Search Results: "rak"

25 December 2023

Sergio Talens-Oliag: GitLab CI/CD Tips: Automatic Versioning Using semantic-release

This post describes how I m using semantic-release on gitlab-ci to manage versioning automatically for different kinds of projects following a simple workflow (a develop branch where changes are added or merged to test new versions, a temporary release/#.#.# to generate the release candidate versions and a main branch where the final versions are published).

What is semantic-releaseIt is a Node.js application designed to manage project versioning information on Git Repositories using a Continuous integration system (in this post we will use gitlab-ci)

How does it workBy default semantic-release uses semver for versioning (release versions use the format MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH) and commit messages are parsed to determine the next version number to publish. If after analyzing the commits the version number has to be changed, the command updates the files we tell it to (i.e. the package.json file for nodejs projects and possibly a file), creates a new commit with the changed files, creates a tag with the new version and pushes the changes to the repository. When running on a CI/CD system we usually generate the artifacts related to a release (a package, a container image, etc.) from the tag, as it includes the right version number and usually has passed all the required tests (it is a good idea to run the tests again in any case, as someone could create a tag manually or we could run extra jobs when building the final assets if they fail it is not a big issue anyway, numbers are cheap and infinite, so we can skip releases if needed).

Commit messages and versioningThe commit messages must follow a known format, the default module used to analyze them uses the angular git commit guidelines, but I prefer the conventional commits one, mainly because it s a lot easier to use when you want to update the MAJOR version. The commit message format used must be:
<type>(optional scope): <description>
[optional body]
[optional footer(s)]
The system supports three types of branches: release, maintenance and pre-release, but for now I m not using maintenance ones. The branches I use and their types are:
  • main as release branch (final versions are published from there)
  • develop as pre release branch (used to publish development and testing versions with the format #.#.#-SNAPSHOT.#)
  • release/#.#.# as pre release branches (they are created from develop to publish release candidate versions with the format #.#.#-rc.# and once they are merged with main they are deleted)
On the release branch (main) the version number is updated as follows:
  1. The MAJOR number is incremented if a commit with a BREAKING CHANGE: footer or an exclamation (!) after the type/scope is found in the list of commits found since the last version change (it looks for tags on the same branch).
  2. The MINOR number is incremented if the MAJOR number is not going to be changed and there is a commit with type feat in the commits found since the last version change.
  3. The PATCH number is incremented if neither the MAJOR nor the MINOR numbers are going to be changed and there is a commit with type fix in the the commits found since the last version change.
On the pre release branches (develop and release/#.#.#) the version and pre release numbers are always calculated from the last published version available on the branch (i. e. if we published version 1.3.2 on main we need to have the commit with that tag on the develop or release/#.#.# branch to get right what will be the next version). The version number is updated as follows:
  1. The MAJOR number is incremented if a commit with a BREAKING CHANGE: footer or an exclamation (!) after the type/scope is found in the list of commits found since the last released version.In our example it was 1.3.2 and the version is updated to 2.0.0-SNAPSHOT.1 or 2.0.0-rc.1 depending on the branch.
  2. The MINOR number is incremented if the MAJOR number is not going to be changed and there is a commit with type feat in the commits found since the last released version.In our example the release was 1.3.2 and the version is updated to 1.4.0-SNAPSHOT.1 or 1.4.0-rc.1 depending on the branch.
  3. The PATCH number is incremented if neither the MAJOR nor the MINOR numbers are going to be changed and there is a commit with type fix in the the commits found since the last version change.In our example the release was 1.3.2 and the version is updated to 1.3.3-SNAPSHOT.1 or 1.3.3-rc.1 depending on the branch.
  4. The pre release number is incremented if the MAJOR, MINOR and PATCH numbers are not going to be changed but there is a commit that would otherwise update the version (i.e. a fix on 1.3.3-SNAPSHOT.1 will set the version to 1.3.3-SNAPSHOT.2, a fix or feat on 1.4.0-rc.1 will set the version to 1.4.0-rc.2 an so on).

How do we manage its configurationAlthough the system is designed to work with nodejs projects, it can be used with multiple programming languages and project types. For nodejs projects the usual place to put the configuration is the project s package.json, but I prefer to use the .releaserc file instead. As I use a common set of CI templates, instead of using a .releaserc on each project I generate it on the fly on the jobs that need it, replacing values related to the project type and the current branch on a template using the tmpl command (lately I use a branch of my own fork while I wait for some feedback from upstream, as you will see on the Dockerfile).

Container used to run itAs we run the command on a gitlab-ci job we use the image built from the following Dockerfile:
# Semantic release image
FROM golang:alpine AS tmpl-builder
#RUN go install
RUN go install
FROM node:lts-alpine
COPY --from=tmpl-builder /go/bin/tmpl /usr/local/bin/tmpl
RUN apk update &&\
  apk upgrade &&\
  apk add curl git jq openssh-keygen yq zip &&\
  npm install --location=global\
  rm -rf /var/cache/apk/*
CMD ["/bin/sh"]

How and when is it executedThe job that runs semantic-release is executed when new commits are added to the develop, release/#.#.# or main branches (basically when something is merged or pushed) and after all tests have passed (we don t want to create a new version that does not compile or passes at least the unit tests). The job is something like the following:
    - if: '$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH =~ /^(develop main release\/\d+.\d+.\d+)$/'
      when: always
  stage: release
    - echo "Loading"
    - . $ASSETS_DIR/
    - sr_gen_releaserc_json
    - git_push_setup
    - semantic-release
Where the SEMANTIC_RELEASE_IMAGE variable contains the URI of the image built using the Dockerfile above and the sr_gen_releaserc_json and git_push_setup are functions defined on the $ASSETS_DIR/ file:
  • The sr_gen_releaserc_json function generates the .releaserc.json file using the tmpl command.
  • The git_push_setup function configures git to allow pushing changes to the repository with the semantic-release command, optionally signing them with a SSH key.

The sr_gen_releaserc_json functionThe code for the sr_gen_releaserc_json function is the following:
  # Use nodejs as default project_type
  project_type="$ PROJECT_TYPE:-nodejs "
  # REGEX to match the rc_branch name
  # PATHS on the local ASSETS_DIR
  assets_dir="$ CI_PROJECT_DIR /$ ASSETS_DIR "
  sr_local_plugin="$ assets_dir /local-plugin.cjs"
  releaserc_tmpl="$ assets_dir /releaserc.json.tmpl"
  pipeline_values_yaml="$ assets_dir /values_$ project_type _project.yaml"
  # Destination PATH
  # Create an empty pipeline_values_yaml if missing
  test -f "$pipeline_values_yaml"   : >"$pipeline_values_yaml"
  # Create the pipeline_runtime_values_yaml file
  echo "branch: $ CI_COMMIT_BRANCH " >"$pipeline_runtime_values_yaml"
  echo "gitlab_url: $ CI_SERVER_URL " >"$pipeline_runtime_values_yaml"
  # Add the rc_branch name if we are on an rc_branch
  if [ "$(echo "$CI_COMMIT_BRANCH"   sed -ne "/$rc_branch_regex/ p ")" ]; then
    echo "rc_branch: $ CI_COMMIT_BRANCH " >>"$pipeline_runtime_values_yaml"
      sed -ne "/$rc_branch_regex/ p ")" ]; then
    echo "rc_branch: $ CI_MERGE_REQUEST_SOURCE_BRANCH_NAME " \
  echo "sr_local_plugin: $ sr_local_plugin " >>"$pipeline_runtime_values_yaml"
  # Create the releaserc_json file
  tmpl -f "$pipeline_runtime_values_yaml" -f "$pipeline_values_yaml" \
    "$releaserc_tmpl"   jq . >"$releaserc_json"
  # Remove the pipeline_runtime_values_yaml file
  rm -f "$pipeline_runtime_values_yaml"
  # Print the releaserc_json file
  print_file_collapsed "$releaserc_json"
  # --*-- BEG: NOTE --*--
  # Rename the package.json to ignore it when calling semantic release.
  # The idea is that the local-plugin renames it back on the first step of the
  # semantic-release process.
  # --*-- END: NOTE --*--
  if [ -f "package.json" ]; then
    echo "Renaming 'package.json' to 'package.json_disabled'"
    mv "package.json" "package.json_disabled"
Almost all the variables used on the function are defined by gitlab except the ASSETS_DIR and PROJECT_TYPE; in the complete pipelines the ASSETS_DIR is defined on a common file included by all the pipelines and the project type is defined on the .gitlab-ci.yml file of each project. If you review the code you will see that the file processed by the tmpl command is named releaserc.json.tmpl, its contents are shown here:
  "plugins": [
     - if .sr_local_plugin  
    "  .sr_local_plugin  ",
     - end  
        "preset": "conventionalcommits",
        "releaseRules": [
            "breaking": true, "release": "major"  ,
            "revert": true, "release": "patch"  ,
            "type": "feat", "release": "minor"  ,
            "type": "fix", "release": "patch"  ,
            "type": "perf", "release": "patch"  
     - if .replacements  
        "replacements":   .replacements   toJson    
     - end  
     - if eq .branch "main"  
        "changelogFile": "", "changelogTitle": "# Changelog"  
     - end  
        "assets":   if .assets   .assets   toJson   else  []  end  ,
        "message": "ci(release): v$ nextRelease.version \n\n$ nextRelease.notes "
        "gitlabUrl": "  .gitlab_url  ", "successComment": false  
  "branches": [
      "name": "develop", "prerelease": "SNAPSHOT"  ,
     - if .rc_branch  
      "name": "  .rc_branch  ", "prerelease": "rc"  ,
     - end  
The values used to process the template are defined on a file built on the fly (releaserc_values.yaml) that includes the following keys and values:
  • branch: the name of the current branch
  • gitlab_url: the URL of the gitlab server (the value is taken from the CI_SERVER_URL variable)
  • rc_branch: the name of the current rc branch; we only set the value if we are processing one because semantic-release only allows one branch to match the rc prefix and if we use a wildcard (i.e. release/*) but the users keep more than one release/#.#.# branch open at the same time the calls to semantic-release will fail for sure.
  • sr_local_plugin: the path to the local plugin we use (shown later)
The template also uses a values_$ project_type _project.yaml file that includes settings specific to the project type, the one for nodejs is as follows:
  - files:
      - "package.json"
    from: "\"version\": \".*\""
    to: "\"version\": \"$ nextRelease.version \""
  - ""
  - "package.json"
The replacements section is used to update the version field on the relevant files of the project (in our case the package.json file) and the assets section includes the files that will be committed to the repository when the release is published (looking at the template you can see that the is only updated for the main branch, we do it this way because if we update the file on other branches it creates a merge nightmare and we are only interested on it for released versions anyway). The local plugin adds code to rename the package.json_disabled file to package.json if present and prints the last and next versions on the logs with a format that can be easily parsed using sed:
// Minimal plugin to:
// - rename the package.json_disabled file to package.json if present
// - log the semantic-release last & next versions
function verifyConditions(pluginConfig, context)  
  var fs = require('fs');
  if (fs.existsSync('package.json_disabled'))  
    fs.renameSync('package.json_disabled', 'package.json');
    context.logger.log( verifyConditions: renamed 'package.json_disabled' to 'package.json' );
function analyzeCommits(pluginConfig, context)  
  if (context.lastRelease && context.lastRelease.version)  
    context.logger.log( analyzeCommits: LAST_VERSION=$ context.lastRelease.version  );
function verifyRelease(pluginConfig, context)  
  if (context.nextRelease && context.nextRelease.version)  
    context.logger.log( verifyRelease: NEXT_VERSION=$ context.nextRelease.version  );
module.exports =  

The git_push_setup functionThe code for the git_push_setup function is the following:
  # Update global credentials to allow git clone & push for all the group repos
  git config --global credential.helper store
  cat >"$HOME/.git-credentials" <<EOF
https://fake-user:$ GITLAB_REPOSITORY_TOKEN
  # Define user name, mail and signing key for semantic-release
  # Export git user variables
  export GIT_AUTHOR_NAME="$user_name"
  export GIT_AUTHOR_EMAIL="$user_email"
  export GIT_COMMITTER_NAME="$user_name"
  export GIT_COMMITTER_EMAIL="$user_email"
  # Sign commits with ssh if there is a SSH_SIGNING_KEY variable
  if [ "$ssh_signing_key" ]; then
    echo "Configuring GIT to sign commits with SSH"
    : >"$ssh_keyfile"
    chmod 0400 "$ssh_keyfile"
    echo "$ssh_signing_key"   tr -d '\r' >"$ssh_keyfile"
    git config gpg.format ssh
    git config user.signingkey "$ssh_keyfile"
    git config commit.gpgsign true
The function assumes that the GITLAB_REPOSITORY_TOKEN variable (set on the CI/CD variables section of the project or group we want) contains a token with read_repository and write_repository permissions on all the projects we are going to use this function. The SR_USER_NAME and SR_USER_EMAIL variables can be defined on a common file or the CI/CD variables section of the project or group we want to work with and the script assumes that the optional SSH_SIGNING_KEY is exported as a CI/CD default value of type variable (that is why the keyfile is created on the fly) and git is configured to use it if the variable is not empty.
Warning: Keep in mind that the variables GITLAB_REPOSITORY_TOKEN and SSH_SIGNING_KEY contain secrets, so probably is a good idea to make them protected (if you do that you have to make the develop, main and release/* branches protected too).
Warning: The semantic-release user has to be able to push to all the projects on those protected branches, it is a good idea to create a dedicated user and add it as a MAINTAINER for the projects we want (the MAINTAINERS need to be able to push to the branches), or, if you are using a Gitlab with a Premium license you can use the api to allow the semantic-release user to push to the protected branches without allowing it for any other user.

The semantic-release commandOnce we have the .releaserc file and the git configuration ready we run the semantic-release command. If the branch we are working with has one or more commits that will increment the version, the tool does the following (note that the steps are described are the ones executed if we use the configuration we have generated):
  1. It detects the commits that will increment the version and calculates the next version number.
  2. Generates the release notes for the version.
  3. Applies the replacements defined on the configuration (in our example updates the version field on the package.json file).
  4. Updates the file adding the release notes if we are going to publish the file (when we are on the main branch).
  5. Creates a commit if all or some of the files listed on the assets key have changed and uses the commit message we have defined, replacing the variables for their current values.
  6. Creates a tag with the new version number and the release notes.
  7. As we are using the gitlab plugin after tagging it also creates a release on the project with the tag name and the release notes.

Notes about the git workflows and merges between branchesIt is very important to remember that semantic-release looks at the commits of a given branch when calculating the next version to publish, that has two important implications:
  1. On pre release branches we need to have the commit that includes the tag with the released version, if we don t have it the next version is not calculated correctly.
  2. It is a bad idea to squash commits when merging a branch to another one, if we do that we will lose the information semantic-release needs to calculate the next version and even if we use the right prefix for the squashed commit (fix, feat, ) we miss all the messages that would otherwise go to the file.
To make sure that we have the right commits on the pre release branches we should merge the main branch changes into the develop one after each release tag is created; in my pipelines the fist job that processes a release tag creates a branch from the tag and an MR to merge it to develop. The important thing about that MR is that is must not be squashed, if we do that the tag commit will probably be lost, so we need to be careful. To merge the changes directly we can run the following code:
# Set the SR_TAG variable to the tag you want to process
# Fetch all the changes
git fetch --all --prune
# Switch to the main branch
git switch main
# Pull all the changes
git pull
# Switch to the development branch
git switch develop
# Pull all the changes
git pull
# Create followup branch from tag
git switch -c "followup/$SR_TAG" "$SR_TAG"
# Change files manually & commit the changed files
git commit -a --untracked-files=no -m "ci(followup): $SR_TAG to develop"
# Switch to the development branch
git switch develop
# Merge the followup branch into the development one using the --no-ff option
git merge --no-ff "followup/$SR_TAG"
# Remove the followup branch
git branch -d "followup/$SR_TAG"
# Push the changes
git push
If we can t push directly to develop we can create a MR pushing the followup branch after committing the changes, but we have to make sure that we don t squash the commits when merging or it will not work as we want.

20 December 2023

Ryan Kavanagh: Battery charge start and stop threshold on OpenBSD

I often use my laptops as portable desktops: they are plugged into AC power and an external monitor/keyboard 95% of time. Unfortunately, continuous charging is hard on the battery. To mitigate this, ThinkPads have customizable start and stop charging thresholds, such that the battery will only start charging if its level falls below the start threshold, and it will stop charging as soon as it reaches the stop threshold. Suggested thresholds from Lenovo s battery team can be found in this comment. You can set these thresholds on Linux using tlp-stat(8), and you can make the values persist across reboots by setting START_CHARGE_THRESH_BAT0 and STOP_CHARGE_THERSH_BAT0 in /etc/tlp.conf. I recently installed OpenBSD on my work ThinkPad, but struggled to find any information on how to set the thresholds under OpenBSD. After only finding a dead-end thread from 2021 on misc@, I started digging around on how to implement it myself. The acpithinkpad and acpibat drivers looked promising, and a bit of Google-fu lead me to the following small announcement in the OpenBSD 7.4 release notes:
New sysctl(2) nodes for battery management, hw.battery.charge*. Support them with acpithinkpad(4) and aplsmc(4).
Lo and behold, setting the start and stop threshold in OpenBSD is simply a matter of setting hw.battery.chargestart and hw.battery.chargestop with sysctl. The documentation was not committed in time for the 7.4 release, but you can read it in -CURRENT s sysctl(2). I personally set the following values in /etc/sysctl.conf:

20 November 2023

Russ Allbery: Review: The Exiled Fleet

Review: The Exiled Fleet, by J.S. Dewes
Series: Divide #2
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: 2021
ISBN: 1-250-23635-5
Format: Kindle
Pages: 421
The Exiled Fleet is far-future interstellar military SF. It is a direct sequel to The Last Watch. You don't want to start here. The Last Watch took a while to get going, but it ended with some fascinating world-building and a suitably enormous threat. I was hoping Dewes would carry that momentum into the second book. I was disappointed; instead, The Exiled Fleet starts with interpersonal angst and wallowing and takes an annoyingly long time to build up narrative tension again. The world-building of the first book looked outward, towards aliens and strange technology and stranger physics, while setting up contributing problems on the home front. The Exiled Fleet pivots inwards, both in terms of world-building and in terms of character introspection. Neither of those worked as well for me. There's nothing wrong with the revelations here about human power structures and the politics that the Sentinels have been missing at the edge of space, but it also felt like a classic human autocracy without much new to offer in either wee thinky bits or plot structure. We knew most of shape from the start of the first book: Cavalon's grandfather is evil, human society is run as an oligarchy, and everything is trending authoritarian. Once the action started, I was entertained but not gripped the way that I was when reading The Last Watch. Dewes makes a brief attempt to tap into the morally complex question of the military serving as a brake on tyranny, but then does very little with it. Instead, everything is excessively personal, turning the political into less of a confrontation of ideologies or ethics and more a story of family abuse and rebellion. There is even more psychodrama in this book than there was in the previous book. I found it exhausting. Rake is barely functional after the events of the previous book and pushing herself way too hard at the start of this one. Cavalon regresses considerably and starts falling apart again. There's a lot of moping, a lot of angst, and a lot of characters berating themselves and occasionally each other. It was annoying enough that I took a couple of weeks break from this book in the middle before I could work up the enthusiasm to finish it. Some of this is personal preference. My favorite type of story is competence porn: details about something esoteric and satisfyingly complex, a challenge to overcome, and a main character who deploys their expertise to overcome that challenge in a way that shows they generally have their shit together. I can enjoy other types of stories, but that's the story I'll keep reaching for. Other people prefer stories about fuck-ups and walking disasters, people who barely pull together enough to survive the plot (or sometimes not even that). There's nothing wrong with that, and neither approach is right or wrong, but my tolerance for that story is usually lot lower. I think Dewes is heading towards the type of story in which dysfunctional characters compensate for each other's flaws in order to keep each other going, and intellectually I can see the appeal. But it's not my thing, and when the main characters are falling apart and the supporting characters project considerably more competence, I wish the story had different protagonists. It didn't help that this is in theory military SF, but Dewes does not seem to want to deploy any of the support framework of the military to address any of her characters' problems. This book is a lot of Rake and Cavalon dragging each other through emotional turmoil while coming to terms with Cavalon's family. I liked their dynamic in the first book when it felt more like Rake showing leadership skills. Here, it turns into something closer to found family in ways that seemed wildly inconsistent with the military structure, and while I'm normally not one to defend hierarchical discipline, I felt like Rake threw out the only structure she had to handle the thousands of other people under her command and started winging it based on personal friendship. If this were a small commercial crew, sure, fine, but Rake has a personal command responsibility that she obsessively angsts about and yet keeps abandoning. I realize this is probably another way to complain that I wanted competence porn and got barely-functional fuck-ups. The best parts of this series are the strange technologies and the aliens, and they are again the best part of this book. There was a truly great moment involving Viator technology that I found utterly delightful, and there was an intriguing setup for future books that caught my attention. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of deus ex machina solutions to problems, both from convenient undisclosed character backstories and from alien tech. I felt like the characters had to work satisfyingly hard for their victories in the first book; here, I felt like Dewes kept having issues with her characters being at point A and her plot at point B and pulling some rabbit out of the hat to make the plot work. This unfortunately undermined the cool factor of the world-building by making its plot device aspects a bit too obvious. This series also turns out not to be a duology (I have no idea why I thought it would be). By the end of The Exiled Fleet, none of the major political or world-building problems have been resolved. At best, the characters are in a more stable space to start being proactive. I'm cautiously optimistic that could mean the series would turn into the type of story I was hoping for, but I'm worried that Dewes is interested in writing a different type of character story than I am interested in reading. Hopefully there will be some clues in the synopsis of the (as yet unannounced) third book. I thought The Last Watch had some first-novel problems but was worth reading. I am much more reluctant to recommend The Exiled Fleet, or the series as a whole given that it is incomplete. Unless you like dysfunctional characters, proceed with caution. Rating: 5 out of 10

11 November 2023

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds in October 2023

Welcome to the October 2023 report from the Reproducible Builds project. In these reports we outline the most important things that we have been up to over the past month. As a quick recap, whilst anyone may inspect the source code of free software for malicious flaws, almost all software is distributed to end users as pre-compiled binaries.

Reproducible Builds Summit 2023 Between October 31st and November 2nd, we held our seventh Reproducible Builds Summit in Hamburg, Germany! Our summits are a unique gathering that brings together attendees from diverse projects, united by a shared vision of advancing the Reproducible Builds effort, and this instance was no different. During this enriching event, participants had the opportunity to engage in discussions, establish connections and exchange ideas to drive progress in this vital field. A number of concrete outcomes from the summit will documented in the report for November 2023 and elsewhere. Amazingly the agenda and all notes from all sessions are already online. The Reproducible Builds team would like to thank our event sponsors who include Mullvad VPN, openSUSE, Debian, Software Freedom Conservancy, Allotropia and Aspiration Tech.

Reflections on Reflections on Trusting Trust Russ Cox posted a fascinating article on his blog prompted by the fortieth anniversary of Ken Thompson s award-winning paper, Reflections on Trusting Trust:
[ ] In March 2023, Ken gave the closing keynote [and] during the Q&A session, someone jokingly asked about the Turing award lecture, specifically can you tell us right now whether you have a backdoor into every copy of gcc and Linux still today?
Although Ken reveals (or at least claims!) that he has no such backdoor, he does admit that he has the actual code which Russ requests and subsequently dissects in great but accessible detail.

Ecosystem factors of reproducible builds Rahul Bajaj, Eduardo Fernandes, Bram Adams and Ahmed E. Hassan from the Maintenance, Construction and Intelligence of Software (MCIS) laboratory within the School of Computing, Queen s University in Ontario, Canada have published a paper on the Time to fix, causes and correlation with external ecosystem factors of unreproducible builds. The authors compare various response times within the Debian and Arch Linux distributions including, for example:
Arch Linux packages become reproducible a median of 30 days quicker when compared to Debian packages, while Debian packages remain reproducible for a median of 68 days longer once fixed.
A full PDF of their paper is available online, as are many other interesting papers on MCIS publication page.

NixOS installation image reproducible On the NixOS Discourse instance, Arnout Engelen (raboof) announced that NixOS have created an independent, bit-for-bit identical rebuilding of the nixos-minimal image that is used to install NixOS. In their post, Arnout details what exactly can be reproduced, and even includes some of the history of this endeavour:
You may remember a 2021 announcement that the minimal ISO was 100% reproducible. While back then we successfully tested that all packages that were needed to build the ISO were individually reproducible, actually rebuilding the ISO still introduced differences. This was due to some remaining problems in the hydra cache and the way the ISO was created. By the time we fixed those, regressions had popped up (notably an upstream problem in Python 3.10), and it isn t until this week that we were back to having everything reproducible and being able to validate the complete chain.
Congratulations to NixOS team for reaching this important milestone! Discussion about this announcement can be found underneath the post itself, as well as on Hacker News.

CPython source tarballs now reproducible Seth Larson published a blog post investigating the reproducibility of the CPython source tarballs. Using diffoscope, reprotest and other tools, Seth documents his work that led to a pull request to make these files reproducible which was merged by ukasz Langa.

New arm64 hardware from Codethink Long-time sponsor of the project, Codethink, have generously replaced our old Moonshot-Slides , which they have generously hosted since 2016 with new KVM-based arm64 hardware. Holger Levsen integrated these new nodes to the Reproducible Builds continuous integration framework.

Community updates On our mailing list during October 2023 there were a number of threads, including:
  • Vagrant Cascadian continued a thread about the implementation details of a snapshot archive server required for reproducing previous builds. [ ]
  • Akihiro Suda shared an update on BuildKit, a toolkit for building Docker container images. Akihiro links to a interesting talk they recently gave at DockerCon titled Reproducible builds with BuildKit for software supply-chain security.
  • Alex Zakharov started a thread discussing and proposing fixes for various tools that create ext4 filesystem images. [ ]
Elsewhere, Pol Dellaiera made a number of improvements to our website, including fixing typos and links [ ][ ], adding a NixOS Flake file [ ] and sorting our publications page by date [ ]. Vagrant Cascadian presented Reproducible Builds All The Way Down at the Open Source Firmware Conference.

Distribution work distro-info is a Debian-oriented tool that can provide information about Debian (and Ubuntu) distributions such as their codenames (eg. bookworm) and so on. This month, Benjamin Drung uploaded a new version of distro-info that added support for the SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH environment variable in order to close bug #1034422. In addition, 8 reviews of packages were added, 74 were updated and 56 were removed this month, all adding to our knowledge about identified issues. Bernhard M. Wiedemann published another monthly report about reproducibility within openSUSE.

Software development The Reproducible Builds project detects, dissects and attempts to fix as many currently-unreproducible packages as possible. We endeavour to send all of our patches upstream where appropriate. This month, we wrote a large number of such patches, including: In addition, Chris Lamb fixed an issue in diffoscope, where if the equivalent of file -i returns text/plain, fallback to comparing as a text file. This was originally filed as Debian bug #1053668) by Niels Thykier. [ ] This was then uploaded to Debian (and elsewhere) as version 251.

Reproducibility testing framework The Reproducible Builds project operates a comprehensive testing framework (available at in order to check packages and other artifacts for reproducibility. In October, a number of changes were made by Holger Levsen:
  • Debian-related changes:
    • Refine the handling of package blacklisting, such as sending blacklisting notifications to the #debian-reproducible-changes IRC channel. [ ][ ][ ]
    • Install systemd-oomd on all Debian bookworm nodes (re. Debian bug #1052257). [ ]
    • Detect more cases of failures to delete schroots. [ ]
    • Document various bugs in bookworm which are (currently) being manually worked around. [ ]
  • Node-related changes:
    • Integrate the new arm64 machines from Codethink. [ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ]
    • Improve various node cleanup routines. [ ][ ][ ][ ]
    • General node maintenance. [ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • Monitoring-related changes:
    • Remove unused Munin monitoring plugins. [ ]
    • Complain less visibly about too many installed kernels. [ ]
  • Misc:
    • Enhance the firewall handling on Jenkins nodes. [ ][ ][ ][ ]
    • Install the fish shell everywhere. [ ]
In addition, Vagrant Cascadian added some packages and configuration for snapshot experiments. [ ]

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

14 October 2023

Ravi Dwivedi: Kochi - Wayanad Trip in August-September 2023

A trip full of hitchhiking, beautiful places and welcoming locals.

Day 1: Arrival in Kochi Kochi is a city in the state of Kerala, India. This year s DebConf was to be held in Kochi from 3rd September to 17th of September, which I was planning to attend. My friend Suresh, who was planning to join, told me that 29th August 2023 will be Onam, a major festival of the state of Kerala. So, we planned a Kerala trip before the DebConf. We booked early morning flights for Kochi from Delhi and reached Kochi on 28th August. We had booked a hostel named Zostel in Ernakulam. During check-in, they asked me to fill a form which required signing in using a Google account. I told them I don t have a Google account and I don t want to create one either. The people at the front desk seemed receptive, so I went ahead with telling them the problems of such a sign-in being mandatory for check-in. Anyways, they only took a photo of my passport and let me check-in without a Google account. We stayed in a ten room dormitory, which allowed travellers of any gender. The dormitory room was air-conditioned, spacious, clean and beds were also comfortable. There were two bathrooms in the dormitory and they were clean. Plus, there was a separate dormitory room in the hostel exclusive for females. I noticed that that Zostel was not added in the OpenStreetMap and so, I added it :) . The hostel had a small canteen for tea and snacks, a common sitting area outside the dormitories, which had beds too. There was a separate silent room, suitable for people who want to work.
Dormitory room in Zostel Ernakulam, Kochi.
Beds in Zostel Ernakulam, Kochi.
We had lunch at a nearby restaurant and it was hard to find anything vegetarian for me. I bought some freshly made banana chips from the street and they were tasty. As far as I remember, I had a big glass of pineapple juice for lunch. Then I went to the Broadway market and bought some cardamom and cinnamon for home. I also went to a nearby supermarket and bought Matta brown rice for home. Then, I looked for a courier shop to send the things home but all of them were closed due to Onam festival. After returning to the Zostel, I overslept till 9 PM and in the meanwhile, Suresh planned with Saidut and Shwetank (who met us during our stay in Zostel) to go to a place in Fort Kochi for dinner. I suspected I will be disappointed by lack of vegetarian options as they were planning to have fish. I already had a restaurant in mind - Brindhavan restaurant (suggested by Anupa), which was a pure vegetarian restaurant. To reach there, I got off at Palarivattom metro station and started looking for an auto-rickshaw to get to the restaurant. I didn t get any for more than 5 minutes. Since that restaurant was not added to the OpenStreetMap, I didn t even know how far that was and which direction to go to. Then, I saw a Zomato delivery person on a motorcycle and asked him where the restaurant was. It was already 10 PM and the restaurant closes at 10:30. So, I asked him whether he can drop me off. He agreed and dropped me off at that restaurant. It was 4-5 km from that metro station. I tipped him and expressed my gratefulness for the help. He refused to take the tip, but I insisted and he accepted. I entered the restaurant and it was coming to a close, so many items were not available. I ordered some Kadhai Paneer (only item left) with naan. It tasted fine. Since the next day was Thiruvonam, I asked the restaurant about the Sadya thali menu and prices for the next day. I planned to eat Sadya thali at that restaurant, but my plans got changed later.
Onam sadya menu from Brindhavan restaurant.

Day 2: Onam celebrations Next day, on 29th of August 2023, we had plan to leave for Wayanad. Wayanad is a hill station in Kerala and a famous tourist spot. Praveen suggested to visit Munnar as it is far closer to Kochi than Wayanad (80 km vs 250 km). But I had already visited Munnar in my previous trips, so we chose Wayanad. We had a train late night from Ernakulam Junction (at 23:30 hours) to Kozhikode, which is the nearest railway station from Wayanad. So, we checked out in the morning as we had plans to roam around in Kochi before taking the train. Zostel was celebrating Onam on that day. To opt-in, we had to pay 400 rupees, which included a Sadya Thali and a mundu. Me and Suresh paid the amount and opted in for the celebrations. Sadya thali had Rice, Sambhar, Rasam, Avial, Banana Chips, Pineapple Pachadi, Pappadam, many types of pickels and chutneys, Pal Ada Payasam and Coconut jaggery Pasam. And, there was water too :). Those payasams were really great and I had one more round of them. Later, I had a lot of variety of payasams during the DebConf.
Sadya lined up for serving
Sadya thali served on banana leaf.
So, we hung out in the common room and put our luggage there. We played UNO and had conversations with other travellers in the hostel. I had a fun time there and I still think it is one of the best hostel experiences I had. We made good friends with Saiduth (Telangana) and Shwetank (Uttarakhand). They were already aware about the software like debian, and we had some detailed conversations about the Free Software movement. I remember explaining the difference between the terms Open Source and Free Software . I also told them about the Streetcomplete app, a beginner friendly app to edit OpenStreetMap. We had dinner at a place nearby (named Palaraam), but again, the vegetarian options were very limited! After dinner, we came back to the Zostel and me and Suresh left for Ernakulam Junction to catch our train Maveli Express (16604).

Day 3: Going to Wayanad Maveli Express was scheduled to reach Kozhikode at 03:25 (morning). I had set alarms from 03:00 to 03:30, with the gap of 10 minutes. Every time I woke up, I turned off the alarm. Then I woke up and saw train reaching the Kozhikode station and woke up Suresh for deboarding. But then I noticed that the train is actually leaving the station, not arriving! This means we missed our stop. Now we looked at the next stops and whether we can deboard there. I was very sleepy and wanted to take a retiring room at some station before continuing our journey to Wayanad. The next stop was Quilandi and we checked online that it didn t have a retiring room. So, we skipped this stop. We got off at the next stop named Vadakara and found out no retiring room was available. So, we asked about information regarding bus for Wayanad and they said that there is a bus to Wayanad around 07:00 hours from bus station which was a few kilometres from the railway station. We took a bus for Kalpetta (in Wayanad) at around 07:00. The destination of the buses were written in Malayalam, which we could not read. Once again, the locals helped us to get on to the bus to Kalpetta. Vadakara is not a big city and it can be hard to find people who know good Hindi or English, unlike Kochi. Despite language issues, I had no problem there in navigation, thanks to locals. I mostly spent time sleeping during the bus journey. A few hours later, the bus dropped us at Kalpetta. We had a booking at a hostel in Rippon village. It was 16 km from Kalpetta. On the way, we were treated with beautiful views of nature, which was present everywhere in Wayanad. The place was covered with tea gardens and our eyes were treated with beautiful scenery at every corner.
We were treated with such views during the Wayanad trip.
Rippon village was a very quiet place and I liked the calm atmosphere. This place is blessed by nature and has stunning scenery. I found English was more common than Hindi in Wayanad. Locals were very nice and helped me, even if they didn t know my language.
A road in Rippon.
After catching some sleep at the hostel, I went out in the afternoon. I hitchhiked to reach the main road from the hostel. I bought more spices from a nearby shop and realized that I should have waited for my visit to Wayanad to buy cardamom, which I already bought from Kochi. Then, I was looking for post office to send spices home. The people at the spices shop told me that the nearby Rippon post office was closed by that time, but the post office at Meppadi was open, which was 5 km from there. I went to Meppadi and saw the post office closes at 15:00, but I reached five minutes late. My packing was not very good and they asked me to pack it tighter. There was a shop near the post office and the people there gave me a cardboard and tapes, and helped pack my stuff for the post. By the time I went to the post office again, it was 15:30. But they accepted my parcel for post.

Day 4: Kanthanpara Falls, Zostel Wayanad and Karapuzha Dam Kanthanpara waterfalls were 2 km from the hostel. I hitchhiked to the place from the hostel on a scooty. Entry ticket was worth Rs 40. There were good views inside and nothing much to see except the waterfalls.
Entry to Kanthanpara Falls.
Kanthanpara Falls.
We had a booking at Zostel Wayanad for this day and so we shifted there. Again, as with their Ernakulam branch, they asked me to fill a form which required signing in using Google, but when I said I don t have a Google account they checked me in without that. There were tea gardens inside the Zostel boundaries and the property was beautiful.
A view of Zostel Wayanad.
A map of Wayanad showing tourist places.
A view from inside the Zostel Wayanad property.
Later in the evening, I went to Karapuzha Dam. I witnessed a beautiful sunset during the journey. Karapuzha dam had many activites, like ziplining, and was nice to roam around. Chembra Peak is near to the Zostel Wayanad. So, I was planning to trek to the heart shaped lake. It was suggested by Praveen and looking online, this trek seemed worth doing. There was an issue however. The charges for trek were Rs 1770 for upto five people. So, if I go alone I will have to spend Rs 1770 for the trek. If I go with another person, we split Rs 1770 into two, and so on. The optimal way to do it is to go in a group of five (you included :D). I asked front desk at Zostel if they can connect me with people going to Chembra peak the next day, and they told me about a group of four people planning to go to Chembra peak the next day. I got lucky! All four of them were from Kerala and worked in Qatar.

Day 5: Chembra peak trek The date was 1st September 2023. I woke up early (05:30 in the morning) for the Chembra peak trek. I had bought hiking shoes especially for trekking, which turned out to be a very good idea. The ticket counter opens at 07:00. The group of four with which I planned to trek met me around 06:00 in the Zostel. We went to the ticket counter around 06:30. We had breakfast at shops selling Maggi noodles and bread omlette near the ticket counter. It was a hot day and the trek was difficult for an inexperienced person like me. The scenery was green and beautiful throughout.
Terrain during trekking towards the Chembra peak.
Heart-shaped lake at the Chembra peak.
Me at the heart-shaped lake.
Views from the top of the Chembra peak.
View of another peak from the heart-shaped lake.
While returning from the trek, I found out a shop selling bamboo rice, which I bought and will make bamboo rice payasam out of it at home (I have some coconut milk from Kerala too ;)). We returned to Zostel in the afternoon. I had muscle pain after the trek and it has still not completely disappeared. At night, we took a bus from Kalpetta to Kozhikode in order to return to Kochi.

Day 6: Return to Kochi At midnight of 2nd of September, we reached Kozhikode bus stand. Then we roamed around for something to eat. I didn t find anything vegetarian to eat. No surprises there! Then we went to Kozhikode railway station and looked for retiring rooms, but no luck there. We waited at the station and took the next train to Kochi at 03:30 and reached Ernakulam Junction at 07:30 (half hours before train s scheduled time!). From there, we went to Zostel Fort Kochi and stayed one night there and checked out next morning.

Day 7: Roaming around in Fort Kochi On 3rd of September, we roamed around in Fort Kochi. We visited the usual places - St Francis Church, Dutch Palace, Jew Town, Pardesi Synagogue. I also visited some homestays and the owners were very happy to show their place even when I made it clear that I was not looking for a stay. In the evening, we went to Kakkanad to attend DebConf. The story continues in my DebConf23 blog post.

4 October 2023

Russ Allbery: Review: The Last Watch

Review: The Last Watch, by J.S. Dewes
Series: Divide #1
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: 2021
ISBN: 1-250-23634-7
Format: Kindle
Pages: 476
The Last Watch is the first book of a far-future science fiction duology. It was J.S. Dewes's first novel. The station of the SCS Argus is the literal edge of the universe: the Divide, beyond which there is nothing. Not simply an absence of stars, but a nothing from a deeper level of physics. The Argus is there to guard against a return of the Viators, the technologically superior alien race that nearly conquered humanity hundreds of years prior and has already returned once, apparently traveling along the Divide. Humanity believes the Viators have been wiped out, but they're not taking chances. It is not a sought-after assignment. The Sentinels are the dregs of the military: convicts, troublemakers, and misfits, banished to the literal edge of nowhere. Joining them at the start of this book is the merchant prince, cocky asshole, and exiled sabateur Cavalon Mercer. He doesn't know what to expect from either military service or service on the edge of the universe. He certainly did not expect the Argus to be commanded by Adequin Rake, a literal war hero and a far more effective leader than this post would seem to warrant. There are reasons why Rake is out on the edge of the universe, ones that she's not eager to talk about. They quickly become an afterthought when the Argus discovers that the Divide is approaching their position. The universe is collapsing, and the only people who know about it are people the System Collective would prefer to forget exist. Yes, the edge of the universe, not the edge of the galaxy. Yes, despite having two FTL mechanisms, this book has a scale problem that it never reconciles. And yes, the physics do not really make sense, although this is not the sort of book that tries to explain the science. The characters are too busy trying to survive to develop new foundational theories of physics. I was looking for more good military SF after enjoying Artifact Space so much (and still eagerly awaiting the sequel), so I picked this up. It has some of the same elements: the military as a place where you can make a fresh start with found family elements, the equalizing effects of military assignments, and the merits of good leadership. They're a bit disguised here, since this is a crew of often-hostile misfits under a lot of stress with a partly checked-out captain, but they do surface towards the end of the book. The strength of this book is the mystery of the contracting universe, which poses both an immediate threat to the ship and a longer-term potential threat to, well, everything. The first part of the book builds tension with the immediate threat, but the story comes into its own when the crew starts piecing together the connections between the Viators and the Divide while jury-rigging technology and making risky choices between a lot of bad options. This is the first half of a duology, so the mysteries are not resolved here, but they do reach a satisfying and tantalizing intermediate conclusion. The writing is servicable and adequate, but it's a bit clunky in places. Dewes doesn't quite have the balance right between setting the emotional stakes and not letting the characters indulge in rumination. Rake is a good captain who is worn down and partly checked out, Mercer is scared and hiding it with arrogance and will do well when given the right sort of attention, and all of this is reasonably obvious early on and didn't need as many of the book's pages as it gets. I could have done without the romantic subplot, which I thought was an unnecessary distraction from the plot and turned into a lot of tedious angst, but I suspect I was not the target audience. (Writers, please remember that people can still care about each other and be highly motivated by fear for each other without being romantic partners.) I would not call this a great book. The characters are not going to surprise you that much, and it's a bit long for the amount of plot that it delivers. If you are the sort of person who nit-picks the physics of SF novels and gets annoyed at writers who don't understand how big the universe is, you will have to take a deep breath and hold on to your suspension of disbelief. But Dewes does a good job with ratcheting up the tension and conveying an atmosphere of mysterious things happening at the edge of nowhere, while still keeping it in the genre of mysterious technology and mind-boggingly huge physical phenomena rather than space horror. If you've been looking for that sort of book, this will do. I was hooked and will definitely read the sequel. Followed by The Exiled Fleet. Rating: 7 out of 10

12 September 2023

Jo Shields: Building a NAS

The status quo Back in 2015, I bought an off-the-shelf NAS, a QNAP TS-453mini, to act as my file store and Plex server. I had previously owned a Synology box, and whilst I liked the Synology OS and experience, the hardware was underwhelming. I loaded up the successor QNAP with four 5TB drives in RAID10, and moved all my files over (after some initial DoA drive issues were handled).
QNAP TS-453mini product photoQNAP TS-453mini product photo
That thing has been in service for about 8 years now, and it s been a mixed bag. It was definitely more powerful than the predecessor system, but it was clear that QNAP s OS was not up to the same standard as Synology s perhaps best exemplified by HappyGet 2 , the QNAP webapp for downloading videos from streaming services like YouTube, whose icon is a straight rip-off of StarCraft 2. On its own, meaningless but a bad omen for overall software quality
The logo for QNAP HappyGet 2 and Blizzard's Starcraft 2 side by sideThe logo for QNAP HappyGet 2 and Blizzard s StarCraft 2 side by side
Additionally, the embedded Celeron processor in the NAS turned out to be an issue for some cases. It turns out, when playing back videos with subtitles, most Plex clients do not support subtitles properly instead they rely on the Plex server doing JIT transcoding to bake the subtitles directly into the video stream. I discovered this with some Blu-Ray rips of Game of Thrones some episodes would play back fine on my smart TV, but episodes with subtitled Dothraki speech would play at only 2 or 3 frames per second. The final straw was a ransomware attack, which went through all my data and locked every file below a 60MiB threshold. Practically all my music gone. A substantial collection of downloaded files, all gone. Some of these files had been carried around since my college days digital rarities, or at least digital detritus I felt a real sense of loss at having to replace. This episode was caused by a ransomware targeting specific vulnerabilities in the QNAP OS, not an error on my part. So, I decided to start planning a replacement with:
  • A non-garbage OS, whilst still being a NAS-appliance type offering (not an off-the-shelf Linux server distro)
  • Full remote management capabilities
  • A small form factor comparable to off-the-shelf NAS
  • A powerful modern CPU capable of transcoding high resolution video
  • All flash storage, no spinning rust
At the time, no consumer NAS offered everything (The Asustor FS6712X exists now, but didn t when this project started), so I opted to go for a full DIY rather than an appliance not the first time I ve jumped between appliances and DIY for home storage.

Selecting the core of the system There aren t many companies which will sell you a small motherboard with IPMI. Supermicro is a bust, so is Tyan. But ASRock Rack, the server division of third-tier motherboard vendor ASRock, delivers. Most of their boards aren t actually compliant Mini-ITX size, they re a proprietary Deep Mini-ITX with the regular screw holes, but 40mm of extra length (and a commensurately small list of compatible cases). But, thankfully, they do have a tiny selection of boards without the extra size, and I stumbled onto the X570D4I-2T, a board with an AMD AM4 socket and the mature X570 chipset. This board can use any AMD Ryzen chip (before the latest-gen Ryzen 7000 series); has built in dual 10 gigabit ethernet; IPMI; four (laptop-sized) RAM slots with full ECC support; one M.2 slot for NVMe SSD storage; a PCIe 16x slot (generally for graphics cards, but we live in a world of possibilities); and up to 8 SATA drives OR a couple more NVMe SSDs. It s astonishingly well featured, just a shame it costs about $450 compared to a good consumer-grade Mini ITX AM4 board costing less than half that. I was so impressed with the offering, in fact, that I crowed about it on Mastodon and ended up securing ASRock another sale, with someone else looking into a very similar project to mine around the same timespan. The next question was the CPU. An important feature of a system expected to run 24/7 is low power, and AM4 chips can consume as much as 130W under load, out of the box. At the other end, some models can require as little as 35W under load the OEM-only GE suffix chips, which are readily found for import on eBay. In their PRO variant, they also support ECC (all non-G Ryzen chips support ECC, but only Pro G chips do). The top of the range 8 core Ryzen 7 PRO 5750GE is prohibitively expensive, but the slightly weaker 6 core Ryzen 5 PRO 5650GE was affordable, and one arrived quickly from Hong Kong. Supplemented with a couple of cheap 16 GiB SODIMM sticks of DDR4 PC-3200 direct from Micron for under $50 a piece, that left only cooling as an unsolved problem to get a bootable test system. The official support list for the X570D4I-2T only includes two rackmount coolers, both expensive and hard to source. The reason for such a small list is the non standard cooling layout of the board instead of an AM4 hole pattern with the standard plastic AM4 retaining clips, it has an Intel 115x hole pattern with a non-standard backplate (Intel 115x boards have no backplate, the stock Intel 115x cooler attaches to the holes with push pins). As such every single cooler compatibility list excludes this motherboard. However, the backplate is only secured with a mild glue with minimal pressure and a plastic prying tool it can be removed, giving compatibility with any 115x cooler (which is basically any CPU cooler for more than a decade). I picked an oversized low profile Thermalright AXP120-X67 hoping that its 120mm fan would cool the nearby MOSFETs and X570 chipset too.
Thermalright AXP120-X67, AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 5650GE, ASRock Rack X570D4I-2T, all assembled and running on a flat surface

Testing up to this point Using a spare ATX power supply, I had enough of a system built to explore the IPMI and UEFI instances, and run MemTest86 to validate my progress. The memory test ran without a hitch and confirmed the ECC was working, although it also showed that the memory was only running at 2933 MT/s instead of the rated 3200 MT/s (a limit imposed by the motherboard, as higher speeds are considered overclocking). The IPMI interface isn t the best I ve ever used by a long shot, but it s minimum viable and allowed me to configure the basics and boot from media entirely via a Web browser.
Memtest86 showing test progress, taken from IPMI remote control window
One sad discovery, however, which I ve never seen documented before, on PCIe bifurcation. With PCI Express, you have a number of lanes which are allocated in groups by the motherboard and CPU manufacturer. For Ryzen prior to Ryzen 7000, that s 16 lanes in one slot for the graphics card; 4 lanes in one M.2 connector for an SSD; then 4 lanes connecting the CPU to the chipset, which can offer whatever it likes for peripherals or extra lanes (bottlenecked by that shared 4x link to the CPU, if it comes down to it). It s possible, with motherboard and CPU support, to split PCIe groups up for example an 8x slot could be split into two 4x slots (eg allowing two NVMe drives in an adapter card NVME drives these days all use 4x). However with a Cezanne Ryzen with integrated graphics, the 16x graphics card slot cannot be split into four 4x slots (ie used for for NVMe drives) the most bifurcation it allows is 8x4x4x, which is useless in a NAS.
Screenshot of PCIe 16x slot bifurcation options in UEFI settings, taken from IPMI remote control window
As such, I had to abandon any ideas of an all-NVMe NAS I was considering: the 16x slot split into four 4x, combined with two 4x connectors fed by the X570 chipset, to a total of 6 NVMe drives. 7.6TB U.2 enterprise disks are remarkably affordable (cheaper than consumer SATA 8TB drives), but alas, I was locked out by my 5650GE. Thankfully I found out before spending hundreds on a U.2 hot swap bay. The NVMe setup would be nearly 10x as fast as SATA SSDs, but at least the SATA SSD route would still outperform any spinning rust choice on the market (including the fastest 10K RPM SAS drives)

Containing the core The next step was to pick a case and power supply. A lot of NAS cases require an SFX (rather than ATX) size supply, so I ordered a modular SX500 unit from Silverstone. Even if I ended up with a case requiring ATX, it s easy to turn an SFX power supply into ATX, and the worst result is you have less space taken up in your case, hardly the worst problem to have. That said, on to picking a case. There s only one brand with any cachet making ITX NAS cases, Silverstone. They have three choices in an appropriate size: CS01-HS, CS280, and DS380. The problem is, these cases are all badly designed garbage. Take the CS280 as an example, the case with the most space for a CPU cooler. Here s how close together the hotswap bay (right) and power supply (left) are:
Internal image of Silverstone CS280 NAS build. Image stolen from ServeTheHome
With actual cables connected, the cable clearance problem is even worse:
Internal image of Silverstone CS280 NAS build. Image stolen from ServeTheHome
Remember, this is the best of the three cases for internal layout, the one with the least restriction on CPU cooler height. And it s garbage! Total hot garbage! I decided therefore to completely skip the NAS case market, and instead purchase a 5.25 -to-2.5 hot swap bay adapter from Icy Dock, and put it in an ITX gamer case with a 5.25 bay. This is no longer a served market 5.25 bays are extinct since nobody uses CD/DVD drives anymore. The ones on the market are really new old stock from 2014-2017: The Fractal Design Core 500, Cooler Master Elite 130, and Silverstone SUGO 14. Of the three, the Fractal is the best rated so I opted to get that one however it seems the global supply of new old stock fully dried up in the two weeks between me making a decision and placing an order leaving only the Silverstone case. Icy Dock have a selection of 8-bay 2.5 SATA 5.25 hot swap chassis choices in their ToughArmor MB998 series. I opted for the ToughArmor MB998IP-B, to reduce cable clutter it requires only two SFF-8611-to-SF-8643 cables from the motherboard to serve all eight bays, which should make airflow less of a mess. The X570D4I-2T doesn t have any SATA ports on board, instead it has two SFF-8611 OCuLink ports, each supporting 4 PCI Express lanes OR 4 SATA connectors via a breakout cable. I had hoped to get the ToughArmor MB118VP-B and run six U.2 drives, but as I said, the PCIe bifurcation issue with Ryzen G chips meant I wouldn t be able to run all six bays successfully.
NAS build in Silverstone SUGO 14, mid build, panels removed
Silverstone SUGO 14 from the front, with hot swap bay installed

Actual storage for the storage server My concept for the system always involved a fast boot/cache drive in the motherboard s M.2 slot, non-redundant (just backups of the config if the worst were to happen) and separate storage drives somewhere between 3.8 and 8 TB each (somewhere from $200-$350). As a boot drive, I selected the Intel Optane SSD P1600X 58G, available for under $35 and rated for 228 years between failures (or 11,000 complete drive rewrite cycles). So, on to the big expensive choice: storage drives. I narrowed it down to two contenders: new-old-stock Intel D3-S4510 3.84TB enterprise drives, at about $200, or Samsung 870 QVO 8TB consumer drives, at about $375. I did spend a long time agonizing over the specification differences, the ZFS usage reports, the expected lifetime endurance figures, but in reality, it came down to price $1600 of expensive drives vs $3200 of even more expensive drives. That s 27TB of usable capacity in RAID-Z1, or 23TB in RAID-Z2. For comparison, I m using about 5TB of the old NAS, so that s a LOT of overhead for expansion.
Storage SSD loaded into hot swap sled

Booting up Bringing it all together is the OS. I wanted an appliance NAS OS rather than self-administering a Linux distribution, and after looking into the surrounding ecosystems, decided on TrueNAS Scale (the beta of the 2023 release, based on Debian 12).
TrueNAS Dashboard screenshot in browser window
I set up RAID-Z1, and with zero tuning (other than enabling auto-TRIM), got the following performance numbers:
4k random writes19.3k75.6 MiB/s
4k random reads36.1k141 MiB/s
Sequential writes 2300 MiB/s
Sequential reads 3800 MiB/s
Results using fio parameters suggested by Huawei
And for comparison, the maximum theoretical numbers quoted by Intel for a single drive:
4k random writes16k?
4k random reads90k?
Sequential writes 280 MiB/s
Sequential reads 560 MiB/s
Numbers quoted by Intel SSD successors Solidigm.
Finally, the numbers reported on the old NAS with four 7200 RPM hard disks in RAID 10:
4k random writes4301.7 MiB/s
4k random reads800632 MiB/s
Sequential writes 311 MiB/s
Sequential reads 566 MiB/s
Performance seems pretty OK. There s always going to be an overhead to RAID. I ll settle for the 45x improvement on random writes vs. its predecessor, and 4.5x improvement on random reads. The sequential write numbers are gonna be impacted by the size of the ZFS cache (50% of RAM, so 16 GiB), but the rest should be a reasonable indication of true performance. It took me a little while to fully understand the TrueNAS permissions model, but I finally got Plex configured to access data from the same place as my SMB shares, which have anonymous read-only access or authenticated write access for myself and my wife, working fine via both Linux and Windows. And that s it! I built a NAS. I intend to add some fans and more RAM, but that s the build. Total spent: about $3000, which sounds like an unreasonable amount, but it s actually less than a comparable Synology DiskStation DS1823xs+ which has 4 cores instead of 6, first-generation AMD Zen instead of Zen 3, 8 GiB RAM instead of 32 GiB, no hardware-accelerated video transcoding, etc. And it would have been a whole lot less fun!
The final system, powered up
(Also posted on PCPartPicker)

9 September 2023

Dirk Eddelbuettel: Carmageddon by Daniel Knowles: A Brief Review

Carmageddon Daniel Knowles Carmageddon: How Cars Make Life Worse and What to Do About It is an entertaining, lucid, and well-written manifesto (to borrow a term from the author) aiming to get us all thinking a bit more about what cars do to society, and how to move on to a better outcome for all. The book alternates between historical context and background, lived experience (as the author is a foreign correspondent who had the opportunity to travel), and researched content. It is refreshingly free of formalities (no endless footnotes or endnotes with references, though I would have liked occassional references but hey we all went to school long enough to do a bit of research given a pointer or two). I learned or relearned a few things as I was for example somewhat unaware of the air pollution (micro-particle) impact stemming from tires and brake abrasions for which electronic vehicles do zilch, and for which the auto-obesity of ever larger and heavier cars is making things much worse. And some terms (even when re-used by Knowles) are clever such bionic duckweed. But now you need to read the book to catch up on it. Overall, the book argues its case rather well. The author brings sufficient evidence to make the formal guilty charge quite convincing. It is also recent having come out just months ago, making current figures even more relevant. I forget the exact circumstance but I think I came across the author in the context of our joint obsession with both Chicago and cycling (as there may have been a link from a related social media post) and/or the fact that I followed some of his colleagues at The Economist on social media. Either way, the number of Chicago and MidWest references made for some additional fun when reading the book over a the last few days. And for me another highlight was the ode to Tokyo which I wholeheartedly agree with: on my second trip to Japan I spent a spare day cycling across the city as the AirBnB host kindly gave me access to his bicycles. Great weather, polite drivers, moderate traffic, and just wicked good infrastructure made me wonder why I did not see more cyclists. I have little to criticize beyond the lack of any references. The repeated insistence on reminding us that Knowles comes from Birmingham gets a little old by the fifth or sixth repetition. It is all a wee bit anglo- or UK-centric. It obviously has a bit on France, Paris, and all the recent success of Anne Hidalgo (who, when I was in graduate school in France, was still a TV person rather than the very successful mayor she is now) but then does not mention the immense (and well known) success of the French train system which lead to a recent dictum to no longer allow intra-Frace air travel if train rides of under 2 1/2 hours are available which is rather remarkable. (Though in fairness that may have been enacted once the book was finished.) Lastly, the book appears to have a few sections available via Google Books. My copy will good back from one near-west suburban library to the neighbouring one. Overall a strong recommendation for a very good and timely book.

26 July 2023

Shirish Agarwal: Manipur Violence, Drugs, Binging on Northshore, Alaska Daily, Doogie Kamealoha and EU Digital Resilence Act.

Manipur Videos Warning: The text might be mature and will have references to violence so if there are kids or you are sensitive, please excuse. Few days back, saw the videos and I cannot share the rage, shame and many conflicting emotions that were going through me. I almost didn t want to share but couldn t stop myself. The woman in the video were being palmed, fingered, nude, later reportedly raped and murdered. And there have been more than a few cases. The next day saw another video that showed beheaded heads, and Kukis being killed just next to their houses. I couldn t imagine what those people must be feeling as the CM has been making partisan statements against them. One of the husbands of the Kuki women who had been paraded, fondled is an Army Officer in the Indian Army. The Meiteis even tried to burn his home but the Army intervened and didn t let it get burnt. The CM s own statement as shared before tells his inability to bring the situation out of crisis. In fact, his statement was dumb stating that the Internet shutdown was because there were more than 100 such cases. And it s spreading to the nearby Northeast regions. Now Mizoram, the nearest neighbor is going through similar things where the Meitis are not dominant. The Mizos have told the Meitis to get out. To date, the PM has chosen not to visit Manipur. He just made a small 1 minute statement about it saying how the women have shamed India, an approximation of what he said.While it s actually not the women but the men who have shamed India. The Wire has been talking to both the Meitis, the Kukis, the Nagas. A Kuki women sort of bared all. She is right on many counts. The GOI while wanting to paint the Kukis in a negative light have forgotten what has been happening in its own state, especially its own youth as well as in other states while also ignoring the larger geopolitics and business around it. Taliban has been cracking as even they couldn t see young boys, women becoming drug users. I had read somewhere that 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 young person in Afghanistan is now in its grip. So no wonder,the Taliban is trying to eradicate and shutdown drug use among it s own youth. Circling back to Manipur, I was under the wrong impression that the Internet shutdown is now over. After those videos became viral as well as the others I mentioned, again the orders have been given and there is shutdown. It is not fully shut but now only Govt. offices have it. so nobody can share a video that goes against any State or Central Govt. narrative  A real sad state of affairs  Update: There is conditional reopening whatever that means  When I saw the videos, the first thing is I felt was being powerless, powerless to do anything about it. The second was if I do not write about it, amplify it and don t let others know about it then what s the use of being able to blog

Mental Health, Binging on various Webseries Both the videos shocked me and I couldn t sleep that night or the night after. it. Even after doing work and all, they would come in unobtrusively in my nightmares  While I felt a bit foolish, I felt it would be nice to binge on some webseries. Little I was to know that both Northshore and Alaska Daily would have stories similar to what is happening here  While the story in Alaska Daily is fictional it resembles very closely to a real newspaper called Anchorage Daily news. Even there the Intuit women , one of the marginalized communities in Alaska. The only difference I can see between GOI and the Alaskan Government is that the Alaskan Government was much subtle in doing the same things. There are some differences though. First, the State is and was responsive to the local press and apart from one close call to one of its reporters, most reporters do not have to think about their own life in peril. Here, the press cannot look after either their livelihood or their life. It was a juvenile kid who actually shot the video, uploaded and made it viral. One needs to just remember the case details of Siddique Kappan. Just for sharing the news and the video he was arrested. Bail was denied to him time and time again citing that the Police were investigating . Only after 2 years and 3 months he got bail and that too because none of the charges that the Police had they were able to show any prima facie evidence. One of the better interviews though was of Vrinda Grover. For those who don t know her, her Wikipedia page does tell a bit about her although it is woefully incomplete. For example, most recently she had relentlessly pursued the unconstitutional Internet Shutdown that happened in Kashmir for 5 months. Just like in Manipur, the shutdown was there to bury crimes either committed or being facilitated by the State. For the issues of livelihood, one can take the cases of Bipin Yadav and Rashid Hussain. Both were fired by their employer Dainik Bhaskar because they questioned the BJP MP Smriti Irani what she has done for the state. The problems for Dainik Bhaskar or for any other mainstream media is most of them rely on Government advertisements. Private investment in India has fallen to record lows mostly due to the policies made by the Centre. If any entity or sector grows a bit then either Adani or Ambani will one way or the other take it. So, for most first and second generation entrepreneurs it doesn t make sense to grow and then finally sell it to one of these corporates at a loss  GOI on Adani, Ambani side of any deal. The MSME sector that is and used to be the second highest employer hasn t been able to recover from the shocks of demonetization, GST and then the pandemic. Each resulting in more and more closures and shutdowns. Most of the joblessness has gone up tremendously in North India which the Government tries to deny. The most interesting points in all those above examples is within a month or less, whatever the media reports gets scrubbed. Even the firing of the journos that was covered by some of the mainstream media isn t there anymore. I have to use secondary sources instead of primary sources. One can think of the chilling effects on reportage due to the above. The sad fact is even with all the money in the world the PM is unable to come to the Parliament to face questions.
Why is PM not answering in Parliament,, even Rahul Gandhi is not there - Surya Pratap Singh, prev. IAS Officer.
The above poster/question is by Surya Pratap Singh, a retired IAS officer. He asks why the PM is unable to answer in either of the houses. As shared before, the Govt. wants very limited discussion. Even yesterday, the Lok Sabha TV just showed the BJP MP s making statements but silent or mic was off during whatever questions or statements made by the opposition. If this isn t mockery of Indian democracy then I don t know what is  Even the media landscape has been altered substantially within the last few years. Both Adani and Ambani have distributed the media pie between themselves. One of the last bastions of the free press, NDTV was bought by Adani in a hostile takeover. Both Ambani and Adani are close to this Goverment. In fact, there is no sector in which one or the other is not present. Media houses like Newsclick, The Wire etc. that are a fraction of mainstream press are where most of the youth have been going to get their news as they are not partisan. Although even there, GOI has time and again interfered. The Wire has had too many 504 Gateway timeouts in the recent months and they had been forced to move most of their journalism from online to video, rather Youtube in order to escape both the censoring and the timeouts as shared above. In such a hostile environment, how both the organizations are somehow able to survive is a miracle. Most local reportage is also going to YouTube as that s the best way for them to not get into Govt. censors. Not an ideal situation, but that s the way it is. The difference between Indian and Israeli media can be seen through this
The above is a Screenshot shared by how the Israeli media has reacted to the Israeli Government s Knesset over the judicial overhaul . Here, the press itself erodes its own by giving into the Government day and night

Binging on Webseries Saw Northshore, Three Pines, Alaska Daily and Doogie Kamealoha M.D. which is based on Doogie Howser M.D. Of the four, enjoyed Doogie Kamealoha M.D. the most but then it might be because it s a copy of Doogie Howser, just updated to the new millenia and there are some good childhood memories associated with that series. The others are also good. I tried to not see European stuff as most of them are twisted and didn t want that space.

EU Digital Operational Resilience Act and impact on FOSS Few days ago, apparently the EU shared the above Act. One can read about it more here. This would have more impact on FOSS as most development of various FOSS distributions happens in EU. Fair bit of Debian s own development happens in Germany and France. While there have been calls to make things more clearer, especially for FOSS given that most developers do foss development either on side or as a hobby while their day job is and would be different. The part about consumer electronics and FOSS is a tricky one as updates can screw up your systems. Microsoft has had a huge history of devices not working after an update or upgrade. And this is not limited to Windows as they would like to believe. Even apple seems to be having its share of issues time and time again. One would have hoped that these companies that make billions of dollars from their hardware and software sales would be doing more testing and Q&A and be more aware about security issues. FOSS, on the other hand while being more responsive doesn t make as much money vis-a-vis the competitors. Let s take the most concrete example. The most successful mobile phone having FOSS is Purism. But it s phone, it has priced itself out of the market. A huge part of that is to do with both economies of scale and trying to get an infrastructure and skills in the States where none or minimally exists. Compared that to say Pinepro that is manufactured in Hong Kong and is priced 1/3rd of the same. For most people it is simply not affordable in these times. Add to that the complexity of these modern cellphones make it harder, not easier for most people to be vigilant and update the phone at all times. Maybe we need more dumphones such as Light and Punkt but then can those be remotely hacked or not, there doesn t seem to be any answers on that one. I haven t even seen anybody even ask those questions. They may have their own chicken and egg issues. For people like me who have lost hearing, while I can navigate smartphones for now but as I become old I don t see anything that would help me. For many an elderly population, both hearing and seeing are the first to fade. There doesn t seem to be any solutions targeted for them even though they are 5-10% of any population at the very least. Probably more so in Europe and the U.S. as well as Japan and China. All of them are clearly under-served markets but dunno a solution for them. At least to me that s an open question.

19 July 2023

Shirish Agarwal: RISC-V, Chips Act, Burning of Books, Manipur

RISC -V Motherboard, SBC While I didn t want to, a part of me is hyped about this motherboard. This would probably be launched somewhere in November. There are obvious issues in this, the first being unlike regular motherboards you wouldn t be upgrade as you would do.You can t upgrade your memory, can t upgrade the CPU (although new versions of instructions could be uploaded, similar to BIOS updates) but as the hardware is integrated (the quad-core SiFive Performance P550 core complex) it would really depend. If the final pricing is around INR 4-5k then it may be able to sell handsomely provided there are people to push and provide support around it. A 500 GB or 1 TB SSD coupled with it and a cheap display unit and you could use it anywhere although as the name says it s more for tinkering as the name suggests. Another board that could perhaps be of more immediate use would be the beagleboard. They launched the same couple of days back and called it Beagle V-Ahead. Again, costs are going to be a concern. Just a year before the pandemic the Beagleboard Black (BB) used to cost in the sub 4k range, today it costs 8k+ for the end user, more than twice the price. How much Brexit is to be blamed for this and how much the Indian customs we would never know. The RS Group that is behind that shop is head-quartered in the UK. As said before, we do not know the price of either board as it probably will take few months for v-ahead to worm its way in the Indian market, maybe another 6 months or so. Even so, with the limited info. on both the boards, I am tilting more towards the other HiFive one. We should come to know about the boards say in 3-5 months of time.

CHIPS Act I had shared about the Chips Act a few times here as well as on SM. Two articles do tell how the CHIPS Act 2023 is more of a political tool, an industrial defence policy rather than just business as most people tend to think.

Cancelation of Books, Books Burning etc. Almost 2400 years ago, Plato released his work called Plato s Republic and one of the seminal works within it is perhaps one of the most famous works was the Allegory of the Cave. That is used again and again in a myriad ways, mostly in science-fiction though and mostly to do with utopian, dystopian movies, webseries etc. I did share how books are being canceled in the States, also a bit here. But the most damning thing has happened throughout history, huge quantities of books burned almost all for politics  But part of it has been neglect as well as this time article shares. What we have lost and continue to lose is just priceless. Every book has a grain of truth in it, some more, some less but equally enjoyable. Most harmful is the neglect towards books and is more true today than any other time in history. Kids today have a wide variety of tools to keep themselves happy or occupied, from anime, VR, gaming the list goes on and on. In that scenario, how the humble books can compete. People think of Kindle but most e-readers like Kindle are nothing but obsolescence by design. I have tried out Kindle a few times but find it a bit on the flimsy side. Books are much better IMHO or call me old-school. While there are many advantages, one of the things that I like about books is that you can easily put yourself in either the protagonist or the antagonist or somewhere in the middle and think of the possible scenarios wherever you are in a particular book. I could go on but it will be a blog post or two in itself. Till later. Happy Reading.

Update:Manipur Extremely horrifying visuals, articles and statements continue to emanate from Manipur. Today, 19th July 2023, just couple of hours back, a video surfaced showing two Kuki women were shown as stripped, naked and Meitei men touching their private parts. Later on, we came to know that this was in response of a disinformation news spread by the Meitis of few women being raped although no documentary evidence of the same surfaced, no names nothing. While I don t want to share the video I will however share the statement shared by the Kuki-Zo tribal community on that. The print gives a bit more context to what has been going on.
Update, Few hours later : The Print also shared more of a context about six days ago. The reason we saw the video now was that for the last 2.5 months Manipur was in Internet shutdown so those videos got uploaded now. There was huge backlash from the Twitter community and GOI ordered the Manipur Police to issue this Press Release yesterday night or just few hours before with yesterday s time-stamp.
IndianExpress shared an article that does state that while an FIR had been registered immediately no arrests so far and this is when you can see the faces of all the accused. Not one of them tried to hide their face behind a mask or something. So, if the police wanted, they could have easily identified who they are. They know which community the accused belong to, they even know from where they came. If they wanted to, they could have easily used mobile data and triangulation to find the accused and their helpers. So, it does seem to be attempt to whitewash and protect a certain community while letting it prey on the other. Another news that did come in, is because of the furious reaction on Twitter, Youtube has constantly been taking down the video as some people are getting a sort of high more so from the majoritarian community and making lewd remarks. Twitter has been somewhat quick when people are making lewd remarks against the two girl/women. Quite a bit of the above seems like a cover-up. Lastly, apparently GOI has agreed to having a conversation about it in Lok Sabha but without any voting or passing any resolutions as of right now. Would update as an when things change. Update: Smriti Irani, the Child and Development Minister gave the weakest statement possible
As can be noticed, she said sexual assault rather than rape. The women were under police custody for safety when they were whisked away by the mob. No mention of that. She spoke to the Chief Minister who has been publicly known as one of the provocateurs or instigators for the whole thing. The CM had publicly called the Kukus and Nagas as foreigners although both of them claim to be residing for thousands of years and they apparently have documentary evidence of the same  . Also not clear who is doing the condemning here. No word of support for the women, no offer of intervention, why is she the Minister of Child and Women Development (CDW) if she can t use harsh words or give support to the women who have gone and going through horrific things  Update : CM Biren Singh s Statement after the video surfaced
This tweet is contradictory to the statements made by Mr. Singh couple of months ago. At that point in time, Mr. Singh had said that NIA, State Intelligence Departments etc. were giving him minute to minute report on the ground station. The Police itself has suo-moto (on its own) powers to investigate and apprehend criminals for any crime. In fact, the Police can call for questioning of anybody in any relation to any crime and question them for upto 48 hours before charging them. In fact, many cases have been lodged where innocent persons have been framed or they have served much more in the jail than the crime they are alleged to have been committed. For e.g. just a few days before there was a media report of a boy who has been in jail for 3 years. His alleged crime, stealing mere INR 200/- to feed himself. Court doesn t have time to listen to him yet. And there are millions like him. The quint eloquently shares the tale where it tells how both the State and the Centre have been explicitly complicit in the incidents ravaging Manipur. In fact, what has been shared in the article has been very true as far as greed for land is concerned. Just couple of weeks back there have been a ton of floods emanating from Uttarakhand and others. Just before the flooding began, what was the CM doing can be seen here. Apart from the newspapers I have shared and the online resources, most of the mainstream media has been silent on the above. In fact, they have been silent on the Manipur issue until the said video didn t come into limelight. Just now, in Lok Sabha everybody is present except the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. The PM did say that the law will take its own course, but that s about it. Again no support for the women concerned.  Update: CJI (Chief Justice of India) has taken suo-moto cognizance and has warned both the State and Centre to move quickly otherwise they will take the matter in their own hand.
Update: Within 2 hours of the CJI taking suo-moto cognizance, they have arrested one of the main accused Heera Das
The above tells you why the ban on Internet was put in the first place. They wanted to cover it all up. Of all the celebs, only one could find a bit of spine, a bit of backbone to speak about it, all the rest mum
Just imagine, one of the women is around my age while the young one could have been a daughter if I had married on time or a younger sister for sure. If ever I came face to face with them, I just wouldn t be able to look them in the eye. Even their whole whataboutery is built on sham. From their view Kukis are from Burma or Burmese descent. All of which could be easily proved by DNA of all. But let s leave that for a sec. Let s take their own argument that they are Burmese. Their idea of Akhand Bharat stretches all the way to Burma (now called Myanmar). They want all the land but no idea with what to do with the citizens living on it. Even after the video, the whataboutery isn t stopping, that shows how much hatred is there. And not knowing that they too will be victim of the same venom one or the other day  Update: Opposition was told there would be a debate on Manipur. The whole day went by, no debate. That s the shamelessness of this Govt.  Update 20th July 19:25 Center may act or not act against the perpetrators but they will act against Twitter who showed the crime. Talk about shooting the messenger
We are now in the last stage. In 2014, we were at 6

12 July 2023

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds in June 2023

Welcome to the June 2023 report from the Reproducible Builds project In our reports, we outline the most important things that we have been up to over the past month. As always, if you are interested in contributing to the project, please visit our Contribute page on our website.

We are very happy to announce the upcoming Reproducible Builds Summit which set to take place from October 31st November 2nd 2023, in the vibrant city of Hamburg, Germany. Our summits are a unique gathering that brings together attendees from diverse projects, united by a shared vision of advancing the Reproducible Builds effort. During this enriching event, participants will have the opportunity to engage in discussions, establish connections and exchange ideas to drive progress in this vital field. Our aim is to create an inclusive space that fosters collaboration, innovation and problem-solving. We are thrilled to host the seventh edition of this exciting event, following the success of previous summits in various iconic locations around the world, including Venice, Marrakesh, Paris, Berlin and Athens. If you re interesting in joining us this year, please make sure to read the event page] which has more details about the event and location. (You may also be interested in attending PackagingCon 2023 held a few days before in Berlin.)
This month, Vagrant Cascadian will present at FOSSY 2023 on the topic of Breaking the Chains of Trusting Trust:
Corrupted build environments can deliver compromised cryptographically signed binaries. Several exploits in critical supply chains have been demonstrated in recent years, proving that this is not just theoretical. The most well secured build environments are still single points of failure when they fail. [ ] This talk will focus on the state of the art from several angles in related Free and Open Source Software projects, what works, current challenges and future plans for building trustworthy toolchains you do not need to trust.
Hosted by the Software Freedom Conservancy and taking place in Portland, Oregon, FOSSY aims to be a community-focused event: Whether you are a long time contributing member of a free software project, a recent graduate of a coding bootcamp or university, or just have an interest in the possibilities that free and open source software bring, FOSSY will have something for you . More information on the event is available on the FOSSY 2023 website, including the full programme schedule.
Marcel Fourn , Dominik Wermke, William Enck, Sascha Fahl and Yasemin Acar recently published an academic paper in the 44th IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy titled It s like flossing your teeth: On the Importance and Challenges of Reproducible Builds for Software Supply Chain Security . The abstract reads as follows:
The 2020 Solarwinds attack was a tipping point that caused a heightened awareness about the security of the software supply chain and in particular the large amount of trust placed in build systems. Reproducible Builds (R-Bs) provide a strong foundation to build defenses for arbitrary attacks against build systems by ensuring that given the same source code, build environment, and build instructions, bitwise-identical artifacts are created.
However, in contrast to other papers that touch on some theoretical aspect of reproducible builds, the authors paper takes a different approach. Starting with the observation that much of the software industry believes R-Bs are too far out of reach for most projects and conjoining that with a goal of to help identify a path for R-Bs to become a commonplace property , the paper has a different methodology:
We conducted a series of 24 semi-structured expert interviews with participants from the project, and iterated on our questions with the reproducible builds community. We identified a range of motivations that can encourage open source developers to strive for R-Bs, including indicators of quality, security benefits, and more efficient caching of artifacts. We identify experiences that help and hinder adoption, which heavily include communication with upstream projects. We conclude with recommendations on how to better integrate R-Bs with the efforts of the open source and free software community.
A PDF of the paper is now available, as is an entry on the CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security website and an entry under the TeamUSEC Human-Centered Security research group.
On our mailing list this month:
The antagonist is David Schwartz, who correctly says There are dozens of complex reasons why what seems to be the same sequence of operations might produce different end results, but goes on to say I totally disagree with your general viewpoint that compilers must provide for reproducability [sic]. Dwight Tovey and I (Larry Doolittle) argue for reproducible builds. I assert Any program especially a mission-critical program like a compiler that cannot reproduce a result at will is broken. Also it s commonplace to take a binary from the net, and check to see if it was trojaned by attempting to recreate it from source.

Lastly, there were a few changes to our website this month too, including Bernhard M. Wiedemann adding a simplified Rust example to our documentation about the SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH environment variable [ ], Chris Lamb made it easier to parse our summit announcement at a glance [ ], Mattia Rizzolo added the summit announcement at a glance [ ] itself [ ][ ][ ] and Rahul Bajaj added a taxonomy of variations in build environments [ ].

Distribution work 27 reviews of Debian packages were added, 40 were updated and 8 were removed this month adding to our knowledge about identified issues. A new randomness_in_documentation_generated_by_mkdocs toolchain issue was added by Chris Lamb [ ], and the deterministic flag on the paths_vary_due_to_usrmerge issue as we are not currently testing usrmerge issues [ ] issues.
Roland Clobus posted his 18th update of the status of reproducible Debian ISO images on our mailing list. Roland reported that all major desktops build reproducibly with bullseye, bookworm, trixie and sid , but he also mentioned amongst many changes that not only are the non-free images being built (and are reproducible) but that the live images are generated officially by Debian itself. [ ]
Jan-Benedict Glaw noticed a problem when building NetBSD for the VAX architecture. Noting that Reproducible builds [are] probably not as reproducible as we thought , Jan-Benedict goes on to describe that when two builds from different source directories won t produce the same result and adds various notes about sub-optimal handling of the CFLAGS environment variable. [ ]
F-Droid added 21 new reproducible apps in June, resulting in a new record of 145 reproducible apps in total. [ ]. (This page now sports missing data for March May 2023.) F-Droid contributors also reported an issue with broken resources in APKs making some builds unreproducible. [ ]
Bernhard M. Wiedemann published another monthly report about reproducibility within openSUSE

Upstream patches

Testing framework The Reproducible Builds project operates a comprehensive testing framework (available at in order to check packages and other artifacts for reproducibility. In June, a number of changes were made by Holger Levsen, including:
  • Additions to a (relatively) new Documented Jenkins Maintenance (djm) script to automatically shrink a cache & save a backup of old data [ ], automatically split out previous months data from logfiles into specially-named files [ ], prevent concurrent remote logfile fetches by using a lock file [ ] and to add/remove various debugging statements [ ].
  • Updates to the automated system health checks to, for example, to correctly detect new kernel warnings due to a wording change [ ] and to explicitly observe which old/unused kernels should be removed [ ]. This was related to an improvement so that various kernel issues on Ubuntu-based nodes are automatically fixed. [ ]
Holger and Vagrant Cascadian updated all thirty-five hosts running Debian on the amd64, armhf, and i386 architectures to Debian bookworm, with the exception of the Jenkins host itself which will be upgraded after the release of Debian 12.1. In addition, Mattia Rizzolo updated the email configuration for the domain to correctly accept incoming mails from [ ] as well as to set up DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) signing [ ]. And working together with Holger, Mattia also updated the Jenkins configuration to start testing Debian trixie which resulted in stopped testing Debian buster. And, finally, Jan-Benedict Glaw contributed patches for improved NetBSD testing.

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

5 July 2023

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds Summit 2023 in Hamburg

We are glad to announce the upcoming Reproducible Builds Summit, set to take place from October 31st to November 2nd, 2023, in the vibrant city of Hamburg, Germany. This year, we are thrilled to host the seventh edition of this exciting event following the success of previous summits in various iconic locations around the world, including Venice (2022), Marrakesh (2019), Paris (2018), Berlin (2017), Berlin (2016) Athens (2015). If you re excited about joining us this year, please make sure to read the event page which has more details about the event and location. As in previous years, we will be sending invitations to all those who attended our previous summit events or expressed interest to do so. However also without receiving such a personal invitation please do email the organizers and we will find a way to accommodate you.

About the event The Reproducible Builds Summit is a unique gathering that brings together attendees from diverse projects, united by a shared vision of advancing the Reproducible Builds effort. During this enriching event, participants will have the opportunity to engage in discussions, establish connections and exchange ideas to drive progress in this vital field. Our aim is to create an inclusive space that fosters collaboration, innovation and problem-solving. With your help, we will bring this space (and several other inside areas) into life:
The outside area at dock-europe (source:

Schedule Although the exact content of the meeting will be shaped by the participants, the main goals will include:
  • Update & exchange about the status of reproducible builds in various projects.
  • Improve collaboration both between and inside projects.
  • Expand the scope and reach of reproducible builds to more projects.
  • Work together and hack on solutions.
  • Establish space for more strategic and long-term thinking than is possible in virtual channels.
  • Brainstorm designs on tools enabling users to get the most benefits from reproducible builds.
  • Discuss how reproducible builds will be usable and meaningful to users and developers alike.
Logs and minutes will be published after the meeting.

Location & date
  • October 31st to November 2nd, 2023
  • Dock Europe, Zeiseweg 9, 22765, Hamburg, Germany.

Registration instructions Please reach out if you d like to participate in hopefully interesting, inspiring and intense technical sessions about reproducible builds and beyond! We look forward to what we anticipate to be an extraordinary event!

15 June 2023

Shirish Agarwal: Ayisha, Manju Warrier, Debutsav, Books

Ayisha After a long time I saw a movie that I enjoyed wholeheartedly. And it unexpectedly touched my heart. The name of the movie is Ayisha. The first frame of the movie itself sets the pace where we see Ayisha (Manju Warrier) who decides to help out a gang as lot of women were being hassled. So she agrees to hoodwink cops and help launder some money. Then she is shown to work as a maid for an elite Arab family. To portray a Muslim character in these polarized times really shows guts especially when the othering of the Muslim has been happening 24 7. In fact, just few days back I was shocked to learn that Muslim homes were being marked as Jews homes had been marked in the 1930 s. Not just homes but also businesses too. And after few days in a total hypocritical fashion one of the judges says that you cannot push people to buy or not buy from a shop. This is after systemically doing the whole hate campaign for almost 2 weeks. What value the judge s statements are after 2 weeks ??? The poison has already seeped in  But I m drifting from the topic/movie.

The real fun of the movie is the beautiful relationship that happens between Ayisha and Mama, she is the biggest maternal figure in the house and in fact, her command is what goes in the house. The house or palace which is the perfect description is shown as being opulent but not as rich as both Mama and Ayisha are, spiritually and emotionally both giving and sharing of each other. Almost a mother daughter relationship, although with others she is shown as having a bit of an iron hand. Halfway through the movie we come to know that Ayisha was also a dramatist and an actress having worked in early Malayalam movies. I do not want to go through all the ups and downs as that is the beauty of the movie and it needs to be seen for that aspect. I am always sort of in two worlds where should I promote a book or series or movie or not because most of the time it is the unexpected that works. When we have expectation it doesn t. Avatar, the Way of the Water is an exception, not many movies I can recall like that where I had expectations and still the movie surpassed it. So maybe go with no expectations at all

Manju Warrier Manju Warrier should actually be called Manju Warrior as she chose to be with the survivor rather than the sexism that is prevalent in the Malayalam film industry which actually is more or less a mirror of Bollywood and society as whole. These three links should give enough background knowledge as to what has been happening although I m sure my Malayalam friends would more than add to that knowledge whatever may be missing. In quite a few movies, the women are making inroads without significant male strength. Especially Manju s movies have no male lead for the last few movies. Whether that is deliberate part on Manju or an obstacle being put in front of her. Anyone knows that having a male lead and a female lead enriches the value of a movie quite a bit. This doesn t mean one is better than the other but having both enriches the end product, as simple as that. This is sadly not happening. Having POSH training and having an ICC is something that each organization should look forward for. It s kind of mandatory need of hour, especially when we have young people all around us. I am hopeful that people who are from Kerala would shed some more background light on what has been happening.

Books I haven t yet submitted an application for Debconf. But my idea is irrespective of whether or not I m there, I do hope we can have a library where people can donate books and people can take away books as well. A kind of circular marketplace/library where just somebody notes what books are available. Even if 100 odd people are coming to Debconf that easily means 100 books of various languages. That in itself would be interesting and to see what people are reading, wanting to discuss etc. We could even have readings. IIRC, in 2016 we had a children s area, maybe we could do some readings from some books to children which fuels their imagination. Even people like me who are deaf would be willing to look at excerpts and be charmed by them. For instance, in all my forays of fantasy literature except for Babylon Steel I haven t read one book that has a female lead character and I have read probably around 100 odd fantasy books till date. Not a lot but still to my mind, is a big gap as far as literature is concerned. How would more women write fantasy if they don t have heroes to look forward to :(. Or maybe I may be missing some authors and characters that others know and I do not. Do others feel the same or this question hasn t even been asked ??? Dunno. Please let me know.

Debutsav So apparently Debutsav is happening 2 days from now. While I did come to know about it few days back I had to think whether I want to apply for this or apply for Debconf as I physically, emotionally can t do justice to both even though they are a few months apart. I wish all the best for the attendees as well as presenters sharing all the projects and hopefully somebody shares at least some of the projects that are presented there so we may know what new projects or softwares to follow or whatever. Till later.

14 March 2023

Anuradha Weeraman: US-11604662-B2

I m happy to announce, that after a long wait, patent US-11604662-B2 has been issued.I want to thank and recognize my co-inventors, Div Prakash and Subin George, who I m privileged to be on paper with.The effort that led to this work involved a group of engineers, many phone calls, some nerve-wracking presentations, culminating in a fantastic hackathon-winning outcome for a young and talented team, which I was proud to be a part of and privileged to lead.

16 January 2023

Russ Allbery: Review: The Truth

Review: The Truth, by Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld #25
Publisher: Harper
Copyright: November 2000
Printing: August 2014
ISBN: 0-06-230736-3
Format: Mass market
Pages: 435
The Truth is the 25th Discworld novel. Some reading order guides group it loosely into an "industrial revolution" sequence following Moving Pictures, but while there are thematic similarities I'll talk about in a moment, there's no real plot continuity. You could arguably start reading Discworld here, although you'd be spoiled for some character developments in the early Watch novels. William de Worde is paid to write a newsletter. That's not precisely what he calls it, and it's not clear whether his patrons know that he publishes it that way. He's paid to report on news of Ankh-Morpork that may be of interest of various rich or influential people who are not in Ankh-Morpork, and he discovered the best way to optimize this was to write a template of the newsletter, bring it to an engraver to make a plate of it, and run off copies for each of his customers, with some minor hand-written customization. It's a comfortable living for the estranged younger son of a wealthy noble. As the story opens, William is dutifully recording the rumor that dwarfs have discovered how to turn lead into gold. The rumor is true, although not in the way that one might initially assume.
The world is made up of four elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. This is a fact well known even to Corporal Nobbs. It's also wrong. There's a fifth element, and generally it's called Surprise. For example, the dwarfs found out how to turn lead into gold by doing it the hard way. The difference between that and the easy way is that the hard way works.
The dwarfs used the lead to make a movable type printing press, which is about to turn William de Worde's small-scale, hand-crafted newsletter into a newspaper. The movable type printing press is not unknown technology. It's banned technology, because the powers that be in Ankh-Morpork know enough to be deeply suspicious of it. The religious establishment doesn't like it because words are too important and powerful to automate. The nobles and the Watch don't like it because cheap words cause problems. And the engraver's guild doesn't like it for obvious reasons. However, Lord Vetinari knows that one cannot apply brakes to a volcano, and commerce with the dwarfs is very important to the city. The dwarfs can continue. At least for now. As in Moving Pictures, most of The Truth is an idiosyncratic speedrun of the social effects of a new technology, this time newspapers. William has no grand plan; he's just an observant man who likes to write, cares a lot about the truth, and accidentally stumbles into editing a newspaper. (This, plus being an estranged son of a rich family, feels very on-point for journalism.) His naive belief is that people want to read true things, since that's what his original patrons wanted. Truth, however, may not be in the top five things people want from a newspaper. This setup requires some narrative force to push it along, which is provided by a plot to depose Vetinari by framing him for murder. The most interesting part of that story is Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip, the people hired to do the framing and then dispose of the evidence. They're a classic villain type: the brains and the brawn, dangerous, terrifying, and willing to do horrible things to people. But one thing Pratchett excels at is taking a standard character type, turning it a bit sideways, and stuffing in things that one wouldn't think would belong. In this case, that's Mr. Tulip's deep appreciation for, and genius grasp of, fine art. It should not work to have the looming, awful person with anger issues be able to identify the exact heritage of every sculpture and fine piece of goldsmithing, and yet somehow it does. Also as in Moving Pictures (and, in a different way, Soul Music), Pratchett tends to anthropomorphize technology, giving it a life and motivations of its own. In this case, that's William's growing perception of the press as an insatiable maw into which one has to feed words. I'm usually dubious of shifting agency from humans to things when doing social analysis (and there's a lot of social analysis here), but I have to concede that Pratchett captures something deeply true about the experience of feedback loops with an audience. A lot of what Pratchett puts into this book about the problematic relationship between a popular press and the truth is obvious and familiar, but he also makes some subtle points about the way the medium shapes what people expect from it and how people produce content for it that are worthy of Marshall McLuhan. The interactions between William and the Watch were less satisfying. In our world, the US press is, with only rare exceptions, a thoughtless PR organ for police propaganda and the exonerative tense. Pratchett tackles that here... sort of. William vaguely grasps that his job as a reporter may be contrary to the job of the Watch to maintain order, and Vimes's ambivalent feelings towards "solving crimes" push the story in that direction. But this is also Vimes, who is clearly established as one of the good sort and therefore is a bad vehicle for talking about how the police corrupt the press. Pratchett has Vimes and Vetinari tacitly encourage William, which works within the story but takes the pressure off the conflict and leaves William well short of understanding the underlying politics. There's a lot more that could be said about the tension between the press and the authorities, but I think the Discworld setup isn't suitable for it. This is the sort of book that benefits from twenty-four volumes of backstory and practice. Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork cast ticks along like a well-oiled machine, which frees up space that would otherwise have to be spent on establishing secondary characters. The result is a lot of plot and social analysis shoved into a standard-length Discworld novel, and a story that's hard to put down. The balance between humor and plot is just about perfect, the references and allusions aren't overwhelming, and the supporting characters, both new and old, are excellent. We even get a good Death sequence. This is solid, consistent stuff: Discworld as a mature, well-developed setting with plenty of stories left to tell. Followed by Thief of Time in publication order, and later by Monstrous Regiment in the vaguely-connected industrial revolution sequence. Rating: 8 out of 10

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.).

1 November 2022

Paul Wise: FLOSS Activities October 2022

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




  • Debian BTS: unarchive/reopen/triage bugs for reintroduced packages nautilus-image-converter, swift-im, runit-services
  • Debian IRC: removed 2 spammers from OFTC, disable anti-spam channel modes for some channels
  • Debian servers: restart processes due to OOM
  • Debian wiki: approve accounts

  • Initiate discussion about the apt hook protocol
  • Respond to queries from Debian users and contributors on the mailing lists and IRC

Sponsors All work was done on a volunteer basis.

19 October 2022

Shirish Agarwal: Pune Rains, Uncosted Budgets, Hearing Loss Covid, Fracking

Pune Rains Lemme start with a slightly funny picture that tells as much about Pune, my city as anything else does.
Pune- Leave your attitude behind, we have our own
This and similar tags, puns and whatnot you will find if you are entering Pune from the road highway. You can also find similar similar symbols and Puns all over the city and they are partly sarcasm and ironic and partly the truth. Puneities work from the attitude that they know everything rather than nothing, including yours truly  . What is the basis of that or why is there such kind of confidence I have no clue or idea, it is what it is. Approximately 24 hrs. ago, apparently we had a cloudburst. What I came to know later is that we got 100 mm of rain. Sharing from local news site. Much more interesting was a thread made on Reddit where many people half-seriously asked where they can buy a boat. One of the reasons being even if it s October, in fact, we passed middle of October and it s still raining. Even today in the evening, it rained for quite a while. As I had shared in a few blog posts before, June where rains should have started, it didn t, it actually started late July or even August, so something has shifted. The current leadership does not believe in Anthropogenic Climate Change or human activity induced climate change even though that is a reality. I could share many links and even using the term above should give links to various studies. Most of the people who are opposed to it are either misinformed or influenced from the fossil fuel industry. Again, could share many links, but will share just one atm. I have talked to quite a few people about it but nobody has ever been able to give a convincing answer as to why GM had to crush the cars. Let s even take the argument that it was the worst manufactured car in history and there have been quite a few, have the others been crushed? If not, then the reason shared or given by most people sounds hollow. And if you look into it, they had an opportunity that they let go, and now most of them are scrambling and yet most of the legacy auto manufacturers will be out of existence if they don t get back into the game in the next 2-3 years. There have been a bunch of announcements but we are yet to see. The Chinese though have moved far ahead, although one has to remark that they have been doing that for the last decade, so they have a 10-year head start, hardly surprising then. But I need to get back to the subject, another gentleman on Reddit remarked that if you start to use boat, and others start to use boat, then the Govt. will tax it. In fact, somebody had shared the below the other day
Different types of taxes collected by GOI
Many of the taxes that I have shared above are by the Modi Govt. who came on the platform, manifesto that once they come to power they will reduce taxes for the common man, they have reduced taxes but only for the Corporates. For the common man, the taxes have only gone up, both direct tax and indirect tax. Any reference to the Tory party who have also done similar things and have also shared that it is labor who had done large expenditures even though they have been 8 years in power, I am sure for most is purely coincidental. Incidentally, that is the same tack that was taken even by the Republican party. They all like to give tax benefits to the 1% while for the rest is austerity claiming some reason, even if it has been proven to be false.
Corporate Tax Rate, Revenue Loss to Govt.
The figures mentioned above are findings of parliamentary panel so nobody can accuse of anybody having a bias. Also, I probably had shared this but still feel the need to re-share it as people still believe that 2G scam happened even though there are plenty of arguments I can share to prove how it was all a fabricated lie.
Vinod Rai Mafinama in Uttarakhand High Court.
Part 2 of the same Mafinama.
How pathetic Mr. Rai s understanding of economics is can be gauged from the fact that he was made Chairman of IDFC and subsequently had to be thrown out. That whole lie was engineered to throw UPA out and it worked. There are and have been many such coincidences happening over the last 8 years, parallel stories happening in India and UK. This was just yesterday, about a year back Air India was given back to the Tatas, There was controversy about the supposed auctions as only Indigo was the only other party allowed to be at auction but not allowed to buy but more as a spectator as they already have 60% of the Indian civil aviation market. And there was lot of cheering from the Govt. side that finally Air India has been bought home to its true owners, the Tatas. The Tatas too started cheering and sharing how they will take down all the workers, worker unions and everything will be happy glory within a year. In fact, just couple of days back they shared new plans. Btw for the takeover of Air India, they had bought loans from the Banks and they are in the category of too big to fail. As I have shared couple of times before, RBI has not shared any inspection reports of nationalized or private banks after 2013/14. While by law, RBI is supposed to do inspection reports every 3 months and share them in the Public domain. And if you ask any of their supporter, for everything they will say UPA did x or y, which only goes to show morally bankrupt the present Govt. is. Coming back to the topic, before I forget, the idea of sharing their plans is so that they can again borrow money from the banks. But that is not the only story. Just one day back, Smita Prakash, one of the biggest cheerleaders of the present Govt. (she is the boss at Asia News International (ANI)) posted how Air India had treated her sister and other 21 passengers. Basically, they had bought business tickets but the whole cabin was dirty, they complained and they were forced to sit in economy class, not just her cousin sister but the other 21 odd passengers too. Of course Ms Smita became calm as her sister was given free air tickets on Vistara and other goodies. Of course, after that she didn t post anything about the other 21 odd passengers after that. And yes, I understand she is supposed to be a reporter but as can be seen from the twitter thread, there is or was no follow up. Incidentally, she is one of many who has calling others about Revdi culture (freebies to the masses.) but guess that only applies to other people not her or her sister. Again, if there are any coincidences of similar nature in the UK or when Trump was P.M. of the U.S. they are just coincidental .

The Uncosted budget India and the UK have many parallels, it s mind boggling. Before we get into the nitty-gritties, saw something that would be of some interest to the people here.
For those who might not be able to see above, apparently there is place in UK called Tufton Street where there are quite a few organizations that are shadowy and whose finances are not known as to how they are financed. Ms. Truss and quite a few of the people in the cabinet are from the same shadowy organizations. Mr. Kwasi Kwarteng, the just-departed chancellor is and was part of the same group. Now even for me it was a new term to learn and understand what is an uncosted budget is. To make it much more easier I share the example using a common person who goes to the bank for a loan

Now M/S X wants a loan of say Rs. 1000/- for whatever reason. He/she/they go to the bank and asks give me a loan of say INR 1000/- The banks asks them to produce a statement of accounts to show what their financial position is. They produce a somewhat half-filled statement of accounts In which all liabilities are shown, but incomes are not. The bank says you already have so much liabilities, how are you gonna pay those, accounts have to be matched otherwise you are not solvent. M/s X adamantly refuses to do any changes citing that they don t need to. At this point, M/s X credit rating goes down and nobody in the market will give them a loan. At the same time, the assets they had held, their value also depreciates because it became known that they can t act responsibly. So whose to say whether or not M/s X has those number of assets and priced them accurately. But the drama doesn t end there, M/s X says this is the responsibility of actually Mr. Z ( cue The Bank of England) as they are my accountant/lawyer etc. M/s Z says as any lawyer/accountant should. This is not under my remit. If the clients either gives incomplete information or false information or whatever then it is their responsibility not mine. And in fact, the Chancellor is supposed to be the one who is given the responsibility of making the budget. The Chancellor is very similar to our Finance Minister. Because the UK has constitutional monarchy, I am guessing the terms are slightly different, otherwise the functionality seems to be the same. For two weeks, there was lot of chaos, lot of pension funds lost quite a bit in the market and in the end Mr. Kwasi Kwarteng was ousted out of the job. Incredibly, the same media and newspapers who had praised Mr. Kwarteng just few weeks back as the best Tory budget, they couldn t wait to bury him. And while I have attempted to simplify what happened, the best explanation of what has happened can be found in an article from the guardian. Speculation is rife in the UK as to who s ruling atm as the new Chancellor has reversed almost all the policies that Ms. Truss had bought and she is now more or less a figurehead. Mr. Hunt, the new chancellor doesn t have anybody behind him. Apparently, the gentleman wanted to throw his hat the ring in the Tory leadership contest that was held about a month back and he couldn t get 20 MP s to support him. Another thing that is different between UK and India is that in UK by law the PM has to answer questions put up to him or her by the opposition leaders. That is the way accountability is measured there. This is known as PMQ s or Prime Minister Questions and Answers. One can just go to YouTube or any streaming service and give Liz Truss and PMQ s and if they are interested of a certain date, give a date and they can see how she answered the questions thrown at her. Unfortunately, all she could do in both times were non-answers. In fact, the Tories seem to be using some of Labor s policies after they had bad-mouthed the same policies. Politics of right-wing both in the UK and the US seems so out of touch with the people whom they are supposed to protect and administer. An article about cyclists which is sort of half-truth, half irony shows how screwed up the policies are of the RW (right-wing). Now they are questions about the pensions triple-lock. Sadly, it is the working class who would suffer the most, most of the rich have already moved their money abroad several years ago. The Financial Times, did share a video about how things have been unfolding

Seems Ms. Truss forgot to add Financial Times in the list of anti-growth coalition she is so fond of. Also, the Tory party seems to want to create more tax havens in the UK and calling them investment zones. Of course, most of the top tax havens are situated around the UK itself. I wouldn t go more into as that would probably require its own article, although most of that information is all in public domain. Fracking I don t really want to take much time as the blog post has become long. There have been many articles written why Fracking is bad and that is why even the Tories had put in their Manifesto that they won t allow Fracking but apparently, today they are trying to reopen Fracking. And again how bad it is and can be found out by the article in Guardian.

17 October 2022

Jeremy Bicha: Ubuntu bug fix anniversary

I first installed Ubuntu when Ubuntu 6.06 LTS Dapper Drake was released. I was brand new to Linux. This was Ubuntu s first LTS release; the very first release of Ubuntu was only a year and a half before. I was impressed by how usable and useful the system was. It soon became my primary home operating system and I wanted to help make it better. On October 15, 2009, I was helping test the release candidates ISOs for the Ubuntu 9.10 release. Specifically, I tested Edubuntu. Edubuntu has since been discontinued but at the time it was an official Ubuntu flavor preloaded with lots of education apps. One of those education apps was Moodle, an e-learning platform. When testing Moodle, I found that a default installation would make Moodle impossible to use locally. I figured out how to fix this issue. This was really exciting: I finally found an Ubuntu bug I knew how to fix. I filed the bug report. This was very late in the Ubuntu 9.10 release process and Ubuntu was in the Final Freeze state. In Final Freeze, every upload to packages included in the default install need to be individually approved by a member of the Ubuntu Release Team. Also, I didn t have upload rights to Ubuntu. Jordan Mantha (LaserJock), an Edubuntu maintainer, sponsored my bug fix upload. I also forwarded my patch to Debian. While trying to figure out what wasn t working with Moodle, I stumbled across a packaging bug. Edubuntu provided a choice of MySQL or PostgreSQL for the system default database. MySQL was the default, but if PostgreSQL were chosen instead, Moodle wouldn t work. I figured out how to fix this bug too a week later. Jordan sponsored this upload and Steve Langasek from the Release Team approved it so it also was able to be fixed before 9.10 was released. Although the first bug was new to 9.10 because of a behavior change in a low-level dependency, this PostgreSQL bug existed in stable Ubuntu releases. Therefore, I prepared Stable Release Updates for Ubuntu 9.04 and Ubuntu 8.04 LTS. Afterwards Six months later, I was able to attend my first Ubuntu Developer Summit. I was living in Bahrain (in the Middle East) at the time and a trip to Belgium seemed easier to me than if I were living in the United States where I usually live. This was the Ubuntu Developer Summit where planning for Ubuntu 10.10 took place. I like to believe that I helped with the naming since I added Maverick to the wiki page where people contribute suggestions. I did not apply for financial sponsorship to attend and I stayed in a budget hotel on the other side of Brussels. The event venue was on the outskirts of Brussels so there wasn t a direct bus or metro line to get there. I rented a car. I didn t yet have a smartphone and I had a LOT of trouble navigating to and from the site every day. I learned then that it s best to stay close to the conference site since a lot of the event is actually in the unstructured time in the evenings. Fortunately, I managed to arrive in time for Mark Shuttleworth s keynote where the Unity desktop was first announced. This was released in Ubuntu 10.10 in the Ubuntu Netbook Remix and became the default for Ubuntu Desktop in Ubuntu 11.04. Ubuntu s switch to Unity provided me with a huge opportunity. In April 2011, GNOME 3.0 was released. I wanted to try it but it wasn t yet packaged in Ubuntu or Debian. It was suggested that I could help work on packaging the major new version in a PPA. The PPA was convenient because I was able to get permission to upload there easier than being able to upload directly to Ubuntu. My contributions there then enabled me to get upload rights to the Ubuntu Desktop packages later that year. At a later Ubuntu Developer Summit, it was suggested that I start an official Ubuntu flavor for GNOME. So along with Tim Lunn (darkxst), I co-founded Ubuntu GNOME. Years later, Canonical stopped actively developing Unity; instead, Ubuntu GNOME was merged into Ubuntu Desktop. Along the way, I became an Ubuntu Core Developer and a Debian Developer. And in January 2022, I joined Canonical on the Desktop Team. This all still feels amazing to me. It took me a long time to be comfortable calling myself a developer! Conclusion My first Ubuntu bugfix was 13 years ago this week. Because Ubuntu historically uses alphabetical adjective animal release names, 13 years means that we have rolled around to the letter K again! Later today, we begin release candidate ISO testing for Ubuntu 22.10 Kinetic Kudu . I encourage you to help us test the release candidates and report bugs that you find. If you figure out how to fix a bug, we still sponsor bug fixes. If you are an Ubuntu contributor, I highly encourage you to attend an Ubuntu Summit if you can. The first Ubuntu Summit in years will be in 3 weeks in Prague, but the intent is for the Ubuntu Summits to be recurring events again.

14 October 2022

Shirish Agarwal: Dowry, Racism, Railways

Dowry Few days back, had posted about the movie Raksha Bandhan and whatever I felt about it. Sadly, just couple of days back, somebody shared this link. Part of me was shocked and part of me was not. Couple of acquaintances of mine in the past had said the same thing for their daughters. And in such situations you are generally left speechless because you don t know what the right thing to do is. If he has shared it with you being an outsider, how many times he must have told the same to their wife and daughters? And from what little I have gathered in life, many people have justified it on similar lines. And while the protests were there, sadly the book was not removed. Now if nurses are reading such literature, how their thought process might be forming, you can tell :(. And these are the ones whom we call for when we are sick and tired :(. And I have not taken into account how the girls/women themselves might be feeling. There are similar things in another country but probably not the same, nor the same motivations though although feeling helplessness in both would be a common thing. But such statements are not alone. Another gentleman in slightly different context shared this as well
The above is a statement shared in a book recommended for CTET (Central Teacher s Eligibility Test that became mandatory to be taken as the RTE (Right To Education) Act came in.). The statement says People from cold places are white, beautiful, well-built, healthy and wise. And people from hot places are black, irritable and of violent nature. Now while I can agree with one part of the statement that people residing in colder regions are more fair than others but there are loads of other factors that determine fairness or skin color/skin pigmentation. After a bit of search came to know that this and similar articulation have been made in an idea/work called Environmental Determinism . Now if you look at that page, you would realize this was what colonialism is and was all about. The idea that the white man had god-given right to rule over others. Similarly, if you are fair, you can lord over others. Seems simplistic, but yet it has a powerful hold on many people in India. Forget the common man, this thinking is and was applicable to some of our better-known Freedom fighters. Pune s own Bal Gangadhar Tilak The Artic Home to the Vedas. It sort of talks about Aryans and how they invaded India and became settled here. I haven t read or have access to the book so have to rely on third-party sources. The reason I m sharing all this is that the right-wing has been doing this myth-making for sometime now and unless and until you put a light on it, it will continue to perpetuate  . For those who have read this blog, do know that India is and has been in casteism from ever. They even took the fair comment and applied it to all Brahmins. According to them, all Brahmins are fair and hence have god-given right to lord over others. What is called the Eton boy s network serves the same in this casteism. The only solution is those idea under limelight and investigate. To take the above, how does one prove that all fair people are wise and peaceful while all people black and brown are violent. If that is so, how does one count for Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior, Nelson Mandela, Michael Jackson the list is probably endless. And not to forget that when Mahatma Gandhiji did his nonviolent movements either in India or in South Africa, both black and brown people in millions took part. Similar examples of Martin Luther King Jr. I know and read of so many non-violent civl movements that took place in the U.S. For e.g. Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. So just based on these examples, one can conclude that at least the part about the fair having exclusive rights to being fair and noble is not correct. Now as far as violence goes, while every race, every community has had done violence in the past or been a victim of the same. So no one is and can be blameless, although in light of the above statement, the question can argumentated as to who were the Vikings? Both popular imagination and serious history shares stories about Vikings. The Vikings were somewhat nomadic in nature even though they had permanent settlements but even then they went on raids, raped women, captured both men and women and sold them at slaves. So they are what pirates came to be, but not the kind Hollywood romanticizes about. Europe in itself has been a tale in conflict since time immemorial. It is only after the formation of EU that most of these countries stopped fighting each other From a historical point perspective, it is too new. So even the part of fair being non-violent dies in face of this evidence. I could go on but this is enough on that topic.

Railways and Industrial Action around the World. While I have shared about Railways so many times on this blog, it continues to fascinate me that how people don t understand the first things about Railways. For e.g. Railways is a natural monopoly. What that means is and you can look at all and any type of privatization around the world, you will see it is a monopoly. Unlike the road or Skies, Railways is and would always be limited by infrastructure and the ability to have new infrastructure. Unlike in road or Skies (even they have their limits) you cannot run train services on a whim. At any particular point in time, only a single train could and should occupy a stretch of Railway network. You could have more trains on one line, but then the likelihood of front or rear-end collisions becomes a real possibility. You also need all sorts of good and reliable communications, redundant infrastructure so if one thing fails then you have something in place. The reason being a single train can carry anywhere from 2000 to 5000 passengers or more. While this is true of Indian Railways, Railways around the world would probably have some sort of similar numbers.It is in this light that I share the below videos.
To be more precise, see the fuller video
Now to give context to the recording above, Mike Lynch is the general secretary at RMT. For those who came in late, both UK and the U.S. have been threatened by railway strikes. And the reason for the strikes or threat of strikes is similar. Now from the company perspective, all they care is to invest less and make the most profits that can be given to equity shareholders. At the same time, they have freezed the salaries of railway workers for the last 3 years. While the politicians who were asking the questions, apparently gave themselves raise twice this year. They are asking them to negotiate at 8% while inflation in the UK has been 12.3% and projected to go higher. And it is not only the money. Since the 1980s when UK privatized the Railways, they stopped investing in the infrastructure. And that meant that the UK Railway infrastructure over period of time started getting behind and is even behind say Indian Railways which used to provide most bang for the buck. And Indian Railways is far from ideal. Ironically, most of the operators on UK are nationalized Railways of France, Germany etc. but after the hard Brexit, they too are mulling to cut their operations short, they have too  There is also the EU Entry/Exit system that would come next year. Why am I sharing about what is happening in UK Rail, because the Indian Government wants to follow the same thing, and fooling the public into saying we would do it better. What inevitably will happen is that ticket prices go up, people no longer use the service, the number of services go down and eventually they are cancelled. This has happened both in Indian Railways as well as Airlines. In fact, GOI just recently announced a credit scheme just a few days back to help Airlines stay afloat. I was chatting with a friend who had come down to Pune from Chennai and the round-trip cost him INR 15k/- on that single trip alone. We reminisced how a few years ago, 8 years to be precise, we could buy an Air ticket for 2.5k/- just a few days before the trip and did it. I remember doing/experiencing at least a dozen odd trips via air in the years before 2014. My friend used to come to Pune, almost every weekend because he could afford it, now he can t do that. And these are people who are in the above 5-10% of the population. And this is not just in UK, but also in the United States. There is one big difference though, the U.S. is mainly a freight carrier while the UK Railway Operations are mostly passenger based. What was and is interesting that Scotland had to nationalize their services as they realized the Operators cannot or will not function when they were most needed. Most of the public even in the UK seem to want a nationalized rail service, at least their polls say so. So, it would definitely be interesting to see what happens in the UK next year. In the end, I know I promised to share about books, but the above incidents have just been too fascinating to not just share the news but also share what I think about them. Free markets function good where there is competition, for example what is and has been happening in China for EV s but not where you have natural monopolies. In all Railway privatization, you have to handover the area to one person, then they have no motivation. If you have multiple operators, then there would always be haggling as to who will run the train and at what time. In either scenario, it doesn t work and raises prices while not delivering anything better  I do take examples from UK because lot of things are India are still the legacy of the British. The whole civil department that was created in 1953 is/was a copy of the British civil department at that time and it is to this day. P.S. Just came to know that the UK Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng was just sacked as UK Chancellor. I do commend Truss for facing the press even though she might be dumped a week later unlike our PM who hasn t faced a single press conference in the last 8 odd years. The difference in Indian and UK politics seems to be that the English are now asking questions while here in India, most people are still sleeping without a care in the world. Another thing to note Minidebconf Palakkad is gonna happen 12-13th November 2022. I am probably not gonna go but would request everyone who wants to do something in free software to attend it. I am not sure whether I would be of any use like this and also when I get back, it would be an empty house. But for people young and old, who want to do anything with free/open source software it is a chance not to be missed. Registration of the same closes on 1st of November 2022. All the best, break a leg  Just read this, beautifully done.