Search Results: "blade"

6 November 2017

Jonathan Dowland: Coil

Peter Christopherson and Jhonn Balance, from [Santa Sangre]( Peter Christopherson and Jhonn Balance, from Santa Sangre
A friend asked me to suggest five tracks by Coil that gave an introduction to their work. Trying to summarize Coil in 5 tracks is tough. I think it's probably impossible to fairly summarize Coil with any subset of their music, for two reasons. Firstly, their music was the output of their work but I don't think is really the whole of the work itself. There's a real mystique around them. They were deeply interested in arcania, old magic, Aleister Crowley, scatology; they were both openly and happily gay and their work sometimes explored their experiences in various related underground scenes and sub-cultures; they lost friends to HIV/AIDS and that had a profound impact on them. They had a big influence on some people who discovered them who were exploring their own sexualities at the time and might have felt excluded from mainstream society. They frequently explored drugs, meditation and other ways to try to expand and open their minds; occultism. They were also fiercely anti-commercial, their stuff was released in limited quantities across a multitude of different music labels, often under different names, and often paired with odd physical objects, runes, vials of blood, etc. Later fascinations included paganism and moon worship. I read somewhere that they literally cursed one of their albums. Secondly, part of their "signature" was the lack of any consistency in their work, or to put it another way, their style over time varied enormously. I'm also not necessarily well-versed in all their stuff, I'm part way on this journey myself... but these are tracks which stand out at least from the subset I've listened to. Both original/core members of Coil have passed away and the legal status of their catalogue is in a state of limbo. Some of these songs are available on currently-in-print releases, but all such releases are under dispute by some associate or other.

1. Heaven's Blade Like (probably) a lot of Coil songs, this one exists in multiple forms, with some dispute about which are canonical, which are officially sanctioned, etc. the video linked above actually contains 5 different versions, but I've linked to a time offset to the 4th: "Heaven's Blade (Backwards)". This version was the last to come to light with the recent release of "Backwards", an album originally prepared in the 90s at Trent Reznor's Nothing Studios in New Orleans, but not finished or released. The circumstances around its present-day release, as well as who did what to it and what manipulation may have been performed to the audio a long time after the two core members had passed, is a current topic in fan circles. Despite that, this is my preferred version. You can choose to investigate the others, or not, at your own discretion.

2. how to destroy angels (ritual music for the accumulation of male sexual energy) A few years ago, "guidopaparazzi", a user at the Echoing the Sound music message board attempted to listen to every Coil release ever made and document the process. He didn't do it chronologically, leaving the EPs until near the end, which is when he tackled this one (which was the first release by Coil, and was the inspiration behind the naming of Trent Reznor's one-time side project "How To Destroy Angels"). Guido seemed to think this was some kind of elaborate joke. Personally I think it's a serious piece and there's something to it but this just goes to show, different people can take things in entirely different ways. Here's Guido's review, and you can find the rest of his reviews linked from that one if you wish.

3. Red Birds Will Fly Out Of The East And Destroy Paris In A Night Both "Musick To Play In The Dark" volumes (one and two) are generally regarded as amongst the most accessible entry points to the Coil discography. This is my choice of cut from volume 1. For some reason this reminds me a little of some of the background music from the game "Unreal Tournament". I haven't played that in at least 15 years. I should go back and see if I can figure out why it does. The whole EP is worth a listen, especially at night.

4. Things Happen It's tricky to pick a track from either "Love's Secret Domain" or "Horse Rotorvator"; there are other choices which I think are better known and loved than this one but it's one that haunted me after I first heard it for one reason or another, so here it is.

5. The Anal Staircase Track 1 from Horse Rotorvator. What the heck is a Horse Rotorvator anyway? I think it was supposed to have been a lucid nightmare experienced by the vocalist Jhonn Balance. So here they wrote a song about anal sex. No messing about, no allusion particularly, but why should there be?

Bonus 6th: 7-Methoxy-B-Carboline (Telepathine) From the drone album "Time Machines", which has just been re-issued by DIAS records, who describe it as "authorized". Each track is titled by the specific combination of compounds that inspired its composition, supposedly. Or, perhaps it's a "recommended dosing" for listening along.

Post-script If those piqued your interest, there's some decent words and a list of album suggestions in this Vinyl Factory article. Finally, if you can track them down, Stuart Maconie had two radio shows about Coil on his "Freak Zone" programme. The main show discusses the release of "Backwards", including an interview with collaborator Danny Hyde, who was the main person behind the recent re-issue. The shorter show is entitled John Doran uncoils Coil. Guest John Doran from The Quietus discusses the group and their history interspersed with Coil tracks and tracks from their contemporaries. Interestingly they chose a completely different set of 5 tracks to me.

14 June 2017

Sjoerd Simons: Debian armhf VM on arm64 server

At Collabora one of the many things we do is build Debian derivatives/overlays for customers on a variety of architectures including 32 bit and 64 bit ARM systems. And just as Debian does, our OBS system builds on native systems rather than emulators. Luckily with the advent of ARM server systems some years ago building natively for those systems has been a lot less painful than it used to be. For 32 bit ARM we've been relying on Calxeda blade servers, however Calxeda unfortunately tanked ages ago and the hardware is starting to show its age (though luckily Debian Stretch does support it properly, so at least the software is still fresh). On the 64 bit ARM side, we're running on Gigabyte MP30-AR1 based servers which can run 32 bit arm code (As opposed to e.g. ThunderX based servers which can only run 64 bit code). As such running armhf VMs on them to act as build slaves seems a good choice, but setting that up is a bit more involved than it might appear. The first pitfall is that there is no standard bootloader or boot firmware available in Debian to boot on the "virt" machine emulated by qemu (I didn't want to use an emulation of a real machine). That also means there is nothing to pick the kernel inside the guest at boot nor something which can e.g. have the guest network boot, which means direct kernel booting needs to be used. The second pitfall was that the current Debian Stretch armhf kernel isn't built with support for the generic PCI host controller which the qemu virtual machine exposes, which means no storage and no network shows up in the guest. Hopefully that will get solved soonish (Debian bug 864726) and can be in a Stretch update, until then a custom kernel package is required using the patch attach to the bug report is required but I won't go into that any further in this post. So on the happy assumption that we have a kernel that works, the challenge left is to nicely manage direct kernel loading. Or more specifically, how ensure the hosts boots the kernel the guest has installed via the standard apt tools without having to copy kernels around between guest/host, which essentially comes down to exposing /boot from the guest to the host. The solution we picked is to use qemu's 9pfs support to share a folder from the host and use that as /boot of the guest. For the 9p folder the "mapped" security mode seems needed as the "none" mode seems to get confused by dpkg (Debian bug 864718). As we're using libvirt as our virtual machine manager the remainder of how to glue it all together will be mostly specific to that. First step is to install the system, mostly as normal. One can directly boot into the vmlinuz and initrd.gz provided by normal Stretch armhf netboot installer (downloaded into e.g /tmp). The setup overall is straight-forward with a few small tweaks: Apart from those tweaks the resulting example command is similar to the one that can be found in the virt-install man-page:
virt-install --name armhf-vm --arch armv7l --memory 512 \
  --disk /srv/armhf-vm.img,bus=virtio
  --filesystem /srv/armhf-vm-boot,virtio-boot,mode=mapped \

Run through the install as you'd normally would. Towards the end the installer will likely complain it can't figure out how to install a bootloader, which is fine. Just before ending the install/reboot, switch to the shell and copy the /boot/vmlinuz and /boot/initrd.img from the target system to the host in some fashion (e.g. chroot into /target and use scp from the installed system). This is required as the installer doesn't support 9p, but to boot the system an initramfs will be needed with the modules needed to mount the root fs, which is provided by the installed initramfs :). Once that's all moved around, the installer can be finished. Next, booting the installed system. For that adjust the libvirt config (e.g. using virsh edit and tuning the xml) to use the kernel and initramfs copied from the installer rather then the installer ones. Spool up the VM again and it should happily boot into a freshly installed Debian system. To finalize on the guest side /boot should be moved onto the shared 9pfs, the fstab entry for the new /boot should look something like:
virtio-boot /boot  9p trans=virtio,version=9p2000.L,x-systemd.automount 0 0

With that setup, it's just a matter of shuffling the files in /boot around to the new filesystem and the guest is done (make sure vmlinuz/initrd.img stay symlinks). Kernel upgrades will work as normal and visible to the host. Now on the host side there is one extra hoop to jump through, as the guest uses the 9p mapped security model symlinks in the guest will be normal files on the host containing the symlink target. To resolve that one, we've used libvirt's qemu hook support to setup a proper symlink before the guest is started. Below is the script we ended up using as an example (/etc/libvirt/hooks/qemu):
bootdir=/srv/$ vm -boot
if [ $ action  != "prepare" ] ; then
  exit 0
if [ ! -d $ bootdir  ] ; then
  exit 0
ln -sf $(basename $(cat $ bootdir /vmlinuz))  $ bootdir /virtio-vmlinuz
ln -sf $(basename $(cat $ bootdir /initrd.img))  $ bootdir /virtio-initrd.img

With that in place, we can simply point the libvirt definition to use /srv/$ vm -boot/virtio- vmlinuz,initrd.img as the kernel/initramfs for the machine and it'll automatically get the latest kernel/initramfs as installed by the guest when the VM is started. Just one final rough edge remains, when doing reboot from the VM libvirt leaves qemu to handle that rather than restarting qemu. This unfortunately means a reboot won't pick up a new kernel if any, for now we've solved this by configuring libvirt to stop the VM on reboot instead. As we typically only reboot VMs on kernel (security) upgrades, while a bit tedious, this avoid rebooting with an older kernel/initramfs than intended.

30 April 2017

Paul Wise: FLOSS Activities April 2017




  • Debian systems: quiet a logrotate warning, investigate issue with DNSSEC and alioth, deploy fix on our first stretch buildd, restore alioth git repo after history rewrite, investigate iptables segfaults on buildd and investigate time issues on a NAS
  • Debian derivatives census: delete patches over 5 MiB, re-enable the service
  • Debian wiki: investigate some 403 errors, fix alioth KGB config, deploy theme changes, close a bogus bug report, ping 1 user with bouncing email, whitelist 9 email addresses and whitelist 2 domains
  • Debian QA: deploy my changes
  • Debian mentors: security upgrades and service restarts
  • Openmoko: debug mailing list issue, security upgrades and reboots

  • Invite Wazo to the Debian derivatives census
  • Welcome ubilinux, Wazo and Roopa Prabhu (of Cumulus Linux) to the Debian derivatives census
  • Discuss HP/ProLiant wiki page with HPE folks
  • Inform git history rewriter about the git mailmap feature

Sponsors The libconfig-crontab-perl backports and pyvmomi issue were sponsored by my employer. All other work was done on a volunteer basis.

17 March 2017

Shirish Agarwal: Science Day at GMRT, Khodad 2017

The whole team posing at the end of day 2 The above picture is the blend of the two communities from foss community and mozilla India. And unless you were there you wouldn t know who is from which community which is what FOSS is all about. But as always I m getting a bit ahead of myself. Akshat, who works at NCRA as a programmer, the standing guy on the left shared with me in January this year that this year too, we should have two stalls, foss community and mozilla India stalls next to each other. While we had the banners, we were missing stickers and flyers. Funds were and are always an issue and this year too, it would have been emptier if we didn t get some money saved from last year minidebconf 2016 that we had in Mumbai. Our major expenses included printing stickers, stationery and flyers which came to around INR 5000/- and couple of LCD TV monitors which came for around INR 2k/- as rent. All the labour was voluntary in nature, but both me and Akshat easily spending upto 100 hours before the event. Next year, we want to raise to around INR 10-15k so we can buy 1 or 2 LCD monitors and we don t have to think for funds for next couple of years. How will we do that I have no idea atm. Printing leaflets Me and Akshat did all the printing and stationery runs and hence had not been using my lappy for about 3-4 days. Come to the evening before the event and the laptop would not start. Coincidentally, or not few months or even last at last year s Debconf people had commented on IBM/Lenovo s obsession with proprietary power cords and adaptors. I hadn t given it much thought but when I got no power even after putting it on AC power for 3-4 hours, I looked up on the web and saw that the power cord and power adaptors were all different even in T440 and even that under existing models. In fact I couldn t find mine hence sharing it via pictures below. thinkpad power cord male thinkpad power adaptor female I knew/suspected that thinkpads would be rare where I was going, it would be rarer still to find the exact power cord and I was unsure whether it was the power cord at fault or adaptor or whatever goes for SMPS in laptop or memory or motherboard/CPU itself. I did look up the documentation at and was surprised at the extensive documentation that Lenovo has for remote troubleshooting. I did the usual take out the battery, put it back in, twiddle with the little hole in the bottom of the laptop, trying to switch on without the battery on AC mains, trying to switch on with battery power only but nothing worked. Couple of hours had gone by and with a resigned thought went to bed, convincing myself that anyways it s good I am not taking the lappy as it is extra-dusty there and who needs a dead laptop anyways. Update After the event was over, I did contact Lenovo support and within a week, with one visit from a service engineer, he was able to identify that it was a faulty cable which was at fault and not the the other things which I was afraid of. Another week gone by and lenovo replaced the cable. Going by service standards that I have seen of other companies, Lenovo deserves a gold star here for the prompt service they provided. I probably would end up subscribing to their extended 2-year warranty service when my existing 3 year warranty is about to be over. Next day, woke up early morning, two students from COEP hostel were volunteering and we made our way to NCRA, Pune University Campus. Ironically, though we were under the impression that we would be the late arrivals, it turned out we were the early birds. 5-10 minutes passed by and soon enough we were joined by Aniket and we played catch-up for a while. We hadn t met each other for a while so it was good to catch-up. Then slowly other people starting coming in and around 07:10-07:15 we started for GMRT, Khodad. Now I had been curious as had been hearing for years that the Pune-Nashik NH-50 highway would be concreted and widened to six-lane highways but the experience was below par. Came back and realized the proposal has now been pushed back to 2020. From the mozilla team, only Aniket was with us, the rest of the group was coming straight from Nashik. Interestingly, all the six people who came, came on bikes which depending upon how you look at it was either brave or stupid. Travelling on bikes on Indian highways you either have to be brave or stupid or both, we have more than enough accidents due to quality of road construction, road design, lane-changing drivers and many other issues. This is probably not the place for it hence will use some other blog post to rant about that. We reached around 10:00 hrs. IST and hung around till lunch as Akshat had all the marketing material, monitors etc. The only thing we had were couple of lappies and couple of SBC s, an RPI 3 and a BBB. Aarti Kashyap sharing something about SBC Our find for the event was Aarti Kashyap who you can see above. She is a third-year student at COEP and one of the rare people who chose to interact with hardware rather than software. From last several years, we had been trying, successfully and unsuccessfully to get more Indian women and girls interested into technology. It is a vicious circle as till a girl/woman doesn t volunteer we are unable to share our knowledge to the extent we can which leads them to not have much interest in FOSS or even technology in general. While there are groups are djangogirls, Pyladies and railgirls and even Outreachy which tries to motivate getting girls into computing but it s a long road ahead. We are short of both funds and ideas as to how to motivate more girls to get into computing and then to get into playing with hardware. I don t know where to start and end for whoever wants to play with hardware. From SBC s, routers to blade servers the sky is the limit. Again this probably isn t the place for it, hence probably we can chew it on more at some other blog post. This year, we had a lowish turnout due to the fact that the 12th board exams 1st paper was on the day we had opened. So instead of 20-25k, we probably had 5-7k fewer people pass through. There were two-three things that we were showing, we were showing Debian on one of the systems, we were showing the output from the SBC s on the other monitor but the glare kept hitting the monitors. While the organizers had done exemplary work over last year. They had taped the carpets on the ground so there was hardly any dust moving around. However, I wished the organizers had taken the pains to have two cloth roofs over our head instead of just one, the other roof head could be say 2 feet up, this would have done two things a. It probably would have cooled the place a bit more as b. We could get diffused sunlight which would have lessened the glare and reflection the LCD s kept throwing back. At times we also got people to come to our side as can be seen in Aarti s photo as can be seen above. If these improvements can be made for next year, this would result in everybody in our Pandal would benefit, not just us and mozilla. This would be benefiting around 10-15 organizations which were within the same temporary structure. Of course, it depends very much on the budget they are able to have and people who are executing, we can just advise. The other thing which had been missing last year and this year is writing about Single Board Computers in Marathi. If we are to promote them as something to replace a computer or something for a younger brother/sister to learn computing upon at a lower cost, we need leaflets written in their language to be more effective. And this needs to be in the language and mannerisms that people in that region understand. India, as probably people might have experienced is a dialect-prone country. Which means every 2-5 kms, the way the language is spoken is different from anywhere else. The Marathi spoken by somebody who has lived in Ravivar Peth for his whole life and a person who has lived in say Kothrud are different. The same goes from any place and this place, Khodad, Narayangaon would have its own dialect, its own mini-codespeak. Just to share, we did have one in English but it would have been a vast improvement if we could do it in the local language. Maybe we can discuss about this and ask for help from people. Outside, Looking in Mozillians helping FOSS community and vice-versa What had been interesting about the whole journey were the new people who were bringing all their passion and creativity to the fore. From the mozilla community, we had Akshay who is supposed to be a wizard on graphics, animation, editing anything to do with the visual medium. He shared some of the work he had done and also shared a bit about how blender works with people who wanted to learn about that. Mayur, whom you see in the picture pointing out something about FOSS and this was the culture that we strove to have. I know and love and hate the browser but haven t been able to fathom the recklessness that Mozilla has been doing the last few years, which has just been having one mis-adventure after another. For instance, mozstumbler was an effort which I thought would go places. From what little I understood, it served/serves as a user-friendly interface to a potential user while still sharing all the data with OSM . They (Mozilla) seems/seemed to have a fatalistic take as it provided initial funding but then never fully committing to the project. Later, at night we had the whole free software and open-source sharings where I tried to emphasize that without free software, the term open-source would not have come into existence. We talked and talked and somewhere around 02:00 I slept, the next day was an extension of the first day itself where we ribbed each other good-naturedly and still shared whatever we could share with each other. I do hope that we continue this tradition for great many years to come and engage with more and more people every passing year.
Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: #budget, #COEP< #volunteering, #debian, #Events, #Expenses, #mozstumbler, #printing, #SBC's, #Science Day 2017, #thinkpad cable issue, FOSS, mozilla

26 December 2016

Lucas Nussbaum: The Linux 2.5, Ruby 1.9 and Python 3 release management anti-pattern

There s a pattern that comes up from time to time in the release management of free software projects. To allow for big, disruptive changes, a new development branch is created. Most of the developers focus moves to the development branch. However at the same time, the users focus stays on the stable branch. As a result: This situation can grow up to a quasi-deadlock, with people questioning whether it was a good idea to do such a massive fork in the first place, and if it is a good idea to even spend time switching to the new branch. To make things more unclear, the development branch is often declared stable by its developers, before most of the libraries or applications have been ported to it. This has happened at least three times. First, in the Linux 2.4 / 2.5 era. Wikipedia describes the situation like this:

Before the 2.6 series, there was a stable branch (2.4) where only relatively minor and safe changes were merged, and an unstable branch (2.5), where bigger changes and cleanups were allowed. Both of these branches had been maintained by the same set of people, led by Torvalds. This meant that users would always have a well-tested 2.4 version with the latest security and bug fixes to use, though they would have to wait for the features which went into the 2.5 branch. The downside of this was that the stable kernel ended up so far behind that it no longer supported recent hardware and lacked needed features. In the late 2.5 kernel series, some maintainers elected to try backporting of their changes to the stable kernel series, which resulted in bugs being introduced into the 2.4 kernel series. The 2.5 branch was then eventually declared stable and renamed to 2.6. But instead of opening an unstable 2.7 branch, the kernel developers decided to continue putting major changes into the 2.6 branch, which would then be released at a pace faster than 2.4.x but slower than 2.5.x. This had the desirable effect of making new features more quickly available and getting more testing of the new code, which was added in smaller batches and easier to test. Then, in the Ruby community. In 2007, Ruby 1.8.6 was the stable version of Ruby. Ruby 1.9.0 was released on 2007-12-26, without being declared stable, as a snapshot from Ruby s trunk branch, and most of the development s attention moved to 1.9.x. On 2009-01-31, Ruby 1.9.1 was the first release of the 1.9 branch to be declared stable. But at the same time, the disruptive changes introduced in Ruby 1.9 made users stay with Ruby 1.8, as many libraries (gems) remained incompatible with Ruby 1.9.x. Debian provided packages for both branches of Ruby in Squeeze (2011) but only changed the default to 1.9 in 2012 (in a stable release with Wheezy 2013). Finally, in the Python community. Similarly to what happened with Ruby 1.9, Python 3.0 was released in December 2008. Releases from the 3.x branch have been shipped in Debian Squeeze (3.1), Wheezy (3.2), Jessie (3.4). But the python command still points to 2.7 (I don t think that there are plans to make it point to 3.x, making python 3.x essentially a different language), and there are talks about really getting rid of Python 2.7 in Buster (Stretch+1, Jessie+2). In retrospect, and looking at what those projects have been doing in recent years, it is probably a better idea to break early, break often, and fix a constant stream of breakages, on a regular basis, even if that means temporarily exposing breakage to users, and spending more time seeking strategies to limit the damage caused by introducing breakage. What also changed since the time those branches were introduced is the increased popularity of automated testing and continuous integration, which makes it easier to measure breakage caused by disruptive changes. Distributions are in a good position to help here, by being able to provide early feedback to upstream projects about potentially disruptive changes. And distributions also have good motivations to help here, because it is usually not a great solution to ship two incompatible branches of the same project. (I wonder if there are other occurrences of the same pattern?) Update: There s a discussion about this post on HN

11 November 2016

Jonathan Dowland: Vinyl is killing Vinyl (but that's ok)

I started buying vinyl records about 16 years ago, but recently I've become a bit uncomfortable being identified as a "vinyl lover". The market is ascendant, with vinyl album sales growing for 8 consecutive years, at least in the UK. So why am I uncomfortable about it? A quick word about audio fidelity/quality here. I don't subscribe to the school of thought that audio on vinyl is inherently better than digital audio, far from it. I'm aware of its limitations. For recordings that I love, I try to seek out the best quality version available, which is almost always digital. Some believe that vinyl is immune to the "loudness war" brickwall mastering plaguing some modern releases, but for some of the worst offenders (Depeche Mode's Playing The Angel; Red Hot Chili Pepper's Californication) I haven't found the vinyl masterings to sound any different. 16 years ago Let's go back to why I started buying vinyl. Back when I started, the world was a very different place to what it is today. You could not buy most music in a digital form: it was 3 more years before the iTunes Store was opened, and it was Mac-only at first, and the music it sold was DRM-crippled for the first 5 or so years afterwards. The iPod had not been invented yet and there was no real market for personal music players. Minidiscs were still around, but Net-MD (the only sanctioned way to get digital music onto them from a computer) was terrible.
old-ish LPs old-ish LPs
Buying vinyl 16 years ago was a way to access music that was otherwise much harder to reach. There were still plenty of albums, originally recorded and released before CDs, which either had not been re-issued digitally at all, or had been done so early, and badly. Since vinyl was not fashionable, the second hand market was pretty cheap. I bought quite a lot of stuff for pennies at markets and car boot sales. Some music such as b-sides and 12" mixes and other mixes prepared especially for the format remains unavailable and uncollected on CD. (I'm a big fan of the B-side culture that existed prior to CDs. I might write more about that one day.) 10 years ago
modern-ish 7 inches modern-ish 7 inches
Fast forward to around 10 years ago. Ephemeral digital music is now much more common, the iPod and PMPs are well established. High-street music stores start to close down, including large chains like MOS, Our Price, and Virgin. Streaming hasn't particularly taken off yet, attempts to set up digital radio stations are fought by the large copyright owners. Vinyl is still not particularly fashionable, but it is still being produced, in particular for singles for up-and-coming bands in 7" format. You can buy a 7" single for between 1 and 4, getting the b-side with it. The b-side is often exclusive to the 7" release as an incentive to collectors. I was very prepared to punt 1-2 on a single from a group I was not particularly familiar with just to see what they were like. I discovered quite a lot of artists this way. One of the songs we played at our wedding was such an exclusive: a recording of the Zutons' covering Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher", originally broadcast once on Colin Murray's Evening Session radio show. Now
Vangelis - Blade Runner OST An indulgence
So, where are we now? Vinyl album sales are a huge growth market. They are very fashionable. Many purchasers are younger people who are new to the format; it's believed many don't have the means to play the music on the discs. Many (most?) albums are now issued as 12" vinyl in parallel with digital releases. These are usually exactly the same product (track listing, mixes, etc.) and usually priced at exactly twice that of the CD (with digital prices normally a fraction under that). The second hand market for 12" albums has inflated enormously. Gone are the bargains that could be had, a typical second hand LP is now priced quite close to the digital price for a popular/common album in most places. The popularity of vinyl has caused a huge inflation in the price of most 7" singles, which average somewhere between 8- 10 each, often without any b-side whatsoever. The good news is from my observations the 2nd hand market for 7" singles hasn't been affected quite as much. I guess they are not as desirable to buyers. The less said about Record Store Day, the better. So, that's all quite frustrating. But most of the reasons I used to buy vinyl have gone away anyway. Many of the rushed-to-market CD masterings have been reworked and reissued, correcting the earlier problems. B-side compilations are much more common so there are far fewer obscure tracks or mixes, and when the transfer has been done right, you're getting those previously-obscure tracks in a much higher quality. Several businesses exist to sell 2nd hand CDs for rock bottom prices, so it's still possible to get popular music very cheaply. The next thing to worry about is probably streaming services.

18 August 2016

Zlatan Todori : DebConf16 - new age in Debian community gathering

DebConf16 Finally got some time to write this blog post. DebConf for me is always something special, a family gathering of weird combination of geeks (or is weird a default geek state?). To be honest, I finally can compare Debian as hacker conference to other so-called hacker conferences. With that hat on, I can say that Debian is by far the most organized and highest quality conference. Maybe I am biased, but I don't care too much about that. I simply love Debian and that is no secret. So lets dive into my view on DebConf16 which was held in Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town This was the first time we had conference on African continent (and I now see for the first time DebConf bid for Asia, which leaves only Australia and beautiful Pacific islands to start a bid). Cape Town by itself, is pretty much Europe-like city. That was kinda a bum for me on first day, especially as we were hosted at University of Cape Town (which is quite beautiful uni) and the surrounding neighborhood was very European. Almost right after the first day I was fine because I started exploring the huge city. Cape Town is really huge, it has by stats ~4mil people, and unofficially it has ~6mil. Certainly a lot to explore and I hope one day to be back there (I actually hope as soon as possible). The good, bad and ugly I will start with bad and ugly as I want to finish with good notes. Racism down there is still HUGE. You don't have signs on the road saying that, but there is clearly separation between white and black people. The houses near uni all had fences on walls (most of them even electrical ones with sharp blades on it) with bars on windows. That just bring tensions and certainly doesn't improve anything. To be honest, if someone wants to break in they still can do easily so the fences maybe need to bring intimidation but they actually only bring tension (my personal view). Also many houses have sign of Armed Force Response (something in those lines) where in case someone would start breaking in, armed forces would come to protect the home. Also compared to workforce, white appear to hold most of profit/big business positions and fields, while black are street workers, bar workers etc etc. On the street you can feel from time to time the tension between people. Going out to bars also showed the separation - they were either almost exclusively white or exclusively black. Very sad state to see. Sharing love and mixing is something that pushes us forward and here I saw clear blockades for such things. The bad part of Cape Town is, and this is not only special to Cape Town but to almost all major cities, is that small crime is on wide scale. Pickpocketing here is something you must pay attention to it. To me, personally, nothing happened but I heard a lot of stories from my friends on whom were such activities attempted (although I am not sure did the criminals succeed). Enough of bad as my blog post will not change this and it is a topic for debate and active involvement which I can't unfortunately do at this moment. THE GOOD! There are so many great local people I met! As I mentioned, I want to visit that city again and again and again. If you don't fear of those bad things, this city has great local cuisine, a lot of great people, awesome art soul and they dance with heart (I guess when you live in rough times, you try to use free time at your best). There were difference between white and black bars/clubs - white were almost like standard European, a lot of drinking and not much dancing, and black were a lot of dancing and not much drinking (maybe the economical power has something to do with it but I certainly felt more love in black bars). Cape Town has awesome mountain, the Table Mountain. I went on hiking with my friends, and I must say (again to myself) - do the damn hiking as much as possible. After every hike I feel so inspired, that I will start thinking that I hate myself for not doing it more often! The view from Table mountain is just majestic (you can even see the Cape of Good Hope). The WOW moments are just firing up in you. Now lets transfer to DebConf itself. As always, organization was on quite high level. I loved the badge design, it had a map and nice amount of information on it. The place we stayed was kinda not that good but if you take it into account that those a old student dorms (in we all were in female student dorm :D ) it is pretty fancy by its own account. Talks were near which is always good. The general layout of talks and front desk position was perfect in my opinion. All in one place basically. Wine and Cheese this year was kinda funny story because of the cheese restrictions but Cheese cabal managed to pull out things. It was actually very well organized. Met some new people during the party/ceremony which always makes me grow as a person. Cultural mix on DebConf is just fantastic. Not only you learn a lot about Debian, hacking on it, but sheer cultural diversity makes this small con such a vibrant place and home to a lot. Debian Dinner happened in Aquarium were I had nice dinner and chat with my old friends. Aquarium by itself is a thing where you can visit and see a lot of strange creatures that live on this third rock from Sun. Speaking of old friends - I love that I Apollo again rejoined us (by missing the DebConf15), seeing Joel again (and he finally visited Banja Luka as aftermath!), mbiebl, ah, moray, Milan, santiago and tons of others. Of course we always miss a few such as zack and vorlon this year (but they had pretty okay-ish reasons I would say). Speaking of new friends, I made few local friends which makes me happy and at least one Indian/Hindu friend. Why did I mention this separately - well we had an accident during Group Photo (btw, where is our Lithuanian, German based nowdays, photographer?!) where 3 laptops of our GSoC students were stolen :( . I was luckily enough to, on behalf of Purism, donate Librem11 prototype to one of them, which ended up being the Indian friend. She is working on real time communications which is of interest also to Purism for our future projects. Regarding Debian Day Trip, Joel and me opted out and we went on our own adventure through Cape Town in pursue of meeting and talking to local people, finding out interesting things which proved to be a great decision. We found about their first Thursday of month festival and we found about Mama Africa restaurant. That restaurant is going into special memories (me playing drums with local band must always be a special memory, right?!). Huh, to be honest writing about DebConf would probably need a book by itself and I always try to keep my posts as short as possible so I will try to stop here (maybe I write few bits in future more about it but hardly). Now the notes. Although I saw the racial segregation, I also saw the hope. These things need time. I come from country that is torn apart in nationalism and religious hate so I understand this issues is hard and deep on so many levels. While the tensions are high, I see people try to talk about it, try to find solution and I feel it is slowly transforming into open society, where we will realize that there is only one race on this planet and it is called - HUMAN RACE. We are all earthlings, and as sooner we realize that, sooner we will be on path to really build society up and not fake things that actually are enslaving our minds. I just want in the end to say thank you DebConf, thank you Debian and everyone could learn from this community as a model (which can be improved!) for future societies.

23 March 2016

John Goerzen: Free cars, sunsets, and Kansas

Will you have a car I can borrow? I asked. Sure. No charge. There s a sign telling you where to find the key. It is pretty common for small airports to have a car for a pilot to borrow when flying in. This lets a person go into town for lunch, or visit friends. And it s usually free, with a can to donate a few bucks or a polite request to fill up the tank when you re done. Still, when I had called ahead to ask about flying into the airport in a small town in north-central Kansas, I hadn t expected to be told to just waltz into the place and take the key. But they had no staff at the airport most of the time. So, to me another person from a small town it made perfect sense. Somehow, because of that phone call, this town I had visited once, maybe 25 years ago, seemed instantly familiar. My mom grew up in a small town near there. She wanted me to see where she grew up, to meet some people that meant a lot to her. As it s quite a distance from home, I offered to fly her there. So, Laura, mom, and I climbed into a Cessna one morning for the flight northwest. We touched down at the airport, and I pulled the plane up to the little terminal building. Smith Center, KS airport terminal After I took care of parking the plane, I went to find the car. Except the car was missing. Some other pilot had flown in the same day and was using it, according to the logbook on the desk. I called the number on a sign which rang to the sheriff s office and they confirmed it. According to the logbook, this was only the third time that car had been driven since Thanksgiving. Were we stuck at the airport a few miles out of down? Nope. Mom called the people we were going to meet, a wonderful couple in their upper 80s. They drove out to pick us up. I m rather glad the car was gone, because I had such a great time visiting with them. Norris told me about the days when the state highways were gravel how they d have to re-blade them every few days due to all the traffic. I heard about what happened when the people in that community heard of some folks in Africa in need of car equipment they modified a tractor to fit in a shipping container and shipped it to Africa, along with a lot of books, blankets, supplies, and anything else needed to fill up a huge shipping container. Sounds like something people around here would do. We drove around a couple of the small towns. The town my mom grew up in has seen better days. Its schools closed years ago, the old hotel whose owner gave her piano lessons is condemned, and many houses have been lost. But the town lives on. A new community center was built a few years ago. The grain elevator is expanding. Every time a business on Main Street closes, the grocery store expands a little bit: it s now a grocery store with a little hardware store and a little restaurant mixed in. The mall , as the locals jokingly call it. And, of course, two beautiful small churches still meet every Sunday. Here s the one my mom attended as a child. IMG_7085 We drove past the marker at the geographic center of the contiguous United States. Norris saw some other visitors, rolled down his windows, and treated them and us to an unexpected story of the time thousands of people banded together to completely build a house in a single day, just down the road. Smiles all around. So here I was, nearly 200 miles from home, in an unfamiliar town but one where I could just feel the goodness. After spending a few hours with these people, I felt like they were old friends. As I flew us home, I spotted one of my favorite Kansas sights: a beautiful sunset. From the plane, it almost looks like the land at the horizon turns blue like the ocean, and above it the last hint of sun paints the canvas-sky. In this week of controversy, politics, and reports of violence, it reminds me that we all get the privilege of sharing this beautiful Earth. I didn t ask anybody on that trip about their politics, religion, or opinions on any of the divisive issues of the day. Whether they agree with me on those things or not is irrelevant. I got to spend a day with good-hearted and delightful people, so I flew back with a smile. IMG_7099

28 September 2015

Sven Hoexter: HP tooling switches from hpacucli to hpssacli

I guess I'm a bit late in the game but I just noticed that HP no longer provides the venerable hpacucli tool for Debian/jessie and Ubuntu 14.04. While you could still install it (as I did from an internal repository) it won't work anymore on Gen9 blades. The replacement seems to be hpssacli, and it's available as usual from the HP repository. I should've read the manual.

15 June 2015

Petter Reinholdtsen: Graphing the Norwegian company ownership structure

It is a bit work to figure out the ownership structure of companies in Norway. The information is publicly available, but one need to recursively look up ownership for all owners to figure out the complete ownership graph of a given set of companies. To save me the work in the future, I wrote a script to do this automatically, outputting the ownership structure using the Graphviz/dotty format. The data source is web scraping from Proff, because I failed to find a useful source directly from the official keepers of the ownership data, Br nn ysundsregistrene. To get an ownership graph for a set of companies, fetch the code from git and run it using the organisation number. I'm using the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet as an example here, as its ownership structure is very simple:
% time ./bin/eierskap-dotty 958033540 >
real    0m2.841s
user    0m0.184s
sys     0m0.036s
The script accept several organisation numbers on the command line, allowing a cluster of companies to be graphed in the same image. The resulting dot file for the example above look like this. The edges are labeled with the ownership percentage, and the nodes uses the organisation number as their name and the name as the label:
digraph ownership  
rankdir = LR;
"Aller Holding A/s" -> "910119877" [label="100%"]
"910119877" -> "998689015" [label="100%"]
"998689015" -> "958033540" [label="99%"]
"974530600" -> "958033540" [label="1%"]
"958033540" [label="AS DAGBLADET"]
"998689015" [label="Berner Media Holding AS"]
"974530600" [label="Dagbladets Stiftelse"]
"910119877" [label="Aller Media AS"]
To view the ownership graph, run "dotty" or convert it to a PNG using "dot -T png > dagbladet.png". The result can be seen below: Note that I suspect the "Aller Holding A/S" entry to be incorrect data in the official ownership register, as that name is not registered in the official company register for Norway. The ownership register is sensitive to typos and there seem to be no strict checking of the ownership links. Let me know if you improve the script or find better data sources. The code is licensed according to GPL 2 or newer. Update 2015-06-15: Since the initial post I've been told that "Aller Holding A/S" is a Danish company, which explain why it did not have a Norwegian organisation number. I've also been told that there is a web services API available from Br nn ysundsregistrene, for those willing to accept the terms or pay the price.

6 March 2015

Steve Kemp: Free hosting, and key-signing

Over the past week I've mailed many of the people who had signed my previous GPG key and who had checked my ID as part of that process. My intention was to ask "Hey you trusted me before, would you sign my new key?". So far no replies. I may have to be more dedicated and do the local-thing with people. In other news Bytemark, who have previously donated a blade server, sponsored Debconf, and done other similar things, have now started offering free hosting to Debian-developers. There is a list of such offers here: I think that concludes this months blog-posting quota. Although who knows? I turn 39 in a couple of days, and that might allow me to make a new one.

22 December 2014

Jonathan Dowland: Blade Runner: Alien Easter Egg?

A few weeks ago I went to see Blade Runner: The Final Cut in a one-off showing at the Tyneside Cinema. I've only watched the Final Cut once and that viewing was a bit compromised, so it was nice to see it properly, and on a massive screen with decent surround sound too. Whilst watching it I saw something that I thought might potentially have been a visual reference to Scott's earlier movie, Alien. When Deckard is climbing onto the roof of the Bradbury building, there's a decorative motif that to me, looks very Giger-esque, biomechanical, a bit like a chest-burster.
click for full frame click for full frame
I went back and took a screenshot from the Blu Ray at the same point. What do you think? As it happens, whilst the inner regions of the building in the movie are the Bradbury building (or at least the entrance hall), I don't think the upper exterior shots are.
Purge Purge
There are a few other, well-known references to Alien in Blade Runner, although they are likely simply re-used effects rather than explicitly easter eggs. The display screen in Gaff's Spinner is re-used from the Narcissus (here's a comparison) and the ambience in Deckard's apartment also featured in the Nostromo's medical bay. Some enterprising person has put together a 12 hour session of that particular sound effect looping. There's a number of other comparisons and spots at this thread.

16 November 2014

John Goerzen: Contemplative Weather

Sometimes I look out the window and can t help but feel this weather is deep. Deep with meaning, with import. Almost as if the weather is confident of itself, and is challenging me to find some meaning within it. This weekend brought the first blast of winter to the plains of Kansas. Saturday was chilly and windy, and overnight a little snow fell. Just enough to cover up the ground and let the tops of the blades of grass poke through. Just enough to make the landscape look totally different, without completely hiding what lies beneath. Laura and I stood silently at the window for a few minutes this morning, gazing out over the untouched snow, extending out as far as we can see. Yesterday, I spent some time with my great uncle and aunt. My great uncle isn t doing so well. He s been battling cancer and other health issues for some time, and can t get out of the house very well. We talked for an hour and a half about news of the family, struggles in life now and in the past, and joys. There were times when all three of us had tears in our eyes, and times when all of us were laughing so loudly. My great uncle managed to stand up twice while I was there this took quite some effort once to give me a huge hug when I arrived, and another to give me an even bigger hug when I left. He has always been a person to give the most loving hugs. He hadn t been able to taste food for awhile, due to treatment for cancer. When I realized he could taste again, I asked, When should I bring you some borscht? He looked surprised, then got a huge grin, glanced at his watch, and said, Can you be back by 3:00? His brother, my grandpa, was known for his beef borscht. I also found out my great uncle s favorite kind of bread, and thought that maybe I would do some cooking for him sometime soon. Today on my way home from church, I did some shopping. I picked up the ingredients for borscht and for bread. I came home, said hi to the cats that showed up to greet me, and went inside. I turned on the radio Prairie Home Companion was on and started cooking. It takes a long time to prepare what I was working on I spent a solid two hours in the kitchen. As I was chopping up a head of cabbage, I remembered coming to what is now my house as a child, when my grandpa lived here. I remembered his borscht, zwiebach, monster cookies; his dusty but warm wood stove; his closet with toys in it. I remembered two years ago, having nearly 20 Goerzens here for Christmas, hosted by the boys and me, and the 3 gallons of borscht I made for the occasion. I poured in some tomato sauce, added some water. The radio was talking about being kind to people, remembering that others don t always have the advantages we do. Garrison Keillor s fictional boy in a small town, when asked what advantages he had, mentioned belonging. Yes, that is an advantage. We all deal with death, our own and that of loved ones, but I am so blessed by belonging to a loving family, two loving churches, a wonderful community. Out came three pounds of stew beef. Chop, chop, slice, plunk into the cast iron Dutch oven. It s my borscht pot. It looks as if it would be more at home over a campfire than a stovetop, but it works anywhere. Outside, the sun came up. The snow melts a little, and the cats start running around even though it s still below freezing. They look like they re having fun playing. I m chopping up parsley and an onion, then wrapping them up in a cheesecloth to make the spice ball for the borscht. I add the basil and dill, some salt, and plonk them in, too. My 6-quart pot is nearly overflowing as I carefully stir the hearty stew. On the radio, a woman who plays piano in a hospital and had dreamed of being on that particular radio program for 13 years finally was. She played with passion and delight I could hear through the radio. Then it s time to make bread. I pour in some warm water, add some brown sugar, and my thoughts turn to Home On The Range. I am reminded of this verse:
How often at night when the heavens are bright
With the light from the glittering stars
Have I stood here amazed and asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds that of ours.
There s something about a beautiful landscape out the window to remind a person of all the blessings in life. This has been a quite busy weekend actually, a busy month but despite the fact I have a relative that is sick in the midst of it all, I am so blessed in so many ways. I finish off the bread, adding some yeast, and I remember my great uncle thanking me so much for visiting him yesterday. He commented that a lot of younger people have no use for visiting an old geezer like me. I told him, I ve never been like that. I am so glad I could come and visit you today. The best gifts are those that give in both directions, and this surely is that. Then I clean up the kitchen. I wipe down the counters from all the bits of cabbage that went flying. I put away all the herbs and spices I used, and finally go to sit down and reflect. From the kitchen, the smells of borscht and bread start to seep out, sweeping up the rest of the house. It takes at least 4 hours for the borscht to cook, and several hours for the bread, so this will be an afternoon of waiting with delicious smells. Soon my family will be home from all their activities of the day, and I will be able to greet them with a warm house and the same smells I stepped into when I was a boy. I remember this other verse from Home On the Range:
Where the air is so pure, the zephyrs so free,
The breezes so balmy and light,
That I would not exchange my home on the range
For all of the cities so bright.
Today s breeze is an icy blast from the north maybe not balmy in the conventional sense. But it is the breeze of home, the breeze of belonging. Even today, as I gaze out at the frozen landscape, I realize how balmy it really is, for I know I wouldn t exchange my life on the range for anything.

23 October 2014

Alessio Treglia: Bits from the Debian Multimedia Maintainers

This brief announcement was released yesterday to the debian-devel-announce mailing list. Ciao! The Debian Multimedia Maintainers have been quite active since the Wheezy release, and have some interesting news to share for the Jessie release. Here we give you a brief update on what work has been done and work that is still ongoing. Let s see what s cooking for Jessie then. Frameworks and libraries Support for many new media formats and codecs. The codec library libavcodec, which is used by popular media playback applications including vlc, mpv, totem (using gstreamer1.0-libav), xine, and many more, has been updated to the latest upstream release version 11 provided by Libav. This provides Debian users with HEVC playback, a native Opus decoder, Matroska 3D support, Apple ProRes, and much more. Please see libav s changelog for a full list of functionality additions and updates. libebur128 libebur128 is a free implementation of the European Broadcasting Union Loudness Recommendation (EBU R128), which is essentially an alternative to ReplayGain. The library can be used to analyze audio perceived loudness and subsequentially normalize the volume during playback. libltc libltc provides functionalities to encode and decode Linear (or Longitudinal) Timecode (LTC) from/to SMPTE data timecode. libva libva and the driver for Intel GPUs has been updated to the 1.4.0 release. Support for new GPUs has been added. libva now also supports Wayland. Pure Data A number of new additional libraries (externals) will appear in Jessie, including (among others) Eric Lyon s fftease and lyonpotpourrie, Thomas Musil s iemlib, the pdstring library for string manipulation and pd-lua that allows to write Pd-objects in the popular lua scripting language. JACK and LADI LASH Audio Session Handler was abandoned upstream a long time ago in favor of the new session management system, called ladish (LADI Session Handler). ladish allows users to run many JACK applications at once and save/restore their configuration with few mouse clicks. The current status of the integration between the session handler and JACK may be summarized as follows: Note that ladish uses the D-Bus interface to the jack daemon, therefore only Jessie s jackd2 provides support for and also cooperates fine with it. Plugins: LV2 and LADSPA Debian Jessie will bring the newest 1.10.0 version of the LV2 technology. Most changes affect the packaging of new plugins and extensions, a brief list of packaging guidelines is now available.
A number of new plugins and development tools too have been made available during the Jessie development cycle: LV2 Toolkit LVTK provides libraries that wrap the LV2 C API and extensions into easy to use C++ classes. The original work for this was mostly done by Lars Luthman in lv2-c++-tools. Vee One Suite The whole suite by Rui Nuno Capela is now available in Jessie, and consists of three components: All three are provided in both forms of LV2 plugins and stand-alone JACK client. JACK session, JACK MIDI, and ALSA MIDI are supported too. x42-plugins and zam-plugins LV2 bundles containing many audio plugins for high quality processing. Fomp Fomp is an LV2 port of the MCP, VCO, FIL, and WAH plugins by Fons Adriaensen. Some other components have been upgraded to more recent upstream versions: We ve packaged ste-plugins, Fons Adriaensen s new stereo LADSPA plugins bundle. A major upgrade of frei0r, namely the standard collection for the minimalistic plugin API for video effects, will be available in Jessie. New multimedia applications Advene Advene (Annotate Digital Video, Exchange on the NEt) is a flexible video
annotation application. Ardour3 The new generation of the popular digital audio workstation will make its very first appearance in Debian Jessie. Cantata Qt4 front-end for the MPD daemon. Csound Csound for jessie will feature the new major series 6, with the improved IDE CsoundQT. This new csound supports improved array data type handling, multi-core rendering and debugging features. din DIN Is Noise is a musical instrument and audio synthesizer that supports JACK audio output, MIDI, OSC, and IRC bot as input sources. It could be extended and customized with Tcl scripts too. dvd-slideshow dvd-slideshow consists of a suite of command line tools which come in handy to make slideshows from collections of pictures. Documentation is provided and available in /usr/share/doc/dvd-slideshow/ . dvdwizard DVDwizard can fully automate the creation of DVD-Video filesystem. It supports graphical menus, chapters, multiple titlesets and multi-language streams. It supports both PAL and NTSC video modes too. flowblade Flowblade is a video editor like the popular KDenlive based on the MLT engine, but more lightweight and with some difference in editing concepts. forked-daapd Forked-daapd switched to a new, active upstream again dropping Grand Central Dispatch in favor of libevent. The switch fixed several bugs and made forked-daapd available on all release architectures instead of shipping only on amd64 and i386. Now nothing prevents you from setting up a music streaming (DAAP/DACP) server on your favorite home server no matter if it is based on mips, arm or x86! harvid HTTP Ardour Video Daemon decodes still images from movie files and serves them via HTTP. It provides frame-accurate decoding and is main use-case is to act as backend and second level cache for rendering the
videotimeline in Ardour. Groove Basin Groove Basin is a music player server with a web-based user interface inspired by Amarok 1.4. It runs on a server optionally connected to speakers. Guests can control the music player by connecting with a laptop, tablet, or smart phone. Further, users can stream their music libraries remotely.
It comes with a fast, responsive web interface that supports keyboard shortcuts and drag drop. It also provides the ability to upload songs, download songs, and import songs by URL, including YouTube URLs. Groove Basin supports Dynamic Mode which automatically queues random songs, favoring songs that have not been queued recently.
It automatically performs ReplayGain scanning on every song using the EBU R128 loudness standard, and automatically switches between track and album mode. Groove Basin supports the MPD protocol, which means it is compatible with MPD clients. There is also a more powerful Groove Basin protocol which you can use if the MPD protocol does not meet your needs. HandBrake HandBrake, a versatile video transcoder, is now available for Jessie. It could convert video from nearly any format to a wide range of commonly supported codecs. jack-midi-clock New jackd midiclock utility made by Robin Gareus. laborejo Laborejo, Esperanto for Workshop , is used to craft music through notation. It is a LilyPond GUI frontend, a MIDI creator and a tool collection to inspire and help music composers. mpv mpv is a movie player based on MPlayer and mplayer2. It supports a wide variety of video file formats, audio and video codecs, and subtitle types. The project focuses mainly on modern systems and encourages developer activity. As such, large portions of outdated code originating from MPlayer have been removed, and many new features and improvements have been added. Note that, although there are still some similarities to its predecessors, mpv should be considered a completely different program (e.g. lacking compatibility with both mplayer and mplayer2 in terms of command-line arguments and configuration). smtube SMTube is a stand-alone graphical video browser and player, which makes YouTube s videos browsing, playing, and download such a piece of cake.
It has so many features that, we are sure, will make YouTube lovers very, very happy. sonic-visualiser Sonic Visualiser Application for viewing and analysing the contents of music audio files. SoundScapeRenderer SoundScapeRenderer (aka SSR) is a (rather) easy to use render engine for spatial audio, that provides a number of different rendering algorithms, ranging from binaural (headphone) playback via wave field synthesis to higher-order ambisonics. Videotrans videotrans is a set of scripts that allow its user to reformat existing movies into the VOB format that is used on DVDs. XBMC XBMC has been partially rebranded as XBMC from Debian to make it clear that it is changed to conform to Debian s Policy. The latest stable release, 13.2 Gotham will be part of Jessie making Debian a good choice for HTPC-s. zita-bls1 Binaural stereo signals converter made by Fons Adriaensen zita-mu1 Stereo monitoring organiser for jackd made by Fons Adriaensen zita-njbridge Jack clients to transmit multichannel audio over a local IP network made by Fons Adriaensen radium-compressor Radium Compressor is the system compressor of the Radium suite. It is provided in the form of stand-alone JACK application. Multimedia Tasks With Jessie we are shipping a set of multimedia related tasks.
They include package lists for doing several multimedia related tasks. If you are interested in defining new tasks, or tweaking the current, existing ones, we are very much interested in hearing from you. Upgraded applications and libraries What s not going to be in Jessie With the aim to improve the overall quality of the multimedia software available in Debian, we have dropped a number of packages which were abandoned upstream: We ve also dropped mplayer, presently nobody seems interested in maintaining it.
The suggested replacements for users are mplayer2 or mpv. Whilst the former is mostly compatible with mplayer in terms of command-line arguments and configuration (and adds a few new features too), the latter adds a lot of new features and improvements, and it is actively maintained upstream. Please note that although the mencoder package is no longer available anymore, avconv and mpv do provide encoding functionality. For more information see avconv s manual page and documentation, and mpv s encoding documentation. Broken functionalities rtkit under systemd is broken at the moment. Activity statistics More information about team s activity are available. Where to reach us The Debian Multimedia Maintainers can be reached at pkg-multimedia-maintainers AT for packaging related topics, or at debian-multimedia AT for user and more general discussion.
We would like to invite everyone interested in multimedia to join us there. Some of the team members are also in the #debian-multimedia channel on OFTC. Cheers! Alessio Treglia
on behalf of the Debian Multimedia Maintainers

30 June 2014

Jon Dowland: Blade Runner remastered OST

record photo translucent red pressing
Vangelis' soundtrack for the movie Blade Runner is one of my favourite film soundtracks. Its troubled history is reasonably well documented on Wikipedia . At the time of writing, that article doesn't mention the recent 2013 reissue which was remastered and released on Vinyl, and possibly SACD too. Last year I spotted this record and bought it for a friend's birthday. In the year since I've eventually gave into temptation and bought another copy for myself. This was a little unfortunate in terms of timing as my record player has been packed away for two months pending a house move. I did manage to test it out on a Numark PT-01 but it really needs a proper setup to do it justice. In the mean time, one can watch a video of someone else's copy playing: In related news, I've recently enjoyed the BBC's adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, as part of their "Dangerous Visions" series. Much like the film, the play elides a lot of material from the book; including Deckard's wife and (more sadly) the entire Buster Friendly / Mercer side-story. However it retains the second police station, which (to me) was the key, classic Dick "What-the..." moment in the novel.

10 February 2014

Mario Lang: Neurofunkcasts

I have always loved Drum and Bass. In 2013 I rediscovered my love for Darkstep and Neurofunk, and found that these genres have developed quite a lot in the recent years. Some labels like Black Sun Empire and Evol Intent produce mixes/sets on a regular basis as podcasts these days. This article aggregates some neurofunk podcasts I like a lot, most recent first. Enjoy 33 hours and 57 minutes of fun with dark and energizing beats. Thanks to BSE Contrax and Evol Intent for providing such high quality sets. You can also see the Python source for the program that was used to generate this page.

11 January 2014

Debian Sysadmin Team: Peter Palfrader: The Debian DNS universe

Abstract I recently moved our primary nameserver from, which is an aging blade in Greece, to a VM on one of our ganeti clusters. In the process, I rediscovered a lot about our DNS infrastructure. In this post, I will describe the many sources of information and how they all come together.

Introduction The Domain Name System is the hierarchical database and query protocol that is in use on the Internet today to map hostnames to IP addresses, to map the reverse thereof, to lookup relevant servers for certain services such as mail, and a gazillion other things. Management and authority in the DNS is split into different zones, subtrees of the global tree of domain names. Debian currently has a bit over a score of zones. The two most prominents clearly are and The rest is made up of debian domains in various other top level domains and reverse zones, which are utilized in IP address to hostname mappings.

Types and sources of information The data we put into DNS comes from a wide range of different systems:
  • Classical zonefiles maintained in git. This represents the core of our domain data. It maps services like to or specifies the servers responsible for accepting mail to addresses. It also is where all the entries are kept and maintained together with the mirror team.
  • Information about hosts, such as master, is maintained in Debian's userdir LDAP, queryable using LDAP1.
    • This includes first and foremost the host's IP addresses (v4 and v6).
    • Additionally, we store the server responsible for receiving a host's mail in LDAP (mXRecord LDAP attribute, DNS MX record type).
    • LDAP also has some specs on computers, which we put into each host's HINFO record, mainly because we can and we are old-school.
    • Last but not least, LDAP also has each host's public ssh key, which we extract into SSHFP records for DNS.
  • LDAP also has per-user information. Users of debian infrastructure can attach limited DNS elements as dnsZoneEntry attributes to their user2.
  • The auto-dns system (more on that below).
  • Our puppet also is a source of DNS information. Currently it generates only the TLSA records that enable clients to securely authenticate certificates used for mail and HTTPS, similar to how SSHFP works for authenticating ssh host keys.

Debian's auto-dns and geo setup We try to provide the best service we can. As such, our goal is that, for instance, user access to www or bugs should always work. These services are, thus, provided by more than one machine on the Internet. However, HTTP did not specify a requirement for clients to re-try a different server if one of those in a set is unavailable. This means for us that when a host goes down, it needs to be removed from the corresponding DNS entry. Ideally, the world wouldn't have to wait for one of us to notice and react before they can have their service in a working manner. Our solution for this is our auto-dns setup. We maintain a list of hosts that are providing a service. We monitor them closely. Whenever a server goes away or comes back we automatically rebuild the zone that contains the element. This setup also lets us reboot servers cleanly since one of the things we monitor is "is there a shutdown running", we can, simply by issuing a shutdown -r 30 kernel-update, de-rotate the machine in question from DNS. Once the host is back it'll automatically get re-added to the round-robin zone entry. The auto-dns system produces two kinds of output:
  • In service-mode it generates a file with just the address records for a specific service. This snippet is then included in its zone using a standard bind $INCLUDE directive. Services that work like this include bugs and static (service definition for static).
  • In zone-mode, auto-dns produces zonefiles. For each service it produces a set of zonefiles, one for each out of a set of different geographic regions. These individual zonefiles are then transferred using rsync to our GEO-IP enabled nameservers. This enables us to give users a list of security mirrors closer to them and thus hopefully faster for them.

Tying it all together The Debian DNS Rube Goldberg Machine. Figure 1: The Debian DNS Rube Goldberg Machine. Once all the individual pieces of source information have been collected, the dns-update and write_zonefile scripts from our dns-helpers repository take over the job of building complete zonefiles and a bind configuration snippet. Bind then loads the zones and notifies its secondaries. For geozones, the zonefiles are already produced by auto-dns' build-zones and those are pulled from the geo nameservers via rsync over ssh, after an ssh trigger.

and also DNSSEC All of our zones are signed using DNSSEC. We have a script in dns-helpers that produces, for all zones, a set of rolling signing keys. For the normal zones, bind 9.9 takes care of signing them in-process before serving the zones to its secondaries. For our geo-zones we sign them in the classical dnssec-signzone way before shipping them. The secure delegation status (DS set in parent matches DNSKEY in child) is monitored by a set of nagios tests, from both [dsa-nagios] and dns-helpers. Of these, manage-dnssec-keys has a dual job: not only will it warn us if an expiring key is still in the DSset, it can also prevent it from getting expired by issuing timly updates of the keys metadata.

Relevant Git repositories -- Peter Palfrader

  1. ldapsearch -h -x -ZZ -b dc=debian,dc=org -LLL 'host=master'
  2. ldapsearch -h -x -ZZ -b dc=debian,dc=org -LLL 'dnsZoneEntry=*' dnsZoneEntry

9 January 2014

Russ Allbery: Review: Honeyed Words

Review: Honeyed Words, by J.A. Pitts
Series: Sarah Beauhall #2
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: July 2011
ISBN: 0-7653-2907-7
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 412
Honeyed Words is a direct sequel to Black Blade Blues and probably doesn't make sense to read out of order. Sarah, Katie, their friends, and Katie's family are still recovering from the climactic events of Black Blade Blues and licking their wounds, but things are slowly looking up. Sarah is getting more comfortable openly expressing her sexuality, although there are still tensions, and her relationships are improving. The city of Vancouver also seems to be recovering. But major political shifts among the nonhuman races have echoes and ramifications, and after a kidnapped singer and a murdered dwarf, Sarah is pulled back into the turmoil. If you liked the world-building in Black Blade Blues, Honeyed Words is more of the same, but with more variety. Pitts adds elves to dwarves and dragons, shows considerably more of the supernatural world beneath the surface of human cities, and introduces Sarah to some new types of danger. There are a few more glimmers of the history of Sarah's sword and the nature of the gods in this universe, but still nothing conclusive. Pitts broadens the world-building rather than deepening it. But I liked the new characters. Teenage elves with obsessions make for great characters, and the demon who shows up about halfway through is delightful. As with the first book, this is mostly a story of things happening to Sarah while she tries to muddle through as best she can. There isn't much in the way of grand strategy or of seizing control of the plot. She just tries to do the right thing and gets lots of help from lots of friends. But the plot moves right along, and it's mixed with a healthy sense of normality that I find refreshing. She needs work as a blacksmith, she's trying to support a friend without having much money of her own, the living arrangements this forces are a bit of a strain for her own relationships, and her broken relationship with her family continues to lurk. Much urban fantasy is built around the premise of a regular person thrust into a fantasy world, but much of it then discards normal life once the supernatural starts. I think Pitts does a particularly good job of keeping his protagonist's life grounded in the ongoing mundane problems of living. It's also more fun to read about Sarah when she isn't quite as angstful. Over the course of Honeyed Words, she seems to be growing into a person who can accept who she is and feel secure about her place in the world. That's nice to see. The downside to this book is that, while it's full of quite a lot of stuff, not all of it coheres that horribly well. It has a certain "middle book" feel. The major plot resolves, but with some significant lingering consequences and something of a cliff-hanger last chapter. Most of the threads left open by the first book are still open here. There's character growth, and setup for some resolution, but not a lot of actual resolution. I still like this series, though. I like urban fantasy that isn't about vampires and werewolves; berserker blacksmiths and Norse legend has much more appeal, and I want to read more of it. Pitts's writing is a bit clunky and probably won't win many rewards, but it's serviceable and I think improving. If you enjoyed the first book, it's worth looking for this one as well. Followed by Forged in Fire. Rating: 7 out of 10

2 December 2013

Ben Hutchings: Upgrading from Android 2.3 'Gingerbread' to 4.3 'Jelly Bean'

Replacing my phone My first Android phone was a ZTE Blade (sold as Orange San Francisco here in the UK). It originally shipped with Android 2.1 but was upgradable to 2.3 thanks to CyanogenMod (or other unofficial mods). However there's little sign of an upgrade to 4.x; the apps I want to use are pushing the limits of its CPU, RAM and internal storage; and I've never got very good at typing on a soft keyboard. So it seemed like time to get a newer phone with a hard keyboard (and still with a SD slot). After a little research with the CyanogenMod compatibility list and some time looking at reviews, I settled on the Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G, which was exclusive to T-Mobile USA but is being resold through eBay. It shipped with Android 4.0 but I immediately installed CyanogenMod 10.2 (Android 4.3). This was a bit of an adventure as I bought the Blade with CM already installed and wasn't familiar with the multiple steps that were necessary. Copying my data The last step, and the real subject of this entry, was to move my data across. Much of this was on a SD card which I could simply plug into the Relay. The internal files had to be backed up onto this card and then restored, using the recovery environment (ClockworkMod) on each phone. After rebooting the Relay into the full Android system, my apps and settings were mostly present but I was immediately confronted with a series of error dialogs reporting that 'Unfortunately, Dialler has stopped' - and the same for 'Clock' and 'the process android.process.acore' (whatever that is). What went wrong There are thankfully more detailed error logs in the filesystem, under /data/system/dropbox (this is for logging at the Java level; if a process is terminated by a fatal signal it's logged to /data/tombstones). There are several ways to get at them, but I used recovery mode and adb to get a root shell where I could easily read and write files as necessary. The Contacts (aka People) database upgrade fails with an SQLiteException, apparently because it doesn't account for upgrading from the schema used in 2.3:
Process: android.process.acore
Flags: 0x883e45
Package: v18 (4.3.1-f963020e38)
Package: v18 (4.3.1-f963020e38)
Package: v18 (4.3.1-f963020e38)
Build: samsung/apexqtmo/apexqtmo:4.1.2/JZO54K/T699UVBMC5:user/release-keys
android.database.sqlite.SQLiteException: no such column: phonebook_label (code 1): , while compiling: UPDATE raw_contacts SET display_name_source=?,display_name=?,display_name_alt=?,phonetic_name=?,phonetic_name_style=?,sort_key=?,phonebook_label=?,phonebook_bucket=?,sort_key_alt=?,phonebook_label_alt=?,phonebook_bucket_alt=? WHERE _id=?
Clock fails somewhat similarly though it apparently didn't try to upgrade:
Flags: 0xc8be45
Package: v203 (2.0.3)
Build: samsung/apexqtmo/apexqtmo:4.1.2/JZO54K/T699UVBMC5:user/release-keys
android.database.sqlite.SQLiteException: no such column: incvol (code 1): , while compiling: SELECT _id, hour, minutes, daysofweek, alarmtime, enabled, vibrate, message, alert, incvol, profile FROM alarms WHERE (enabled=1)
        at android.content.ContentProvider.query(
        at android.content.ContentProvider$Transport.query(
        at android.content.ContentResolver.query(
        at android.content.ContentResolver.query(
The media player fails with a NullPointerException:
Process: com.andrew.apollo:main
Flags: 0x98be65
Package: com.andrew.apollo v2 (1.1)
Build: samsung/apexqtmo/apexqtmo:4.1.2/JZO54K/T699UVBMC5:user/release-keys
        at com.andrew.apollo.MusicPlaybackService.stop(
        at com.andrew.apollo.MusicPlaybackService.openCurrentAndMaybeNext(
        at com.andrew.apollo.MusicPlaybackService.openCurrentAndNext(
        at com.andrew.apollo.MusicPlaybackService.access$1500(
        at com.andrew.apollo.MusicPlaybackService$MusicPlayerHandler.handleMessage(
        at android.os.Handler.dispatchMessage(
        at android.os.Looper.loop(
Fixing the problem Maybe I could have worked out how to upgrade the relevant databases myself, but I went for simpler solutions. The clock settings are easy to re-enter and most of the media player state is regenerated by scanning files on the SD card. So I just deleted those on the Relay:
  rm -rf /data/data/
  rm -rf /data/data/
The contacts were what I really cared about, and there are actually specific menu items in Contacts to export and import those (using VCF format), side-stepping the database upgrade. So I did:
  1. Insert SD card in Blade
  2. Open Contacts and export to VCF (I forget where this is in the menus but it was easy to find)
  3. Remove broken Contacts database on Relay:
    rm -rf /data/data/
  4. Insert SD card in Relay
  5. Move exported contacts to internal storage:
    mv /storage/sdcard1/*.vcf /storage/emulated/legacy
  6. Open People and tap the menu key, 'Import/export', 'Import from storage', then the filename
This may not include all data, and in particular it doesn't seem to include attached photos. But that was good enough for me.

28 August 2013

Vincent Sanders: Men admire the man who can organize their wishes and thoughts in stone and wood and steel and brass.

I would probably not yet worthy of the admiration Emerson was alluding to but I do like to make things. As anyone who has read previous posts knows I have pretty much embraced the "do things, tell people" idea.

One small wrinkle is doing things needs somewhere to work. Since moving myself and the family to rented accommodation in Cambridge (swampy 3,500 year old English city, not the one in Massachusetts) I have been lacking space to do practical projects.

The main space
To fix this lack I have joined the cambridge makespace which, in addition to somewhere I can work gives me access to some tools I was previously unable to afford. The space gives practical training on the more complex machines (any tool can be dangerous if you do not use it correctly) which recently allowed my induction on the CNC router.

My instructor , Mark Mellors, who was good enough to give up some of his valuable making time to train me (and accidentally get his car stuck in a car park overnight by staying late) suggested that it was a good idea to have a design to try.

I decided to use this opportunity to actually create something useful (though now I re-read Marks message it did suggest a simple design...oopsy). I had been working at the electronics bench in previous weeks and been uncomfortable using the existing stools and chairs as they were either a bit high or unable to be adjusted high enough for the 80cm tall benches. I decided to design a 60cm tall stool for use at this workbench.

My initial idea was for a simple three leg stool, round top, three legs, how hard could it be? Initial research showed that showed that above 30cm the legs needed to be braced to each other. This is because the leg to seat joints simply cannot handle the stress caused by leverage which longer legs introduce.

I looked at the structure of several stools online and was initially drawn towards creating something like the IKEA Dalfred bar stool. It was discovered that the design would be easier to realise if it were made from sheet material which give a smaller challenge to a naive operator of a CNC router. Because of this simpler designs were researched and I eventually found a simple design I liked.

The design could not however be used directly as it was for imperial sized material which is not available in europe. I selected the QCAD open source CAD package and recaptured the design adjusting for the available 12mm plywood sheet material. This resulted in an imperial measurement design for metric materials.

Mark helped me transfer the DXF into the CAM software (vcarve pro 7, after I discovered the demo version of this software generates files which cannot be imported into the full edition!) and generate toolpaths for our machine. Once the toolpaths are saved to a USB stick (no modern conveniences like direct upload here) the job can be run on the machine.

Here I ran into reality, turns out that tolerances in imperial combined with lack of understanding how plywood reacts resulted in excessive play in the joints. This resulted in an unusable stool, which simply tried to rotate around its central axis and become flatpack. I had successfully turned 10 worth of plywood into some sawdust and a selection of useless shapes. On the other hand I did become competent with the router workflow so it was not a complete failure.

I was determined to make the design work so I decided to start from scratch with a similar design but entirely in metric. I performed some material research both online and practically (why yes i did spend an informative hour in several cambridge DIY shops with digital calipers, why do you ask?) it turns out that generally available 12mm thick plywood actually ranges between 11.9 and 12mm thick.

I did some test slot cuts of varying width and determined that the available stock can be "persuaded" to fit into a 11.8mm wide slot. This Interference fit joint is strong and removes the need for adhesive in most cases.

Second cut still attached to the bed. Leftovers of first attempt in the background
The sheet plywood material is readily available with a width of 1220mm and a height of 606mm (a full sheet is 2440mm long which is cut into four with a 4mm wide saw blade) so making the legs fit within a sheet and be close to the 60cm target should be possible.

I selected a suitable seat radius (175mm) and from that determined the minimal gap to the base ring with a 6mm end mill tool (20mm for two toolpaths and some separation) and hence the minimum suitable width of the base ring (50mm) giving a total radius of 245mm.

For the legs allowance was made for two joints of 30mm with 30mm separation between them the legs come out at 90mm width. If a 6mm space and a 6mm toolpath top and bottom of the sheet is accounted for a 582mm height (606 - 24) is available in which to fit the legs. The top of the leg which fits into the seat is 12mm tall leaving 570mm total leg height.

12mm plywood stool design
At this point I selected some arbitrary values for the leg positioning and angle (30mm from seat centre and 15 ) using a right angle triangle triganometry this produced a stool with a base of around 550mm or 100mm outside the radius of the seat. This seemed a pleasing shape and when the values for the holding ring were calculated it is at 104mm height which also seems to work out well.

This design was cut on the machine, lightly finished with some sandpaper and assembled. The legs slotted into the ring first and then the legs eased into the seat slots, the whole thing flipped and the seat hammered home onto the legs.

Anne Harrison volunteering to try the wobbly stool of doom
Success! It physically fit together and if you were brave enough you could sit on it. Unfortunately the plywood seemed to flex around the central axis of rotation in a rather alarming way, fine if you are under 70 kilos but not giving the impression of security most people want from their seating.

Ok, lets try with five legs instead of three (at least we can reuse the existing three legs)...nope still not good enough and another 10 gone.

18mm Plywood stool design
The others in the space suggested a few ideas to improve matters and the one I selected was to use 18mm plywood instead of 12mm, this should improve rigidity. There was a brief pause in proceedings to discover 18mm sheet is actually 17.7mm and needs a 17.5mm slot to make the interference fit work.

Completed 18mm stool
A swift redesign later altering the seat radius, gap, ring width and leg height to accommodate the new material and we have version 4 and it works without caveat. Tested up to 150Kg load without trouble, there is a small amount of flex still but nothing that feels worrying.

I finished the stool by rounding the seat top edge with a ball bearing rounding bit in a manual router and applying a couple of coats of gloss acrylic varnish. Finished stool is now doing service at the space.

In conclusion the final design allows someone with a CNC router to create a useful 580mm high fixed stool for 7.50 in timber plus cutter wear and varnish so maybe 8.50 total.

You can actually get five legs and a seat/ring out of a 1220x606 sheet and with intelligent arrangement a single 1220x2440 sheet will probably yield five or possibly six stools in total

I am making the design files of the proven 18mm version available (heck they are all there...but you have been warned, none of the other solutions produce a satisfactory result) under the MIT licence so anyone can reproduce. More pretty pictures are also available.