Search Results: "brad"

20 December 2023

Russell Coker: Abuse and Free Software

People in positions of power can get away with mistreating other people. For any organisation to operate effectively there have to be mechanisms to address bad behaviour, both to help the organisation to achieve it s goals and to protect people who work for it. When an organisation operates in the public interest there is a greater reason to try to prevent bad behaviour as hurting people is not in the public interest. There are many forms of power, in the free software community a reputation for doing good technical work or work related to supporting software development gives some power and influence. We have seen examples of technical contributions used to excuse mistreatment of other people. The latest example of using a professional reputation to cover for abuse is Eben Moglen who has done some good legal work in the past while also treating members of the community badly (as documented by Matthew Garrett) [1]. Matthew has also documented how since 2016 Eben has not been doing good work for the free software community [2]. When news comes out about people who did good work while abusing other people they are usually defended with claims such as we can t lose the great contributions of this one person so it s worth losing the contributions of everyone who can t work with them , but in such situations it s very common to discover that they haven t been doing great work. This might be partly due to abusive people being better at self-promoting than actually doing good work and might be partly due to the fact that people who are afraid to speak out when they are doing good work might suddenly feel ready to go public if the person s work (defence) is decreasing. Bradley Kuhn s article about this situation is worth reading [3]. I don t have as much knowledge of the people involved in these disputes as Matthew, but I know enough about what is happening to be confident that Matthew s summary is accurate.

26 November 2023

Ian Jackson: Hacking my filter coffee machine

I hacked my coffee machine to let me turn it on from upstairs in bed :-). Read on for explanation, circuit diagrams, 3D models, firmware source code, and pictures. Background: the Morphy Richards filter coffee machine I have a Morphy Richards filter coffee machine. It makes very good coffee. But the display and firmware are quite annoying: Also, I m lazy and wanted to be able to cause coffee to exist from upstairs in bed, without having to make a special trip down just to turn the machine on. Planning My original feeling was I can t be bothered dealing with the coffee machine innards so I thought I would make a mechanical contraption to physically press the coffee machine s on button. I could have my contraption press the button to turn the machine on (timed, or triggered remotely), and then periodically in pairs to reset the 25-minute keep-warm timer. But a friend pointed me at a blog post by Andy Bradford, where Andy recounts modifying his coffee machine, adding an ESP8266 and connecting it to his MQTT-based Home Assistant setup. I looked at the pictures and they looked very similar to my machine. I decided to take a look inside. Inside the Morphy Richards filter coffee machine My coffee machine seemed to be very similar to Andy s. His disassembly report was very helpful. Inside I found the high-voltage parts with the heating elements, and the front panel with the display and buttons. I spent a while poking about, masuring things, and so on. Unexpected electrical hazard At one point I wanted to use my storage oscilloscope to capture the duration and amplitude of the beep signal. I needed to connect the scope ground to the UI board s ground plane, but then when I switched the coffee machine on at the wall socket, it tripped the house s RCD. It turns out that the low voltage UI board is coupled to the mains. In my setting, there s an offset of about 8V between the UI board ground plane, and true earth. (In my house the neutral is about 2-3V away from true earth.) This alarmed me rather. To me, this means that my modifications needed to still properly electrically isolate everything connected to the UI board from anything external to the coffee machine s housing. In Andy s design, I think the internal UI board ground plane is directly brought out to an external USB-A connector. This means that if there were a neutral fault, the USB-A connector would be at live potential, possibly creating an electrocution or fire hazard. I made a comment in Andy Bradford s blog, reporting this issue, but it doesn t seem to have appeared. This is all quite alarming. I hope Andy is OK! Design approach I don t have an MQTT setup at home, or an installation of Home Assistant. I didn t feel like adding a lot of complicated software to my life, if I could avoid it. Nor did I feel like writing a web UI myself. I ve done that before, but I m lazy and in this case my requirements were quite modest. Also, the need for electrical isolation would further complicate any attempt to do something sophisticated (that could, for example, sense the state of the coffee machine). I already had a Tasmota-based cloud-free smart plug, which controls the fairy lights on our gazebo. We just operate that through its web UI. So, I decided I would add a small and stupid microcontroller. The microcontroller would be powered via a smart plug and an off-the-shelf USB power supply. The microcontroller would have no inputs. It would simply simulate an on button press once at startup, and thereafter two presses every 24 minutes. After the 4th double press the microcontroller would stop, leaving the coffee machine to time out itself, after a total period of about 2h. Implementation - hardware I used a DigiSpark board with an ATTiny85. One of the GPIOs is connected to an optoisolator, whose output transistor is wired across the UI board s on button. circuit diagram; board layout diagram; (click for diagram scans as pdfs). The DigiSpark has just a USB tongue, which is very wobbly in a normal USB socket. I designed a 3D printed case which also had an approximation of the rest of the USB A plug. The plug is out of spec; our printer won t go fine enough - and anyway, the shield is supposed to be metal, not fragile plastic. But it fit in the USB PSU I was using, satisfactorily if a bit stiffly, and also into the connector for programming via my laptop. Inside the coffee machine, there s the boundary between the original, coupled to mains, UI board, and the isolated low voltage of the microcontroller. I used a reasonably substantial cable to bring out the low voltage connection, past all the other hazardous innards, to make sure it stays isolated. I added a drain power supply resistor on another of the GPIOs. This is enabled, with a draw of about 30mA, when the microcontroller is soon going to off / on cycle the coffee machine. That reduces the risk that the user will turn off the smart plug, and turn off the machine, but that the microcontroller turns the coffee machine back on again using the remaining power from USB PSU. Empirically in my setup it reduces the time from smart plug off to microcontroller stops from about 2-3s to more like 1s. Optoisolator board (inside coffee machine) pictures (Click through for full size images.) optoisolator board, front; optoisolator board, rear; optoisolator board, fitted. Microcontroller board (in USB-plug-ish housing) pictures microcontroller board, component side; microcontroller board, wiring side, part fitted; microcontroller in USB-plug-ish housing. Implementation - software I originally used the Arduino IDE, writing my program in C. I had a bad time with that and rewrote it in Rust. The firmware is in a repository on Debian s gitlab Results I can now cause the coffee to start, from my phone. It can be programmed more than 12h in advance. And it stays warm until we ve drunk it. UI is worse There s one aspect of the original Morphy Richards machine that I haven t improved: the user interface is still poor. Indeed, it s now even worse: To turn the machine on, you probably want to turn on the smart plug instead. Unhappily, the power button for that is invisible in its installed location. In particular, in the usual case, if you want to turn it off, you should ideally turn off both the smart plug (which can be done with the button on it) and the coffee machine itself. If you forget to turn off the smart plug, the machine can end up being turned on, very briefly, a handful of times, over the next hour or two. Epilogue We had used the new features a handful of times when one morning the coffee machine just wouldn t make coffee. The UI showed it turning on, but it wouldn t get hot, so no coffee. I thought oh no, I ve broken it! But, on investigation, I found that the machine s heating element was open circuit (ie, completely broken). I didn t mess with that part. So, hooray! Not my fault. Probably, just being inverted a number of times and generally lightly jostled, had precipitated a latent fault. The machine was a number of years old. Happily I found a replacement, identical, machine, online. I ve transplanted my modification and now it all works well. Bonus pictures (Click through for full size images.) probing the innards; machine base showing new cable route.
edited 2023-11-26 14:59 UTC in an attempt to fix TOC links

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25 August 2023

Debian Brasil: Debian Day 30 anos online no Brasil

Em 2023 o tradicional Debian Day est sendo celebrado de forma especial, afinal no dia 16 de agostoo Debian completou 30 anos! Para comemorar este marco especial na vida do Debian, a comunidade Debian Brasil organizou uma semana de palestras online de 14 a 18 de agosto. O evento foi chamado de Debian 30 anos. Foram realizadas 2 palestras por noite, das 19h s 22h, transmitidas pelo canal Debian Brasil no YouTube totalizando 10 palestras. As grava es j est o dispon veis tamb m no canal Debian Brasil no Peertube. Nas 10 atividades tivemos as participa es de 9 DDs, 1 DM, 3 contribuidores(as). A audi ncia ao vivo variou bastante, e o pico foi na palestra sobre preseed com o Eriberto Mota quando tivemos 47 pessoas assistindo. Obrigado a todos(as) participantes pela contribui o que voc s deram para o sucesso do nosso evento. Veja abaixo as fotos de cada atividade: Nova gera o: uma entrevista com iniciantes no projeto Debian
Nova gera o: uma entrevista com iniciantes no projeto Debian Instala o personalizada e automatizada do Debian com preseed
Instala o personalizada e automatizada do Debian com preseed Manipulando patches com git-buildpackage
Manipulando patches com git-buildpackage Socializando Debian do jeito Debian Socializando Debian do jeito Debian Proxy reverso com WireGuard
Proxy reverso com WireGuard Celebra o dos 30 anos do Debian!
Celebra o dos 30 anos do Debian! Instalando o Debian em disco criptografado com LUKS
Instalando o Debian em disco criptografado com LUKS O que a equipe de localiza o j  conquistou nesses 30 anos
O que a equipe de localiza o j conquistou nesses 30 anos Debian - Projeto e Comunidade!
Debian - Projeto e Comunidade! Design Gr fico e Software livre, o que fazer e por onde come ar
Design Gr fico e Software livre, o que fazer e por onde come ar

28 February 2023

Russell Coker: Links February 2023

Vox has an insightful interview with the author of Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century [1]. The main claim of that book is that The 140 years from 1870 to 2010 of the long twentieth century were, I strongly believe, the most consequential years of all humanity s centuries . A claim that seems well supported. PostMarketOS is an interesting OS for hardware designed for Android [2]. It is based on Alpine Linux, is small, and modular. If you want to change something just change that package not the entire image. Also an aim is to have as much commonality between devices as possible, all phones with the same CPU family can run the same packages apart from the kernel and maybe some utilities related to hardware. Abhijithpa blogged about getting started with pmOS, it seems easy to do [3]. Interesting article about gay samurai [4]. Regarding sex with men or women an elderly arbiter, after hearing the impassioned arguments of the two sides, counsels that the wisest course is to follow both paths in moderation, thereby helping to prevent overindulgence in either . Wow. The SCP project is an interesting collaborative SciFi/horror fiction project [5] based on an organisation that aims to Secure and Contain dangerous objects and beings and Protect the world from them. The series of stories about the Anti-Memetics Division [6] is a good place to start reading.

12 November 2022

Debian Brasil: Participa o da comunidade Debian no Latinoware 2022

De 2 a 4 de novembro de 2022 aconteceu a 19 edi o do Latinoware - Congresso Latino-americano de Software Livre e Tecnologias Abertas, em Foz do Igua u. Ap s 2 anos acontecendo de forma online devido a pandemia do COVID-19, o evento voltou a ser presencial e sentimos que a comunidade Debian Brasil deveria estar presente. Nossa ltima participa o no Latinoware foi em 2016 A organiza o do Latinoware cedeu para a comunidade Debian Brasil um estande para que pud ssemos ter contato com as pessoas que visitavam a rea aberta de exposi es e assim divulgarmos o projeto Debian. Durante os 3 dias do evento, o estande foi organizado por mim (Paulo Henrique Santana) como Desenvolvedor Debian, e pelo Leonardo Rodrigues como contribuidor Debian. Infelizmente o Daniel Lenharo teve um imprevisto de ltima hora e n o pode ir para Foz do Igua u (sentimos sua falta l !). Latinoware 2022 estande 1 V rias pessoas visitaram o estande e aquelas mais iniciantes (principalmente estudantes) que n o conheciam o Debian, perguntavam do que se tratava o nosso grupo e a gente explicava v rios conceitos como o que Software Livre, distribui o GNU/Linux e o Debian propriamente dito. Tamb m recebemos pessoas da comunidade de Software Livre brasileira e de outros pa ses da Am rica Latina que j utilizavam uma distribui o GNU/Linux e claro, muitas pessoas que j utilizavam Debian. Tivemos algumas visitas especiais como do Jon maddog Hall, do Desenvolvedor Debian Emeritus Ot vio Salvador, do Desenvolvedor Debian Eriberto Mota, e dos Mantenedores Debian Guilherme de Paula Segundo e Paulo Kretcheu. Latinoware 2022 estande 4 Foto da esquerda pra direita: Leonardo, Paulo, Eriberto e Ot vio. Latinoware 2022 estande 5 Foto da esquerda pra direita: Paulo, Fabian (Argentina) e Leonardo. Al m de conversarmos bastante, distribu mos adesivos do Debian que foram produzidos alguns meses atr s com o patroc nio do Debian para serem distribu dos na DebConf22(e que haviam sobrado), e vendemos v rias camisetas do Debian produzidas pela comunidade Curitiba Livre. Latinoware 2022 estande 2 Latinoware 2022 estande 3 Tamb m tivemos 3 palestras inseridas na programa o oficial do Latinoware. Eu fiz as palestras: como tornar um(a) contribuidor(a) do Debian fazendo tradu es e como os SysAdmins de uma empresa global usam Debian . E o Leonardo fez a palestra: vantagens da telefonia Open Source nas empresas . Latinoware 2022 estande 6 Foto Paulo na palestra. Agradecemos a organiza o do Latinoware por receber mais uma vez a comunidade Debian e gentilmente ceder os espa os para a nossa participa o, e parabenizamos a todas as pessoas envolvidas na organiza o pelo sucesso desse importante evento para a nossa comunidade. Esperamos estar presentes novamente em 2023. Agracemos tamb m ao Jonathan Carter por aprovar o suporte financeiro do Debian para a nossa participa o no Latinoware. Vers o em ingl s

11 November 2022

Debian Brasil: Participa o da comunidade Debian no Latinoware 2022

De 2 a 4 de novembro de 2022 aconteceu a 19 edi o do Latinoware - Congresso Latino-americano de Software Livre e Tecnologias Abertas, em Foz do Igua u. Ap s 2 anos acontecendo de forma online devido a pandemia do COVID-19, o evento voltou a ser presencial e sentimos que a comunidade Debian Brasil deveria estar presente. Nossa ltima participa o no Latinoware foi em 2016 A organiza o do Latinoware cedeu para a comunidade Debian Brasil um estande para que pud ssemos ter contato com as pessoas que visitavam a rea aberta de exposi es e assim divulgarmos o projeto Debian. Durante os 3 dias do evento, o estande foi organizado por mim (Paulo Henrique Santana) como Desenvolvedor Debian, e pelo Leonardo Rodrigues como contribuidor Debian. Infelizmente o Daniel Lenharo teve um imprevisto de ltima hora e n o pode ir para Foz do Igua u (sentimos sua falta l !). Latinoware 2022 estande 1 V rias pessoas visitaram o estande e aquelas mais iniciantes (principalmente estudantes) que n o conheciam o Debian, perguntavam do que se tratava o nosso grupo e a gente explicava v rios conceitos como o que Software Livre, distribui o GNU/Linux e o Debian propriamente dito. Tamb m recebemos pessoas da comunidade de Software Livre brasileira e de outros pa ses da Am rica Latina que j utilizavam uma distribui o GNU/Linux e claro, muitas pessoas que j utilizavam Debian. Tivemos algumas visitas especiais como do Jon maddog Hall, do Desenvolvedor Debian Emeritus Ot vio Salvador, do Desenvolvedor Debian Eriberto Mota, e dos Mantenedores Debian Guilherme de Paula Segundo e Paulo Kretcheu. Latinoware 2022 estande 4 Foto da esquerda pra direita: Leonardo, Paulo, Eriberto e Ot vio. Latinoware 2022 estande 5 Foto da esquerda pra direita: Paulo, Fabian (Argentina) e Leonardo. Al m de conversarmos bastante, distribu mos adesivos do Debian que foram produzidos alguns meses atr s com o patroc nio do Debian para serem distribu dos na DebConf22(e que haviam sobrado), e vendemos v rias camisetas do Debian produzidas pela comunidade Curitiba Livre. Latinoware 2022 estande 2 Latinoware 2022 estande 3 Tamb m tivemos 3 palestras inseridas na programa o oficial do Latinoware. Eu fiz as palestras: como tornar um(a) contribuidor(a) do Debian fazendo tradu es e como os SysAdmins de uma empresa global usam Debian . E o Leonardo fez a palestra: vantagens da telefonia Open Source nas empresas . Latinoware 2022 estande 6 Foto Paulo na palestra. Agradecemos a organiza o do Latinoware por receber mais uma vez a comunidade Debian e gentilmente ceder os espa os para a nossa participa o, e parabenizamos a todas as pessoas envolvidas na organiza o pelo sucesso desse importante evento para a nossa comunidade. Esperamos estar presentes novamente em 2023. Agracemos tamb m ao Jonathan Carter por aprovar o suporte financeiro do Debian para a nossa participa o no Latinoware. Vers o em ingl s

23 March 2021

Sean Whitton: rmsopenletter

I was shocked to learn today that Richard Stallman has been reinstated as a member of the board of the Free Software Foundation. I think this is plain inappropriate, but I cannot see how anyone who doesn t think that could fail to see the reinstatement as counterproductive. As Bradley M. Kuhn put it,
The question is whether an organization should have a designated leader who is on a sustained, public campaign advocating about an unrelated issue that many consider controversial. It really doesn t matter what your view about the controversial issue is; a leader who refuses to stop talking loudly about unrelated issues eventually creates an untenable distraction from the radical activism you re actively trying to advance. The message of universal software freedom is a radical cause; it s basically impossible for one individual to effectively push forward two unrelated controversial agendas at once. In short, the radical message of software freedom became overshadowed by RMS radical views about sexual morality.
There is an open letter calling for the removal of the entire Board of the Free Software Foundation in response. I haven t signed the letter because the Free Software Foundation Board s vote to reinstate Stallman was not unanimous, so the call to remove all of them does not make sense to me. I agree with the open letter s call to remove Stallman from other positions of leadership. I hope that this whole situation can be resolved quickly.

6 March 2020

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds in February 2020

Welcome to the February 2020 report from the Reproducible Builds project. One of the original promises of open source software is that distributed peer review and transparency of process results in enhanced end-user security. However, whilst anyone may inspect the source code of free and open source software for malicious flaws, almost all software today is distributed as pre-compiled binaries. This allows nefarious third-parties to compromise systems by injecting malicious code into ostensibly secure software during the various compilation and distribution processes. The motivation behind the reproducible builds effort is to provide the ability to demonstrate these binaries originated from a particular, trusted, source release: if identical results are generated from a given source in all circumstances, reproducible builds provides the means for multiple third-parties to reach a consensus on whether a build was compromised via distributed checksum validation or some other scheme. In this month s report, we cover:

If you are interested in contributing to the project, please visit our Contribute page on our website.

Media coverage & upstream news Omar Navarro Leija, a PhD student at the University Of Pennsylvania, published a paper entitled Reproducible Containers that describes in detail the workings of a new user-space container tool called DetTrace:
All computation that occurs inside a DetTrace container is a pure function of the initial filesystem state of the container. Reproducible containers can be used for a variety of purposes, including replication for fault-tolerance, reproducible software builds and reproducible data analytics. We use DetTrace to achieve, in an automatic fashion, reproducibility for 12,130 Debian package builds, containing over 800 million lines of code, as well as bioinformatics and machine learning workflows.
There was also considerable discussion on our mailing list regarding this research and a presentation based on the paper will occur at the ASPLOS 2020 conference between March 16th 20th in Lausanne, Switzerland. The many virtues of Reproducible Builds were touted as benefits for software compliance in a talk at FOSDEM 2020, debating whether the Careful Inventory of Licensing Bill of Materials Have Impact of FOSS License Compliance which pitted Jeff McAffer and Carol Smith against Bradley Kuhn and Max Sills. (~47 minutes in). Nobuyoshi Nakada updated the canonical implementation of the Ruby programming language a change such that filesystem globs (ie. calls to list the contents of filesystem directories) will henceforth be sorted in ascending order. Without this change, the underlying nondeterministic ordering of the filesystem is exposed to the language which often results in an unreproducible build. Vagrant Cascadian reported on our mailing list regarding a quick reproducible test for the GNU Guix distribution, which resulted in 81.9% of packages registering as reproducible in his installation:
$ guix challenge --verbose --diff=diffoscope ...
2,463 store items were analyzed:
  - 2,016 (81.9%) were identical
  - 37 (1.5%) differed
  - 410 (16.6%) were inconclusive
Jeremiah Orians announced on our mailing list the release of a number of tools related to cross-compilation such as M2-Planet and mescc-tools-seed. This project attemps a full bootstrap of a cross-platform compiler for the C programming language (written in C itself) from hex, the ultimate goal being able to demonstrate fully-bootstrapped compiler from hex to the GCC GNU Compiler Collection. This has many implications in and around Ken Thompson s Trusting Trust attack outlined in Thompson s 1983 Turing Award Lecture. Twitter user @TheYoctoJester posted an executive summary of reproducible builds in the Yocto Project: Finally, Reddit user tofflos posted to the /r/Java subreddit asking about how to achieve reproducible builds with Maven and Chris Lamb noticed that the Linux kernel documentation about reproducible builds of it is available on the homepages in an attractive HTML format.

Distribution work

Debian Chris Lamb created a merge request for the core debian-installer package to allow all arguments and options from sources.list files (such as [check-valid-until=no] , etc.) in order that we can test the reproducibility of the installer images on the Reproducible Builds own testing infrastructure. (#13) Thorsten Glaser followed-up to a bug filed against the dpkg-source component that was originally filed in late 2015 that claims that the build tool does not respect permissions when unpacking tarballs if the umask is set to 0002. Matthew Garrett posted to the debian-devel mailing list on the topic of Producing verifiable initramfs images as part of a wider conversation on being able to trust the entire software stack on our computers. 59 reviews of Debian packages were added, 30 were updated and 42 were removed this month adding to our knowledge about identified issues. Many issue types were noticed and categorised by Chris Lamb, including:

openSUSE In openSUSE, Bernhard M. Wiedemann published his monthly Reproducible Builds status update as well as provided the following patches:

Software development

diffoscope diffoscope is our in-depth and content-aware diff-like utility that can locate and diagnose reproducibility issues. It is run countless times a day on our testing infrastructure and is essential for identifying fixes and causes of nondeterministic behaviour. Chris Lamb made the following changes this month, including uploading version 137 to Debian:
  • The sng image utility appears to return with an exit code of 1 if there are even minor errors in the file. (#950806)
  • Also extract classes2.dex, classes3.dex from .apk files extracted by apktool. (#88)
  • No need to use str.format if we are just returning the string. [ ]
  • Add generalised support for ignoring returncodes [ ] and move special-casing of returncodes in zip to use Command.VALID_RETURNCODES. [ ]

Other tools disorderfs is our FUSE-based filesystem that deliberately introduces non-determinism into directory system calls in order to flush out reproducibility issues. This month, Vagrant Cascadian updated the Vcs-Git to specify the debian packaging branch. [ ] reprotest is our end-user tool to build same source code twice in widely differing environments and then checks the binaries produced by each build for any differences. This month, versions 0.7.13 and 0.7.14 were uploaded to Debian unstable by Holger Levsen after Vagrant Cascadian added support for GNU Guix [ ].

Project documentation & website There was more work performed on our documentation and website this month. Bernhard M. Wiedemann added a Java Gradle Build Tool snippet to the SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH documentation [ ] and normalised various terms to unreproducible [ ]. Chris Lamb added a example [ ] and improved the documentation for the CMake [ ] to the SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH documentation, replaced anyone can with anyone may as, well, not everyone has the resources, skills, time or funding to actually do what it refers to [ ] and improved the pre-processing for our report generation [ ][ ][ ][ ] etc. In addition, Holger Levsen updated our news page to improve the list of reports [ ], added an explicit mention of the weekly news time span [ ] and reverted sorting of news entries to have latest on top [ ] and Mattia Rizzolo added Codethink as a non-fiscal sponsor [ ] and lastly Tianon Gravi added a Docker Images link underneath the Debian project on our Projects page [ ].

Upstream patches The Reproducible Builds project detects, dissects and attempts to fix as many currently-unreproducible packages as possible. We endeavour to send all of our patches upstream where appropriate. This month, we wrote a large number of such patches, including: Vagrant Cascadian submitted patches via the Debian bug tracking system targeting the packages the Civil Infrastructure Platform has identified via the CIP and CIP build depends package sets:

Testing framework We operate a fully-featured and comprehensive Jenkins-based testing framework that powers This month, the following changes were made by Holger Levsen: In addition, Mattia Rizzolo added an Apache web server redirect for [ ] and reverted the reshuffling of arm64 architecture builders [ ]. The usual build node maintenance was performed by Holger Levsen, Mattia Rizzolo [ ][ ] and Vagrant Cascadian.

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

This month s report was written by Bernhard M. Wiedemann, Chris Lamb and Holger Levsen. It was subsequently reviewed by a bunch of Reproducible Builds folks on IRC and the mailing list.

10 November 2017

Thadeu Lima de Souza Cascardo: Software Freedom Strategy with Community Projects

It's been some time since I last wrote. Life and work have been busy. At the same time, the world has been busy, and as I would love to write a larger post, I will try to be short here. I would love to touch on the Librem 5 and postmarketOS. In fact, I had, in a podcast in Portuguese, Papo Livre. Maybe, I'll touch a little on the latter. Some of the inspiration for this post include: All of those led me to understand how software freedom is under attack, in particular how copyleft in under attack. And, as I talked during FISL, though many might say that "Open Source has won", end users software freedom has not. Lots of companies have co-opted "free software" but give no software freedom to their users. They seem friends with free software, and they are. Because they want software to be free. But freedom should not be a value for software itself, it needs to be a value for people, not only companies or people who are labeled software developers, but all people. That's why I want to stop talking about free software, and talk more about software freedom. Because I believe the latter is more clear about what we are talking about. I don't mind that we use whatever label, as long as we stablish its meaning during conversations, and set the tone to distinguish them. The thing is: free software does not software freedom make. Not by itself. As Bradley Kuhn puts it: it's not magic pixie dust. Those who have known me for years might remember me as a person who studied free software licenses and how I valued copyleft, the GPL specifically, and how I concerned myself with topics like license compatibility and other licensing matters. Others might remember me as a person who valued a lot about upstreaming code. Not carrying changes to software openly developed that you had not made an effort to put upstream. I can't say I was wrong on both accounts. I still believe in those things. I still believe in the importance of copyleft and the GPL. I still value sharing your code in the commons by going upstream. But I was certaily wrong in valuing them too much. Or not giving as much or even more value to distribution efforts of getting software freedom to the users. And it took me a while in seeing how many people also saw the GPL as a tool to get code upstream. You see that a lot in Linus' discourse about the GPL. And that is on the minds of a lot of people, who I have seen argue that copyleft is not necessary for companies to contribute code back. But that's the problem. The point is not about getting code upstream. But about assuring people have the freedom to run a modified version of the software they received on their computers. It turns out that many examples of companies who had contributed code upstream, have not delivered that freedom to their end-users, who had received a modified version of that same software, which is not free. Bradley Kuhn also alerts us that many companies have been replacing copyleft software with non-copyleft software. And I completely agree with him that we should be writing more copyleft software that we hold copyright for, so we can enforce it. But looking at what has been happening recently in the Linux community about enforcement, even thought I still believe in enforcement as an strategy, I think we need much more than that. And one of those strategies is delivering more free software that users may be able to install on their own computers. It's building those replacements for software that people have been using for any reason. Be it the OS they get when they buy a device, or the application they use for communication. It's not like the community is not doing it, it's just that we need to acknowledge that this is a necessary strategy to guarantee software freedom. That distribution of software that users may easily install on their computers is as much or even more valuable than developing software closer to the hacker/developer community. That doing downstream changes to free software in the effort of getting them to users is worth it. That maintaining that software stable and secure for users is a very important task. I may be biased when talking about that, as I have been shifting from doing upstream work to downstream work and both on the recent years. But maybe that's what I needed to realize that upstreaming does not necessarily guarantees that users will get software freedom. I believe we need to talk more about that. I have seen many people dear to me disregard that difference between the freedom of the user and the freedom of software. There is much more to talk about that, go into detail about some of those points, and I think we need to debate more. I am subscribed to the libreplanet-discuss mailing list. Come join us in discussing about software freedom there, if you want to comment on anything I brought up here. As I promised I would, I would like to mention about postmarketOS, which is an option users have now to get some software freedom on some mobile devices. It's an effort I wanted to build myself, and I applaud the community that has developed around it and has been moving forward so quickly. And it's a good example of a balance between upstream and dowstream code that gets to deliver a better level of software freedom to users than the vendor ever would. I wanted to write about much of the topics I brought up today, but postponed that for some time. I was motivated by recent events in the community, and I am really disappointed at some the free software players and some of the events that happened in the last few years. That got me into thinking in how we need to manifest ourselves about those issues, so people know how we feel. So here it is: I am disappointed at how the Linux Foundation handled the situation about Software Freedom Conversancy taking a case against VMWare; I am disappointed about how Software Freedom Law Center handled a trademark issue against the Software Freedom Conservancy; and I really appreciate all the work the Software Freedom Conservancy has been doing. I have supported them for the last two years, and I urge you to become a supporter too.

15 August 2017

Dirk Eddelbuettel: #9: Compacting your Shared Libraries

Welcome to the nineth post in the recognisably rancid R randomness series, or R4 for short. Following on the heels of last week's post, we aim to look into the shared libraries created by R. We love the R build process. It is robust, cross-platform, reliable and rather predicatable. It. Just. Works. One minor issue, though, which has come up once or twice in the past is the (in)ability to fully control all compilation options. R will always recall CFLAGS, CXXFLAGS, ... etc as used when it was compiled. Which often entails the -g flag for debugging which can seriously inflate the size of the generated object code. And once stored in $ RHOME /etc/Makeconf we cannot on the fly override these values. But there is always a way. Sometimes even two. The first is local and can be used via the (personal) ~/.R/Makevars file (about which I will have to say more in another post). But something I have been using quite a bite lately uses the flags for the shared library linker. Given that we can have different code flavours and compilation choices---between C, Fortran and the different C++ standards---one can end up with a few lines. I currently use this which uses -Wl, to pass an the -S (or --strip-debug) option to the linker (and also reiterates the desire for a shared library, presumably superfluous):
SHLIB_CXX11LDFLAGS = -Wl,-S -shared
SHLIB_CXX14LDFLAGS = -Wl,-S -shared
SHLIB_FCLDFLAGS = -Wl,-S -shared
SHLIB_LDFLAGS = -Wl,-S -shared
Let's consider an example: my most recently uploaded package RProtoBuf. Built under a standard 64-bit Linux setup (Ubuntu 17.04, g++ 6.3) and not using the above, we end up with library containing 12 megabytes (!!) of object code:
edd@brad:~/git/rprotobuf(feature/fewer_warnings)$ ls -lh src/
-rwxr-xr-x 1 edd edd 12M Aug 14 20:22 src/
However, if we use the flags shown above in .R/Makevars, we end up with much less:
edd@brad:~/git/rprotobuf(feature/fewer_warnings)$ ls -lh src/ 
-rwxr-xr-x 1 edd edd 626K Aug 14 20:29 src/
So we reduced the size from 12mb to 0.6mb, an 18-fold decrease. And the file tool still shows the file as 'not stripped' as it still contains the symbols. Only debugging information was removed. What reduction in size can one expect, generally speaking? I have seen substantial reductions for C++ code, particularly when using tenmplated code. More old-fashioned C code will be less affected. It seems a little difficult to tell---but this method is my new build default as I continually find rather substantial reductions in size (as I tend to work mostly with C++-based packages). The second option only occured to me this evening, and complements the first which is after all only applicable locally via the ~/.R/Makevars file. What if we wanted it affect each installation of a package? The following addition to its src/Makevars should do:
strippedLib: $(SHLIB)
        if test -e "/usr/bin/strip"; then /usr/bin/strip --strip-debug $(SHLIB); fi
.phony: strippedLib
We declare a new Makefile target strippedLib. But making it dependent on $(SHLIB), we ensure the standard target of this Makefile is built. And by making the target .phony we ensure it will always be executed. And it simply tests for the strip tool, and invokes it on the library after it has been built. Needless to say we get the same reduction is size. And this scheme may even pass muster with CRAN, but I have not yet tried. Lastly, and acknowledgement. Everything in this post has benefited from discussion with my former colleague Dan Dillon who went as far as setting up tooling in his r-stripper repository. What we have here may be simpler, but it would not have happened with what Dan had put together earlier.

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

31 July 2017

Chris Lamb: Free software activities in July 2017

Here is my monthly update covering what I have been doing in the free software world during July 2017 (previous month): I also blogged about my recent lintian hacking and installation-birthday package.
Reproducible builds

Whilst anyone can inspect the source code of free software for malicious flaws, most software is distributed pre-compiled to end users. The motivation behind the Reproducible Builds effort is to permit verification that no flaws have been introduced either maliciously or accidentally during this compilation process by promising identical results are always generated from a given source, thus allowing multiple third-parties to come to a consensus on whether a build was compromised. (I have generously been awarded a grant from the Core Infrastructure Initiative to fund my work in this area.) This month I:
  • Assisted Mattia with a draft of an extensive status update to the debian-devel-announce mailing list. There were interesting follow-up discussions on Hacker News and Reddit.
  • Submitted the following patches to fix reproducibility-related toolchain issues within Debian:
  • I also submitted 5 patches to fix specific reproducibility issues in autopep8, castle-game-engine, grep, libcdio & tinymux.
  • Categorised a large number of packages and issues in the Reproducible Builds "notes" repository.
  • Worked on publishing our weekly reports. (#114 #115, #116 & #117)

I also made the following changes to our tooling:

diffoscope is our in-depth and content-aware diff utility that can locate and diagnose reproducibility issues.

  • comparators.xml:
    • Fix EPUB "missing file" tests; they ship a META-INF/container.xml file. [ ]
    • Misc style fixups. [ ]
  • APK files can also be identified as "DOS/MBR boot sector". (#868486)
  • comparators.sqlite: Simplify file detection by rewriting manual recognizes call with a Sqlite3Database.RE_FILE_TYPE definition. [ ]
    • Revert the removal of a try-except. (#868534)
    • Tidy module. [ ]


strip-nondeterminism is our tool to remove specific non-deterministic results from a completed build.

  • Add missing File::Temp imports in the JAR and PNG handlers. This appears to have been exposed by lazily-loading handlers in #867982. (#868077) is my experiment into how to process, store and distribute .buildinfo files after the Debian archive software has processed them.

  • Avoid a race condition between check-and-creation of Buildinfo instances. [ ]

Debian My activities as the current Debian Project Leader are covered in my "Bits from the DPL emails to the debian-devel-announce mailing list.
Patches contributed
  • obs-studio: Remove annoying "click wrapper" on first startup. (#867756)
  • vim: Syntax highlighting for debian/copyright files. (#869965)
  • moin: Incorrect timezone offset applied due to "84600" typo. (#868463)
  • ssss: Add a simple autopkgtest. (#869645)
  • dch: Please bump $latest_bpo_dist to current stable release. (#867662)
  • python-kaitaistruct: Remove Markdown and homepage references from package long descriptions. (#869265)
  • album-data: Correct invalid Vcs-Git URI. (#869822)
  • pytest-sourceorder: Update Homepage field. (#869125)
I also made a very large number of contributions to the Lintian static analysis tool. To avoid duplication here, I have outlined them in a separate post.

Debian LTS

This month I have been paid to work 18 hours on Debian Long Term Support (LTS). In that time I did the following:
  • "Frontdesk" duties, triaging CVEs, etc.
  • Issued DLA 1014-1 for libclamunrar, a library to add unrar support to the Clam anti-virus software to fix an arbitrary code execution vulnerability.
  • Issued DLA 1015-1 for the libgcrypt11 crypto library to fix a "sliding windows" information leak.
  • Issued DLA 1016-1 for radare2 (a reverse-engineering framework) to prevent a remote denial-of-service attack.
  • Issued DLA 1017-1 to fix a heap-based buffer over-read in the mpg123 audio library.
  • Issued DLA 1018-1 for the sqlite3 database engine to prevent a vulnerability that could be exploited via a specially-crafted database file.
  • Issued DLA 1019-1 to patch a cross-site scripting (XSS) exploit in phpldapadmin, a web-based interface for administering LDAP servers.
  • Issued DLA 1024-1 to prevent an information leak in nginx via a specially-crafted HTTP range.
  • Issued DLA 1028-1 for apache2 to prevent the leakage of potentially confidential information via providing Authorization Digest headers.
  • Issued DLA 1033-1 for the memcached in-memory object caching server to prevent a remote denial-of-service attack.

  • redis:
    • 4:4.0.0-1 Upload new major upstream release to unstable.
    • 4:4.0.0-2 Make /usr/bin/redis-server in the primary package a symlink to /usr/bin/redis-check-rdb in the redis-tools package to prevent duplicate debug symbols that result in a package file collision. (#868551)
    • 4:4.0.0-3 Add -latomic to LDFLAGS to avoid a FTBFS on the mips & mipsel architectures.
    • 4:4.0.1-1 New upstream version. Install 00-RELEASENOTES as the upstream changelog.
    • 4:4.0.1-2 Skip non-deterministic tests that rely on timing. (#857855)
  • python-django:
    • 1:1.11.3-1 New upstream bugfix release. Check DEB_BUILD_PROFILES consistently, not DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS.
  • bfs:
    • 1.0.2-2 & 1.0.2-3 Use help2man to generate a manpage.
    • 1.0.2-4 Set hardening=+all for bindnow, etc.
    • 1.0.2-5 & 1.0.2-6 Don't use upstream's release target as it overrides our CFLAGS & install as the upstream changelog.
    • 1.1-1 New upstream release.
  • libfiu:
    • 0.95-4 Apply patch from Steve Langasek to fix autopkgtests. (#869709)
  • python-daiquiri:
    • 1.0.1-1 Initial upload. (ITP)
    • 1.1.0-1 New upstream release.
    • 1.1.0-2 Tidy package long description.
    • 1.2.1-1 New upstream release.

I also reviewed and sponsored the uploads of gtts-token 1.1.1-1 and nlopt 2.4.2+dfsg-3.

Debian bugs filed
  • ITP: python-daiquiri Python library to easily setup basic logging functionality. (#867322)
  • twittering-mode: Correct incorrect time formatting due to "84600" typo. (#868479)

27 April 2017

Yves-Alexis Perez: Debian, grsecurity and passing the baton

Since the question popped here and there, I'll post a short blog post about the issue right now so there's a reference somewhere. As you may know, Brad Spengler (spender) and the Pax Team recently announced that the grsecurity test patches won't be released publicly anymore. The stable patches were already restricted to enterprise, paying customers, this is now also the case for the test patches. Obviously that means the end of the current situation in Debian since I used those test patches for the linux-grsec packages, but I'm not exactly sure what comes next and I need to think a bit about this before doing anything. The passing the baton post mention a handover to the community (though the FAQ mention it needs to stop using the term grsecurity ) so maybe there's some coordination possible with other users like Gentoo Hardened and Alpine, but it's not clear what would be possible with the tools we have. I'm actually quite busy right now so I don't have much time to think about all this, but expect a new blog post when things have settled a bit and I've made up my mind.

8 March 2017

Antoine Beaupr : An update to GitHub's terms of service

On February 28th, GitHub published a brand new version of its Terms of Service (ToS). While the first draft announced earlier in February didn't generate much reaction, the new ToS raised concerns that they may break at least the spirit, if not the letter, of certain free-software licenses. Digging in further reveals that the situation is probably not as dire as some had feared. The first person to raise the alarm was probably Thorsten Glaser, a Debian developer, who stated that the "new GitHub Terms of Service require removing many Open Source works from it". His concerns are mainly about section D of the document, in particular section D.4 which states:
You grant us and our legal successors the right to store and display your Content and make incidental copies as necessary to render the Website and provide the Service.
Section D.5 then goes on to say:
[...] You grant each User of GitHub a nonexclusive, worldwide license to access your Content through the GitHub Service, and to use, display and perform your Content, and to reproduce your Content solely on GitHub as permitted through GitHub's functionality

ToS versus GPL The concern here is that the ToS bypass the normal provisions of licenses like the GPL. Indeed, copyleft licenses are based on copyright law which forbid users from doing anything with the content unless they comply with the license, which forces, among other things, "share alike" properties. By granting GitHub and its users rights to reproduce content without explicitly respecting the original license, the ToS may allow users to bypass the copyleft nature of the license. Indeed, as Joey Hess, author of git-annex, explained :
The new TOS is potentially very bad for copylefted Free Software. It potentially neuters it entirely, so GPL licensed software hosted on Github has an implicit BSD-like license
Hess has since removed all his content (mostly mirrors) from GitHub. Others disagree. In a well-reasoned blog post, Debian developer Jonathan McDowell explained the rationale behind the changes:
My reading of the GitHub changes is that they are driven by a desire to ensure that GitHub are legally covered for the things they need to do with your code in order to run their service.
This seems like a fair point to make: GitHub needs to protect its own rights to operate the service. McDowell then goes on to do a detailed rebuttal of the arguments made by Glaser, arguing specifically that section D.5 "does not grant [...] additional rights to reproduce outside of GitHub". However, specific problems arise when we consider that GitHub is a private corporation that users have no control over. The "Services" defined in the ToS explicitly "refers to the applications, software, products, and services provided by GitHub". The term "Services" is therefore not limited to the current set of services. This loophole may actually give GitHub the right to bypass certain provisions of licenses used on GitHub. As Hess detailed in a later blog post:
If Github tomorrow starts providing say, an App Store service, that necessarily involves distribution of software to others, and they put my software in it, would that be allowed by this or not? If that hypothetical Github App Store doesn't sell apps, but licenses access to them for money, would that be allowed under this license that they want to my software?
However, when asked on IRC, Bradley M. Kuhn of the Software Freedom Conservancy explained that "ultimately, failure to comply with a copyleft license is a copyright infringement" and that the ToS do outline a process to deal with such infringement. Some lawyers have also publicly expressed their disagreement with Glaser's assessment, with Richard Fontana from Red Hat saying that the analysis is "basically wrong". It all comes down to the intent of the ToS, as Kuhn (who is not a lawyer) explained:
any license can be abused or misused for an intent other than its original intent. It's why it matters to get every little detail right, and I hope Github will do that.
He went even further and said that "we should assume the ambiguity in their ToS as it stands is favorable to Free Software". The ToS are in effect since February 28th; users "can accept them by clicking the broadcast announcement on your dashboard or by continuing to use GitHub". The immediacy of the change is one of the reasons why certain people are rushing to remove content from GitHub: there are concerns that continuing to use the service may be interpreted as consent to bypass those licenses. Hess even hosted a separate copy of the ToS [PDF] for people to be able to read the document without implicitly consenting. It is, however, unclear how a user should remove their content from the GitHub servers without actually agreeing to the new ToS.

CLAs When I read the first draft, I initially thought there would be concerns about the mandatory Contributor License Agreement (CLA) in section D.5 of the draft:
[...] unless there is a Contributor License Agreement to the contrary, whenever you make a contribution to a repository containing notice of a license, you license your contribution under the same terms, and agree that you have the right to license your contribution under those terms.
I was concerned this would establish the controversial practice of forcing CLAs on every GitHub user. I managed to find a post from a lawyer, Kyle E. Mitchell, who commented on the draft and, specifically, on the CLA. He outlined issues with wording and definition problems in that section of the draft. In particular, he noted that "contributor license agreement is not a legal term of art, but an industry term" and "is a bit fuzzy". This was clarified in the final draft, in section D.6, by removing the use of the CLA term and by explicitly mentioning the widely accepted norm for licenses: "inbound=outbound". So it seems that section D.6 is not really a problem: contributors do not need to necessarily delegate copyright ownership (as some CLAs require) when they make a contribution, unless otherwise noted by a repository-specific CLA. An interesting concern he raised, however, was with how GitHub conducted the drafting process. A blog post announced the change on February 7th with a link to a form to provide feedback until the 21st, with a publishing deadline of February 28th. This gave little time for lawyers and developers to review the document and comment on it. Users then had to basically accept whatever came out of the process as-is. Unlike every software project hosted on GitHub, the ToS document is not part of a Git repository people can propose changes to or even collaboratively discuss. While Mitchell acknowledges that "GitHub are within their rights to update their terms, within very broad limits, more or less however they like, whenever they like", he sets higher standards for GitHub than for other corporations, considering the community it serves and the spirit it represents. He described the process as:
[...] consistent with the value of CYA, which is real, but not with the output-improving virtues of open process, which is also real, and a great deal more pleasant.
Mitchell also explained that, because of its position, GitHub can have a major impact on the free-software world.
And as the current forum of preference for a great many developers, the knock-on effects of their decisions throw big weight. While GitHub have the wheel and they ve certainly earned it for now they can do real damage.
In particular, there have been some concerns that the ToS change may be an attempt to further the already diminishing adoption of the GPL for free-software projects; on GitHub, the GPL has been surpassed by the MIT license. But Kuhn believes that attitudes at GitHub have begun changing:
GitHub historically had an anti-copyleft culture, which was created in large part by their former and now ousted CEO, Preston-Warner. However, recently, I've seen people at GitHub truly reach out to me and others in the copyleft community to learn more and open their minds. I thus have a hard time believing that there was some anti-copyleft conspiracy in this ToS change.

GitHub response However, it seems that GitHub has actually been proactive in reaching out to the free software community. Kuhn noted that GitHub contacted the Conservancy to get its advice on the ToS changes. While he still thinks GitHub should fix the ambiguities quickly, he also noted that those issues "impact pretty much any non-trivial Open Source and Free Software license", not just copylefted material. When reached for comments, a GitHub spokesperson said:
While we are confident that these Terms serve the best needs of the community, we take our users' feedback very seriously and we are looking closely at ways to address their concerns.
Regardless, free-software enthusiasts have other concerns than the new ToS if they wish to use GitHub. First and foremost, most of the software running GitHub is proprietary, including the JavaScript served to your web browser. GitHub also created a centralized service out of a decentralized tool (Git). It has become the largest code hosting service in the world after only a few years and may well have become a single point of failure for free software collaboration in a way we have never seen before. Outages and policy changes at GitHub can have a major impact on not only the free-software world, but also the larger computing world that relies on its services for daily operation. There are now free-software alternatives to GitHub., for example, does not seem to have similar licensing issues in its ToS and GitLab itself is free software, although based on the controversial open core business model. The GitLab hosting service still needs to get better than its grade of "C" in the GNU Ethical Repository Criteria Evaluations (and it is being worked on); other services like GitHub and SourceForge score an "F". In the end, all this controversy might have been avoided if GitHub was generally more open about the ToS development process and gave more time for feedback and reviews by the community. Terms of service are notorious for being confusing and something of a legal gray area, especially for end users who generally click through without reading them. We should probably applaud the efforts made by GitHub to make its own ToS document more readable and hope that, with time, it will address the community's concerns.
Note: this article first appeared in the Linux Weekly News.

4 February 2017

Markus Koschany: My Free Software Activities in January 2017

Welcome to Here is my monthly report that covers what I have been doing for Debian. If you re interested in Java, Games and LTS topics, this might be interesting for you. Debian Games Debian Java Debian LTS This was my eleventh month as a paid contributor and I have been paid to work 12,75 hours on Debian LTS, a project started by Rapha l Hertzog. In that time I did the following: Misc

28 January 2017

Bits from Debian: Debian at FOSDEM 2017

On February 4th and 5th, Debian will be attending FOSDEM 2017 in Brussels, Belgium; a yearly gratis event (no registration needed) run by volunteers from the Open Source and Free Software community. It's free, and it's big: more than 600 speakers, over 600 events, in 29 rooms. This year more than 45 current or past Debian contributors will speak at FOSDEM: Alexandre Viau, Bradley M. Kuhn, Daniel Pocock, Guus Sliepen, Johan Van de Wauw, John Sullivan, Josh Triplett, Julien Danjou, Keith Packard, Martin Pitt, Peter Van Eynde, Richard Hartmann, Sebastian Dr ge, Stefano Zacchiroli and Wouter Verhelst, among others. Similar to previous years, the event will be hosted at Universit libre de Bruxelles. Debian contributors and enthusiasts will be taking shifts at the Debian stand with gadgets, T-Shirts and swag. You can find us at stand number 4 in building K, 1 B; CoreOS Linux and PostgreSQL will be our neighbours. See for more details. We are looking forward to meeting you all!

30 December 2016

Chris Lamb: My favourite books of 2016

Whilst I managed to read almost sixty books in 2016 here are ten of my favourites in no particular order. Disappointments this year include Stewart Lee's Content Provider (nothing like his stand-up), Christopher Hitchens' And Yet (his best essays are already published) and Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (great exposition, bizarre conclusion). The worst book I finished, by far, was Mark Edward's Follow You Home. Animal QC Gary Bell, QC Subtitled My Preposterous Life, this rags-to-riches story about a working-class boy turned eminent lawyer would be highly readable as a dry and factual account but I am compelled to include it here for its extremely entertaining style of writing. Full of unsurprising quotes that take one unaware: would you really expect a now-Queen's Counsel to "heartily suggest that if you find yourself suffering from dysentery in foreign climes you do not medicate it with lobster thermidor and a bottle of Ecuadorian red?" A real good yarn. So You've Been Publically Shamed Jon Ronson The author was initially recommended to me by Brad but I believe I started out with the wrong book. In fact, I even had my doubts about this one, prematurely judging from the title that it was merely cashing-in on a fairly recent internet phenomenon like his more recent shallow take on Trump and the alt-Right but in the end I read Publically Shamed thrice in quick succession. I would particularly endorse the audiobook version: Ronson's deadpan drawl suits his writing perfectly. The Obstacle is the Way Ryan Holiday Whilst everyone else appears to be obligated to include Ryan's recent Ego is the Enemy in their Best of 2016 lists I was actually taken by his earlier "introduction by stealth" to stoic philosophy. Certainly not your typical self-help book, this is "a manual to turn to in troubling times". Returning to this work at least three times over the year even splashing out on the audiobook at some point I feel like I learned a great deal, although it is now difficult to pinpoint exactly what. Perhaps another read in 2017 is thus in order Layer Cake J.J. Connolly To judge a book in comparison to the film is to do both a disservice, but reading the book of Layer Cake really underscored just how well the film played to the strengths of that medium. All of the aspects that would not have worked had been carefully excised from the screenplay, ironically leaving more rewarding "layers" for readers attempting the book. A parallel adaption here might be No Country for Old Men - I would love to read (or write) a comparative essay between these two adaptions although McCarthy's novel is certainly the superior source material. Lying Sam Harris I've absorbed a lot of Sam Harris's uvre this year in the form of his books but moreover via his compelling podcast. I'm especially fond of Waking Up on spirituality without religion and would rank that as my favourite work of his. Lying is a comparatively short read, more of a long essay in fact, where he argues that we can radically simplify our lives by merely telling the truth in situations where others invariably lie. Whilst it would take a brave soul to adopt his approach his case is superlatively well-argued and a delight to read. Letters from a Stoic Seneca

Great pleasure is to be found not only in keeping up an old and established friendship but also in beginning and building up a new one. Reading this in a beautifully svelte hardback, I tackled a randomly-chosen letter per day rather than attempting to read it cover-to-cover. Breaking with a life-long tradition, I even decided to highlight sections in pen so I could return to them at ease. I hope it's not too hackneyed to claim I gained a lot from "building up" a relationship with this book. Alas, it is one of those books that is too easy to recommend given that it might make one appear wise and learned, but if you find yourself in a slump, either in life or in your reading habits, it certainly has my approval. Solo: A James Bond Novel William Boyd I must have read all of the canonical Fleming novels as a teenager and Solo really rewards anyone who has done so. It would certainly punish anyone expecting a Goldeneye or at least be a little too foreign to be enjoyed. Indeed, its really a pastiche of these originals, both in terms of the time period, general tone (Bond is more somber; more vulnerable) and in various obsessions of Fleming's writing, such as the overly-detailed description of the gambling and dining tables. In this universe, 007's restaurant expenses probably contributed signifcantly to the downfall of the British Empire, let alone his waistline. Bond flicking through a ornithological book at one point was a cute touch The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck Mark Manson Certainly a wildcard to include here and not without its problems, The Subtle Art is a curious manifesto on how to approach life. Whilst Manson expouses an age-old philosophy of grounding yourself and ignoring the accumulation of flatscreen TVs, etc. he manages to do so in a fresh and provocative "21st-centry gonzo" style. Highly entertaining, at one point the author posits an alternative superhero ("Disappointment Panda") that dishes out unsolicited and uncomfortable truths to strangers before simply walking away: "You know, if you make more money, that s not going to make your kids love you," or: "What you consider friendship is really just your constant attempts to impress people." Ouch. The Fourth Protocol Frederick Forsyth I have a crystal-clear memory from my childhood of watching a single scene from a film in the dead of night: Pierce Brosnan sets a nuclear device to detonate after he can get away but a double-crossing accomplice surreptitiously brings the timetable forward in order that the bomb also disposes of him Anyway, at some point whilst reading The Fourth Protocol it dawned on me that this was that book. I might thus be giving the book more credit due to this highly satisfying connection but I think it stands alone as a superlative political page-turner and is still approachable outside the machinations of the Cold War. The Partner John Grisham After indulging in a bit too much non-fiction and an aborted attempt at The Ministry of Fear, I turned to a few so-called lower-brow writers such as Jeffrey Archer, etc. However, it was The Partner that turned out to be a real page-turner for somewhat undefinable reasons. Alas, it appears the rest of the author's output is unfortunately in the same vein (laywers, etc.) so I am hesitant to immediately begin others but judging from various lists online I am glad I approached this one first. Shogun: The First Novel of the Asian saga James Clavell Despite its length, I simply couldn't resist returning to Shogun this year although it did fatigue me to the point that I have still yet to commence on its sequel, Tai-Pan. Like any good musical composition, one is always rewarded by returning to a book and I took great delight in uncovering more symbolism throughout (such as noticing that one of the first words Blackthorne learns in Japanese is "truth") but also really savouring the tragic arcs that run throughout the novel, some beautiful phrases ("The day seemed to lose its warmth ") and its wistful themes of inevitability and karma.

9 August 2016

Shirish Agarwal: Doha and the Supreme Court of DFSG Free

Hi, I am in two minds of what to write about Doha. My job has been vastly simplified by a friend when he shared with me . That video is more relevant and more closer to the truth than whatever I can share. As can be seen it is funny but more sad the way Qatarians are trying to figure out how things will be and as can be seen it seems to heading towards a real estate bubble . They would have to let go of the Sharia if they are thinking of wealthy westerners coming to stay put. I am just sad to know that many of my country-men are stuck there and although I hope the best for them, I dread it may turn out the way it has turned out for many people of Indians, and especially from Kerala in Saudi Arabia. I would touch about the Kerala situation probably in another blog post as this time is exclusively for legal aspects which were discussed in Debconf. A bit of backgrounder here, one part of my family is lawyers which means I have somewhat notion of law as practiced in our land. As probably everybody knows, India was ruled by the British for around 150 odd years. One of the things that they gave while leaving was/is the IPC (Indian Penal Code) and is practiced with the common law concept. The concept means precedence of any judgement goes quite some way in framing rulings and law of the land as time goes on besides the lobbying and the politics which happens in any democracy. Free software would not have been there without the GPL The General Public License. And the license is as much a legal document as it s something that the developers can work without becoming deranged, as it is one of the more simpler licenses to work with. My own understanding of the legal, ethical and moral issues around me were framed by two-three different TV shows, books (fiction and non-fiction alike) apart from what little news I heard in family. One was M*A*S*H* (with Alan Alda and his frailness, anarchism, humanism, civil rights), the Practise and Boston Legal which does lay bare the many grey areas that lawyers have to deal with ( The Practice also influenced a lot of civil rights understanding and First amendment, but as it is a TV show, how much of it is actually practiced for lawyers and how much moral dilemma they are can only be guessed at.) . In books it is artists like John Grisham, Michael Connelly as well as Perry Mason Agatha Christie. In non-fiction look at the treasures under bombayhighcourt e-books corner and series of Hamlyn Lectures. I would have to warn that all of the above are major time-sinks but rewarding in their own way. Also haven t read all of them as time and interests are constrained but do know they are good for understanding bit of our history. I do crave for a meetup kind of scenario when non-lawyers can read and discuss about facets of law . All that understanding was vastly amplified by which made non-lawyers at the very least be able to decipher and understand what is going on in the free software world. After PJ (Pamela Jones) closed it in 2013 due to total surveillance by the Free World (i.e. the United States of America, NSA) we have been thirsty. We do get occasionally somewhat mildly interesting articles in or but nowhere the sheer brilliance of groklaw. So, it was a sheer stroke of luck that I met Mr. Bradley M. Kuhn who works with Karen Sandler on Software Conservancy. While I wanted to be there for his presentation, it was just one of those days which doesn t go as planned. However, as we met socially and over e-mail there were two basic questions which I asked him which also imbibes why we need to fight for software freedom in the court of law. Below is a re-wording of what he shared . Q1. why do people think that GPL still needs to be challenged in the court of law while there are gpl-violations which has been more or less successfully defended in the court of law ? Bradley Kuhn the GPL violations is basically a violation of one or more clauses of the GPL license and not the GPL license as a whole and my effort during my lifetime would be to make/have such precedents that the GPL is held as a valid license in the court of law. Q2. Let s say IF GPL is held to be valid in the court of law, would FSF benefit monetarily, at least to my mind it might be so, as more people and comapnies could be convinced to use strong copyleft licenses such as GPLv3 or AGPLv3 . Bradley Kuhn It may or may not. It is possible that even after winning, that people and especially companies may go for weak copyleft licenses if it suits them. The only benefit would probably would be to those people who are already using GPLv3 as the law could be used to protect them as well. Although we would want and welcome companies who would use strong copyleft license such as the GPL, the future is in future and hence uncertain. Both possibilities co-exist. While Bradley didn t say it, I would add further here it probably would mean also moving from being a more offensive mode (which GPL-violations is based upon where a violation occurs and somebody either from the victim s side or a by-stander notices the violation, brings it to the notice of the victim and the GPL-volations team.) to perhaps it being defended by the DMCA people themselves, once GPL is held as a valid license in the eyes of law. Although should you use the DMCA or not is a matter of choice, personal belief system as well as your legal recourses. I have to share that the FSF and the GPL-violations team are probably very discerning when they take up the fight as most of the work done by them is pro-bono (i.e. they don t make a single penny/paisa from the work done therein.) and hence in view of scarce resources, it makes sense to go only for the biggest violators in the hopes that you can either make them agree to compensate and agree to the terms of license of any software/hardware combination or sue them and take a bigger share of the reward/compensation awarded by the Court to help the defendant and maybe some of the proceeds donated by the defendant and people like you and me to make sure that Conservancy and the GPL-violations team is still around to help the next time something similar happens.
Bradley Kuhn presenting at #Debconf 16

Bradley Kuhn presenting at #Debconf 16

Now, as far as his presentation is concerned, whose video can be seen at , I thought it was tame. While he talked about gaming the system in some sense, he was sharing that the system debian-legal works (most-of-the-time). The list actually works because many far more brilliant people than me take time to understand the intricacies of various licenses and how they should be interpreted through the excellently written Debian Free Software Guidelines and whether the license under discussion contravenes the DFSG or is part of it. I do agree with his point though that the ftp-master/s and the team may not be the right person to judge the license in adherence to the DFSG, or her/is not giving a reason for rejecting a package to not entering into the package archive. I actually asked the same question on debian-legal and while I had guessed, it seems there is enough review of the licenses per-se as answer from Paul Wise shows. Charles Pessley also shared an idea he has documented which probably didn t get much traction as involves more work on DD s without any benefit to show for it. All in all I hope it sheds some light on why there is need to be more aware of law in software freedom. Two Organizations which work on software freedom from legal standpoint are SFLC (Delhi) headed by the charming Mr. Eben Moglen and ALF (Bangalore). I do hope more people, especially developers take a bit more interest in some of the resources mentioned above.
Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: #Alternative Law Forum, #bombayhighcourt e-library, #Common Law, #Debconf16, #Fiction, #Hewlyn lectures, #India, #Jurispudence, #legal fiction, #real estate bubble,, #Software Freedom, #timesink, Doha, Law

15 June 2016

Andrew Shadura: Migrate to systemd without a reboot

Yesterday I was fixing an issue with one of the servers behind the hook intended to propagage pushes from Our Own Kallithea to Bitbucket stopped working. Until yesterday, that server was using Debian s flavour of System V init and djb s d montools to keep things running. To make the hook asynchronous, I wrote a service to be managed to d montools, so that concurrency issued would be solved by it. However, I didn t implement any timeouts, so when last week wget froze while pulling Weblate s hook, there was nothing to interrupt it, so the hook stopped working since d montools thought it s already running and wouldn t re-trigger it. Killing wget helped, but I decided I need to do something with it to prevent the situation from happening in the future. I ve been using systemd at work for the last year, so I am now confident I m happier with systemd than with d montools, so I decided to switch the server to systemd. Not surprisingly, I prepared unit files in about 5 minutes without having to look into the manuals again, while with d montools I had to check things every time I needed to change something. The tricky thing was the switch itself. It is a virtual server, presumably running in Xen, and I don t have access to the console, so if I bork break something, I need to summon Bradley Kuhn or someone from Conservancy, who s kindly donated the server to the project. In any case, I decided to attempt to upgrade without a reboot, so that I have more options to roll back my changes in the case things go wrong. After studying the manpages of both systemd s init and sysvinit s init, I realised I can install systemd as /sbin/init and ask already running System V init to re-exec. However, systemd s init can t talk to System V init, so before installing systemd I made a backup on it. It s also important to stop all running services (except probably ssh) to make sure systemd doesn t start second instances of each. And then: /tmp/init u and we re running systemd! A couple of additional checks, and it s safe to reboot. Only when I did all that I realised that in the case of systemd not working I d probably not be able to undo my changes if my connection interrupted. So, even though at the end it worked, probably it s not a good idea to perform such manipulations when you don t have an alternative way to connect to the server :)

13 June 2016

Keerthana Krishnan: Installing reSIProcate with apt-get source package

I had earlier tried to install telepathy according to the instructions I found here. But that gave me a an unexplainable error. So after a few unsuccessful attempts, I decided to install it from the apt-get source. First, install telepathy-qt. This is the part that gave me all the errors and this is where I had made changes from the source I had been using.
  1. Check and make sure you have the proper dependencies installed for the package.
    $ sudo apt-get build-dep telepathy-qt
  2. If you are installing the package in the home folder, you can skip this step, but usually, it s better to have a dedicated file/file structure. If you do have one, cd into that folder
    $ mkdir ~/telepathy-qt-stuff
    $ cd ~/telepathy-qt-stuff
  3. Next, get telepathy-qt from the source :
    $ apt-get source telepathy-qt
    $ apt-get source -b telepathy-qt
  4. Check and make sure that there are a list of libtelepathy-qt* and telepathy-qt* .deb packages. You just have to install a few more packages:
    $ ls *.deb
  5. Next, you have to install a few more packages:
    $ dpkg -i libtelepathy-qt4-2_0.9.6.1-?_amd64.deb libtelepathy-qt4-dev_0.9.6.1-?_amd64.deb libtelepathy-qt4-farstream2_0.9.6.1-?_amd64.deb

    Obviously, we have to replace the ? with the version number of the .deb package.
  6. After that you have the necessary packages to install reSIProcate:
    $ dpkg -l grep telepathy-qt
    This should return something like :
    ii libtelepathy-qt4-2:amd64 amd64 Telepathy framework Qt 4 library
    ii libtelepathy-qt4-dev amd64 Qt 4 Telepathy library (headers and static library)
    ii libtelepathy-qt4-farstream2:amd64 amd64 Telepathy/Farsight integration Qt 4 library
The next part is to install and configure reSIProcate.
  1. Include the proper backport line in the /etc/apt/sources.list file. Be sure to run sudo apt-get update after any changes to the source file
  2. Clone the code from the git repo :
    $ git clone
    $ cd resiprocate
  3. Check the build dependencies and install what s required:
    $ apt-get install libpq-dev dh-autoreconf
    $ apt-get build-dep resiprocate
    $ apt-get install -t jessie-backports libradcli-dev
  4. Build the packages:
    $ ./build/
    $ sudo make
  5. Finally, ensure all your packages are built right by running sudo make check
And then you re done!

4 June 2016

Jaminy Prabaharan: Weekly Report for GSoC16-Community bonding period

April 23rd to May 23rd The period of introducing ourselves to the Debian community. I have updated my debian wiki page to introduce more about myself to the Debian community. There was a webRTC session of MiniDebconf through Jitsi on 3oth April to know more about the Debian resources. During this period I have updated my PC with the Debian latest version, Jessie and got practised with the new platform.I have also learnt some basic theories on my project such as VoIP and IMAP. I was assigned by my mentor Daniel Pocock to work on telepathy reSIProcate.

System used
  • Debian GNU/Linux 8.3 (jessie)
  • Ubuntu 14.04.4 LTS (trusty)


First you have to configure the telepathy-qt library properly to be able to install reSIProcate. It s important to notice that you shouldn t install telepathy-qt from apt-get because in this way it wont have the telepathy-qt4-service shared library.

$ mkdir ~/telepathy-qt-stuff
$ cd ~/telepathy-qt-stuff
$ git clone
$ cd telepathy-qt-debian
$ git checkout jessie-build-all-shared
$ cd ..

Then you should download the tar in the telepathy-qt-stuff folder and continue:

$ tar xzf telepathy-qt_0.9.6.1.orig.tar.gz
$ cd telepathy-qt_0.9.6.1
$ [ -d debian ] && echo "warning: debian/ already exists!"
$ cp -r ../telepathy-qt-debian/debian .
$ dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot -i.* -j13 -us -uc
$ cd ..
$ ls *.deb

Now you should see a list of libtelepathy-qt* and telepathy-qt* .deb packages. You just have to install a few more packages:

$ dpkg -i libtelepathy-qt4-2_0.9.6.1-2_amd64.deb libtelepathy-qt4-dev_0.9.6.1-2_amd64.deb libtelepathy-qt4-farstream2_0.9.6.1-2_amd64.deb

After that you have the necessary packages to install reSIProcate.

$ dpkg -l   grep telepathy-qt

Should return you something like this:




Telepathy framework Qt 4 library




Qt 4 Telepathy library (headers and static library)




Telepathy/Farsight integration Qt 4 library


After installing telepathy-qt properly you would be able to configure reSIProcate.

Make sure you have added backports to your /etc/apt/sources.list file

$ git clone
$ cd resiprocate
$ apt-get install libpq-dev dh-autoreconf
$ apt-get build-dep resiprocate
$ apt-get install -t jessie-backports libradcli-dev
$ ./build/
$ make

And then you are done!