you're tripping and you need to do something to regain balance, except in sky-diving you can't do anything, of course. There's nothing to grab, nothing to hold on, and you keep falling. After ten long seconds we reached terminal velocity, phase 1 ends, and phase 2 begins, in which - while still falling - the friction with the air compensates exactly the earth's pull and one is falling at a constant speed and it's the most wonderful state ever. Like floating on the air, except that you're actually falling at almost 200kph, and yes, the closest feeling to flying, I guess. It doesn't hurt that you're no longer weightless, which means back to some level of normality. The location of the skydive was very beautiful: the blue ocean beneath, the blue sky above, somewhere to the side the beach, and the air filling the mouth and lungs without any effort is the only sign that I'm moving really fast. The way this whole thing feels is very alien if you never jumped before, but one gets accustomed to it quite fast - and that means I got too comfortable and excited and forgot the correct position to keep my legs in, the instructor reminded me, and as I put my legs back in the correct position, which is (among others) with the soles of the feet pointing up, I felt again the air going strongly into my shoes, and a thought crossed my mind: what if I the air blows off one of my shoes (the right one, more precisely) and I lose it? How do I get to the airport for the trip back? Will I look suspicious at the security check? The banality of this thought, given that I was still up in the air somewhere and travelling quite fast, was so comical that I started laughing And then, an unexpected noise, the chute opens, and I feel like someone is pulling me strongly up. Of course nobody is pulling "up", I'm just slowing down very fast on this final phase (Wikipedia says: 3 to 4g). And then, once at the new terminal velocity, the lack of wind noise and the quietness of everything around gives a different kind of awesome - more majestic and serene this time, rather than the adrenaline-filled moments before. Because one is still up and the beach looks small, you actually feel that you're suspended in the air, almost frozen. Of course, that feeling goes away quickly when the instructor start telling me to pull the strings, and we enter a fast spin - so fast that my body is almost horizontal again - a reminder that we're still in the air, going somewhat fast, and not in "normal" conditions. I'm again reminded of the speed once we get closer to the earth, the people on the beach start to get bigger fast, and now we're gliding over the beach and finally land in the sand. The adventure is over, but I'm still pumped up and my body is still full of adrenaline, and I feel like you've just been in heaven - which is true, for some definitions of . The first thing I realise is that the earth is very solid. And not moving at all. Everything is very very slow which is both good and bad. My body is confused at the very fast sequence of events, and why did everything stop?? Conclusion I learned all about the terminal velocity, how fast you get there, and so on a day later, from Wikipedia and other sources. It helped explain and clarify the things I experienced during the dive, because there in the air I was quite confused (and my body even more so). Knowing this in advance would have spoiled the surprise, but on the other hand would have allowed me to enjoy the experience slightly better. Looking back, I can say a few of things. First, it was really awesome - not what I was expecting, much more awesome (in the real sense of awe) than I thought, but also not as easy or trivial as I believed from just seeing videos of people "floating" during their dive. Yep, worth doing, and hard to actually put in words (I tried to, but I think this rambling is more confusing than helping). Phase one was too long (and a bit scary), phase two was too short (and the best thing), phase three was relaxing (and just the right length). I also wonder how it is to jump alone - without the complicated and heavy harness, without an instructor, just you up there. Oh, and the parachute. And the reserve parachute , of course. Point is, this was awesome, but I was mostly a passive spectator, so I wonder what it feels like to be actually in control (as much as one can be, falling down) and responsible. And finally, as we left the offsite location just a couple of hours after the skydive, and we had a 4 hours flight back, I couldn't believe myself how slow everything was. I never experienced quite such a thing, I was sitting in this normal airplane flying high and fast, but for me everything was going in slow motion and I was bored out of my mind. Adrenaline aftershock or something like that? Also interesting!

23 August 2014

Steve Kemp: Updating Debian Administration, the code

So I previously talked about the setup behind Debian Administration, and my complaints about the slownes. The previous post talked about the logical setup, and the hardware. This post talks about the more interesting thing. The code. The code behind the site was originally written by Denny De La Haye. I found it and reworked it a lot, most obviously adding structure and test cases. Once I did that the early version of the site was born. Later my version became the official version, as when Denny setup Police State UK he used my codebase rather than his. So the code huh? Well as you might expect it is written in Perl. There used to be this layout:
]
yawns/cgi-bin/index.cgi
yawns/cgi-bin/Pages.pl
yawns/lib/...
yawns/htdocs/
Almost every request would hit the index.cgi script, which would parse the request and return the appropriate output via the standard CGI interface. How did it know what you wanted? Well sometimes there would be a paramater set which would be looked up in a dispatch-table:
/cgi-bin/index.cgi?article=40         - Show article 40
/cgi-bin/index.cgi?view_user=Steve    - Show the user Steve
/cgi-bin/index.cgi?recent_comments=10 - Show the most recent comments.
Over time the code became hard to update because there was no consistency, and over time the site became slow because this is not a quick setup. Spiders, bots, and just average users would cause a lot of perl processes to run. So? What did I do? I moved the thing to using FastCGI, which avoids the cost of forking Perl and loading (100k+) the code. Unfortunately this required a bit of work because all the parameter handling was messy and caused issues if I just renamed index.cgi -> index.fcgi. The most obvious solution was to use one parameter, globally, to specify the requested mode of operation. Hang on? One parameter to control the page requested? A persistant environment? What does that remind me of? Yes. CGI::Application. I started small, and pulled some of the code out of index.cgi + Pages.pl, and over into a dedicated CGI::Application class: So now every part of the site that is called by Ajax has one persistent handler, and every part of the site which returns RSS feeds has another. I had some fun setting up the sessions to match those created by the old stuff, but I quickly made it work, as this example shows: The final job was the biggest, moving all the other (non-feed, non-ajax) modes over to a similar CGI::Application structure. There were 53 modes that had to be ported, and I did them methodically, first porting all the Poll-related requests, then all the article-releated ones, & etc. I think I did about 15 a day for three days. Then the rest in a sudden rush. In conclusion the code is now fast because we don't use CGI, and instead use FastCGI. This allowed minor changes to be carried out, such as compiling the HTML::Template templates which determine the look and feel, etc. Those things don't make sense in the CGI environment, but with persistence they are essentially free. The site got a little more of a speed boost when I updated DNS, and a lot more when I blacklisted a bunch of IP-space. As I was wrapping this up I realized that the code had accidentally become closed - because the old repository no longer exists. That is not deliberate, or intentional, and will be rectified soon. The site would never have been started if I'd not seen Dennys original project, and although I don't think others would use the code it should be possible. I remember at the time I was searching for things like "Perl CMS" and finding Slashcode, and Scoop, which I knew were too heavyweight for my little toy blog. In conclusion Debian Administration website is 10 years old now. It might not have changed the world, it might have become less relevant, but I'm glad I tried, and I'm glad there were years when it really was the best place to be. These days there are HowtoForges, blogs, spam posts titled "How to install SSH on Trusty", "How to install SSH on Wheezy", "How to install SSH on Precise", and all that. No shortage of content, just finding the good from the bad is the challenge. Me? The single best resource I read these days is probably LWN.net. Starting to ramble now. Go look at my quick hack for remote command execution https://github.com/skx/nanoexec ?

12 April 2014

Russ Allbery: Accumulated haul

Wow, it's been a while since I've done this. In part because I've not had much time for reading books (which doesn't prevent me from buying them). Jared Bernstein & Dean Baker Getting Back to Full Employment (non-fiction)
James Coughtrey Six Seconds of Moonlight (sff)
Philip J. Davis & Reuben Hersh The Mathematical Experience (non-fiction)
Debra Dunbar A Demon Bound (sff)
Andy Duncan & Ellen Klages Wakulla Springs (sff)
Dave Eggers & Jordan Bass The Best of McSweeny's (mainstream)
Siri Hustvedt The Blazing World (mainstream)
Jacqueline Koyanagi Ascension (sff)
Ann Leckie Ancillary Justice (sff)
Adam Lee Dark Heart (sff)
Seanan McGuire One Salt Sea (sff)
Seanan McGuire Ashes of Honor (sff)
Seanan McGuire Chimes at Midnight (sff)
Seanan McGuire Midnight Blue-Light Special (sff)
Seanan McGuire Indexing (sff)
Naomi Mitchinson Travel Light (sff)
Helaine Olen Pound Foolish (non-fiction)
Richard Powers Orfeo (mainstream)
Veronica Schanoes Burning Girls (sff)
Karl Schroeder Lockstep (sff)
Charles Stross The Bloodline Feud (sff)
Charles Stross The Traders' War (sff)
Charles Stross The Revolution Trade (sff)
Matthew Thomas We Are Not Ourselves (mainstream)
Kevin Underhill The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance (non-fiction)
Jo Walton What Makes This Book So Great? (non-fiction) So, yeah. A lot of stuff. I went ahead and bought nearly all of the novels Seanan McGuire had out that I'd not read yet after realizing that I'm going to eventually read all of them and there's no reason not to just own them. I also bought all of the Stross reissues of the Merchant Princes series, even though I had some of the books individually, since I think it will make it more likely I'll read the whole series this way. I have so much stuff that I want to read, but I've not really been in the mood for fiction. I'm trying to destress enough to get back in the mood, but in the meantime have mostly been reading non-fiction or really light fluff (as you'll see from my upcoming reviews). Of that long list, Ancillary Justice is getting a lot of press and looks interesting, and Lockstep is a new Schroeder novel. 'Nuff said. Kevin Underhill is the author of Lowering the Bar, which you should read if you haven't since it's hilarious. I'm obviously looking forward to that. The relatively obscure mainstream novels here are more Powell's Indiespensible books. I will probably cancel that subscription soon, at least for a while, since I'm just building up a backlog, but that's part of my general effort to read more mainstream fiction. (I was a bit disappointed since there were several months with only one book, but the current month finally came with two books again.) Now I just need to buckle down and read. And play video games. And do other things that are fun rather than spending all my time trying to destress from work and zoning in front of the TV.

17 January 2014

Sylvestre Ledru: Debian & LLVM events

Being a bit hyperactive, I have been involved in the organization of two events. I am the main organizer with Alexandre Delano of the Mini Debconf 2014 in Paris, January 18 & 19th. The (great) planning is available here:
https://france.debian.net/events/minidebconf2014/
Saturday morning presentations will be general public, the beginning of Saturday afternoon will be used by the Debian France association to vote the new status (1901 law and Debian Trusted Organization).
Sunday will be more focused on Debian itself.
During the week end, I will be talking about the Debile project, the finance of Debian France and be part of the round table on compiler selection for Debian.
The (mandatory) registration should be done on the Wiki or meetup.com In parallel, with Tobias Grosser, we organized the LLVM devroom track at FOSDEM (Bruxelles), February 2nd (Sunday).
The schedule is a mix between core developers, third party software using LLVM / Clang and academic users.
https://fosdem.org/2014/schedule/track/llvm/
I will be talking on how to become a LLVM contributor. Both events should be recorded.

1 January 2013

Christian Perrier: [life] [running] 2012 summary

Yet another yearly summary of my running activities. It seems, indeed, that running has now slightly taken precedence over free software activities in my life and priorities for my free time. To my fellow free software friends: don't worry, I'm not on my way to stop investing my time in Debian. It's quite clear that I'm reducing my involvement, mostly because days only have 24 hours...not because I'm bored or tired by free software development. But, certainly, it became an important thing that running currently has a small priority over Debian nowadays, for me. So, what happened on that front in 2012 for running bubulle? I finally managed to run 2900 km during the year, which is over 400km more than 2011. This is mostly due to the increasing part of running in my daily commute : a typical work week can now be something like this: With such an organization, I can end up with weeks where I run up to 50-60 kilometers in 5 days, with peaks that may include 26km in one *work* day. I also end up having room in trains between the runs, I wonder why..:-) And, of course, during week-ends, I spend some parts of my time running too..:-). Indeed, just like for many drugs, I feel sad during days where I haven't run at all and it's usually hard for me to spend more than 2 days without. Indeed, the longest time period without running, this year, has been 9 days, just after the Caen marathon, in June. Mostly because, at that time, I reached a moment where training (and believe me, very boring and hard training) consumed all my motivation. But these moments are indeed very rare and training is mostly *never* boring for me. Mostly because I like running in the nature, in forests, woods, fields, country. Never wearing an MP3 player or any kind of such device toplay music, but just enjoying the outside, whether it's raining, winding, sunny hot. Running (particularly my daily commute) is also the moment where I *think* about my work, my technical activities, my own life, whatever. I think I even sometimes translated some software, mentally, while running..:) Indeed, there have been 205 days in this year where I ran at least once. Last year was 181 so....drug addiction is increasing. So, 2900 kilometers. That's about the distance from my place to Moscow in Russia. 282 hours (11 days18 hours.....9d21h last year). Average speed: 10,3km/h (10,5km/h last year). Cumulated height difference: 33,400 meters (27700m last year). More distance, more time, a bit slower: this is an obvious consequence of more trail running (which includes more difficulties, such as running on volcanoes!). Most active month: November with 331km. Less active month: June with 141km. This year was also a year of records: I ran 10 official races during the year : two "ultra" races (70km Le Puy-Firminy in November, by night and 80km Paris Ecotrail in March), two marathons (Caen and Val de Rueil), four half-marathons and two "short" (less than 30km) trail races. How about next^W this year? Well, my goals are currently being secured: All this of course is assuming that no injury comes up (my ankles are sometimes yelling outbut I'm fortunate enough to not have articulation problems that many runners have, particularly in knees). We'll see on January 1st 2014...:-)

19 November 2012

Jon Dowland: Three Christmas Songs Which Aren't

For some reason each of these three songs feel "Christmassy" to me. They are definitely not Christmas songs. Can you figure out why? Cocteau Twins - Lorelei <iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/3diz8I0AVVk" width="420"></iframe> Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Sailing On The Seven Seas <iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/lMST3H69-Os" width="420"></iframe> Ladytron - White Elephant <iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/7cKEy0BFfQw" width="420"></iframe>

14 July 2012

Christian Perrier: Debconf 12 work

As already written, even though it seems, I didn't spend my time running at Debconf12. Or eating cheese... Or (tentatively) hiking volcanoes... Or helping people to kill each other with socks... Or drinking beers... Not *only* all of these (some of them at the same time, though hiking a volcano while eating cheese and drinking beers is not particularly easy)....but also some Debian work. So, I uploaded a backport of samba to squeeze backports and our squeeze users should now have the same samba version than wheezy ones. I also stopped several cronjobs on i18n.debian.net and moved some material there as links have been (or should be) moved to the brand new i18n.debian.org (and its alias l10n.debian.org). I did a major cleanup in tasksel, committed several fixes, proposed others for review (mostly to Joey Hess). All this in preparation for a soon-to-come upload, probably after D-I beta1 which has been prepared by Cyril Brulebois while he was.....not attending Debconf12.. I also followed the integration of Sorina Sandu's work on netcfg for link detection and network ESSID choice in Debian Installer. Sorina is doing well in her GSOC work, because she's clearly someone with great capabilities who we will, I hope, be able to keep contributing to Debian. We can also thank the mentoring work of Gaudenz Steinlin to guide Sorina through D-I's arcanes. I also went through the current status of debconf translation completeness in testing for the 7 languages that target 100% (Czech, German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish). Here, the point is mostly taking care that fixes are either: I can we have good chances to achieve this goal for at least 6 of these 7 languages (Czech might be more tricky as several translations are not yet made). Finally, I also did most of my regular Debian work (which usually takes 1-2 hours every day)...and bits of my paid work (sorry for those people who I shared the table at breakfast, but that was my only common time window with my team at work). So, well, quite productive weeks, once again.

7 July 2012

Christian Perrier: DebConf running: take 5 (South-West suburbs of Managua)

The challenge is now more and more to find good places to run without too much cars and noises....and not too far away. Today, I think I made it well..:-) After a look on the map, and some wild guess from what I now know of the way the city is organized, I decided to go south-west of Managa, from the hotel Seminole. This is again a hilly run because, anyway, wherever you go south in Managua, you're going up. Ralf, who arrived just yesterday, joined me and, I guess, enjoyed the run. After going through an obviously quite rich neighbourhood with nice villas, gardeners, huge US truck-style cars, we went close to the Mormonschurch...and a mosque, then headed westward close to "Colegio Americano", with fences, walls, guards in the corner, etc. Seems that any tiny bit of USA in the world needs an army to protect it. Crossing la Pista Suburbana, we then went on a very quiet roads towards the hill, in a very green and peaceful area. House there were really not as fancy as in other places, even seeming quite "poor" in some way. However, we never felt any problem and people we meet on the way are always friendly and smiling : "Hola", "Buenos Dias", etc. At the end of the road, after about half an hour, we decided to head back. However, as going back the same way is boring, I suggested we head up west as my phone's map (it is very helpful to have a smartphone with GPS and Google Maps for wandering through unknwon places) was mentioning another road going north-west a little bit westward. So we entered a small trail between house farms...with dogs! These were a bit "scary" as they were barking at us and of course running entirely freely. On the other hand, none was really aggressive and we had no problem. I however saw a few people really staring at us as I guess there are not so many runners in this place..:-). But still, we never felt unsafe: just in a quite uncommon place. After abotu 500m we found the "road" that was on my map: indeed a path going down slowly along the hill. And there was the marvel. An incredible panoramic view going going the volcanoes that are East and North of Leon : San Cristobal, Telica Rota, Pilas elHoj and last but definitely not least: EL MOMOTOMBO. A nearly perfect pyramid-style volcano that lies about 50km north-west of Managua, on the eastern shore of Managua Lake. The view there is...just fantastic with also a 180 panorama to West and North-West of the lake and the volcanoes area. After this, all we had to do was heading back to the hotel and share this with you...:-) As usual, the full GPS trace is here.

6 July 2012

Christian Perrier: DebConf running: take 4 (Masaya volcano)

Yet another Grand Plan today: run in Masaya Volcan National Park. Masaya Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua. It is located only 20km south-east of Managua, so going there is as easy as renting a taxi. The original plan was to drive to the entrance of the National park (on the road to Masaya city), then run up to the volcan, so from 250m altitude up to about 600m. I therefore rented a taxi with the kind help of Norman, and we agreed to meet up at 08:30 at the hotel, along with No l and Daniel (who was planning to walk up, not running). After discussing here or there, Kurt and Gaudenz joined, both with the intent of running up. Others would also have liked to join, but I wasn't in the mood of organizing a full bus of Debconfers..:-). My plan was to enjoy pyself the hike...not to manage several taxis, etc. We thus packed in Denis blue taxi...a fancy and very visible customized blue car that looked like it had been the topic of on episode of the "Pimp My Ride" TV show..:-) Sitting 4 people at the back of a regular car without hitting some blue neon lights, or 7" TV screens is kinda tricky, but we made it. When arriving at the park's entrance, we however learned that it is forbidden to walk or hike up the road by foot, because of potential high concentrations of Carbon Dioxide. Sadly, we then had to pack again in the car and go up with it. After reaching the parking close to the volcano's active crater (that is said to have a small lava lake at its bottom, one of the very few in the world), we decided to head up for going round the Nindira crater, an inactive crater located slightly above. Unfortunately, again, the path around the Masaya crater is forbidden to walk on, because of landslides. We indeed still had great fun by running around this crater (which is about a 2.5 kilometers round trip, very very hilly and sometimes hard to run on such as a mountain path. After about 50 minutes and two laps (after all, we had a giant stadium!), we headed back to the parking, packed 5 sweating geeks in the car and went back to the hotel. Full GPS trace is here. I also put a few pictures on Facebook, supposedly visible by anybody : Masaya crater and Nindiri crater.

15 February 2011

Matthew Palmer: "Please send a patch"

On the other hand, Lucas, remember that each time you ask someone to take some time to implement your pet feature request, you take some time away from her that could be used to contribute something in an area where she gives a damn. (This has been a Public Service Announcement from the "Scratch your own itch" foundation, with the grateful assistance of the "Paddle your own f**king canoe" committee.)

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