Search Results: "pollo"

19 April 2024

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Montreal's Debian & Stuff - March 2024

Time really flies when you are really busy you have fun! Our Montr al Debian User Group met on Sunday March 31st and I only just found the time to write our report :) This time around, 9 of us we met at EfficiOS's offices1 to chat, hang out and work on Debian and other stuff! Here is what we did: pollo: tvaz: tassia: viashimo: lavamind: justin: Pictures Here are pictures of the event. Well, one picture (thanks Tassia!) of the event itself and another one of the crisp Italian lager I drank at the bar after the event :) People at the event working around a long table A glass of beer illuminated by sunlight

  1. Maintainers, amongst other things, of the great LTTng.

8 March 2024

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Acts of active procrastination: example of a silly Python script for Moodle

My brain is currently suffering from an overload caused by grading student assignments. In search of a somewhat productive way to procrastinate, I thought I would share a small script I wrote sometime in 2023 to facilitate my grading work. I use Moodle for all the classes I teach and students use it to hand me out their papers. When I'm ready to grade them, I download the ZIP archive Moodle provides containing all their PDF files and comment them using xournalpp and my Wacom tablet. Once this is done, I have a directory structure that looks like this:
Assignment FooBar/
  Student A_21100_assignsubmission_file
    graded paper.pdf
    Student A's perfectly named assignment.pdf
    Student A's perfectly named assignment.xopp
  Student B_21094_assignsubmission_file
    graded paper.pdf
    Student B's perfectly named assignment.pdf
    Student B's perfectly named assignment.xopp
  Student C_21093_assignsubmission_file
    graded paper.pdf
    Student C's perfectly named assignment.pdf
    Student C's perfectly named assignment.xopp
Before I can upload files back to Moodle, this directory needs to be copied (I have to keep the original files), cleaned of everything but the graded paper.pdf files and compressed in a ZIP. You can see how this can quickly get tedious to do by hand. Not being a complete tool, I often resorted to crafting a few spurious shell one-liners each time I had to do this1. Eventually I got tired of ctrl-R-ing my shell history and wrote something reusable. Behold this script! When I began writing this post, I was certain I had cheaped out on my 2021 New Year's resolution and written it in Shell, but glory!, it seems I used a proper scripting language instead.
# Copyright (C) 2023, Louis-Philippe V ronneau <>
# This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
# it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
# the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or
# (at your option) any later version.
# This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
# but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
# GNU General Public License for more details.
# You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
# along with this program.  If not, see <>.
This script aims to take a directory containing PDF files exported via the
Moodle mass download function, remove everything but the final files to submit
back to the students and zip it back.
usage: ./ <target_dir>
import os
import shutil
import sys
import tempfile
from fnmatch import fnmatch
def sanity(directory):
    """Run sanity checks before doing anything else"""
    base_directory = os.path.basename(os.path.normpath(directory))
    if not os.path.isdir(directory):
        sys.exit(f"Target directory  directory  is not a valid directory")
    if os.path.exists(f"/tmp/ base_directory .zip"):
        sys.exit(f"Final ZIP file path '/tmp/ base_directory .zip' already exists")
    for root, dirnames, _ in os.walk(directory):
        for dirname in dirnames:
            corrige_present = False
            for file in os.listdir(os.path.join(root, dirname)):
                if fnmatch(file, 'graded paper.pdf'):
                    corrige_present = True
            if corrige_present is False:
                sys.exit(f"Directory  dirname  does not contain a 'graded paper.pdf' file")
def clean(directory):
    """Remove superfluous files, to keep only the graded PDF"""
    with tempfile.TemporaryDirectory() as tmp_dir:
        shutil.copytree(directory, tmp_dir, dirs_exist_ok=True)
        for root, _, filenames in os.walk(tmp_dir):
            for file in filenames:
                if not fnmatch(file, 'graded paper.pdf'):
                    os.remove(os.path.join(root, file))
        compress(tmp_dir, directory)
def compress(directory, target_dir):
    """Compress directory into a ZIP file and save it to the target dir"""
    target_dir = os.path.basename(os.path.normpath(target_dir))
    shutil.make_archive(f"/tmp/ target_dir ", 'zip', directory)
    print(f"Final ZIP file has been saved to '/tmp/ target_dir .zip'")
def main():
    """Main function"""
    target_dir = sys.argv[1]
if __name__ == "__main__":
If for some reason you happen to have a similar workflow as I and end up using this script, hit me up? Now, back to grading...

  1. If I recall correctly, the lazy way I used to do it involved copying the directory, renaming the extension of the graded paper.pdf files, deleting all .pdf and .xopp files using find and changing graded paper.foobar back to a PDF. Some clever regex or learning awk from the ground up could've probably done the job as well, but you know, that would have required using my brain and spending spoons...

6 February 2024

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Montreal's Debian & Stuff - February 2024

New Year, Same Great People! Our Debian User Group met for the first of our 2024 bi-monthly meetings on February 4th and it was loads of fun. Around twelve different people made it this time to Koumbit, where the meeting happened. As a reminder, our meetings are called "Debian & Stuff" because we want to be as open as possible and welcome people that want to work on "other stuff" than Debian. Here is what we did: pollo: LeLutin: mjeanson: lavamind: viashimo: tvaz & tassia: joeDoe: anarcat: Pictures I was pretty busy this time around and ended up not taking a lot of pictures. Here's a bad one of the ceiling at Koumbit I took, and a picture by anarcat of the content of his boxes of loot: A picture of the ceiling at Koumbit The content of anarcat's boxes of loot

24 January 2024

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Montreal Subway Foot Traffic Data, 2023 edition

For the fifth year in a row, I've asked Soci t de Transport de Montr al, Montreal's transit agency, for the foot traffic data of Montreal's subway. By clicking on a subway station, you'll be redirected to a graph of the station's foot traffic. Licences

9 January 2024

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: 2023 A Musical Retrospective

I ended 2022 with a musical retrospective and very much enjoyed writing that blog post. As such, I have decided to do the same for 2023! From now on, this will probably be an annual thing :) Albums In 2023, I added 73 new albums to my collection nearly 2 albums every three weeks! I listed them below in the order in which I acquired them. I purchased most of these albums when I could and borrowed the rest at libraries. If you want to browse though, I added links to the album covers pointing either to websites where you can buy them or to Discogs when digital copies weren't available. Once again this year, it seems that Punk (mostly O !) and Metal dominate my list, mostly fueled by Angry Metal Guy and the amazing Montr al Skinhead/Punk concert scene. Concerts A trend I started in 2022 was to go to as many concerts of artists I like as possible. I'm happy to report I went to around 80% more concerts in 2023 than in 2022! Looking back at my list, April was quite a busy month... Here are the concerts I went to in 2023: Although metalfinder continues to work as intended, I'm very glad to have discovered the Montr al underground scene has departed from Facebook/Instagram and adopted en masse Gancio, a FOSS community agenda that supports ActivityPub. Our local instance, is pretty much all I could ask for :) That's it for 2023!

20 December 2023

Ulrike Uhlig: How volunteer work in F/LOSS exacerbates pre-existing lines of oppression, and what that has to do with low diversity

This is a post I wrote in June 2022, but did not publish back then. After first publishing it in December 2023, a perfectionist insecure part of me unpublished it again. After receiving positive feedback, i slightly amended and republish it now. In this post, I talk about unpaid work in F/LOSS, taking on the example of hackathons, and why, in my opinion, the expectation of volunteer work is hurting diversity. Disclaimer: I don t have all the answers, only some ideas and questions.

Previous findings In 2006, the Flosspols survey searched to explain the role of gender in free/libre/open source software (F/LOSS) communities because an earlier [study] revealed a significant discrepancy in the proportion of men to women. It showed that just about 1.5% of F/LOSS community members were female at that time, compared with 28% in proprietary software (which is also a low number). Their key findings were, to name just a few:
  • that F/LOSS rewards the producing code rather than the producing software. It thereby puts most emphasis on a particular skill set. Other activities such as interface design or documentation are understood as less technical and therefore less prestigious.
  • The reliance on long hours of intensive computing in writing successful code means that men, who in general assume that time outside of waged labour is theirs , are freer to participate than women, who normally still assume a disproportionate amount of domestic responsibilities. Female F/LOSS participants, however, seem to be able to allocate a disproportionate larger share of their leisure time for their F/LOSS activities. This gives an indication that women who are not able to spend as much time on voluntary activities have difficulties to integrate into the community.
We also know from the 2016 Debian survey, published in 2021, that a majority of Debian contributors are employed, rather than being contractors, and rather than being students. Also, 95.5% of respondents to that study were men between the ages of 30 and 49, highly educated, with the largest groups coming from Germany, France, USA, and the UK. The study found that only 20% of the respondents were being paid to work on Debian. Half of these 20% estimate that the amount of work on Debian they are being paid for corresponds to less than 20% of the work they do there. On the other side, there are 14% of those who are being paid for Debian work who declared that 80-100% of the work they do in Debian is remunerated.

So, if a majority of people is not paid, why do they work on F/LOSS? Or: What are the incentives of free software? In 2021, Louis-Philippe V ronneau aka Pollo, who is not only a Debian Developer but also an economist, published his thesis What are the incentive structures of free software (The actual thesis was written in French). One very interesting finding Pollo pointed out is this one:
Indeed, while we have proven that there is a strong and significative correlation between the income and the participation in a free/libre software project, it is not possible for us to pronounce ourselves about the causality of this link.
In the French original text:
En effet, si nous avons prouv qu il existe une corr lation forte et significative entre le salaire et la participation un projet libre, il ne nous est pas possible de nous prononcer sur la causalit de ce lien.
Said differently, it is certain that there is a relationship between income and F/LOSS contribution, but it s unclear whether working on free/libre software ultimately helps finding a well paid job, or if having a well paid job is the cause enabling work on free/libre software. I would like to scratch this question a bit further, mostly relying on my own observations, experiences, and discussions with F/LOSS contributors.

Volunteer work is unpaid work We often hear of hackathons, hack weeks, or hackfests. I ve been at some such events myself, Tails organized one, the IETF regularly organizes hackathons, and last week (June 2022!) I saw an invitation for a hack week with the Torproject. This type of event generally last several days. While the people who organize these events are being paid by the organizations they work for, participants on the other hand are generally joining on a volunteer basis. Who can we expect to show up at this type of event under these circumstances as participants? To answer this question, I collected some ideas:
  • people who have an employer sponsoring their work
  • people who have a funder/grant sponsoring their work
  • people who have a high income and can take time off easily (in that regard, remember the Gender Pay Gap, women often earn less for the same work than men)
  • people who rely on family wealth (living off an inheritance, living on rights payments from a famous grandparent - I m not making these situations up, there are actual people in such financially favorable situations )
  • people who don t need much money because they don t have to pay rent or pay low rent (besides house owners that category includes people who live in squats or have social welfare paying for their rent, people who live with parents or caretakers)
  • people who don t need to do care work (for children, elderly family members, pets. Remember that most care work is still done by women.)
  • students who have financial support or are in a situation in which they do not yet need to generate a lot of income
  • people who otherwise have free time at their disposal
So, who, in your opinion, fits these unwritten requirements? Looking at this list, it s pretty clear to me why we d mostly find white men from the Global North, generally with higher education in hackathons and F/LOSS development. ( Great, they re a culture fit! ) Yes, there will also always be some people of marginalized groups who will attend such events because they expect to network, to find an internship, to find a better job in the future, or to add their participation to their curriculum. To me, this rings a bunch of alarm bells.

Low diversity in F/LOSS projects a mirror of the distribution of wealth I believe that the lack of diversity in F/LOSS is first of all a mirror of the distribution of wealth on a larger level. And by wealth I m referring to financial wealth as much as to social wealth in the sense of Bourdieu: Families of highly educated parents socially reproducing privilege by allowing their kids to attend better schools, supporting and guiding them in their choices of study and work, providing them with relations to internships acting as springboards into well paid jobs and so on. That said, we should ask ourselves as well:

Do F/LOSS projects exacerbate existing lines of oppression by relying on unpaid work? Let s look again at the causality question of Pollo s research (in my words):
It is unclear whether working on free/libre software ultimately helps finding a well paid job, or if having a well paid job is the cause enabling work on free/libre software.
Maybe we need to imagine this cause-effect relationship over time: as a student, without children and lots of free time, hopefully some money from the state or the family, people can spend time on F/LOSS, collect experience, earn recognition - and later find a well-paid job and make unpaid F/LOSS contributions into a hobby, cementing their status in the community, while at the same time generating a sense of well-being from working on the common good. This is a quite common scenario. As the Flosspols study revealed however, boys often get their own computer at the age of 14, while girls get one only at the age of 20. (These numbers might be slightly different now, and possibly many people don t own an actual laptop or desktop computer anymore, instead they own mobile devices which are not exactly inciting them to look behind the surface, take apart, learn, appropriate technology.) In any case, the above scenario does not allow for people who join F/LOSS later in life, eg. changing careers, to find their place. I believe that F/LOSS projects cannot expect to have more women, people of color, people from working class backgrounds, people from outside of Germany, France, USA, UK, Australia, and Canada on board as long as volunteer work is the status quo and waged labour an earned privilege.

Wait, are you criticizing all these wonderful people who sacrifice their free time to work towards common good? No, that s definitely not my intention, I m glad that F/LOSS exists, and the F/LOSS ecosystem has always represented a small utopia to me that is worth cherishing and nurturing. However, I think we still need to talk more about the lack of diversity, and investigate it further.

Some types of work are never being paid Besides free work at hacking events, let me also underline that a lot of work in F/LOSS is not considered payable work (yes, that s an oxymoron!). Which F/LOSS project for example, has ever paid translators a decent fee? Which project has ever considered that doing the social glue work, often done by women in the projects, is work that should be paid for? Which F/LOSS projects pay the people who do their Debian packaging rather than relying on yet another already well-paid white man who can afford doing this work for free all the while holding up how great the F/LOSS ecosystem is? And how many people on opensourcedesign jobs are looking to get their logo or website done for free? (Isn t that heart icon appealing to your altruistic empathy?) In my experience even F/LOSS projects which are trying to do the right thing by paying everyone the same amount of money per hour run into issues when it turns out that not all hours are equal and that some types of work do not qualify for remuneration at all or that the rules for the clocking of work are not universally applied in the same way by everyone.

Not every interaction should have a monetary value, but Some of you want to keep working without being paid, because that feels a bit like communism within capitalism, it makes you feel good to contribute to the greater good while not having the system determine your value over money. I hear you. I ve been there (and sometimes still am). But as long as we live in this system, even though we didn t choose to and maybe even despise it - communism is not about working for free, it s about getting paid equally and adequately. We may not think about it while under the age of 40 or 45, but working without adequate financial compensation, even half of the time, will ultimately result in not being able to care for oneself when sick, when old. And while this may not be an issue for people who inherit wealth, or have an otherwise safe economical background, eg. an academic salary, it is a huge problem and barrier for many people coming out of the working or service classes. (Oh and please, don t repeat the neoliberal lie that everyone can achieve whatever they aim for, if they just tried hard enough. French research shows that (in France) one has only 30% chance to become a class defector , and change social class upwards. But I managed to get out and move up, so everyone can! - well, if you believe that I m afraid you might be experiencing survivor bias.)

Not all bodies are equally able We should also be aware that not all of us can work with the same amount of energy either. There is yet another category of people who are excluded by the expectation of volunteer work, either because the waged labour they do already eats all of their energy, or because their bodies are not disposed to do that much work, for example because of mental health issues - such as depression-, or because of physical disabilities.

When organizing events relying on volunteer work please think about these things. Yes, you can tell people that they should ask their employer to pay them for attending a hackathon - but, as I ve hopefully shown, that would not do it for many people, especially newcomers. Instead, you could propose a fund to make it possible that people who would not normally attend can attend. DebConf is a good example for having done this for many years.

Conclusively I would like to urge free software projects that have a budget and directly pay some people from it to map where they rely on volunteer work and how this hurts diversity in their project. How do you or your project exacerbate pre-existing lines of oppression by granting or not granting monetary value to certain types of work? What is it that you take for granted? As always, I m curious about your feedback!

Worth a read These ideas are far from being new. Ashe Dryden s well-researched post The ethics of unpaid labor and the OSS community dates back to 2013 and is as important as it was ten years ago.

5 December 2023

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Montreal's Debian & Stuff - November 2023

Hello from a snowy Montr al! My life has been pretty busy lately1 so please forgive this late report. On November 19th, our local Debian User Group met at Montreal's most prominent hackerspace, Foulab. We've been there a few times already, but since our last visit, Foulab has had some membership/financial troubles. Happy to say things are going well again and a new team has taken over the space. This meetup wasn't the most productive day for me (something about being exhausted apparently makes it hard to concentrate), but other people did a bunch of interesting stuff :) Pictures Here are a bunch of pictures I took! Foulab is always a great place to snap quirky things :) A sign on a whiteboard that says 'Bienvenue aux laboratoires qui rends fou' The entrance of the bio-hacking house, with a list of rules An exploded keyboard with a 'Press F1 to continue' sign An inflatable Tux with a Foulab T-Shirt A picture of the woodworking workshop

  1. More busy than the typical end of semester rush... At work, we are currently renegotiating our collective bargaining agreement and things aren't going so well. We went on strike for a few days already and we're planning on another 7 days starting on Friday 8th.

7 October 2023

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Montreal's Debian & Stuff - "September" 2023

Last Sunday, our local Debian user group gathered to chat, to work on Debian and to do other, non-Debian related hacking. A "Debian & Stuff"! It had been a while since we held a proper meetup. Our last event was the Montreal BSP we organised back in March 2023... We somewhat missed the window for a June meetup and summer events never seem to gather a good crowd, so I didn't try to organise one. All this to say it was nice to see folks from the Montreal Debian community :) This event was also the first time we were hosted by L'Espace des possibles - Petite Patrie, a social venue that aims to provide a space for not-for-profit activities, like repair caf s, sowing classes, board game nights, etc. It was really nice and we will surely meet there again in the future. A group picture during the event Many people came to the event, including some new ones. Although people always tend to come and go during the day, a total of 12 people attended the event. As always, people worked on very different projects! One of the focus of this D&S was assembling AirGradient DIY basic kits. Our local community has been talking a lot about air quality metrics in the past few months1. Tiago thus decided to have a company print the PCBs for this kit and graciously gave away a few spares. Michael then took upon himself to order parts on AliExpress and a few of us ended up soldering the kits together while chatting. An AirGradient DIY basic kit, semi-assembled Otherwise, some Debian work was also done: The whole event was super fun, the tacos we had for lunch were delicious (and very authentic!), and we ended up at a local microbrewery to share a pint later in the evening. Looking forward to the next event!

  1. Mostly as a result of the large forest fires in Canada this summer. I myself blogged twice about air quality-related projects recently.

4 August 2023

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: pymonitair: Air Quality Monitoring Display with MicroPython

I've never been a fan of IoT devices for obvious reasons: not only do they tend to be excellent at being expensive vendor locked-in machines, but far too often, they also end up turning into e-waste after a short amount of time. Manufacturers can go out of business or simply decide to shut down the cloud servers for older models, and then you're stuck with a brick. Well, this all changes today, as I've built my first IoT device and I love it. Introducing pymonitair. What pymonitair is a MicroPython project that aims to display weather data from a home weather station (like the ones sold by AirGradient) on a small display. The source code was written for the Raspberry Pi Pico W, the Waveshare Pico OLED 1.3 display and the RevolvAir Revo 1 weather station, but can be adapted to other displays and stations easily, as I tried to keep the code as modular as possible. The general MicroPython code itself isn't specific to the Raspberry Pi Pico and shouldn't need to be modified for other boards. pymonitair features: Here's a demo of me scrolling through the different pages and (somewhat failing) to turn the screen on and off: Why? If you follow my blog, you'll know that my last entry was about building a set of tools to collect and graph data from a weather station my neighbor set up. Why on Earth would I need a separate device to show this data, when the website I've built works perfectly fine and is accessible on any computer or smartphone? Mostly alerts. When the air quality here dropped following forest fires, I found out keeping track of if I had to close my windows and bunker down was quite a hassle. Air quality would degrade during the day and I would only notice it hours later. With the pymonitair, I'll have a little screen flashing angrily at me whenever this happens. A simpler solution would probably have been to forgo hardware altogether and code some icinga2 alert to ping me over Signal whenever the air quality got bad. Hacking on pymonitair was mostly a way to learn to use MicroPython and familiarize myself with this type of embedded hardware device. I'll surely blog about this later this year, but I plan to use a very similar stack to mod my apartment's HVAC unit to stop pulling air from outside when an air quality sensor detects cigarette smoke (or bad air quality in general). Things I've learnt This project was super fun and taught me many things:

  1. PM1, PM2.5, PM10, Temperature, Humidity and Pressure
  2. Part of the screen will flash repeatedly
  3. I did look for other solutions to transfer files to the board, but none of them were actually maintained. I nearly finished packaging ampy before realising it was officially unmaintained and its main alternative, rshell, has had its last release in December 2021. When I caught myself seriously considering writing a script to transfer files over the serial link, I gave up and decided thonny was not that bad after all.

1 August 2023

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Weather Station Data Visualisations Using R and Python

A few weeks ago, my friend and neighbor J r me (aka lavamind) installed a weather station on his balcony and started collecting data from it. It has been quite useful to measure the degrading air quality during the recent forest fires plaguing northern Canada, but sadly, the hardware itself isn't great. Whereas some projects like airgradient offer open hardware devices running free software, the station we got is from RevolvAir, some kind of local air monitoring project that aims to be a one-stop solution for exterior air monitoring. Not only is their device pretty expensive1, but it also reboots frequently by itself. Even worse, their online data map requires an account to view the data and the interface is bad, unintuitive and only stores data up to a month. Having a good background in data visualisation and statistics thanks to my master's degree in economics, I decided I could do better. Two days later, I had built a series of tools to collect, analyse and graph the JSON time series data provided by the device. The result is a very simple website that works without any JavaScript, leveraging static graphs built using R. Modern web libraries and projects offer an incredible wealth of tools to graph and visualise data, but as for most of my web projects, I wanted something static and simple. The source code for the project can be found here, and although it is somewhat specific to the data structure provided by the RevolvAir device, it could easily be adapted to other devices, as they tend to have very similar JSON dumps.

  1. around 300 CAD, whereas a similar station from airgradient costs around 90 CAD. Thankfully, this station was a gift from a local group mobilising against an industrial project near our housing cooperative and we didn't have to pay for it ourselves.

27 July 2023

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: My new friend Ted

About 6 months ago, I decided to purchase a bike trailer. I don't drive and although I also have a shopping caddy, it often can't handle a week's groceries. The trailer, attached to my bike, hauling two storage crates Since the goal for the trailer was to haul encumbering and heavy loads, I decided to splurge and got a Surly Ted. The 32" x 24" flat bed is very versatile and the trailer is rated for up to 300 lbs (~135 kg). At around 30 lbs (~13.5 kg), the trailer itself is light enough for me to climb up the stairs to my apartment with it. Having seldom driven a bike trailer before, I was at first worried about its handling and if it would jerk me around (as some children's chariots tend to). I'm happy to report the two pronged hitch Surly designed works very well and lets you do 180 turns effortlessly. The trailer on my balcony, ready to be hoisted So far, I've used the trailer to go grocery shopping, buy bulk food and haul dirt and mulch. To make things easier, I've purchased two 45L storing crates from Home Depot and added two planks of wood on each side of the trailer to stabilise things when I strap the crates down to the bed. Since my partner and I are subscribed to an organic farmer's box during the summer and get baskets from Lufa during the winter, picking up our groceries at the pick-up point is as easy as dumping our order in the storing crates and strapping them back to the trailer. The pulleys on the roof of my balcony Although my housing cooperative has a (small) indoor bicycle parking space, my partner uses our spot during the summer, which means I have to store the trailer on my balcony. To make things more manageable and free up some space, I set up a system of pulleys to hoist the trailer up the air when it's not in use. I did go through a few iterations, but I'm pretty happy with the current 8 pulleys block and tackle mechanism I rigged. The trailer hoisted to the roof of the balcony All and all, this trailer wasn't cheap, but I regret nothing. Knowing Surley's reputation, it will last me many years and not having to drive a car to get around always ends up being the cheaper solution.

23 July 2023

Wouter Verhelst: Debconf Videoteam sprint in Paris, France, 2023-07-20 - 2023-07-23

The DebConf video team has been sprinting in preparation for DebConf 23 which will happen in Kochi, India, in September of this year. Video team sprint Present were Nicolas "olasd" Dandrimont, Stefano "tumbleweed" Rivera, and yours truly. Additionally, Louis-Philippe "pollo" V ronneau and Carl "CarlFK" Karsten joined the sprint remotely from across the pond. Thank you to the DPL for agreeing to fund flights, food, and accomodation for the team members. We would also like to extend a special thanks to the Association April for hosting our sprint at their offices. We made a lot of progress: It is now Sunday the 23rd at 14:15, and while the sprint is coming to an end, we haven't quite finished yet, so some more progress can still be made. Let's see what happens by tonight. All in all, though, we believe that the progress we made will make the DebConf Videoteam's work a bit easier in some areas, and will make things work better in the future. See you in Kochi!

21 June 2023

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: New Keyboard, Who This?

My old Thinkpad X220 has been slowly dying1 and as much as it makes me sad, it is also showing its age in terms of computational power. As such, I've pre-ordered a Framework 13 (the AMD version) and plan to retire my X220 when I get it. One thing I will miss from that laptop is the keyboard. At work, I dock it (on the amazing Thinkpad dock), which lets me use the keyboard while working on a larger monitor. I could probably replicate this setup with the Framework, but I'm not a fan of trackpads. So I built a keyboard. A nice one. One with a trackpoint. The bare board in its box If you follow Debian Planet, you may have seen the Tex Shinobi when Jonathan Dowland featured it on his blog back in January. It is a Tenkeyless board (saving me precious space at work) and is everything you would want from a old-school Thinkpad keyboard replacement. Since I had no previous experience with "Cherry MX"-style keyboard switches2, I decided to go full-bore and buy the "DIY" model that came unpopulated. A 35 switch tester board To know what model of switches I wanted, I bought a nice switch tester and played with it for a few days. After having thoroughly annoyed my SO (turns out 35 different switches on a little board is an incredible fidget toy), I decided to go with the Gateron Aliaz 70g. They are silent tactile switches, similar to the classic Cherry MX Browns, but with a much nicer sound profile and a much stronger actuation force (55g VS 70g). The end result is somewhat "stiff" keyboard that has a nice "THOCC", while still being relatively silent: perfect for a shared office. The keyboard with the switches, but no keycaps The only thing left to do on this keyboard is to replace the three soldered switches that came pre-installed for the mouse buttons. They are Cherry MX Red low-profile switches and are genuinely terrible3. I will be swapping them for Gateron KS-33 low-profile Blue switches when I get the ones I ordered online. My assembled Tex Shinobi Overall, I am very satisfied with this keyboard and I look forward using it daily when schools starts again in September.

  1. The power button sometimes does not work at all (for minutes?) and the laptop has been shutting down randomly (not a heat issue) more and more often...
  2. I am blessed with an IBM M keyboard at home and am in love with those clicky, very loud buckling springs.
  3. Not only are they linear switches (weird choice for mouse buttons), but they are very inconsistent. All three switches feel different and make different sounds.

18 June 2023

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Solo V2: nice but flawed

EDIT: One of my 2 keys has died. There are what seems like golden bubbles under the epoxy, over one of the chips and those were not there before. I've emailed SoloKeys and I'm waiting for a reply, but for now, I've stopped using the Solo V2 altogether :( I recently received the two Solo V2 hardware tokens I ordered as part of their crowdfunding campaign, back in March 2022. It did take them longer than advertised to ship me the tokens, but that's hardly unexpected from such small-scale, crowdfunded undertaking. I'm mostly happy about my purchase and I'm glad to get rid of the aging Tomu boards I was using as U2F tokens1. Still, beware: I am not sure it's a product I would recommend if what you want is simply something that works. If you do not care about open-source hardware, the Solo V2 is not for you. The Good A side-by-side view of the Solo V2's top and back sides I first want to mention I find the Solo V2 gorgeous. I really like the black and gold color scheme of the USB-A model (which is reversible!) and it seems like a well built and solid device. I'm not afraid to have it on my keyring and I fully expect it to last a long time. An animation of the build process, showing how the PCB is assembled and then slotted into the shell I'm also very impressed by the modular design: the PCB sits inside a shell, which decouples the logic from the USB interface and lets them manufacture a single board for both the USB-C and USB-A models. The clear epoxy layer on top of the PCB module also looks very nice in my opinion. A picture of the Solo V2 with its silicone case on my keyring, showing the 3 capacitive buttons I'm also very happy the Solo V2 has capacitive touch buttons instead of physical "clicky" buttons, as it means the device has no moving parts. The token has three buttons (the gold metal strips): one on each side of the device and a third one near the keyhole. As far as I've seen, the FIDO2 functions seem to work well via the USB interface and do not require any configuration on a Debian 12 machine. I've already migrated to the Solo V2 for web-based 2FA and I am in the process of migrating to an SSH ed25519-sk key. Here is a guide I recommend if you plan on setting those up with a Solo V2. The Bad and the Ugly Sadly, the Solo V2 is far from being a perfect project. First of all, since the crowdfunding campaign is still being fulfilled, it is not currently commercially available. Chances are you won't be able to buy one directly before at least Q4 2023. I've also hit what seems to be a pretty big firmware bug, or at least, one that affects my use case quite a bit. Invoking gpg crashes the Solo V2 completely if you also have scdaemon installed. Since scdaemon is necessary to use gpg with an OpenPGP smartcard, this means you cannot issue any gpg commands (like signing a git commit...) while the Solo V2 is plugged in. Any gpg commands that queries scdaemon, such as gpg --edit-card or gpg --sign foo.txt times out after about 20 seconds and leaves the token unresponsive to both touch and CLI commands. The way to "fix" this issue is to make sure scdaemon does not interact with the Solo V2 anymore, using the reader-port argument:
  1. Plug both your Solo V2 and your OpenPGP smartcard
  2. To get a list of the tokens scdaemon sees, run the following command: $ echo scd getinfo reader_list gpg-connect-agent --decode awk '/^D/ print $2 '
  3. Identify your OpenPGP smartcard. For example, my Nitrokey Start is listed as 20A0:4211:FSIJ-1.2.15-43211613:0
  4. Create a file in ~/.gnupg/scdaemon.conf with the following line reader-port $YOUR_TOKEN_ID. For example, in my case I have: reader-port 20A0:4211:FSIJ-1.2.15-43211613:0
  5. Reload scdaemon: $ gpgconf --reload scdaemon
Although this is clearly a firmware bug2, I do believe GnuPG is also partly to blame here. Let's just say I was not very surprised to have to battle scdaemon again, as I've had previous issues with it. Which leads me to my biggest gripe so far: it seems SoloKeys (the company) isn't really fixing firmware issues anymore and doesn't seems to care. The last firmware release is about a year old. Although people are experiencing serious bugs, there is no official way to report them, which leads to issues being seemingly ignored. For example, the NFC feature is apparently killing keys (!!!), but no one from the company seems to have acknowledged the issue. The same goes for my GnuPG bug, which was flagged in September 2022. For a project that mainly differentiates itself from its (superior) competition by being "Open", it's not a very good look... Although SoloKeys is still an unprofitable open source side business of its creators 3, this kind of attitude certainly doesn't help foster trust. Conclusion If you want to have a nice, durable FIDO2 token, I would suggest you get one of the many models Yubico offers. They are similarly priced, are readily commercially available, are part of a nice and maintained software ecosystem and have more features than the Solo V2 (OpenPGP support being the one I miss the most). Yubikeys are the practical option. What they are not is open-source hardware, whereas the Solo V2 is. As bunnie very well explained on his blog in 2019, it does not mean the later is inherently more trustable than the former, but it does make the Solo V2 the ideological option. Knowledge is power and it should be free. As such, tread carefully with SoloKeys, but don't dismiss them altogether: the Solo V2 is certainly functioning well enough for me.

  1. Although U2F is still part of the FIDO2 specification, the Tomus predate this standard and were thus not fully compliant with FIDO2. So long and thanks for all the fish little boards, you've served me well!
  2. It appears the Solo V2 shares its firmware with the Nitrokey 3, which had a similar issue a while back.
  3. This is a direct quote from one of the Solo V2 firmware maintainers.

29 May 2023

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Python 3.11, pip and (breaking) system packages

As we get closer to Debian Bookworm's release, I thought I'd share one change in Python 3.11 that will surely affect many people. Python 3.11 implements the new PEP 668, Marking Python base environments as externally managed 1. If you use pip regularly on Debian, it's likely you'll eventually hit the externally-managed-environment error:
error: externally-managed-environment
  This environment is externally managed
 > To install Python packages system-wide, try apt install
    python3-xyz, where xyz is the package you are trying to
    If you wish to install a non-Debian-packaged Python package,
    create a virtual environment using python3 -m venv path/to/venv.
    Then use path/to/venv/bin/python and path/to/venv/bin/pip. Make
    sure you have python3-full installed.
    If you wish to install a non-Debian packaged Python application,
    it may be easiest to use pipx install xyz, which will manage a
    virtual environment for you. Make sure you have pipx installed.
    See /usr/share/doc/python3.11/README.venv for more information.
note: If you believe this is a mistake, please contact your Python installation or OS distribution provider. You can override this, at the risk of breaking your Python installation or OS, by passing --break-system-packages.
hint: See PEP 668 for the detailed specification.
With this PEP, Python tools can now distinguish between packages that have been installed by the user with a tool like pip and ones installed using a distribution's package manager, like apt. This is generally great news: it was previously too easy to break a system by mixing the two types of packages. This PEP will simplify our role as a distribution, as well as improve the overall Python user experience in Debian. Sadly, it's also likely this change will break some of your scripts, especially CI that (legitimately) install packages via pip alongside system packages. For example, I use the following gitlab-ci snippet to make sure my PRs don't break my build process2:
  stage: build
  - apt-get update && apt-get install -y flit python3-pip
  - FLIT_ROOT_INSTALL=1 flit install
  - metalfinder --help
With Python 3.11, this snippet will error out, as pip will refuse to install packages alongside the system's. The fix is to tell pip it's OK to "break" your system packages, either using the --break-system-packages parameter, or the PIP_BREAK_SYSTEM_PACKAGES=1 environment variable3. This, of course, is not something you should be using in production to restore the old behavior! The "proper" way to fix this issue, as the externally-managed-environment error message aptly (har har) informs you, is to use virtual environments. Happy hacking!

  1. Kudos to our own Matthias Klose, Stefano Rivera and Elana Hashman, who worked on designing and implementing this PEP!
  2. Which is something that bit me before... You push some changes to your git repository, everything seems fine and all the tests pass, so you merge it and make a new git tag. When the time comes to build and upload this tag to PyPi, you find out some minor thing broke your build system (which you weren't testing) and you have to scramble to make a point-release to fix the issue. Sad!
  3. Don't go searching for this environment variable in pip's code though, as you won't find it! All of pip's command line options can be passed as env vars using the PIP_<UPPER_LONG_NAME> format. Useful for tools that use pip indirectly, like flit.

3 March 2023

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Goodbye Bullseye report from the Montreal 2023 BSP

Hello World! I haven't really had time to blog here since the start of the semester, as I've been pretty busy at work1. All this to say, this report for the Bug Squashing Party we held in Montreal last weekend is a little late, sorry :) First of all, I'm pleased to announce our local community seems to be doing great and has recovered from the pandemic-induced lull. May COVID stay away from our bodies forever. This time around, a total of 9 people made it to what has become somewhat of a biennial tradition2. We worked on a grand total of 14 bugs and even managed to close some! It looks like I was too concentrated on bugs to take a picture of the event... To redeem myself, I hereby offer you a picture of a cute-but-hairless cat I met on Sunday morning: Picture of a curious sphinx cat on a table You should try to join an upcoming BSP or to organise one if you can. It's loads of fun and you'll be helping the project make the next release happen sooner! As always, thanks to Debian for granting us a budget for the food and to rent the venue. Goodbye Bullseye!

  1. Which I guess is a good thing, since it means I actually have work this semester :O
  2. See our previous BSPs in 2017, 2019 and 2021.

26 January 2023

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Montreal Subway Foot Traffic Data, 2022 edition

For the fourth year in a row, I've asked Soci t de Transport de Montr al, Montreal's transit agency, for the foot traffic data of Montreal's subway. By clicking on a subway station, you'll be redirected to a graph of the station's foot traffic. Licences

23 December 2022

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: 2022 A Musical Retrospective

With the end of the year approaching fast, I thought putting my year in retrospective via music would be a fun thing to do. Albums In 2022, I added 51 new albums to my collection nearly one a week! I listed them below in the order in which I acquired them. I purchased most of these albums when I could and borrowed the rest at libraries. If you want to browse though, I added links to the album covers pointing either to websites where you can buy them or to Discogs when digital copies weren't available1. Browsing through the albums, I can see my tastes really shifted a lot in the last few years. I used to listen to a lot of Hip-Hop, but the recent trends in this genre2 really turn me off. In fact, it seems I didn't add a single Hip-Hop album to my collection this year... Metal also continues to dominate the list. Many thanks to Angry Metal Guy for being the best metal reviewing website out there. Concerts 2022 was also a big change for me, as I started going to much more concerts than I previously did. metalfinder has been working great and I'm really happy with it. Here are the concerts I went to in 2022: I'm looking forward continuing to go to a lot of concerts in 2023!

  1. Some of the albums especially the O ! ones are pretty underground. For most of those, I actually have physical copies I bought and ripped.
  2. Mostly mumble rap, beats than are less and less sample-based, extreme commercialisation and lyrics that are less and less political and engaged.

8 December 2022

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Debian Python Team 2022 Sprint Report

This is the report for the Debian Python Team remote sprint that took place on December 2-3-4 2022. Many thanks to those who participated, namely: Here is a list of issues we worked on: pybuild autodep8 feature About a year ago, Antonio Terceiro contributed code to pybuild to make it possible to automatically run the upstream test suite as autopkgtests. This feature has now been merged and uploaded to unstable. Although you can find out more about it in the pybuild-autopkgtest manpage, an email providing more details should be sent to the debian-python mailing list relatively soon. Fixing packages that run tests via python3 test Last August, Stefano Rivera poked the team about the deprecation of the python3 test command to run tests in pybuild. Although this feature has been deprecated upstream for 6 years now, many packages in the archive still use it to run the upstream test suite during build. Around 29 of the 67 packages that are team-maintained by the Debian Python Team were fixed during the sprint. Ideally, all of them would be before the feature is removed from pybuild. if a package you maintain still runs this command, please consider fixing it! Fixing packages that use nose nose, provided by the python3-nose package, is an obsolete testing framework for Python and has been unmaintained since 2015. During the sprint, people worked on fixing some of the many bugs filled against packages still running tests via nose, but there are still around 240 packages affected by this issue in the archive. Again, if a package you maintain still runs this command, please consider fixing it! Removal of the remaining Python2 packages With the upload of dh-python 5.20221202, Stefano Rivera officially removed support for dh_python2 and dh_pypy, thus closing the "Python2 removal in sid/bullseye" bug. It seems some work still needs to be done for complete Python2 removal from Sid, but I expect this will be done in time for the Bookworm release. Working on Lintian tags for the Team During the sprint, I managed to work on some Lintian issues that we had targeted, namely: I also worked on a few other Lintian tags, but they were unrelated to the Debian Python Team itself. I'm also happy to report many of the tags I wrote for the team in the past few months were merged by the awesome Russ Allbery and should land in unstable as soon as a new release is made. I'm particularly looking forward the new "uses-python-distutils" tag that should help us flag packages that still use the deprecated distutils library. Patching distro-tracker ( to show pending team MRs It's often hard to have a good overview of pending merge requests when working with team-maintained packages, as by default, Salsa doesn't notify anyone when a MR is opened. Although our workflow typically does not involve creating merge requests, some people still do and they end up sitting there, unnoticed. During the sprint, Kurt Kremitzki worked on solving this issue by having distro-tracker show the pending MRs on our team's tracker page. Sadly, it seems little progress was made, as the removal of python3-django-jsonfield from the archive and breaking changes in python3-selenium has broken the test suite. Migrate packages building with the flit plugin to the generic pyproject one pybuild has been supporting building with PEP-517 style pyproject.toml files via a generic plugin (pybuild-plugin-pyproject) for a while now. As this plugin supersedes the old flit plugin, we've been thinking of deprecating it in time for the Bookworm release. To make this possible, most of the packages in the archive that still used this plugin were migrated to the generic one and I opened bugs on the last handful of packages that were not team-maintained. Other work Many other things were done during the sprint, such as: Thanks Thanks again to everyone who joined the sprint, and three big cheers for all the folks who donate to Debian and made it possible for us to have a food budget for the event.

4 November 2022

Louis-Philippe V ronneau: Book Review: Chokepoint Capitalism, by Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow

Two weeks ago, I had the chance to go see Cory Doctorow at my local independent bookstore, in Montr al. He was there to present his latest essay, co-written with Rebecca Giblin1. Titled Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We'll Win Them Back, it focuses on the impact of monopolies and monopsonies (more on this later) on creative workers. The book is divided in two main parts: A picture of the book cover Although Doctorow is known for his strong political stances, I have to say I'm quite surprised by the quality of the research Giblin and he did for this book. They both show a pretty advanced understanding of the market dynamics they look at, and even though most of the solutions they propose aren't new or groundbreaking, they manage to be convincing and clear. That is to say, you certainly don't need to be an economist to understand or enjoy this book :) As I have mentioned before, the book heavily criticises monopolies, but also monopsonies a market structure that has only one buyer (instead of one seller). I find this quite interesting, as whereas people are often familiar with the concept of monopolies, monopsonies are frequently overlooked. The classic example of a monopsony is a labor market with a single employer: there is a multitude of workers trying to sell their labor power, but in the end, working conditions are dictated by the sole employer, who gets to decide who has a job and who hasn't. Mining towns are good real-world examples of monopsonies. In the book, the authors argue most of the contemporary work produced by creative workers (especially musicians and writers) is sold to monopsonies and oligopsonies, like Amazon2 or major music labels. This creates a situation where the consumers are less directly affected by the lack of competition in the market (they often get better prices), but where creators have an increasingly hard time making ends meet. Not only this, but natural monopsonies3 are relatively rare, making the case for breaking the existing ones even stronger. Apart from the evident need to actually start applying (the quite good) antitrust laws in the USA, some of the other solutions put forward are: Overall, I found this book quite enjoying and well written. Since I am not a creative worker myself and don't experience first-hand the hardships presented in the book, it was the occasion for me to delve more deeply in this topic. Chances are I'll reuse some of the expos s in my classes too.

  1. Professor at the Melbourne Law School and Director of the Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia, amongst other things. More on her here.
  2. Amazon owns more than 50% of the US physical book retail market and has an even higher market share for ebooks and audiobooks (via Audible). Not only this, but with the decline of the physical book market, audiobooks are an increasingly important source of revenue for authors.
  3. Natural monopolies happen when it does not make economic sense for multiple enterprises to compete in a market. Critical infrastructures, like water supply or electricity, make for good examples of natural monopolies. It simply wouldn't be efficient to have 10 separate electrical cables connecting your house to 10 separate electric grids. In my opinion, such monopolies are acceptable (and even desirable), as long as they are collectively owned, either by the State or by local entities (municipalities, non-profits, etc.).