Search Results: "nikos"

5 February 2016

Daniel Pocock: Giving up democracy to get it back

Do services like Facebook and Twitter really help worthwhile participation in democracy, or are they the most sinister and efficient mechanism ever invented to control people while giving the illusion that they empower us? Over the last few years, groups on the left and right of the political spectrum have spoken more and more loudly about the problems in the European Union. Some advocate breaking up the EU, while behind the scenes milking it for every handout they can get. Others seek to reform it from within. Yanis Varoufakis on motorbike Most recently, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has announced plans to found a movement (not a political party) that claims to "democratise" the EU by 2025. Ironically, one of his first steps has been to create a web site directing supporters to Facebook and Twitter. A groundbreaking effort to put citizens back in charge? Or further entangling activism in the false hope of platforms that are run for profit by their Silicon Valley overlords? A Greek tragedy indeed, in the classical sense. Varoufakis rails against authoritarian establishment figures who don't put the citizens' interests first. Ironically, big data and the cloud are a far bigger threat than Brussels. The privacy and independence of each citizen is fundamental to a healthy democracy. Companies like Facebook are obliged - by law and by contract - to service the needs of their shareholders and advertisers paying to study and influence the poor user. If "Facebook privacy" settings were actually credible, who would want to buy their shares any more? Facebook is more akin to an activism placebo: people sitting in their armchair clicking to "Like" whales or trees are having hardly any impact at all. Maintaining democracy requires a sufficient number of people to be actively involved, whether it is raising funds for worthwhile causes, scrutinizing the work of our public institutions or even writing blogs like this. Keeping them busy on Facebook and Twitter renders them impotent in the real world (but please feel free to alert your friends with a tweet) Big data is one of the areas that requires the greatest scrutiny. Many of the professionals working in the field are actually selling out their own friends and neighbours, their own families and even themselves. The general public and the policy makers who claim to represent us are oblivious or reckless about the consequences of this all-you-can-eat feeding frenzy on humanity. Pretending to be democratic is all part of the illusion. Facebook's recent announcement to deviate from their real-name policy is about as effective as using sunscreen to treat HIV. By subjecting themselves to the laws of Facebook, activists have simply given Facebook more status and power. Data means power. Those who are accumulating it from us, collecting billions of tiny details about our behavior, every hour of every day, are fortifying a position of great strength with which they can personalize messages to condition anybody, anywhere, to think the way they want us to. Does that sound like the route to democracy? I would encourage Mr Varoufakis to get up to speed with Free Software and come down to Zurich next week to hear Richard Stallman explain it the day before launching his DiEM25 project in Berlin. Will the DiEM25 movement invite participation from experts on big data and digital freedom and make these issues a core element of their promised manifesto? Is there any credible way they can achieve their goal of democracy by 2025 without addressing such issues head-on? Or put that the other way around: what will be left of democracy in 2025 if big data continues to run rampant? Will it be as distant as the gods of Greek mythology? Still not convinced? Read about Amazon secretly removing George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from Kindles while people were reading them, Apple filtering the availability of apps with a pro-Life bias and Facebook using algorithms to identify homosexual users.

16 July 2014

Matthias Klumpp: AppStream 0.7 specification and library released

appstream-logoToday I am very happy to announce the release of AppStream 0.7, the second-largest release (judging by commit number) after 0.6. AppStream 0.7 brings many new features for the specification, adds lots of good stuff to libappstream, introduces a new libappstream-qt library for Qt developers and, as always, fixes some bugs. Unfortunately we broke the API/ABI of libappstream, so please adjust your code accordingly. Apart from that, any other changes are backwards-compatible. So, here is an overview of what s new in AppStream 0.7: Specification changes Distributors may now specify a new <languages/> tag in their distribution XML, providing information about the languages a component supports and the completion-percentage for the language. This allows software-centers to apply smart filtering on applications to highlight the ones which are available in the users native language. A new addon component type was added to represent software which is designed to be used together with a specific other application (think of a Firefox addon or GNOME-Shell extension). Software-center applications can group the addons together with their main application to provide an easy way for users to install additional functionality for existing applications. The <provides/> tag gained a new dbus item-type to expose D-Bus interface names the component provides to the outside world. This means in future it will be possible to search for components providing a specific dbus service:
$ appstream-index what-provides dbus org.freedesktop.PackageKit.desktop system
(if you are using the cli tool) A <developer_name/> tag was added to the generic component definition to define the name of the component developer in a human-readable form. Possible values are, for example The KDE Community , GNOME Developers or even the developer s full name. This value can be (optionally) translated and will be displayed in software-centers. An <update_contact/> tag was added to the specification, to provide a convenient way for distributors to reach upstream to talk about changes made to their metadata or issues with the latest software update. This tag was already used by some projects before, and has now been added to the official specification. Timestamps in <release/> tags must now be UNIX epochs, YYYYMMDD is no longer valid (fortunately, everyone is already using UNIX epochs). Last but not least, the <pkgname/> tag is now allowed multiple times per component. We still recommend to create metapackages according to the contents the upstream metadata describes and place the file there. However, in some cases defining one component to be in multiple packages is a short way to make metadata available correctly without excessive package-tuning (which can become difficult if a <provides/> tag needs to be satisfied). As small sidenote: The multiarch path in /usr/share/appdata is now deprecated, because we think that we can live without it (by shipping -data packages per library and using smarter AppStream metadata generators which take advantage of the ability to define multiple <pkgname/> tags) Documentation updates In general, the documentation of the specification has been reworked to be easier to understand and to include less duplication of information. We now use excessive crosslinking to show you the information you need in order to write metadata for your upstream project, or to implement a metadata generator for your distribution. Because the specification needs to define the allowed tags completely and contain as much information as possible, it is not very easy to digest for upstream authors who just want some metadata shipped quickly. In order to help them, we now have Quickstart pages in the documentation, which are rich of examples and contain the most important subset of information you need to write a good metadata file. These quickstart guides already exist for desktop-applications and addons, more will follow in future. We also have an explicit section dealing with the question How do I translate upstream metadata? now. More changes to the docs are planned for the next point releases. You can find the full project documentation at Freedesktop. AppStream GObject library and tools The libappstream library also received lots of changes. The most important one: We switched from using LGPL-3+ to LGPL-2.1+. People who know me know that I love the v3 license family of GPL licenses I like it for tivoization protection, it s explicit compatibility with some important other licenses and cosmetic details, like entities not loosing their right to use the software forever after a license violation. However, a LGPL-3+ library does not mix well with projects licensed under other open source licenses, mainly GPL-2-only projects. I want libappstream to be used by anyone without forcing the project to change its license. For some reason, using the library from proprietary code is easier than using it from a GPL-2-only open source project. The license change was also a popular request of people wanting to use the library, so I made the switch with 0.7. If you want to know more about the LGPL-3 issues, I recommend reading this blogpost by Nikos (GnuTLS). On the code-side, libappstream received a large pile of bugfixes and some internal restructuring. This makes the cache builder about 5% faster (depending on your system and the amount of metadata which needs to be processed) and prepares for future changes (e.g. I plan to obsolete PackageKit s desktop-file-database in the long term). The library also brings back support for legacy AppData files, which it can now read. However, appstream-validate will not validate these files (and kindly ask you to migrate to the new format). The appstream-index tool received some changes, making it s command-line interface a bit more modern. It is also possible now to place the Xapian cache at arbitrary locations, which is a nice feature for developers. Additionally, the testsuite got improved and should now work on systems which do not have metadata installed. Of course, libappstream also implements all features of the new 0.7 specification. With the 0.7 release, some symbols were removed which have been deprecated for a few releases, most notably as_component_get/set_idname, as_database_find_components_by_str, as_component_get/set_homepage and the pkgname property of AsComponent (which is now a string array and called pkgnames ). API level was bumped to 1. Appstream-Qt A Qt library to access AppStream data has been added. So if you want to use AppStream metadata in your Qt application, you can easily do that now without touching any GLib/GObject based code! Special thanks to Sune Vuorela for his nice rework of the Qt library! And that s it with the changes for now! Thanks to everyone who helped making 0.7 ready, being it feedback, contributions to the documentation, translation or coding. You can get the release tarballs at Freedesktop. Have fun!

4 November 2007

Marc 'Zugschlus' Haber: exim4 vs. OpenSSL vs. GnuTLS

Judging from the long list of exim4 bugs, especially #446036, I find myself between a rock and a hard place, and having to choose between staying with GnuTLS and accepting a probably continuing flow of technical issues, or moving over to OpenSSL, setting an example against GNU software, and probably generating a new flow of license issues. GnuTLS is the “clearer” solution from a license point of view: The client library is LGPL, and it can thus be safely linked to everything that is part of Debian main. This is the main reason why we decided to use GnuTLS for exim4 years ago, so that we do not need to worry about licensing issues when some other library is linked to by exim some time in the future. On the other hand, my impression gets stronger and stronger that GnuTLS is not ready for prime-time. There is a truckload of interoperability problems with a number of “remote sides”. The most prominent issues are TLS aborts when exim4 is SMTP server for some clients, most notably Incredimail and some mobile Phones from Nokia and other vendors. Most of them can be nailed down to misnegotiation of certain ciphers, but exim does currently not allow disabling of some ciphers at run-time, and - even worse - one would need to disable them completely since one cannot judge in advance whether we are facing a client with issues or one without. The GnuTLS maintainers of both Debian and upstream try being helpful, but I do not see a long-term solution here. Additionally, nobody upstream knows its way around the GnuTLS related code in exim, which was contributed by Nikos Mavroyanopoulos years ago. So, there is little chance to get GnuTLS-related bugs ironed out from exim. OpenSSL, on the other hand, does not have these interoperability issues. At least, I haven’t heard of any, and the recommended fix for the reporters of GnuTLS related bugs, “recompile exim with OpenSSL” (which the packaging has been supporting for nearly two years now), usually fixes their problems. I am not in a position to judge whether this is caused by people actually testing against OpenSSL, or OpenSSL generally being more tolerant towards strange implementations, or GnuTLS being buggy or poorly written. However, building exim4 again OpenSSL may post the license issues that convinced us to use GnuTLS in the first place. Exim itself has an OpenSSL exception, and from what I have been told, the MySQL FLOSS License Exception allows linkage to OpenSSL as well. At least, it does now, since historical evidence in the exim4 package either shows that it used to be a license violation to link MySQL and OpenSSL in the past, or that we (the Debian exim4 team) wrongly thought so. On the other hand, if it is illegal to have OpenSSL and “really” GPLled code in the same execution space, we already have that license violation today, brought to us by PostgreSQL, which links against OpenSSL. ftpmaster has already indicated that they won’t consider an exim4 linked against OpenSSL a license violation and that the packages would go through, the packaging can handle the change by virtue of flipping a switch and rebuilding, but I am still not fully convinced that doing so is the right thing from a political and license point of view. I might still need that final nudge by feedback to this blog article, or have my reluctance fed. Please comment. No, I do not plan to take this to debian-legal; I’d prefer exim4 staying in Debian main.

6 July 2007

Michael Janssen: :

Well, the last day in Greece went swimmingly. It was mostly just relaxing, playing on the Internet, chatting with lovely Di, and working out logistics of taking a long flight back to the United States. The only strange thing about it is that I haven't slept since the last post, which is away from the norm. It's a kind of forced all-nighter caused by the bad scheduling that I made for myself. The flight from to Athens happened at 10:20pm in the evening. This was the latest flight that I could get and assure that I could get to the Athens airport in time for my 7:20 flight to Madrid, which connects through Chicago and back to Minneapolis at last.

I've spent a total of 10 days outside of the United States now, the longest time since I have been alive, according to my knowledge. It has caused some interesting results. I realized that I am inextricably connected to the people who I am familiar with in my life, and being without them decreases my mood significantly, and without contact to them decreases my mood sharply.

I am not alone in this fact. There are many studies that show that people who have more social connections lead happier lives. I am lucky in that I am technologically ept and can connect to my near and dear in a number of ways, and be resourceful in finding other ways to contact them if necessary. I feel that I am lucky to live in a time which it is possible for me to spend so much time apart and still be in connection with people. I am also lucky that I was born in a geological area which enables me to be as such.

At the same time, I am sad to leave this place. It is a nice area, with good food and a very long history. As Nikos reminded me the other day, it is the birthplace of Democracy, which I hold to a fairly high regard. It is also the birthplace of modern medicine, and a significant portion of many early sciences. The wealth of the nation as a whole and as parts is clear to me, and I wish to return.

I've learned part of the language while I am here, and it has made me more cognizant of communication with other cultures. People in Athens seemed put off when I tried to talk in Greek, but in Kos they were at the worst amused at my attempts. The language may not be as romantic to learn as French or Italian, and may not be as useful in the long term as Latin, but it would be interesting to speak nonetheless. I am tempted to start working on some of the i18n Greek QA issues in Debian -- It would help me learn the language more, and also keep me aware of the issues in software when you start working with other countries' characters. I have been lucky to be using a MacBook this entire time with decent Greek support, allowing me to type at least some greek while I was here. It helped me understand even more of the language - I now know mostly the numbers 1-9 at least.

The trip has highlighted for me something which is highly lacking in airports: power. Every airport that I have been to has prominently displayed the signs of wireless access, and has people using their laptops in almost every direction you can look (I am one of those), but they are sorely without power points for people who are using those laptops. This may be a designed flaw in order to save energy, but I don't really believe that 50 or even 5,000 laptops at 65-150W will put a significant dent in the power grid at somewhere as large as an airport, where LCD screens are running 24/7 with ads and bright lights illuminate every corner for all to be seen. I won't even start talking about the airplanes themselves.

All in all, the trip has been a happy one, and I would very much repeat it. I will make different decisions on lodging at some places and probably plan a shorter trip. I however wholly endorse Greece as a vacation spot, and even would consider moving here if offered a position (that would depend highly on Diana as well, obviously). I find it entirely favorable. I hope that this small series on the site has caused you, the reader some pleasure at least, even if it was at my expense.

Now begins the long trip home, on three planes and with 14.5 hours in the airplane and 18 hours in total. It'll be only 10 hours counting local time, unfortunately -- the jet lag will, I'm sure, be horrible.

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5 July 2007

Michael Janssen: :

Yesterday was pretty much a long day of preparation and presenting. The day started with no internet, possibly for the entire island of Kos, I wasn't really every that clear on the whole of it. Apparently there are 2 underwater lines coming to Kos island and both had been severed or put out of service by someone. This was a bad thing, because I had intended to finish some final experiments and do some statistics on results, and Excel wasn't working. I suspect it is because I hadn't installed the updating tool of Office 2004 for Mac. Anyway I could do what I needed to do with R or Gnumeric, but they were both not installed yet. No internet = no new applications.

I finished the experiments and data gathering and the internet came back on just in time for me to download Gnumeric and get some of the stats working correctly. The final presentation didn't change that much, only changing on one slide and adding one small table, but the added result was significant enough to justify all of the work that it entailed. Indeed, it proved that the entire premise of the paper and simulation was valid. That made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The talk was at 3:30, the first in a session which was mostly unrelated papers. I don't feel as bad because many of the other papers were kind of a hodge-podge as well, and we were probably all placed in the session because we didn't really fit anywhere else. I met a nice researcher who was chairing the session because the actual chair was presenting in another session (something we had worked out with software in the ICRA2006 schedule, but apparently wasn't taken into account here). The actual presentation went well, and Nikos lent me his laser pointer which added a little to the presentation I believe. Nikos said the talk was good, but I also got a comment that it was well-presented later in the day from a unrelated researcher. I was so-so about the presentation until I got the unsolicited comment.

After the talk I called up Diana on Skype and chatted for a while, but the network was too flaky at the conference, so she called my cell phone. Using Skype is one of the things that I have done more in this trip than I have done before ever. It is really a wonderful program and network for people who are far away from each other, and it actually has much more impact when you consider the costs of calling home with other methods. I estimate I saved about $200 in just three days of Skype calling instead of regular calling, even with calling to cell phones in the US every once in a while, and with Diana calling my Hellenic cell phone when my network was flaky as well. It is much more of a disruptive technology in the non-US world where every call isn't already paid for.

The banquet was next. Usually I don't like going to banquets, but this was set up different than the normal ones that accompany these conferences. Instead of a large service crew bringing out fancy food to a large set of tables, it was setup in a buffet with a large selection of Greek food so you could pick and choose your favorites and even go back for more food if you liked. I ended up trying a large variety of foods and discovering some new tastes that I hadn't had before. It was throughly enjoyable especially when listening to the others at my table of which three or four were Greek.

Then it was back to the hotel by bus, and an early bedtime in order to stock up on sleep for the long hours in the next day. Today I plan on just relaxing, sleeping a bit when I get tired, and maybe trying out some local snacks. I've already arranged for a Taxi. The last installment will be written from the Athens airport tomorrow.

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