Search Results: "mh"

2 December 2021

Paul Tagliamonte: Processing IQ data formats (Part 1/5)

This post is part of a series called "PACKRAT". If this is the first post you've found, it'd be worth reading the intro post first and then looking over all posts in the series.
When working with SDRs, information about the signals your radio is receiving are communicated by streams of IQ data. IQ is short for In-phase and Quadrature , which means 90 degrees out of phase. Values in the IQ stream are commonly treated as complex numbers because it helps greatly when processing the IQ data for meaning. I won t get too deep into what IQ is or why complex numbers (mostly since I don t think I fully understand it well enough to explain it yet), but here s some basics in case this is your first interaction with IQ data before going off and reading more.
Before we get started at any point, if you feel lost in this post, it's OK to take a break to do a bit of learning elsewhere in the internet. I'm still new to this, so I'm sure my overview in one paragraph here won't help clarify things too much. This took me months to sort out on my own. It's not you, really! I particularly enjoyed reading visual-dsp.switchb.org when it came to learning about how IQ represents signals, and Software-Defined Radio for Engineers for a more general reference.
Each value in the stream is taken at a precisely spaced sampling interval (called the sampling rate of the radio). Jitter in that sampling interval, or a drift in the requested and actual sampling rate (usually represented in PPM, or parts per million how many samples out of one million are missing) can cause errors in frequency. In the case of a PPM error, one radio may think it s 100.1MHz and the other may think it s 100.2MHz, and jitter will result in added noise in the resulting stream. A single IQ sample is both the real and imaginary values, together. The complex number (both parts) is the sample. The number of samples per second is the number of real and imaginary value pairs per second. Each sample is reading the electrical energy coming off the antenna at that exact time instant. We re looking to see how that goes up and down over time to determine what frequencies we re observing around us. If the IQ stream is only real-valued measures (e.g., float values rather than complex values reading voltage from a wire), you can still send and receive signals, but those signals will be mirrored across your 0Hz boundary. That means if you re tuned to 100MHz, and you have a nearby transmitter at 99.9MHz, you d see it at 100.1MHz. If you want to get an intuitive understanding of this concept before getting into the heavy math, a good place to start is looking at how Quadrature encoders work. Using complex numbers means we can see up in frequency as well as down in frequency, and understand that those are different signals. The reason why we need negative frequencies is that our 0Hz is the center of our SDR s tuned frequency, not actually at 0Hz in nature. Generally speaking, it s doing loads in hardware (and firmware!) to mix the raw RF signals with a local oscillator to a frequency that can be sampled at the requested rate (fundamentally the same concept as a superheterodyne receiver), so a frequency of -10MHz means that signal is 10 MHz below the center of our SDR s tuned frequency. The sampling rate dictates the amount of frequency representable in the data stream. You ll sometimes see this called the Nyquist frequency. The Nyquist Frequency is one half of the sampling rate. Intuitively, if you think about the amount of bandwidth observable as being 1:1 with the sampling rate of the stream, and the middle of your bandwidth is 0 Hz, you would only have enough space to go up in frequency for half of your bandwidth or half of your sampling rate. Same for going down in frequency.

Float 32 / Complex 64 IQ samples that are being processed by software are commonly processed as an interleaved pair of 32 bit floating point numbers, or a 64 bit complex number. The first float32 is the real value, and the second is the imaginary value.
I#0
Q#0
I#1
Q#1
I#2
Q#2
The complex number 1+1i is represented as 1.0 1.0 and the complex number -1-1i is represented as -1.0 -1.0. Unless otherwise specified, all the IQ samples and pseudocode to follow assumes interleaved float32 IQ data streams. Example interleaved float32 file (10Hz Wave at 1024 Samples per Second)

RTL-SDR IQ samples from the RTL-SDR are encoded as a stream of interleaved unsigned 8 bit integers (uint8 or u8). The first sample is the real (in-phase or I) value, and the second is the imaginary (quadrature or Q) value. Together each pair of values makes up a complex number at a specific time instant.
I#0
Q#0
I#1
Q#1
I#2
Q#2
The complex number 1+1i is represented as 0xFF 0xFF and the complex number -1-1i is represented as 0x00 0x00. The complex number 0+0i is not easily representable since half of 0xFF is 127.5.
Complex Number Representation
1+1i []uint8 0xFF, 0xFF
-1+1i []uint8 0x00, 0xFF
-1-1i []uint8 0x00, 0x00
0+0i []uint8 0x80, 0x80 or []uint8 0x7F, 0x7F
And finally, here s some pseudocode to convert an rtl-sdr style IQ sample to a floating point complex number:
...
in = []uint8 0x7F, 0x7F 
real = (float(iq[0])-127.5)/127.5
imag = (float(iq[1])-127.5)/127.5
out = complex(real, imag)
....
Example interleaved uint8 file (10Hz Wave at 1024 Samples per Second)

HackRF IQ samples from the HackRF are encoded as a stream of interleaved signed 8 bit integers (int8 or i8). The first sample is the real (in-phase or I) value, and the second is the imaginary (quadrature or Q) value. Together each pair of values makes up a complex number at a specific time instant.
I#0
Q#0
I#1
Q#1
I#2
Q#2
Formats that use signed integers do have one quirk due to two s complement, which is that the smallest negative number representable s absolute value is one more than the largest positive number. int8 values can range between -128 to 127, which means there s bit of ambiguity in how +1, 0 and -1 are represented. Either you can create perfectly symmetric ranges of values between +1 and -1, but 0 is not representable, have more possible values in the negative range, or allow values above (or just below) the maximum in the range to be allowed. Within my implementation, my approach has been to scale based on the max integer value of the type, so the lowest possible signed value is actually slightly smaller than -1. Generally, if your code is seeing values that low the difference in step between -1 and slightly less than -1 isn t very significant, even with only 8 bits. Just a curiosity to be aware of.
Complex Number Representation
1+1i []int8 127, 127
-1+1i []int8 -128, 127
-1-1i []int8 -128, -128
0+0i []int8 0, 0
And finally, here s some pseudocode to convert a hackrf style IQ sample to a floating point complex number:
...
in = []int8 -5, 112 
real = (float32(in[0]))/127
imag = (float32(in[1]))/127
out = complex(real, imag)
....
Example interleaved int8 file (10Hz Wave at 1024 Samples per Second)

PlutoSDR IQ samples from the PlutoSDR are encoded as a stream of interleaved signed 16 bit integers (int16 or i16). The first sample is the real (in-phase or I) value, and the second is the imaginary (quadrature or Q) value. Together each pair of values makes up a complex number at a specific time instant. Almost no SDRs capture at a 16 bit depth natively, often you ll see 12 bit integers (as is the case with the PlutoSDR) being sent around as 16 bit integers. This leads to the next possible question, which is are values LSB or MSB aligned? The PlutoSDR sends data LSB aligned (which is to say, the largest real or imaginary value in the stream will not exceed 4095), but expects data being transmitted to be MSB aligned (which is to say the lowest set bit possible is the 5th bit in the number, or values can only be set in increments of 16). As a result, the quirk observed with the HackRF (that the range of values between 0 and -1 is different than the range of values between 0 and +1) does not impact us so long as we do not use the whole 16 bit range.
Complex Number Representation
1+1i []int16 32767, 32767
-1+1i []int16 -32768, 32767
-1-1i []int16 -32768, -32768
0+0i []int16 0, 0
And finally, here s some pseudocode to convert a PlutoSDR style IQ sample to a floating point complex number, including moving the sample from LSB to MSB aligned:
...
in = []int16 -15072, 496 
// shift left 4 bits (16 bits - 12 bits = 4 bits)
 // to move from LSB aligned to MSB aligned.
 in[0] = in[0] << 4
in[1] = in[1] << 4
real = (float32(in[0]))/32767
imag = (float32(in[1]))/32767
out = complex(real, imag)
....
Example interleaved i16 file (10Hz Wave at 1024 Samples per Second)

Next Steps Now that we can read (and write!) IQ data, we can get started first on the transmitter, which we can (in turn) use to test receiving our own BPSK signal, coming next in Part 2!

30 November 2021

Russell Coker: Links November 2021

The Guardian has an amusing article by Sophie Elmhirst about Libertarians buying a cruise ship to make a seasteading project off the coast of Panama [1]. It turns out that you need permits etc to do this and maintaining a ship is expensive. Also you wouldn t want to mine cryptocurrency in a ship cabin as most cabins are small and don t have enough airconditioning to remain pleasant if you dump 1kW or more into the air. NPR has an interesting article about the reaction of the NRA to the Columbine shootings [2]. Seems that some NRA person isn t a total asshole and is sharing their private information, maybe they are dying and are worried about going to hell. David Brin wrote an insightful blog post about the singleton hypothesis where he covers some of the evidence of autocratic societies failing [3]. I think he makes a convincing point about a single centralised government for human society not being viable. But something like the EU on a world wide scale could work well. Ken Shirriff wrote an interesting blog post about reverse engineering the Yamaha DX7 synthesiser [4]. The New York Times has an interesting article about a Baboon troop that became less aggressive after the alpha males all died at once from tuberculosis [5]. They established a new more peaceful culture that has outlived the beta males who avoided tuberculosis. The Guardian has an interesting article about how sequencing the genomes of the entire population can save healthcare costs while improving the health of the population [6]. This is somthing wealthy countries should offer for free to the world population. At a bit under $1000 per test that s only about $7 trillion to test everyone, and of course the price should drop significantly if there were billions of tests being done. The Strategy Bridge has an interesting article about SciFi books that have useful portrayals of military strategy [7]. The co-author is Major General Mick Ryan of the Australian Army which is noteworthy as Major General is the second highest rank in use by the Australian Army at this time. Vice has an interesting article about the co-evolution of penises and vaginas and how a lot of that evolution is based on avoiding impregnation from rape [8]. Cory Doctorow wrote an insightful Medium article about the way that governments could force interoperability through purchasing power [9]. Cory Doctorow wrote an insightful article for Locus Magazine about imagining life after capitalism and how capitalism might be replaced [10]. We need a Star Trek future! Arstechnica has an informative article about new developmenet in the rowhammer category of security attacks on DRAM [11]. It seems that DDR4 with ECC is the best current mitigation technique and that DDR3 with ECC is harder to attack than non-ECC RAM. So the thing to do is use ECC on all workstations and avoid doing security critical things on laptops because they can t juse ECC RAM.

22 November 2021

Paul Tagliamonte: Be careful when using vxlan!

I ve spent a bit of time playing with vxlan - which is very neat, but also incredibly insecure by default.When using vxlan, be very careful to understand how the host is connected to the internet. The kernel will listen on all interfaces for packets, which means hosts accessable to VMs it s hosting (e.g., by bridged interface or a private LAN will accept packets from VMs and inject them into arbitrary VLANs, even ones it s not on.I reported this to the kernel mailing list to no reply with more technical details.The tl;dr is:
  $ ip link add vevx0a type veth peer name vevx0z
  $ ip addr add 169.254.0.2/31 dev vevx0a
  $ ip addr add 169.254.0.3/31 dev vevx0z
  $ ip link add vxlan0 type vxlan id 42 \
    local 169.254.0.2 dev vevx0a dstport 4789
  $ # Note the above 'dev' and 'local' ip are set here
  $ ip addr add 10.10.10.1/24 dev vxlan0
results in vxlan0 listening on all interfaces, not just vevx0z or vevx0a. To prove it to myself, I spun up a docker container (using a completely different network bridge with no connection to any of the interfaces above), and ran a Go program to send VXLAN UDP packets to my bridge host:
$ docker run -it --rm -v $(pwd):/mnt debian:unstable /mnt/spam 172.17.0.1:4789
$
which results in packets getting injected into my vxlan interface
$ sudo tcpdump -e -i vxlan0
tcpdump: verbose output suppressed, use -v[v]... for full protocol decode
listening on vxlan0, link-type EN10MB (Ethernet), snapshot length 262144 bytes
21:30:15.746754 de:ad:be:ef:00:01 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 64: truncated-ip - 27706 bytes missing! 33.0.0.0 > localhost: ip-proto-114
21:30:15.746773 de:ad:be:ef:00:01 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 64: truncated-ip - 27706 bytes missing! 33.0.0.0 > localhost: ip-proto-114
21:30:15.746787 de:ad:be:ef:00:01 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 64: truncated-ip - 27706 bytes missing! 33.0.0.0 > localhost: ip-proto-114
21:30:15.746801 de:ad:be:ef:00:01 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 64: truncated-ip - 27706 bytes missing! 33.0.0.0 > localhost: ip-proto-114
21:30:15.746815 de:ad:be:ef:00:01 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 64: truncated-ip - 27706 bytes missing! 33.0.0.0 > localhost: ip-proto-114
21:30:15.746827 de:ad:be:ef:00:01 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 64: truncated-ip - 27706 bytes missing! 33.0.0.0 > localhost: ip-proto-114
21:30:15.746870 de:ad:be:ef:00:01 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 64: truncated-ip - 27706 bytes missing! 33.0.0.0 > localhost: ip-proto-114
21:30:15.746885 de:ad:be:ef:00:01 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 64: truncated-ip - 27706 bytes missing! 33.0.0.0 > localhost: ip-proto-114
21:30:15.746899 de:ad:be:ef:00:01 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 64: truncated-ip - 27706 bytes missing! 33.0.0.0 > localhost: ip-proto-114
21:30:15.746913 de:ad:be:ef:00:01 (oui Unknown) > Broadcast, ethertype IPv4 (0x0800), length 64: truncated-ip - 27706 bytes missing! 33.0.0.0 > localhost: ip-proto-114
10 packets captured
10 packets received by filter
0 packets dropped by kernel
(the program in question is the following:)
  package main
  import (
      "net"
      "os"
      "github.com/mdlayher/ethernet"
      "github.com/mdlayher/vxlan"
  )
  func main()  
      conn, err := net.Dial("udp", os.Args[1])
      if err != nil   panic(err)  
      for i := 0; i < 10; i++  
          vxf := &vxlan.Frame 
              VNI: vxlan.VNI(42),
              Ethernet: &ethernet.Frame 
                  Source:      net.HardwareAddr 0xDE, 0xAD, 0xBE,
0xEF, 0x00, 0x01 ,
                  Destination: net.HardwareAddr 0xFF, 0xFF, 0xFF,
0xFF, 0xFF, 0xFF ,
                  EtherType:   ethernet.EtherTypeIPv4,
                  Payload:     []byte("Hello, World!"),
              ,
          
          frb, err := vxf.MarshalBinary()
          if err != nil   panic(err)  
          _, err = conn.Write(frb)
          if err != nil   panic(err)  
      
  
When using vxlan, be absolutely sure all hosts that can address any interface on the host are authorized to send arbitrary packets into any VLAN that box can send to, or there s very careful and specific controls and firewalling. Note this includes public interfaces (e.g., dual-homed private network / internet boxes), or any type of dual-homing (VPNs, etc).

19 November 2021

Evgeni Golov: A String is not a String, and that's Groovy!

Halloween is over, but I still have some nightmares to share with you, so sit down, take some hot chocolate and enjoy :) When working with Jenkins, there is almost no way to avoid writing Groovy. Well, unless you only do old style jobs with shell scripts, but y'all know what I think about shell scripts Anyways, Eric have been rewriting the jobs responsible for building Debian packages for Foreman to pipelines (and thus Groovy). Our build process for pull requests is rather simple:
  1. Setup sources - get the orig tarball and adjust changelog to have an unique version for pull requests
  2. Call pbuilder
  3. Upload the built package to a staging archive for testing
For merges, it's identical, minus the changelog adjustment. And if there are multiple packages changed in one go, it runs each step in parallel for each package. Now I've been doing mass changes to our plugin packages, to move them to a shared postinst helper instead of having the same code over and over in every package. This required changes to many packages and sometimes I'd end up building multiple at once. That should be fine, right? Well, yeah, it did build fine, but the upload only happened for the last package. This felt super weird, especially as I was absolutely sure we did test this scenario (multiple packages in one PR) and it worked just fine So I went on a ride though the internals of the job, trying to understand why it didn't work. This requires a tad more information about the way we handle packages for Foreman:
  • the archive is handled by freight
  • it has suites like buster, focal and plugins (that one is a tad special)
  • each suite has components that match Foreman releases, so 2.5, 3.0, 3.1, nightly etc
  • core packages (Foreman etc) are built for all supported distributions (right now: buster and focal)
  • plugin packages are built only once and can be used on every distribution
As generating the package index isn't exactly fast in freight, we tried not not run it too often. The idea was that when we build two packages for the same target (suite/version combination), we upload both at once and run import only once for both. That means that when we build Foreman for buster and focal, this results in two parallel builds and then two parallel uploads (as they end up in different suites). But if we build Foreman and Foreman Installer, we have four parallel builds, but only two parallel uploads, as we can batch upload Foreman and Installer per suite. Well, or so was the theory. The Groovy code, that was supposed to do this looked roughly like this:
def packages_to_build = find_changed_packages()
def repos = [:]
packages_to_build.each   pkg ->
    suite = 'buster'
    component = '3.0'
    target = "$ suite -$ component "
    if (!repos.containsKey(target))  
        repos[target] = []
     
    repos[target].add(pkg)
 
do_the_build(packages_to_build)
do_the_upload(repos)
That's pretty straight forward, no? We create an empty Map, loop over a list of packages and add them to an entry in the map which we pre-create as empty if it doesn't exist. Well, no, the resulting map always ended with only having one element in each target list. And this is also why our original tests always worked: we tested with a PR containing changes to Foreman and a plugin, and plugins go to this special target we have So I started playing with the code (https://groovyide.com/playground is really great for that!), trying to understand why the heck it erases previous data. The first finding was that it just always ended up jumping into the "if map entry not found" branch, even though the map very clearly had the correct entry after the first package was added. The second one was weird. I was trying to minimize the reproducer code (IMHO always a good idea) and switched target = "$ suite -$ component " to target = "lol". Two entries in the list, only one jump into the "map entry not found" branch. What?! So this is clearly related to the fact that we're using String interpolation here. But hey, that's a totally normal thing to do, isn't it?! Admittedly, at this point, I was lost. I knew what breaks, but not why. Luckily, I knew exactly who to ask: Jens. After a brief "well, that's interesting", Jens quickly found the source of our griefs: Double-quoted strings are plain java.lang.String if there s no interpolated expression, but are groovy.lang.GString instances if interpolation is present.. And when we do repos[target] the GString target gets converted to a String, but when we use repos.containsKey() it remains a GString. This is because GStrings get converted to Strings, if the method wants one, but containsKey takes any Object while the repos[target] notation for some reason converts it. Maybe this is because using GString as Map keys should be avoided. We can reproduce this with simpler code:
def map = [:]
def something = "something"
def key = "$ something "
map[key] = 1
println key.getClass()
map.keySet().each  println it.getClass()  
map.keySet().each  println it.equals(key) 
map.keySet().each  println it.equals(key as String) 
Which results in the following output:
class org.codehaus.groovy.runtime.GStringImpl
class java.lang.String
false
true
With that knowledge, the fix was to just use the same repos[target] notation also for checking for existence Groovy helpfully returns null which is false-y when it can't find an entry in a Map absent. So yeah, a String is not always a String, and it'll bite you!

16 November 2021

Paul Tagliamonte: Measuring the Power Output of my SDRs

Over the last few years, I ve often wondered what the true power output of my SDRs are. It s a question with a shocking amount of complexity in the response, due to a number of factors (mostly Frequency). The ranges given in spec sheets are often extremely vague, and if I m being honest with myself, not incredibly helpful for being able to determine what specific filters and amplifiers I ll need to get a clean signal transmitted.
Hey, heads up! - This post contains extremely unvalidated and back of the napkin quality work to understand how my equipment works. Hopefully this work can be of help to others, but please double check any information you need for your own work!
I was specifically interested in what gain output (in dBm) looks like across the frequency range in particular, how variable the output dBm is when I change frequencies. The second question I had was understanding how linear the output gain is when adjusting the requested gain from the radio. Does a 2 dB increase on a HackRF API mean 2 dB of gain in dBm, no matter what the absolute value of the gain stage is? I ve finally bit the bullet and undertaken work to characterize the hardware I do have, with some outdated laboratory equipment I found on eBay. Of course, if it s worth doing, it s worth overdoing, so I spent a bit of time automating a handful of components in order to collect the data that I need from my SDRs. I bought an HP 437B, which is the cutting edge of 30 years ago, but still accurate to within 0.01dBm. I paired this Power Meter with an Agilent 8481A Power Sensor (-30 dBm to 20 dBm from 10MHz to 18GHz). For some of my radios, I was worried about exceeding the 20 dBm mark, so I used a 20db attenuator while I waited for a higher power power sensor. Finally, I was able to find a GPIB to USB interface, and get that interface working with the GPIB Kernel driver on my system. With all that out of the way, I was able to write Go bindings to my HP 437B to allow for totally headless and automated control in sync with my SDR s RF output. This allowed me to script the transmission of a sine wave at a controlled amplitude across a defined gain range and frequency range and read the Power Sensor s measured dBm output to characterize the Gain across frequency and configured Gain.

HackRF Looking at configured Gain against output power, the requested gain appears to have a fairly linear relation to the output signal power. The measured dBm ranged between the sensor noise floor to approx +13dBm. The average standard deviation of all tested gain values over the frequency range swept was +/-2dBm, with a minimum standard deviation of +/-0.8dBm, and a maximum of +/-3dBm. When looking at output power over the frequency range swept, the HackRF contains a distinctive (and frankly jarring) ripple across the Frequency range, with a clearly visible jump in gain somewhere around 2.1GHz. I have no idea what is causing this massive jump in output gain, nor what is causing these distinctive ripples. I d love to know more if anyone s familiar with HackRF s RF internals!

PlutoSDR The power output is very linear when operating above -20dB TX channel gain, but can get quite erratic the lower the output power is configured. The PlutoSDR s output power is directly related to the configured power level, and is generally predictable once a minimum power level is reached. The measured dBm ranged from the noise floor to 3.39 dBm, with an average standard deviation of +/-1.98 dBm, a minimum standard deviation of +/-0.91 dBm and a maximum standard deviation of +/-3.37 dBm. Generally, the power output is quite stable, and looks to have very even and wideband gain control. There s a few artifacts, which I have not confidently isolated to the SDR TX gain, noise (transmit artifacts such as intermodulation) or to my test setup. They appear fairly narrowband, so I m not overly worried about them yet. If anyone has any ideas what this could be, I d very much appreciate understanding why they exist!

Ettus B210 The power output on the Ettus B210 is higher (in dBm) than any of my other radios, but it has a very odd quirk where the power becomes nonlinear somewhere around -55dB TX channel gain. After that point, adding gain has no effect on the measured signal output in dBm up to 0 dB gain. The measured dBm ranged from the noise floor to 18.31 dBm, with an average standard deviation of +/-2.60 dBm, a minimum of +/-1.39 dBm and a maximum of +/-5.82 dBm. When the Gain is somewhere around the noise floor, the measured gain is incredibly erratic, which throws the maximum standard deviation significantly. I haven t isolated that to my test setup or the radio itself. I m inclined to believe it s my test setup. The radio has a fairly even and wideband gain, and so long as you re operating between -70dB to -55dB, fairly linear as well.

Summary Of all my radios, the Ettus B210 has the highest output (in dBm) over the widest frequency range, but the HackRF is a close second, especially after the gain bump kicks in around 2.1GHz. The Pluto SDR feels the most predictable and consistent, but also a very low output, comparatively - right around 0 dBm.
Name Max dBm stdev dBm stdev min dBm stdev max dBm
HackRF +12.6 +/-2.0 +/-0.8 +/-3.0
PlutoSDR +3.3 +/-2.0 +/-0.9 +/-3.7
B210 +18.3 +/-2.6 +/-1.4 +/-6.0

18 October 2021

Gunnar Wolf: raspi.debian.net now hosted on Debian infrastructure

So, since I registered the URL for serving the unofficial Debian images for the Raspberry computers, raspi.debian.net, in April 2020, I had been hosting it in my Dreamhost webspace. Over two years ago yes, before I finished setting it up in Dreamhost Steve McIntyre approached me and invited me to host the images under the Debian cdimages user group. I told him I d first just get the setup running, and later I would approach him for finalizing the setup. Then, I set up the build on my own server, hosted on my Dreamhost account and forgot about it for many months. Last month, there was a not particularly happy flamewar in debian-arm@lists.debian.org finished with me stating I would be moving the hosting to Debian infrastructure soon. Well It took me a bit over a month to get this sorted out, together with several days of half-broken links, but it is finally done: raspi.debian.net is a CNAME for ftp.acc.umu.se, which is the same system that hosts cdimage.debian.org. And, of course it is also reachable as https://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/unofficial/raspi/ looks more official, but is less memorable Thanks a lot to Steve for the nudging, and to maswan to help finalizing the setup. What next? Well, the images are being built on my server. I d love to move the builder over to Debian machines as well. When? How? That s still in the air.

6 October 2021

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds in September 2021

The goal behind reproducible builds is to ensure that no deliberate flaws have been introduced during compilation processes via promising or mandating that identical results are always generated from a given source. This allowing multiple third-parties to come to an agreement on whether a build was compromised or not by a system of distributed consensus. In these reports we outline the most important things that have been happening in the world of reproducible builds in the past month:
First mentioned in our March 2021 report, Martin Heinz published two blog posts on sigstore, a project that endeavours to offer software signing as a public good, [the] software-signing equivalent to Let s Encrypt . The two posts, the first entitled Sigstore: A Solution to Software Supply Chain Security outlines more about the project and justifies its existence:
Software signing is not a new problem, so there must be some solution already, right? Yes, but signing software and maintaining keys is very difficult especially for non-security folks and UX of existing tools such as PGP leave much to be desired. That s why we need something like sigstore - an easy to use software/toolset for signing software artifacts.
The second post (titled Signing Software The Easy Way with Sigstore and Cosign) goes into some technical details of getting started.
There was an interesting thread in the /r/Signal subreddit that started from the observation that Signal s apk doesn t match with the source code:
Some time ago I checked Signal s reproducibility and it failed. I asked others to test in case I did something wrong, but nobody made any reports. Since then I tried to test the Google Play Store version of the apk against one I compiled myself, and that doesn t match either.

BitcoinBinary.org was announced this month, which aims to be a repository of Reproducible Build Proofs for Bitcoin Projects :
Most users are not capable of building from source code themselves, but we can at least get them able enough to check signatures and shasums. When reputable people who can tell everyone they were able to reproduce the project s build, others at least have a secondary source of validation.

Distribution work Fr d ric Pierret announced a new testing service at beta.tests.reproducible-builds.org, showing actual rebuilds of binaries distributed by both the Debian and Qubes distributions. In Debian specifically, however, 51 reviews of Debian packages were added, 31 were updated and 31 were removed this month to our database of classified issues. As part of this, Chris Lamb refreshed a number of notes, including the build_path_in_record_file_generated_by_pybuild_flit_plugin issue. Elsewhere in Debian, Roland Clobus posted his Fourth status update about reproducible live-build ISO images in Jenkins to our mailing list, which mentions (amongst other things) that:
  • All major configurations are still built regularly using live-build and bullseye.
  • All major configurations are reproducible now; Jenkins is green.
    • I ve worked around the issue for the Cinnamon image.
    • The patch was accepted and released within a few hours.
  • My main focus for the last month was on the live-build tool itself.
Related to this, there was continuing discussion on how to embed/encode the build metadata for the Debian live images which were being worked on by Roland Clobus.
Ariadne Conill published another detailed blog post related to various security initiatives within the Alpine Linux distribution. After summarising some conventional security work being done (eg. with sudo and the release of OpenSSH version 3.0), Ariadne included another section on reproducible builds: The main blocker [was] determining what to do about storing the build metadata so that a build environment can be recreated precisely . Finally, Bernhard M. Wiedemann posted his monthly reproducible builds status report.

Community news On our website this month, Bernhard M. Wiedemann fixed some broken links [ ] and Holger Levsen made a number of changes to the Who is Involved? page [ ][ ][ ]. On our mailing list, Magnus Ihse Bursie started a thread with the subject Reproducible builds on Java, which begins as follows:
I m working for Oracle in the Build Group for OpenJDK which is primary responsible for creating a built artifact of the OpenJDK source code. [ ] For the last few years, we have worked on a low-effort, background-style project to make the build of OpenJDK itself building reproducible. We ve come far, but there are still issues I d like to address. [ ]

diffoscope diffoscope is our in-depth and content-aware diff utility. Not only can it locate and diagnose reproducibility issues, it can provide human-readable diffs from many kinds of binary formats. This month, Chris Lamb prepared and uploaded versions 183, 184 and 185 as well as performed significant triaging of merge requests and other issues in addition to making the following changes:
  • New features:
    • Support a newer format version of the R language s .rds files. [ ]
    • Update tests for OCaml 4.12. [ ]
    • Add a missing format_class import. [ ]
  • Bug fixes:
    • Don t call close_archive when garbage collecting Archive instances, unless open_archive definitely returned successfully. This prevents, for example, an AttributeError where PGPContainer s cleanup routines were rightfully assuming that its temporary directory had actually been created. [ ]
    • Fix (and test) the comparison of R language s .rdb files after refactoring temporary directory handling. [ ]
    • Ensure that RPM archives exists in the Debian package description, regardless of whether python3-rpm is installed or not at build time. [ ]
  • Codebase improvements:
    • Use our assert_diff routine in tests/comparators/test_rdata.py. [ ]
    • Move diffoscope.versions to diffoscope.tests.utils.versions. [ ]
    • Reformat a number of modules with Black. [ ][ ]
However, the following changes were also made:
  • Mattia Rizzolo:
    • Fix an autopkgtest caused by the androguard module not being in the (expected) python3-androguard Debian package. [ ]
    • Appease a shellcheck warning in debian/tests/control.sh. [ ]
    • Ignore a warning from h5py in our tests that doesn t concern us. [ ]
    • Drop a trailing .1 from the Standards-Version field as it s required. [ ]
  • Zbigniew J drzejewski-Szmek:
    • Stop using the deprecated distutils.spawn.find_executable utility. [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]
    • Adjust an LLVM-related test for LLVM version 13. [ ]
    • Update invocations of llvm-objdump. [ ]
    • Adjust a test with a one-byte text file for file version 5.40. [ ]
And, finally, Benjamin Peterson added a --diff-context option to control unified diff context size [ ] and Jean-Romain Garnier fixed the Macho comparator for architectures other than x86-64 [ ].

Upstream patches The Reproducible Builds project detects, dissects and attempts to fix as many currently-unreproducible packages as possible. We endeavour to send all of our patches upstream where appropriate. This month, we wrote a large number of such patches, including:

Testing framework The Reproducible Builds project runs a testing framework at tests.reproducible-builds.org, to check packages and other artifacts for reproducibility. This month, the following changes were made:
  • Holger Levsen:
    • Drop my package rebuilder prototype as it s not useful anymore. [ ]
    • Schedule old packages in Debian bookworm. [ ]
    • Stop scheduling packages for Debian buster. [ ][ ]
    • Don t include PostgreSQL debug output in package lists. [ ]
    • Detect Python library mismatches during build in the node health check. [ ]
    • Update a note on updating the FreeBSD system. [ ]
  • Mattia Rizzolo:
    • Silence a warning from Git. [ ]
    • Update a setting to reflect that Debian bookworm is the new testing. [ ]
    • Upgrade the PostgreSQL database to version 13. [ ]
  • Roland Clobus (Debian live image generation):
    • Workaround non-reproducible config files in the libxml-sax-perl package. [ ]
    • Use the new DNS for the snapshot service. [ ]
  • Vagrant Cascadian:
    • Also note that the armhf architecture also systematically varies by the kernel. [ ]

Contributing If you are interested in contributing to the Reproducible Builds project, please visit our Contribute page on our website. However, you can get in touch with us via:

5 September 2021

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds in August 2021

Welcome to the latest report from the Reproducible Builds project. In this post, we round up the important things that happened in the world of reproducible builds in August 2021. As always, if you are interested in contributing to the project, please visit the Contribute page on our website.
There were a large number of talks related to reproducible builds at DebConf21 this year, the 21st annual conference of the Debian Linux distribution (full schedule):
PackagingCon (@PackagingCon) is new conference for developers of package management software as well as their related communities and stakeholders. The virtual event, which is scheduled to take place on the 9th and 10th November 2021, has a mission is to bring different ecosystems together: from Python s pip to Rust s cargo to Julia s Pkg, from Debian apt over Nix to conda and mamba, and from vcpkg to Spack we hope to have many different approaches to package management at the conference . A number of people from reproducible builds community are planning on attending this new conference, and some may even present. Tickets start at $20 USD.
As reported in our May report, the president of the United States signed an executive order outlining policies aimed to improve the cybersecurity in the US. The executive order comes after a number of highly-publicised security problems such as a ransomware attack that affected an oil pipeline between Texas and New York and the SolarWinds hack that affected a large number of US federal agencies. As a followup this month, however, a detailed fact sheet was released announcing a number large-scale initiatives and that will undoubtedly be related to software supply chain security and, as a result, reproducible builds.
Lastly, We ran another productive meeting on IRC in August (original announcement) which ran for just short of two hours. A full set of notes from the meeting is available.

Software development kpcyrd announced an interesting new project this month called I probably didn t backdoor this which is an attempt to be:
a practical attempt at shipping a program and having reasonably solid evidence there s probably no backdoor. All source code is annotated and there are instructions explaining how to use reproducible builds to rebuild the artifacts distributed in this repository from source. The idea is shifting the burden of proof from you need to prove there s a backdoor to we need to prove there s probably no backdoor . This repository is less about code (we re going to try to keep code at a minimum actually) and instead contains technical writing that explains why these controls are effective and how to verify them. You are very welcome to adopt the techniques used here in your projects. ( )
As the project s README goes on the mention: the techniques used to rebuild the binary artifacts are only possible because the builds for this project are reproducible . This was also announced on our mailing list this month in a thread titled i-probably-didnt-backdoor-this: Reproducible Builds for upstreams. kpcyrd also wrote a detailed blog post about the problems surrounding Linux distributions (such as Alpine and Arch Linux) that distribute compiled Python bytecode in the form of .pyc files generated during the build process.

diffoscope diffoscope is our in-depth and content-aware diff utility. Not only can it locate and diagnose reproducibility issues, it can provide human-readable diffs from many kinds of binary formats. This month, Chris Lamb made a number of changes, including releasing version 180), version 181) and version 182) as well as the following changes:
  • New features:
    • Add support for extracting the signing block from Android APKs. [ ]
    • If we specify a suffix for a temporary file or directory within the code, ensure it starts with an underscore (ie. _ ) to make the generated filenames more human-readable. [ ]
    • Don t include short GCC lines that differ on a single prefix byte either. These are distracting, not very useful and are simply the strings(1) command s idea of the build ID, which is displayed elsewhere in the diff. [ ][ ]
    • Don t include specific .debug-like lines in the ELF-related output, as it is invariably a duplicate of the debug ID that exists better in the readelf(1) differences for this file. [ ]
  • Bug fixes:
    • Add a special case to SquashFS image extraction to not fail if we aren t the superuser. [ ]
    • Only use java -jar /path/to/apksigner.jar if we have an apksigner.jar as newer versions of apksigner in Debian use a shell wrapper script which will be rejected if passed directly to the JVM. [ ]
    • Reduce the maximum line length for calculating Wagner-Fischer, improving the speed of output generation a lot. [ ]
    • Don t require apksigner in order to compare .apk files using apktool. [ ]
    • Update calls (and tests) for the new version of odt2txt. [ ]
  • Output improvements:
    • Mention in the output if the apksigner tool is missing. [ ]
    • Profile diffoscope.diff.linediff and specialize. [ ][ ]
  • Logging improvements:
    • Format debug-level messages related to ELF sections using the diffoscope.utils.format_class. [ ]
    • Print the size of generated reports in the logs (if possible). [ ]
    • Include profiling information in --debug output if --profile is not set. [ ]
  • Codebase improvements:
    • Clarify a comment about the HUGE_TOOLS Python dictionary. [ ]
    • We can pass -f to apktool to avoid creating a strangely-named subdirectory. [ ]
    • Drop an unused File import. [ ]
    • Update the supported & minimum version of Black. [ ]
    • We don t use the logging variable in a specific place, so alias it to an underscore (ie. _ ) instead. [ ]
    • Update some various copyright years. [ ]
    • Clarify a comment. [ ]
  • Test improvements:
    • Update a test to check specific contents of SquashFS listings, otherwise it fails depending on the test systems user ID to username passwd(5) mapping. [ ]
    • Assign seen and expected values to local variables to improve contextual information in failed tests. [ ]
    • Don t print an orphan newline when the source code formatting test passes. [ ]

In addition Santiago Torres Arias added support for Squashfs version 4.5 [ ] and Felix C. Stegerman suggested a number of small improvements to the output of the new APK signing block [ ]. Lastly, Chris Lamb uploaded python-libarchive-c version 3.1-1 to Debian experimental for the new 3.x branch python-libarchive-c is used by diffoscope.

Distribution work In Debian, 68 reviews of packages were added, 33 were updated and 10 were removed this month, adding to our knowledge about identified issues. Two new issue types have been identified too: nondeterministic_ordering_in_todo_items_collected_by_doxygen and kodi_package_captures_build_path_in_source_filename_hash. kpcyrd published another monthly report on their work on reproducible builds within the Alpine and Arch Linux distributions, specifically mentioning rebuilderd, one of the components powering reproducible.archlinux.org. The report also touches on binary transparency, an important component for supply chain security. The @GuixHPC account on Twitter posted an infographic on what fraction of GNU Guix packages are bit-for-bit reproducible: Finally, Bernhard M. Wiedemann posted his monthly reproducible builds status report for openSUSE.

Upstream patches The Reproducible Builds project detects, dissects and attempts to fix as many currently-unreproducible packages as possible. We endeavour to send all of our patches upstream where appropriate. This month, we wrote a large number of such patches, including: Elsewhere, it was discovered that when supporting various new language features and APIs for Android apps, the resulting APK files that are generated now vary wildly from build to build (example diffoscope output). Happily, it appears that a patch has been committed to the relevant source tree. This was also discussed on our mailing list this month in a thread titled Android desugaring and reproducible builds started by Marcus Hoffmann.

Website and documentation There were quite a few changes to the Reproducible Builds website and documentation this month, including:
  • Felix C. Stegerman:
    • Update the website self-build process to not use the buster-backports suite now that Debian Bullseye is the stable release. [ ]
  • Holger Levsen:
    • Add a new page documenting various package rebuilder solutions. [ ]
    • Add some historical talks and slides from DebConf20. [ ][ ]
    • Various improvements to the history page. [ ][ ][ ]
    • Rename the Comparison protocol documentation category to Verification . [ ]
    • Update links to F-Droid documentation. [ ]
  • Ian Muchina:
    • Increase the font size of titles and de-emphasize event details on the talk page. [ ]
    • Rename the README file to README.md to improve the user experience when browsing the Git repository in a web browser. [ ]
  • Mattia Rizzolo:
    • Drop a position:fixed CSS statement that is negatively affecting with some width settings. [ ]
    • Fix the sizing of the elements inside the side navigation bar. [ ]
    • Show gold level sponsors and above in the sidebar. [ ]
    • Updated the documentation within reprotest to mention how ldconfig conflicts with the kernel variation. [ ]
  • Roland Clobus:
    • Added a ticket number for the issue with the live Cinnamon image and diffoscope. [ ]

Testing framework The Reproducible Builds project runs a testing framework at tests.reproducible-builds.org, to check packages and other artifacts for reproducibility. This month, the following changes were made:
  • Holger Levsen:
    • Debian-related changes:
      • Make a large number of changes to support the new Debian bookworm release, including adding it to the dashboard [ ], start scheduling tests [ ], adding suitable Apache redirects [ ] etc. [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]
      • Make the first build use LANG=C.UTF-8 to match the official Debian build servers. [ ]
      • Only test Debian Live images once a week. [ ]
      • Upgrade all nodes to use Debian Bullseye [ ] [ ]
      • Update README documentation for the Debian Bullseye release. [ ]
    • Other changes:
      • Only include rsync output if the $DEBUG variable is enabled. [ ]
      • Don t try to install mock, a tool used to build Fedora packages some time ago. [ ]
      • Drop an unused function. [ ]
      • Various documentation improvements. [ ][ ]
      • Improve the node health check to detect zombie jobs. [ ]
  • Jessica Clarke (FreeBSD-related changes):
    • Update the location and branch name for the main FreeBSD Git repository. [ ]
    • Correctly ignore the source tarball when comparing build results. [ ]
    • Drop an outdated version number from the documentation. [ ]
  • Mattia Rizzolo:
    • Block F-Droid jobs from running whilst the setup is running. [ ]
    • Enable debugging for the rsync job related to Debian Live images. [ ]
    • Pass BUILD_TAG and BUILD_URL environment for the Debian Live jobs. [ ]
    • Refactor the master_wrapper script to use a Bash array for the parameters. [ ]
    • Prefer YAML s safe_load() function over the unsafe variant. [ ]
    • Use the correct variable in the Apache config to match possible existing files on disk. [ ]
    • Stop issuing HTTP 301 redirects for things that not actually permanent. [ ]
  • Roland Clobus (Debian live image generation):
    • Increase the diffoscope timeout from 120 to 240 minutes; the Cinnamon image should now be able to finish. [ ]
    • Use the new snapshot service. [ ]
    • Make a number of improvements to artifact handling, such as moving the artifacts to the Jenkins host [ ] and correctly cleaning them up at the right time. [ ][ ][ ]
    • Where possible, link to the Jenkins build URL that created the artifacts. [ ][ ]
    • Only allow only one job to run at the same time. [ ]
  • Vagrant Cascadian:
    • Temporarily disable armhf nodes for DebConf21. [ ][ ]

Lastly, if you are interested in contributing to the Reproducible Builds project, please visit the Contribute page on our website. You can get in touch with us via:

3 September 2021

Dirk Eddelbuettel: RcppSMC 0.2.4 on CRAN: Even More GSoC !!

A brand new release 0.2.4 of the RcppSMC package arrived on CRAN earlier today, with a dual delay for CRAN closing for a well-earned break, and then being overwhelmed when reopening. Other than that the processing was again versy smooth. RcppSMC provides Rcpp-based bindings to R for the Sequential Monte Carlo Template Classes (SMCTC) by Adam Johansen described in his JSS article. Sequential Monte Carlo is also referred to as Particle Filter in some contexts. The package started when I put some Rcpp bindings together based on Adam s paper and library. It grew when Adam and I supervised Leah South during the 2017 iteration of the Google Summer of Code. And now it grew again as we have Adam, Leah and myself looking over the shoulders of Ilya Zarubin who did very fine work during the 2021 iteration of the Google Summer of Code that just concluded! So we are now GSoC squared! This release is effectively all work by Ilya and summarized below.

Changes in RcppSMC version 0.2.4 (2021-09-01)
  • Multiple Sequential Monte Carlo extensions (Ilya Zarubin as part of Google Summer of Code 2021)
    • Provide informative user output (convergence diagnostics) for PMMH example #50 (Ilya in #50 and #52 addressing #25, bullet point 5)
    • Support for tracking of ancestral lines for base sampler class (Ilya in #56)
    • Support for conditional SMC via derived conditionalSampler class (Ilya in #60)
  • Add URL and BugReports to DESCRIPTION (Dirk in #53)

Courtesy of my CRANberries, there is a diffstat report for this release. More information is on the RcppSMC page. Issues and bugreports should go to the GitHub issue tracker. If you like this or other open-source work I do, you can now sponsor me at GitHub.

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

1 September 2021

Paul Wise: FLOSS Activities August 2021

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

Changes

Issues

Review

Administration
  • Debian servers: expand LV, fix debbugs config
  • Debian wiki: unblock IP addresses, approve accounts
  • Debian QA services: deploy changes

Communication

Sponsors The pyemd, pytest-rerunfailures, libpst, sptag, librecaptcha work was sponsored by my employer. All other work was done on a volunteer basis.

14 August 2021

Gunnar Wolf: Bullseye arrives. Private ARM64 install fest!

So today is the day when a new Debian release comes out! Congratulations to everybody, and thanks a lot mainly to the Release Team. Lots of very hard work was put into making Debian 11 Bullseye a reality! My very personal way to celebrate this was to do a somewhat different Debian install at home. Why different? Well, I have quite a bit of old, older and frankly elderly laptops at home. And as many of you know, I have done more than my fair share of Raspberry Pi installs I have played and worked with assorted ARM machines at least since 2013, and I cannot consider myself a newbie with them by any means. But this is the first time I installed Debian on a mass-market, decently-specced ARM64-based laptop. Yes, I know the Pinebook has been there like for ages, but it really does feel like a computer to show off and not to use seriously (and I ve seen probably too many people fiddling with it, unable to get $foo to work). So I got myself a used Lenovo Yoga C630. Yes, a discontinued product it seems Lenovo was not able to properly market this machine, and it had a pretty short shelf life the machine was available for samples in late 2018 and for general sale in 2019! The specs are quite decent: Installing it via an almost-standard debian-installer is almost straightforward does require the installer to know what he is doing but is not too different from a regular Debian install. The AArch64 laptops project has done quite a feat in getting a d-i image ready to be inserted as a USB drive, and comprehensive instructions to help through the process. The shipped scripts even reap the Windows partition for the firmware images! I have reduced Windows to 25GB, but having only a 128GB drive, it still is a little bit too much.. I guess I ll blow it away sooner rather than later. The installer image has a regular GNOME install, which works beautifully, but I promptly replaced it with i3, as it s fundamental for me to work happily. Of course, the computer has quirks, more than I d expect from a regular x86 system, but well within what I expected to achieve during my first day with it. The issues I have most noted are: Of course, more quirks will surely appear with use. And I ll start trying to address some of them. So Happy Bullseye! Happy Debian 11! Enjoy a great release! \o/

10 August 2021

Shirish Agarwal: BBI, IP report, State Borders and Civil Aviation I

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants Issac Newton, 1675. Although it should be credited to 12th century Bernard of Chartres. You will know why I have shared this, probably at the beginning of Civil Aviation history itself.

Comments on the BBI court case which happened in Kenya, then and the subsequent appeal. I am not going to share much about the coverage of the BBI appeal as Gautam Bhatia has shared quite eloquently his observations, both on the initial case and the subsequent appeal which lasted 5 days in Kenya and was shown all around the world thanks to YouTube. One of the interesting points which stuck with me was that in Kenya, sign language is one of the official languages. And in fact, I was able to read quite a bit about the various sign languages which are there in Kenya. It just boggles the mind that there are countries that also give importance to such even though they are not as rich or as developed as we call developed economies. I probably might give more space and give more depth as it does carry some important judicial jurisprudence which is and which will be felt around the world. How does India react or doesn t is probably another matter altogether  But yes, it needs it own space, maybe after some more time. Report on Standing Committee on IP Regulation in India and the false promises. Again, I do not want to take much time in sharing details about what the report contains, as the report can be found here. I have uploaded it on WordPress, in case of an issue. An observation on the same subject can be found here. At least, to me and probably those who have been following the IP space as either using/working on free software or even IP would be aware that the issues shared have been known since 1994. And it does benefit the industry rather than the country. This way, the rent-seekers, and monopolists win. There is ample literature that shared how rich countries had weak regulation for decades and even centuries till it was advantageous for them to have strong IP. One can look at the history of Europe and the United States for it. We can also look at the history of our neighbor China, which for the last 5 decades has used some provision of IP and disregarded many others. But these words are of no use, as the policies done and shared are by the rich for the rich.

Fighting between two State Borders Ironically or because of it, two BJP ruled states Assam and Mizoram fought between themselves. In which 6 policemen died. While the history of the two states is complicated it becomes a bit more complicated when one goes back into Assam and ULFA history and comes to know that ULFA could not have become that powerful until and unless, the Marwaris, people of my clan had not given generous donations to them. They thought it was a good investment, which later would turn out to be untrue. Those who think ULFA has declined, or whatever, still don t have answers to this or this. Interestingly, both the Chief Ministers approached the Home Minister (Mr. Amit Shah) of BJP. Mr. Shah was supposed to be the Chanakya but in many instances, including this one, he decided to stay away. His statement was on the lines of you guys figure it out yourself. There is a poem that was shared by the late poet Rahat Indori. I am sharing the same below as an image and will attempt to put a rough translation.
kisi ke baap ka hindustan todi hain Rahat Indori
Poets, whether in India or elsewhere, are known to speak truth to power and are a bit of a rebel. This poem by Rahat Indori is provocatively titled Kisi ke baap ka Hindustan todi hai , It challenges the majoritarian idea that Hindustan/India only belongs to the majoritarian religion. He also challenges as well as asserts at the same time that every Indian citizen, regardless of whatever his or her religion might be, is an Indian and can assert India as his home. While the whole poem is compelling in itself, for me what hits home is in the second stanza

:Lagegi Aag to aayege ghat kayi zad me, Yaha pe sirf hamara makan todi hai The meaning is simple yet subtle, he uses Aag or Fire as a symbol of hate sharing that if hate spreads, it won t be his home alone that will be torched. If one wants to literally understand what he meant, I present to you the cult Russian movie No Escapes or Ogon as it is known in Russian. If one were to decipher why the Russian film doesn t talk about climate change, one has to view it from the prism of what their leader Vladimir Putin has said and done over the years. As can be seen even in there, the situation is far more complex than one imagines. Although, it is interesting to note that he decried Climate change as man-made till as late as last year and was on the side of Trump throughout his presidency. This was in 2017 as well as perhaps this. Interestingly, there was a change in tenor and note just a couple of weeks back, but that could be only politicking or much more. Statements that are not backed by legislation and application are usually just a whitewash. We would have to wait to see what concrete steps are taken by Putin, Kremlin, and their Duma before saying either way.

Civil Aviation and the broad structure Civil Aviation is a large topic and I would not be able to do justice to it all in one article/blog post. So, for e.g. I will not be getting into Aircraft (Boeing, Airbus, Comac etc., etc.) or the new electric aircraft as that will just make the blog post long. I will not be also talking about cargo or Visa or many such topics, as all of them actually would and do need their own space. So this would be much more limited to Airports and to some extent airlines, as one cannot survive without the other. The primary reason for doing this is there is and has been a lot of myth-making in India about Civil Aviation in general, whether it has to do with Civil Aviation history or whatever passes as of policy in India.

A little early history Man has always looked at the stars and envisaged himself or herself as a bird, flying with gay abandon. In fact, there have been many paintings, sculptors who imagined how we would fly. The Steam Engine itself was invented in 82 BCE. But the attempt to fly was done by a certain Monk called Brother Elmer of Malmesbury who attempted the same in 1010., shortly after the birth of the rudimentary steam engine The most famous of all would be Leonardo da Vinci for his amazing sketches of flying machines in 1493. There were a couple of books by Cyrano de Bergerac, apparently wrote two books, both sadly published after his death. Interestingly, you can find both the book and the gentleman in the Project Gutenberg archives. How much of M/s Cyrano s exploits were his own and how much embellished by M/S Curtis, maybe a friend, a lover who knows, but it does give the air of the swashbuckling adventurer of the time which many men aspired to in that time. So, why not an author???

L Autre Monde: ou les tats et Empires de la Lune (Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon) and Les tats et Empires du Soleil (The States and Empires of the Sun). These two French books apparently had a lot of references to flying machines. Both of them were authored by Cyrano de Bergerac. Both of these were sadly published after his death, one apparently in 1656 and the other one a couple of years later. By the 17th century, while it had become easy to know and measure the latitude, measuring longitude was a problem. In fact, it can be argued and probably successfully that India wouldn t have been under British rule or UK wouldn t have been a naval superpower if it hadn t solved the longitudinal problem. Over the years, the British Royal Navy suffered many blows, one of the most famous or infamous among them might be the Scilly naval disaster of 1707 which led to the death of 2000 odd British Royal naval personnel and led to Queen Anne, who was ruling over England at that time via Parliament and called it the Longitude Act which basically was an open competition for anybody to fix the problem and carried the prize money of 20,000. While nobody could claim the whole prize, many did get smaller amounts depending upon the achievements. The best and the nearest who came was John Harrison who made the first sea-watch and with modifications, over the years it became miniaturized to a pocket-sized Marine chronometer although, I doubt the ones used today look anything in those days. But if that had not been invented, we surely would have been freed long ago. The assumption being that the East India Company would have dashed onto rocks so many times, that the whole exercise would have been futile. The downside of it is that maritime trade routes that are being used today and the commerce would not have been. Neither would have aircraft or space for that matter, or at the very least delayed by how many years or decades, nobody knows. If one wants to read about the Longitudinal problem, one can get the famous book Longitude .

In many mythologies, including Indian and Arabian tales, in which we had the flying carpet which would let its passengers go from one place to the next. Then there is also mention of Pushpak Vimana in ancient texts, but those secrets remain secrets. Think how much foreign exchange India could make by both using it and exporting the same worldwide. And I m being serious. There are many who believe in it, but sadly, the ones who know the secret don t seem to want India s progress. Just think of the carbon credits that India could have, which itself would make India a superpower. And I m being serious.

Western Ideas and Implementation. Even in the late and early 18th century, there were many machines that were designed to have controlled flight, but it was only the Wright Flyer that was able to demonstrate a controlled flight in 1903. The ones who came pretty close to what the Wrights achieved were the people by the name of Cayley and Langley. They actually studied what the pioneers had done. They looked at what Otto Lilienthal had done, as he had done a lot of hang-gliding and put a lot of literature in the public domain then.

Furthermore, they also consulted Octave Chanute. The whole system and history of the same are a bit complicated, but it does give a window to what happened then. So, it won t be wrong to say that whatever the Wright Brothers accomplished would probably not have been possible or would have taken years or maybe even decades if that literature and experiments, drawings, etc. in the commons were not available. So, while they did experimentation, they also looked at what other people were doing and had done which was in public domain/commons.

They also did a lot of testing, which gave them new insights. Even the propulsion system they used in the 1903 flight was a design by Nicolaus Otto. In fact, the Aircraft would not have been born if the Chinese had not invented kites in the early sixth century A.D. One also has to credit Issac Newton because of the three laws of motion, again without which none of the above could have happened. What is credited to the Wilbur brothers is not just they made the Kitty Hawk, they also made it commercial as they sold it and variations of the design to the American Air Force and also made a pilot school where pilots were trained for warfighting. 119 odd pilots came out of that school. The Wrights thought that air supremacy would end the war early, but this turned out to be a false hope.

Competition and Those Magnificent Men and their flying machines One of the first competitions to unlock creativity was the English Channel crossing offer made by Daily Mail. This was successfully done by the Frenchman Louis Bl riot. You can read his account here. There were quite a few competitions before World War 1 broke out. There is a beautiful, humorous movie that does dedicate itself to imagining how things would have gone in that time. In fact, there have been two movies, this one and an earlier movie called Sky Riders made many a youth dream. The other movie sadly is not yet in the public domain, and when it will be nobody knows, but if you see it or even read it, it gives you goosebumps.

World War 1 and Improvements to Aircraft World War 1 is remembered as the Great War or the War to end all wars in an attempt at irony. It did a lot of destruction of both people and property, and in fact, laid the foundation of World War 2. At the same time, if World War 1 hadn t happened then Airpower, Plane technology would have taken decades. Even medicine and medical techniques became revolutionary due to World War 1. In order to be brief, I am not sharing much about World War 1 otherwise that itself would become its own blog post. And while it had its heroes and villains who, when, why could be tackled perhaps another time.

The Guggenheim Family and the birth of Civil Aviation If one has to credit one family for the birth of the Civil Aviation, it has to be the Guggenheim family. Again, I would not like to dwell much as much of their contribution has already been noted here. There are quite a few things still that need to be said and pointed out. First and foremost is the fact that they made lessons about flying from grade school to college and afterward till college and beyond which were in the syllabus, whereas in the Indian schooling system, there is nothing like that to date. Here, in India, even in Engineering courses, you don t have much info. Unless until you go for professional Aviation or Aeronautical courses and most of these courses cost a bomb so either the very rich or the very determined (with loans) only go for that, at least that s what my friends have shared. And there is no guarantee you will get a job after that, especially in today s climate. Even their fund, grants, and prizes which were given to people for various people so that improvements could be made to the United States Civil Aviation. This, as shared in the report/blog post shared, was in response to what the younger child/brother saw as Europe having a large advantage both in Military and Civil Aviation. They also made several grants in several Universities which would not only do notable work during their lifetime but carry on the legacy researching on different aspects of Aircraft. One point that should be noted is that Europe was far ahead even then of the U.S. which prompted the younger son. There had already been talks of civil/civilian flights on European routes, although much different from what either of us can imagine today. Even with everything that the U.S. had going for her and still has, Europe is the one which has better airports, better facilities, better everything than the U.S. has even today. If you look at the lists of the Airports for better value of money or facilities, you would find many Airports from Europe, some from Asia, and only a few from the U.S. even though they are some of the most frequent users of the service. But that debate and arguments I would have to leave for perhaps the next blog post as there is still a lot to be covered between the 1930s, 1950s, and today. The Guggenheims archives does a fantastic job of sharing part of the story till the 1950s, but there is also quite a bit which it doesn t. I will probably start from that in the next blog post and then carry on ahead. Lastly, before I wind up, I have to share why I felt the need to write, capture and share this part of Aviation history. The plain and simple reason being, many of the people I meet either on the web, on Twitter or even in real life, many of them are just unaware of how this whole thing came about. The unawareness in my fellow brothers and sisters is just shocking, overwhelming. At least, by sharing these articles, I at least would be able to guide them or at least let them know how it all came to be and where things are going and not just be so clueless. Till later.

9 August 2021

Ian Wienand: nutdrv_qx setup for Synology DSM7

I have a cheap no-name UPS acquired from Jaycar and was wondering if I could get it to connect to my Synology DS918+. It rather unhelpfully identifies itself as MEC0003 and comes with some blob of non-working software on a CD; however some investigation found it could maybe work on my Synology NAS using the Network UPS Tools nutdrv_qx driver with the hunnox subdriver type. Unfortunately this is a fairly recent addition to the NUTs source, requiring rebuilding the driver for DSM7. I don't fully understand the Synology environment but I did get this working. Firstly I downloaded the toolchain from https://archive.synology.com/download/ToolChain/toolchain/ and extracted it. I then used the script from https://github.com/SynologyOpenSource/pkgscripts-ng to download some sort of build environment. This appears to want root access and possibly sets up some sort of chroot. Anyway, for DSM7 on the DS918+ I ran EnvDeploy -v 7.0 -p apollolake and it downloaded some tarballs into toolkit_tarballs that I simply extracted into the same directory as the toolchain. I then grabbed the NUTs source from https://github.com/networkupstools/nut. I then built NUTS similar to the following
./autogen.sh
PATH_TO_TC=/home/your/path
export CC=$ PATH_TO_CC /x86_64-pc-linux-gnu/bin/x86_64-pc-linux-gnu-gcc
export LD=$ PATH_TO_LD /x86_64-pc-linux-gnu/bin/x86_64-pc-linux-gnu-ld
./configure \
  --prefix= \
  --with-statepath=/var/run/ups_state \
  --sysconfdir=/etc/ups \
  --with-sysroot=$ PATH_TO_TC /usr/local/sysroot \
  --with-usb=yes
  --with-usb-libs="-L$ PATH_TO_TC /usr/local/x86_64-pc-linux-gnu/x86_64-pc-linux-gnu/sys-root/usr/lib/ -lusb" \
  --with-usb-includes="-I$ PATH_TO_TC /usr/local/sysroot/usr/include/"
make
The tricks to be aware of are setting the locations DSM wants status/config files and overriding the USB detection done by configure which doesn't seem to obey sysroot. If you would prefer to avoid this you can try this prebuilt nutdrv_qx (ebb184505abd1ca1750e13bb9c5f991eaa999cbea95da94b20f66ae4bd02db41). SSH to the DSM7 machine; as root move /usr/bin/nutdrv_qx out of the way to save it; scp the new version and move it into place. If you cat /dev/bus/usb/devices I found this device has a Vendor 0001 and ProdID 0000.
T:  Bus=01 Lev=01 Prnt=01 Port=00 Cnt=01 Dev#=  3 Spd=1.5  MxCh= 0
D:  Ver= 2.00 Cls=00(>ifc ) Sub=00 Prot=00 MxPS= 8 #Cfgs=  1
P:  Vendor=0001 ProdID=0000 Rev= 1.00
S:  Product=MEC0003
S:  SerialNumber=ffffff87ffffffb7ffffff87ffffffb7
C:* #Ifs= 1 Cfg#= 1 Atr=80 MxPwr=100mA
I:* If#= 0 Alt= 0 #EPs= 2 Cls=03(HID  ) Sub=00 Prot=00 Driver=usbfs
E:  Ad=81(I) Atr=03(Int.) MxPS=   8 Ivl=10ms
E:  Ad=02(O) Atr=03(Int.) MxPS=   8 Ivl=10ms
DSM does a bunch of magic to autodetect and configure NUTs when a UPS is plugged in. The first thing you'll need to do is edit /etc/nutscan-usb.sh and override where it tries to use the blazer_usb driver for this obviously incorrect vendor/product id. The line should now look like
static usb_device_id_t usb_device_table[] =  
    0x0001, 0x0000, "nutdrv_qx"  ,
    0x03f0, 0x0001, "usbhid-ups"  ,
  ... and so on ...
Then you want to edit the file /usr/syno/lib/systemd/scripts/ups-usb.sh to start the nutdrv_qx; find the DRV_LIST in that file and update it like so:
local DRV_LIST="nutdrv_qx usbhid-ups blazer_usb bcmxcp_usb richcomm_usb tripplite_usb"
This is triggered by /usr/lib/systemd/system/ups-usb.service and is ultimately what tries to setup the UPS configuration. Lastly, you will need to edit the /etc/ups/ups.conf file. This will probably vary depending on your UPS. One important thing is to add user=root above the driver; it seems recent NUT has become more secure and drops permissions, but the result it will not find USB devices in this environment (if you're getting something like no appropriate HID device found this is likely the cause). So the configuration should look something like:
user=root
[ups]
driver = nutdrv_qx
port = auto
subdriver = hunnox
vendorid = "0001"
productid = "0000"
langid_fix = 0x0409
novendor
noscanlangid
#pollonly
#community =
#snmp_version = v2c
#mibs =
#secName =
#secLevel =
#authProtocol =
#authPassword =
#privProtocol =
#privPassword =
I then restarted the UPS daemon by enabling/disabling UPS support in the UI. This should tell you that your UPS is connected. You can also check /var/log/ups.log which shows for me
2021-08-09T18:14:51+10:00 synology synoups[11994]: =====log UPS status start=====
2021-08-09T18:14:51+10:00 synology synoups[11996]: device.mfr=
2021-08-09T18:14:51+10:00 synology synoups[11998]: device.model=
2021-08-09T18:14:51+10:00 synology synoups[12000]: battery.charge=
2021-08-09T18:14:51+10:00 synology synoups[12002]: battery.runtime=
2021-08-09T18:14:51+10:00 synology synoups[12004]: battery.voltage=13.80
2021-08-09T18:14:51+10:00 synology synoups[12006]: input.voltage=232.0
2021-08-09T18:14:51+10:00 synology synoups[12008]: output.voltage=232.0
2021-08-09T18:14:51+10:00 synology synoups[12010]: ups.load=31
2021-08-09T18:14:51+10:00 synology synoups[12012]: ups.status=OL
2021-08-09T18:14:51+10:00 synology synoups[12013]: =====log UPS status end=====
Which corresponds to the correct input/output voltage and state. Of course this is all unsupported and probably likely to break -- although I don't imagine much of these bits are updated very frequently. It will likely be OK until the UPS battery dies; at which point I would reccommend buying a better UPS on the Synology support list.

5 August 2021

Ian Wienand: Lyte Portable Projector Investigation

I recently picked up this portable projector for a reasonable price. It might also be called a "M5" projector, but I can not find one canonical source. In terms of projection, it performs as well as a 5cm cube could be expected to. They made a poor choice to eschew adding an external video input which severely limits the device's usefulness. The design is nice and getting into it is quite an effort. There is no wasted space! After pulling off the rubber top covering and base, you have to pry the decorative metal shielding off all sides to access the screws to open it. This almost unavoidably bends it so it will never quite be the same. To avoid you having to bother, some photos: Lyte ProjectorIt is fairly locked down. I found a couple of ways in; installing the Disney+ app from the "Aptoide TV" store it ships with does not work, but the app prompts you to update it, which sends you to an action where you can then choose to open the Google Play store. From there, you can install things that work on it's Android 7 OS. This allowed me to install a system-viewer app which revealed its specs: Another weird thing I found was that if you go into the custom launcher "About" page under settings and keep clicking the "OK" button on the version number, it will open the standard Android settings page. From there you can enable developer options. I could not get it connecting to ADB, although you perhaps need a USB OTG cable which I didn't have. It has some sort of built-in Miracast app that I could not get anything to detect. It doesn't have the native Google app store; most of the apps in the provided system don't work. Somehow it runs Netflix via a webview or which is hard to use. If it had HDMI input it would still be a useful little thing to plug things into. You could perhaps sideload some sort of apps to get the screensharing working, or it plays media files off a USB stick or network shares. I don't believe there is any practical way to get a more recent Android on this, leaving it on an accelerated path to e-waste for all but the most boutique users.

2 August 2021

Dirk Eddelbuettel: RcppFarmHash 0.0.2: Maintenance

A minor maintenance release of the new package RcppFarmHash, first released in version 0.0.1 a week ago, is now on CRAN in an version 0.0.2. RcppFarmHash wraps the Google FarmHash family of hash functions (written by Geoff Pike and contributors) that are used for example by Google BigQuery for the FARM_FINGERPRINT digest. This releases adds a #define which was needed on everybody s favourite CRAN platform to not attempt to include a missing header endian.h. With this added #define all is well as we can already tell from looking at the CRAN status where the three machines maintained by you-may-know-who have already built the package. The others will follow over the next few days. I also tweeted about the upload with a screenshot demonstrating an eight minute passage from upload to acceptance with the added #ThankYouCRAN tag to say thanks for very smooth and fully automated processing at their end. The very brief NEWS entry follows:

Changes in version 0.0.2 (2021-08-02)
  • On SunOS, set endianness to not error on #include endian.h
  • Add badges and installation notes to README as package is on CRAN

If you like this or other open-source work I do, you can now sponsor me at GitHub.

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

27 July 2021

Dirk Eddelbuettel: RcppFarmHash 0.0.1: New CRAN Package

A new package RcppFarmHash is now on CRAN in an inaugural version 0.0.1. RcppFarmHash wraps the Google FarmHash family of hash functions (written by Geoff Pike and contributors) that are used for example by Google BigQuery for the FARM_FINGERPRINT. The package was prepared and uploaded yesterday afternoon, and to my surprise already on CRAN this (early) morning when I got up. So here is another #ThankYouCRAN for very smoothing operations. The very brief NEWS entry follows:

Changes in version 0.0.1 (2021-07-25)
  • Initial version and CRAN upload

If you like this or other open-source work I do, you can now sponsor me at GitHub.

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

1 July 2021

Vincent Bernat: Upgrading my desktop PC

I built my current desktop PC in 2014. A second SSD was added in 2015. The motherboard and the power supply were replaced after a fault1 in 2016. The memory was upgraded in 2018. A discrete AMD GPU was installed in 2019 to drive two 4K screens. An NVMe disk was added earlier this year to further increase storage performance. This is a testament to the durability of a desktop PC compared to a laptop: it s evolutive and you can keep it a long time. While fine for most usage, the CPU started to become a bottleneck during video conferences.2 So, it was set for an upgrade. The table below summarizes the change. This update cost me about 800 .
Before After
CPU Intel i5-4670K @ 3.4 GHz AMD Ryzen 5 5600X @ 3.7 GHz
CPU fan Zalman CNPS9900 Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard Asus Z97-PRO Gamer Asus TUF Gaming B550-PLUS
RAM 2 8 GB + 2 4 GB DDR3 @ 1.6 GHz 2 16 GB DDR4 @ 3.6 GHz
GPU Asus Radeon PH RX 550 4G M7
Disks 500 GB Crucial P2 NVMe
256 GB Samsung SSD 850
256 GB Samsung SSD 840
PSU be quiet! Pure Power CM L8 @ 530 W
Case Antec P100
According to some benchmark, the new CPU should be 4 faster when all cores are used and 1.5 faster for a single-threaded workload. Compiling an arbitrary3 kernel provides a 3 speedup. Before:
$ lscpu -e
CPU NODE SOCKET CORE L1d:L1i:L2:L3 ONLINE    MAXMHZ   MINMHZ
  0    0      0    0 0:0:0:0          yes 3800.0000 800.0000
  1    0      0    1 1:1:1:0          yes 3800.0000 800.0000
  2    0      0    2 2:2:2:0          yes 3800.0000 800.0000
  3    0      0    3 3:3:3:0          yes 3800.0000 800.0000
$ CCACHE_DISABLE=1 =time -f '  %E' make -j$(nproc)
[ ]
  OBJCOPY arch/x86/boot/vmlinux.bin
  AS      arch/x86/boot/header.o
  LD      arch/x86/boot/setup.elf
  OBJCOPY arch/x86/boot/setup.bin
  BUILD   arch/x86/boot/bzImage
Kernel: arch/x86/boot/bzImage is ready  (#1)
  4:54.32
After:
$ lscpu -e
CPU NODE SOCKET CORE L1d:L1i:L2:L3 ONLINE    MAXMHZ    MINMHZ
  0    0      0    0 0:0:0:0          yes 5210.3511 2200.0000
  1    0      0    1 1:1:1:0          yes 4650.2920 2200.0000
  2    0      0    2 2:2:2:0          yes 5210.3511 2200.0000
  3    0      0    3 3:3:3:0          yes 5073.0459 2200.0000
  4    0      0    4 4:4:4:0          yes 4932.1279 2200.0000
  5    0      0    5 5:5:5:0          yes 4791.2100 2200.0000
  6    0      0    0 0:0:0:0          yes 5210.3511 2200.0000
  7    0      0    1 1:1:1:0          yes 4650.2920 2200.0000
  8    0      0    2 2:2:2:0          yes 5210.3511 2200.0000
  9    0      0    3 3:3:3:0          yes 5073.0459 2200.0000
 10    0      0    4 4:4:4:0          yes 4932.1279 2200.0000
 11    0      0    5 5:5:5:0          yes 4791.2100 2200.0000
$ CCACHE_DISABLE=1 =time -f '  %E' make -j$(nproc)
[ ]
  OBJCOPY arch/x86/boot/vmlinux.bin
  AS      arch/x86/boot/header.o
  LD      arch/x86/boot/setup.elf
  OBJCOPY arch/x86/boot/setup.bin
  BUILD   arch/x86/boot/bzImage
Kernel: arch/x86/boot/bzImage is ready  (#1)
  1:40.18
Here we go for another seven years!

  1. The original power supply was from an older configuration. It suddenly became unable to reliably start the PC. The motherboard got replaced as it was the first suspect: without load, the power supply was working correctly.
  2. On Linux, many programs are unable to leverage hardware acceleration. This is a pity. On a laptop, this can also draws the battery pretty fast.
  3. The kernel is configured with make defconfig on commit 15fae3410f1d.

Paul Wise: FLOSS Activities June 2021

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

Changes

Issues

Review
  • Spam: reported 3 Debian bug reports and 135 Debian mailing list posts
  • Debian wiki: RecentChanges for the month
  • Debian BTS usertags: changes for the month
  • Debian screenshots:
    • approved php-horde endless-sky claws-mail memtester
    • rejected python-gdal/weboob-qt (unrelated software)

Administration
  • Debian: restart bacula director
  • Debian wiki: approve accounts

Communication
  • This month I left freenode, an IRC network I had been on for at least 16 years, for reasons that you probably all read about. I think the biggest lesson I take from this situation and ones happening around the same time is that proper governance in peer production projects is absolutely critical.
  • Respond to queries from Debian users and contributors on the mailing lists and IRC

Sponsors The purple-discord/flower work was sponsored by my employers. All other work was done on a volunteer basis.

28 June 2021

Shirish Agarwal: Indian Capital Markets, BSE, NSE

I had been meaning to write on the above topic for almost a couple of months now but just kept procrastinating about it. That push came to a shove when Sucheta Dalal and Debasis Basu shared their understanding, wisdom, and all in the new book called Absolute Power Inside story of the National Stock Exchange s amazing success, leading to hubris, regulatory capture and algo scam . Now while I will go into the details of the new book as currently, I have not bought it but even if I had bought it and shared some of the revelations from it, it wouldn t have done justice to either the book or what is sharing before knowing some of the background before it.

Before I jump ahead, I would suggest people to read my sort of introductory blog post on banking history so they know where I m coming from. I m going to deviate a bit from Banking as this is about trade and capital markets, although Banking would come in later on. And I will also be sharing some cultural insights along with history so people are aware of why things happened the way they did. Calicut, Calcutta, Kolkata, one-time major depot around the world Now, one cannot start any topic about trade without talking about Kolkata. While today, it seems like a bastion of communism, at one time it was one of the major trade depots around the world. Both William Dalrymple and the Chinese have many times mentioned Kolkata as being one of the major centers of trade. This was between the 13th and the late 19th century. A cursory look throws up this article which talks about Kolkata or Calicut as it was known as a major trade depot. There are of course many, many articles and even books which do tell about how Kolkata was a major trade depot. Now between the 13th and 19th century, a lot of changes happened which made Kolkata poorer and shifted trade to Mumbai/Bombay which in those times was nothing but just a port city like many others.

The Rise of the Zamindar Around the 15th century when Babur Invaded Hindustan, he realized that Hindustan is too big a country to be governed alone. And Hindustan was much broader than independent India today. So he created the title of Zamindars. Interestingly, if you look at the Mughal period, they were much more in tune with Hindustani practices than the British who came later. They used the caste divisions and hierarchy wisely making sure that the status quo was maintained as far as castes/creed were concerned. While in-fighting with various rulers continued, it was more or less about land and power other than anything else. When the Britishers came they co-opted the same arrangement with a minor adjustment. While in the before system, the zamindars didn t have powers to be landowners. The Britishers gave them land ownerships. A huge percentage of thess zamindars especially in Bengal were from my own caste Banias or Baniyas. The problem and the solution for the Britishers had been this was a large land to control and exploit and the number of British officers and nobles were very less. So they gave virtually a lot of powers to the Banias. The only thing the British insisted on were very high rents from the newly minted Zamindars. The Zamindar in turn used the powers of personal fiefdom to give loans at very high interest rates when the poor were unable to pay the interest rate, they would take the land while at the same time slavery was forced on both men and women, many a time rapes and affairs. While there have been many records shedding light on it, don t think it could be any more powerful as enacted and shared by Shabana Azmi in Ankur:the Seedling. Another prominent grouping was formed around the same time was the Bhadralok. Now as shared Bhadralok while having all the amenities of belonging to the community, turned a blind eye to the excesses being done by the Zamindars. How much they played a hand in the decimation of Bengal has been a matter of debate, but they did have a hand, that much is not contested.

The Rise of Stock Exchanges Sadly and interestingly, many people believe and continue to believe that stock exchanges is recent phenomena. The first stock exchange though was the Calcutta Stock Exchange rather than the Bombay Stock Exchange. How valuable was Calcutta to the Britishers in its early years can be gauged from the fact that at one time it was made the capital of India in 1772 . In fact, after the Grand Trunk Road (on which there had been even Train names in both countries) x number of books have been written of the trade between Calcutta and Peshawar (Now in Pakistan). And it was not just limited to trade but also cultural give-and-take between the two centers. Even today, if you look at YT (Youtube) and look up some interviews of old people, you find many interesting anecdotes of people sharing both culture and trade.

The problem of the 60 s and rise of BSE
After India became independent and the Constitutional debates happened, the new elites understood that there cannot be two power centers that could govern India. On one hand, were the politicians who had come to power on the back of the popular vote, the other was the Zamindars, who more often than not had abused their powers which resulted in widespread poverty. The Britishers are to blame, but so do the middlemen as they became willing enablers to the same system of oppression. Hence, you had the 1951 amendment to the Constitution and the 1956 Zamindari Abolition Act. In fact, you can find much more of an in-depth article both about Zamindars and their final abolition here. Now once Zamindari was gone, there was nothing to replace it with. The Zamindars ousted of their old roles turned and tried to become Industrialists. The problem was that the poor and the downtrodden had already had experiences with the Zamindars. Also, some Industrialists from North and West also came to Bengal but they had no understanding of either the language or the cultural understanding of what had happened in Bengal. And notice that I have not talked about both the famines and the floods that wrecked Bengal since time immemorial and some of the ones which got etched on soul of Bengal and has marks even today  The psyche of the Bengali and the Bhadralok has gone through enormous shifts. I have met quite a few and do see the guilt they feel. If one wonders as to how socialist parties are able to hold power in Bengal, look no further than Tarikh which tells and shares with you that even today how many Bengalis still feel somewhat lost.

The Rise of BSE Now, while Kolkata Stock Exchange had been going down, for multiple reasons other than listed above. From the 1950s onwards Jawaharlal Nehru had this idea of 5-year plans, borrowed from socialist countries such as Russia, China etc. His vision and ambition for the newly minted Indian state were huge, while at the same time he understood we were poor. The loot by East India Company and the Britishers and on top of that the division of wealth with Pakistan even though the majority of Muslims chose and remained with India. Travel on Indian Railways was a risky affair. My grandfather had shared numerous tales where he used to fill money in socks and put the socks on in boots when going between either Delhi Kolkata or Pune Kolkata. Also, as the Capital became Delhi, it unofficially was for many years, the transparency from Kolkata-based firms became less. So many Kolkata firms either mismanaged and shut down while Maharashtra, my own state, saw a huge boon in Industrialization as well as farming. From the 1960s to the 1990s there were many booms and busts in the stock exchanges but most were manageable.

While the 60s began on a good note as Goa was finally freed from the Portuguese army and influence, the 1962 war with the Chinese made many a soul question where we went wrong. Jawaharlal Nehru went all over the world to ask for help but had to return home empty-handed. Bollywood showed a world of bell-bottoms and cars and whatnot, while the majority were still trying to figure out how to put two square meals on the table. India suffered one of the worst famines in those times. People had to ration food. Families made do with either one meal or just roti (flatbread) rather than rice. In Bengal, things were much more severe. There were huge milk shortages, so Bengalis were told to cut down on sweets. This enraged the Bangalis as nothing else could. Note If one wants to read how bad Indians felt at that time, all one has to read is V.S. Naipaul s An Area of darkness . This was also the time when quite a few Indians took their first step out of India. While Air India had just started, the fares were prohibitive. Those who were not well off, either worked on ships or went via passenger or cargo ships to Dubai/Qatar middle-east. Some went to Russia and some even to States. While today s migr s want to settle in the west forever and have their children and grandchildren grow up in the West, in the 1960s and 70s the idea was far different. The main purpose for a vast majority was to get jobs and whatnot, save maximum money and send it back to India as a remittance. The idea was to make enough money in 3-5-10 years, come back to India, and then lead a comfortable life. Sadly, there has hardly been any academic work done in India, at least to my knowledge to document the sacrifices done by Indians in search of jobs, life, purpose, etc. in the 1960s and 1970s. The 1970s was also when alternative cinema started its journey with people like Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah who portrayed people s struggles on-screen. Most of them didn t have commercial success because the movies and the stories were bleak. While the acting was superb, most Indians loved to be captured by fights, car-chases, and whatnot rather than the deary existence which they had. And the alt cinema forced them to look into the mirror, which was frowned upon both by the masses and the classes. So cinema which could have been a wake-up call for a lot of Indians failed. One of the most notable works of that decade, at least to me, was Manthan. 1961 was also marked by the launch of Economic Times and Financial Express which tells that there was some appetite for financial news and understanding. The 1970s was also a very turbulent time in the corporate sector and stock exchanges. Again, the companies which were listed were run by the very well-off and many of them had been abroad. At the same time, you had fly-by-night operators. One of the happenings which started in this decade is you had corporate wars and hostile takeovers, quite a few of them of which could well have a Web series or two of their own. This was also a decade marked by huge labor unrest, which again changed the face of Bombay/Mumbai. From the 1950s till the 1970s, Bombay was known for its mills. So large migrant communities from all over India came to Bombay to become the next Bollywood star and if that didn t happen, they would get jobs in the mills. Bombay/Mumbai has/had this unique feature that somehow you will make money to make ends meet. Of course, with the pandemic, even that has gone for a toss. Labor unrest was a defining character of that decade. Three movies, Kaala Patthar, Kalyug, and Ankush give a broad outlook of what happened in that decade. One thing which is present and omnipresent then and now is how time and time again we lost our demographic dividend. Again there was an exodus of young people who ventured out to seek fortunes elsewhere. The 1970s and 80s were also famous for the license Raj which they bought in. Just like the Soviets, there were waiting periods for everything. A telephone line meant waiting for things anywhere from 4 to 8 years. In 1987, when we applied and got a phone within 2-3 months, most of my relatives both from my mother and father s side could not believe we paid 0 to get a telephone line. We did pay the telephone guy INR 10/- which was a somewhat princely sum when he was installing it, even then they could not believe it as in Northern India, you couldn t get a phone line even if your number had come. You had to pay anywhere from INR 500/1000 or more to get a line. This was BSNL and to reiterate there were no alternatives at that time.

The 1990s and the Harshad Mehta Scam The 90s was when I was a teenager. You do all the stupid things for love, lust, whatever. That is also the time you are introduced really to the world of money. During my time, there were only three choices, Sciences, Commerce, and Arts. If History were your favorite subject then you would take Arts and if it was not, and you were not studious, then you would up commerce. This is how careers were chosen. So I enrolled in Commerce. Due to my grandfather and family on my mother s side interested in stocks both as a saving and compounding tool, I was able to see Pune Stock Exchange in action one day. The only thing I remember that day is people shouting loudly with various chits. I had no idea that deals of maybe thousands or even lakhs. The Pune Stock Exchange had been newly minted. I also participated in a couple of mock stock exchanges and came to understand that one has to be aggressive in order to win. You had to be really loud to be heard over others, you could not afford to be shy. Also, spread your risks. Sadly, nothing about the stock markets was there in the syllabus. 1991 was also when we saw the Iraq war, the balance of payments crisis in India, and didn t know that the Harshad Mehta scam was around the corner. Most of the scams in India have been caught because the person who was doing it was flashy. And this was the reason that even he was caught as Ms. Sucheta Dalal, a young beat reporter from Indian Express who had been covering Indian stock market. Many of her articles were thought-provoking. Now, a brief understanding is required to know before we actually get to the scam. Because of the 1991 balance of payments crisis, IMF rescued India on the condition that India throws its market open. In the 1980s itself, Rajeev Gandhi had wanted to partially make India open but both politicians and Industrialists advised him not to do the same, we are/were not ready. On 21st May 1991, Rajeev Gandhi was assassinated by the LTTE. A month later, due to the sympathy vote, the Narsimha Rao Govt. took power. While for most new Governments there is usually a honeymoon period lasting 6 months or so till they get settled in their roles before people start asking tough questions. It was not to be for this Govt. Immediately, The problem had been building for a few years. Although, in many ways, our economy was better than it is today. The only thing India didn t do well at that time was managing foreign exchange. As only a few Indians had both the money and the opportunity to go abroad and need for electronics was limited. One of the biggest imports of the time then and still today is Energy, Oil. While today it is Oil/Gas and electronics, at that time it was only OIl. The Oil import bill was ballooning while exports were more or less stagnant and mostly comprised of raw materials rather than finished products. Even today, it is largely this, one of the biggest Industrialists in India Ambani exports gas/oil while Adani exports coal. Anyways, the deficit was large enough to trigger a payment crisis. And Narsimha Rao had to throw open the Indian market almost overnight. Some changes became quickly apparent, while others took a long time to come.

Satellite Television and Entry of Foreign Banks Almost overnight, from 1 channel we became multi-channel. Star TV (Rupert Murdoch) bought us Bold and Beautiful, while CNN broadcasted the Iraq War. It was unbelievable for us that we were getting reports of what had happened 24-48 hours earlier. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was still very much a teenager to understand the import of what was happening. Even in my college, except for one or two-person, it wasn t a topic for debate or talk or even the economy. We were basically somehow cocooned in our own little world. But this was not the case for the rest of India and especially banks. The entry of foreign banks was a rude shock to Indian banks. The foreign banks were bringing both technology and sophistication in their offerings, and Indian Banks needed and wanted fast money to show hefty profits. Demand for credit wasn t much, at least nowhere the level it today is. At the same time, default on credit was nowhere high as today is. But that will require its own space and article. To quench the thirst for hefty profits by banks, Enter Harshad Mehta. At that point in time, banks were not permitted at all to invest in the securities/share market. They could only buy Government securities or bonds which had a coupon rate of say 8-10% which was nowhere enough to satisfy the need for hefty profits as desired by Indian banks. On top of it, that cash was blocked for a long time. Most of these Government bonds had anywhere between 10-20 year maturity date and some even longer. Now, one loophole in that was that the banks themselves could not buy these securities. They had to approach a registered broker of the share market who will do these transactions on their behalf. Here is where Mr. Mehta played his game. He shared both legal and illegal ways in which both the bank and he would prosper. While banking at one time was thought to be conservative and somewhat cautious, either because they were too afraid that Western private banks will take that pie or whatever their reasons might be, they agreed to his antics. To play the game, Harshad Mehta needed lots of cash, which the banks provided him in the guise of buying securities that were never bought, but the amounts were transferred to his account. He actively traded stocks, at the same time made a group, and also made the rumor mill work to his benefit. The share market is largely a reactionary market. It operates on patience, news, and rumor-mill. The effect of his shenanigans was that the price of a stock that was trending at say INR 200 reached the stratospheric height of INR 9000/- without any change in the fundamentals or outlook of the stock. His thirst didn t remain restricted to stocks but also ventured into the unglamorous world of Govt. securities where he started trading even in them in large quantities. In order to attract new clients, he coveted a fancy lifestyle. The fancy lifestyle was what caught the eye of Sucheta Dalal, and she started investigating the deals he was doing. Being a reporter, she had the advantage of getting many doors to open and get information that otherwise would be under lock and key. On 23rd April 1992, Sucheta Dalal broke the scam.

The Impact The impact was almost like a shock to the markets. Even today, it can be counted as one of the biggest scams in the Indian market if you adjust it for inflation. I haven t revealed much of the scam and what happened, simply because Sucheta Dalal and Debasis Basu wrote The Scam for that purpose. How do I shorten a story and experience which has been roughly written in 300 odd pages in one or two paragraphs, it is simply impossible. The impact though was severe. The Indian stock market became a bear market for two years. Sucheta Dalal was kicked out/made to resign out of Indian Express. The thing is simple, all newspapers survive on readership and advertisements with advertisements. Companies who were having a golden run, whether justified or not, on the bourses/Stock Exchange. For many companies, having a good number on the stock exchange was better than the company fundamentals. There was supposed to be a speedy fast-track court setup for Financial crimes, but it worked only for the Harshad Mehta case and still took over 5 years. It led to the creation of NSE (National Stock Exchange). It also led to the creation of SEBI, perhaps one of the most powerful regulators, giving it a wide range of powers and remit but on the ground more often that proved to be no more than a glorified postman. And the few times it used, it used on the wrong people and people had to go to courts to get justice. But then this is not about SEBI nor is this blog post about NSE. I have anyways shared about Absolute power above, so will not repeat the link here. The Anecdotal impact was widespread. Our own family broker took the extreme step. For my grandfather on the mother s side, he was like the second son. The news of his suicide devastated my grandfather quite a bit, which we realized much later when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer s. Our family stockbroker had been punting, taking lots of cash from the market at very high rates, betting on stocks wildly as the stock market was reaching for the stars when the market crashed, he was insolvent. How the family survived is a tale in itself. They had just got married just a few years ago and had a cute boy and girl soon after. While today, both are grown-up, at that time what the wife faced only she knows. There were also quite a few shareholders who also took the extreme step. The stock markets in those days were largely based on trust and even today is unless you are into day-trading. So there was always some money left on the table for the share/stockbroker which would be squared off in the next deal/transaction where again you will leave something. My grandfather once thought of going over and meeting them, and we went to the lane where their house is, seeing the line of people who had come for recovery of loans, we turned back with a heavy heart. There was another taboo that kinda got broken that day. The taboo was that the stock market is open to scams. From 1992 to 2021 has been a cycle of scams. Even now, today, the stock market is at unnatural highs. We know for sure that a lot of hot money is rolling around, a lot of American pension funds etc. Till it will work, it will work, some news something and that money will be moved out. Who will be left handing the can, the Indian investors? A Few days back, Ambani writes about Adani. Now while the facts shared are correct, is Adani the only one, the only company to have a small free float in the market. There probably are more than 1/4th or 1/3rd of well-respected companies who may have a similar configuration, the only problem is it is difficult to know who the proxies are. Now if I were to reflect and compare this either with the 1960s or even the 1990s I don t find much difference apart from the fact that the proxy is sitting in Mauritius. At the same time, today you can speculate on almost anything. Whether it is stocks, commodities, derivatives, foreign exchange, cricket matches etc. the list is endless. Since 2014, the rise in speculation rather than investment has been dramatic, almost stratospheric. Sadly, there are no studies or even attempts made to document this. How much official and unofficial speculation is there in the market nobody knows. Money markets have become both fluid and non-transparent. In theory, you have all sorts of regulators, but it is still very much like the Wild West. One thing to note that even Income tax had to change and bring it provisions to account for speculative income.So, starting from being totally illegitimate, it has become kind of legal and is part of Income Tax. And if speculation is not wrong, why not make Indian cricket officially a speculative event, that will be honest and GOI will get part of the proceeds.

Conclusion I wish there was some positive conclusion I could drive, but sadly there is not. Just today read two articles about the ongoing environmental issues in Himachal Pradesh. As I had shared even earlier, the last time I visited those places in 2011, and even at that time I was devastated to see the kind of construction going on. Jogiwara Road which they showed used to be flat single ground/first floor dwellings, most of which were restaurants and whatnot. I had seen the water issues both in Himachal and UT (Uttarakhand) back then and this is when they made huge dams. In U.S. they are removing dams and here we want more dams

16 June 2021

Julien Danjou: Python Tools to Try in 2021

Python Tools to Try in 2021The Python programming language is one of the most popular and in huge demand. It is free, has a large community, is intended for the development of projects of varying complexity, is easy to learn, and opens up great opportunities for programmers. To work comfortably with it, you need special Python tools, which are able to simplify your work. We have selected the best Python tools that will be relevant in 2021.

MailtrapAs you may probably know, in order to send an email, you need SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). This is because you can't just send a letter to the recipient. It needs to be sent to the server from which the recipient will download this letter using IMAP and POP3.Mailtrap provides an opportunity to send emails in python. Moreover, Mailtrap provides #rest #api to access current emails. It can be used to automate email testing, which will improve your email marketing campaigns. For example, you can check the password recovery form in the Selenium Test and immediately see if an email was sent to the correct address. Then take a new password from the email and try to enter the site with it. Cool, isn't it?

Pros
  • All emails are in one place.
  • Mailtrap provides multiple inboxes.
  • Shared access is present.
  • It is easy to set up.
  • RESTful API

ConsNo visible disadvantages were found.

Django
Python Tools to Try in 2021
Django is a free and open-source full-stack framework. It is one of the most important and popular among Python developers. It helps you move from a prototype to a ready-made working solution in a short time since its main task is to automate processes and speed up work through associations and libraries. It s a great choice for a product launch.You can use Django if at least a few of the following points interest you:
  • There is a need to develop the server-side of the API.
  • You need to develop a web application.
  • In the course of work, many changes are made, you have to constantly deploy the application and make edits.
  • There are many complex tasks that are difficult to solve on your own, and you will need the help of the community.
  • ORM support is needed to avoid accessing the database directly.
  • There is a need to integrate new technologies such as machine learning.
Django is a great Python Web Framework that does its job. It is not for nothing that it is one of the most popular, and is actively used by millions of developers.

ProsDjango has quite a few advantages. It contains a large number of ready-made solutions, which greatly simplifies development. Admin panel, database migration, various forms, user authentication tools are extremely helpful. The structure is very clear and simple.A large community helps to solve almost any problem. Thanks to ORM, there is a high level of security and it is comfortable to work with databases.

ConsDespite its powerful capabilities, Django's Python Web Framework has drawbacks. It is very massive, monolithic, therefore it develops slowly. Despite the many generic modules, the development speed of Django itself is reduced.

CherryPy
Python Tools to Try in 2021
CherryPy is a micro-framework. It is designed to solve specific problems, capable of running the program on any operating system. CherryPy is used in the following cases:
  • To create an application with small code size.
  • There is a need to manage several servers at the same time.
  • You need to monitor the performance of applications.
CherryPy refers to Python Frameworks, which are designed for specific tasks. It's clear, user-friendly, and ideal for Android development.

ProsCherryPy Python tool has a friendly and understandable development environment. This is a functional and complete framework, which can be used to build good applications. The source code is open, so the platform is completely free for developers, and the community, although not too large, is very responsive, and always helps to solve problems.

ConsThere are not so many cons to this Python tool. It is not capable of performing complex tasks and functions, it is intended more for specific solutions, for example, for the development of certain plugins or modules.

Pyramid
Python Tools to Try in 2021
Python Pyramid tool is designed for programming complex objects and solving multifunctional problems. It is used by professional programmers and is traditionally used for identification and routing. It is aimed at a wide audience and is capable of developing API prototypes.It is used in the following cases:
  • You need problem indicator tools to make timely adjustments and edits.
  • You use several programming languages at once;
  • You work with reporting and financial calculations, forecasting;
  • You need to quickly create a simple application.
At the same time, the Python Web Framework Pyramid allows you to create complex applications with great functionality like a translation software.

ProsPyramid does an excellent job of developing basic applications quickly. It is quite flexible and easy to learn. In fact, the key to the success of this framework is that it is completely based on fundamental principles, using simple and basic programming techniques. It is minimalistic, but at the same time offers users a lot of freedom of action. It is able to work with both small applications and powerful multifunctional programs.

ConsIt is difficult to deviate from the basic principles. This Python tool makes the decision for you. Simple programs are very easy to implement. But to do something complex and large-scale, you have to completely immerse yourself in the study of the environment and obey it.

Grok
Python Tools to Try in 2021
Grok is a Python tool that works with templates. Its main task is to eliminate repetitions in the code. If the element is repeated, then the template that was already created earlier is simply applied. This greatly simplifies and speeds up the work.Grok suits developers in the following cases:
  • If a programmer has little experience and is not yet ready to develop his modules.
  • There is a need to quickly develop a simple application.
  • The functionality of the application is simple, straightforward, and the interface does not play a key role.

ProsThe Grok framework is a child of Zope3, which was released earlier. It has a simplified structure of work, easy installation of modules, more capabilities, and better flexibility. It is designed to develop small applications. Yes, it is not intended for complex work, but due to its functionality, it allows you to quickly implement a project.

ConsThe Grok community is not very large, as this Python tool has not gained widespread popularity. Nevertheless, it is used by Python adepts for comfortable development. It is impossible to implement complex tasks on it since the possibilities are quite limited.Grok is one of the best Python Web Frameworks. It is understandable and has enough features for comfortable development.

Web2Py
Python Tools to Try in 2021
Web2Py is a Python tool that has its own IDEwhich, which includes a code editor, debugger, and deployment. It works great without the need for configuration or installation, provides a high level of data security, and is suitable for work on various platforms.Web2Py is great in the following cases:
  • When there is a need to develop something on different operating systems.
  • If there is no way to install and configure the framework.
  • When a high level of data security is required, for example, when developing financial applications or sales performance management tools.
  • If you need to carefully track bugs right during development, and not during the testing phase.

ProsWeb2Py is capable of working with different protocols, has a built-in error tracker, and has a backward compatibility feature that helps to work on the basis of previous versions of the framework. This means that code maintenance becomes much easier and cheaper. It's free, open-source, and very flexible.

ConsAmong the many Python tools, there are not many that require the latest version of the language. Web2Py is one of those and won't work on Python 3 and below. Therefore, you need to constantly monitor the updates.Web2Py does an excellent job of its tasks. It is quite simple and accessible to everyone.

BlueBream
Python Tools to Try in 2021
BlueBream used to be called Zope3 before. It copes well with tasks of the medium and high level of complexity and is suitable for working on serious projects.

ProsThe BlueBream build system is quite powerful and suitable for complex tasks. You can create functional applications on it, and the principle of reuse of components makes the code easier. At the same time, the speed of development increases. The software can be scaled, and a transactional object database provides an easy path to store it. This means that queries are processed quickly and database management is simple.

ConsThis is not a very flexible framework, it is better to know clearly in advance what is required of it. In addition, it cannot withstand heavy loads. When working with 1000 users at the same time, it can crash and give errors. Therefore, it should be used to solve narrow problems.Python frameworks are often designed for specific tasks. BlueBream is one of these and is suitable for applications where database management plays a key role.

ConclusionPython tools come in different forms and have vastly different capabilities. There are quite a few of them, but in 2021 these will be the most popular and in demand. Experienced programmers always choose several development tools for their comfortable work.

Next.