Search Results: "kenneth"

8 February 2023

Chris Lamb: Most anticipated films of 2023

Very few highly-anticipated movies appear in January and February, as the bigger releases are timed so they can be considered for the Golden Globes in January and the Oscars in late February or early March, so film fans have the advantage of a few weeks after the New Year to collect their thoughts on the year ahead. In other words, I'm not actually late in outlining below the films I'm most looking forward to in 2023...

Barbie No, seriously! If anyone can make a good film about a doll franchise, it's probably Greta Gerwig. Not only was Little Women (2019) more than admirable, the same could be definitely said for Lady Bird (2017). More importantly, I can't help feel she was the real 'Driver' behind Frances Ha (2012), one of the better modern takes on Claudia Weill's revelatory Girlfriends (1978). Still, whenever I remember that Barbie will be a film about a billion-dollar toy and media franchise with a nettlesome history, I recall I rubbished the "Facebook film" that turned into The Social Network (2010). Anyway, the trailer for Barbie is worth watching, if only because it seems like a parody of itself.

Blitz It's difficult to overstate just how important the aerial bombing of London during World War II is crucial to understanding the British psyche, despite it being a constructed phenomenon from the outset. Without wishing to underplay the deaths of over 40,000 civilian deaths, Angus Calder pointed out in the 1990s that the modern mythology surrounding the event "did not evolve spontaneously; it was a propaganda construct directed as much at [then neutral] American opinion as at British." It will therefore be interesting to see how British Grenadian Trinidadian director Steve McQueen addresses a topic so essential to the British self-conception. (Remember the controversy in right-wing circles about the sole Indian soldier in Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk (2017)?) McQueen is perhaps best known for his 12 Years a Slave (2013), but he recently directed a six-part film anthology for the BBC which addressed the realities of post-Empire immigration to Britain, and this leads me to suspect he sees the Blitz and its surrounding mythology with a more critical perspective. But any attempt to complicate the story of World War II will be vigorously opposed in a way that will make the recent hullabaloo surrounding The Crown seem tame. All this is to say that the discourse surrounding this release may be as interesting as the film itself.

Dune, Part II Coming out of the cinema after the first part of Denis Vileneve's adaptation of Dune (2021), I was struck by the conception that it was less of a fresh adaptation of the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert than an attempt to rehabilitate David Lynch's 1984 version and in a broader sense, it was also an attempt to reestablish the primacy of cinema over streaming TV and the myriad of other distractions in our lives. I must admit I'm not a huge fan of the original novel, finding within it a certain prurience regarding hereditary military regimes and writing about them with a certain sense of glee that belies a secret admiration for them... not to mention an eyebrow-raising allegory for the Middle East. Still, Dune, Part II is going to be a fantastic spectacle.

Ferrari It'll be curious to see how this differs substantially from the recent Ford v Ferrari (2019), but given that Michael Mann's Heat (1995) so effectively re-energised the gangster/heist genre, I'm more than willing to kick the tires of this about the founder of the eponymous car manufacturer. I'm in the minority for preferring Mann's Thief (1981) over Heat, in part because the former deals in more abstract themes, so I'd have perhaps prefered to look forward to a more conceptual film from Mann over a story about one specific guy.

How Do You Live There are a few directors one can look forward to watching almost without qualification, and Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke Howl's Moving Castle, etc.) is one of them. And this is especially so given that The Wind Rises (2013) was meant to be the last collaboration between Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Let's hope he is able to come out of retirement in another ten years.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Given I had a strong dislike of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), I seriously doubt I will enjoy anything this film has to show me, but with 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark remaining one of my most treasured films (read my brief homage), I still feel a strong sense of obligation towards the Indiana Jones name, despite it feeling like the copper is being pulled out of the walls of this franchise today.

Kafka I only know Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland through her Spoor (2017), an adaptation of Olga Tokarczuk's 2009 eco-crime novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. I wasn't an unqualified fan of Spoor (nor the book on which it is based), but I am interested in Holland's take on the life of Czech author Franz Kafka, an author enmeshed with twentieth-century art and philosophy, especially that of central Europe. Holland has mentioned she intends to tell the story "as a kind of collage," and I can hope that it is an adventurous take on the over-furrowed biopic genre. Or perhaps Gregor Samsa will awake from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed in his bed into a huge verminous biopic.

The Killer It'll be interesting to see what path David Fincher is taking today, especially after his puzzling and strangely cold Mank (2020) portraying the writing process behind Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941). The Killer is said to be a straight-to-Netflix thriller based on the graphic novel about a hired assassin, which makes me think of Fincher's Zodiac (2007), and, of course, Se7en (1995). I'm not as entranced by Fincher as I used to be, but any film with Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton (with a score by Trent Reznor) is always going to get my attention.

Killers of the Flower Moon In Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese directs an adaptation of a book about the FBI's investigation into a conspiracy to murder Osage tribe members in the early years of the twentieth century in order to deprive them of their oil-rich land. (The only thing more quintessentially American than apple pie is a conspiracy combined with a genocide.) Separate from learning more about this disquieting chapter of American history, I'd love to discover what attracted Scorsese to this particular story: he's one of the few top-level directors who have the ability to lucidly articulate their intentions and motivations.

Napoleon It often strikes me that, despite all of his achievements and fame, it's somehow still possible to claim that Ridley Scott is relatively underrated compared to other directors working at the top level today. Besides that, though, I'm especially interested in this film, not least of all because I just read Tolstoy's War and Peace (read my recent review) and am working my way through the mind-boggling 431-minute Soviet TV adaptation, but also because several auteur filmmakers (including Stanley Kubrick) have tried to make a Napoleon epic and failed.

Oppenheimer In a way, a biopic about the scientist responsible for the atomic bomb and the Manhattan Project seems almost perfect material for Christopher Nolan. He can certainly rely on stars to queue up to be in his movies (Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Kenneth Branagh, etc.), but whilst I'm certain it will be entertaining on many fronts, I fear it will fall into the well-established Nolan mould of yet another single man struggling with obsession, deception and guilt who is trying in vain to balance order and chaos in the world.

The Way of the Wind Marked by philosophical and spiritual overtones, all of Terrence Malick's films are perfumed with themes of transcendence, nature and the inevitable conflict between instinct and reason. My particular favourite is his stunning Days of Heaven (1978), but The Thin Red Line (1998) and A Hidden Life (2019) also touched me ways difficult to relate, and are one of the few films about the Second World War that don't touch off my sensitivity about them (see my remarks about Blitz above). It is therefore somewhat Malickian that his next film will be a biblical drama about the life of Jesus. Given Malick's filmography, I suspect this will be far more subdued than William Wyler's 1959 Ben-Hur and significantly more equivocal in its conviction compared to Paolo Pasolini's ardently progressive The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964). However, little beyond that can be guessed, and the film may not even appear until 2024 or even 2025.

Zone of Interest I was mesmerised by Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin (2013), and there is much to admire in his borderline 'revisionist gangster' film Sexy Beast (2000), so I will definitely be on the lookout for this one. The only thing making me hesitate is that Zone of Interest is based on a book by Martin Amis about a romance set inside the Auschwitz concentration camp. I haven't read the book, but Amis has something of a history in his grappling with the history of the twentieth century, and he seems to do it in a way that never sits right with me. But if Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers (1997) proves anything at all, it's all in the adaption.

28 October 2021

Dirk Eddelbuettel: td 0.0.5 on CRAN: New Reference Accessors

The td package for accessing the twelvedata API for financial data has been updated on CRAN to version 0.0.5. This is version is mostly the work of Kenneth who suggested to add accessors for reference data, and then did just that. So if you already use td, good news as you now have nine or so more functions getting data for you! The NEWS entry follows.

Changes in version 0.0.5 (2021-10-28)
  • New functions to access twelvedata reference data (Kenneth in #4 addressing #3)

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.

31 May 2021

Russ Allbery: Review: The Relentless Moon

Review: The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Series: Lady Astronaut #3
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: 2020
ISBN: 1-250-23648-7
Format: Kindle
Pages: 542
Content note: Discussion of eating disorders in this review and portrayal of an eating disorder in the novel. The Relentless Moon is the third book of the Lady Astronaut series and the first one that doesn't feature Elma. It takes place simultaneously with The Fated Sky and tells the story of what happened on Earth, and the Moon, while Elma was in transit to Mars. It's meant to be read after The Fated Sky and would be a significant spoiler for that novel. The protagonist of this novel is Nicole Wargin: wife of the governor of Kansas (a more prestigious state in this universe since the seat of government for the United States was relocated to Kansas City after the Meteor), expert politician's wife, and another of the original group of female astronauts. Kenneth, her husband, is considering a run for president. Nicole is working as an astronaut, helping build out the permanent Moon base. But there are a lot of people on Earth who are not happy with the amount of money and political attention that the space program is getting. They have decided to move beyond protests and political opposition to active sabotage. Nicole was hoping to land an assignment piloting one of the larger rockets. What she gets instead is an assignment as secretary to the Lunar Colony Administrator, as cover. Her actual job is to watch for saboteurs that may or may not be operating on the Moon. Before she even leaves the planet, one of the chief engineers of the space program is poisoned. The pilot of the translunar shuttle falls ill during the flight to the Moon. And then the shuttle's controls fail during landing and disaster is only narrowly averted. The story from there is a cloak and dagger sabotage investigation mixed with Kowal's meticulously-researched speculation about a space program still running on 1950s technology but drastically accelerated by the upcoming climate collapse of Earth. Nicole has more skills for this type of mission than most around her realize due to very quiet work she did during the war, not to mention the feel for personalities and politics that she's honed as a governor's wife. But, like Elma, she's also fighting some personal battles. Elma's are against anxiety; Nicole's are against an eating disorder. I think my negative reaction to this aspect of the book is not the book's fault, but it was sufficiently strong that it substantially interfered with my enjoyment. The specific manifestation of Nicole's eating disorder is that she skips meals until she makes herself ill. My own anxious tendencies hyperfocus on prevention and on rule-following. The result is that once Kowal introduces the eating disorder subplot, my brain started anxiously monitoring everything that Nicole ate and keeping track of her last meal. This, in turn, felt horribly intrusive and uncomfortable. I did not want to monitor and police Nicole's eating, particularly when Nicole clearly was upset by anyone else doing exactly that, and yet I couldn't stop the background thread of my brain that did so. The result was a highly unsettling feeling that I was violating the privacy of the protagonist of the book that I was reading, mixed with anxiety and creeping dread about her calorie intake. Part of this may have been intentional to give the reader some sense of how this felt to Nicole. (The negative interaction with my own anxiety was likely not intentional.) Kowal did an exceptionally good job at invoking reader empathy (at least in me) for Elma's anxiety in The Calculating Stars. I didn't like the experience much this time, but that doesn't make it an invalid focus for a book. It may, however, make me a poor reviewer for this part of the reading experience. This was a major subplot, so it was hard to escape completely, but I quite enjoyed the rest of the book. It's not obvious who the saboteurs are or even how the sabotage is happening, and the acts of clear sabotage are complicated by other problems that may be more subtle sabotage, may be bad luck, or may be the inherent perils of trying to survive in space. Many of Nicole's suspicions do not pan out, which was a touch that I appreciated. She has to look for ulterior motives in everything, and in reality that means she'll be wrong most of the time, but fiction often unrealistically short-cuts that process. I also liked how Kowal handles the resolution, which avoids villain monologues and gives Nicole's opposition their own contingency plans, willingness to try to adapt to setbacks, and the intelligence to keep trying to manipulate the situation even when their plans fail. As with the rest of this series, there's a ton of sexism and racism, which the characters acknowledge and which Nicole tries to resist as much as she can, but which is so thoroughly baked into the society that it's mostly an obstacle that has to be endured. This is not the book, or series, to read if you're looking for triumph over discrimination or for women being allowed to be awesome without having to handle and soothe men's sexist feelings about their abilities. Nicole gets a clear victory arc, but it's a victory despite sexism rather than an end to it. The Relentless Moon did feel a bit long. There are a lot of scene-setting preliminaries before Nicole leaves for the Moon, and I'm not sure all of them were necessary at that length. Nicole also spends a lot of time being suspicious of everyone and second-guessing her theories, and at a few points I thought that dragged. But once things start properly happening, I thoroughly enjoyed the technological details and the thought that Kowal put into the mix of sabotage, accidents, and ill-advised human behavior that Nicole has to sort through. The last half of the book is the best, which is always a good property for a book to have. The eating disorder subplot made me extremely uncomfortable for reasons that are partly peculiar to me, but outside of that, this is a solid entry in the series and fills in some compelling details of what was happening on the other end of the intermittent radio messages Elma received. If you've enjoyed the series to date, you will probably enjoy this installment as well. But if you didn't like the handling of sexism and racism as deeply ingrained social forces that can at best be temporarily bypassed, be warned that The Relentless Moon continues the same theme. Also, if you're squeamish about medical conditions in your fiction, be aware that the specific details of polio feature significantly in the book. Rating: 7 out of 10

25 September 2017

Steve Kemp: Started work on an internet-of-things Radio

So recently I was in York at the Bytemark office, and I read a piece about building a radio in a Raspberry Pi magazine. It got me curious, so when I got home to sunny Helsinki I figured I'd have a stab at it. I don't have fixed goal in mind, but what I do have is: The initial goal is simple wire the receiver/decoder to the board, and listen to the radio. After that there are obvious extenstions, such as adding an LCD display to show the frequency (What's the frequency Kenneth), and later to show the station details, via RDS. Finally I could add some buttons/switches/tweaks for selecting next/previous stations, and adjusting the volume. Initially that'll be handled by pointing a browser at the IP-address of the device. The first attempt at using the RDA5807M chip was a failure, as the thing was too damn small and non-standardly sized. Adding header-pins to the chips was almost impossible, and when I did get them soldered on the thing just gave me static-hisses. However I later read the details of the chip more carefully and realized that it isn't powerfull enough to drive (even) headphones. It requires an amp of some kind. With that extra knowledge I was able to send the output to the powered-speakers I have sat beside my PC. My code is basic, it sets up the FM-receiver/decoder, and scans the spectrum. When it finds a station it outputs the name over the serial console, via RDS, and then just plays it. I've got an PAM8403-based amplifier board on-order, when that arrives I'll get back to the project, and hookup WiFi and a simple web-page to store stations, tuning, etc. My "token goal" at the moment is a radio that switches on at 7AM and switches off at 8AM. In addition to that it'll serve a web-page allowing interactive control, regardless of any buttons that are wired in. I also have another project in the wings. I've ordered a software-defined radio (USB-toy) which I'm planning to use to plot aircraft in real-time, as they arrive/depart/fly over Helsinki. No doubt I'll write that up too.

27 May 2017

Russ Allbery: On time management

Last December, the Guardian published a long essay by Oliver Burkeman entitled "Why time management is ruining our lives". Those who follow my book reviews know I read a lot of time management books, so of course I couldn't resist this. And, possibly surprisingly, not to disagree with it. It's an excellent essay, and well worth your time. Burkeman starts by talking about Inbox Zero:
If all this fervour seems extreme Inbox Zero was just a set of technical instructions for handling email, after all this was because email had become far more than a technical problem. It functioned as a kind of infinite to-do list, to which anyone on the planet could add anything at will.
This is, as Burkeman develops in the essay, an important critique of time management techniques in general, not just Inbox Zero: perhaps you can become moderately more efficient, but what are you becoming more efficient at doing, and why does it matter? If there were a finite amount of things that you had to accomplish, with leisure the reward at the end of the fixed task list, doing those things more efficiently makes perfect sense. But this is not the case in most modern life. Instead, we live in a world governed by Parkinson's Law: "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion." Worse, we live in a world where the typical employer takes Parkinson's Law, not as a statement on the nature of ever-expanding to-do lists, but a challenge to compress the time made available for a task to try to force the work to happen faster. Burkeman goes farther into the politics, pointing out that a cui bono analysis of time management suggests that we're all being played by capitalist employers. I wholeheartedly agree, but that's worth a separate discussion; for those who want to explore that angle, David Graeber's Debt and John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society are worth your time. What I want to write about here is why I still read (and recommend) time management literature, and how my thinking on it has changed. I started in the same place that most people probably do: I had a bunch of work to juggle, I felt I was making insufficient forward progress on it, and I felt my day contained a lot of slack that could be put to better use. The alluring promise of time management is that these problems can be resolved with more organization and some focus techniques. And there is a huge surge of energy that comes with adopting a new system and watching it work, since the good ones build psychological payoff into the tracking mechanism. Starting a new time management system is fun! Finishing things is fun! I then ran into the same problem that I think most people do: after that initial surge of enthusiasm, I had lists, systems, techniques, data on where my time was going, and a far more organized intake process. But I didn't feel more comfortable with how I was spending my time, I didn't have more leisure time, and I didn't feel happier. Often the opposite: time management systems will often force you to notice all the things you want to do and how slow your progress is towards accomplishing any of them. This is my fundamental disagreement with Getting Things Done (GTD): David Allen firmly believes that the act of recording everything that is nagging at you to be done relieves the brain of draining background processing loops and frees you to be more productive. He argues for this quite persuasively; as you can see from my review, I liked his book a great deal, and used his system for some time. But, at least for me, this does not work. Instead, having a complete list of goals towards which I am making slow or no progress is profoundly discouraging and depressing. The process of maintaining and dwelling on that list while watching it constantly grow was awful, quite a bit worse psychologically than having no time management system at all. Mark Forster is the time management author who speaks the best to me, and one of the points he makes is that time management is the wrong framing. You're not going to somehow generate more time, and you're usually not managing minutes and seconds. A better framing is task management, or commitment management: the goal of the system is to manage what you mentally commit to accomplishing, usually by restricting that list to something far shorter than you would come up with otherwise. How, in other words, to limit your focus to a small enough set of goals that you can make meaningful progress instead of thrashing. That, for me, is now the merit and appeal of time (or task) management systems: how do I sort through all the incoming noise, distractions, requests, desires, and compelling ideas that life throws at me and figure out which of them are worth investing time in? I also benefit from structuring that process for my peculiar psychology, in which backlogs I have to look at regularly are actively dangerous for my mental well-being. Left unchecked, I can turn even the most enjoyable hobby into an obligation and then into a source of guilt for not meeting the (entirely artificial) terms of the obligation I created, without even intending to. And here I think it has a purpose, but it's not the purpose that the time management industry is selling. If you think of time management as a way to get more things done and get more out of each moment, you're going to be disappointed (and you're probably also being taken advantage of by the people who benefit from unsustainable effort without real, unstructured leisure time). I practice Inbox Zero, but the point wasn't to be more efficient at processing my email. The point was to avoid the (for me) psychologically damaging backlog of messages while acting on the knowledge that 99% of email should go immediately into the trash with no further action. Email is an endless incoming stream of potential obligations or requests for my time (even just to read a longer message) that I should normallly reject. I also take the time to notice patterns of email that I never care about and then shut off the source or write filters to delete that email for me. I can then reserve my email time for moments of human connection, directly relevant information, or very interesting projects, and spend the time on those messages without guilt (or at least much less guilt) about ignoring everything else. Prioritization is extremely difficult, particularly once you realize that true prioritization is not about first and later, but about soon or never. The point of prioritization is not to choose what to do first, it's to choose the 5% of things that you going to do at all, convince yourself to be mentally okay with never doing the other 95% (and not lying to yourself about how there will be some future point when you'll magically have more time), and vigorously defend your focus and effort for that 5%. And, hopefully, wholeheartedly enjoy working on those things, without guilt or nagging that there's something else you should be doing instead. I still fail at this all the time. But I'm better than I used to be. For me, that mental shift was by far the hardest part. But once you've made that shift, I do think the time management world has a lot of tools and techniques to help you make more informed choices about the 5%, and to help you overcome procrastination and loss of focus on your real goals. Those real goals should include true unstructured leisure and "because I want to" projects. And hopefully, if you're in a financial position to do it, include working less on what other people want you to do and more on the things that delight you. Or at least making a well-informed strategic choice (for the sake of money or some other concrete and constantly re-evaluated reason) to sacrifice your personal goals for some temporary external ones.

21 June 2016

Reproducible builds folks: Reproducible builds: week 60 in Stretch cycle

What happened in the Reproducible Builds effort between June 12th and June 18th 2016: Media coverage GSoC and Outreachy updates Weekly reports by our participants: Toolchain fixes With this upload of texlive-bin we decided to stop keeping our patched fork of as most of the patches for SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH support had been integrated upstream already, and the last one (making FORCE_SOURCE_DATE default to 1) had been refused. So, we are now going to let the archive be rebuilt against unstable's texlive-bin and see how many packages will become unreproducible with this change; once enough data will be collected we will ponder whether FORCE_SOURCE_DATE should be exported by helper tools (such as debhelper) or manually exported by every package that needs it. (For those wondering: we still recommend to follow SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH always and don't recommend other projects to implement FORCE_SOURCE_DATE ) With the drop of texlive-bin we now have only three modified packages in our experimental repository. Reproducible work in other projects Packages fixed The following 12 packages have become reproducible due to changes in their build dependencies: django-floppyforms flask-restful hy jets3t kombu llvm-toolchain-3.8 moap python-bottle python-debtcollector python-django-debug-toolbar python-osprofiler stevedore The following packages have become reproducible after being fixed: Some uploads have fixed some reproducibility issues, but not all of them: Uploads with reproducibility fixes that currently fail to build: Patches submitted that have not made their way to the archive yet: Package reviews 36 reviews have been added, 12 have been updated and 31 have been removed in this week. 17 FTBFS bugs have been reported by Chris Lamb, Santiago Vila and Dominic Hargreaves. diffoscope development Satyam worked on argument completion (#826711) for diffoscope. strip-nondeterminism development Mattia Rizzolo uploaded strip-nondeterminism 0.019-1~bpo8+1 to jessie-backports. reprotest development Ceridwen filed an Intent To Package (ITP) bug for reprotest as #827293. Misc. This week's edition was written by Mattia Rizzolo, Reiner Herrmann, Ed Maste and Holger Levsen and reviewed by a bunch of Reproducible builds folks on IRC.

25 August 2015

Lunar: Reproducible builds: week 17 in Stretch cycle

A good amount of the Debian reproducible builds team had the chance to enjoy face-to-face interactions during DebConf15.
Names in red and blue were all present at DebConf15
Picture of the  reproducible builds  talk during DebConf15
Hugging people with whom one has been working tirelessly for months gives a lot of warm-fuzzy feelings. Several recorded and hallway discussions paved the way to solve the remaining issues to get reproducible builds part of Debian proper. Both talks from the Debian Project Leader and the release team mentioned the effort as important for the future of Debian. A forty-five minutes talk presented the state of the reproducible builds effort. It was then followed by an hour long roundtable to discuss current blockers regarding dpkg, .buildinfo and their integration in the archive. Picture of the  reproducible builds  roundtable during DebConf15 Toolchain fixes Reiner Herrmann submitted a patch to make rdfind sort the processed files before doing any operation. Chris Lamb proposed a new patch for wheel implementing support for SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH instead of the custom WHEEL_FORCE_TIMESTAMP. akira sent one making man2html SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH aware. St phane Glondu reported that dpkg-source would not respect tarball permissions when unpacking under a umask of 002. After hours of iterative testing during the DebConf workshop, Sandro Knau created a test case showing how pdflatex output can be non-deterministic with some PNG files. Packages fixed The following 65 packages became reproducible due to changes in their build dependencies: alacarte, arbtt, bullet, ccfits, commons-daemon, crack-attack, d-conf, ejabberd-contrib, erlang-bear, erlang-cherly, erlang-cowlib, erlang-folsom, erlang-goldrush, erlang-ibrowse, erlang-jiffy, erlang-lager, erlang-lhttpc, erlang-meck, erlang-p1-cache-tab, erlang-p1-iconv, erlang-p1-logger, erlang-p1-mysql, erlang-p1-pam, erlang-p1-pgsql, erlang-p1-sip, erlang-p1-stringprep, erlang-p1-stun, erlang-p1-tls, erlang-p1-utils, erlang-p1-xml, erlang-p1-yaml, erlang-p1-zlib, erlang-ranch, erlang-redis-client, erlang-uuid, freecontact, givaro, glade, gnome-shell, gupnp, gvfs, htseq, jags, jana, knot, libconfig, libkolab, libmatio, libvsqlitepp, mpmath, octave-zenity, openigtlink, paman, pisa, pynifti, qof, ruby-blankslate, ruby-xml-simple, timingframework, trace-cmd, tsung, wings3d, xdg-user-dirs, xz-utils, zpspell. The following packages became reproducible after getting fixed: Uploads that might have fixed reproducibility issues: Some uploads fixed some reproducibility issues but not all of them: Patches submitted which have not made their way to the archive yet: St phane Glondu reported two issues regarding embedded build date in omake and cduce. Aur lien Jarno submitted a fix for the breakage of make-dfsg test suite. As binutils now creates deterministic libraries by default, Aur lien's patch makes use of a wrapper to give the U flag to ar. Reiner Herrmann reported an issue with pound which embeds random dhparams in its code during the build. Better solutions are yet to be found. Package pages on now have a new layout improving readability designed by Mattia Rizzolo, h01ger, and Ulrike. The navigation is now on the left as vertical space is more valuable nowadays. armhf is now enabled on all pages except the dashboard. Actual tests on armhf are expected to start shortly. (Mattia Rizzolo, h01ger) The limit on how many packages people can schedule using the reschedule script on Alioth has been bumped to 200. (h01ger) mod_rewrite is now used instead of JavaScript for the form in the dashboard. (h01ger) Following the rename of the software, debbindiff has mostly been replaced by either diffoscope or differences in generated HTML and IRC notification output. Connections to UDD have been made more robust. (Mattia Rizzolo) diffoscope development diffoscope version 31 was released on August 21st. This version improves fuzzy-matching by using the tlsh algorithm instead of ssdeep. New command line options are available: --max-diff-input-lines and --max-diff-block-lines to override limits on diff input and output (Reiner Herrmann), --debugger to dump the user into pdb in case of crashes (Mattia Rizzolo). jar archives should now be detected properly (Reiner Herrman). Several general code cleanups were also done by Chris Lamb. strip-nondeterminism development Andrew Ayer released strip-nondeterminism version 0.010-1. Java properties file in jar should now be detected more accurately. A missing dependency spotted by St phane Glondu has been added. Testing directory ordering issues: disorderfs During the reproducible builds workshop at DebConf, participants identified that we were still short of a good way to test variations on filesystem behaviors (e.g. file ordering or disk usage). Andrew Ayer took a couple of hours to create disorderfs. Based on FUSE, disorderfs in an overlay filesystem that will mount the content of a directory at another location. For this first version, it will make the order in which files appear in a directory random. Documentation update Dhole documented how to implement support for SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH in Python, bash, Makefiles, CMake, and C. Chris Lamb started to convert the wiki page describing SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH into a Freedesktop-like specification in the hope that it will convince more upstream to adopt it. Package reviews 44 reviews have been removed, 192 added and 77 updated this week. New issues identified this week: locale_dependent_order_in_devlibs_depends, randomness_in_ocaml_startup_files, randomness_in_ocaml_packed_libraries, randomness_in_ocaml_custom_executables, undeterministic_symlinking_by_rdfind, random_build_path_by_golang_compiler, and images_in_pdf_generated_by_latex. 117 new FTBFS bugs have been reported by Chris Lamb, Chris West (Faux), and Niko Tyni. Misc. Some reproducibility issues might face us very late. Chris Lamb noticed that the test suite for python-pykmip was now failing because its test certificates have expired. Let's hope no packages are hiding a certificate valid for 10 years somewhere in their source! Pictures courtesy and copyright of Debian's own paparazzi: Aigars Mahinovs.

15 August 2015

Simon Kainz: DUCK challenge: week 6

Well, here are the stats for week 6 of the DUCK challenge: So we had 9 packages fixed and uploaded by 7 different uploaders. A big "Thank You" to you!! Since the start of this challenge, a total of 68 packages, were fixed. Here is a quick overview:
Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7
# Packages 10 15 10 14 10 9 -
Total 10 25 35 49 59 68 -
The list of the fixed and updated packages is availabe here. I will try to update this ~daily. If I missed one of your uploads, please drop me a line. So, assuming that the current rate of packages fixed will be somewhat stable and there will be no additional regessions, the number of packages with issues should be down to 0 in about 209 weeks (~ 4 years ) I just arrived at DebConf15 in Heidelberg, and will try to find all of you who fixed & uploaded packages. If you are one of the guys and see me lingering around, please talk to me and get your lighter! The DUCK Challenge will run until the end of DebConf15, but as there might be some delay by my scripts detecting your upload, please contact my directly. Pevious articles are here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5.

26 July 2015

Lunar: Reproducible builds: week 12 in Stretch cycle

What happened in the reproducible builds effort this week: Toolchain fixes Eric Dorlan uploaded automake-1.15/1:1.15-2 which makes the output of mdate-sh deterministic. Original patch by Reiner Herrmann. Kenneth J. Pronovici uploaded epydoc/3.0.1+dfsg-8 which now honors SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH. Original patch by Reiner Herrmann. Chris Lamb submitted a patch to dh-python to make the order of the generated maintainer scripts deterministic. Chris also offered a fix for a source of non-determinism in dpkg-shlibdeps when packages have alternative dependencies. Dhole provided a patch to add support for SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH to gettext. Packages fixed The following 78 packages became reproducible in our setup due to changes in their build dependencies: chemical-mime-data, clojure-contrib, cobertura-maven-plugin, cpm, davical, debian-security-support, dfc, diction, dvdwizard, galternatives, gentlyweb-utils, gifticlib, gmtkbabel, gnuplot-mode, gplanarity, gpodder, gtg-trace, gyoto, highlight.js, htp, ibus-table, impressive, jags, jansi-native, jnr-constants, jthread, jwm, khronos-api, latex-coffee-stains, latex-make, latex2rtf, latexdiff, libcrcutil, libdc0, libdc1394-22, libidn2-0, libint, libjava-jdbc-clojure, libkryo-java, libphone-ui-shr, libpicocontainer-java, libraw1394, librostlab-blast, librostlab, libshevek, libstxxl, libtools-logging-clojure, libtools-macro-clojure, litl, londonlaw, ltsp, macsyfinder, mapnik, maven-compiler-plugin, mc, microdc2, miniupnpd, monajat, navit, pdmenu, pirl, plm, scikit-learn, snp-sites, sra-sdk, sunpinyin, tilda, vdr-plugin-dvd, vdr-plugin-epgsearch, vdr-plugin-remote, vdr-plugin-spider, vdr-plugin-streamdev, vdr-plugin-sudoku, vdr-plugin-xineliboutput, veromix, voxbo, xaos, xbae. The following packages became reproducible after getting fixed: Some uploads fixed some reproducibility issues but not all of them: Patches submitted which have not made their way to the archive yet: The statistics on the main page of are now updated every five minutes. A random unreviewed package is suggested in the look at a package form on every build. (h01ger) A new package set based new on the Core Internet Infrastructure census has been added. (h01ger) Testing of FreeBSD has started, though no results yet. More details have been posted to the freebsd-hackers mailing list. The build is run on a new virtual machine running FreeBSD 10.1 with 3 cores and 6 GB of RAM, also sponsored by Profitbricks. strip-nondeterminism development Andrew Ayer released version 0.009 of strip-nondeterminism. The new version will strip locales from Javadoc, include the name of files causing errors, and ignore unhandled (but rare) zip64 archives. debbindiff development Lunar continued its major refactoring to enhance code reuse and pave the way to fuzzy-matching and parallel processing. Most file comparators have now been converted to the new class hierarchy. In order to support for archive formats, work has started on packaging Python bindings for libarchive. While getting support for more archive formats with a common interface is very nice, libarchive is a stream oriented library and might have bad performance with how debbindiff currently works. Time will tell if better solutions need to be found. Documentation update Lunar started a Reproducible builds HOWTO intended to explain the different aspects of making software build reproducibly to the different audiences that might have to get involved like software authors, producers of binary packages, and distributors. Package reviews 17 obsolete reviews have been removed, 212 added and 46 updated this week. 15 new bugs for packages failing to build from sources have been reported by Chris West (Faux), and Mattia Rizzolo. Presentations Lunar presented Debian efforts and some recipes on making software build reproducibly at Libre Software Meeting 2015. Slides and a video recording are available. Misc. h01ger, dkg, and Lunar attended a Core Infrastructure Initiative meeting. The progress and tools mode for the Debian efforts were shown. Several discussions also helped getting a better understanding of the needs of other free software projects regarding reproducible builds. The idea of a global append only log, similar to the logs used for Certificate Transparency, came up on multiple occasions. Using such append only logs for keeping records of sources and build results has gotten the name Binary Transparency Logs . They would at least help identifying a compromised software signing key. Whether the benefits in using such logs justify the costs need more research.

4 May 2015

Lunar: Reproducible builds: first week in Stretch cycle

Debian Jessie has been released on April 25th, 2015. This has opened the Stretch development cycle. Reactions to the idea of making Debian build reproducibly have been pretty enthusiastic. As the pace is now likely to be even faster, let's see if we can keep everyone up-to-date on the developments. Before the release of Jessie The story goes back a long way but a formal announcement to the project has only been sent in February 2015. Since then, too much work has happened to make a complete report, but to give some highlights: Lunar did a pretty improvised lightning talk during the Mini-DebConf in Lyon. This past week It seems changes were pilling behind the curtains given the amount of activity that happened in just one week. Toolchain fixes We also rebased the experimental version of debhelper twice to merge the latest set of changes. Lunar submitted a patch to add a -creation-date to genisoimage. Reiner Herrmann opened #783938 to request making -notimestamp the default behavior for javadoc. Juan Picca submitted a patch to add a --use-date flag to texi2html. Packages fixed The following packages became reproducible due to changes of their build dependencies: apport, batctl, cil, commons-math3, devscripts, disruptor, ehcache, ftphs, gtk2hs-buildtools, haskell-abstract-deque, haskell-abstract-par, haskell-acid-state, haskell-adjunctions, haskell-aeson, haskell-aeson-pretty, haskell-alut, haskell-ansi-terminal, haskell-async, haskell-attoparsec, haskell-augeas, haskell-auto-update, haskell-binary-conduit, haskell-hscurses, jsch, ledgersmb, libapache2-mod-auth-mellon, libarchive-tar-wrapper-perl, libbusiness-onlinepayment-payflowpro-perl, libcapture-tiny-perl, libchi-perl, libcommons-codec-java, libconfig-model-itself-perl, libconfig-model-tester-perl, libcpan-perl-releases-perl, libcrypt-unixcrypt-perl, libdatetime-timezone-perl, libdbd-firebird-perl, libdbix-class-resultset-recursiveupdate-perl, libdbix-profile-perl, libdevel-cover-perl, libdevel-ptkdb-perl, libfile-tail-perl, libfinance-quote-perl, libformat-human-bytes-perl, libgtk2-perl, libhibernate-validator-java, libimage-exiftool-perl, libjson-perl, liblinux-prctl-perl, liblog-any-perl, libmail-imapclient-perl, libmocked-perl, libmodule-build-xsutil-perl, libmodule-extractuse-perl, libmodule-signature-perl, libmoosex-simpleconfig-perl, libmoox-handlesvia-perl, libnet-frame-layer-ipv6-perl, libnet-openssh-perl, libnumber-format-perl, libobject-id-perl, libpackage-pkg-perl, libpdf-fdf-simple-perl, libpod-webserver-perl, libpoe-component-pubsub-perl, libregexp-grammars-perl, libreply-perl, libscalar-defer-perl, libsereal-encoder-perl, libspreadsheet-read-perl, libspring-java, libsql-abstract-more-perl, libsvn-class-perl, libtemplate-plugin-gravatar-perl, libterm-progressbar-perl, libterm-shellui-perl, libtest-dir-perl, libtest-log4perl-perl, libtext-context-eitherside-perl, libtime-warp-perl, libtree-simple-perl, libwww-shorten-simple-perl, libwx-perl-processstream-perl, libxml-filter-xslt-perl, libxml-writer-string-perl, libyaml-tiny-perl, mupen64plus-core, nmap, openssl, pkg-perl-tools, quodlibet, r-cran-rjags, r-cran-rjson, r-cran-sn, r-cran-statmod, ruby-nokogiri, sezpoz, skksearch, slurm-llnl, stellarium. The following packages became reproducible after getting fixed: Some uploads fixed some reproducibility issues but not all of them: Patches submitted which did not make their way to the archive yet: Improvements to Mattia Rizzolo has been working on compressing logs using gzip to save disk space. The web server would uncompress them on-the-fly for clients which does not accept gzip content. Mattia Rizzolo worked on a new page listing various breakage: missing or bad debbindiff output, missing build logs, unavailable build dependencies. Holger Levsen added a new execution environment to run debbindiff using dependencies from testing. This is required for packages built with GHC as the compiler only understands interfaces built by the same version. debbindiff development Version 17 has been uploaded to unstable. It now supports comparing ISO9660 images, dictzip files and should compare identical files much faster. Documentation update Various small updates and fixes to the pages about PDF produced by LaTeX, DVI produced by LaTeX, static libraries, Javadoc, PE binaries, and Epydoc. Package reviews Known issues have been tagged when known to be deterministic as some might unfortunately not show up on every single build. For example, two new issues have been identified by building with one timezone in April and one in May. RD and help2man add current month and year to the documentation they are producing. 1162 packages have been removed and 774 have been added in the past week. Most of them are the work of proper automated investigation done by Chris West. Summer of code Finally, we learned that both akira and Dhole were accepted for this Google Summer of Code. Let's welcome them! They have until May 25th before coding officialy begins. Now is the good time to help them feel more comfortable by sharing all these little bits of knowledge on how Debian works.

22 October 2014

Russ Allbery: Another haul post

I know I've been very quiet here lately. That's due to a variety of reasons, but mostly because settling in to a new job is taking nearly all of my attention and time. When that's combined with getting obsessed with watching the League of Legends world championships, it means no real time for writing things. I've had lots of time for reading things, though, and have a lot of book reviews that I need to write. So, of course, I felt like buying more books. Elizabeth Bear One-Eyed Jack (sff)
Steven Brust Hawk (sff)
Kenneth T. Jackson Crabgrass Frontier (non-fiction)
Ann Leckie Ancillary Sword (sff)
Scott Lynch Republic of Thieves (sff)
Randall Munroe What If? (non-fiction)
Sarah Tolmie The Stone Boatmen (sff)
Jeffrey Toobin The Oath (non-fiction) I'm pretty excited about everything in this shipment, but particularly the new Vlad Taltos novel from Brust and the sequel to Ancillary Justice (probably the best novel that I've read so far this year). And of course there's What If?.

6 August 2013

Richard Hartmann: High security

If you're interested in security, brogramming, and throwing a few decades of UNIX best practices overboard... There's an app for that! The GIF they are using is oddly fitting, if for an entirely different reason than what they probably had in mind.

4 May 2013

Russ Allbery: Review: Democracy at Work

Review: Democracy at Work, by Richard Wolff
Publisher: Haymarket
Copyright: 2012
ISBN: 1-60846-247-1
Format: Kindle
Pages: 220
I've been reading (mostly on-line) and thinking quite a bit lately about workplace governance models, economic structure, and why the current organization of the US workplace bothers me so intensely, partly triggered by reading John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society. The economic monoculture has made that process particularly frustrating. It's rare to find a discussion, even in the context of organizational strategies that are considered radical, that avoids the standard frame of productivity and business value. Most discussion is long on tactics and short on strategy and examination of goals. Wolff's appearance on Moyers & Company was a rare breath of fresh air, enough so that I grabbed his book shortly afterwards. Wolff is a Marxian economist (meaning that he makes use of Marxist analysis of economics and capitalism while separating them from Marxist politics and Marx's advocacy of revolutionary socialism), which for me was part of the interest. Marxist thought of any branch is not common in the United States; we're regularly deprived of several sides in the international conversation on economic models. I was taught Marxist theory in elementary and high school (in retrospect, surprisingly even-handedly and well, despite the biases of my schooling), but none of the later developments of Marxist thought. I think that's a typical experience here; in the United States, Marxism culminated in Mao and Stalin, and no further development of the underlying theories is ever mentioned. Democracy at Work is subtitled A Cure for Capitalism and does indeed advocate a concrete alternative to capitalist business structures. But this is only the last third of the book (and in some ways the least useful, as I'll discuss in a moment). The first two-thirds of the book is basically a remedial education in modern, as opposed to historic, Marxian economics for US readers like myself who have never heard it before, cast in the context of the current financial crisis. This may well be old hat for Europeans, but if you've been wondering what (at least some) modern-day Marxists actually believe, or are saying to yourself "there are modern-day Marxists after the collapse of the Soviet Union?", I recommend this book to your attention. It's an excellent summary, which I read with the delightful feeling of an expanding viewpoint and the discovery of new directions from which to look at a problem. There's quite a bit in this section that's worth thinking about, including another take on the nature of the recent economic collapse and how that fits into a Marxian analysis of capitalist crises. But there was one point in Wolff's explanation that I found particularly helpful. He completely restructured my understanding of the Marxian analysis of worker exploitation and profit allocation. There are two angles of Marxist economic thought and socialist economics that get a great deal of attention, at least in the United States, in history and economics classes: the role (or lack thereof) of markets in price setting, and the ownership of the means of production. Defenders of capitalism like to focus on the former, since it's quite easy to identify the advantages of theoretical free markets in finding ideal prices and balancing supply and demand, whereas central planning of prices and production has resulted in some catastrophic and deadly failures. (Although I will note, with passing interest, that those failures predate large-scale computing, and there are now large corporations that manage budgets larger than some countries via centralized command-and-control economic practices.) Defenders of socialism are more likely to focus on the ownership of the means of production, since it's easy to show prima facie unfairness in owners of capital extracting vast profits without having to do any work themselves, only be lucky enough to start with large quantities of money. Wolff, however, argues that both of these focuses misses a core critique by Marx of the workplace structure in capitalism, and that, by ignoring that critique, supposedly Marxist countries did not create anything that was actually Marxist in implementation. The Soviet Union was just as much a capitalist country as the United States is. It was state capitalism rather than private capitalism, but the core capitalist structure was intact. Wolff arrives at this conclusion, which may be well-trodden ground in parts of the world that include active Marxist thought but which was quite startling to this American, by treating the ownership of capital as a partial distraction. He focuses on a more direct question and practical question: who determines what a worker does on a day-to-day basis and how that product is used? Who determines what profits are collected and how they are spent? In private capitalism, this is done by the owners of the capital: large shareholders, major investors, and the managerial class that they hire. In Soviet state capitalism, this is done by national politicians, bureaucrats, and the managerial class that they hire. In neither model is it done by the workers themselves. The Soviet model gives theoretical ownership of the capital to the workers, but that ownership is diffused, centralized, and politicized, redirected through the mechanisms of the state, and therefore is effectively ignored. Ownership and control is entirely captured by the political class. Both of these systems are capitalist in Wolff's view of Marx: there is a class of owners and managers, who control the terms and nature of work and who allocate the profits, and a class of workers, who have to do what they're told, are not paid full value for their labor, and don't have a say in how the profits their work generates are spent. At the most important level of day-to-day autonomy and empowerment, they are functionally identical. They are both equally hierarchical and exploitative; the only difference is in whether the system is controlled by rich individuals or by well-connected politicians. (And, as any study of modern politics quickly reveals, the distinction between those two groups in most countries is murky at best.) Wolff convincingly recasts modern economic history as a constant pendulum swing between private capitalism and state capitalism. Crises in one system push countries towards the other system; subsequent crises push the country back towards the first system. Regulation grows and shrinks, companies are nationalized and then privatized, but both systems are united in excluding the worker from any meaningful control over their work life. The first two-thirds of the book was full of insights like this for me. I didn't agree with all of it, but all of it was worthwhile and thought-provoking. But I was a bit leery of Wolff's proposed solution. My past experience with critics of capitalism is that the critique is often quite compelling, but the proposed solution is much less believable. And, sadly, that concern was warranted here as well. The core of Wolff's proposal is predictable but possibly sound: a restructuring of the workplace to be radically democratic. The business would be owned entirely and exclusively by the people who work for it, equally regardless of the job of the worker, and the workers would decide democratically or via elected repesentatives from among the workers how to allocate the profits of the business, what standards and business practices should be followed, and how the work is to be done. I was particularly interested to hear that this model (workers' self-directed enterprises) has apparently been successful in Spain in the form of the Mondragon Cooperative. Given all the tricky, small details that have to be resolved in an actual workplace, an existence proof is worth more than pounds of theory. Unfortunately, like a lot of proposed alternatives, Wolff's description of WSDEs is quite fuzzy and involves a lot of hand-waving. I was never able to build, from this book, a coherent and complete mental model of how such a workplace would function. Wolff tends to surround every specific in a halo of contingencies, possibilities, and alternative models, and is maddeningly nonspecific on such practical matters as how line management would work, how such a business would do financial planning or project approval, how competing interests in different parts of the organization would be balanced, and other practical governance matters that fill my work life. Maybe the answer to all of that is just "democracy," but I'm dubious. Democracy has a number of well-known flaws that I thought weren't adequately addressed. For example, democracies are often quite happy to further and reinforce existing prejudice (such as sexism or racism), and are prone to yielding control to the most charismatic. Democracies also have an informed voter problem, which seems like it would be particularly acute if democracy is going to make detailed business decisions. And, for larger organizations, control by pre-existing money could re-enter the equation via propaganda and campaigning around votes. Some of this gap in the book could be addressed via a more in-depth look at how Mondragon and any other real-life examples work, but that is sadly missing here. (I am interested enough now, though, that I'd read a good popular treatment of the history and methodology of Mondragon, although I don't think I'm up to working through an academic study.) The hierarchical, dictatorial management structure imposed by capitalism is so awful that WSDEs don't have a particularly high bar to meet to be fairer and more empowering than what we have today. The question, rather, is would they function sufficiently well that the business would be able to make effective decisions, and that's unclear to me from this book. This is, as Wolff spends some time discussing, particularly difficult when in direct competition with capitalist enterprises. This sort of endeavor will probably trade some degree of economic efficiency and raw marketplace power for improvements to fairness and empowerment, but that means it's going to require support from the surrounding society, which is a huge obstacle. I doubt there's a free lunch here: true fairness and equity also leading to improved economic efficiency in a capitalist context is a nice dream, but not horribly practical. Wolff also seems to suffer from something else I associate with Marxist thought: a preferential focus on a very narrowly-defined type of productive worker, apparently left over from Marx's original critique in the context of industrialization. Wolff inserts a very odd and quite awkward distinction in his WSDE model between workers who directly produce the product that's sold, and who in his model therefore produce the profits of the business, and all other workers in the business. He then gives special privileges to the former group to decide how much profit to return in worker compensation and how much to use for other purposes, thus making the supporting workers second-class citizens within this supposedly equal workplace. Speaking as someone who works in IT, and hence would be classified by Wolff into the supporting rather than directly productive category, I do not find this division at all convincing, and Wolff never provides a coherent explanation for why he introduced it. He only says that it's necessary for the governance of the business to not be exploitative, which seems to assume that there is a special economic role played by the workers who work directly on a saleable product. Maybe there is some analysis that could convince me of this, but, if so, it's not present in this book. It struck me as a recipe for continuing the exploitation of the most invisible and powerless workers in capitalism: janitors, groundskeepers, and other low-paid service jobs. I wish the whole book were as insightful and pointed as the first two-thirds, but alas I found the WSDE discussion to be somewhat muddled and utopian. "How do we get there from here" is always the hardest part of this type of discussion, and Wolff has no special skill in that department. But, despite that, I got a lot of fascinating ideas and new conceptual frameworks out of this book, and I'm tempted to read it again. I suspect some of this, similar to my discovery of promises and infinite streams in programming, is filling in of odd gaps in my personal education rather than a discovery of unusual, new ideas. But if you too have gotten your political education within the US capitalism ber alles bubble, this book may fill in similar gaps in your knowledge. If so, it's a very rewarding experience. If you're curious about a preview of Wolff's perspective without paying for the book, I recommend watching the first episode of Moyers & Company in which he appeared. Wolff is a clear and engaging speaker, and his interview provides a good feel for his discussion style and his general perspective. Rating: 8 out of 10

1 January 2013

Russ Allbery: 2012 Book Reading in Review

For the year of 2012, I finished and reviewed 60 books, the same number as 2011. Given how stressful and chaotic much of the year was, I count this a major triumph. The hardest part was not the reading but the review writing; the end of the year required a significant push to finish writing reviews of all the books I'd read that year, and at one point I was reviewing things I'd read more than two months earlier. But I can enter 2013 entirely caught-up. This continues to feel like about the right pace, striking a balance between reading enough that I can pursue multiple reading goals at the same time, while leaving enough time for other projects and video games. I gave three novels a 10 out of 10 this year, but the stand-out even among that group was Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity. Not only was it my favorite book of the year, but it was one of the best books I've ever read. The other two 10-rated books are also highly recommended, of course: Matt Ruff's fascinating novel of multiple personalities, Set This House in Order; and C.J. Cherryh's SF classic, Cyteen. The latter was a re-read in advance of reading the sequel, Regenesis, which I also recommend if you've read and liked the last third of Cyteen. Other fiction highlights of the year were China Mi ville's Embassytown and Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games triology, particularly the third book, Mockingjay. Embassytown continues the trend from Mi ville's The City & The City of tighter, faster-moving novels while moving into space opera and first contact territory. It keeps Mi ville in the top rank of current SFF writers, despite having some suspension of disbelief problems. Collins's world-building in The Hunger Games also has suspension of disbelief problems, but I understood why the series was so popular. I was caught by surprise by its look at violence and its after-effects and was particularly impressed by Mockingjay and Collins's chosen ending. I think this is a popular series that lives up to the hype. There were no 10 ratings in non-fiction this year, but several books nonetheless stood out. John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society is a thought-provoking book that questions the foundation of a consumer-oriented economy while perceptively pointing out how it distorts choices away from public goods. Susan Cain's Quiet is a passionate defense of introversion in an extroverted world. And, finally, Joshua Bloch's Effective Java and Damian Conway's Perl Best Practices are both insightful looks at the good and bad of their respective languages and taught me a great deal as a practicing programmer. One final highlight to mention: Eclipse Phase by Posthuman Studios is an excellent RPG sourcebook, at least from the perspective of interesting world-building. I haven't played it, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it (and have acquired nearly all of the supplements). The full analysis includes some additional personal reading statistics, probably only of interest to me.

25 July 2011

Anand Kumria: Licence stupidity in 2011.

As amazing as it is, there are still people who simply do not understand Free Software licences (but actually generate Free Software). Consider this gem.
A project that is released as GPL cannot be used in any commercial product without the product itself also being offered as open source.
What? You mean like the Linux kernel? A GPL'd product used in many commercial products? Even worse, he conflates "open source" with Free Software. For shame, Kenneth Reitz, for shame.

30 March 2010

Frans Pop: Debianizing an ARM-based netbook

I got this neat little Chinese netbook after a mail to the debian-arm list where one machine was offered in exchange for porting Debian to it. So I offered to get Debian Installer running on it. In total 20 of these ChiTech PC89E netbooks were bought as a group by various people in different countries. The netbook is based on an ARM S3C6410 SoC, has 256 MB RAM and an excellent 8.9" 1024x600 LCD display. The machine itself is 11" and weighs under 800 grams. Most of the weight is the LCD display; they've even had to add a small extra weight in the base to avoid it toppling over backwards. The goal of getting D-I running was achieved last week, though not without needing to overcome some steep hurdles. Base installation Our main problem is that we don't have the source code to either the kernel they use ( with patches from Samsung and others), or the u-boot bootloader. SSH was available without password for the user account and various basic errors allowed us to root the system relatively quickly. Brute force cracked the root password a few days later. The only information we did have was from the provided desktop system (which is really quite good and certainly looks very polished, but in the end still way too limited), what's on the flash memory and the contents ofa "firmware upgrade" image they provided. Having that firmware upgrade image proved very important as it gave us a good idea how to boot the system from SD card and made it possible to locate the kernel, u-boot bootloader and other files in flash memory. Googling for some boot messages we found two kernel source trees (for a different device: SmartQ) that looked promising as a basis. After some disassembly work by Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton on the kernel to get LCD timings and correct GPIO data we managed to get a basic working kernel: LCD, USB (and thus keyboard and touchpad), and wired networking. Although there are still loads of things that need improving/fixing, that gave me enough to work with to try to get Debian Installer going. The main limitations for running D-I are that we cannot change the bootloader configuration and that their boot procedure does not use an initrd. But we did work out how to boot a custom kernel from an external SD card by making creative use of their "firmware upgrade" procedure. Essentially I needed to find a way to run D-I by only booting a kernel. Piggy-backing an initrd onto a kernel is possible (using the 'bootpImage' target from the upstream kernel build system), but then the size of kernel plus initrd is limited to 4 MB and that is really too limited for a decent D-I initrd (especially if you want full i18n support). I ended up creating a micro-initrd (only 66 kB!) which only function is to mount the external SD card, load the real D-I root initramfs (which now no longer has any real size limitation) and then run init in that. After adding some relatively minor customizations for this netbook (such as installing the kernel from a custom repository on alioth), the installer was up and running. As the framebuffer worked without problem for the newt frontend, I next wondered if it would be possible to also get the graphical installer working. This should be easier for non-x86 systems after the recent switch from DirectFB to X.Org as backend for the graphical installer. And the image below shows it was. I had to create an /etc/xorg.conf to get the USB keyboard and touchpad working (apparently auto-detection does not quite work for less standard hardware), but that was basically it. Language selection So now all we have to do is get all the remaining kernel issues sorted out...

17 February 2010

Russell Coker: Can the NBN Ever Break Even?

I previously wrote about how the National Broadband Network (NBN) seems more suited to porn delivery than regular Internet use [1]. It doesn t seem to be of much use really. In a particularly insightful comment John Hughes suggested that the real purpose would be TV delivery. The ABC is currently delivering 640*360 resolution MPEG4 files via iView for it s TV content. To use iView on Linux you need Jeremy Visser s Python-iView program [2] in conjunction with Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton s rtmp program [3]. Note that to get this working on Debian/Lenny you need to install the python-simplejson package as well. For the current ABC service it requires 251652 of data for a 3167.6 second Torchwood episode, that averages to 79.4KB/s of data. In contrast a video of Dan Gilbert from at high quality was in 640*480 resolution and required 301652KB of data for 1276.5 seconds which averaged out to 236.3KB/s. My ADSL2+ connection is theoretically capable of something over 1MB/s and occasionally gets such speeds for unusual download situations (such as downloading multiple large files at the same time). But generally I can t rely can t rely on sustained transfer rates of more than about 200KB/s. So I could watch streaming TED talks at reasonable quality, but for the best results I have to download them and watch them from disk. Assuming the same ratio of compressed data to raw pixels used for HDTV as used for TED talks a 1920*1080 HDTV resolution MPEG4 with the same quality as a TED talk would take 1600KB/s. It is possible to vary the compression level and possibly the usage of a TV stream would permit better compression than the usage of a TED talk for the number of pixels. But it seems reasonable to assume that something like 1600KB/s is needed for best HDTV, that is more than the vast majority of ADSL2+ installations can be relied on to sustain. But 100Mb/s would allow at least two 1920*1080 HDTV transmissions to be viewed at the same time, and maybe three or four as few homes have only one TV this should be of great interest. Now the question is how much people would pay for this. Currently there are two main pay TV companies in Australia, Foxtel which charges $916 for a 12 month plan [4] and Optus who s web site is so awful that I gave up before discovering what they cost (I will assume that they are competitive with Foxtel). Now I think it s reasonable to assume that $916 is at the high end of what potential customers are prepared to pay, as they are competing with free to air TV, DVD sales, Youtube, and downloads of pirate content. The current bank interest rate on term deposits from the Commonwealth bank is 6.3%, the interest rate on raising the finance would have to be greater than that let s assume 7%. So the $5000 per household will require an interest payment of $350 per annum. If a household signs up to pay TV services at a cost of $1200 per annum that might be enough money to pay slightly more than $350 to the NBN plus make a profit for the pay TV company. So if every household in Australia signed up for pay TV over the NBN it should be profitable. But that seems unlikely. The majority of the Australian population (IE the majority of the city population) is used to paying not much more than $240 per annum for a basic phone service and not much more than $360 per annum for a basic broadband Internet service. A bundled deal of $1600 per annum for phone, Internet and pay TV should allow the pay TV company and the NBN to be barely profitable if everyone accepts the deal (unless of course interest rates rise). If half the population aren t interested then the bundled deal would have to cost $2000 to have the potential for being profitable. If three quarters of the population aren t interested then it would have to cost $2300 or more! The Australian Bureau of Statistics documents that in 2008 the median household disposable income in capital cities was $593 per week [5]. So it seems that the idea of the NBN being profitable is based on plan to have more than three weeks of household disposable income per year being spent on Internet/phone/TV services. But fortunately for the pay TV companies and the content companies there is no requirement for the NBN to be profitable, it s being paid by tax money so if it loses money then we can just pay more tax! It s the ideal public private partnership , the citizens take all the risk and the corporations reap all the profits! James Purser describes how Stephen Conroy gave the TV networks something between $250,000,000 and $500,000,000 a year for the next two years [6]. It was claimed that this huge gift would be conditional on the production of more Australian content but they ended up not putting any conditions on it. In a strange coincidence Stephen Conroy did this a month after having a meeting with Kerry Stokes (head of Channel 7). Based on this I don t believe that there was ever a serious plan to make the NBN profitable. I think that the plan was just to take our tax money and spend it on things that benefit friendly corporations. Really it s better for us if the government just hands out $500,000,000 at a time instead of spending $43,000,000,000 on a project that has the same aim of giving a few hundred million to cronies.

5 June 2007

Martin-Éric Racine: mIRC finally supports UTF-8 ... sort-of

A great day for multilingual chatting indeed! Kenneth Falck mentions that mIRC (the de-facto standard IRC client on Microsoft Windows) finally supports incoming UTF-8 encoded messages, starting with version 6.17. Khaled: how about outputting UTF-8 encoded messages too?

18 March 2007

Sune Vuorela: a bug submitters fanclub

Anyone wants to join in the Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton fanclub? And these unfortunately aren’t candidates for DeFuBu

23 December 2006

Thom May: Almost a Christmas present

The Project for the New American Century” has been reduced to a voice-mail box and a ghostly website. A single employee has been left to wrap things up.
A more glorious lead sentence has never been written about the Project, which basically created and nurtured the neo-con view of the world, and the policies of the current presidency - 8 signatories have been senior members of the administration.
The Project is apparently going the way of Republicans across America with some fantastic backstabbing…. Kenneth Adelman, one of the signatories of the Project (and considered to be a member of its pro-war faction - a pretty terrifying concept, given the hawkish tendencies of the Project in general) and a member of the Defense Policy Board, has gone from
“I believe demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.”
“I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent.
They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional.”
in just four years.
Sadly, this isn’t the death knell sounding for neo-conservatism - but it’s always nice to see its edifices crumbling, even just a little.
Merry Christmas!