Search Results: "remi"

1 April 2020

Joachim Breitner: 30 years of Haskell

Vitaly Bragilevsky, in a mail to the GHC Steering Committee, reminded me that the first version of the Haskell programming language was released exactly 30 years ago. On April 1st. So that raises the question: Was Haskell just an April fool's joke that was never retracted?
The cover of the 1.0 Haskell report

The cover of the 1.0 Haskell report

My own first exposure to Haskell was in April 2005; the oldest piece of Haskell I could find on my machine is this part of a university assignment from April:
> pascal 1 = [1]
> pascal (n+1) = zipWith (+) (x ++ [0]) (0 : x) where x = pascal n
This means that I now have witnessed half of Haskell's existence. I have never regretted getting into Haskell, and every time I come back from having worked in other languages (which all have their merits too), I greatly enjoy the beauty and elegance of expressing my ideas in a lazy and strictly typed language with a concise syntax. I am looking forward to witnessing (and, to a very small degree, shaping) the next 15 years of Haskell.

14 March 2020

John Goerzen: It Doesn t Take Much to Make Someone s Day

In times like these, it is natural to fear. Viruses, incompetent leadership, economic hardship, even death. But remember this:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers so many caring people in this world. Fred Rogers
This is so true. The examples are everywhere. Here in the United States, our federal government has been weak responding to COVID-19 but others have stepped up. Institutions big and small across the country are following the science and closing or taking other steps to slow the spread of coronavirus, even in areas it hasn t yet been detected, because this is the right thing to do. People are helping their neighbors, or giving up their favorite activities to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19. I work for a company that s publicly-traded on the NYSE, and it shut down all its offices globally. And kept paying the janitors and other office staff. Some people are in a vulnerable place today. To them: remember the helpers. There are doctors and nurses, officials, neighbors the care, everywhere. To those that are able: be a helper. It doesn t take much to brighten someone s day. Maybe a phone call or video call. Maybe delivering groceries to a neighbor that s quarantined. Maybe acts of grace and understanding to the stressed people around you, trying their best to get by in the face of a lack of information and certainty. Maybe giving up some activities you enjoy, in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19, even if you personally aren t especially vulnerable. I am reminded of this quote, part of a story about a dying cancer patient: Don t forget that it doesn t take much to make someone s day.

13 March 2020

Daniel Lange: Fixing the Nextcloud menu to show more than eight application icons

I have been late to adopt an on-premise cloud solution as the security of Owncloud a few years ago wasn't so stellar (cf. my comment from 2013 in Encryption files ... for synchronization across the Internet). But the follow-up product Nextcloud has matured quite nicely and we use it for collaboration both in the company and in FLOSS related work at multiple nonprofit organizations. There is a very annoying "feature" in Nextcloud though that the designers think menu items for apps at the top need to be limited to eight or less to prevent information overload in the header. The whole item discussion is worth reading as it it an archetypical example of design prevalence vs. user choice. And of course designers think they are right. That's a feature of the trade.
And because they know better there is no user configurable option to extend that 8 items to may be 12 or so which would prevent the annoying overflow menu we are seeing with 10 applications in use: Screenshot of stock Nextcloud menu Luckily code can be changed and there are many comments floating around the Internet to change const minAppsDesktop = 8. In this case it is slightly complicated by the fact that the javascript code is distributed in compressed form (aka "minified") as core/js/dist/main.js and you probably don't want to build the whole beast locally to change one constant. Basically
const breakpoint_mobile_width = 1024;

const resizeMenu = () =>
const appList = $('#appmenu li')
const rightHeaderWidth = $('.header-right').outerWidth()
const headerWidth = $('header').outerWidth()
const usePercentualAppMenuLimit = 0.33
const minAppsDesktop = 8
let availableWidth = headerWidth - $('#nextcloud').outerWidth() - (rightHeaderWidth > 210 ? rightHeaderWidth : 210)
const isMobile = $(window).width() < breakpoint_mobile_width
if (!isMobile)
availableWidth = availableWidth * usePercentualAppMenuLimit

let appCount = Math.floor((availableWidth / $(appList).width()))
if (isMobile && appCount > minAppsDesktop)
appCount = minAppsDesktop

if (!isMobile && appCount < minAppsDesktop)
appCount = minAppsDesktop


// show at least 2 apps in the popover
if (appList.length - 1 - appCount >= 1)
appCount--


$('#more-apps a').removeClass('active')
let lastShownApp
for (let k = 0; k < appList.length - 1; k++)
const name = $(appList[k]).data('id')
if (k < appCount)
$(appList[k]).removeClass('hidden')
$('#apps li[data-id=' + name + ']').addClass('in-header')
lastShownApp = appList[k]
else
$(appList[k]).addClass('hidden')
$('#apps li[data-id=' + name + ']').removeClass('in-header')
// move active app to last position if it is active
if (appCount > 0 && $(appList[k]).children('a').hasClass('active'))
$(lastShownApp).addClass('hidden')
$('#apps li[data-id=' + $(lastShownApp).data('id') + ']').removeClass('in-header')
$(appList[k]).removeClass('hidden')
$('#apps li[data-id=' + name + ']').addClass('in-header')




// show/hide more apps icon
if ($('#apps li:not(.in-header)').length === 0)
$('#more-apps').hide()
$('#navigation').hide()
else
$('#more-apps').show()

gets compressed during build time to become part of one 15,000+ character line. The relevant portion reads:
var f=function() var e=s()("#appmenu li"),t=s()(".header-right").outerWidth(),n=s()("header").outerWidth()-s()("#nextcloud").outerWidth()-(t>210?t:210),i=s()(window).width()<1024;i (n*=.33);var r,o=Math.floor(n/s()(e).width());i&&o>8&&(o=8),!i&&o<8&&(o=8),e.length-1-o>=1&&o--,s()("#more-apps a").removeClass("active");for(var a=0;a<e.length-1;a++) var l=s()(e[a]).data("id");a<o?(s()(e[a]).removeClass("hidden"),s()("#apps li[data-id="+l+"]").addClass("in-header"),r=e[a]):(s()(e[a]).addClass("hidden"),s()("#apps li[data-id="+l+"]").removeClass("in-header"),o>0&&s()(e[a]).children("a").hasClass("active")&&(s()(r).addClass("hidden"),s()("#apps li[data-id="+s()(r).data("id")+"]").removeClass("in-header"),s()(e[a]).removeClass("hidden"),s()("#apps li[data-id="+l+"]").addClass("in-header"))) 0===s()("#apps li:not(.in-header)").length?(s()("#more-apps").hide(),s()("#navigation").hide()):s()("#more-apps").show()
Well, we can still patch that, can we? Continue reading "Fixing the Nextcloud menu to show more than eight application icons"

6 March 2020

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds in February 2020

Welcome to the February 2020 report from the Reproducible Builds project. One of the original promises of open source software is that distributed peer review and transparency of process results in enhanced end-user security. However, whilst anyone may inspect the source code of free and open source software for malicious flaws, almost all software today is distributed as pre-compiled binaries. This allows nefarious third-parties to compromise systems by injecting malicious code into ostensibly secure software during the various compilation and distribution processes. The motivation behind the reproducible builds effort is to provide the ability to demonstrate these binaries originated from a particular, trusted, source release: if identical results are generated from a given source in all circumstances, reproducible builds provides the means for multiple third-parties to reach a consensus on whether a build was compromised via distributed checksum validation or some other scheme. In this month s report, we cover:

If you are interested in contributing to the project, please visit our Contribute page on our website.

Media coverage & upstream news Omar Navarro Leija, a PhD student at the University Of Pennsylvania, published a paper entitled Reproducible Containers that describes in detail the workings of a new user-space container tool called DetTrace:
All computation that occurs inside a DetTrace container is a pure function of the initial filesystem state of the container. Reproducible containers can be used for a variety of purposes, including replication for fault-tolerance, reproducible software builds and reproducible data analytics. We use DetTrace to achieve, in an automatic fashion, reproducibility for 12,130 Debian package builds, containing over 800 million lines of code, as well as bioinformatics and machine learning workflows.
There was also considerable discussion on our mailing list regarding this research and a presentation based on the paper will occur at the ASPLOS 2020 conference between March 16th 20th in Lausanne, Switzerland. The many virtues of Reproducible Builds were touted as benefits for software compliance in a talk at FOSDEM 2020, debating whether the Careful Inventory of Licensing Bill of Materials Have Impact of FOSS License Compliance which pitted Jeff McAffer and Carol Smith against Bradley Kuhn and Max Sills. (~47 minutes in). Nobuyoshi Nakada updated the canonical implementation of the Ruby programming language a change such that filesystem globs (ie. calls to list the contents of filesystem directories) will henceforth be sorted in ascending order. Without this change, the underlying nondeterministic ordering of the filesystem is exposed to the language which often results in an unreproducible build. Vagrant Cascadian reported on our mailing list regarding a quick reproducible test for the GNU Guix distribution, which resulted in 81.9% of packages registering as reproducible in his installation:
$ guix challenge --verbose --diff=diffoscope ...
2,463 store items were analyzed:
  - 2,016 (81.9%) were identical
  - 37 (1.5%) differed
  - 410 (16.6%) were inconclusive
Jeremiah Orians announced on our mailing list the release of a number of tools related to cross-compilation such as M2-Planet and mescc-tools-seed. This project attemps a full bootstrap of a cross-platform compiler for the C programming language (written in C itself) from hex, the ultimate goal being able to demonstrate fully-bootstrapped compiler from hex to the GCC GNU Compiler Collection. This has many implications in and around Ken Thompson s Trusting Trust attack outlined in Thompson s 1983 Turing Award Lecture. Twitter user @TheYoctoJester posted an executive summary of reproducible builds in the Yocto Project: Finally, Reddit user tofflos posted to the /r/Java subreddit asking about how to achieve reproducible builds with Maven and Chris Lamb noticed that the Linux kernel documentation about reproducible builds of it is available on the kernel.org homepages in an attractive HTML format.

Distribution work

Debian Chris Lamb created a merge request for the core debian-installer package to allow all arguments and options from sources.list files (such as [check-valid-until=no] , etc.) in order that we can test the reproducibility of the installer images on the Reproducible Builds own testing infrastructure. (#13) Thorsten Glaser followed-up to a bug filed against the dpkg-source component that was originally filed in late 2015 that claims that the build tool does not respect permissions when unpacking tarballs if the umask is set to 0002. Matthew Garrett posted to the debian-devel mailing list on the topic of Producing verifiable initramfs images as part of a wider conversation on being able to trust the entire software stack on our computers. 59 reviews of Debian packages were added, 30 were updated and 42 were removed this month adding to our knowledge about identified issues. Many issue types were noticed and categorised by Chris Lamb, including:

openSUSE In openSUSE, Bernhard M. Wiedemann published his monthly Reproducible Builds status update as well as provided the following patches:

Software development

diffoscope diffoscope is our in-depth and content-aware diff-like utility that can locate and diagnose reproducibility issues. It is run countless times a day on our testing infrastructure and is essential for identifying fixes and causes of nondeterministic behaviour. Chris Lamb made the following changes this month, including uploading version 137 to Debian:
  • The sng image utility appears to return with an exit code of 1 if there are even minor errors in the file. (#950806)
  • Also extract classes2.dex, classes3.dex from .apk files extracted by apktool. (#88)
  • No need to use str.format if we are just returning the string. [ ]
  • Add generalised support for ignoring returncodes [ ] and move special-casing of returncodes in zip to use Command.VALID_RETURNCODES. [ ]

Other tools disorderfs is our FUSE-based filesystem that deliberately introduces non-determinism into directory system calls in order to flush out reproducibility issues. This month, Vagrant Cascadian updated the Vcs-Git to specify the debian packaging branch. [ ] reprotest is our end-user tool to build same source code twice in widely differing environments and then checks the binaries produced by each build for any differences. This month, versions 0.7.13 and 0.7.14 were uploaded to Debian unstable by Holger Levsen after Vagrant Cascadian added support for GNU Guix [ ].

Project documentation & website There was more work performed on our documentation and website this month. Bernhard M. Wiedemann added a Java Gradle Build Tool snippet to the SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH documentation [ ] and normalised various terms to unreproducible [ ]. Chris Lamb added a Meson.build example [ ] and improved the documentation for the CMake [ ] to the SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH documentation, replaced anyone can with anyone may as, well, not everyone has the resources, skills, time or funding to actually do what it refers to [ ] and improved the pre-processing for our report generation [ ][ ][ ][ ] etc. In addition, Holger Levsen updated our news page to improve the list of reports [ ], added an explicit mention of the weekly news time span [ ] and reverted sorting of news entries to have latest on top [ ] and Mattia Rizzolo added Codethink as a non-fiscal sponsor [ ] and lastly Tianon Gravi added a Docker Images link underneath the Debian project on our Projects page [ ].

Upstream patches The Reproducible Builds project detects, dissects and attempts to fix as many currently-unreproducible packages as possible. We endeavour to send all of our patches upstream where appropriate. This month, we wrote a large number of such patches, including: Vagrant Cascadian submitted patches via the Debian bug tracking system targeting the packages the Civil Infrastructure Platform has identified via the CIP and CIP build depends package sets:

Testing framework We operate a fully-featured and comprehensive Jenkins-based testing framework that powers tests.reproducible-builds.org. This month, the following changes were made by Holger Levsen: In addition, Mattia Rizzolo added an Apache web server redirect for buildinfos.debian.net [ ] and reverted the reshuffling of arm64 architecture builders [ ]. The usual build node maintenance was performed by Holger Levsen, Mattia Rizzolo [ ][ ] and Vagrant Cascadian.

Getting in touch 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:

This month s report was written by Bernhard M. Wiedemann, Chris Lamb and Holger Levsen. It was subsequently reviewed by a bunch of Reproducible Builds folks on IRC and the mailing list.

2 March 2020

Russell Coker: Amazon Prime and Netflix

I ve been trying both Amazon Prime and Netflix. I signed up for the month free of Amazon Prime to watch Good Omens and Picard . Good Omens is definitely worth the effort of setting up the month free of Amazon Prime and is worth the month s subscription if you have used your free month in the past and Picard is ok. Content Amazon Prime has a medium amount of other content, I m now paying for a month of Amazon Prime mainly because there s enough documentaries to take a month. For reference there are plenty of good ones about war and about space exploration. There are also some really rubbish documentaries, for example a 2 part documentary about the Magna Carta where the second part starts with Grover Norquist claiming that the Magna Carta is justification for not having any taxes (the first part seemed ok). Netflix has a lot of great content. A big problem with Netflix is that there aren t good ways of searching and organising the content you want to watch. It would be really nice if Netflix could use some machine learning for recommendations and recommend shows based on what I ve liked and also what I ve disliked. On both Netflix and Amazon when you view the details of a show it gives a short list of similar shows which is nice. With Amazon I have no complaints about that. But with Netflix the content library is so great that you get lost in a maze of links. On the Android tablet interface for Netflix it shows 12 similar shows in a grid and on the web interface it s a row of 20 shows with looped scrolling. Then as you click a different show you get another list of 12/20 shows which will usually have some overlap with the previous one. It would be nice if you could easily swipe left on shows you don t like to avoid having them repeatedly presented to you. On Netflix I ve really enjoyed the Altered Carbon series (which is significantly more violent than I anticipated), Black Mirror (the episode written by Trent Reznor and starring Miley Cyrus is particularly good), and Love Death and Robots . Overall I currently rate Love Death and Robots as in many ways the best series I ve ever watched because the episodes are all short and get straight to the point. One advantage of online video is that they don t need to pad episodes out or cut them short to fit a TV time slot, they can use as much time as necessary to tell the story. Watch List Having a single row of shows to watch is fine for the amount of content that Amazon has, but for the Netflix content you can easily get 100 shows on your watch list and it would be good to be able to search my watch list by genre (it s a drag to flick through dozens of icons of war documentaries when I m in the mood for an action movie as the icons are somewhat similar). As well as a list of shows you selected to watch Netflix has a list of shows that have been recently watched with no way to edit it which is separate from the list of shows selected to watch. So if you watch 5 minutes of a show and decide that it sucks then it stays on the list until you have partially watched 10 other shows recently. For my usage the recently watched list is the most important thing as I m watching some serial shows and wouldn t want to go through the 100 shows on my watch list to find them. If I ve decided that a movie sucked after watching a bit of it I don t want to be reminded of it by seeing the icon every time I use Netflix for the next month. Amazon has only a single watch next list for shows that you have watched recently and shows that you selected as worth watching. It allows editing the list which is nice, but then Amazon also often keeps shows on the list when you have finished watching them and removed them from the to watch setting. Amazon s watch list is also generally buggy, at one time it decided that a movie was no longer available in my region but didn t let me remove it from the list. Quality Apparently the Netflix web interface on Linux only allows 720p video while the Amazon web interface on all platforms is limited to 720p. In any case my Internet connection is probably only good enough for 1080p at most. I haven t noticed any quality differences between Netflix and Amazon Prime. Multiple Users Netflix allows you to create profiles for multiple users with separate watch lists which is very handy. They also don t have IP address restrictions so it s a common practice for people to share a Netflix account with relatives. If you try to use Netflix when the maximum number of sessions for your account is in use it will show a list of what the other people on your account are watching (so if you share with your parents be careful about that). Amazon doesn t allow creating multiple profiles, but the content isn t that great. The trend in video streaming is for proprietary content to force users to subscribe to a service. So sharing an Amazon Prime account with a few people so you want watch the proprietary content would make sense. Watching Patterns Sometimes when I m particularly distracted I can t focus on one show for any length of time. Both Amazon and Netflix (and probably all other online streaming services) allow me to skip between shows easily. That s always been a feature of YouTube, but with YouTube you get recommended increasingly viral content until you find yourself watching utter rubbish. At least with Amazon and Netflix there is a minimum quality level even if that is reality TV. Conclusion Amazon Prime has a smaller range of content and some really rubbish documentaries. I don t mind the documentaries about UFOs and other fringe stuff as it s obvious what it is and you can avoid it. A documentary that has me watching for an hour before it s revealed to be a promo for Grover Norquist is really bad, did the hour of it that I watched have good content or just rubbish too? Netflix has a huge range of content and the quality level is generally very high. If you are going to watch TV then subscribing to Netflix is probably a good idea. It s reasonably cheap, has a good (not great) interface, and has a lot of content including some great original content. For Amazon maybe subscribe for 1 month every second year to binge watch the Amazon proprietary content that interests you.

18 November 2017

Matthieu Caneill: MiniDebconf in Toulouse

I attended the MiniDebconf in Toulouse, which was hosted in the larger Capitole du Libre, a free software event with talks, presentation of associations, and a keysigning party. I didn't expect the event to be that big, and I was very impressed by its organization. Cheers to all the volunteers, it has been an amazing week-end! Here's a sum-up of the talks I attended. Du logiciel libre la monnaie libre Speaker: lo s The first talk I attended was, translated to English, "from free software to free money". lo s compared the 4 freedoms of free software with money, and what properties money needs to exhibit in order to be considered free. He then introduced 1, a project of free (as in free speech!) money, started in the region around Toulouse. Contrary to some distributed ledgers such as Bitcoin, 1 isn't based on an hash-based proof-of-work, but rather around a web of trust of people certifying each other, hence limiting the energy consumption required by the network to function. YunoHost Speaker: Jimmy Monin I then attended a presentation of YunoHost. Being an happy user myself, it was very nice to discover the future expected features, and also meet two of the developers. YunoHost is a Debian-based project, aimed at providing all the tools necessary to self-host applications, including email, website, calendar, development tools, and dozens of other packages. Premiers pas dans l'univers de Debian Speaker: Nicolas Dandrimont For the first talk of the MiniDebConf, Nicolas Dandrimont introduced Debian, its philosophy, and how it works with regards to upstreams and downstreams. He gave many details on the teams, the infrastructure, and the internals of Debian. Trusting your computer and system Speaker: Jonas Smedegaard Jonas introduced some security concepts, and how they are abused and often meaningless (to quote his own words, "secure is bullshit"). He described a few projects which lean towards a more secure and open hardware, for both phones and laptops. Automatiser la gestion de configuration de Debian avec Ansible Speaker: J r my Lecour J r my, from Evolix, introduced Ansible, and how they use it to manage hundreds of Debian servers. Ansible is a very powerful tool, and a huge ecosystem, in many ways similar to Puppet or Chef, except it is agent-less, using only ssh connections to communicate with remote machines. Very nice to compare their use of Ansible with mine, since that's the software I use at work for deploying experiments. Making Debian for everybody Speaker: Samuel Thibault Samuel gave a talk about accessibility, and the general availability of the tools in today's operating systems, including Debian. The lesson to take home is that we often don't do enough in this domain, particularly when considering some issues people might have that we don't always think about. Accessibility on computers (and elsewhere) should be the default, and never require complex setups. Retour d'exp rience : mise jour de milliers de terminaux Debian Speaker: Cyril Brulebois Cyril described a problem he was hired for, an update of thousands of Debian servers from wheezy to jessie, which he discovered afterwards was worse than initially thought, since the machines were running the out-of-date squeeze. Since they were not always administered with the best sysadmin practices, they were all exhibiting different configurations and different packages lists, which raised many issues and gave him interesting challenges. They were solved using Ansible, which also had the effect of standardizing their system administration practices. Retour d'exp rience : utilisation de Debian chez Evolix Speaker: Gr gory Colpart Gr gory described Evolix, a company which manages servers for their clients, and how they were inspired by Debian, for both their internal tools and their practices. It is very interesting to see that some of the Debian values can be easily exported for a more open and collaborative business. Lightning talks To close the conference, two lightning talks were presented, describing the switch from Windows XP to Debian in an ecologic association near Toulouse; and how snapshot.debian.org can be used with bisections to find the source of some regressions. Conclusion A big thank you to all the organizers and the associations who contributed to make this event a success. Cheers!

6 November 2017

Jonathan Dowland: Coil

Peter Christopherson and Jhonn Balance, from [Santa Sangre](https://santasangremagazine.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/the-angelic-conversation-in-remembrance-of-coil/) Peter Christopherson and Jhonn Balance, from Santa Sangre
A friend asked me to suggest five tracks by Coil that gave an introduction to their work. Trying to summarize Coil in 5 tracks is tough. I think it's probably impossible to fairly summarize Coil with any subset of their music, for two reasons. Firstly, their music was the output of their work but I don't think is really the whole of the work itself. There's a real mystique around them. They were deeply interested in arcania, old magic, Aleister Crowley, scatology; they were both openly and happily gay and their work sometimes explored their experiences in various related underground scenes and sub-cultures; they lost friends to HIV/AIDS and that had a profound impact on them. They had a big influence on some people who discovered them who were exploring their own sexualities at the time and might have felt excluded from mainstream society. They frequently explored drugs, meditation and other ways to try to expand and open their minds; occultism. They were also fiercely anti-commercial, their stuff was released in limited quantities across a multitude of different music labels, often under different names, and often paired with odd physical objects, runes, vials of blood, etc. Later fascinations included paganism and moon worship. I read somewhere that they literally cursed one of their albums. Secondly, part of their "signature" was the lack of any consistency in their work, or to put it another way, their style over time varied enormously. I'm also not necessarily well-versed in all their stuff, I'm part way on this journey myself... but these are tracks which stand out at least from the subset I've listened to. Both original/core members of Coil have passed away and the legal status of their catalogue is in a state of limbo. Some of these songs are available on currently-in-print releases, but all such releases are under dispute by some associate or other.

1. Heaven's Blade Like (probably) a lot of Coil songs, this one exists in multiple forms, with some dispute about which are canonical, which are officially sanctioned, etc. the video linked above actually contains 5 different versions, but I've linked to a time offset to the 4th: "Heaven's Blade (Backwards)". This version was the last to come to light with the recent release of "Backwards", an album originally prepared in the 90s at Trent Reznor's Nothing Studios in New Orleans, but not finished or released. The circumstances around its present-day release, as well as who did what to it and what manipulation may have been performed to the audio a long time after the two core members had passed, is a current topic in fan circles. Despite that, this is my preferred version. You can choose to investigate the others, or not, at your own discretion.

2. how to destroy angels (ritual music for the accumulation of male sexual energy) A few years ago, "guidopaparazzi", a user at the Echoing the Sound music message board attempted to listen to every Coil release ever made and document the process. He didn't do it chronologically, leaving the EPs until near the end, which is when he tackled this one (which was the first release by Coil, and was the inspiration behind the naming of Trent Reznor's one-time side project "How To Destroy Angels"). Guido seemed to think this was some kind of elaborate joke. Personally I think it's a serious piece and there's something to it but this just goes to show, different people can take things in entirely different ways. Here's Guido's review, and you can find the rest of his reviews linked from that one if you wish. https://archive.org/details/Coil-HowToDestroyAngels1984

3. Red Birds Will Fly Out Of The East And Destroy Paris In A Night Both "Musick To Play In The Dark" volumes (one and two) are generally regarded as amongst the most accessible entry points to the Coil discography. This is my choice of cut from volume 1. For some reason this reminds me a little of some of the background music from the game "Unreal Tournament". I haven't played that in at least 15 years. I should go back and see if I can figure out why it does. The whole EP is worth a listen, especially at night. https://archive.org/details/CoilMusickToPlayInTheDarkVol1/Coil+-+Musick+To+Play+In+The+Dark+Vol+1+-+2+Red+Birds+Will+Fly+Out+Of+The+East+And+Destroy+Paris+In+A+Night.flac

4. Things Happen It's tricky to pick a track from either "Love's Secret Domain" or "Horse Rotorvator"; there are other choices which I think are better known and loved than this one but it's one that haunted me after I first heard it for one reason or another, so here it is.

5. The Anal Staircase Track 1 from Horse Rotorvator. What the heck is a Horse Rotorvator anyway? I think it was supposed to have been a lucid nightmare experienced by the vocalist Jhonn Balance. So here they wrote a song about anal sex. No messing about, no allusion particularly, but why should there be? https://archive.org/details/CoilHorseRotorvator2001Remaster/Coil+-+Horse+Rotorvator+%5B2001+remaster%5D+-+01+The+Anal+Staircase.flac

Bonus 6th: 7-Methoxy-B-Carboline (Telepathine) From the drone album "Time Machines", which has just been re-issued by DIAS records, who describe it as "authorized". Each track is titled by the specific combination of compounds that inspired its composition, supposedly. Or, perhaps it's a "recommended dosing" for listening along. https://archive.org/details/TimeMachines-TimeMachines

Post-script If those piqued your interest, there's some decent words and a list of album suggestions in this Vinyl Factory article. Finally, if you can track them down, Stuart Maconie had two radio shows about Coil on his "Freak Zone" programme. The main show discusses the release of "Backwards", including an interview with collaborator Danny Hyde, who was the main person behind the recent re-issue. The shorter show is entitled John Doran uncoils Coil. Guest John Doran from The Quietus discusses the group and their history interspersed with Coil tracks and tracks from their contemporaries. Interestingly they chose a completely different set of 5 tracks to me.

3 November 2017

Reproducible builds folks: Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #131

Here's what happened in the Reproducible Builds effort between Sunday October 22 and Saturday October 28 2017: Past Events Upcoming/current events Documentation updates Bernhard Wiedemann started The Unreproducible Package which "is meant as a practical way to demonstrate the various ways that software can break reproducible builds using just low level primitives without requiring external existing programs that implement these primitives themselves. It is structured so that one subdirectory demonstrates one class of issues in some variants observed in the wild." Reproducible work in other projects Hush, a fork of ZCash, opened an issue into reproducible builds. A new tag was added to lintian (lint checker for Debian packages) to ensure that changelog entry timestamps are strictly increasing. This avoids certain real-world issues with identical timestamps, documented in Debian #843773. Packages reviewed and fixed, and bugs filed Patches sent upstream: Debian bug reports: Reviews of unreproducible packages 14 package reviews have been added, 35 have been updated and 28 have been removed in this week, adding to our knowledge about identified issues. 1 issue type has been updated: Weekly QA work During our reproducibility testing, FTBFS bugs have been detected and reported by: strip-nondeterminism development Version 0.040-1 was uploaded to unstable by Mattia Rizzolo. It included contributions already covered by posts of the previous weeks, as well as new ones from: reprotest development Development continued in git: buildinfo.debian.net development Development continued in git: reproducible-website development Misc. This week's edition was written by Ximin Luo, Chris Lamb, Bernhard M. Wiedemann and Holger Levsen & reviewed by a bunch of Reproducible Builds folks on IRC & the mailing lists.

2 November 2017

Antoine Beaupr : October 2017 report: LTS, feed2exec beta, pandoc filters, git mediawiki

Debian Long Term Support (LTS) This is my monthly Debian LTS report. This time I worked on the famous KRACK attack, git-annex, golang and the continuous stream of GraphicsMagick security issues.

WPA & KRACK update I spent most of my time this month on the Linux WPA code, to backport it to the old (~2012) wpa_supplicant release. I first published a patchset based on the patches shipped after the embargo for the oldstable/jessie release. After feedback from the list, I also built packages for i386 and ARM. I have also reviewed the WPA protocol to make sure I understood the implications of the changes required to backport the patches. For example, I removed the patches touching the WNM sleep mode code as that was introduced only in the 2.0 release. Chunks of code regarding state tracking were also not backported as they are part of the state tracking code introduced later, in 3ff3323. Finally, I still have concerns about the nonce setup in patch #5. In the last chunk, you'll notice peer->tk is reset, to_set to negotiate a new TK. The other approach I considered was to backport 1380fcbd9f ("TDLS: Do not modify RNonce for an TPK M1 frame with same INonce") but I figured I would play it safe and not introduce further variations. I should note that I share Matthew Green's observations regarding the opacity of the protocol. Normally, network protocols are freely available and security researchers like me can easily review them. In this case, I would have needed to read the opaque 802.11i-2004 pdf which is behind a TOS wall at the IEEE. I ended up reading up on the IEEE_802.11i-2004 Wikipedia article which gives a simpler view of the protocol. But it's a real problem to see such critical protocols developed behind closed doors like this. At Guido's suggestion, I sent the final patch upstream explaining the concerns I had with the patch. I have not, at the time of writing, received any response from upstream about this, unfortunately. I uploaded the fixed packages as DLA 1150-1 on October 31st.

Git-annex The next big chunk on my list was completing the work on git-annex (CVE-2017-12976) that I started in August. It turns out doing the backport was simpler than I expected, even with my rusty experience with Haskell. Type-checking really helps in doing the right thing, especially considering how Joey Hess implemented the fix: by introducing a new type. So I backported the patch from upstream and notified the security team that the jessie and stretch updates would be similarly easy. I shipped the backport to LTS as DLA-1144-1. I also shared the updated packages for jessie (which required a similar backport) and stretch (which didn't) and those Sebastien Delafond published those as DSA 4010-1.

Graphicsmagick Up next was yet another security vulnerability in the Graphicsmagick stack. This involved the usual deep dive into intricate and sometimes just unreasonable C code to try and fit a round tree in a square sinkhole. I'm always unsure about those patches, but the test suite passes, smoke tests show the vulnerability as fixed, and that's pretty much as good as it gets. The announcement (DLA 1154-1) turned out to be a little special because I had previously noticed that the penultimate announcement (DLA 1130-1) was never sent out. So I made a merged announcement to cover both instead of re-sending the original 3 weeks late, which may have been confusing for our users.

Triage & misc We always do a bit of triage even when not on frontdesk duty, so I: I also did smaller bits of work on: The latter reminded me of the concerns I have about the long-term maintainability of the golang ecosystem: because everything is statically linked, an update to a core library (say the SMTP library as in CVE-2017-15042, thankfully not affecting LTS) requires a full rebuild of all packages including the library in all distributions. So what would be a simple update in a shared library system could mean an explosion of work on statically linked infrastructures. This is a lot of work which can definitely be error-prone: as I've seen in other updates, some packages (for example the Ruby interpreter) just bit-rot on their own and eventually fail to build from source. We would also have to investigate all packages to see which one include the library, something which we are not well equipped for at this point. Wheezy was the first release shipping golang packages but at least it's shipping only one... Stretch has shipped with two golang versions (1.7 and 1.8) which will make maintenance ever harder in the long term.
We build our computers the way we build our cities--over time, without a plan, on top of ruins. - Ellen Ullman

Other free software work This month again, I was busy doing some serious yak shaving operations all over the internet, on top of publishing two of my largest LWN articles to date (2017-10-16-strategies-offline-pgp-key-storage and 2017-10-26-comparison-cryptographic-keycards).

feed2exec beta Since I announced this new project last month I have released it as a beta and it entered Debian. I have also wrote useful plugins like the wayback plugin that saves pages on the Wayback machine for eternal archival. The archive plugin can also similarly save pages to the local filesystem. I also added bash completion, expanded unit tests and documentation, fixed default file paths and a bunch of bugs, and refactored the code. Finally, I also started using two external Python libraries instead of rolling my own code: the pyxdg and requests-file libraries, the latter which I packaged in Debian (and fixed a bug in their test suite). The program is working pretty well for me. The only thing I feel is really missing now is a retry/fail mechanism. Right now, it's a little brittle: any network hiccup will yield an error email, which are readable to me but could be confusing to a new user. Strangely enough, I am particularly having trouble with (local!) DNS resolution that I need to look into, but that is probably unrelated with the software itself. Thankfully, the user can disable those with --loglevel=ERROR to silence WARNINGs. Furthermore, some plugins still have some rough edges. For example, The Transmission integration would probably work better as a distinct plugin instead of a simple exec call, because when it adds new torrents, the output is totally cryptic. That plugin could also leverage more feed parameters to save different files in different locations depending on the feed titles, something would be hard to do safely with the exec plugin now. I am keeping a steady flow of releases. I wish there was a way to see how effective I am at reaching out with this project, but unfortunately GitLab doesn't provide usage statistics... And I have received only a few comments on IRC about the project, so maybe I need to reach out more like it says in the fine manual. Always feels strange to have to promote your project like it's some new bubbly soap... Next steps for the project is a final review of the API and release production-ready 1.0.0. I am also thinking of making a small screencast to show the basic capabilities of the software, maybe with asciinema's upcoming audio support?

Pandoc filters As I mentioned earlier, I dove again in Haskell programming when working on the git-annex security update. But I also have a small Haskell program of my own - a Pandoc filter that I use to convert the HTML articles I publish on LWN.net into a Ikiwiki-compatible markdown version. It turns out the script was still missing a bunch of stuff: image sizes, proper table formatting, etc. I also worked hard on automating more bits of the publishing workflow by extracting the time from the article which allowed me to simply extract the full article into an almost final copy just by specifying the article ID. The only thing left is to add tags, and the article is complete. In the process, I learned about new weird Haskell constructs. Take this code, for example:
-- remove needless blockquote wrapper around some tables
--
-- haskell newbie tips:
--
-- @ is the "at-pattern", allows us to define both a name for the
-- construct and inspect the contents as once
--
--   is the "empty record pattern": it basically means "match the
-- arguments but ignore the args"
cleanBlock (BlockQuote t@[Table  ]) = t
Here the idea is to remove <blockquote> elements needlessly wrapping a <table>. I can't specify the Table type on its own, because then I couldn't address the table as a whole, only its parts. I could reconstruct the whole table bits by bits, but it wasn't as clean. The other pattern was how to, at last, address multiple string elements, which was difficult because Pandoc treats spaces specially:
cleanBlock (Plain (Strong (Str "Notifications":Space:Str "for":Space:Str "all":Space:Str "responses":_):_)) = []
The last bit that drove me crazy was the date parsing:
-- the "GAByline" div has a date, use it to generate the ikiwiki dates
--
-- this is distinct from cleanBlock because we do not want to have to
-- deal with time there: it is only here we need it, and we need to
-- pass it in here because we do not want to mess with IO (time is I/O
-- in haskell) all across the function hierarchy
cleanDates :: ZonedTime -> Block -> [Block]
-- this mouthful is just the way the data comes in from
-- LWN/Pandoc. there could be a cleaner way to represent this,
-- possibly with a record, but this is complicated and obscure enough.
cleanDates time (Div (_, [cls], _)
                 [Para [Str month, Space, Str day, Space, Str year], Para _])
    cls == "GAByline" = ikiwikiRawInline (ikiwikiMetaField "date"
                                           (iso8601Format (parseTimeOrError True defaultTimeLocale "%Y-%B-%e,"
                                                           (year ++ "-" ++ month ++ "-" ++ day) :: ZonedTime)))
                        ++ ikiwikiRawInline (ikiwikiMetaField "updated"
                                             (iso8601Format time))
                        ++ [Para []]
-- other elements just pass through
cleanDates time x = [x]
Now that seems just dirty, but it was even worse before. One thing I find difficult in adapting to coding in Haskell is that you need to take the habit of writing smaller functions. The language is really not well adapted to long discourse: it's more about getting small things connected together. Other languages (e.g. Python) discourage this because there's some overhead in calling functions (10 nanoseconds in my tests, but still), whereas functions are a fundamental and important construction in Haskell that are much more heavily optimized. So I constantly need to remind myself to split things up early, otherwise I can't do anything in Haskell. Other languages are more lenient, which does mean my code can be more dirty, but I feel get things done faster then. The oddity of Haskell makes frustrating to work with. It's like doing construction work but you're not allowed to get the floor dirty. When I build stuff, I don't mind things being dirty: I can cleanup afterwards. This is especially critical when you don't actually know how to make things clean in the first place, as Haskell will simply not let you do that at all. And obviously, I fought with Monads, or, more specifically, "I/O" or IO in this case. Turns out that getting the current time is IO in Haskell: indeed, it's not a "pure" function that will always return the same thing. But this means that I would have had to change the signature of all the functions that touched time to include IO. I eventually moved the time initialization up into main so that I had only one IO function and moved that timestamp downwards as simple argument. That way I could keep the rest of the code clean, which seems to be an acceptable pattern. I would of course be happy to get feedback from my Haskell readers (if any) to see how to improve that code. I am always eager to learn.

Git remote MediaWiki Few people know that there is a MediaWiki remote for Git which allow you to mirror a MediaWiki site as a Git repository. As a disaster recovery mechanism, I have been keeping such a historical backup of the Amateur radio wiki for a while now. This originally started as a homegrown Python script to also convert the contents in Markdown. My theory then was to see if we could switch from Mediawiki to Ikiwiki, but it took so long to implement that I never completed the work. When someone had the weird idea of renaming a page to some impossible long name on the wiki, my script broke. I tried to look at fixing it and then remember I also had a mirror running using the Git remote. It turns out it also broke on the same issue and that got me looking in the remote again. I got lost in a zillion issues, including fixing that specific issue, but I especially looked at the possibility of fetching all namespaces because I realized that the remote fetches only a part of the wiki by default. And that drove me to submit namespace support as a patch to the git mailing list. Finally, the discussion came back to how to actually maintain that contrib: in git core or outside? Finally, it looks like I'll be doing some maintenance that project outside of git, as I was granted access to the GitHub organisation...

Galore Yak Shaving Then there's the usual hodgepodge of fixes and random things I did over the month.
There is no [web extension] only XUL! - Inside joke

1 November 2017

James McCoy: Monthly FLOSS activity - 2017/10 edition

Debian subversion vim
libvterm
pangoterm
vim-gnupg
neovim
vim

28 October 2017

Russ Allbery: Review: Provenance

Review: Provenance, by Ann Leckie
Publisher: Orbit
Copyright: September 2017
ISBN: 0-316-38863-7
Format: Kindle
Pages: 448
In a rather desperate attempt to please her mother, Ingray has spent every resource she has on extracting the son of a political enemy from Compassionate Removal (think life imprisonment with really good marketing). The reason: vestiges, a cultural touchstone for Ingray's native planet of Hwae. These are invitation cards, floor tiles, wall panels, or just about anything that can be confirmed to have been physically present at an important or historical moment, or in the presence of a famous figure. The person Ingray is retrieving supposedly pulled off the biggest theft of vestiges in history. If she can locate them, it would be a huge coup for her highly-placed politician mother, and the one time she would be victorious in her forced rivalry with her brother. About the best thing that could be said for this plan is that it's audacious. The first obstacle is the arrival of the Geck on the station for a Conclave for renegotiation of the treaty with the Presger, possibly the most important thing going on in the galaxy at the moment, which strands her there without money for food. The second is that the person she has paid so much to extract from Compassionate Removal says they aren't the person she was looking for at all, and are not particularly interested in going with her to Hwae. Only a bit of creative thinking in the face of a visit from the local authorities, and the unexpected kindness of the captain from whom she booked travel, might get her home with the tatters of her plan intact. But she's clearly far out of her depth. Provenance is set in the same universe as Ancillary Justice and its sequels, but it is not set in the empire of the Radchaai. This is another human world entirely, one with smaller and more provincial concerns. The aftermath of Ancillary Mercy is playing out in the background (so do not, on risk of serious spoilers, read the start of this book without having read the previous trilogy), but this is in no way a sequel. Neither the characters nor the plot are involved in that aftermath. It's a story told at a much smaller scale, about two political families, cut-throat maneuvering, horrible parenting, the inexplicable importance of social artifacts, the weirdness of human/alien relations, and the merits of some very unlikely allies. Provenance is a very different type of story than Ancillary Justice, and Ingray is a very different protagonist. The shape of the plot reminded me of one of Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan stories: hair-brained ideas, improvisation, and unlikely allies. But Ingray couldn't be more different than Miles. She starts the book overwhelmed, despairing, and not at all manic, and one spends the first part of the story feeling sorry for her and becoming quite certain that everything will go horribly wrong. The heart of this book is the parallel path Leckie takes the reader and the characters along as they discover just what Ingray's true talents and capabilities are. It's a book about being hopelessly bad at things one was pressured towards being good at, while being quietly and subtly good at the skills that let one survive a deeply dysfunctional family. There are lots of books with very active protagonists, and a depressing number of books with passive protagonists pushed around by the plot. There are very few books that pull off the delicate characterization that Leckie manages here: a protagonist who is rather hopeless at taking charge of the plot in the way everyone wants (but doesn't particularly expect) her to, but who charts her own path through the plot in an entirely unexpected way. It's a story that grows on you. The plot rhythm never works in quite the way one expects from other books, but it builds its own logic and its own rhythm, and reached a very emotionally satisfying conclusion. The Radchaai, or at least one Radchaai citizen, do show up eventually, providing a glimmer of outside view at the Ancillary Justice world. Even better, the Geck play a significant role. I adore Leckie's aliens: they're strange and confusing, but in a refreshingly blunt way rather than abusing gnomic utterances and incomprehensible intelligence. And the foot-stomping of the spider bot made me laugh every time. The stakes are a lot lower here than in Ancillary Justice, and Ingray isn't the sort of character who's going to change the world. But that's okay; indeed, one of the points of this book is why and how that's okay. I won't lie: I'd love more Breq, and I hope we eventually get an exploration of the larger consequences of her story. But this is a delightful story that made me happy and has defter character work than most SF being written. Recommended, but read the Ancillary trilogy first. One minor closing complaint, which didn't change my experience of the book but which I can't help quibbling about: I'm completely onboard with the three-gender system that Leckie uses for the Hwae (I wish more SF authors would play with social as well as technological ideas), and I think she wove it deftly into the story, but I wish she hadn't used Spivak pronouns for the third gender. (e/em/eir, for those who aren't familiar.) Any of the other gender-neutral pronouns look better to me and cause fewer problems for my involuntary proofreader. I prefer zie/zir for personal reasons, but sie/hir, zhe/zhim/zher, or even thon or per would read more smoothly. Eir is fine, but em looks like 'em and throws my brain into dialect mode and forces a re-parse, and e just looks like a typo. I know from lots of Usenet discussions of pronouns that I'm not the only one who has that reaction to Spivak. But it's a very minor nit. Rating: 8 out of 10

22 October 2017

Iain R. Learmonth: Free Software Efforts (2017W42)

Here s my weekly report for week 42 of 2017. In this week I have replaced my spacebar, failed to replace a HDD and begun the process to replace my YubiKey.

Debian Eariler in the week I blogged about powerline-taskwarrior . There is a new upstream version available that includes the patches I had produced for Python 2 support and I have filed #879225 to remind me to package this. The state of emscripten is still not great, and as I don t have the time to chase this up and I certainly don t have the time to fix it myself, I ve converted the ITP for csdr to an RFP. As I no longer have the time to maintain map.debian.net, I have released this domain name and published the sources behind the service.

Tor Project There was a request to remove the $ from family fingerprint on Atlas. These actually come from Onionoo and we have decided to fix this in Onionoo, but I did push a small fix for Atlas this week that makes sure that Atlas doesn t care if there are $ prefixes or not. I requested that a Trac component be created for metrics-bot. I wrote a seperate post about metrics-bot. I also attended the weekly metrics team meeting.

Sustainability I believe it is important to be clear not only about the work I have already completed but also about the sustainability of this work into the future. I plan to include a short report on the current sustainability of my work in each weekly report. I have not had any free software related expenses this week. The current funds I have available for equipment, travel and other free software expenses remains 60.52. I do not believe that any hardware I rely on is looking at imminent failure. I do not find it likely that I ll be travelling to Cambridge for the miniDebConf as the train alone would be around 350 and hotel accomodation a further 600 (to include both me and Ana).

21 October 2017

Michael Stapelberg: pk4: a new tool to avail the Debian source package producing the specified package

UNIX distributions used to come with the system source code in /usr/src. This is a concept which fascinates me: if you want to change something in any part of your system, just make your change in the corresponding directory, recomile, reinstall, and you can immediately see your changes in action. So, I decided I wanted to build a tool which can give you the impression of that, without the downsides of additional disk space usage and slower update times because of /usr/src maintenance. The result of this effort is a tool called pk4 (mnemonic: get me the package for ) which I just uploaded to Debian. What distinguishes this tool from an apt source call is the combination of a number of features: If you don t want to wait for the package to clear the NEW queue, you can get it from here in the meantime:
wget https://people.debian.org/~stapelberg/pk4/pk4_1_amd64.deb
sudo apt install ./pk4_1_amd64.deb
You can find the sources and issue tracker at https://github.com/Debian/pk4. Here is a terminal screencast of the tool in action, availing the sources of i3, applying a patch, rebuilding the package and replacing the installed binary packages:

19 October 2017

Daniel Pocock: FOSDEM 2018 Real-Time Communications Call for Participation

FOSDEM is one of the world's premier meetings of free software developers, with over five thousand people attending each year. FOSDEM 2018 takes place 3-4 February 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. This email contains information about:
  • Real-Time communications dev-room and lounge,
  • speaking opportunities,
  • volunteering in the dev-room and lounge,
  • related events around FOSDEM, including the XMPP summit,
  • social events (the legendary FOSDEM Beer Night and Saturday night dinners provide endless networking opportunities),
  • the Planet aggregation sites for RTC blogs
Call for participation - Real Time Communications (RTC) The Real-Time dev-room and Real-Time lounge is about all things involving real-time communication, including: XMPP, SIP, WebRTC, telephony, mobile VoIP, codecs, peer-to-peer, privacy and encryption. The dev-room is a successor to the previous XMPP and telephony dev-rooms. We are looking for speakers for the dev-room and volunteers and participants for the tables in the Real-Time lounge. The dev-room is only on Sunday, 4 February 2018. The lounge will be present for both days. To discuss the dev-room and lounge, please join the FSFE-sponsored Free RTC mailing list. To be kept aware of major developments in Free RTC, without being on the discussion list, please join the Free-RTC Announce list. Speaking opportunities Note: if you used FOSDEM Pentabarf before, please use the same account/username Real-Time Communications dev-room: deadline 23:59 UTC on 30 November. Please use the Pentabarf system to submit a talk proposal for the dev-room. On the "General" tab, please look for the "Track" option and choose "Real Time Communications devroom". Link to talk submission. Other dev-rooms and lightning talks: some speakers may find their topic is in the scope of more than one dev-room. It is encouraged to apply to more than one dev-room and also consider proposing a lightning talk, but please be kind enough to tell us if you do this by filling out the notes in the form. You can find the full list of dev-rooms on this page and apply for a lightning talk at https://fosdem.org/submit Main track: the deadline for main track presentations is 23:59 UTC 3 November. Leading developers in the Real-Time Communications field are encouraged to consider submitting a presentation to the main track. First-time speaking? FOSDEM dev-rooms are a welcoming environment for people who have never given a talk before. Please feel free to contact the dev-room administrators personally if you would like to ask any questions about it. Submission guidelines The Pentabarf system will ask for many of the essential details. Please remember to re-use your account from previous years if you have one. In the "Submission notes", please tell us about:
  • the purpose of your talk
  • any other talk applications (dev-rooms, lightning talks, main track)
  • availability constraints and special needs
You can use HTML and links in your bio, abstract and description. If you maintain a blog, please consider providing us with the URL of a feed with posts tagged for your RTC-related work. We will be looking for relevance to the conference and dev-room themes, presentations aimed at developers of free and open source software about RTC-related topics. Please feel free to suggest a duration between 20 minutes and 55 minutes but note that the final decision on talk durations will be made by the dev-room administrators based on the received proposals. As the two previous dev-rooms have been combined into one, we may decide to give shorter slots than in previous years so that more speakers can participate. Please note FOSDEM aims to record and live-stream all talks. The CC-BY license is used. Volunteers needed To make the dev-room and lounge run successfully, we are looking for volunteers:
  • FOSDEM provides video recording equipment and live streaming, volunteers are needed to assist in this
  • organizing one or more restaurant bookings (dependending upon number of participants) for the evening of Saturday, 4 February
  • participation in the Real-Time lounge
  • helping attract sponsorship funds for the dev-room to pay for the Saturday night dinner and any other expenses
  • circulating this Call for Participation (text version) to other mailing lists
Related events - XMPP and RTC summits The XMPP Standards Foundation (XSF) has traditionally held a summit in the days before FOSDEM. There is discussion about a similar summit taking place on 2 February 2018. XMPP Summit web site - please join the mailing list for details. Social events and dinners The traditional FOSDEM beer night occurs on Friday, 2 February. On Saturday night, there are usually dinners associated with each of the dev-rooms. Most restaurants in Brussels are not so large so these dinners have space constraints and reservations are essential. Please subscribe to the Free-RTC mailing list for further details about the Saturday night dinner options and how you can register for a seat. Spread the word and discuss If you know of any mailing lists where this CfP would be relevant, please forward this email (text version). If this dev-room excites you, please blog or microblog about it, especially if you are submitting a talk. If you regularly blog about RTC topics, please send details about your blog to the planet site administrators:
Planet site Admin contact
All projects Free-RTC Planet (http://planet.freertc.org) contact planet@freertc.org
XMPP Planet Jabber (http://planet.jabber.org) contact ralphm@ik.nu
SIP Planet SIP (http://planet.sip5060.net) contact planet@sip5060.net
SIP (Espa ol) Planet SIP-es (http://planet.sip5060.net/es/) contact planet@sip5060.net
Please also link to the Planet sites from your own blog or web site as this helps everybody in the free real-time communications community. Contact For any private queries, contact us directly using the address fosdem-rtc-admin@freertc.org and for any other queries please ask on the Free-RTC mailing list. The dev-room administration team:

14 October 2017

Lior Kaplan: Debian Installer git repository

While dealing with d-i s translation last month in FOSScamp, I was kinda surprised it s still on SVN. While reviewing PO files from others, I couldn t select specific parts to commit. Debian does have a git server, and many DDs (Debian Developers) use it for their Debian work, but it s not as public as I wish it to be. Meaning I lack the pull / merge request abilities as well as the review process. Recently I got a reminder that the D-I s Hebrew translation needs some love. I asked my local community for help. Receiving a PO file by mail, reminded me of the SVN annoyance. So this time I decided to convert it to git and ask people to send me pull requests. Another benefit would be making the process more transparent as others could see these PRs (and hopefully comment if needed). For this experiment, I opened a repository on GitHub at https://github.com/kaplanlior/debian-installer I know they aren t open source as GitLab, but they are a popular choice which is a good start for my experiment. If and when it succeeds, we can discuss the platform.
debian-9

Debian 9

(featured image by Jonathan Carter)
Filed under: Debian GNU/Linux

Petter Reinholdtsen: A one-way wall on the border?

I find it fascinating how many of the people being locked inside the proposed border wall between USA and Mexico support the idea. The proposal to keep Mexicans out reminds me of the propaganda twist from the East Germany government calling the wall the Antifascist Bulwark after erecting the Berlin Wall, claiming that the wall was erected to keep enemies from creeping into East Germany, while it was obvious to the people locked inside it that it was erected to keep the people from escaping. Do the people in USA supporting this wall really believe it is a one way wall, only keeping people on the outside from getting in, while not keeping people in the inside from getting out?

8 October 2017

Daniel Pocock: A step change in managing your calendar, without social media

Have you been to an event recently involving free software or a related topic? How did you find it? Are you organizing an event and don't want to fall into the trap of using Facebook or Meetup or other services that compete for a share of your community's attention? Are you keen to find events in foreign destinations related to your interest areas to coincide with other travel intentions? Have you been concerned when your GSoC or Outreachy interns lost a week of their project going through the bureaucracy to get a visa for your community's event? Would you like to make it easier for them to find the best events in the countries that welcome and respect visitors? In many recent discussions about free software activism, people have struggled to break out of the illusion that social media is the way to cultivate new contacts. Wouldn't it be great to make more meaningful contacts by attending more a more diverse range of events rather than losing time on social media? Making it happen There are already a number of tools (for example, Drupal plugins and Wordpress plugins) for promoting your events on the web and in iCalendar format. There are also a number of sites like Agenda du Libre and GriCal who aggregate events from multiple communities where people can browse them. How can we take these concepts further and make a convenient, compelling and global solution? Can we harvest event data from a wide range of sources and compile it into a large database using something like PostgreSQL or a NoSQL solution or even a distributed solution like OpenDHT? Can we use big data techniques to mine these datasources and help match people to events without compromising on privacy? Why not build an automated iCalendar "to-do" list of deadlines for events you want to be reminded about, so you never miss the deadlines for travel sponsorship or submitting a talk proposal? I've started documenting an architecture for this on the Debian wiki and proposed it as an Outreachy project. It will also be offered as part of GSoC in 2018. Ways to get involved If you would like to help this project, please consider introducing yourself on the debian-outreach mailing list and helping to mentor or refer interns for the project. You can also help contribute ideas for the specification through the mailing list or wiki. Mini DebConf Prishtina 2017 This weekend I've been at the MiniDebConf in Prishtina, Kosovo. It has been hosted by the amazing Prishtina hackerspace community. Watch out for future events in Prishtina, the pizzas are huge, but that didn't stop them disappearing before we finished the photos:

2 October 2017

Antoine Beaupr : Strategies for offline PGP key storage

While the adoption of OpenPGP by the general population is marginal at best, it is a critical component for the security community and particularly for Linux distributions. For example, every package uploaded into Debian is verified by the central repository using the maintainer's OpenPGP keys and the repository itself is, in turn, signed using a separate key. If upstream packages also use such signatures, this creates a complete trust path from the original upstream developer to users. Beyond that, pull requests for the Linux kernel are verified using signatures as well. Therefore, the stakes are high: a compromise of the release key, or even of a single maintainer's key, could enable devastating attacks against many machines. That has led the Debian community to develop a good grasp of best practices for cryptographic signatures (which are typically handled using GNU Privacy Guard, also known as GnuPG or GPG). For example, weak (less than 2048 bits) and vulnerable PGPv3 keys were removed from the keyring in 2015, and there is a strong culture of cross-signing keys between Debian members at in-person meetings. Yet even Debian developers (DDs) do not seem to have established practices on how to actually store critical private key material, as we can see in this discussion on the debian-project mailing list. That email boiled down to a simple request: can I have a "key dongles for dummies" tutorial? Key dongles, or keycards as we'll call them here, are small devices that allow users to store keys on an offline device and provide one possible solution for protecting private key material. In this article, I hope to use my experience in this domain to clarify the issue of how to store those precious private keys that, if compromised, could enable arbitrary code execution on millions of machines all over the world.

Why store keys offline? Before we go into details about storing keys offline, it may be useful to do a small reminder of how the OpenPGP standard works. OpenPGP keys are made of a main public/private key pair, the certification key, used to sign user identifiers and subkeys. My public key, shown below, has the usual main certification/signature key (marked SC) but also an encryption subkey (marked E), a separate signature key (S), and two authentication keys (marked A) which I use as RSA keys to log into servers using SSH, thanks to the Monkeysphere project.
    pub   rsa4096/792152527B75921E 2009-05-29 [SC] [expires: 2018-04-19]
      8DC901CE64146C048AD50FBB792152527B75921E
    uid                 [ultimate] Antoine Beaupr  <anarcat@anarc.at>
    uid                 [ultimate] Antoine Beaupr  <anarcat@koumbit.org>
    uid                 [ultimate] Antoine Beaupr  <anarcat@orangeseeds.org>
    uid                 [ultimate] Antoine Beaupr  <anarcat@debian.org>
    sub   rsa2048/B7F648FED2DF2587 2012-07-18 [A]
    sub   rsa2048/604E4B3EEE02855A 2012-07-20 [A]
    sub   rsa4096/A51D5B109C5A5581 2009-05-29 [E]
    sub   rsa2048/3EA1DDDDB261D97B 2017-08-23 [S]
All the subkeys (sub) and identities (uid) are bound by the main certification key using cryptographic self-signatures. So while an attacker stealing a private subkey can spoof signatures in my name or authenticate to other servers, that key can always be revoked by the main certification key. But if the certification key gets stolen, all bets are off: the attacker can create or revoke identities or subkeys as they wish. In a catastrophic scenario, an attacker could even steal the key and remove your copies, taking complete control of the key, without any possibility of recovery. Incidentally, this is why it is so important to generate a revocation certificate and store it offline. So by moving the certification key offline, we reduce the attack surface on the OpenPGP trust chain: day-to-day keys (e.g. email encryption or signature) can stay online but if they get stolen, the certification key can revoke those keys without having to revoke the main certification key as well. Note that a stolen encryption key is a different problem: even if we revoke the encryption subkey, this will only affect future encrypted messages. Previous messages will be readable by the attacker with the stolen subkey even if that subkey gets revoked, so the benefits of revoking encryption certificates are more limited.

Common strategies for offline key storage Considering the security tradeoffs, some propose storing those critical keys offline to reduce those threats. But where exactly? In an attempt to answer that question, Jonathan McDowell, a member of the Debian keyring maintenance team, said that there are three options: use an external LUKS-encrypted volume, an air-gapped system, or a keycard. Full-disk encryption like LUKS adds an extra layer of security by hiding the content of the key from an attacker. Even though private keyrings are usually protected by a passphrase, they are easily identifiable as a keyring. But when a volume is fully encrypted, it's not immediately obvious to an attacker there is private key material on the device. According to Sean Whitton, another advantage of LUKS over plain GnuPG keyring encryption is that you can pass the --iter-time argument when creating a LUKS partition to increase key-derivation delay, which makes brute-forcing much harder. Indeed, GnuPG 2.x doesn't have a run-time option to configure the key-derivation algorithm, although a patch was introduced recently to make the delay configurable at compile time in gpg-agent, which is now responsible for all secret key operations. The downside of external volumes is complexity: GnuPG makes it difficult to extract secrets out of its keyring, which makes the first setup tricky and error-prone. This is easier in the 2.x series thanks to the new storage system and the associated keygrip files, but it still requires arcane knowledge of GPG internals. It is also inconvenient to use secret keys stored outside your main keyring when you actually do need to use them, as GPG doesn't know where to find those keys anymore. Another option is to set up a separate air-gapped system to perform certification operations. An example is the PGP clean room project, which is a live system based on Debian and designed by DD Daniel Pocock to operate an OpenPGP and X.509 certificate authority using commodity hardware. The basic principle is to store the secrets on a different machine that is never connected to the network and, therefore, not exposed to attacks, at least in theory. I have personally discarded that approach because I feel air-gapped systems provide a false sense of security: data eventually does need to come in and out of the system, somehow, even if only to propagate signatures out of the system, which exposes the system to attacks. System updates are similarly problematic: to keep the system secure, timely security updates need to be deployed to the air-gapped system. A common use pattern is to share data through USB keys, which introduce a vulnerability where attacks like BadUSB can infect the air-gapped system. From there, there is a multitude of exotic ways of exfiltrating the data using LEDs, infrared cameras, or the good old TEMPEST attack. I therefore concluded the complexity tradeoffs of an air-gapped system are not worth it. Furthermore, the workflow for air-gapped systems is complex: even though PGP clean room went a long way, it's still lacking even simple scripts that allow signing or transferring keys, which is a problem shared by the external LUKS storage approach.

Keycard advantages The approach I have chosen is to use a cryptographic keycard: an external device, usually connected through the USB port, that stores the private key material and performs critical cryptographic operations on the behalf of the host. For example, the FST-01 keycard can perform RSA and ECC public-key decryption without ever exposing the private key material to the host. In effect, a keycard is a miniature computer that performs restricted computations for another host. Keycards usually support multiple "slots" to store subkeys. The OpenPGP standard specifies there are three subkeys available by default: for signature, authentication, and encryption. Finally, keycards can have an actual physical keypad to enter passwords so a potential keylogger cannot capture them, although the keycards I have access to do not feature such a keypad. We could easily draw a parallel between keycards and an air-gapped system; in effect, a keycard is a miniaturized air-gapped computer and suffers from similar problems. An attacker can intercept data on the host system and attack the device in the same way, if not more easily, because a keycard is actually "online" (i.e. clearly not air-gapped) when connected. The advantage over a fully-fledged air-gapped computer, however, is that the keycard implements only a restricted set of operations. So it is easier to create an open hardware and software design that is audited and verified, which is much harder to accomplish for a general-purpose computer. Like air-gapped systems, keycards address the scenario where an attacker wants to get the private key material. While an attacker could fool the keycard into signing or decrypting some data, this is possible only while the key is physically connected, and the keycard software will prompt the user for a password before doing the operation, though the keycard can cache the password for some time. In effect, it thwarts offline attacks: to brute-force the key's password, the attacker needs to be on the target system and try to guess the keycard's password, which will lock itself after a limited number of tries. It also provides for a clean and standard interface to store keys offline: a single GnuPG command moves private key material to a keycard (the keytocard command in the --edit-key interface), whereas moving private key material to a LUKS-encrypted device or air-gapped computer is more complex. Keycards are also useful if you operate on multiple computers. A common problem when using GnuPG on multiple machines is how to safely copy and synchronize private key material among different devices, which introduces new security problems. Indeed, a "good rule of thumb in a forensics lab", according to Robert J. Hansen on the GnuPG mailing list, is to "store the minimum personal data possible on your systems". Keycards provide the best of both worlds here: you can use your private key on multiple computers without actually storing it in multiple places. In fact, Mike Gerwitz went as far as saying:
For users that need their GPG key on multiple boxes, I consider a smartcard to be essential. Otherwise, the user is just furthering her risk of compromise.

Keycard tradeoffs As Gerwitz hinted, there are multiple downsides to using a keycard, however. Another DD, Wouter Verhelst clearly expressed the tradeoffs:
Smartcards are useful. They ensure that the private half of your key is never on any hard disk or other general storage device, and therefore that it cannot possibly be stolen (because there's only one possible copy of it). Smartcards are a pain in the ass. They ensure that the private half of your key is never on any hard disk or other general storage device but instead sits in your wallet, so whenever you need to access it, you need to grab your wallet to be able to do so, which takes more effort than just firing up GnuPG. If your laptop doesn't have a builtin cardreader, you also need to fish the reader from your backpack or wherever, etc.
"Smartcards" here refer to older OpenPGP cards that relied on the IEC 7816 smartcard connectors and therefore needed a specially-built smartcard reader. Newer keycards simply use a standard USB connector. In any case, it's true that having an external device introduces new issues: attackers can steal your keycard, you can simply lose it, or wash it with your dirty laundry. A laptop or a computer can also be lost, of course, but it is much easier to lose a small USB keycard than a full laptop and I have yet to hear of someone shoving a full laptop into a washing machine. When you lose your keycard, unless a separate revocation certificate is available somewhere, you lose complete control of the key, which is catastrophic. But, even if you revoke the lost key, you need to create a new one, which involves rebuilding the web of trust for the key a rather expensive operation as it usually requires meeting other OpenPGP users in person to exchange fingerprints. You should therefore think about how to back up the certification key, which is a problem that already exists for online keys; of course, everyone has a revocation certificates and backups of their OpenPGP keys... right? In the keycard scenario, backups may be multiple keycards distributed geographically. Note that, contrary to an air-gapped system, a key generated on a keycard cannot be backed up, by design. For subkeys, this is not a problem as they do not need to be backed up (except encryption keys). But, for a certification key, this means users need to generate the key on the host and transfer it to the keycard, which means the host is expected to have enough entropy to generate cryptographic-strength random numbers, for example. Also consider the possibility of combining different approaches: you could, for example, use a keycard for day-to-day operation, but keep a backup of the certification key on a LUKS-encrypted offline volume. Keycards introduce a new element into the trust chain: you need to trust the keycard manufacturer to not have any hostile code in the key's firmware or hardware. In addition, you need to trust that the implementation is correct. Keycards are harder to update: the firmware may be deliberately inaccessible to the host for security reasons or may require special software to manipulate. Keycards may be slower than the CPU in performing certain operations because they are small embedded microcontrollers with limited computing power. Finally, keycards may encourage users to trust multiple machines with their secrets, which works against the "minimum personal data" principle. A completely different approach called the trusted physical console (TPC) does the opposite: instead of trying to get private key material onto all of those machines, just have them on a single machine that is used for everything. Unlike a keycard, the TPC is an actual computer, say a laptop, which has the advantage of needing no special procedure to manage keys. The downside is, of course, that you actually need to carry that laptop everywhere you go, which may be problematic, especially in some corporate environments that restrict bringing your own devices.

Quick keycard "howto" Getting keys onto a keycard is easy enough:
  1. Start with a temporary key to test the procedure:
        export GNUPGHOME=$(mktemp -d)
        gpg --generate-key
    
  2. Edit the key using its user ID (UID):
        gpg --edit-key UID
    
  3. Use the key command to select the first subkey, then copy it to the keycard (you can also use the addcardkey command to just generate a new subkey directly on the keycard):
        gpg> key 1
        gpg> keytocard
    
  4. If you want to move the subkey, use the save command, which will remove the local copy of the private key, so the keycard will be the only copy of the secret key. Otherwise use the quit command to save the key on the keycard, but keep the secret key in your normal keyring; answer "n" to "save changes?" and "y" to "quit without saving?" . This way the keycard is a backup of your secret key.
  5. Once you are satisfied with the results, repeat steps 1 through 4 with your normal keyring (unset $GNUPGHOME)
When a key is moved to a keycard, --list-secret-keys will show it as sec> (or ssb> for subkeys) instead of the usual sec keyword. If the key is completely missing (for example, if you moved it to a LUKS container), the # sign is used instead. If you need to use a key from a keycard backup, you simply do gpg --card-edit with the key plugged in, then type the fetch command at the prompt to fetch the public key that corresponds to the private key on the keycard (which stays on the keycard). This is the same procedure as the one to use the secret key on another computer.

Conclusion There are already informal OpenPGP best-practices guides out there and some recommend storing keys offline, but they rarely explain what exactly that means. Storing your primary secret key offline is important in dealing with possible compromises and we examined the main ways of doing so: either with an air-gapped system, LUKS-encrypted keyring, or by using keycards. Each approach has its own tradeoffs, but I recommend getting familiar with keycards if you use multiple computers and want a standardized interface with minimal configuration trouble. And of course, those approaches can be combined. This tutorial, for example, uses a keycard on an air-gapped computer, which neatly resolves the question of how to transmit signatures between the air-gapped system and the world. It is definitely not for the faint of heart, however. Once one has decided to use a keycard, the next order of business is to choose a specific device. That choice will be addressed in a followup article, where I will look at performance, physical design, and other considerations.
This article first appeared in the Linux Weekly News.

Antoine Beaupr : Strategies for offline PGP key storage

While the adoption of OpenPGP by the general population is marginal at best, it is a critical component for the security community and particularly for Linux distributions. For example, every package uploaded into Debian is verified by the central repository using the maintainer's OpenPGP keys and the repository itself is, in turn, signed using a separate key. If upstream packages also use such signatures, this creates a complete trust path from the original upstream developer to users. Beyond that, pull requests for the Linux kernel are verified using signatures as well. Therefore, the stakes are high: a compromise of the release key, or even of a single maintainer's key, could enable devastating attacks against many machines. That has led the Debian community to develop a good grasp of best practices for cryptographic signatures (which are typically handled using GNU Privacy Guard, also known as GnuPG or GPG). For example, weak (less than 2048 bits) and vulnerable PGPv3 keys were removed from the keyring in 2015, and there is a strong culture of cross-signing keys between Debian members at in-person meetings. Yet even Debian developers (DDs) do not seem to have established practices on how to actually store critical private key material, as we can see in this discussion on the debian-project mailing list. That email boiled down to a simple request: can I have a "key dongles for dummies" tutorial? Key dongles, or keycards as we'll call them here, are small devices that allow users to store keys on an offline device and provide one possible solution for protecting private key material. In this article, I hope to use my experience in this domain to clarify the issue of how to store those precious private keys that, if compromised, could enable arbitrary code execution on millions of machines all over the world.

Why store keys offline? Before we go into details about storing keys offline, it may be useful to do a small reminder of how the OpenPGP standard works. OpenPGP keys are made of a main public/private key pair, the certification key, used to sign user identifiers and subkeys. My public key, shown below, has the usual main certification/signature key (marked SC) but also an encryption subkey (marked E), a separate signature key (S), and two authentication keys (marked A) which I use as RSA keys to log into servers using SSH, thanks to the Monkeysphere project.
    pub   rsa4096/792152527B75921E 2009-05-29 [SC] [expires: 2018-04-19]
      8DC901CE64146C048AD50FBB792152527B75921E
    uid                 [ultimate] Antoine Beaupr  <anarcat@anarc.at>
    uid                 [ultimate] Antoine Beaupr  <anarcat@koumbit.org>
    uid                 [ultimate] Antoine Beaupr  <anarcat@orangeseeds.org>
    uid                 [ultimate] Antoine Beaupr  <anarcat@debian.org>
    sub   rsa2048/B7F648FED2DF2587 2012-07-18 [A]
    sub   rsa2048/604E4B3EEE02855A 2012-07-20 [A]
    sub   rsa4096/A51D5B109C5A5581 2009-05-29 [E]
    sub   rsa2048/3EA1DDDDB261D97B 2017-08-23 [S]
All the subkeys (sub) and identities (uid) are bound by the main certification key using cryptographic self-signatures. So while an attacker stealing a private subkey can spoof signatures in my name or authenticate to other servers, that key can always be revoked by the main certification key. But if the certification key gets stolen, all bets are off: the attacker can create or revoke identities or subkeys as they wish. In a catastrophic scenario, an attacker could even steal the key and remove your copies, taking complete control of the key, without any possibility of recovery. Incidentally, this is why it is so important to generate a revocation certificate and store it offline. So by moving the certification key offline, we reduce the attack surface on the OpenPGP trust chain: day-to-day keys (e.g. email encryption or signature) can stay online but if they get stolen, the certification key can revoke those keys without having to revoke the main certification key as well. Note that a stolen encryption key is a different problem: even if we revoke the encryption subkey, this will only affect future encrypted messages. Previous messages will be readable by the attacker with the stolen subkey even if that subkey gets revoked, so the benefits of revoking encryption certificates are more limited.

Common strategies for offline key storage Considering the security tradeoffs, some propose storing those critical keys offline to reduce those threats. But where exactly? In an attempt to answer that question, Jonathan McDowell, a member of the Debian keyring maintenance team, said that there are three options: use an external LUKS-encrypted volume, an air-gapped system, or a keycard. Full-disk encryption like LUKS adds an extra layer of security by hiding the content of the key from an attacker. Even though private keyrings are usually protected by a passphrase, they are easily identifiable as a keyring. But when a volume is fully encrypted, it's not immediately obvious to an attacker there is private key material on the device. According to Sean Whitton, another advantage of LUKS over plain GnuPG keyring encryption is that you can pass the --iter-time argument when creating a LUKS partition to increase key-derivation delay, which makes brute-forcing much harder. Indeed, GnuPG 2.x doesn't have a run-time option to configure the key-derivation algorithm, although a patch was introduced recently to make the delay configurable at compile time in gpg-agent, which is now responsible for all secret key operations. The downside of external volumes is complexity: GnuPG makes it difficult to extract secrets out of its keyring, which makes the first setup tricky and error-prone. This is easier in the 2.x series thanks to the new storage system and the associated keygrip files, but it still requires arcane knowledge of GPG internals. It is also inconvenient to use secret keys stored outside your main keyring when you actually do need to use them, as GPG doesn't know where to find those keys anymore. Another option is to set up a separate air-gapped system to perform certification operations. An example is the PGP clean room project, which is a live system based on Debian and designed by DD Daniel Pocock to operate an OpenPGP and X.509 certificate authority using commodity hardware. The basic principle is to store the secrets on a different machine that is never connected to the network and, therefore, not exposed to attacks, at least in theory. I have personally discarded that approach because I feel air-gapped systems provide a false sense of security: data eventually does need to come in and out of the system, somehow, even if only to propagate signatures out of the system, which exposes the system to attacks. System updates are similarly problematic: to keep the system secure, timely security updates need to be deployed to the air-gapped system. A common use pattern is to share data through USB keys, which introduce a vulnerability where attacks like BadUSB can infect the air-gapped system. From there, there is a multitude of exotic ways of exfiltrating the data using LEDs, infrared cameras, or the good old TEMPEST attack. I therefore concluded the complexity tradeoffs of an air-gapped system are not worth it. Furthermore, the workflow for air-gapped systems is complex: even though PGP clean room went a long way, it's still lacking even simple scripts that allow signing or transferring keys, which is a problem shared by the external LUKS storage approach.

Keycard advantages The approach I have chosen is to use a cryptographic keycard: an external device, usually connected through the USB port, that stores the private key material and performs critical cryptographic operations on the behalf of the host. For example, the FST-01 keycard can perform RSA and ECC public-key decryption without ever exposing the private key material to the host. In effect, a keycard is a miniature computer that performs restricted computations for another host. Keycards usually support multiple "slots" to store subkeys. The OpenPGP standard specifies there are three subkeys available by default: for signature, authentication, and encryption. Finally, keycards can have an actual physical keypad to enter passwords so a potential keylogger cannot capture them, although the keycards I have access to do not feature such a keypad. We could easily draw a parallel between keycards and an air-gapped system; in effect, a keycard is a miniaturized air-gapped computer and suffers from similar problems. An attacker can intercept data on the host system and attack the device in the same way, if not more easily, because a keycard is actually "online" (i.e. clearly not air-gapped) when connected. The advantage over a fully-fledged air-gapped computer, however, is that the keycard implements only a restricted set of operations. So it is easier to create an open hardware and software design that is audited and verified, which is much harder to accomplish for a general-purpose computer. Like air-gapped systems, keycards address the scenario where an attacker wants to get the private key material. While an attacker could fool the keycard into signing or decrypting some data, this is possible only while the key is physically connected, and the keycard software will prompt the user for a password before doing the operation, though the keycard can cache the password for some time. In effect, it thwarts offline attacks: to brute-force the key's password, the attacker needs to be on the target system and try to guess the keycard's password, which will lock itself after a limited number of tries. It also provides for a clean and standard interface to store keys offline: a single GnuPG command moves private key material to a keycard (the keytocard command in the --edit-key interface), whereas moving private key material to a LUKS-encrypted device or air-gapped computer is more complex. Keycards are also useful if you operate on multiple computers. A common problem when using GnuPG on multiple machines is how to safely copy and synchronize private key material among different devices, which introduces new security problems. Indeed, a "good rule of thumb in a forensics lab", according to Robert J. Hansen on the GnuPG mailing list, is to "store the minimum personal data possible on your systems". Keycards provide the best of both worlds here: you can use your private key on multiple computers without actually storing it in multiple places. In fact, Mike Gerwitz went as far as saying:
For users that need their GPG key on multiple boxes, I consider a smartcard to be essential. Otherwise, the user is just furthering her risk of compromise.

Keycard tradeoffs As Gerwitz hinted, there are multiple downsides to using a keycard, however. Another DD, Wouter Verhelst clearly expressed the tradeoffs:
Smartcards are useful. They ensure that the private half of your key is never on any hard disk or other general storage device, and therefore that it cannot possibly be stolen (because there's only one possible copy of it). Smartcards are a pain in the ass. They ensure that the private half of your key is never on any hard disk or other general storage device but instead sits in your wallet, so whenever you need to access it, you need to grab your wallet to be able to do so, which takes more effort than just firing up GnuPG. If your laptop doesn't have a builtin cardreader, you also need to fish the reader from your backpack or wherever, etc.
"Smartcards" here refer to older OpenPGP cards that relied on the IEC 7816 smartcard connectors and therefore needed a specially-built smartcard reader. Newer keycards simply use a standard USB connector. In any case, it's true that having an external device introduces new issues: attackers can steal your keycard, you can simply lose it, or wash it with your dirty laundry. A laptop or a computer can also be lost, of course, but it is much easier to lose a small USB keycard than a full laptop and I have yet to hear of someone shoving a full laptop into a washing machine. When you lose your keycard, unless a separate revocation certificate is available somewhere, you lose complete control of the key, which is catastrophic. But, even if you revoke the lost key, you need to create a new one, which involves rebuilding the web of trust for the key a rather expensive operation as it usually requires meeting other OpenPGP users in person to exchange fingerprints. You should therefore think about how to back up the certification key, which is a problem that already exists for online keys; of course, everyone has a revocation certificates and backups of their OpenPGP keys... right? In the keycard scenario, backups may be multiple keycards distributed geographically. Note that, contrary to an air-gapped system, a key generated on a keycard cannot be backed up, by design. For subkeys, this is not a problem as they do not need to be backed up (except encryption keys). But, for a certification key, this means users need to generate the key on the host and transfer it to the keycard, which means the host is expected to have enough entropy to generate cryptographic-strength random numbers, for example. Also consider the possibility of combining different approaches: you could, for example, use a keycard for day-to-day operation, but keep a backup of the certification key on a LUKS-encrypted offline volume. Keycards introduce a new element into the trust chain: you need to trust the keycard manufacturer to not have any hostile code in the key's firmware or hardware. In addition, you need to trust that the implementation is correct. Keycards are harder to update: the firmware may be deliberately inaccessible to the host for security reasons or may require special software to manipulate. Keycards may be slower than the CPU in performing certain operations because they are small embedded microcontrollers with limited computing power. Finally, keycards may encourage users to trust multiple machines with their secrets, which works against the "minimum personal data" principle. A completely different approach called the trusted physical console (TPC) does the opposite: instead of trying to get private key material onto all of those machines, just have them on a single machine that is used for everything. Unlike a keycard, the TPC is an actual computer, say a laptop, which has the advantage of needing no special procedure to manage keys. The downside is, of course, that you actually need to carry that laptop everywhere you go, which may be problematic, especially in some corporate environments that restrict bringing your own devices.

Quick keycard "howto" Getting keys onto a keycard is easy enough:
  1. Start with a temporary key to test the procedure:
        export GNUPGHOME=$(mktemp -d)
        gpg --generate-key
    
  2. Edit the key using its user ID (UID):
        gpg --edit-key UID
    
  3. Use the key command to select the first subkey, then copy it to the keycard (you can also use the addcardkey command to just generate a new subkey directly on the keycard):
        gpg> key 1
        gpg> keytocard
    
  4. If you want to move the subkey, use the save command, which will remove the local copy of the private key, so the keycard will be the only copy of the secret key. Otherwise use the quit command to save the key on the keycard, but keep the secret key in your normal keyring; answer "n" to "save changes?" and "y" to "quit without saving?" . This way the keycard is a backup of your secret key.
  5. Once you are satisfied with the results, repeat steps 1 through 4 with your normal keyring (unset $GNUPGHOME)
When a key is moved to a keycard, --list-secret-keys will show it as sec> (or ssb> for subkeys) instead of the usual sec keyword. If the key is completely missing (for example, if you moved it to a LUKS container), the # sign is used instead. If you need to use a key from a keycard backup, you simply do gpg --card-edit with the key plugged in, then type the fetch command at the prompt to fetch the public key that corresponds to the private key on the keycard (which stays on the keycard). This is the same procedure as the one to use the secret key on another computer.

Conclusion There are already informal OpenPGP best-practices guides out there and some recommend storing keys offline, but they rarely explain what exactly that means. Storing your primary secret key offline is important in dealing with possible compromises and we examined the main ways of doing so: either with an air-gapped system, LUKS-encrypted keyring, or by using keycards. Each approach has its own tradeoffs, but I recommend getting familiar with keycards if you use multiple computers and want a standardized interface with minimal configuration trouble. And of course, those approaches can be combined. This tutorial, for example, uses a keycard on an air-gapped computer, which neatly resolves the question of how to transmit signatures between the air-gapped system and the world. It is definitely not for the faint of heart, however. Once one has decided to use a keycard, the next order of business is to choose a specific device. That choice will be addressed in a followup article, where I will look at performance, physical design, and other considerations.
This article first appeared in the Linux Weekly News.

28 September 2017

Lior Kaplan: LibreOffice community celebrates 7th anniversary

The Document foundation blog have a post about LibreOffice 7th anniversary:
Berlin, September 28, 2017 Today, the LibreOffice community celebrates the 7th anniversary of the leading free office suite, adopted by millions of users in every continent. Since 2010, there have been 14 major releases and dozens of minor ones, fulfilling the personal productivity needs of both individuals and enterprises, on Linux, macOS and Windows.
I wanted to take a moment to remind people that 7 years ago the community decided to make the de facto fork of OpenOffice.org official after life under Sun (and then Oracle) were problematic. From the very first hours the project showed its effectiveness. See my post about LibreOffice first steps. Not to mention what it achieved in the past 7 years. This is still one of my favourite open source contributions, not because it was sophisticated or hard, but because it as about using the freedom part of the free software:
Replace hardcoded product by Oracle with product by %OOOVENDOR . On a personal note, for me, after years of trying to help with OOo l10n for Hebrew and RTL support, things started to go forward in a reasonable pace, getting patches in after years of trying, having upstream fix some of the issues, and actually able doing the translation. We made it to 100% with LibreOffice 3.5.0 in February 2012 (something we should redo soon ).
Filed under: i18n & l10n, Israeli Community, LibreOffice

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