Search Results: "lindi"

25 December 2021

Russ Allbery: Review: Shattered Pillars

Review: Shattered Pillars, by Elizabeth Bear
Series: Eternal Sky #2
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: March 2013
ISBN: 0-7653-2755-4
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 333
Shattered Pillars is the second book in the Eternal Sky series, which begins with Range of Ghosts. You should read them in order, and ideally close together, since they (along with the next book) form a single continuous story. I made the horrible mistake of reading the first book of an Elizabeth Bear series and then letting four years go by before reading the second one. Bear's trademark style is to underexplain things to the point that it can be hard to follow the plot when you remember it, let alone after more than sufficient time to forget even the general shape of the plot. I therefore spent most of this book (and a bit of Internet searching) trying to dig up pieces of my memory and reconstruct the story. Learn from my error and read the trilogy as one novel if you're going to read it. Please, authors and publishers, put a short plot synopsis at the start of series books. No, your hints about what happened previously that you weave into the first two chapters are not as good as a one-page plot synopsis. No, I don't want to have to re-read the first book; do you have any idea how many books I own but haven't read? No, the Internet doesn't provide plot synopses for every book. Give me a couple of paragraphs and help me enjoy your fiction! Argh. Possible spoiler warnings for the first book are in order because I don't remember the first book well enough to remember what plot details might be a spoiler. As Shattered Pillars opens, Temur, Samarkar, and their companions have reached the western city of Asitaneh, seeking help from Temur's grandfather to rescue Edene from the Nameless. This will require breaching the Nameless fortress of Ala-Din. That, in turn, will entangle Temur and Samarkar in the politics of the western caliphate, where al-Sepehr of the Nameless is also meddling. Far to the east, from where Samarkar came, a deadly plague breaks out in the city of Tsarepheth, one that follows an eerily reliable progression and is even more sinister than it may first appear. Al-Sepehr's plans to sow chaos and war using ancient evil magic and bend the results to his favor continue apace. But one of the chess pieces he thought he controlled has partly escaped his grasp. Behind all of this lurks the powers of Erem and its scorching, blinding, multi-sunned sky. Al-Sepehr believes he understands those powers well enough to use them. He may be wrong. This is entirely the middle book of a trilogy, in that essentially nothing is resolved here. All the pieces in motion at the start of this book are still in motion at the end of this book. We learn a lot more about the characters, get some tantalizing and obscure glances at Erem, and end the book with a firmer idea of the potential sides and powers in play, but there is barely any plot resolution and no proper intermediate climax. This is a book to read as part of a series, not on its own. That said, I enjoyed this book considerably more than I would have expected given how little is resolved. Bear's writing is vivid and engrossing and made me feel like I was present in this world even when nothing apparently significant was happening. And, as usual, her world-building is excellent if you like puzzles, stray hints, and complicated, multi-faceted mythology. This is a world in which the sky literally changes depending on which magical or mythological system reigns supreme in a given area, which in the Erem sections give it a science fiction flavor. If someone told me Bear could merge Silk Road historical fantasy with some of the feel of planetary romance (but far more sophisticated writing), I would have been dubious, but it works. Perhaps the best thing about this book is that all of the characters feel like adults. They make complex, nuanced decisions in pursuit of their goals, thoughtfully adjust to events, rarely make obviously stupid decisions, and generally act like the intelligent and experienced people that they are. This is refreshing in epic fantasy, where the plot tends to steamroll the characters and where often there's a young chosen one at the center of the plot whose courage and raw power overcomes repeated emotional stupidity. Shattered Pillars is careful, precise, and understated where epic fantasy is often brash, reckless, and over-explained. That plus the subtle and deep world-building makes this world feel older and more complex than most series of this sort. There's also a magical horse, who is delightfully uninterested in revealing anything about where it came from or why it's magical, and who was probably my favorite character of the book. Hrahima, the giant tiger-woman, is a close second. I was intrigued to learn more about her complicated relationship with her entirely separate mythology, and hope there's more about that the third book. The villain is still hissable, but a bit less blatantly so on camera. It helps that the scenes from the villains' perspective primarily focus on his more interesting servants. One of the problems with this book, and I think one of the reasons why it feels so transitional and intermediate, is that there are a lot of viewpoint characters and a lot of scene-switching. We're kept up-to-date with four separate threads of events, generally with more than one viewpoint character in each of those threads, and at times (particularly with the wizards of Tsarepheth) I had trouble keeping all the supporting characters straight. Hopefully the third book will quickly merge plot lines and bring some of this complexity together. I wish I'd read this more closely to Range of Ghosts. Either that or a plot synopsis would have helped me enjoy it more. But this is solid epic fantasy by one of SFF's better writers, and now I'm invested in the series again. Some unfortunate logistics are currently between me and the third book, but it won't be four years before I finish the series. Followed by Steles of the Sky. Rating: 7 out of 10

25 May 2021

Shirish Agarwal: Pandemic, Toolkit and India

Pandemic Situation in India. I don t know from where I should start. This is probably a good start. I actually would recommend Indiacable as they do attempt to share some things happening in India from day to day but still there is a lot thatt they just can t cover, nobody can cover. There were two reports which kind of shook me all inside. One which sadly came from the UK publication Independent, probably as no Indian publication would dare publish it. The other from Rural India. I have been privileged in many ways, including friends who have asked me if I need any financial help. But seeing reports like above, these people need more help, guidance and help than I. While I m never one to say give to Foundations. If some people do want to help people from Maharashtra, then moneylifefoundation could be a good place where they could donate. FWIW, they usually use the foundation to help savers and investors be safe and help in getting money when taken by companies with dubious intentions. That is their drive. Two articles show their bent. The first one is about the Algo scam which I have written previously about the same in this blog. Interestingly, when I talk about this scam, all Modi supporters are silent. The other one does give some idea as to why the Govt. is indifferent. That is going to a heavy cross for all relatives to bear. There has been a lot that has been happening. Now instead of being limited to cities, Covid has now gone hinterland in a big way. One could ask also Praveen as he probably knows what would be good for Kerala and surrounding areas. The biggest change, however, has been that India is now battling not just the pandemic but also Mucormycosis also known as black fungus and its deadlier cousin the white fungus. Mucormycosis came largely due to an ill-advise given that applying cow dung gives protection to Corona. And many applied it due to faith. And people who know science do know that in fact it has that bacteria. Sadly, those of us who are and were more interested in law, computer science etc. has now also have to keep on top of what is happening in the medical field. It isn t that I hate it, but it has a lot of costs. From what I could gather on various social media and elsewhere, a single injection of anti-fungal for the above costs INR 3k/- and that needs to be 5 times in a day and that course has to be for three weeks. So even the relatively wealthy people can and will become poor in no time. No wonder thousands of those went to UK, US, Dubai or wherever they could find safe-harbor from the pandemic with no plans of arriving back soon. There was also the whole bit about FBS or Fetal Bovin Serum. India ordered millions of blood serum products from abroad and continues to. This was quickly shut down as news on Social Media. Apparently, it is only the Indian cow which is worthy of reverence. All other cows and their children are fair game according to those in power. Of course, that discussion was quickly shut down as was the discussion about IGP (Indian Genome Project). People over the years had asked me why India never participated for the HGP (Human Gnome Project). I actually had no answer for that. Then in 2020, there was idea of IGP which was put up and then it was quickly shot down as the results could damage a political party s image. In fact, a note to people who want to join Indian civil services tells the reason exactly. While many countries in the world are hypocrites, including the U.S. none can take the place that India has made for itself in that field.

The Online experience The vaccination process has been made online and has led to severe heartburn and trouble for many including many memes. For e.g.

Daily work, get up, have a bath, see if you got a slot on the app, sleep.
People trying desperately to get a slot, taken from Hindi Movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaygenge.
Just to explain what is happening, one has to go to the website of cowin. Sharing a screenshot of the same.
Cowin app. sceeenshot
I have deliberately taken a screenshot of the cowin app. in U.P. which is one of the areas where the ruling party, BJP has. I haven t taken my state for the simple reason, even if a slot is open, it is of no use as there are no vaccines. As have been shared in India Cable as well as in many newspapers, it is the Central Govt. which holds the strings for the vaccines. Maharashtra did put up an international tender but to no effect. All vaccine manufacturers want only Central Govt. for purchases for multiple reasons. And GOI is saying it has no money even though recently it got loans as well as a dividend from RBI to the tune of 99k crore. For what all that money is, we have no clue. Coming back though, to the issue at hand. the cowin app. is made an open api. While normally, people like us should and are happy when an API is open, it has made those who understand how to use git, compile, etc. better than others. A copy of the public repo. of how you can do the same can be found on Github. Now, obviously, for people like me and many others it has ethical issues.

Kiran s Interview in Times of India (TOI) There isn t much to say apart from I haven t used it. I just didn t want to. It just is unethical. Hopefully, in the coming days GOI does something better. That is the only thing we are surviving on, hope.

The Toolkit saga A few days before, GOI shared a toolkit apparently made by Congress to defame the party in power. That toolkit was shared before the press and Altnews did the investigation and promptly shredded the claims. Congress promptly made an FIR in Chhattisgarh where it is in power. The gentleman who made the claims Mr. Sambit Patra refused to appear against the police without evidence citing personal reasons and asking 1 week to appear before them. Apart from Altnews which did a great job, sadly many people didn t even know that there is something called WYSIWYG. I had to explain that so many Industries, whether it is politics, creative industries, legal, ad industries, medical transcription, and imaging all use this, and all the participants use the same version of the software. The reason being that in most Industries, there is a huge loss and issue of legal liabilities if something untoward happens. For e.g. if medical transcription is done in India is wrong (although his or her work will be checked by a superior in the West), but for whatever reason is not, and a wrong diagnosis is put (due to wrong color or something) then a patient could die and the firm who does that work could face heavy penalties which could be the death of them. There is another myth that Congress has unlimited wealth or huge wealth. I asked if that was the case, why didn t they shift to Mac. Of course, none have answers on this one. There is another reason why they didn t want to appear. The Rona Wilson investigation by Arsenal Experts also has made them cautious. Previously, they had a free run. Nowadays, software forensic tools are available to one and all. For e.g. Debian itself has a good variety of tools for the same. I remember Vipin s sharing few years back. For those who want to start, just install the apps. and try figuring out. Expertise on using the tools takes years though, as you use the tool day in night. Update 25/05/2021 Apparently because Twitter made and showcased few tweets as Manipulated Media , those in Govt. are and were dead against it. So they conducted a raid against Twitter India headquarters, knowing fully well that there would be nobody except security. The moment I read this, my mind went to the whole Fruit of the poisonous tree legal doctrine. Sadly though, India doesn t recognize it and in fact, still believes in the pre-colonial era that evidence however collected is good. A good explanation of the same can be found here. There are some exceptions to the rule, but they are done so fine that more often than not, they can t be used in the court of law in India. Although a good RTI was shared by Mr. Saket Gokhale on the same issue, which does raise some interesting points
Twitter India Raid, Saket Gokhale RTI 1
Saket Gokhale RTI query , Twitter India Raid 2
FWIW, Saket has been successful in getting his prayers heard either as answers to RTI queries or then following it up in the various High Courts of India. Of course, those who are in the ruling party ridicule him but are unable to find faults in his application of logic. And quite a few times, I have learned from his applications as well as nuances or whatever is there in law, a judgment or a guideline which he invokes in his prayer. For e.g. the Lalitha Kumari Guidelines which the gentleman has shared in his prayer can be found here. Hence now, it would be upto the Delhi Police Cell to prove their case in response to RTI. He has also trapped them as he has shared they can t give excuses/exemptions which they have tried before. As I had shared earlier, High Courts in India have woken up, whether it is Delhi, Mumbai, Aurangabad, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha or Kerala. Just today i.e. on 25th May 2021, Justices Bela Trivedi and Justice Kalra had asked how come all the hospitals don t have NOC from the Fire De[partment. They also questioned the ASG (Assistant Solicitor General) as how BU (Building Use Certificate) has been granted as almost all the 400 hospitals are in residential area. To which the ASG replies, it is the same state in almost 4000 schools as well as 6000 odd factories in Ahemdabad alone, leave the rest of the district and state alone. And this is when last year strict instuctions were passed. They chose to do nothing sadly. I will share a link on this when bar and bench gives me  The Hindu also shared the whole raid on twitter saga.

Conclusion In conclusion, I sincerely do not where we are headed. The only thing I know is that we cannot expect things to be better before year-end and maybe even after that. It all depends on the vaccines and their availability. After that ruralindia article, I had to see quite a few movies and whatnot just to get that out of my head. And this is apart from the 1600 odd teachers and workers who have died in the U.P. poll duty. Now, what a loss, not just to the family members of the victims, but a whole generation of school children who would not be able to get quality teaching and be deprived of education. What will be their future, God only knows. The only good Bollywood movie which I saw was Ramprasad ki Teravi . The movie was an accurate representation of most families in and around me. There was a movie called Sansar (1987) which showed the breakup of the joint family and into a nuclear family. This movie could very well have been a continuation of the same. Even Marathi movies which at one time were very progressive have gone back to the same boy, girl love story routine. Sameer, though released in late 2020, was able to see it only recently. Vakeel Saab was an ok copy of Pink . I loved Sameer as, unlike Salman Khan films, it showed pretty much an authentic human struggle of a person who goes to the Middle East without any qualifications and works as a laborer and the trials he goes through. Somehow, Malayalam movies have a knack for showing truth without much of budget. Most of the Indian web series didn t make an impact. I think many of them were just going through the motions, it seems as everybody is concerned with the well-being of their near and dear ones. There was also this (Trigger Warning: This story discusses organized campaigns glorifying and advocating sexual violence against Muslim women.) Hoping people somehow make it to the other side of the pandemic.

22 April 2021

Shirish Agarwal: The Great Train Robbery

I had a twitter fight few days back with a gentleman and the article is a result of that fight. Sadly, I do not know the name of the gentleman as he goes via a psuedo name and then again I ve not taken permission from him to quote him in either way. So I will just state the observations I was able to make from the conversations we had. As people who read this blog regularly would know, I am and have been against Railway Privatization which is happening in India. And will be sharing some of the case studies from other countries as to how it panned out for them.

UK Railways
How Privatization Fails : Railways
The Above video is by a gentleman called Shaun who basically shared that privatization as far as UK is concerned is nothing but monopolies and while there are complex reasons for the same, the design of the Railways is such that it will always be a monopoly structure. At the most what you can do is have several monopolies but that is all that can happen. The idea of competition just cannot happen. Even the idea that subsidies will be less or/and trains will run on time is far from fact. Both of these facts have been checked and found to be truthful by It is and argued that UK is small and perhaps it doesn t have the right conditions. It is probably true but still we do deserve to have a glance at the UK railway map.
UK railway map with operatorsUK railway map with operators
The above map is copyrighted to Map Marketing where you could see it today . As can be seen above most companies had their own specified areas. Now if you had looked at the facts then you would have seen that UK fares have been higher. In fact, an oldish article from Metro (a UK publication) shares the same. In fact, UK nationalized its railways effectively as many large rail operators were running in red. Even Scotland is set to nationalised back in March 2022. Remember this is a country which hasn t seen inflation go upwards of 5% in nearly a decade. The only outlier was 2011 where they indeed breached the 5% mark. So from this, what we see is Private Gains and Private Gains Public Losses perhaps seem fit. But then maybe we didn t use the right example. Perhaps Japan would be better. They have bullet trains while UK is still thinking about it. (HS2).

Japanese Railway Below is the map of Japanese Railway
Railway map of Japan with private ownership courtesy Wikimedia commons
Japan started privatizing its railway in 1987 and to date it has not been fully privatized. And on top of it, amount as much as 24 trillion of the long-term JNR debt was shouldered by the government at the expense of taxpayers of Japan while also reducing almost 1/4th of it employees. To add to it, while some parts of Japanese Railways did make profits, many of them made profits by doing large-scale non-railway business mostly real estate of land adjacent to railway stations. In many cases, it seems this went all the way up to 60% of the revenue. The most profitable has been the Shinkansen though. And while it has been profitable, it has not been without safety scandals over the years, the biggest in recent years was the 2005 Amagasaki derailment. What was interesting to me was the Aftermath, while the Wikipedia page doesn t share much, I had read at the time and probably could be found how a lot of ordinary people stood up to the companies in a country where it is a known fact that most companies are owned by the Yakuza. And this is a country where people are loyal to their corporation or company no matter what. It is a strange culture to west and also here in India where people change jobs on drop of hat, although nowadays we have record unemployment. So perhaps Japan too does not meet our standard as it doesn t do competition with each other but each is a set monopoly in those regions. Also how much subsidy is there or not is not really transparent.

U.S. Railways Last, but not the least I share the U.S. Railway map. This is provided by A Mr. Tom Alison on reddit on channel maporn. As the thread itself is archived and I do not know the gentleman concerned, nor have taken permission for the map, hence sharing the compressed version

U.S. Railway lines with the different owners
Now the U.S. Railways is and has always been peculiar as unlike the above two the U.S. has always been more of a freight network. Probably, much of it has to do that in the 1960 s when oil was cheap, the U.S. made zillions of roadways and romanticized the road trip and has been doing it ever since. Also the creation of low-cost airlines definitely didn t help the railways to have more passenger services, in fact the opposite. There are and have been smaller services and attempts of privatization in both New Zealand and Australia and both have been failures. Please see papers in that regard. My simple point is this, as can be seen above, there have been various attempts at privatization of railways and most of them have been a mixed bag. The only one which comes close to what we think as good is Japanese but that also used a lot of public debt which we don t know what will happen on next. Also for higher-speed train services like a bullet train or whatever, you need to direct, no hair pen bends. In fact, a good talk on the topic is the TBD podcast which while it talks about hyperloop, the same questions is and would be asked if were to do in India. Another thing to be kept in mind is that the Japanese have been exceptional builders and this is because they have been forced to. They live in a seismically active zone which made Fukushima disaster a reality but at the same time, their buildings are earthquake-resistant. Standard Disclaimer The above is a simplified version of things. I could have added in financial accounts but that again has no set pattern. For e.g. some Railways use accrual, some use cash and some use hybrid. I could have also shared in either the guage or electrification but all have slightly different standards, although uniguage is something that all Railways aspire for and electrification is again something that all Railways want although in many cases it just isn t economically feasible.

Indian Railways Indian Railways itself recently made the move from Cash to Accrual couple of years back. In-between for a couple of years, it was hybrid. The sad part is and was you can now never measure against past performance in the old way because it is so different. Hence, whether the Railways will be making a loss or a profit, we would come to know only much later. Also, most accountants don t know the new system well, so it is gonna take more time, how much unknown. Sadly, what GOI did a few years back is merge the Railway budget into the Union Budget. Of course, the excuse they gave is too many pressures of new trains, while the truth is, by doing this, they decreased transparency about the whole thing. For e.g. for the last few years, the only state which had significant work being done is in U.P. (Uttar Pradesh) and a bit in Goa, although that is has been protested time and again. I being from the neighborly state of Maharashtra , and have been there several times. Now it does feels all like a dream, going to Goa :(.

Covid news Now before I jump on the news, I should share the movie Virus (2019) which was made by the talented Aashiq Abu. Even though, am not a Malayalee, I still have enjoyed many of his movies simply because he is a terrific director and Malayalam movies, at least most of them have English subtitles and lot of original content.. Interestingly, unlike the first couple of times when I saw it a couple of years back. The first time I saw it, I couldn t sleep a wink for a week. Even the next time, it was heavy. I had shared the movie with mum, and even she couldn t see it in one go. It is and was that powerful Now maybe because we are headlong in the pandemic, and the madness is all around us. There are two terms that helped me though understand a great deal of what is happening in the movie, the first term was altered sensorium which has been defined here. The other is saturation or to be more precise oxygen saturation . This term has also entered the Indian twitter lexicon quite a bit as India has started running out of oxygen. Just today Delhi High Court did an emergency hearing on the subject late at night. Although there is much to share about the mismanagement of the center, the best piece on the subject has been by Miss Priya Ramani. Yup, the same lady who has won against M.J. Akbar and this is when Mr. Akbar had 100 lawyers for this specific case. It would be interesting to see what happens ahead. There are however few things even she forgot in her piece, For e.g. reverse migration i.e. from urban to rural migration started again. Two articles from different entities sharing a similar outlook.Sadly, the right have no empathy or feeling for either the poor or the sick. Even the labor minister Santosh Gangwar s statement that around 1.04 crores were the only people who walked back home. While there is not much data, however some work/research has been done on migration to cites that the number could be easily 10 times as much. And this was in the lockdown of last year. This year, again the same issue has re-surfaced and migrants learning lessons started leaving cities. And I m ashamed to say I think they are doing the right thing. Most State Governments have not learned lessons nor have they done any work to earn the trust of migrants. This is true of almost all state Governments. Last year, just before the lockdown was announced, me and my friend spent almost 30k getting a cab all the way from Chennai to Pune, how much we paid for the cab, how much we bribed the various people just so we could cross the state borders to return home to our anxious families. Thankfully, unlike the migrants, we were better off although we did make a loss. I probably wouldn t be alive if I were in their situation as many didn t. That number is still in the air undocumented deaths  Vaccine issues Currently, though the issue has been the Vaccine and the pricing of the same. A good article to get a summation of the issues outlined has been shared on Economist. Another article that goes to the heart of the issue is at scroll. To buttress the argument, the SII chairman had shared this few weeks back
Adar Poonawala talking to Vishnu Som on Left, right center, 7th April 2021.
So, a licensee manufacturer wants to make super-profits during the pandemic. And now, as shared above they can very easily do it. Even the quotes given to nearby countries is smaller than the quotes given to Indian states

Prices of AstraZeneca among various states and countries.
The situation around beds, vaccines, oxygen, anything is so dire that people could go to any lengths to save their loved ones. Even if they know if a certain medicine doesn t work. For e.g. Remdesivir, 5 WHO trials have concluded that it doesn t increase mortality. Heck, even AIIMS chief said the same. But both doctors and relatives desperation to cling on hope has made Remdesivir as a black market drug with unoffical prices hovering anywhere between INR 14k/- to INR30k/- per vial. One of the executives of a top firm was also arrested in Gujarat. In Maharashtra, the opposition M.P. came to the rescue of the officials of Bruick pharms in Mumbai. Sadly, this strange affliction to the party in the center is also there in my extended family. At one end, they will heap praise on Mr. Modi, at the same time they can t get wait to get fast out of India. Many of them have settled in horrors of horror Dubai, as it is the best place to do business, get international schools for the young ones at decent prices, cheaper or maybe a tad more than what they paid in Delhi or elsewhere. Being an Agarwal or a Gupta makes it easier to compartmentalize both things. Ease of doing business, 5 days flat to get a business registered, up and running. And the paranoia is still there. They won t talk on the phone about him because they are afraid they may say something which comes back to bite them. As far as their decision to migrate, can t really blame them. If I were 20-25 yeas younger and my mum were in a better shape than she is, we probably would have migrated as well, although would have preferred Europe than anywhere else.

Internet Freedom and Aarogya Setu App.

Internet Freedom had shared the chilling effects of the Aarogya Setu App. This had also been shared by FSCI in the past, and recently had their handle being banned on Twitter. This was also apparent in a legal bail order which the high court judge gave. While I won t go into the merits and demerits of the bail order, it is astounding for the judge to say that the accused, even though he would be on bail install an app. so he can be surveilled. And this is a high court judge, such a sad state of affairs. We seem to be putting up new lows every day when it comes to judicial jurisprudence. One interesting aspect of the whole case was shared by Aishwarya Iyer. She shared a story that she and her team worked on quint which raises questions on the quality of the work done by Delhi Police. This is of course, up to Delhi Police to ascertain the truth of the matter because unless and until they are able to tie in the PMO s office in for a leak or POTUS s office it hardly seems possible. For e.g. the dates when two heads of state can meet each other would be decided by the secretaries of the two. Once the date is known, it would be shared with the press while at the same time some sort of security apparatus would kick in place. It is incumbent, especially on the host to take as much care as he can of the guest. We all remember that World War 1 (the war to end all wars) started due to the murder of Archduke Ferdinand.

As nobody wants that, the best way is to make sure that a political murder doesn t happen on your watch. Now while I won t comment on what it would be, it would be safe to assume that it would be z+ security along with higher readiness. Especially if it as somebody as important as POTUS. Now, it would be quite a reach for Delhi Police to connect the two dates. They either will have to get creative with the dates or some other way. Otherwise, with practically no knowledge in the public domain, they can t work in limbo. In either case, I do hope the case comes up for hearing soon and we see what the Delhi Police says and contends in the High Court about the same. At the very least, it would be irritating for them to talk of the dates unless they can contend some mass conspiracy which involves the PMO (and would bring into question the constant vetting done by the Intelligence dept. of all those who work in PMO). And this whole case is to kind of shelter to the Delhi riots which happened in which majorly the Muslims died but their deaths lay unaccounted till date

Conclusion In Conclusion, I would like to share a bit of humor because right now the atmosphere is humorless, both with authoritarian tendencies of the Central Govt. and the mass mismanagement of public health which they now have left to the state to do as they fit. The peice I am sharing is from arre, one of my goto sites whenever I feel low.

28 February 2021

Jamie McClelland: From openbox to sway

I've been running the Openbox window manager since 2005. That's longer then I've lived in any one apartment in my entire life! However, over the years I've been bracing for a change. It seems clear the Wayland is the future, although when that future is supposed to begin is much more hazy. Really, I've felt a bit like a ping pong ball, from panicking over whether Xorg is abandoned (with a follow up from a X server maintainer) to anxiously wondering if literally everything will break the moment I switch to Wayland. In fact, I started this blog post over a year ago when I first decided to switch from the Openbox to Sway. This is my third major attempt to make the change and I think it will finally stick this time. In retrospect, it would have been more sensible to first switch from openbox to i3 (which is a huge transition) and then from i3 to sway, but I decided to dive into the deep end with both changes. So... I'm on debian bullseye so I installed sway and friends (from sid). Then I copied /etc/sway/config to ~/.config/sway/config. I start openbox after logging in with exec startx so after rebooting, I ran exec sway and to my astonishment sway started. Hooray! However, I found that ssh-agent wasn't running so I couldn't ssh into any servers. That's kinda a problem. Launching ssh-agent under openbox was buried deep in /etc/X11/Xsession.d/90x11-common_ssh-agent and clearly was not going to happen via wayland. Since programs using ssh-agent depend on the environment variables SSH_AUTH_SOCK and SSH_AGENT_PID being globally available I thought I could simply run $(eval ssh-agent) via my tty terminal before running exec sway. And, that would have worked. Except... I like to add my keys via ssh-add -c so that everytime my key is being used I get a ssh-askpass prompt to confirm the use. It seems that since ssh-add is started before a window manager is running, it can't run the prompt. Ok, we can fix this. After searching the web, I came upon a solution of running ssh-agent via systemctl --user:
# This service myst be started manually after sway
# starts.
Description=OpenSSH private key agent
ExecStart=/usr/bin/ssh-agent -a $SSH_AUTH_SOCK
Then, in my ~/.bashrc file I have:
if [ -n WAYLAND_DISPLAY ]; then
  export SSH_AUTH_SOCK=/run/user/1000/ssh-agent.socket
I think $SSH_AGENT_PID is only used by ssh-agent to kill itself. Now that is running via systemd - killing it should be do-able without a global environment variable. Done? Hardly. I've been using impass (nee assword) happily for years but alas it is tightly integrated with xdo and xclip. So... I've switched to keepassxc which works out of the box with wayland. My next challenge was the status bar. Farewell faithful tint2. One of the reasons I failed on my first two attempts to switch to Sway was the difficulty of getting the swaybar to work how I wanted, particularly with nm-applet. Two things allowed me to move forward: Next up: the waybar clock module doesn't work, but that is easy enough to work around. Replacing my uses of xclip with wl-clipboard was a little tedious but really not that difficult. Getting my screen shot and screen recorder functionality was a bit harder. I did a lot of searching before I finally found and compiled both swappy, screen shot and wf-recorder. In the course of all my adventures, I came across the following helpful tips:
  1. I've installed libreoffice-gtk3 to ensure libre office runs under wayland
  2. I've installed the latest Gimp via flatpak to get proper wayland support
  3. I've exported MOZ_ENABLE_WAYLAND to ensure firefox works properly.
  4. I've found that passing -c to my ssh-add command to ensure I am prompted for each use of my key seems to cause sway to crash intermittently.
  5. I am working on a questionable work around to get screen sharing to work in zoom. I haven't actually tried it on a real zoom call yet.
  6. Speaking of screen sharing - when using Firefox, I can only share Xwayland screens. Firefox is running under wayland so I can't share it. Chromium is running under xwayland, so I have to use Chromium when screen sharing.
  7. Wait, scratch that about screen sharing in Firefox. I've installed xdg-desktop-portal-wlr, added export XDG_CURRENT_DESKTOP=sway and export XDG_SESSION_TYPE=wayland to my .bashrc, and after hours of frustration, realize that I needed to configured firejail to allow it so that I can share my entire screen in Firefox. It doesn't yet support sharing a specific window, so I still have to keep chromium around for that (and Chromium can only share xwayland windows). Sigh. Oh, one more thing about Firefox: the option to choose what to share doesn't have "Entire Screen" as an option, you are just supposed to know that you should choose "Use operating system settings".
  8. I still am getting weekly crashes. Some of them I've fixed by switching to wayland friendly versions (e.g. Libre Office and Gimp) but others I haven't yet tracked down.
  9. My keyboard does not have an altgr key, so even though I have selected the "English (US) - English (intl., with AltGr dead keys)" I can't get accent marks. I went down a rabbit hole of trying to re-map the Alt key to the right of my space bar but it all seemed too complicated. So - I found a way easier approach. In my ~/.config/sway/config file I have: bindsym Mod4+e exec wtype " ". I have repeated that line for the main accent marks I need.
  10. Due to a Firefox Bug, when I share my desktop or mic or camera, the sharing indicator expands like a normal tiling window instead of remaining a tiny little box on each desktop reminding me that I'm sharing something. I'd prefer to have it be a tiny little box, but since I can't figure that out, I've disabled it by typing about:config in the Firefox location window, searching for privacy.webrtc.legacyGlobalIndicator and setting it to False. The reddit thread also suggested finding privacy.webrtc.hideGlobalIndicator and setting it to True, but that setting doesn't seem to be available and setting the first one alone seems to do the trick.
  11. Oh, one more environment variable to set: GDK_BACKEND=wayland,x11. First I just set it to wayland to get gtk3 apps to use wayland (like gajim). But that broke electron apps (like signal) which notice that variable but don't have a way to display via wayland (at least not yet). Setting it to "wayland,x11" shows the priority. Thank you ubuntu community.
  12. I've also finally consolidated where my environment variables go. I've added them all to ~/.config/sway/env. That seems like an official sway place to put them, but sway doesn't pay any attention to them. So I start sway via my own bash script which sources that file via [ -f "$HOME/.config/sway/env" ] && . "$HOME/.config/sway/env" before exec'ing sway.

15 November 2017

Kees Cook: security things in Linux v4.14

Previously: v4.13. Linux kernel v4.14 was released this last Sunday, and there s a bunch of security things I think are interesting: vmapped kernel stack on arm64
Similar to the same feature on x86, Mark Rutland and Ard Biesheuvel implemented CONFIG_VMAP_STACK for arm64, which moves the kernel stack to an isolated and guard-paged vmap area. With traditional stacks, there were two major risks when exhausting the stack: overwriting the thread_info structure (which contained the addr_limit field which is checked during copy_to/from_user()), and overwriting neighboring stacks (or other things allocated next to the stack). While arm64 previously moved its thread_info off the stack to deal with the former issue, this vmap change adds the last bit of protection by nature of the vmap guard pages. If the kernel tries to write past the end of the stack, it will hit the guard page and fault. (Testing for this is now possible via LKDTM s STACK_GUARD_PAGE_LEADING/TRAILING tests.) One aspect of the guard page protection that will need further attention (on all architectures) is that if the stack grew because of a giant Variable Length Array on the stack (effectively an implicit alloca() call), it might be possible to jump over the guard page entirely (as seen in the userspace Stack Clash attacks). Thankfully the use of VLAs is rare in the kernel. In the future, hopefully we ll see the addition of PaX/grsecurity s STACKLEAK plugin which, in addition to its primary purpose of clearing the kernel stack on return to userspace, makes sure stack expansion cannot skip over guard pages. This stack probing ability will likely also become directly available from the compiler as well. set_fs() balance checking
Related to the addr_limit field mentioned above, another class of bug is finding a way to force the kernel into accidentally leaving addr_limit open to kernel memory through an unbalanced call to set_fs(). In some areas of the kernel, in order to reuse userspace routines (usually VFS or compat related), code will do something like: set_fs(KERNEL_DS); ...some code here...; set_fs(USER_DS);. When the USER_DS call goes missing (usually due to a buggy error path or exception), subsequent system calls can suddenly start writing into kernel memory via copy_to_user (where the to user really means within the addr_limit range ). Thomas Garnier implemented USER_DS checking at syscall exit time for x86, arm, and arm64. This means that a broken set_fs() setting will not extend beyond the buggy syscall that fails to set it back to USER_DS. Additionally, as part of the discussion on the best way to deal with this feature, Christoph Hellwig and Al Viro (and others) have been making extensive changes to avoid the need for set_fs() being used at all, which should greatly reduce the number of places where it might be possible to introduce such a bug in the future. SLUB freelist hardening
A common class of heap attacks is overwriting the freelist pointers stored inline in the unallocated SLUB cache objects. PaX/grsecurity developed an inexpensive defense that XORs the freelist pointer with a global random value (and the storage address). Daniel Micay improved on this by using a per-cache random value, and I refactored the code a bit more. The resulting feature, enabled with CONFIG_SLAB_FREELIST_HARDENED, makes freelist pointer overwrites very hard to exploit unless an attacker has found a way to expose both the random value and the pointer location. This should render blind heap overflow bugs much more difficult to exploit. Additionally, Alexander Popov implemented a simple double-free defense, similar to the fasttop check in the GNU C library, which will catch sequential free()s of the same pointer. (And has already uncovered a bug.) Future work would be to provide similar metadata protections to the SLAB allocator (though SLAB doesn t store its freelist within the individual unused objects, so it has a different set of exposures compared to SLUB). setuid-exec stack limitation
Continuing the various additional defenses to protect against future problems related to userspace memory layout manipulation (as shown most recently in the Stack Clash attacks), I implemented an 8MiB stack limit for privileged (i.e. setuid) execs, inspired by a similar protection in grsecurity, after reworking the secureexec handling by LSMs. This complements the unconditional limit to the size of exec arguments that landed in v4.13. randstruct automatic struct selection
While the bulk of the port of the randstruct gcc plugin from grsecurity landed in v4.13, the last of the work needed to enable automatic struct selection landed in v4.14. This means that the coverage of randomized structures, via CONFIG_GCC_PLUGIN_RANDSTRUCT, now includes one of the major targets of exploits: function pointer structures. Without knowing the build-randomized location of a callback pointer an attacker needs to overwrite in a structure, exploits become much less reliable. structleak passed-by-reference variable initialization
Ard Biesheuvel enhanced the structleak gcc plugin to initialize all variables on the stack that are passed by reference when built with CONFIG_GCC_PLUGIN_STRUCTLEAK_BYREF_ALL. Normally the compiler will yell if a variable is used before being initialized, but it silences this warning if the variable s address is passed into a function call first, as it has no way to tell if the function did actually initialize the contents. So the plugin now zero-initializes such variables (if they hadn t already been initialized) before the function call that takes their address. Enabling this feature has a small performance impact, but solves many stack content exposure flaws. (In fact at least one such flaw reported during the v4.15 development cycle was mitigated by this plugin.) improved boot entropy
Laura Abbott and Daniel Micay improved early boot entropy available to the stack protector by both moving the stack protector setup later in the boot, and including the kernel command line in boot entropy collection (since with some devices it changes on each boot). eBPF JIT for 32-bit ARM
The ARM BPF JIT had been around a while, but it didn t support eBPF (and, as a result, did not provide constant value blinding, which meant it was exposed to being used by an attacker to build arbitrary machine code with BPF constant values). Shubham Bansal spent a bunch of time building a full eBPF JIT for 32-bit ARM which both speeds up eBPF and brings it up to date on JIT exploit defenses in the kernel. seccomp improvements
Tyler Hicks addressed a long-standing deficiency in how seccomp could log action results. In addition to creating a way to mark a specific seccomp filter as needing to be logged with SECCOMP_FILTER_FLAG_LOG, he added a new action result, SECCOMP_RET_LOG. With these changes in place, it should be much easier for developers to inspect the results of seccomp filters, and for process launchers to generate logs for their child processes operating under a seccomp filter. Additionally, I finally found a way to implement an often-requested feature for seccomp, which was to kill an entire process instead of just the offending thread. This was done by creating the SECCOMP_RET_ACTION_FULL mask (n e SECCOMP_RET_ACTION) and implementing SECCOMP_RET_KILL_PROCESS. That s it for now; please let me know if I missed anything. The v4.15 merge window is now open!

2017, Kees Cook. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
Creative Commons License

11 September 2017

Steinar H. Gunderson: rANS encoding of signed coefficients

I'm currently trying to make sense of some still image coding (more details to come at a much later stage!), and for a variety of reasons, I've chosen to use rANS as the entropy coder. However, there's an interesting little detail that I haven't actually seen covered anywhere; maybe it's just because I've missed something, or maybe because it's too blindingly obvious, but I thought I would document what I ended up with anyway. (I had hoped for something even more elegant, but I guess the obvious would have to do.) For those that don't know rANS coding, let me try to handwave it as much as possible. Your state is typically a single word (in my case, a 32-bit word), which is refilled from the input stream as needed. The encoder and decoder works in reverse order; let's just talk about the decoder. Basically it works by looking at the lowest 12 (or whatever) bits of the decoder state, mapping each of those 2^12 slots to a decoded symbol. More common symbols are given more slots, proportionally to the frequency. Let me just write a tiny, tiny example with 2 bits and three symbols instead, giving four slots:
Lowest bits Symbol
00 0
01 0
10 1
11 2
Note that the zero coefficient here maps to one out of two slots (ie., a range); you don't choose which one yourself, the encoder stashes some information in there (which is used to recover the next control word once you know which symbol there is). Now for the actual problem: When storing DCT coefficients, we typically want to also store a sign (ie., not just 1 or 2, but also -1/+1 and -2/+2). The statistical distribution is symmetrical, so the sign bit is incompressible (except that of course there's no sign bit needed for 0). We could have done this by introducing new symbols -1 and -2 in addition to our three other ones, but this means we'll need more bits of precision, and accordingly larger look-up tables (which is negative for performance). So let's find something better. We could also simply store it separately somehow; if the coefficient is non-zero, store the bits in some separate repository. Perhaps more elegantly, you can encode a second symbol in the rANS stream with probability 1/2, but this is more expensive computationally. But both of these have the problem that they're divergent in terms of control flow; nonzero coefficients potentially need to do a lot of extra computation and even loads. This isn't nice for SIMD, and it's not nice for GPU. It's generally not really nice. The solution I ended up with was simulating a larger table with a smaller one. Simply rotate the table so that the zero symbol has the top slots instead of the bottom slots, and then replicate the rest of the table. For instance, take this new table:
Lowest bits Symbol
000 1
001 2
010 0
011 0
100 0
101 0
110 -1
111 -2
(The observant reader will note that this doesn't describe the exact same distribution as last time zero has twice the relative frequency as in the other table but ignore that for the time being.) In this case, the bottom half of the table doesn't actually need to be stored! We know that if the three bottom bits are >= 110 (6 in decimal), we have a negative value, can subtract 6, and then continue decoding. If we are go past the end of our 2-bit table despite that, we know we are decoding a zero coefficient (which doesn't have a sign), so we can just clamp the read; or for a GPU, reads out-of-bounds on a texture will typically return 0 anyway. So it all works nicely, and the divergent I/O is gone. If this pickled your interest, you probably want to read up on rANS in general; Fabian Giesen (aka ryg) has some notes that work as a good starting point, but beware; some of this is pretty confusing. :-)

29 April 2017

Shirish Agarwal: India and the Agricultural Economy

Indian farmer ploughing a field in traditional style - Wikimedia commons I was in two minds when I read Ritesh s blog post about the Indian Economy. I was angry with Ritesh as he seemed to selectively take facts and present it rather than taking it whole. Even if he had searched even a little bit, he would have got much more better material and everybody would have been the gainer. I have to also admit, I feel very much like a hypocrite as I have never slaved in a farm so my understanding and conclusions are a mix of media and limited interaction with farmers some years ago. There is also lots of local customs and politics that come into the picture and it s not as straight-forward as Ritesh thinks. What he has failed to share/account for is the far worse bad and stressed debts for the industry so just saying farm loan waivers are bad without sharing any of the context makes it seem much more worse. This is when our Current Chief Economic Adviser states about loan waivers to corporates You need to be able to forgive those debts because this is how capitalism works. People make mistakes, those have to be forgiven to some extent Let me start though with words from a book I read sometime back On a peasant uprising erupted in . The farmers were angry with high interest rates, high taxes, high inflation and low-government prices for their crops. The system had let them into debt, and debt had meant foreclosure and loss of their fields to the land barons. I intentionally have made a fill in the blanks as both the dates and places was true in India 100 years back and even today, the only difference between the two is the absence of taxes. Many people would think I m talking about Champaran whose tale while well-known in India is sadly a stub-class article in wikipedia  with quite a few citation needed tags as well  but is also true today as will be seen below. Interestingly, there is/was a remark by some unknown person who said gora sahab gays, bhura sahab aaya meaning the white officer has gone, in his place the brown officer has come. The evidence of this is very much in the Telegraph Act and the story about its usage and its place in Indian politics Surprisingly, sadly and coincidentally, the quote minus the dates and place didn t happen in India but also in Cambodia. The above quote has been taken from for the sake of all living things by John M. Del Vecchio. The quote itself appears in the first 10 odd pages (historical summation) of the somewhat 1200 odd pages book. I actually got an old edition which tops out at 900 pages so probably some more updated input/news isn t available but it still packs a powerful wallop. I want to dedicate a separate blog post for the book itself so will not say more on that book and what it shares. Sadly and coincidentally, there were news reports yesterday itself of farmers agitating for better prices just yesterday. Some of the interesting work if you want to understand the farmer s indebtedness is to study the Income, Expenditure, Productive Assets and Indebtedness of Agricultural Households in India done by NSSO. Again, one does not need to read the whole report, there were some of the analysis shared by the Hindu here and here. This was also echoed by Logical Indian It really boggles the mind to know than an average farming household earns around INR 200 per day. Even if you take a family of four people that comes to INR 50/- per person. Most rural joint families at the very least have 3-4 kids at the very least. Sadly Agricultural incomes do not keep sync even with the inflation index as there is no fair minimum age and wage for the Indian farmer, the concept does not exist for her(im)  . Just me and mum going onto a restaurant and having one dish each easily can run anywhere between INR 200~250 easily . Cooking in the house is the same if you add/input the labor (which is usually not calculated) used to make lunch/dinner. There was the idea that contract farming might be a solution but even that was corrupted by Multi-national companies such as Pepsi and others that the Government is showing movement to have a model contracting law . There are loads of stories on downtoearth magazine which deals with the above and all sorts of issues the farmer faces. I should talk about Maharashtra and even here there was/has been an irrigation scam with figures given from 35k to 70k crores or 350 to 700 billion INR . The latest finding by the PAC has been shared here. I will cut the blog post short as I find the whole thing personally very depressing. As far as local customs go this was from one of the farmers interaction some years ago where me and some other friends had gone across a village and came to know that all of them grew the same crop with some minor variances. When asked why is it so, while many said its fate, one of the elderly gentleman shared an experience where a farmer had planted some other thing. The gentleman prospered while the other villagers were suffering from glut of whatever they produced. Knowing he prospered, the other villagers damaged his crops and all sorts of unlucky things started happening for the farmer. In the end he realized his best bet is to follow the ways of the other villagers, at least they would be in peace. What I have shared isn t either unique or even unknown, even Toronto Star of Canada reported on the issue some years ago. At the end of it all, the story is one of no education and limited skill-set and I don t see it changing any time soon. There are some who are earning big figures, but majority of the farmers will always be in the red
Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: #Agricultal Economy, #Champaran, #Contract farming, #Corruption, #farmer suicide, #irrigation scam, #Loan waivers, #planet-debian, poverty

2 February 2017

Shirish Agarwal: The $100 used laptop and getting riled up.

Lenovo-ThinkPad-T500 - Source - Wikimedia commons

Lenovo-ThinkPad-T500 Source Wikimedia commons

I was reading a thread on phoronix where a student was sharing that it is or can be expensive to get even a used laptop and he shared his predicament and was hammered a bit for it to some going to the extent of questioning his life-choices. While I m not a student it still triggered something in me. I am not dirt poor but neither am I insanely rich. The same questions he has, similar questions I have had. While in his case he is probably in his early to late 20 s, I am pushing 40. Most of the money I make goes in for everyday purchases, veggies, house-rent, electricity, landline, broadband and cell phone bills. What little is left is most of the time kept for a rainy day as there is no Government pension. From what I have heard and read on the web, in the west specifically in the States, if I buy a used laptop, I usually get a 6 months 1 year warranty . Here, while you could get a used laptop for around INR 10k there is no warranty/guarantee, so I never get into that. It s buyer s beware all the time. For people who like/want FOSS or specifically something like Free DOS (like me), I had to wait for almost 6 years to get a model I was happy with, with the specs. I was ok with. Was really lucky enough to get a Thinkpad T440 with 8 GB of RAM for around INR 80k/- with Free DOS. The specs T440 Core I 5 (4300) / Dos (NEW MODEL) 20B7A1SD00 Intel Core i5 4300M (2.5 GHz / 3 MB / 5 GT/s) / Intel QM87 Chipset / Integrated 802.11 n WIFI LAN + Bluetooth 4.0 / 8GB DDR III Memory (2 DIMM SLOT) / 500 GB SATA HDD @ 7200 RPM / 14.0 HDy / FPR / Dos / 2 USB , VGA Port , RJ 45 Port /GB LAN /Track Point with 5 button Glass Touch Pad /Stereo Speakers with Dolby Enhanced Audio / 6 Cell Battery /Approx 2.14KG/ While it is/was actually pretty expensive but then wanted something which can take a beating, deal with all the heat, noise and dust (specifically where I live, right in the middle of the city). The reason I used the word lucky is that now there is no model in the T-series range which has FreeDOS on it. Of course, I hopefully will use it for another 4-5 years at the very least depending on how much it cooperates with me, I have heard that Thinkpads function for a long period of time even in dusty environments so banking on that.  What probably pissed me is the condensing note in the comment, how does he know what pressures an another individual might be in. It s almost like saying You are refugee because you made a wrong life choice or something to that effect which again is stupid. I actually feel/felt embarrassed to bring this up as I truly am lucky to be safe, secure, have food on the table, am able to sleep on a bed at night, have a workstation AND a laptop, have somewhat of a sound mind  and a body which is able to move around without any hassles. Add to that, incredibly as it may sound, was also able to see another country for a few days In relation to people being persecuted and having to run off to save their own lives or even people living on the streets, I am actually living in luxury. While I can t go through life feeling guilty for all the good things that have happened with me, I do feel disgusted when I see some people put blinding statements like that. One of the biggest reasons that GNU/Linux and Debian in particular gelled with me was that it s incredibly flexible and generous. Nobody tells me which packages I should or shouldn t have. I do right things, good, I do something wrong, an opportunity to learn and hopefully learn from my mistakes. In either case, one of the most forgiving kind of system to learn and hack on. While speaking of mistakes, could somebody look at #849684 . It almost feels like a tennis match going between the maintainers concerned. While I don t have the technical skills to ascertain who s right and who is not, it would be nice if some cooler heads can make sense and see if a way could be found out. Can somebody help ?
Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: #debian, #Life Choices, #Thinkpad440, laptop

24 January 2017

Shirish Agarwal: Budget and Economics 101

The Budget The story which I wanted to share is there are few friends (from Debian as well as elsewhere) who shared that they didn t get the whole demonetisation play or what the Government is/was trying to do. As budget is just round the corner (India will be presenting its yearly budget on 1st of February), thought it is prudent to share at least some basics, ideas and theories of what goals the Finance Minister would be looking at when presenting his budget. I would NOT talk of Inflation targeting or some such exotica as those topics would require their own blog-posts altogether. I would mainly be talking a bit about Taxation and in that Personal Income Tax. I would also not use words like Receivables and like which thought bit more accurate are not used in everyday language. Just like Private Companies and increasingly public utilities, The Government of the day has two-three different aims when it is presenting a budget a. The first is to give an update about how things went last year. Did all the incomes that were projected, did it happen or was there a short-fall ? If there was a short-fall what were the reasons for the shortfall. Similarly, did all the budgeted expenditure earmarked for the year was spent and were it spent under the heads they were supposed to ? If not what went wrong there ? There is usually a tussle between Planned and Unplanned expenditure and one of the hallmarks of good governance is that unplanned expenditure is kept at minimum, while planned expenditure and projects completion or/and assets coming on-line were within the estimated time-frames. So these updates are given to the Parliament and hence public at large. The second and the more interesting part are the plans for the immediate future, 1 year down-the-line. Based on the performance last year, a bit of crystal-ball gazing of external and internal conditions of the country, the Finance Minister along with her/his colleagues of Finance Ministry. Trivia There hasn t been a female finance minister till date in India. The Finance Ministry as a whole also holds consultations with most sections of the society before sharing/putting his Fiscal Policy (Planned Expenditure) for debate and passage in form of the Budget. While the budget itself is a technical exercise, it is also a Political exercise as both the budget and the finance bill (which contains the taxation proposals) need to be passed in Lok Sabha (Lower house). After passing scrutiny of Lok Sabha (Lower House having people s representatives directly elected) and Rajya Sabha (Upper House, indirectly elected), the taxation proposals becomes the law. It isn t that simple but for our understanding, keeping it simple. This Political model of governance with two houses is modeled under the British (Westminister) model since 1947. The Government, just like any other Organization gives a similar Profit and Loss Account and a Balance Sheet.
How A country's budget is made.

How A country s budget is made. A representational and simplified version of how things flow was made using Graphviz. Click on it to see image in detail.

I am a newbie to graphviz. The graph was made like this
graph Budget
subgraph tier1
node [color="limegreen",style="filled",group="tier1"]

Country_Budget -- Profit_and_Loss_Account [type=s];
It might be possible to make the graph much better than it is currently . The Profit and Loss Account of the Government tells what Incomes it is projected to earn in the upcoming year and whatever Expenditures it hopes to do this year. The Income and Expenditure independently can be bifurcated into two, Revenue Income and Capital Income and Revenue Expenditure and Capital Expenditure.
Indian Railways EMU local train

Indian Railways EMU local train

The simplest example of such planned expenditure which comes to my mind is the Indian Railways Budget which is all planned expenditure. As can be seen even with ample funds Railways were able to spent only 50% of the total amount disbursed last year. Similarly income generation for Railways was far below the target. Examples of Revenue Income include taxes of all sorts, while Capital Income are rare, like divestment/stake sale of a company owned by the Government. These are usually one-off events. Examples of Capital Expenditure is when the Government makes a road, makes a bridge etc. Usually large expenditures come under Capital Expenditure while salaries to Government employees and routine expenditures are known as Revenue Expenditure. There was a statement by the present Government that the last 6-7 years the budgets has been more or less static as far as numbers are concerned. This hampers Government s ability to take up any new work. The Revenue income earned by the Government can again be bifurcated primarily into two Direct Taxes and Indirect Taxes.
INR 2000 Rupees

INR 2000 Rupees

Direct Taxes are those which the Government earns through Personal Income Tax and Corporate Tax. As only 1 percent of Indians pay Personal income tax, the rest Government tries to raise by Hence the Government of the day is in fix. It needs to have more money if it wants to invest into infrastructure, defence spending, social spending such as health and education and so on and so forth. It cannot Another point is that unlike China which is a Large State-backed Enterprises Export-led Economy which has its own problems, India s economy is much more consumption-based, hence any large tinkering upwards may possibly stall whatever little spending the middle-class does, similar to the stall in consumer durables which has been happening over the last few years. There are a couple of short-term solutions that the Government may do While both seem to be attractive ways, but both have their disadvantages also, both have costs associated for them. In the first one, like any other scheme, when any scheme is launched, it needs to be underwritten by GOI which means even if it s not a success they would have to service all and any obligations towards investors. Also they have to be careful how much they are borrowing as excessive borrowing for today could lead to a Greece-like meltdown situation, whether internal or external borrowers. With external borrowers they also usually like to have a guarantee that the Rupee will not slide beyond a point otherwise the Government will have to pay all and any losses but this is going beyond what I wanted to share. Printing excess money in the system could lead to loss in the value of the money itself as well as leading to inflationary pressures which leads to more problems for the poor and greater inequality between the classes among other things. So while the Government may use all of the above ways in varying degrees, the present Government had the idea that if we were to reduce black money or hidden economy (AFAIK no country can claim to completely eliminate it) we would be able to raise the finance we need without a major cost associated to it. For instance, I was reading that even in Canada, it is expected that 20% of black money/shadow economy works and that assessment is by their own taxation authorities. So While doing demonetization, it came out with an equivalent Black Money Declaration Scheme (IDS). The idea is simple, even if 1 percent of the population comes in the traditional tax net the Government of the day would be able to enhance budgets to various expenditure. Now while the idea is good in theory, implementation has been the Achilees heel. While the Government s expected something like 15% of the whole economy was black money or shadow money, almost 95% of the money in circulation came back in Banks during demonetization ( These are unofficial figures, Finance Ministry/RBI would be disclosing the real figures on 1st of February 2017 so we will know). It is suspected that 10% of money in Banks is black money. There are considerable costs to search analyze, prove in the court of law that it is so. There are and would be considerable costs to train new officers as existing Income Tax Officers are already burdened with Advance Tax being paid by Corporates and small business-man paying round the year (every 3 months), The existing Income Tax Officers already have their hands full. Also till Governments don t fix up realty sector/real-estate sector and other places where the black money/shadow economy may prevail. Hence all the training, salary, buildings where new Income Tax Officers could work, infrastructure, new buildings where suspect cases have to be tried and lawyers for those. As have shared a few times on this blog, India has almost 29 million court cases pending in the lower judiciary alone. Unless any such cases are not successfully tried within time by the Government, it would be a waste. Now whether the Government knew of these issues or not would probably be never known. Lastly, there is a voluntary part that the Government hopes, that they will by themselves join the mainstream tax-paying public. This might happen but any such happening will happen over years. People make their own choices. And unless there are not any stick and carrot approach to the Government s Policies people will tend to go back to their old ways. I would share an example from the demonetisation process which would help prove my point During demonetization, there was a great push towards doing digital transaction either via smartphones or greater usage of debit and credit cards etc. For the first 60 days till 31st December 2016, you could do digital transactions without paying any transaction fee. During that period, I used my Debit card to shop, to eat at restaurants or/and even small shops. But come 1st January 2017, the charges for digital transactions are anything between 1.5% to 3% of transactions. Naturally, I stopped using them and use them very sparingly where cash won t work. So at the end, while the Government made the whole demonetization drive to drive out shadow economy, terror financing etc. While terror financing has been hurt quite a bit, the same cannot be said of the shadow/black economy. It seems that the Government would need to close many more doors and windows before people join the mainstream. While Politically it was risky, socially it was also a bit risky move as it was uncertain how and where things will move. Venezuela tried the same thing and fell flat on its face. All said and done, if and when people become part of the tax-paying class/people, The most optimistic idea that the Government has that everybody will go cashless and it would be far easier to find out who s not paying taxes. As shared before, I don t think this will happen unless the charges for cashless is at 0.05% or something similar. Even IF people do join the mainstream, it is very much possible that the present Govt. will not enjoy fruits of this labour as fruits might come in 2018/19 or even later even if they do come. So whether the decision had the right affect or not, we may never come to know. Governments tend to tinker around with the figures as well. But I hope some idea of how things happen is known now.
Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: #demonetization, #Government Budget, #graphviz, #Limitations, #Profit and Loss Account, #Taxation

3 October 2016

Kees Cook: security things in Linux v4.7

Previously: v4.6. Onward to security things I found interesting in Linux v4.7: KASLR text base offset for MIPS Matt Redfearn added text base address KASLR to MIPS, similar to what s available on x86 and arm64. As done with x86, MIPS attempts to gather entropy from various build-time, run-time, and CPU locations in an effort to find reasonable sources during early-boot. MIPS doesn t yet have anything as strong as x86 s RDRAND (though most have an instruction counter like x86 s RDTSC), but it does have the benefit of being able to use Device Tree (i.e. the /chosen/kaslr-seed property) like arm64 does. By my understanding, even without Device Tree, MIPS KASLR entropy should be as strong as pre-RDRAND x86 entropy, which is more than sufficient for what is, similar to x86, not a huge KASLR range anyway: default 8 bits (a span of 16MB with 64KB alignment), though CONFIG_RANDOMIZE_BASE_MAX_OFFSET can be tuned to the device s memory, giving a maximum of 11 bits on 32-bit, and 15 bits on EVA or 64-bit. SLAB freelist ASLR Thomas Garnier added CONFIG_SLAB_FREELIST_RANDOM to make slab allocation layouts less deterministic with a per-boot randomized freelist order. This raises the bar for successful kernel slab attacks. Attackers will need to either find additional bugs to help leak slab layout information or will need to perform more complex grooming during an attack. Thomas wrote a post describing the feature in more detail here: Randomizing the Linux kernel heap freelists. (SLAB is done in v4.7, and SLUB in v4.8.) eBPF JIT constant blinding Daniel Borkmann implemented constant blinding in the eBPF JIT subsystem. With strong kernel memory protections (CONFIG_DEBUG_RODATA) in place, and with the segregation of user-space memory execution from kernel (i.e SMEP, PXN, CONFIG_CPU_SW_DOMAIN_PAN), having a place where user-space can inject content into an executable area of kernel memory becomes very high-value to an attacker. The eBPF JIT was exactly such a thing: the use of BPF constants could result in the JIT producing instruction flows that could include attacker-controlled instructions (e.g. by directing execution into the middle of an instruction with a constant that would be interpreted as a native instruction). The eBPF JIT already uses a number of other defensive tricks (e.g. random starting position), but this added randomized blinding to any BPF constants, which makes building a malicious execution path in the eBPF JIT memory much more difficult (and helps block attempts at JIT spraying to bypass other protections). Elena Reshetova updated a 2012 proof-of-concept attack to succeed against modern kernels to help provide a working example of what needed fixing in the JIT. This serves as a thorough regression test for the protection. The cBPF JITs that exist in ARM, MIPS, PowerPC, and Sparc still need to be updated to eBPF, but when they do, they ll gain all these protections immediatley. Bottom line is that if you enable the (disabled-by-default) bpf_jit_enable sysctl, be sure to set the bpf_jit_harden sysctl to 2 (to perform blinding even for root). fix brk ASLR weakness on arm64 compat There have been a few ASLR fixes recently (e.g. ET_DYN, x86 32-bit unlimited stack), and while reviewing some suggested fixes to arm64 brk ASLR code from Jon Medhurst, I noticed that arm64 s brk ASLR entropy was slightly too low (less than 1 bit) for 64-bit and noticeably lower (by 2 bits) for 32-bit compat processes when compared to native 32-bit arm. I simplified the code by using literals for the entropy. Maybe we can add a sysctl some day to control brk ASLR entropy like was done for mmap ASLR entropy. LoadPin LSM LSM stacking is well-defined since v4.2, so I finally upstreamed a small LSM that implements a protection I wrote for Chrome OS several years back. On systems with a static root of trust that extends to the filesystem level (e.g. Chrome OS s coreboot+depthcharge boot firmware chaining to dm-verity, or a system booting from read-only media), it s redundant to sign kernel modules (you ve already got the modules on read-only media: they can t change). The kernel just needs to know they re all coming from the correct location. (And this solves loading known-good firmware too, since there is no convention for signed firmware in the kernel yet.) LoadPin requires that all modules, firmware, etc come from the same mount (and assumes that the first loaded file defines which mount is correct , hence load pinning ). That s it for v4.7. Prepare yourself for v4.8 next!

2016, Kees Cook. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
Creative Commons License

10 February 2014

Mario Lang: Neurofunkcasts

I have always loved Drum and Bass. In 2013 I rediscovered my love for Darkstep and Neurofunk, and found that these genres have developed quite a lot in the recent years. Some labels like Black Sun Empire and Evol Intent produce mixes/sets on a regular basis as podcasts these days. This article aggregates some neurofunk podcasts I like a lot, most recent first. Enjoy 33 hours and 57 minutes of fun with dark and energizing beats. Thanks to BSE Contrax and Evol Intent for providing such high quality sets. You can also see the Python source for the program that was used to generate this page.

17 November 2012

Craig Sanders: done

OK, I m finished my experiment. It s over now and I can break character . First, I have to offer special thanks to tshirtman for being the first to unambiguously exemplify one of my main points. well done! In case it s not blindingly obvious (as it should be), the reason for my post was that I was outraged by the spectacle of one fairly high-profile member of the linux community trying to rally support to shun and exclude another fairly high-profile member because a nightmare had upset her. WTF? Is that really all it s going to take to destroy someone s reputation and perhaps their career? even with the shunning target s own words available and archived to disprove the ridiculous straw-man mis-characterisations of what he actually said? Not one of the arguments against him actually addressed anything he said, they ALL attacked him for things he didn t say, for things that other people claimed he said. I was further outraged by seeing everyone who even suggested that questioning of stats (or, indeed, ANY claim of fact or evidence) may be, in some small way, a valid and reasonable thing to do get instantly put in their place and dismissed as Yet Another Rape Apologist. Are we supposed to be anti-science, anti-scientific method now? or are rape stats a special case like religion where we are just supposed to switch off our analytical brains and accept what we are told on faith, without question? Surely we are capable of better than that? i know we are capable of better than that. Or, at least, i used to know that. Now i m not so sure. In 2011, all it took was Ted Tso ( TT ) making some fairly reasonable statements about the need for any claimed evidence or statistics to be viewed skeptically and that dissenting research should also be considered and he was instantly vilified as a rape apologist . Sorry, but questioning extremely dodgy stats (that even in feminist circles are viewed more as ideological propaganda than as serious research) is NOWHERE NEAR SUFFICIENT to earn the label of rape-apologist. That is not how debate works you can t just refuse to engage with someone s point and simply accuse them of being the enemy for not agreeing 100% with whatever you say at least, not if you have any intellectual honesty or self-respect. (sure, some people are complete jerks and deserve to be told to FOAD in no uncertain terms but a) jerks like that are self-evident and obvious, and b) TT s participation in that thread was at all times civil and reasonable) But that thread is ancient history it was over and done with nearly two years ago.
In October this year, for reasons which are not at all clear, Valerie Aurora ( VA ) decided to revive the issue (which had been resolved back in 2011 with a resounding fuck no, we don t want misogynist shit or porn in our conferences from pretty much the entire linux community including near-universal support for improved anti-harassment policies both for and for geek conferences in general) and use it to attack TT. And she did so by twisting his words and claiming in a post on The Ada Initiative blog that he said something which he didn t, that rape was impossible if both people were drunk enough . If he chose, he could quite easily win a libel case against her and TAI on that. It s not what he said, it s not even close to what he said, and VA is clearly too smart to honestly believe that it is what he said. In another post on her personal, blog she talks about how what he said was so terrible that it even now gives her nightmares, and that she can t bear the thought of working with him. Again, WTF? VA can say I had nightmares and was upset and furious and THAT is enough to justify a call to shun TT?? He didn t attack her, or threaten her (explicitly or implicitly), he was polite and civil. What he did was disagree with VA by referring to other research that disputed VA s preferred studies. I agree with and support many (perhaps most) of VA s and The Ada Initiative s aims, I certainly believe that linux and open source etc should be very welcoming and supportive of human diversity (including gender and sexuality, identity, religion, politics and so on), believe that it s a good thing that The Ada Initiative exists as part of that diversity welcome to be particularly supportive of women in geekdom. And i wholeheartedly agree that Linux leaders should not make public statements belittling and condoning rape BUT: a) I haven t seen one instance of that happening, ever and b) I find VA s choice of tactics here to be despicable. as i do when anyone else uses similar tactics, because they ARE despicable tactics. They are exactly the same as accusing someone of being a child pornographer for being against net censorship: You dared to disagree with me so I m going to accuse you of being a monster. (and, i must admit, the enthusiasm level of my support for The Ada Initiative is somewhat .diminished by this tactical blunder by the spokesperson and co-founder) There are far more deserving targets of VA s ire than TT. And there are far better ways for the Ada Initiative to achieve their aims.
Why? So why did I decide to comment when I knew that I was inevitably going to be accused of hating women and being a rape apologist? Mostly because I thought it would be gutless of me not to. Hardly anyone else had, and they quickly backed down under the accusations of misogyny and since I consider myself to be psychologically fairly strong, I felt that I am capable of wearing a little shit (or even a lot) for a while. In my egocentric fashion, I thought if I can t do then it s no wonder that no one else dares . And also because anyone who cared to make even the slightest effort to find out what my actual views on sexual harassment, rape, women s rights and numerous inter-related issues are can fairly easily see a very consistent record of the kinds of things I argue for and against, and my scathing responses to actual misogynists when they appear on lists that I participate in. they are not my kind of people. and even then, i hesitated. it s scary and intimidating to be putting yourself forward to be accused of being one of the things you hate. this is, of course, an instance of the chilling effect. So, I found the prospect scary, almost terrifying .and I can t think of a single person who has met me online or in real life who would even remotely describe me as being any kind of delicate or sensitive wall-flower. again, if i can t do it, it s no wonder no one else dares . so i clicked the Publish button. an ego is useful for some things. Also, I took VA s words but don t be silent as inspiration. In the process, i discovered why it is that some people just simply refuse to engage in rational discourse. I ve seen it many times from the other side, but i ve never experienced the seductive pleasure of indulging in it myself before there s a liberating freedom in just ignoring any and every point that someone makes and simply accuse them of being the enemy. You don t have to try to understand what they wrote, hell you don t even have to really read it you just need to quickly scan it for overall tone and if they don t seem like they re 100% supportive, you just accuse them of being the enemy or an apologist for the enemy. it s that fucking simple and easy. well, sort of easy. easy for some, perhaps. i personally found it extremely difficult a struggle to refrain from engaging, to remain in character (i m not much of an actor). especially when i kind of agreed with whoever was arguing against my experimental character or if i thought they made a good point. and even more so when i thought that some comments skirted a bit too close to being the kind of misogynist crap that i didn t want to tolerate having on MY blog. (i resolved that issue by just approving any reply that didn t squick me or that i could squint at and think hmmm borderline, give benefit of doubt ) but even though i don t like it, i can recognise the attraction it holds for some people.
Other thoughts: I m particularly disgusted by the men who intervene way too early without an explicit invitation or request for help or a clear need such as an immediate threat of violence in womens issues. Many or maybe even most may not realise it, but they are just taking over and asserting male strength and control by protecting women rather than giving them the support and space to discover and practice their own strength and their own voices. These uninvited interventions do not help women, they weaken and undermine them, they perpetuate dependence, they steal strength from the movement. It is patronising and enfeebling. But mostly, they just re-assert male dominance and are an attempt to make women s spaces more comfortable, more palatable, for men.(*) (it s also quite often very transparent self-serving and ingratiating behaviour from blokes who want to lay the groundwork for perhaps getting laid one day) IMO this goes far beyond a problem with men over-involving themselves in feminist causes i feel the same way for any relatively less-privileged group with a need to find their own voice and their own power they ll never find it if members of the privileged class (i.e. white males like me) just ride roughshod over the movement and speak FOR them rather then just silently lending their strength in support. For the most part, they (we) should just shut up and listen we already have more than enough opportunities to have our say. (*) yes, i m well aware of the difficulty in writing something like that paragraph as a member of a privileged class, without coming across as either self-hating or patronising or both. if i ve failed here, it s not for want of trying. done is a post from: Errata

14 October 2011

John Goerzen: Greece part 2: History (and sauntering up to guys with machine guns)

Terah and I went to the Greek island Rhodes recently. This is the second in a series about it. I am one to enjoy history. There is something deeply, well, connecting, about standing in an old place. There is a timeless quality to it a feeling of being connected to so many people of the past, and yet still being connected to change, visible in things such as weathering of stones. To gaze at pottery that s 300 years old, walk past 700-year-old walls, or pass through what remains of the grand portico of an ancient temple to Athena stirs a feeling I can barely explain, of timelessness. Although Rhodes doesn t have the famous Greek sites such as the Parthenon or Delphi, I can t help but wonder why the Rhodes sites aren t better known. They were incredible and it is hard to condense all that we saw into a short blog post. I have to start with the medieval Rhodes Old Town. We got off the bus a few blocks from it one bright morning, and our first task was to find a gate across the moat. Oh yes, A GATE ACROSS THE MOAT. It s a dry moat, and that bridge off in the distance is the gate we were headed to. Outside of the outer wall is a nice quiet walking area. The moat and walls completely surround Old Town and, for the most part, date back about 500 years. The round stones you see on that picture, we were told, were likely surplus from catapults and other projectile weapons. Cross one line of walls and you come to another, with original canons still present. The Knights Hospitaller of St. John, which held Rhodes for a few centuries until the Ottomans captured it, sure knew how to build to impress. The gate we happened to use was Amboise, the Grand Master s Gate. Right there is the stunningly rebuilt landmark Palace of the Grand Master. It is absolutely impossible for any photograph to begin to do this building justice. Between its imported Greek and Roman floors, to the grand nature of everything in it, and the archaeological museum in one corner, it was a fitting start to a visit to Old Town. Here s one of the main staircases. Just near the Palace is quiet courtyard with an old door. Pass through that door and suddenly you re in the midst of the busy Old Town. And among the landmarks in Old Town, the most prominent is Ippoton, the Avenue of the Knights. Along this avenue are the buildings built by the various nationalities of knights, many of which are historical sites in their own. Taken together, it is quite clear why Rhodes is said to be one of the world s best-preserved medieval cities. Down at the other end of Ippoton is the Knights Hospital, which is now part of the archaeological museum. Step off the Avenue a few blocks and you get to some quieter narrow streets just as old, in many cases. On Sunday morning, we were able to visit Mount Filerimos. In contrast to the busy Rhodes, Filerimos had an air of quiet and still to it. It was the site of a monastery, two historic churches, and a landmark Italian cross on the mountaintop. We arrived, and begin our visit with a walk up the quiet stone path. When we got to the top, we walked past this peaceful church. As we walked past the outside, we heard the beautiful music of chant from indoors. We got to step in and listen to mass for a few minutes. In typical fashion, directly in front of the church are two much older sites: one, the ruins of a temple to Athena, and the other a 4th-century Christian bapistery. Rhodes is a popular tourist destination, and of course we saw plenty of popular sites (such as the grandmaster s palace). Filerimos had a few tourists too, but not as many. I frequently like to operate on the plan of going wherever all the tourists aren t. And so, on Filerimos, that meant seeing what was behind the monastery. It started with this peaceful tree-lined path. And the deserted, but intentionally open, gate led to the remains of a Byzantine fortress, which had been a staging area for both the Knights and the Ottomans before their campaigns to capture Rhodes. It also provided incredible views of the surrounding countryside. The first historic site we had visited on our trip was the Acropolis of Lindos, parts of which are 2300 years old. Here s a view of the mountain from the rooftop of the Kalypso, our favorite restaurant in Lindos. The columns of the temple to Athena Lindia are visible, and of course so are the walls. The road up to the acropolis is accessible only on foot or by donkey. It is apparently the only road that has ever been used to get to the acropolis. Here is the partially-restored grand portico to the temple. There s an old Christian church (4th century, if memory serves) at the Acropolis too. The Acropolis makes some pretty good use of natural defenses too. Here s a view from one level of it. There s a manmade wall up there at the very top. And, of course, the beautiful Aegean always in the background. There are lots of cats on Rhodes. Here is a kitten napping at the top of the Lindos Acropolis: Lindos itself is a beautiful town. Here s one of the quieter streets: Notice the pebble steps leading into the houses those intricate pieces of artwork are all over. This post won t be complete without the story of our visit to the Acropolis of Rhodes. We walked there from Old Town. At the Acropolis, there are the remains of a temple to Apollo, an ancient theater, and an ancient stadium where qualifying matches for the Olympics were held. As we got closer to the area, we were repeatedly passed by people dressed in uniforms of various types. And as we got there, we joined a stream of people entering the area. The ancient stadium had apparently thousands of people in it, country names were being read off over the loudspeakers, policemen wielding machine guns were standing by, and we had absolutely no idea what was going on. At this point, you can appreciate the difference between Terah and me. Terah thought that we have no idea what is happening, she was tired from the walk, and so thought we should just leave. I thought that we have no idea what is happening, which is a great reason to stay. So Terah opted to sit and read a bit under some trees while I explored. Here s a view of the stadium as it was emptying out, seen from the theater: I explored the temple and theater, and eventually we were ready to head back. We knew there was a bus back to the New Market (from where we could get a bus back to our hotel), but didn t know where the bus stop was. The obvious place to ask were the policemen, which I thought I would do. Terah thought she would just stay sitting under the trees, on the grounds that the policemen nearest us were all carrying machine guns and perhaps wouldn t like to be disturbed. This led to my cryptic tweet:
Only ONE of us is the kind of person that goes up to guys with machine guns to ask what s happening. Me to Terah today
They told me that it was the preparations for the opening ceremony for a global shooting contest, and also gave me directions to the bus stop.

7 May 2011

Lars Wirzenius: Beep be gone

It is a fundamental part of my belief structure that computers should be silent, unless told otherwise. A default install of the operating system should not make any sounds, unless there is a really good reason to. Thus, I object to the following: I'm sure there are situations when it would be OK for my computer to make noise to alert me. For example, supposed I'm asleep, and a zombie has penetrated my defensive perimeters and is about to chop off the top of my skull so it can devour my brain. In that case, I would be OK with my computer beeping. Once. Some remedies: Now, it's possible that other people might like or need their computer to make sounds. I imagine, for example, that the GDM login-ready beep is to help people with vision problems. I'm all for that. However, I wish it be easier to shut things up in one simple place for those of us who don't need it. Edit: Thanks to NP237, noshadow, lindi-, flightplan, and others on #debian-devel with help on shutting up wall.

29 May 2010

Thibaut Girka: First week of GSoC

It's almost been a week since the GSoC started! Before describing what I've been doing this week I would like to write a word on the project and thank the ones I'm thankful to. The project Currently, Debian can be installed on the Neo Freerunner (FR) by running a shell script called on an already running Linux installation on the device (more information here). This works. However, it doesn't make use of the Debian Installer, and it is specific to the FR. The plan is to port Debian Installer to the FR and other similar devices. In order to succeed in this project, I'm mentored by Gaudenz Steinlin and Per Andersson, who I want to thank for their guidance (and the patience they'll probably need to have :p). I have to thank Obey Arhur Liu for all his organizing work, especially for the DebConf 10 sponsoring. While I'm at thanking, I want to thank Google, whithout which this program wouldn't exist at all, and especially Carol Smith, who makes an amazing job at organizing every aspect of the GSoC! What I've been doing Now, what have I been doing this week? As we did not set up git repositories yet, I'll not share the full patches, but only a few files for now: If you want to try the uImage, here is how to boot it. What's coming next First, I hope everything will be in place to share the full sources by then. The first thing I'll do next week is finishing identifying and including the needed drivers. Then, depending on how good goes the installation process, I may:

19 January 2009

Axel Beckert: First experiences with Debian on the OpenMoko FreeRunner

I ogled with an OpenMoko FreeRunner since Harald K nig (of fame) s OpenMoko talk at last year. I knew that a team around Luca Capello and Joachim Breitner managed to get Debian running on it. So when Venty told me that harzi wants to sell his nearly unused FreeRunner, I couldn t resist and bought it just a few days later. I played around a little bit with the two distributions which were already installed, AFAIK the original 2007.2 and a version of Qtopia. Called Venty with the Qtopia to prove him that you indeed can make phone calls with this phone, but he wasn t pleased by the echo he heard of his own voice. Since the included 512 MB microSD card surely is too small for a large Debian installation, I bought an additional 8 GB microSDHC card at digitec and then installed Debian on it. The installation mostly went smooth: Partitioning threw a timeout error which didn t cause any further harm than aborting once. A bigger problem was that the hint that you need to update the U-Boot bootloader itself and not only its configuration (called environement) to get it booting from ext2 partitions. lindi (Timo Lindfors) on #openmoko-debian (on Freenode) was of great help spotting the small details hidden in continuous text. After having Debian booting I installed all software I wanted to play around on a mobile phone including a bunch of web browsers. But since I ran into a bug which occurs after a non-deterministic amount of data is written to a big microSD card, I quickly got annoyed by the fact that I had to wait for the 8 GB fsck each time this bug was triggered. So I converted the root file system to ext3 by adding a journal. But whatever I did (reinstalling U-Boot, the U-Boot environement, regenerating the U-Boot environement from scratch, trying to load it as ext2 again, etc.) I didn t get it to work anymore. On #openmoko on Freenode, PaulFertser was trying to convince me that Qi is the better choice of a bootloader. Although its description didn t appeal to me at all, I understand that U-Boot seems a maintainability hell and that a more simplicistic approach can have its advantages. But there was feature listed on the Qi wiki page which made me try it: explicit ext3 support. After creating the appropriate configuration files and symbolic links in /boot/boot and flashing Qi over the U-Boot in the NAND flash, Debian booted again without problems and with a journaling file system. :-) In the meanwhile I found a setup which suites my tastes: Next step will be to move daily usage from root to an unprivileged user. As soon as that s done, I ll try to get Tablet Amora aka Tamora working on the OpenMoko, too. Currently it only runs on Nokia s Linux based internet tablets (N800, N810, etc.). Update, 17:54 To answer Joachim s question in the comment: I don t plan to use it as daily phone, but it may replace my old Nokia 6310i where currently my German mobile phone SIM card resides in. Use it mainly to have a cheap way to make phone calls inside Germany.

28 August 2008

David Welton: Well, that didn't work

Ouch. Absolutely no takers on the Squeezed Books contest: I wonder what didn't work out? I mean, a book isn't a huge prize, exactly, but I know I've participated in mini-contests such as "leave a comment on my blog saying why you should win this book". I actually got a copy of Nick Carr's "The Big Switch" that way. And as it turns out, all it would have taken to win a free book in the Squeezed Books contest is an edit of a few words (as long as it wasn't random gibberish), so the 'barrier to entry' was pretty low. Perhaps I wasn't able to publicize it enough? Maybe the 'right' people didn't find it? Maybe people didn't find it credible? Too much of a pain to log in? The instructions aren't clear? It's tough - I am and always will be a programmer at heart, and this marketing stuff is harder than it seems! However, barring any sudden blinding insights, I'm going to try again. This time, whoever contributes the most to new or existing business book summaries by September 30th gets two business books of their choice, since we didn't give one away last time.

24 November 2006

Simon Richter: Work versus free time

Being the fully programmable neural network that I am (among other things), I've made a bit of effort to associate certain things and places with certain feelings, attitudes and activities. My workplace is connected to medium-abstract design choices that are easy to implement, with only short spans where the code doesn't fully compile, while at home I usually go for the more abstract, fully correct way that takes longer to code, but has the advantage of being more flexible and reusable. Which means that I often reuse stuff I wrote at home. Now the capitalist in me wonders whether I'm not actually giving things away for free that I ought to take money for. Rewriting the code makes no sense to me either, since it exists already. Is there a blindingly obvious solution I missed (apart from becoming a freelancer and getting paid per project)?

18 June 2006

Christine Spang: Graduation: Many Pictures, Few Words [dialup warning]

Friday - The Party Good food. Good Food Good times. (Though, I have to admit it was considerably more interesting when it got dark and the torches were lit and we tried to avoid melting the beach ball.) Playing volleyball Helpfully labelled drinks. Helpful labels! Saturday - The Graduation Good music. Brian Maxsween, singing Good speeches. (<plug> yes, this is me </plug>) Christine Spang, speaking Saturday - After We Are Graduated In which I pose with the superintendant. Me with Dr. Rudolph Rubeis, West Genesee Superintendant In which I pose with my brother outside in the blinding sunshine and blazing heat, while thinking about the cool water that happens to be behind us. Blinded outside In which I pose with my parents and brother in a moderately more forgiving environment at home. The Parental Units In which I pose with my brother and grandparents, who could probably stand in for an alternate Matrix cast, and kick your [posterior]. At least in this picture. The Matrix In which my cousin Mark discovers that my stole is kinda fun. Peekaboo! In which a good friend of mine gives me a freaking awesome shirt. This Blows I will now proceed to summarily disappear off the face of the ‘net from sometime tomorrow until late Monday or so, in which I Move To Cambridge.

27 May 2006

Aigars Mahinovs: Debconf6 day 6: Main group photo

May 19th. Fallback from the dinner and Ted's expulsion hanged over the morning of this day, but by the lunchtime it was mostly forgotten and people moved on to more interesting topics. ... for example, Sponge Bob! I mean I18N, of course. A big discussion about the future of Debian's I18N infrastructure was the highliht of the morning for me as I expected to later become the mentor of the respective Google SoC project. In some ways need of Debian translators are simple and very similar to the need of all other translators worldwide, but other need are quite different. Coordination with Wordforge to detect both those subgroups of our need was one hot topic, need that are related to OLPC use was another. People went on hacking, but I went towards the pool to plan forward towards the group photos. I needed to check the angles and lighting levels, test the lenses and settings. When 18:00 (the time of the main group photo) approached, clouds covered the sky and it went dark. At 17:58 it started raining. At the last moment Mark took a jump from the 10m tower. He later reflected that the decision was between jumping or remaining the highest point around while the air crackled of ever increasing electricity. People slowly gathered under the roof nearby and waited as told. After around ten minutes most people were gathered and the rain stopped. People ran out into the field and I ran up the diving tower to my selected photography place 10 meters up from the ground. I took a bunch of pictures, more people came, I took some more pictures, others came, I screamed to people to say "Tequilaaaaa" and took loads of pictures. The group photo was done. After that we had a quick and painless keysigning party (only two hours is quick). The trust network grew again. After that there was a lot of dancing on the veranda of the hacklab. It was very cool thing to watch, but gave not so good pictures because of speed and low light. Those two dancing instructors were just great! With this number of DD's we have an expert in anything - dancing, photography, security, religion, patents, biking, ... ... We share their knowledge and we all become better. Inspiring. One minute after midnight around 30 people sneaked into the room of sleeping Andreas and started to sing "happy birthday" ... because it was. Andreas looked very surprised. Very sweet idea. Cudos to the organizers. However it would be nice to turn on the light so that flashes of the 20 cameras would be less blinding. ;)