Search Results: "paci"

18 July 2021

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

BBI Kenya and live Supreme Court streaming on YT The last few weeks have been unrelenting as all sorts of news have been coming in, mostly about the downturn in the Economy, Islamophobia in India on the rise, Covid, and electioneering. However, in the last few days, Kenya surpassed India in live-streaming proceeds in a Court of Appeals about BBI or Building Bridges Initiative. A background filler article on the topic can be found in BBC. The live-streaming was done via YT and if wants to they can start from

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIQzpmVKvro One can also subscribe to K24TV which took the initiative of sharing the proceedings with people worldwide. If K24TV continues to share SC proceedings of Kenya, that would add to the soft power of Kenya. I will not go into the details of the case as Gautam Bhatia who has been following the goings-on in Kenya is a far better authority on the subject. In fact, just recently he shared about another Kenyan judgment from a trial which can be seen here. He has shared the proceedings and some hot takes on the Twitter thread started by him. Probably after a couple of weeks or more when he has processed what all has happened there, he may also share some nuances although many of his thoughts would probably go to his book on Comparative Constitutional Law which he hopes to publish maybe in 2021/2022 or whenever he can. Such televised proceedings are sure to alleviate the standing of Kenya internationally. There has been a proposal to do similar broadcasts by India but with surveillance built-in, so they know who is watching. The problems with the architecture and the surveillance built-in have been shared by Srinivas Kodali or DigitalDutta quite a few times, but that probably is a story for another day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 July 2021

Vincent Fourmond: Upcoming features of QSoas and github repository

For the past years, most of the development has happened behind the scene in a private repository, and the code has appeared in the public repository only a couple of months before the release, in the release branch. I have now decided to publish the current code of QSoas in the github repository (in the public branch). This way, you can follow and use all the good things that were developed since the last release, and also verify whether any bug you have is still present in the currently developed version !

Upcoming features
This is the occasion to write a bit about the some of the features that have been added since the publication of the 3.0 release. Not all of them are polished nor documented yet, but here are a few teasers. The current version in github has: Check out the github repository if you want to know more about the new features !

As of now, no official date is planned for the 3.1 release, but this could happen during fall.

About QSoas
QSoas is a powerful open source data analysis program that focuses on flexibility and powerful fitting capacities. It is released under the GNU General Public License. It is described in Fourmond, Anal. Chem., 2016, 88 (10), pp 5050 5052. Current version is 3.0. You can download its source code there (or clone from the GitHub repository) and compile it yourself, or buy precompiled versions for MacOS and Windows there.

27 June 2021

Antonio Terceiro: Debian Continuous Integration now using Salsa logins

I have just updated the Debian Continuous Integration platform with debci 3.1. This update brings a few database performance improvements, courtesy of adding indexes to very important columns that were missing them. And boy, querying a table with 13 million rows without the proper indexes is bad! :-) Now, the most user visible change in this update is the change from Debian SSO to Salsa Logins, which is part of Pavit Kaur's GSoC work. She has been working with me and Paul Gevers for a few weeks, and this was the first official task in the internship. For users, this means that you now can only log in via Salsa. If you have an existing session where you logged in with an SSO certificate, it will still be valid. When you log in with Salsa, your username will be changed to match the one in Salsa. This means that if your account on salsa gets renamed, it will automatically be renamed on Debian CI when you log in the next time. Unfortunately we don't have a logout feature yet, but in the meantime you can use the developer toolbar to delete any existing cookies you might have for ci.debian.net. Migrating to Salsa logins was in my TODO list for a while. I had the impression that it could do it pretty quick to do by using pre-existing libraries that provide gitlab authentication integration for Rack (Ruby's de facto standard web application interface, like uwsgi for Python). But in reality, the devil was in the details. We went through several rounds of reviews to get it right. During the entire process, Pavit demonstrated an excelent capacity for responding to feedback, and overall I'm very happy with her performance in the internship so far. While we were discussing the Salsa logins, we noted a limitation in the existing database structure, where we stored usernames directly as the test requestor field, and decided it was better to normalize that relationship with a proper foreign key to the users table, which she also worked on. This update also include the very first (and non-user visible) step of her next task, which is adding support for having private tests. Those will be useful for implementing testing for embargoed security updates, and other use cases. This was broken up into 7 or 8 seperate steps, so there is still some work to do there. I'm looking forward to the continuation of this work.

21 June 2021

Shirish Agarwal: Accessibility, Freenode and American imperialism.

Accessibility This is perhaps one of the strangest ways and yet also perhaps the straightest way to start the blog post. For the past weeks/months, a strange experience has been there. I am using a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse for almost a decade. Now, for the past few months and weeks we observed a somewhat rare phenomena . While in-between us we have a single desktop computer. So me and mum take turns to be on the Desktop. At times, however, the system would sit idle and after some time it goes to low-power mode/sleep mode after 30 minutes. Then, when you want to come back, you obviously have to give your login credentials. At times, the keyboard refuses to input any data in the login screen. Interestingly, the mouse still functions. Much more interesting is the fact that both the mouse and the keyboard use the same transceiver sensor to send data. And I had changed batteries to ensure it was not a power issue but still no input :(. While my mother uses and used the power switch (I did teach her how to hold it for few minutes and then let it go) but for self, tried another thing. Using the mouse I logged of the session thinking perhaps some race condition or something might be in the session which was not letting the keystrokes be inputted into the system and having a new session might resolve it. But this was not to be  Luckily, on the screen you do have the option to reboot or power off. I did a reboot and lo, behold the system was able to input characters again. And this has happened time and again. I tried to find GOK and failed to remember that GOK had been retired. I looked up the accessibility page on Debian wiki. Very interesting, very detailed but sadly it did not and does not provide the backup I needed. I tried out florence but found that the app. is buggy. Moreover, the instructions provided on the lightdm screen does not work. I do not get the on-screen keyboard while I followed the instructions. Just to be clear this is all on Debian testing which is gonna be Debian stable soonish  I even tried the same with xvkbd but no avail. I do use mate as my desktop-manager so maybe the instructions need some refinement ???? $ cat /etc/lightdm/lightdm-gtk-greeter.conf grep keyboard
# a11y-states = states of accessibility features: name save state on exit, -name
disabled at start (default value for unlisted), +name enabled at start. Allowed names: contrast, font, keyboard, reader.
keyboard=xvkbd no-gnome focus &
# keyboard-position = x y[;width height] ( 50%,center -0;50% 25% by default) Works only for onboard
#keyboard= Interestingly, Debian does provide two more on-screen keyboards, matchbox as well as onboard which comes from Ubuntu. While I have both of them installed. I find xvkbd to be enough for my work, the only issue seems to be I cannot get it from the drop-down box of accessibility at the login screen. Just to make sure that I have not gone to Gnome-display manager, I did run

$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure gdm3 Only to find out that I am indeed running lightdm. So I am a bit confused why it doesn t come up as an option when I have the login window/login manager running. FWIW I do run metacity as the window manager as it plays nice with all the various desktop environments I have, almost all of them. So this is where I m stuck. If I do get any help, I probably would also add those instructions to the wiki page, so it would be convenient to the next person who comes with the same issue. I also need to figure out some way to know whether there is some race-condition or something which is happening, have no clue how would I go about it without having whole lot of noise. I am sure there are others who may have more of an idea. FWIW, I did search unix.stackexchange as well as reddit/debian to see if I could see any meaningful posts but came up empty.

Freenode I had not been using IRC for quite some time now. The reasons have been multiple issues with Riot (now element) taking the whole space on my desktop. I did get alerted to the whole thing about a week after the whole thing went down. Somebody messaged me DM. I *think* I put up a thread or a mini-thread about IRC or something in response to somebody praising telegram/WhatsApp or one of those apps. That probably triggered the DM. It took me a couple of minutes to hit upon this. I was angry and depressed, seeing the behavior of the new overlords of freenode. I did see that lot of channels moved over to Libera. It was also interesting to see that some communities were thinking of moving to some other obscure platform, which again could be held hostage to the same thing. One could argue one way or the other, but that would be tiresome and fact is any network needs lot of help to be grown and nurtured, whether it is online or offline. I also saw that Libera was also using a software Solanum which is ircv3 compliant. Now having done this initial investigation, it was time to move to an IRC client. The Libera documentation is and was pretty helpful in telling which IRC clients would be good with their network. So I first tried hexchat. I installed it and tried to add Libera server credentials, it didn t work. Did see that they had fixed the bug in sid/unstable and now it s in testing. But at the time it was in sid, the bug-fixed and I wanted to have something which just ran the damn thing. I chanced upon quassel. I had played around with quassel quite a number of times before, so I knew I could play/use it. Hence, I installed it and was able to use it on the first try. I did use the encrypted server and just had to tweak some settings before I could use it with some help with their documentation. Although, have to say that even quassel upstream needs to get its documentation in order. It is just all over the place, and they haven t put any effort into streamlining the documentation, so that finding things becomes easier. But that can be said of many projects upstream. There is one thing though that all of these IRC clients lack. The lack of a password manager. Now till that isn t fixed it will suck because you need another secure place to put your password/s. You either put it on your desktop somewhere (insecure) or store it in the cloud somewhere (somewhat secure but again need to remember that password), whatever you do is extra work. I am sure there will be a day when authenticating with Nickserv will be an automated task and people can just get on talking on channels and figuring out how to be part of the various communities. As can be seen, even now there is a bit of a learning curve for both newbies and people who know a bit about systems to get it working. Now, I know there are a lot of things that need to be fixed in the anonymity, security place if I put that sort of hat. For e.g. wouldn t it be cool if either the IRC client or one of its add-on gave throwaway usernames and passwords. The passwords would be complex. This would make it easier who are paranoid about security and many do and would have. As an example we can see of Fuchs. Now if the gentleman or lady is working in a professional capacity and would come to know of their real identity and perceive rightly or wrongly the role of that person, it will affect their career. Now, should it? I am sure a lot of people would be divided on the issue. Personally, as far as I am concerned, I would say no because whether right or wrong, whatever they were doing they were doing on their own time. Not on company time. So it doesn t concern the company at all. If we were to let companies police the behavior outside the time, individuals would be in a lot of trouble. Although, have to say that is a trend that has been seen in companies that are firing people either on the left or right. A recent example that comes to mind is Emily Wilder who was fired by Associated Press. Interestingly, she was interviewed by Democracy now, and it did come out that she is a Jew. As can be seen and understood there is a lot of nuance to her story and not the way she was fired. It doesn t give a good taste in the mouth, but then getting fired nobody does. On few forums, people did share of people getting fired of their job because they were dancing (cops). Again, it all depends, for me again, hats off to anybody who feels like dancing or whatever because there are just so many depressing stories all around.

Banned and FOE On few forums I was banned because I was talking about Brexit and American imperialism, both of which are seem to ruffle a few feathers in quite a few places. For instance, many people for obvious reasons do not like this video

Now I m sorry I am not able to and have not been able to give invidious links for the past few months. The reason being invidious itself went through some changes and the changes are good and bad. For e.g. now you need to share your google id with a third-party which at least to my mind is not a good idea. But that probably is another story altogether and it probably will need its own place. Coming back to the video itself, this was shared by Anthony hazard and the Title is The Atlantic slave trade: What too few textbooks told you . I did see this video quite a few years ago and still find it hard to swallow that tens of millions of Africans were bought as slaves to the Americas, although to be fair it does start with the Spanish settlement in the land which would be called the U.S. but they bought slaves with themselves. They even got the American natives, i.e. people from different tribes which made up America at that point. One point to note is that U.S. got its independence on July 4, 1776 so all the people before that were called as European settlers for want of a better word. Some or many of these European settlers would be convicts who were sent from UK. But as shared in the article, that would only happen with U.S. itself is mature and open enough for that discussion. Going back to the original point though, these European or American settlers bought lot of slaves from Africa. The video does also shed some of the cruelty the Europeans or Americans did on the slaves, men and women in different ways. The most revelatory part though which I also forget many a times that because lot of people were taken from Africa and many of them men, it did lead to imbalances in the African societies not just in weddings but economics in general. It also developed a theory called Critical Race theory in which it tries to paint the Africans as an inferior race otherwise how would Christianity work where their own good book says All men are born equal . That does in part explain why the African countries are still so far behind their European or American counterparts. But Africa can still be proud as they are richer than us, yup India. Sadly, I don t think America is ready to have that conversation anytime soon or if ever. And if it were to do, it would have to out-do any truth and reconciliation Committee which the world has seen. A mere apology or two would not just cut it. The problems of America sadly are not limited to just Africans but the natives of the land, for e.g. the Lakota people. In 1868, they put a letter stating we will give the land back to the Lakota people forever, but then the gold rush happened. In 2007, when the Lakota stated their proposal for independence, the U.S. through its force denied. So much for the paper, it was written on. Now from what I came to know over the years, the American natives are called First nations . Time and time again the American Govt. has tried or been foul towards them. Some of the examples include The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository . The same is and was the case with The Keystone pipeline which is now dead. Now one could say that it is America s internal matter and I would fully agree but when they speak of internal matters of other countries, then we should have the same freedom. But this is not restricted to just internal matters, sadly. Since the 1950 s i.e. the advent of the cold war, America s foreign policy made Regime changes all around the world. Sharing some of the examples from the Cold War

Iran 1953
Guatemala 1954
Democratic Republic of the Congo 1960
Republic of Ghana 1966
Iraq 1968
Chile 1973
Argentina 1976
Afghanistan 1978-1980s
Grenada
Nicaragua 1981-1990
1. Destabilization through CIA assets
2. Arming the Contras
El Salvador 1980-92
Philippines 1986 Even after the Cold War ended the situation was anonymolus, meaning they still continued with their old behavior. After the end of Cold War

Guatemala 1993
Serbia 2000
Iraq 2003-
Afghanistan 2001 ongoing There is a helpful Wikipedia article titled History of CIA which basically lists most of the covert regime changes done by U.S. The abvoe is merely a sub-set of the actions done by U.S. Now are all the behaviors above of a civilized nation ? And if one cares to notice, one would notice that all the above countries in the list which had the regime change had either Oil or precious metals. So U.S. is and was being what it accuses China, a profiteer. But this isn t just the U.S. China story but more about the American abuse of its power. My own country, India paid IMF loans till 1991 and we paid through the nose. There were economic sanctions against India. But then, this is again not just about U.S. India. Even with Europe or more precisely Norway which didn t want to side with America because their intelligence showed that no WMD were present in Iraq, the relationship still has issues.

Pandemic and the World So I do find that this whole blaming of China by U.S. quite theatrical and full of double-triple standards. Very early during the debates, it came to light that the Spanish Flu actually originated in Kensas, U.S.

What was also interesting as I found in the Pentagon Papers much before The Watergate scandal came out that U.S. had realized that China would be more of a competitor than Russia. And this itself was in 1960 s itself. This shows the level of intelligence that the Americans had. From what I can recollect from whatever I have read of that era, China was still mostly an agri-based economy. So, how the U.S. was able to deduce that China will surpass other economies is beyond me even now. They surely must have known something that even we today do not. One of the other interesting observations and understanding that I got while researching that every year we transfer an average of 7500 diseases from animal to humans and that should be a scary figure. I think more than anything else, loss of habitat and use of animals from food to clothing to medicine is probably the reason we are getting such diseases. I am also sure that there probably are and have been similar number of transfer of diseases from humans to animals as well but for well-known biases and whatnot those studies are neither done or are under-funded. There are and have been reports of something like 850,000 undiscovered viruses which various mammals and birds have. Also I did find that most of such pandemics are hard to identify, for e.g. SARS 1 took about 15 years, Ebola we don t know till date from where it came. Even HIV has questions for us. Hell, even why does hearing go away is a mystery to us. In all of this, we want to say China is culpable. And while China may or may not be culpable, only time will tell, this is surely the opportunity for all countries to spend and make capacities in public health. Countries which will take lessons from it and improve their public healthcare models will hopefully will not suffer as those who will suffer and are continuing to suffer now  To those who feel that habitat loss of animals is untrue, I would suggest them to see Sherni which depicts the human/animal conflict in all its brutality. I am gonna warn in advance that the ending is not nice but what can you expect from a country in which forest area cover has constantly declined and the Govt. itself is only interested in headline management

The only positive story I can share from India is that finally the Modi Govt. has said we will do free vaccine immunization for everybody. Although the pace is nothing to write home about. One additional thing they relaxed was instead of going to Cowin or any other portal, people could simply walk in using their identity papers. Although, given the pace of vaccinations, it is going to take anywhere between 13-18 months or more depending on availability of vaccines.

Looking forward to all and any replies have a virtual keyboard, preferably xvkbd as that is good enough for my use-case.

20 June 2021

Russ Allbery: Review: The Magician's Nephew

Review: The Magician's Nephew, by C.S. Lewis
Illustrator: Pauline Baynes
Series: Chronicles of Narnia #6
Publisher: Collier Books
Copyright: 1955
Printing: 1978
ISBN: 0-02-044230-0
Format: Mass market
Pages: 186
The Magician's Nephew is the sixth book of the Chronicles of Narnia in the original publication order, but it's a prequel, set fifty years before The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It's therefore put first in the new reading order. I have always loved world-building and continuities and, as a comics book reader (Marvel primarily), developed a deep enjoyment of filling in the pieces and reconstructing histories from later stories. It's no wonder that I love reading The Magician's Nephew after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The experience of fleshing out backstory with detail and specifics makes me happy. If that's also you, I recommend the order in which I'm reading these books. Reading this one first is defensible, though. One of the strongest arguments for doing so is that it's a much stronger, tighter, and better-told story than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and therefore might start the series off on a better foot for you. It stands alone well; you don't need to know any of the later events to enjoy this, although you will miss the significance of a few things like the lamp post and you don't get the full introduction to Aslan. The Magician's Nephew is the story of Polly Plummer, her new neighbor Digory Kirke, and his Uncle Andrew, who fancies himself a magician. At the start of the book, Digory's mother is bed-ridden and dying and Digory is miserable, which is the impetus for a friendship with Polly. The two decide to explore the crawl space of the row houses in which they live, seeing if they can get into the empty house past Digory's. They don't calculate the distances correctly and end up in Uncle Andrew's workroom, where Digory was forbidden to go. Uncle Andrew sees this as a golden opportunity to use them for an experiment in travel to other worlds. MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW. The Magician's Nephew, like the best of the Narnia books, does not drag its feet getting started. It takes a mere 30 pages to introduce all of the characters, establish a friendship, introduce us to a villain, and get both of the kids into another world. When Lewis is at his best, he has an economy of storytelling and a grasp of pacing that I wish was more common. It's also stuffed to the brim with ideas, one of the best of which is the Wood Between the Worlds. Uncle Andrew has crafted pairs of magic rings, yellow and green, and tricks Polly into touching one of the yellow ones, causing her to vanish from our world. He then uses her plight to coerce Digory into going after her, carrying two green rings that he thinks will bring people back into our world, and not incidentally also observing that world and returning to tell Uncle Andrew what it's like. But the world is more complicated than he thinks it is, and the place where the children find themselves is an eerie and incredibly peaceful wood, full of grass and trees but apparently no other living thing, and sprinkled with pools of water. This was my first encounter with the idea of a world that connects other worlds, and it remains the most memorable one for me. I love everything about the Wood: the simplicity of it, the calm that seems in part to be a defense against intrusion, the hidden danger that one might lose one's way and confuse the ponds for each other, and even the way that it tends to make one lose track of why one is there or what one is trying to accomplish. That quiet forest filled with pools is still an image I use for infinite creativity and potential. It's quiet and nonthreatening, but not entirely inviting either; it's magnificently neutral, letting each person bring what they wish to it. One of the minor plot points of this book is that Uncle Andrew is wrong about the rings because he's wrong about the worlds. There aren't just two worlds; there are an infinite number, with the Wood as a nexus, and our reality is neither the center nor one of an important pair. The rings are directional, but relative to the Wood, not our world. The kids, who are forced to experiment and who have open minds, figure this out quickly, but Uncle Andrew never shifts his perspective. This isn't important to the story, but I've always thought it was a nice touch of world-building. Where this story is heading, of course, is the creation of Narnia and the beginning of all of the stories told in the rest of the series. But before that, the kids's first trip out of the Wood is to one of the best worlds of children's fantasy: Charn. If the Wood is my mental image of a world nexus, Charn will forever be my image of a dying world: black sky, swollen red sun, and endless abandoned and crumbling buildings as far as the eye can see, full of tired silences and eerie noises. And, of course, the hall of statues, with one of the most memorable descriptions of history and empire I've ever read (if you ignore the racialized description):
All of the faces they could see were certainly nice. Both the men and women looked kind and wise, and they seemed to come of a handsome race. But after the children had gone a few steps down the room they came to faces that looked a little different. These were very solemn faces. You felt you would have to mind your P's and Q's, if you ever met living people who looked like that. When they had gone a little farther, they found themselves among faces they didn't like: this was about the middle of the room. The faces here looked very strong and proud and happy, but they looked cruel. A little further on, they looked crueller. Further on again, they were still cruel but they no longer looked happy. They were even despairing faces: as if the people they belonged to had done dreadful things and also suffered dreadful things.
The last statue is of a fierce, proud woman that Digory finds strikingly beautiful. (Lewis notes in an aside that Polly always said she never found anything specially beautiful about her. Here, as in The Silver Chair, the girl is the sensible one and things would have gone better if the boy had listened to her, a theme that I find immensely frustrating because Susan was the sensible one in the first two books of the series but then Lewis threw that away.) There is a bell in the middle of this hall, and the pillar that holds that bell has an inscription on it that I think every kid who grew up on Narnia knows by heart.
Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.
Polly has no intention of striking the bell, but Digory fights her and does it anyway, waking Jadis from where she sat as the final statue in the hall and setting off one of the greatest reimaginings of a villain in children's literature. Jadis will, of course, become the White Witch who holds Narnia in endless winter some thousand Narnian years later. But the White Witch was a mediocre villain at best, the sort of obvious and cruel villain common in short fairy tales where the author isn't interested in doing much characterization. She exists to be evil, do bad things, and be defeated. She has a few good moments in conflict with Aslan, but that's about it. Jadis in this book is another matter entirely: proud, brilliant, dangerous, and creative. The death of everything on Charn was Jadis's doing: an intentional spell, used to claim a victory of sorts from the jaws of defeat by her sister in a civil war. (I find it fascinating that Lewis puts aside his normally sexist roles here.) Despite the best attempts of the kids to lose her both in Charn and in the Wood (which is inimical to her, in another nice bit of world-building), she manages to get back to England with them. The result is a remarkably good bit of villain characterization. Jadis is totally out of her element, used to a world-spanning empire run with magic and (from what hints we get) vaguely medieval technology. Her plan to take over their local country and eventually the world should be absurd and is played somewhat for laughs. Her magic, which is her great weapon, doesn't even work in England. But Jadis learns at a speed that the reader can watch. She's observant, she pays attention to things that don't fit her expectations, she changes plans, and she moves with predatory speed. Within a few hours in London she's stolen jewels and a horse and carriage, and the local police seem entirely overmatched. There's no way that one person without magic should be a real danger to England around the turn of the 20th century, but by the time the kids manage to pull her back into the Wood, you're not entirely sure England would have been safe. A chaotic confrontation, plus the ability of the rings to work their magic through transitive human contact, ends up with the kids, Uncle Andrew, Jadis, a taxicab driver and his horse all transported through the Wood to a new world. In this case, literally a new world: Narnia at the point of its creation. Here again, Lewis translates Christian myth, in this case the Genesis creation story, into a more vivid and in many ways more beautiful story than the original. Aslan singing the world into existence is an incredible image, as is the newly-created world so bursting with life that even things that normally could not grow will do so. (Which, of course, is why there is a lamp post burning in the middle of the western forest of Narnia for the Pevensie kids to find later.) I think my favorite part is the creation of the stars, but the whole sequence is great. There's also an insightful bit of human psychology. Uncle Andrew can't believe that a lion is singing, so he convinces himself that Aslan is not singing, and thus prevents himself from making any sense of the talking animals later.
Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.
As with a lot in Lewis, he probably meant this as a statement about faith, but it generalizes well beyond the religious context. What disappointed me about the creation story, though, is the animals. I didn't notice this as a kid, but this re-read has sensitized me to how Lewis consistently treats the talking animals as less than humans even though he celebrates them. That happens here too: the newly-created, newly-awakened animals are curious and excited but kind of dim. Some of this is an attempt to show that they're young and are just starting to learn, but it also seems to be an excuse for Aslan to set up a human king and queen over them instead of teaching them directly how to deal with the threat of Jadis who the children inadvertently introduced into the world. The other thing I dislike about The Magician's Nephew is that the climax is unnecessarily cruel. Once Digory realizes the properties of the newly-created world, he hopes to find a way to use that to heal his mother. Aslan points out that he is responsible for Jadis entering the world and instead sends him on a mission to obtain a fruit that, when planted, will ward Narnia against her for many years. The same fruit would heal his mother, and he has to choose Narnia over her. (It's a fairly explicit parallel to the Garden of Eden, except in this case Digory passes.) Aslan, in the end, gives Digory the fruit of the tree that grows, which is still sufficient to heal his mother, but this sequence made me angry when re-reading it. Aslan knew all along that what Digory is doing will let him heal his mother as well, but hides this from him to make it more of a test. It's cruel and mean; Aslan could have promised to heal Digory's mother and then seen if he would help Narnia without getting anything in return other than atoning for his error, but I suppose that was too transactional for Lewis's theology or something. Meh. But, despite that, the only reason why this is not the best Narnia book is because The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the only Narnia book that also nails the ending. The Magician's Nephew, up through Charn, Jadis's rampage through London, and the initial creation of Narnia, is fully as good, perhaps better. It sags a bit at the end, partly because it tries to hard to make the Narnian animals humorous and partly because of the unnecessary emotional torture of Digory. But this still holds up as the second-best Narnia book, and one I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading. If anything, Jadis and Charn are even better than I remembered. Followed by the last book of the series, the somewhat notorious The Last Battle. Rating: 9 out of 10

13 June 2021

Vincent Fourmond: Solution for QSoas quiz #2: averaging several Y values for the same X value

This post describes two similar solutions to the Quiz #2, using the data files found there. The two solutions described here rely on split-on-values. The first solution is the one that came naturally to me, and is by far the most general and extensible, but the second one is shorter, and doesn't require external script files.
Solution #1 The key to both solution is to separate the original data into a series of datasets that only contain data at a fixed value of x (which corresponds here to a fixed pH), and then process each dataset one by one to extract the average and standard deviation. This first step is done thus:
QSoas> load kcat-vs-ph.dat
QSoas> split-on-values pH x /flags=data
After these commands, the stacks contains a series of datasets bearing the data flag, that each contain a single column of data, as can be seen from the beginnings of a show-stack command:
QSoas> k
Normal stack:
	 F  C	Rows	Segs	Name	
#0	(*) 1	43	1	'kcat-vs-ph_subset_22.dat'
#1	(*) 1	44	1	'kcat-vs-ph_subset_21.dat'
#2	(*) 1	43	1	'kcat-vs-ph_subset_20.dat'
...
Each of these datasets have a meta-data named pH whose value is the original x value from kcat-vs-ph.dat. Now, the idea is to run a stats command on the resulting datasets, extracting the average value of x and its standard deviation, together with the value of the meta pH. The most natural and general way to do this is to use run-for-datasets, using the following script file (named process-one.cmds):
stats /meta=pH /output=true /stats=x_average,x_stddev
So the command looks like:
QSoas> run-for-datasets process-one.cmds flagged:data
This command produces an output file containing, for each flagged dataset, a line containing x_average, x_stddev, and pH. Then, it is just a matter of loading the output file and shuffling the columns in the right order to get the data in the form asked. Overall, this looks like this:
l kcat-vs-ph.dat
split-on-values pH x /flags=data
output result.dat /overwrite=true
run-for-datasets process-one.cmds flagged:data
l result.dat
apply-formula tmp=y2;y2=y;y=x;x=tmp
dataset-options /yerrors=y2
The slight improvement over what is described above is the use of the output command to write the output to a dedicated file (here result.dat), instead of out.dat and ensuring it is overwritten, so that no data remains from previous runs.

Solution #2 The second solution is almost the same as the first one, with two improvements: This yields the following, smaller, solution:
l kcat-vs-ph.dat
split-on-values pH x /flags=data
stats /meta=pH /accumulate=* /stats=x_average,x_stddev /buffers=flagged:data
pop
apply-formula tmp=y2;y2=y;y=x;x=tmp
dataset-options /yerrors=y2


About QSoas QSoas is a powerful open source data analysis program that focuses on flexibility and powerful fitting capacities. It is released under the GNU General Public License. It is described in Fourmond, Anal. Chem., 2016, 88 (10), pp 5050 5052. Current version is 3.0. You can download its source code there (or clone from the GitHub repository) and compile it yourself, or buy precompiled versions for MacOS and Windows there.

31 May 2021

Russell Coker: Some Ideas About Storage Reliability

Hard Drive Brands When people ask for advice about what storage to use they often get answers like use brand X, it works well for me and brand Y had a heap of returns a few years ago . I m not convinced there is any difference between the small number of manufacturers that are still in business. One problem we face with reliability of computer systems is that the rate of change is significant, so every year there will be new technological developments to improve things and every company will take advantage of them. Storage devices are unique among computer parts for their requirement for long-term reliability. For most other parts in a computer system a fault that involves total failure is usually easy to fix and even a fault that causes unreliable operation usually won t spread it s damage too far before being noticed (except in corner cases like RAM corruption causing corrupted data on disk). Every year each manufacturer will bring out newer disks that are bigger, cheaper, faster, or all three. Those disks will be expected to remain in service for 3 years in most cases, and for consumer disks often 5 years or more. The manufacturers can t test the new storage technology for even 3 years before releasing it so their ability to prove the reliability is limited. Maybe you could buy some 8TB disks now that were manufactured to the same design as used 3 years ago, but if you buy 12TB consumer grade disks, the 20TB+ data center disks, or any other device that is pushing the limits of new technology then you know that the manufacturer never tested it running for as long as you plan to run it. Generally the engineering is done well and they don t have many problems in the field. Sometimes a new range of disks has a significant number of defects, but that doesn t mean the next series of disks from the same manufacturer will have problems. The issues with SSDs are similar to the issues with hard drives but a little different. I m not sure how much of the improvements in SSDs recently have been due to new technology and how much is due to new manufacturing processes. I had a bad experience with a nameless brand SSD a couple of years ago and now stick to the better known brands. So for SSDs I don t expect a great quality difference between devices that have the names of major computer companies on them, but stuff that comes from China with the name of the discount web store stamped on it is always a risk. Hard Drive vs SSD A few years ago some people were still avoiding SSDs due to the perceived risk of new technology. The first problem with this is that hard drives have lots of new technology in them. The next issue is that hard drives often have some sort of flash storage built in, presumably a SSHD or Hybrid Drive gets all the potential failures of hard drives and SSDs. One theoretical issue with SSDs is that filesystems have been (in theory at least) designed to cope with hard drive failure modes not SSD failure modes. The problem with that theory is that most filesystems don t cope with data corruption at all. If you want to avoid losing data when a disk returns bad data and claims it to be good then you need to use ZFS, BTRFS, the NetApp WAFL filesystem, Microsoft ReFS (with the optional file data checksum feature enabled), or Hammer2 (which wasn t production ready last time I tested it). Some people are concerned that their filesystem won t support wear levelling for SSD use. When a flash storage device is exposed to the OS via a block interface like SATA there isn t much possibility of wear levelling. If flash storage exposes that level of hardware detail to the OS then you need a filesystem like JFFS2 to use it. I believe that most SSDs have something like JFFS2 inside the firmware and use it to expose what looks like a regular block device. Another common concern about SSD is that it will wear out from too many writes. Lots of people are using SSD for the ZIL (ZFS Intent Log) on the ZFS filesystem, that means that SSD devices become the write bottleneck for the system and in some cases are run that way 24*7. If there was a problem with SSDs wearing out I expect that ZFS users would be complaining about it. Back in 2014 I wrote a blog post about whether swap would break SSD [1] (conclusion it won t). Apart from the nameless brand SSD I mentioned previously all of my SSDs in question are still in service. I have recently had a single Samsung 500G SSD give me 25 read errors (which BTRFS recovered from the other Samsung SSD in the RAID-1), I have yet to determine if this is an ongoing issue with the SSD in question or a transient thing. I also had a 256G SSD in a Hetzner DC give 23 read errors a few months after it gave a SMART alert about Wear_Leveling_Count (old age). Hard drives have moving parts and are therefore inherently more susceptible to vibration than SSDs, they are also more likely to cause vibration related problems in other disks. I will probably write a future blog post about disks that work in small arrays but not in big arrays. My personal experience is that SSDs are at least as reliable as hard drives even when run in situations where vibration and heat aren t issues. Vibration or a warm environment can cause data loss from hard drives in situations where SSDs will work reliably. NVMe I think that NVMe isn t very different from other SSDs in terms of the actual storage. But the different interface gives some interesting possibilities for data loss. OS, filesystem, and motherboard bugs are all potential causes of data loss when using a newer technology. Future Technology The latest thing for high end servers is Optane Persistent memory [2] also known as DCPMM. This is NVRAM that fits in a regular DDR4 DIMM socket that gives performance somewhere between NVMe and RAM and capacity similar to NVMe. One of the ways of using this is Memory Mode where the DCPMM is seen by the OS as RAM and the actual RAM caches the DCPMM (essentially this is swap space at the hardware level), this could make multiple terabytes of RAM not ridiculously expensive. Another way of using it is App Direct Mode where the DCPMM can either be a simulated block device for regular filesystems or a byte addressable device for application use. The final option is Mixed Memory Mode which has some DCPMM in Memory Mode and some in App Direct Mode . This has much potential for use of backups and to make things extra exciting App Direct Mode has RAID-0 but no other form of RAID. Conclusion I think that the best things to do for storage reliability are to have ECC RAM to avoid corruption before the data gets written, use reasonable quality hardware (buy stuff with a brand that someone will want to protect), and avoid new technology. New hardware and new software needed to talk to new hardware interfaces will have bugs and sometimes those bugs will lose data. Filesystems like BTRFS and ZFS are needed to cope with storage devices returning bad data and claiming it to be good, this is a very common failure mode. Backups are a good thing.

30 May 2021

Vincent Fourmond: QSoas quiz #2: averaging several Y values for the same X value

This second quiz may sound like the first one, but in fact, the approach used is completely different. The point is to gather some elementary statistics from a series of experiments performed under different conditions, but with several repeats at the same conditions.
Quiz You are given a file (which you can download there) that contains a series of pH value data: the X column is the pH, the Y column the result of the experiment at the given pH (let's say the measure of the catalytic rate of an enzyme). Your task is to take this data and produce a single dataset which contains, for each pH value, the pH, the average of the results at that pH and the standard deviation. The result should be identical to the following file, and should look like that:
There are several ways to do this, but all ways must rely on stats, and the more natural way in QSoas is to take advantage of split-on-values, which is a very powerful command but somehow hard to master, which is the point of this Quiz.
By the way, the data file is purely synthetic, if you look in the GitHub repository, you'll see how it was generated.

About QSoas QSoas is a powerful open source data analysis program that focuses on flexibility and powerful fitting capacities. It is released under the GNU General Public License. It is described in Fourmond, Anal. Chem., 2016, 88 (10), pp 5050 5052. Current version is 3.0. You can download its source code there (or clone from the GitHub repository) and compile it yourself, or buy precompiled versions for MacOS and Windows there.

16 May 2021

Vincent Fourmond: Tutorial: analyze redox inactivations/reactivations

Redox-dependent inactivations are actually rather common in the field of metalloenzymes, and electrochemistry can be an extremely powerful tool to study them, providing one can analyze the data quantitatively. The point of this point is to teach the reader how to do so using QSoas. For more general information about redox inactivations and how to study them using electrochemical techniques, the reader is invited to read the review del Barrio and Fourmond, ChemElectroChem 2019. This post is a tutorial to learn the analysis of data coming from the study of the redox-dependent substrate inhibition of periplasmic nitrate reductase NapAB, which has the advantage of being relatively simple. The whole processed is discussed in Jacques et al, BBA, 2014. What you need to know in order to follow this tutorial is the following: You can download the data files from the GitHub repository. Before fitting the data to determine the values of the rate constants at the potentials of the experiment, we will first subtract the background current, assuming that the respective contributions of faradaic and non-faradaic currents is additive. Start QSoas, go to the directory where you saved the files, and load both the data file and the blank file thus:
QSoas> cd
QSoas> load 27.oxw
QSoas> load 27-blanc.oxw
QSoas> S 1 0
(after the first command, you have to manually select the directory in which you downloaded the data files). The S 1 0 command just subtracts the dataset 1 (the first loaded) from the dataset 0 (the last loaded), see more there. blanc is the French for blank... Then, we remove a bit of the beginning and the end of the data, corresponding to one half of the steps at \(E_0\), which we don't exploit much here (they are essentially only used to make sure that the irreversible loss is taken care of properly). This is done using strip-if:
QSoas> strip-if x<30 x>300
Then, we can fit ! The fit used is called fit-linear-kinetic-system, which is used to fit kinetic models with only linear reactions (like here) and steps which change the values of the rate constants but do not instantly change the concentrations. The specific command to fit the data is:
QSoas> fit-linear-kinetic-system /species=2 /steps=0,1,2,1,0
The /species=2 indicates that there are two species (A and I). The /steps=0,1,2,1,0 indicates that there are 5 steps, with three different conditions (0 to 2) in order 0,1,2,1,0. This fits needs a bit of setup before getting started. The species are numbered, 1 and 2, and the conditions (potentials) are indicated by #0, #1 and #2 suffixes. For the sake of simplicity, you can also simply load the starting-parameters.params parameters to have all setup the correct way. Then, just hit Fit, enjoy this moment when QSoas works and you don't have to... The screen should now look like this:
Now, it's done ! The fit is actually pretty good, and you can read the values of the inactivation and reactivation rate constants from the fit parameters. You can train also on the 21.oxw and 21-blanc.oxw files. Usually, re-loading the best fit parameters from other potentials as starting parameters work really well. Gathering the results of several fits into a real curve of rate constants as a function of potentials is left as an exercise for the reader (or maybe a later post), although you may find these series of posts useful in this context !
About QSoas QSoas is a powerful open source data analysis program that focuses on flexibility and powerful fitting capacities. It is released under the GNU General Public License. It is described in Fourmond, Anal. Chem., 2016, 88 (10), pp 5050 5052. Current version is 3.0. You can download its source code there (or clone from the GitHub repository) and compile it yourself, or buy precompiled versions for MacOS and Windows there.

Russ Allbery: Review: A Desolation Called Peace

Review: A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine
Series: Teixcalaan #2
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: 2021
ISBN: 1-250-18648-X
Format: Kindle
Pages: 496
A Desolation Called Peace is a direct sequel to A Memory Called Empire and picks up shortly after that book's ending. It would completely spoil the first book and builds heavily on previous events. This is not a series to read out of order. It's nearly impossible to discuss anything about the plot of this book without at least minor spoilers for the previous book, so beware. If you've not read A Memory Called Empire, I highly recommend it, and you may want to skip this review until you have. Mahit Dzmare has returned to Lsel Station and escaped, mostly, the pull of the Teixcalaan Empire in all its seductive arrogance. That doesn't mean Lsel Station is happy to see her. The maneuverings of the station council were only a distant part of the complex political situation she was navigating at the Teixcalaanli capital. Now home, it is far harder to ignore powerful councilors who would be appalled by the decisions she made. The ambassador to a hated foreign empire does not have many allies. Yaotlek Nine Hibiscus, the empire's newest commander of commanders, is the spear the empire has thrust towards a newly-discovered alien threat. The aliens have already slaughtered all the inhabitants of a mining outpost for no obvious reason, and their captured communications are so strange as to provoke nausea in humans. Their cloaking technology makes the outcome of pitched warfare dangerously uncertain. Nine Hibiscus needs someone who can talk to aliens without mouths, and that means the Information Ministry. The Information Ministry means a newly promoted Three Seagrass, who is suffering from insomnia, desperately bored, and missing Mahit Dzmare. And who sees in Nine Hibiscus's summons an opportunity to address several of those problems at once. A Memory Called Empire had an SFnal premise and triggering plot machinery, but it was primarily a city political thriller. A Desolation Called Peace moves onto the more familiar SF ground of first contact with a very alien species, but Martine makes the unusual choice of revealing one of the secrets of the aliens to the reader at the start of the book. This keeps the reader's focus more on the political maneuvering than on the mystery, but with a classic first-contact communication problem as the motivating backdrop. That's only one of the threads of this book, though. Another is the unfinished business between Three Seagrass and Mahit Dzmare, and between Mahit Dzmare and the all-consuming culture of Teixcalaan. A third is the political education of a very exceptional boy, whose mere existence is a spoiler for A Memory Called Empire and therefore not something I will discuss in detail. And then there are the internal politics of Lsel Station, although I thought that was the least effective part of the book and never reached a satisfying conclusion. This is a lot to balance, and I think that's one of the reasons why A Desolation Called Peace doesn't replicate the magic that made me love A Memory Called Empire so much. Full-steam-ahead pacing with characters who are thinking on their feet and taking desperate risks has a glorious momentum. Here, there's too much going on (not to mention four major viewpoint characters) to maintain the same pace. Once Mahit and Three Seagrass get into the same room, there are moments that are as good as the highlights of A Memory Called Empire, but it's not as sustained as I was hoping for. This book also spends more time on Mahit and Three Seagrass's relationship, and despite liking both of the characters, this didn't entirely work for me. Martine uses them to make a subtle and powerful point about relationships across power gradients and the hurt that comes from someone trivializing a conflict that is central to your identity. It took me a while to understand the strength of Mahit's reaction, but it eventually felt right. But that fight wasn't what I was looking for in the book, and there was a bit too much of both of them failing (or refusing) to communicate for my taste. I appreciated what Martine was exploring, but personally I wanted a different sort of catharsis. That said, this is still a highly enjoyable book. Nine Hibiscus is a solid military SF character who is a good counterweight to the more devious approaches of the other characters. I enjoyed the subplot of the kid in the Teixcalaanli capital more than I expected, although it felt more like setup for future novels than critical to the plot of this one. And then there's Three Seagrass.
Three Seagrass always made decisions wholly and entire. All at once. choosing information as her aptitudes. Choosing the position of cultural liaison to the Lsel Ambassador. Choosing to trust her. choosing to come here, to take this assignment entirely, completely, and without pausing to look to see how deep the water was that she was leaping into.
Every word of this is true, and it's so much fun to read. Three Seagrass was a bit overshadowed in A Memory Called Empire, a supporting character in someone else's story. Here, she has moments where she can take the lead, and she's so delightfully different than Mahit. I loved every moment of her viewpoint. A Desolation Called Peace isn't as taut or as coherent as A Memory Called Empire. The plot sags in a few places, and I think there was a bit too much hopeless Lsel politics, nebulous alien horror, and injured silence between characters. But the high points are nearly as good as the high points of A Memory Called Empire and I adore these characters. If you liked the first book, I think you'll like this one too. More, please! Rating: 8 out of 10

3 May 2021

Russell Coker: DNS, Lots of IPs, and Postal

I decided to start work on repeating the tests for my 2006 OSDC paper on Benchmarking Mail Relays [1] and discover how the last 15 years of hardware developments have changed things. There have been software changes in that time too, but nothing that compares with going from single core 32bit systems with less than 1G of RAM and 60G IDE disks to multi-core 64bit systems with 128G of RAM and SSDs. As an aside the hardware I used in 2006 wasn t cutting edge and the hardware I m using now isn t either. In both cases it s systems I bought second hand for under $1000. Pedants can think of this as comparing 2004 and 2018 hardware. BIND I decided to make some changes to reflect the increased hardware capacity and use 2560 domains and IP addresses, which gave the following errors as well as a startup time of a minute on a system with two E5-2620 CPUs.
May  2 16:38:37 server named[7372]: listening on IPv4 interface lo, 127.0.0.1#53
May  2 16:38:37 server named[7372]: listening on IPv4 interface eno4, 10.0.2.45#53
May  2 16:38:37 server named[7372]: listening on IPv4 interface eno4, 10.0.40.1#53
May  2 16:38:37 server named[7372]: listening on IPv4 interface eno4, 10.0.40.2#53
May  2 16:38:37 server named[7372]: listening on IPv4 interface eno4, 10.0.40.3#53
[...]
May  2 16:39:33 server named[7372]: listening on IPv4 interface eno4, 10.0.47.0#53
May  2 16:39:33 server named[7372]: listening on IPv4 interface eno4, 10.0.48.0#53
May  2 16:39:33 server named[7372]: listening on IPv4 interface eno4, 10.0.49.0#53
May  2 16:39:33 server named[7372]: listening on IPv6 interface lo, ::1#53
[...]
May  2 16:39:36 server named[7372]: zone localhost/IN: loaded serial 2
May  2 16:39:36 server named[7372]: all zones loaded
May  2 16:39:36 server named[7372]: running
May  2 16:39:36 server named[7372]: socket: file descriptor exceeds limit (123273/21000)
May  2 16:39:36 server named[7372]: managed-keys-zone: Unable to fetch DNSKEY set '.': not enough free resources
May  2 16:39:36 server named[7372]: socket: file descriptor exceeds limit (123273/21000)
The first thing I noticed is that a default configuration of BIND with 2560 local IPs (when just running in the default recursive mode) takes a minute to start and needed to open over 100,000 file handles. BIND also had some errors in that configuration which led to it not accepting shutdown requests. I filed Debian bug report #987927 [2] about this. One way of dealing with the errors in this situation on Debian is to edit /etc/default/named and put in the following line to allow BIND to access to many file handles:
OPTIONS="-u bind -S 150000"
But the best thing to do for BIND when there are many IP addresses that aren t going to be used for DNS service is to put a directive like the following in the BIND configuration to specify the IP address or addresses that are used for the DNS service:
listen-on   10.0.2.45;  ;
I have just added the listen-on and listen-on-v6 directives to one of my servers with about a dozen IP addresses. While 2560 IP addresses is an unusual corner case it s not uncommon to have dozens of addresses on one system. dig When doing tests of Postfix for relaying mail I noticed that mail was being deferred with DNS problems (error was Host or domain name not found. Name service error for name=a838.example.com type=MX: Host not found, try again . I tested the DNS lookups with dig which failed with errors like the following:
dig -t mx a704.example.com
socket.c:1740: internal_send: 10.0.2.45#53: Invalid argument
socket.c:1740: internal_send: 10.0.2.45#53: Invalid argument
socket.c:1740: internal_send: 10.0.2.45#53: Invalid argument
; <
> DiG 9.16.13-Debian <
> -t mx a704.example.com
;; global options: +cmd
;; connection timed out; no servers could be reached
Here is a sample of the strace output from tracing dig:
bind(20,  sa_family=AF_INET, sin_port=htons(0), 
sin_addr=inet_addr("0.0.0.0") , 16) = 0
recvmsg(20,  msg_namelen=128 , 0)       = -1 EAGAIN (Resource temporarily 
unavailable)
write(4, "\24\0\0\0\375\377\377\377", 8) = 8
sendmsg(20,  msg_name= sa_family=AF_INET, sin_port=htons(53), 
sin_addr=inet_addr("10.0.2.45") , msg_
namelen=16, msg_iov=[ iov_base="86\1 
\0\1\0\0\0\0\0\1\4a704\7example\3com\0\0\17\0\1\0\0)\20\0\0\0\0
\0\0\f\0\n\0\10's\367\265\16bx\354", iov_len=57 ], msg_iovlen=1, 
msg_controllen=0, msg_flags=0 , 0) 
= -1 EINVAL (Invalid argument)
write(2, "socket.c:1740: ", 15)         = 15
write(2, "internal_send: 10.0.2.45#53: Invalid argument", 45) = 45
write(2, "\n", 1)                       = 1
futex(0x7f5a80696084, FUTEX_WAIT_PRIVATE, 0, NULL) = 0
futex(0x7f5a80696010, FUTEX_WAKE_PRIVATE, 1) = 0
futex(0x7f5a8069809c, FUTEX_WAKE_PRIVATE, 1) = 1
futex(0x7f5a80698020, FUTEX_WAKE_PRIVATE, 1) = 1
sendmsg(20,  msg_name= sa_family=AF_INET, sin_port=htons(53), 
sin_addr=inet_addr("10.0.2.45") , msg_namelen=16, msg_iov=[ iov_base="86\1 
\0\1\0\0\0\0\0\1\4a704\7example\3com\0\0\17\0\1\0\0)\20\0\0\0\0\0\0\f\0\n\0\10's\367\265\16bx\354", 
iov_len=57 ], msg_iovlen=1, msg_controllen=0, msg_flags=0 , 0) = -1 EINVAL 
(Invalid argument)
write(2, "socket.c:1740: ", 15)         = 15
write(2, "internal_send: 10.0.2.45#53: Invalid argument", 45) = 45
write(2, "\n", 1)
Ubuntu bug #1702726 claims that an insufficient ARP cache was the cause of dig problems [3]. At the time I encountered the dig problems I was seeing lots of kernel error messages neighbour: arp_cache: neighbor table overflow which I solved by putting the following in /etc/sysctl.d/mine.conf:
net.ipv4.neigh.default.gc_thresh3 = 4096
net.ipv4.neigh.default.gc_thresh2 = 2048
net.ipv4.neigh.default.gc_thresh1 = 1024
Making that change (and having rebooted because I didn t need to run the server overnight) didn t entirely solve the problems. I have seen some DNS errors from Postfix since then but they are less common than before. When they happened I didn t have that error from dig. At this stage I m not certain that the ARP change fixed the dig problem although it seems likely (it s always difficult to be certain that you have solved a race condition instead of made it less common or just accidentally changed something else to conceal it). But it is clearly a good thing to have a large enough ARP cache so the above change is probably the right thing for most people (with the possibility of changing the numbers according to the required scale). Also people having that dig error should probably check their kernel message log, if the ARP cache isn t the cause then some other kernel networking issue might be related. Preliminary Results With Postfix I m seeing around 24,000 messages relayed per minute with more than 60% CPU time idle. I m not sure exactly how to count idle time when there are 12 CPU cores and 24 hyper-threads as having only 1 process scheduled for each pair of hyperthreads on a core is very different to having half the CPU cores unused. I ran my script to disable hyper-threads by telling the Linux kernel to disable each processor core that has the same core ID as another, it was buggy and disabled the second CPU altogether (better than finding this out on a production server). Going from 24 hyper-threads of 2 CPUs to 6 non-HT cores of a single CPU didn t change the thoughput and the idle time went to about 30%, so I have possibly halved the CPU capacity for these tasks by disabling all hyper-threads and one entire CPU which is surprising given that I theoretically reduced the CPU power by 75%. I think my focus now has to be on hyper-threading optimisation. Since 2006 the performance has gone from ~20 messages per minute on relatively commodity hardware to 24,000 messages per minute on server equipment that is uncommon for home use but which is also within range of home desktop PCs. I think that a typical desktop PC with a similar speed CPU, 32G of RAM and SSD storage would give the same performance. Moore s Law (that transistor count doubles approximately every 2 years) is often misquoted as having performance double every 2 years. In this case more than 1024* the performance over 15 years means the performance doubling every 18 months. Probably most of that is due to SATA SSDs massively outperforming IDE hard drives but it s still impressive. Notes I ve been using example.com for test purposes for a long time, but RFC2606 specifies .test, .example, and .invalid as reserved top level domains for such things. On the next iteration I ll change my scripts to use .test. My current test setup has a KVM virtual machine running my bhm program to receive mail which is taking between 20% and 50% of a CPU core in my tests so far. While that is happening the kvm process is reported as taking between 60% and 200% of a CPU core, so kvm takes as much as 4* the CPU of the guest due to the virtual networking overhead even though I m using the virtio-net-pci driver (the most efficient form of KVM networking for emulating a regular ethernet card). I ve also seen this in production with a virtual machine running a ToR relay node. I ve fixed a bug where Postal would try to send the SMTP quit command after encountering a TCP error which would cause an infinite loop and SEGV.

Russ Allbery: Review: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Review: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis
Illustrator: Pauline Baynes
Series: Chronicles of Narnia #3
Publisher: Collier Books
Copyright: 1952
Printing: 1978
ISBN: 0-02-044260-2
Format: Mass market
Pages: 216
There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the third Narnia book in original publication order (see my review of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for more about reading order). You could arguably start reading here; there are a lot of references to the previous books, but mostly as background material, and I don't think any of it is vital. If you wanted to sample a single Narnia book to see if you'd get along with the series, this is the one I'd recommend. Since I was a kid, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has held the spot of my favorite of the series. I'm happy to report that it still holds up. Apart from one bit that didn't age well (more on that below), this is the book where the story and the world-building come together, in part because Lewis picks a plot shape that works with what he wants to write about. The younger two Pevensie children, Edmund and Lucy, are spending the summer with Uncle Harold and Aunt Alberta because their parents are in America. That means spending the summer with their cousin Eustace. C.S. Lewis had strong opinions about child-raising that crop up here and there in his books, and Harold and Alberta are his example of everything he dislikes: caricatured progressive, "scientific" parents who don't believe in fiction or mess or vices. Eustace therefore starts the book as a terror, a whiny bully who has only read boring practical books and is constantly scoffing at the Pevensies and making fun of their stories of Narnia. He is therefore entirely unprepared when the painting of a ship in the guest bedroom turns into a portal to the Narnia and dumps the three children into the middle of the ocean. Thankfully, they're in the middle of the ocean near the ship in the painting. That ship is the Dawn Treader, and onboard is Caspian from the previous book, now king of Narnia. He has (improbably) sorted things out in his kingdom and is now on a sea voyage to find seven honorable Telmarine lords who left Narnia while his uncle was usurping the throne. They're already days away from land, headed towards the Lone Islands and, beyond that, into uncharted seas. MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW. Obviously, Eustace gets a redemption arc, which is roughly the first half of this book. It's not a bad arc, but I am always happy when it's over. Lewis tries so hard to make Eustace insufferable that it becomes tedious. As an indoor kid who would not consider being dumped on a primitive sailing ship to be a grand adventure, I wanted to have more sympathy for him than the book would allow. The other problem with Eustace's initial character is that Lewis wants it to stem from "modern" parenting and not reading the right sort of books, but I don't buy it. I've known kids whose parents didn't believe in fiction, and they didn't act anything like this (and kids pick up a lot more via osmosis regardless of parenting than Lewis seems to realize). What Eustace acts like instead is an entitled, arrogant rich kid who is used to the world revolving around him, and it's fascinating to me how Lewis ignores class to focus on educational philosophy. The best part of Eustace's story is Reepicheep, which is just setup for Reepicheep becoming the best part of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Reepicheep, the leader of Narnia's talking mice, first appears in Prince Caspian, but there he's mostly played for laughs: the absurdly brave and dashing mouse who rushes into every fight he sees. In this book, he comes into his own as the courage and occasionally the moral conscience of the party. Caspian wants to explore and to find the lords of his past, the Pevensie kids want to have a sea adventure, and Eustace is in this book to have a redemption arc, but Reepicheep is the driving force at the heart of the voyage. He's going to Aslan's country beyond the sea, armed with a nursemaid's song about his destiny and a determination to be his best and most honorable self every step of the way, and nothing is going to stop him. Eustace, of course, takes an immediate dislike to a talking rodent. Reepicheep, in return, is the least interested of anyone on the ship in tolerating Eustace's obnoxious behavior and would be quite happy to duel him. But when Eustace is turned into a dragon, Reepicheep is the one who spends hours with him, telling him stories and ensuring he's not alone. It's beautifully handled, and my only complaint is that Lewis doesn't do enough with the Eustace and Reepicheep friendship (or indeed with Eustace at all) for the rest of the book. After Eustace's restoration and a few other relatively short incidents comes the second long section of the book and the part that didn't age well: the island of the Dufflepuds. It's a shame because the setup is wonderful: a cultivated island in the middle of nowhere with no one in sight, mysterious pounding sounds and voices, the fun of trying to figure out just what these invisible creatures could possibly be, and of course Lucy's foray into the second floor of a house, braving the lair of a magician to find and read one of the best books of magic in fantasy. Everything about how Lewis sets this scene is so well done. The kids are coming from an encounter with a sea serpent and a horrifically dangerous magic island and land on this scene of eerily normal domesticity. The most dangerous excursion is Lucy going upstairs in a brightly lit house with soft carpet in the middle of the day. And yet it's incredibly tense because Lewis knows exactly how to put you in Lucy's head, right down to having to stand with her back to an open door to read the book. And that book! The pages only turn forward, the spells are beautifully illustrated, and the sense of temptation is palpable. Lucy reading the eavesdropping spell is one of the more memorable bits in this series, at least for me, and makes a surprisingly subtle moral point about the practical reasons why invading other people's privacy is unwise and can just make you miserable. And then, when Lucy reads the visibility spell that was her goal, there's this exchange, which is pure C.S. Lewis:
"Oh Aslan," said she, "it was kind of you to come." "I have been here all the time," said he, "but you have just made me visible." "Aslan!" said Lucy almost a little reproachfully. "Don't make fun of me. As if anything I could do would make you visible!" "It did," said Aslan. "Did you think I wouldn't obey my own rules?"
I love the subtlety of what's happening here: the way that Lucy is much more powerful than she thinks she is, but only because Aslan decided to make the rules that way and chooses to follow his own rules, making himself vulnerable in a fascinating way. The best part is that Lewis never belabors points like this; the characters immediately move on to talk about other things, and no one feels obligated to explain. But, unfortunately, along with the explanation of the thumping and the magician, we learn that the Dufflepuds are (remarkably dim-witted) dwarfs, the magician is their guardian (put there by Aslan, no less!), he transformed them into rather absurd shapes that they hate, and all of this is played for laughs. Once you notice that these are sentient creatures being treated essentially like pets (and physically transformed against their will), the level of paternalistic colonialism going on here is very off-putting. It's even worse that the Dufflepuds are memorably funny (washing dishes before dinner to save time afterwards!) and are arguably too dim to manage on their own, because Lewis made the authorial choice to write them that way. The "white man's burden" feeling is very strong. And Lewis could have made other choices! Coriakin the magician is a fascinating and somewhat morally ambiguous character. We learn later in the book that he's a star and his presence on the island is a punishment of sorts, leading to one of my other favorite bits of theology in this book:
"My son," said Ramandu, "it is not for you, a son of Adam, to know what faults a star can commit."
Lewis could have kept most of the setup, kept the delightfully silly things the Dufflepuds believe, changed who was responsible for their transformation, and given Coriakin a less authoritarian role, and the story would have been so much stronger for it. After this, the story gets stranger and wilder, and it's in the last part that I think the true magic of this book lies. The entirety of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a progression from a relatively mundane sea voyage to something more awe-inspiring. The last few chapters are a tour de force of wonder: rejuvenating stars, sunbirds, the Witch's stone knife, undersea kingdoms, a sea of lilies, a wall of water, the cliffs of Aslan's country, and the literal end of the world. Lewis does it without much conflict, with sparse description in a very few pages, and with beautifully memorable touches like the quality of the light and the hush that falls over the ship. This is the part of Narnia that I point to and wonder why I don't see more emulation (although I should note that it is arguably an immram). Tolkien-style fantasy, with dwarfs and elves and magic rings and great battles, is everywhere, but I can't think of many examples of this sense of awe and discovery without great battles and detailed explanations. Or of characters like Reepicheep, who gets one of the best lines of the series:
"My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan's country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise and Peepiceek shall be the head of the talking mice in Narnia."
The last section of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is one of my favorite endings of any book precisely because it's so different than the typical ending of a novel. The final return to England is always a bit disappointing in this series, but it's very short and is preceded by so much wonder that I don't mind. Aslan does appear to the kids as a lamb at the very end of the world, making Lewis's intended Christian context a bit more obvious, but even that isn't belabored, just left there for those who recognize the symbolism to notice. I was curious during this re-read to understand why The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is so much better than the first two books in the series. I think it's primarily due to two things: pacing, and a story structure that's better aligned with what Lewis wants to write about. For pacing, both The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian have surprisingly long setups for short books. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by contrast, it takes only 35 pages to get the kids in Narnia, introduce all the characters, tour the ship, learn why Caspian is off on a sea voyage, establish where this book fits in the Narnian timeline, and have the kids be captured by slavers. None of the Narnia books are exactly slow, but Dawn Treader is the first book of the series that feels like it knows exactly where it's going and isn't wasting time getting there. The other structural success of this book is that it's a semi-episodic adventure, which means Lewis can stop trying to write about battles and political changes whose details he's clearly not interested in and instead focus wholeheartedly on sense-of-wonder exploration. The island-hopping structure lets Lewis play with ideas and drop them before they wear out their welcome. And the lack of major historical events also means that Aslan doesn't have to come in to resolve everything and instead can play the role of guardian angel. I think The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has the most compelling portrayal of Aslan in the series. He doesn't make decisions for the kids or tell them directly what to do the way he did in the previous two books. Instead, he shows up whenever they're about to make a dreadful mistake and does just enough to get them to make a better decision. Some readers may find this takes too much of the tension out of the book, but I have always appreciated it. It lets nervous child readers enjoy the adventures while knowing that Aslan will keep anything too bad from happening. He plays the role of a protective but non-interfering parent in a genre that usually doesn't have parents because they would intervene to prevent adventures. I enjoyed this book just as much as I remembered enjoying it during my childhood re-reads. Still the best book of the series. This, as with both The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, was originally intended to be the last book of the series. That, of course, turned out to not be the case, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is followed (in both chronological and original publication order) by The Silver Chair. Rating: 9 out of 10

22 April 2021

Shirish Agarwal: The Great Train Robbery

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Internet Freedom and Aarogya Setu App.


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

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

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

12 April 2021

Russell Coker: Storage Trends 2021

The Viability of Small Disks Less than a year ago I wrote a blog post about storage trends [1]. My main point in that post was that disks smaller than 2TB weren t viable then and 2TB disks wouldn t be economically viable in the near future. Now MSY has 2TB disks for $72 and 2TB SSD for $245, saving $173 if you get a hard drive (compared to saving $240 10 months ago). Given the difference in performance and noise 2TB hard drives won t be worth using for most applications nowadays. NVMe vs SSD Last year NVMe prices were very comparable for SSD prices, I was hoping that trend would continue and SSDs would go away. Now for sizes 1TB and smaller NVMe and SSD prices are very similar, but for 2TB the NVMe prices are twice that of SSD presumably partly due to poor demand for 2TB NVMe. There are also no NVMe devices larger than 2TB on sale at MSY (a store which caters to home stuff not special server equipment) but SSDs go up to 8TB. It seems that NVMe is only really suitable for workstation storage and for cache etc on a server. So SATA SSDs will be around for a while. Small Servers There are a range of low end servers which support a limited number of disks. Dell has 2 disk servers and 4 disk servers. If one of those had 8TB SSDs you could have 8TB of RAID-1 or 24TB of RAID-Z storage in a low end server. That covers the vast majority of servers (small business or workgroup servers tend to have less than 8TB of storage). Larger Servers Anandtech has an article on Seagates roadmap to 120TB disks [2]. They currently sell 20TB disks using HAMR technology Currently the biggest disks that MSY sells are 10TB for $395, which was also the biggest disk they were selling last year. Last year MSY only sold SSDs up to 2TB in size (larger ones were available from other companies at much higher prices), now they sell 8TB SSDs for $949 (4* capacity increase in less than a year). Seagate is planning 30TB disks for 2023, if SSDs continue to increase in capacity by 4* per year we could have 128TB SSDs in 2023. If you needed a server with 100TB of storage then having 2 or 3 SSDs in a RAID array would be much easier to manage and faster than 4*30TB disks in an array. When you have a server with many disks you can expect to have more disk failures due to vibration. One time I built a server with 18 disks and took disks from 2 smaller servers that had 4 and 5 disks. The 9 disks which had been working reliably for years started having problems within weeks of running in the bigger server. This is one of the many reasons for paying extra for SSD storage. Seagate is apparently planning 50TB disks for 2026 and 100TB disks for 2030. If that s the best they can do then SSD vendors should be able to sell larger products sooner at prices that are competitive. Matching hard drive prices is not required, getting to less than 4* the price should be enough for most customers. The Anandtech article is worth reading, it mentions some interesting features that Seagate are developing such as having 2 actuators (which they call Mach.2) so the drive can access 2 different tracks at the same time. That can double the performance of a disk, but that doesn t change things much when SSDs are more than 100* faster. Presumably the Mach.2 disks will be SAS and incredibly expensive while providing significantly less performance than affordable SATA SSDs. Computer Cases In my last post I speculated on the appearance of smaller cases designed to not have DVD drives or 3.5 hard drives. Such cases still haven t appeared apart from special purpose machines like the NUC that were available last year. It would be nice if we could get a new industry standard for smaller power supplies. Currently power supplies are expected to be almost 5 inches wide (due to the expectation of a 5.25 DVD drive mounted horizontally). We need some industry standards for smaller PCs that aren t like the NUC, the NUC is very nice, but most people who build their own PC need more space than that. I still think that planning on USB DVD drives is the right way to go. I ve got 4PCs in my home that are regularly used and CDs and DVDs are used so rarely that sharing a single DVD drive among all 4 wouldn t be a problem. Conclusion I m tempted to get a couple of 4TB SSDs for my home server which cost $487 each, it currently has 2*500G SSDs and 3*4TB disks. I would have to remove some unused files but that s probably not too hard to do as I have lots of old backups etc on there. Another possibility is to use 2*4TB SSDs for most stuff and 2*4TB disks for backups. I m recommending that all my clients only use SSDs for their storage. I only have one client with enough storage that disks are the only option (100TB of storage) but they moved all the functions of that server to AWS and use S3 for the storage. Now I don t have any clients doing anything with storage that can t be done in a better way on SSD for a price difference that s easy for them to afford. Affordable SSD also makes RAID-1 in workstations more viable. 2 disks in a PC is noisy if you have an office full of them and produces enough waste heat to be a reliability issue (most people don t cool their offices adequately on weekends). 2 SSDs in a PC is no problem at all. As 500G SSDs are available for $73 it s not a significant cost to install 2 of them in every PC in the office (more cost for my time than hardware). I generally won t recommend that hard drives be replaced with SSDs in systems that are working well. But if a machine runs out of space then replacing it with SSDs in a RAID-1 is a good choice. Moore s law might cover SSDs, but it definitely doesn t cover hard drives. Hard drives have fallen way behind developments of most other parts of computers over the last 30 years, hopefully they will go away soon.

28 March 2021

Russ Allbery: faq2html 1.36

faq2html is the program I use to turn various text files into web pages. I've started adopting CPAN::Changes::Spec for my Perl modules, and changes files in that format look best if shown in a dense bullet list similar to:
 - Remove single spaces at the start of lines in wrapped paragraphs.
 - Encode output in UTF-8 if necessary.
 - Strip formatting codes from headings that will go into the table of
   contents or navbar, and fix the algorithm for adding anchors to account
   for this transformation.
 - Use Module::Build as the build system.
faq2html could deal with these if every line was its own bullet, but couldn't handle line continuations, so the output looked poor. This new release fixes that problem (in a somewhat overly complex way, but I'll wait to fix that until I start refactoring it, which is on the menu for a future project). Note that there is a remaining ambiguity. When there is a blank line between bullet items, I prefer to wrap the text of each bullet in <p> to preserve that spacing (even though that makes the output look awful in the Dreamwidth style that I use and in the original style, due to a bug on their end I think). But if that's the entirety of the list, which can happen with Changes files, I'd prefer to omit the <p>. That requires defering output of the bullet point until either more paragraphs that are part of the same list are seen, or some other text is seen. That's a larger refactoring that I'll put off until later. I also released cvs2xhtml version 1.15 and cl2xhtml version 1.12. There are no changes in the output of either of those programs; I just ported them to Python 3, since I've uninstalled Python 2 from my systems. You can get all of these tools from my web tools distribution page.

13 March 2021

Dima Kogan: Making the Supernova E3 tail light brighter

I got a dynamo hub for my bike and a fancy headlight. It's sweet, but I'm discovering that there're no standards for making tail lights work, so I just had to do some light reverse-engineering and soldering. And this is the findings. Different manufacturers do tail lights differently. Most tail lights are not connected directly to the dynamo, but to the headlight instead. Busch+M ller tail lights take an AC signal that looks very similar to what the hub is producing. You're not supposed to hook it up to the hub directly, but it does appear to work, and it's not clear how the headlight's tail-light output is different from the hub input. I haven't scoped it. Supernova tail lights work differently. Some guy on the internet reverse-engineered the headlight circuit showing an LM317 regulator producing 5.9V for the tail light. I have a Supernova E3 tail light (original one; model E161). The case says "6V", which is close to the 5.9V they give it. It wants its 6V, but I don't have a Supernova headlight, so I don't have 6V to give it. I do have a USB charger, so I have 5V instead. Giving it 5V does appear to work, but that results in less brightness than I would like. Presumably the voltage difference is to blame? I took apart the tail light. The circuitry is encased in hot glue. Scraping that off, we can see the action:
before.jpg
The circuit looks like this:
e3.svg
More or less, this is as expected. The circuit was designed to receive 6V, so the resistances (180 ohms) were selected to produce a certain amount of current. Given 5V, there's less current and less brightness. I can fix this by reducing the amount of resistance to bring the current levels up. I hooked up a power supply to produce 5V and 5.9V, and I measured the voltages in the circuit in those two states. Assume little accuracy in all of this
5V 5.9V
V across input diode 0.8V 0.8V
V across the resistors 2.37V 3.25V
V across the LEDs 1.83V 1.85V
As expected, the voltages across the diodes are stable, and the resistors see the bulk of the voltage difference. The circuit designers wanted 3.25/180 ~ 18mA. With my reduced voltage I was getting 2.37/180 ~ 13mA instead. So I was 28% less bright than I should have been. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it's hard to tell by just looking at the thing. In any case, I can reduce the resistances to get the higher current at 5V: I want a resistance R of 180/3.25*2.37 ~ 131 ohms. In the interest of doing less work, I simply added more resistors in parallel instead of replacing the existing ones. So I need to add in parallel a resistance R such that 180R/(180+R) = 131. So I want a parallel R ~ 485 ohms. Looking through my box of parts, I don't have any nice surface-mount resistors with anywhere near the right resistance. But I do have through-hole ones at 470 ohms. Close-enough. I did some soldering gymnastics:
after.jpg
And I'm done. Haven't done any night rides outside yet with this setup, but in theory this should be bright-enough. And since the resistors are just burning off the excess voltage, and I'm giving it less voltage to burn off, I'm being more efficient than I would have been with 6V and the stock resistors.

11 March 2021

Vincent Fourmond: All tips and tricks about QSoas

I've decided to post regular summaries of all the articles written here about QSoas; this is the first post of this kind. All the articles related to QSoas can be found here also. The articles written here can be separated into several categories. Tutorials to analyze real data These are posts about how to reproduce the data analysis of published articles, including links to the original data so you can fully reproduce our results. These posts all have the label tutorial. All about fits QSoas has a particularly powerful interface for non-linear least square minimisations (fits): Meta-data Meta data describe the conditions in which experiments were performed. Quiz and their solutions Quiz are small problems that take some skill to solve; they can teach you a lot about how to work with QSoas. Other tips and tricks Release annoucements These have generally lot of general information about the possibilities in QSoas:
About QSoas QSoas is a powerful open source data analysis program that focuses on flexibility and powerful fitting capacities. It is released under the GNU General Public License. It is described in Fourmond, Anal. Chem., 2016, 88 (10), pp 5050 5052. Current version is 3.0. You can download its source code there (or clone from the GitHub repository) and compile it yourself, or buy precompiled versions for MacOS and Windows there.

16 February 2021

Vincent Fourmond: QSoas tips and tricks: permanently storing meta-data

It is one thing to acquire and process data, but the data themselves are most often useless without the context, the conditions in which the experiments were made. These additional informations can be called meta-data. In a previous post, we have already described how one can set meta-data to data that are already loaded, and how one can make use of them. QSoas is already able to figure out some meta-data in the case of electrochemical data, most notably in the case of files acquired by GPES, ECLab or CHI potentiostats. However, only a small number of constructors are supported as of now[1], and there are a number of experimental details that the software is never going to be able to figure out for you, such as the pH, the sample, what you were doing... The new version of QSoas provides a means to permanently store meta-data for experimental data files:
QSoas> record-meta pH 7 file.dat
This command uses record-meta to permanently store the information pH = 7 for the file file.dat. Any time QSoas loads the file again, either today or in one year, the meta-data will contain the value 7 for the field pH. Behind the scenes, QSoas creates a single small file, file.dat.qsm, in which the meta-data are stored (in the form of a JSON dictionnary). You can set the same meta-data to many files in one go, using wildcards (see load for more information). For instance, to set the pH=7 meta-data to all the .dat files in the current directory, you can use:
QSoas> record-meta pH 7 *.dat
You can only set one meta-data for each call to record-meta, but you can use it as many times as you like. Finally, you can use the /for-which option to load or browse to select only the files which have the meta you need:
QSoas> browse /for-which=$meta.pH<=7
This command browses the files in the current directory, showing only the ones that have a pH meta-data which is 7 or below.

[1] I'm always ready to implement the parsing of other file formats that could be useful for you. If you need parsing of special files, please contact me, sending the given files and the meta-data you'd expect to find in those. About QSoas QSoas is a powerful open source data analysis program that focuses on flexibility and powerful fitting capacities. It is released under the GNU General Public License. It is described in Fourmond, Anal. Chem., 2016, 88 (10), pp 5050 5052. Current version is 3.0. You can download its source code there (or clone from the GitHub repository) and compile it yourself, or buy precompiled versions for MacOS and Windows there.

9 February 2021

Molly de Blanc: Proprietary (definition)

I recently had the occasion to try and find a definition of proprietary in terms of software that is not on Wikipedia. Most of the discussion on the issue I found was focused on what free and open source software is, and that anything that isn t FOSS is proprietary. I don t think the debate is as simple as this, especially if you want to get into conversations about nuance around things like Open Core. The problem with defining proprietary software by what it isn t, or at least that it isn t FOSS, means that we cannot concisely communicate what makes something proprietary. Instead, we leave it up to the people we re trying to communicate with to dig through a history of rhetoric, copyright law, and licensing in order to understand what it actually means for something to be FOSS, and what it means for something to be anything else. It is also just less satisfying, in my opinion, to define something by what it lacks rather than by what it is. I ll start by proposing the following definition: Proprietary software is software that comes with restrictions on what users can do with the software and the source code that constitutes said software. I think the most controversial part of this sentence is the wording software that comes with restrictions. In earlier attempts of this I wrote software that restricts. This sort of active wording, which I used for years in my capacity at work, is misleading. In the case of proprietary software, it is the licensing and laws around it that restrict what you can do. For software to restrict you, it must be that the way the software is being implemented or used restricts you. To be clear, this is my first proposal. I look forward to discussing this further!

4 February 2021

Ulrike Uhlig: On anger, misunderstandings, and hearing with different ears

Anger Anger is a feeling that is mostly taboo in our society. People tend to think that anger and rage are the same thing and reject anger. We are taught to suppress it. But: The suppression of anger can cause a lot of trouble, giving rise to virulent progeny such as malice, passive aggression, hostility, rage, sabotage, hate, blame, guilt, controlling behavior, shame, self-blame, and self-destruction. (Quoted from: Anne Katherine, Where to draw the line ). When we talk about anger, we need to distinguish between acting out anger, and feeling anger. In general, when you hear me talking about anger, I m talking about the feeling named anger in English. Anger is a normal feeling with a super power: it gives us the energy to change a situation that we consider to be unsustainable. We can express the feeling of anger verbally by saying for example: That thing makes me really angry , I can t talk right now, I am very angry about what I just heard . Let s also note that there may be other feelings lying below anger, such as sadness, frustration, grief, fear, etc. Mixing emotions This is a page from the wonderful Making Comics by Scott McCloud. (Yes, emotions are complex! See some more of Scott McCloud s pages about emotion in comics)

Bottling up feelings Most of the time, people don t get angry suddenly, even though it might seem like that from the outside. Instead, they ve been bottling up feelings for a while, and at some point, a small trigger is enough to make the bottle overflow. The reasons for bottling up feelings can be as diverse as people:
  • Low self-esteem: not thinking one has the right and the capacity to express unpleasant feelings
  • Not knowing how to express unpleasant feelings. For example not having learnt to say: I am not comfortable, I ll leave now, I ll get back to you once I know what s going on / if this is about me / if I feel like it.
  • Not trusting one s own feelings, specifically common in people who have been victims of gaslighting
  • Repressing emotions, specifically anger, sometimes to the point of not being able to feel one s own feelings anymore
  • Not being able to express disagreement and instead applying the fawn response: trying to please the other in order to avoid further conflict. See: Fight, flight, freeze, or fawn
  • Not being able to express boundaries: stop , this is enough , I don t accept this , etc.
  • Not being in a situation or a space in which feelings can be expressed freely, for example a workplace or a hierarchical situation where this might be disadvantageous
These are just some examples I can come up with in 3 minutes, the list is non exhaustive. When someone s bottle overflows, their peers can be confused and not know how to react to what they perceive as a sudden outburst while what they are seeing might just be the other person s first time tentative of saying no or stop . Oftentimes, the responsibility for the situation is then put on the shoulders of the person who supposedly exploded : they have been behaving differently than usual or not within the expectations, right? Well, it s not that simple. Conflicts are relational. The other party might have ignored signs, requests, feelings, and needs of the angry person for a while. Maybe the relationship has been deteriorating since some time? Maybe there was a power imbalance, that has never been revisited, updated, questioned? Or maybe their bottle is being filled by something else in their life and getting too small to contain all the drops of suppressed emotions. People change, and relationships change. We cannot assume that because a person has accepted something for months or years, that they always will. I think that anger can be a sign of such change or need thereof.

A message has four sides and that creates misunderstandings Friedemann Schulz von Thun has created a theory, the four-sides model, that establishes four facets of a message:
  • Fact: What is the message about?
  • Self-disclosure: What does the speaker reveal about herself (with or without intention)?
  • Relation: What is the speaker s relationship towards the receiver of the message?
  • Appeal: What does the speaker want to obtain?
Let me adapt Schulz von Thun s example to a situation that happened to me once: I came to a friend s house and I smelled some unknown thing when I entered the apartment. I asked: what s that smell? I actually never bake, so I don t know anything about whatever it is people put into cakes. I wanted to say: I don t know what that smell is, tell me what it is? She replied: You never like anything I do, my furniture gets criticized, my cake s not right, and you criticize me all the time. We ended up in such a big misunderstanding that I left her house 5 minutes after I arrived. With Schulz von Thun s model we can understand what happened here: The speaker s question What s that smell in the kitchen? has four sides:
  1. Factual: There is a smell.
  2. Self-disclosure: I don t know what it is.
  3. Relational: You know what it is.
  4. Appeal: Tell me what it is!
The receiver can hear the question with 4 different ears:
  1. Factual part: There is a smell.
  2. Self-disclosure: I don t like the smell.
  3. Relationship: You re not good at baking cake.
  4. Appeal: Don t bake cake anymore.
At this point, the receiver will probably reply: Bake the cake yourself next time!

Behind the message Sometimes, we hear more strongly with one ear than with the other ears. For example, some people hear more on the relational side and they will always hear You re not good at . Other people hear more on the appeal side and will always try to guess into a message what the other person wants or expects of them.

Form and contents of a message Getting back to anger, I think that it s often not the contents i.e. the factual facet of a message that triggers our bottle to overflow, but the (perceived) intention of the speaker, i.e. the appeal facet. For example, a speaker might have an intention to silence us by using gaslighting, or tone policing. Or a speaker wants to explicitly hurt us because that s how they learnt to deal with their own feelings of hurt. The actual relation between speaker and receiver also seems to play a role in how anger can get triggered, when we hear with the relational ear. There are many nonverbal underlying layers to our communication:
  • The position of both speaker and receiver to each other: are they equals or is there any kind of power imbalance between them? A power imbalance can be a (perceived) dependency: For example, one person in a friendship has a kid and the other one regularly helps them so that the parent has some time to advance their work or career: this can create a feeling of not being good enough by oneself and having to rely on others. Or there is indeed a dependency in which the speaker is a team lead and the receiver a subordinate.
  • The needs of each person: a need to solve problems quickly for one person might conflict with the need to be involved in decision making of the other person. (See Taibi Kahler s drivers)
  • The inner beliefs of each person: in childhood we might have constructed the inner belief: You re okay, I m not okay , or Nobody cares about what I want , or I have to be nice (friendly, hardworking, strong, etc.) all the time otherwise nobody loves me - as some examples.
So, suppose person A offers to help person B, and what person B hears instead is their overprotective mother instead of their friend. Person A might be surprised to see B overreact or disappear for a while to get back their feelings of autonomy and integrity as an adult. Or person C expresses she d like to handle problem X like this while person D might well not hear this as a proposal to handle a problem, but as a decision made without involving her. Which might propel D back to her childhood in which she could also not take decisions autonomously. Then D might react like she would react as a child, slamming a door, shout, run away, freeze, or fawn.

Communication is complex! So, whenever we hear a message, not only do we hear the message with four ears, but also, we hear it with our position, our needs, and our inner beliefs. And sometimes, our bottle is already full, and then it overflows. At that point, I find it important that both sides reflect on the situation and stay in contact. Using empathy and compassion, we can try to better understand what s going on, where we might have hurt the other person, for example, or what was being misunderstood. Did we hear only one side of the message? Do our respective strategies conflict with each other? If we cannot hear each other anymore or always hear only one side of the message, we can try to do a mediation. Obviously, if at that point one side does not actually want to solve the problem, or thinks it s not their problem, then there s not much we can do, and mediation would not help. The examples above might sound familiar to you. I chose them because I ve seen them happen around me often, and I understand them as shared patterns. While all beings on this planets are unique, we share a common humanity, for example through such patterns and common experiences.

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