Search Results: "drew"

11 September 2022

Andrew Cater: 202209110020 - Debian release day(s) - Cambridge - post 4

RattusRattus, Isy, smcv have all just left after a very long day. Steve is finishing up the final stages. The mayhem has quietened, the network cables are coiled, pretty much everything is tidied away. A new experience for two of us - I just hope it hasn't put them off too much.The IRC channels are quiet and we can put this one to bed after a good day's work well done.

10 September 2022

Andrew Cater: 202209102213 - Debian release day - Cambridge - post 3

Working a bit more slowly - coming to the end of the process. I've been wrestling with a couple of annoying old laptops and creating mayhem. The others are almost through the process - it's been a very long day, almost 12 hours now.As ever, it's good to be with people who appreciate this work - I'm also being menaced by a dog that wants fuss all the time. It certainly makes a difference to have fast connectivity and even faster remarks backwards and forwards.


Andrew Cater: 202209101602 Debian release day - Cambridge - post 2

Definitely settling into a rhythm - we've been joined by smcv in person (and bittin on line). Bullseye testing is now well beyond the standard image testing into the live images.Buster images are gradually being built so there's the added confusion of two sets of wiki editing, two sets of potential edit conflicts ...So six people in a small-ish sitting room, several with multiple laptops running several checks at once. It's all good, as ever.Dining room table has nine machines on it, three packet switches are fairly well full ...

Andrew Cater: 202209101115 Debian release day - Cambridge - Bullseye and Buster testing starting

And I'm over here with the Debian images/media release team in Cambridge.First time together in Cambridge for a long time: several of the usual suspects - RattusRattus, Sledge, Isy and myself. Also in the room are Kartik and egw - I think this is their first time.Chat is now physically in Sledge's sitting room as well as on IRC. The first couple of images are trickling in and tests are starting for Bullseye.
This is going to be a very long day - we've got full tests for Bullseye (Debian 11) and Buster (Debian 10) so double duty. This should be the last release for Buster since this has now passed to LTS.

9 September 2022

Jonathan Dowland: memtest

Since I'm writing about my NAS, a month ago I happened to notice an odd kernel message:
Aug 8 04:04] list_del corruption. prev->next should be ffff90c96e9c2090,
but was ffff90c94e9c2090
A kernel dev friend said "I'm familiar with that code ... you should run memtest86". This seemed like advice it would be foolish to ignore! I installed the memtest86 package, which on Debian stable, is actually the formerly open-source "memtest86" software, last updated in 2014, rather than the currently open-source "memtest86+". However the package (incorrectly, I think) Recommends: memtest86+ so I ended up with both. The package scripts integrate with GRUB, so both were added as boot options. Neither however, would boot on my NAS, which is a UEFI system: after selection from the GRUB prompt, I just had a blank screen. I focussed for a short while on display issues: I wondered if trying to run a 4k monitor over HDMI was too much to expect from a memory tester OS, but my mainboard has a VGA out as well. It has some quirky behaviour for the VGA out: the firmware doesn't use it at all, so output only begins appearing after something boots (GRUB for example). I fiddled about with the HDMI output, VGA output, and trying different RGB cables, to no avail. The issue was (likely) nothing to do with the video out, but rather that the packaged versions of memtest/memtest86+ don't work properly on UEFI systems. What did work, was Passmark Software's non-FOSS memtest86. It drew on HDMI, albeit in a postage stamp sized window. After some time (much less than I expected, some kind of magic modern memory matrix stuff going on I think), I got a clean bill of health:
memtest86(.com) passes
It's quite possible the FOSS versions of memtest (pcmemtest is another) have better support for UEFI in more recent versions than I installed (I just went with what's in Debian stable), and if not, then this is a worthy feature to work on.

31 August 2022

Russell Coker: Links Aug 2022

Armor is an interesting technology from Manchester University for stopping rowhammer attacks on DRAM [1]. Unfortunately armor is a term used for DRAM that looks fancy for ricers so finding out whether it s used in production is difficult. The Reckless Limitless Scope of Web Browsers is an insightful analysis of the size of web specs and why it s impossible to implement them properly [2]. Framework is a company that makes laptop kits you can assemble and upgrade, interesting concept [3]. I ll keep buying second hand laptops for less than $400 but if I wanted to spend $1000 then I d consider one of these. FS has an insightful article about why unstructured job interviews (IE the vast majority of job interviews) give a bad result [4]. How a child killer inspired Ayn Rand and indirectly conservatives all around the world [5]. Ayn Rand s love of a notoriously sadistic child killer is well known, but this article has a better discussion of it than most. 60 Minutes had an interesting article on Foreign Accent Syndrome where people suddenly sound like they are from another country [6]. 18 minute video but worth watching. Most Autistic people have experience of people claiming that they must be from another country because of the way they speak. Having differences in brain function lead to differences in perceived accent is nothing new. The IEEE has an interesting article about the creation of the i860, the first million-transistor chip [7]. The Game of Trust is an interactive web site demonstrating the game theory behind trusting other people [8]. Here s a choose your own adventure game in Twitter (Nitter is a non-tracking proxy for Twitter) [9], can you get your pawn elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire?

28 August 2022

Andrew Cater: Debian Barbeque, Cambridge 2022

And here we are: second day of the barbeque in Cambridge. Lots of food - as always - some alcohol, some soft drinks, coffee.Lots of good friends, and banter and good natured argument. For a couple of folk, it's their first time here - but most people have known each other for years. Lots of reminiscing, some crochet from two of us. Multiple technical discussions weaving and overlapping
Not just meat and vegetarian options for food: a fresh loaf, gingerbread of various sorts, fresh Belgian-style waffles.I''m in the front room: four of us silently on laptops, one on a phone. Sounds of a loud game of Mao from the garden - all very normal for this time of year.Thanks to Jo and Steve, to all the cooks and folk sorting things out. One more night and I'll have done my first full BBQ here. Diet and slimming - what diet?

9 July 2022

Andrew Cater: 20220709 2100 UTC - Finished Debian media testing for the day

I've just finished my last test: Sledge is finishing his and will then push the release out. Today's been a bit slow and steady - but we've finally got there.Thanks, as ever, due to the release team for actually giving us an update, the press team for announcements - and, of course, the various sponsors, administrators and maintainers of Debian infrastructure like cdimage.debian.org and the CD building machines.It's been a quiet release for the media team in terms of participation - we've not had our usual tester for debian-edu and it's been a bit subdued altogether.Not even as many blog posts as usual: I suppose I'll make up for it in August at the BBQ in Cambridge - if we don't all get another lockdown / COVID-19 variants / fuel prices at per litre to dissuade us.

Andrew Cater: Testing 11.4 Debian media images - almost finished - 20220709 1933 UTC

We're flagging a bit now, I think but close to the end. The standard Debian images caused no problems: Sledge and I are just finishing up the last few live images to test now.Thanks, as ever, to the crew: RattusRattus and Isy, Sledge struggling through feeling awful. No debian-edu testing today, unfortunately, but that almost never breaks anyway.Everyone's getting geared up for Kosovo - you'll see the other three there with any luck - and you'd catch all of us at the BBQ in Cambridge. It's going to be a hugely busy month and a bit for Steve and the others. :)

Andrew Cater: As has become traditional - blogging as part of the media release for Debian 11.4 - 202207091436 UTC

A lower profile release today: Sledge working in the background as affected by COVID. RattusRattus and Isy doing sterling service on the other side of Cambridge, /me over here.Testing on the standard install media is pretty much done: Isy, Andy and Sledge have moved on to testing the live images.Stupidly hot for UK - it's 28 degrees indoors with windows open.All good so far :)

6 June 2022

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds in May 2022

Welcome to the May 2022 report from the Reproducible Builds project. In our reports we outline the most important things that we have been up to over the past month. As ever, if you are interested in contributing to the project, please visit our Contribute page on our website.

Repfix paper Zhilei Ren, Shiwei Sun, Jifeng Xuan, Xiaochen Li, Zhide Zhou and He Jiang have published an academic paper titled Automated Patching for Unreproducible Builds:
[..] fixing unreproducible build issues poses a set of challenges [..], among which we consider the localization granularity and the historical knowledge utilization as the most significant ones. To tackle these challenges, we propose a novel approach [called] RepFix that combines tracing-based fine-grained localization with history-based patch generation mechanisms.
The paper (PDF, 3.5MB) uses the Debian mylvmbackup package as an example to show how RepFix can automatically generate patches to make software build reproducibly. As it happens, Reiner Herrmann submitted a patch for the mylvmbackup package which has remained unapplied by the Debian package maintainer for over seven years, thus this paper inadvertently underscores that achieving reproducible builds will require both technical and social solutions.

Python variables Johannes Schauer discovered a fascinating bug where simply naming your Python variable _m led to unreproducible .pyc files. In particular, the types module in Python 3.10 requires the following patch to make it reproducible:
--- a/Lib/types.py
+++ b/Lib/types.py
@@ -37,8 +37,8 @@ _ag = _ag()
 AsyncGeneratorType = type(_ag)
 
 class _C:
-    def _m(self): pass
-MethodType = type(_C()._m)
+    def _b(self): pass
+MethodType = type(_C()._b)
Simply renaming the dummy method from _m to _b was enough to workaround the problem. Johannes bug report first led to a number of improvements in diffoscope to aid in dissecting .pyc files, but upstream identified this as caused by an issue surrounding interned strings and is being tracked in CPython bug #78274.

New SPDX team to incorporate build metadata in Software Bill of Materials SPDX, the open standard for Software Bill of Materials (SBOM), is continuously developed by a number of teams and committees. However, SPDX has welcomed a new addition; a team dedicated to enhancing metadata about software builds, complementing reproducible builds in creating a more secure software supply chain. The SPDX Builds Team has been working throughout May to define the universal primitives shared by all build systems, including the who, what, where and how of builds:
  • Who: the identity of the person or organisation that controls the build infrastructure.
  • What: the inputs and outputs of a given build, combining metadata about the build s configuration with an SBOM describing source code and dependencies.
  • Where: the software packages making up the build system, from build orchestration tools such as Woodpecker CI and Tekton to language-specific tools.
  • How: the invocation of a build, linking metadata of a build to the identity of the person or automation tool that initiated it.
The SPDX Builds Team expects to have a usable data model by September, ready for inclusion in the SPDX 3.0 standard. The team welcomes new contributors, inviting those interested in joining to introduce themselves on the SPDX-Tech mailing list.

Talks at Debian Reunion Hamburg Some of the Reproducible Builds team (Holger Levsen, Mattia Rizzolo, Roland Clobus, Philip Rinn, etc.) met in real life at the Debian Reunion Hamburg (official homepage). There were several informal discussions amongst them, as well as two talks related to reproducible builds. First, Holger Levsen gave a talk on the status of Reproducible Builds for bullseye and bookworm and beyond (WebM, 210MB): Secondly, Roland Clobus gave a talk called Reproducible builds as applied to non-compiler output (WebM, 115MB):

Supply-chain security attacks This was another bumper month for supply-chain attacks in package repositories. Early in the month, Lance R. Vick noticed that the maintainer of the NPM foreach package let their personal email domain expire, so they bought it and now controls foreach on NPM and the 36,826 projects that depend on it . Shortly afterwards, Drew DeVault published a related blog post titled When will we learn? that offers a brief timeline of major incidents in this area and, not uncontroversially, suggests that the correct way to ship packages is with your distribution s package manager .

Bootstrapping Bootstrapping is a process for building software tools progressively from a primitive compiler tool and source language up to a full Linux development environment with GCC, etc. This is important given the amount of trust we put in existing compiler binaries. This month, a bootstrappable mini-kernel was announced. Called boot2now, it comprises a series of compilers in the form of bootable machine images.

Google s new Assured Open Source Software service Google Cloud (the division responsible for the Google Compute Engine) announced a new Assured Open Source Software service. Noting the considerable 650% year-over-year increase in cyberattacks aimed at open source suppliers, the new service claims to enable enterprise and public sector users of open source software to easily incorporate the same OSS packages that Google uses into their own developer workflows . The announcement goes on to enumerate that packages curated by the new service would be:
  • Regularly scanned, analyzed, and fuzz-tested for vulnerabilities.
  • Have corresponding enriched metadata incorporating Container/Artifact Analysis data.
  • Are built with Cloud Build including evidence of verifiable SLSA-compliance
  • Are verifiably signed by Google.
  • Are distributed from an Artifact Registry secured and protected by Google.
(Full announcement)

A retrospective on the Rust programming language Andrew bunnie Huang published a long blog post this month promising a critical retrospective on the Rust programming language. Amongst many acute observations about the evolution of the language s syntax (etc.), the post beings to critique the languages approach to supply chain security ( Rust Has A Limited View of Supply Chain Security ) and reproducibility ( You Can t Reproduce Someone Else s Rust Build ):
There s some bugs open with the Rust maintainers to address reproducible builds, but with the number of issues they have to deal with in the language, I am not optimistic that this problem will be resolved anytime soon. Assuming the only driver of the unreproducibility is the inclusion of OS paths in the binary, one fix to this would be to re-configure our build system to run in some sort of a chroot environment or a virtual machine that fixes the paths in a way that almost anyone else could reproduce. I say almost anyone else because this fix would be OS-dependent, so we d be able to get reproducible builds under, for example, Linux, but it would not help Windows users where chroot environments are not a thing.
(Full post)

Reproducible Builds IRC meeting The minutes and logs from our May 2022 IRC meeting have been published. In case you missed this one, our next IRC meeting will take place on Tuesday 28th June at 15:00 UTC on #reproducible-builds on the OFTC network.

A new tool to improve supply-chain security in Arch Linux kpcyrd published yet another interesting tool related to reproducibility. Writing about the tool in a recent blog post, kpcyrd mentions that although many PKGBUILDs provide authentication in the context of signed Git tags (i.e. the ability to verify the Git tag was signed by one of the two trusted keys ), they do not support pinning, ie. that upstream could create a new signed Git tag with an identical name, and arbitrarily change the source code without the [maintainer] noticing . Conversely, other PKGBUILDs support pinning but not authentication. The new tool, auth-tarball-from-git, fixes both problems, as nearly outlined in kpcyrd s original blog post.

diffoscope diffoscope is our in-depth and content-aware diff utility. Not only can it locate and diagnose reproducibility issues, it can provide human-readable diffs from many kinds of binary formats. This month, Chris Lamb prepared and uploaded versions 212, 213 and 214 to Debian unstable. Chris also made the following changes:
  • New features:
    • Add support for extracting vmlinuz Linux kernel images. [ ]
    • Support both python-argcomplete 1.x and 2.x. [ ]
    • Strip sticky etc. from x.deb: sticky Debian binary package [ ]. [ ]
    • Integrate test coverage with GitLab s concept of artifacts. [ ][ ][ ]
  • Bug fixes:
    • Don t mask differences in .zip or .jar central directory extra fields. [ ]
    • Don t show a binary comparison of .zip or .jar files if we have observed at least one nested difference. [ ]
  • Codebase improvements:
    • Substantially update comment for our calls to zipinfo and zipinfo -v. [ ]
    • Use assert_diff in test_zip over calling get_data with a separate assert. [ ]
    • Don t call re.compile and then call .sub on the result; just call re.sub directly. [ ]
    • Clarify the comment around the difference between --usage and --help. [ ]
  • Testsuite improvements:
    • Test --help and --usage. [ ]
    • Test that --help includes the file formats. [ ]
Vagrant Cascadian added an external tool reference xb-tool for GNU Guix [ ] as well as updated the diffoscope package in GNU Guix itself [ ][ ][ ].

Distribution work In Debian, 41 reviews of Debian packages were added, 85 were updated and 13 were removed this month adding to our knowledge about identified issues. A number of issue types have been updated, including adding a new nondeterministic_ordering_in_deprecated_items_collected_by_doxygen toolchain issue [ ] as well as ones for mono_mastersummary_xml_files_inherit_filesystem_ordering [ ], extended_attributes_in_jar_file_created_without_manifest [ ] and apxs_captures_build_path [ ]. Vagrant Cascadian performed a rough check of the reproducibility of core package sets in GNU Guix, and in openSUSE, Bernhard M. Wiedemann posted his usual monthly reproducible builds status report.

Upstream patches The Reproducible Builds project detects, dissects and attempts to fix as many currently-unreproducible packages as possible. We endeavour to send all of our patches upstream where appropriate. This month, we wrote a large number of such patches, including:

Reproducible builds website Chris Lamb updated the main Reproducible Builds website and documentation in a number of small ways, but also prepared and published an interview with Jan Nieuwenhuizen about Bootstrappable Builds, GNU Mes and GNU Guix. [ ][ ][ ][ ] In addition, Tim Jones added a link to the Talos Linux project [ ] and billchenchina fixed a dead link [ ].

Testing framework The Reproducible Builds project runs a significant testing framework at tests.reproducible-builds.org, to check packages and other artifacts for reproducibility. This month, the following changes were made:
  • Holger Levsen:
    • Add support for detecting running kernels that require attention. [ ]
    • Temporarily configure a host to support performing Debian builds for packages that lack .buildinfo files. [ ]
    • Update generated webpages to clarify wishes for feedback. [ ]
    • Update copyright years on various scripts. [ ]
  • Mattia Rizzolo:
    • Provide a facility so that Debian Live image generation can copy a file remotely. [ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • Roland Clobus:
    • Add initial support for testing generated images with OpenQA. [ ]
And finally, as usual, node maintenance was also performed by Holger Levsen [ ][ ].

Misc news On our mailing list this month:

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

19 May 2022

Ulrike Uhlig: How do kids conceive the internet? - part 2

I promised a follow up to my post about interviews about how children conceptualize the internet. Here it is. (Maybe not the last one!)

The internet, it s that thing that acts up all the time, right? As said in my first post, I abandoned the idea to interview children younger than 9 years because it seems they are not necessarily aware that they are using the internet. But it turns out that some do have heard about the internet. My friend Anna, who has 9 younger siblings, tried to win some of her brothers and sisters for an interview with me. At the dinner table, this turned into a discussion and she sent me an incredibly funny video where two of her brothers and sisters, aged 5 and 6, discuss with her about the internet. I won t share the video for privacy reasons besides, the kids speak in the wondrous dialect of Vorarlberg, a region in western Austria, close to the border with Liechtenstein. Here s a transcription of the dinner table discussion:
  • Anna: what is the internet?
  • both children: (shouting as if it was a game of who gets it first) photo! mobile! device! camera!
  • Anna: But one can have a camera without the internet
  • M.: Internet is the mobile phone charger! Mobile phone full!
  • J.: Internet is internet is
  • M.: I know! Internet is where you can charge something, the mobile phone and
  • Anna: You mean electricity?
  • M.: Yeah, that is the internet, electricity!
  • Anna: (laughs), Yes, the internet works a bit similarly, true.
  • J.: It s the electricity of the house!
  • Anna: The electricity of the house
(everyone is talking at the same time now.)
  • Anna: And what s WiFi?
  • M.: WiFi it s the TV!
  • Anna (laughs)
  • M.: WiFi is there so it doesn t act up!
  • Anna (laughs harder)
  • J. (repeats what M. just said): WiFi is there so it doesn t act up!
  • Anna: So that what doesn t act up?
  • M.: (moves her finger wildly drawing a small circle in the air) So that it doesn t spin!
  • Anna: Ah?
  • M.: When one wants to watch something on Youtube, well then that the thing doesn t spin like that!
  • Anna: Ahhh! so when you use Youtube, you need the internet, right?
  • J.: Yes, so that one can watch things.
I really like how the kids associate the internet with a thing that works all the time, except for when it doesn t work. Then they notice: The internet is acting up! Probably, when that happens, parents or older siblings say: the internet is acting up or let me check why the internet acts up again and maybe they get up from the sofa, switch a home router on and off again, which creates this association with electricity. (Just for the sake of clarity for fellow multilingualist readers, the kids used the German word spinnen , which I translated to acting up . In French that would be d conner .)

WiFi for everyone! I interviewed another of Anna s siblings, a 10 year old boy. He told me that he does not really use the internet by himself yet, and does not own any internet capable device. He watches when older family members look up stuff on Google, or put on a video on Youtube, Netflix, or Amazon he knew all these brand names though. In the living room, there s Alexa, he told me, and he uses the internet by asking Alexa to play music.
Then I say: Alexa, play this song!
Interestingly, he knew that, in order to listen to a CD, the internet was not needed. When asked how a drawing would look like that explains the internet, he drew a scheme of the living room at home, with the TV, Alexa, and some kind of WiFi dongle, maybe a repeater. (Unfortunately I did not manage to get his drawing.) If he could ask a wise and friendly dragon one thing about the internet that he always wanted to know, he would ask How much internet can one have and what are all the things one can do with the internet? If he could change the internet for the better for everyone, he would build a gigantic building which would provide the entire world with WiFi.

Cut out the stupid stuff from the internet His slightly older sister does own a laptop and a smartphone. She uses the internet to watch movies, or series, to talk with her friends, or to listen to music. When asked how she would explain the internet to an alien, she said that
one can do a lot of things on the internet, but on the internet there can be stupid things, but also good things, one can learn stuff on the internet, for example how to do crochet.
Most importantly, she noticed that
one needs the internet nowadays.
A child's drawing. On the left, a smartphone with WhatsApp, saying 'calls with WhatsApp'. In the middle a TV saying 'watching movies'. On the right, a laptop with lots of open windowns. Her drawing shows how she uses the internet: calls using WhatsApp, watching movies online, and a laptop with open windows on the screen. She would ask the dragon that can explain one thing she always wanted to know about the internet:
What is the internet? How does it work at all? How does it function?
What she would change has to do with her earlier remark about stupid things:
I would make it so that there are less stupid things. It would be good to use the internet for better things, but not for useless things, that one doesn t actually need.
When I asked her what she meant by stupid things , she replied:
Useless videos where one talks about nonsense. And one can also google stupid things, for example how long will i be alive? and stuff like that.

Patterns From the interviews I made until now, there seems to be a cut between then age where kids don t own a device and use the internet to watch movies, series or listen to music and the age where they start owning a device and then they start talking to their friends, and create accounts on social media. This seems to happen roughly at ages 9-10. I m still surprised at the amount of ideas that kids have, when asked what they would change on the internet if they could. I m sure there s more if one goes looking for it.

Thanks Thanks to my friends who made all these interviews possible either by allowing me to meet their children, or their younger siblings: Anna, Christa, Aline, Cindy, and Martina.

6 April 2022

Jonathan Dowland: Hope in a Darkened Heart

I first heard Virginia Astley via Lauren Laverne, who played (I think) "With my eyes wide open" from her first album, "From Gardens Where We Feel Secure". Mostly ambient, a conceptual piece about a garden in an English Summer, spanning dawn to dusk. Bucolic ambient, dream pop. It was a little outside my wheel-house, but I loved it, and wanted to find out more. I soon learned that official, physical copies of it were rare and expensive.
'Hope in a Darkened Heart' spinning on my turntable
Some time later I stumbled across her second album "Hope in a Darkened Heart" (which is possibly the most commonly available of her albums) and bought it blind. It's quite different, with a lot more singing, but whatever drew me to Gardens is present. I love this. It was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Only this week I was enormously pleased to discover a chunk of her discography on Bandcamp, including the two aformentioned albums. Highlights from Darkened:

30 March 2022

Ulrike Uhlig: How do kids conceive the internet?

I wanted to understand how kids between 10 and 18 conceive the internet. Surely, we have seen a generation that we call digital natives grow up with the internet. Now, there is a younger generation who grows up with pervasive technology, such as smartphones, smart watches, virtual assistants and so on. And only a few of them have parents who work in IT or engineering

Pervasive technology contributes to the idea that the internet is immaterial With their search engine website design, Google has put in place an extremely simple and straightforward user interface. Since then, designers and psychologists have worked on making user interfaces more and more intuitive to use. The buzzwords are usability and user experience design . Besides this optimization of visual interfaces, haptic interfaces have evolved as well, specifically on smartphones and tablets where hand gestures have replaced more clumsy external haptic interfaces such as a mouse. And beyond interfaces, the devices themselves have become smaller and slicker. While in our generation many people have experienced opening a computer tower or a laptop to replace parts, with the side effect of seeing the parts the device is physically composed of, the new generation of end user devices makes this close to impossible, essentially transforming these devices into black boxes, and further contributing to the idea that the internet they are being used to access with would be something entirely intangible.

What do kids in 2022 really know about the internet? So, what do kids of that generation really know about the internet, beyond purely using services they do not control? In order to find out, I decided to interview children between 10 and 18. I conducted 5 interviews with kids aged 9, 10, 12, 15 and 17, two boys and three girls. Two live in rural Germany, one in a German urban area, and two live in the French capital. I wrote the questions in a way to stimulate the interviewees to tell me a story each time. I also told them that the interview is not a test and that there are no wrong answers. Except for the 9 year old, all interviewees possessed both, their own smartphone and their own laptop. All of them used the internet mostly for chatting, entertainment (video and music streaming, online games), social media (TikTok, Instagram, Youtube), and instant messaging. Let me introduce you to their concepts of the internet. That was my first story telling question to them:

If aliens had landed on Earth and would ask you what the internet is, what would you explain to them? The majority of respondents agreed in their replies that the internet is intangible while still being a place where one can do anything and everything . Before I tell you more about their detailed answers to the above question, let me show you how they visualize their internet.

If you had to make a drawing to explain to a person what the internet is, how would this drawing look like? Each interviewee had some minutes to come up with a drawing. As you will see, that drawing corresponds to what the kids would want an alien to know about the internet and how they are using the internet themselves.

Movies, series, videos A child's drawing. In the middle, there is a screen, on the screen a movie is running. Around the screen there are many people, at least two dozens. The words 'film', 'series', 'network', 'video' are written and arrows point from these words to the screen. There's also a play icon. The youngest respondent, a 9 year old girl, drew a screen with lots of people around it and the words film, series, network, video , as well as a play icon. She said that she mostly uses the internet to watch movies. She was the only one who used a shared tablet and smartphone that belonged to her family, not to herself. And she would explain the net like this to an alien:
"Internet is a er one cannot touch it it s an, er [I propose the word idea ], yes it s an idea. Many people use it not necessarily to watch things, but also to read things or do other stuff."

User interface elements There is a magnifying glass icon, a play icon and speech bubbles drawn with a pencil. A 10 year old boy represented the internet by recalling user interface elements he sees every day in his drawing: a magnifying glass (search engine), a play icon (video streaming), speech bubbles (instant messaging). He would explain the internet like this to an alien:
"You can use the internet to learn things or get information, listen to music, watch movies, and chat with friends. You can do nearly anything with it."

Another planet Pencil drawing that shows a planet with continents. The continents are named: H&M, Ebay, Google, Wikipedia, Facebook. A 12 year old girl imagines the internet like a second, intangible, planet where Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Ebay, or H&M are continents that one enters into.
"And on [the] Ebay [continent] there s a country for clothes, and ,trousers , for example, would be a federal state in that country."
Something that was unique about this interview was that she told me she had an email address but she never writes emails. She only has an email account to receive confirmation emails, for example when doing online shopping, or when registering to a service and needing to confirm one s address. This is interesting because it s an anti-spam measure that might become outdated with a generation that uses email less or not at all.

Home network Kid's drawing: there are three computer towers and next to each there are two people. The first couple is sad, the seconf couple is smiling, the last one is suprised. Each computer is connected to a router, two of them by cable, one by wifi. A 15 year old boy knew that his family s devices are connected to a home router (Freebox is a router from the French ISP Free) but lacked an imagination of the rest of the internet s functioning. When I asked him about what would be behind the router, on the other side, he said what s behind is like a black hole to him. However, he was the only interviewee who did actually draw cables, wifi waves, a router, and the local network. His drawing is even extremely precise, it just lacks the cable connecting the router to the rest of the internet.

Satellite internet This is another very simple drawing: On top left, there's planet Earth an there are lines indicating that earth is a sphere. Around Earth there are two big satellites reaching most of Earth. on the left, below, there are three icons representing social media services on the internet: Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok. On the right, there are simplified drawings of possibilities which the internet offers: person to person connection, email (represented by envelopes), calls (represented by an old-style telephone set). A 17 year old girl would explain the internet to an alien as follows:
"The internet goes around the entire globe. One is networked with everyone else on Earth. One can find everything. But one cannot touch the internet. It s like a parallel world. With a device one can look into the internet. With search engines, one can find anything in the world, one can phone around the world, and write messages. [The internet] is a gigantic thing."
This interviewee stated as the only one that the internet is huge. And while she also is the only one who drew the internet as actually having some kind of physical extension beyond her own home, she seems to believe that internet connectivity is based on satellite technology and wireless communication.

Imagine that a wise and friendly dragon could teach you one thing about the internet that you ve always wanted to know. What would you ask the dragon to teach you about? A 10 year old boy said he d like to know how big are the servers behind all of this . That s the only interview in which the word server came up. A 12 year old girl said I would ask how to earn money with the internet. I always wanted to know how this works, and where the money comes from. I love the last part of her question! The 15 year old boy for whom everything behind the home router is out of his event horizon would ask How is it possible to be connected like we are? How does the internet work scientifically? A 17 year old girl said she d like to learn how the darknet works, what hidden things are there? Is it possible to get spied on via the internet? Would it be technically possible to influence devices in a way that one can listen to secret or telecommanded devices? Lastly, I wanted to learn about what they find annoying, or problematic about the internet.

Imagine you could make the internet better for everyone. What would you do first? Asked what she would change if she could, the 9 year old girl advocated for a global usage limit of the internet in order to protect the human brain. Also, she said, her parents spend way too much time on their phones and people should rather spend more time with their children. Three of the interviewees agreed that they see way too many advertisements and two of them would like ads to disappear entirely from the web. The other one said that she doesn t want to see ads, but that ads are fine if she can at least click them away. The 15 year old boy had different ambitions. He told me he would change:
"the age of access to the internet. More and more younger people access the internet ; especially with TikTok there is a recommendation algorithm that can influcence young people a lot. And influencing young people should be avoided but the internet does it too much. And that can be negative. If you don t yet have a critical spirit, and you watch certain videos you cannot yet moderate your stance. It can influence you a lot. There are so many things that have become indispensable and that happen on the internet and we have become dependent. What happens if one day it doesn t work anymore? If we connect more and more things to the net, that s not a good thing."

The internet - Oh, that s what you mean! On a sidenote, my first interview tentative was with an 8 year old girl from my family. I asked her if she uses the internet and she denied, so I abandoned interviewing her. Some days later, while talking to her, she proposed to look something up on Google, using her smartphone. I said: Oh, so you are using the internet! She replied: Oh, that s what you re talking about? I think she knows the word Google and she knows that she can search for information with this Google thing. But it appeared that she doesn t know that the Google search engine is located somewhere else on internet and not on her smartphone. I concluded that for her, using the services on the smartphone is as natural as switching on a light in the house: we also don t think about where the electricity comes from when we do that.

What can we learn from these few interviews? Unsurprisingly, social media, streaming, entertainment, and instant messaging are the main activities kids undertake on the internet. They are completely at the mercy of advertisements in apps and on websites, not knowing how to get rid of them. They interact on a daily basis with algorithms that are unregulated and known to perpetuate discrimination and to create filter bubbles, without necessarily being aware of it. The kids I interviewed act as mere service users and seem to be mostly confined to specific apps or websites. All of them perceived the internet as being something intangible. Only the older interviewees perceived that there must be some kind of physical expansion to it: the 17 year old girl by drawing a network of satellites around the globe, the 15 year old boy by drawing the local network in his home. To be continued

27 March 2022

Andrew Cater: Imminent release for the media images for Debian 10.12 and 11.3 20220327 0010

OK - so it wasn't quite all done in one day - and since today is TZ change day in the UK, it might actually run into the TZ bump but I suspect that it will all be done very soon now. Very few glitches - everybody cheerful with what's been done.I did spot someone in IRC who had been reading the release notes - which is always much appreciated. Lots of security fixes overall in the last couple of months but just a fairly normal time, I think.Thanks to the team behind all of this: the ftpmasters, the press team and everyone else involved in making Debian more secure. This is the last blog for this one - there will be another point release along in about three months or so.

26 March 2022

Andrew Cater: Part way through testing Debian media images 20220326 1555UTC - Found a new useful utility

For various obscure reasons, I have a mirror of Debian in one room and the main laptop and so on I use in another. The mirror is connected to a fast Internet line - and has a 1Gb Ethernet cable into the back directly from the router, the laptop and everything else - not so much, everything is wired, but depends on a WiFi link across the property. One end is fast - one end runs like a snail.Steve suggested I use a different tool to make images directly on the mirror machine - jigit. Slightly less polished than jigdo but - if you're on the same machine - blazingly fast. I just used it to make the Blu-Ray sized .iso and was very pleasantly surprised. jigit-mkimage -j [jigdo file] -t [template file] -m Debian=[path to mirror of Debian] -o [output filename]
Another nice surprise for me - I have a horrible old Lenovo Ideapad. It's one of the Bay Trail Intel machines with a 32 bit UEFI and a 64 bit processor. I rescued it from the junk heap. Reinstalling it with an image today fixed an issue I had with slow boot and has turned it into an adequate machine for web browsing.All in all, I've done relatively few tests so far - but it's been a good day, as ever.More later.


Andrew Cater: Debian media team - testing and releasing Debian 11.3 - 20220326 1243UTC

And back to relative normality : the usual suspects are in Cambridge. It's a glorious day across the UK and we're spending it indoors with laptops :)We'll also be releasing a point release of Buster as a wrap up of recent changes.Debian 10 should move from full support to LTS on July August 14th - one year after the release of Debian 11 - and there will be a final point release of Buster somewhere around that point.
All seems to be behaving itself well.Thanks to all for the hard work that goes into preparing each release and especially the security fixes of which there seem to be loads lately.


Andrew Cater: Still testing Debian media images 20220326 2026UTC- almost finished 11.3 - Buster starting soon

And we're working through quite nicely.
It's been a long, long day so far and we're about 1/2 way through :)
Shout out to Isy, Sledge and RattusRattus in Cambridge and also smcv.Two releases in a day is a whole bunch :)

13 January 2022

Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (November and December 2021)

The following contributors got their Debian Developer accounts in the last two months: The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months: Congratulations!

18 December 2021

Andrew Cater: Debian media team - testing and releasing Debian 11.2 20211218 2030

We've more or less finished the release of the Debian CD/DVD/Blu-Ray and other media for Bullseye 11.2 release. This is one of the (roughly) quarterly point releases and roll-up releases.Thanks firstly to the developers, users, helpers, bug filers who help to keep Debian moving and working and to the release team and press team who more or less finish their job before the media team start theirs.
Thanks to Sledge and RattusRattus and Isy in Cambridge and to Schweer who single-handedly clears all the Debian-edu testing. This release run seemed to be a bit more slick, a bit faster, a few fewer problems and it's always a joy to work with colleagues who are like family.The last couple of years have been more than a bit difficult: this (should) be more or less the last major action from the release team and others for 2021.I'm going to take the opportunity this gives me to wish all concerned with Debian (and every other Linux) the very best wishes for the year to come. Surely, it can only get better - eventually.

Next.