Search Results: "georg"

8 February 2024

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds at FOSDEM 2024

Core Reproducible Builds developer Holger Levsen presented at the main track at FOSDEM on Saturday 3rd February this year in Brussels, Belgium. Titled Reproducible Builds: The First Ten Years
In this talk Holger h01ger Levsen will give an overview about Reproducible Builds: How it started with a small BoF at DebConf13 (and before), then grew from being a Debian effort to something many projects work on together, until in 2021 it was mentioned in an Executive Order of the President of the United States. And of course, the talk will not end there, but rather outline where we are today and where we still need to be going, until Debian stable (and other distros!) will be 100% reproducible, verified by many. h01ger has been involved in reproducible builds since 2014 and so far has set up automated reproducibility testing for Debian, Fedora, Arch Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD and coreboot.
More information can be found on FOSDEM s own page for the talk, including a video recording and slides.
Separate from Holger s talk, however, there were a number of other talks about reproducible builds at FOSDEM this year: and there was even an entire track on Software Bill of Materials.

24 January 2024

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Montreal Subway Foot Traffic Data, 2023 edition

For the fifth year in a row, I've asked Soci t de Transport de Montr al, Montreal's transit agency, for the foot traffic data of Montreal's subway. By clicking on a subway station, you'll be redirected to a graph of the station's foot traffic. Licences

30 December 2023

Russ Allbery: Review: The Hound of Justice

Review: The Hound of Justice, by Claire O'Dell
Series: Janet Watson Chronicles #2
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Copyright: July 2019
ISBN: 0-06-269938-5
Format: Kindle
Pages: 325
The Hound of Justice is a near-future thriller novel with Sherlock Holmes references. It is a direct sequel to A Study in Honor. This series is best read in order. Janet Watson is in a much better place than she was in the first book. She has proper physical therapy, a new arm, and a surgeon's job waiting for her as soon as she can master its features. A chance meeting due to an Inauguration Day terrorist attack may even develop into something more. She just needs to get back into the operating room and then she'll feel like her life is back on track. Sara Holmes, on the other hand, is restless, bored, and manic, rudely intruding on Watson's date. Then she disappears, upending Watson's living arrangements. She's on the trail of something. When mysterious destructible notes start appearing in Watson's books, it's clear that she wants help. The structure of this book didn't really work for me. The first third or so is a slice-of-life account of Watson's attempt to resume her career as a surgeon against a backdrop of ongoing depressing politics. This part sounds like the least interesting, but I was thoroughly engrossed. Watson is easy to care about, hospital politics are strangely interesting, and while the romance never quite clicked for me, it had potential. I was hoping for another book like A Study in Honor, where Watson's life and Holmes's investigations entwine and run in parallel. That was not to be. The middle third of the book pulls Watson away to Georgia and a complicated mix of family obligations and spy-novel machinations. If this had involved Sara's fae strangeness, verbal sparring, and odd tokens of appreciation, maybe it would have worked, but Sara Holmes is entirely off-camera. Watson is instead dealing with a minor supporting character from the first book, who drags her through disguises, vehicle changes, and border stops in a way that felt excessive and weirdly out of place. (Other reviews say that this character is the Mycroft Holmes equivalent; the first initial of Micha's name fits, but nothing else does so far as I can tell.) Then the last third of the novel turns into a heist. I like a heist novel as much as the next person, but a good heist story needs a team with chemistry and interplay, and I didn't know any of these people. There was way too little Sara Holmes, too much of Watson being out of her element in a rather generic way, and too many steps that Watson is led through without giving the reader a chance to enjoy the competence of the team. It felt jarring and disconnected, like Watson got pulled out of one story and dropped into an entirely different story without a proper groundwork. The Hound of Justice still has its moments. Watson is a great character and I'm still fully invested in her life. She was pulled into this mission because she's the person Holmes knows with the appropriate skills, and when she finally gets a chance to put those skills to use, it's quite satisfying. But, alas, the magic of A Study in Honor simply isn't here, in part because Sara Holmes is missing for most of the book and her replacements and stand-ins are nowhere near as intriguing. The villain's plan seems wildly impractical and highly likely to be detected, and although I can come up with some explanations to salvage it, those don't appear in the book. And, as in the first book, the villain seems very one-dimensional and simplistic. This is certainly not a villain worthy of Holmes. Fittingly, given the political movements O'Dell is commenting on, a lot of this book is about racial politics. O'Dell contrasts the microaggressions and more subtle dangers for Watson as a black woman in Washington, D.C., with the more explicit and active racism of the other places to which she travels over the course of the story. She's trying very hard to give the reader a feeling for what it's like to be black in the United States. I don't have any specific complaints about this, and I'm glad she's attempting it, but I came away from this book with a nagging feeling that Watson's reactions were a tiny bit off. It felt like a white person writing about racism rather than a black person writing about racism: nothing is entirely incorrect, but the emotional beats aren't quite where black authors would put them. I could be completely wrong about this, and am certainly much less qualified to comment than O'Dell is, but there were enough places that landed slightly wrong that I wanted to note it. I would still recommend A Study in Honor, but I'm not sure I can recommend this book. This is one of those series where the things that I enjoyed the most about the first book weren't what the author wanted to focus on in subsequent books. I would read more about the day-to-day of Watson's life, and I would certainly read more of Holmes and Watson sparring and circling and trying to understand each other. I'm less interested in somewhat generic thrillers with implausible plots and Sherlock Holmes references. At the moment, this is academic, since The Hound of Justice is the last book of the series so far. Rating: 6 out of 10

14 June 2023

Freexian Collaborators: Monthly report about Debian Long Term Support, May 2023 (by Roberto C. S nchez)

Like each month, have a look at the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering.

Debian LTS contributors In May, 18 contributors have been paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available:
  • Abhijith PA did 6.0h (out of 6.0h assigned and 8.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 8.0h to the next month.
  • Anton Gladky did 6.0h (out of 8.0h assigned and 7.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 9.0h to the next month.
  • Bastien Roucari s did 17.0h (out of 17.0h assigned and 3.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 3.0h to the next month.
  • Ben Hutchings did 17.0h (out of 16.0h assigned and 8.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 7.0h to the next month.
  • Chris Lamb did 18.0h (out of 18.0h assigned).
  • Daniel Leidert did 0.0h (out of 0h assigned and 12.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 12.0h to the next month.
  • Dominik George did 0.0h (out of 0h assigned and 20.34h from previous period), thus carrying over 20.34h to the next month.
  • Emilio Pozuelo Monfort did 32.0h (out of 18.5h assigned and 16.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 2.5h to the next month.
  • Guilhem Moulin did 20.0h (out of 8.5h assigned and 11.5h from previous period).
  • Holger Levsen did 0.0h (out of 0h assigned and 10.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 10.0h to the next month.
  • Lee Garrett did 0.0h (out of 0h assigned and 40.5h from previous period), thus carrying over 40.5h to the next month.
  • Markus Koschany did 34.5h (out of 34.5h assigned).
  • Roberto C. S nchez did 18.25h (out of 20.5h assigned and 11.5h from previous period), thus carrying over 13.75h to the next month.
  • Scarlett Moore did 20.0h (out of 20.0h assigned).
  • Sylvain Beucler did 34.5h (out of 29.0h assigned and 5.5h from previous period).
  • Thorsten Alteholz did 14.0h (out of 14.0h assigned).
  • Tobias Frost did 16.0h (out of 15.0h assigned and 1.0h from previous period).
  • Utkarsh Gupta did 5.5h (out of 5.0h assigned and 26.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 25.5h to the next month.

Evolution of the situation In May, we have released 34 DLAs. Several of the DLAs constituted notable security updates to LTS during the month of May. Of particular note were the linux (4.19) and linux-5.10 packages, both of which addressed a considerable number of CVEs. Additionally, the postgresql-11 package was updated by synchronizing it with the 11.20 release from upstream. Notable non-security updates were made to the distro-info-data database and the timezone database. The distro-info-data package was updated with the final expected release date of Debian 12, made aware of Debian 14 and Ubuntu 23.10, and was updated with the latest EOL dates for Ubuntu releases. The tzdata and libdatetime-timezone-perl packages were updated with the 2023c timezone database. The changes in these packages ensure that in addition to the latest security updates LTS users also have the latest information concerning Debian and Ubuntu support windows, as well as the latest timezone data for accurate worldwide timekeeping. LTS contributor Anton implemented an improvement to the Debian Security Tracker Unfixed vulnerabilities in unstable without a filed bug view, allowing for more effective management of CVEs which do not yet have a corresponding bug entry in the Debian BTS. LTS contributor Sylvain concluded an audit of obsolete packages still supported in LTS to ensure that new CVEs are properly associated. In this case, a package being obsolete means that it is no longer associated with a Debian release for which the Debian Security Team has direct responsibility. When this occurs, it is the responsibility of the LTS team to ensure that incoming CVEs are properly associated to packages which exist only in LTS. Finally, LTS contributors also contributed several updates to packages in unstable/testing/stable to fix CVEs. This helps package maintainers, addresses CVEs in current and future Debian releases, and ensures that the CVEs do not remain open for an extended period of time only for the LTS team to be required to deal with them much later in the future.

Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

16 May 2023

Freexian Collaborators: Monthly report about Debian Long Term Support, April 2023 (by Roberto C. S nchez)

Like each month, have a look at the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering.

Debian LTS contributors In April, 18 contributors have been paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available:
  • Abhijith PA did 6.0h (out of 0h assigned and 14.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 8.0h to the next month.
  • Adrian Bunk did 18.0h (out of 16.5h assigned and 24.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 22.5h to the next month.
  • Anton Gladky did 8.0h (out of 9.5h assigned and 5.5h from previous period), thus carrying over 7.0h to the next month.
  • Bastien Roucari s did 17.0h (out of 17.0h assigned and 3.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 3.0h to the next month.
  • Ben Hutchings did 16.0h (out of 12.0h assigned and 12.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 8.0h to the next month.
  • Chris Lamb did 18.0h (out of 18.0h assigned).
  • Dominik George did 0.0h (out of 0h assigned and 20.34h from previous period), thus carrying over 20.34h to the next month.
  • Emilio Pozuelo Monfort did 4.5h (out of 11.0h assigned and 9.5h from previous period), thus carrying over 16.0h to the next month.
  • Guilhem Moulin did 8.5h (out of 8.0h assigned and 12.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 11.5h to the next month.
  • Helmut Grohne did 5.0h (out of 2.5h assigned and 7.5h from previous period), thus carrying over 5.0h to the next month.
  • Lee Garrett did 0.0h (out of 31.5h assigned and 9.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 40.5h to the next month.
  • Markus Koschany did 40.0h (out of 40.0h assigned).
  • Ola Lundqvist did 12.5h (out of 0h assigned and 24.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 11.5h to the next month.
  • Roberto C. S nchez did 8.5h (out of 4.75h assigned and 15.25h from previous period), thus carrying over 11.5h to the next month.
  • Stefano Rivera did 1.0h (out of 0h assigned and 28.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 27.0h to the next month.
  • Sylvain Beucler did 35.0h (out of 40.5h assigned), thus carrying over 5.5h to the next month.
  • Thorsten Alteholz did 14.0h (out of 14.0h assigned).
  • Tobias Frost did 15.0h (out of 15.0h assigned and 1.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 1.0h to the next month.
  • Utkarsh Gupta did 3.5h (out of 11.0h assigned and 18.5h from previous period), thus carrying over 26.0h to the next month.

Evolution of the situation In April, we have released 35 DLAs. The LTS team would like to welcome our newest sponsor, Institut Camille Jordan, a French research lab. Thanks to the support of the many LTS sponsors, the entire Debian community benefits from direct security updates, as well as indirect improvements and collaboration with other members of the Debian community. As part of improving the efficiency of our work and the quality of the security updates we produce, the LTS has continued improving our workflow. Improvements include more consistent tagging of release versions in Git and broader use of continuous integration (CI) to ensure packages are tested thoroughly and consistently. Sponsors and users can rest assured that we work continuously to maintain and improve the already high quality of the work that we do.

Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

18 April 2023

Shirish Agarwal: Philips LCD Monitor 22 , 1984, Reaper Man, The Firm.

PHILIPS PHL 221S8L Those who have been reading this blog for a long time would perhaps know that I had bought a Viewsonic 19 almost 12 years ago. The Monitor was functioning well till last week. I had thought to change it to a 24 monitor almost 3-4 years ago when 24 LCD Monitors were going for around 4k/- or thereabouts. But the monitor kept on functioning and I didn t have space (nor do) to have a dual-monitor setup. It just didn t make sense. Apart from higher electricity charges it would have also have made more demands on my old system which somehow is still functioning even after all those years. Then last week, it started to dim and after couple of days completely conked out. I had wanted to buy a new monitor in front of mum so she could watch movies or whatever but this was not to be. Sp I had to buy an LCD Monitor as Government raised taxes enormously after pandemic. Same/similar monitor that used to cost INR 4k/- today costed me almost INR 7k/- almost double the price. Hooking it to Debian I got the following

$ sudo hwinfo --monitor grep Model Model: "PHILIPS PHL 221S8L" FWIW hwinfo is the latest version

~$ sudo hwinfo --version21.82
I did see couple of movies before starting to write this blog post. Not an exceptional monitor but better than before. I had option from three brands, Dell (most expensive), Philips (middle) and & LG (lowest in prices). Interestingly, Viewsonic disappeared from the market about 5 years back and made a comeback just couple of years ago. Even Philips which had exited the PC Monitor almost a decade back re-entered the market. Apart from the branding, it doesn t make much of a difference as almost all the products including the above monitors are produced in China. I did remember her a lot while buying the monitor as I m sure she would have enjoyed it far more than me but that was not to be

1984 During last week when I didn t have the monitor I re-read 1984. To be completely honest, I had read the above book when I was in the 20 s and I had no context. The protagonist seemed like a whiner and for the life of me I couldn t understand why he didn t try to escape. Re-reading after almost 2 decades and a bit more I shat a number of times because now the context is pretty near and pretty real. I can see why the Republicans in the U.S. banned it. I also realized why the protagnist didn t attempt to run away because wherever he would run away it would be the same thing. It probably is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. To willfully accept what is false after all that torture. What was also interesting to me is to find that George Orwell was also a soldier just like Tolkien was. Both took part and wrote such different stories. While Mr. Tolkien writes and shares the pendulum between hope and despair, Mr. Orwell is decidedly dark. Not grey but dark. I am not sure if I would like to read Animal Farm anytime soon.

The Reaper Man Terry Pratchett It is by sheer coincidence or perhaps I needed something to fill me up when I got The Reaper Man from Terry Pratchett. It was practically like a breath of fresh air. And I love Mr. Pratchett for the inclusivity he brings in. We think about skin color, and what not and here Mr. Pratchett writes about an undead gentleman who s extremely polite as he was a wizard. I won t talk more as I don t really want to spoil the surprise but rest assured everybody is gonna love it. I also read Long Utopia but this is for those who believe and think of multiverses long before it became a buzzword that it is today.

The Firm John Grisham Now I don t know what I should write about this book as there aren t many John Grisham books where a rookie wins against more than one party opposite him. I wouldn t go much into depth but simply say it was worth a read. I am currently reading Gray Mountain. It very much shows how the coal Industry is corrupt and what all it does. It also brings to mind the amount of mining that is done in which Iron is the mostly sought after and done. Now if we are mining 94% Iron then wouldn t it make sense to ask to have a circular economy around Iron but we don t even hear a word about it. Even with all the imagined projections of lithium mining, it would hardly be 10% . I could go on but will finish for now, till later.

14 March 2023

Anuradha Weeraman: US-11604662-B2

US-11604662-B2
I m happy to announce, that after a long wait, patent US-11604662-B2 has been issued.I want to thank and recognize my co-inventors, Div Prakash and Subin George, who I m privileged to be on paper with.The effort that led to this work involved a group of engineers, many phone calls, some nerve-wracking presentations, culminating in a fantastic hackathon-winning outcome for a young and talented team, which I was proud to be a part of and privileged to lead.

26 January 2023

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Montreal Subway Foot Traffic Data, 2022 edition

For the fourth year in a row, I've asked Soci t de Transport de Montr al, Montreal's transit agency, for the foot traffic data of Montreal's subway. By clicking on a subway station, you'll be redirected to a graph of the station's foot traffic. Licences

16 January 2023

Freexian Collaborators: Monthly report about Debian Long Term Support, December 2022 (by Anton Gladky)

Like each month, have a look at the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering.

Debian LTS contributors In December, 17 contributors have been paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available:
  • Abhijith PA did 3.0h (out of 0h assigned and 14.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 11.0h to the next month.
  • Anton Gladky did 8.0h (out of 6.0h assigned and 9.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 7.0h to the next month.
  • Ben Hutchings did 24.0h (out of 9.0h assigned and 15.0h from previous period).
  • Chris Lamb did 18.0h (out of 18.0h assigned).
  • Dominik George did 0.0h (out of 10.0h assigned and 14.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 24.0h to the next month.
  • Emilio Pozuelo Monfort did 8.0h in December, 8.0h in November (out of 1.5h assigned and 49.5h from previous period), thus carrying over 43.0h to the next month.
  • Enrico Zini did 0.0h (out of 0h assigned and 8.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 8.0h to the next month.
  • Guilhem Moulin did 17.5h (out of 20.0h assigned), thus carrying over 2.5h to the next month.
  • Helmut Grohne did 15.0h (out of 15.0h assigned, 2.5h were taken from the extra-budget and worked on).
  • Markus Koschany did 40.0h (out of 40.0h assigned).
  • Ola Lundqvist did 10.0h (out of 7.5h assigned and 8.5h from previous period), thus carrying over 6.0h to the next month.
  • Roberto C. S nchez did 24.5h (out of 20.25h assigned and 11.75h from previous period), thus carrying over 7.5h to the next month.
  • Stefano Rivera did 2.5h (out of 20.5h assigned and 14.5h from previous period), thus carrying over 32.5h to the next month.
  • Sylvain Beucler did 20.5h (out of 37.0h assigned and 22.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 38.5h to the next month.
  • Thorsten Alteholz did 10.0h (out of 14.0h assigned), thus carrying over 4.0h to the next month.
  • Tobias Frost did 16.0h (out of 16.0h assigned).
  • Utkarsh Gupta did 51.5h (out of 42.5h assigned and 9.0h from previous period).

Evolution of the situation In December, we have released 47 DLAs, closing 232 CVEs. In the same year, in total we released 394 DLAs, closing 1450 CVEs. We are constantly growing and seeking new contributors. If you are a Debian Developer and want to join the LTS team, please contact us.

Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

29 December 2022

Chris Lamb: Favourite books of 2022: Memoir/biography

In my two most recent posts, I listed the fiction and classic fiction I enjoyed the most in 2022. I'll leave my roundup of general non-fiction until tomorrow, but today I'll be going over my favourite memoirs and biographies, in no particular order. Books that just missed the cut here include Roisin Kiberd's The Disconnect: A Personal Journey Through the Internet (2019), Steve Richards' The Prime Ministers (2019) which reflects on UK leadership from Harold Wilson to Boris Johnson, Robert Graves Great War memoir Goodbye to All That (1929) and David Mikics's portrait of Stanley Kubrick called American Filmmaker.

Afropean: Notes from Black Europe (2019) Johny Pitts Johny Pitts is a photographer and writer who lives in the north of England who set out to explore "black Europe from the street up" those districts within European cities that, although they were once 'white spaces' in the past, they are now occupied by Black people. Unhappy with the framing of the Black experience back home in post-industrial Sheffield, Pitts decided to become a nomad and goes abroad to seek out the sense of belonging he cannot find in post-Brexit Britain, and Afropean details his journey through Paris, Brussels, Lisbon, Berlin, Stockholm and Moscow. However, Pitts isn't just avoiding the polarisation and structural racism embedded in contemporary British life. Rather, he is seeking a kind of super-national community that transcends the reductive and limiting nationalisms of all European countries, most of which have based their national story on a self-serving mix of nostalgia and postcolonial fairy tales. Indeed, the term 'Afropean' is the key to understanding the goal of this captivating memoir. Pitts writes at the beginning of this book that the word wasn't driven only as a response to the crude nativisms of Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen, but that it:
encouraged me to think of myself as whole and unhyphenated. [ ] Here was a space where blackness was taking part in shaping European identity at large. It suggested the possibility of living in and with more than one idea: Africa and Europe, or, by extension, the Global South and the West, without being mixed-this, half-that or black-other. That being black in Europe didn t necessarily mean being an immigrant.
In search of this whole new theory of home, Pitts travels to the infamous banlieue of Clichy-sous-Bois just to the East of Paris, thence to Matong in Brussels, as well as a quick and abortive trip into Moscow and other parallel communities throughout the continent. In these disparate environs, Pitts strikes up countless conversations with regular folk in order to hear their quotidian stories of living, and ultimately to move away from the idea that Black history is defined exclusively by slavery. Indeed, to Pitts, the idea of race is one that ultimately restricts one's humanity; the concept "is often forced to embody and speak for certain ideas, despite the fact it can't ever hold in both hands the full spectrum of a human life and the cultural nuances it creates." It's difficult to do justice to the effectiveness of the conversations Pitts has throughout his travels, but his shrewd attention to demeanour, language, raiment and expression vividly brings alive the people he talks to. Of related interest to fellow Brits as well are the many astute observations and comparisons with Black and working-class British life. The tone shifts quite often throughout this book. There might be an amusing aside one minute, such as the portrait of an African American tourist in Paris to whom "the whole city was a film set, with even its homeless people appearing to him as something oddly picturesque." But the register abruptly changes when he visits Clichy-sous-Bois on an anniversary of important to the area, and an element of genuine danger is introduced when Johny briefly visits Moscow and barely gets out alive. What's especially remarkable about this book is there is a freshness to Pitt s treatment of many well-worn subjects. This can be seen in his account of Belgium under the reign of Leopold II, the history of Portuguese colonialism (actually mostly unknown to me), as well in the way Pitts' own attitude to contemporary anti-fascist movements changes throughout an Antifa march. This chapter was an especial delight, and not only because it underlined just how much of Johny's trip was an inner journey of an author willing have his mind changed. Although Johny travels alone throughout his journey, in the second half of the book, Pitts becomes increasingly accompanied by a number of Black intellectuals by the selective citing of Frantz Fanon and James Baldwin and Caryl Phillips. (Nevertheless, Jonny has also brought his camera for the journey as well, adding a personal touch to this already highly-intimate book.) I suspect that his increasing exercise of Black intellectual writing in the latter half of the book may be because Pitts' hopes about 'Afropean' existence ever becoming a reality are continually dashed and undercut. The unity among potential Afropeans appears more-and-more unrealisable as the narrative unfolds, the various reasons of which Johny explores both prosaically and poetically. Indeed, by the end of the book, it's unclear whether Johny has managed to find what he left the shores of England to find. But his mix of history, sociology and observation of other cultures right on my doorstep was something of a revelation to me.

Orwell's Roses (2021) Rebecca Solnit Orwell s Roses is an alternative journey through the life and afterlife of George Orwell, reimaging his life primarily through the lens of his attentiveness to nature. Yet this framing of the book as an 'alternative' history is only revisionist if we compare it to the usual view of Orwell as a bastion of 'free speech' and English 'common sense' the roses of the title of this book were very much planted by Orwell in his Hertfordshire garden in 1936, and his yearning of nature one was one of the many constants throughout his life. Indeed, Orwell wrote about wildlife and outdoor life whenever he could get away with it, taking pleasure in a blackbird's song and waxing nostalgically about the English countryside in his 1939 novel Coming Up for Air (reviewed yesterday).
By sheer chance, I actually visited this exact garden immediately to the publication of this book
Solnit has a particular ability to evince unexpected connections between Orwell and the things he was writing about: Joseph Stalin's obsession with forcing lemons to grow in ludicrously cold climates; Orwell s slave-owning ancestors in Jamaica; Jamaica Kincaid's critique of colonialism in the flower garden; and the exploitative rose industry in Colombia that supplies the American market. Solnit introduces all of these new correspondences in a voice that feels like a breath of fresh air after decades of stodgy Orwellania, and without lapsing into a kind of verbal soft-focus. Indeed, the book displays a marked indifference towards the usual (male-centric) Orwell fandom. Her book draws to a close with a rereading of the 'dystopian' Nineteen Eighty-Four that completes her touching portrait of a more optimistic and hopeful Orwell, as well as a reflection on beauty and a manifesto for experiencing joy as an act of resistance.

The Disaster Artist (2013) Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell For those not already in the know, The Room was a 2003 film by director-producer-writer-actor Tommy Wiseau, an inscrutable Polish immigr with an impenetrable background, an idiosyncratic choice of wardrobe and a mysterious large source of income. The film, which centres on a melodramatic love triangle, has since been described by several commentators and publications as one of the worst films ever made. Tommy's production completely bombed at the so-called 'box office' (the release was actually funded entirely by Wiseau personally), but the film slowly became a favourite at cult cinema screenings. Given Tommy's prominent and central role in the film, there was always an inherent cruelty involved in indulging in the spectacle of The Room the audience was laughing because the film was astonishingly bad, of course, but Wiseau infused his film with sincere earnestness that in a heartless twist of irony may be precisely why it is so terrible to begin with. Indeed, it should be stressed that The Room is not simply a 'bad' film, and therefore not worth paying any attention to: it is uncannily bad in a way that makes it eerily compelling to watch. It unintentionally subverts all the rules of filmmaking in a way that captivates the attention. Take this representative example:
This thirty-six-second scene showcases almost every problem in The Room: the acting, the lighting, the sound design, the pacing, the dialogue and that this unnecessary scene (which does not advance the plot) even exists in the first place. One problem that the above clip doesn't capture, however, is Tommy's vulnerable ego. (He would later make the potentially conflicting claims that The Room was both an ironic cult success and that he is okay with people interpreting it sincerely). Indeed, the filmmaker's central role as Johnny (along with his Willy-Wonka meets Dracula persona) doesn't strike viewers as yet another vanity project, it actually asks more questions than it answers. Why did Tommy even make this film? What is driving him psychologically? And why and how? is he so spellbinding? On the surface, then, 2013's The Disaster Artist is a book about the making of one the strangest films ever made, written by The Room's co-star Greg Sestero and journalist Tom Bissell. Naturally, you learn some jaw-dropping facts about the production and inspiration of the film, the seed of which was planted when Greg and Tommy went to see an early screening of The Talented Mr Ripley (1999). It turns out that Greg's character in The Room is based on Tommy's idiosyncratic misinterpretation of its plot, extending even to the character's name Mark who, in textbook Tommy style, was taken directly (or at least Tommy believed) from one of Ripley's movie stars: "Mark Damon" [sic]. Almost as absorbing as The Room itself, The Disaster Artist is partly a memoir about Thomas P. Wiseau and his cinematic masterpiece. But it could also be described as a biography about a dysfunctional male relationship and, almost certainly entirely unconsciously, a text about the limitations of hetronormativity. It is this latter element that struck me the most whilst reading this book: if you take a step back for a moment, there is something uniquely sad about Tommy's inability to connect with others, and then, when Wiseau poured his soul into his film people just laughed. Despite the stories about his atrocious behaviour both on and off the film set, there's something deeply tragic about the whole affair. Jean-Luc Godard, who passed away earlier this year, once observed that every fictional film is a documentary of its actors. The Disaster Artist shows that this well-worn aphorism doesn't begin to cover it.

28 December 2022

Chris Lamb: Favourite books of 2022: Classics

As a follow-up to yesterday's post detailing my favourite works of fiction from 2022, today I'll be listing my favourite fictional works that are typically filed under classics. Books that just missed the cut here include: E. M. Forster's A Room with a View (1908) and his later A Passage to India (1913), both gently nudged out by Forster's superb Howard's End (see below). Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Leopard (1958) also just missed out on a write-up here, but I can definitely recommend it to anyone interested in reading a modern Italian classic.

War and Peace (1867) Leo Tolstoy It's strange to think that there is almost no point in reviewing this novel: who hasn't heard of War and Peace? What more could possibly be said about it now? Still, when I was growing up, War and Peace was always the stereotypical example of the 'impossible book', and even start it was, at best, a pointless task, and an act of hubris at worst. And so there surely exists a parallel universe in which I never have and will never will read the book... Nevertheless, let us try to set the scene. Book nine of the novel opens as follows:
On the twelfth of June, 1812, the forces of Western Europe crossed the Russian frontier and war began; that is, an event took place opposed to human reason and to human nature. Millions of men perpetrated against one another such innumerable crimes, frauds, treacheries, thefts, forgeries, issues of false money, burglaries, incendiarisms and murders as in whole centuries are not recorded in the annals of all the law courts of the world, but which those who committed them did not at the time regard as being crimes. What produced this extraordinary occurrence? What were its causes? [ ] The more we try to explain such events in history reasonably, the more unreasonable and incomprehensible they become to us.
Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars and Napoleon's invasion of Russia, War and Peace follows the lives and fates of three aristocratic families: The Rostovs, The Bolkonskys and the Bezukhov's. These characters find themselves situated athwart (or against) history, and all this time, Napoleon is marching ever closer to Moscow. Still, Napoleon himself is essentially just a kind of wallpaper for a diverse set of personal stories touching on love, jealousy, hatred, retribution, naivety, nationalism, stupidity and much much more. As Elif Batuman wrote earlier this year, "the whole premise of the book was that you couldn t explain war without recourse to domesticity and interpersonal relations." The result is that Tolstoy has woven an incredibly intricate web that connects the war, noble families and the everyday Russian people to a degree that is surprising for a book started in 1865. Tolstoy's characters are probably timeless (especially the picaresque adventures and constantly changing thoughts Pierre Bezukhov), and the reader who has any social experience will immediately recognise characters' thoughts and actions. Some of this is at a 'micro' interpersonal level: for instance, take this example from the elegant party that opens the novel:
Each visitor performed the ceremony of greeting this old aunt whom not one of them knew, not one of them wanted to know, and not one of them cared about. The aunt spoke to each of them in the same words, about their health and her own and the health of Her Majesty, who, thank God, was better today. And each visitor, though politeness prevented his showing impatience, left the old woman with a sense of relief at having performed a vexatious duty and did not return to her the whole evening.
But then, some of the focus of the observations are at the 'macro' level of the entire continent. This section about cities that feel themselves in danger might suffice as an example:
At the approach of danger, there are always two voices that speak with equal power in the human soul: one very reasonably tells a man to consider the nature of the danger and the means of escaping it; the other, still more reasonably, says that it is too depressing and painful to think of the danger, since it is not in man s power to foresee everything and avert the general course of events, and it is therefore better to disregard what is painful till it comes and to think about what is pleasant. In solitude, a man generally listens to the first voice, but in society to the second.
And finally, in his lengthy epilogues, Tolstoy offers us a dissertation on the behaviour of large organisations, much of it through engagingly witty analogies. These epilogues actually turn out to be an oblique and sarcastic commentary on the idiocy of governments and the madness of war in general. Indeed, the thorough dismantling of the 'great man' theory of history is a common theme throughout the book:
During the whole of that period [of 1812], Napoleon, who seems to us to have been the leader of all these movements as the figurehead of a ship may seem to a savage to guide the vessel acted like a child who, holding a couple of strings inside a carriage, thinks he is driving it. [ ] Why do [we] all speak of a military genius ? Is a man a genius who can order bread to be brought up at the right time and say who is to go to the right and who to the left? It is only because military men are invested with pomp and power and crowds of sychophants flatter power, attributing to it qualities of genius it does not possess.
Unlike some other readers, I especially enjoyed these diversions into the accounting and workings of history, as well as our narrow-minded way of trying to 'explain' things in a singular way:
When an apple has ripened and falls, why does it fall? Because of its attraction to the earth, because its stalk withers, because it is dried by the sun, because it grows heavier, because the wind shakes it, or because the boy standing below wants to eat it? Nothing is the cause. All this is only the coincidence of conditions in which all vital organic and elemental events occur. And the botanist who finds that the apple falls because the cellular tissue decays and so forth is equally right with the child who stands under the tree and says the apple fell because he wanted to eat it and prayed for it.
Given all of these serious asides, I was also not expecting this book to be quite so funny. At the risk of boring the reader with citations, take this sarcastic remark about the ineptness of medicine men:
After his liberation, [Pierre] fell ill and was laid up for three months. He had what the doctors termed 'bilious fever.' But despite the fact that the doctors treated him, bled him and gave him medicines to drink he recovered.
There is actually a multitude of remarks that are not entirely complimentary towards Russian medical practice, but they are usually deployed with an eye to the human element involved rather than simply to the detriment of a doctor's reputation "How would the count have borne his dearly loved daughter s illness had he not known that it was costing him a thousand rubles?" Other elements of note include some stunning set literary pieces, such as when Prince Andrei encounters a gnarly oak tree under two different circumstances in his life, and when Nat sha's 'Russian' soul is awakened by the strains of a folk song on the balalaika. Still, despite all of these micro- and macro-level happenings, for a long time I felt that something else was going on in War and Peace. It was difficult to put into words precisely what it was until I came across this passage by E. M. Forster:
After one has read War and Peace for a bit, great chords begin to sound, and we cannot say exactly what struck them. They do not arise from the story [and] they do not come from the episodes nor yet from the characters. They come from the immense area of Russia, over which episodes and characters have been scattered, from the sum-total of bridges and frozen rivers, forests, roads, gardens and fields, which accumulate grandeur and sonority after we have passed them. Many novelists have the feeling for place, [but] very few have the sense of space, and the possession of it ranks high in Tolstoy s divine equipment. Space is the lord of War and Peace, not time.
'Space' indeed. Yes, potential readers should note the novel's great length, but the 365 chapters are actually remarkably short, so the sensation of reading it is not in the least overwhelming. And more importantly, once you become familiar with its large cast of characters, it is really not a difficult book to follow, especially when compared to the other Russian classics. My only regret is that it has taken me so long to read this magnificent novel and that I might find it hard to find time to re-read it within the next few years.

Coming Up for Air (1939) George Orwell It wouldn't be a roundup of mine without at least one entry from George Orwell, and, this year, that place is occupied by a book I hadn't haven't read in almost two decades Still, the George Bowling of Coming Up for Air is a middle-aged insurance salesman who lives in a distinctly average English suburban row house with his nuclear family. One day, after winning some money on a bet, he goes back to the village where he grew up in order to fish in a pool he remembers from thirty years before. Less important than the plot, however, is both the well-observed remarks and scathing criticisms that Bowling has of the town he has returned to, combined with an ominous sense of foreboding before the Second World War breaks out. At several times throughout the book, George's placid thoughts about his beloved carp pool are replaced by racing, anxious thoughts that overwhelm his inner peace:
War is coming. In 1941, they say. And there'll be plenty of broken crockery, and little houses ripped open like packing-cases, and the guts of the chartered accountant's clerk plastered over the piano that he's buying on the never-never. But what does that kind of thing matter, anyway? I'll tell you what my stay in Lower Binfield had taught me, and it was this. IT'S ALL GOING TO HAPPEN. All the things you've got at the back of your mind, the things you're terrified of, the things that you tell yourself are just a nightmare or only happen in foreign countries. The bombs, the food-queues, the rubber truncheons, the barbed wire, the coloured shirts, the slogans, the enormous faces, the machine-guns squirting out of bedroom windows. It's all going to happen. I know it - at any rate, I knew it then. There's no escape. Fight against it if you like, or look the other way and pretend not to notice, or grab your spanner and rush out to do a bit of face-smashing along with the others. But there's no way out. It's just something that's got to happen.
Already we can hear psychological madness that underpinned the Second World War. Indeed, there is no great story in Coming Up For Air, no wonderfully empathetic characters and no revelations or catharsis, so it is impressive that I was held by the descriptions, observations and nostalgic remembrances about life in modern Lower Binfield, its residents, and how it has changed over the years. It turns out, of course, that George's beloved pool has been filled in with rubbish, and the village has been perverted by modernity beyond recognition. And to cap it off, the principal event of George's holiday in Lower Binfield is an accidental bombing by the British Royal Air Force. Orwell is always good at descriptions of awful food, and this book is no exception:
The frankfurter had a rubber skin, of course, and my temporary teeth weren't much of a fit. I had to do a kind of sawing movement before I could get my teeth through the skin. And then suddenly pop! The thing burst in my mouth like a rotten pear. A sort of horrible soft stuff was oozing all over my tongue. But the taste! For a moment I just couldn't believe it. Then I rolled my tongue around it again and had another try. It was fish! A sausage, a thing calling itself a frankfurter, filled with fish! I got up and walked straight out without touching my coffee. God knows what that might have tasted of.
Many other tell-tale elements of Orwell's fictional writing are in attendance in this book as well, albeit worked out somewhat less successfully than elsewhere in his oeuvre. For example, the idea of a physical ailment also serving as a metaphor is present in George's false teeth, embodying his constant preoccupation with his ageing. (Readers may recall Winston Smith's varicose ulcer representing his repressed humanity in Nineteen Eighty-Four). And, of course, we have a prematurely middle-aged protagonist who almost but not quite resembles Orwell himself. Given this and a few other niggles (such as almost all the women being of the typical Orwell 'nagging wife' type), it is not exactly Orwell's magnum opus. But it remains a fascinating historical snapshot of the feeling felt by a vast number of people just prior to the Second World War breaking out, as well as a captivating insight into how the process of nostalgia functions and operates.

Howards End (1910) E. M. Forster Howards End begins with the following sentence:
One may as well begin with Helen s letters to her sister.
In fact, "one may as well begin with" my own assumptions about this book instead. I was actually primed to consider Howards End a much more 'Victorian' book: I had just finished Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and had found her 1925 book at once rather 'modern' but also very much constrained by its time. I must have then unconsciously surmised that a book written 15 years before would be even more inscrutable, and, with its Victorian social mores added on as well, Howards End would probably not undress itself so readily in front of the reader. No doubt there were also the usual expectations about 'the classics' as well. So imagine my surprise when I realised just how inordinately affable and witty Howards End turned out to be. It doesn't have that Wildean shine of humour, of course, but it's a couple of fields over in the English countryside, perhaps abutting the more mordant social satires of the earlier George Orwell novels (see Coming Up for Air above). But now let us return to the story itself. Howards End explores class warfare, conflict and the English character through a tale of three quite different families at the beginning of the twentieth century: the rich Wilcoxes; the gentle & idealistic Schlegels; and the lower-middle class Basts. As the Bloomsbury Group Schlegel sisters desperately try to help the Basts and educate the rich but close-minded Wilcoxes, the three families are drawn ever closer and closer together. Although the whole story does, I suppose, revolve around the house in the title (which is based on the Forster's own childhood home), Howards End is perhaps best described as a comedy of manners or a novel that shows up the hypocrisy of people and society. In fact, it is surprising how little of the story actually takes place in the eponymous house, with the overwhelming majority of the first half of the book taking place in London. But it is perhaps more illuminating to remark that the Howards End of the book is a house that the Wilcoxes who own it at the start of the novel do not really need or want. What I particularly liked about Howards End is how the main character's ideals alter as they age, and subsequently how they find their lives changing in different ways. Some of them find themselves better off at the end, others worse. And whilst it is also surprisingly funny, it still manages to trade in heavier social topics as well. This is apparent in the fact that, although the characters themselves are primarily in charge of their own destinies, their choices are still constrained by the changing world and shifting sense of morality around them. This shouldn't be too surprising: after all, Forster's novel was published just four years before the Great War, a distinctly uncertain time. Not for nothing did Virginia Woolf herself later observe that "on or about December 1910, human character changed" and that "all human relations have shifted: those between masters and servants, husbands and wives, parents and children." This process can undoubtedly be seen rehearsed throughout Forster's Howards End, and it's a credit to the author to be able to capture it so early on, if not even before it was widespread throughout Western Europe. I was also particularly taken by Forster's fertile use of simile. An extremely apposite example can be found in the description Tibby Schlegel gives of his fellow Cambridge undergraduates. Here, Timmy doesn't want to besmirch his lofty idealisation of them with any banal specificities, and wishes that the idea of them remain as ideal Platonic forms instead. Or, as Forster puts it, to Timmy it is if they are "pictures that must not walk out of their frames." Wilde, at his most weakest, is 'just' style, but Forster often deploys his flair for a deeper effect. Indeed, when you get to the end of this section mentioning picture frames, you realise Forster has actually just smuggled into the story a failed attempt on Tibby's part to engineer an anonymous homosexual encounter with another undergraduate. It is a credit to Forster's sleight-of-hand that you don't quite notice what has just happened underneath you and that the books' reticence to honestly describe what has happened is thus structually analogus Tibby's reluctance to admit his desires to himself. Another layer to the character of Tibby (and the novel as a whole) is thereby introduced without the imposition of clumsy literary scaffolding. In a similar vein, I felt very clever noticing the arch reference to Debussy's Pr lude l'apr s-midi d'un faune until I realised I just fell into the trap Forster set for the reader in that I had become even more like Tibby in his pseudo-scholarly views on classical music. Finally, I enjoyed that each chapter commences with an ironic and self-conscious bon mot about society which is only slightly overblown for effect. Particularly amusing are the ironic asides on "women" that run through the book, ventriloquising the narrow-minded views of people like the Wilcoxes. The omniscient and amiable narrator of the book also recalls those ironically distant voiceovers from various French New Wave films at times, yet Forster's narrator seems to have bigger concerns in his mordant asides: Forster seems to encourage some sympathy for all of the characters even the more contemptible ones at their worst moments. Highly recommended, as are Forster's A Room with a View (1908) and his slightly later A Passage to India (1913).

The Good Soldier (1915) Ford Madox Ford The Good Soldier starts off fairly simply as the narrator's account of his and his wife's relationship with some old friends, including the eponymous 'Good Soldier' of the book's title. It's an experience to read the beginning of this novel, as, like any account of endless praise of someone you've never met or care about, the pages of approving remarks about them appear to be intended to wash over you. Yet as the chapters of The Good Soldier go by, the account of the other characters in the book gets darker and darker. Although the author himself is uncritical of others' actions, your own critical faculties are slowgrly brought into play, and you gradully begin to question the narrator's retelling of events. Our narrator is an unreliable narrator in the strict sense of the term, but with the caveat that he is at least is telling us everything we need to know to come to our own conclusions. As the book unfolds further, the narrator's compromised credibility seems to infuse every element of the novel even the 'Good' of the book's title starts to seem like a minor dishonesty, perhaps serving as the inspiration for the irony embedded in the title of The 'Great' Gatsby. Much more effectively, however, the narrator's fixations, distractions and manner of speaking feel very much part of his dissimulation. It sometimes feels like he is unconsciously skirting over the crucial elements in his tale, exactly like one does in real life when recounting a story containing incriminating ingredients. Indeed, just how much the narrator is conscious of his own concealment is just one part of what makes this such an interesting book: Ford Madox Ford has gifted us with enough ambiguity that it is also possible that even the narrator cannot find it within himself to understand the events of the story he is narrating. It was initially hard to believe that such a carefully crafted analysis of a small group of characters could have been written so long ago, and despite being fairly easy to read, The Good Soldier is an almost infinitely subtle book even the jokes are of the subtle kind and will likely get a re-read within the next few years.

Anna Karenina (1878) Leo Tolstoy There are many similar themes running through War and Peace (reviewed above) and Anna Karenina. Unrequited love; a young man struggling to find a purpose in life; a loving family; an overwhelming love of nature and countless fascinating observations about the minuti of Russian society. Indeed, rather than primarily being about the eponymous Anna, Anna Karenina provides a vast panorama of contemporary life in Russia and of humanity in general. Nevertheless, our Anna is a sophisticated woman who abandons her empty existence as the wife of government official Alexei Karenin, a colourless man who has little personality of his own, and she turns to a certain Count Vronsky in order to fulfil her passionate nature. Needless to say, this results in tragic consequences as their (admittedly somewhat qualified) desire to live together crashes against the rocks of reality and Russian society. Parallel to Anna's narrative, though, Konstantin Levin serves as the novel's alter-protagonist. In contrast to Anna, Levin is a socially awkward individual who straddles many schools of thought within Russia at the time: he is neither a free-thinker (nor heavy-drinker) like his brother Nikolai, and neither is he a bookish intellectual like his half-brother Serge. In short, Levin is his own man, and it is generally agreed by commentators that he is Tolstoy's surrogate within the novel. Levin tends to come to his own version of an idea, and he would rather find his own way than adopt any prefabricated view, even if confusion and muddle is the eventual result. In a roughly isomorphic fashion then, he resembles Anna in this particular sense, whose story is a counterpart to Levin's in their respective searches for happiness and self-actualisation. Whilst many of the passionate and exciting passages are told on Anna's side of the story (I'm thinking horse race in particular, as thrilling as anything in cinema ), many of the broader political thoughts about the nature of the working classes are expressed on Levin's side instead. These are stirring and engaging in their own way, though, such as when he joins his peasants to mow the field and seems to enter the nineteenth-century version of 'flow':
The longer Levin mowed, the more often he felt those moments of oblivion during which it was no longer his arms that swung the scythe, but the scythe itself that lent motion to his whole body, full of life and conscious of itself, and, as if by magic, without a thought of it, the work got rightly and neatly done on its own. These were the most blissful moments.
Overall, Tolstoy poses no didactic moral message towards any of the characters in Anna Karenina, and merely invites us to watch rather than judge. (Still, there is a hilarious section that is scathing of contemporary classical music, presaging many of the ideas found in Tolstoy's 1897 What is Art?). In addition, just like the earlier War and Peace, the novel is run through with a number of uncannily accurate observations about daily life:
Anna smiled, as one smiles at the weaknesses of people one loves, and, putting her arm under his, accompanied him to the door of the study.
... as well as the usual sprinkling of Tolstoy's sardonic humour ("No one is pleased with his fortune, but everyone is pleased with his wit."). Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the other titan of Russian literature, once described Anna Karenina as a "flawless work of art," and if you re only going to read one Tolstoy novel in your life, it should probably be this one.

Russell Coker: Links December 2022

Charles Stross wrote an informative summary of the problems with the UK monarchy [1], conveniently before the queen died. The blog post To The Next Mass Shooter, A Modest Proposal is a well written suggestion to potential mass murderers [2]. The New Yorker has an interesting and amusing article about the former CIA employee who released the Vault 7 collection of CIA attack software [3]. This exposes the ridiculously poor hiring practices of the CIA which involved far less background checks than the reporter writing the story did. Wired has an interesting 6 part series about the hunt for Alpha02 the admin of the Alphabay dark web marketplace [4]. The Atlantic has an interesting and informative article about Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the most horrible politicians in the world [5]. Anarcat wrote a long and detailed blog post about Matrix [6]. It s mostly about comparing Matrix to other services and analysing the overall environment of IM systms. I recommend using Matrix, it is quite good although having a server with SSD storage is required for the database. Edent wrote an interesting thought experiment on how one might try to regain access to all their digital data if a lightning strike destroyed everything in their home [7]. Cory Doctorow wrote an interesting article about the crapification of literary contracts [8]. A lot of this applies to most contracts between corporations and individuals. We need legislation to restrict corporations from such abuse. Jared A Brock wrote an insightful article about why AirBNB is horrible and how it will fail [9]. Habr has an interesting article on circumventing UEFI secure boot [10]. This doesn t make secure boot worthless but does expose some weaknesses in it. Matthew Garrett wrote an interesting blog post about stewartship of the UEFI boot ecosystem and how Microsoft has made some strange and possibly hypocritical decisions about it [11]. It also has a lot of background information on how UEFI can be used and misused. Cory Doctorow wrote an interesting article Let s Make Amazon Into a Dumb Pipe [12]. The idea is to use the Amazon search and reviews to find a product and then buy it elsewhere, a reverse of the showrooming practice where people look at products in stores and buy them online. There is already a browser plugin to search local libraries for Amazon books. Charles Stross wrote an interesting blog post about the UK Tory plan to destroy higher education [13]. There s a lot of similarities to what conservatives are doing in other countries. Antoine Beaupr wrote an insightful blog post How to nationalize the internet in Canada [14]. They cover the technical issues to be addressed as well as some social justice points that are often missed when discussing such issues. Internet is not a luxuary nowadays, it s an important part of daily life and the governments need to treat it the same way as roads and other national infrastructure.

18 December 2022

Freexian Collaborators: Monthly report about Debian Long Term Support, November 2022 (by Anton Gladky)

Like each month, have a look at the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering.

Debian LTS contributors In November, 15 contributors have been paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available:
  • Abhijith PA did 0.0h (out of 14.0h assigned), thus carrying over 14.0h to the next month.
  • Anton Gladky did 6.0h (out of 15.0h assigned), thus carrying over 9.0h to the next month.
  • Ben Hutchings did 9.0h (out of 24.0h assigned), thus carrying over 15.0h to the next month.
  • Chris Lamb did 18.0h (out of 18.0h assigned).
  • Dominik George did 10.0h (out of 0h assigned and 24.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 14.0h to the next month.
  • Emilio Pozuelo Monfort did 0.0h (out of 38.0h assigned and 19.5h from previous period), thus carrying over 57.5h to the next month.
  • Enrico Zini did 0.0h (out of 0h assigned and 8.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 8.0h to the next month.
  • Helmut Grohne did 17.5h (out of 20.0h assigned).
  • Markus Koschany did 40.0h (out of 40.0h assigned).
  • Ola Lundqvist did 7.5h (out of 11.0h assigned and 5.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 8.5h to the next month.
  • Roberto C. S nchez did 20.25h (out of 0.75h assigned and 31.25h from previous period), thus carrying over 11.75h to the next month.
  • Stefano Rivera did 2.5h (out of 0h assigned and 17.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 14.5h to the next month.
  • Sylvain Beucler did 35.5h (out of 23.0h assigned and 34.5h from previous period), thus carrying over 22.0h to the next month.
  • Thorsten Alteholz did 14.0h (out of 14.0h assigned).
  • Utkarsh Gupta did 41.0h (out of 32.5h assigned and 25.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 16.5h to the next month.

Evolution of the situation In November, we released 43 DLAs, fixing 183 CVEs. We currently have 63 packages in dla-needed.txt that are waiting for updates, which is 19 fewer than the previous month. We re excited to announce that two Debian Developers Tobias Frost and Guilhem Moulin, have completed the on-boarding process and will begin contributing to LTS as of December 2022. Welcome aboard!

Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

15 December 2022

Reproducible Builds: Supporter spotlight: David A. Wheeler on supply chain security

The Reproducible Builds project relies on several projects, supporters and sponsors for financial support, but they are also valued as ambassadors who spread the word about our project and the work that we do. This is the sixth instalment in a series featuring the projects, companies and individuals who support the Reproducible Builds project. We started this series by featuring the Civil Infrastructure Platform project and followed this up with a post about the Ford Foundation as well as a recent ones about ARDC, the Google Open Source Security Team (GOSST), Jan Nieuwenhuizen on Bootstrappable Builds, GNU Mes and GNU Guix and Hans-Christoph Steiner of the F-Droid project. Today, however, we will be talking with David A. Wheeler, the Director of Open Source Supply Chain Security at the Linux Foundation.

Holger Levsen: Welcome, David, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. First, could you briefly tell me about yourself? David: Sure! I m David A. Wheeler and I work for the Linux Foundation as the Director of Open Source Supply Chain Security. That just means that my job is to help open source software projects improve their security, including its development, build, distribution, and incorporation in larger works, all the way out to its eventual use by end-users. In my copious free time I also teach at George Mason University (GMU); in particular, I teach a graduate course on how to design and implement secure software. My background is technical. I have a Bachelor s in Electronics Engineering, a Master s in Computer Science and a PhD in Information Technology. My PhD dissertation is connected to reproducible builds. My PhD dissertation was on countering the Trusting Trust attack, an attack that subverts fundamental build system tools such as compilers. The attack was discovered by Karger & Schell in the 1970s, and later demonstrated & popularized by Ken Thompson. In my dissertation on trusting trust I showed that a process called Diverse Double-Compiling (DDC) could detect trusting trust attacks. That process is a specialized kind of reproducible build specifically designed to detect trusting trust style attacks. In addition, countering the trusting trust attack primarily becomes more important only when reproducible builds become more common. Reproducible builds enable detection of build-time subversions. Most attackers wouldn t bother with a trusting trust attack if they could just directly use a build-time subversion of the software they actually want to subvert.
Holger: Thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself to us. What do you think are the biggest challenges today in computing? There are many big challenges in computing today. For example:
Holger: Do you think reproducible builds are an important part in secure computing today already? David: Yes, but first let s put things in context. Today, when attackers exploit software vulnerabilities, they re primarily exploiting unintentional vulnerabilities that were created by the software developers. There are a lot of efforts to counter this: We re just starting to get better at this, which is good. However, attackers always try to attack the easiest target. As our deployed software has started to be hardened against attack, attackers have dramatically increased their attacks on the software supply chain (Sonatype found in 2022 that there s been a 742% increase year-over-year). The software supply chain hasn t historically gotten much attention, making it the easy target. There are simple supply chain attacks with simple solutions: Unfortunately, attackers know there are other lines of attack. One of the most dangerous is subverted build systems, as demonstrated by the subversion of SolarWinds Orion system. In a subverted build system, developers can review the software source code all day and see no problem, because there is no problem there. Instead, the process to convert source code into the code people run, called the build system , is subverted by an attacker. One solution for countering subverted build systems is to make the build systems harder to attack. That s a good thing to do, but you can never be confident that it was good enough . How can you be sure it s not subverted, if there s no way to know? A stronger defense against subverted build systems is the idea of verified reproducible builds. A build is reproducible if given the same source code, build environment and build instructions, any party can recreate bit-by-bit identical copies of all specified artifacts. A build is verified if multiple different parties verify that they get the same result for that situation. When you have a verified reproducible build, either all the parties colluded (and you could always double-check it yourself), or the build process isn t subverted. There is one last turtle: What if the build system tools or machines are subverted themselves? This is not a common attack today, but it s important to know if we can address them when the time comes. The good news is that we can address this. For some situations reproducible builds can also counter such attacks. If there s a loop (that is, a compiler is used to generate itself), that s called the trusting trust attack, and that is more challenging. Thankfully, the trusting trust attack has been known about for decades and there are known solutions. The diverse double-compiling (DDC) process that I explained in my PhD dissertation, as well as the bootstrappable builds process, can both counter trusting trust attacks in the software space. So there is no reason to lose hope: there is a bottom turtle , as it were.
Holger: Thankfully, this has all slowly started to change and supply chain issues are now widely discussed, as evident by efforts like Securing the Software Supply Chain: Recommended Practices Guide for Developers which you shared on our mailing list. In there, Reproducible Builds are mentioned as recommended advanced practice, which is both pretty cool (we ve come a long way!), but to me it also sounds like this will take another decade until it s become standard normal procedure. Do you agree on that timeline? David: I don t think there will be any particular timeframe. Different projects and ecosystems will move at different speeds. I wouldn t be surprised if it took a decade or so for them to become relatively common there are good reasons for that. Today the most common kinds of attacks based on software vulnerabilities still involve unintentional vulnerabilities in operational systems. Attackers are starting to apply supply chain attacks, but the top such attacks today are typosquatting (creating packages with similar names) and dependency confusion) (convincing projects to download packages from the wrong repositories). Reproducible builds don t counter those kinds of attacks, they counter subverted builds. It s important to eventually have verified reproducible builds, but understandably other issues are currently getting prioritized first. That said, reproducible builds are important long term. Many people are working on countering unintentional vulnerabilities and the most common kinds of supply chain attacks. As these other threats are countered, attackers will increasingly target build systems. Attackers always go for the weakest link. We will eventually need verified reproducible builds in many situations, and it ll take a while to get build systems able to widely perform reproducible builds, so we need to start that work now. That s true for anything where you know you ll need it but it will take a long time to get ready you need to start now.
Holger: What are your suggestions to accelerate adoption? David: Reproducible builds need to be: I think there s a snowball effect. Once many projects packages are reproducible, it will be easier to convince other projects to make their packages reproducible. I also think there should be some prioritization. If a package is in wide use (e.g., part of minimum set of packages for a widely-used Linux distribution or framework), its reproducibility should be a special focus. If a package is vital for supporting some societally important critical infrastructure (e.g., running dams), it should also be considered important. You can then work on the ones that are less important over time.
Holger: How is the Best Practices Badge going? How many projects are participating and how many are missing? David: It s going very well. You can see some automatically-generated statistics, showing we have over 5,000 projects, adding more than 1/day on average. We have more than 900 projects that have earned at least the passing badge level.
Holger: How many of the projects participating in the Best Practices badge engaging with reproducible builds? David: As of this writing there are 168 projects that report meeting the reproducible builds criterion. That s a relatively small percentage of projects. However, note that this criterion (labelled build_reproducible) is only required for the gold badge. It s not required for the passing or silver level badge. Currently we ve been strategically focused on getting projects to at least earn a passing badge, and less on earning silver or gold badges. We would love for all projects to get earn a silver or gold badge, of course, but our theory is that projects that can t even earn a passing badge present the most risk to their users. That said, there are some projects we especially want to see implementing higher badge levels. Those include projects that are very widely used, so that vulnerabilities in them can impact many systems. Examples of such projects include the Linux kernel and curl. In addition, some projects are used within systems where it s important to society that they not have serious security vulnerabilities. Examples include projects used by chemical manufacturers, financial systems and weapons. We definitely encourage any of those kinds of projects to earn higher badge levels.
Holger: Many thanks for this interview, David, and for all of your work at the Linux Foundation and elsewhere!




For more information about the Reproducible Builds project, please see our website at reproducible-builds.org. If you are interested in ensuring the ongoing security of the software that underpins our civilisation and wish to sponsor the Reproducible Builds project, please reach out to the project by emailing contact@reproducible-builds.org.

19 November 2022

Freexian Collaborators: Monthly report about Debian Long Term Support, October 2022 (by Rapha l Hertzog)

Like each month, have a look at the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering.

Debian LTS contributors In October, 15 contributors have been paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available:
  • Abhijith PA did 14.0h (out of 2.0h assigned and 12.0h from previous period).
  • Anton Gladky did 20.0h (out of 19.0h assigned and 1.0h from previous period).
  • Ben Hutchings did 9.0h (out of 0h assigned and 9.0h from previous period).
  • Chris Lamb did 18.0h (out of 18.0h assigned).
  • Dominik George did 0.0h (out of 0h assigned and 24.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 24.0h to the next month.
  • Emilio Pozuelo Monfort did 40.5h (out of 58.0h assigned and 2.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 19.5h to the next month.
  • Enrico Zini did 0.0h (out of 0h assigned and 8.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 8.0h to the next month.
  • Helmut Grohne did 15.0h (out of 15.0h assigned).
  • Markus Koschany did 40.0h (out of 40.0h assigned).
  • Ola Lundqvist did 7.0h (out of 12.0h assigned), thus carrying over 5.0h to the next month.
  • Roberto C. S nchez did 0.75h (out of 1.0h assigned and 31.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 31.25h to the next month.
  • Stefano Rivera did 12.5h (out of 9.0h assigned and 26.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 22.5h to the next month.
  • Sylvain Beucler did 25.5h (out of 31.5h assigned and 28.5h from previous period), thus carrying over 34.5h to the next month.
  • Thorsten Alteholz did 14.0h (out of 14.0h assigned).
  • Utkarsh Gupta did 35.0h (out of 38.0h assigned and 22.0h from previous period), thus carrying over 25.0h to the next month.

Evolution of the situation In October, we have released 42 DLAs, closing 106 CVEs. At the moment we have 82 packages in dla-needed.txt, waiting for update. We are continuously working on updating our infrastructure, trying to document all of our changes in the git-repo. Most of packages there are having continuous integration (CI) pipelines.

Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

31 August 2022

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, July 2022

A Debian LTS logo
Like each month, have a look at the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering. Debian project funding No any major updates on running projects.
Two 1, 2 projects are in the pipeline now.
Tryton project is in a review phase. Gradle projects is still fighting in work. In July, we put aside 2389 EUR to fund Debian projects. We re looking forward to receive more projects from various Debian teams! Learn more about the rationale behind this initiative in this article. Debian LTS contributors In July, 14 contributors have been paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available: Evolution of the situation In July, we have released 3 DLAs. July was the period, when the Debian Stretch had already ELTS status, but Debian Buster was still in the hands of security team. Many member of LTS used this time to update internal infrastructure, documentation and some internal tickets. Now we are ready to take the next release in our hands: Buster! Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

26 July 2022

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, June 2022

A Debian LTS logo
Like each month, have a look at the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering. Debian project funding No any major updates on running projects.
Two 1, 2 projects are in the pipeline now.
Tryton project is in a review phase. Gradle projects is still fighting in work. In June, we put aside 2254 EUR to fund Debian projects. We re looking forward to receive more projects from various Debian teams! Learn more about the rationale behind this initiative in this article. Debian LTS contributors In June, 15 contributors have been paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available: Evolution of the situation In June we released 27 DLAs.

This is a special month, where we have two releases (stretch and jessie) as ELTS and NO release as LTS. Buster is still handled by the security team and will probably be given in LTS hands at the beginning of the August. During this month we are updating the infrastructure, documentation and improve our internal processes to switch to a new release.
Many developers have just returned back from Debconf22, hold in Prizren, Kosovo! Many (E)LTS members could meet face-to-face and discuss some technical and social topics! Also LTS BoF took place, where the project was introduced (link to video).
Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold. We are pleased to welcome Alter Way where their support of Debian is publicly acknowledged at the higher level, see this French quote of Alterway s CEO.

23 June 2022

Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian s report about Debian Long Term Support, May 2022

A Debian LTS logo
Like each month, have a look at the work funded by Freexian s Debian LTS offering. Debian project funding Two [1, 2] projects are in the pipeline now. Tryton project is in a final phase. Gradle projects is fighting with technical difficulties. In May, we put aside 2233 EUR to fund Debian projects. We re looking forward to receive more projects from various Debian teams! Learn more about the rationale behind this initiative in this article. Debian LTS contributors In May, 14 contributors have been paid to work on Debian LTS, their reports are available: Evolution of the situation In May we released 49 DLAs. The security tracker currently lists 71 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 65 packages needing an update. The number of paid contributors increased significantly, we are pleased to welcome our latest team members: Andreas R nnquist, Dominik George, Enrico Zini and Stefano Rivera. It is worth pointing out that we are getting close to the end of the LTS period for Debian 9. After June 30th, no new security updates will be made available on security.debian.org. We are preparing to overtake Debian 10 Buster for the next two years and to make this process as smooth as possible. But Freexian and its team of paid Debian contributors will continue to maintain Debian 9 going forward for the customers of the Extended LTS offer. If you have Debian 9 servers to keep secure, it s time to subscribe! You might not have noticed, but Freexian formalized a mission statement where we explain that our purpose is to help improve Debian. For this, we want to fund work time for the Debian developers that recently joined Freexian as collaborators. The Extended LTS and the PHP LTS offers are built following a model that will help us to achieve this if we manage to have enough customers for those offers. So consider subscribing: you help your organization but you also help Debian! Thanks to our sponsors Sponsors that joined recently are in bold.

31 May 2022

Russell Coker: Links May 2022

dontkillmyapp.com is a web site about Android phone vendors who make their phones kill your apps when you don t want them to [1]. One of the many reasons why Pine and Purism offer the promise of better phones. This blog post about the Librem 5 camera is interesting [2]. Currently the Librem 5 camera isn t very usable for me as I just want to point and shoot, but it apparently works well for experts. Taking RAW photos is a good feature that I d like to have in all my camera phones. The Russian government being apparently unaware of the Streisand Effect has threatened Wikipedia for publishing facts about the war against Ukraine [3]. We all should publicise this as much as possible. The Wikipedia page is The 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine [4]. The Jerusalem Post has an interesting article about whether Mein Kampf should be published and studied in schools [5]. I don t agree with the conclusions about studying that book in schools, but I think that the analysis of the situation in that article is worth reading. One of the issues I have with teaching Mein Kampf and similar books is the quality of social studies teaching at the school I attended, I m pretty sure that teaching Mein Kampf in any way at that school would just turn out more neo-Nazis. Maybe better schools (IE not Christian private schools) could have productive classes about Mein Kampf Vanity Fair has an interesting article about the history of the private jet [6]. Current Affairs has an unusually informative article about why blockchain currencies should die in a fire [7]. The Nazi use of methamphetamine is well known, but Time has an insightful article about lesser known aspects of meth use [8]. How they considered meth as separate from the drugs they claimed were for the morally inferior is interesting. George Monbiot wrote an insightful article comparing the 2008 bank collapse to the current system of unstable food supplies [9]. JWZ wrote an insightful blog post about Following the Money regarding the push to reopen businesses even though the pandemic is far from over [10]. His conclusion is that commercial property owners are pushing the governments to give them more money. PsyPost has an interesting article on the correlation between watching Fox News and lacking knowledge of science and of society [11]. David Brin wrote an interesting paper about Disputation and how that can benefit society [12]. I think he goes too far in some of his claims, but he has interesting points. The overall idea of a Disputation arena for ideas is a really good one. I previously had a similar idea on a much smaller scale of having debates via Wiki [13].

17 April 2022

Russ Allbery: First 2022 haul post

I haven't posted one of these in a while. Here's the (mostly new) stuff that's come out that caught my interest in the past few months. Some of these I've already read and reviewed. Tom Burgis Kleptopia (non-fiction)
Angela Chen Ace (non-fiction)
P. Dj l Clark A Dead Djinn in Cairo (sff)
P. Dj l Clark The Haunting of Tram Car 015 (sff)
P. Dj l Clark A Master of Djinn (sff)
Brittney C. Cooper Eloquent Rage (non-fiction)
Madeleine Dore I Didn't Do the Thing Today (non-fiction)
Saad Z. Hossain The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday (sff)
George F. Kennan Memoirs, 1925-1950 (non-fiction)
Kiese Laymon How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America (non-fiction)
Adam Minter Secondhand (non-fiction)
Amanda Oliver Overdue (non-fiction)
Laurie Penny Sexual Revolution (non-fiction)
Scott A. Snook Friendly Fire (non-fiction)
Adrian Tchaikovsky Elder Race (sff)
Adrian Tchaikovsky Shards of Earth (sff)
Tor.com (ed.) Some of the Best of Tor.com: 2021 (sff anthology)
Charlie Warzel & Anne Helen Petersen Out of Office (non-fiction)
Robert Wears Still Not Safe (non-fiction)
Max Weber The Vocation Lectures (non-fiction) Lots and lots of non-fiction in this mix. Maybe a tiny bit better than normal at not buying tons of books that I don't have time to read, although my reading (and particularly my reviewing) rate has been a bit slow lately.

Next.