Search Results: "fog"

22 March 2022

Tollef Fog Heen: DNSSEC, ssh and VerifyHostKeyDNS

OpenSSH has this very nice setting, VerifyHostKeyDNS, which when enabled, will pull SSH host keys from DNS, and you no longer need to either trust on first use, or copy host keys around out of band. Naturally, trusting unsecured DNS is a bit scary, so this requires the record to be signed using DNSSEC. This has worked for a long time, but then broke, seemingly out of the blue. Running ssh -vvv gave output similar to
debug1: found 4 insecure fingerprints in DNS
debug3: verify_host_key_dns: checking SSHFP type 1 fptype 2
debug3: verify_host_key_dns: checking SSHFP type 4 fptype 2
debug1: verify_host_key_dns: matched SSHFP type 4 fptype 2
debug3: verify_host_key_dns: checking SSHFP type 4 fptype 1
debug1: verify_host_key_dns: matched SSHFP type 4 fptype 1
debug3: verify_host_key_dns: checking SSHFP type 1 fptype 1
debug1: matching host key fingerprint found in DNS
even though the zone was signed, the resolver was checking the signature and I even checked that the DNS response had the AD bit set. The fix was to add options trust-ad to /etc/resolv.conf. Without this, glibc will discard the AD bit from any upstream DNS servers. Note that you should only add this if you actually have a trusted DNS resolver. I run unbound on localhost, so if somebody can do a man-in-the-middle attack on that traffic, I have other problems.

5 September 2021

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds in August 2021

Welcome to the latest report from the Reproducible Builds project. In this post, we round up the important things that happened in the world of reproducible builds in August 2021. As always, if you are interested in contributing to the project, please visit the Contribute page on our website.
There were a large number of talks related to reproducible builds at DebConf21 this year, the 21st annual conference of the Debian Linux distribution (full schedule):
PackagingCon (@PackagingCon) is new conference for developers of package management software as well as their related communities and stakeholders. The virtual event, which is scheduled to take place on the 9th and 10th November 2021, has a mission is to bring different ecosystems together: from Python s pip to Rust s cargo to Julia s Pkg, from Debian apt over Nix to conda and mamba, and from vcpkg to Spack we hope to have many different approaches to package management at the conference . A number of people from reproducible builds community are planning on attending this new conference, and some may even present. Tickets start at $20 USD.
As reported in our May report, the president of the United States signed an executive order outlining policies aimed to improve the cybersecurity in the US. The executive order comes after a number of highly-publicised security problems such as a ransomware attack that affected an oil pipeline between Texas and New York and the SolarWinds hack that affected a large number of US federal agencies. As a followup this month, however, a detailed fact sheet was released announcing a number large-scale initiatives and that will undoubtedly be related to software supply chain security and, as a result, reproducible builds.
Lastly, We ran another productive meeting on IRC in August (original announcement) which ran for just short of two hours. A full set of notes from the meeting is available.

Software development kpcyrd announced an interesting new project this month called I probably didn t backdoor this which is an attempt to be:
a practical attempt at shipping a program and having reasonably solid evidence there s probably no backdoor. All source code is annotated and there are instructions explaining how to use reproducible builds to rebuild the artifacts distributed in this repository from source. The idea is shifting the burden of proof from you need to prove there s a backdoor to we need to prove there s probably no backdoor . This repository is less about code (we re going to try to keep code at a minimum actually) and instead contains technical writing that explains why these controls are effective and how to verify them. You are very welcome to adopt the techniques used here in your projects. ( )
As the project s README goes on the mention: the techniques used to rebuild the binary artifacts are only possible because the builds for this project are reproducible . This was also announced on our mailing list this month in a thread titled i-probably-didnt-backdoor-this: Reproducible Builds for upstreams. kpcyrd also wrote a detailed blog post about the problems surrounding Linux distributions (such as Alpine and Arch Linux) that distribute compiled Python bytecode in the form of .pyc files generated during the build process.

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 made a number of changes, including releasing version 180), version 181) and version 182) as well as the following changes:
  • New features:
    • Add support for extracting the signing block from Android APKs. [ ]
    • If we specify a suffix for a temporary file or directory within the code, ensure it starts with an underscore (ie. _ ) to make the generated filenames more human-readable. [ ]
    • Don t include short GCC lines that differ on a single prefix byte either. These are distracting, not very useful and are simply the strings(1) command s idea of the build ID, which is displayed elsewhere in the diff. [ ][ ]
    • Don t include specific .debug-like lines in the ELF-related output, as it is invariably a duplicate of the debug ID that exists better in the readelf(1) differences for this file. [ ]
  • Bug fixes:
    • Add a special case to SquashFS image extraction to not fail if we aren t the superuser. [ ]
    • Only use java -jar /path/to/apksigner.jar if we have an apksigner.jar as newer versions of apksigner in Debian use a shell wrapper script which will be rejected if passed directly to the JVM. [ ]
    • Reduce the maximum line length for calculating Wagner-Fischer, improving the speed of output generation a lot. [ ]
    • Don t require apksigner in order to compare .apk files using apktool. [ ]
    • Update calls (and tests) for the new version of odt2txt. [ ]
  • Output improvements:
    • Mention in the output if the apksigner tool is missing. [ ]
    • Profile diffoscope.diff.linediff and specialize. [ ][ ]
  • Logging improvements:
    • Format debug-level messages related to ELF sections using the diffoscope.utils.format_class. [ ]
    • Print the size of generated reports in the logs (if possible). [ ]
    • Include profiling information in --debug output if --profile is not set. [ ]
  • Codebase improvements:
    • Clarify a comment about the HUGE_TOOLS Python dictionary. [ ]
    • We can pass -f to apktool to avoid creating a strangely-named subdirectory. [ ]
    • Drop an unused File import. [ ]
    • Update the supported & minimum version of Black. [ ]
    • We don t use the logging variable in a specific place, so alias it to an underscore (ie. _ ) instead. [ ]
    • Update some various copyright years. [ ]
    • Clarify a comment. [ ]
  • Test improvements:
    • Update a test to check specific contents of SquashFS listings, otherwise it fails depending on the test systems user ID to username passwd(5) mapping. [ ]
    • Assign seen and expected values to local variables to improve contextual information in failed tests. [ ]
    • Don t print an orphan newline when the source code formatting test passes. [ ]

In addition Santiago Torres Arias added support for Squashfs version 4.5 [ ] and Felix C. Stegerman suggested a number of small improvements to the output of the new APK signing block [ ]. Lastly, Chris Lamb uploaded python-libarchive-c version 3.1-1 to Debian experimental for the new 3.x branch python-libarchive-c is used by diffoscope.

Distribution work In Debian, 68 reviews of packages were added, 33 were updated and 10 were removed this month, adding to our knowledge about identified issues. Two new issue types have been identified too: nondeterministic_ordering_in_todo_items_collected_by_doxygen and kodi_package_captures_build_path_in_source_filename_hash. kpcyrd published another monthly report on their work on reproducible builds within the Alpine and Arch Linux distributions, specifically mentioning rebuilderd, one of the components powering The report also touches on binary transparency, an important component for supply chain security. The @GuixHPC account on Twitter posted an infographic on what fraction of GNU Guix packages are bit-for-bit reproducible: Finally, Bernhard M. Wiedemann posted his monthly reproducible builds status report for openSUSE.

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: Elsewhere, it was discovered that when supporting various new language features and APIs for Android apps, the resulting APK files that are generated now vary wildly from build to build (example diffoscope output). Happily, it appears that a patch has been committed to the relevant source tree. This was also discussed on our mailing list this month in a thread titled Android desugaring and reproducible builds started by Marcus Hoffmann.

Website and documentation There were quite a few changes to the Reproducible Builds website and documentation this month, including:
  • Felix C. Stegerman:
    • Update the website self-build process to not use the buster-backports suite now that Debian Bullseye is the stable release. [ ]
  • Holger Levsen:
    • Add a new page documenting various package rebuilder solutions. [ ]
    • Add some historical talks and slides from DebConf20. [ ][ ]
    • Various improvements to the history page. [ ][ ][ ]
    • Rename the Comparison protocol documentation category to Verification . [ ]
    • Update links to F-Droid documentation. [ ]
  • Ian Muchina:
    • Increase the font size of titles and de-emphasize event details on the talk page. [ ]
    • Rename the README file to to improve the user experience when browsing the Git repository in a web browser. [ ]
  • Mattia Rizzolo:
    • Drop a position:fixed CSS statement that is negatively affecting with some width settings. [ ]
    • Fix the sizing of the elements inside the side navigation bar. [ ]
    • Show gold level sponsors and above in the sidebar. [ ]
    • Updated the documentation within reprotest to mention how ldconfig conflicts with the kernel variation. [ ]
  • Roland Clobus:
    • Added a ticket number for the issue with the live Cinnamon image and diffoscope. [ ]

Testing framework The Reproducible Builds project runs a testing framework at, to check packages and other artifacts for reproducibility. This month, the following changes were made:
  • Holger Levsen:
    • Debian-related changes:
      • Make a large number of changes to support the new Debian bookworm release, including adding it to the dashboard [ ], start scheduling tests [ ], adding suitable Apache redirects [ ] etc. [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]
      • Make the first build use LANG=C.UTF-8 to match the official Debian build servers. [ ]
      • Only test Debian Live images once a week. [ ]
      • Upgrade all nodes to use Debian Bullseye [ ] [ ]
      • Update README documentation for the Debian Bullseye release. [ ]
    • Other changes:
      • Only include rsync output if the $DEBUG variable is enabled. [ ]
      • Don t try to install mock, a tool used to build Fedora packages some time ago. [ ]
      • Drop an unused function. [ ]
      • Various documentation improvements. [ ][ ]
      • Improve the node health check to detect zombie jobs. [ ]
  • Jessica Clarke (FreeBSD-related changes):
    • Update the location and branch name for the main FreeBSD Git repository. [ ]
    • Correctly ignore the source tarball when comparing build results. [ ]
    • Drop an outdated version number from the documentation. [ ]
  • Mattia Rizzolo:
    • Block F-Droid jobs from running whilst the setup is running. [ ]
    • Enable debugging for the rsync job related to Debian Live images. [ ]
    • Pass BUILD_TAG and BUILD_URL environment for the Debian Live jobs. [ ]
    • Refactor the master_wrapper script to use a Bash array for the parameters. [ ]
    • Prefer YAML s safe_load() function over the unsafe variant. [ ]
    • Use the correct variable in the Apache config to match possible existing files on disk. [ ]
    • Stop issuing HTTP 301 redirects for things that not actually permanent. [ ]
  • Roland Clobus (Debian live image generation):
    • Increase the diffoscope timeout from 120 to 240 minutes; the Cinnamon image should now be able to finish. [ ]
    • Use the new snapshot service. [ ]
    • Make a number of improvements to artifact handling, such as moving the artifacts to the Jenkins host [ ] and correctly cleaning them up at the right time. [ ][ ][ ]
    • Where possible, link to the Jenkins build URL that created the artifacts. [ ][ ]
    • Only allow only one job to run at the same time. [ ]
  • Vagrant Cascadian:
    • Temporarily disable armhf nodes for DebConf21. [ ][ ]

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

20 December 2020

Shirish Agarwal: Insane Logic and Farming in other countries

The people who are pro-Government and in this case pro-Corporate do not have any success stories that they can share. Hence, most of the time the arguments are that the other are bad. For e.g. quite a few people argue that we don t need farmers, we can just order from restaurant. They have completely disassociated the idea that even then you need farmers as unless the farmers put the seed in, till the soil and wait for the rains or have irrigation you won t get ripe vegetables which then has to be taken out, and somehow sold to the wholesaler from where it comes to the restaurant and then to your plate. Sadly, even the farm-to-fork infographics are so depressingly sad, you want to look away. If you see the infographic you see it is just not non-veg but also vegetarian food grains which go under lot of questionable practices. Even, with such scenarios that is done by corporations our people want to go ahead. I will share stories from other countries which tell how they are doing more. The Soldier-Farmer Another sad part of these protests have been soldiers who have been returning their medals. The ones who oppose have the gall to say they should return the cash rewards they got. So just like farmers, seems soldiers also do not need money to survive. They are supposed to live only on air and water. This is after the present Govt. has reduced their pensions after retirement and that too without any discussion
GOI pensions to ex-servicemen
Now I nor anybody else would have minded if these conditions were shared going forward rather than doing it retrospectively. People who usually go to the army are not in it for money but for the adventure and glory they bring. But they do also have a family and have a family responsibility. In most other countries, the soldier and his families are well-looked after. If you know that even after you die, the Government would look after your family, you will do your best. Unfortunately, many veterans in India themselves are asked to help by many war widows as the widows don t get family pensions. The proposal naturally has left many miffed. In fact many of the veterans who used to advise people to join the armed forces now advise young people to pursue civilian life and careers. This is when Indian Army has been ironically having shortage of officers from well over a decade and stresses felt by Army personnel also known for a long time. Even under this nationalistic Government, if it cannot take care of its soldiers, then forget about others.
India Defence Spending vis-a-vis other countries.
Now it is nobody s argument that India needs to improve its tooth-to-tail ratio but this is the wrong way to go about it. I would probably talk about that some other time as that totally needs its whole place. Even OROP, which was the mandate of this Government hasn t had been done in full as there are quite a few cases in the Supreme Court. Almost all the cases have been heard and only decisions have to be given which the SC for whatever reason doesn t want to give. They just keep changing the date of the hearing. Nowadays, in many suits/cases, the SC asks for fresh hearings even though all the old records are there. This is a newish phenomena which is being observed in SC. Why is it being done? Your guess is as good as mine. One thing for sure has changed, the SC which used to be citizen-focussed or enabler of human rights and used to be held as a beacon for judicial activism has changed but these are other topics which need their own space. Update 16/12/2020 The SC recommends setting up a committee to discuss farmer issues. And this is nothing new. This is called death by committee. When there is already so much literature on the subject, including the works done by Swaminathan Commission. There has been 6 reports which do look at farmer issues in a holistic manner. This is the Supreme Court giving an escape route to GOI. They also have abstained from having a whole session citing Covid. This is when the ruling Govt. is putting a massive 1000 crore on a new building on which the SC has put on hold. And even then the GOI went ahead and did a Bhoomi-Pujan (traditional ceremony when making a new construction from scratch.) Naturally due to the double whammy of both the pension reforms and now the laws to make corporate farming more aggressive has left a deep impact on the soldier-farmer that the state does not think or feel for him. Even the United States farm-aid eloquently describes how corporate farming has made independent farmers suffer. You read that, and it seems it is as the state of our farmers here in India. Even their average land-holding has dropped a bit. I have shared about the state of farmers in India, in two blog posts previously. And it is not just farm owners who have had it bad, even farm workers in U.S. The issue may look to be about the pandemic but goes far deeper. The Israeli Model The Israelis have always used collective farming and do have a large share in farming there. The old model called Kibbutz is what made Israelis self-sufficient in food and water and actually are world-leaders where they export their services to other nations on the same thing. France Just like many other countries, France also seems to have favored farmer co-operatives. Almost 75% of all farmers are in co-operatives. Italy The country world-famous for its wines and cheese are made by its co-operatives. In fact co-ops are the buzzword it seems in Italy, more so in Northern Italy. Asian economies Even Asian economies, especially East Asian economies by and large have been turning to co-operatives. Brazil Now Brazil is almost 40% more than India. In fact, in most of the indices, Brazil beats India handsomely. So one would be forgiven to think that Brazil must have corporate farming. But nothing could be further from the truth. The only downer is that they have high crime in some areas. Otherwise, they are in many ways better than India. In fact, I was surprised a few years ago to learn about Mercsour. I would have to admit though I learned much about Brazil when Debian was holding a debconf about a year back. Otherwise, I had known about the country for number of years but apart from its carnival and samba, hadn t known much about it. I did come to know that most of Latin America also loves spices as much as Indians do. They show that love by using hot sauces. I do one day wanna try one of their sauces to see what makes it tick. I do know they like to barbecue vegetables as much as barbecuing non-veg food. This is going a bit OT but then that s the foodie in me  Conclusion I could have shared more countries which have chosen the co-operative way rather than corporate farming and that is simply because they know what is best for their people and what is best even politically. The new farm laws are neither grounded in farmer s welfare nor anything else. The Govt. has been trying to undermine the farmers for years together. In fact, Madhya Pradesh has openly said that they will not allow farmers from other states to sell in their state. Although, even before these laws there was nothing to restrict the farmer from selling his produce anywhere in the country. Angering the farmers is not good politics as was found sometime back but guessing some lessons need to be re-learned. One comment though, on social media I have seen many people especially youngsters having no real understanding of what inflation is all about. For e.g. if you ask them how come we are having a sort of record inflation in a technical recession (there has been a contraction, actually) and you see them putting themselves into bigger and bigger ditches. This does explain in part why the BJP wins in elections. If you do more rhetoric, which BJP is good as, rather than educating people than you are bound to win. You don t need plans, you don t need a vision, just rhetoric will do. What more evidence is needed when the economy is and was in a worse shape even before the pandemic and BJP won. I would probably write about that as that again needs lot of background and understanding as well as related terms.

9 December 2020

Shirish Agarwal: Farm Laws and Too much Democracy

Issues with Farm Laws While I have written about the farm laws a bit sometime back. The issue is still in the nation s eye and that is due to the policies which have been done. I have been reading up on it quite a bit and also have been seeing what has been happening in here and now. The problems are with the three bills themselves which I have shared as below Click to access farmers-produce-trade-and-commerce-promotion-and-facilation-bill.pdf Click to access farmers-empowerment-and-protection-bill.pdf Click to access essential-commodities-bill-2020.pdf Biggest issue with the laws While there are many issues with the laws themselves but for me the biggest issue is that the fundamental right of the farmer to get justice via civil courts has been railroaded. From the laws itself. Standard disclaimer not a lawyer, please consult one for any issues per-se.

Farmers-produce-trade-and-commerce (promotion and facilitation-bill) 2020 Page 4 Chapter 3 Section 8 (1)8. (1) In case of any dispute arising out of a transaction between the farmer and a trader under section 4, the parties may seek a mutually acceptable solution through conciliation by filing an application to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate who shall refer such dispute to a Conciliation Board to be appointed by him for facilitating the binding settlement of the dispute. (2) Every Board of Conciliation appointed by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate under sub-section (1), shall consist of a chairperson and such members not less than two and not more than four, as the Sub-Divisional Magistrate may deem fit.10 (5) If the parties to the transaction under sub-section (1) are unable to resolve the dispute within thirty days in the manner set out under this section, they may approach the Sub-Divisional Magistrate concerned who shall be the Sub-Divisional Authority for settlement of such dispute. (8) Any party aggrieved by the order of the Sub-Divisional Authority may prefer an appeal before the Appellate Authority (Collector or Additional Collector nominated by the Collector) within thirty days of such order who shall dispose of the appeal within thirty days from the date of filing of such appeal. 10. (1) Any person aggrieved by an order under section 9 may, prefer an appeal within sixty days from the date of such order, to an officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India to be nominated by the Central Government for this purpose: Page 6 of the bill. 13. No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against the Central Government or the State Government, or any officer of the Central Government or the State Government or any other person in respect of anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or of any rules or orders made thereunder. Page 7 of the bill, 15. No civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceedings in respect of any matter, the cognizance of which can be taken and disposed of by any authority empowered by or under this Act or the rules made thereunder. Now the same laws have been reiterated for the farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020. The problem is that too much power is being put into the hands of the executive. All the three, whether it is SDM (Sub-Divisional Magistrate) , the Appellate Authority or the Government Secretary directly are subservient to the whims and fancies of the Central Govt. They after all get their salaries from the Govt. itself. So there will be no independent oversight to any injustices done to the farmer. The third bill i.e. the Essential Commodities Bill, 2020 does away with stock limits on traders and big players like Adani and Ambani. This means that both these players can take and keep produce at their end thereby forcing consumers like you and me who at the retail end would have to pay higher prices for fruits and vegetables while from the producer they will take at the lowest price possible. While I have shared is just one of the points. That is the reason why even the Supreme Court bar association which almost never takes part in politics has been forced to take sides with the farmers. In many ways, one is forced to remember the Emergency  Update 11/12/20 Came across this article on the wire which tells how everybody s rights, not just the farmer s rights are being shod over. I think it depicts correctly the signs of time to come. While arguing on SM, also came to know about Article 300 (1), thanks to Sachin Kumar which shows multiple instances where Government was sued because somebody was working in official capacity and did mistakes, malafide or otherwise and it was the state who was made to pay. FWIW, today farmers from Maharashtra, my state arrived at Delhi border where they were also kept at bay. I did come across an infographic which shows how the various states have fared. Most tellingly, is the state of Bihar. It was in 2006 (one of the most backward states) where APMC was taken off. While others have tried to paint a flattering picture of Bihar, they have failed to share that in the interim 15 odd years, there hasn t been any sort of infrastructure created for farmers which is the reason it is still the lowest earner. These are the last available figures we have about the farmer s income. From 2014 to 2020 there hasn t been any update.
Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Household 2013 Copyright GOI,
This concludes just one portion of the bill. I will take other parts of the bill. I may dwell on some other parts as and when I have the time. A cartoon which depicts the current issue
I stand with farmers Copyright Sanitary Panels
Too much democracy Amitabh Kant Yesterday, the Niti Aayog chief Amitabh Kant remarked that we are too much of a democracy at an event called for Atmanirbhar Bharat which is basically a coinage for import substitution. Whether this is desirable or not I have argued and if needed will re-argue the same later as well. What is and was interesting were the gentleman s context, the media reactions and our overall Democracy Index which has been going downhill for quite some years. Now the gentleman who is the Niti Aayog chief and who is supposed to have the ear of the Prime Minister had opined it in an event organized by Swarajya Magazine (a far-right magazine) known to be Islamophobic and all things undemocratic. It has been a target of defundthehate campaign and with good reason. But that s a different story altogether. His full statement was as below

Tough reforms are very difficult in the Indian context, as we are too much of a democracy but the government has shown courage and determination in pushing such reforms across sectors, including mining, coal, labour and agriculture. Niti Aayog chief. The upper quotation remarks and the statement has been from the article in Indian Express which I have linked to. I have archived it as a pdf just in case the link goes dead. Yesterday, after the statement became viraled, tweets of media houses which shared the tweet suddenly become unavailable. Seems too much democracy, became too little democracy all of a sudden. I think Mr. Amitabh Kant didn t visualize as the opposition as well as most people who are on Twitter to share their opinion on the same. Few examples
Too much Democracy copyright Satish Acharya
Too much democracy Illustration and Copyright Alok
Sterlite protest 13 dead, 100 injured Copyright Business Standard too much democracy
Erosion of Democracy V-dem institute Copyright The Hindu Web Team
The last one requires a bit more information. This comes from V-Dem Institute which is an independent research institute based out of Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. I am gonna leave the methods they use for another day as the blog post itself has become rather big/large. Apart from that is the Economists own Democracy Index -2019 Click to access democracy-index-2019.pdf Now for many people, both the V-Dem report and the Economist Index are some sort of attack against India. Doesn t matter that in V-Dem 200+ countries have been taken a variety of indicators and data or the Economist which has data from 150+- countries. Somehow India is supposed to be bigger than all these countries, they do think that other countries data specifically our neighbor China or any other neighbor, those are all accurate. How the dissonance is, has to be gauged from statements of various people. Update 11/12/20 Sadly, the newest V-Dem report marks India as getting into authoritarianism. Gag on Press and Media owners I had shared about the gag on the press especially with respect to western media or reports or anything. This news made its way to straitstimes which normally covers a wide-range of stories covering East Asia vis-a-vis India/South-East Asia. What has also been a big worry that most of the media has been in the hands of a few people. Caravan ran a story on the same in 2016, it has been four years, god only knows what the current situation might be. Any wonder that there is dearth of investigative journalism in India.
India media ownership 2016 Copyright Caravan
Incidentally, a reporter called Akarshan Uppal, who is a reporter on a channel called IBN24 had showecased just few days back how Adani has got land which was shot down for land change use in 2017 to 2020 around 100 acres. There seem to be very less details as to how the land was acquired, whose land it was etc. etc. The reporter was supposedly following a story on drugs on which he was attacked and is now lying in hospital.
Akarshan Uppal Reporter, IBN24 Copyright IBN24
While it would take a whole article/blog post to talk about either Adani or Ambani, in the recent case, the land that has been taken over by Adani is 100 acres and there are private rail lines. And all of this was secret till few days back. The place where these massive godowns/silos have been made are Panipat s Jondhan Kalan and Naultha villages in Haryana. This is Adani AgiLogistics. Almost 7 odd companies have registered and come up in the last couple of years. As can be seen, almost all have come up within the last 2-3 years. Seems to be a lot of coincidence, isn t it?
Personal Anecdote on Data Collection and child marriages in India.

Around 1995 -96 when Internet had started to become a thing in India, there had been quite a few non-profits which were working on various issues. One of those which I initially came in contact with and which I found to be a bit absurd was non-profit which was working in the field of women against Violence. Now it is and was not the concept or the idea which was absurd to me, it was what these women were doing. Instead of the traditional ways in which you counsel women and try and figure out issues, these women were collecting data points from newspapers and magazines. This was way way before data science became a thing in India. They had their own structure where a story about violence against women which would be above the fold would be 5 points, the one below 2.5 points, in inner pages, it would be less and less. Patriarchy at that time was so strong, even today is but at that time it was such, that it felt a waste of time. I did consult them but never said that but did privately feel the above. In hindsight, they were doing the right thing and yet even today crimes against women goes unreported and is suppressed by both State and Central Governments as well as NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau). Interestingly, just few days back, the case against M.J. Akbar by Priya Ramani had taken a back seat and the defamation case by M.J. Akbar was taken forward. Even then, Priya Ramani s counsel s arguments were such that the court wound up in half an hour when they were expecting to do a whole day hearing. The next hearing would be happening today which I will look at in few hours from now. Why Priya Ramani was singled out rather than other tweets may probably be because she is an NRI and most NRI s usually do not want to be part of the bureaucratic Indian court system. This is also the reason that most companies from outside India especially those who are into startups prefer to change ownership, IPR etc. to their own or any country outside India which does make a loss to the exchequer. But this again is a story for another day. At the end, while I did not want to end on a negative note, it seems in many ways status-quo remains. For e.g. 2 years back, a BJP candidate (part of the ruling dispensation) had made a controversy saying that if they win the police won t interfere in child marriages. This is and was in Rajasthan where they have been trying to eradicate it forever. Till date, neither the NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) nor NCW (National Commission for Women) has taken cognizance of the statement. This is our state of democracy.

12 September 2020

Markus Koschany: My Free Software Activities in August 2020

Welcome to Here is my monthly report (+ the first week in September) that covers what I have been doing for Debian. If you re interested in Java, Games and LTS topics, this might be interesting for you. Debian Games
Debian Java Misc Debian LTS This was my 54. month as a paid contributor and I have been paid to work 20 hours on Debian LTS, a project started by Rapha l Hertzog. In that time I did the following: ELTS Extended Long Term Support (ELTS) is a project led by Freexian to further extend the lifetime of Debian releases. It is not an official Debian project but all Debian users benefit from it without cost. The current ELTS release is Debian 8 Jessie . This was my 27. month and I have been paid to work 14,25 hours on ELTS. Thanks for reading and see you next time.

6 September 2020

Enrico Zini: Learning resources links

Cognitive bias cheat sheet has another elegant infographic summarising cognitive biases. On this subject, you might want to also check out 15 Insane Things That Correlate With Each Other. Get started Learning Music (Beta) has a nice interactive introduction to music making. If you leave in a block of flats and decide to learn music making, please use headphones when experimenting. Our neighbour, sadly, didn't. You can also learn photography with Photography for Beginners (The Ultimate Guide in 2020) and somewhat related, Understanding Aspect Ratios: A Comprehensive Guide

31 August 2020

Russ Allbery: Review: Men at Arms

Review: Men at Arms, by Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld #15
Publisher: Harper
Copyright: 1993
Printing: November 2013
ISBN: 0-06-223740-3
Format: Mass market
Pages: 420
Men at Arms is the fifteenth Discworld novel and a direct plot sequel to Guards! Guards!. You could start here without missing too much, but starting with Guards! Guards! would make more sense. And of course there are cameos (and one major appearance) by other characters who are established in previous books. Carrot, the adopted dwarf who joined the watch in Guards! Guards!, has been promoted to corporal. He is now in charge of training new recruits, a role that is more important because of the Night Watch's new Patrician-ordered diversity initiative. The Watch must reflect the ethnic makeup of the city. That means admitting a troll, a dwarf... and a woman? Trolls and dwarfs hate each other because dwarfs mine precious things out of rock and trolls are composed of precious things embedded in rocks, so relations between the new recruits are tense. Captain Vimes is leaving the Watch, and no one is sure who would or could replace him. (The reason for this is a minor spoiler for Guards! Guards!) A magical weapon is stolen from the Assassin's Guild. And a string of murders begins, murders that Vimes is forbidden by Lord Vetinari from investigating and therefore clearly is going to investigate. This is an odd moment at which to read this book. The Night Watch are not precisely a police force, although they are moving in that direction. Their role in Ankh-Morpork is made much stranger by the guild system, in which the Thieves' Guild is responsible for theft and for dealing with people who steal outside of the quota of the guild. But Men at Arms is in part a story about ethics, about what it means to be a police officer, and about what it looks like when someone is very good at that job. Since I live in the United States, that makes it hard to avoid reading Men at Arms in the context of the current upheavals about police racism, use of force, and lack of accountability. Men at Arms can indeed be read that way; community relations, diversity in the police force, the merits of making two groups who hate each other work together, and the allure of violence are all themes Pratchett is working with in this novel. But they're from the perspective of a UK author writing in 1993 about a tiny city guard without any of the machinery of modern police, so I kept seeing a point of clear similarity and then being slightly wrong-footed by the details. It also felt odd to read a book where the cops are the heroes, much in the style of a detective show. This is in no way a problem with the book, and in a way it was helpful perspective, but it was a strange reading experience.
Cuddy had only been a guard for a few days but already he had absorbed one important and basic fact: it is almost impossible for anyone to be in a street without breaking the law.
Vimes and Carrot are both excellent police officers, but in entirely different ways. Vimes treats being a cop as a working-class job and is inclined towards glumness and depression, but is doggedly persistent and unable to leave a problem alone. His ethics are covered by a thick layer of world-weary cynicism. Carrot is his polar opposite in personality: bright, endlessly cheerful, effortlessly charismatic, and determined to get along with everyone. On first appearance, this contrast makes Vimes seem wise and Carrot seem a bit dim. That is exactly what Pratchett is playing with and undermining in Men at Arms. Beneath Vimes's cynicism, he's nearly as idealistic as Carrot, even though he arrives at his ideals through grim contrariness. Carrot, meanwhile, is nowhere near as dim as he appears to be. He's certain about how he wants to interact with others and is willing to stick with that approach no matter how bad of an idea it may appear to be, but he's more self-aware than he appears. He and Vimes are identical in the strength of their internal self-definition. Vimes shows it through the persistent, grumpy stubbornness of a man devoted to doing an often-unpleasant job, whereas Carrot verbally steamrolls people by refusing to believe they won't do the right thing.
Colon thought Carrot was simple. Carrot often struck people as simple. And he was. Where people went wrong was thinking that simple meant the same thing as stupid.
There's a lot going on in this book apart from the profiles of two very different models of cop. Alongside the mystery (which doubles as pointed commentary on the corrupting influence of violence and personal weaponry), there's a lot about dwarf/troll relations, a deeper look at the Ankh-Morpork guilds (including a horribly creepy clown guild), another look at how good Lord Vetinari is at running the city by anticipating how other people will react, a sarcastic dog named Gaspode (originally seen in Moving Pictures), and Pratchett's usual collection of memorable lines. It is also the origin of the now-rightfully-famous Vimes boots theory:
The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money. Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet. This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness.
Men at Arms regularly makes lists of the best Discworld novels, and I can see why. At this point in the series, Pratchett has hit his stride. The plots have gotten deeper and more complex without losing the funny moments, movie and book references, and glorious turns of phrase. There is also a lot of life philosophy and deep characterization when one pays close attention to the characters.
He was one of those people who would recoil from an assault on strength, but attack weakness without mercy.
My one complaint is that I found it a bit overstuffed with both characters and subplots, and as a result had a hard time following the details of the plot. I found myself wanting a timeline of the murders or a better recap from one of the characters. As always with Pratchett, the digressions are wonderful, but they do occasionally come at the cost of plot clarity. I'm not sure I recommend the present moment in the United States as the best time to read this book, although perhaps there is no better time for Carrot and Vimes to remind us what good cops look like. But regardless of when one reads it, it's an excellent book, one of the best in the Discworld series to this point. Followed, in publication order, by Soul Music. The next Watch book is Feet of Clay. Rating: 8 out of 10

17 May 2020

Matthew Palmer: Private Key Redaction: UR DOIN IT RONG

Because posting private keys on the Internet is a bad idea, some people like to redact their private keys, so that it looks kinda-sorta like a private key, but it isn t actually giving away anything secret. Unfortunately, due to the way that private keys are represented, it is easy to redact a key in such a way that it doesn t actually redact anything at all. RSA private keys are particularly bad at this, but the problem can (potentially) apply to other keys as well. I ll show you a bit of Inside Baseball with key formats, and then demonstrate the practical implications. Finally, we ll go through a practical worked example from an actual not-really-redacted key I recently stumbled across in my travels.

The Private Lives of Private Keys Here is what a typical private key looks like, when you come across it:
Obviously, there s some hidden meaning in there computers don t encrypt things by shouting BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY! , after all. What is between the BEGIN/END lines above is, in fact, a base64-encoded DER format ASN.1 structure representing a PKCS#1 private key. In simple terms, it s a list of numbers very important numbers. The list of numbers is, in order:
  • A version number (0);
  • The public modulus , commonly referred to as n ;
  • The public exponent , or e (which is almost always 65,537, for various unimportant reasons);
  • The private exponent , or d ;
  • The two private primes , or p and q ;
  • Two exponents, which are known as dmp1 and dmq1 ; and
  • A coefficient, known as iqmp .

Why Is This a Problem? The thing is, only three of those numbers are actually required in a private key. The rest, whilst useful to allow the RSA encryption and decryption to be more efficient, aren t necessary. The three absolutely required values are e, p, and q. Of the other numbers, most of them are at least about the same size as each of p and q. So of the total data in an RSA key, less than a quarter of the data is required. Let me show you with the above toy key, by breaking it down piece by piece1:
  • MGI DER for this is a sequence
  • CAQ version (0)
  • CxjdTmecltJEz2PLMpS4BX n
  • AgMBAA e
  • ECEDKtuwD17gpagnASq1zQTY d
  • IJANUYZsIjRsR3 q
  • AgkAkahDUXL0RS dmp1
  • ECCB78r2SnsJC9 dmq1
  • AghaOK3FsKoELg== iqmp
Remember that in order to reconstruct all of these values, all I need are e, p, and q and e is pretty much always 65,537. So I could redact almost all of this key, and still give all the important, private bits of this key. Let me show you:
Now, I doubt that anyone is going to redact a key precisely like this but then again, this isn t a typical RSA key. They usually look a lot more like this:
People typically redact keys by deleting whole lines, and usually replacing them with [...] and the like. But only about 345 of those 1588 characters (excluding the header and footer) are required to construct the entire key. You can redact about 4/5ths of that giant blob of stuff, and your private parts (or at least, those of your key) are still left uncomfortably exposed.

But Wait! There s More! Remember how I said that everything in the key other than e, p, and q could be derived from those three numbers? Let s talk about one of those numbers: n. This is known as the public modulus (because, along with e, it is also present in the public key). It is very easy to calculate: n = p * q. It is also very early in the key (the second number, in fact). Since n = p * q, it follows that q = n / p. Thus, as long as the key is intact up to p, you can derive q by simple division.

Real World Redaction At this point, I d like to introduce an acquaintance of mine: Mr. Johan Finn. He is the proud owner of the GitHub repo johanfinn/scripts. For a while, his repo contained a script that contained a poorly-redacted private key. He since deleted it, by making a new commit, but of course because git never really deletes anything, it s still available. Of course, Mr. Finn may delete the repo, or force-push a new history without that commit, so here is the redacted private key, with a bit of the surrounding shell script, for our illustrative pleasure:
#Add private key to .ssh folder
cd /home/johan/.ssh/
echo  "-----BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY-----
-----END RSA PRIVATE KEY-----" >> id_rsa
Now, if you try to reconstruct this key by removing the obvious garbage lines (the ones that are all repeated characters, some of which aren t even valid base64 characters), it still isn t a key at least, openssl pkey doesn t want anything to do with it. The key is very much still in there, though, as we shall soon see. Using a gem I wrote and a quick bit of Ruby, we can extract a complete private key. The irb session looks something like this:
>> require "derparse"
>> b64 = <<EOF
>> b64 += <<EOF
>> der = b64.unpack("m").first
>> c =
>> version = c.value
=> 0
>> c = c.next_node
>> n = c.value
=> 80071596234464993385068908004931... # (etc)
>> c = c.next_node
>> e = c.value
=> 65537
>> c = c.next_node
>> d = c.value
=> 58438813486895877116761996105770... # (etc)
>> c = c.next_node
>> p = c.value
=> 29635449580247160226960937109864... # (etc)
>> c = c.next_node
>> q = c.value
=> 27018856595256414771163410576410... # (etc)
What I ve done, in case you don t speak Ruby, is take the two chunks of plausible-looking base64 data, chuck them together into a variable named b64, unbase64 it into a variable named der, pass that into a new DerParse instance, and then walk the DER value tree until I got all the values I need. Interestingly, the q value actually traverses the split in the two chunks, which means that there s always the possibility that there are lines missing from the key. However, since p and q are supposed to be prime, we can sanity check them to see if corruption is likely to have occurred:
>> require "openssl"
=> true
=> true
Excellent! The chances of a corrupted file producing valid-but-incorrect prime numbers isn t huge, so we can be fairly confident that we ve got the real p and q. Now, with the help of another one of my creations we can use e, p, and q to create a fully-operational battle key:
>> require "openssl/pkey/rsa"
>> k = OpenSSL::PKey::RSA.from_factors(p, q, e)
=> #<OpenSSL::PKey::RSA:0x0000559d5903cd38>
>> k.valid?
=> true
>> k.verify(, k.sign(, "bob"), "bob")
=> true
and there you have it. One fairly redacted-looking private key brought back to life by maths and far too much free time. Sorry Mr. Finn, I hope you re not still using that key on anything Internet-facing.

What About Other Key Types? EC keys are very different beasts, but they have much the same problems as RSA keys. A typical EC key contains both private and public data, and the public portion is twice the size so only about 1/3 of the data in the key is private material. It is quite plausible that you can redact an EC key and leave all the actually private bits exposed.

What Do We Do About It? In short: don t ever try and redact real private keys. For documentation purposes, just put KEY GOES HERE in the appropriate spot, or something like that. Store your secrets somewhere that isn t a public (or even private!) git repo. Generating a dummy private key and sticking it in there isn t a great idea, for different reasons: people have this odd habit of reusing demo keys in real life. There s no need to encourage that sort of thing.
  1. Technically the pieces aren t 100% aligned with the underlying DER, because of how base64 works. I felt it was easier to understand if I stuck to chopping up the base64, rather than decoding into DER and then chopping up the DER.

19 April 2020

Dirk Eddelbuettel: prrd 0.0.3: More improvements

Back in early 2018, the prrd package was introduced as release 0.0.1, uploaded to CRAN, and updated once as release 0.0.2. I have used it extensively for every CRAN release of Rcpp, RcppArmadillo, RcppEigen, BH, and possibly others. The idea of prrd is simple, and described in some more detail on its webpage and its GitHub repo. Reverse dependency checks are an important part of package development and is easily done in a (serial) loop. But these checks are also generally embarassingly parallel as there is no or little interdependency between them (besides maybe shared build depedencies). See the following (dated) screenshot (running six parallel workers, arranged in split byobu session). Since the two early releases, I made a few changes to e.g. the analysis of package checks and their summaries (but never pushed these) as well as a few usability enhancements. This release regroups these. The release is summarised in the NEWS entry:

Changes in prrd version 0.0.3 (2020-04-19)
  • Extended functionality summarise() with optional use of package foghorn (Dirk)
  • New scripts enqueueDepends, dequeueDepends and summmariseJobs (Dirk)
  • Added tweaks and enhancements throughout (Dirk)
  • The default queue location can now be set via options (Dirk)
  • Meta-data on package, version and date is now stored, and shown on dequeue startup (Dirk)
  • The was clarified and improved (Dirk, Avraham Adler in #8, Robert Nuske in #10)

CRANberries provides the usual summary of changes to the previous version. See the aforementioned webpage and its repo for details. For more questions or comments use the issue tracker off the GitHub repo. If you like this or other open-source work I do, you can now sponsor me at GitHub. For the first year, GitHub will match your contributions.

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

22 March 2020

Enrico Zini: Notable people

Lotte Reiniger. The Unsung Heroine of Early Animation
history people wikipedia
Lotte Reiniger pioneered early animation, yet her name remains largely unknown. We pay homage to her life and work, and reflect on why she never received the recognition she deserves.
Stephen Wolfram shares what he learned in researching Ada Lovelace's life, writings about the Analytical Engine, and computation of Bernoulli numbers.
Elizabeth Cochran Seaman[1] (May 5, 1864[2] January 27, 1922), better known by her pen name Nellie Bly, was an American journalist who was widely known for her record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days, in emulation of Jules Verne's fictional character Phileas Fogg, and an expos in which she worked undercover to report on a mental institution from within.[3] She was a pioneer in her field, and launched a new kind of investigative journalism.[4] Bly was also a writer, inventor, and industrialist.
Delia Ann Derbyshire (5 May 1937 3 July 2001)[1] was an English musician and composer of electronic music.[2] She carried out pioneering work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop during the 1960s, including her electronic arrangement of the theme music to the British science-fiction television series Doctor Who.[3][4] She has been referred to as "the unsung heroine of British electronic music,"[3] having influenced musicians including Aphex Twin, the Chemical Brothers and Paul Hartnoll of Orbital.[5]
Charity Adams Earley (5 December 1918 13 January 2002) was the first African-American woman to be an officer in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (later WACS) and was the commanding officer of the first battalion of African-American women to serve overseas during World War II. Adams was the highest ranking African-American woman in the army by the completion of the war.

10 March 2020

Enrico Zini: COVID-19 links

COVID-19 #CoronaVirus Infographic Datapack Information is Beautiful
chart covid19 health
COVID-19 Infographic Datapack, Regularly updated
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control infographics
COVID-19 Italia - Monitoraggio situazione
Real-time tracking of pathogen evolution
Community sharing resources, verified information, and support initiatives, on COVID-19
Live world statistics on population, government and economics, society and media, environment, food, water, energy and health.
Your friends and colleagues are talking about something called Bayes s Theorem or Bayes s Rule, or something called Bayesian reasoning. They sound really enthusiastic about it, too, so you google and find a web page about Bayes s Theorem and... It s this equation. That s all. Just one equation. The page you found gives a definition of it, but it doesn t say what it is, or why it s useful, or why your friends would be interested in it. It looks like this random statistics thing. Why does a mathematical concept generate this strange enthusiasm in its students? What is the so-called Bayesian Revolution now sweeping through the sciences, which claims to subsume even the experimental method itself as a special case? What is the secret that the adherents of Bayes know? What is the light that they have seen? Soon you will know. Soon you will be one of us. While there are a few existing online explanations of Bayes s Theorem, my experience with trying to introduce people to Bayesian reasoning is that the existing online explanations are too abstract. Bayesian reasoning is very counterintuitive. People do not employ Bayesian reasoning intuitively, find it very difficult to learn Bayesian reasoning when tutored, and rapidly forget Bayesian methods once the tutoring is over. This holds equally true for novice students and highly trained professionals in a field. Bayesian reasoning is apparently one of those things which, like quantum mechanics or the Wason Selection Test, is inherently difficult for humans to grasp with our built-in mental faculties. Or so they claim. Here you will find an attempt to offer an intuitive explanation of Bayesian reasoning an excruciatingly gentle introduction that invokes all the human ways of grasping numbers, from natural frequencies to spatial visualization. The intent is to convey, not abstract rules for manipulating numbers, but what the numbers mean, and why the rules are what they are (and cannot possibly be anything else). When you are finished reading this, you will see Bayesian problems in your dreams.
Continuiamo a lavorare, studiare, socializzare grazie a Jitsi Meet

2 October 2017

Lars Wirzenius: Attracting contributors to a new project

How do you attract contributors to a new free software project? I'm in the very early stages of a new personal project. It is irrelevant for this blog post what the new project actually is. Instead, I am thinking about the following question:
Do I want the project to be mainly for myself, and maybe a handful of others, or do I want to try to make it a more generally useful, possibly even a well-known, popular project? In other words, do I want to just solve a specific problem I have or try to solve it for a large group of people?
If it's a personal project, I'm all set. I can just start writing code. (In fact, I have.) If it's the latter, I'll need to attract contributions from others, and how do I do that? I asked that question on Twitter and Mastodon and got several suggestions. This is a summary of those, with some editorialising from me. I don't know if these things are all correct, or that they're enough to grow a successful, popular project. Karl Foger'l seminal book Producing Open Source Software should also be mentioned.

29 July 2017

Norbert Preining: Gaming: The Long Dark

I normally don t play survival games or walking simulators, but The Long Dark by Hinterland Games, which I purchased back then when it was still in early access on Steam, took me into new realms. You are tossed out into the Canadian wilderness with hardly anything, and your only aim is to survive, find shelter, food, craft tools, hunt for food, explore. And while everything by now is Sandbox mode, on August 1st the first episode of Story mode is released. Best time to get the game! You will be greeted with some icy nights, but also with great vistas, relaxed evenings at a fire place, you will try to survive on moldy food and rotten energy bars, but also feast on the fireside while reading a good book. A real treat this game! Sandbox mode features five different areas to explore. Each one is large enough to spend weeks (in game time) wandering around. The easiest area to start with is Mystery Lake, with plenty of shelter (several huts) and abundance of resources. And just in case you are getting bored, all the areas are connected via tunnels or caves and one can wander of into the neighboring places. My home in Mystery Lake was always the Camp Office, the usual suspect. Nice views, fishing huts nearby to get fresh fish, lots of space. After managing to get from your starting place (which is arbitrary as far as I see) to one of the shelters, one starts collecting food, wood, savaging every accessible place for tools, weapons, burning material. And soon the backpack becomes to heavy, and one needs to store stuff and decide what to take. This is a very well done part of the game. The backpack is not limited by number of items, but you are limited in weight you can carry. That includes clothes (which can get quite heavy) and all the items in your backpack. In addition, the longer the day and the more tired you become, the less weight you can carry. And if the backpack starts getting too heavy you crawl to a very slow movement. There are many influences of the outside world on the player s condition: temperature, the wetness of your clothes, hunger, thirst, exhaustion, but also infections and bruises, all need to be taken care of, otherwise the end is coming faster than one wishes for. I have only two things to complain: First, if one walks outside, or runs outside, the own body temperature does not rise. This is unrealistically and should have been taken into account. The other thing is the difficulty: I have played weeks in game time in the easiest level, without any problem. But the moment I switched to the second level of difficulty (of 5!), I not even manage it for 2(!) days. Wolves, starvation, thirst, any of those kills me within an instant. I don t want to know how the hardest level feels, but it has a certain steep step here. The game takes a very realistic view onto the weather: Every day is different, sunny, foggy, blizzard, windy, often changing very quickly. It is wise to plan one s activities according to the weather, as it is very unforgiving. With beautifully crafted landscapes, loads of areas to explore, your own pride to survive for at least a few weeks, and lots of tools to find and craft and try out, this games, even while it is still in Sandbox mode, is a real feat. My absolute favorite since I have finished the Talos Principle and Portal series, absolutely recommendable!

23 April 2017

Andreas Metzler: balance sheet snowboarding season 2016/17

Another year of minimal snow. Again there was early snowfall in the mountains at the start of November, but the snow was gone soon again. There was no snow up to 2000 meters of altitude until about January 3. Christmas week was spent hiking up and taking the lift down. I had my first day on board on January 6 on artificial snow, and the first one on natural snow on January 19. Down where I live (800m), snow was tight the whole winter, never topping 1m. Measuring station Diedamskopf at 1800m above sea-level topped at slightly above 200cm, on April 19. Last boarding day was yesterday (April 22) in Warth with hero-conditions. I had a preopening on the glacier in Pitztal at start of November with Pure Boarding. However due to the long waiting-period between pre-opening and start of season it did not pay off. By the time I rode regularily I had forgotten almost everything I learned at Carving-School. Nevertheless I strong season due to long periods on stable, sunny weather with 30 days on piste (counting the day I went up and barely managed a single blind run in superdense fog). Anyway, here is the balance-sheet:
2005/06 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17
number of (partial) days251729373030252330241730
Dam ls1010510162310429944
Warth/Schr cken030413100213
total meters of altitude12463474096219936226774202089203918228588203562274706224909138037269819
# of runs309189503551462449516468597530354634

13 December 2016

Shirish Agarwal: Eagle Encounters, pier Stellenbosch

Before starting, have to say hindsight as they say is always 20/20. I was moaning about my 6/7 hour trip few blog posts back but now came to know about the 17.5 hr. flights (17.5x800km/hr=14000 km.) which are happening around me. I would say I was whining about nothing seeing those flights. I can t even imagine how people would feel in those flights. Six hours were too much in the tin-can, thankfully though I was in the aisle seat. In 14 hours most people would probably give to Air rage . I just saw an excellent article on the subject. I also came to know that seat-selection and food on a long-haul flights are a luxury, hence that changes the equation quite a bit as well. So on these facts, it seems Qatar Airways treated me quite well as I was able to use both those options. Disclaimer My knowledge about birds/avian is almost non-existent, Hence feel free to correct me if I do go wrong anywhere. Coming back to earth literally , I will have to share a bit of South Africa as that is part and parcel of what I m going to share next. Also many of the pictures shared in this particular blog post belong to KK who has shared them with me with permission to share it with the rest of the world. When I was in South Africa, in the first couple of days as well as what little reading of South African History I had read before travelling, had known that the Europeans, specifically the Dutch ruled on South Africa for many years. What was shared to me in the first day or two that Afrikaans is mostly spoken by Europeans still living in South Africa, some spoken by the coloured people as well. This tied in with the literature I had already read. The Wikipedia page shares which language is spoken by whom and how the demographics play out if people are interested to know that. One of the words or part of the word for places we came to know is bosch as is used in many a places. Bosch means wood or forest. After this we came to know about many places which were known as somethingbosch which signified to us that area is or was a forest. On the second/third day Chirayu (pictured, extreme left) shared the idea of going to Eagle Encounters. Other people pictured in the picture are yours truly, some of the people from GSOC, KK is in the middle, the driver Leonard something who took us to Eagle Encounters on the right (pictured extreme right). Update I was informed that it was a joint plan between Chirayu and KK. They also had some other options planned which later got dropped by the wayside. The whole gang/group along with Leonard coming from eagle encounters It was supposed to be somewhat near, (Spier, Stellenbosch). While I was not able to able to see/figure out where Eagle Encounters is on Openstreetmap, somebody named Firefishy added Spier to OSM few years back. So thank you for that Firefishy so I can at least pin-point a closer place. I didn t see/know/try to figure out about the place as Chirayu said it s a zoo . I wasn t enthusiastic as much as I had been depressed by most zoos in India, while you do have national reserves/Parks in India where you see animals in their full glory. I have been lucky to been able to seen Tadoba and Ranthambore National parks and spend some quality time (about a week) to have some idea as to what can/happens in forests and people living in the buffer-zones but those stories are for a different day altogether. I have to say I do hope to be part of the Ranthambore experience again somewhere in the future, it really is a beautiful place for flora and fauna and fortunately or unfortunately this is the best time apart from spring, as you have the game of mist/fog and animals . North India this time of the year is something to be experienced. I wasn t much enthused as zoos in India are claustrophobic for animals and people both. There are small cages and you see and smell the shit/piss of the animals, generally not a good feeling. Chirayu shared with us also the possibility of being able to ride of Segways and range of bicycles which relieved me so that in case we didn t enjoy the zoo we would enjoy the Segway at least and have a good time (although it would have different expenses than the ones at Eagle Encounters). My whole education about what a zoo could be was turned around at Eagle Encounters as it seems to be somewhere between a zoo and what I know as national parks where animals roam free. We purchased the tickets and went in, the first event/happening was Eagle Encounters itself. One of the families at Eagle Encounter handling a snowy eagle Our introduction to the place started by two beautiful volunteer/trainers who were in charge of all the birds in the Eagle Encounters vicinity. The introduction started by every one of us who came for the Eagle Encounter show to wear a glove and to have/hold one of the pair of snowy owls to sit on the glove. That picture is of a family who was part of our show. Before my turn came, I was a little apprehensive/worried about holding a Owl -period. To my surprise, they were so soft and easy-going, I could hardly feel the weight on my hand. While the trainer/volunteers were constantly feeding them earthworm-bits (I didn t ask, just guessing) and we were all happy as they along with the visitors were constantly playing and interacting with the birds, sharing with us the life-cycle of the snowy Owl. It s only then I understood why in the Harry Potter Universe, the owl plays such an important part. They seem to be a nice, curious, easy-going, proud creatures which fits perfectly in the HP Universe. In hind-sight I should have videod the whole experience as the trainer/volunteer showed a battery of owls, eagles, vultures, Hawks (different birds of prey) what have you. I have to confess my knowledge of birds is and was non-existent. Vulture at the Eagle Encounters show Vulture, One of the larger birds we saw at the Eagle Encounters show. Some of the birds could be dangerous, especially in the wild. The other trainer showing off a Black Eagle at Eagle Encounters That was the other Volunteer-Trainer who was showing off the birds. I especially liked the t-shirt she was wearing. The shop at Eagle Encounters had whole lot of them, they were a bit expensive and just not my size Tidbit Just a few years ago, it was a shocker to me to know/realize that what commonly goes/known in the country as a parrot by most people is actually a Parakeet. As can be seen in the article linked, they are widely distributed in India. While I was young, I used to see the rose-ringed parakeets quite a bit around but nowadays due to probably pollution and other factors, they are noticeably less. They are popular as pets in India. I don t know what Pollito would think about that, don t think he would think good. Trainer showing off a Hawk at Eagle Encounters As I cannot differentiate between Hawk, Vulture, Eagle, etc. I would safely say a Bird of Prey as that was what he was holding. This photo was taken after the event was over where we all were curious to know about the volunteer/trainer, their day job and what it meant for them to be taking care of these birds. Update KK has shared with me what those specific birds are called, so in case the names or species are wrong, please take the truck with her and not me. While I don t remember the name of the trainer/volunteer, among other things it was shared that the volunteers/trainers aren t paid enough and they never have enough funds to take care of all the birds who come to them. Trainer showing Hawk and background chart Where the picture was shot (both this and earlier) was sort of open-office. If you look closely, you will see that there are names of the birds, for instance, people who loved LOTR would easily see Gandalf . that board lists how much food (probably in grams) did the bird eat in a day and week. While it was not shared, I m sure there would be a lot of paperwork, studies to get the birds as well as possible. From a computer science perspective, there seemed to be lot of potential for avian and big-data professionals to do lot of computer modelling and analysis and give more insight into the rehabilitation efforts so the process could be more fine-tuned, efficient and economic perhaps. Hawk on stand This is how we saw the majority of the birds. Most of them had a metal/plastic string which was tied to small artificial branches as the one above. I forgot to share a very important point. Eagle Encounters is not a zoo but a Rehabilitation Centre. While the cynic/skeptic part of me tried to not feel or see the before and after pictures of the birds bought to the rehabilitation centre, the caring part was moved to see most of the birds being treated with love and affection. From our conversations with the Volunteer-Trainer it emerged that every week they had to turn away lots of birds due to space constraints. It is only the most serious/life-threatening cases for which they could provide care in a sustainable way they would keep. Some of the birds who were in the cages were large, airy. I wouldn t say clean as what little I read before as well later is that birds shit enormously so cleaning cages is quite an effort. Most of the cages and near those artificial branches there were placards of people who were sponsoring a bird or two to look after them. From what was shared, many of the birds who came had been abused in many ways. Some of them had their bones crushed or/and other cruel ways. As I had shared that I had been wonderfully surprised by seeing birds come so close to me and most of my friends, I felt rage about those who had treated the birds in such evil, bad ways. What was shared with us that while they try to heal the birds as much as possible, it is always suspect how well the birds would survive on their own in nature, hence many of these birds would go to the sponsor or to some other place when they are well. The Secretary birds - cage- sponsors-adopted If you look at the picture closely, maybe look at the higher resolution photo in the gallery, you will see that both the birds have been adopted by two different couples. The birds as the name tag shows are called Secretaries . The Secretaries make a typical sound which is similar to the sound made by old typewriters. Just as woodpeckers make Morse Code noises when they are pecking with their beaks on trees, something similar to the sound of keys emitted by Old Remington typewriters when clicked on was done by the Secretaries. One of the birds in the cage, This is one of the birds in one of the few cages. If you see a higher-resolution picture of the earlier picture, the one which has Secretaries . Also as can be seen in the picture, there is wood-working happening and they are trying to expand the Rehabilitation Centre. All in all, an excursion which was supposed to be for just an hour, extended to something like 3 odd hours. KK shot more than a 1000 odd pictures while trying to teach/converse in Malyalam to some of the birds. She shot well over 1000 photos which would have filled something like 30 odd traditional photo albums. Jaminy (KK s partner-in-crime) used her selfie stick to desired effect, taking pictures with most of the birds as one does with celebrities. I had also taken some but most of them were over-exposed as was new to mobile photography at that time, still am but mostly it works. Lake with Barn Owls near Eagle Encounters That is the lake we discovered/saw after coming back from Eagle Encounters. We had good times. Lastly, a virtual prize distribution ceremony a. Chirayu and KK A platinum trophy for actually thinking and pitching the place in the first place. b. Shirish and Deven Bansod Metal cups for not taking more than 10 minutes to freshen up and be back after hearing the plan to go to Eagle Encounters. c. All the girls/women Spoons for actually making it to the day. All the girls took quite sometime to freshen up, otherwise it might have been possible to also experience the Segways, who knows. All-in-all an enjoyable day spent in being part of Eagle Encounters .
Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: #Birds of Prey, #Debconf16, #Eagle Encounters, #Rehabilitation, #South African History, #Stellenbosch

9 December 2016

Guido G nther: Debian Fun in November 2016

Debian LTS November marked the nineteenth month I contributed to Debian LTS under the Freexian umbrella. I had 7 hours allocated which I used completely by: Other Debian stuff Some other Free Software activites

John Goerzen: Giant Concrete Arrows, Old Maps, and Fascinated Kids

Let me set a scene for you. Two children, ages 7 and 10, are jostling for position. There s a little pushing and shoving to get the best view. This is pretty typical for siblings this age. But what, you may wonder, are they trying to see? A TV? Video game? No. Jacob and Oliver were in a library, trying to see a 98-year-old map of the property owners in Township 23, range 1 East, Harvey County, Kansas. And they were super excited about it, somewhat to the astonishment of the research librarian, who I am sure is more used to children jostling for position over the DVDs in the youth section than poring over maps in the non-circulating historical archives! All this started with giant concrete arrows in the middle of nowhere. Nearly a century ago, the US government installed a series of arrows on the ground in Kansas. These were part of a primitive air navigation system that led to the first transcontinental airmail service. Every so often, people stumble upon these abandoned arrows and there is a big discussion online. Even Snopes has had to verify their authenticity (verdict: true). Entire websites exist to tracking and locating the remnants of these arrows. And as one of the early air mail routes went through Kansas, every so often people find these arrows around here. I got the idea that it would be fun to replicate a journey along the old routes. Maybe I d spot a few old arrows and such. So I started collecting old maps: a Contract Airmail Route #34 (CAM 34) map from 1927, aviation sectionals from 1933 and 1946, etc. I noticed an odd thing on these maps: the Newton, KS airport was on the other side of the city from its present location, sometimes even several miles outside the city. What was going on? 1927 Airway Map
(1927 Airway Map) 1946 Wichita Sectional
(1946 Wichita sectional) So one foggy morning, I explained my puzzlement to the boys. I highlighted all the mysteries: were these maps correct? Were there really two Newton airports at one time? How many airports were there, and where were they? Why did they move? What was the story behind them? And I offered them the chance to be history detectives with me. And oh my goodness, were they ever excited! We had some information from a very helpful person at the Harvey County Historical Museum (thanks Kris!) So we suspected one airport at least was established in 1927. We also had a description of its location, though given in terms of township maps. So the boys and I made the short drive over to the museum. We reviewed their property maps, though they were all a little older than the time period we needed. We looked through books and at pictures. Oliver pored over a railroad map of Newton from a century ago, fascinated. Jacob was excited to discover on one map that there used to be a train track down the middle of Main Street! I was interested that the present Newton Airport was once known as Wirt Field, rather to my surprise. I somehow suspect most 2nd and 4th graders spend a lot less excited time on their research floor! Then on to the Newton Public Library to see if they d have anything more and that s when the map that produced all the excitement came out. It, by itself, didn t answer the question, but by piecing together a number of pieces of information newspaper stories, information from the museum, and the maps we were able to come up with a pretty good explanation, much to their excitement. Apparently, a man named Tangeman owned a golf course (the golf links according to the paper), and around 1927 the city of Newton purchased it, because of all the planes that were landing there. They turned it into a real airport. Later, they bought land east of the city and moved the airport there. However, during World War II, the Navy took over that location, so they built a third airport a few miles west of the city but moved back to the current east location after the Navy returned that field to them. Of course, a project like this just opens up all sorts of extra questions: why isn t it called Wirt Field anymore? What s the story of Frank Wirt? What led the Navy to take over Newton s airport? Why did planes start landing on the golf course? Where precisely was the west airport located? How long was it there? (I found an aerial photo from 1956 that looks like it may have a plane in that general area, but it seems later than I d have expected) So now I have the boys interested in going to the courthouse with me to research the property records out there. Jacob is continually astounded that we are discovering things that aren t in Wikipedia, and also excited that he could be the one to add them. To be continued, apparently!

12 November 2016

John Goerzen: Morning in the Skies

IMG_8515 This is morning. Time to fly. Two boys, happy to open the hangar door and get the plane ready. It s been a year since I passed the FAA exam and became a pilot. Memories like these are my favorite reminders why I did. It is such fun to see people s faces light up with the joy of flying a few thousand feet above ground, of the beauty and freedom and peace of the skies. I ve flown 14 different passengers in that time; almost every flight I ve taken has been with people, which I enjoy. I ve heard wow or beautiful so many times, and said it myself even more times. IMG_6083 I ve landed in two state parks, visited any number of wonderful small towns, seen historic sites and placid lakes, ascended magically over forests and plains. I ve landed at 31 airports in 10 states, flying over 13,000 miles. airports Not once have I encountered anyone other than friendly, kind, and outgoing. And why not? After all, we re working around magic flying carpet machines, right? IMG_7867_bw (That s my brother before a flight with me, by the way) Some weeks it is easy to be glum. This week has been that way for many, myself included. But then, whether you are in the air or on the ground, if you pay attention, you realize we still live in a beautiful world with many wonderful people. And, in fact, I got a reminder of that this week. Not long after the election, I got in a plane, pushed in the throttle, and started the takeoff roll down a runway in the midst of an Indiana forest. The skies were the best kind of clear blue, and pretty soon I lifted off and could see for miles. Off in the distance, I could see the last cottony remnants of the morning s fog, lying still in the valleys, surrounding the little farms and houses as if to give them a loving hug. Wow. Sometimes the flight is bumpy. Sometimes the weather doesn t cooperate, and it doesn t happen at all. Sometimes you can fly across four large states and it feels as smooth as glass the whole way. Whatever happens, at the end of the day, the magic flying carpet machine gets locked up again. We go home, rest our heads on our soft pillows, and if we so choose, remember the beauty we experienced that day. Really, this post is not about being a pilot. This post is a reminder to pay attention to all that is beautiful in this world. It surrounds us; the smell of pine trees in the forest, the delight in the faces of children, the gentle breeze in our hair, the kind word from a stranger, the very sunrise. I hope that more of us will pay attention to the moments of clear skies and wind at our back. Even at those moments when we pull the hangar door shut. IMG_20160716_093627

22 October 2016

Christoph Egger: Running Debian on the ClearFog

Back in August, I was looking for a Homeserver replacement. During FrOSCon I was then reminded of the Turris Omnia project by The basic SoC (Marvel Armada 38x) seemed to be nice hand have decent mainline support (and, with the turris, users interested in keeping it working). Only I don't want any WIFI and I wasn't sure the standard case would be all that usefully. Fortunately, there's also a simple board available with the same SoC called ClearFog and so I got one of these (the Base version). With shipping and the SSD (the only 2242 M.2 SSD with 250 GiB I could find, a ADATA SP600) it slightly exceeds the budget but well. ClearFog with SSD When installing the machine, the obvious goal was to use mainline FOSS components only if possible. Fortunately there's mainline kernel support for the device as well as mainline U-Boot. First attempts to boot from a micro SD card did not work out at all, both with mainline U-Boot and the vendor version though. Turns out the eMMC version of the board does not support any micro SD cards at all, a fact that is documented but others failed to notice as well. U-Boot As the board does not come with any loader on eMMC and booting directly from M.2 requires removing some resistors from the board, the easiest way is using UART for booting. The vendor wiki has some shell script wrapping an included C fragment to feed U-Boot to the device but all that is really needed is U-Boot's kwboot utility. For some reason the SPL didn't properly detect UART booting on my device (wrong magic number) but patching the if (in arch-mvebu's spl.c) and always assume UART boot is an easy way around. The plan then was to boot a Debian armhf rootfs with a defconfig kernel from USB stick. and install U-Boot and the rootfs to eMMC from within that system. Unfortunately U-Boot seems to be unable to talk to the USB3 port so no kernel loading from there. One could probably make UART loading work but switching between screen for serial console and xmodem seemed somewhat fragile and I never got it working. However ethernet can be made to work, though you need to set eth1addr to eth3addr (or just the right one of these) in U-Boot, saveenv and reboot. After that TFTP works (but is somewhat slow). eMMC There's one last step required to allow U-Boot and Linux to access the eMMC. eMMC is wired to the same PINs as the SD card would be. However the SD card has an additional indicator pin showing whether a card is present. You might be lucky inserting a dummy card into the slot or go the clean route and remove the pin specification from the device tree.
--- a/arch/arm/dts/armada-388-clearfog.dts
+++ b/arch/arm/dts/armada-388-clearfog.dts
@@ -306,7 +307,6 @@
                                bus-width = <4>;
-                               cd-gpios = <&gpio0 20 GPIO_ACTIVE_LOW>;
                                pinctrl-0 = <&clearfog_sdhci_pins
Next Up is flashing the U-Boot to eMMC. This seems to work with the vendor U-Boot but proves to be tricky with mainline. The fun part boils down to the fact that the boot firmware reads the first block from eMMC, but the second from SD card. If you write the mainline U-Boot, which was written and tested for SD card, to eMMC the SPL will try to load the main U-Boot starting from it's second sector from flash -- obviously resulting in garbage. This one took me several tries to figure out and made me read most of the SPL code for the device. The fix however is trivial (apart from the question on how to support all different variants from one codebase, which I'll leave to the U-Boot developers):
--- a/include/configs/clearfog.h
+++ b/include/configs/clearfog.h
@@ -143,8 +143,7 @@
 #define CONFIG_SYS_MMC_U_BOOT_OFFS             (160 << 10)
-                                                + 1)
 #define CONFIG_SYS_U_BOOT_MAX_SIZE_SECTORS     ((512 << 10) / 512) /* 512KiB */
 #define CONFIG_FIXED_SDHCI_ALIGNED_BUFFER      0x00180000      /* in SDRAM */
Linux Now we have a System booting from eMMC with mainline U-Boot (which is a most welcome speedup compared to the UART and TFTP combination from the beginning). Getting to fine-tune linux on the device -- we want to install the armmp Debian kernel and have it work. As all the drivers are build as modules for that kernel this also means initrd support. Funnily U-Boots bootz allows booting a plain vmlinux kernel but I couldn't get it to boot a plain initrd. Passing a uImage initrd and a normal kernel however works pretty well. Back when I first tried there were some modules missing and ethernet didn't work with the PHY driver built as a module. In the meantime the PHY problem was fixed in the Debian kernel and almost all modules already added. Ben then only added the USB3 module on my suggestion and as a result, unstable's armhf armmp kernel should work perfectly well on the device (you still need to patch the device tree similar to the patch above). Still missing is an updated flash-kernel to automatically generate the initrd uImage which is work in progress but got stalled until I fixed the U-Boot on eMMC problem and everything should be fine -- maybe get debian u-boot builds for that board. Pro versus Base The main difference so far between the Pro and the Base version of the ClearFog is the switch chip which is included on the Pro. The Base instead "just" has two gigabit ethernet ports and a SFP. Both, linux' and U-Boot's device tree are intended for the Pro version which makes on of the ethernet ports unusable (it tries to find the switch behind the ethernet port which isn't there). To get both ports working (or the one you settled on earlier) there's a second patch to the device tree (my version might be sub-optimal but works), U-Boot -- the linux-kernel version is a trivial adaption:
--- a/arch/arm/dts/armada-388-clearfog.dts
+++ b/arch/arm/dts/armada-388-clearfog.dts
@@ -89,13 +89,10 @@
                                mac-address = [00 50 43 02 02 02];
+                               managed = "in-band-status";
+                               phy = <&phy1>;
                                phy-mode = "sgmii";
                                status = "okay";
-                               fixed-link  
-                                       speed = <1000>;
-                                       full-duplex;
-                                ;
@@ -227,6 +224,10 @@
                                pinctrl-0 = <&mdio_pins>;
                                pinctrl-names = "default";
+                               phy1: ethernet-phy@1   /* Marvell 88E1512 */
+                                    reg = <1>;
+                                ;
                                phy_dedicated: ethernet-phy@0  
                                         * Annoyingly, the marvell phy driver
@@ -386,62 +386,6 @@
                tx-fault-gpio = <&expander0 13 GPIO_ACTIVE_HIGH>;
-       dsa@0  
-               compatible = "marvell,dsa";
-               dsa,ethernet = <&eth1>;
-               dsa,mii-bus = <&mdio>;
-               pinctrl-0 = <&clearfog_dsa0_clk_pins &clearfog_dsa0_pins>;
-               pinctrl-names = "default";
-               #address-cells = <2>;
-               #size-cells = <0>;
-               switch@0  
-                       #address-cells = <1>;
-                       #size-cells = <0>;
-                       reg = <4 0>;
-                       port@0  
-                               reg = <0>;
-                               label = "lan1";
-                        ;
-                       port@1  
-                               reg = <1>;
-                               label = "lan2";
-                        ;
-                       port@2  
-                               reg = <2>;
-                               label = "lan3";
-                        ;
-                       port@3  
-                               reg = <3>;
-                               label = "lan4";
-                        ;
-                       port@4  
-                               reg = <4>;
-                               label = "lan5";
-                        ;
-                       port@5  
-                               reg = <5>;
-                               label = "cpu";
-                        ;
-                       port@6  
-                               /* 88E1512 external phy */
-                               reg = <6>;
-                               label = "lan6";
-                               fixed-link  
-                                       speed = <1000>;
-                                       full-duplex;
-                                ;
-                        ;
-                ;
-        ;
                compatible = "gpio-keys";
                pinctrl-0 = <&rear_button_pins>;
Conclusion Apart from the mess with eMMC this seems to be a pretty nice device. It's now happily running with a M.2 SSD providing enough storage for now and still has a mSATA/mPCIe plug left for future journeys. It seems to be drawing around 5.5 Watts with SSD and one Ethernet connected while mostly idle and can feed around 500 Mb/s from disk over an encrypted ethernet connection which is, I guess, not too bad. My plans now include helping to finish flash-kernel support, creating a nice case and probably get it deployed. I might bring it to FOSDEM first though. Working on it was really quite some fun (apart from the frustrating parts finding the one-block-offset ..) and people were really helpful. Big thanks here to Debian's arm folks, Ben Hutchings the kernel maintainer and U-Boot upstream (especially Tom Rini and Stefan Roese)

9 September 2016

Jonathan Dowland: Metropolis

Every year since 2010 the Whitley Bay Film Festival has put on a programme of movies in my home town, often with some quirk or gimmick. A few years back we watched "Dawn Of The Dead" in a shopping centre the last act was interrupted by a fake film-reel break, then a load of zombies emerged from the shops. Sometime after that, we saw "The Graduate" within a Church as part of their annual "Secret Cinema" showing. Other famous stunts (which I personally did not witness) include a screening of Jaws on the beach and John Carpenter's "The Fog" in Whitley Bay Lighthouse. This year I only went to one showing, Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Two twists this time: it was being shown in The Rendezvous Cafe, an Art-Deco themed building on the sea front; the whole film was accompanied by a live, improvised synthesizer jam by a group of friends and synth/sound enthusiasts who branded themselves "The Mediators" for the evening. I've been meaning to watch Metropolis for a long time (I've got the Blu-Ray still sat in the shrink-wrap) and it was great to see the newly restored version, but the live synth accompaniment was what really made the night special for me. They used a bunch of equipment, most notably a set of Korg Volcas. The soundtrack varied in style and intensity to suit the scenes, with the various under-city scenes backed by a pumping, industrial-style improvisation which sounded quite excellent. I've had an interest in playing with synthesisers and making music for years, but haven't put the time in to do it properly. I left newly inspired and energised to finally try to make the time to explore it.