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13 April 2024

Simon Josefsson: Reproducible and minimal source-only tarballs

With the release of Libntlm version 1.8 the release tarball can be reproduced on several distributions. We also publish a signed minimal source-only tarball, produced by git-archive which is the same format used by Savannah, Codeberg, GitLab, GitHub and others. Reproducibility of both tarballs are tested continuously for regressions on GitLab through a CI/CD pipeline. If that wasn t enough to excite you, the Debian packages of Libntlm are now built from the reproducible minimal source-only tarball. The resulting binaries are hopefully reproducible on several architectures. What does that even mean? Why should you care? How you can do the same for your project? What are the open issues? Read on, dear reader This article describes my practical experiments with reproducible release artifacts, following up on my earlier thoughts that lead to discussion on Fosstodon and a patch by Janneke Nieuwenhuizen to make Guix tarballs reproducible that inspired me to some practical work. Let s look at how a maintainer release some software, and how a user can reproduce the released artifacts from the source code. Libntlm provides a shared library written in C and uses GNU Make, GNU Autoconf, GNU Automake, GNU Libtool and gnulib for build management, but these ideas should apply to most project and build system. The following illustrate the steps a maintainer would take to prepare a release:
git clone https://gitlab.com/gsasl/libntlm.git
cd libntlm
git checkout v1.8
./bootstrap
./configure
make distcheck
gpg -b libntlm-1.8.tar.gz
The generated files libntlm-1.8.tar.gz and libntlm-1.8.tar.gz.sig are published, and users download and use them. This is how the GNU project have been doing releases since the late 1980 s. That is a testament to how successful this pattern has been! These tarballs contain source code and some generated files, typically shell scripts generated by autoconf, makefile templates generated by automake, documentation in formats like Info, HTML, or PDF. Rarely do they contain binary object code, but historically that happened. The XZUtils incident illustrate that tarballs with files that are not included in the git archive offer an opportunity to disguise malicious backdoors. I blogged earlier how to mitigate this risk by using signed minimal source-only tarballs. The risk of hiding malware is not the only motivation to publish signed minimal source-only tarballs. With pre-generated content in tarballs, there is a risk that GNU/Linux distributions such as Trisquel, Guix, Debian/Ubuntu or Fedora ship generated files coming from the tarball into the binary *.deb or *.rpm package file. Typically the person packaging the upstream project never realized that some installed artifacts was not re-built through a typical autoconf -fi && ./configure && make install sequence, and never wrote the code to rebuild everything. This can also happen if the build rules are written but are buggy, shipping the old artifact. When a security problem is found, this can lead to time-consuming situations, as it may be that patching the relevant source code and rebuilding the package is not sufficient: the vulnerable generated object from the tarball would be shipped into the binary package instead of a rebuilt artifact. For architecture-specific binaries this rarely happens, since object code is usually not included in tarballs although for 10+ years I shipped the binary Java JAR file in the GNU Libidn release tarball, until I stopped shipping it. For interpreted languages and especially for generated content such as HTML, PDF, shell scripts this happens more than you would like. Publishing minimal source-only tarballs enable easier auditing of a project s code, to avoid the need to read through all generated files looking for malicious content. I have taken care to generate the source-only minimal tarball using git-archive. This is the same format that GitLab, GitHub etc offer for the automated download links on git tags. The minimal source-only tarballs can thus serve as a way to audit GitLab and GitHub download material! Consider if/when hosting sites like GitLab or GitHub has a security incident that cause generated tarballs to include a backdoor that is not present in the git repository. If people rely on the tag download artifact without verifying the maintainer PGP signature using GnuPG, this can lead to similar backdoor scenarios that we had for XZUtils but originated with the hosting provider instead of the release manager. This is even more concerning, since this attack can be mounted for some selected IP address that you want to target and not on everyone, thereby making it harder to discover. With all that discussion and rationale out of the way, let s return to the release process. I have added another step here:
make srcdist
gpg -b libntlm-1.8-src.tar.gz
Now the release is ready. I publish these four files in the Libntlm s Savannah Download area, but they can be uploaded to a GitLab/GitHub release area as well. These are the SHA256 checksums I got after building the tarballs on my Trisquel 11 aramo laptop:
91de864224913b9493c7a6cec2890e6eded3610d34c3d983132823de348ec2ca  libntlm-1.8-src.tar.gz
ce6569a47a21173ba69c990965f73eb82d9a093eb871f935ab64ee13df47fda1  libntlm-1.8.tar.gz
So how can you reproduce my artifacts? Here is how to reproduce them in a Ubuntu 22.04 container:
podman run -it --rm ubuntu:22.04
apt-get update
apt-get install -y --no-install-recommends autoconf automake libtool make git ca-certificates
git clone https://gitlab.com/gsasl/libntlm.git
cd libntlm
git checkout v1.8
./bootstrap
./configure
make dist srcdist
sha256sum libntlm-*.tar.gz
You should see the exact same SHA256 checksum values. Hooray! This works because Trisquel 11 and Ubuntu 22.04 uses the same version of git, autoconf, automake, and libtool. These tools do not guarantee the same output content for all versions, similar to how GNU GCC does not generate the same binary output for all versions. So there is still some delicate version pairing needed. Ideally, the artifacts should be possible to reproduce from the release artifacts themselves, and not only directly from git. It is possible to reproduce the full tarball in a AlmaLinux 8 container replace almalinux:8 with rockylinux:8 if you prefer RockyLinux:
podman run -it --rm almalinux:8
dnf update -y
dnf install -y make wget gcc
wget https://download.savannah.nongnu.org/releases/libntlm/libntlm-1.8.tar.gz
tar xfa libntlm-1.8.tar.gz
cd libntlm-1.8
./configure
make dist
sha256sum libntlm-1.8.tar.gz
The source-only minimal tarball can be regenerated on Debian 11:
podman run -it --rm debian:11
apt-get update
apt-get install -y --no-install-recommends make git ca-certificates
git clone https://gitlab.com/gsasl/libntlm.git
cd libntlm
git checkout v1.8
make -f cfg.mk srcdist
sha256sum libntlm-1.8-src.tar.gz 
As the Magnus Opus or chef-d uvre, let s recreate the full tarball directly from the minimal source-only tarball on Trisquel 11 replace docker.io/kpengboy/trisquel:11.0 with ubuntu:22.04 if you prefer.
podman run -it --rm docker.io/kpengboy/trisquel:11.0
apt-get update
apt-get install -y --no-install-recommends autoconf automake libtool make wget git ca-certificates
wget https://download.savannah.nongnu.org/releases/libntlm/libntlm-1.8-src.tar.gz
tar xfa libntlm-1.8-src.tar.gz
cd libntlm-v1.8
./bootstrap
./configure
make dist
sha256sum libntlm-1.8.tar.gz
Yay! You should now have great confidence in that the release artifacts correspond to what s in version control and also to what the maintainer intended to release. Your remaining job is to audit the source code for vulnerabilities, including the source code of the dependencies used in the build. You no longer have to worry about auditing the release artifacts. I find it somewhat amusing that the build infrastructure for Libntlm is now in a significantly better place than the code itself. Libntlm is written in old C style with plenty of string manipulation and uses broken cryptographic algorithms such as MD4 and single-DES. Remember folks: solving supply chain security issues has no bearing on what kind of code you eventually run. A clean gun can still shoot you in the foot. Side note on naming: GitLab exports tarballs with pathnames libntlm-v1.8/ (i.e.., PROJECT-TAG/) and I ve adopted the same pathnames, which means my libntlm-1.8-src.tar.gz tarballs are bit-by-bit identical to GitLab s exports and you can verify this with tools like diffoscope. GitLab name the tarball libntlm-v1.8.tar.gz (i.e., PROJECT-TAG.ARCHIVE) which I find too similar to the libntlm-1.8.tar.gz that we also publish. GitHub uses the same git archive style, but unfortunately they have logic that removes the v in the pathname so you will get a tarball with pathname libntlm-1.8/ instead of libntlm-v1.8/ that GitLab and I use. The content of the tarball is bit-by-bit identical, but the pathname and archive differs. Codeberg (running Forgejo) uses another approach: the tarball is called libntlm-v1.8.tar.gz (after the tag) just like GitLab, but the pathname inside the archive is libntlm/, otherwise the produced archive is bit-by-bit identical including timestamps. Savannah s CGIT interface uses archive name libntlm-1.8.tar.gz with pathname libntlm-1.8/, but otherwise file content is identical. Savannah s GitWeb interface provides snapshot links that are named after the git commit (e.g., libntlm-a812c2ca.tar.gz with libntlm-a812c2ca/) and I cannot find any tag-based download links at all. Overall, we are so close to get SHA256 checksum to match, but fail on pathname within the archive. I ve chosen to be compatible with GitLab regarding the content of tarballs but not on archive naming. From a simplicity point of view, it would be nice if everyone used PROJECT-TAG.ARCHIVE for the archive filename and PROJECT-TAG/ for the pathname within the archive. This aspect will probably need more discussion. Side note on git archive output: It seems different versions of git archive produce different results for the same repository. The version of git in Debian 11, Trisquel 11 and Ubuntu 22.04 behave the same. The version of git in Debian 12, AlmaLinux/RockyLinux 8/9, Alpine, ArchLinux, macOS homebrew, and upcoming Ubuntu 24.04 behave in another way. Hopefully this will not change that often, but this would invalidate reproducibility of these tarballs in the future, forcing you to use an old git release to reproduce the source-only tarball. Alas, GitLab and most other sites appears to be using modern git so the download tarballs from them would not match my tarballs even though the content would. Side note on ChangeLog: ChangeLog files were traditionally manually curated files with version history for a package. In recent years, several projects moved to dynamically generate them from git history (using tools like git2cl or gitlog-to-changelog). This has consequences for reproducibility of tarballs: you need to have the entire git history available! The gitlog-to-changelog tool also output different outputs depending on the time zone of the person using it, which arguable is a simple bug that can be fixed. However this entire approach is incompatible with rebuilding the full tarball from the minimal source-only tarball. It seems Libntlm s ChangeLog file died on the surgery table here. So how would a distribution build these minimal source-only tarballs? I happen to help on the libntlm package in Debian. It has historically used the generated tarballs as the source code to build from. This means that code coming from gnulib is vendored in the tarball. When a security problem is discovered in gnulib code, the security team needs to patch all packages that include that vendored code and rebuild them, instead of merely patching the gnulib package and rebuild all packages that rely on that particular code. To change this, the Debian libntlm package needs to Build-Depends on Debian s gnulib package. But there was one problem: similar to most projects that use gnulib, Libntlm depend on a particular git commit of gnulib, and Debian only ship one commit. There is no coordination about which commit to use. I have adopted gnulib in Debian, and add a git bundle to the *_all.deb binary package so that projects that rely on gnulib can pick whatever commit they need. This allow an no-network GNULIB_URL and GNULIB_REVISION approach when running Libntlm s ./bootstrap with the Debian gnulib package installed. Otherwise libntlm would pick up whatever latest version of gnulib that Debian happened to have in the gnulib package, which is not what the Libntlm maintainer intended to be used, and can lead to all sorts of version mismatches (and consequently security problems) over time. Libntlm in Debian is developed and tested on Salsa and there is continuous integration testing of it as well, thanks to the Salsa CI team. Side note on git bundles: unfortunately there appears to be no reproducible way to export a git repository into one or more files. So one unfortunate consequence of all this work is that the gnulib *.orig.tar.gz tarball in Debian is not reproducible any more. I have tried to get Git bundles to be reproducible but I never got it to work see my notes in gnulib s debian/README.source on this aspect. Of course, source tarball reproducibility has nothing to do with binary reproducibility of gnulib in Debian itself, fortunately. One open question is how to deal with the increased build dependencies that is triggered by this approach. Some people are surprised by this but I don t see how to get around it: if you depend on source code for tools in another package to build your package, it is a bad idea to hide that dependency. We ve done it for a long time through vendored code in non-minimal tarballs. Libntlm isn t the most critical project from a bootstrapping perspective, so adding git and gnulib as Build-Depends to it will probably be fine. However, consider if this pattern was used for other packages that uses gnulib such as coreutils, gzip, tar, bison etc (all are using gnulib) then they would all Build-Depends on git and gnulib. Cross-building those packages for a new architecture will therefor require git on that architecture first, which gets circular quick. The dependency on gnulib is real so I don t see that going away, and gnulib is a Architecture:all package. However, the dependency on git is merely a consequence of how the Debian gnulib package chose to make all gnulib git commits available to projects: through a git bundle. There are other ways to do this that doesn t require the git tool to extract the necessary files, but none that I found practical ideas welcome! Finally some brief notes on how this was implementated. Enabling bootstrappable source-only minimal tarballs via gnulib s ./bootstrap is achieved by using the GNULIB_REVISION mechanism, locking down the gnulib commit used. I have always disliked git submodules because they add extra steps and has complicated interaction with CI/CD. The reason why I gave up git submodules now is because the particular commit to use is not recorded in the git archive output when git submodules is used. So the particular gnulib commit has to be mentioned explicitly in some source code that goes into the git archive tarball. Colin Watson added the GNULIB_REVISION approach to ./bootstrap back in 2018, and now it no longer made sense to continue to use a gnulib git submodule. One alternative is to use ./bootstrap with --gnulib-srcdir or --gnulib-refdir if there is some practical problem with the GNULIB_URL towards a git bundle the GNULIB_REVISION in bootstrap.conf. The srcdist make rule is simple:
git archive --prefix=libntlm-v1.8/ -o libntlm-v1.8.tar.gz HEAD
Making the make dist generated tarball reproducible can be more complicated, however for Libntlm it was sufficient to make sure the modification times of all files were set deterministically to a timestamp found in the git repository. Interestingly there seems to be a couple of different ways to accomplish this, Guix doesn t support minimal source-only tarballs but rely on a .tarball-timestamp file inside the tarball. Paul Eggert explained what TZDB is using some time ago. The approach I m using now is fairly similar to the one I suggested over a year ago. Doing continous testing of all this is critical to make sure things don t regress. Libntlm s pipeline definition now produce the generated libntlm-*.tar.gz tarballs and a checksum as a build artifact. Then I added the 000-reproducability job which compares the checksums and fails on mismatches. You can read its delicate output in the job for the v1.8 release. Right now we insists that builds on Trisquel 11 match Ubuntu 22.04, that PureOS 10 builds match Debian 11 builds, that AlmaLinux 8 builds match RockyLinux 8 builds, and AlmaLinux 9 builds match RockyLinux 9 builds. As you can see in pipeline job output, not all platforms lead to the same tarballs, but hopefully this state can be improved over time. There is also partial reproducibility, where the full tarball is reproducible across two distributions but not the minimal tarball, or vice versa. If this way of working plays out well, I hope to implement it in other projects too. What do you think? Happy Hacking!

Paul Tagliamonte: Domo Arigato, Mr. debugfs

Years ago, at what I think I remember was DebConf 15, I hacked for a while on debhelper to write build-ids to debian binary control files, so that the build-id (more specifically, the ELF note .note.gnu.build-id) wound up in the Debian apt archive metadata. I ve always thought this was super cool, and seeing as how Michael Stapelberg blogged some great pointers around the ecosystem, including the fancy new debuginfod service, and the find-dbgsym-packages helper, which uses these same headers, I don t think I m the only one. At work I ve been using a lot of rust, specifically, async rust using tokio. To try and work on my style, and to dig deeper into the how and why of the decisions made in these frameworks, I ve decided to hack up a project that I ve wanted to do ever since 2015 write a debug filesystem. Let s get to it.

Back to the Future Time to admit something. I really love Plan 9. It s just so good. So many ideas from Plan 9 are just so prescient, and everything just feels right. Not just right like, feels good like, correct. The bit that I ve always liked the most is 9p, the network protocol for serving a filesystem over a network. This leads to all sorts of fun programs, like the Plan 9 ftp client being a 9p server you mount the ftp server and access files like any other files. It s kinda like if fuse were more fully a part of how the operating system worked, but fuse is all running client-side. With 9p there s a single client, and different servers that you can connect to, which may be backed by a hard drive, remote resources over something like SFTP, FTP, HTTP or even purely synthetic. The interesting (maybe sad?) part here is that 9p wound up outliving Plan 9 in terms of adoption 9p is in all sorts of places folks don t usually expect. For instance, the Windows Subsystem for Linux uses the 9p protocol to share files between Windows and Linux. ChromeOS uses it to share files with Crostini, and qemu uses 9p (virtio-p9) to share files between guest and host. If you re noticing a pattern here, you d be right; for some reason 9p is the go-to protocol to exchange files between hypervisor and guest. Why? I have no idea, except maybe due to being designed well, simple to implement, and it s a lot easier to validate the data being shared and validate security boundaries. Simplicity has its value. As a result, there s a lot of lingering 9p support kicking around. Turns out Linux can even handle mounting 9p filesystems out of the box. This means that I can deploy a filesystem to my LAN or my localhost by running a process on top of a computer that needs nothing special, and mount it over the network on an unmodified machine unlike fuse, where you d need client-specific software to run in order to mount the directory. For instance, let s mount a 9p filesystem running on my localhost machine, serving requests on 127.0.0.1:564 (tcp) that goes by the name mountpointname to /mnt.
$ mount -t 9p \
-o trans=tcp,port=564,version=9p2000.u,aname=mountpointname \
127.0.0.1 \
/mnt
Linux will mount away, and attach to the filesystem as the root user, and by default, attach to that mountpoint again for each local user that attempts to use it. Nifty, right? I think so. The server is able to keep track of per-user access and authorization along with the host OS.

WHEREIN I STYX WITH IT Since I wanted to push myself a bit more with rust and tokio specifically, I opted to implement the whole stack myself, without third party libraries on the critical path where I could avoid it. The 9p protocol (sometimes called Styx, the original name for it) is incredibly simple. It s a series of client to server requests, which receive a server to client response. These are, respectively, T messages, which transmit a request to the server, which trigger an R message in response (Reply messages). These messages are TLV payload with a very straight forward structure so straight forward, in fact, that I was able to implement a working server off nothing more than a handful of man pages. Later on after the basics worked, I found a more complete spec page that contains more information about the unix specific variant that I opted to use (9P2000.u rather than 9P2000) due to the level of Linux specific support for the 9P2000.u variant over the 9P2000 protocol.

MR ROBOTO The backend stack over at zoo is rust and tokio running i/o for an HTTP and WebRTC server. I figured I d pick something fairly similar to write my filesystem with, since 9P can be implemented on basically anything with I/O. That means tokio tcp server bits, which construct and use a 9p server, which has an idiomatic Rusty API that partially abstracts the raw R and T messages, but not so much as to cause issues with hiding implementation possibilities. At each abstraction level, there s an escape hatch allowing someone to implement any of the layers if required. I called this framework arigato which can be found over on docs.rs and crates.io.
/// Simplified version of the arigato File trait; this isn't actually
/// the same trait; there's some small cosmetic differences. The
/// actual trait can be found at:
///
/// https://docs.rs/arigato/latest/arigato/server/trait.File.html
trait File  
/// OpenFile is the type returned by this File via an Open call.
 type OpenFile: OpenFile;
/// Return the 9p Qid for this file. A file is the same if the Qid is
 /// the same. A Qid contains information about the mode of the file,
 /// version of the file, and a unique 64 bit identifier.
 fn qid(&self) -> Qid;
/// Construct the 9p Stat struct with metadata about a file.
 async fn stat(&self) -> FileResult<Stat>;
/// Attempt to update the file metadata.
 async fn wstat(&mut self, s: &Stat) -> FileResult<()>;
/// Traverse the filesystem tree.
 async fn walk(&self, path: &[&str]) -> FileResult<(Option<Self>, Vec<Self>)>;
/// Request that a file's reference be removed from the file tree.
 async fn unlink(&mut self) -> FileResult<()>;
/// Create a file at a specific location in the file tree.
 async fn create(
&mut self,
name: &str,
perm: u16,
ty: FileType,
mode: OpenMode,
extension: &str,
) -> FileResult<Self>;
/// Open the File, returning a handle to the open file, which handles
 /// file i/o. This is split into a second type since it is genuinely
 /// unrelated -- and the fact that a file is Open or Closed can be
 /// handled by the  arigato  server for us.
 async fn open(&mut self, mode: OpenMode) -> FileResult<Self::OpenFile>;
 
/// Simplified version of the arigato OpenFile trait; this isn't actually
/// the same trait; there's some small cosmetic differences. The
/// actual trait can be found at:
///
/// https://docs.rs/arigato/latest/arigato/server/trait.OpenFile.html
trait OpenFile  
/// iounit to report for this file. The iounit reported is used for Read
 /// or Write operations to signal, if non-zero, the maximum size that is
 /// guaranteed to be transferred atomically.
 fn iounit(&self) -> u32;
/// Read some number of bytes up to  buf.len()  from the provided
 ///  offset  of the underlying file. The number of bytes read is
 /// returned.
 async fn read_at(
&mut self,
buf: &mut [u8],
offset: u64,
) -> FileResult<u32>;
/// Write some number of bytes up to  buf.len()  from the provided
 ///  offset  of the underlying file. The number of bytes written
 /// is returned.
 fn write_at(
&mut self,
buf: &mut [u8],
offset: u64,
) -> FileResult<u32>;
 

Thanks, decade ago paultag! Let s do it! Let s use arigato to implement a 9p filesystem we ll call debugfs that will serve all the debug files shipped according to the Packages metadata from the apt archive. We ll fetch the Packages file and construct a filesystem based on the reported Build-Id entries. For those who don t know much about how an apt repo works, here s the 2-second crash course on what we re doing. The first is to fetch the Packages file, which is specific to a binary architecture (such as amd64, arm64 or riscv64). That architecture is specific to a component (such as main, contrib or non-free). That component is specific to a suite, such as stable, unstable or any of its aliases (bullseye, bookworm, etc). Let s take a look at the Packages.xz file for the unstable-debug suite, main component, for all amd64 binaries.
$ curl \
https://deb.debian.org/debian-debug/dists/unstable-debug/main/binary-amd64/Packages.xz \
  unxz
This will return the Debian-style rfc2822-like headers, which is an export of the metadata contained inside each .deb file which apt (or other tools that can use the apt repo format) use to fetch information about debs. Let s take a look at the debug headers for the netlabel-tools package in unstable which is a package named netlabel-tools-dbgsym in unstable-debug.
Package: netlabel-tools-dbgsym
Source: netlabel-tools (0.30.0-1)
Version: 0.30.0-1+b1
Installed-Size: 79
Maintainer: Paul Tagliamonte <paultag@debian.org>
Architecture: amd64
Depends: netlabel-tools (= 0.30.0-1+b1)
Description: debug symbols for netlabel-tools
Auto-Built-Package: debug-symbols
Build-Ids: e59f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a
Description-md5: a0e587a0cf730c88a4010f78562e6db7
Section: debug
Priority: optional
Filename: pool/main/n/netlabel-tools/netlabel-tools-dbgsym_0.30.0-1+b1_amd64.deb
Size: 62776
SHA256: 0e9bdb087617f0350995a84fb9aa84541bc4df45c6cd717f2157aa83711d0c60
So here, we can parse the package headers in the Packages.xz file, and store, for each Build-Id, the Filename where we can fetch the .deb at. Each .deb contains a number of files but we re only really interested in the files inside the .deb located at or under /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/, which you can find in debugfs under rfc822.rs. It s crude, and very single-purpose, but I m feeling a bit lazy.

Who needs dpkg?! For folks who haven t seen it yet, a .deb file is a special type of .ar file, that contains (usually) three files inside debian-binary, control.tar.xz and data.tar.xz. The core of an .ar file is a fixed size (60 byte) entry header, followed by the specified size number of bytes.
[8 byte .ar file magic]
[60 byte entry header]
[N bytes of data]
[60 byte entry header]
[N bytes of data]
[60 byte entry header]
[N bytes of data]
...
First up was to implement a basic ar parser in ar.rs. Before we get into using it to parse a deb, as a quick diversion, let s break apart a .deb file by hand something that is a bit of a rite of passage (or at least it used to be? I m getting old) during the Debian nm (new member) process, to take a look at where exactly the .debug file lives inside the .deb file.
$ ar x netlabel-tools-dbgsym_0.30.0-1+b1_amd64.deb
$ ls
control.tar.xz debian-binary
data.tar.xz netlabel-tools-dbgsym_0.30.0-1+b1_amd64.deb
$ tar --list -f data.tar.xz   grep '.debug$'
./usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug
Since we know quite a bit about the structure of a .deb file, and I had to implement support from scratch anyway, I opted to implement a (very!) basic debfile parser using HTTP Range requests. HTTP Range requests, if supported by the server (denoted by a accept-ranges: bytes HTTP header in response to an HTTP HEAD request to that file) means that we can add a header such as range: bytes=8-68 to specifically request that the returned GET body be the byte range provided (in the above case, the bytes starting from byte offset 8 until byte offset 68). This means we can fetch just the ar file entry from the .deb file until we get to the file inside the .deb we are interested in (in our case, the data.tar.xz file) at which point we can request the body of that file with a final range request. I wound up writing a struct to handle a read_at-style API surface in hrange.rs, which we can pair with ar.rs above and start to find our data in the .deb remotely without downloading and unpacking the .deb at all. After we have the body of the data.tar.xz coming back through the HTTP response, we get to pipe it through an xz decompressor (this kinda sucked in Rust, since a tokio AsyncRead is not the same as an http Body response is not the same as std::io::Read, is not the same as an async (or sync) Iterator is not the same as what the xz2 crate expects; leading me to read blocks of data to a buffer and stuff them through the decoder by looping over the buffer for each lzma2 packet in a loop), and tarfile parser (similarly troublesome). From there we get to iterate over all entries in the tarfile, stopping when we reach our file of interest. Since we can t seek, but gdb needs to, we ll pull it out of the stream into a Cursor<Vec<u8>> in-memory and pass a handle to it back to the user. From here on out its a matter of gluing together a File traited struct in debugfs, and serving the filesystem over TCP using arigato. Done deal!

A quick diversion about compression I was originally hoping to avoid transferring the whole tar file over the network (and therefore also reading the whole debug file into ram, which objectively sucks), but quickly hit issues with figuring out a way around seeking around an xz file. What s interesting is xz has a great primitive to solve this specific problem (specifically, use a block size that allows you to seek to the block as close to your desired seek position just before it, only discarding at most block size - 1 bytes), but data.tar.xz files generated by dpkg appear to have a single mega-huge block for the whole file. I don t know why I would have expected any different, in retrospect. That means that this now devolves into the base case of How do I seek around an lzma2 compressed data stream ; which is a lot more complex of a question. Thankfully, notoriously brilliant tianon was nice enough to introduce me to Jon Johnson who did something super similar adapted a technique to seek inside a compressed gzip file, which lets his service oci.dag.dev seek through Docker container images super fast based on some prior work such as soci-snapshotter, gztool, and zran.c. He also pulled this party trick off for apk based distros over at apk.dag.dev, which seems apropos. Jon was nice enough to publish a lot of his work on this specifically in a central place under the name targz on his GitHub, which has been a ton of fun to read through. The gist is that, by dumping the decompressor s state (window of previous bytes, in-memory data derived from the last N-1 bytes) at specific checkpoints along with the compressed data stream offset in bytes and decompressed offset in bytes, one can seek to that checkpoint in the compressed stream and pick up where you left off creating a similar block mechanism against the wishes of gzip. It means you d need to do an O(n) run over the file, but every request after that will be sped up according to the number of checkpoints you ve taken. Given the complexity of xz and lzma2, I don t think this is possible for me at the moment especially given most of the files I ll be requesting will not be loaded from again especially when I can just cache the debug header by Build-Id. I want to implement this (because I m generally curious and Jon has a way of getting someone excited about compression schemes, which is not a sentence I thought I d ever say out loud), but for now I m going to move on without this optimization. Such a shame, since it kills a lot of the work that went into seeking around the .deb file in the first place, given the debian-binary and control.tar.gz members are so small.

The Good First, the good news right? It works! That s pretty cool. I m positive my younger self would be amused and happy to see this working; as is current day paultag. Let s take debugfs out for a spin! First, we need to mount the filesystem. It even works on an entirely unmodified, stock Debian box on my LAN, which is huge. Let s take it for a spin:
$ mount \
-t 9p \
-o trans=tcp,version=9p2000.u,aname=unstable-debug \
192.168.0.2 \
/usr/lib/debug/.build-id/
And, let s prove to ourselves that this actually mounted before we go trying to use it:
$ mount   grep build-id
192.168.0.2 on /usr/lib/debug/.build-id type 9p (rw,relatime,aname=unstable-debug,access=user,trans=tcp,version=9p2000.u,port=564)
Slick. We ve got an open connection to the server, where our host will keep a connection alive as root, attached to the filesystem provided in aname. Let s take a look at it.
$ ls /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/
00 0d 1a 27 34 41 4e 5b 68 75 82 8E 9b a8 b5 c2 CE db e7 f3
01 0e 1b 28 35 42 4f 5c 69 76 83 8f 9c a9 b6 c3 cf dc E7 f4
02 0f 1c 29 36 43 50 5d 6a 77 84 90 9d aa b7 c4 d0 dd e8 f5
03 10 1d 2a 37 44 51 5e 6b 78 85 91 9e ab b8 c5 d1 de e9 f6
04 11 1e 2b 38 45 52 5f 6c 79 86 92 9f ac b9 c6 d2 df ea f7
05 12 1f 2c 39 46 53 60 6d 7a 87 93 a0 ad ba c7 d3 e0 eb f8
06 13 20 2d 3a 47 54 61 6e 7b 88 94 a1 ae bb c8 d4 e1 ec f9
07 14 21 2e 3b 48 55 62 6f 7c 89 95 a2 af bc c9 d5 e2 ed fa
08 15 22 2f 3c 49 56 63 70 7d 8a 96 a3 b0 bd ca d6 e3 ee fb
09 16 23 30 3d 4a 57 64 71 7e 8b 97 a4 b1 be cb d7 e4 ef fc
0a 17 24 31 3e 4b 58 65 72 7f 8c 98 a5 b2 bf cc d8 E4 f0 fd
0b 18 25 32 3f 4c 59 66 73 80 8d 99 a6 b3 c0 cd d9 e5 f1 fe
0c 19 26 33 40 4d 5a 67 74 81 8e 9a a7 b4 c1 ce da e6 f2 ff
Outstanding. Let s try using gdb to debug a binary that was provided by the Debian archive, and see if it ll load the ELF by build-id from the right .deb in the unstable-debug suite:
$ gdb -q /usr/sbin/netlabelctl
Reading symbols from /usr/sbin/netlabelctl...
Reading symbols from /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug...
(gdb)
Yes! Yes it will!
$ file /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug
/usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug: ELF 64-bit LSB shared object, x86-64, version 1 (SYSV), dynamically linked, interpreter *empty*, BuildID[sha1]=e59f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a, for GNU/Linux 3.2.0, with debug_info, not stripped

The Bad Linux s support for 9p is mainline, which is great, but it s not robust. Network issues or server restarts will wedge the mountpoint (Linux can t reconnect when the tcp connection breaks), and things that work fine on local filesystems get translated in a way that causes a lot of network chatter for instance, just due to the way the syscalls are translated, doing an ls, will result in a stat call for each file in the directory, even though linux had just got a stat entry for every file while it was resolving directory names. On top of that, Linux will serialize all I/O with the server, so there s no concurrent requests for file information, writes, or reads pending at the same time to the server; and read and write throughput will degrade as latency increases due to increasing round-trip time, even though there are offsets included in the read and write calls. It works well enough, but is frustrating to run up against, since there s not a lot you can do server-side to help with this beyond implementing the 9P2000.L variant (which, maybe is worth it).

The Ugly Unfortunately, we don t know the file size(s) until we ve actually opened the underlying tar file and found the correct member, so for most files, we don t know the real size to report when getting a stat. We can t parse the tarfiles for every stat call, since that d make ls even slower (bummer). Only hiccup is that when I report a filesize of zero, gdb throws a bit of a fit; let s try with a size of 0 to start:
$ ls -lah /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug
-r--r--r-- 1 root root 0 Dec 31 1969 /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug
$ gdb -q /usr/sbin/netlabelctl
Reading symbols from /usr/sbin/netlabelctl...
Reading symbols from /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug...
warning: Discarding section .note.gnu.build-id which has a section size (24) larger than the file size [in module /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug]
[...]
This obviously won t work since gdb will throw away all our hard work because of stat s output, and neither will loading the real size of the underlying file. That only leaves us with hardcoding a file size and hope nothing else breaks significantly as a result. Let s try it again:
$ ls -lah /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug
-r--r--r-- 1 root root 954M Dec 31 1969 /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug
$ gdb -q /usr/sbin/netlabelctl
Reading symbols from /usr/sbin/netlabelctl...
Reading symbols from /usr/lib/debug/.build-id/e5/9f81f6573dadd5d95a6e4474d9388ab2777e2a.debug...
(gdb)
Much better. I mean, terrible but better. Better for now, anyway.

Kilroy was here Do I think this is a particularly good idea? I mean; kinda. I m probably going to make some fun 9p arigato-based filesystems for use around my LAN, but I don t think I ll be moving to use debugfs until I can figure out how to ensure the connection is more resilient to changing networks, server restarts and fixes on i/o performance. I think it was a useful exercise and is a pretty great hack, but I don t think this ll be shipping anywhere anytime soon. Along with me publishing this post, I ve pushed up all my repos; so you should be able to play along at home! There s a lot more work to be done on arigato; but it does handshake and successfully export a working 9P2000.u filesystem. Check it out on on my github at arigato, debugfs and also on crates.io and docs.rs. At least I can say I was here and I got it working after all these years.

Russell Coker: Software Needed for Work

When I first started studying computer science setting up a programming project was easy, write source code files and a Makefile and that was it. IRC was the only IM system and email was the only other communications system that was used much. Writing Makefiles is difficult but products like the Borland Turbo series of IDEs did all that for you so you could just start typing code and press a function key to compile and run (F5 from memory). Over the years the requirements and expectations of computer use have grown significantly. The typical office worker is now doing many more things with computers than serious programmers used to do. Running an IM system, an online document editing system, and a series of web apps is standard for companies nowadays. Developers have to do all that in addition to tools for version control, continuous integration, bug reporting, and feature tracking. The development process is also more complex with extra steps for reproducible builds, automated tests, and code coverage metrics for the tests. I wonder how many programmers who started in the 90s would have done something else if faced with Github as their introduction. How much of this is good? Having the ability to send instant messages all around the world is great. Having dozens of different ways of doing so is awful. When a company uses multiple IM systems such as MS-Teams and Slack and forces some of it s employees to use them both it s getting ridiculous. Having different friend groups on different IM systems is anti-social networking. In the EU the Digital Markets Act [1] forces some degree of interoperability between different IM systems and as it s impossible to know who s actually in the EU that will end up being world-wide. In corporations document management often involves multiple ways of storing things, you have Google Docs, MS Office online, hosted Wikis like Confluence, and more. Large companies tend to use several such systems which means that people need to learn multiple systems to be able to work and they also need to know which systems are used by the various groups that they communicate with. Microsoft deserves some sort of award for the range of ways they have for managing documents, Sharepoint, OneDrive, Office Online, attachments to Teams rooms, and probably lots more. During WW2 the predecessor to the CIA produced an excellent manual for simple sabotage [2]. If something like that was written today the section General Interference with Organisations and Production would surely have something about using as many incompatible programs and web sites as possible in the work flow. The proliferation of software required for work is a form of denial of service attack against corporations. The efficiency of companies doesn t really bother me. It sucks that companies are creating a demoralising workplace that is unpleasant for workers. But the upside is that the biggest companies are the ones doing the worst things and are also the most afflicted by these problems. It s almost like the Bureau of Sabotage in some of Frank Herbert s fiction [3]. The thing that concerns me is the effect of multiple standards on free software development. We have IRC the most traditional IM support system which is getting replaced by Matrix but we also have some projects using Telegram, and Jabber hasn t gone away. I m sure there are others too. There are also multiple options for version control (although github seems to dominate the market), forums, bug trackers, etc. Reporting bugs or getting support in free software often requires interacting with several of them. Developing free software usually involves dealing with the bug tracking and documentation systems of the distribution you use as well as the upstream developers of the software. If the problem you have is related to compatibility between two different pieces of free software then you can end up dealing with even more bug tracking systems. There are real benefits to some of the newer programs to track bugs, write documentation, etc. There is also going to be a cost in changing which gives an incentive for the older projects to keep using what has worked well enough for them in the past, How can we improve things? Use only the latest tools? Prioritise ease of use? Aim more for the entry level contributors?

12 April 2024

Scarlett Gately Moore: Kubuntu: Noble Numbat Beta available! Qt6 snaps coming soon.

It has been a very busy couple of weeks as we worked against some major transitions and a security fix that required a rebuild of the $world. I am happy to report that against all odds we have a beta release! You can read all about it here: https://kubuntu.org/news/kubuntu-24-04-beta-released/ Post beta freeze I have already begun pushing our fixes for known issues today. A big one being our new branding! Very exciting times in the Kubuntu world. In the snap world I will be using my free time to start knocking out KDE applications ( not covered by the project ). I have also recruited some help, so you should start seeing these pop up in the edge channel very soon! Now that we are nearing the release of Noble Numbat, my contract is coming to an end with Kubuntu. If you would like to see Plasma 6 in the next release and in a PPA for Noble, please consider donating to extend my contract at https://kubuntu.org/donate ! On a personal level, I am still looking to help with my grandson and you can find that here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-loving-memory-of-william-billy-dean-scalf Thanks for stopping by, Scarlett

11 April 2024

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds in March 2024

Welcome to the March 2024 report from the Reproducible Builds project! In our reports, we attempt to outline what we have been up to over the past month, as well as mentioning some of the important things happening more generally in software supply-chain security. As ever, if you are interested in contributing to the project, please visit our Contribute page on our website. Table of contents:
  1. Arch Linux minimal container userland now 100% reproducible
  2. Validating Debian s build infrastructure after the XZ backdoor
  3. Making Fedora Linux (more) reproducible
  4. Increasing Trust in the Open Source Supply Chain with Reproducible Builds and Functional Package Management
  5. Software and source code identification with GNU Guix and reproducible builds
  6. Two new Rust-based tools for post-processing determinism
  7. Distribution work
  8. Mailing list highlights
  9. Website updates
  10. Delta chat clients now reproducible
  11. diffoscope updates
  12. Upstream patches
  13. Reproducibility testing framework

Arch Linux minimal container userland now 100% reproducible In remarkable news, Reproducible builds developer kpcyrd reported that that the Arch Linux minimal container userland is now 100% reproducible after work by developers dvzv and Foxboron on the one remaining package. This represents a real world , widely-used Linux distribution being reproducible. Their post, which kpcyrd suffixed with the question now what? , continues on to outline some potential next steps, including validating whether the container image itself could be reproduced bit-for-bit. The post, which was itself a followup for an Arch Linux update earlier in the month, generated a significant number of replies.

Validating Debian s build infrastructure after the XZ backdoor From our mailing list this month, Vagrant Cascadian wrote about being asked about trying to perform concrete reproducibility checks for recent Debian security updates, in an attempt to gain some confidence about Debian s build infrastructure given that they performed builds in environments running the high-profile XZ vulnerability. Vagrant reports (with some caveats):
So far, I have not found any reproducibility issues; everything I tested I was able to get to build bit-for-bit identical with what is in the Debian archive.
That is to say, reproducibility testing permitted Vagrant and Debian to claim with some confidence that builds performed when this vulnerable version of XZ was installed were not interfered with.

Making Fedora Linux (more) reproducible In March, Davide Cavalca gave a talk at the 2024 Southern California Linux Expo (aka SCALE 21x) about the ongoing effort to make the Fedora Linux distribution reproducible. Documented in more detail on Fedora s website, the talk touched on topics such as the specifics of implementing reproducible builds in Fedora, the challenges encountered, the current status and what s coming next. (YouTube video)

Increasing Trust in the Open Source Supply Chain with Reproducible Builds and Functional Package Management Julien Malka published a brief but interesting paper in the HAL open archive on Increasing Trust in the Open Source Supply Chain with Reproducible Builds and Functional Package Management:
Functional package managers (FPMs) and reproducible builds (R-B) are technologies and methodologies that are conceptually very different from the traditional software deployment model, and that have promising properties for software supply chain security. This thesis aims to evaluate the impact of FPMs and R-B on the security of the software supply chain and propose improvements to the FPM model to further improve trust in the open source supply chain. PDF
Julien s paper poses a number of research questions on how the model of distributions such as GNU Guix and NixOS can be leveraged to further improve the safety of the software supply chain , etc.

Software and source code identification with GNU Guix and reproducible builds In a long line of commendably detailed blog posts, Ludovic Court s, Maxim Cournoyer, Jan Nieuwenhuizen and Simon Tournier have together published two interesting posts on the GNU Guix blog this month. In early March, Ludovic Court s, Maxim Cournoyer, Jan Nieuwenhuizen and Simon Tournier wrote about software and source code identification and how that might be performed using Guix, rhetorically posing the questions: What does it take to identify software ? How can we tell what software is running on a machine to determine, for example, what security vulnerabilities might affect it? Later in the month, Ludovic Court s wrote a solo post describing adventures on the quest for long-term reproducible deployment. Ludovic s post touches on GNU Guix s aim to support time travel , the ability to reliably (and reproducibly) revert to an earlier point in time, employing the iconic image of Harold Lloyd hanging off the clock in Safety Last! (1925) to poetically illustrate both the slapstick nature of current modern technology and the gymnastics required to navigate hazards of our own making.

Two new Rust-based tools for post-processing determinism Zbigniew J drzejewski-Szmek announced add-determinism, a work-in-progress reimplementation of the Reproducible Builds project s own strip-nondeterminism tool in the Rust programming language, intended to be used as a post-processor in RPM-based distributions such as Fedora In addition, Yossi Kreinin published a blog post titled refix: fast, debuggable, reproducible builds that describes a tool that post-processes binaries in such a way that they are still debuggable with gdb, etc.. Yossi post details the motivation and techniques behind the (fast) performance of the tool.

Distribution work In Debian this month, since the testing framework no longer varies the build path, James Addison performed a bulk downgrade of the bug severity for issues filed with a level of normal to a new level of wishlist. In addition, 28 reviews of Debian packages were added, 38 were updated and 23 were removed this month adding to ever-growing knowledge about identified issues. As part of this effort, a number of issue types were updated, including Chris Lamb adding a new ocaml_include_directories toolchain issue [ ] and James Addison adding a new filesystem_order_in_java_jar_manifest_mf_include_resource issue [ ] and updating the random_uuid_in_notebooks_generated_by_nbsphinx to reference a relevant discussion thread [ ]. In addition, Roland Clobus posted his 24th status update of reproducible Debian ISO images. Roland highlights that the images for Debian unstable often cannot be generated due to changes in that distribution related to the 64-bit time_t transition. Lastly, Bernhard M. Wiedemann posted another monthly update for his reproducibility work in openSUSE.

Mailing list highlights Elsewhere on our mailing list this month:

Website updates There were made a number of improvements to our website this month, including:
  • Pol Dellaiera noticed the frequent need to correctly cite the website itself in academic work. To facilitate easier citation across multiple formats, Pol contributed a Citation File Format (CIF) file. As a result, an export in BibTeX format is now available in the Academic Publications section. Pol encourages community contributions to further refine the CITATION.cff file. Pol also added an substantial new section to the buy in page documenting the role of Software Bill of Materials (SBOMs) and ephemeral development environments. [ ][ ]
  • Bernhard M. Wiedemann added a new commandments page to the documentation [ ][ ] and fixed some incorrect YAML elsewhere on the site [ ].
  • Chris Lamb add three recent academic papers to the publications page of the website. [ ]
  • Mattia Rizzolo and Holger Levsen collaborated to add Infomaniak as a sponsor of amd64 virtual machines. [ ][ ][ ]
  • Roland Clobus updated the stable outputs page, dropping version numbers from Python documentation pages [ ] and noting that Python s set data structure is also affected by the PYTHONHASHSEED functionality. [ ]

Delta chat clients now reproducible Delta Chat, an open source messaging application that can work over email, announced this month that the Rust-based core library underlying Delta chat application is now reproducible.

diffoscope diffoscope is our in-depth and content-aware diff utility that can locate and diagnose reproducibility issues. This month, Chris Lamb made a number of changes such as uploading versions 259, 260 and 261 to Debian and made the following additional changes:
  • New features:
    • Add support for the zipdetails tool from the Perl distribution. Thanks to Fay Stegerman and Larry Doolittle et al. for the pointer and thread about this tool. [ ]
  • Bug fixes:
    • Don t identify Redis database dumps as GNU R database files based simply on their filename. [ ]
    • Add a missing call to File.recognizes so we actually perform the filename check for GNU R data files. [ ]
    • Don t crash if we encounter an .rdb file without an equivalent .rdx file. (#1066991)
    • Correctly check for 7z being available and not lz4 when testing 7z. [ ]
    • Prevent a traceback when comparing a contentful .pyc file with an empty one. [ ]
  • Testsuite improvements:
    • Fix .epub tests after supporting the new zipdetails tool. [ ]
    • Don t use parenthesis within test skipping messages, as PyTest adds its own parenthesis. [ ]
    • Factor out Python version checking in test_zip.py. [ ]
    • Skip some Zip-related tests under Python 3.10.14, as a potential regression may have been backported to the 3.10.x series. [ ]
    • Actually test 7z support in the test_7z set of tests, not the lz4 functionality. (Closes: reproducible-builds/diffoscope#359). [ ]
In addition, Fay Stegerman updated diffoscope s monkey patch for supporting the unusual Mozilla ZIP file format after Python s zipfile module changed to detect potentially insecure overlapping entries within .zip files. (#362) Chris Lamb also updated the trydiffoscope command line client, dropping a build-dependency on the deprecated python3-distutils package to fix Debian bug #1065988 [ ], taking a moment to also refresh the packaging to the latest Debian standards [ ]. Finally, Vagrant Cascadian submitted an update for diffoscope version 260 in GNU Guix. [ ]

Upstream patches This month, we wrote a large number of patches, including: Bernhard M. Wiedemann used reproducibility-tooling to detect and fix packages that added changes in their %check section, thus failing when built with the --no-checks option. Only half of all openSUSE packages were tested so far, but a large number of bugs were filed, including ones against caddy, exiv2, gnome-disk-utility, grisbi, gsl, itinerary, kosmindoormap, libQuotient, med-tools, plasma6-disks, pspp, python-pypuppetdb, python-urlextract, rsync, vagrant-libvirt and xsimd. Similarly, Jean-Pierre De Jesus DIAZ employed reproducible builds techniques in order to test a proposed refactor of the ath9k-htc-firmware package. As the change produced bit-for-bit identical binaries to the previously shipped pre-built binaries:
I don t have the hardware to test this firmware, but the build produces the same hashes for the firmware so it s safe to say that the firmware should keep working.

Reproducibility testing framework The Reproducible Builds project operates a comprehensive testing framework running primarily at tests.reproducible-builds.org in order to check packages and other artifacts for reproducibility. In March, an enormous number of changes were made by Holger Levsen:
  • Debian-related changes:
    • Sleep less after a so-called 404 package state has occurred. [ ]
    • Schedule package builds more often. [ ][ ]
    • Regenerate all our HTML indexes every hour, but only every 12h for the released suites. [ ]
    • Create and update unstable and experimental base systems on armhf again. [ ][ ]
    • Don t reschedule so many depwait packages due to the current size of the i386 architecture queue. [ ]
    • Redefine our scheduling thresholds and amounts. [ ]
    • Schedule untested packages with a higher priority, otherwise slow architectures cannot keep up with the experimental distribution growing. [ ]
    • Only create the stats_buildinfo.png graph once per day. [ ][ ]
    • Reproducible Debian dashboard: refactoring, update several more static stats only every 12h. [ ]
    • Document how to use systemctl with new systemd-based services. [ ]
    • Temporarily disable armhf and i386 continuous integration tests in order to get some stability back. [ ]
    • Use the deb.debian.org CDN everywhere. [ ]
    • Remove the rsyslog logging facility on bookworm systems. [ ]
    • Add zst to the list of packages which are false-positive diskspace issues. [ ]
    • Detect failures to bootstrap Debian base systems. [ ]
  • Arch Linux-related changes:
    • Temporarily disable builds because the pacman package manager is broken. [ ][ ]
    • Split reproducible_html_live_status and split the scheduling timing . [ ][ ][ ]
    • Improve handling when database is locked. [ ][ ]
  • Misc changes:
    • Show failed services that require manual cleanup. [ ][ ]
    • Integrate two new Infomaniak nodes. [ ][ ][ ][ ]
    • Improve IRC notifications for artifacts. [ ]
    • Run diffoscope in different systemd slices. [ ]
    • Run the node health check more often, as it can now repair some issues. [ ][ ]
    • Also include the string Bot in the userAgent for Git. (Re: #929013). [ ]
    • Document increased tmpfs size on our OUSL nodes. [ ]
    • Disable memory account for the reproducible_build service. [ ][ ]
    • Allow 10 times as many open files for the Jenkins service. [ ]
    • Set OOMPolicy=continue and OOMScoreAdjust=-1000 for both the Jenkins and the reproducible_build service. [ ]
Mattia Rizzolo also made the following changes:
  • Debian-related changes:
    • Define a systemd slice to group all relevant services. [ ][ ]
    • Add a bunch of quotes in scripts to assuage the shellcheck tool. [ ]
    • Add stats on how many packages have been built today so far. [ ]
    • Instruct systemd-run to handle diffoscope s exit codes specially. [ ]
    • Prefer the pgrep tool over grepping the output of ps. [ ]
    • Re-enable a couple of i386 and armhf architecture builders. [ ][ ]
    • Fix some stylistic issues flagged by the Python flake8 tool. [ ]
    • Cease scheduling Debian unstable and experimental on the armhf architecture due to the time_t transition. [ ]
    • Start a few more i386 & armhf workers. [ ][ ][ ]
    • Temporarly skip pbuilder updates in the unstable distribution, but only on the armhf architecture. [ ]
  • Other changes:
    • Perform some large-scale refactoring on how the systemd service operates. [ ][ ]
    • Move the list of workers into a separate file so it s accessible to a number of scripts. [ ]
    • Refactor the powercycle_x86_nodes.py script to use the new IONOS API and its new Python bindings. [ ]
    • Also fix nph-logwatch after the worker changes. [ ]
    • Do not install the stunnel tool anymore, it shouldn t be needed by anything anymore. [ ]
    • Move temporary directories related to Arch Linux into a single directory for clarity. [ ]
    • Update the arm64 architecture host keys. [ ]
    • Use a common Postfix configuration. [ ]
The following changes were also made by:
  • Jan-Benedict Glaw:
    • Initial work to clean up a messy NetBSD-related script. [ ][ ]
  • Roland Clobus:
    • Show the installer log if the installer fails to build. [ ]
    • Avoid the minus character (i.e. -) in a variable in order to allow for tags in openQA. [ ]
    • Update the schedule of Debian live image builds. [ ]
  • Vagrant Cascadian:
    • Maintenance on the virt* nodes is completed so bring them back online. [ ]
    • Use the fully qualified domain name in configuration. [ ]
Node maintenance was also performed by Holger Levsen, Mattia Rizzolo [ ][ ] and Vagrant Cascadian [ ][ ][ ][ ]

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Russell Coker: ML Training License

Last year a Debian Developer blogged about writing Haskell code to give a bad result for LLMs that were trained on it. I forgot who wrote the post and I d appreciate the URL if anyone has it. I respect such technical work to enforce one s legal rights when they aren t respected by corporations, but I have a different approach. As an aside the Fosdem lecture Fortify AI against regulation, litigation and lobotomies is interesting on this topic [1], it s what inspired me to write about this. For what I write I am at this time happy to allow it to be used as part of a large training data set (consider this blog post a licence grant that applies until such time as I edit this post to change it). But only if aggregated with so much other data that my content is only a tiny portion of the data set by any metric. So I don t want someone to make a programming LLM that has my code as the only C code or a political data set that has my blog posts as the only left-wing content. If someone wants to train an LLM on only my content to make a Russell-simulator then I don t license my work for that purpose but also as it s small enough that anyone with a bit of skill could do it on a weekend I can t stop it. I would be really interested in seeing the results if someone from the FOSS community wanted to make a Russell-simulator and would probably issue them a license for such work if asked. If my work comprises more than 0.1% of the content in a particular measure (theme, programming language, political position, etc) in a training data set then I don t permit that without prior discussion. Finally if someone wants to make a FOSS training data set to be used for FOSS LLM systems (maybe under the AGPL or some similar license) then I ll allow my writing to be used as part of that.

Wouter Verhelst: OpenSC and the Belgian eID

Getting the Belgian eID to work on Linux systems should be fairly easy, although some people do struggle with it. For that reason, there is a lot of third-party documentation out there in the form of blog posts, wiki pages, and other kinds of things. Unfortunately, some of this documentation is simply wrong. Written by people who played around with things until it kind of worked, sometimes you get a situation where something that used to work in the past (but wasn't really necessary) now stopped working, but it's still added to a number of locations as though it were the gospel. And then people follow these instructions and now things don't work anymore. One of these revolves around OpenSC. OpenSC is an open source smartcard library that has support for a pretty large number of smartcards, amongst which the Belgian eID. It provides a PKCS#11 module as well as a number of supporting tools. For those not in the know, PKCS#11 is a standardized C API for offloading cryptographic operations. It is an API that can be used when talking to a hardware cryptographic module, in order to make that module perform some actions, and it is especially popular in the open source world, with support in NSS, amongst others. This library is written and maintained by mozilla, and is a low-level cryptographic library that is used by Firefox (on all platforms it supports) as well as by Google Chrome and other browsers based on that (but only on Linux, and as I understand it, only for linking with smartcards; their BoringSSL library is used for other things). The official eID software that we ship through eid.belgium.be, also known as "BeID", provides a PKCS#11 module for the Belgian eID, as well as a number of support tools to make interacting with the card easier, such as the "eID viewer", which provides the ability to read data from the card, and validate their signatures. While the very first public version of this eID PKCS#11 module was originally based on OpenSC, it has since been reimplemented as a PKCS#11 module in its own right, with no lineage to OpenSC whatsoever anymore. About five years ago, the Belgian eID card was renewed. At the time, a new physical appearance was the most obvious difference with the old card, but there were also some technical, on-chip, differences that are not so apparent. The most important one here, although it is not the only one, is the fact that newer eID cards now use a NIST P-384 elliptic curve-based private keys, rather than the RSA-based ones that were used in the past. This change required some changes to any PKCS#11 module that supports the eID; both the BeID one, as well as the OpenSC card-belpic driver that is written in support of the Belgian eID. Obviously, the required changes were implemented for the BeID module; however, the OpenSC card-belpic driver was not updated. While I did do some preliminary work on the required changes, I was unable to get it to work, and eventually other things took up my time so I never finished the implementation. If someone would like to finish the work that I started, the preliminal patch that I wrote could be a good start -- but like I said, it doesn't yet work. Also, you'll probably be interested in the official documentation of the eID card. Unfortunately, in the mean time someone added the Applet 1.8 ATR to the card-belpic.c file, without also implementing the required changes to the driver so that the PKCS#11 driver actually supports the eID card. The result of this is that if you have OpenSC installed in NSS for either Firefox or any Chromium-based browser, and it gets picked up before the BeID PKCS#11 module, then NSS will stop looking and pass all crypto operations to the OpenSC PKCS#11 module rather than to the official eID PKCS#11 module, and things will not work at all, causing a lot of confusion. I have therefore taken the following two steps:
  1. The official eID packages now conflict with the OpenSC PKCS#11 module. Specifically only the PKCS#11 module, not the rest of OpenSC, so you can theoretically still use its tools. This means that once we release this new version of the eID software, when you do an upgrade and you have OpenSC installed, it will remove the PKCS#11 module and anything that depends on it. This is normal and expected.
  2. I have filed a pull request against OpenSC that removes the Applet 1.8 ATR from the driver, so that OpenSC will stop claiming that it supports the 1.8 applet.
When the pull request is accepted, we will update the official eID software to make the conflict versioned, so that as soon as it works again you will again be able to install the OpenSC and BeID packages at the same time. In the mean time, if you have the OpenSC PKCS#11 module installed on your system, and your eID authentication does not work, try removing it.

9 April 2024

Ian Jackson: Why we ve voted No to CfD for Derril Water solar farm

[personal profile] ceb and I are members of the Derril Water Solar Park cooperative. We were recently invited to vote on whether the coop should bid for a Contract for Difference, in a government green electricity auction. We ve voted No. Green electricity from your mainstream supplier is a lie For a while [personal profile] ceb and I have wanted to contribute directly to green energy provision. This isn t really possible in the mainstream consumer electricy market. Mainstream electricity suppliers 100% green energy tariffs are pure greenwashing. In a capitalist boondoogle, they basically divvy up the electricity so that customers on the (typically more expensive) green tariff get the green electricity, and the other customers get whatever is left. (Of course the electricity is actually all mixed up by the National Grid.) There are fewer people signed up for these tariffs than there is green power generated, so this basically means signing up for a green tariff has no effect whatsoever, other than giving evil people more money. Ripple About a year ago we heard about Ripple. The structure is a little complicated, but the basic upshot is: Ripple promote and manage renewable energy schemes. The schemes themselves are each an individual company; the company is largely owned by a co-operative. The co-op is owned by consumers of electricity in the UK., To stop the co-operative being an purely financial investment scheme, shares ownership is limited according to your electricity usage. The electricity is be sold on the open market, and the profits are used to offset members electricity bills. (One gotcha from all of this is that for this to work your electricity billing provider has to be signed up with Ripple, but ours, Octopus, is.) It seemed to us that this was a way for us to directly cause (and pay for!) the actual generation of green electricity. So, we bought shares in one these co-operatives: we are co-owners of the Derril Water Solar Farm. We signed up for the maximum: funding generating capacity corresponding to 120% of our current electricity usage. We paid a little over 5000 for our shares. Contracts for Difference The UK has a renewable energy subsidy scheme, which goes by the name of Contracts for Difference. The idea is that a renewable energy generation company bids in advance, saying that they ll sell their electricity at Y price, for the duration of the contract (15 years in the current round). The lowest bids win. All the electricity from the participating infrastructure is sold on the open market, but if the market price is low the government makes up the difference, and if the price is high, the government takes the winnings. This is supposedly good for giving a stable investment environment, since the price the developer is going to get now doesn t depends on the electricity market over the next 15 years. The CfD system is supposed to encourage development, so you can only apply before you ve commissioned your generation infrastructure. Ripple and CfD Ripple recently invited us to agree that the Derril Water co-operative should bid in the current round of CfDs. If this goes ahead, and we are one of the auction s winners, the result would be that, instead of selling our electricity at the market price, we ll sell it at the fixed CfD price. This would mean that our return on our investment (which show up as savings on our electricity bills) would be decoupled from market electricity prices, and be much more predictable. They can t tell us the price they d want to bid at, and future electricity prices are rather hard to predict, but it s clear from the accompanying projections that they think we d be better off on average with a CfD. The documentation is very full of financial projections and graphs; other factors aren t really discussed in any detail. The rules of the co-op didn t require them to hold a vote, but very sensibly, for such a fundamental change in the model, they decided to treat it roughly the same way as for a rules change: they re hoping to get 75% Yes votes. Voting No The reason we re in this co-op at all is because we want to directly fund renewable electricity. Participating in the CfD auction would involve us competing with capitalist energy companies for government subsidies. Subsidies which are supposed to encourage the provision of green electricity. It seems to us that participating in this auction would remove most of the difference between what we hoped to do by investing in Derril Water, and just participating in the normal consumer electricity market. In particular, if we do win in the auction, that s probably directly removing the funding and investment support model for other, market-investor-funded, projects. In other words, our buying into Derril Water ceases to be an additional green energy project, changing (in its minor way) the UK s electricity mix. It becomes a financial transaction much more tenously connected (if connected at all) to helping mitigate the climate emergency. So our conclusion was that we must vote against.

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Matthew Palmer: How I Tripped Over the Debian Weak Keys Vulnerability

Those of you who haven t been in IT for far, far too long might not know that next month will be the 16th(!) anniversary of the disclosure of what was, at the time, a fairly earth-shattering revelation: that for about 18 months, the Debian OpenSSL package was generating entirely predictable private keys. The recent xz-stential threat (thanks to @nixCraft for making me aware of that one), has got me thinking about my own serendipitous interaction with a major vulnerability. Given that the statute of limitations has (probably) run out, I thought I d share it as a tale of how huh, that s weird can be a powerful threat-hunting tool but only if you ve got the time to keep pulling at the thread.

Prelude to an Adventure Our story begins back in March 2008. I was working at Engine Yard (EY), a now largely-forgotten Rails-focused hosting company, which pioneered several advances in Rails application deployment. Probably EY s greatest claim to lasting fame is that they helped launch a little code hosting platform you might have heard of, by providing them free infrastructure when they were little more than a glimmer in the Internet s eye. I am, of course, talking about everyone s favourite Microsoft product: GitHub. Since GitHub was in the right place, at the right time, with a compelling product offering, they quickly started to gain traction, and grow their userbase. With growth comes challenges, amongst them the one we re focusing on today: SSH login times. Then, as now, GitHub provided SSH access to the git repos they hosted, by SSHing to git@github.com with publickey authentication. They were using the standard way that everyone manages SSH keys: the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file, and that became a problem as the number of keys started to grow. The way that SSH uses this file is that, when a user connects and asks for publickey authentication, SSH opens the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file and scans all of the keys listed in it, looking for a key which matches the key that the user presented. This linear search is normally not a huge problem, because nobody in their right mind puts more than a few keys in their ~/.ssh/authorized_keys, right?
2008-era GitHub giving monkey puppet side-eye to the idea that nobody stores many keys in an authorized_keys file
Of course, as a popular, rapidly-growing service, GitHub was gaining users at a fair clip, to the point that the one big file that stored all the SSH keys was starting to visibly impact SSH login times. This problem was also not going to get any better by itself. Something Had To Be Done. EY management was keen on making sure GitHub ran well, and so despite it not really being a hosting problem, they were willing to help fix this problem. For some reason, the late, great, Ezra Zygmuntowitz pointed GitHub in my direction, and let me take the time to really get into the problem with the GitHub team. After examining a variety of different possible solutions, we came to the conclusion that the least-worst option was to patch OpenSSH to lookup keys in a MySQL database, indexed on the key fingerprint. We didn t take this decision on a whim it wasn t a case of yeah, sure, let s just hack around with OpenSSH, what could possibly go wrong? . We knew it was potentially catastrophic if things went sideways, so you can imagine how much worse the other options available were. Ensuring that this wouldn t compromise security was a lot of the effort that went into the change. In the end, though, we rolled it out in early April, and lo! SSH logins were fast, and we were pretty sure we wouldn t have to worry about this problem for a long time to come. Normally, you d think patching OpenSSH to make mass SSH logins super fast would be a good story on its own. But no, this is just the opening scene.

Chekov s Gun Makes its Appearance Fast forward a little under a month, to the first few days of May 2008. I get a message from one of the GitHub team, saying that somehow users were able to access other users repos over SSH. Naturally, as we d recently rolled out the OpenSSH patch, which touched this very thing, the code I d written was suspect number one, so I was called in to help.
The lineup scene from the movie The Usual Suspects They're called The Usual Suspects for a reason, but sometimes, it really is Keyser S ze
Eventually, after more than a little debugging, we discovered that, somehow, there were two users with keys that had the same key fingerprint. This absolutely shouldn t happen it s a bit like winning the lottery twice in a row1 unless the users had somehow shared their keys with each other, of course. Still, it was worth investigating, just in case it was a web application bug, so the GitHub team reached out to the users impacted, to try and figure out what was going on. The users professed no knowledge of each other, neither admitted to publicising their key, and couldn t offer any explanation as to how the other person could possibly have gotten their key. Then things went from weird to what the ? . Because another pair of users showed up, sharing a key fingerprint but it was a different shared key fingerprint. The odds now have gone from winning the lottery multiple times in a row to as close to this literally cannot happen as makes no difference.
Milhouse from The Simpsons says that We're Through The Looking Glass Here, People
Once we were really, really confident that the OpenSSH patch wasn t the cause of the problem, my involvement in the problem basically ended. I wasn t a GitHub employee, and EY had plenty of other customers who needed my help, so I wasn t able to stay deeply involved in the on-going investigation of The Mystery of the Duplicate Keys. However, the GitHub team did keep talking to the users involved, and managed to determine the only apparent common factor was that all the users claimed to be using Debian or Ubuntu systems, which was where their SSH keys would have been generated. That was as far as the investigation had really gotten, when along came May 13, 2008.

Chekov s Gun Goes Off With the publication of DSA-1571-1, everything suddenly became clear. Through a well-meaning but ultimately disasterous cleanup of OpenSSL s randomness generation code, the Debian maintainer had inadvertently reduced the number of possible keys that could be generated by a given user from bazillions to a little over 32,000. With so many people signing up to GitHub some of them no doubt following best practice and freshly generating a separate key it s unsurprising that some collisions occurred. You can imagine the sense of oooooooh, so that s what s going on! that rippled out once the issue was understood. I was mostly glad that we had conclusive evidence that my OpenSSH patch wasn t at fault, little knowing how much more contact I was to have with Debian weak keys in the future, running a huge store of known-compromised keys and using them to find misbehaving Certificate Authorities, amongst other things.

Lessons Learned While I ve not found a description of exactly when and how Luciano Bello discovered the vulnerability that became CVE-2008-0166, I presume he first came across it some time before it was disclosed likely before GitHub tripped over it. The stable Debian release that included the vulnerable code had been released a year earlier, so there was plenty of time for Luciano to have discovered key collisions and go hmm, I wonder what s going on here? , then keep digging until the solution presented itself. The thought hmm, that s odd , followed by intense investigation, leading to the discovery of a major flaw is also what ultimately brought down the recent XZ backdoor. The critical part of that sequence is the ability to do that intense investigation, though. When I reflect on my brush with the Debian weak keys vulnerability, what sticks out to me is the fact that I didn t do the deep investigation. I wonder if Luciano hadn t found it, how long it might have been before it was found. The GitHub team would have continued investigating, presumably, and perhaps they (or I) would have eventually dug deep enough to find it. But we were all super busy myself, working support tickets at EY, and GitHub feverishly building features and fighting the fires in their rapidly-growing service. As it was, Luciano was able to take the time to dig in and find out what was happening, but just like the XZ backdoor, I feel like we, as an industry, got a bit lucky that someone with the skills, time, and energy was on hand at the right time to make a huge difference. It s a luxury to be able to take the time to really dig into a problem, and it s a luxury that most of us rarely have. Perhaps an understated takeaway is that somehow we all need to wrestle back some time to follow our hunches and really dig into the things that make us go hmm .

Support My Hunches If you d like to help me be able to do intense investigations of mysterious software phenomena, you can shout me a refreshing beverage on ko-fi.
  1. the odds are actually probably more like winning the lottery about twenty times in a row. The numbers involved are staggeringly huge, so it s easiest to just approximate it as really, really unlikely .

8 April 2024

Bastian Blank: Python dataclasses for Deb822 format

Python includes some helping support for classes that are designed to just hold some data and not much more: Data Classes. It uses plain Python type definitions to specify what you can have and some further information for every field. This will then generate you some useful methods, like __init__ and __repr__, but on request also more. But given that those type definitions are available to other code, a lot more can be done. There exists several separate packages to work on data classes. For example you can have data validation from JSON with dacite. But Debian likes a pretty strange format usually called Deb822, which is in fact derived from the RFC 822 format of e-mail messages. Those files includes single messages with a well known format. So I'd like to introduce some Deb822 format support for Python Data Classes. For now the code resides in the Debian Cloud tool. Usage Setup It uses the standard data classes support and several helper functions. Also you need to enable support for postponed evaluation of annotations.
from __future__ import annotations
from dataclasses import dataclass
from dataclasses_deb822 import read_deb822, field_deb822
Class definition start Data classes are just normal classes, just with a decorator.
@dataclass
class Package:
Field definitions You need to specify the exact key to be used for this field.
    package: str = field_deb822('Package')
    version: str = field_deb822('Version')
    arch: str = field_deb822('Architecture')
Default values are also supported.
    multi_arch: Optional[str] = field_deb822(
        'Multi-Arch',
        default=None,
    )
Reading files
for p in read_deb822(Package, sys.stdin, ignore_unknown=True):
    print(p)
Full example
from __future__ import annotations
from dataclasses import dataclass
from debian_cloud_images.utils.dataclasses_deb822 import read_deb822, field_deb822
from typing import Optional
import sys
@dataclass
class Package:
    package: str = field_deb822('Package')
    version: str = field_deb822('Version')
    arch: str = field_deb822('Architecture')
    multi_arch: Optional[str] = field_deb822(
        'Multi-Arch',
        default=None,
    )
for p in read_deb822(Package, sys.stdin, ignore_unknown=True):
    print(p)
Known limitations

6 April 2024

John Goerzen: Facebook is Censoring Stories about Climate Change and Illegal Raid in Marion, Kansas

It is, sadly, not entirely surprising that Facebook is censoring articles critical of Meta. The Kansas Reflector published an artical about Meta censoring environmental articles about climate change deeming them too controversial . Facebook then censored the article about Facebook censorship, and then after an independent site published a copy of the climate change article, Facebook censored it too. The CNN story says Facebook apologized and said it was a mistake and was fixing it. Color me skeptical, because today I saw this: Yes, that s right: today, April 6, I get a notification that they removed a post from August 12. The notification was dated April 4, but only showed up for me today. I wonder why my post from August 12 was fine for nearly 8 months, and then all of a sudden, when the same website runs an article critical of Facebook, my 8-month-old post is a problem. Hmm. Riiiiiight. Cybersecurity. This isn t even the first time they ve done this to me. On September 11, 2021, they removed my post about the social network Mastodon (click that link for screenshot). A post that, incidentally, had been made 10 months prior to being removed. While they ultimately reversed themselves, I subsequently wrote Facebook s Blocking Decisions Are Deliberate Including Their Censorship of Mastodon. That this same pattern has played out a second time again with something that is a very slight challenege to Facebook seems to validate my conclusion. Facebook lets all sort of hateful garbage infest their site, but anything about climate change or their own censorship gets removed, and this pattern persists for years. There s a reason I prefer Mastodon these days. You can find me there as @jgoerzen@floss.social. So. I ve written this blog post. And then I m going to post it to Facebook. Let s see if they try to censor me for a third time. Bring it, Facebook.

5 April 2024

Bits from Debian: apt install dpl-candidate: Sruthi Chandran

The Debian Project Developers will shortly vote for a new Debian Project Leader known as the DPL. The DPL is the official representative of representative of The Debian Project tasked with managing the overall project, its vision, direction, and finances. The DPL is also responsible for the selection of Delegates, defining areas of responsibility within the project, the coordination of Developers, and making decisions required for the project. Our outgoing and present DPL Jonathan Carter served 4 terms, from 2020 through 2024. Jonathan shared his last Bits from the DPL post to Debian recently and his hopes for the future of Debian. Recently, we sat with the two present candidates for the DPL position asking questions to find out who they really are in a series of interviews about their platforms, visions for Debian, lives, and even their favorite text editors. The interviews were conducted by disaster2life (Yashraj Moghe) and made available from video and audio transcriptions: Voting for the position starts on April 6, 2024. Editors' note: This is our official return to Debian interviews, readers should stay tuned for more upcoming interviews with Developers and other important figures in Debian as part of our "Meet your Debian Developer" series. We used the following tools and services: Turboscribe.ai for the transcription from the audio and video files, IRC: Oftc.net for communication, Jitsi meet for interviews, and Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) for editing and video. While we encountered many technical difficulties in the return to this process, we are still able and proud to present the transcripts of the interviews edited only in a few areas for readability. 2024 Debian Project Leader Candidate: Sruthi Chandran Sruthi's interview Hi Sruthi, so for the first question, who are you and could you tell us a little bit about yourself? [Sruthi]:
I usually talk about me whenever I am talking about answering the question who am I, I usually say like I am a librarian turned free software enthusiast and a Debian Developer. So I had no technical background and I learned, I was introduced to free software through my husband and then I learned Debian packaging, and eventually I became a Debian Developer. So I always give my example to people who say I am not technically inclined, I don't have technical background so I can't contribute to free software. So yeah, that's what I refer to myself.
For the next question, could you tell me what do you do in Debian, and could you mention your story up until here today? [Sruthi]:
Okay, so let me start from my initial days in Debian. I started contributing to Debian, my first contribution was a Tibetan font. We went to a Tibetan place and they were saying they didn't have a font in Linux. So that's how I started contributing. Then I moved on to Ruby packages, then I have some JavaScript and Go packages, all dependencies of GitLab. So I was involved with maintaining GitLab for some time, now I'm not very active there. But yeah, so GitLab was the main package I was contributing to since I contributed since 2016 to maybe like 2020 or something. Later I have come [over to] packaging. Now I am part of some of the teams, delegated teams, like community team and outreach team, as well as the Debconf committee. And the biggest, I think, my activity in Debian, I would say is organizing Debconf 2023. So it was a great experience and yeah, so that's my story in Debian.
So what are three key terms about you and your candidacy? [Sruthi]:
Okay, let me first think about it. For candidacy, I can start with diversity is one point I started expressing from the first time I contested for DPL. But to be honest, that's the main point I want to bring.
[Yashraj]:
So for diversity, if you could break down your thoughts on diversity and make them, [about] your three points including diversity.
[Sruthi]:
So in addition to, eventually when starting it was just diversity. Now I have like a bit more ideas, like community, like I want to be a leader for the Debian community. More than, I don't know, maybe people may not agree, but I would say I want to be a leader of Debian community rather than a Debian operating system. I connect to community more and third point I would say.
The term of a DPL lasts for an year. So what do you think during, what would you try to do during that, that you can't do from your position now? [Sruthi]:
Okay. So I, like, I am very happy with the structure of Debian and how things work in Debian. Like you can do almost a lot of things, like almost all things without being a DPL. Whatever change you want to bring about or whatever you want to do, you can do without being a DPL. Anyone, like every DD has the same rights. Only things I feel [the] DPL has hold on are mainly the budget or the funding part, which like, that's where they do the decision making part. And then comes like, and one advantage of DPL driving some idea is that somehow people tend to listen to that with more, like, tend to give more attention to what DPL is saying rather than a normal DD. So I wanted to, like, I have answered some of the questions on how to, how I plan to do the financial budgeting part, how I want to handle, like, and the other thing is using the extra attention that I get as a DPL, I would like to obviously start with the diversity aspect in Debian. And yeah, like, I, what I want to do is not, like, be a leader and say, like, take Debian to one direction where I want to go, but I would rather take suggestions and inputs from the whole community and go about with that. So yes, that's what I would say.
And taking a less serious question now, what is your preferred text editor? [Sruthi]:
Vim.
[Yashraj]:
Vim, wholeheartedly team Vim?
[Sruthi]:
Yes.
[Yashraj]:
Great. Well, this was made in Vim, all the text for this.
[Sruthi]:
So, like, since you mentioned extra data, I'll give my example, like, it's just a fun note, when I started contributing to Debian, as I mentioned, I didn't have any knowledge about free software, like Debian, and I was not used to even using Linux. So, and I didn't have experience with these text editors. So, when I started contributing, I used to do the editing part using gedit. So, that's how I started. Eventually, I moved to Nano, and once I reached Vim, I didn't move on.
Team Vim. Next question. What, what do you think is the importance of the Debian project in the world today? And where would you like to see it in 10 years, like 10 years into the future? [Sruthi]:
Okay. So, Debian, as we all know, is referred to as the universal operating system without, like, it is said for a reason. We have hundreds and hundreds of operating systems, like Linux, distributions based on Debian. So, I believe Debian, like even now, Debian has good influence on the, at least on the Linux or Linux ecosystem. So, what we implement in Debian has, like, is going to affect quite a lot of, like, a very good percentage of people using Linux. So, yes. So, I think Debian is one of the leading Linux distributions. And I think in 10 years, we should be able to reach a position, like, where we are not, like, even now, like, even these many years after having Linux, we face a lot of problems in newer and newer hardware coming up and installing on them is a big problem. Like, firmwares and all those things are getting more and more complicated. Like, it should be getting simpler, but it's getting more and more complicated. So, I, one thing I would imagine, like, I don't know if we will ever reach there, but I would imagine that eventually with the Debian, we should be able to have some, at least a few of the hardware developers or hardware producers have Debian pre-installed and those kind of things. Like, not, like, become, I'm not saying it's all, it's also available right now. What I'm saying is that it becomes prominent enough to be opted as, like, default distro.
What part of Debian has made you And what part of the project has kept you going all through these years? [Sruthi]:
Okay. So, I started to contribute in 2016, and I was part of the team doing GitLab packaging, and we did have a lot of training workshops and those kind of things within India. And I was, like, I had interacted with some of the Indian DDs, but I never got, like, even through chat or mail. I didn't have a lot of interaction with the rest of the world, DDs. And the 2019 Debconf changed my whole perspective about Debian. Before that, I wasn't, like, even, I was interested in free software. I was doing the technical stuff and all. But after DebConf, my whole idea has been, like, my focus changed to the community. Debian community is a very welcoming, very interesting community to be with. And so, I believe that, like, 2019 DebConf was a for me. And that kept, from 2019, my focus has been to how to support, like, how, I moved to the community part of Debian from there. Then in 2020 I became part of the community team, and, like, I started being part of other teams. So, these, I would say, the Debian community is the one, like, aspect of Debian that keeps me whole, keeps me held on to the Debian ecosystem as a whole.
Continuing to speak about Debian, what do you think, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Debian, like, the word, the community, what's the first thing? [Sruthi]:
I think I may sound like a broken record or something.
[Yashraj]:
No, no.
[Sruthi]:
Again, I would say the Debian community, like, it's the people who makes Debian, that makes Debian special. Like, apart from that, if I say, I would say I'm very, like, one part of Debian that makes me very happy is the, how the governing system of Debian works, the Debian constitution and all those things, like, it's a very unique thing for Debian. And, and it's like, when people say you can't work without a proper, like, establishment or even somebody deciding everything for you, it's difficult. When people say, like, we have been, Debian has been proving it for quite a long time now, that it's possible. So, so that's one thing I believe, like, that's one unique point. And I am very proud about that.
What areas do you think Debian is failing in, how can it (that standing) be improved? [Sruthi]:
So, I think where Debian is failing now is getting new people into Debian. Like, I don't remember, like, exactly the answer. But I remember hearing someone mention, like, the average age of a Debian Developer is, like, above 40 or 45 or something, like, exact age, I don't remember. But it's like, Debian is getting old. Like, the people in Debian are getting old and we are not getting enough of new people into Debian. And that's very important to have people, like, new people coming up. Otherwise, eventually, like, after a few years, nobody, like, we won't have enough people to take the project forward. So, yeah, I believe that is where we need to work on. We are doing some efforts, like, being part of GSOC or outreachy and having maybe other events, like, local events. Like, we used to have a lot of Debian packaging workshops in India. And those kind of, I think, in Brazil and all, they all have, like, local communities are doing. But we are not very successful in retaining the people who maybe come and try out things. But we are not very good at retaining the people, like, retaining people who come. So, we need to work on those things. Right now, I don't have a solid answer for that. But one thing, like, I was thinking about is, like, having a Debian specific outreach project, wherein the focus will be about the Debian, like, starting will be more on, like, usually what happens in GSOC and outreach is that people come, have the, do the contributions, and they go back. Like, they don't have that connection with the Debian, like, Debian community or Debian project. So, what I envision with these, the Debian outreach, the Debian specific outreach is that we have some part of the internship, like, even before starting the internship, we have some sessions and, like, with the people in Debian having, like, getting them introduced to the Debian philosophy and Debian community and Debian, how Debian works. And those things, we focus on that. And then we move on to the technical internship parts. So, I believe this could do some good in having, like, when you have people you can connect to, you tend to stay back in a project mode. When you feel something more than, like, right now, we have so many technical stuff to do, like, the choice for a college student is endless. So, if they want, if they stay back for something, like, maybe for Debian, I would say, we need to have them connected to the Debian project before we go into technical parts. Like, technical parts, like, there are other things as well, where they can go and do the technical part, but, like, they can come here, like, yeah. So, that's what I was saying. Focused outreach projects is one thing. That's just one. That's not enough. We need more of, like, more ideas to have more new people come up. And I'm very happy with, like, the DebConf thing. We tend to get more and more people from the places where we have a DebConf. Brazil is an example. After the Debconf, they have quite a good improvement on Debian contributors. And I think in India also, it did give a good result. Like, we have more people contributing and staying back and those things. So, yeah. So, these were the things I would say, like, we can do to improve.
For the final question, what field in free software do you, what field in free software generally do you think requires the most work to be put into it? What do you think is Debian's part in that field? [Sruthi]:
Okay. Like, right now, what comes to my mind is the free software licenses parts. Like, we have a lot of free software licenses, and there are non-free software licenses. But currently, I feel free software is having a big problem in enforcing these licenses. Like, there are, there may be big corporations or like some people who take up the whole, the code and may not follow the whole, for example, the GPL licenses. Like, we don't know how much of those, how much of the free softwares are used in the bigger things. Yeah, I agree. There are a lot of corporations who are afraid to touch free software. But there would be good amount of free software, free work that converts into property, things violating the free software licenses and those things. And we do not have the kind of like, we have SFLC, SFC, etc. But still, we do not have the ability to go behind and trace and implement the licenses. So, enforce those licenses and bring people who are violating the licenses forward and those kind of things is challenging because one thing is it takes time, like, and most importantly, money is required for the legal stuff. And not always people who like people who make small software, or maybe big, but they may not have the kind of time and money to have these things enforced. So, that's a big challenge free software is facing, especially in our current scenario. I feel we are having those, like, we need to find ways how we can get it sorted. I don't have an answer right now what to do. But this is a challenge I felt like and Debian's part in that. Yeah, as I said, I don't have a solution for that. But the Debian, so DFSG and Debian sticking on to the free software licenses is a good support, I think.
So, that was the final question, Do you have anything else you want to mention for anyone watching this? [Sruthi]:
Not really, like, I am happy, like, I think I was able to answer the questions. And yeah, I would say who is watching. I won't say like, I'm the best DPL candidate, you can't have a better one or something. I stand for a reason. And if you believe in that, or the Debian community and Debian diversity, and those kinds of things, if you believe it, I hope you would be interested, like, you would want to vote for me. That's it. Like, I'm not, I'll make it very clear. I'm not doing a technical leadership part here. So, those, I can't convince people who want technical leadership to vote for me. But I would say people who connect with me, I hope they vote for me.

Bits from Debian: apt install dpl-candidate: Andreas Tille

The Debian Project Developers will shortly vote for a new Debian Project Leader known as the DPL. The Project Leader is the official representative of The Debian Project tasked with managing the overall project, its vision, direction, and finances. The DPL is also responsible for the selection of Delegates, defining areas of responsibility within the project, the coordination of Developers, and making decisions required for the project. Our outgoing and present DPL Jonathan Carter served 4 terms, from 2020 through 2024. Jonathan shared his last Bits from the DPL post to Debian recently and his hopes for the future of Debian. Recently, we sat with the two present candidates for the DPL position asking questions to find out who they really are in a series of interviews about their platforms, visions for Debian, lives, and even their favorite text editors. The interviews were conducted by disaster2life (Yashraj Moghe) and made available from video and audio transcriptions: Voting for the position starts on April 6, 2024. Editors' note: This is our official return to Debian interviews, readers should stay tuned for more upcoming interviews with Developers and other important figures in Debian as part of our "Meet your Debian Developer" series. We used the following tools and services: Turboscribe.ai for the transcription from the audio and video files, IRC: Oftc.net for communication, Jitsi meet for interviews, and Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) for editing and video. While we encountered many technical difficulties in the return to this process, we are still able and proud to present the transcripts of the interviews edited only in a few areas for readability. 2024 Debian Project Leader Candidate: Andrea Tille Andreas' Interview Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself. [Andreas]:
How am I? Well, I'm, as I wrote in my platform, I'm a proud grandfather doing a lot of free software stuff, doing a lot of sports, have some goals in mind which I like to do and hopefully for the best of Debian.
And How are you today? [Andreas]:
How I'm doing today? Well, actually I have some headaches but it's fine for the interview. So, usually I feel very good. Spring was coming here and today it's raining and I plan to do a bicycle tour tomorrow and hope that I do not get really sick but yeah, for the interview it's fine.
What do you do in Debian? Could you mention your story here? [Andreas]:
Yeah, well, I started with Debian kind of an accident because I wanted to have some package salvaged which is called WordNet. It's a monolingual dictionary and I did not really plan to do more than maybe 10 packages or so. I had some kind of training with xTeddy which is totally unimportant, a cute teddy you can put on your desktop. So, and then well, more or less I thought how can I make Debian attractive for my employer which is a medical institute and so on. It could make sense to package bioinformatics and medicine software and it somehow evolved in a direction I did neither expect it nor wanted to do, that I'm currently the most busy uploader in Debian, created several teams around it. DebianMate is very well known from me. I created the Blends team to create teams and techniques around what we are doing which was Debian TIS, Debian Edu, Debian Science and so on and I also created the packaging team for R, for the statistics package R which is technically based and not topic based. All these blends are covering a certain topic and R is just needed by lots of these blends. So, yeah, and to cope with all this I have written a script which is routing an update to manage all these uploads more or less automatically. So, I think I had one day where I uploaded 21 new packages but it's just automatically generated, right? So, it's on one day more than I ever planned to do.
What is the first thing you think of when you think of Debian? Editors' note: The question was misunderstood as the worst thing you think of when you think of Debian [Andreas]:
The worst thing I think about Debian, it's complicated. I think today on Debian board I was asked about the technical progress I want to make and in my opinion we need to standardize things inside Debian. For instance, bringing all the packages to salsa, follow some common standards, some common workflow which is extremely helpful. As I said, if I'm that productive with my own packages we can adopt this in general, at least in most cases I think. I made a lot of good experience by the support of well-formed teams. Well-formed teams are those teams where people support each other, help each other. For instance, how to say, I'm a physicist by profession so I'm not an IT expert. I can tell apart what works and what not but I'm not an expert in those packages. I do and the amount of packages is so high that I do not even understand all the techniques they are covering like Go, Rust and something like this. And I also don't speak Java and I had a problem once in the middle of the night and I've sent the email to the list and was a Java problem and I woke up in the morning and it was solved. This is what I call a team. I don't call a team some common repository that is used by random people for different packages also but it's working together, don't hesitate to solve other people's problems and permit people to get active. This is what I call a team and this is also something I observed in, it's hard to give a percentage, in a lot of other teams but we have other people who do not even understand the concept of the team. Why is working together make some advantage and this is also a tough thing. I [would] like to tackle in my term if I get elected to form solid teams using the common workflow. This is one thing. The other thing is that we have a lot of good people in our infrastructure like FTP masters, DSA and so on. I have the feeling they have a lot of work and are working more or less on their limits, and I like to talk to them [to ask] what kind of change we could do to move that limits or move their personal health to the better side.
The DPL term lasts for a year, What would you do during that you couldn't do now? [Andreas]:
Yeah, well this is basically what I said are my main issues. I need to admit I have no really clear imagination what kind of tasks will come to me as a DPL because all these financial issues and law issues possible and issues [that] people who are not really friendly to Debian might create. I'm afraid these things might occupy a lot of time and I can't say much about this because I simply don't know.
What are three key terms about you and your candidacy? [Andreas]:
As I said, I like to work on standards, I d like to make Debian try [to get it right so] that people don't get overworked, this third key point is be inviting to newcomers, to everybody who wants to come. Yeah, I also mentioned in my term this diversity issue, geographical and from gender point of view. This may be the three points I consider most important.
Preferred text editor? [Andreas]:
Yeah, my preferred one? Ah, well, I have no preferred text editor. I'm using the Midnight Commander very frequently which has an internal editor which is convenient for small text. For other things, I usually use VI but I also use Emacs from time to time. So, no, I have not preferred text editor. Whatever works nicely for me.
What is the importance of the community in the Debian Project? How would like to see it evolving over the next few years? [Andreas]:
Yeah, I think the community is extremely important. So, I was on a lot of DebConfs. I think it's not really 20 but 17 or 18 DebCons and I really enjoyed these events every year because I met so many friends and met so many interesting people that it's really enriching my life and those who I never met in person but have read interesting things and yeah, Debian community makes really a part of my life.
And how do you think it should evolve specifically? [Andreas]:
Yeah, for instance, last year in Kochi, it became even clearer to me that the geographical diversity is a really strong point. Just discussing with some women from India who is afraid about not coming next year to Busan because there's a problem with Shanghai and so on. I'm not really sure how we can solve this but I think this is a problem at least I wish to tackle and yeah, this is an interesting point, the geographical diversity and I'm running the so-called mentoring of the month. This is a small project to attract newcomers for the Debian Med team which has the focus on medical packages and I learned that we had always men applying for this and so I said, okay, I dropped the constraint of medical packages. Any topic is fine, I teach you packaging but it must be someone who does not consider himself a man. I got only two applicants, no, actually, I got one applicant and one response which was kind of strange if I'm hunting for women or so. I did not understand but I got one response and interestingly, it was for me one of the least expected counters. It was from Iran and I met a very nice woman, very open, very skilled and gifted and did a good job or have even lose contact today and maybe we need more actively approach groups that are underrepresented. I don't know if what's a good means which I did but at least I tried and so I try to think about these kind of things.
What part of Debian has made you smile? What part of the project has kept you going all through the years? [Andreas]:
Well, the card game which is called Mao on the DebConf made me smile all the time. I admit I joined only two or three times even if I really love this kind of games but I was occupied by other stuff so this made me really smile. I also think the first online DebConf in 2020 made me smile because we had this kind of short video sequences and I tried to make a funny video sequence about every DebConf I attended before. This is really funny moments but yeah, it's not only smile but yeah. One thing maybe it's totally unconnected to Debian but I learned personally something in Debian that we have a do-ocracy and you can do things which you think that are right if not going in between someone else, right? So respect everybody else but otherwise you can do so. And in 2020 I also started to take trees which are growing widely in my garden and plant them into the woods because in our woods a lot of trees are dying and so I just do something because I can. I have the resource to do something, take the small tree and bring it into the woods because it does not harm anybody. I asked the forester if it is okay, yes, yes, okay. So everybody can do so but I think the idea to do something like this came also because of the free software idea. You have the resources, you have the computer, you can do something and you do something productive, right? And when thinking about this I think it was also my Debian work. Meanwhile I have planted more than 3,000 trees so it's not a small number but yeah, I enjoy this.
What part of Debian would you have some criticisms for? [Andreas]:
Yeah, it's basically the same as I said before. We need more standards to work together. I do not want to repeat this but this is what I think, yeah.
What field in Free Software generally do you think requires the most work to be put into it? What do you think is Debian's part in the field? [Andreas]:
It's also in general, the thing is the fact that I'm maintaining packages which are usually as modern software is maintained in Git, which is fine but we have some software which is at Sourceport, we have software laying around somewhere, we have software where Debian somehow became Upstream because nobody is caring anymore and free software is very different in several things, ways and well, I in principle like freedom of choice which is the basic of all our work. Sometimes this freedom goes in the way of productivity because everybody is free to re-implement. You asked me for the most favorite editor. In principle one really good working editor would be great to have and would work and we have maybe 500 in Debian or so, I don't know. I could imagine if people would concentrate and say five instead of 500 editors, we could get more productive, right? But I know this will not happen, right? But I think this is one thing which goes in the way of making things smooth and productive and we could have more manpower to replace one person who's [having] children, doing some other stuff and can't continue working on something and maybe this is a problem I will not solve, definitely not, but which I see.
What do you think is Debian's part in the field? [Andreas]:
Yeah, well, okay, we can bring together different Upstreams, so we are building some packages and have some general overview about similar things and can say, oh, you are doing this and some other person is doing more or less the same, do you want to join each other or so, but this is kind of a channel we have to our Upstreams which is probably not very successful. It starts with code copies of some libraries which are changed a little bit, which is fine license-wise, but not so helpful for different things and so I've tried to convince those Upstreams to forward their patches to the original one, but for this and I think we could do some kind of, yeah, [find] someone who brings Upstream together or to make them stop their forking stuff, but it costs a lot of energy and we probably don't have this and it's also not realistic that we can really help with this problem.
Do you have any questions for me? [Andreas]:
I enjoyed the interview, I enjoyed seeing you again after half a year or so. Yeah, actually I've seen you in the eating room or cheese and wine party or so, I do not remember we had to really talk together, but yeah, people around, yeah, for sure. Yeah.

Emanuele Rocca: PGP keys on Yubikey, with a side of Mutt

Here are my notes about copying PGP keys to external hardware devices such as Yubikeys. Let me begin by saying that the gpg tools are pretty bad at this.
MAKE A COUPLE OF BACKUPS OF ~/.gnupg/ TO DIFFERENT ENCRYPTED USB STICKS BEFORE YOU START. GPG WILL MESS UP YOUR KEYS. SERIOUSLY.
For example, would you believe me if I said that saving changes results in the removal of your private key? Well check this out.
Now that you have multiple safe, offline backups of your keys, here are my notes.
apt install yubikey-manager scdaemon
Plug the Yubikey in, see if it s recognized properly:
ykman list
gpg --card-status
Change the default PIN (123456) and Admin PIN (12345678):
gpg --card-edit
gpg/card> admin
gpg/card> passwd
Look at the openpgp information and change the maximum number of retries, if you like. I have seen this failing a couple of times, unplugging the Yubikey and putting it back in worked.
ykman openpgp info
ykman openpgp access set-retries 7 7 7
Copy your keys. MAKE A BACKUP OF ~/.gnupg/ BEFORE YOU DO THIS.
gpg --edit-key $KEY_ID
gpg> keytocard # follow the prompts to copy the first key
Now choose the next key and copy that one too. Repeat till all subkeys are copied.
gpg> key 1
gpg> keytocard
Typing gpg --card-status you should be able to see all your keys on the Yubikey now.

Using the key on another machine
How do you use your PGP keys on the Yubikey on other systems?
Go to another system, if it does have a ~/.gnupg directory already move it somewhere else.
apt install scdaemon
Import your public key:
gpg -k
gpg --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys $KEY_ID
Check the fingerprint and if it is indeed your key say you trust it:
gpg --edit-key $KEY_ID
> trust
> 5
> y
> save
Now try gpg --card-status and gpg --list-secret-keys, you should be able to see your keys. Try signing something, it should work.
gpg --output /tmp/x.out --sign /etc/motd
gpg --verify /tmp/x.out

Using the Yubikey with Mutt
If you re using mutt with IMAP, there is a very simple trick to safely store your password on disk. Create an encrypted file with your IMAP password:
echo SUPERSECRET   gpg --encrypt > ~/.mutt_password.gpg
Add the following to ~/.muttrc:
set imap_pass= gpg --decrypt ~/.mutt_password.gpg 
With the above, mutt now prompts you to insert the Yubikey and type your PIN in order to connect to the IMAP server.

4 April 2024

John Goerzen: The xz Issue Isn t About Open Source

You ve probably heard of the recent backdoor in xz. There have been a lot of takes on this, most of them boiling down to some version of:
The problem here is with Open Source Software.
I want to say not only is that view so myopic that it pushes towards the incorrect, but also it blinds us to more serious problems. Now, I don t pretend that there are no problems in the FLOSS community. There have been various pieces written about what this issue says about the FLOSS community (usually without actionable solutions). I m not here to say those pieces are wrong. Just that there s a bigger picture. So with this xz issue, it may well be a state actor (aka spy ) that added this malicious code to xz. We also know that proprietary software and systems can be vulnerable. For instance, a Twitter whistleblower revealed that Twitter employed Indian and Chinese spies, some knowingly. A recent report pointed to security lapses at Microsoft, including preventable lapses in security. According to the Wikipedia article on the SolarWinds attack, it was facilitated by various kinds of carelessness, including passwords being posted to Github and weak default passwords. They directly distributed malware-infested updates, encouraged customers to disable anti-malware tools when installing SolarWinds products, and so forth. It would be naive indeed to assume that there aren t black hat actors among the legions of programmers employed by companies that outsource work to low-cost countries some of which have challenges with bribery. So, given all this, we can t really say the problem is Open Source. Maybe it s more broad:
The problem here is with software.
Maybe that inches us closer, but is it really accurate? We have all heard of Boeing s recent issues, which seem to have some element of root causes in corporate carelessness, cost-cutting, and outsourcing. That sounds rather similar to the SolarWinds issue, doesn t it?
Well then, the problem is capitalism.
Maybe it has a role to play, but isn t it a little too easy to just say capitalism and throw up our hands helplessly, just as some do with FLOSS as at the start of this article? After all, capitalism also brought us plenty of products of very high quality over the years. When we can point to successful, non-careless products and I own some of them (for instance, my Framework laptop). We clearly haven t reached the root cause yet. And besides, what would you replace it with? All the major alternatives that have been tried have even stronger downsides. Maybe you replace it with better regulated capitalism , but that s still capitalism.
Then the problem must be with consumers.
As this argument would go, it s consumers buying patterns that drive problems. Buyers individual and corporate seek flashy features and low cost, prizing those over quality and security. No doubt this is true in a lot of cases. Maybe greed or status-conscious societies foster it: Temu promises people to shop like a billionaire , and unloads on them cheap junk, which all but guarantees that shipments from Temu containing products made with forced labor are entering the United States on a regular basis . But consumers are also people, and some fraction of them are quite capable of writing fantastic software, and in fact, do so. So what we need is some way to seize control. Some way to do what is right, despite the pressures of consumers or corporations. Ah yes, dear reader, you have been slogging through all these paragraphs and now realize I have been leading you to this:
Then the solution is Open Source.
Indeed. Faults and all, FLOSS is the most successful movement I know where people are bringing us back to the commons: working and volunteering for the common good, unleashing a thousand creative variants on a theme, iterating in every direction imaginable. We have FLOSS being vital parts of everything from $30 Raspberry Pis to space missions. It is bringing education and communication to impoverished parts of the world. It lets everyone write and release software. And, unlike the SolarWinds and Twitter issues, it exposes both clever solutions and security flaws to the world. If an authentication process in Windows got slower, we would all shrug and mutter Microsoft under our breath. Because, really, what else can we do? We have no agency with Windows. If an authentication process in Linux gets slower, anybody that s interested anybody at all can dive in and ask why and trace it down to root causes. Some look at this and say FLOSS is responsible for this mess. I look at it and say, this would be so much worse if it wasn t FLOSS and experience backs me up on this. FLOSS doesn t prevent security issues itself. What it does do is give capabilities to us all. The ability to investigate. Ability to fix. Yes, even the ability to break and its cousin, the power to learn. And, most rewarding, the ability to contribute.

Lukas M rdian: Netplan v1.0 paves the way to stable, declarative network management

New netplan status diff subcommand, finding differences between configuration and system state As the maintainer and lead developer for Netplan, I m proud to announce the general availability of Netplan v1.0 after more than 7 years of development efforts. Over the years, we ve so far had about 80 individual contributors from around the globe. This includes many contributions from our Netplan core-team at Canonical, but also from other big corporations such as Microsoft or Deutsche Telekom. Those contributions, along with the many we receive from our community of individual contributors, solidify Netplan as a healthy and trusted open source project. In an effort to make Netplan even more dependable, we started shipping upstream patch releases, such as 0.106.1 and 0.107.1, which make it easier to integrate fixes into our users custom workflows. With the release of version 1.0 we primarily focused on stability. However, being a major version upgrade, it allowed us to drop some long-standing legacy code from the libnetplan1 library. Removing this technical debt increases the maintainability of Netplan s codebase going forward. The upcoming Ubuntu 24.04 LTS and Debian 13 releases will ship Netplan v1.0 to millions of users worldwide.

Highlights of version 1.0 In addition to stability and maintainability improvements, it s worth looking at some of the new features that were included in the latest release:
  • Simultaneous WPA2 & WPA3 support.
  • Introduction of a stable libnetplan1 API.
  • Mellanox VF-LAG support for high performance SR-IOV networking.
  • New hairpin and port-mac-learning settings, useful for VXLAN tunnels with FRRouting.
  • New netplan status diff subcommand, finding differences between configuration and system state.
Besides those highlights of the v1.0 release, I d also like to shed some light on new functionality that was integrated within the past two years for those upgrading from the previous Ubuntu 22.04 LTS which used Netplan v0.104:
  • We added support for the management of new network interface types, such as veth, dummy, VXLAN, VRF or InfiniBand (IPoIB).
  • Wireless functionality was improved by integrating Netplan with NetworkManager on desktop systems, adding support for WPA3 and adding the notion of a regulatory-domain, to choose proper frequencies for specific regions.
  • To improve maintainability, we moved to Meson as Netplan s buildsystem, added upstream CI coverage for multiple Linux distributions and integrations (such as Debian testing, NetworkManager, snapd or cloud-init), checks for ABI compatibility, and automatic memory leak detection.
  • We increased consistency between the supported backend renderers (systemd-networkd and NetworkManager), by matching physical network interfaces on permanent MAC address, when the match.macaddress setting is being used, and added new hardware offloading functionality for high performance networking, such as Single-Root IO Virtualisation virtual function link-aggregation (SR-IOV VF-LAG).
The much improved Netplan documentation, that is now hosted on Read the Docs , and new command line subcommands, such as netplan status, make Netplan a well vested tool for declarative network management and troubleshooting.

Integrations Those changes pave the way to integrate Netplan in 3rd party projects, such as system installers or cloud deployment methods. By shipping the new python3-netplan Python bindings to libnetplan, it is now easier than ever to access Netplan functionality and network validation from other projects. We are proud that the Debian Cloud Team chose Netplan to be the default network management tool in their official cloud-images for Debian Bookworm and beyond. Ubuntu s NetworkManager package now uses Netplan as it s default backend on Ubuntu 23.10 Desktop systems and beyond. Further integrations happened with cloud-init and the Calamares installer.
Please check out the Netplan version 1.0 release on GitHub! If you want to learn more, follow our activities on Netplan.io, GitHub, Launchpad, IRC or our Netplan Developer Diaries blog on discourse.

3 April 2024

Bits from Debian: Proxmox Platinum Sponsor of DebConf24

proxmoxlogo We are pleased to announce that Proxmox has committed to sponsor DebConf24 as a Platinum Sponsor. Proxmox provides powerful and user-friendly open-source server software. Enterprises of all sizes and industries use Proxmox solutions to deploy efficient and simplified IT infrastructures, minimize total cost of ownership, and avoid vendor lock-in. Proxmox also offers commercial support, training services, and an extensive partner ecosystem to ensure business continuity for its customers. Proxmox Server Solutions GmbH was established in 2005 and is headquartered in Vienna, Austria. Proxmox builds its product offerings on top of the Debian operating system. With this commitment as Platinum Sponsor, Proxmox is contributing to make possible our annual conference, and directly supporting the progress of Debian and Free Software, helping to strengthen the community that continues to collaborate on Debian projects throughout the rest of the year. Thank you very much, Proxmox, for your support of DebConf24! Become a sponsor too! DebConf24 will take place from 28th July to 4th August 2024 in Busan, South Korea, and will be preceded by DebCamp, from 21st to 27th July 2024. DebConf24 is accepting sponsors! Interested companies and organizations may contact the DebConf team through sponsors@debconf.org, or visit the Become a DebConf Sponsor website.

Joey Hess: reflections on distrusting xz

Was the ssh backdoor the only goal that "Jia Tan" was pursuing with their multi-year operation against xz? I doubt it, and if not, then every fix so far has been incomplete, because everything is still running code written by that entity. If we assume that they had a multilayered plan, that their every action was calculated and malicious, then we have to think about the full threat surface of using xz. This quickly gets into nightmare scenarios of the "trusting trust" variety. What if xz contains a hidden buffer overflow or other vulnerability, that can be exploited by the xz file it's decompressing? This would let the attacker target other packages, as needed. Let's say they want to target gcc. Well, gcc contains a lot of documentation, which includes png images. So they spend a while getting accepted as a documentation contributor on that project, and get added to it a png file that is specially constructed, it has additional binary data appended that exploits the buffer overflow. And instructs xz to modify the source code that comes later when decompressing gcc.tar.xz. More likely, they wouldn't bother with an actual trusting trust attack on gcc, which would be a lot of work to get right. One problem with the ssh backdoor is that well, not all servers on the internet run ssh. (Or systemd.) So webservers seem a likely target of this kind of second stage attack. Apache's docs include png files, nginx does not, but there's always scope to add improved documentation to a project. When would such a vulnerability have been introduced? In February, "Jia Tan" wrote a new decoder for xz. This added 1000+ lines of new C code across several commits. So much code and in just the right place to insert something like this. And why take on such a significant project just two months before inserting the ssh backdoor? "Jia Tan" was already fully accepted as maintainer, and doing lots of other work, it doesn't seem to me that they needed to start this rewrite as part of their cover. They were working closely with xz's author Lasse Collin in this, by indications exchanging patches offlist as they developed it. So Lasse Collin's commits in this time period are also worth scrutiny, because they could have been influenced by "Jia Tan". One that caught my eye comes immediately afterwards: "prepares the code for alternative C versions and inline assembly" Multiple versions and assembly mean even more places to hide such a security hole. I stress that I have not found such a security hole, I'm only considering what the worst case possibilities are. I think we need to fully consider them in order to decide how to fully wrap up this mess. Whether such stealthy security holes have been introduced into xz by "Jia Tan" or not, there are definitely indications that the ssh backdoor was not the end of what they had planned. For one thing, the "test file" based system they introduced was extensible. They could have been planning to add more test files later, that backdoored xz in further ways. And then there's the matter of the disabling of the Landlock sandbox. This was not necessary for the ssh backdoor, because the sandbox is only used by the xz command, not by liblzma. So why did they potentially tip their hand by adding that rogue "." that disables the sandbox? A sandbox would not prevent the kind of attack I discuss above, where xz is just modifying code that it decompresses. Disabling the sandbox suggests that they were going to make xz run arbitrary code, that perhaps wrote to files it shouldn't be touching, to install a backdoor in the system. Both deb and rpm use xz compression, and with the sandbox disabled, whether they link with liblzma or run the xz command, a backdoored xz can write to any file on the system while dpkg or rpm is running and noone is likely to notice, because that's the kind of thing a package manager does. My impression is that all of this was well planned and they were in it for the long haul. They had no reason to stop with backdooring ssh, except for the risk of additional exposure. But they decided to take that risk, with the sandbox disabling. So they planned to do more, and every commit by "Jia Tan", and really every commit that they could have influenced needs to be distrusted. This is why I've suggested to Debian that they revert to an earlier version of xz. That would be my advice to anyone distributing xz. I do have a xz-unscathed fork which I've carefully constructed to avoid all "Jia Tan" involved commits. It feels good to not need to worry about dpkg and tar. I only plan to maintain this fork minimally, eg security fixes. Hopefully Lasse Collin will consider these possibilities and address them in his response to the attack.

Arnaud Rebillout: Firefox: Moving from the Debian package to the Flatpak app (long-term?)

First, thanks to Samuel Henrique for giving notice of recent Firefox CVEs in Debian testing/unstable. At the time I didn't want to upgrade my system (Debian Sid) due to the ongoing t64 transition transition, so I decided I could install the Firefox Flatpak app instead, and why not stick to it long-term? This blog post details all the steps, if ever others want to go the same road. Flatpak Installation Disclaimer: this section is hardly anything more than a copy/paste of the official documentation, and with time it will get outdated, so you'd better follow the official doc. First thing first, let's install Flatpak:
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install flatpak
Then the next step is to add the Flathub remote repository, from where we'll get our Flatpak applications:
$ flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://dl.flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
And that's all there is to it! Now come the optional steps. For GNOME and KDE users, you might want to install a plugin for the software manager specific to your desktop, so that it can support and manage Flatpak apps:
$ which -s gnome-software  && sudo apt install gnome-software-plugin-flatpak
$ which -s plasma-discover && sudo apt install plasma-discover-backend-flatpak
And here's an additional check you can do, as it's something that did bite me in the past: missing xdg-portal-* packages, that are required for Flatpak applications to communicate with the desktop environment. Just to be sure, you can check the output of apt search '^xdg-desktop-portal' to see what's available, and compare with the output of dpkg -l grep xdg-desktop-portal. As you can see, if you're a GNOME or KDE user, there's a portal backend for you, and it should be installed. For reference, this is what I have on my GNOME desktop at the moment:
$ dpkg -l   grep xdg-desktop-portal   awk ' print $2 '
xdg-desktop-portal
xdg-desktop-portal-gnome
xdg-desktop-portal-gtk
Install the Firefox Flatpak app This is trivial, but still, there's a question I've always asked myself: should I install applications system-wide (aka. flatpak --system, the default) or per-user (aka. flatpak --user)? Turns out, this questions is answered in the Flatpak documentation:
Flatpak commands are run system-wide by default. If you are installing applications for day-to-day usage, it is recommended to stick with this default behavior.
Armed with this new knowledge, let's install the Firefox app:
$ flatpak install flathub org.mozilla.firefox
And that's about it! We can give it a go already:
$ flatpak run org.mozilla.firefox
Data migration At this point, running Firefox via Flatpak gives me an "empty" Firefox. That's not what I want, instead I want my usual Firefox, with a gazillion of tabs already opened, a few extensions, bookmarks and so on. As it turns out, Mozilla provides a brief doc for data migration, and it's as simple as moving Firefox data directory around! To clarify, we'll be copying data: Make sure that all Firefox instances are closed, then proceed:
# BEWARE! Below I'm erasing data!
$ rm -fr ~/.var/app/org.mozilla.firefox/.mozilla/firefox/
$ cp -a ~/.mozilla/firefox/ ~/.var/app/org.mozilla.firefox/.mozilla/
To avoid confusing myself, it's also a good idea to rename the local data directory:
$ mv ~/.mozilla/firefox ~/.mozilla/firefox.old.$(date --iso-8601=date)
At this point, flatpak run org.mozilla.firefox takes me to my "usual" everyday Firefox, with all its tabs opened, pinned, bookmarked, etc. More integration? After following all the steps above, I must say that I'm 99% happy. So far, everything works as before, I didn't hit any issue, and I don't even notice that Firefox is running via Flatpak, it's completely transparent. So where's the 1% of unhappiness? The Run a Command dialog from GNOME, the one that shows up via the keyboard shortcut <Alt+F2>. This is how I start my GUI applications, and I usually run two Firefox instances in parallel (one for work, one for personal), using the firefox -p <profile> command. Given that I ran apt purge firefox before (to avoid confusing myself with two installations of Firefox), now the right (and only) way to start Firefox from a command-line is to type flatpak run org.mozilla.firefox -p <profile>. Typing that every time is way too cumbersome, so I need something quicker. Seems like the most straightforward is to create a wrapper script:
$ cat /usr/local/bin/firefox 
#!/bin/sh
exec flatpak run org.mozilla.firefox "$@"
And now I can just hit <Alt+F2> and type firefox -p <profile> to start Firefox with the profile I want, just as before. Neat! Looking forward: system updates I usually update my system manually every now and then, via the well-known pair of commands:
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt full-upgrade
The downside of introducing Flatpak, ie. introducing another package manager, is that I'll need to learn new commands to update the software that comes via this channel. Fortunately, there's really not much to learn. From flatpak-update(1):
flatpak update [OPTION...] [REF...] Updates applications and runtimes. [...] If no REF is given, everything is updated, as well as appstream info for all remotes.
Could it be that simple? Apparently yes, the Flatpak equivalent of the two apt commands above is just:
$ flatpak update
Going forward, my options are:
  1. Teach myself to run flatpak update additionally to apt update, manually, everytime I update my system.
  2. Go crazy: let something automatically update my Flatpak apps, in my back and without my consent.
I'm actually tempted to go for option 2 here, and I wonder if GNOME Software will do that for me, provided that I installed gnome-software-plugin-flatpak, and that I checked Software Updates -> Automatic in the Settings (which I did). However, I didn't find any documentation regarding what this setting really does, so I can't say if it will only download updates, or if it will also install it. I'd be happy if it automatically installs new version of Flatpak apps, but at the same time I'd be very unhappy if it automatically upgrades my Debian system... So we'll see. Enough for today, hope this blog post was useful!

2 April 2024

Dirk Eddelbuettel: ulid 0.3.1 on CRAN: New Maintainer, Some Polish

Happy to share that ulid is now (back) on CRAN. It provides universally unique identifiers that are lexicographically sortable, which improves over the more well-known uuid generators. ulid is a neat little package put together by Bob Rudis a few years ago. It had recently drifted off CRAN so I offered to brush it up and re-submit it. And as tooted earlier today, it took just over an hour to finish that (after the lead up work I had done, including prior email with CRAN in the loop, the repo transfer from Bob s to my ulid repo plus of course a wee bit of actual maintenance; see below for more). The NEWS entry follows.

Changes in version 0.3.1 (2024-04-02)
  • New Maintainer
  • Deleted several repository files no longer used or needed
  • Added .editorconfig, ChangeLog and cleanup
  • Converted NEWS.md to NEWS.Rd
  • Simplified R/ directory to one source file
  • Simplified src/ removing redundant Makevars
  • Added ulid() alias
  • Updated / edited roxygen and README.md documention
  • Removed vignette which was identical to README.md
  • Switched continuous integration to GitHub Actions
  • Placed upstream (header-only) library into src/ulid/
  • Renamed single interface file to src/wrapper

If you like this or other open-source work I do, you can sponsor me at GitHub.

This post by Dirk Eddelbuettel originated on his Thinking inside the box blog. Please report excessive re-aggregation in third-party for-profit settings.

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