Search Results: "jos"

20 July 2021

Enrico Zini: Run a webserver for a specific user *only*

I'm creating a program that uses the web browser for its user interface, and I'm reasonably sure I'm not the first person doing this. Normally such a problem would listen to a port on localhost, and tell the browser to connect to it. Bonus points for listening to a randomly allocated free port, so that one does not need to involve some amount of luck to get the program started. However, using a local port still means that any user on the local machine can connect to it, which is generally a security issue. A possible solution would be to use AF_UNIX Unix Domain Sockets, which are supported by various web servers, but as far as I understand not currently by browsers. I checked Firefox and Chrome, and they currently seem to fail to even acknowledge the use case. I'm reasonably sure I'm not the first person doing this, and yes, it's intended as an understatement. So, dear Lazyweb, is there a way to securely use a browser as a UI for a user's program, without exposing access to the backend to other users in the system? Access token in the URL Emanuele Di Giacomo suggests to add an access token to the URL that gets passed to the browser. This would work to protect access on localhost: even if the application cannot use HTTPS, other users cannot see packets that go through the local interface, so both the access token and the session cookie that one could send afterwards would be protected. Network namespaces I thought about isolating server and browser in a private network namespace with something like unshare(1), but it seems to require root. Johannes Schauer Marin Rodrigues wrote to correct that:
It's possible to unshare the network namespace by first unsharing the user namespace and thus becoming root which is possible without being root since #898446 got fixed. For example you can run this as the normal user: lxc-usernsexec -- lxc-unshare -s NETWORK -- ip addr If you don't want to depend on lxc, you can write a wrapper in Perl or Python. I have a Perl implementation of that in mmdebstrap.
Firewalling Martin Schuster wrote to suggest another option:
I had the same issue. My approach was "weird", but worked: Block /outgoing/ connections to the port, unless the uid is correct. That might be counter-intuitive, but of course all connections /to/ localhost will be done /from/ localhost also. Something like: iptables -A OUTPUT -p tcp -d localhost --dport 8123 -m owner --uid-owner joe -j ACCEPT iptables -A OUTPUT -p tcp -d localhost --dport 8123 -j REJECT

18 July 2021

Shirish Agarwal: BBI Kenyan Supreme Court, U.P. Population Bill, South Africa, Suli Deals , IT rules 2021, Sedition Law and Danish Siddiqui s death.

BBI Kenya and live Supreme Court streaming on YT The last few weeks have been unrelenting as all sorts of news have been coming in, mostly about the downturn in the Economy, Islamophobia in India on the rise, Covid, and electioneering. However, in the last few days, Kenya surpassed India in live-streaming proceeds in a Court of Appeals about BBI or Building Bridges Initiative. A background filler article on the topic can be found in BBC. The live-streaming was done via YT and if wants to they can start from One can also subscribe to K24TV which took the initiative of sharing the proceedings with people worldwide. If K24TV continues to share SC proceedings of Kenya, that would add to the soft power of Kenya. I will not go into the details of the case as Gautam Bhatia who has been following the goings-on in Kenya is a far better authority on the subject. In fact, just recently he shared about another Kenyan judgment from a trial which can be seen here. He has shared the proceedings and some hot takes on the Twitter thread started by him. Probably after a couple of weeks or more when he has processed what all has happened there, he may also share some nuances although many of his thoughts would probably go to his book on Comparative Constitutional Law which he hopes to publish maybe in 2021/2022 or whenever he can. Such televised proceedings are sure to alleviate the standing of Kenya internationally. There has been a proposal to do similar broadcasts by India but with surveillance built-in, so they know who is watching. The problems with the architecture and the surveillance built-in have been shared by Srinivas Kodali or DigitalDutta quite a few times, but that probably is a story for another day.

Uttar Pradesh Population Control Bill
Hindus comprise 83% of Indian couples with more than two child children
The U.P. Population Bill came and it came with lot of prejudices. One of the prejudices is the idea that Muslims create or procreate to have the most children. Even with data is presented as shared above from NFHS National Family Health Survey which is supposed to carry our surveys every few years did the last one around 4 years back. The analysis from it has been instrumental not only in preparing graphs as above but also sharing about what sort of death toll must have been in rural India. And as somebody who have had the opportunity in the past, can vouch that you need to be extremely lucky if something happens to you when you are in a rural area. Even in places like Bodh Gaya (have been there) where millions of tourists come as it is one of the places not to be missed on the Buddhism tourist circuit, the medical facilities are pretty underwhelming. I am not citing it simply because there are too many such newspaper reports from even before the pandemic, and both the State and the Central Govt. response has been dismal. Just a few months back, they were recalled. There were reports of votes being bought at INR 1000/- (around $14) and a bottle or two of liquor. There used to be a time when election monitoring whether national or state used to be a thing, and you had LTO s (Long-time Observers) and STO s (Short-Term Observers) to make sure that the election has been neutral. This has been on the decline in this regime, but that probably is for another time altogether. Although, have to point out the article which I had shared a few months ago on the private healthcare model is flawed especially for rural areas. Instead of going for cheap, telemedicine centers that run some version of a Linux distro. And can provide a variety of services, I know Kerala and Tamil Nadu from South India have experimented in past but such engagements need to be scaled up. This probably will come to know when the next time I visit those places (sadly due to the virus, not anytime soonish.:( ) . Going back to the original topic, though, I had shared Hans Rosling s famous Ted talk on population growth which shows that even countries which we would not normally associate with family planning for e.g. the middle-east and Africa have also been falling quite rapidly. Of course, when people have deeply held prejudices, then it is difficult. Even when sharing China as to how they had to let go of their old policy in 2016 as they had the thing for leftover men . I also shared the powerful movie So Long my Son. I even shared how in Haryana women were and are trafficked and have been an issue for centuries but as neither suits the RW propaganda, they simply refuse to engage. They are more repulsed by people who publish this news rather than those who are actually practicing it, as that is culture . There is also teenage pregnancy, female infanticide, sex-selective abortion, etc., etc. It is just all too horrible to contemplate. Personal anecdote I know a couple, or they used to be a couple, where the gentleman wanted to have a male child. It was only after they got an autistic child, they got their DNA tested and came to know that the gentleman had a genetic problem. He again forced and had another child, and that too turned out to be autistic. Finally, he left the wife and the children, divorced them and lived with another woman. Almost a decade of the wife s life was ruined. The wife before marriage was a gifted programmer employed at IBM. This was an arranged marriage. After this, if you are thinking of marrying, apart from doing astrology charts, also look up DNA compatibility charts. Far better than ruining yours or the women s life. Both the children whom I loved are now in heaven, god bless them  If one wants to, one can read a bit more about the Uttar Pradesh Population bill here. The sad part is that the systems which need fixing, nobody wants to fix. The reason being simple. If you get good health service by public sector, who will go to the private sector. In Europe, AFAIK they have the best medical bang for the money. Even the U.S. looks at Europe and hopes it had the systems that Europe has but that again is probably for another day.

South Africa and India long-lost brothers. As had shared before, after the 2016 South African Debconf convention, I had been following South Africa. I was happy when FeesMustFall worked and in 2017 the then ANC president Zuma declared it in late 2017. I am sure that people who have been regular visitors to this blog know how my position is on student loans. They also must be knowing that even in U.S. till the 1970s it had free education all the way to be a lawyer and getting a lawyer license. It is only when people like Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., and others from the civil rights movement came out as a major force that the capitalists started imposing fees. They wanted people who could be sold to corporate slavery, and they won. Just last week, Biden took some steps and canceled student loans and is working on steps towards broad debt forgiveness. Interestingly, NASA has an affirmative diversity program for people from diverse backgrounds, where a couple of UC (Upper Caste) women got the job. While they got the job, the RW (Right-Wing) was overjoyed as they got jobs on merit . Later, it was found that both the women were the third or fourth generation of immigrants in U.S.
NASA Federal Equal Opportunity Policy Directive NPD 3713 2H
Going back to the original question and topic, while there has been a concerning spate of violence, some calling it the worst sort of violence not witnessed since 1994. The problem, as ascertained in that article, is the same as here in India or elsewhere. Those, again, who have been on my blog know that merit 90% of the time is a function of privilege and there is a vast amount of academic literature which supports that. If, for a moment, you look at the data that is shared in the graph above which shows that 83% of Hindus and 13% of Muslims have more than 2 children, what does it show, it shows that 83+13 = 96% of the population is living in insecurity. The 5% are the ones who have actually consolidated more power during this regime rule in India. Similarly, from what I understood living in Cape Town for about a month, it is the Dutch Afrikaans as they like to call themselves and the immigrants who come from abroad who have enjoyed the fruits of tourism and money and power while the rest of the country is dying due to poverty. It is the same there, it is the same here. Corruption is also rampant in both countries, and the judiciary is virtually absent from both communities in India and SA. Interestingly, South Africa and India have been at loggerheads, but I suspect that is more due to the money and lobbying power by the Dutch. Usually, those who have money power, do get laws and even press on their side, and it is usually the ruling party in power. I cannot help but share about the Gupta brothers and their corruption as I came to know about it in 2016. And as have shared that I m related to Gupta s on my mother s side, not those specific ones but Gupta as a clan. The history of the Gupta dynasty does go back to the 3rd-4th century. Equally interesting have been Sonali Ranade s series of articles which she wrote in National Herald, the latest on exports which is actually the key to taking India out of poverty rather than anything else. While in other countries Exporters are given all sort of subsidies, here it is being worked as how to give them less. This was in Economic times hardly a week back
Export incentive schemes being reduced
I can t imagine the incredible stupidity done by the Finance Minister. And then in an attempt to prove that, they will attempt to present a rosy picture with numbers that have nothing to do with reality. Interestingly enough, India at one time was a major exporter of apples, especially from Kashmir. Now instead of exporting, we are importing them from Afghanistan as well as Belgium and now even from the UK. Those who might not want to use the Twitter link could use this article. Of course, what India got out of this trade deal is not known. One can see that the UK got the better deal from this. Instead of investing in our own capacity expansion, we are investing in increasing the capacity of others. This is at the time when due to fuel price hike (Central taxes 66%) demand is completely flat. And this is when our own CEA (Chief Economic Adviser) tells us that growth will be at the most 6-7% and that too in 2023-2024 while currently, the inflation rate is around 12%. Is it then any wonder that almost 70% are living on Govt. ration and people in the streets of Kolkata, Assam, and other places have to sell kidneys to make sure they have some money for their kids for tomorrow. Now I have nothing against the UK but trade negotiation is an art. Sadly, this has been going on for the last few years. The politicians in India fool the public by always telling of future trade deals. Sadly, as any businessman knows, once you have compromised, you always have to compromise. And the more you compromise, the more you weaken the hand for any future trade deals.
IIT pupil tries to sell kidney to repay loan, but no takers for Dalit organ.
The above was from yesterday s Times of India. Just goes to show how much people are suffering. There have been reports in vernacular papers of quite a few people from across regions and communities are doing this so they can live without pain a bit. Almost all the time, the politicians are saved as only few understand international trade, the diplomacy and the surrounding geopolitics around it. And this sadly, is as much to do with basic education as much as it is to any other factor

Suli Deals About a month back on the holy day of Ramzan or Ramadan as it is known in the west, which is beloved by Muslims, a couple of Muslim women were targeted and virtually auctioned. Soon, there was a flood and a GitHub repository was created where hundreds of Muslim women, especially those who have a voice and fearlessly talk about their understanding about issues and things, were being virtually auctioned. One week after the FIR was put up, to date none of the people mentioned in the FIR have been arrested. In fact, just yesterday, there was an open letter which was published by livelaw. I have saved a copy on WordPress just in case something does go wrong. Other than the disgust we feel, can t say much as no action being taken by GOI and police.

IT Rules 2021 and Big Media After almost a year of sleeping when most activists were screaming hoarsely about how the new IT rules are dangerous for one and all, big media finally woke up a few weeks back and listed a writ petition in Madras High Court of the same. Although to be frank, the real writ petition was filed In February 2021, classical singer, performer T.M. Krishna in Madras High Court. Again, a copy of the writ petition, I have hosted on WordPress. On 23rd June 2021, a group of 13 media outlets and a journalist have challenged the IT Rules, 2021. The Contention came from Digital News Publishers Association which is made up of the following news companies: ABP Network Private Limited, Amar Ujala Limited, DB Corp Limited, Express Network Pvt Ltd, HT Digital Streams Limited, IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd, Jagran Prakashan Limited, Lokmat Media Private Limited, NDTV Convergence Limited, TV Today Network Limited, The Malayala Manorama Co (P) Ltd, Times Internet Limited, and Ushodaya Enterprises Private Limited. All the above are heavyweights in the markets where they operate. The reason being simple, when these media organizations came into being, the idea was to have self-regulation, which by and large has worked. Now, the present Govt. wants each news item to be okayed by them before publication. This is nothing but blatant misuse of power and an attempt at censorship. In fact, the Tamil Nadu BJP president himself made a promise of the same. And of course, what is true and what is a lie, only GOI knows and will decide for the rest of the country. If somebody remembers Joseph Goebbels at this stage, it is merely a coincidence. Anyways, 3 days ago Supreme Court on 14th July the Honorable Supreme Court asked the Madras High Court to transfer all the petitions to SC. This, the Madras High Court denied as cited/shared by Meera Emmanuel, a reporter who works with barandbench. The Court says nothing doing, let this happen and then the SC can entertain the motion of doing it that level. At the same time, they would have the benefit of Madras High Court opinion as well. It gave the center two weeks to file a reply. So, either of end-week of July or latest by August first week, we might be able to read the Center s reply on the same. The SC could do a forceful intervention, but it would lead to similar outrage as has been witnessed in the past when a judge commented that if the SC has to do it all, then why do we need the High Courts, district courts etc. let all the solutions come from SC itself. This was, admittedly, frustration on the part of the judge, but due in part to the needless intervention of SC time and time again. But the concerns had been felt around all the different courts in the country.

Sedition Law A couple of days ago, the Supreme Court under the guidance of Honorable CJI NV Ramanna, entertained the PIL filed by Maj Gen S G Vombatkere (Retd.) which asked simply that the sedition law which was used in the colonial times by the British to quell dissent by Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak during the Indian freedom struggle. A good background filler article can be found on MSN which tells about some recent cases but more importantly how historically the sedition law was used to quell dissent during India s Independence. Another article on MSN actually elaborates on the PIL filed by Maj Gen S. G. Vombatkere. Another article on MSN tells how sedition law has been challenged and changed in 10 odd countries. I find it equally sad and equally hilarious that the Indian media whose job is to share news and opinion on this topic is being instead of being shared more by MSN. Although, I would be bereft of my duty if I did not share the editorial on the same topic by the Hindu and Deccan Chronicle. Also, an interesting question to ask is, are there only 10 countries in the world that have sedition laws? AFAIK, there are roughly 200 odd countries as recognized by WTO. If 190 odd countries do not have sedition laws, it also tells a lot about them and a lot about the remaining 10. Also, it came to light that police are still filing laws under sec66A which was declared null and void a few years ago. It was replaced with section 124A if memory serves right and it has more checks and balances.

Danish Siddiqui, Pulitzer award-winning and death in Afghanistan Before I start with Danish Siddiqui, let me share an anecdote that I think I have shared on the blog years ago about how photojournalists are. Again, those who know me and those who follow me know how much I am mad both about trains and planes (civil aviation). A few months back, I had shared a blog post about some of the biggest railway systems in the world which shows that privatization of Railways doesn t necessarily lead to up-gradation of services but definitely leads to an increase in tariff/fares. Just had a conversation couple of days ago on Twitter and realized that need to also put a blog post about civil aviation in India and the problems it faces, but I digress. This was about a gentleman who wanted to take a photo of a particular train coming out of a valley at a certain tunnel at two different heights, one from below and one from above the train. This was several years ago, and while I did share that award-winning photograph then, it probably would take me quite a bit of time and effort to again look it up on my blog and share. The logistics though were far more interesting and intricate than I had first even thought of. We came around a couple of days before the train was supposed to pass that tunnel and the valley. More than half a dozen or maybe more shots were taken throughout the day by the cameras. The idea was to see how much light was being captured by the cameras and how much exposure was to be given so that the picture isn t whitened out or is too black. Weather is the strangest of foes for a photojournalist or even photographers, and the more you are in nature, the more unpredictable it is and can be. We were also at a certain height, so care had to be taken in case light rainfall happens or dew falls, both not good for digital cameras. And dew is something which will happen regardless of what you want. So while the two days our gentleman cameraman fiddled with the settings to figure out correct exposure settings, we had one other gentleman who was supposed to take the train from an earlier station and apprise us if the train was late or not. The most ideal time would be at 0600 hrs. When the train would enter the tunnel and come out and the mixture of early morning sun rays, dew, the flowers in the valley, and the train would give a beautiful effect. We could stretch it to maybe 0700 hrs. Anything after that would just be useless, as it wouldn t have the same effect. And of all this depended on nature. If the skies were to remain too dark, nothing we could do about it, if the dewdrops didn t fall it would all be over. On the day of the shoot, we were told by our compatriot that the train was late by half an hour. We sank a little on hearing that news. Although Photoshop and others can do touch-ups, most professionals like to take as authentic a snap as possible. Everything had been set up to perfection. The wide-angle lenses on both the cameras with protections were set up. The tension you could cut with a knife. While we had a light breakfast, I took a bit more and went in the woods to shit and basically not be there. This was too tensed up for me. Returned an hour to find everybody in a good mood. Apparently, the shoot went well. One of the two captured it for good enough. Now, this is and was in a benign environment where the only foe was the environment. A bad shot would have meant another week in the valley, something which I was not looking forward to. Those who have lived with photographers and photojournalists know how self-involved they can be in their craft, while how grumpy they can be if they had a bad shoot. For those, who don t know, it is challenging to be friends with such people for a long time. I wish they would scream more at nature and let out the frustrations they have after a bad shoot. But again, this is in a very safe environment. Now let s cut to Danish Siddiqui and the kind of photojournalism he followed. He followed a much more riskier sort of photojournalism than the one described above. Krittivas Mukherjee in his Twitter thread shared how reporters in most advanced countries are trained in multiple areas, from risk assessment to how to behave in case you are kidnapped, are in riots, hostage situations, etc. They are also trained in all sorts of medical training from treating gunshot wounds, CPR, and other survival methods. They are supposed to carry medical equipment along with their photography equipment. Sadly, these concepts are unknown in India. And even then they get killed. Sadly, he attributes his death to the thrill of taking an exclusive photograph. And the gentleman s bio reads that he is a diplomat. Talk about tone-deafness  On another completely different level was Karen Hao who was full of empathy as she shared the humility, grace, warmth and kinship she describes in her interaction with the photojournalist. His body of work can be seen via his ted talk in 2020 where he shared a brief collage of his works. Latest, though in a turnaround, the Taliban have claimed no involvement in the death of photojournalist Danish Siddiqui. This could be in part to show the Taliban in a more favorable light as they do and would want to be showcased as progressive, even though they are forcing that all women within a certain age become concubines or marry the fighters and killing the minority Hazaras or doing vile deeds with them. Meanwhile, statements made by Hillary Clinton almost a decade, 12 years ago have come back into circulation which stated how the U.S. itself created the Taliban to thwart the Soviet Union and once that job was finished, forgot all about it. And then in 2001, it landed back in Afghanistan while the real terrorists were Saudi. To date, not all documents of 9/11 are in the public domain. One can find more information of the same here. This is gonna take probably another few years before Saudi Arabia s whole role in the September 11 attacks will be known. Last but not the least, came to know about the Pegasus spyware and how many prominent people in some nations were targeted, including in mine India. Will not talk more as it s already a big blog post and Pegasus revelations need an article on its own.

13 May 2021

Shirish Agarwal: Population, Immigration, Vaccines and Mass-Surveilance.

The Population Issue and its many facets Another couple of weeks passed. A Lot of things happening, lots of anger and depression in folks due to handling in pandemic, but instead of blaming they are willing to blame everybody else including the population. Many of them want forced sterilization like what Sanjay Gandhi did during the Emergency (1975). I had to share So Long, My son . A very moving tale of two families of what happened to them during the one-child policy in China. I was so moved by it and couldn t believe that the Chinese censors allowed it to be produced, shot, edited, and then shared worldwide. It also won a couple of awards at the 69th Berlin Film Festival, silver bear for the best actor and the actress in that category. But more than the award, the theme, and the concept as well as the length of the movie which was astonishing. Over a 3 hr. something it paints a moving picture of love, loss, shame, relief, anger, and asking for forgiveness. All of which can be identified by any rational person with feelings worldwide.

Girl child What was also interesting though was what it couldn t or wasn t able to talk about and that is the Chinese leftover men. In fact, a similar situation exists here in India, only it has been suppressed. This has been more pronounced more in Asia than in other places. One big thing in this is human trafficking and mostly women trafficking. For the Chinese male, that was happening on a large scale from all neighboring countries including India. This has been shared in media and everybody knows about it and yet people are silent. But this is not limited to just the Chinese, even Indians have been doing it. Even yesteryear actress Rupa Ganguly was caught red-handed but then later let off after formal questioning as she is from the ruling party. So much for justice. What is and has been surprising at least for me is Rwanda which is in the top 10 of some of the best places in equal gender. It, along with other African countries have also been in news for putting quite a significant amount of percentage of GDP into public healthcare (between 20-10%), but that is a story for a bit later. People forget or want to forget that it was in Satara, a city in my own state where 220 girls changed their name from nakusha or unwanted to something else and that had become a piece of global news. One would think that after so many years, things would have changed, the only change that has happened is that now we have two ministries, The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) and The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MoHFW). Sadly, in both cases, the ministries have been found wanting, Whether it was the high-profile Hathras case or even the routine cries of help which given by women on the twitter helpline. Sadly, neither of these ministries talks about POSH guidelines which came up after the 2012 gangrape case. For both these ministries, it should have been a pinned tweet. There is also the 1994 PCPNDT Act which although made in 1994, actually functioned in 2006, although what happens underground even today nobody knows  . On the global stage, about a decade ago, Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt argued in their book Freakonomics how legalized abortion both made the coming population explosion as well as expected crime rates to be reduced. There was a huge pushback on the same from the conservatives and has become a matter of debate, perhaps something that the Conservatives wanted. Interestingly, it hasn t made them go back but go forward as can be seen from the Freakonomics site.

Climate Change Another topic that came up for discussion was repeatedly climate change, but when I share Shell s own 1998 Confidential report titled Greenhouse effect all become strangely silent. The silence here is of two parts, there probably is a large swathe of Indians who haven t read the report and there may be a minority who have read it and know what already has been shared with U.S. Congress. The Conservative s argument has been for it is jobs and a weak we need to research more . There was a partial debunk of it on the TBD podcast by Matt Farell and his brother Sean Farell as to how quickly the energy companies are taking to the coming change.

Health Budget Before going to Covid stories. I first wanted to talk about Health Budgets. From the last 7 years the Center s allocation for health has been between 0.34 to 0.8% per year. That amount barely covers the salaries to the staff, let alone any money for equipment or anything else. And here by allocation I mean, what is actually spent, not the one that is shared by GOI as part of budget proposal. In fact, an article on Wire gives a good breakdown of the numbers. Even those who are on the path of free markets describe India s health business model as a flawed one. See the Bloomberg Quint story on that. Now let me come to Rwanda. Why did I chose Rwanda, I could have chosen South Africa where I went for Debconf 2016, I chose because Rwanda s story is that much more inspiring. In many ways much more inspiring than that South Africa in many ways. Here is a country which for decades had one war or the other, culminating into the Rwanda Civil War which ended in 1994. And coincidentally, they gained independence on a similar timeline as South Africa ending Apartheid in 1994. What does the country do, when it gains its independence, it first puts most of its resources in the healthcare sector. The first few years at 20% of GDP, later than at 10% of GDP till everybody has universal medical coverage. Coming back to the Bloomberg article I shared, the story does not go into the depth of beyond-expiry date medicines, spurious medicines and whatnot. Sadly, most media in India does not cover the deaths happening in rural areas and this I am talking about normal times. Today what is happening in rural areas is just pure madness. For last couple of days have been talking with people who are and have been covering rural areas. In many of those communities, there is vaccine hesitancy and why, because there have been whatsapp forwards sharing that if you go to a hospital you will die and your kidney or some other part of the body will be taken by the doctor. This does two things, it scares people into not going and getting vaccinated, at the same time they are prejudiced against science. This is politics of the lowest kind. And they do it so that they will be forced to go to temples or babas and what not and ask for solutions. And whether they work or not is immaterial, they get fixed and property and money is seized. Sadly, there are not many Indian movies of North which have tried to show it except for oh my god but even here it doesn t go the distance. A much more honest approach was done in Trance . I have never understood how the South Indian movies are able to do a more honest job of story-telling than what is done in Bollywood even though they do in 1/10th the budget that is needed in Bollywood. Although, have to say with OTT, some baggage has been shed but with the whole film certification rearing its ugly head through MEITY orders, it seems two steps backward instead of forward. The idea being simply to infantilize the citizens even more. That is a whole different ball-game which probably will require its own space.

Vaccine issues One good news though is that Vaccination has started. But it has been a long story full of greed by none other than GOI (Government of India) or the ruling party BJP. Where should I start with. I probably should start with this excellent article done by Priyanka Pulla. It is interesting and fascinating to know how vaccines are made, at least one way which she shared. She also shared about the Cutter Incident which happened in the late 50 s. The response was on expected lines, character assassination of her and the newspaper they published but could not critique any of the points made by her. Not a single point that she didn t think about x or y. Interestingly enough, in January 2021 Bharati Biotech was supposed to be share phase 3 trial data but hasn t been put up in public domain till May 2021. In fact, there have been a few threads raised by both well-meaning Indians as well as others globally especially on twitter to which GOI/ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) is silent. Another interesting point to note is that Russia did say in its press release that it is possible that their vaccine may not be standard (read inactivation on their vaccines and another way is possible but would take time, again Brazil has objected, but India hasn t till date.) What also has been interesting is the homegrown B.1.617 lineage or known as double mutant . This was first discovered from my own state, Maharashtra and then transported around the world. There is also B.1.618 which was found in West Bengal and is same or supposed to be similar to the one found in South Africa. This one is known as Triple mutant . About B.1.618 we don t know much other than knowing that it is much more easily transferable, much more infectious. Most countries have banned flights from India and I cannot fault them anyway. Hell, when even our diplomats do not care for procedures to be followed during the pandemic then how a common man is supposed to do. Of course, now for next month, Mr. Modi was supposed to go and now will not attend the G7 meeting. Whether, it is because he would have to face the press (the only Prime Minister and the only Indian Prime Minister who never has faced free press.) or because the Indian delegation has been disinvited, we would never know.

A good article which shares lots of lows with how things have been done in India has been an article by Arundhati Roy. And while the article in itself is excellent and shares a bit of the bitter truth but is still incomplete as so much has been happening. The problem is that the issue manifests in so many ways, it is difficult to hold on. As Arundhati shared, should we just look at figures and numbers and hold on, or should we look at individual ones, for e.g. the one shared in Outlook India. Or the one shared by Dr. Dipshika Ghosh who works in Covid ICU in some hospital
Dr. Dipika Ghosh sharing an incident in Covid Ward

Interestingly as well, while in the vaccine issue, Brazil Anvisa doesn t know what they are doing or the regulator just isn t knowledgeable etc. (statements by various people in GOI, when it comes to testing kits, the same is an approver.)

ICMR/DGCI approving internationally validated kits, Press release.

Twitter In the midst of all this, one thing that many people have forgotten and seem to have forgotten that Twitter and other tools are used by only the elite. The reason why the whole thing has become serious now than in the first phase is because the elite of India have also fallen sick and dying which was not the case so much in the first phase. The population on Twitter is estimated to be around 30-34 million and people who are everyday around 20 odd million or so, which is what 2% of the Indian population which is estimated to be around 1.34 billion. The other 98% don t even know that there is something like twitter on which you can ask help. Twitter itself is exclusionary in many ways, with both the emoticons, the language and all sorts of things. There is a small subset who does use Twitter in regional languages, but they are too small to write anything about. The main language is English which does become a hindrance to lot of people.

Censorship Censorship of Indians critical of Govt. mishandling has been non-stop. Even U.S. which usually doesn t interfere into India s internal politics was forced to make an exception. But of course, this has been on deaf ears. There is and was a good thread on Twitter by Gaurav Sabnis, a friend, fellow Puneite now settled in U.S. as a professor.
Gaurav on Trump-Biden on vaccination of their own citizens
Now just to surmise what has been happened in India and what has been happening in most of the countries around the world. Most of the countries have done centralization purchasing of the vaccine and then is distributed by the States, this is what we understand as co-operative federalism. While last year, GOI took a lot of money under the shady PM Cares fund for vaccine purchase, donations from well-meaning Indians as well as Industries and trade bodies. Then later, GOI said it would leave the states hanging and it is they who would have to buy vaccines from the manufacturers. This is again cheap politics. The idea behind it is simple, GOI knows that almost all the states are strapped for cash. This is not new news, this I have shared a couple of months back. The problem has been that for the last 6-8 months no GST meeting has taken place as shared by Punjab s Finance Minister Amarinder Singh. What will happen is that all the states will fight in-between themselves for the vaccine and most of them are now non-BJP Governments. The idea is let the states fight and somehow be on top. So, the pandemic, instead of being a public health issue has become something of on which politics has to played. The news on whatsapp by RW media is it s ok even if a million or two also die, as it is India is heavily populated. Although that argument vanishes for those who lose their dear and near ones. But that just isn t the issue, the issue goes much more deeper than that Oxygen:12%
Ambulances 28% Now all the products above are essential medical equipment and should be declared as essential medical equipment and should have price controls on which GST is levied. In times of pandemic, should the center be profiting on those. States want to let go and even want the center to let go so that some relief is there to the public, while at the same time make them as essential medical equipment with price controls. But GOI doesn t want to. Leaders of opposition parties wrote open letters but no effect. What is sad to me is how Ambulances are being taxed at 28%. Are they luxury items or sin goods ? This also reminds of the recent discovery shared by Mr. Pappu Yadav in Bihar. You can see the color of ambulances as shared by Mr. Yadav, and the same news being shared by India TV news showing other ambulances. Also, the weak argument being made of not having enough drivers. Ideally, you should have 2-3 people, both 9-1-1 and Chicago Fire show 2 people in ambulance but a few times they have also shown to be flipped over. European seems to have three people in ambulance, also they are also much more disciplined as drivers, at least an opinion shared by an American expat.
Pappu Yadav, President Jan Adhikar Party, Bihar May 11, 2021
What is also interesting to note is GOI plays this game of Health is State subject and health is Central subject depending on its convenience. Last year, when it invoked the Epidemic and DMA Act it was a Central subject, now when bodies are flowing down the Ganges and pyres being lit everywhere, it becomes a State subject. But when and where money is involved, it again becomes a Central subject. The States are also understanding it, but they are fighting on too many fronts.
Snippets from Karnataka High Court hearing today, 13th March 2021
One of the good things is most of the High Courts have woken up. Many of the people on the RW think that the Courts are doing Judicial activism . And while there may be an iota of truth in it, the bitter truth is that many judges or relatives or their helpers have diagnosed and some have even died due to Covid. In face of the inevitable, what can they do. They are hauling up local Governments to make sure they are accountable while at the same time making sure that they get access to medical facilities. And I as a citizen don t see any wrong in that even if they are doing it for selfish reasons. Because, even if justice is being done for selfish reasons, if it does improve medical delivery systems for the masses, it is cool. If it means that the poor and everybody else are able to get vaccinations, oxygen and whatever they need, it is cool. Of course, we are still seeing reports of patients spending in the region of INR 50k and more for each day spent in hospital. But as there are no price controls, judges cannot do anything unless they want to make an enemy of the medical lobby in the country. A good story on medicines and what happens in rural areas, see no further than Laakhon mein ek.
Allahabad High Court hauling Uttar Pradesh Govt. for lack of Oxygen is equal to genocide, May 11, 2021
The censorship is not just related to takedown requests on twitter but nowadays also any articles which are critical of the GOI s handling. I have been seeing many articles which have shared facts and have been critical of GOI being taken down. Previously, we used to see 404 errors happen 7-10 years down the line and that was reasonable. Now we see that happen, days weeks or months. India seems to be turning more into China and North Korea and become more anti-science day-by-day

Fake websites Before going into fake websites, let me start with a fake newspaper which was started by none other than the Gujarat CM Mr. Modi in 2005 .
Gujarat Satya Samachar 2005 launched by Mr. Modi.
And if this wasn t enough than on Feb 8, 2005, he had invoked Official Secrets Act
Mr. Modi invoking Official Secrets Act, Feb 8 2005 Gujarat Samachar
The headlines were In Modi s regime press freedom is in peril-Down with Modi s dictatorship. So this was a tried and tested technique. The above information was shared by Mr. Urvish Kothari, who incidentally also has his own youtube channel. Now cut to 2021, and we have a slew of fake websites being done by the same party. In fact, it seems they started this right from 2011. A good article on BBC itself tells the story. Hell, which basically combats disinformation in EU has a whole pdf chronicling how BJP has been doing it. Some of the sites it shared are

Times of New York
Manchester Times
Times of Los Angeles
Manhattan Post
Washington Herald
and many more. The idea being take any site name which sounds similar to a brand name recognized by Indians and make fool of them. Of course, those of who use whois and other such tools can easily know what is happening. Two more were added to the list yesterday, Daily Guardian and Australia Today. There are of course, many features which tell them apart from genuine websites. Most of these are on shared hosting rather than dedicated hosting, most of these are bought either from Godaddy and Bluehost. While Bluehost used to be a class act once upon a time, both the above will do anything as long as they get money. Don t care whether it s a fake website or true. Capitalism at its finest or worst depending upon how you look at it. But most of these details are lost on people who do not know web servers, at all and instead think see it is from an exotic site, a foreign site and it chooses to have same ideas as me. Those who are corrupt or see politics as a tool to win at any cost will not see it as evil. And as a gentleman Raghav shared with me, it is so easy to fool us. An example he shared which I had forgotten. Peter England which used to be an Irish brand was bought by Aditya Birla group way back in 2000. But even today, when you go for Peter England, the way the packaging is done, the way the prices are, more often than not, people believe they are buying the Irish brand. While sharing this, there is so much of Naom Chomsky which comes to my mind again and again

Caste Issues I had written about caste issues a few times on this blog. This again came to the fore as news came that a Hindu sect used forced labor from Dalit community to make a temple. This was also shared by the hill. In both, Mr. Joshi doesn t tell that if they were volunteers then why their passports have been taken forcibly, also I looked at both minimum wage prevailing in New Jersey as a state as well as wage given to those who are in the construction Industry. Even in minimum wage, they were giving $1 when the prevailing minimum wage for unskilled work is $12.00 and as Mr. Joshi shared that they are specialized artisans, then they should be paid between $23 $30 per hour. If this isn t exploitation, then I don t know what is. And this is not the first instance, the first instance was perhaps the case against Cisco which was done by John Doe. While I had been busy with other things, it seems Cisco had put up both a demurrer petition and a petition to strike which the Court stayed. This seemed to all over again a type of apartheid practice, only this time applied to caste. The good thing is that the court stayed the petition. Dr. Ambedkar s statement if Hindus migrate to other regions on earth, Indian caste would become a world problem given at Columbia University in 1916, seems to be proven right in today s time and sadly has aged well. But this is not just something which is there only in U.S. this is there in India even today, just couple of days back, a popular actress Munmun Dutta used a casteist slur and then later apologized giving the excuse that she didn t know Hindi. And this is patently false as she has been in the Bollywood industry for almost now 16-17 years. This again, was not an isolated incident. Seema Singh, a lecturer in IIT-Kharagpur abused students from SC, ST backgrounds and was later suspended. There is an SC/ST Atrocities Act but that has been diluted by this Govt. A bit on the background of Dr. Ambedkar can be found at a blog on Columbia website. As I have shared and asked before, how do we think, for what reason the Age of Englightenment or the Age of Reason happened. If I were a fat monk or a priest who was privileges, would I have let Age of Enlightenment happen. It broke religion or rather Church which was most powerful to not so powerful and that power was more distributed among all sort of thinkers, philosophers, tinkers, inventors and so on and so forth.

Situation going forward I believe things are going to be far more complex and deadly before they get better. I had to share another term called Comorbidities which fortunately or unfortunately has also become part of twitter lexicon. While I have shared what it means, it simply means when you have an existing ailment or condition and then Coronavirus attacks you. The Virus will weaken you. The Vaccine in the best case just stops the damage, but the damage already done can t be reversed. There are people who advise and people who are taking steroids but that again has its own side-effects. And this is now, when we are in summer. I am afraid for those who have recovered, what will happen to them during the Monsoons. We know that the Virus attacks most the lungs and their quality of life will be affected. Even the immune system may have issues. We also know about the inflammation. And the grant that has been given to University of Dundee also has signs of worry, both for people like me (obese) as well as those who have heart issues already. In other news, my city which has been under partial lockdown since a month, has been extended for another couple of weeks. There are rumors that the same may continue till the year-end even if it means economics goes out of the window.There is possibility that in the next few months something like 2 million odd Indians could die
The above is a conversation between Karan Thapar and an Oxford Mathematician Dr. Murad Banaji who has shared that the under-counting of cases in India is huge. Even BBC shared an article on the scope of under-counting. Of course, those on the RW call of the evidence including the deaths and obituaries in newspapers as a narrative . And when asked that when deaths used to be in the 20 s or 30 s which has jumped to 200-300 deaths and this is just the middle class and above. The poor don t have the money to get wood and that is the reason you are seeing the bodies in Ganges whether in Buxar Bihar or Gajipur, Uttar Pradesh. The sights and visuals makes for sorry reading
Pandit Ranjan Mishra son on his father s death due to unavailability of oxygen, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, 11th May 2021.
For those who don t know Pandit Ranjan Mishra was a renowned classical singer. More importantly, he was the first person to suggest Mr. Modi s name as a Prime Ministerial Candidate. If they couldn t fulfil his oxygen needs, then what can be expected for the normal public.

Conclusion Sadly, this time I have no humorous piece to share, I can however share a documentary which was shared on Feluda . I have shared about Feluda or Prodosh Chandra Mitter a few times on this blog. He has been the answer of James Bond from India. I have shared previously about The Golden Fortress . An amazing piece of art by Satyajit Ray. I watched that documentary two-three times. I thought, mistakenly that I am the only fool or fan of Feluda in Pune to find out that there are people who are even more than me. There were so many facets both about Feluda and master craftsman Satyajit Ray that I was unaware about. I was just simply amazed. I even shared few of the tidbits with mum as well, although now she has been truly hooked to Korean dramas. The only solace from all the surrounding madness. So, if you have nothing to do, you can look up his books, read them and then see the movies. And my first recommendation would be the Golden Fortress. The only thing I would say, do not have high hopes. The movie is beautiful. It starts slow and then picks up speed, just like a train. So, till later. Update The Mass surveillance part I could not do justice do hence removed it at the last moment. It actually needs its whole space, article. There is so much that the Govt. is doing under the guise of the pandemic that it is difficult to share it all in one article. As it is, the article is big

30 April 2021

Paul Wise: FLOSS Activities April 2021

Focus This month I didn't have any particular focus. I just worked on issues in my info bubble.




  • Debian: restart service killed by OOM killer, revert mirror redirection
  • Debian wiki: unblock IP addresses, approve accounts


Sponsors The flower/sptag work was sponsored by my employer. All other work was done on a volunteer basis.

12 April 2021

Russell Coker: Riverdale

I ve been watching the show Riverdale on Netflix recently. It s an interesting modern take on the Archie comics. Having watched Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space when I was younger I was anticipating something aimed towards a similar audience. As solving mysteries and crimes was apparently a major theme of the show I anticipated something along similar lines to Scooby Doo, some suspense and some spooky things, but then a happy ending where criminals get arrested and no-one gets hurt or killed while the vast majority of people are nice. Instead the first episode has a teen being murdered and Ms Grundy being obsessed with 15yo boys and sleeping with Archie (who s supposed to be 15 but played by a 20yo actor). Everyone in the show has some dark secret. The filming has a dark theme, the sky is usually overcast and it s generally gloomy. This is a significant contrast to Veronica Mars which has some similarities in having a young cast, a sassy female sleuth, and some similar plot elements. Veronica Mars has a bright theme and a significant comedy element in spite of dealing with some dark issues (murder, rape, child sex abuse, and more). But Riverdale is just dark. Anyone who watches this with their kids expecting something like Scooby Doo is in for a big surprise. There are lots of interesting stylistic elements in the show. Lots of clothing and uniform designs that seem to date from the 1940 s. It seems like some alternate universe where kids have smartphones and laptops while dressing in the style of the 1940s. One thing that annoyed me was construction workers using tools like sledge-hammers instead of excavators. A society that has smart phones but no earth-moving equipment isn t plausible. On the upside there is a racial mix in the show that more accurately reflects American society than the original Archie comics and homophobia is much less common than in most parts of our society. For both race issues and gay/lesbian issues the show treats them in an accurate way (portraying some bigotry) while the main characters aren t racist or homophobic. I think it s generally an OK show and recommend it to people who want a dark show. It s a good show to watch while doing something on a laptop so you can check Wikipedia for the references to 1940s stuff (like when Bikinis were invented). I m half way through season 3 which isn t as good as the first 2, I don t know if it will get better later in the season or whether I should have stopped after season 2. I don t usually review fiction, but the interesting aesthetics of the show made it deserve a review.

18 February 2021

Dirk Eddelbuettel: dang 0.0.13: New intradayMarketMonitor

sp500 intraday monitor A new release of the dang package got to CRAN earlier today, a few months since the last relase. The dang package regroups a few functions of mine that had no other home as for example lsos() from a StackOverflow question from 2009 (!!) is one, this overbought/oversold price band plotter from an older blog post is another. This release adds one function I tweeted about one month ago. It takes a function Josh Ulrich originally tweeted about in November with a reference to this gist. I refactored this into a proper functions and polished a few edges: the data now properly rolls off after a fixed delay (of two days), should work with other symbols (though we both focused on ^GSPC as a free (!!) real-time SP500 index (albeit only during trading hours), properly gaps between trading days and more. You can simply invoke it via
and a chart just like the one here will grow (though there is no state : if you stop it, or reboot, or the plot starts from scratch). The short NEWS entry follows.

Changes in version 0.0.13 (2021-02-17)
  • New function intradayMarketMonitor based on an earlier gist-posted snippet by Josh Ulrich.
  • The CI setup was generalized as a test for 'r-ci' and is used essentially unchanged with three different providers.

Courtesy of my CRANberries, there is a comparison to the previous release. For questions or comments use the issue tracker off the GitHub repo. If you like this or other open-source work I do, you can now sponsor me at GitHub.

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

27 January 2021

Jonathan Dowland: 2020 in Fiction

Cover for Susanna Clarke's Piranesi
Cover for Emily St. John Mandel's Station 11
I managed to read 31 "books" in 2020. I'm happy with that. I thought the Pandemic would prevent me reaching my goal (30), since I did most of my reading on the commute to the Newcastle office, pre-pandemic. Somehow I've managed to compensate. I started setting a goal for books read per year in 2012 when I started to use goodreads. Doing so started to influence the type of reading I do (which is the reason I stopped my Interzone subscription in 2014, although I resumed it again sometime afterwards). Once I realised that I've been a bit more careful to ensure setting a goal was a worthwhile thing to do and not just another source of stress in my life. Two books I read were published in 2020. The first was Robert Galbraith's (a.k.a. J K Rowling's) Troubled Blood, the fifth (and largest) in the series of crime novels featuring Cormoran Strike (and the equally important Robin Ellacott). Nowadays Rowling is a controversial figure, but I'm not writing about that today, or the book itself, in much detail: briefly, it exceeded expectations, and my wife and I really enjoyed it. The other was Susanna Clarke's Piranesi: an utterly fantastic modern-fantasy story, quite short, completely different to her successful debut novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I really loved this book, partly because it appeals to my love of fantasy geography, but also because it is very well put together, with a strong sense of the value of people's lives. A couple of the other books I read were quite Pandemic-appropriate. I tore through Josh Malerman's Bird Box, a fast-paced post-apocalyptic style horror/suspense story. The appeal was mostly in the construction and delivery: the story itself was strong enough to support the book at the length that it is, but I don't really feel it could have lasted much longer, and so I've no idea how the new sequel (Malorie) will work. The other was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This was a story about a group of travelling musicians in a post-apocalyptic (post-pandemic) North America. A cast of characters all revolve around their relationship (or six degrees of separation) to an actor who died just prior to the Pandemic. The world-building in this book was really strong, and I felt sufficiently invested in the characters that I would love to read more about them in another book. However, I think that (although I'm largely just guessing here), in common with Bird Box, the setting was there to support the novel and the ideas that the author wanted to get across, and so I (sadly) doubt she will return to it. Finally I read a lot of short fiction. I'll write more about that in a separate blog post.

22 January 2021

Enrico Zini: Gitlab runners with nspawn

This is a first post in a series about trying to setup a gitlab runner based on systemd-nspawn. I published the polished result as nspawn-runner on GitHub. The goal I need to setup gitlab runners, and I try to not involve docker in my professional infrastructure if I can avoid it. Let's try systemd-nspawn. It's widely available and reasonably reliable. I'm not the first to have this idea: Federico Ceratto made a setup based on custom runners and Josef Kufner one based on ssh runners. I'd like to skip the complication of ssh, and to expand Federico's version to persist not just filesystem changes but also any other side effect of CI commands. For example, one CI command may bring up a server and the next CI command may want to test interfacing with it. Understanding gitlab-runner First step: figuring out gitlab-runner. Test runs of gitlab-runner I found that I can run gitlab-runner manually without needing to go through a push to Gitlab. It needs a local git repository with a .gitlab-ci.yml file:
mkdir test
cd test
git init
cat > .gitlab-ci.yml << EOF
  - env   sort
  - pwd
  - ls -la
git add .gitlab-ci.yml
git commit -am "Created a test repo for gitlab-runner"
Then I can go in the repo and test gitlab-runner:
gitlab-runner exec shell tests
It doesn't seem to use /etc/gitlab-runner/config.toml and it needs all the arguments passed to its command line: I used the shell runner for a simple initial test. Later I'll try to brew a gitlab-runner exec custom invocation that uses nspawn. Basics of custom runners A custom runner runs a few scripts to manage the run: run gets at least one argument which is a path to the script to run. The other scripts get no arguments by default. The runner configuration controls the paths of the scripts to run, and optionally extra arguments to pass to them Next steps My next step will be to figure out possible ways of invoking nspawn for the prepare, run, and cleanup scripts.

17 January 2021

Wouter Verhelst: Software available through Extrepo

Just over 7 months ago, I blogged about extrepo, my answer to the "how do you safely install software on Debian without downloading random scripts off the Internet and running them as root" question. I also held a talk during the recent "MiniDebConf Online" that was held, well, online. The most important part of extrepo is "what can you install through it". If the number of available repositories is too low, there's really no reason to use it. So, I thought, let's look what we have after 7 months... To cut to the chase, there's a bunch of interesting content there, although not all of it has a "main" policy. Each of these can be enabled by installing extrepo, and then running extrepo enable <reponame>, where <reponame> is the name of the repository. Note that the list is not exhaustive, but I intend to show that even though we're nowhere near complete, extrepo is already quite useful in its current state:

Free software
  • The debian_official, debian_backports, and debian_experimental repositories contain Debian's official, backports, and experimental repositories, respectively. These shouldn't have to be managed through extrepo, but then again it might be useful for someone, so I decided to just add them anyway. The config here uses the alias for CDN-backed package mirrors.
  • The belgium_eid repository contains the Belgian eID software. Obviously this is added, since I'm upstream for eID, and as such it was a large motivating factor for me to actually write extrepo in the first place.
  • elastic: the elasticsearch software.
  • Some repositories, such as dovecot, winehq and bareos contain upstream versions of their respective software. These two repositories contain software that is available in Debian, too; but their upstreams package their most recent release independently, and some people might prefer to run those instead.
  • The sury, fai, and postgresql repositories, as well as a number of repositories such as openstack_rocky, openstack_train, haproxy-1.5 and haproxy-2.0 (there are more) contain more recent versions of software packaged in Debian already by the same maintainer of that package repository. For the sury repository, that is PHP; for the others, the name should give it away. The difference between these repositories and the ones above is that it is the official Debian maintainer for the same software who maintains the repository, which is not the case for the others.
  • The vscodium repository contains the unencumbered version of Microsoft's Visual Studio Code; i.e., the codium version of Visual Studio Code is to code as the chromium browser is to chrome: it is a build of the same softare, but without the non-free bits that make code not entirely Free Software.
  • While Debian ships with at least two browsers (Firefox and Chromium), additional browsers are available through extrepo, too. The iridiumbrowser repository contains a Chromium-based browser that focuses on privacy.
  • Speaking of privacy, perhaps you might want to try out the torproject repository.
  • For those who want to do Cloud Computing on Debian in ways that isn't covered by Openstack, there is a kubernetes repository that contains the Kubernetes stack, the as well as the google_cloud one containing the Google Cloud SDK.

Non-free software While these are available to be installed through extrepo, please note that non-free and contrib repositories are disabled by default. In order to enable these repositories, you must first enable them; this can be accomplished through /etc/extrepo/config.yaml.
  • In case you don't care about freedom and want the official build of Visual Studio Code, the vscode repository contains it.
  • While we're on the subject of Microsoft, there's also Microsoft Teams available in the msteams repository. And, hey, skype.
  • For those who are not satisfied with the free browsers in Debian or any of the free repositories, there's opera and google_chrome.
  • The docker-ce repository contains the official build of Docker CE. While this is the free "community edition" that should have free licenses, I could not find a licensing statement anywhere, and therefore I'm not 100% sure whether this repository is actually free software. For that reason, it is currently marked as a non-free one. Merge Requests for rectifying that from someone with more information on the actual licensing situation of Docker CE would be welcome...
  • For gamers, there's Valve's steam repository.
Again, the above lists are not meant to be exhaustive. Special thanks go out to Russ Allbery, Kim Alvefur, Vincent Bernat, Nick Black, Arnaud Ferraris, Thorsten Glaser, Thomas Goirand, Juri Grabowski, Paolo Greppi, and Josh Triplett, for helping me build the current list of repositories. Is your favourite repository not listed? Create a configuration based on template.yaml, and file a merge request!

27 December 2020

John Goerzen: See The World Through the Eyes of a Child, and You Are Free

Because we see things so often, we see them less and less. Those who live in thanksgiving daily, however, have a way of opening their eyes and seeing the wonders and beauties of this world as though seeing them for the first time. Joseph Wirthlin
Today is about dirt. I had to learn about it, again, from my 2-year-old last week. She and I were playing outside something we have more time to do right now. She started to roll around in the grass, and asked me to play in the grass, too. As I got close to the ground, I inhaled the wonderfully sweet and earthy scent of spring soil. I hadn t smelled that in a long time. What an unexpected gift. This photo is of a child, having a fantastic time with dirt and water. The more bits of Kansas he had on him, the more shrieks of laughter I heard. It think most adults keep forgetting the joys of simple things like dirt. I am lucky to have children around to remind me. This week, I also had the opportunity to teach my 2-year-old the joys of making big splashes in mud puddles, so maybe I can also remind them on occasion.
See the world as if for the first time; see it through the eyes of a child, and you will suddenly find that you are free. Deepak Chopra
Rural Kansas, 2016 (I originally wrote this on March 31, and am sharing it on my blog for the first time today.)

16 November 2020

Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (September and October 2020)

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

10 July 2020

Iain R. Learmonth: Light OpenStreetMapping with GPS

Now that lockdown is lifting a bit in Scotland, I ve been going a bit further for exercise. One location I ve been to a few times is Tyrebagger Woods. In theory, I can walk here from my house via Brimmond Hill although I m not yet fit enough to do that in one go. Instead of following the main path, I took a detour along some route that looked like it wanted to be a path but it hadn t been maintained for a while. When I decided I d had enough of this, I looked for a way back to the main path but OpenStreetMap didn t seem to have the footpaths mapped out here yet. I ve done some OpenStreetMap surveying before so I thought I d take a look at improving this, and moving some of the tracks on the map closer to where they are in reality. In the past I ve used OSMTracker which was great, but now I m on iOS there doesn t seem to be anything that matches up. My new handheld radio, a Kenwood TH-D74 has the ability to record GPS logs so I thought I d give this a go. It records the logs to the SD card with one file per session. It s a very simple logger that records the NMEA strings as they are received. The only sentences I see in the file are GPGGA (Global Positioning System Fix Data) and GPRMC (Recommended Minimum Specific GPS/Transit Data). I tried to import this directly with JOSM but it seemed to throw an error and crash. I ve not investigated this, but I thought a way around could be to convert this to GPX format. This was easier than expected:
apt install gpsbabel
gpsbabel -i nmea -f "/sdcard/KENWOOD/TH-D74/GPS_LOG/25062020_165017.nme" \
                 -o gpx,gpxver=1.1 -F "/tmp/tyrebagger.gpx"
This imported into JOSM just fine and I was able to adjust some of the tracks to better fit where they actually are. I ll take the radio with me when I go in future and explore some of the other paths, to see if I can get the whole woods mapped out nicely. It is fun to just dive into the trees sometimes, along the paths that looks a little forgotten and overgrown, but also it s nice to be able to find your way out again when you get lost.

10 June 2020

Dirk Eddelbuettel: binb 0.0.6: Small enhancements

The sixth release of the binb package is now on CRAN. binb regroups four rather nice themes for writing LaTeX Beamer presentations much more easily in (R)Markdown. As a teaser, a quick demo combining all four themes follows; documentation and examples are in the package. Via two contributed PRs, this releases adds titlepage support via the YAML header for Metropolis, and suppresses nags about the changed natbib default. A little polish on the README and Travis rounds everything off.

Changes in binb version 0.0.6 (2020-06-10)
  • Support for YAML option titlegraphic was added in Metropolis (Andras Scraka in #23).
  • The file received another badge (Dirk).
  • The natbib default value was updated to accomodate rmarkdown (Joseph Stachelek in #26).
  • Travis now uses R 4.0.0 and 'bionic' (Dirk).

CRANberries provides a summary of changes to the previous version. For questions or comments, please use the issue tracker at GitHub. If you like this or other open-source work I do, you can now sponsor me at GitHub. For the first year, GitHub will match your contributions.

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

1 June 2020

Utkarsh Gupta: FOSS Activites in May 2020

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

This month marks my 15 months of contributing to Debian. And 6th month as a DD! \o/ Whilst I love doing Debian stuff, I have started spending more time on the programming side now. And I hope to keep it this for some time now.
Of course, I ll keep doing the Debian stuff, but just lesser in amount. Anyway, the following are the things I did in May.


Other $things:
  • Hosted Ruby team meeting. Logs here.
  • Attended Debian Perl Sprints. Report here.
  • Sponsored git-repo-updater and mplcursors for Sudip.
  • Mentoring for newcomers.
  • FTP Trainee reviewing.
  • Moderation of -project mailing list.
  • Got selected for GSoC 20 for Debian!

Experimenting and improving Ruby libraries FTW!
I have been very heavily involved with the Debian Ruby team for over an year now.
Thanks to Antonio Terceiro (and GSoC), I ve started experimenting and taking more interest in upstream development and improvement of these libraries. This has the sole purpose of learning. It has gotten fun since I ve started doing Ruby.
And I hope it stays this way. This month, I opened some issues and proposed a few pull requests. They are:
  • Issue #802 against whenever for Ruby2.7 test failures.
  • Issue #8 against aggregate asking upstream for a release on rubygems.
  • Issue #104 against irb for asking more about Array.join("\n").
  • Issue #1391 against mail asking upstream to cut a new release.
  • Issue #1655 against rack reporting test failures in the CVE fix.
  • Issue #84 against ruby-dbus for help with Debian bug #836296.
  • Issue #85 against ruby-dbus asking if they still use rDoc for doc generation.
  • PR #9 against aggregate for dropping git from gemspec.
  • PR #804 against whenever for dropping git from gemspec.
  • Packaged ruby-cmath as it was split from Ruby2.7; cf: (#961213).

Debian LTS
Debian Long Term Support (LTS) is a project to extend the lifetime of all Debian stable releases to (at least) 5 years. Debian LTS is not handled by the Debian security team, but by a separate group of volunteers and companies interested in making it a success. This was my eighth month as a Debian LTS paid contributor. I was assigned 17.25 hours and worked on the following things:

CVE Fixes and Announcements:

Other LTS Work:
  • Triaged tika, freerdp, and apache2.
  • Mark CVE-2020-12105/openconnect as no-dsa not-affected for Jessie.
  • Mark CVE-2020-9489/tika as no-dsa ignored for Jessie.
  • Mark CVE-2020-11025/wordpres as not-affected for Jessie.
  • Add fix for Add fix for CVE-2019-18823/condor.
  • Requested CVE for bug#60251 against apache2.
  • Raised issue #947 against sympa reporting an incomplete patch for CVE-2020-10936.
  • Created the LTS Survey on the self-hosted LimeSurvey instance.
  • Attended the second LTS meeting. Logs here.
  • General discussion on LTS private and public mailing list.

Sometimes it gets hard to categorize work/things into a particular category.
That s why I am writing all of those things inside this category.
This includes two sub-categories and they are as follows.

Personal: This month I could get the following things done:
  • Wrote and published my first Ruby gem/library/tool on RubyGems!
    It s open-sourced and the repository is here.
    Bug reports and pull requests are welcomed!
  • Wrote a small Ruby script (available here) to install Ruby gems from Gemfile(.lock).
    Needed this when I hit a bug while using ruby-standalone, which Antonio fixed pretty quickly!
  • Had a coffee chat with John Coghlan!
    Tweet here.

Open Source: Again, this contains all the things that I couldn t categorize earlier.
Opened several issues and did a PR review:
  • Issue #15434 against phantomjs, asking to look into CVE-2019-17221. Still no action :/
  • Issue #947 against sympa, reporting an incomplete patch for CVE-2020-10936.
  • Issue #2102 against polybar, mentioning that the build is not reproducible.
  • Issue #5521 against libgit2, mentioning that the build is not reproducible.
  • Reviewed PR #5523 for polybar, which was a fix for the above issue.

Until next time.
:wq for today.

1 May 2020

Utkarsh Gupta: FOSS Activites in April 2020

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

It s been 14 months since I ve started contributing to Debian. And 4 months since I ve been a Debian Developer. And in this beautiful time, I had this opprotunity to do and learn lots of new and interesting things. And most importantly, meet and interact with lots of lovely people!
Debian is $home.


Other $things:
  • Attended Ruby team meeting. Logs here.
  • Attended Perl team LHF. Report here.
  • Sponsored a lot of uploads for William Desportes and Adam Cecile.
  • Mentoring for newcomers.
  • FTP Trainee reviewing.
  • Moderation of -project mailing list.
  • Applied for DUCI project for Google Summer of Code 2020.

Ruby2.7 Migration:
Ruby2.7 was recently released on 25th December, 2019. Santa s gift. Believe it or not. We, the Debian Ruby team, have been trying hard to make it migrate to testing. And it finally happened. The default version in testing is ruby2.7. Here s the news! \o/
Here s what I worked on this month for this transition.

Upstream: Opened several issues and proposed patches (in the form of PRs):
  • Issue #35 against encryptor for Ruby2.7 test failures.
  • Issue #28 against image_science for removing relative paths.
  • Issue #106 against ffi-yajl for Ruby2.7 test failures.
  • PR #5 against aggregate for simply using require.
  • PR #6 against aggregate for modernizing CI and adding Ruby 2.5 and 2.7 support.
  • Issue #13 against espeak-ruby for Ruby2.7 test failures.
  • Issue #4 against tty-which for test failures in general.
  • Issue #11 against packable for Ruby2.7 test failures. PR #12 has been proposed.
  • Issue #10 against growl for test failures and proposed an initial patch.

Downstream: I fixed and uploaded the following packages in Debian:

Debian LTS
Debian Long Term Support (LTS) is a project to extend the lifetime of all Debian stable releases to (at least) 5 years. Debian LTS is not handled by the Debian security team, but by a separate group of volunteers and companies interested in making it a success.
This was my seventh month as a Debian LTS paid contributor. I was assigned 24.00 hours and worked on the following things:

CVE Fixes and Announcements:

Other LTS Work:

Sometimes it gets hard to categorize work/things into a particular category.
That s why I am writing all of those things inside this category.
This includes two sub-categories and they are as follows.

Personal: This month I could get the following things done:
  • Most importantly, I finally migrated to a new website. Huge UI imporvement! \o/
    From Jekyll to Hugo, it was not easy. But it was worth it! Many thanks to Luiz for writing hugo-coder, Clement, and Samyak!
    If you find any flaws, issues and pull requests are welcomed at utkarsh2102/
  • Wrote battery-alert, a mini-project of my own to show battery alerts at <10% and >90%.
    Written in shell, it brings me all the satisfaction as it has saved my life on many occasions.
    And guess what? It has more users than just myself!
    Reviews and patches are welcomed \o/
  • Mentored in HackOn Hackathon. Thanks to Manvi for reaching out!
    It was fun to see people developing some really nice projects.
  • Thanks to Ray and John, I became a GitLab Hero!
    (I am yet to figure out my role and responibility though)
  • Atteneded Intro Sec Con and had the most fun!
    Heard Ian s keynote and attended other talks and learned how to use WireShark!

Open Source: Again, this contains all the things that I couldn t categorize earlier.
Opened several issues and pull requests:
  • Issue #297 against hugo-coder, asking to enable RSS feed for blogs.
  • PR #316 for hugo-coder for fixing the above issue myself.
  • Issue #173 against arbre for requesting a release.
  • Issue #104 against combustion, asking to relax dependency on rubocop. Fixed in this commit.
  • Issue #16 against ffi-compiler for requesting to fix homepage and license.
  • Issue #57 against gographviz for requesting a release.
  • Issue #14 against crb-blast, suggesting compatability with bio 2.0.x.
  • Issue #58 against uniform_notifier for asking to drop the use of ruby-growl.
  • PR #2072 for polybar, adding installation instructions on Debian systems.

Until next time.
:wq for today.

31 March 2020

Chris Lamb: Free software activities in March 2020

Here is my monthly update covering what I have been doing in the free software world during March 2020 (previous month): In addition, I did even more hacking on the Lintian static analysis tool for Debian packages, including:
Reproducible builds One of the original promises of open source software is that distributed peer review and transparency of process results in enhanced end-user security. However, whilst anyone may inspect the source code of free and open source software for malicious flaws, almost all software today is distributed as pre-compiled binaries. This allows nefarious third-parties to compromise systems by injecting malicious code into ostensibly secure software during the various compilation and distribution processes. The motivation behind the Reproducible Builds effort is to ensure no flaws have been introduced during this compilation process by promising identical results are always generated from a given source, thus allowing multiple third-parties to come to a consensus on whether a build was compromised. The initiative is proud to be a member project of the Software Freedom Conservancy, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charity focused on ethical technology and user freedom. Conservancy acts as a corporate umbrella allowing projects to operate as non-profit initiatives without managing their own corporate structure. If you like the work of the Conservancy or the Reproducible Builds project, please consider becoming an official supporter. This month, I: In our tooling, I also made the following changes to diffoscope, our in-depth and content-aware diff utility that can locate and diagnose reproducibility issues, including preparing and uploading version 138 to Debian: The Reproducible Builds project also operates a fully-featured and comprehensive Jenkins-based testing framework that powers This month, I reworked the web-based package rescheduling tool to:
Debian LTS This month I have worked 18 hours on Debian Long Term Support (LTS) and 8 hours on its sister Extended LTS project. You can find out more about the Debian LTS project via the following video:
Debian Uploads For the Debian Privacy Maintainers team I requested that the pyptlib package be removed from the archive (#953429) as well as uploading onionbalance (0.1.8-6) to fix test failures under Pytest 3.x (#953535) and a new upstream release of nautilus-wipe. Finally, I sponsored an upload of bilibop (0.6.1) on behalf of Yann Amar.

17 March 2020

Dirk Eddelbuettel: Rcpp 1.0.4: Lots of goodies

rcpp logo The fourth maintenance release 1.0.4 of Rcpp, following up on the 10th anniversary and the 1.0.0. release sixteen months ago, arrived on CRAN this morning. This follows a few days of gestation at CRAN. To help during the wait we provided this release via drat last Friday. And it followed a pre-release via drat a week earlier. But now that the release is official, Windows and macOS binaries will be built by CRAN over the next few days. The corresponding Debian package will be uploaded as a source package shortly after which binaries can be built. As with the previous releases Rcpp 1.0.1, Rcpp 1.0.2 and Rcpp 1.0.3, we have the predictable and expected four month gap between releases which seems appropriate given both the changes still being made (see below) and the relative stability of Rcpp. It still takes work to release this as we run multiple extensive sets of reverse dependency checks so maybe one day we will switch to six month cycle. For now, four months still seem like a good pace. Rcpp has become the most popular way of enhancing R with C or C++ code. As of today, 1873 packages on CRAN depend on Rcpp for making analytical code go faster and further, along with 191 in BioConductor. And per the (partial) logs of CRAN downloads, we are running steasy at one millions downloads per month. This release features quite a number of different pull requests by seven different contributors as detailed below. One (personal) highlight is the switch to tinytest.

Changes in Rcpp version 1.0.4 (2020-03-13)
  • Changes in Rcpp API:
    • Safer Rcpp_list*, Rcpp_lang* and Function.operator() (Romain in #1014, #1015).
    • A number of #nocov markers were added (Dirk in #1036, #1042 and #1044).
    • Finalizer calls clear external pointer first (Kirill M ller and Dirk in #1038).
    • Scalar operations with a rhs matrix no longer change the matrix value (Qiang in #1040 fixing (again) #365).
    • Rcpp::exception and Rcpp::stop are now more thread-safe (Joshua Pritikin in #1043).
  • Changes in Rcpp Attributes:
    • The cppFunction helper now deals correctly with mulitple depends arguments (TJ McKinley in #1016 fixing #1017).
    • Invisible return objects are now supported via new option (Kun Ren in #1025 fixing #1024).
    • Unavailable packages referred to in LinkingTo are now reported (Dirk in #1027 fixing #1026).
    • The sourceCpp function can now create a debug DLL on Windows (Dirk in #1037 fixing #1035).
  • Changes in Rcpp Documentation:
    • The .github/ directory now has more explicit guidance on contributing, issues, and pull requests (Dirk).
    • The Rcpp Attributes vignette describe the new invisible return object option (Kun Ren in #1025).
    • Vignettes are now included as pre-made pdf files (Dirk in #1029)
    • The Rcpp FAQ has a new entry on the recommended importFrom directive (Dirk in #1031 fixing #1030).
    • The bib file for the vignette was once again updated to current package versions (Dirk).
  • Changes in Rcpp Deployment:
    • Added unit test to check if C++ version remains remains aligned with the package number (Dirk in #1022 fixing #1021).
    • The unit test system was switched to tinytest (Dirk in #1028, #1032, #1033).

Please note that the change to execptions and Rcpp::stop() in pr #1043 has been seen to have a minor side effect on macOS issue #1046 which has already been fixed by Kevin in pr #1047 for which I may prepare a release for the Rcpp drat repo in a day or two. Thanks to CRANberries, you can also look at a diff to the previous release. Questions, comments etc should go to the rcpp-devel mailing list off the R-Forge page. Bugs reports are welcome at the GitHub issue tracker as well (where one can also search among open or closed issues); questions are also welcome under rcpp tag at StackOverflow which also allows searching among the (currently) 2356 previous questions. If you like this or other open-source work I do, you can now sponsor me at GitHub. For the first year, GitHub will match your contributions.

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

2 March 2020

Antoine Beaupr : Moving dconf entries to git

I've been managing my UNIX $HOME repository with version control for almost two decades now (first under CVS, then with git). Once in a while, I find a little hack to make this work better. Today, it's dconf/gsettings, or more specifically, Workrave that I want to put in git. I noticed my laptop was extremely annoying compared with my office workstation and realized I never figured out how to write Workrave's configuration to git. The reason is that its configuration is stored in dconf, a binary database format, but, blissfully, I had forgotten about this and tried to figure out where the heck its config was. I was about to give up when I re-remembered this, when I figured I would just do a quick search ("dconf commit to git") and that brought me to Josh Triplett's Debconf 14 talk about this exact topic. The slides are... a little terse, but I could figure out the gist of it. The key is to change the DCONF_PROFILE environment to point to a new config file (say in your .bashrc):
export DCONF_PROFILE=$HOME/.config/dconf/profile
That file (~/.config/dconf/profile) should be created with the following content:
  1. The first line is the default: store everything in this huge binary file.
  2. The second is the magic: it stores configuration in a precious text file, in .config/dconf/user.txt specifically.
Then the last step was to migrate config between the two. For that I need a third config file, a DCONF_PROFILE that has only the text database so settings are forcibly written there, say ~/.config/dconf/profile-edit:
And then I can migrate my workrave configuration with:
gsettings list-recursively org.workrave   while read schema key val ; do DCONF_PROFILE=~/.config/dconf/profile-edit gsettings set "$schema" "$key" "$val" ; done
Of course, a bunch of those settings are garbage and do not differ from the default. Unfortuantely, there doesn't seem to be a way to tell gsettings to only list non-default settings, so I had to do things by hand from there, by comparing my generated config with:
DCONF_PROFILE=/dev/null gsettings list-recursively org.workrave
I finally ended up with the following user.txt, which is now my workrave config:
That's a nice setup: "YOLO" settings end up in the binary database that I don't care about tracking in git, and a precious few snowflakes get tracked in a text file. Triplett also made a command to change settings in the text file, but I don't think I need to bother with that. It's more critical to copy settings between the two, in my experience, as I rarely have this moment: "oh I know exactly the key setting I want to change and i'll write it down". What actually happens is that I'm making a change in a GUI and later realize it should be synchronized over. (It looks like Triplett does have a tool to do those diffs and transitions, but unfortunately git:// doesn't respond at this time so I can't find that source code.) (Update: that git repository can be downloaded with:
git clone
It looks like dconfc is designed to copy settings between the two databases. So my above loop would be more easily written as:
dconf dump /org/workrave/   DCONF_PROFILE=~/.config/dconf/profile-edit dconf load /org/workrave/
Certainly simplifies things. dconfd is also nice although it relies on the above dconfe script which makes it (IMHO) needlessly hard to deploy.) Now if only Firefox bookmarks were reasonable again...

8 November 2017

Dirk Eddelbuettel: R / Finance 2018 Call for Papers

The tenth (!!) annual annual R/Finance conference will take in Chicago on the UIC campus on June 1 and 2, 2018. Please see the call for papers below (or at the website) and consider submitting a paper. We are once again very excited about our conference, thrilled about who we hope may agree to be our anniversary keynotes, and hope that many R / Finance users will not only join us in Chicago in June -- and also submit an exciting proposal. So read on below, and see you in Chicago in June!

Call for Papers R/Finance 2018: Applied Finance with R
June 1 and 2, 2018
University of Illinois at Chicago, IL, USA The tenth annual R/Finance conference for applied finance using R will be held June 1 and 2, 2018 in Chicago, IL, USA at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The conference will cover topics including portfolio management, time series analysis, advanced risk tools, high-performance computing, market microstructure, and econometrics. All will be discussed within the context of using R as a primary tool for financial risk management, portfolio construction, and trading. Over the past nine years, R/Finance has includedattendeesfrom around the world. It has featured presentations from prominent academics and practitioners, and we anticipate another exciting line-up for 2018. We invite you to submit complete papers in pdf format for consideration. We will also consider one-page abstracts (in txt or pdf format) although more complete papers are preferred. We welcome submissions for both full talks and abbreviated "lightning talks." Both academic and practitioner proposals related to R are encouraged. All slides will be made publicly available at conference time. Presenters are strongly encouraged to provide working R code to accompany the slides. Data sets should also be made public for the purposes of reproducibility (though we realize this may be limited due to contracts with data vendors). Preference may be given to presenters who have released R packages. Please submit proposals online at Submissions will be reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis with a final submission deadline of February 2, 2018. Submitters will be notified via email by March 2, 2018 of acceptance, presentation length, and financial assistance (if requested). Financial assistance for travel and accommodation may be available to presenters. Requests for financial assistance do not affect acceptance decisions. Requests should be made at the time of submission. Requests made after submission are much less likely to be fulfilled. Assistance will be granted at the discretion of the conference committee. Additional details will be announced via the conference website at as they become available. Information on previous years'presenters and their presentations are also at the conference website. We will make a separate announcement when registration opens. For the program committee:
Gib Bassett, Peter Carl, Dirk Eddelbuettel, Brian Peterson,
Dale Rosenthal, Jeffrey Ryan, Joshua Ulrich

1 November 2017

James McCoy: Monthly FLOSS activity - 2017/10 edition

Debian subversion vim