Search Results: "dap"

10 November 2020

Jonathan Dowland: Borg, confidence in backups, GtkPod and software preservation

Over the summer I decided to migrate my backups from rdiff-backup to borg, which offers some significant advantages, in particular de-duplication, but comes at a cost of complexity, and a corresponding sense of unease about how sound my backup strategy might be. I've now hit the Point Of No Return: my second external backup drive is overdue being synced with my NAS, which will delete the last copy of the older rdiff-backup backups. Whilst I hesitate over this last action to commit to borg, something else happened. My wife wanted to put a copy of her iTunes music library on her new phone, and I couldn't find it: not only could I not find it on any of our computers, I also couldn't find a copy on the NAS, or in backups, or even in old DVD-Rs. This has further knocked my confidence in our family data management, and makes me even more nervous to commit to borg. I'm now wondering about stashing the contents of the second external backup disk on some cloud service as a fail-safe. There was one known-good copy of Sarah's music: on her ancient iPod Nano. Apple have gone to varying lengths to prevent you from copying music from an iPod. When Music is copied to an iPod, the files are stripped of all their metadata (artist, title, album, etc.) and renamed to something non-identifying (e.g. F01/MNRL.m4a), and the metadata (and correlation to the obscure file name) is saved in separate database files. The partition of the flash drive containing all this is also marked as "hidden" to prevent it appearing on macOS and Windows systems. We are lucky that the iPod is so old, because Apple went even further in more recent models, adding a layer of encryption. To get the music off the iPod, one has to undo all of these steps. Luckily, other fine folks have worked out reversing all these steps and implemented it in software such as libgpod and its frontend, GtkPod, which is still currently available as a Debian package. It mostly worked, and I got back 95% of the tracks. (It would have been nice if GtkPod had reported the tracks it hadn't recovered, it was aware they existed based on the errors it did print. But you can't have everything.) GtkPod is a quirky, erratic piece of software, that is only useful for old Apple equipment that is long out of production, prior to the introduction of the encryption. The upstream homepage is dead, and I suspect it is unmaintained. The Debian package is orphaned. It's been removed from testing, because it won't build with GCC 10. On the other hand, my experience shows that it worked, and was useful for a real problem that someone had today. I'm in two minds about GtkPod's fate. On the one hand, I think Debian has far too many packages, with a corresponding burden of maintenance responsibility (for the whole project, not just the individual package maintainers), and there's a quality problem: once upon a time, if software had been packaged in a distribution like Debian, that was a mark of quality, a vote of confidence, and you could have some hope that the software would work and integrate well with the rest of the system. That is no longer true, and hasn't been in my experience for many years. If we were more discerning about what software we included in the distribution, and what we kept, perhaps we could be a leaner distribution, faster to adapt to the changing needs in the world, and of a higher quality. On the other hand, this story about GtkPod is just one of many similar stories. Real problems have been solved in open source software, and computing historians, vintage computer enthusiasts, researchers etc. can still benefit from that software long into the future. Throwing out all this stuff in the name of "progress", could be misguided. I'm especially sad when I see the glee which people have expressed when ditching libraries like Qt4 from the archive. Some software will not be ported on to Qt5 (or Gtk3, Qt6, Gtk4, Qt7, etc., in perpetuity). Such software might be all of: unmaintained, "finished", and useful for some purpose (however niche), all at the same time.

8 November 2020

Sean Whitton: Combining repeat and repeat-complex-command

In Emacs, you can use C-x z to repeat the last command you input, and subsequently you can keep tapping the z key to execute that command again and again. If the command took minibuffer input, however, you ll be asked for that input again. For example, suppose you type M-z : to delete through the next colon character. If you want to keep going and delete through the next few colons, you would need to use C-x z : z : z : etc. which is pretty inconvenient. So there s also C-x ESC ESC RET or C-x M-: RET, which will repeat the last command which took minibuffer input, as if you d given it the same minibuffer input. So you could use M-z : C-x M-: RET C-x M-: RET etc., but then you might as well just keep typing M-z : over and over. It s also quite inconvenient to have to remember whether you need to use C-x z or C-x M-: RET. I wanted to come up with a single command which would choose the correct repetition method. It turns out it s a bit involved, but here s what I came up with. You can use this under the GPL-3 or any later version published by the FSF. Assumes lexical binding is turned on for the file you have this in.
;; Adapted from  repeat-complex-command&apos as of November 2020
(autoload &aposrepeat-message "repeat")
(defun spw/repeat-complex-command-immediately (arg)
  "Like  repeat-complex-command&apos followed immediately by RET."
  (interactive "p")
  (if-let ((newcmd (nth (1- arg) command-history)))
      (progn
        (add-to-history &aposcommand-history newcmd)
        (repeat-message "Repeating %S" newcmd)
        (apply #&aposfuncall-interactively
               (car newcmd)
               (mapcar (lambda (e) (eval e t)) (cdr newcmd))))
    (if command-history
        (error "Argument %d is beyond length of command history" arg)
      (error "There are no previous complex commands to repeat"))))
(let (real-last-repeatable-command)
  (defun spw/repeat-or-repeat-complex-command-immediately ()
    "Call  repeat&apos or  spw/repeat-complex-command-immediately&apos as appropriate.

Note that no prefix argument is accepted because this has
different meanings for  repeat&apos and for
 spw/repeat-complex-command-immediately&apos, so that might cause surprises."
    (interactive)
    (if (eq last-repeatable-command this-command)
        (setq last-repeatable-command real-last-repeatable-command)
      (setq real-last-repeatable-command last-repeatable-command))
    (if (eq last-repeatable-command (caar command-history))
        (spw/repeat-complex-command-immediately 1)
      (repeat nil))))
;;  suspend-frame&apos is bound to both C-x C-z and C-z
(global-set-key "\C-z" #&aposspw/repeat-or-repeat-complex-command-immediately)

2 November 2020

Vincent Bernat: My collection of vintage PC cards

Recently, I have been gathering some old hardware at my parents house, notably PC extension cards, as they don t take much room and can be converted to a nice display item. Unfortunately, I was not very concerned about keeping stuff around. Compared to all the hardware I have acquired over the years, only a few pieces remain.

Tseng Labs ET4000AX (1989) This SVGA graphics card was installed into a PC powered by a 386SX CPU running at 16 MHz. This was a good card at the time as it was pretty fast. It didn t feature 2D acceleration, unlike the later ET4000/W32. This version only features 512 KB of RAM. It can display 1024 768 images with 16 colors or 800 600 with 256 colors. It was also compatible with CGA, EGA, VGA, MDA, and Hercules modes. No contemporary games were using the SVGA modes but the higher resolutions were useful with Windows 3. This card was manufactured directly by Tseng Labs.
Carte Tseng Labs ET4000AX ISA au-dessus de la bo te "Plan te Aventure"
Tseng Labs ET4000 AX ISA card

AdLib clone (1992) My first sound card was an AdLib. My parents bought it in Canada during the summer holidays in 1992. It uses a Yamaha OPL2 chip to produce sound via FM synthesis. The first game I have tried is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I think I gave this AdLib to a friend once I upgraded my PC with a Sound Blaster Pro 2. Recently, I needed one for a side project, but they are rare and expensive on eBay. Someone mentioned a cheap clone on Vogons, so I bought it. It was sold by Sun Moon Star in 1992 and shipped with a CD-ROM of Doom shareware.
AdLib clone on top of "Alone in the Dark" box
AdLib clone ISA card by Sun Moon Star
On this topic, take a look at OPL2LPT: an AdLib sound card for the parallel port and OPL2 Audio Board: an AdLib sound card for Arduino .

Sound Blaster Pro 2 (1992) Later, I switched the AdLib sound card with a Sound Blaster Pro 2. It features an OPL3 chip and was also able to output digital samples. At the time, this was a welcome addition, but not as important as the FM synthesis introduced earlier by the AdLib.
Sound Blaster Pro 2 on top of "Day of the Tentacle" box
Sound Blaster Pro 2 ISA card

Promise EIDE 2300 Plus (1995) I bought this card mostly for the serial port. I was using a 486DX2 running at 66 MHz with a Creatix LC 288 FC external modem. The serial port was driven by an 8250 UART with no buffer. Thanks to Terminate, I was able to connect to BBSes with DOS, but this was not possible with Windows 3 or OS/2. I needed one of these fancy new cards with a 16550 UART, featuring a 16-byte buffer. At the time, this was quite difficult to find in France. During a holiday trip, I convinced my parent to make a short detour from Los Angeles to San Diego to buy this Promise EIDE 2300 Plus controller card at a shop I located through an advertisement in a local magazine! The card also features an EIDE controller with multi-word DMA mode 2 support. In contrast with the older PIO modes, the CPU didn t have to copy data from disk to memory.
Promise EIDE 2300 Plus next to an OS/2 Warp CD
Promise EIDE 2300 Plus VLB card

3dfx Voodoo2 Magic 3D II (1998) The 3dfx Voodoo2 was one of the first add-in graphics cards implementing hardware acceleration of 3D graphics. I bought it from a friend along with his Pentium II box in 1999. It was a big evolutionary step in PC gaming, as games became more beautiful and fluid. A traditional video controller was still required for 2D. A pass-through VGA cable daisy-chained the video controller to the Voodoo, which was itself connected to the monitor.
3dfx Voodoo 2 Magic 3D II on top of "Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II" box
3dfx Voodoo2 Magic 3D II PCI card

3Com 3C905C-TX-M Tornado (1999) In the early 2000s, in college, the Internet connection on the campus was provided by a student association through a 100 Mbps Ethernet cable. If you wanted to reach the maximum speed, the 3Com 3C905C-TX-M PCI network adapter, nicknamed Tornado , was the card you needed. We would buy it second-hand by the dozen and sell them to other students for around 30 .
3COM 3C905C-TX-M on top of "Red Alert" box
3Com 3C905C-TX-M PCI card

1 November 2020

Utkarsh Gupta: FOSS Activites in October 2020

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

Debian
This was my 22nd month of contributing to Debian. I became a DM in late March last year and a DD last Christmas! \o/ Whilst busy with my undergrad, I could still take some time out for contributing to Debian (I always do!). Here are the following things I did in Debian this month:

Uploads and bug fixes:

Other $things:
  • Attended the Debian Ruby team meeting. Logs here.
  • Mentoring for newcomers.
  • FTP Trainee reviewing.
  • Moderation of -project mailing list.
  • Sponsored phpmyadmin, php-bacon-baconqrcode, twig, php-dasprid-enum, sql-parser, and mariadb-mysql-kbs for William.

Debian (E)LTS
Debian Long Term Support (LTS) is a project to extend the lifetime of all Debian stable releases to (at least) 5 years. Debian LTS is not handled by the Debian security team, but by a separate group of volunteers and companies interested in making it a success. And Debian Extended LTS (ELTS) is its sister project, extending support to the Jessie release (+2 years after LTS support). This was my thirteenth month as a Debian LTS and fourth month as a Debian ELTS paid contributor.
I was assigned 20.75 hours for LTS and 30.00 hours for ELTS and worked on the following things:
(for ELTS, I worked for 5.25 hours extra, so my total hours this month for ELTS were 35.25!)

LTS CVE Fixes and Announcements:
  • Issued DLA 2389-1, fixing CVE-2019-18978, for ruby-rack-cors.
    For Debian 9 Stretch, these problems have been fixed in version 0.4.0-1+deb9u2.
  • Issued DLA 2390-1, fixing CVE-2019-18848, for ruby-json-jwt.
    For Debian 9 Stretch, these problems have been fixed in version 1.6.2-1+deb9u2.
  • Issued DLA 2391-1, fixing CVE-2020-25613, for ruby2.3.
    For Debian 9 Stretch, these problems have been fixed in version 2.3.3-1+deb9u9.
  • Issued DLA 2392-1, fixing CVE-2020-25613, for jruby.
    For Debian 9 Stretch, these problems have been fixed in version 1.7.26-1+deb9u3.
  • Uploaded ruby2.5 to buster, fixing CVE-2020-25613. For Debian 10 Buster, these problems have been fixed in version 2.5.5-3+deb10u3.
  • Uploaded ruby2.7 to unstable, fixing CVE-2020-25613. For Debian Sid, these problems have been fixed in version 2.7.1-4.
  • Uploaded rails to unstable, fixing CVE-2020-8264. For Debian Sid, these problems have been fixed in version 2:6.0.3.4+dfsg-1.

ELTS CVE Fixes and Announcements:

Other (E)LTS Work:
  • Front-desk duty from 28-09 to 04-10 and from 26-10 until 01-10 for both LTS and ELTS.
  • Triaged libproxy, libvirt, libonig, ant, erlang, ruby2.3, jruby, dpdk, php7.0, spice, spice-gtk, wireshark, djangorestframework, python-urllib3, python-cryptography, qtsvg-opensource-src, and open-build-service.
  • Marked CVE-2020-26137/python-urllib3 as no-dsa for Stretch and Jessie.
  • Marked CVE-2020-1437 4,5,6,7,8 /dpdk as no-dsa for Stretch.
  • Marked CVE-2020-2586 2,3 /wireshark as postponed for Stretch.
  • Marked CVE-2020-25626/djangorestframework as no-dsa for Stretch.
  • Marked CVE-2020-11979/ant as not-affected for Jessie.
  • Marked CVE-2020-25623/erlang as not-affected for Jessie.
  • Marked CVE-2020-25659/python-cryptography as no-dsa for Stretch and Jessie.
  • Auto EOL ed jruby, libjs-handlebars, linux, pluxml, mupdf, and djangorestframework for Jessie.
  • [E/LTS] Worked on putting survey online, deployed LTS Team Pages \o/
  • [ELTS] Fix suite-name in ela-needed file and fix other tags and ordering of triages to fix errors in the security tracker.
  • [LTS] Sent out invitations for the meeting.
  • Attended the sixth private LTS meeting.
  • General discussion on LTS private and public mailing list.

Until next time.
:wq for today.

14 October 2020

Thomas Goirand: The Gnocchi package in Debian

This is a follow-up from the blog post of Russel as seen here: https://etbe.coker.com.au/2020/10/13/first-try-gnocchi-statsd/. There s a bunch of things he wrote which I unfortunately must say is inaccurate, and sometimes even completely wrong. It is my point of view that none of the reported bugs are helpful for anyone that understand Gnocchi and how to set it up. It s however a terrible experience that Russell had, and I do understand why (and why it s not his fault). I m very much open on how to fix this on the packaging level, though some things aren t IMO fixable. Here s the details. 1/ The daemon startups First of all, the most surprising thing is when Russell claimed that there s no startup scripts for the Gnocchi daemons. In fact, they all come with both systemd and sysv-rc support: # ls /lib/systemd/system/gnocchi-api.service
/lib/systemd/system/gnocchi-api.service
# /etc/init.d/gnocchi-api
/etc/init.d/gnocchi-api Russell then tried to start gnocchi-api without the good options that are set in the Debian scripts, and not surprisingly, this failed. Russell attempted to do what was in the upstream doc, which isn t adapted to what we have in Debian (the upstream doc is probably completely outdated, as Gnocchi is unfortunately not very well maintained upstream). The bug #972087 is therefore, IMO not valid. 2/ The database setup By default for all things OpenStack in Debian, there are some debconf helpers using dbconfig-common to help users setup database for their services. This is clearly for beginners, but that doesn t prevent from attempting to understand what you re doing. That is, more specifically for Gnocchi, there are 2 databases: one for Gnocchi itself, and one for the indexer, which not necessarily is using the same backend. The Debian package already setups one database, but one has to do it manually for the indexer one. I m sorry this isn t well enough documented. Now, if some package are supporting sqlite as a backend (since most things in OpenStack are using SQLAlchemy), it looks like Gnocchi doesn t right now. This is IMO a bug upstream, rather than a bug in the package. However, I don t think the Debian packages are to be blame here, as they simply offer a unified interface, and it s up to the users to know what they are doing. SQLite is anyway not a production ready backend. I m not sure if I should close #971996 without any action, or just try to disable the SQLite backend option of this package because it may be confusing. 3/ The metrics UUID Russell then thinks the UUID should be set by default. This is probably right in a single server setup, however, this wouldn t work setting-up a cluster, which is probably what most Gnocchi users will do. In this type of environment, the metrics UUID must be the same on the 3 servers, and setting-up a random (and therefore different) UUID on the 3 servers wouldn t work. So I m also tempted to just close #972092 without any action on my side. 4/ The coordination URL Since Gnocchi is supposed to be setup with more than one server, as in OpenStack, having an HA setup is very common, then a backend for the coordination (ie: sharing the workload) must be set. This is done by setting an URL that tooz understand. The best coordinator being Zookeeper, something like this should be set by hand: coordination_url=zookeeper://192.168.101.2:2181/ Here again, I don t think the Debian package is to be blamed for not providing the automation. I would however accept contributions to fix this and provide the choice using debconf, however, users would still need to understand what s going on, and setup something like Zookeeper (or redis, memcache, or any other backend supported by tooz) to act as coordinator. 5/ The Debconf interface cannot replace a good documentation and there s not so much I can do at my package maintainer level for this. Russell, I m really sorry for the bad user experience you had with Gnocchi. Now that you know a little big more about it, maybe you can have another go? Sure, the OpenStack telemetry system isn t an easy to understand beast, but it s IMO worth trying. And the recent versions can scale horizontally

3 October 2020

Julian Andres Klode: Google Pixel 4a: Initial Impressions

Yesterday I got a fresh new Pixel 4a, to replace my dying OnePlus 6. The OnePlus had developed some faults over time: It repeatedly loses connection to the AP and the network, and it got a bunch of scratches and scuffs from falling on various surfaces without any protection over the past year.

Why get a Pixel? Camera: OnePlus focuses on stuffing as many sensors as it can into a phone, rather than a good main sensor, resulting in pictures that are mediocre blurry messes - the dreaded oil painting effect. Pixel have some of the best camera in the smartphone world. Sure, other hardware is far more capable, but the Pixels manage consistent results, so you need to take less pictures because they don t come out blurry half the time, and the post processing is so good that the pictures you get are just great. Other phones can shoot better pictures, sure - on a tripod. Security updates: Pixels provide 3 years of monthly updates, with security updates being published on the 5th of each month. OnePlus only provides updates every 2 months, and then the updates they do release are almost a month out of date, not counting that they are only 1st-of-month patches, meaning vendor blob updates included in the 5th-of-month updates are even a month older. Given that all my banking runs on the phone, I don t want it to be constantly behind. Feature updates: Of course, Pixels also get Beta Android releases and the newest Android release faster than any other phone, which is advantageous for Android development and being nerdy. Size and weight: OnePlus phones keep getting bigger and bigger. By today s standards, the OnePlus 6 at 6.18" and 177g is a small an lightweight device. Their latest phone, the Nord, has 6.44" and weighs 184g, the OnePlus 8 comes in at 180g with a 6.55" display. This is becoming unwieldy. Eschewing glass and aluminium for plastic, the Pixel 4a comes in at 144g.

First impressions

Accessories The Pixel 4a comes in a small box with a charger, USB-C to USB-C cable, a USB-OTG adapter, sim tray ejector. No pre-installed screen protector or bumper are provided, as we ve grown accustomed to from Chinese manufacturers like OnePlus or Xiaomi. The sim tray ejector has a circular end instead of the standard oval one - I assume so it looks like the o in Google? Google sells you fabric cases for 45 . That seems a bit excessive, although I like that a lot of it is recycled.

Haptics Coming from a 6.18" phablet, the Pixel 4a with its 5.81" feels tiny. In fact, it s so tiny my thumb and my index finger can touch while holding it. Cute! Bezels are a bit bigger, resulting in slightly less screen to body. The bottom chin is probably impracticably small, this was already a problem on the OnePlus 6, but this one is even smaller. Oh well, form over function. The buttons on the side are very loud and clicky. As is the vibration motor. I wonder if this Pixel thinks it s a Model M. It just feels great. The plastic back feels really good, it s that sort of high quality smooth plastic you used to see on those high-end Nokia devices. The finger print reader, is super fast. Setup just takes a few seconds per finger, and it works reliably. Other phones (OnePlus 6, Mi A1/A2) take like half a minute or a minute to set up.

Software The software - stock Android 11 - is fairly similar to OnePlus' OxygenOS. It s a clean experience, without a ton of added bloatware (even OnePlus now ships Facebook out of box, eww). It s cleaner than OxygenOS in some way - there are no duplicate photos apps, for example. On the other hand, it also has quite a bunch of Google stuff I could not care less about like YT Music. To be fair, those are minor noise once all 130 apps were transferred from the old phone. There are various things I miss coming from OnePlus such as off-screen gestures, network transfer rate indicator in quick settings, or a circular battery icon. But the Pixel has an always on display, which is kind of nice. Most of the cool Pixel features, like call screening or live transcriptions are unfortunately not available in Germany. The display is set to display the same amount of content as my 6.18" OnePlus 6 did, so everything is a bit tinier. This usually takes me a week or two to adjust too, and then when I look at the OnePlus again I ll be like Oh the font is huge , but right now, it feels a bit small on the Pixel. You can configure three colour profiles for the Pixel 4a: Natural, Boosted, and Adaptive. I have mine set to adaptive. I d love to see stock Android learn what OnePlus has here: the ability to adjust the colour temperature manually, as I prefer to keep my devices closer to 5500K than 6500K, as I feel it s a bit easier on the eyes. Or well, just give me the ability to load a ICM profile (though, I d need to calibrate the screen then - work!).

Migration experience Restoring the apps from my old phone only restore settings for a few handful out of 130, which is disappointing. I had to spent an hour or two logging in to all the other apps, and I had to fiddle far too long with openScale to get it to take its data over. It s a mystery to me why people do not allow their apps to be backed up, especially something innocent like a weight tracking app. One of my banking apps restored its logins, which I did not really like. KeePass2Android settings were restored as well, but at least the key file was not restored. I did not opt in to restoring my device settings, as I feel that restoring device settings when changing manufactures is bound to mess up some things. For example, I remember people migrating to OnePlus phones and getting their old DND schedule without any way to change it, because OnePlus had hidden the DND stuff. I assume that s the reason some accounts, like my work GSuite account were not migrated (it said it would migrate accounts during setup). I ve setup Bitwarden as my auto-fill service, so I could login into most of my apps and websites using the stored credentials. I found that often that did not work. Like Chrome does autofill fine once, but if I then want to autofill again, I have to kill and restart it, otherwise I don t get the auto-fill menu. Other apps did not allow any auto-fill at all, and only gave me the option to copy and paste. Yikes - auto-fill on Android still needs a lot of work.

Performance It hangs a bit sometimes, but this was likely due to me having set 2 million iterations on my Bitwarden KDF and using Bitwarden a lot, and then opening up all 130 apps to log into them which overwhelmed the phone a bit. Apart from that, it does not feel worse than the OnePlus 6 which was to be expected, given that the benchmarks only show a slight loss in performance. Photos do take a few seconds to process after taking them, which is annoying, but understandable given how much Google relies on computation to provide decent pictures.

Audio The Pixel has dual speakers, with the earpiece delivering a tiny sound and the bottom firing speaker doing most of the work. Still, it s better than just having the bottom firing speaker, as it does provide a more immersive experience. Bass makes this thing vibrate a lot. It does not feel like a resonance sort of thing, but you can feel the bass in your hands. I ve never had this before, and it will take some time getting used to.

Final thoughts This is a boring phone. There s no wow factor at all. It s neither huge, nor does it have high-res 48 or 64 MP cameras, nor does it have a ton of sensors. But everything it does, it does well. It does not pretend to be a flagship like its competition, it doesn t want to wow you, it just wants to be the perfect phone for you. The build is solid, the buttons make you think of a Model M, the camera is one of the best in any smartphone, and you of course get the latest updates before anyone else. It does not feel like a only 350 phone, but yet it is. 128GB storage is plenty, 1080p resolution is plenty, 12.2MP is you guessed it, plenty. The same applies to the other two Pixel phones - the 4a 5G and 5. Neither are particularly exciting phones, and I personally find it hard to justify spending 620 on the Pixel 5 when the Pixel 4a does job for me, but the 4a 5G might appeal to users looking for larger phones. As to 5G, I wouldn t get much use out of it, seeing as its not available anywhere I am. Because I m on Vodafone. If you have a Telekom contract or live outside of Germany, you might just have good 5G coverage already and it might make sense to get a 5G phone rather than sticking to the budget choice.

Outlook The big question for me is whether I ll be able to adjust to the smaller display. I now have a tablet, so I m less often using the phone (which my hands thank me for), which means that a smaller phone is probably a good call. Oh while we re talking about calls - I only have a data-only SIM in it, so I could not test calling. I m transferring to a new phone contract this month, and I ll give it a go then. This will be the first time I get VoLTE and WiFi calling, although it is Vodafone, so quality might just be worse than Telekom on 2G, who knows. A big shoutout to congstar for letting me cancel with a simple button click, and to @vodafoneservice on twitter for quickly setting up my benefits of additional 5GB per month and 10 discount for being an existing cable customer. I m also looking forward to playing around with the camera (especially night sight), and eSIM. And I m getting a case from China, which was handed over to the Airline on Sep 17 according to Aliexpress, so I guess it should arrive in the next weeks. Oh, and screen protector is not here yet, so I can t really judge the screen quality much, as I still have the factory protection film on it, and that s just a blurry mess - but good enough for setting it up. Please Google, pre-apply a screen protector on future phones and include a simple bumper case. I might report back in two weeks when I have spent some more time with the device.

29 September 2020

Vincent Bernat: Speeding up bgpq4 with IRRd in a container

When building route filters with bgpq4 or bgpq3, the speed of rr.ntt.net or whois.radb.net can be a bottleneck. Updating many filters may take several tens of minutes, depending on the load:
$ time bgpq4 -h whois.radb.net AS-HURRICANE   wc -l
909869
1.96s user 0.15s system 2% cpu 1:17.64 total
$ time bgpq4 -h rr.ntt.net AS-HURRICANE   wc -l
927865
1.86s user 0.08s system 12% cpu 14.098 total
A possible solution is to run your own IRRd instance in your network, mirroring the main routing registries. A close alternative is to bundle IRRd with all the data in a ready-to-use Docker image. This also has the advantage of easy integration into a Docker-based CI/CD pipeline.
$ git clone https://github.com/vincentbernat/irrd-legacy.git -b blade/master
$ cd irrd-legacy
$ docker build . -t irrd-snapshot:latest
[ ]
Successfully built 58c3e83a1d18
Successfully tagged irrd-snapshot:latest
$ docker container run --rm --detach --publish=43:43 irrd-snapshot
4879cfe7413075a0c217089dcac91ed356424c6b88808d8fcb01dc00eafcc8c7
$ time bgpq4 -h localhost AS-HURRICANE   wc -l
904137
1.72s user 0.11s system 96% cpu 1.881 total
The Dockerfile contains three stages:
  1. building IRRd,1
  2. retrieving various IRR databases, and
  3. assembling the final container with the result of the two previous stages.
The second stage fetches the databases used by rr.ntt.net: NTTCOM, RADB, RIPE, ALTDB, BELL, LEVEL3, RGNET, APNIC, JPIRR, ARIN, BBOI, TC, AFRINIC, ARIN-WHOIS, and REGISTROBR. However, it misses RPKI.2 Feel free to adapt! The image can be scheduled to be rebuilt daily or weekly, depending on your needs. The repository includes a .gitlab-ci.yaml file automating the build and triggering the compilation of all filters by your CI/CD upon success.

  1. Instead of using the latest version of IRRd, the image relies on an older version that does not require a PostgreSQL instance and uses flat files instead.
  2. Unlike the others, the RPKI database is built from the published RPKI ROAs. They can be retrieved with rpki-client and transformed into RPSL objects to be imported in IRRd.

28 September 2020

Kentaro Hayashi: dnsZoneEntry: field should be removed when DD is retired

It is known that Debian Developer can setup *.debian.net. wiki.debian.org When Debian Developer had retired, actual DNS entry is removed, but dnsZoneEntry: field is kept on LDAP (db.debian.org) So you can not reuse *.debian.net if retired Debian Developer owns your prefered subdomain already. I've posted question about this current undocumented specification. lists.debian.org

15 September 2020

Russell Coker: More About the PowerEdge R710

I ve got the R710 (mentioned in my previous post [1]) online. When testing the R710 at home I noticed that sometimes the VGA monitor I was using would start flickering when in some parts of the BIOS setup, it seemed that the horizonal sync wasn t working properly. It didn t seem to be a big deal at the time. When I deployed it the KVM display that I had planned to use with it mostly didn t display anything. When the display was working the KVM keyboard wouldn t work (and would prevent a regular USB keyboard from working if they were both connected at the same time). The VGA output of the R710 also wouldn t work with my VGA->HDMI device so I couldn t get it working with my portable monitor. Fortunately the Dell front panel has a display and tiny buttons that allow configuring the IDRAC IP address, so I was able to get IDRAC going. One thing Dell really should do is allow the down button to change 0 to 9 when entering numbers, that would make it easier to enter 8.8.8.8 for the DNS server. Another thing Dell should do is make the default gateway have a default value according to the IP address and netmask of the server. When I got IDRAC going it was easy to setup a serial console, boot from a rescue USB device, create a new initrd with the driver for the MegaRAID controller, and then reboot into the server image. When I transferred the SSDs from the old server to the newer Dell server the problem I had was that the Dell drive caddies had no holes in suitable places for attaching SSDs. I ended up just pushing the SSDs in so they are hanging in mid air attached only by the SATA/SAS connectors. Plugging them in took the space from the above drive, so instead of having 2*3.5 disks I have 1*2.5 SSD and need the extra space to get my hand in. The R710 is designed for 6*3.5 disks and I m going to have trouble if I ever want to have more than 3*2.5 SSDs. Fortunately I don t think I ll need more SSDs. After booting the system I started getting alerts about a fault in one SSD, with no detail on what the fault might be. My guess is that the SSD in question is M.2 and it s in a M.2 to regular SATA adaptor which might have some problems. The data seems fine though, a BTRFS scrub found no checksum errors. I guess I ll have to buy a replacement SSD soon. I configured the system to use the nosmt kernel command line option to disable hyper-threading (which won t provide much performance benefit but which makes certain types of security attacks much easier). I ve configured BOINC to run on 6/8 CPU cores and surprisingly that didn t cause the fans to be louder than when the system was idle. It seems that a system that is designed for 6 SAS disks doesn t need a lot of cooling when run with SSDs. Update: It s a R710 not a T710. I mostly deal with Dell Tower servers and typed the wrong letter out of habit.

13 September 2020

Jonathan Carter: Wootbook / Tongfang laptop

Old laptop I ve been meaning to get a new laptop for a while now. My ThinkPad X250 is now 5 years old and even though it s still adequate in many ways, I tend to run out of memory especially when running a few virtual machines. It only has one memory slot, which I maxed out at 16GB shortly after I got it. Memory has been a problem in considering a new machine. Most new laptops have soldered RAM and local configurations tend to ship with 8GB RAM. Getting a new machine with only a slightly better CPU and even just the same amount of RAM as what I have in the X250 seems a bit wasteful. I was eyeing the Lenovo X13 because it s a super portable that can take up to 32GB of RAM, and it ships with an AMD Ryzen 4000 series chip which has great performance. With Lenovo s discount for Debian Developers it became even more attractive. Unfortunately that s in North America only (at least for now) so that didn t work out this time.

Enter Tongfang I ve been reading a bunch of positive reviews about the Tuxedo Pulse 14 and KDE Slimbook 14. Both look like great AMD laptops, supports up to 64GB of RAM and clearly runs Linux well. I also noticed that they look quite similar, and after some quick searches it turns out that these are made by Tongfang and that its model number is PF4NU1F. I also learned that a local retailer (Wootware) sells them as the Wootbook. I ve seen one of these before although it was an Intel-based one, but it looked like a nice machine and I was already curious about it back then. After struggling for a while to find a local laptop with a Ryzen CPU and that s nice and compact and that breaks the 16GB memory barrier, finding this one that jumped all the way to 64GB sealed the deal for me. This is the specs for the configuration I got:

This configuration cost R18 796 ( 947 / $1122). That s significantly cheaper than anything else I can get that even starts to approach these specs. So this is a cheap laptop, but you wouldn t think so by using it.
I used the Debian netinstall image to install, and installation was just another uneventful and boring Debian installation (yay!). Unfortunately it needs the firmware-iwlwifi and firmare-amd-graphics packages for the binary blobs that drives the wifi card and GPU. At least it works flawlessly and you don t need an additional non-free display driver (as is the case with NVidia GPUs). I haven t tested the graphics extensively yet, but desktop graphics performance is very snappy. This GPU also does fancy stuff like VP8/VP9 encoding/decoding, so I m curious to see how well it does next time I have to encode some videos. The wifi upgrade was nice for copying files over. My old laptop maxed out at 300Mbps, this one connects to my home network between 800-1000Mbps. At this speed I don t bother connecting via cable at home. I read on Twitter that Tuxedo Computers thinks that it s possible to bring Coreboot to this device. That would be yet another plus for this machine. I ll try to answer some of my own questions about this device that I had before, that other people in the Debian community might also have if they re interested in this device. Since many of us are familiar with the ThinkPad X200 series of laptops, I ll compare it a bit to my X250, and also a little to the X13 that I was considering before. Initially, I was a bit hesitant about the 14 form factor, since I really like the portability of the 12.5 ThinkPad. But because the screen bezel is a lot smaller, the Wootbook (that just rolls off the tongue a lot better than the PF4NU1F ) is just slightly wider than the X250. It weighs in at 1.1KG instead of the 1.38KG of the X250. It s also thinner, so even though it has a larger display, it actually feels a lot more portable. Here s a picture of my X250 on top of the Wootbook, you can see a few mm of Wootbook sticking out to the right.
Card Reader One thing that I overlooked when ordering this laptop was that it doesn t have an SD card reader. I see that some variations have them, like on this Slimbook review. It s not a deal-breaker for me, I have a USB card reader that s very light and that I ll just keep in my backpack. But if you re ordering one of these machines and have some choice, it might be something to look out for if it s something you care about. Keyboard/Touchpad On to the keyboard. This keyboard isn t quite as nice to type on as on the ThinkPad, but, it s not bad at all. I type on many different laptop keyboards and I would rank this keyboard very comfortably in the above average range. I ve been typing on it a lot over the last 3 days (including this blog post) and it started feeling natural very quickly and I m not distracted by it as much as I thought I would be transitioning from the ThinkPad or my mechanical desktop keyboard. In terms of layout, it s nice having an actual Insert button again. This is things normal users don t care about, but since I use mc (where insert selects files) this is a welcome return :). I also like that it doesn t have a Print Screen button at the bottom of my keyboard between alt and ctrl like the ThinkPad has. Unfortunately, it doesn t have dedicated pgup/pgdn buttons. I use those a lot in apps to switch between tabs. At leas the Fn button and the ctrl buttons are next to each other, so pressing those together with up and down to switch tabs isn t that horrible, but if I don t get used to it in another day or two I might do some remapping. The touchpad has en extra sensor-button on the top left corner that s used on Windows to temporarily disable the touchpad. I captured it s keyscan codes and it presses left control + keyscan code 93. The airplane mode, volume and brightness buttons work fine. I do miss the ThinkPad trackpoint. It s great especially in confined spaces, your hands don t have to move far from the keyboard for quick pointer operations and it s nice for doing something quick and accurate. I painted a bit in Krita last night, and agree with other reviewers that the touchpad could do with just a bit more resolution. I was initially disturbed when I noticed that my physical touchpad buttons were gone, but you get right-click by tapping with two fingers, and middle click with tapping 3 fingers. Not quite as efficient as having the real buttons, but it actually works ok. For the most part, this keyboard and touchpad is completely adequate. Only time will tell whether the keyboard still works fine in a few years from now, but I really have no serious complaints about it. Display The X250 had a brightness of 172 nits. That s not very bright, I think the X250 has about the dimmest display in the ThinkPad X200 range. This hasn t been a problem for me until recently, my eyes are very photo-sensitive so most of the time I use it at reduced brightness anyway, but since I ve been working from home a lot recently, it s nice to sometimes sit outside and work, especially now that it s spring time and we have some nice days. At full brightness, I can t see much on my X250 outside. The Wootbook is significantly brighter even (even at less than 50% brightness), although I couldn t find the exact specification for its brightness online. Ports The Wootbook has 3x USB type A ports and 1x USB type C port. That s already quite luxurious for a compact laptop. As I mentioned in the specs above, it also has a full-sized ethernet socket. On the new X13 (the new ThinkPad machine I was considering), you only get 2x USB type A ports and if you want ethernet, you have to buy an additional adapter that s quite expensive especially considering that it s just a cable adapter (I don t think it contains any electronics). It has one hdmi port. Initially I was a bit concerned at lack of displayport (which my X250 has), but with an adapter it s possible to convert the USB-C port to displayport and it seems like it s possible to connect up to 3 external displays without using something weird like display over usual USB3.

Overall remarks When maxing out the CPU, the fan is louder than on a ThinkPad, I definitely noticed it while compiling the zfs-dkms module. On the plus side, that happened incredibly fast. Comparing the Wootbook to my X250, the biggest downfall it has is really it s pointing device. It doesn t have a trackpad and the touchpad is ok and completely usable, but not great. I use my laptop on a desk most of the time so using an external mouse will mostly solve that. If money were no object, I would definitely choose a maxed out ThinkPad for its superior keyboard/mouse, but the X13 configured with 32GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD retails for just about double of what I paid for this machine. It doesn t seem like you can really buy the perfect laptop no matter how much money you want to spend, there s some compromise no matter what you end up choosing, but this machine packs quite a punch, especially for its price, and so far I m very happy with my purchase and the incredible performance it provides. I m also very glad that Wootware went with the gray/black colours, I prefer that by far to the white and silver variants. It s also the first laptop I ve had since 2006 that didn t come with Windows on it. The Wootbook is also comfortable/sturdy enough to carry with one hand while open. The ThinkPads are great like this and with many other brands this just feels unsafe. I don t feel as confident carrying it by it s display because it s very thin (I know, I shouldn t be doing that with the ThinkPads either, but I ve been doing that for years without a problem :) ). There s also a post on Reddit that tracks where you can buy these machines from various vendors all over the world.

2 September 2020

Elana Hashman: My term at the Open Source Initiative thus far

When I ran for the OSI board in early 2019, I set three goals for myself: Now that the OSI has announced hiring an interim General Manager, I thought it would be a good time to publicly reflect on what I've accomplished and what I'd like to see next. As I promised in my campaign pitch, I aim to be publicly accountable :) Growing the OSI's membership I have served as our Membership Committee Chair since the May 2019 board meeting, tasked with devising and supervising strategy to increase membership and deliver value to members. As part of my election campaign last year, I signed up over 50 new individual members. Since May 2019, we've seen strong 33% growth of individual members, to reach a new all-time high over 600 (638 when I last checked). I see the OSI as a relatively neutral organization that occupies a unique position to build bridges among organizations within the FOSS ecosystem. In order to facilitate this, we need a representative membership, and we need to engage those members and provide forums for cross-pollination. As Membership Committee Chair, I have been running quarterly video calls on Jitsi for our affiliate members, where we can share updates between many global organizations and discuss challenges we all face. But it's not enough just to hold the discussion; we also need to bring fresh new voices into the conversation. Since I've joined the board, I'm thrilled to say that 16 new affiliate members joined (in chronological order) for a total of 81: I was also excited to run a survey of the OSI's individual and affiliate membership to help inform the future of the organization that received 58 long-form responses. The survey has been accepted by the board at our August meeting and should be released publicly soon! Defending the Open Source Definition When I joined the board, the first committee I joined was the License Committee, which is responsible for running the licence review process, making recommendations on new licenses, and maintaining our existing licenses. Over the past year, under Pamela Chestek's leadership as Chair, the full board has approved the following licenses (with SPDX identifiers in brackets) on the recommendation of the License Committee: We withheld approval of the following licenses: I've also worked to define the scope of work for hiring someone to improve our license review process, which we have an open RFP for! Chopping wood and carrying water I joined the OSI with the goal of improving an organization I didn't think was performing up to its potential. Its membership and board were not representative of the wider open source community, its messaging felt outdated, and it seemed to be failing to rise to today's challenges for FOSS. But before one can rise to meet these challenges, you need a strong foundation. The OSI needed the organizational structure, health, and governance in order to address such questions. Completing that work is essential, but not exactly glamourous and it's a place that I thrive. Honestly, I don't (yet?) want to be the public face of the organization, and I apologize to those who've missed me at events like FOSDEM. I want to talk a little about some of my behind-the-scenes activities that I've completed as part of my board service: All of this work is intended to improve the organization's health and provide it with an excellent foundation for its mission. Defining the future of open source Soon after I was elected to the board, I gave a talk at Brooklyn.js entitled "The Future of Open Source." In this presentation, I pondered about the history and future of the free and open source software movement, and the ethical questions we must face. In my election campaign, I wrote "Software licenses are a means, not an end, to open source software. Focusing on licensing is necessary but not sufficient to ensure a vibrant, thriving open source community. Focus on licensing to the exclusion of other serious community concerns is to our collective detriment." My primary goal for my first term on the board was to ensure the OSI would be positioned to answer wider questions about the open source community and its future beyond licenses. Over the past two months, I supported Megan Byrd-Sanicki's suggestion to hold (and then participated in, with the rest of the board) organizational strategy sessions to facilitate our long-term planning. My contribution to help inform these sessions was providing the member survey on behalf of the Membership Committee. Now, I think we are much better equiped to face the hard questions we'll have to tackle. In my opinion, the Open Source Initiative is better positioned than ever to answer them, and I can't wait to see what the future brings. Hope to see you at our first State of the Source conference next week!

30 August 2020

Jonathan Carter: The metamorphosis of Loopy Loop

Dealing with the void during MiniDebConf Online #1 Between 28 and 31 May this year, we set out to create our first ever online MiniDebConf for Debian. Many people have been meaning to do something similar for a long time, but it just didn t work out yet. With many of us being in lock down due to COVID-19, and with the strong possibility looming that DebConf20 might have had to become an online event, we rushed towards organising the first ever Online MiniDebConf and put together some form of usable video stack for it. I could go into all kinds of details on the above, but this post is about a bug that lead to a pretty nifty feature for DebConf20. The tool that we use to capture Jitsi calls is called Jibri (Jitsi Broadcasting Infrustructure). It had a bug (well, bug for us, but it s an upstream feature) where Jibri would hang up after 30s of complete silence, because it would assume that the call has ended and that the worker can be freed up again. This would result in the stream being ended at the end of every talk, so before the next talk, someone would have to remember to press play again in their media player or on the video player on the stream page. Hrmph. Easy solution on the morning that the conference starts? I was testing a Debian Live image the night before in a KVM and thought that I might as well just start a Jitsi call from there and keep a steady stream of silence so that Jibri doesn t hang up. It worked! But the black screen and silence on stream was a bit eery. Because this event was so experimental in nature, and because we were on such an incredibly tight timeline, we opted not to seek sponsors for this event, so there was no sponsors loop that we d usually stream during a DebConf event. Then I thought Ah! I could just show the schedule! .

The stream looked bright and colourful (and was even useful!) and Jitsi/Jibri didn t die. I thought my work was done. As usual, little did I know how untrue that was. The silence was slightly disturbing after the talks, and people asked for some music. Playing music on my VM and capturing the desktop audio in to Jitsi was just a few pulseaudio settings away, so I spent two minutes finding some freely licensed tracks that sounded ok enough to just start playing on the stream. I came across mini-albums by Captive Portal and Cinema Noir, During the course of the MiniDebConf Online I even started enjoying those. Someone also pointed out that it would be really nice to have a UTC clock on the stream. I couldn t find a nice clock in a hurry so I just added a tmux clock in the meantime while we deal with the real-time torrent of issues that usually happens when organising events like this.
Speaking of issues, during our very first talk of the last day, our speaker had a power cut during the talk and abruptly dropped off. Oops! So, since I had a screenshare open from the VM to the stream, I thought I d just pop in a quick message in a text editor to let people know that we re aware of it and trying to figure out what s going on.
In the end, MiniDebConf Online worked out all right. Besides the power cut for our one speaker, and another who had a laptop that was way too under-powered to deal with video, everything worked out very well. Even the issues we had weren t show-stoppers and we managed to work around them.

DebConf20 Moves Online For DebConf, we usually show a sponsors loop in between sessions. It s great that we give our sponsors visibility here, but in reality people see the sponsors loop and think Talk over! and then they look away. It s also completely silent and doesn t provide any additional useful information. I was wondering how I could take our lessons from MDCO#1 and integrate our new tricks with the sponsors loop. That is, add the schedule, time, some space to type announcements on the screen and also add some loopable music to it. I used OBS before in making my videos, and like the flexibility it provides when working with scenes and sources. A scene is what you would think of as a screen or a document with its own collection of sources or elements. For example, a scene might contain sources such as a logo, clock, video, image, etc. A scene can also contain another scene. This is useful if you want to contain a banner or play some background music that is shared between scenes.

The above screenshots illustrate some basics of scenes and sources. First with just the DC20 banner, and then that used embedded in another scene. For MDCO#1, I copied and pasted the schedule into a LibreOffice Impress slide that was displayed on the stream. Having to do this for all 7 days of DebConf, plus dealing with scheduling changes would be daunting. So, I started to look in to generating some schedule slides programmatically. Stefano then pointed me to the Happening Now page on the DebConf website, where the current schedule block is displayed. So all I would need to do in OBS was to display a web page. Nice! Unfortunately the OBS in Debian doesn t have the ability to display web pages out of the box (we need to figure out CEF in Debian), but fortunately someone provides a pre-compiled version of the plugin called Linux Browser that works just fine. This allowed me to easily add the schedule page in its own scene. Being able to display a web page solved another problem. I wasn t fond of having to type / manage the announcements in OBS. It would either be a bit prone to user error, and if you want to edit the text while the loop is running, you d have to disrupt the loop, go to the foreground scene, and edit the text before resuming the loop. That s a bit icky. Then I thought that we could probably just get that from a web page instead. We could host some nice html snippet in a repository in salsa, and then anyone could easily commit an MR to update the announcement. But then I went a step further, use an etherpad! Then anyone in the orga team can quickly update the announcement and it would be instantly changed on the stream. Nice! So that small section of announcement text on the screen is actually a whole web browser with an added OBS filter to crop away all the pieces we don t want. Overkill? Sure, but it gave us a decent enough solution that worked in time for the start of DebConf. Also, being able to type directly on to the loop screen works out great especially in an emergency. Oh, and uhm the clock is also a website rendered in its own web browser :-P
So, I had the ability to make scenes, add elements and add all the minimal elements I wanted in there. Great! But now I had to figure out how to switch scenes automatically. It s probably worth mentioning that I only found some time to really dig into this right before DebConf started, so with all of this I was scrambling to find things that would work without too many bugs while also still being practical. Now I needed the ability to switch between the scenes automatically / programmatically. I had never done this in OBS before. I know it has some API because there are Android apps that you can use to control OBS with from your phone. I discovered that it had an automatic scene switcher, but it s very basic. It can only switch based on active window, which can be useful in some cases, but since we won t have any windows open other than OBS, this tool was basically pointless.
After some quick searches, I found a plugin called Advanced Scene Switcher. This plugin can do a lot more, but has some weird UI choices, and is really meant for gamers and other types of professional streamers to help them automate their work flow and doesn t seem at all meant to be used for a continuous loop, but, it worked, and I could make it do something that will work for us during the DebConf. I had a chicken and egg problem because I had to figure out a programming flow, but didn t really have any content to work with, or an idea of all the content that we would eventually have. I ve been toying with the idea in my mind and had some idea that we could add fun facts, postcards (an image with some text), time now in different timezones, Debian news (maybe procured by the press team), cards that contain the longer announcements that was sent to debconf-announce, perhaps a shout out or two and some photos from previous DebConfs like the group photos. I knew that I wouldn t be able to build anything substantial by the time DebConf starts, but adding content to OBS in between talks is relatively easy, so we could keep on building on it during DebConf. Nattie provided the first shout out, and I made 2 video loops with the DC18/19 pictures and also two Did you know cards. So the flow I ended up with was: Sponsors -> Happening Now -> Random video (which would be any of those clips) -> Back to sponsors. This ended up working pretty well for quite a while. With the first batch of videos the sponsor loop would come up on average about every 2 minutes, but as much shorter clips like shout outs started to come in faster and faster, it made sense to play a few 2-3 shout-outs before going back to sponsors. So here is a very brief guide on how I set up the sequencing in Advanced Scene Switcher.
If no condition was met, a video would play from the Random tab.
Then in the Random tab, I added the scenes that were part of the random mix. Annoyingly, you have to specify how long it should play for. If you don t, the no condition thingy is triggered and another video is selected. The time is also the length of the video minus one second, because
You can t just say that a random video should return back to a certain scene, you have to specify that in the sequence tab for each video. Why after 1 second? Because, at least in my early tests, and I didn t circle back to this, it seems like 0s can randomly either mean instantly, or never. Yes, this ended up being a bit confusing and tedious, and considering the late hours I worked on this, I m surprised that I didn t manage to screw it up completely at any point. I also suspected that threads would eventually happen. That is, when people create video replies to other videos. We had 3 threads in total. There was a backups thread, beverage thread and an impersonation thread. The arrow in the screenshot above points to the backups thread. I know it doesn t look that complicated, but it was initially somewhat confusing to set up and make sense out of it.
For the next event, the Advanced Scene Switcher might just get some more taming, or even be replaced entirely. There are ways to drive OBS by API, and even the Advanced Scene Switcher tool can be driven externally to some degree, but I think we definitely want to replace it by the next full DebConf. We had the problem that when a talk ended, we would return to the loop in the middle of a clip, which felt very unnatural and sometimes even confusing. So Stefano helped me with a helper script that could read the socket from Vocto, which I used to write either Loop or Standby to a file, and then the scene switcher would watch that file and keep the sponsors loop ready for start while the talks play. Why not just switch to sponsors when the talk ends? Well, the little bit of delay in switching would mean that you would see a tiny bit of loop every time before switching to sponsors. This is also why we didn t have any loop for the ad-hoc track (that would have probably needed another OBS instance, we ll look more into solutions for this for the future).
Then for all the clips. There were over 50 of them. All of them edited by hand in kdenlive. I removed any hard clicks, tried to improve audibility, remove some sections at the beginning and the end that seemed extra and added some music that would reduce in volume when someone speaks. In the beginning, I had lots of fun with choosing music for the clips. Towards the end, I had to rush them through and just chose the same tune whether it made sense or not. For comparison of what a difference the music can make, compare the original and adapted version for Valhalla s clip above, or this original and adapted video from urbec. This part was a lot more fun than dealing with the video sequencer, but I also want to automate it a bit. When I can fully drive OBS from Python I ll likely instead want to show those cards and control music volume from Python (what could possibly go wrong ). The loopy name happened when I requested an @debconf.org alias for this. I was initially just thinking about loop@debconf.org but since I wanted to make it clear that the purpose of this loop is also to have some fun, I opted for loopy instead:
I was really surprised by how people took to loopy. I hoped it would be good and that it would have somewhat positive feedback, but the positive feedback was just immense. The idea was that people typically saw it in between talks. But a few people told me they kept it playing after the last talk of the day to watch it in the background. Some asked for the music because they want to keep listening to it while working (and even for jogging!?). Some people also asked for recordings of the loop because they want to keep it for after DebConf. The shoutouts idea proved to be very popular. Overall, I m very glad that people enjoyed it and I think it s safe to say that loopy will be back for the next event.
Also throughout this experiment Loopy Loop turned into yet another DebConf mascot. We gain one about every DebConf, some by accident and some on purpose. This one was not quite on purpose. I meant to make an image for it for salsa, and started with an infinite loop symbol. That s a loop, but by just adding two more solid circles to it, it looks like googly eyes, now it s a proper loopy loop! I like the progress we ve made on this, but there s still a long way to go, and the ideas keep heaping up. The next event is quite soon (MDCO#2 at the end of November, and it seems that 3 other MiniDebConf events may also be planned), but over the next few events there will likely be significantly better graphics/artwork, better sequencing, better flow and more layout options. I hope to gain some additional members in the team to deal with incoming requests during DebConf. It was quite hectic this time! The new OBS also has a scripting host that supports Python, so I should be able to do some nice things even within OBS without having to drive it externally (like, display a clock without starting a web browser).

The Loopy Loop Music The two mini albums that mostly played during the first few days were just a copy and paste from the MDCO#1 music, which was:

For shoutout tracks, that were later used in the loop too (because it became a bit monotonous), most of the tracks came from freepd.com: I have much more things to say about DebConf20, but I ll keep that for another post, and hopefully we can get all the other video stuff in a post from the video team, because I think there s been some real good work done for this DebConf. Also thanks to Infomaniak who was not only a platinum sponsor for this DebConf, but they also provided us with plenty of computing power to run all the video stuff on. Thanks again!

Bits from Debian: DebConf20 online closes

DebConf20 group photo - click to enlarge On Saturday 29 August 2020, the annual Debian Developers and Contributors Conference came to a close. DebConf20 has been held online for the first time, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease pandemic. All of the sessions have been streamed, with a variety of ways of participating: via IRC messaging, online collaborative text documents, and video conferencing meeting rooms. With more than 850 attendees from 80 different countries and a total of over 100 event talks, discussion sessions, Birds of a Feather (BoF) gatherings and other activities, DebConf20 was a large success. When it became clear that DebConf20 was going to be an online-only event, the DebConf video team spent much time over the next months to adapt, improve, and in some cases write from scratch, technology that would be required to make an online DebConf possible. After lessons learned from the MiniDebConfOnline in late May, some adjustments were made, and then eventually we came up with a setup involving Jitsi, OBS, Voctomix, SReview, nginx, Etherpad, and a newly written web-based frontend for voctomix as the various elements of the stack. All components of the video infrastructure are free software, and the whole setup is configured through their public ansible repository. The DebConf20 schedule included two tracks in other languages than English: the Spanish language MiniConf, with eight talks in two days, and the Malayalam language MiniConf, with nine talks in three days. Ad-hoc activities, introduced by attendees over the course of the entire conference, have been possible too, streamed and recorded. There have also been several team gatherings to sprint on certain Debian development areas. Between talks, the video stream has been showing the usual sponsors on the loop, but also some additional clips including photos from previous DebConfs, fun facts about Debian and short shout-out videos sent by attendees to communicate with their Debian friends. For those who were not able to participate, most of the talks and sessions are already available through the Debian meetings archive website, and the remaining ones will appear in the following days. The DebConf20 website will remain active for archival purposes and will continue to offer links to the presentations and videos of talks and events. Next year, DebConf21 is planned to be held in Haifa, Israel, in August or September. DebConf is committed to a safe and welcome environment for all participants. During the conference, several teams (Front Desk, Welcome team and Community team) have been available to help so participants get their best experience in the conference, and find solutions to any issue that may arise. See the web page about the Code of Conduct in DebConf20 website for more details on this. Debian thanks the commitment of numerous sponsors to support DebConf20, particularly our Platinum Sponsors: Lenovo, Infomaniak, Google and Amazon Web Services (AWS). About Debian The Debian Project was founded in 1993 by Ian Murdock to be a truly free community project. Since then the project has grown to be one of the largest and most influential open source projects. Thousands of volunteers from all over the world work together to create and maintain Debian software. Available in 70 languages, and supporting a huge range of computer types, Debian calls itself the universal operating system. About DebConf DebConf is the Debian Project's developer conference. In addition to a full schedule of technical, social and policy talks, DebConf provides an opportunity for developers, contributors and other interested people to meet in person and work together more closely. It has taken place annually since 2000 in locations as varied as Scotland, Argentina, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. More information about DebConf is available from https://debconf.org/. About Lenovo As a global technology leader manufacturing a wide portfolio of connected products, including smartphones, tablets, PCs and workstations as well as AR/VR devices, smart home/office and data center solutions, Lenovo understands how critical open systems and platforms are to a connected world. About Infomaniak Infomaniak is Switzerland's largest web-hosting company, also offering backup and storage services, solutions for event organizers, live-streaming and video on demand services. It wholly owns its datacenters and all elements critical to the functioning of the services and products provided by the company (both software and hardware). About Google Google is one of the largest technology companies in the world, providing a wide range of Internet-related services and products such as online advertising technologies, search, cloud computing, software, and hardware. Google has been supporting Debian by sponsoring DebConf for more than ten years, and is also a Debian partner sponsoring parts of Salsa's continuous integration infrastructure within Google Cloud Platform. About Amazon Web Services (AWS) Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the world's most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platforms, offering over 175 fully featured services from data centers globally (in 77 Availability Zones within 24 geographic regions). AWS customers include the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises and leading government agencies. Contact Information For further information, please visit the DebConf20 web page at https://debconf20.debconf.org/ or send mail to press@debian.org.

26 August 2020

Alexandre Viau: Setting up Nightscout using MongoDB Atlas

Nightscout is an Open Source web-based CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) that allows multiple caregivers to remotely view a patient s glucose data in real time. It is often deployed by non-technical people for their own use. The traditional method used a MongoDB Addon on Heroku that is now deprecated. I have sent patches to adapt the documentation on the relevant projects: This app is life-changing. Some Nigthscout users may be impatient, so I am writing this blog post to guide them in the meantime.

Setting up Nightscout If you want to setup Nightscout from scratch using MongoDB Atlas, please follow this modified guide. However, note that you will have to make one modification to the steps in the guide. At the start of Step 4, you will need to go to this repository instead: https://github.com/aviau/cgm-remote-monitor. This is my own version of Nightscout and it contains small modifications that will allow you to set it up with MongoDB Atlas easily. I will keep this blog post updated as I receive feedback. Come back here for more instructions.

15 August 2020

Antonio Terceiro: Useful ffmpeg commands for editing video

For DebConf20, we are recommending that speakers pre-record the presentation part of their talks, and will have live Q&A. We had a smaller online MiniDebConf a couple of months ago, where for instance I had connectivity issues during my talk, so even though it feels too artificial, I guess pre-recording can decrease by a lot the likelihood of a given talk going bad. Paul Gevers and I submitted a short 20 min talk giving an update on autopkgtest, ci.debian.net and friends. We will provide the latest updates on autopkgtest, autodep8, debci, ci.debian.net, and its integration with the Debian testing migration software, britney. We agreed on a split of the content, each one recorded their part, and I offered to join them together. The logical chaining of the topics is such that we can't just concatenate the recordings, so we need to interlace our parts. So I set out to do a full video editing work. I have done this before, although in a simpler way, for one of the MiniDebconfs we held in Curitiba. In that case, it was just cutting the noise at the beginning and the end of the recording, and adding beginning and finish screens with sponsors logos etc. The first issue I noticed was that both our recordings had a decent amount of audio noise. To extract the audio track from the videos, I resorted to How can I extract audio from video with ffmpeg? on Stack Overflow:
ffmpeg -i input-video.avi -vn -acodec copy output-audio.aac
I then edited the audio with Audacity. I passed a noise reduction filter a couple of times, then a compressor filter to amplify my recording on mine, as Paul's already had a good volume. And those are my more advanced audio editing skills, which I acquired doing my own podcast. I now realized I could have just muted the audio tracks from the original clip and align the noise-free audio with it, but I ended up creating new video files with the clean audio. Another member of the Stack Overflow family came to the rescue, in How to merge audio and video file in ffmpeg. To replace the audio stream, we can do something like this:
ffmpeg -i video.mp4 -i audio.wav -c:v copy -c:a aac -map 0:v:0 -map 1:a:0 output.mp4
Paul's recording had a 4:3 aspect ratio, while the requested format is 16:9. This late in the game, there was zero chance I would request him to redo the recording. So I decided to add those black bars on the side to make it the right aspect when showing full screen. And yet again the quickest answer I could find came from the Stack Overflow empire: ffmpeg: pillarbox 4:3 to 16:9:
ffmpeg -i "input43.mkv" -vf "scale=640x480,setsar=1,pad=854:480:107:0" [etc..]
The final editing was done with pitivi, which is what I have used before. I'm a very basic user, but I could do what I needed. It was basically splitting the clips at the right places, inserting the slides as images and aligning them with the video, and making most our video appear small in the corner when presenting the slides. P.S.: all the command lines presented here are examples, basically copied from the linked Q&As, and have to be adapted to your actual input and output formats.

12 July 2020

Antoine Beaupr : On contact tracing apps

I have strong doubts about the efficiency of any tracing app of the sort, and even less in the context where it is unlikely that a majority of the population will use it. There's also the problem that this app would need to work on Apple phones, or be incompatible with them, and cause significant "fracture" between those who have access to technology, and those who haven't. See this text for more details. Such an app would be a security and privacy liability at no benefit to public health. There are better options, see for this research on hardware tokens. But I doubt any contact tracing app or hardware will actually work anyways. I am a computer engineer with more than 20 years of experience in the domain, and I have been following this question closely. Please don't do this.
I wrote the above in a response to the Qu bec government's survey about a possible tracing app. Update: a previous version of this article was titled plainly "on contact tracing". In case that was not obvious, I definitely do not object to contact tracing per se. I believe it's a fundamental, critical, and important part of fighting the epidemic and I think we should do it. I do not believe any engineer has found a proper way of doing it with "apps" so far, but I do not deny the utility and importance of "contact tracing" itself. Apologies for the confusion.

Pour une raison que je m'explique mal, le sondage m' t envoy en anglais, et j'ai donc crit ma r ponse dans la langue de Shakespeare au lieu de celle de moli re... Je serai heureux de fournir une traduction fran aise ceux ou celles qui en ont besoin...

7 July 2020

Noah Meyerhans: Setting environment variables for gnome-session

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

2 July 2020

Russell Coker: Desklab Portable USB-C Monitor

I just got a 15.6 4K resolution Desklab portable touchscreen monitor [1]. It takes power via USB-C and video input via USB-C or mini HDMI, has touch screen input, and has speakers built in for USB or HDMI sound. PC Use I bought a mini-DisplayPort to HDMI adapter and for my first test ran it from my laptop, it was seen as a 1920*1080 DisplayPort monitor. The adaptor is specified as supporting 4K so I don t know why I didn t get 4K to work, my laptop has done 4K with other monitors. The next thing I plan to get is a VGA to HDMI converter so I can use this on servers, it can be a real pain getting a monitor and power cable to a rack mounted server and this portable monitor can be powered by one of the USB ports in the server. A quick search indicates that such devices start at about $12US. The Desklab monitor has no markings to indicate what resolution it supports, no part number, and no serial number. The only documentation I could find about how to recognise the difference between the FullHD and 4K versions is that the FullHD version supposedly draws 2A and the 4K version draws 4A. I connected my USB Ammeter and it reported that between 0.6 and 1.0A were drawn. If they meant to say 2W and 4W instead of 2A and 4A (I ve seen worse errors in manuals) then the current drawn would indicate the 4K version. Otherwise the stated current requirements don t come close to matching what I ve measured. Power The promise of USB-C was power from anywhere to anywhere. I think that such power can theoretically be done with USB 3 and maybe USB 2, but asymmetric cables make it more challenging. I can power my Desklab monitor from a USB battery, from my Thinkpad s USB port (even when the Thinkpad isn t on mains power), and from my phone (although the phone battery runs down fast as expected). When I have a mains powered USB charger (for a laptop and rated at 60W) connected to one USB-C port and my phone on the other the phone can be charged while giving a video signal to the display. This is how it s supposed to work, but in my experience it s rare to have new technology live up to it s potential at the start! One thing to note is that it doesn t have a battery. I had imagined that it would have a battery (in spite of there being nothing on their web site to imply this) because I just couldn t think of a touch screen device not having a battery. It would be nice if there was a version of this device with a big battery built in that could avoid needing separate cables for power and signal. Phone Use The first thing to note is that the Desklab monitor won t work with all phones, whether a phone will take the option of an external display depends on it s configuration and some phones may support an external display but not touchscreen. The Huawei Mate devices are specifically listed in the printed documentation as being supported for touchscreen as well as display. Surprisingly the Desklab web site has no mention of this unless you download the PDF of the manual, they really should have a list of confirmed supported devices and a forum for users to report on how it works. My phone is a Huawei Mate 10 Pro so I guess I got lucky here. My phone has a desktop mode that can be enabled when I connect it to a USB-C device (not sure what criteria it uses to determine if the device is suitable). The desktop mode has something like a regular desktop layout and you can move windows around etc. There is also the option of having a copy of the phone s screen, but it displays the image of the phone screen vertically in the middle of the landscape layout monitor which is ridiculous. When desktop mode is enabled it s independent of the phone interface so I had to find the icons for the programs I wanted to run in an unsorted list with no search usable (the search interface of the app list brings up the keyboard which obscures the list of matching apps). The keyboard takes up more than half the screen and there doesn t seem to be a way to make it smaller. I d like to try a portrait layout which would make the keyboard take something like 25% of the screen but that s not supported. It s quite easy to type on a keyboard that s slightly larger than a regular PC keyboard (a 15 display with no numeric keypad or cursor control keys). The hackers keyboard app might work well with this as it has cursor control keys. The GUI has an option for full screen mode for an app which is really annoying to get out of (you have to use a drop down from the top of the screen), full screen doesn t make sense for a display this large. Overall the GUI is a bit clunky, imagine Windows 3.1 with a start button and task bar. One interesting thing to note is that the desktop and phone GUIs can be run separately, so you can type on the Desklab (or any similar device) and look things up on the phone. Multiple monitors never really interested me for desktop PCs because switching between windows is fast and easy and it s easy to resize windows to fit several on the desktop. Resizing windows on the Huawei GUI doesn t seem easy (although I might be missing some things) and the keyboard takes up enough of the screen that having multiple windows open while typing isn t viable. I wrote the first draft of this post on my phone using the Desklab display. It s not nearly as easy as writing on a laptop but much easier than writing on the phone screen. Currently Desklab is offering 2 models for sale, 4K resolution for $399US and FullHD for $299US. I got the 4K version which is very expensive at the moment when converted to Australian dollars. There are significantly cheaper USB-C monitors available (such as this ASUS one from Kogan for $369AU), but I don t think they have touch screens and therefore can t be used with a phone unless you enable the phone screen as touch pad mode and have a mouse cursor on screen. I don t know if all Android devices support that, it could be that a large part of the desktop experience I get is specific to Huawei devices. One annoying feature is that if I use the phone power button to turn the screen off it shuts down the connection to the Desklab display, but the phone screen will turn off it I leave it alone for the screen timeout (which I have set to 10 minutes). Caveats When I ordered this I wanted the biggest screen possible. But now that I have it the fact that it doesn t fit in the pocket of my Scott e Vest jacket [2] will limit what I can do with it. Maybe I ll be buying a 13 monitor in the near future, I expect that Desklab will do well and start selling them in a wide range of sizes. A 15.6 portable device is inconvenient even if it is in the laptop format, a thin portable screen is inconvenient in many ways. Netflix doesn t display video on the Desklab screen, I suspect that Netflix is doing this deliberately as some misguided attempt at stopping piracy. It is really good for watching video as it has the speakers in good locations for stereo sound, it s a pity that Netflix is difficult. The functionality on phones from companies other than Huawei is unknown. It is likely to work on most Android phones, but if a particular phone is important to you then you want to Google for how it worked for others.

30 June 2020

Emmanuel Kasper: Learning openshift: a good moment to revisit awk too

I can t believe I spent all these years using only grep. Most of us know how to use awk to print the nth column of a file:
$ awk ' print $1 ' /etc/hosts
will print all IP addresses from /etc/hosts But you can also do filtering before printing the chosen column:
$ awk '$5 >= 2  print $2 ' /path/to/file
will print the second column of all lines, where the 5th column is greater than 2. That would have been hard with grep. Now I can use that to find out all deployments on my openshift cluster, where the number of current replicas is greater than 2.
$ oc get deployments --all-namespaces   awk '$5 >= 2  print $2 '
NAME
oauth-openshift
console
downloads
router-default
etcd-quorum-guard
prometheus-adapter
thanos-querier
packageserver
I know that openshift/kubernetes both have a powerful query selector syntax, but for the moment awk will do.

16 June 2020

Ritesh Raj Sarraf: Kodi PS3 BD Remote

Setting up a Sony PS3 Blu-Ray Disc Remote Controller with Kodi TLDR; Since most of the articles on the internet were either obsolete or broken, I ve chosen to write these notes down in the form of a blog post so that it helps me now and in future, and hopefully others too.

Raspberry Pi All this time, I have been using the Raspberry Pi for my HTPC needs. The first RPi I acquired was in 2014 and I have been very very happy with the amount of support in the community and quality of the HTPC offering it has. I also appreciate the RPi s form factor and the power consumption limits. And then, to add more sugar to it, it uses a derivative of Debian, Raspbian, which was very familiar and feel good to me.

Raspberry Pi Issues So primarily, I use my RPi with Kodi. There are a bunch of other (daemon) services but the primary use case is HTPC only. RPi + Kodi has a very very annoying issue wherein it loses its audio pitch during video playback. The loss is so bad that the audio is barely audible. The workaround is to seek the video playback either way and then it comes back to its actual audio level, just to fade again in a while. My suspicion was that it may be a problem with Kodi. Or at least, Kodi would have a workaround in software. But unfortunately, I wasted a lot of time in dealing with my suspicion with no fruitful result. This started becoming a PITA over time. And it seems the issue is with the hardware itself because after I moved my setup to a regular laptop, the audio loss is gone.

Laptop with Kodi Since I had my old Lenovo Yoga 2 13 lying on all the time, it made sense to make some more use of it, using as the HTPC. This machine comes with a Micro-HDMI Out port, so it felt ideal for my High Definition video rendering needs. It comes stock with just Intel HD Video with good driver support in Linux, so it was quite quick and easy getting Kodi charged up and running on it. And as I mentioned above, the sound issues are not seen on this setup. Some added benefits are that I get to run stock Debian on this machine. And I must say a big THANK YOU to the Debian Multimedia Maintainers, who ve done a pretty good job maintaining Kodi under Debian.

HDMI CEC Only after I decommissioned my RPi, I came to notice how convenient the HDMI CEC functionality is. Turns out no standard laptops ship CEC functionality onto them. Even the case of my laptop, which has a Micro HDMI Out port, but still no CEC capabilities. As far as I know, the RPi came with the Pulse-Eight CEC module, so obvious first thought was to opt for a compatible external module of the same; but it comes with a nice price tag, me not willing to spend.

WiFi Remotes Kodi has very well implemented network interface for almost all its features. One could take the Yatse or Music Pump Kodi Remote Android applications that work very very well with Kodi. But wifi can be flaky some times. Especially, my experience with the Realtek network devices hasn t been very good. The driver support in Linux is okay but there are many firmware bugs to deal with. In my case, the machine will lose wifi signal/network every once in a while. And it turns out, for this machine, with this network device type, I m not the only one running into such problems. And to add to that, this is an UltraBook, which means it doesn t have an Ethernet port. So I ve had not much choice other than to live and suffer deal with it. The WiFi chip also provides the Bluetooth module, which so far I had not used much. From my /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-memstick.conf, all relevant BT modules were added to the blacklist, all this time.
rrs@lenovo:~$ cat /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-memstick.conf 
blacklist memstick
blacklist rtsx_usb_ms
# And bluetooth too
#blacklist btusb
#blacklist btrtl
#blacklist btbcm
#blacklist btintel
#blacklist bluetooth
21:21            
Also to keep in mind is that the driver for my card gives a very misleading kernel message, which is one of the many reasons for this blog post, so that I don t forget it a couple of months later. The missing firmware error message is okay to ignore, as per this upstream comment.
Jun 14 17:17:08 lenovo kernel: usbcore: registered new interface driver btusb
Jun 14 17:17:08 lenovo systemd[1]: Mounted /boot/efi.
Jun 14 17:17:08 lenovo kernel: Bluetooth: hci0: RTL: examining hci_ver=06 hci_rev=000b lmp_ver=06 lmp_subver=8723
Jun 14 17:17:08 lenovo kernel: Bluetooth: hci0: RTL: rom_version status=0 version=1
Jun 14 17:17:08 lenovo kernel: Bluetooth: hci0: RTL: loading rtl_bt/rtl8723b_fw.bin
Jun 14 17:17:08 lenovo kernel: bluetooth hci0: firmware: direct-loading firmware rtl_bt/rtl8723b_fw.bin
Jun 14 17:17:08 lenovo kernel: Bluetooth: hci0: RTL: loading rtl_bt/rtl8723b_config.bin
Jun 14 17:17:08 lenovo kernel: bluetooth hci0: firmware: failed to load rtl_bt/rtl8723b_config.bin (-2)
Jun 14 17:17:08 lenovo kernel: firmware_class: See https://wiki.debian.org/Firmware for information about missing firmware
Jun 14 17:17:08 lenovo kernel: bluetooth hci0: Direct firmware load for rtl_bt/rtl8723b_config.bin failed with error -2
Jun 14 17:17:08 lenovo kernel: Bluetooth: hci0: RTL: cfg_sz -2, total sz 22496
This device s network + bt are on the same chip.
01:00.0 Network controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8723BE PCIe Wireless Network Adapter
And then, when the btusb module is initialed (along with the misleading driver message), you ll get the following in your USB device listing
Bus 002 Device 005: ID 0bda:b728 Realtek Semiconductor Corp. Bluetooth Radio

Sony PlayStation 3 BD Remote Almost 10 years ago, I bought the PS3 and many of its accessories. The remote has just been rotting in the shelf. It had rusted so bad that it is better described with these pics.
Rusted inside
Rusted inside
Rusted inside and cover
Rusted inside and cover
Rusted spring
Rusted spring
The rust was so much that the battery holding spring gave up. A little bit scrubbing and cleaning has gotten it working. I hope it lasts for some time before I find time to open it up and give it a full clean-up.

Pairing the BD Remote to laptop Honestly, with the condition of the hardware and software on both ends, I did not have much hopes of getting this to work. And in all the years on my computer usage, I hardly recollect much days when I ve made use of BT. Probably, because the full BT stack wasn t that well integrated in Linux, earlier. And I mostly used to disable them in hardware and software to save on battery. All yielded results from the internet talked about tools/scripts that were either not working, pointing to broken links etc. These days, bluez comes with a nice utility, bluetoothctl. It was a nice experience using it. First, start your bluetooth service and ensure that the device talks well with the kernel
rrs@lenovo:~$ systemctl status bluetooth                                                                                                          
  bluetooth.service - Bluetooth service                                                                                                           
     Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/bluetooth.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)                                                      
     Active: active (running) since Mon 2020-06-15 12:54:58 IST; 3s ago                                                                           
       Docs: man:bluetoothd(8)                                                                                                                    
   Main PID: 310197 (bluetoothd)                                                                                                                  
     Status: "Running"                                                                                                                            
      Tasks: 1 (limit: 9424)                                                                                                                      
     Memory: 1.3M                                                                                                                                 
     CGroup: /system.slice/bluetooth.service                                                                                                      
              310197 /usr/lib/bluetooth/bluetoothd                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                                  
Jun 15 12:54:58 lenovo systemd[1]: Starting Bluetooth service...                                                                                  
Jun 15 12:54:58 lenovo bluetoothd[310197]: Bluetooth daemon 5.50                                                                                  
Jun 15 12:54:58 lenovo systemd[1]: Started Bluetooth service.                                                                                     
Jun 15 12:54:58 lenovo bluetoothd[310197]: Starting SDP server                                                                                    
Jun 15 12:54:58 lenovo bluetoothd[310197]: Bluetooth management interface 1.15 initialized                                                        
Jun 15 12:54:58 lenovo bluetoothd[310197]: Sap driver initialization failed.                                                                      
Jun 15 12:54:58 lenovo bluetoothd[310197]: sap-server: Operation not permitted (1)                                                                
12:55                                                                                                                                       
Next, then is to discover and connect to your device
rrs@lenovo:~$ bluetoothctl 
Agent registered
[bluetooth]# devices
Device E6:3A:32:A4:31:8F MI Band 2
Device D4:B8:FF:43:AB:47 MI RC
Device 00:1E:3D:10:29:0F BD Remote Control
[CHG] Device 00:1E:3D:10:29:0F Connected: yes
[BD Remote Control]# info 00:1E:3D:10:29:0F
Device 00:1E:3D:10:29:0F (public)
        Name: BD Remote Control
        Alias: BD Remote Control
        Class: 0x0000250c
        Paired: no
        Trusted: yes
        Blocked: no
        Connected: yes
        LegacyPairing: no
        UUID: Human Interface Device... (00001124-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb)
        UUID: PnP Information           (00001200-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb)
        Modalias: usb:v054Cp0306d0100
[bluetooth]# 
In case of the Sony BD Remote, there s no need to pair. In fact, trying to pair fails. It prompts for the PIN code, but neither 0000 or 1234 are accepted. So, the working steps so far are to Trust the device and then Connect the device. For the sake of future use, I also populated /etc/bluetooth/input.conf based on suggestions on the internet. Note: The advertised keymappings in this config file do not work. Note: I m only using it for the power saving measures in instructing the BT connection to sleep after 3 minutes.
rrs@priyasi:/tmp$ cat input.conf 
# Configuration file for the input service
# This section contains options which are not specific to any
# particular interface
[General]
# Set idle timeout (in minutes) before the connection will
# be disconnect (defaults to 0 for no timeout)
IdleTimeout=3
# Enable HID protocol handling in userspace input profile
# Defaults to false (HIDP handled in HIDP kernel module)
#UserspaceHID=true
# Limit HID connections to bonded devices
# The HID Profile does not specify that devices must be bonded, however some
# platforms may want to make sure that input connections only come from bonded
# device connections. Several older mice have been known for not supporting
# pairing/encryption.
# Defaults to false to maximize device compatibility.
#ClassicBondedOnly=true
# LE upgrade security
# Enables upgrades of security automatically if required.
# Defaults to true to maximize device compatibility.
#LEAutoSecurity=true
#
#[00:1E:3D:10:29:0F]
[2c:33:7a:8e:d6:30]
[PS3 Remote Map]
# When the 'OverlayBuiltin' option is TRUE (the default), the keymap uses
# the built-in keymap as a starting point.  When FALSE, an empty keymap is
# the starting point.
#OverlayBuiltin = TRUE
#buttoncode = keypress    # Button label = action with default key mappings
#OverlayBuiltin = FALSE
0x16 = KEY_ESC            # EJECT = exit
0x64 = KEY_MINUS          # AUDIO = cycle audio tracks
0x65 = KEY_W              # ANGLE = cycle zoom mode
0x63 = KEY_T              # SUBTITLE = toggle subtitles
0x0f = KEY_DELETE         # CLEAR = delete key
0x28 = KEY_F8             # /TIME = toggle through sleep
0x00 = KEY_1              # NUM-1
0x01 = KEY_2              # NUM-2
0x02 = KEY_3              # NUM-3
0x03 = KEY_4              # NUM-4
0x04 = KEY_5              # NUM-5
0x05 = KEY_6              # NUM-6
0x06 = KEY_7              # NUM-7
0x07 = KEY_8              # NUM-8
0x08 = KEY_9              # NUM-9
0x09 = KEY_0              # NUM-0
0x81 = KEY_F2             # RED = red
0x82 = KEY_F3             # GREEN = green
0x80 = KEY_F4             # BLUE = blue
0x83 = KEY_F5             # YELLOW = yellow
0x70 = KEY_I              # DISPLAY = show information
0x1a = KEY_S              # TOP MENU = show guide
0x40 = KEY_M              # POP UP/MENU = menu
0x0e = KEY_ESC            # RETURN = back/escape/cancel
0x5c = KEY_R              # TRIANGLE/OPTIONS = cycle through recording options
0x5d = KEY_ESC            # CIRCLE/BACK = back/escape/cancel
0x5f = KEY_A              # SQUARE/VIEW = Adjust Playback timestretch
0x5e = KEY_ENTER          # CROSS = select
0x54 = KEY_UP             # UP = Up/Skip forward 10 minutes
0x56 = KEY_DOWN           # DOWN = Down/Skip back 10 minutes
0x57 = KEY_LEFT           # LEFT = Left/Skip back 5 seconds
0x55 = KEY_RIGHT          # RIGHT = Right/Skip forward 30 seconds
0x0b = KEY_ENTER          # ENTER = select
0x5a = KEY_F10            # L1 = volume down
0x58 = KEY_J              # L2 = decrease the play speed
0x51 = KEY_HOME           # L3 = commercial skip previous
0x5b = KEY_F11            # R1 = volume up
0x59 = KEY_U              # R2 = increase the play speed
0x52 = KEY_END            # R3 = commercial skip next
0x43 = KEY_F9             # PS button = mute
0x50 = KEY_M              # SELECT = menu (as per PS convention)
0x53 = KEY_ENTER          # START = select / Enter (matches terminology in mythwelcome)
0x30 = KEY_PAGEUP         # PREV = jump back (default 10 minutes)
0x76 = KEY_J              # INSTANT BACK (newer RCs only) = decrease the play speed
0x75 = KEY_U              # INSTANT FORWARD (newer RCs only) = increase the play speed
0x31 = KEY_PAGEDOWN       # NEXT = jump forward (default 10 minutes)
0x33 = KEY_COMMA          # SCAN BACK =  decrease scan forward speed / play
0x32 = KEY_P              # PLAY = play/pause
0x34 = KEY_DOT            # SCAN FORWARD decrease scan backard speed / increase playback speed; 3x, 5, 10, 20, 30, 60, 120, 180
0x60 = KEY_LEFT           # FRAMEBACK = Left/Skip back 5 seconds/rewind one frame
0x39 = KEY_P              # PAUSE = play/pause
0x38 = KEY_P              # STOP = play/pause
0x61 = KEY_RIGHT          # FRAMEFORWARD = Right/Skip forward 30 seconds/advance one frame
0xff = KEY_MAX
21:48                 
I have not spent much time finding out why not all the key presses work. Especially, given that most places on the internet mention these mappings. For me, some of the key scan codes aren t even reported. For keys like L1, L2, L3, R1, R2, R3, Next_Item, Prev_Item, they generate no codes in the kernel. If anyone has suggestions, ideas or fixes, I d appreciate if you can drop a comment or email me privately. But given my limited use to get a simple remote ready, to be usable with Kodi, I was apt with only some of the keys working.

Mapping the keys in Kodi With the limited number of keys detected, mapping those keys to what Kodi could use was the next step. Kodi has a very nice and easy to use module, Keymap Editor. It is very simple to use and map detected keys to functionalities you want. With it, I was able to get a functioning remote to use with my Kodi HTPC setup.

Update: Wed Jun 17 11:38:20 2020 One annoying problem that breaks the overall experience is the following bug on the driver side, that results in connections not being established instantly. Once the device goes into sleep mode, in random attempts, waking up and re-establishing a BT connection can be multi-poll affair. This can last from a couple of seconds to well over minute. Random suggestions on the internet mention disabling the autosuspend functionality for the device in the driver with btusb.enable_autosuspend=n, but that did not help in this case. Given that this device is enumberated over the USB Bus, it probably needs this feature applied to the whole USB tree of the device s chain. Something to investigate over the weekend.
Jun 16 20:41:23 lenovo kernel: Bluetooth: hci0: ACL packet for unknown connection handle 7
Jun 16 20:41:43 lenovo kernel: Bluetooth: hci0: ACL packet for unknown connection handle 8
Jun 16 20:41:59 lenovo kernel: Bluetooth: hci0: ACL packet for unknown connection handle 9
Jun 16 20:42:18 lenovo kernel: input: BD Remote Control as /devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:14.0/usb1/1-7/1-7:1.0/bluetooth/hci0/hci0:10/0005:054C:030>
Jun 16 20:42:18 lenovo kernel: sony 0005:054C:0306.0006: input,hidraw1: BLUETOOTH HID v1.00 Gamepad [BD Remote Control] on 2c:33:7a:8e:d6:30
Jun 16 20:51:59 lenovo kernel: input: BD Remote Control as /devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:14.0/usb1/1-7/1-7:1.0/bluetooth/hci0/hci0:11/0005:054C:030>
Jun 16 20:51:59 lenovo kernel: sony 0005:054C:0306.0007: input,hidraw1: BLUETOOTH HID v1.00 Gamepad [BD Remote Control] on 2c:33:7a:8e:d6:30
Jun 16 21:05:55 lenovo rtkit-daemon[1723]: Supervising 3 threads of 1 processes of 1 users.
Jun 16 21:05:55 lenovo rtkit-daemon[1723]: Successfully made thread 32747 of process 1646 owned by '1000' RT at priority 5.
Jun 16 21:05:55 lenovo rtkit-daemon[1723]: Supervising 4 threads of 1 processes of 1 users.
Jun 16 21:05:56 lenovo kernel: Bluetooth: hci0: ACL packet for unknown connection handle 12
Jun 16 21:06:12 lenovo kernel: Bluetooth: hci0: ACL packet for unknown connection handle 1
Jun 16 21:06:34 lenovo kernel: Bluetooth: hci0: ACL packet for unknown connection handle 2
Jun 16 21:06:59 lenovo kernel: input: BD Remote Control as /devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:14.0/usb1/1-7/1-7:1.0/bluetooth/hci0/hci0:3/0005:054C:0306>
Jun 16 21:06:59 lenovo kernel: sony 0005:054C:0306.0008: input,hidraw1: BLUETOOTH HID v1.00 Gamepad [BD Remote Control] on 2c:33:7a:8e:d6:30

Others There s a package, kodi-eventclients-ps3, which can be used to talk to the BD Remote. Unfortunately, it isn t up-to-date. When trying to make use of it, I ran into a couple of problems. First, the easy one is:
rrs@lenovo:~/ps3pair$ kodi-ps3remote localhost 9777
usr/share/pixmaps/kodi//bluetooth.png
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/usr/bin/kodi-ps3remote", line 220, in <module>
  File "/usr/bin/kodi-ps3remote", line 208, in main
    xbmc.connect(host, port)
    packet = PacketHELO(self.name, self.icon_type, self.icon_file)
  File "/usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/kodi/xbmcclient.py", line 285, in __init__
    with open(icon_file, 'rb') as f:
11:16         => 1  
This one was simple as it was just a broken path. The second issue with the tool is a leftover from python2 to python3 conversion.
rrs@lenovo:/etc/bluetooth$ kodi-ps3remote localhost
/usr/share/pixmaps/kodi//bluetooth.png
Searching for BD Remote Control
(Hold Start + Enter on remote to make it discoverable)
Redmi (E8:5A:8B:73:57:44) in range
Living Room TV (E4:DB:6D:24:23:E9) in range
Could not find BD Remote Control. Trying again...
Searching for BD Remote Control
(Hold Start + Enter on remote to make it discoverable)
Living Room TV (E4:DB:6D:24:23:E9) in range
Redmi (E8:5A:8B:73:57:44) in range
Could not find BD Remote Control. Trying again...
Searching for BD Remote Control
(Hold Start + Enter on remote to make it discoverable)
BD Remote Control (00:1E:3D:10:29:0F) in range
Found BD Remote Control with address 00:1E:3D:10:29:0F
Attempting to pair with remote
Remote Paired.
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/usr/bin/kodi-ps3remote", line 221, in <module>
    main()
  File "/usr/bin/kodi-ps3remote", line 212, in main
    if process_keys(remote, xbmc):
  File "/usr/bin/kodi-ps3remote", line 164, in process_keys
    keycode = data.encode("hex")[10:12]
AttributeError: 'bytes' object has no attribute 'encode'
11:24         => 1  
Fixing that too did not give me the desired result on using the BD Remote in the way I want. So eventually, I gave up and used Kodi s Keymap Editor instead.

Next Next in line, when I can manage to get some free time, is to improve the Kodi Video Scraper to have a fallback mode. Currently, for files where it cannot determine the content, it reject the file resulting in those files not showing up in your collection at all. A better approach would have been to have a fallback mode, that when the scraper cannot determine the content, it should fallback to using the filename scraper

Next.

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