Search Results: "gwolf"

25 May 2024

Gunnar Wolf: How computers make books from graphics rendering, search algorithms, and functional programming to indexing and typesetting

This post is a review for Computing Reviews for How computers make books from graphics rendering, search algorithms, and functional programming to indexing and typesetting , a book published in Manning
If we look at the age-old process of creating books, how many different areas can a computer help us with? And how can each of them be used to teach computer science (CS) fundamentals to a nontechnical audience? This is the premise of John Whitington s enticing book and the result is quite amazing. The book immediately drew my attention when looking at the titles available for review. After all, my initiation into computing as a kid was learning the LaTeX typesetting system while my father worked on his first book on scientific language and typography [1]. Whitington picks 11 different technical aspects of book production, from how dots of ink are transferred to a white page and how they are made into controllable, recognizable shapes, all the way to forming beautiful typefaces and the nuances of properly addressing white-space to present aesthetically pleasing paragraphs, building it all into specific formats aimed at different ends. But if we dig beyond just the chapter titles, we will find a very interesting book on CS that, without ever using technical language or notation, presents aspects as varied as anti-aliasing, vector and raster images, character sets such as ASCII and Unicode, an introduction to programming, input methods for different writing systems, efficient encoding (compression) methods, both for text and images, lossless and lossy, and recursion and dithering methods. To my absolute surprise, while the author thankfully spared the reader the syntax usually associated with LISP-related languages, the programming examples clearly stem from the LISP school, presenting solutions based on tail recursion. Of course, it is no match for Donald Knuth s classic book on this same topic [2], but could very well be a primer for readers to approach it. The book is light and easy to read, and keeps a very informal, nontechnical tone throughout. My only complaint relates to reading it in PDF format; the topic of this book, and the care with which the images were provided by the author, warrant high resolution. The included images are not only decorative but an integral part of the book. Maybe this is specific to my review copy, but all of the raster images were in very low resolution. This book is quite different from what readers may usually expect, as it introduces several significant topics in the field. CS professors will enjoy it, of course, but also readers with a humanities background, students new to the field, or even those who are just interested in learning a bit more.

References
  1. S nchez y G ndara, A.; Magari os Lamas, F.; Wolf, K. B., Manual de lenguaje y tipograf a cient fica en castellano. Trillas, Mexico City, Mexico, 1986, https://www.fis.unam.mx/~bwolf/manual.html
  2. Knuth, D. E. Digital typographyCSLI Lecture Notes: CSLI Lecture Notes. CSLI Publications, Stanford, CA, 1999, https://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~knuth/dt.html

9 May 2024

Gunnar Wolf: Hacks, leaks, and revelations The art of analyzing hacked and leaked data

This post is a review for Computing Reviews for Hacks, leaks and revelations The art of analyzing hacked and leaked data , a book published in No Starch Press
Imagine you ve come across a trove of files documenting a serious deed and you feel the need to blow the whistle. Or maybe you are an investigative journalist and this whistleblower trusts you and wants to give you said data. Or maybe you are a technical person, trusted by said journalist to help them do things right not only to help them avoid being exposed while leaking the information, but also to assist them in analyzing the contents of the dataset. This book will be a great aid for all of the above tasks. The author, Micah Lee, is both a journalist and a computer security engineer. The book is written entirely from his experience handling important datasets, and is organized in a very logical and sound way. Lee organized the 14 chapters in five parts. The first part the most vital to transmitting the book s message, in my opinion begins by talking about the care that must be taken when handling a sensitive dataset: how to store it, how to communicate it to others, sometimes even what to redact (exclude) so the information retains its strength but does not endanger others (or yourself). The first two chapters introduce several tools for encrypting information and keeping communication anonymous, not getting too deep into details and keeping it aimed at a mostly nontechnical audience. Something that really sets this book apart from others like it is that Lee s aim is not only to tell stories about the hacks and leaks he has worked with, or to present the technical details on how he analyzed them, but to teach readers how to do the work. From Part 2 onward the book adopts a tutorial style, teaching the reader numerous tools for obtaining and digging information out of huge and very timely datasets. Lee guides the reader through various data breaches, all of them leaked within the last five years: BlueLeaks, Oath Keepers email dumps, Heritage Foundation, Parler, Epik, and Cadence Health. He guides us through a tutorial on using the command line (mostly targeted at Linux, but considering MacOS and Windows as well), running Docker containers, learning the basics of Python, parsing and filtering structured data, writing small web applications for getting at the right bits of data, and working with structured query language (SQL) databases. The book does an excellent job of fulfilling its very ambitious aims, and this is even more impressive given the wide range of professional profiles it is written for; that being said, I do have a couple critiques. First, the book is ideologically loaded: the datasets all exhibit the alt-right movement that has gained strength in the last decade. Lee takes the reader through many instances of COVID deniers, rioters for Donald Trump during the January 2021 attempted coup, attacks against Black Lives Matter activists, and other extremism research; thus this book could alienate right-wing researchers, who might also be involved in handling important whistleblowing cases. Second, given the breadth of the topic and my 30-plus years of programming experience, I was very interested in the first part of each chapter but less so in the tutorial part. I suppose a journalist reading through the same text might find the sections about the importance of data handling and source protection to be similarly introductory. This is unavoidable, of course, given the nature of this work. However, while Micah Lee is an excellent example of a journalist with the appropriate technical know-how to process the types of material he presents as examples, expecting any one person to become a professional in both fields is asking too much. All in all, this book is excellent. The writing style is informal and easy to read, the examples are engaging, and the analysis is very good. It will certainly teach you something, no matter your background, and it might very well complement your professional skills.

9 April 2024

Gunnar Wolf: Think outside the box Welcome Eclipse!

Now that we are back from our six month period in Argentina, we decided to adopt a kitten, to bring more diversity into our lives. Perhaps this little girl will teach us to think outside the box! Yesterday we witnessed a solar eclipse Mexico City was not in the totality range (we reached ~80%), but it was a great experience to go with the kids. A couple dozen thousand people gathered for a massive picnic in las islas, the main area inside our university campus. Afterwards, we went briefly back home, then crossed the city to fetch the little kitten. Of course, the kids were unanimous: Her name is Eclipse.

18 March 2024

Gunnar Wolf: After miniDebConf Santa Fe

Last week we held our promised miniDebConf in Santa Fe City, Santa Fe province, Argentina just across the river from Paran , where I have spent almost six beautiful months I will never forget. Around 500 Kilometers North from Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Paran are separated by the beautiful and majestic Paran river, which flows from Brazil, marks the Eastern border of Paraguay, and continues within Argentina as the heart of the litoral region of the country, until it merges with the Uruguay river (you guessed right the river marking the Eastern border of Argentina, first with Brazil and then with Uruguay), and they become the R o de la Plata. This was a short miniDebConf: we were lent the APUL union s building for the weekend (thank you very much!); during Saturday, we had a cycle of talks, and on sunday we had more of a hacklab logic, having some unstructured time to work each on their own projects, and to talk and have a good time together. We were five Debian people attending: santiago debacle eamanu dererk gwolf @debian.org. My main contact to kickstart organization was Mart n Bayo. Mart n was for many years the leader of the Technical Degree on Free Software at Universidad Nacional del Litoral, where I was also a teacher for several years. Together with Leo Mart nez, also a teacher at the tecnicatura, they contacted us with Guillermo and Gabriela, from the APUL non-teaching-staff union of said university. We had the following set of talks (for which there is a promise to get electronic record, as APUL was kind enough to record them! of course, I will push them to our usual conference video archiving service as soon as I get them)
Hour Title (Spanish) Title (English) Presented by
10:00-10:25 Introducci n al Software Libre Introduction to Free Software Mart n Bayo
10:30-10:55 Debian y su comunidad Debian and its community Emanuel Arias
11:00-11:25 Por qu sigo contribuyendo a Debian despu s de 20 a os? Why am I still contributing to Debian after 20 years? Santiago Ruano
11:30-11:55 Mi identidad y el proyecto Debian: Qu es el llavero OpenPGP y por qu ? My identity and the Debian project: What is the OpenPGP keyring and why? Gunnar Wolf
12:00-13:00 Explorando las masculinidades en el contexto del Software Libre Exploring masculinities in the context of Free Software Gora Ortiz Fuentes - Jos Francisco Ferro
13:00-14:30 Lunch
14:30-14:55 Debian para el d a a d a Debian for our every day Leonardo Mart nez
15:00-15:25 Debian en las Raspberry Pi Debian in the Raspberry Pi Gunnar Wolf
15:30-15:55 Device Trees Device Trees Lisandro Dami n Nicanor Perez Meyer (videoconferencia)
16:00-16:25 Python en Debian Python in Debian Emmanuel Arias
16:30-16:55 Debian y XMPP en la medici n de viento para la energ a e lica Debian and XMPP for wind measuring for eolic energy Martin Borgert
As it always happens DebConf, miniDebConf and other Debian-related activities are always fun, always productive, always a great opportunity to meet again our decades-long friends. Lets see what comes next!

7 March 2024

Gunnar Wolf: Constructed truths truth and knowledge in a post-truth world

This post is a review for Computing Reviews for Constructed truths truth and knowledge in a post-truth world , a book published in Springer Link
Many of us grew up used to having some news sources we could implicitly trust, such as well-positioned newspapers and radio or TV news programs. We knew they would only hire responsible journalists rather than risk diluting public trust and losing their brand s value. However, with the advent of the Internet and social media, we are witnessing what has been termed the post-truth phenomenon. The undeniable freedom that horizontal communication has given us automatically brings with it the emergence of filter bubbles and echo chambers, and truth seems to become a group belief. Contrary to my original expectations, the core topic of the book is not about how current-day media brings about post-truth mindsets. Instead it goes into a much deeper philosophical debate: What is truth? Does truth exist by itself, objectively, or is it a social construct? If activists with different political leanings debate a given subject, is it even possible for them to understand the same points for debate, or do they truly experience parallel realities? The author wrote this book clearly prompted by the unprecedented events that took place in 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis forced humanity into isolation and online communication. Donald Trump is explicitly and repeatedly presented throughout the book as an example of an actor that took advantage of the distortions caused by post-truth. The first chapter frames the narrative from the perspective of information flow over the last several decades, on how the emergence of horizontal, uncensored communication free of editorial oversight started empowering the netizens and created a temporary information flow utopia. But soon afterwards, algorithmic gatekeepers started appearing, creating a set of personalized distortions on reality; users started getting news aligned to what they already showed interest in. This led to an increase in polarization and the growth of narrative-framing-specific communities that served as echo chambers for disjoint views on reality. This led to the growth of conspiracy theories and, necessarily, to the science denial and pseudoscience that reached unimaginable peaks during the COVID-19 crisis. Finally, when readers decide based on completely subjective criteria whether a scientific theory such as global warming is true or propaganda, or question what most traditional news outlets present as facts, we face the phenomenon known as fake news. Fake news leads to post-truth, a state where it is impossible to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and serves only a rhetorical function, making rational discourse impossible. Toward the end of the first chapter, the tone of writing quickly turns away from describing developments in the spread of news and facts over the last decades and quickly goes deep into philosophy, into the very thorny subject pursued by said discipline for millennia: How can truth be defined? Can different perspectives bring about different truth values for any given idea? Does truth depend on the observer, on their knowledge of facts, on their moral compass or in their honest opinions? Zoglauer dives into epistemology, following various thinkers ideas on what can be understood as truth: constructivism (whether knowledge and truth values can be learnt by an individual building from their personal experience), objectivity (whether experiences, and thus truth, are universal, or whether they are naturally individual), and whether we can proclaim something to be true when it corresponds to reality. For the final chapter, he dives into the role information and knowledge play in assigning and understanding truth value, as well as the value of second-hand knowledge: Do we really own knowledge because we can look up facts online (even if we carefully check the sources)? Can I, without any medical training, diagnose a sickness and treatment by honestly and carefully looking up its symptoms in medical databases? Wrapping up, while I very much enjoyed reading this book, I must confess it is completely different from what I expected. This book digs much more into the abstract than into information flow in modern society, or the impact on early 2020s politics as its editorial description suggests. At 160 pages, the book is not a heavy read, and Zoglauer s writing style is easy to follow, even across the potentially very deep topics it presents. Its main readership is not necessarily computing practitioners or academics. However, for people trying to better understand epistemology through its expressions in the modern world, it will be a very worthy read.

23 February 2024

Gunnar Wolf: 10 things software developers should learn about learning

This post is a review for Computing Reviews for 10 things software developers should learn about learning , a article published in Communications of the ACM
As software developers, we understand the detailed workings of the different components of our computer systems. And probably due to how computers were presented since their appearance as digital brains in the 1940s we sometimes believe we can transpose that knowledge to how our biological brains work, be it as learners or as problem solvers. This article aims at making the reader understand several mechanisms related to how learning and problem solving actually work in our brains. It focuses on helping expert developers convey knowledge to new learners, as well as learners who need to get up to speed and start coding. The article s narrative revolves around software developers, but much of what it presents can be applied to different problem domains. The article takes this mission through ten points, with roughly the same space given to each of them, starting with wrong assumptions many people have about the similarities between computers and our brains. The first section, Human Memory Is Not Made of Bits, explains the brain processes of remembering as a way of strengthening the force of a memory ( reconsolidation ) and the role of activation in related network pathways. The second section, Human Memory Is Composed of One Limited and One Unlimited System, goes on to explain the organization of memories in the brain between long-term memory (functionally limitless, permanent storage) and working memory (storing little amounts of information used for solving a problem at hand). However, the focus soon shifts to how experience in knowledge leads to different ways of using the same concepts, the importance of going from abstract to concrete knowledge applications and back, and the role of skills repetition over time. Toward the end of the article, the focus shifts from the mechanical act of learning to expertise. Section 6, The Internet Has Not Made Learning Obsolete, emphasizes that problem solving is not just putting together the pieces of a puzzle; searching online for solutions to a problem does not activate the neural pathways that would get fired up otherwise. The final sections tackle the differences that expertise brings to play when teaching or training a newcomer: the same tools that help the beginner s productivity as training wheels will often hamper the expert user s as their knowledge has become automated. The article is written with a very informal and easy-to-read tone and vocabulary, and brings forward several issues that might seem like commonsense but do ring bells when it comes to my own experiences both as a software developer and as a teacher. The article closes by suggesting several books that further expand on the issues it brings forward. While I could not identify a single focus or thesis with which to characterize this article, the several points it makes will likely help readers better understand (and bring forward to consciousness) mental processes often taken for granted, and consider often-overlooked aspects when transmitting knowledge to newcomers.

12 February 2024

Gunnar Wolf: Heads up! A miniDebConf is approaching in Santa Fe, Argentina

I realize it s a bit late to start publicly organizing this, but better late than never I m happy some Debian people I have directly contacted have already expressed interest. So, lets make this public! For all interested people who are reasonably close to central Argentina, or can be persuaded to come here in a month s time You are all welcome! It seems I managed to convince my good friend Mart n Bayo (some Debian people will remember him, as he was present in DebConf19 in Curitiba, Brazil) to get some facilities for us to have a nice Debian get-together in Central Argentina.

Where? We will meet at APUL Asociaci n de Personal no-docente de la Universidad Nacional del Litoral, in downtown Santa Fe, Argentina.

When? Saturday, 2024.03.09. It is quite likely we can get some spaces for continuing over Sunday if there is demand.

What are we planning? We have little time for planning but we want to have a space for Debian-related outreach (so, please think about a topic or two you d like to share with general free software-interested, not too technical, audience). Please tell me by mail (gwolf@debian.org) about any ideas you might have. We also want to have a general hacklab-style area to hang out, work a bit in our projects, and spend a good time together.

Logistics I have briefly commented about this with our dear and always mighty DPL, and Debian will support Debian-related people interested in attending; please check personally with me for specifics on how to handle this case by case. My intention is to cover costs for travel, accomodation (one or two nights) and food for whoever is interested in coming over.

More information As I don t want to direct people to keep an eye on my blog post for updates, I ll copy this information (and keep it updated!) at the Debian Wiki / DebianEvents / ar / 2024 / MiniDebConf / Santa Fe please refer to that page!

Contact

Codes of Conduct DebConf and Debian Code of Conduct apply. See the DebConf Code of Conduct and the Debian Code of Conduct.

Registration Registration is free, but needed. See the separate Registration page.

Talks Please, send your proposal to gwolf@debian.org

20 January 2024

Gunnar Wolf: Ruffle helps bring back my family history

Probably a trait of my family s origins as migrants from East Europe, probably part of the collective trauma of jews throughout the world or probably because that s just who I turned out to be, I hold in high regard the preservation of memory of my family s photos, movies and such items. And it s a trait shared by many people in my familiar group. Shortly after my grandmother died 24 years ago, my mother did a large, loving work of digitalization and restoration of my grandparent s photos. Sadly, the higher resolution copies of said photos is lost but she took the work of not just scanning the photos, but assembling them in presentations, telling a story, introducing my older relatives, many of them missing 40 or more years before my birth. But said presentations were built using Flash. Right, not my choice of tool, and I told her back in the day but given I wasn t around to do the work in what I d chosen (a standards-abiding format, naturally), and given my graphic design skills are nonexistant Several years ago, when Adobe pulled the plug on the Flash format, we realized they would no longer be accessible. I managed to get the photos out of the preentations, but lost the narration, that is a great part of the work. Three days ago, however, I read a post on https://www.osnews.com that made me jump to action: https://www.osnews.com/story/138350/ruffle-an-open-source-flash-player-emulator/. Ruffle is an open source Flash Player emulator, written in Rust and compiled to WASM. Even though several OSnews readers report it to be buggy to play some Flash games they long for, it worked just fine for a simple slideshow presentator. So I managed to bring it back to life! Yes, I d like to make a better index page, but that will come later I am now happy and proud to share with you:

Acariciando la ausencia: Familia Iszaevich Fajerstein, 1900 2000 (which would be roughly translated as Caressing the absence: Iszaevich Fajerstein family, 1900-2000).

Gunnar Wolf: A deep learning technique for intrusion detection system using a recurrent neural networks based framework

This post is a review for Computing Reviews for A deep learning technique for intrusion detection system using a recurrent neural networks based framework , a article published in Computer Communications
So let s assume you already know and understand that artificial intelligence s main building blocks are perceptrons, that is, mathematical models of neurons. And you know that, while a single perceptron is too limited to get interesting information from, very interesting structures neural networks can be built with them. You also understand that neural networks can be trained with large datasets, and you can get them to become quite efficient and accurate classifiers for data comparable to your dataset. Finally, you are interested in applying this knowledge to defensive network security, particularly in choosing the right recurrent neural network (RNN) framework to create an intrusion detection system (IDS). Are you still with me? Good! This paper might be right for you! The paper builds on a robust and well-written introduction and related work sections to arrive at explaining in detail what characterizes a RNN, the focus of this work, among other configurations also known as neural networks, and why they are particularly suited for machine learning (ML) tasks. RNNs must be trained for each problem domain, and publicly available datasets are commonly used for such tasks. The authors present two labeled datasets representing normal and hostile network data, identified according to different criteria: NSL-KDD and UNSW-NB15. They proceed to show a framework to analyze and compare different RNNs and run them against said datasets, segmented for separate training and validation phases, compare results, and finally select the best available model for the task measuring both training speed as well as classification accuracy. The paper is quite heavy due to both its domain-specific terminology many acronyms are used throughout the text and its use of mathematical notation, both to explain specific properties of each of the RNN types and for explaining the preprocessing carried out for feature normalization and selection. This is partly what led me to start the first paragraph by assuming that we, as readers, already understand a large body of material if we are to fully follow the text. The paper does begin by explaining its core technologies, but quickly ramps up and might get too technical for nonexpert readers. It is undeniably an interesting and valuable read, showing the state of the art in IDS and ML-assisted technologies. It does not detail any specific technology applying its findings, but we will probably find the information conveyed here soon enough in industry publications.

22 December 2023

Gunnar Wolf: Pushing some reviews this way

Over roughly the last year and a half I have been participating as a reviewer in ACM s Computing Reviews, and have even been honored as a Featured Reviewer. Given I have long enjoyed reading friends reviews of their reading material (particularly, hats off to the very active Russ Allbery, who both beats all of my frequency expectations (I could never sustain the rythm he reads to!) and holds documented records for his >20 years as a book reader, with far more clarity and readability than I can aim for!), I decided to explicitly share my reviews via this blog, as the audience is somewhat congruent; I will also link here some reviews that were not approved for publication, clearly marking them so. I will probably work on wrangling my Jekyll site to display an (auto-)updated page and RSS feed for the reviews. In the meantime, the reviews I have published are:

10 December 2023

Freexian Collaborators: Debian Contributions: Python 3.12 preparations, debian-printing, merged-/usr tranisition updates, and more! (by Utkarsh Gupta)

Contributing to Debian is part of Freexian s mission. This article covers the latest achievements of Freexian and their collaborators. All of this is made possible by organizations subscribing to our Long Term Support contracts and consulting services.

Preparing for Python 3.12 by Stefano Rivera Stefano uploaded a few packages in preparation for Python 3.12, including pycxx and cython. Cython has a major new version (Cython 3), adding support for 3.12, but also bringing changes that many packages in Debian aren t ready to build with, yet. Stefano uploaded it to Debian experimental and did an archive rebuild of affected packages, and some analysis of the result. Matthias Klose has since filed bugs for all of these issues.

debian-printing, by Thorsten Alteholz This month Thorsten invested some of the previously obtained money to build his own printlab. At the moment it only consists of a dedicated computer with an USB printer attached. Due to its 64GB RAM and an SSD, building of debian-printing packages is much faster now. Over time other printers will be added and understanding bugs should be a lot easier now. Also Thorsten again adopted two packages, namely mink and ink, and moved them to the debian-printing team.

Merged-/usr transition by Helmut Grohne, et al The dumat analysis tool has been improved in quite some aspects. Beyond fixing false negative diagnostics, it now recognizes protective diversions used for mitigating Multi-Arch: same file loss. It was found that the proposed mitigation for ineffective diversions does not work as expected. Trying to fix it up resulted in more problems, some of which remain unsolved as of this writing. Initial work on moving shared libraries in the essential set has been done. Meanwhile, the wider Debian community worked on fixing all known Multi-Arch: same file loss scenarios. This work is now being driven by Christian Hofstaedler and during the Mini DebConf in Cambridge, Chris Boot, tienne Mollier, Miguel Landaeta, Samuel Henrique, and Utkarsh Gupta sent the other half of the necessary patches.

Miscellaneous contributions
  • Stefano merged patches to support loong64 and hurd-amd64 in re2.
  • For the Cambridge mini-conf, Stefano added a web player to the DebConf video streaming frontend, as the Cambridge miniconf didn t have its own website to host the player.
  • Rapha l helped the upstream developers of hamster-time-tracker to prepare a new upstream release (the first in multiple years) and packaged that new release in Debian unstable.
  • Enrico joined Hemut in brainstorming some /usr-merge solutions.
  • Thorsten took care of RM-bugs to remove no longer needed packages from the Debian archive and closed about 50 of them.
  • Helmut ported the feature of mounting a fuse connection via /dev/fd/N from fuse3 to fuse2.
  • Helmut sent a number of patches simplifying unprivileged use of piuparts.
  • Roberto worked with Helmut to prepare the Shorewall package for the ongoing /usr-move transition.
  • Utkarsh also helped with the ongoing /usr-merge work by preparing patches for gitlab, libnfc, and net-tools.
  • Utkarsh, along with Helmut, brainstormed on fixing #961138, as this affects the whole archive and all the suites and not just R packages. Utkarsh intends to follow up on the bug in December.
  • Santiago organized a MiniDebConf in Uruguay. In total, nine people attended, including most of DDs in the surrounding area. Here s a nicely written blog by Gunnar Wolf.
  • Santiago also worked on some issues on Salsa CI, fixed with some merge requests: #462, #463, and #466.

12 November 2023

Lisandro Dami n Nicanor P rez Meyer: Mini DebConf 2023 in Montevideo, Uruguay

15 years, "la ni a bonita", if you ask many of my fellow argentinians, is the amount of time I haven't been present in any Debian-related face to face activity. It was already time to fix that. Thanks to Santiago Ruano Rinc n and Gunnar Wolf that proded me to come I finally attended the Mini DebConf Uruguay in Montevideo. Me in Montevideo, Uruguay I took the opportunity to do my first trip by ferry, which is currently one of the best options to get from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, in my case through Colonia. Living ~700km at the south west of Buenos Aires city the trip was long, it included a 10 hours bus, a ferry and yet another bus... but of course, it was worth it. In Buenos Aires' port I met Emmanuel eamanu Arias, a fellow Argentinian Debian Developer from La Rioja, so I had the pleasure to travel with him. To be honest Gunnar already did a wonderful blog post with many pictures, I should have taken more. I had the opportunity to talk about device trees, and even look at Gunnar's machine one in order to find why a Display Port port was not working on a kernel but did in another. At the same time I also had time to start packaging qt6-grpc. Sadly I was there just one entire day, as I arrived on Thursday afternoon and had to leave on Saturday after lunch, but we did have a lot of quality Debian time. I'll repeat here what Gunnar already wrote:
We had a long, important conversation about an important discussion that we are about to present on debian-vote@lists.debian.org.
Stay tuned on that, I think this is something we should all get involved. All in all I already miss hacking with people on the same room. Meetings for us mean a lot of distance to be traveled (well, I live far away of almost everything), but I really should try to this more often. Certainly more than just once every 15 years :-)

11 November 2023

Gunnar Wolf: There once was a miniDebConf in Uruguay...

Meeting Debian people for having a good time together, for some good hacking, for learning, for teaching Is always fun and welcome. It brings energy, life and joy. And this year, due to the six-months-long relocation my family and me decided to have to Argentina, I was unable to attend the real deal, DebConf23 at India. And while I know DebConf is an experience like no other, this year I took part in two miniDebConfs. One I have already shared in this same blog: I was in MiniDebConf Tamil Nadu in India, followed by some days of pre-DebConf preparation and scouting in Kochi proper, where I got to interact with the absolutely great and loving team that prepared DebConf. The other one is still ongoing (but close to finishing). Some months ago, I talked with Santiago Ruano, jokin as we were Spanish-speaking DDs announcing to the debian-private mailing list we d be relocating to around R o de la Plata. And things worked out normally: He has been for several months in Uruguay already, so he decided to rent a house for some days, and invite Debian people to do what we do best. I left Paran Tuesday night (and missed my online class at UNAM! Well, you cannot have everything, right?). I arrived early on Wednesday, and around noon came to the house of the keysigning (well, the place is properly called Casa Key , it s a publicity agency that is also rented as a guesthouse in a very nice area of Montevideo, close to Nuevo Pocitos beach). In case you don t know it, Montevideo is on the Northern (or Eastern) shore of R o de la Plata, the widest river in the world (up to 300Km wide, with current and non-salty water). But most important for some Debian contributors: You can even come here by boat! That first evening, we received Ilu, who was in Uruguay by chance for other issues (and we were very happy about it!) and a young and enthusiastic Uruguayan, Felipe, interested in getting involved in Debian. We spent the evening talking about life, the universe and everything Which was a bit tiring, as I had to interface between Spanish and English, talking with two friends that didn t share a common language On Thursday morning, I went out for an early walk at the beach. And lets say, if only just for the narrative, that I found a lost penguin emerging from R o de la Plata! For those that don t know (who d be most of you, as he has not been seen at Debian events for 15 years), that s Lisandro Dami n Nicanor P rez Meyer (or just lisandro), long-time maintainer of the Qt ecosystem, and one of our embedded world extraordinaires. So, after we got him dry and fed him fresh river fishes, he gave us a great impromptu talk about understanding and finding our way around the Device Tree Source files for development boards and similar machines, mostly in the ARM world. From Argentina, we also had Emanuel (eamanu) crossing all the way from La Rioja. I spent most of our first workday getting my laptop in shape to be useful as the driver for my online class on Thursday (which is no small feat people that know the particularities of my much loved ARM-based laptop will understand), and running a set of tests again on my Raspberry Pi labortory, which I had not updated in several months. I am happy to say we are also finally also building Raspberry images for Trixie (Debian 13, Testing)! Sadly, I managed to burn my USB-to-serial-console (UART) adaptor, and could neither test those, nor the oldstable ones we are still building (and will probably soon be dropped, if not for anything else, to save disk space). We enjoyed a lot of socialization time. An important highlight of the conference for me was that we reconnected with a long-lost DD, Eduardo Tr pani, and got him interested in getting involved in the project again! This second day, another local Uruguayan, Mauricio, joined us together with his girlfriend, Alicia, and Felipe came again to hang out with us. Sadly, we didn t get photographic evidence of them (nor the permission to post it). The nice house Santiago got for us was very well equipped for a miniDebConf. There were a couple of rounds of pool played by those that enjoyed it (I was very happy just to stand around, take some photos and enjoy the atmosphere and the conversation). Today (Saturday) is the last full-house day of miniDebConf; tomorrow we will be leaving the house by noon. It was also a very productive day! We had a long, important conversation about an important discussion that we are about to present on debian-vote@lists.debian.org. It has been a great couple of days! Sadly, it s coming to an end But this at least gives me the opportunity (and moral obligation!) to write a long blog post. And to thank Santiago for organizing this, and Debian, for sponsoring our trip, stay, foods and healthy enjoyment!

27 September 2023

Antoine Beaupr : How big is Debian?

Now this was quite a tease! For those who haven't seen it, I encourage you to check it out, it has a nice photo of a Debian t-shirt I did not know about, to quote the Fine Article:
Today, when going through a box of old T-shirts, I found the shirt I was looking for to bring to the occasion: [...] For the benefit of people who read this using a non-image-displaying browser or RSS client, they are respectively:
   10 years
  100 countries
 1000 maintainers
10000 packages
and
        1 project
       10 architectures
      100 countries
     1000 maintainers
    10000 packages
   100000 bugs fixed
  1000000 installations
 10000000 users
100000000 lines of code
20 years ago we celebrated eating grilled meat at J0rd1 s house. This year, we had vegan tostadas in the menu. And maybe we are no longer that young, but we are still very proud and happy of our project! Now How would numbers line up today for Debian, 20 years later? Have we managed to get the bugs fixed line increase by a factor of 10? Quite probably, the lines of code we also have, and I can only guess the number of users and installations, which was already just a wild guess back then, might have multiplied by over 10, at least if we count indirect users and installs as well
Now I don't know about you, but I really expected someone to come up with an answer to this, directly on Debian Planet! I have patiently waited for such an answer but enough is enough, I'm a Debian member, surely I can cull all of this together. So, low and behold, here are the actual numbers from 2023! So it doesn't line up as nicely, but it looks something like this:
         1 project
        10 architectures
        30 years
       100 countries (actually 63, but we'd like to have yours!)
      1000 maintainers (yep, still there!)
     35000 packages
    211000 *binary* packages
   1000000 bugs fixed
1000000000 lines of code
 uncounted installations and users, we don't track you
So maybe the the more accurate, rounding to the nearest logarithm, would look something like:
         1 project
        10 architectures
       100 countries (actually 63, but we'd like to have yours!)
      1000 maintainers (yep, still there!)
    100000 packages
   1000000 bugs fixed
1000000000 lines of code
 uncounted installations and users, we don't track you
I really like how the "packages" and "bugs fixed" still have an order of magnitude between them there, but that the "bugs fixed" vs "lines of code" have an extra order of magnitude, that is we have fixed ten times less bugs per line of code since we last did this count, 20 years ago. Also, I am tempted to put 100 years in there, but that would be rounding up too much. Let's give it another 30 years first. Hopefully, some real scientist is going to balk at this crude methodology and come up with some more interesting numbers for the next t-shirt. Otherwise I'm available for bar mitzvahs and children parties.

22 September 2023

Gunnar Wolf: Debian@30 Found the shirt I was looking for last month

Almost a month ago, I went to my always loved Rancho Electr nico to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Debian project. Hats off to Jathan for all the work he put into this! I was there for close to 3hr, and be it following up an install, doing a talk, or whatever he was doing it. But anyway, I only managed to attend with one of my (great, beautiful and always loved) generic Debian or DebConf T-shirts. Today, when going through a box of old T-shirts, I found the shirt I was looking for to bring to the occasion. A smallish print, ~12cm wide, over the heart: And as a larger print, ~25cm wide, across the back: For the benefit of people who read this using a non-image-displaying browser or RSS client, they are respectively:
   10 years
  100 countries
 1000 maintainers
10000 packages
and
        1 project
       10 architectures
      100 countries
     1000 maintainers
    10000 packages
   100000 bugs fixed
  1000000 installations
 10000000 users
100000000 lines of code
20 years ago we celebrated eating grilled meat at J0rd1 s house. This year, we had vegan tostadas in the menu. And maybe we are no longer that young, but we are still very proud and happy of our project! Now How would numbers line up today for Debian, 20 years later? Have we managed to get the bugs fixed line increase by a factor of 10? Quite probably, the lines of code we also have, and I can only guess the number of users and installations, which was already just a wild guess back then, might have multiplied by over 10, at least if we count indirect users and installs as well

27 August 2023

Gunnar Wolf: Interested in adopting the RPi images for Debian?

Back in June 2018, Michael Stapelberg put the Raspberry Pi image building up for adoption. He created the first set of unofficial, experimental Raspberry Pi images for Debian. I promptly answered to him, and while it took me some time to actually warp my head around Michael s work, managed to eventually do so. By December, I started pushing some updates. Not only that: I didn t think much about it in the beginning, as the needed non-free pacakge was called raspi3-firmware, but By early 2019, I had it running for all of the then-available Raspberry families (so the package was naturally renamed to raspi-firmware). I got my Raspberry Pi 4 at DebConf19 (thanks to Andy, who brought it from Cambridge), and it soon joined the happy Debian family. The images are built daily, and are available in https://raspi.debian.net. In the process, I also adopted Lars great vmdb2 image building tool, and have kept it decently up to date (yes, I m currently lagging behind, but I ll get to it soonish ). Anyway This year, I have been seriously neglecting the Raspberry builds. I have simply not had time to regularly test built images, nor to debug why the builder has not picked up building for trixie (testing). And my time availability is not going to improve any time soon. We are close to one month away from moving for six months to Paran (Argentina), where I ll be focusing on my PhD. And while I do contemplate taking my Raspberries along, I do not forsee being able to put much energy to them. So This is basically a call for adoption for the Raspberry Debian images building service. I do intend to stick around and try to help. It s not only me (although I m responsible for the build itself) we have a nice and healthy group of Debian people hanging out in the #debian-raspberrypi channel in OFTC IRC. Don t be afraid, and come ask. I hope giving this project in adoption will breathe new life into it!

13 August 2023

Gunnar Wolf: Back to online teaching

Mexico s education sector had one of the longest lockdowns due to COVID: As everybody, we went virtual in March 2020, and it was only by late February 2022 that I went back to teach presentially at the University. But for the semester starting next Tuesday, I m going back to a full-online mode. Why? Because me and my family will be travelling to Argentina for six months, starting this October and until next March. When I went to ask for my teaching to be frozen for two semesters, the Head of Division told me he was actually looking for teachers wanting to do distance-teaching With a student population of >380,000 students, and not being able to grow the physical infrastructure, and with such a big city as Mexico City, where a person can take ove 2hr to commute daily It only makes sense to offer part of the courses online. To be honest, I m a bit nervous about this. The past couple of days, I ve been setting up again the technological parts (i.e. spinning up a Jitsi instance, remembering my usual practices and programs). But Well, I know that being videoconference-bound, my teaching will lose the dynamism that comes from talking face to face with students. I think I will miss it! (but at the same time, I m happy to try this anew: to go virtual, but where students choosing this modality do so by choice rather than because the world forced them to)

21 July 2023

Gunnar Wolf: Road trip through mountain ridges to find the surreal

We took a couple of days of for a family vacation / road trip through the hills of Central Mexico. The overall trip does not look like anything out of the ordinary Other than the fact that Google forecasted we d take approximately 15.5 hours driving for 852Km that is, an average of almost 55 Km/h. And yes, that s what we signed up for. And that s what we got. Of course, the exact routes are not exactly what Google suggested (I can say we optimized a bit the route, i.e., by avoiding the metropolitan area of Quer taro, at the extreme west, and going via San Juan del R o / Tequisquiapan / Bernal). The first stretch of the road is just a regular, huge highway, with no particular insights. The highways leaving and entering Mexico City on the North are not fun nor beautiful, only they are needed to get nice trips going Mexico City sits at a point of changing climates. Of course, it is a huge city And I cannot imagine how it would be without all of the urbanization it now sports. But anyway: On the West, South, and part of the East, it is surrounded by high mountains, with beautiful and dense forests. Mexico City is 2200m high, and most of the valley s surrounding peaks are ~3000m (and at the South Eastern tip, our two big volcanoes, Popocat petl and Iztacc huatl, get past the 5700m mark). Towards the North, the landscape is flatter and much more dry. Industrial compounds give way to dry grasslands. Of course, central Mexico does not understand the true meaning of flat, and the landscape is full with eh-not-very-big mountains. Then, as we entered Quer taro State, we started approaching Bernal. And we saw a huge rock that looks like it is not supposed to be there! It just does not fit the surroundings. Shortly after Bernal, we entered a beautiful, although most crumpled, mountain ridge: Sierra Gorda de Quer taro. Sierra Gorda encompasses most of the North of the (quite small 11500Km total) state of Quer taro, plus portions of the neighboring states; other than the very abrupt and sharp orography, what strikes me most is the habitat diversity it encompasses. We started going up an absolute desert, harsh and beautiful; we didn t take pictures along the way as the road is difficult enough that there are almost no points for stopping for refreshments or for photo opportunities. But it is quite majestic. And if you think deserts are barren, boring places well, please do spend some time enjoying them! Anyway At on point, the road passes by a ~3100m height, and suddenly Pines! More pines! A beautiful forest! We reached our first stop at the originally mining town of Pinal de Amoles. After spending the night there and getting a much needed rest, we started a quite steep descent towards Jalpan de Serra. While it is only ~20Km away on the map, we descended from 2300 to 760 meters of altitude (and the road was over 40Km long). Being much lower, the climate drastically changed from cool and humid to quite warm and the body attitude in the kids does not lie! In the mid-18th century, Fray Jun pero Serra established five missions to evangelize the population of this very harsh territory, and the frontispiece for the church and monastery in Jalpan is quite breathtaking. But we were just passing by Jalpan. A short visit to the church and to the ice-cream shop, and we were again on our way. We crossed the state border, entering San Luis Potos , and arrived to our main destination: Xilitla, the little town in the beautiful Huasteca where the jungle meets surrealism. Xilitla was chosen by the British poet and patron of various surrealist artists https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_James. He was a British noble (an unofficial grandson of King Edward VII), and heir to a huge fortune. I m not going to repeat here his very well known biography suffice to say that he got in love with the Huasteca, and bought a >30ha piece of jungle and mountain close to the Xilitla town, and made it his house. With very ample economic resources, in the late 1940s he started his lifelong project of building a surrealist garden. And Well, that s enough blabbering for me. I m sharing some pictures I took there. The place is plainly magic and wonderful. Edward James died in 1984, and his will decrees that after his death, the jungle should be allowed to reclaim the constructions so many structures are somewhat crumbling, and it is expected they will break down in the following decades. But for whoever comes to Mexico This magic place is definitely worth the heavy ride to the middle of the mountains and to the middle of the jungle. Xilitla now also hosts a very good museum with sculptures by Leonora Carrington, James long-time friend, but I m not going to abuse this space with even more pictures. And of course, we did more, and enjoyed more, during our three days in Xilitla. And for our way back I wanted to try a different route. We decided to come back to Mexico City crossing Hidalgo state instead of Quer taro. I had feared the roads would be in a worse shape or would be more difficult to travel And I was happy to be proven wrong! This was the longest driving stretch approximately 6:30 for 250Km. The roads are in quite decent shape, and while there are some stretches where we were quite lonely (probably the loneliest one was the sharp ascent from Tamazunchale to the detour before Orizatl n), the road felt safe and well kept at all times. The sights all across Eastern Hidalgo are breathtaking, and all furiously green (be it with really huge fern leaves or with tall, strong pines), until Zacualtip n. And just as abruptly or more as when we entered Pinal de Amoles We crossed Orizatl n, and we were in a breathtaking arid, desert-like environment again. We crossed the Barranca de Metztitl n natural reserve, and arrived to spend the night at Huasca de Ocampo. There are many more things we could have done starting at Huasca, a region where old haciendas thrived, full of natural formations, and very very interesting. But we were tired and pining to be finally back home. So we rested until mid-morning and left straight back home in Mexico City. Three hours later, we were relaxing, preparing lunch, the kids watching whatever-TV-like-things are called nowadays. All in all, a very beautiful vacation!

1 June 2023

Gunnar Wolf: Cheatable e-voting booths in Coahuila, Mexico, detected at the last minute

It s been a very long time I haven t blogged about e-voting, although some might remember it s been a topic I have long worked with; particularly, it was the topic of my 2018 Masters thesis, plus some five articles I wrote in the 2010-2018 period. After the thesis, I have to admit I got weary of the subject, and haven t pursued it anymore. So, I was saddened and dismayed to read that once again, as it has already happened the electoral authorities would set up a pilot e-voting program in the local elections this year, that would probably lead to a wider deployment next year, in the Federal elections. This year ( this week!), two States will have elections for their Governors and local Legislative branches: Coahuila (North, bordering with Texas) and Mexico (Center, surrounding Mexico City). They are very different states, demographically and in their development level. Pilot programs with e-voting booths have been seen in four states TTBOMK in the last ~15 years: Jalisco (West), Mexico City, State of Mexico and Coahuila. In Coahuila, several universities have teamed up with the Electoral Institute to develop their e-voting booth; a good thing that I can say about how this has been done in my country is that, at least, the Electoral Institute is providing their own implementations, instead of sourcing with e-booth vendors (which have their long, tragic story mostly in the USA, but also in other places). Not only that: They are subjecting the machines to audit processes. Not open audit processes, as demanded by academics in the field, but nevertheless, external, rigorous audit processes. But still, what me and other colleagues with Computer Security background oppose to is not a specific e-voting implementation, but the adoption of e-voting in general. If for nothing else, because of the extra complexity it brings, because of the many more checks that have to be put in place, and Because as programmers, we are aware of the ease with which bugs can creep in any given implementation both honest bugs (mistakes) and, much worse, bugs that are secretly requested and paid for. Anyway, leave this bit aside for a while. I m not implying there was any ill intent in the design or implementation of these e-voting booths. Two days ago, the Electoral Institute announced there was an important bug found in the Coahuila implementation. The bug consists, as far as I can understand from the information reported in newspapers, in: The problem was that the activation codes remained active after voting, so a voter could vote multiple times. This seems like an easy problem to be patched It most likely is. However, given the inability to patch, properly test, and deploy in a timely manner the fix to all of the booths (even though only 74 e-voting booths were to be deployed for this pilot), the whole pilot for Coahuila was scratched; Mexico State is voting with a different implementation that is not affected by this issue. This illustrates very well one of the main issues with e-voting technology: It requires a team of domain-specific experts to perform a highly specialized task (code and physical audits). I am happy and proud to say that part of the auditing experts were the professors of the Information Security Masters program of ESIME Culhuac n (the Masters program I was part of). The reaction by the Electoral Institute was correct. As far as I understand, there is no evidence suggesting this bug could have been purposefully built, but it s not impossible to rule it out. A traditional, paper-and-ink-based process is not only immune to attacks (or mistakes!) based on code such as this one, but can be audited by anybody. And that is, I believe, a fundamental property of democracy: ensuring the process is done right is not limited to a handful of domain experts. Not only that: In Mexico, I am sure there are hundreds of very proficient developers that could perform a code and equipment audit such as this one, but the audits are open by invitation only, so being an expert is not enough to get clearance to do this. In a democracy, the whole process should be observable and verifiable by anybody interested in doing so. Some links about this news:

1 May 2023

Gunnar Wolf: Scanning heaps of 8mm movies

After my father passed away, I brought home most of the personal items he had, both at home and at his office. Among many, many (many, many, many) other things, I brought two of his personal treasures: His photo collection and a box with the 8mm movies he shot approximately between 1956 and 1989, when he was forced into modernity and got a portable videocassette recorder. I have talked with several friends, as I really want to get it all in a digital format, and while I ve been making slow but steady advances scanning the photo reels, I was particularly dismayed (even though it was most expected most personal electronic devices aren t meant to last over 50 years) to find out the 8mm projector was no longer in working conditions; the lamp and the fans work, but the spindles won t spin. Of course, it is quite likely it is easy to fix, but it is beyond my tinkering abilities and finding photographic equipment repair shops is no longer easy. Anyway, even if I got it fixed, filming a movie from a screen, even with a decent camera, is a lousy way to get it digitized. But almost by mere chance, I got in contact with my cousin Daniel, ho came to Mexico to visit his parents, and had precisely brought with him a 8mm/Super8 movie scanner! It is a much simpler piece of equipment than I had expected, and while it does present some minor glitches (i.e. the vertical framing slightly loses alignment over the course of a medium-length film scanning session, and no adjustment is possible while the scan is ongoing), this is something that can be decently fixed in post-processing, and a scanning session can be split with no ill effects. Anyway, it is quite uncommon a mid-length (5min) film can be done without interrupting i.e. to join a splice, mostly given my father didn t just film, but also edited a lot (this is, it s not just family pictures, but all different kinds of fiction and documentary work he did). So, Daniel lent me a great, brand new, entry-level film scanner; I rushed to scan as many movies as possible before his return to the USA this week, but he insisted he bought it to help preserve our family s memory, and given we are still several cousins living in Mexico, I could keep hold of it so any other of the cousins will find it more easily. Of course, I am thankful and delighted! So, this equipment is a Magnasonic FS81. It is entry-level, as it lacks some adjustment abilities a professional one would surely have, and I m sure a better scanner will make the job faster but it s infinitely superior to not having it! The scanner processes roughly two frames per second (while the nominal 8mm/Super8 speed is 24 frames per second), so a 3 minute film reel takes a bit over 35 minutes And a long, ~20 minute film reel takes Close to 4hr, if nothing gets in your way :- And yes, with longer reels, the probability of a splice breaking are way higher than with a short one not only because there is simply a longer film to process, but also because, both at the unwinding and at the receiving reels, mechanics play their roles. The films don t advance smoothly, but jump to position each frame in the scanner s screen, so every bit of film gets its fair share of gentle tugs. My professional consultant on how and what to do is my good friend Chema Serralde, who has stopped me from doing several things I would regret later otherwise (such as joining spliced tapes with acidic chemical adhesives such as Kola Loka, a.k.a. Krazy Glue even if it s a bit trickier to do it, he insisted me on best using simple transparent tape if I m not buying fancy things such as film-adhesive). Chema also explained me the importance of the loopers (las Lupes in his technical Spanish translation), which I feared increased the likelihood of breaking a bit of old glue due to the angle in which the film gets pulled but if skipped, result in films with too much jumping. Not all of the movies I have are for public sharing Some of them are just family movies, with high personal value, but probably of very little interest to others. But some are! I have been uploading some of the movies, after minor post-processing, to the Internet Archive. Among them: Anyway, I have a long way forward for scanning. I have 20 3min reels, 19 5min reels, and 8 20min reels. I want to check the scanning quality, but I think my 20min reels are mostly processed (we paid for scanning them some years ago). I mostly finished the 3min reels, but might have to go over some of them again due to the learning process. And Well, I m having quite a bit of fun in the process!

Next.